Note to all: I'm s sorry that this has taken me forever to post another chapter. I know it's been months. Thanks to all those who stuck with me. I just had a writer's block on how to finish the story.
CHAPTER 17 - RICHIE'S SURPRISE
Conner and Duncan made their way toward home. Tessa had called to tell them to come home for dinner. Both men had been enjoying their sparring session when Tess called. Duncan had been trying to work out his anxiety at discovering that AJ's foster father was an immortal and he wanted to do crewd nasty un-father like things to her. His mind was reeling with the fact that AJ was Ildari, a remnant of an all but lost race with special abilities. Part of him just wanted away, no responsibility just a rest. No killing, no immortals, a normal life.
Duncan laughed out loud a little. He snorted. A normal life was not to be for him. But he smiled as he thought, he had almost a normal piece of life. He had Tessa, Richie and now AJ. A nice little family, a partner, a son and now a daughter. He sighed, well life wasn't that bad.
Conner eyed his cousin suspiciously. He seemed awful quiet, even for Duncan. "Duncan, Duncan," he called.
Duncan didn't hear him as he was lost in his own review of his life. Finally, when Conner shouted his name, Duncan turned, "Aye, what is it man?"
"Laddie, I been calling you for five minutes. Where you be?"
Duncan smiled, Thinking of what we need to do to catch Sonnier." he lied.
Conner snorted, "Best not lie to me lad. I've known you for 400 years. I know when ya be lying."
Duncan laughed, "Me? Lying? Why would ya think that?"
"Duncan MacLeod, you lie to me and I'll be blistering your backside. Don't test me." Conner warned.
Duncan sobered up. He remembered an exact moment when he'd had this same conversation with Conner and lost miserably. Conner had blistered his backside but good. Duncan had gone to fight an immortal named Smythe against Conner's explicit instructions. He had just begun training. He was not ready. By the grace of God, Duncan succeeded and made it back to his dwelling just as Conner was checking on him. The conversation had not been pleasant. The exhaustion and pain of his first quickening was evident on his face when Conner found him.
Duncan flashed back to the conversation.
"Duncan, lad, you here?" asked Conner as he entered the tent.
Duncan had just snuck in under the back of tent.
"Aye, clansman. Right here." answered Duncan.
"Why didn't you answer me earlier, boy?" Conner asked with his hands on his hips. Conner looked him up and down suspiciously.
"Didn't hear you." Duncan answered honestly. He didn't want to say why he didn't hear him.
Conner stepped up to Duncan, face to face. "Where ya been, boy? I know you weren't in your tent."
"I don't know what your talking about." Duncan defended.
Conner narrowed his eyes, "I told you once boyo, you don't lie to me. You lie to me and I'm going to blister your backside. You think your Da could blister ya, that'll be nothing."
Duncan blushed, he thought how could Conner consider blistering him, he was 35 years old. His cousin didn't have 10 years on him. "I not be lying to ya." Duncan said looking down.
Conner smirked, "You look me in the eye and tell me that. And think very carefully what comes out of your mouth."
Duncan looked into his clansman's eyes. There was such concern and acceptance in those eyes, he just couldn't do it.
"Can't do it boy, can ya?" asked Conner.
Duncan shook his head.
"Where ya been?" asked Conner.
Duncan looked down. "Smythe," he mumbled.
"Did I hear ya?" shouted Conner. "Did you say, Smythe?"
Duncan nodded miserably.
Conner grabbed his arm, "You went after Smythe? After I told ya not to? After I told ya that ya weren't ready? What the Hell's wrong with you?
Duncan shook free of his cousin's grip. "I won." he groused.
"Ya won. Ya won? That's all you have to say. That makes it right?" Conner raged.
Conner just grabbed Duncan by the back of the shirt, spun him around and started the whipping. "YOU DON'T EVER GO AFTER SOMEONE UNTIL I SAY YOUR READY. YOU WERE JUST LUCKY." Conner's hand did the rest of the talking. His hand reigned down until Duncan was apologizing and swearing on his dear mother's grave that he would never do it again.
Conner finally let him up and grabbed him and hugged him. "Boy, I don't want to lose you. I be keeping ya safe."
Duncan nodded into his shoulder.
Duncan smiled at the scene in his head. He hadn't been able to sit his horse for days and he had never lied to Conner again.
Conner saw Duncan smile. "You remembering, lad?"
"Yeah, remembering the consequences of lying to you. You were right."
"About what?" asked Conner.
"About that you were much worse than my Da." grinned Duncan.
Conner laughed. "Come on cheeky brat, your woman is waiting for us." he said as Duncan pulled into the driveway.
Tessa met them at the door. Duncan bent down to kiss her. Conner slapped his shoulder. "Save it for later boy, I'm starving," said Conner pushing past the couple.
Tess laughed. "Duncan, love, you're going to have to talk to Richie about Sonnier. He's been pacing like a caged bull."
Duncan sighed, " I will darlin'. I will. Let's just have a nice peaceful dinner. How's AJ?"
Tess smiled up at him. "She kept asking when her Papi would be home. She fell asleep watching TV. I wasn't going to wake her up until you came home."
"I'll wake her up and have her wash for dinner." smiled Duncan.
Duncan made his way around to Richie's room first. He knocked on Richie's door. "Richie, time for dinner, pal."
"Oh heh, Dad." said Richie looking up from his computer.
"Wash up son, dinner's ready." Duncan said leaning in Richie's doorway.
"OK." said Richie. "Dad?" Richie started.
"Absolutely not." Duncan answered.
"Wh..at..? Dad, how do you know what I'm going to ask?" Richie sputtered.
"I know you, son. You want to be involved in taking care of AJ's foster father."
Richie looked sucker punched. How did his dad know. Maybe his dad read people's minds but just wasn't telling anybody.
Duncan laughed at the expression on his son's face. "Hit the nail on the head, did I?"
"Aww, come on Dad. I want to beat that sick son of a bitch to a pulp." Richie said angrily.
"Richard, I've already told you as I well as I believe your Uncle told you, you are to stay away from him." Duncan said evenly.
"But, Dad…" Richie whined. "That sick bastard…"
Duncan didn't let him finish. "Son, I already told you. I will discuss with this you later, but you won't be anywhere near when the final battle happens. You understand, me?"
Richie looked mutinous.
"Richard, I mean it. You come anywhere near and I'll blister your backside. You won't be sitting for a month of Sundays. You understand me, lad?"
Oh God, the brogue was getting way too thick. Richie knew he was on the line. "Yeah, I got it." Richie said sullenly.
Duncan sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He blocked Richie's exit from his room. "Richard, you lose that attitude and lose it now, or I'll give you a little preview."
Richie gulped, "No sir. I'm good."
Duncan stepped in to Richie's space and grabbed him with a hug. "I love you son, your not ready to be involved. I just want to keep you safe. Please promise me?"
Richie melted into his Dad's embrace. "Promise." said Richie into Duncan's chest.
Duncan gave him one last squeeze. "Come on boy, go wash your hands. Your mother is going to send a search party for us and you know better than to keep your Uncle from dinner when he's hungry."
Richie grinned, "Yeah Uncle Conner's worse than a bear when he's hungry."
Duncan just laughed as Richie headed into the bathroom to wash his hands and Duncan headed upstairs to wake up his new daughter. Duncan found AJ passed out on the couch. She had that stuffed monkey in her arms. The afternoon must have really stressed her out. Between Sonnier, the weekend and starting school tomorrow, the poor kid must be stressed out beyond belief. He sat down on the couch and pulled her softly into his lap. He cuddled with her a little. He smiled when she snuggled into his embrace. He was ecstatic that she was already so comfortable with him that she could snuggle a little.
Duncan started rubbing her back and calling her name softly. Her eyes fluttered open, "Papi?" she asked groggily.
"Yeah Darlin'. It's Papi. It's time to get up and wash for dinner." he said smiling down at her.
AJ sat up a little and stretched. She leaned into him, playing with one of the buttons on his shirt. "Papi?"
"Hmm?" asked Duncan.
"HE scares me." she whispered.
Duncan sighed. He just wanted to protect this little slip of a girl from all the evils of the world, including that bastard Sonnier. He hugged her, "Ya got nothing to worry about darlin'. Uncle Conner and I are going to take care of him, so he won't ever bother you again."
"Really?" she asked worriedly.
"Really!" said Duncan emphatically. "Now go wash for dinner, your mama's waiting for us." said Duncan pushing her off his lap.
AJ turned to look at Duncan's face and placed a soft kiss on his cheek. "Thank you." she whispered as she got off his lap and headed for the bathroom.
Duncan sighed, he loved that little girl like she'd been his for her whole life instead of just a few days. He would lay down his life to protect her. He sighed again, he hoped it wouldn't come to that. He couldn't leave the best thing that every happened to him in his 400 years. He wanted to enjoy his family for as long as he could.
The group finally made it to the dinner table. As they sat down, Richie looked at his Dad and his Uncle. "So, how are you going to do it?"
"Do what boy?" asked Conner as he helped himself to the lasagna Tess had made.
"You know, kill…" Richie started looking at his uncle like he was a complete idiot. Who the hell else were they planning on killing?
"Richie," said Tessa, "not now." nodding pointedly at AJ.
"Kill what, mama?" asked AJ.
Duncan just rolled his eyes.
"Nothing, baby. Your brother is just babbling, right Richie?"
"Oh um, yeah. I was just wondering how we were going to kill the roach I saw in my room." Richie said quickly.
Duncan coughed a laugh, that boy of his could really come up with it. He should be an actor.
"Ewwwwwwwww. That's so gross. There was a roach downstairs?" AJ asked making a face.
Tess covered a laugh. "I think your Dad can help you with that after we eat. I don't want to hear about it at dinner."
"Yeah, ok." said Richie trying to hide the smile.
"Richard?" asked his Dad.
"Yeah?" asked Richie.
"Yeah?" asked Duncan, eyebrows raged.
A look of confusion passed across Richie's handsome face for a moment. Then he got it. He looked at Tess, "Yes ma'am." he said.
Tess smiled. "Thank you, honey."
"Much better." said Duncan.
With that, the family tucked into their dinner. Talking about this and that. The elephant in the room wasn't mentioned, even though it loomed like a giant.
Next up: The Plan