Author's Notes: This is set prior to the Highlander: The Raven episode "Dead on Arrival." According to canon, Darius's church is unnamed, and because of that, I'm choosing to place Liam's church as somewhere different. As usual, I'm merely playing with the toys, I mean characters, in the Panzer/Davis sandbox, and I promise to wash the sand and sea creatures off of 'em when I put them back. :-) Much thanks to Dana Woods and Ann Wortham for helping with this. Comments may be sent to email@example.com.
by Raine Wynd
Nick Wolfe paused just inside the large sanctuary of the old, majestic-looking Catholic church. Sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows, adding to the discreetly placed artificial light. The feeling of quiet, reverent power seeped through him, as if in here, miracles were possible. For a moment, he fancied he could feel something otherworldly, before he shook himself with the reminder that he didn't believe in ghosts. Scattered parishioners, their heads bowed in prayer, sat on hard wooden chairs that looked like they'd been there for centuries. Nick scanned the diverse group, his green-eyed gaze seeking just one —
There she was!
That platinum blond crop of hair stood out anywhere, particularly in a sea of darker colors. He started towards her, wondering, even as he did so, what in the world Amanda was doing in a church. Though he knew she could be visiting Liam, he knew this wasn't Liam's church, and there wasn't any reason for her to be here. He hadn't quite believed Liam when he'd said Amanda was here.
It's Holy Ground, his mind whispered. That, for Amanda, is sometimes reason enough.
Apprehension coursed through him like wildfire.
Who was it this time? Is he waiting for her to leave so he can take her head?
The ex-cop slipped into the hard wooden chair beside Amanda, half-forgotten memories of his own experiences in various churches over the years flashing through his mind as he did so. She glanced over to see who it was in an automatic gesture of friendly curiosity, her smile widening as she realized who it was.
"Nick!" Out of deference for her location, she kept her voice soft, but her delight shone through clearly. "What are you doing here?"
"I was going to ask you the same thing." Worry coated his words, but he kept his voice equally low.
She looked blank for a moment, then realized how he'd interpreted of her presence in the church. "It's not what you think," she said gently. "Come, we'll go outside and talk." She stood and moved out of the pew, pausing only to make one last respectful gesture.
Nick followed her, not entirely trusting of her words. To say that Amanda frequently lied would be an understatement, he knew. He supposed it had something to do with over a thousand years of living, though he still couldn't believe that someone so old could waltz through life with a hazy definition of morality.
She led him to an open courtyard between the sanctuary and the church offices. Stone benches were artfully arranged among neatly tended greenery, and Amanda chose one. Nick seated himself beside her, wondering at the sad expression on her face.
"What is it?" he asked gently. "If it's not someone after your head?"
She sighed wearily. "I was just thinking of an old friend." She smiled, obviously remembering the individual. "This was his church. He was a priest."
"Another Immortal priest like Liam?" Nick asked, surprised. "Wouldn't someone notice he never got older?"
Amanda laughed. "Oh, certainly. I don't know how Darius managed it. I think he changed faiths a couple of times. When I met him, he was a monk, not a full priest."
"How could he do that and still remain true to whatever vows he took?" The sheer amount of lies Immortals fabricated still rubbed Nick's innate sense of honesty the wrong way, even though he understood the necessity of them. "I know Liam has stood by his faith for centuries, but he's always remained a Catholic priest. I didn't think anyone else could do the same."
Amanda shrugged. "Darius believed in a higher power. It didn't matter what you called It, whatever you used to worship It. He was Its servant." She smiled. "Don't look so amazed, Nick. What's more important, the trappings or the faith?"
"The faith," Nick answered immediately. He thought of his own family's casual religious practices, and tried to imagine what it would be like to be a servant of God, irregardless of tradition, for centuries. He supposed it would be no different than serving justice, regardless of law.
She nodded, acknowledging the understanding she saw written on his face. "I never thought too much about religion after I left Rebecca, my first teacher. She had an abbey as part of her estate, and she taught me to read using the Bible. As long as it was Holy Ground, I couldn't care less about whose tradition it was. I still don't have a preference when it comes to that."
She shook her head slightly, remembering. "Darius made me remember all the days I spent with Rebecca. All the things I'd forgotten I'd grown up with, all the beliefs I thought I'd discarded because I didn't need them anymore... suddenly, it was like they'd never left me."
She crossed her arms in an unconscious, self-protecting gesture. "I needed that, and Darius knew it."
He paused, realizing that she spoke of Darius in the past tense. "If he was priest, he must've not left Holy Ground much. I thought you said Immortals can't fight on Holy Ground."
The amused look suddenly left her eyes as the smile on her lips faded, and her entire expression tightened into one of distaste.
"Someone broke that rule?" Nick was shocked. The way Amanda had told him about it nearly a year before, she had made it sound as if no Immortal would dare, for fear of dire consequences.
"It's not a rule," Amanda said impatiently, "it's tradition. There's a difference." She paused. "In Darius's case, it wasn't another Immortal."
"Then..." Nick's voice trailed off as his sharp mind seized on the only other possibility. "A mortal? But why?"
"Because he thought Immortals were freaks of nature, and shouldn't be allowed to exist." Amanda rose and paced restlessly. "Never mind that Darius had been the most peaceful Immortal anyone could ever meet, or that he was five hundred years older than me, and there weren't — and still aren't — that many of us ancient ones left."
"How did he find out about Immortals?"
"He was a Hunter, a renegade Watcher."
Nick remembered his meeting with Joe Dawson. He seemed like a pretty honorable kind of guy, even if the organization he belonged to sounded little more than a twisted cult of spies.
Then again, Immortality's a strange thing unto itself. "I don't understand. You mean to say this guy took the information he had and decided he didn't like the truth, so he wanted to kill all of you?"
Amanda sighed and looked away. "People have always wanted to kill what they don't understand, what they fear. It's easier to destroy something than to try to understand it. I was drowned as a witch once." She chuckled ruefully. "Guess I should've known better than try to be a nun."
Nick wasn't surprised to learn that she had been tried as a witch. The woman was a maddening, unrepentant, wily, and beautiful thief. By her own account, she'd been that way for centuries. What astonished him more was her latter statement.
"You, a nun?" Nick chortled. "I can't see it." He took another look at the lithe woman before him and snorted, his shoulders caving in with silent, helpless laughter. "Sister Amanda? Is nothing sacred?"
She drew herself to her full height and looked down her nose at him. "Sister Mary Amanda," she corrected.
Well, that's an image. "I really can't see you having the patience to complete all that training. What made you decide to stay on Holy Ground that long? Someone after your head? Or were you just trying to keep Liam or Darius company?"
Amanda sat down and shook said head. "No." She then gave into her own laughter. "Oh, I was so young then, and so sure it would be a great way to pass a couple centuries. Darius made it look so easy. I didn't know Liam then, or else I might not have risked it. I had this notion that nobody would notice me not getting older." She shook her head again at her naivete. "Well, of course, after fifteen years, people noticed."
Nick crossed his arms. "Let me guess. Some of the church silver came up missing."
"It wasn't the silver, it was just a little jeweled cross I thought nobody would miss, and the Mother Superior had given it to me after all," Amanda started to protest, then silenced herself as she realized what she'd confessed. She paused, then shrugged, obviously deciding that the statute of limitations had long passed on her crime. "Anyway," she continued smoothly, "I decided that being a nun wasn't my calling in life."
"And so, you decided to be a thief instead."
Amanda smiled. "I was a thief before I became Immortal, Nick," she said simply. "You honestly think I'm going to change that after all this time?"
Ruefully, Nick admitted she wouldn't be the same Amanda without her chosen profession. "Somehow, I don't think so."
She looked away for a moment, remembering times past. "Darius was disappointed, I know, but he never said then just how much. He told me later how he'd hoped that in fifteen years, I might've reformed a bit." She smiled mistily, though Nick got the impression she was sadder over the memory of Darius than she was regretful at not having reformed. "He was one of those people that, no matter what you did, no matter how awful your sins were, no matter what faith you claimed, he simply accepted you." She blinked back tears. "I miss him. Today was the day he died. I would rather celebrate his birthday, but he didn't remember what it was."
Nick bowed his head in respect for a man he'd never known. Darius had to have been someone special for Amanda to come here, he thought. Even more so to convince her to drop her thievery for as long as she did.
Wanting to see Amanda's smile, Nick cracked a grin. "So, tell me, how did you drive all those other nuns crazy with your behavior?"
She rose to her feet, tugging him to his own, and then slipped an arm into the crook of his right elbow. Arm and arm thusly, they began to walk out of the courtyard.
"Well, see, I didn't always...."
©1/4/99, revised 7/25/99