Title: Love Can Wait
Author: Jinni (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimer: All copyrights remain firmly in the hands of their individual copyright holders. This is not me, of course. I get no money from writing this story. The lyrics are from "Don't Lose Your Head" by Queen, off of the soundtrack for the original Highlander movie.
Distribution: The normal people. If you have to ask who the normal people are, you probably aren't one of them.
Author's Notes: For Lucinda, on her birthday.
// Don't lose you head
Hear what I say
Don't lose your way - yeah
Remember love's stronger remember love walks tall //
He stood by the side of the building, watching her as he'd watch anyone else in the Game. She was magic in motion, poetry to watch. Her body moved and flowed in ways that hardly seemed possibly; agility and speed beyond measure.
But it was all natural talent, so far as he knew. She had vowed never to 'cheat', as she called it; even if it meant her own life. He had tried to argue, of course. Tried to make her see that the talents she had were just as much of a part of her as all of the training he had instilled in her.
She was adamant. No use of magic during a challenge.
Not a drop.
Even if it meant --
The simple inhalation of air took on new challenges as he watched her opponent's sword come down in an arc, reminding himself that he couldn't interfere. It was against the rules.
And he had always stuck to the rules, even if they were as stupid as this never ending Game.
He pulled back into the shadows further, hand edging under his coat to grasp the familiar length of his own sword. Those weeks. . .months, really. . .that he had spent teaching her how to handle herself in a challenge. It all came down to right now. If she failed, he failed. Being a failure at a teacher was the least of his concerns, though.
If she failed it would mean her death.
He never meant to fall in love with her. Not when he saw her for the first time, crossing the street. She was pre-Immortal, then. Just a faint tingle in the back of his mind, much as Richie had been so many years before. Her red hair had been glowing in the sunlight, a coppery fire that barely reached her shoulders. She was laughing, talking into her cell phone, and hardly paying attention to the world around her.
It was fortuitous, he would think in retrospect, that he had been there when it happened, when she stepped out into the street to cross, unnoticing of the truck barrelling through the intersection. The one that hadn't stopped for the red light, uncaring of the pedestrians in the crossing.
She died at the scene. Hours later he rescued a sobbing, crying wreck from the morgue. Dead, she had babbled endearingly. She was dead, she insisted. She could remember the pain, the feeling of loss. . . The darkness of death.
And so it had begun. The teaching. The training. The talking and sharing. His life was a never ending source of wonder for her. All four hundred years of it. She sucked up the stories like a dehydrated man would the water.
It was that sharing, the close intimacy of revealing oneself to another, that drew him in, he was sure. She was ready and willing to be his confidant if that's what he needed or just someone to share a morning jog with.
Perhaps it was inevitable, though he had learned long ago not to give credence to fate or destiny. Even when, like now, it looked like that was what was guiding him along.
He smiled as she ducked a swing of her opponent's sword. It would have hit her in the shoulder, effectively disabling both her offense and defense. The idea of shutting his eyes occured to him. He could just close them and not peek again until it was all over. Maybe then he wouldn't feel like he was dying a thousand deaths watching her narrowly avoid the swings and jabs of an Immortal that was nearly five times her age. Someone that lived to take the heads of those newer to the Game. Was she as good as he was? That was what it would come down to.
He glanced away, down the street towards a car that had just turned the corner, traveling slowly away from them. No witnesses, yet another rule.
That brief moment, looking away, was all it took.
He heard her gasp, a sharp intake of breath; and turned to look back towards her.
"Willow." The sigh escaped his lips, and he sagged heavily against the side of the building, watching as the foggy lightning show that was the Quickening swept upon her. She jerked, her boy convulsing as the electrical impulses flowed throug her. Mouth open in silent scream, she shook and writhed in place.
It faded just as quick as it had come, the sky darkenening to the dead of night once again; and she sagged to the ground, hand still on the hilt of her sword. She was shaking, silent. Tears ran over her cheeks.
". . .Dead. . ." she was murmuring as he joined her on the ground, prying her sword from between fingers that were closed in a near death-grip of anxious fear. "I killed him."
"He would have killed you if you hadn't.
She glanced up, eyes wide until she saw him, as if for the first time. "Duncan."
"It's alright, Willow. Everything is going to be okay."
She shook her head. "I feel so dirty inside. Like he's crawling around in my brain."
"It'll pass." He pulled her into his arms, wishing that he could have been the one to take the challenge, and the head that came with it, if for only to save her from the disgust that showed on her face at that moment.
But he hadn't.
It wasn't feasible for him to divert every challenge that came her way, no matter how much he loved her. No matter how much he was afraid the Game would change her.
"Will it?" She sniffled. There was no way he could miss the way she avoided looking at the body, still so close to them.
"I promise," he smiled, reaching up to brush the hair from her face. She had a smudge of dirt on her nose, a souvenier from her first fight. "You did good."
Willow snorted. "-So- not what I want to hear right now, you know."
"Alright. Something happier then. . ." He stood slowly, pulling her to her feet along with him. The sword disappeared into her coat, retrieved from the ground. "Ice cream and a movie?"
"The way to a girl's heart," she murmured with a shake of her head. "But I think I'd rather just go home. . . try to sleep . . . try to avoid nightmares."
He paused, remembering what he had decided for himself just before her fight began. "I'll be right there for you, you know."
She smiled sadly. "You'll be in the other room."
"I don't have to be."
The look she gave him was tired, but nonetheless long and searching. She nodded once, slowly. "That would be nice."
He smiled, leaving it at that for tonight. She'd been through enough shocks for one night.
Love could wait.