Disclaimer and Notes: As usual, I'm just playing in the Panzer/Davis sandbox with their characters, and I'm not making any money off of this. However, Kelly Siobhan Pyron, Josh Stone (a.k.a. Michael Eastbrooke), and their assorted sundry companions are mine. This is the final story in the Heart Series which began with Find A Way to My Heart. Inspired by Phil Collins' "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven."
I honestly didn't think I was going to write another Kelly Pyron story. After writing What the Heart Wants, I told myself that I was finished with that character. Then I came across an unfinished piece of "WTHW" that I had written while in Michigan in May 1999, and suddenly, Kelly was knocking on the door again, demanding to be written.
Rated PG-13 for frequent use of a certain curse word by the mostly reformed ex-merc.
Thanks to Amand-r and Dana, as always, for being the best friends I've met online.
Forever in My Heart
by Raine Wynd
like morning dreams they just disappear
like dust in your hand falling to the floor
how can life ever be the same?"
— Phil Collins, "Since I Lost You"
He wanted to weep.
So many things had been left unsaid.
So much wishing...and still, there was nothing he could do to change the way things were.
She was never coming back.
He could sit in the loft and get drunk on the bottle of Jameson's that she had left behind, finger the tattered Italian souvenir T-shirt she'd tossed into the office as a spare, but it didn't change the fact that Kelly had left him.
Duncan knew all he would have to do was to look at Anne, and he'd see the unwanted sympathy in her eyes. He could almost hear her tell him that maybe Kelly had just finally decided she couldn't handle having Immortals in her life...but Duncan knew it wasn't true. It was merely something Anne had once believed, something she was guessing Kelly probably felt, but Anne couldn't be farther from the truth.
Kelly wasn't afraid of Immortals, though she'd had enough reason to be. She'd been comfortable with the sometimes violent life he lived, perhaps too comfortable, for she had lived an equally violent life.
Kelly had left because he'd been too blind to see that she'd needed him, but had been too proud to ask for the help. Yes, it was true that they had fought viciously at times, but he'd thought that they'd started to work things out, and life had gone on in its usual way.
Now, with hindsight, he could see that hadn't been the case. Kelly had simply learned how to hide better, pulling away when he got too close to discovering what it was that was truly bothering her. He'd let her go, believing that if he gave her the room she seemed to need, she'd come back eventually. This time, however, felt different.
He sighed heavily, knowing that there wasn't much he could do at this point. It didn't stop the ache in his heart, though, or the recriminations. Love, he knew, had never been for the fearful, the timid, or the weak, and no matter how many times he fell in love, or how much time had passed, he still hurt. Over the years, he had found himself increasingly wanting it to be the last time he fell in love, the last time he took that great big leap into the unknown. Even as that desire manifested itself, he'd known that no matter where he landed or how hard he came crashing to the ground, he could not have done otherwise. He could hear the logic of that echo in his head, and yet, his heart refused to listen, preferring the company of pain.
He'd loved Kelly deeply; that, he could not, would not deny. She'd sworn that she loved him as well. Their passion for each other had been stormy, with unexpected pockets of calm: two warriors finding strength and unity in each other, and something more. Yet all of that had been shadowed by Duncan's sense that Kelly did not love him as wholeheartedly as he did her. It had been the strongest sore point in their relationship, and still, Duncan refused to believe that had been the single reason for her departure.
No, this time was all his fault. Kelly had trusted him to understand her, and he'd reacted without thinking, accusing, hurling angry words, demanding explanations. He'd been fully aware that demanding explanations of Kelly had rarely gotten results, and still he'd forged ahead like a blind man rolling a stone off a cliff.
Somewhere in the world right now, Kelly was pregnant with another man's child. He pictured that image, and felt the old ache of opportunity snatched away by destiny. Breathing deeply, he concentrated on recalling the last time he'd seen Kelly smile, trying desperately to freeze the image before it became layered with regret.
He raised the bottle in silent toast, and took a drink. He grimaced slightly at the taste, remembering how he'd once gotten into an argument with Kelly about whiskey, and she'd scoffed at his preferences. Almost convulsively, he reached for the T-shirt she'd left behind in the laundry, wondering how she'd managed to rip it so that if she were to wear it, it would hang off her shoulder. He half-smiled as he remembered how most of her clothes had always looked like they'd been through a war zone, even after being washed. She'd never been the silk and pearls type, and he'd loved that aspect of her. He shook his head, and closed his eyes. He would get over her in time.
He just didn't know when.
The city burned in the sweltering, unexpected heat, driving nearly everyone into the comfort of air conditioned rooms. Joe's was no exception. The bar was crowded with patrons wishing to escape the invisible fire. Night had fallen, and still the heat crisped the air.
At least, that's what the parking lot seemed to say. Joe was stuck outside. He couldn't believe he'd locked his keys and cell phone in his car. Since all the doors were electronic, he couldn't break in unless he broke the glass, and he didn't want to do that. His insurance was high enough already. For a half-second, he wished Amanda was still in town; she'd have him into his car in less time than it took him to pour a drink. He sighed, and trudged back into the bar to call a locksmith.
All thoughts of his car were forgotten, however, when he reached the bar phone. Seated in front of it, blocking his ability to get to it from the patron side of the bar, was one woman he hadn't thought he would see again.
Unnoticed for the moment, he stared at her. The long, burgundy-black hair was French braided, making the scar along the left-hand side of her heart-shaped face stand out even more prominently, despite the careful hand with makeup. She wore a sleeveless white cotton shirt, white jeans, and white ankle boots. A half-empty wine goblet sat on the bar in front of her. He knew even before she turned to see who the new person at the bar was that she had emerald green eyes, and her voice would be faintly Irish accented. He knew her to be Kelly Siobhan Pyron, Duncan MacLeod's last mortal lover. She hadn't been in Seacouver since her abrupt departure back in early April, and he wondered where she had been.
She didn't turn, though, in that nearly automatic reflex that he'd been certain she would perform. For a heartbeat, he thought that maybe he'd been mistaken in his identification of the woman. He recalled how Kelly had never worn makeup, and he took a second look at the shirt she wore, which was no bar-souvenir shirt. He cleared his throat, intending to ask her to move the phone so he could reach it, but she turned just then.
A smile broke out across her features. "Damnit, Joe, why didn't you just tell me to fucking move over?"
He grinned, relieved. "I wasn't sure it was you, that's why."
Her smile faded a bit, and she glanced down at herself, as if seeing the clothes she wore for the first time . "Yeah, well, it's me."
"Have you been to see Mac?"
She shook her head. "No. I'm just here for the week on business."
"Business?" Joe asked cautiously. The last he'd known, Kelly was a professional mercenary-turned-dojo manager. There wasn't anything remotely resembling a war in Seacouver, unless one counted the Game, and he didn't think Kelly would get involved with that. At least, Joe corrected himself, not unless she was defending herself or Mac.
She laughed softly, guessing correctly what he was thinking. "I'm not a merc anymore, Joe. I left that life behind when I came here two years ago."
"So what are you doing now?"
She didn't answer right away, a sure sign of trouble. "Just paying an old debt."
"Isn't that what brought you here so long ago?" Joe hadn't meant the words to be so harsh, but they tumbled out that way anyway.
"Don't worry, Joe, I'll be gone soon."
"You've been here all week and haven't stopped in until now?"
She sighed heavily. "I didn't want you to know I was here. I knew you'd probably tell Mac I was in town."
"He's been looking for you ever since you left, you know."
"I know. Josh told me." Regret darkened her eyes. "I wasn't planning on coming back, but I owe Josh."
Joe's eyes narrowed at the mention of Josh Stone. Joe knew that Josh had inadvertently been the cause of Kelly's leaving, so what did Kelly owe him for?
Before Joe could ask, a cellular phone rang, and Kelly excused herself to answer it, stepping away from her seat out of deference to the music and the noise of the crowd. When she returned a few minutes later, she looked unusually pale.
"Something wrong?" Joe asked, concerned.
Kelly smiled, but the smile didn't reach her eyes. "It's nothing really. Look, I have to get going. It was nice seeing you again, Joe."
She started for the door.
"Kelly, wait!" Joe called. She paused, the look on her face clearly revealing her agitation.
He caught up to her. "Before you go, please see Mac."
Fear flashed across her face. "I...I can't, Joe. I'm sorry." She turned away.
The choice was taken out of her hands, however, for just then, the door opened.
"Oh fucking God no," Joe heard Kelly say.
Duncan thought he was hallucinating. The woman who stood near Joe looked like Kelly, and yet didn't look like Kelly...and then the light caught her hair as she turned to walk away from Joe, and he knew. The air left his lungs as quickly as if he'd been punched in the stomach.
Her name was on his lips even as he strode across the room to meet her. She stood like a living mannequin, and Duncan fought the crowd to reach her before she disappeared like a rabbit, as he knew she was capable of doing.
He could see the escape plan formulate in her eyes seconds before he reached her. "Please don't run away, Kelly," he asked gently, crossing the distance.
"I can't stay," she pleaded hoarsely. She looked at him with pain in her eyes, and then brushed past him hurriedly.
He tried to catch her, but she was too quick and used the crowd to her advantage.
Duncan turned to Joe. "How long was she here?"
"A few minutes."
Duncan swore and strode out the door.
Hours later, Duncan gave up the search and returned to the dojo. Turning into the kitchen, he shrugged off the leather jacket he'd worn and laid it across the kitchen counter. He then turned, intending to head over to the stereo to turn it on, when he caught sight of the woman sitting on his bed. He froze, not wanting to believe that she was really here.
She cleared her throat. "I'm sorry about earlier," she said.
He frowned, startled by her words. The woman he had loved had never apologized for anything. For a moment, he wondered if he was looking at the same person, but the scarred face, the Irish-kissed voice, and the slender, athletic body had haunted his dreams for too long.
He fought the flare of anger at her apology, aware that what he said next would determine everything.
"Why'd you leave?" he asked instead.
She averted her eyes and took a deep breath. "I wasn't ready," she said, looking at him finally.
"How long are you staying?"
"My plane leaves tonight." She paused, then, after a glance at her watch, clarified, "In three hours."
"So where are you living now?" Duncan couldn't shake the sense they were speaking like strangers in a bar, but he was at loss for what else to do. Nothing in his life had prepared him for the way Kelly made him feel, and he was torn between wanting to shake her silly and wanting to love her until she forgot anything but him.
She smiled. "Eastbrooke. I manage the estate for Josh, since he and Anne are living here."
"Josh has known where you were and he never said anything?!?"
Kelly rose and went to Duncan. "Don't be mad at him, Duncan," she reprimanded him gently. "He feels guilty enough as it is. If Emily Canyon hadn't mistaken me for Josh's lover, maybe you and I might still be together. Anyway, I made him promise not to tell you."
Duncan took a deep breath. "Because of the baby?"
Pain flashed in her green eyes. "I aborted it. I didn't think I'd be able to take care of it, not when my head wasn't screwed on straight."
She looked at him a long time. "I wish I could love you the way you want me to, Duncan," she told him quietly. The use of his given name didn't miss his notice, and he realized she was deadly serious. "It took me a while, but I figured out that I could lose myself in you and never know who I really am. I spent all my life being a soldier. Then I came here and fell in love with you and...you fucking didn't want me to fight anymore. Not even to fucking protect myself. I tried to fucking understand, but..." She shook her head. "Maybe I was wrong to leave you without an explanation, but I just...had to go."
She stepped in close and leaned in to give him a kiss. Duncan closed his eyes, feeling the tears well up as her lips pressed against his. Unconsciously, his arms rose to pull her in close as he took the kiss and deepened it, trying to convey the love he felt for her, trying to convince her to stay.
Her breathing was ragged when she broke the kiss. "It's not enough," she told him. "I'm still leaving."
Duncan opened his eyes and swallowed the suggestion he was about to make. Studying her now, he could see that Kelly had changed in some indeterminate way, and the woman he'd loved was gone. To look at her now, no one would guess that she had been a mercenary who had loved Irish whiskey with the obsession of an alcoholic, and had often refused to buy clothes that didn't have some kind of advertisement on them. She looked so elegant now, sophisticated even with the fading flush of passion on her face. Instinctively, he knew he had lost her, yet he wanted so much to hang on to her, it hurt.
He put on a smile he didn't feel and offered, "Do you want to do something until your flight leaves?"
Kelly shook her head. "I have a package to pick up, then I have to drop off the rental car and get to the airport."
Duncan nodded his understanding, hearing the unspoken request to be alone. "Well. I guess you'd better be going then."
She smiled, but he caught the glitter of unshed tears in her eyes. "You could visit, you know," she offered awkwardly.
"I'd love that," Duncan accepted, though he knew the likelihood of that happening would be rare.
The silence stretched out, paper thin, as they stared at each other. Finally, Kelly moved for the lift. No words were spoken as they worked to shut the grate and set the elevator in motion. Duncan accompanied her to the parking lot behind the dojo, where she unlocked the door of a late-model Pontiac Sunfire.
After waiting for her to get in, he shut the door for her. She depressed the button for the window, and looked at him as she started the car. "I'm sorry, Duncan," she said again. "I loved you."
The rarely spoken truth only made the moment ache even more for Duncan. "I know," he answered, emotion making his voice thick.
She nodded tightly and averted her gaze.
He stepped away from the car. She put it into gear and was gone.
Josh was in the middle of reading a story to his adopted daughter when he felt a Presence thundering in his skull. Though there weren't very many Immortals who were aware of his existence, Josh had learned painfully that he'd taken his relative anonymity for granted. Deftly, he sent Mary to the kitchen where their housekeeper/nanny, Eloise Reyes, was preparing dinner, then went to the door to meet whoever was coming.
The doorbell rang, its melodic chime only serving to reassure Josh that the Immortal on the other side of the heavy oak door was probably a friend. He pulled the door open warily, only setting his sword back into the umbrella stand by the door when he recognized Duncan standing on the threshold.
"Mac!" he greeted. "What a surprise! Come in, come in," he invited, gesturing to the living room as he did so.
Duncan smiled and did as Josh requested.
"Mary's in the kitchen with Eloise," Josh said, knowing that Duncan would want to see his godchild.
"Thanks, Josh," Duncan replied, and headed in that direction.
After several minutes of play with the little girl, Duncan asked to speak with Josh alone. At Josh's suggestion, they headed for his study.
Once the door was shut, Josh turned to Duncan. "Is something wrong?"
"You've known where Kelly was and you didn't tell me?"
Josh stared at his friend. "After she left, you didn't want to talk about her," Josh said carefully. "She called me collect about two weeks after she left here, said she was in need of a place to stay and some work. The call came from somewhere in Greece, Santorini I think it was. I've been looking for someone to manage Eastbrooke while Anne and I live here — the couple that was managing it wanted to retire — so I gave her the job."
"And the counseling?" Duncan guessed. "You paid for that as well?"
"Anne recommended it. I don't know whether or not Kelly went, but she's changed a lot. Of course, having to deal with nobility will do that." Josh chuckled softly. "Bloody stuffy bunch of idiots for the most part."
"You didn't think mentioning Kelly would be important to me."
"Come on, Mac," Josh pointed out reasonably, "you seemed to accept that she was gone for good. After a couple of weeks, it looked like you were moving on, and Kelly didn't want to see you, so we agreed not to tell you she was going to be in town."
"Why was she here?"
Josh looked at him, hating that he was once again in the position of holding information the older Immortal ought to know. "She didn't tell you?"
Duncan shook his head. "She just said she was here on business for you."
Josh closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. "Not for me. For her." He opened his eyes and met Duncan's puzzled gaze. "In the course of her mercenary activities, Kelly was sometimes paid in gold and jewels, rather than in cash. She's been trying to get them assessed so that she can get the proper values in her will."
"Will? Is she dying?"
Somehow, Josh found the strength to meet the furious disbelief. "No."
"Don't give me that, Josh; you don't lie well."
Josh stared at Duncan, hating the fact he was so easily read. Duncan stared back, and the contest of wills began.
"All right!" Josh threw up his hands. "You win. You want the truth? Here's the truth: Kelly has AIDS."
For a long moment, Duncan gaped at him. "How long have you known?"
Josh breathed deeply. "She called us three weeks ago, wanting a second opinion from Anne."
"And Anne's opinion is?"
"Six months to a year," a female voice interjected.
Both men turned to find a slender brunette enter the room, dressed in a hospital smock, a stethoscope hanging from her neck. The woman crossed the study to plant a kiss on her husband's cheek, then slid an arm around his waist before turning to face Duncan.
"Kelly didn't want you to know, Mac," Anne informed him. "You keep wanting to protect her, and she's not made of glass. She's the toughest woman I know." Anne's voice was tempered with compassion, but the rebuke was still there.
There was little Duncan could say to that. Realizing he had gotten the information he'd wanted, he soon took his leave.
Three days later
Eastbrooke Manor, near London, England
"You cheated," Kelly accused, laughing as she brought the black Arabian stallion to a halt before the fence.
Her racing partner smiled unrepentantly as he easily controlled the white stallion he was riding.
"Hardly," he drawled in a crisp British accent. "Superior riding skills."
"Oh, it's back to that again, is it?" she teased him, and feigned boredom. "Really, Methos, we must get you over that 'I'm older than you and know better' complex you have."
"Kelly!" he scolded, though without heat.
She brought her stallion in line with his and leaned over as if to kiss him. "You love me anyway," she told him.
He moved his horse sideways, just enough so that she was out of reach. "Go ahead, Kelly, keep on believing that," he dared her.
She laughed again and moved her horse again.
"Okay," she agreed readily. "And I'll believe you just happened to be in the neighborhood."
Methos looked at her innocently. "Claudia Jardine is performing tonight," he told her. "I thought you might want to join me."
Kelly wrinkled her nose. As much as she had become accustomed to attending cultural events, particularly in her role as the appointed designee of the Duke and Duchess of Eastbrooke, she much preferred more pedestrian affairs.
"No thanks," she told him. "I've had enough of culture this week."
Methos shrugged. "Fine. I'll just go alone."
"Like I could stop you?" Kelly asked dryly. "Come on, let's get the horses back to the stables. I'm starving."
Halfway back to the stables, Methos nearly paused as the signature of one particular Immortal made itself known to him. He swore under his breath, knowing that his carefully crafted plan had just been blown open. He'd hoped to convince Kelly to join him, then let her see Mac in a less private situation.
Mac apparently had other ideas.
Kelly, cantering beside him, caught the sudden stiffening of his body out of the corner of her eye. She immediately halted her horse. "Something wrong?" she asked.
For a moment, Methos was tempted to lie. He pulled his stallion to a stop and faced her. In that instant, Methos recognized she would haunt his dreams that way: the afternoon sunlight glinting off her flame-kissed black hair, casting shadows on her heart-shaped face even as it defined it. She looked like a reformed devil's angel dressed in a leather jacket, blue jeans, and riding boots as she sat proudly atop the restless stallion. Her green eyes were filled with concern and a tinge of alarm as she stared at him.
She was the most beautiful woman in the world in that moment, and the heart that was already half in love with her fell the rest of the way. Yet even as it did, he knew it wasn't the kind of love either of them needed. She would never be like Alexa had been to him, and instinctively, Methos knew Kelly would never accept such treatment.
Kelly would fight the silent killer in her body like she'd fought every other battle in her life: with pride, courage, determination, and more than a few curse words to spare. She wouldn't see dying of AIDS as a passive death like some might, and Methos realized that Mac would, in his way, see it that way. Mac would want to wrap her up in a protective cocoon, especially when the disease took its toll, and everything that was Kelly would be smothered by it. In that instant, Methos realized what Kelly had known all along: that she couldn't be herself, not as long as Mac was in her life. Some part of him grieved for the news his friend would receive, even as he wondered whether or not Mac would truly understand the reasoning.
Almost reluctantly, he spoke. "Mac's here," he told her. "He was hoping for one last chance."
She smiled wryly. "You were the advance scout, I take it."
"No," he admitted honestly. "I came here for myself."
Her breath caught. More than anyone, Kelly had been aware of the unspoken attraction between them. It had caused friction between her and Mac when they had been lovers. Yet Kelly had never taken it beyond flirtation, not since he'd turned her down in Paris some years previously. Her eyes pleaded for him not to change the status quo.
"As a friend," he clarified, and realized abruptly the truth of that statement.
She exhaled slowly, relief clearly etched into her features. "I never expected to live forever, Methos," she told him. "I never expected to have friends who could." She paused, then, after steadying her horse, reached out to him.
He took her hand and clasped it tightly.
"Thank you," she told him. "For making me feel alive."
"I've had lots of practice," he answered, a bit more gruffly than he intended.
She smiled. "I know." She disentangled her hand. "I'll be fine, Methos. I can handle Mac."
Methos studied her for a moment. "I believe you can," he observed with some surprise, and then wondered why he had doubted her. She was Kelly Siobhan Pyron, ex-mercenary, after all.
Kelly smiled again, then took off at a brisk trot for the stables. He followed more sedately behind, hoping to give his friends a little privacy.
Kelly dismounted a few steps short of Mac and, after handing off the reins of her stallion to one of the stablemen, began walking towards him.
"Nice to see you again," she greeted. "Glad to know you took up my invitation."
"Josh wasn't kidding when he said he held a dukedom." Mac shook his head as if he hadn't quite anticipated the sheer magnitude of the other Immortal's holdings.
Kelly laughed. "Yes, it's a huge estate, isn't it?" Not waiting for a reply, she headed towards the house.
"You're looking good," he commented as he matched his stride with hers.
She slanted a look at him. "So you know," she observed.
She stopped in surprise and turned to face him. "What? No questions about why I didn't tell you?"
"Of course I have questions, Kelly, but I already know the answers," Duncan retorted impatiently.
"Then if you know all the fucking answers, why come all this way?" she asked him, searching his expression. "Mac, it's over. There's no fucking way either of us can go back. We'd both spend too much time asking each other about what we aren't saying."
Duncan took a deep breath. "What about starting over?"
She smiled sadly. "I don't know, Mac. I only wanted you as someone to love, and while it was good, it was great. What you want from me now...I don't know if I can give. I'm not even sure if I want to try."
He looked at her for a long moment. She waited tensely, prepared to withstand an assault of four hundred years' worth of Highlander charisma. She'd been taken in by that before, and though she knew just how tempting it would be to give in, she knew she had to stay firm.
"If you ever need someone— " he began, his voice rough with unspoken emotion.
"I'll just go fucking half-way across the world to avoid you entirely," she informed him. "Drink myself fucking blind and stupid, and have the Watchers looking for my nearly dead ass."
He appeared momentarily stunned.
She chuckled, relenting, and watched the apprehension drain from his body.
"Seriously, Mac, you'll be among the first people I'll call," she promised. "I'm not going to fucking hide anymore, not from you, not from anyone. But I'm not going to be the lover you want, either."
Duncan closed his eyes, seeming to accept the terms of their relationship. He swallowed painfully and then looked at her. His eyes were full of the love he held for her, and the sight of it made her ache inside. "Tell Methos I'll see him at the concert tonight."
"I will," she agreed, and made herself turn away before she convinced herself to take back her words. She found Methos walking towards her. Oddly, the sight of him reassured her.
"You okay?" he asked her.
"I will be," she answered. She took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly, hating the way her heart suddenly seemed weighted down with sadness. "Someday."
She took another deep breath and straightened her shoulders resolutely. Some part of her would keep the memory of Duncan's love for her forever in her heart, but she knew she'd made the best decision for herself. Burying the heartache, she changed the subject.
"Didn't you say something about winner cooks lunch?" she asked Methos now.
Methos didn't answer right away, taking a moment to observe her carefully. Apparently finding what he had been looking for, he returned, "No, Kelly, that was loser cooks lunch."
"Damn," she swore, and stepping close, leaned into him in a move full of Kelly charm. "Sure I can't convince you otherwise?"
Methos laughed and untangled himself from the suggestive embrace. "No," he told her.
"Okay," she replied, "but don't say I didn't warn you."
Finis ©12.28.99 Raine Wynd
Author's Note: Yes, this is the last chapter in the Heart
Series, and no, Kelly can't cook worth a damn.... Hope you've
enjoyed getting to know Kelly Pyron and Josh Stone!
Check out the Heart Series Soundtrack.