This was written for the Where You Live Lyric Wheel challenge. 

 DISCLAIMER: I don't own the rights to these characters or to the Highlander world. They belong to Davis Panzer Productions or to Rysher, I assume.
This is a prequel to another Lyric Wheel story of mine, "Empire of Dirt."

Desert Mirage

By Teresa C


Life is more and that would be the vacant space
The cried out tears and a never ending maze

     "Eventually everyone comes to Las Vegas."
     Duncan had heard that somewhere. It sounded friendly, like a reunion. The reality, he found was that Las Vegas was crowded and impersonal, filled with other people having a good time - people who didn't know him and didn't care to. He had seldom felt so alone.
     He walked the Strip, mindlessly, aching, his heart lurching every time he saw a young man with red hair. Another boy who wasn't Richie.
     Summer lingered late here, and, though the temperatures were mild now, the dryness was still exhausting. Duncan was soon overheated and thirsty. He ignored his discomfort; some part of him welcomed the punishment. Maybe if he walked far enough he'd reach open desert. There he could really suffer.
     His purposeless steps brought him to the Mirage hotel/casino, where pedestrian traffic halted before a large cone landscaped to resemble a volcano. Sparks flew from its mouth and water cascaded from the top, lit with red lights to make it resemble flowing lava.
     Mirage. If only it had been a mirage. He couldn't have really killed Richie. That just wasn't possible. But Duncan had only to close his eyes to recall the boy's Quickening - young, earnest, loyal, overly self-conscious energy. Pure Richie. God, how it had hurt. How it still hurt.
     Duncan entered the Mirage, where the artificial chill of air- conditioning grated over his skin. The flow of people took him into an atrium filled with tropical plants - some real, some convincing fakes. He wondered if anyone ever killed a real tree by trying to remove one of the fakes.
     He steered his way past hundreds of cheerful tourists, not one of whom made eye contact with him, and found a bar, a raised area at the edge of the main casino floor, darker than the tables, lit mainly by the flickering light from the ceiling mounted television set showing American football. The bartender said nothing when Duncan ordered two glasses of water, and he served them over ice. These desert dwellers, Duncan reflected, must be accustomed to drinking water - the best cure for this life-sucking dryness.
     The thrill of an immortal presence only caused him to order a Scotch.
 Loneliness is never waiting by the door
It sweeps right through and it will never be ignored

     Someone took the stool beside him and he glanced over to see Amanda. There were a few times in his life when he had actually been glad to see Amanda, and now there was a new one.
     "Amanda!" he exclaimed.
     "Hello Sweetie," she said, gravely. "How are you?"
     Her concern was too intense - not the usual offhand thief. She did not touch him.
     "You heard," Duncan said.
     "Now Duncan, I don't want you to worry," she said, squirming a little, "but you can't go back to Paris." Her liquid eyes studied him, deep concern and a healthy portion of fear lurking in them. "Joe and Methos didn't deal with the body in time, and there was forensic evidence implicating you."
     "Where are they?" he asked, dully.
     "Oh, around. We followed you here. Joe knows how to do that, after all. We thought someone should."
     "Make sure I didn't kill anyone else?"
     "Oh, Honey, I think lots of immortals lose it eventually. It's the life. Or the quickenings, I don't know. Killing, fighting, always afraid. Now, don't worry about them. Joe has requested a transfer. He's going to Watch me. Won't that be a party? Look, they didn't want me to talk to you, but I just had to warn you, for old times' sake, you know? You're wanted by the police. You don't dare use your accounts. So, here, I'm returning a gift you gave me. She slid an exquisite diamond bracelet off her wrist and pushed it across the bar to him. "Diamonds are a girl's best friend. You can find buyers for them almost everywhere."
     "Yes, Sweetie?"
     "Do you believe demons exist?"
     Amanda's eyes filled with tears. "Of course I do, Duncan. A demon made you kill Richard. I know that. Now, I have to go. My new boyfriend is here with me, and he's expecting me. I just had to see you to say good-bye." Eyes brimming over, she blew him a kiss, gathered her handbag, and hurried from him.
     Duncan reached for the bracelet, turning it over in his fingers. He did not remember giving it to her.

Loneliness is always looking for a friend
It found me once and it has been around since then

     Four Scotches later, he felt the immortal presence again, and was not surprised when the seat beside him was occupied, as it turned out, by Methos.
     "Long time no see," Duncan said, staring straight ahead.
     "The last time was not a very good day. Particularly not for Richie."
     Even in his inebriated state, Duncan felt that blow. He looked at the other immortal in some shock. "Have you come to take my head?"
     Methos looked thoughtful. "I think we both know how a duel would turn out. But if you're offering again?"
     Before Duncan could answer, his eye was caught by a small figure staring at him from across the circular bar. Her gaze was one of shocked recognition, though     Duncan's muzzy memory couldn't quite place her. As he stared, she moved around the bar, toward him, never taking her gaze from him. By the time she reached his side, Duncan had remembered her. She was the reluctant psychic who had predicted Tessa's death.
     "Mr. MacLeod?" she asked, wide-eyed.
     The immortal presence faded, and Duncan looked at Methos's empty stool, then back at the girl. "Where did he go?" he asked her drunkenly.
     "The man who was sitting here."
     "There was no one sitting there. I didn't see anyone."
 Loneliness knows everything I keep inside
My endless thought in the silence of the night

     She sat, tentatively. "You didn't call," she said.
     Duncan pondered muzzily, trying to figure out why Methos had left and what she could possibly mean. His head hurt.
     She waved the bartender's inquiry away.
     "Your fiancée? You were going to let me know?" She wore a halter top with stars and crescent moons on it, and her headband was a tiara with rhinestones in the shape of a pentagram. But under the trappings, her face was pale in the eternal casino twilight, her eyes wide and worried.
     "She died," he said, oddly relieved that she asked about a tragedy which was not his current one.
     She winced, but nodded, her small mouth tight-lipped. She gave him a glance he couldn't quite interpret - nervous or worried. She reached into a handbag and produced a well-worn deck of tarot cards. He watched with little interest as she turned up cards and placed them on the bar.
     "You're not afraid of your gift any more," he commented, taking a swig of scotch.
     "It scares me shitless," she answered. "But denying my destiny only makes it worse."
     Duncan tipped back the last of his scotch.
     "D'they tell you I'm chosen to be a champion against a great evil?" he asked, indicating the cards. "Cause I don't want to hear that one again."
     Her face turned up to regard him, a tiny earnest circle of light contrasting with the dark backdrop of the bar. "Then you know," she said.
     "Sure, I know," he replied, signaling the bartender for another scotch. "Old story."
     The girl frowned at him doubtfully and then studied the cards again. "There are really big forces all around you. Destruction, illusions, death. Also rebirth and true friends ..."
     "True friends!" Duncan cried. "Tha's a joke! You better go back to dealer school. All my fren's have left me."
     "No," she said thoughtfully, "they've stood by you at incredible risk to themselves. Or they will. But right now all you can see is loneliness."
     The bartender brought the new Scotch, but Duncan didn't feel like drinking just then. He regarded it morosely. "What should I do?" he asked.
     She turned up another card, and answered promptly. "You should leave here, for sure."
     "And go where?"
     "Somewhere good, you know, spiritual. My grandmother always said India was the most powerfully good place she'd ever been. She went there in the 60s. I'd like to go, sometime. But go somewhere. This town is strengthening the darkness around you. Something has found you here."
     Abruptly the girl looked up, gazing past Duncan, and her face, if possible, went even paler. The sense of an immortal burned Duncan's veins like the Scotch, and, this time, he was vaguely surprised. He thought he'd known who his next visitor would be.
     Cassandra stood there, glaring at the other woman like a vengeful fury.
 Loneliness is the one who made me see
Ain't nobody else who can make a change but me

     "Okay, I gotta go!" gasped the little psychic, and she scrambled out of her seat.
     "Wait, don't ..." Duncan said, but it was too late. She fled the bar area and was lost to view in the crowd of tourists.
     "You're not Joe," he complained to Cassandra, who was looking a little out of focus. "And why'd you do that to her?"
     "Oh, my poor Duncan," she murmured, sliding into the seat beside him. The same seat that Methos and Amanda had occupied. "I know these people. They panhandle the gamblers with promises of the good fortune they'll have at the tables. Please excuse me - as a genuine sensitive I have little patience with frauds. What did she say to you?"
     "Sh'said I'll have good fortune at the tables."
     Drunk Duncan might be, but he was certain the expression which flashed across Cassandra's face was suspicion.
     "Is that all?"
     "She said I am chosen. Why am I chosen?"
     "Duncan, my dear, you're not chosen. You're an ordinary immortal who's had terrible burdens to bear. Burdens too great. I'm so sorry. Here," she said, cupping his tumbler in her palm and pushing it toward him. "Have a drink, my heart."
     "Why don't you have one," Duncan grumbled. "So what are you saying? I've cracked up?"
     Cassandra's expression softened into one of extreme gentleness. "Duncan, what would you say to an immortal who killed his student? Someone who was delusional and dangerous?"
     *Like Cochrane* Duncan thought. His head hurt and he had a growing desire to visit the Orient. He stood, placed money on the bar, and put the diamond bracelet in the tip cup.
     "Where are you going?"
     "Why don't you follow me and find out?"
     With no further good-bye, Duncan walked out onto the casino floor and then out to the Strip. Just up the street, the crowds were gathering to watch something going on at the Treasure Island. Apart from the crowd a man in a long coat stood alone - a man who looked just like Connor MacLeod. Duncan turned away. There was one rejection he just couldn't take. He began the long walk down the Strip to the airport.
     McCarran Airport was a major international hub. How hard could it be to make a connection to Calcutta?

I have found what only loneliness provides
A strength within knowing I will find

 The end

Read the sort-of sequel, Empire of Dirt

The Tarot Cards:
Ace of Swords
The Hermit Five of Pentacles
The Hanged Man
Nine of Wands
Eight of Swords
Knight of Swords
The Devil
The Tower
The Moon
Four of Swords
Eight of Wands
Two of Cups

 The song:
 Loneliness Knows Me By Name -- Westlife

Loneliness is always looking for a friend
It found me once and it has been around since then
Loneliness is never waiting by the door
It sweeps right through and it will never be ignored
Why, why was I chosen?
Why am I left without?

The love of my life, the love that I need
The love that they say is in life for free
The love of dreams, the love that I want
Loneliness knows me by name

Loneliness knows everything I keep inside
My endless thought in the silence of the night
Loneliness is the one who made me see
Ain't nobody else who can make a change but me
Why, why was I chosen?
Why am I left without?


 Life is more and that would be the vacant space
The cried out tears and a never ending maze
I have found what only loneliness provides
A strength within knowing I will find