Find a Way to My Heart
by Raine Wynd
The Heart Series, Part One
This was my first major attempt at a Highlander fanfic. Hope you like it! See end of story for disclaimers and notes. This story is PG-13 for language and some implied sex. Comments welcome; send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seacouver, September 1998
"There's a reason I hide my heart
Out of sight out of mind"
— Phil Collins, "Find A Way to My Heart"
No matter who I'm with, I always seem to come to Joe's. It had been a while since Anne been in the blues club, not since...
Say it, her mind taunted.
Her heart wasn't in the mood. Oh, she knew... now, that it hadn't been permanent, but the grief and shock she'd felt were still vivid, even after three years. She remembered clearly Richie's awkward attempts to console her, to reassure her that everything would be okay. Some part of her laughed hollowly at the memory.
She had been so sure. The doctor in her had noted the steep angle of his descent from the balcony, the severe trauma upon impact, the unnatural angle of the spine and the blood leaking from the corner of his mouth. That part of her had pronounced Duncan MacLeod dead, DOA even before the ambulance could be called. The part of her that was the woman, the lover — that part hadn't wanted to believe, but with such vivid proof, how could she not?
Richie had taken her to Joe's, hoping to ease her sorrow, if not with alcohol, then with the soothing sounds of the blues as only Joe Dawson could play them. Between the two of them, they'd distracted her, consoled her, gotten her a little bit drunk, and effectively made it seem as though Duncan was really gone. She'd visited the club few times more after that, but then Joe had left for Paris, and there hadn't seemed to be much point.
I haven't been here since I found out the truth about Duncan's "death," the unwilling thought crossed her mind.
Now why the hell did I think that? she chastised herself. As if this blind date wasn't already starting off on the wrong foot.
Anne was late. She hurried through the parking lot and swore as she looked at her watch. She cursed the fates that had conspired to stick her behind a waitress paying in coins in the express lane at the grocery store, then behind a slow-moving semi-tractor trailer hauling an oversized load on the freeway. As if those things hadn't been bad enough, her baby-sitter had canceled.
Anne had thought herself stuck until Amanda had swept in, needing a place to stay as Duncan was otherwise engaged. She was glad Amanda had shown up; once Anne had explained her predicament, the Immortal thief had practically shoved Anne out of her own house, claiming that it was her duty as Mary's adopted aunt to baby-sit occasionally. Anne had a date tonight, and that thought had been her motivation all week.
Tonight, there would be no pager, no three-year-old toddler bent on driving her mother crazy, no nurses asking her advice. Tonight, Anne wanted it to be perfect. It had been so long since she'd been on a date, she'd almost forgotten what to wear, and that had only served to add to her delay. Amanda had helped her dress, even let her borrow some clothes. Finally, Anne was here at the bar, but she was nearly twenty minutes late.
She braced herself for the assault of memories she knew would hit her the moment she walked in the door. Why did you agree to this date here? You had a choice of meeting him elsewhere.
Yeah, right. Who are you kidding, Anne? a voice in her head jeered.
Her other voice answered, Tammy set this up; she didn't give me a chance to say no, and by the time I figured out the directions she'd given me, I'd already committed myself.
Anne took a deep breath, surprised to realize she was nervous. Tammy was a physician's assistant at County General Hospital, and she and Anne had been friends ever since Mary's birth. Tammy had told her only that the man was a friend of hers, one Joshua M. Stone, a freelance computer consultant who had moved into the apartment next door to Tammy eighteen months previously.
Anne stepped across the threshold and waited for the reminders of the time she'd spent with Duncan, of the last time she'd been here. She was surprised to discover that the pain was more tolerable than she'd feared... and far more remote than she'd anticipated. It was unnerving, to say the least, and she pushed the odd sensation aside to analyze later. This last week at work had been rough, and she wanted nothing more than to feel like a woman tonight.
Nervous, she immediately headed to the restroom, wanting to check her appearance one last time before she met her date. As she stared at her reflection in the mirror, she wondered what on earth had possessed her to accept Amanda's advice on the "what to wear" issue. She didn't recognize herself in the short black leather skirt and frilly, low-cut, white blouse she wore. She looked soft, feminine... sexy. She laughed softly to herself.
Definitely not a pair of scrubs or sweats, Anne, she thought, thinking of her usual attire. Thank God today's not a bad hair day.Wonder what Joshua looks like? She took a deep breath and smoothed out imagined wrinkles in the leather skirt. Only one way to find out.
The band was in full swing as she made her way to the bar, her eyes scanning the crowd. She noted with some pleasure that Joe was onstage, accompanied on vocals by a diminutive brunette who was dressed in faded jeans and a Joe's Bar T-shirt. Her voice was sultry Southern sadness and unmistakable talent. The music wrapped around Anne like a soothing embrace as she reached the bar, and some of her apprehension disappeared with the music's touch.
Catching the attention of the male bartender, Anne asked, "I'm looking for a Joshua Stone. Do you know where I can find him?"
Before the bartender could reply, a rich baritone voice replied, "Right beside you."
She turned to find her quarry seated on one of the bar stools. He was a tall yet compactly built man in his mid-thirties with neatly styled, rich brown hair and a fox-like face with deep blue eyes. He wore a forest-green silk shirt, an abstract tie, and black slacks. When he rose to greet her, the angular cast of his features softened into a smile.
"You must be Anne," he greeted, taking her hand.
She barely registered his words. God, he's beautiful, her mind murmured in stunned amazement. The electricity humming through her body at the slight contact he'd offered threatened to overload her neural circuits. Belatedly, she realized she was supposed to respond, and, nodding her agreement with his conclusion, she released his hand. "Pleased to meet you, Joshua."
"Call me Josh," he invited her, pleasure lighting his eyes. "All my friends do. I've a table reserved near the stage — shall we make our way over there?"
She nodded again, and allowed herself to be guided to the table. She was tingling all over from the simple contact of his hand on the small of her back, and it took more effort than she cared to admit to form her next words.
"Sorry I'm late, Josh," she apologized as she sat down in the chair he drew for her. "You wouldn't believe the kind of day I've been having."
"Oh, I think I can guess," Josh offered in commiseration as he seated himself. "Traffic was pretty bad tonight, wasn't it? Seems like everyone's trying to escape the city this weekend."
Grateful for the out he offered, Anne smiled. "You'd think this was a holiday weekend or something," she replied.
The server arrived to take her drink order, and out of long habit, Anne ordered something non-alcoholic.
"No wine?" Josh asked, slightly surprised.
"I've never been much of a drinker," Anne confessed. "Didn't Tammy tell you that?"
Josh shook his head. "Tammy didn't tell me much about you," he replied, "other than you're a talented trauma physician, you have a three year old daughter, and you like the blues, Italian food, and old movies." He smiled. "Your choice of beverages apparently wasn't on the list of things our mutual friend felt important enough to mention."
Anne chuckled, thinking of the woman who had set up the date. "So how did she get you to agree to seeing me tonight?"
"Actually," Josh admitted blandly, "I put her up to it." At Anne's astonished look, the dark-haired man explained, "I saw you about two weeks ago when I stopped by the hospital to have lunch with Tammy. I asked about you, and she mentioned you didn't date strange men. I thought if she set it up, I wouldn't be so strange."
"And if I'd have refused?"
Josh smiled. "I would've found another way to spend time with you," he told her honestly.
Caught between annoyance and admiration for his tactics, Anne surrendered to the fact that, however she felt about it, his method had worked. Tammy's recommendation had eased Anne's nerves about meeting someone new, and Anne found herself relaxing more as the evening wore on. She found Josh to be every bit the pleasant companion her friend had praised him to be. He had a sharp sense of humor and a certain roguish charm that went a long way to capture her heart. The fact that he was also devastatingly sexy to boot and was making her pulse race with every gesture he made didn't hurt either.
They sat in companionable silence, enjoying the music, until the set was over and the band left the stage for a short break. Anne watched as Joe moved through the crowd, accepting praise for his playing, and realized abruptly that his path would bring him right past their table.
I'm not ready for this, she thought. She remembered the last time she'd been in the club, and had been flirting with someone she'd thought was a really nice guy. He'd made some excuse about leaving, and Anne hadn't thought twice about it until Joe had told her that the really nice guy was Immortal... and that was that, as far as Anne was concerned. No second date for that guy. After Duncan, she wasn't about to risk her heart like that again. It was difficult enough being friends with Immortals... loving one was even more difficult.
Joe had argued with her about that the last time they'd spoken, and she'd been steadfast in her convictions. He'd asked her what was so different about being friends with one versus being a lover of one... the danger, in his eyes, was the same. They'd parted without coming to a satisfactory conclusion to their debate, and the next Anne knew, Joe had moved to Paris to teach at the Watcher Academy.
He greeted her warmly now. "Anne! It's been a long time. How's Mary?"
Anne let out a hidden sigh of relief. She suspected that he honestly didn't remember the argument as well as she did.
She smiled easily. "Growing up too fast," she replied. "You sounded really good up there. I thought you'd moved to Paris?"
"Well, as you can see, I'm back," he drawled. "I decided to take an extended vacation from teaching." He paused, taking in the man who accompanied Anne, and nodded to Josh.
Anne noticed that Joe stared a little bit too long at her date, as if trying to remember him, but she put it down to the fact that Josh had probably become a regular around the club.
Joe's next words confirmed her suspicion. "I've seen you in here a couple of times."
"Joe, I'd like you to meet Josh Stone, my date for tonight," Anne introduced smoothly. "He's a computer consultant and a fan of yours. Josh, this is my friend, Joe Dawson."
Josh rose to his feet to shake hands with Joe. "Pleased to meet you," Josh said. "You have a real talent."
"Thank you," Joe accepted graciously. "Glad I can finally put a name to a face."
"That woman who was singing up there with you," Josh began, "what's her name? She's very good."
Joe beamed. "That's Melinda," he informed Josh.
Josh gave a start of surprise and asked in delight, "The Melinda? The one who's been on the charts all summer? How'd you manage to book her?"
"She walked in earlier today and said she'd always wanted to sing here ever since she heard about the place from an article in a Ticketmaster magazine. Said the article rated 'Joe's' as one of the top ten blues bars in the country. Who am I to refuse?"
"Definitely not a fool," Josh replied.
Joe grinned in reply. He looked like he was going to say more, but a waiter came up then with a problem and Joe had to excuse himself to take care of it.
After Joe left, Anne asked, "Who's Melinda?"
"She's the newest prodigy on the musical scene," Josh explained. "Did you see 'A Small Divide'?" he asked, naming one of the summer's biggest movie hits.
"Who hasn't?" Anne said. "Tammy insisted that I go see it, and I'm glad she did. Romance, action, and a plot with believable characters... they don't make too many movies like that."
"Melinda sings the love theme from that movie."
Anne thought for a minute, her mind searching for the song. "I'm drawing a blank," she confessed.
Josh recited the lyrics of the song. "'When forever's not long enough with you, will you wait for me on the other side of heaven? Will you walk beside me and pledge your love? Will you be strong enough to cross this divide?'"
Combined with the performance Anne had heard earlier, the words finally clicked. Anne's eyes widened with the recognition. "I love that song! I never really pay attention to the artists on the radio anymore, but that one really caught my attention. I can't believe she's only sixteen years old!"
"Amazing, isn't she?" Josh agreed. "How did you come to know Joe?" he wondered. "You seem to be close friends."
So many memories, Anne thought. Where to begin? Finally, she settled for a simple, "A friend introduced us." She paused. "I wasn't really into the blues until I heard Joe play."
"Really? I grew up on the blues — my mother was always playing the great artists."
"So where did you grow up?" she asked.
"Little town in Illinois," he told her. "Its one great claim to fame is that the local community college was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright." His tone held the note of derision common to small town escapees.
Anne smiled. "And that would be who?" she questioned, not recognizing the name. It certainly sounded familiar, and she knew really ought to brush up on her culture, but all she could think of was that maybe Frank Lloyd Wright was a character on "Sesame Street", and she knew that wasn't right. She stifled the nervous giggle that thought evoked.
"Doesn't matter if it doesn't impress you," he returned with a grin. "Let me guess. You can probably tell me precisely the Latin name is for every body part, and describe in intricate detail the process necessary to close a gunshot wound, but if you had to program your VCR, your daughter could probably do it better in her sleep than you."
Anne smiled at the image of her daughter programming a VCR. "Well, she's only three years old, so I don't think she can do that quite yet, but how'd you — ?"
"I'm like that with computers," he confessed. "I can tell you more about computer technology than you ever want to know, but I can't figure out how to run a washing machine."
She laughed. She couldn't picture anyone not being able to run a washing machine. "But didn't your mom show you?"
His expression shuttered, and Anne knew instinctively his mother had died. Her heart, already dangling on the precipice of falling in love, went out to him. "I'm sorry," she said softly, sincerely.
He shook off the introspection. "It was a long time ago," he informed her. "She was the light of my father's life, and he spent my teenage years just waiting for her to come and take him home." He smiled at some distant memory, then asked, "Did you grow up in Seacouver?"
"No, I was born and raised in San Francisco," Anne said. "My college roommate was from around here, and she convinced me to move." She chuckled. "Of course, just as soon as I did that, she decided she hated it here, and moved away." She paused. "So what made you move here?"
"This area's big for computer consulting, and I had a good job offer to move here."
"Tammy mentioned you'd only been here a year and a half. Where did you live before?"
"Out of a suitcase, more than anywhere," Josh grinned. At Anne's confused look, he explained, "I worked for a company based out of Chicago, but I spent more time in hotels and on planes than I did anywhere else."
"Doesn't sound like fun," Anne sympathized.
Conversation turned to other topics, and soon, the band returned to the stage. Joe wasn't playing this set, but Melinda was still singing, and now she had a guitar as well. As the band began its opening notes, she spoke. "Hello y'all. This is my first time on this stage," she said in a voice flavored by a Southern accent. Scattered laughter met her words. She smiled. "Well, all right, second time tonight," she corrected herself. "This next song is for all y'all lovers out there, so here's your chance to come out onto the dance floor."
Josh rose and reached out a hand to Anne. "Shall we?" he asked.
I've only been dreaming about holding your body for the past hour, Anne thought with a delighted grin. Do you think I'm going to say no? She rose to her feet and took Josh's hand. "Love to," she told him.
The song was slow, dreamy, and spoke of love reaffirmed. Anne savored the feeling of Josh's strong, unmistakably male body against hers. His was a whipcord lean body, without a trace of wasted flesh. Definitely not your typical computer nerd, she thought. He must work out.
He was a half head taller than Anne, she discovered as they moved across the dance floor. He was also a confident dance partner, easily leading her through moves that spoke of long practice. She'd thought that only Duncan could move like that.
I am not going to think of Duncan tonight, she admonished herself, and concentrated on the feel of being in Josh's arms.
The song ended, and the band segued into an equally romantic number. Soon Anne lost track of time, only aware of the building attraction between her and Josh, the feel of being held close to his body. How long they danced, Anne didn't know. It wasn't until Melinda called last song and they'd sunk gratefully into their chairs that Anne realized the time.
"Oh, my God, it's nearly one o'clock!" she exclaimed. "I have to get home!" She stood and reached for her purse.
Josh looked surprised. "Sorry about that," he apologized, rising to his feet and moving so that he was closer to Anne. "I wasn't intending to be out this late, either." He paused. "I'd like to see you again, Anne. Do you want to meet for lunch tomorrow? You can bring Mary along if you like."
Anne considered the idea. She'd had a fun time with Josh, and she was highly attracted to him. She did have the weekend free, but she'd planned to spend some time alone with her daughter, and she wasn't sure if she should introduce Mary to Josh just yet. It was a little too soon. Then there was her houseguest. Anne knew Amanda well enough to know that the female Immortal would eventually tire of playing baby-sitter.
"I'll call you," she promised, regret coloring her voice. "I really want to see you again, but I'd like to spend some time with my daughter alone this weekend."
He smiled. "I understand. I hope to see you again, Anne."
She returned the smile, and leaned forward to brush
her lips against his in a promise of a kiss. Not waiting for his
reaction, she walked out of the club. By the time Josh moved to
follow her, she was already two tables away. Then a large group
of people seated at a table in his path chose that exact moment
to rise to their feet, blocking his way and allowing Anne to disappear
into the night.
[Joe's Bar, after closing]
Joe relaxed in his chair in his private office at the bar. It felt good to be back in Seacouver, back in the bar playing blues. His job in Paris teaching new Watchers wasn't exactly thrilling, and he had taken a leave of absence to decide if that was what he wanted to continue doing.
But he was still a Watcher. When he had seen Anne's date earlier tonight, the Watcher in him had itched to run to his office and check records. The name Joshua M. Stone had rung bells in his memory, but the same curiosity made him want to know more first. He might not be a field agent anymore, but old habits were hard to break.
He regretted the intrusion of the customer with a bad credit card, interrupting his opportunity to ferret out more information about Joshua, but since his partner Mike had been busy tending bar, he'd had to take care of the situation. By the time he'd handled the problem, he'd seen Anne and Joshua dancing together, and it would have been rude to interrupt when he could see they were lost in a world of their own making.
"Guess I was wrong," Joe murmured to himself, shutting off the computer with a tired sigh. He couldn't find an Immortal with the name of Joshua Stone, or one fitting the description, though such a strikingly attractive one usually stuck out more than the rest. Joe knew all too well that the Chronicles were full of holes when it came to seemingly minor players. It was so easy to dismiss the lesser-known in favor of chasing after legends like the MacLeods.
Realistically, he knew that every individual his friends met would more likely be mortal than Immortal. It didn't hurt to check, though. There was always the outside chance of discovering a new Immortal, or one that had been previously overlooked for one reason or another. Though the Watcher knew such an occurrence meant more paperwork, it was still something of an honor to be the first to make a discovery.
It was a damn sight better than closing the books
Monday morning rolled around with the energy of a rambunctious child, and it was several hours and a couple of car accidents later before Anne was able to stop in her office at the hospital. A bouquet of peach-colored roses sat on her desk, along with a note.
Anne laughed as she realized the note was actually Josh's resume, made to look like a medical chart. At the bottom, where a diagnosis would normally be, he'd written: "Situation critical. Is there a relationship here or not? Patient needs close medical supervision. Recommend Dr. Lindsey call patient immediately."
She obviously couldn't resist a well-planned romantic
gesture like that. She called Josh.
With a grateful sigh, Anne slid into the cafeteria booth and set down her tray. "Oh, to be off my feet for a few minutes," she murmured in relief. "Thanks for suggesting lunch, Tammy," she said to the woman already seated in the booth. "I'm starving."
Tammy Telan, her lunch companion, an petite Asian woman wearing a physician's assistant's uniform, smiled at the comment and continued to pick at the half-eaten Caesar salad on her lunch tray. Her straight black hair, nut-brown skin, and dark slanted eyes revealed her Filipino heritage, but Tammy was a liberated American woman. Too liberated, sometimes, for Anne's comfort.
"Glad to see you could make it," Tammy said. She paused and watched as Anne dug into the pasta and vegetable concoction that the cafeteria had advertised as its special of the day.
"So, how are things working out for you and Josh?" she asked.
Anne swallowed and smiled. Her expression was dreamy as she thought of Josh. "I owe you one, Tammy," she told her friend. "I never thought I'd be one for blind dates, but I'm glad you convinced me to go on this one."
"You needed it," Tammy shrugged. "Josh is a good friend of mine, and he saw me talking to you one day. He didn't want to scare you off by approaching you directly at first, so I'm glad I could help." She smiled wickedly. "You've been on what, five dates now?" Seeing Anne's nod, Tammy continued, "So, have you slept with him yet?"
"Tammy!" Anne protested. As comfortable as she was with human anatomy, she was less comfortable discussing her sex life. For one thing, she hadn't had one since she had been with Duncan.
After Duncan, other men had just seemed too... ordinary, and she'd had Mary to consider. Tammy, on the other hand, was unabashedly outspoken on the topic of sex and spent a great deal of time discussing ways she could — and had — livened up her single, childless life.
The other woman laughed. "I'll take that as a no," she answered her own question. "What are you waiting for?" She narrowed her gaze as a thought struck her. "I know what you need."
"Would you like to arrange the rest of my life while you're at it?" Anne interjected with a trace of annoyance.
Tammy chuckled. "No, but if you're going to turn down a free babysitter for an entire weekend... "
"Oh, no, you don't," Anne said warningly as she figured out what Tammy's plans were. "You' re not going to dangle that in front of me, knowing we both have the weekend after next off."
Tammy's smile just grew wider. "Just think what you could do with forty-eight hours alone with a sexy guy, and no three year old in the way," she said meaningfully. " Just how long has it been, Anne?" she added devilishly.
Not for the first time, Anne was glad Tammy had never met Duncan MacLeod. Anne's friendship with Tammy dated to Anne's return from maternity leave, and somehow Tammy's visits to Anne's house had never coincided with Duncan's. She suspected that her lustful friend would have thought Anne crazy for giving up a man as sexy as Duncan. Anne had decided to leave Duncan so that she wouldn't be forced to choose between her healer's oath and wishing harm on others. Even if she hadn't, Anne had taken one look at Amanda, and had known instantly she could never capture Duncan's heart the way Amanda had.
Her chance had been taken, the choices made, and there was little she could do but live with the consequences.
Anne supposed that by all rights, she should've hated Amanda for stepping so easily into the void Anne had created by leaving. However, Amanda was too much of a vibrant personality to hate, and Anne had found a sister in the female Immortal. Idly, she wondered what Amanda was up to; it had been several weeks since she'd last seen or heard from her. Anne had woken up after her first date with Josh to find Amanda had left. Anne hadn't been surprised; Amanda never stayed long.
Anne sighed and brought her wandering attention back to the question at hand. She decided to give her friend the truth. "Not since I was about two months pregnant with Mary."
Tammy was momentarily speechless. "I'd die," she declared finally, "if I had to be celibate that long. Who was he?"
"Someone I loved deeply," Anne said, even as she amazed at the wealth of emotion the simple statement invoked. Even more shocking was the realization that it didn't hurt as much as she thought it would. "We didn't work out. Then I just got busy with being a mom and a doctor and it got to be too much effort to do much other than find an escort for the hospital charity events." Anne shrugged, her gesture indicating she didn't think the passage of time to be that extraordinary. She picked up her fork and continued eating.
Tammy stared at her, unable to comprehend how Anne could be so casual about not having a love life. At last, she found her voice. "I'm taking Mary for the weekend, and I'm not taking no for an answer." She pulled her cellular phone out of her purse and began to punch in numbers.
Anne's eyes grew wide as she realized just who Tammy was calling. She swallowed hastily. "Tammy, don't!" she objected futilely. "I'm perfectly capable of calling — "
"Hello, Josh?" Tammy greeted, silencing Anne's protest. She continued with pleasantries a few minutes longer, long enough for Anne to take a few more bites of her entrée. "Listen, I have someone here who'd like to talk to you." She paused, listening a moment. "No, I'm not telling you who." She handed the phone over to Anne, who was in the middle of taking another bite.
Thanks, Tammy, you have perfect timing, Anne thought, irked, as she swallowed. She managed not to choke and took the phone. She pressed a hand to her chest, trying to regain her composure. "Hello, Josh?"
"Anne!" his surprised voice came through clearly. "I was just thinking of you," he added with such honesty that Anne actually believed he had been. "What are you doing this weekend?"
"Working," Anne answered.
She could feel the disappointment radiate through the line. "Too bad," he said. "I was hoping we could see each other. What about next weekend?"
"Next weekend?" Anne stalled and watched as Tammy made furious hand gestures. Wickedly, Anne prolonged the thought, just to see Tammy squirm. Finally, she said, "I have the entire weekend free, and I know someone who's willing to baby-sit."
"Great," Josh exclaimed. "I'll pick you up at seven on Friday?"
"Where are we going?"
She could hear his smile in his voice. "Pack light," he told her, his voice mysterious. "And, Anne?"
"Tell Tammy to butt out," he said as he disconnected.
Anne smiled and relayed the message as she handed back the phone to her friend.
Tammy merely grinned. "You owe me," she reminded Anne.
Before Anne could form a proper retort, she heard
her name being paged. Grateful for the excuse to depart, Anne left.
[Two weeks later]
"Josh, this is gorgeous," Anne breathed as she surveyed the mountain retreat. She could see the Seacouver skyline from her vantage point, but it was softened by the distance and the faint shimmer of clouds.
Josh smiled as he stepped up behind her and hugged her gently, his arms wrapped around her. "I just bought it a few months ago, " he informed her. "It' s become my home away from home. Life gets crazy, I come up here."
He turned her so that they were face to face, and Anne slid her arms around his waist. "Thank you for sharing it with me," she said softly.
Their gazes met, and the words Josh meant to speak were forgotten. Desire flashed faster than a forest fire and it wasn't enough just to kiss, to hold each other close. Somehow, they made into the cabin and tumbled into the queen-sized bed. Clothes went flying as exposed skin became a target for exploration and assault by fevered mouths and tongues.
Anne felt like a deer, chased by the fire that was
burning the forest, but she wanted, no, needed, to be caught, and
as she ran, she could see the edge of the cliff drawing nearer.
For long moments, she hesitated on the brink, too breathless to
think, to do anything but feel. The fire flashed over her, and she
dropped like a stone in the river below the cliff, utterly consumed.
Exhausted, she drifted into slumber, only to be wakened again and
again by the mutual flame.
"Earth to Anne," Tammy chided the following Monday as she seated herself in Anne's office. "Quit glowing a second, will you?"
"Uh — what did you say?" Anne abruptly realized she had a visitor, and glanced down at the file laying open on her desk. She had no recollection of having opened it in the first place. <How'd that get there?> she wondered.
Tammy laughed. "I guess I don't have to ask how well your weekend went," she observed. "You didn't give me much of a chance to ask questions when you came home last night."
Anne's dreamy sigh only went further to confirm Tammy's assessment. "I was... tired," she told her friend absentmindedly. "I wanted to see Mary and go to bed." The double meaning of the last three words Anne had spoken registered, and she smiled secretively.
Tammy shook her head, not sure how to handle the
new side of Anne she was seeing. Deciding the best course of action
was a return to professionalism, she proceeded to update Anne on
a patient, and was relieved to see the more familiar persona snap
The weeks flew by quickly, and Josh became such seamless
part of Anne's life that it seemed incredible to think of a time
when he hadn't been around. He was an incurable romantic and delighted
in surprising her. She never knew what he 'd come up with next.
Slowly, but surely, she fell in love.
"Come on in," Anne invited Josh with a smile, her eyes appreciating the way he filled out a tuxedo. "I'll be ready in just a minute. I just need to check on Mary." She looked at the medium-sized teddy bear he had tucked under one arm and quirked an eyebrow. "For me?" she asked, indicating the stuffed toy.
He shook his head, and kissed her with a desire that left no doubt as to his depth of feeling for her. "That," he told her, "was for you."
Glowing from the kiss, it took Anne a minute to regain her composure. "I see," she managed finally. Deciding that if they were going to make it to the hospital charity fundraiser on time, she'd better start moving, Anne turned away from him.
Just then, a determined Mary emerged from her bedroom. She was followed closely by Eloisa Reyes, the fifty-six year old widow and mother of six grown children Anne had recently hired as a live-in babysitter.
"Senora, she wouldn't go to sleep," Mrs. Reyes said, her voice apologetic. "She wanted to say goodnight."
"It's okay, Mrs. Reyes," Anne smiled, starting to move toward Mary. "I'll put her to bed. She has a mind of her own at times."
The heavy-set Mexican woman shook her head. "Reminds me of my Jose at that age," she remarked.
Anne was an arm's length away from her daughter when Mary spied Josh standing in the foyer at precisely that moment. All memory of being tired was instantly forgotten as she dashed to greet her hero. "Josh! Josh! Up please!" she cried.
Willingly, Josh did as he was bid, reaching out and grabbing Mary in mid-stride with one arm to lift her high into the air. She bounced a bit in his grasp as he juggled child and teddy bear, and she squealed delightedly. As always, Anne frowned a bit at his rough handling of Mary, though she knew Josh wouldn't hurt her daughter.
"How's my princess?" Josh asked her once he'd settled her more firmly against his chest.
"Missed you," Mary informed him, pouting prettily.
"It's only been a week, sweetie," he told her, though he knew it was forever in her eyes. "Can I make it up to you?"
She nodded soberly.
Shifting her weight again, at which she giggled, Josh presented Mary with the teddy bear. "This is for you, princess."
Her eyes grew wide at the gift, then she greedily took hold of it. "Down," she commanded, secure in the knowledge her wishes would always be granted. Then, remembering that her wishes would only be granted if she was polite, she added, "Thank you for the bear. Please down."
Josh hid a smile at her antics. "Love you, princess," he told her as he set her down on the ground.
She beamed and hugged her new teddy bear closer to her. "Love you," she told Josh and took off towards her bedroom. Mrs. Reyes shrugged her shoulders helplessly before following in the toddler's wake.
Anne shook her head. "Well, it's nice to know where I rate in her life," Anne noted dryly as she reached for her coat.
Her lover of three and a half months chuckled and helped her into the long coat. "You're her mommy," he pointed out reasonably, "I'm not."
She rolled her eyes at this obvious statement.
"But if it consoles you any," Josh added as he drew his mouth over hers for another kiss, "I love you, Anne."
Her breath caught even as she realized he'd only brushed his lips over hers. He'd never told her before tonight what he felt about her, and suddenly, she wasn't sure about how she felt.
He read her distress in her eyes. "I don't need the words, Anne," he told her gently. "Not yet; you're not ready to give them to me. Please don't ask me to take them back, because I've been wanting to tell you for some time, and I can't hold back how I feel."
Uncertain of what to say, Anne merely nodded, even as her heart pumped rivers of joy.
"Come on," Josh smiled. "We'll be late if we don't get going."
In a daze, Anne allowed herself to be escorted out
"Damn you, MacLeod," Amanda swore as she stared at the sign on the dojo. "Under New Management" was heralded in bright red letters, followed by "Grand Re-Opening, December 1."
Though Amanda had expecting Duncan to move for some time now, she'd been hoping that her sometime lover would be in town. She was getting tired of chasing him around the world, only to discover he'd taken up with someone else. She was beginning to think that he was trying to put the past behind him by ignoring everyone who had been a part of it. Not for the first time, she wondered why his attention mattered so damn much.
Sighing, she stepped back into her rental car and determined her next course of action. She'd already stopped by Anne's and found no one home, the house securely locked. She'd considered bypassing the security system — after all, she'd designed it — but she knew Anne wouldn't appreciate that, and Amanda held Anne' s respect in too high of a regard to break that trust. There weren't very many women, Immortal or not, whom Amanda counted as friends, and she was determined to keep every one.
Decision made, she headed in the direction of Joe's and was pulling into the parking lot before remembering she'd run into him in Paris earlier in the week.
With a resigned sigh, Amanda headed for the airport.
She wasn't sure where she was going just yet, but surely there was
somewhere she could drown a broken heart and maybe, just maybe,
liberate some jewels along the way.
Inside the bar, Josh shivered abruptly.
Startled, Anne asked, "Something wrong?"
He shook off the concern, smiling. "No, I just got a chill. I get those sometimes and I don't know why. My aunt would say that if you got a chill unexpectedly, that was someone walking over your grave."
"What a morbid thing to say!" Anne exclaimed. "Are you sure you're all right?"
Josh's smile grew wicked. "Well, I might still be cold," he invited. "Maybe we need to go and you can warm me up, just to be sure."
Anne pretended to consider the invitation. "Maybe,"
she allowed as Josh drew her to her feet. He kissed her, not caring
who was watching, and she moaned lightly. Breathlessly, she told
him, "Let's go."
Josh watched Anne sleep, admiring her form as she lay naked and tangled in the covers. Reluctantly, he rose, careful not to disturb her as he crossed the bedroom to throw on a pair of sweatpants. She'd sleep through the night, he knew, secure in the knowledge that Mrs. Reyes would watch over Mary while she stayed the night at his place. He was glad he had convinced Anne to hire her, he thought as he made his way to his home office.
Closing the office door behind him, he stepped into the room and moved to face the floor-to-ceiling bookcase at the rear of the antique teakwood desk. With the ease of long familiarity, he found a latch hidden in one of the shelves and depressed it. An apparently decorative panel popped open with a dull click, revealing a black leather case. Josh pulled the case onto the desk and flipped the latches.
Staring at the lethally sharp metal object within,
he closed his eyes briefly before opening them again. Hello,
old friend. It's been fifty years. Miss me? I didn't miss you, but
if there are Immortals around, I guess we' re better off being together.
Seacouver, February 1999
"Time may come, and time may go, I know
If you should call out for me, I'll go
But you know, there is a code to be broken
I wrap it around
Without a word being spoken
Without a sound"
- Phil Collins, "Find a Way to My Heart"
"Amanda?" Anne asked hesitantly she peered through the screen door of her white frame house. The platinum blonde woman dressed in brown thigh-high boots, a short black leather jacket over a fire-engine red velvet bustier and a black mini-skirt certainly looked familiar. However, Anne distinctly remembered Amanda's hair had been black the last time she'd seen it. "Is that you?"
"Anyone else you know who can hide a sword in this outfit?" her visitor replied with a grin.
"What on earth did you do to your hair? And what are you doing here?" Anne exclaimed in surprise as she opened the door to allow Amanda entrance.
"Can't a girl just stop and say hello?" Amanda drawled, smiling and stopping long enough to hug her friend, then sailing into the living room.
Anne shut the door behind her and followed Amanda into the living room, where Mary sat, absorbed by "Sesame Street." Piles of laundry, some folded, some waiting to be folded, were scattered around the living room, indicating what Amanda had interrupted.
"As you can see," Anne said with some embarrassment, "I wasn't expecting anyone today." She hastily cleared a space on the couch for Amanda.
Amanda shrugged, taking the proffered seat. "Serves me right for not calling ahead," she said, waving away the apology Anne offered. Indicating Mary with another wave of her hand, she asked, "Is she always so absorbed by the TV? I don't think she even noticed you'd opened the door."
"It's the only time she's ever still," Anne said, chuckling. "I get a lot done in the hour she's watching this show." Checking her watch, Anne noted, "And I have precisely fifteen minutes left."
"Let me help you," Amanda offered, as unexpectedly as she'd arrived.
Warily, Anne picked up an article of clothing and started folding it, keeping her eyes on her guest. "And you'd be helping me because?"
Amanda reached for a Mary-sized T-shirt on the top of the pile next to her on the couch. "I don't get much chance to fold kid-sized clothes?"
The level look Anne sent the Immortal's way said clearly that Anne wasn't fooled. "Duncan's with someone else, and you need a place to stay."
"Am I getting to be that obvious?" Amanda pouted.
Anne chuckled again as she took the folded T-shirt from Amanda and stacked it with similar items. "Only to those who know you well," Anne said reassuringly.
"Actually, I have no idea where Mac is," the platinum-blonde woman informed her friend. At Anne's surprised look, Amanda shrugged. "He's out searching for enlightenment, and I'd rather have fun." She paused. "Though I'm rather depressed... there was this beautiful sapphire and diamond necklace on this tart in Rio, and I had to pass it up."
Long resigned to her friend's thieving lifestyle, Anne merely sighed. "Only you would mourn something like that. Go on, get your stuff. I figured you'd be back sometime so I kept the guest bedroom off the hallway ready."
"Thanks. I'll get my suitcase later," Amanda said, surprising Anne again. "Right now, I want to help you get this out of the way before someone — " she nodded in the direction of the preschooler — "realizes there's an outside world."
Grateful for the help, Anne took advantage of it, and was consequently able to finish her laundry chores much sooner than she'd expected, and took advantage of the extra time to play with her daughter and feed her lunch. While Anne did that, Amanda settled herself into the guest bedroom. As Amanda had expected to stay with Duncan, she'd packed a trunk full, and the settling in took a while.
Mary tired quickly, and Anne put her down for a nap. Emerging from the little girl's bedroom, she was a little startled to find Amanda watching her from the hallway.
"She's a beautiful child, Anne," Amanda said quietly.
"Thanks," Anne said, shutting the door nearly completely behind her as she exited and started down the hallway towards the kitchen. "Have you ever raised a child?"
"A few times," Amanda replied, following Anne. "Generally, I've tried to avoid it."
She didn't have to explain herself further; Anne was all too vividly aware of the danger zone in which Immortals lived. "Don't you wish sometimes you didn't have to?" Anne wondered as she reached for the coffee pot. Grabbing a mug from a cupboard above the coffeemaker, she offered one to Amanda, who shook her head. Anne poured herself a cupful into the mug she'd offered Amanda. "I mean," Anne clarified after she took a sip of coffee, "wouldn't you like to raise a child and know that they'll never worry about swords and headhunters and holy ground and... ." Her voice trailed off as her eyes met Amanda's.
Amanda smiled and countered, "Sure, but I tried being a nun once."
Anne tried to picture the woman before her in a nun's habit and failed miserably. There was no way to reconcile the mini-skirted, leather-clad, unrepentant thief with the image of a nun. It was too much. Laughing, Anne was forced to put her mug of coffee down before she spilled it.
"No, really," Amanda said earnestly. "It lasted about a year. I left when I realized I was actually supposed to practice everything they were teaching me." She shrugged. "I was more interested in the fact that it was a convenient place to hide for a while."
"Now, why doesn't that surprise me?" Anne said with a grin. "What had you stolen?"
"Nothing," Amanda said, a little too quickly. "I just needed somewhere to go and think for a while."
Anne studied her guest a moment. In the three years since their first meeting, the doctor had gotten to know Amanda fairly well and considered her a close friend. Amanda was a good poker player, but she let down her guard around Anne, and consequently, Anne had come to know when the other woman's heart was broken or when she was upset about something. It was times like these that Anne saw Amanda as just another friend, and she forgot that the other woman was over a thousand years old. Of course, it probably helped that those were the times that Amanda showed up in Anne's life. Amanda wore that familiar expression now.
"Who was he?" Anne asked gently as she gathered the ingredients for the simple dinner she'd planned, since Mrs. Reyes had the day off. Anne had found it was easiest to prepare dinner ahead of time, without Mary's "help."
Amanda leaned against the kitchen sink and half-closed her eyes at the memory. "He was the son of Duke of Eastbrooke... and I never thought Michael was a handsome name until I met him. He had eyes the color of blue sapphires, and hair the color of sable... and the way he danced... well, I had to find out if he was interested in a more intimate kind of dance." She paused, watching Anne slide two pork chops drizzled with a peach and ginger sauce into the oven. "No matter what I tried, he refused to be swayed from his conviction that he was bound to a woman he'd never even met, and that his arranged marriage was more important than the passion I could offer him. I wasn't used to being turned down, mind you. Consequently, it just made me want Michael more."
Anne shut the oven door and set the timer. "So you pined away in a nunnery."
Amanda smiled mirthlessly. "I thought it would be a grand enough gesture to convince him how much I cared," she told Anne, "except he didn't change his mind." She stopped again. "I was so mad at him for ignoring me," Amanda's smile came more easily now, "but after a few months, I realized he couldn't even remember who I was, and he had been honest about his loyalties."
Smoothly, Amanda switched topics. "Enough about me. Last time I was here, you were going on a blind date. How'd it go?"
Anne shot her friend an exasperated look. "Well, if you called once in a while, instead of just showing up at my door unannounced like you always do, you'd know that Josh and I have been seeing each other since then." She paused, and her breath came out in an unconscious sigh. "As a matter of fact, he's asked me to marry him."
With typical grace, Amanda ignored the rebuke and focused on Anne's last words. Delighted, she asked, "So what did you say?"
Anne reached into the refrigerator and began pulling out the ingredients for a salad. "I haven't decided."
Amanda's gaze narrowed on her friend. "Last time I checked, the answer to 'Do you want to marry me' was either a 'yes' or a 'no', not a 'maybe'," she noted, conveniently forgetting that she'd used "maybe" as an answer a few times herself. "I assume he asked you recently, or else you wouldn't still be thinking about it."
"Last Friday," Anne confirmed, shutting the refrigerator door with a nudge of her hip before setting her collected vegetables on the kitchen table. "I haven't decided because I've only known him six months, and I've got Mary to think about." Since Amanda was nearest the sink, Anne handed Amanda the vegetables to wash while she pulled two kitchen knives from a drawer by the sink, a salad bowl from an overhead cabinet, and a cutting board from another. "We were supposed to spend this weekend together, but then he got called out of town by an old client of his with an emergency — something about their system crashing and they needed it up yesterday. He has so many old clients who think nothing of calling him up at all hours and wanting him to fix their problems. It's bad enough I get paged for my work."
Amanda accepted the task Anne handed her without complaint and used the work to busy her hands while she thought about her friend's answer. She washed a medium-sized cucumber and rinsed a head of lettuce before she observed, "That's not the only thing that's stopping you, though, is it?"
Anne sighed as she took possession of the lettuce and began shredding it into the salad bowl she'd set on the kitchen table. "No, it's not. It's just... ."
"What?" Amanda asked encouragingly as she rinsed and handed Anne a tomato and a green bell pepper. Then, grabbing the last remaining vegetable in the sink, she took a seat and deftly pared the large carrot into the salad bowl.
"He's not perfect," Anne declared with such puzzlement that Amanda laughed.
"And that's a bad thing?" the other woman queried, still chuckling. "Anne, you know there's only one person who's allowed to be perfect in this world."
The two women locked gazes. Simultaneously, they chorused, "Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," and dissolved into giggles.
The laughter relieved the tension Anne had been feeling. "But that's just it, Amanda," she said. "I feel so strange thinking that Josh is so blessedly normal. He can't run a washing machine, doesn't understand a dishwasher, and is terrified of needles. He's great with Mary, even though he can't have kids. He makes me feel like I'm the most important woman in his life. He's so open with what he feels and thinks and... ." Anne's voice trailed off again as she realized Amanda was grinning at her.
Picking up the cucumber, Amanda pointed the vegetable at her friend before starting to slice it. "It's so good to see you in love again," the Immortal commented with sincere pleasure. "I was beginning to worry that maybe you wouldn't get over Mac." Dropping the cucumber slices into the bowl, to which Anne had already added the sliced tomato and bell pepper, she began tossing the salad. "Though I was hoping that you and that cute intern would make a better go of it than you did. Really, Anne, that was such a waste of a perfectly good man."
Anne rolled her eyes at the two-year-old memory. "Be realistic, Amanda, he was just interested in seeing if he could seduce an older woman. He wasn't interested in a long-term commitment, especially one that included a small child."
"Older woman, you said?" Amanda said speculatively, pausing her work. "Wish I'd known that... wonder what he'd feel about me?"
Shaking her head at her long-lived friend's behavior, Anne replied, "Somehow, I don't think he'd have believed you're a day over twenty-six."
Amanda preened. "I knew you're my friend for a reason," she said.
Anne made a face at that, and Amanda laughed. "Seriously, though, you shouldn't let what happened in the past influence the present," the other woman told Anne. "You can't spend the rest of your life just being Mary's mother, the doctor. It's not all that you are."
The dark-haired woman sighed. "No," she agreed, "and I didn't realize just how lonely I was until Josh came along." She paused. "Have you ever loved someone who just made your world a brighter place just for being in it?"
Amanda smiled, and Anne felt instantly stupid for asking that question. Of course Amanda had; it was Duncan, and Anne had known that for years.
Just then, Amanda suddenly raised her head and glanced around. "Are you expecting anyone?" she asked Anne.
Recognizing the signs of the buzz, Anne shook her
head. "Duncan usually calls me to let me know he's coming," she
informed Amanda. "I don't know anyone else who it could be."
"This journey's not easy for you, I know
If your footsteps get too faint to hear, I'll go
Cos you know, questions are never that easy
And never the same
You have the answer believe me
If you have the faith"
— Phil Collins, "Find a Way to My Heart"
Amanda rose to her feet just as the doorbell rang. "My sword is in the bedroom. I put it away because of Mary."
Anne looked at her, one part of her pleased that Amanda had considered Mary's welfare, the other part cursing the decision. Amanda was obviously worried. Anne knew that if the Immortal standing outside her front door was after Amanda's head and decided not to wait for Anne to open the door, then Amanda would not be able to get to her sword in time. Anne's chest tightened with fear, and she forced herself to breathe calmly.
Please don't let it be someone after Amanda, she prayed. Anyone but that. "How do you want to do this?" Anne asked.
"Whoever it is will have sensed me. It's probably better if we both answered the door at the same time," Amanda said quickly.
Anne took a deep breath. If Duncan was here, he'd have ordered her to stay back... but Amanda wasn't Duncan MacLeod, who insisted on protecting his women from harm. Anne took a step forward. "Shall we see who it is?" she asked as the doorbell rang again.
The two women walked, Amanda in front, Anne a step behind, but close enough to be almost beside the Immortal.
Amanda opened the door and put on her best charming smile. She didn't sound surprised to see the drawn sword, and she gently pushed the blade away. "Really, now, is that how you greet an old friend?" she asked as she opened the door wider to reveal Anne, unharmed.
Anne recognized her visitor immediately. She'd know that angular face, that lean, athletic body anywhere. Bewildered, she questioned, "Josh, do you know Amanda?" A second later, she exclaimed happily, "I thought you'd be out of town until tomorrow! You're back early!"
As soon as Anne's words left her mouth, she realized what had happened. Amanda and Josh had sensed each other. Amanda was an Immortal, and that meant... . Her pleasure at Josh's early arrival died. No, please let this be a mistake, her inner self, the woman deeply in love, screamed.
Josh ignored her words while he stared at Amanda, but then he turned a worried face to Anne and examined her carefully. "Anne, are you okay? She's not harmed you or Mary?"
No mistake, her mind whispered coldly, logically, speaking with the doctor part of her that could catalog trauma and injury while ignoring the screaming of the injured person she was treating. Except now she was the injured person.
Anne stood there, the smile frozen on her face. Her heart was crystallizing with every passing second, and she imagined she could feel the ice forming. Her soul was bleeding as profusely as any life-threatening wound she'd ever had to mend. She wanted to scream, to vomit, to sink to her knees in denial. She wanted to punch him, and she hated violence. Josh was an Immortal. Josh, the man she loved, the man Mary adored, the man Anne had been thinking of marrying and waking up next to for the rest of her life, was an Immortal. He'd been lying to her all this time. He'd been so open with his feelings, his dreams and fears, that Anne had never suspected a thing.
God, how could I have been so stupid? she thought. No wonder he pretends to be terrified of needles. He doesn't need a doctor.
He doesn't need me.
She could feel his eyes upon her, still waiting for her reassurance. Anne saw Amanda glance worriedly in her direction, her expression questioning. Anne forced herself to speak, to look directly at him when she wanted to run in the opposite direction and bury herself in the security of her bedroom to cry rivers of tears.
"Amanda's a friend," she told Josh. Something made her add, "She would never hurt me or Mary."
Amanda glanced sharply at her friend. "I'm Amanda Montrose," she said, smiling, "and you are?"
"Joshua Michael Stone," he introduced himself, apparently willing to take Anne's reassurance at face value since he sheathed his sword as he spoke. "My friends call me Josh."
Through the haze of shock, Anne was only dimly aware of Amanda and Josh exchanging pleasantries, could only watch as Amanda charmed Josh into sitting down on the couch and then, as if sensing the tension that filled the air, left the room, leaving Anne standing alone with Josh.
Her Immortal lover.
His eyes were on her now, and Anne felt her anger grow. Not again. Why me?
Immediately, Josh exclaimed, "I didn't know you knew one of us."
"Well, you know now," Anne stated.
Her voice sounded colder than Josh ever remembered hearing. The two hundred forty-nine year old man realized he'd just made one of the biggest mistakes of his long life, and his lover's expression was not forgiving. Something inside him started to break.
"When were you going to tell me?" Anne demanded. Thinking of Duncan, she asked, "Or were you just not going to tell me unless you died in front of me?"
"Do you know what I immediately thought of when I felt her? Do you have any idea?" Josh countered, his voice rising with remembered fear. He rose to his feet and started to pace.
"I panicked. I thought she was someone after my head, and was holding you and Mary hostage. I was so damned glad I'd started carrying my sword again, and I was praying to God it wasn't someone more skilled with a sword than me. It was all I could do to not break down the door. Then you stand there and introduce us like it's the most ordinary thing in the world for you to be friends with an Immortal."
"Do you have any idea how that made me feel?" he asked, gesturing with a partially clenched fist towards Anne. "I was dumbfounded. I couldn't believe it. All I could think about was asking you how you'd find out she's Immortal. I didn't even think about the fact I hadn't told you."
"But you hadn't," Anne repeated in a voice filled with hurt. She hugged her arms to her chest, as if they were body bandages against the infection of his betrayal. "And if Amanda hadn't been here, I wouldn't have known." She paused, and looked directly at Josh. "I had no reason to tell you about her Immortality. I thought you were mortal like me."
Josh shrugged helplessly. "Anne, it's not a subject that's easy to bring up. You must know that already; that much is obvious." He paused, fearing the answer to his next question. "Does it change how you feel about me? I'm the same person I was yesterday."
"Is it one of your Immortal rules - don't tell the mortal you love what you are?" Anne sniped. Intellectually, she knew it wasn't a rule, but at the moment, it was all she could think. Not again, I swore never again...
Josh bowed his head, closing his eyes against the pain. When he faced Anne again, his eyes were so full of emotion it was all Anne could do to not rush into his arms and damn the consequences.
"I love you, Anne," he told her. "I hurried back because I can't picture another day without you. I want us to be married."
She bit her lip and shook her head slowly. Another time, his words would have sent her heart fluttering, but now they only served to create a gaping wound instead. Josh read her refusal in her body language, and sought to convince her otherwise.
"There isn't anywhere else in the world I want to be but with you," he added passionately. "I didn't know how you'd react... I had no idea you knew about us. I swear I was going to tell you, eventually... I just wanted to protect you."
She laughed without humor at that. "I'm not a child who needs to be protected," Anne said defiantly, stepping away from Josh to stand, hugging herself tightly.
She could see the shattering hurt in his deep-blue eyes, in the way he stood, shoulders slumping, but she hardened her heart and turned away. Never trust an Immortal with your heart. Didn't Duncan teach you that lesson well?
"No, but you have one," Josh said gently, "a little princess who's just as beautiful and caring as her mother." His voice breaking, he added, "There is nothing I wouldn't do for either of you, no one I wouldn't fight to keep you safe."
Anne picked up on that one word and focused her anger on it. "Fight?" she asked harshly, starting to pace. "Oh, yes, that's what you Immortals do — fight to the death."
Josh stepped closer. "It doesn't have to be — "
"Don't come any closer and don't give me that bullshit," she said harshly, whirling to face him. "'There can only be one,'" she quoted, her anger making the expression sound like it came from an Immortal. "And it doesn't matter," she began, and had to stop for the grief she felt when she thought of Richie, "it doesn't matter, if it's a friend, teacher, student, lover, or a total stranger. You'll kill any Immortal for the Prize." Her voice bordered on hysterical, and she sat down, fearing her knees would give way. "It's all a Game to you, and you don't care when someone gets hurt."
"Anne, I'm not a headhunter," Josh attempted to defend himself. "I haven't picked up a sword in fifty years. I don't go looking for trouble, and I've gotten pretty good at avoiding confrontations. I'm not interested in the Prize, and I hate killing, but if I have to kill to survive so I can be with you and Mary, I will. I don't want to lose you, either of you. You mean too much to me."
He paused, then knelt down closer to her, his gaze level with hers. "When were you going to tell me you were friends with an Immortal, Anne?" he inquired quietly. "If I'm guilty of keeping a secret, then so are you. Yours might have cost me my head, did you think about that? I'm just glad that Miranda? Mandy? what's your friend's name again? Whatever it is, I'm just glad she's not the type to slice first and ask questions later."
She stared at him, shocked at his words. The hurt, already deep, became a chasm. Anne's voice was flat when she spoke. "That's unfair, Josh. How was I to know you're Immortal?" she retorted. "You gave me no reason to think Amanda would be any threat to you."
He started to raise his hands in a gesture of frustration, then dropped them angrily. "She was never around, so I thought we were safe. There was one time when I thought I felt another Immortal. It made me think there might be a headhunter around, and it scared me enough to take up my sword again. I would rather not have one, especially around Mary."
Anne pressed her hands to her face, before dropping them to hug her elbows as she held her arms close to her chest. The mention of her daughter's name brought a renewed wave of pain. Mary practically worshipped Josh.
Unbidden, the memory of how Anne had nearly lost Mary before she was born came vividly into focus. Anne had nearly been killed by an Immortal when she had been two months pregnant with Mary. Never again will I risk my child, she thought.
"Do you honestly believe that's going to make me feel better?" she demanded harshly. Josh didn't reply, and she laughed humorlessly. "Should I even let you try to convince me I can live with my lover being a part of some stupid game? Should I even listen? Should I even try? I don't think so." She shook her head slowly. "You see, it doesn't matter what you would rather not have, not when our whole relationship is based on a lie. You didn't grow up in some town in Illinois, your mother never introduced you to the blues, and I'm not even sure if Joshua is your real name."
She paused for breath. The pain was a narcotic, filling her with a strange leaden weight where the pieces of her heart had been.
"I can't do this. I can't love an Immortal. You expect me to love you, to trust you completely, to open myself up to you and be honest with you, but you can't even tell me exactly who you are."
She stopped again, and Josh took advantage of the opportunity to speak.
"Anne — "
She shook her head again, forestalling his reply, and drove one last nail into his heart. "I was going to accept your proposal when you came back. Now, I don't think I will."
She saw tears welling in Josh's eyes as he looked at her. She could feel the floodtide of emotion welling up, and she fought to stand proud, to hold her ground, to not show her weakness for him. Some part of her wanted to forgive him, to explain, but she knew instinctively that if she surrendered now, she'd always wonder if she should have been stronger.
"I love you," he said again, "and I know that even though you've never said so, you love me." With that declaration made, he walked out the door.
Anne drew an uneven breath, buried her face in her hands, and sagged to the couch.
"The timer went off, so I took the pan out — " Amanda started to say as she entered the room. Seeing Anne, she immediately rushed to her friend. "What happened?"
Brokenly, Anne stated, "He's Immortal."
There was nothing Amanda could say to that, knowing Anne's personal history, and she drew her mortal friend into a wordless embrace as Anne cried out her heart.
Outside, Josh sat numbly in his luxury sedan. He'd stuck the key in the ignition, but hadn't started the car. His broadsword was in his hands, and as he stared at the weapon, he wondered what he was supposed to do next.
Was Amanda the reason why she was so upset? Josh speculated. Did Amanda die in front of Anne? That would make sense... .most mortals he'd ever known had either reacted with suspicion and fear or with anger and denial or a combination thereof. Seeing a friend revive from the cold embrace of death would be worse than discovering said friend had been a government spy... at least there was logic in the espionage occupation. No amount of reason could explain Immortality. It simply was, no more explainable than the position of the stars in the sky. He had a feeling his heart would break if she refused him completely.
Hell, what was he thinking? It was shattering into tiny pieces right now. She'd given him his walking papers, and there was no reason why he should still be hanging around.
It was amazing, he thought, how quickly Anne had become a part of his life, how important she'd become to him. He'd planned to tell her about his Immortality eventually... but not like this, with sword drawn and another Immortal with her to warn her of his arrival. Seeing her like he had wasn't the way he'd pictured her reaction.
He laughed humorlessly. Get real, Josh, as if there was ever a good way to react to discovering some people live forever.
But I thought she would be different. She's so strong, I didn't think it would be that big of a problem... .
He closed his eyes as the pain became a path of glass shards he was forced to walk upon barefoot. In agony, he contemplated slicing his wrists, if only to have a physical source to focus his despair upon, but he knew it would be a fruitless gesture... he'd heal instantly, for one thing. He was Immortal, after all. He set the sword aside.
Josh felt tears slide down his cheeks as he remembered his lover, standing so proud in her anger and pain. At the moment, he felt like he'd been sliced in half by a sword, and he wanted nothing more than to have her healer's touch bind him together. Recalling her now, he knew that having her hands on him had been the furthest thing from her thoughts. It was time to retreat. In a few days, maybe she would see his point of view.
You hope, said a snide voice in his head as he started the car. What are you going to do if she doesn't find a way to your heart?
"I don't know," he whispered. "I honestly don't know."
Four days later
Josh felt the Presence long before the knock on his apartment door sounded. Though he suspected who his visitor was, he nonetheless grabbed his sword and kept it at the ready before checking the peephole. He sighed resignedly as he set his weapon aside and unlocked the door.
Pleased he'd remembered her name, the woman in question stepped into the apartment. "You know, there was a time when I really would have loved to hear you say my name," she observed as she noted the simple lines of his décor — modern, functional, and about as old as Mary.
Josh shut the door behind his visitor and watched her as she paced the living room. "I remember everything when it comes to Anne. I don't think I'm going to forget you now." His voice was bitter with irony.
Amanda stopped her restless perusal of Josh's living room to shoot him an amused look. "Really now? I'm flattered."
Josh moved away from the door to stand directly in front of the other Immortal. "Why are you here?"
She smiled demurely. "Why, darling," she cooed, her seductive voice at odds with her smile, "to tell you I'm glad you never took me up on that invitation to be my lover."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"I'm sure you remember the harvest ball at Eastbrooke in 1780?"
"I was the duke's son, how could I forget?" he returned, puzzled at her line of thought. "Not that I think I'll ever forget 1780," he added.
Amanda heard the emphasis he gave to that last sentence. She knew it had been the year of his first death. Amanda continued, "I tried to convince you to be my lover, but you not only refused, you forgot my name." Her mouth tightened in the remembered hurt. She was really over it, but she didn't want to let Josh know that; it didn't suit her purposes at the moment.
"That was centuries ago, and though I remember it happening, I don't remember everyone who was there," Josh replied. "Besides, I've never been one of those Immortals who remembers every other Immortal they've ever met. Please, enlighten me as to why you're glad I never took you up on your invitation."
"Because you're an idiot, and I don't like wasting my time with idiots," Amanda said flatly. "How could you propose to her and not tell her who you are?"
"Like you've never done the same thing?" Josh shot back.
"This isn't about me," Amanda retorted. "This is about you and one of my best friends." She sighed, and swallowed her anger. "You know she loves you, and you love her, and you're just going to let her walk away." She shook her head. "Why don't ask her why she doesn't want to love you, instead of just hoping she walks back into your life?"
"If you know the reason, then you tell me," Josh countered, finally seeing a ray of hope in Amanda's visit.
Amanda smiled, but the smile lacked warmth. Moving towards the door, she responded, "Now what kind of friend would I be if I spilled her secrets like that, especially since she's been so good about keeping mine?" She had the satisfaction of seeing comprehension dawn on Josh's face before shutting the door behind herself.
One fool in love down, one to go, Amanda thought.
She found the other fool in love seated in her bedroom, staring mindlessly at the ceiling. As Mrs. Reyes had been the one to let Amanda in, Amanda was reassured that Mary wasn't being neglected while her mother wallowed in heartbreak. Anne was apparently unable to work or do anything that required thinking about something other than Josh.
"Anne, you need to talk about this," Amanda announced in a no-nonsense tone.
Anne's voice was flat and lifeless. "Why should I? Oh, I forgot, you've probably done the same thing a hundred times."
Amanda drew back and studied her friend. Defending a practice she herself had employed would only add fuel to the fire, the Immortal decided, and she attempted to deflect the argument. "That's not really the problem, Anne."
"No?" Anne rose to her feet and paced angrily.
Here we go, Amanda sighed and braced herself for the inevitable. "Yes, I have kept it a secret," she said calmly. "Not everyone understands exactly what it means to be Immortal. You do. You know more than most mortals outside of the Watchers, and you haven't backed away. You tried," Amanda reminded her, "and you couldn't stay away. You didn't want to accept that in order for someone you cared about to live, someone had to die... but you found a way, enough to stay friends with Duncan, with Richie, with me."
Amanda stepped directly into Anne's path, stopping her. Their gazes met.
"You know why we don't reveal what we are, Anne."
Anne smiled despite herself. She realized she was just as guilty of trying to protect her friends as Josh had been of trying to protect her and Mary.
Seeing the reluctant smile, Amanda relaxed. "You keep our secrets well, Dr. Lindsey," she formally complimented her friend. "Now the question becomes, do you forgive yourself for not figuring it out sooner, for falling in love with another Immortal, and for just plain falling in love, or do you stay mad at Josh for doing what's second nature to him and most Immortals?"
Anne knew the ancient woman was right, but it didn't make the irritation any less difficult to swallow. "Guess I'm being a royal idiot, aren't I?" she asked.
"No more than anyone else in love," she told Anne. "Go on, get out of here, go after Josh," she encouraged Anne. "He's more important than anything else at the moment." She stiffened momentarily, and smiled a very satisfactory smile.
"He's here, isn't he?" Anne asked, knowing that Amanda would be able to tell his Presence.
The Immortal smiled. "He's not very far."
Not very far turned out to be no farther than his
Josh wasn't sure why he'd driven to Anne's after Amanda had left. If it had been any other mortal woman, he would have been long gone, given her space and time to decide whether she wanted an Immortal in her life. Then again, maybe it was the fact there was already an Immortal in her life that made a difference... he only knew that he loved Anne and her daughter deeply. He was fascinated by the strong, independent woman who managed a trauma ward with ruthless efficiency and from-the-heart caring and still found more than enough love and patience to raise a child by herself. He was aroused by the seductress who made love with wild abandon... and who turned a pair of scrubs into one of the sexiest things he'd ever seen in his life. She was stunningly perceptive and yet naïve in some ways... and Josh knew he'd never grow tired of uncovering the layers he found within her. He couldn't remember when he'd loved someone like he loved Anne.
He hoped that the other Immortal — Miranda? Mandy? no, no, Amanda, that was it, damn it, he had been so sure he wouldn't forget her name — that Amanda could convince Anne to come out and at least speak with him. He wasn't sure if he could move until he knew how Anne felt.
A smart man would have never come here, he lectured himself, but no, you had to drive over here and make sure that other Immortal wasn't going to hurt her.
Anne said she was a friend.
As if that wasn't one of the oldest ways in the book to betray someone, a devil's advocate piped up in his head.
I believe Anne.
What if Amanda decides to come after your head for hurting her friend? the same devious voice asked.
Cut it out, Joshua, you're going to drive yourself crazy.
You should've just waited for Anne to come to you, like you planned, the voice continued to lecture. Coming here is risky.
Loving a mortal is always a risk. She's worth it. I love her.
Mercifully, the contrary voice was silent.
Finally, he saw her emerge from the white frame house.
Hoping to hear what he wanted, but still wary of the other Immortal
he sensed, he got out of his car and leaned against it with his
sword by his side. He thought about meeting her halfway, but decided
not to, just in case his hopes were wrong.
He looks so strong, Anne thought as she drew near him. His sword was held loosely against his left thigh as he leaned against his luxury sedan. Anne knew, from watching her Immortal friends practice sparring, that his stance was a deceptively casual posture. With a start, she realized that she had the power to send him away... that she actually had a choice this time, more so than she'd had with Duncan. This time, she knew exactly what she was going to face. A line from the old argument she'd had with Joe Dawson came floating into her consciousness at that moment.
"For crying out loud, Anne," Joe had said disgustedly, "you worry just as much about the well-being of your Immortal friends as you did Duncan when you didn't know he was Immortal. What would be so different if you discovered the man you loved was one?"
Nothing, she answered, finally seeing the truth in Joe's perspective. Not a damned thing. She took a deep breath.
"Anne?" he asked, his voice betraying the hope he felt. "Why don't you want to love me?"
She wanted to turn away from the raw hurt she saw in his eyes, but she stood her ground. "I fell in love with you, I thought you were safe from the Game," she told him. "No swords, no Quickenings, no jumping at shadows and running to Holy Ground." She paused, knowing he deserved the truth. "I made that mistake before, and he died in front of me. He let me think he was dead, and he wasn't." Anne stopped again, trying to gather in the emotions that threatened to overflow. "It was like a crazy dream come true to find out he wasn't, but then there was another Immortal... .I was pregnant with Mary, and Duncan had to kill him to save me." She closed her eyes at the memory of that scene. "I've never wanted another human being dead more than I did that other Immortal, and I couldn't handle it then. How could I, a doctor who saves lives, want to take one?"
Whoever Duncan is, I'm damn glad he was there, Josh thought. "Oh, Anne," he said, wanting to take her into his arms, but her stance was still distant.
"I couldn't handle it," Anne repeated, "and we stopped being lovers. I swore I'd never get involved romantically with another Immortal. I could handle friendship, but love... that was too much risk." She paused. "But if it means that I lose the best thing to happen to me since Mary was born, I'd rather not." She looked into his eyes. "I love you and I want to be with you for the rest of my life."
Josh's breath caught at her words, and he reached out to her. She resisted the offer of his arms a moment longer, though he could see she wanted to hold him.
"Just tell me one thing," Anne said. "Is Joshua the name you had before you became Immortal?"
"Yes," he replied honestly. "It's what I was called before I was taken to replace a duke's son named Michael who'd managed to kill himself."
She stepped in and pressed herself against Josh's body, careful to avoid the sword he still held. "Good," she declared before brushing her lips to his in a kiss, "I want to be sure I say the right name when the priest marries us."
"And when I find out just who you are
The door will be open for you to...
Find a way to my heart... ."
- Phil Collins, "Find a Way to My Heart"
Disclaimer and Notes: Highlander characters and concepts belong to Panzer/Davis. Joshua "Josh" Michael Stone, the Duke of Eastbrooke's brother, Tammy Telan, Robert the assistant dojo manager, and Eloisa Reyes are mine. The title and the part headers are borrowed from Phil Collins' "Find a Way to My Heart" off the "But Seriously... " release.
Canon conflicts: "Highlander: The Raven" hasn't happened yet as far as this story goes. Joe sold his bar in Seacouver, but kept a healthy stake in it so Mike could keep it going until he got back.
Oh, and there really is a small town in Illinois called Falling Water whose local community college was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Thanks to my readers Janeen Grohsmeyer, Amanda Parsons, and Dana Woods for their encouragement, corrections, humor, and advice, especially with the "what do I do with a three-year-old" question. I couldn't have made it this far without y'all. A special thank you to the members of the HLBETA list for giving me the courage, based on a story snippet, to write this.Written with the threat of power failure to Hurricane Georges as the ultimate motivation.
Wondering what Duncan's reaction is when he finds out Anne's married? Check out Heart Without A Past.
Like Josh? He returns in Heart Series #5, What the Heart Wants.
Heart Series ©1998,1999 Raine Wynd