Connor knew that every single person presents a potential danger. A man with too much self-esteem can get cocky. A man with too little has something to prove. Not everyone was actually dangerous. But anyone could be. It was simply a question of how, why, and in what form that danger presented itself.
"Still haven't really made this property work, have you Dan?"
To Connor, this trio seemed little better than easy trash, and this is what they would be no matter where they lived. If Hill-Folk, they would not hunt, but scavenge off those that did. If city-folk, they would live unashamedly off the public dole. If Highlanders--they would be placed on point when a bloodfeud with another clan was called.
"Come on, dear. Daniel did his very best by your sister. If this was all it came to, then its best not spoken of."
A burly, once-athletic sort Connor took to be Billy looked about, with eyes that held no more appreciation than those of his parents.
"Don't listen to them, Uncle Dan. I mean, your place still beats the dump my wife's little legal action placed me in. Course, that's only until I can quit hiding the bulk of my money from that gold-digger. Then I find some stylish places."
Their chatter kept on in that way, finally prompting Macleod to pull a stoic Dan Pierce aside.
The question Connor did not voice was obvious.
"Because their eternal yammering irritates me to no end, Connor. And when I was a young man, my young wife would put her hand on my shoulder, and I would find the strength to endure her brother and his family. So when they go on like they do, I can feel her here, Connor. Like she was still alive."
Connor pointed Dan over to the emerging Hawkeye.
"Dan, part of her still is."
Hawkeye was still averting his eyes, and not daring to look at the highly reflective lake. Connor saw the slightly overweight Billy make a hushing gesture while smiling. But his attempt to jokingly rush his younger cousin was sidestepped by Hawkeye so quickly, it almost seemed as though he didn't move at all.
"Billy. Long time no see my face shoved in dirt. Lets avoid the rough stuff, kay?"
Chuckling a bit too much for a supposedly grown man, Billy made playful poking motions which Hawkeye found amusing not at all.
"C'mon, Benny! You used to like it when we went at it. What, did the army make you into one of those gung-ho creeps?"
Hawkeye finally grabbed one of the poking fingers, looking as serious as Macleod had ever seen him.
"Nah. But let's just say I no longer remember the revised, extended version of our little childhood games. Glub-glub, anyone?"
Billy's face went pale. His lip twitched.
"Uh...sure, Benny. But can I have my finger back?"
When Hawkeye held firm for a moment, Billy's father Jack nearly shouted.
"You heard him! Let go now!"
Hawkeye chuckled, did just that, but then poked his beefy uncle so hard, the older man pulled back.
"Sure thing, Unc."
The man huffed.
"Don't make me break out my sawed-off, Benny. I don't like people touching my boy!"
Rachel whispered to her father.
"Boy? Heh--I don't think so."
Connor gave her a playful glare.
"Don't steal my lines, kid."
Inwardly, Macleod was a great deal more serious than he let on. If Dan's brother-in-law dared pull a weapon around Rachel, the Highlander would make him eat it. But things seemed to go better from there, at least for a time. Then, as the food was about to be served, Rachel returned with Billy, soaking wet.
"I'm sorry, Dad. I--I fell off the pier."
Connor looked her in the eye. She was lying.
"You gotta be more careful, honey."
Her look also contained hefty amounts of pleas to 'just let it go.' She was shaken, but unharmed, so Connor was barely willing to do just that.
"Your father's right, Rachel. I mean, we all know that you're the height of clumsiness. Ballet, track and fencing. Oh, and aren't you a sharpshooter? All things that can easily make a girl fall off a pier with a railing and rubberized edging."
Hawkeye, on the other hand, was past letting certain things go. His nose was twitching in obvious disgust at Rachel's smell.
"Hawkeye, I'm all right. Please?"
Pierce nodded. He seemed to calm down.
"I guess you are all right. Okay. Just-just be more careful."
Then, came the rains.
"See, Benny? Kids are just sooo clumsy. Rachel here was just lucky I was here to help her out."
Connor then felt a chill. Through his Quickening, he could sense living things around him, if he chose. But right then, Hawkeye Pierce was a walking void. Billy's insipid words had precipitated a change.
"Billy, are you an idiot?"
Like a defense attorney in a court of law, Billy's mother sprung forward.
"Stand away, Benny. Don't you make trouble."
Hawkeye laughed out loud at her words.
"Aunt Beatrice, do you know what a mutation is? A mutation is something that has changed so much, its not even remotely what it used to be. A person can be a mutation. I--can be a mutation. A mutation is also like a hero. Sometimes heroes don't give a damn any more than mutations."
He picked Billy up over his head with one hand. Not a single person failed to gasp.
"I don't think the war made me a hero. But I'm pretty sure about the other part. Ever learn to swim, Billy?"
A beefy hand struck the side of Hawkeye's head to no effect.
"Benny! Put me down!"
Pierce reached the edge of the small dock. He threw the old bully in the lake.
"You are the older cousin."
Jack by now had fetched his sawed-off shotgun. He fired it once in the air, sneering. Hawkeye just smiled.
"Hey, Auntie---bet he doesn't bring that out enough anymore, huh?"
Taking a moment to catch the innuendo-laden insult, Beatrice pointed at Hawkeye, shaking.
"You are a pig!"
Jack turned his weapon towards an outraged Dan.
"Just what in the hell did you raise, anyway?"
Dan Pierce showed that the adage about apples and trees was still an apt one.
"A man. You should try it yourself, sometime."
Beatrice was still pointing.
"A man? More like he's a monster of some kind! I'm calling the pol---"
Connor twirled, and sliced the gun barrel off in one clean motion. His face shifted so savagely, men like Lucien Lacroix and the former Angelus might have been taken aback.
But for some men, enough simply never is. Jack continued to fire.
"Now its really a sawed-off. Dan, how dare you sire a freak by my sister? I said she was an idiot for marrying..."
While both Hawkeye and Connor were considering having this fool's head, a blur ran past, wrenching the shotgun from its slap-happy owner.
"Why are you making so much noise?"
The same blur utterly pulverized the gun, disassembling it and then crushing each part.
"Noise. Its always noise. I tried to be patient. But you kept making so much-----"
Her voice raised into a banshee's cry, the kind that easily traversed the waters twixt Ireland and Scotland, and probably France, to boot.
Rachel covered her ears, and ran for her father's arms. Connor covered her again, and hoped that his ears would heal. Dan ran behind a large rock. Hawkeye collapsed in flat agony. As the windows and lights on their ve-hic-le shattered, three people left, not to be seen in Maine or New England or the East Coast ever again. For the record, Billy had helped out his last kid.
Connor was the first to awaken. He saw Margaret Houlihan clutching her bleeding throat, sputtering out a few words, despite knowing better.
"They...did this to us. To...me. Conn...I pledged my life...my loyalty...my soul. But they...govern.. betrayed...hurts."
Hawkeye was helping Rachel up, and grabbed her suitcase full of dry clothes. Dan looked surprised to see Margaret, but this would be explained to him. For now, Connor Macleod answered another betrayed by her clan.
"It always hurts, Margaret."
"Sid, she was going through seven kinds of hell. She was military, born and bred. But she no longer knew whether to trust her own father and mother. They had been part of that for too long. The army she loved, had, in her view, made her a monster."
Sidney was still plainly not ready to discuss the other world, and so began one of his own stories.
"Picture Charles Winchester without the balancing factors, and you have a man named Simon Magus. He ended my kaballic studies for a Millenium--and just may have ignited the long-term religious hate that culminated in the Nazi Holocaust."
And Connor found that in this instance, no quip was either adequate or appropriate.
Next : Temples, Earthly And Otherwise