|My Immortal Valentine
by Lisa Hughes
This story is an "episode" written for Highlander the Fanfiction Season I. As it has been every fifty years, Valentine's Day is the day when Kaia and Duncan MacLeod meet up. He thinks of it as a friendly get-together. She has quite different ideas though...
When Duncan MacLeod arrived at Maurice's club late in the afternoon, it was still practically deserted, just a couple of customers, the bartender, and Joe Dawson. The Watcher was sitting on a stool on the stage playing his guitar, eyes closed, lost in the music. Duncan quietly ordered a beer, and stood with it leaning against the bar, not wanting to interrupt. The tune was low and sweet, and just a touch mournful. When the song ended Duncan set the glass down and clapped vigorously.
Joe opened his eyes, startled. He squinted for a second, then his face broke into a wide grin and he waved Duncan over.
"Hey, Mac!" he said as Duncan crossed the room.
Duncan smiled. "That was nice," he said gesturing toward the guitar. "One of yours?"
"Something I'm working on," Joe nodded. "It's almost there."
"Thanks. Are we still on for dinner with Richie tonight?"
"Yeah," Duncan answered. "We have reservations at 8:30."
"Sad state of affairs," Joe said, shaking his head sadly.
"What?" Duncan was baffled.
"That not one of us has a date for Valentine's Day," Joe said, breaking into a big grin. "Even Altea is out of town."
"Valentine's Day?" Duncan asked.
"Yeah, Valentine's Day." Joe was puzzled, Duncan looked almost shocked. "You okay, Mac?"
Duncan was looking at his watch. "1998?"
Joe laughed, "All year."
Duncan abruptly set his beer down on the nearest table and headed for the door.
"Mac?" Joe called after him, but Duncan didn't look back. "Hey, Mac!"
Duncan took the stairs two at a time, and was gone.
Richie heard a car pull up behind him as he took off his helmet and stepped off of his motorcycle. It was Joe, and Richie waited so they could go in together.
"Hey Joe," he said as the Watcher stepped out of his car. "How's it going?"
"Can't complain. How 'bout yourself?"
"Well, the research is going well, but..." Richie looked sheepish.
"You miss Altea," Joe observed. Richie nodded. "She's only been down in Marseilles for what, a week?"
"Yeah, well..." Richie blushed and looked away.
Joe laughed and threw an arm around his shoulders. "Better plan something special for when she gets back, then."
Richie's smile flashed. "Already in the works." They started toward the barge. "Is Methos coming with us?"
"No, he said he already had plans."
"Ohh, some kind of hot date, huh?"
"He wouldn't say," Joe said with a grin. As they stepped aboard, Richie tensed automatically.
"Well, at least we know Mac's here," Joe said wryly.
Joe banged on the door a couple of times, then opened it and stepped through. And stopped so abruptly that Richie, close on his heels, plowed into him, nearly overbalancing him. Richie reached out to steady the Watcher, and then peered in to see what had startled him.
The room was lit solely by candles, and rose petals were strewn artistically about. There was a small table set for two, and soft music flowed from the stereo speakers. And Duncan was just turning to face them, dressed in a tuxedo, face beaming. The smile faded. "Oh, it's you," he said, obviously disappointed.
"Nice to see you too, Mac," Richie said with a chuckle. "I thought we were going out. I mean, it's nice of you to go to all this effort," he teased, walking forward, "but where's Joe gonna sit?"
Duncan did not smile. "Look, uh, something's come up."
"Obviously," Joe said with a grin.
"You two go on without me," Duncan said, trying to maneuver them back toward the door. "In fact, it's on me. Only fair since I'm canceling on you. Just tell Michel to put it on my tab."
Neither moved. Richie looked at Joe and said, "You know, he must want us out of here pretty bad if he's willing to foot the bill." Joe nodded. "So who is she?"
"She?" Duncan repeated.
"The woman," Richie said.
Just then Joe saw both Immortals tense, and he and Richie turned toward the door expectantly.
The door opened slowly. A tall, stunningly beautiful woman with long thick honey-gold hair stepped through the door. She was dressed in a long silk evening gown the color of new leaves, which clung and draped in all the right places, and was fastened over one shoulder, leaving the other bare. Her blue eyes swept across Richie and Joe without seeming to notice them, and locked on Duncan standing at the foot of the short flight of stairs. She moved toward him, seeming to flow with liquid grace rather than walk. When she reached Duncan, she produced a single long-stemmed rose which she held out to him.
"Happy Valentine's Day, darling." Her voice recalled warm summer nights, dark chocolate and crushed velvet.
FLASHBACK: VALENTINE'S DAY 1648, EUROPE
Duncan MacLeod was walking beside his horse along a path through the forest. He had been riding hard all day and was giving his horse a rest. He'd spent the night before in a small village where he'd met his kinsman Connor to exchange news. And to have Connor trounce him again. He suspected that Connor had just wanted to check up on him... sometimes he was a bit of a mother hen.
It didn't look like he was going to reach the next village by nightfall, and Duncan was scanning the area looking for a place to make his camp, when suddenly he felt the presence of another Immortal, and turned around to see a horse and rider coming around the last bend. The hooded and cloaked traveler pulled up sharply. The figure dismounted in one fluid motion, drew a sword, and moved toward him slowly.
Duncan drew his sword and took a defensive, but not threatening stance. "Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."
The figure threw the hood back, and to Duncan's amazement, it was a beautiful woman with the eyes of a dove and hair the color of sweet honey. Duncan's sword lowered a fraction as he spoke the bit of verse which sprang into his mind unbidden.
"My lady's presence makes the roses red, Because to see her lips they blush for shame."
The woman halted her advance, a startled smile tugging at her lips, and a speculative gleam in her eye. Her sword wavered a trifle as if with indecision.
"'Tis not the season yet for flowers, sir." Her voice caressed his ears and Duncan smiled.
"I was mistaken then, my lady, and I humbly beg your pardon. Your presence so warmed the air I thought perhaps you had brought the spring." Duncan bowed slightly to her.
She smiled then and inclined her head gracefully in acknowledgment. "I am Kaia Doran," she said, lowering her sword.
"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," he returned, lowering his sword as well.
"So you said," she laughed.
Duncan blushed. "Uh... I was about to make camp, perhaps the lady would care to share my fire. I would welcome the company."
She looked at him for a long moment, and then nodded slowly.
Duncan rolled onto his side inside his sleeping furs and tried not to think of the proximity of his beautiful companion across the fire from him. They had had a very pleasant evening sharing a meal of salted beef, bread, and wine. They'd talked mostly about recent travels and nearby towns and villages, with a little discussion of the progress of the wars going on all over Europe thrown in. He'd been sorely tempted to try to move beyond conversation, but Kaia was a real lady and he hadn't wanted to offend her.
"Duncan." A whisper from very close.
He rolled quickly onto his back and found himself staring into her eyes, her face just inches above him.
"I just remembered that it is St. Valentine's Day today," she whispered.
"It is?" Duncan murmured, feeling a little disoriented, as if he were falling into her eyes, although he knew himself to be lying on the ground.
"It is," she purred. She moved ever so slowly down to brush his lips with hers, and then pulled back. "Happy St. Valentine's Day, Duncan MacLeod."
Duncan, emboldened by the kiss, reached up to pull her head gently back down, and when she did not resist, he kissed her more thoroughly. When the kiss was over, he said in a low husky voice, "Happy St. Valentine's Day, Kaia Doran."
She smiled. Duncan took her in his arms and rolled them both until she was lying on her back. He moved a lock of hair away from her neck with a gentle finger, and kissed the spot on her throat where her pulse throbbed. Kaia gave a low laugh and he pulled back to look at her for a moment, then bent his head to continue their celebration.
The next morning Duncan woke alone. If not for the lingering scent of her in his makeshift bed, he might have thought she'd been a dream. He dressed quickly and resumed his journey, his thoughts full of her voice and her touch.
Duncan just stood there drinking in the sight of her, and the silence spun on. Finally she asked, "We have company?" tilting her head ever so slightly to indicate the two men watching from the entry. She turned to face them, looking at them for the first time. Duncan still made no move to introduce them, captivated by her presence.
"Joe Dawson," Joe said with a little chuckle. She inclined her head slightly in acknowledgment, and turned toward Richie who came partway down the steps to take her hand.
"Richard Redstone," he said, giving his alias, his voice deeper than usual. "Mac here taught me everything I know."
She smiled. "Always glad to meet a student of Duncan's. Kaia Doran. Duncan and I have a standing date on Valentine's Day every fifty years." Her eyes held Richie's a moment longer, and then were drawn back to Duncan. Turning away, she missed seeing Joe stiffen at her name.
The music from the stereo seemed to swirl about Duncan and Kaia, a rumba. Kaia moved into the circle of Duncan's arms and they began to dance to the slow seductive Latin beat.
Joe turned to leave, stopping to poke Richie with his cane, and, getting his attention, motioned for him to follow. They were all the way out to Joe's car before Richie finally seemed to come out of his daze.
"Wow." Richie shook his head to clear it. He saw that Joe's face showed a mixture of concern and alarm. "Hey, what's wrong?"
Joe shook his head and opened the car door. "Nothing, Rich." He got into the car. "Can you give me a rain check on dinner? I just remembered something I have to do," he said, shutting the door. Without waiting for an answer, he started the car. Waving a farewell at Richie, he drove away.
Richie stood watching in confusion for a moment, and then turned to his bike. "Looks like it's just you and me, pal," he said swinging his leg over and putting on his helmet. "Don't you ditch me, huh?"
Joe sat at his desk in his flat. The apartment was a pretty spartan affair, without much reflection of its tenant's warm personality to contrast the stark walls and utilitarian furniture. There just never seemed much point in carting all his things to Paris when he knew MacLeod would just end up going back to Seacouver anyway. Such was the life of a Watcher.
Joe was leafing through MacLeod's chronicles, as he had been doing since coming to his flat from MacLeod's barge. He sometimes moved quickly, skipping whole decades, and sometimes spent a half hour or more on a single day, trying to wring every nuance of meaning from that particular Watcher's account.
He was just coming to the end of his third reading of the entry for Valentine's Day, 1748. He stopped reading, closed his eyes for a moment, and then swore softly under his breath. He opened a drawer, pulling out a battered address book, and reached for the phone.
"Bill? This is Joe Dawson.... Yeah, it's been a while. How's the family?... Good, good, glad to hear it. Listen, I need a favor. I need you to email me everything we have on Kaia Doran for the years 1648, 1698, 1748, 1798, 1848, 1898, and 1948.... No, I lost my database when my hard drive was wiped.... Yeah, I know it's late.... No... no, look, Bill, it's important. I really need it right now.... Oh, it's not.... Well, then email the ones that are in the main computer, and fax me the others.... Great. I owe you one, pal.... Thanks."
Joe reached over to turn the fax machine on, and then returned to his perusal of the chronicles. He glanced over at the clock and swore under his breath again. There just wasn't much time.
They had danced for a long while, and then eaten the wonderful meal. Now Duncan and Kaia were relaxing on the couch in front of the fire. They were catching up, as they did during each Valentine's Day rendezvous. Kaia tended to give a travelogue version of the past fifty years, talking at length about the places she'd been and the things she'd seen. Duncan's tales usually centered around people; those he'd met, students he'd trained, friends he'd made, and loves he'd had.
"I wish I'd known your Tessa." Kaia's voice was soft, gentle. "She must have been a wonderful woman to have so captured your heart."
"So, what about students?" she asked with the air of someone trying to lighten the mood by changing the subject. "You haven't mentioned any."
"Well, there's Richie..."
"Yes," she smiled, interrupting. "I met him earlier. But you've taken on no others?"
"Not lately. There was one girl, but I decided to send her to Amanda to train."
"Too much for you, Duncan?" she teased.
"She was... a little on the wild side," Duncan admitted.
They looked at one another for a long moment.
"It's good to see you again," he said softly.
"And you." Kaia smiled. "You know, I haven't seen you in formal wear since... the time we met in New York. Do you remember?"
Duncan laughed and nodded his head.
FLASHBACK: VALENTINE'S DAY 1848, NEW YORK CITY
Duncan waited for Kaia in front of the theater. He'd gotten a box for a performance of "The Magic Flute." Kaia was later than he'd expected, however, and he could hear the opening strains of the opera through the open lobby doors. He was beginning to worry that she wouldn't be able to find him this time, although she always had before.
Then he saw a carriage coming down the street, and as it drew close he smiled in relief as he sensed the approach of an Immortal. Kaia alighted from the carriage, resplendent in red silk, a radiant smile on her face. They stood looking at each other for a moment, and then Duncan held out his arms to her.
She moved into his embrace, kissed his cheek and whispered into his ear. "You led me a merry chase this time, you naughty boy."
Duncan laughed. "I'm not that much younger than you, fair lady, and at more than 250, I can hardly be considered a boy."
She laughed with him. "Just naughty, then, if not a boy. So, what do you have planned for us this evening?" She peered at the sign advertising the opera.
"Come with me and I'll show you," Duncan replied. He led the way to the doors, only to find the way blocked by a rather bovine-looking security man.
"I'm sorry sir, but no one can come in without having their ticket taken."
"Well, here are our tickets," Duncan said, holding them out to the man.
"Oh, I can't take your tickets, sir," the man said shaking his head vigorously.
"Then who can take our tickets?"
"That would be Billy, sir."
"All right, where is Billy?" Duncan asked, beginning to get annoyed.
"Oh, he's up in the manager's office now, sir."
"Well, then could you go and get him?"
"No, sir. I'm not supposed to leave these doors unattended," The horror of leaving his post was manifest on his face.
"How are we supposed to get in, then?" Duncan was thoroughly exasperated.
"Well I don't know, sir. That is a puzzler," the security man said scratching his head.
A snort of suppressed laughter came from Kaia's direction. "Come along, Duncan," she said. "We're very sorry to have bothered you, sir." Duncan looked at her incredulously, but she tugged on his arm and cocked her head meaningfully.
"Oh, that's all right, ma'am," the man said, his face suddenly beaming. "You two have a nice evening, and be sure to come again."
They walked away quickly, stifling giggles. When they reached the alley beside the theater, Kaia stopped, still giggling, and pointed to a lighted stage door. Duncan hesitated, and she looked at him challengingly. He grinned and grabbed her hand, running with her down the alley.
Duncan pulled open the door quietly, only to find yet another security man.
"You'll have to go 'round the front, folks," he said, pointing back up the alley. "There'll be a man there who can take care of you." And with that, he yanked the door shut.
"Oh, but he can't, sir," Kaia said softly in deft mimicry of the first security man.
Duncan burst out laughing and took her arm. "My room isn't far from here, I can at least promise you dinner there."
They started walking, Kaia shaking her head sadly. "I did so want to hear that opera."
"I suppose I could sing it for you," Duncan said, and, clearing his throat, began a lusty rendition of the opening.
"It's a good thing you weren't relying on your voice to put food on the table."
They both burst out laughing. "What a night," Kaia finally managed. She took her glass of champagne from the low table and lifted it. "Here's to many more in the years to come."
Duncan touched his glass to hers and both drained their glasses ceremonially.
The fax machine on Joe's desk began to whir softly and Joe looked up, blinking to refocus his eyes. He'd been pouring over the chronicles for hours, just now coming to the end of the 1948 Valentine's Day entry. He was rotating his neck a little to ease the tension there when his voice line rang.
"Joe? It's Bill. Okay, the stuff I emailed you should be there by now, and I'm faxing the rest right now."
"Thanks, Bill. I owe you one."
"Yeah, yeah, so you said. Not to worry, I'm sure I'll think of something you can do for me," Bill laughed. "Hey, I ran across something that your friend Adam Pierson would have been interested in. It seems that Kaia ran into Methos about 1500 years ago. The rest of that stuff seemed like pretty basic fare, so I threw that in to liven things up. Look, I gotta get home, it's after 1 am."
"Okay, and thanks again, Bill."
"No problem. See ya'."
Joe accessed his email and printed off the entries there. He pulled the sheets from the fax machine and began organizing all the material in chronological order. He set aside the information about Kaia's meeting with Methos for the moment, and settled back to read.