The Lesson

Disclaimer: Emma is the only thing that's mine. The concept of Highlander belongs to Davis/Panzer and Rysher Entertainment. Grace belongs to my good friend Christina.

Author's Note: Written for Christina on her birthday. Thank you, Medie, for the beta.

Gone. Everything and everyone she loved was gone, taken from her in the blink of an eye. One moment she was newly married and looking forward to seeing America. The next, she was sinking beneath the waves, never to see her husband again.

Emma Ridings Grant sobbed into her feather pillow. It wasn't fair. It simply wasn't fair.

Her husband Simon had promised her a beautiful plantation filled with servants and land as far as the eye could see. Simon. Her wonderful, sweet Simon. When she closed her eyes, Emma could still see his handsome face, his bright smile, and his deep green eyes.

She met him two years after her debut, and she still couldn't believe he had chosen her. At twenty, she thought she was too old to be married, but Simon must have felt differently. He sought her out at every event. He always made sure he was on her dance card more than the other men. When he had asked for her hand, she could not wait to say yes. He embodied her every dream, her every wish.

And now he was gone forever. Did he mourn her when she slipped under the cool waves of the Atlantic? Did he wish he had rescued her in time?

Closing her eyes, she could still feel the rocking of the ship, see the tumbling of the harsh waves below. She remembered her fear as men she didn't know grabbed her from her bed, pulled her to the deck, and tossed her into the open sea. The cold water shocked her into full awareness, and she had struggled to keep her head above the surface. As she watched the ship drift away from her, she had lost all hope. Eventually, she had succumbed to the waves.

Slowly, she lifted her head and took in the room that was now hers. It was almost the same size as her bedroom at home. It was decorated with oak furniture, including a four-poster bed, a dresser, and a vanity with an oval mirror. Daylight streamed in from one window to her left. Outside, she could see the overcast, dreary skies of the English countryside. A perfect match for her mood.

“Emma!” A sharp voice and a quick rap on the door pulled her attention away from the window. “It has been three days. I have given you your time to grieve. It is time to come out now.”

Emma's eyes narrowed. Grace Hammond, the lady who had saved her life, or so she had thought, pounded on her door.

When she had opened her eyes and seen the beautiful blonde leaning over her, Emma immediately clung to her. She asked the woman question after question. Where was she? Could word be taken to her husband in America? But Grace only shook her head sadly.

“You were dead when we pulled you from the water,” she explained. “You are Immortal now, as I am, and the life you knew is gone.”

“What do you mean?” Emma asked, her heart racing. Immortal? That made no sense. No one was Immortal.

"You cannot die unless someone cuts off your head," Grace explained, her face unflinching. Emma felt her eyes widen. Grace continued as if she had not seen the younger woman's reaction. “By now, your husband and family probably believe you are dead and lost to the sea. You cannot go back to them.”

Emma clutched the linens as she backed away. “You are mad. You say I cannot die, yet my husband must believe I'm dead?” She held her head higher, as she would have done while talking to a servant. “Let me speak to your husband. I'm sure he can negotiate my safe return.” Surely a man can make this stranger see reason, Emma thought.

Grace laughed, a hearty sound that filled the cabin. “I have no husband,” she explained. “I have no need for one. If you must address someone, then I suppose I will have to do.”

“Take me to London at once,” Emma demanded, her temper flaring. “My father is Samuel Ridings. He will see you are well rewarded for rescuing me.”

Grace only stood and shook her head. “You are coming to my country estate to learn how to protect yourself. There are others out there like us, and they are not so kind.” With that, she had left Emma sitting on the cot with her mouth hanging open.

No one had ever said no to her in her entire life. No one! Emma chose to ignore Grace for the rest of the trip, refusing even the smallest of talk. Now, she would ignore the woman at her door.

Another insistent knock came. “Emma, I have the key, and I will open this door. You will not stay locked in there forever.”

Emma smirked. Servants had attended to her every wish since she arrived. If they continued to bring food, water for the bath, and clean the chamberpot, then she could certainly live locked away forever. She crossed her arms, refusing to answer Grace.

"All right. Have it your way." A loud click came from the door followed by a creak. It opened and Grace sauntered into the room.

Her blonde hair fell past her shoulders with no pins binding it. She wore men's breeches and held a sword in her right hand. Her hazel eyes bore into Emma, causing the younger woman to shrink back against the wall.

"Leave us and close the door," she instructed the servant standing behind her. The young girl obeyed without question.

Emma took a deep breath. She tossed the covers across the bed. Gathering her courage, she met Grace's eyes. "I am not a lowly servant," she spat.

Grace said nothing. She walked to the bed, sizing up the younger woman. The silence hung in the air between them, thickening with every passing moment. Grace flicked her wrist. Emma winced as the sword's blade touched her neck.

"This is not a game. I have seriously thought about taking your head and your Quickening so I would not have to listen to you whine anymore."

Emma closed her eyes. The cool, sharp metal pressed against her throat and made it difficult for her to swallow. Her heart pounded in her chest. Her body shook. “You really are mad,” she breathed.

She felt the blade move away. She opened her eyes to see the sword at Grace's side once more. "As tempting as it is, I will not take your head. I want you to have a chance to learn and grow. I believe there is more to you than a simpering high-born lady." She sat down on the bed and continued, not giving Emma a chance to speak. "I do not know what happened to you or why you were in the ocean. Perhaps someday, you will tell me. But I do know what you are and what you must learn."

Emma shook her head. "I cannot be what you think I am."

"There is only one way to show you." Grace took Emma's hand in her own, exposing her wrist. Before Emma could pull it back, Grace sliced it with her sword. A sharp pain sprang from her wrist as blood spilled out of the wound. Emma tried to pull her hand away, but Grace held it tightly. She turned her head away.

"Look at it!" Grace ordered.

Emma peered down at the cut, expecting the blood to be worse. Instead, small bits of lightening formed around the wound. She blinked as the cut healed within seconds, leaving no scar. She looked at Grace, who wiped the remaining blood away with a handkerchief.

"No. No." She jumped to her feet when Grace released her hand. She backed away until she reached the window. "I don't want this. I cannot do this."

Grace stood. "It does not matter what you want. You were born this way, as I was. You will never grow old, never have children." A smile crept across her face. "But you have been given something most women only dream about. Freedom. Your life is yours now. You may do whatever you wish and no man can dictate it. All you have to do is learn to protect yourself."

It was too much. Her death, the wound, Grace's words. All of it crashed down around her. Emma felt her knees go weak and she slid down the wall. She cradled her head in her hands.

"I...I don't know how to live without a man," she confessed. She met Grace's eyes again. "All my life, my father ruled my world. I had to behave a certain way, wear what he approved. Then I married Simon, and lived according to his rules. Now you tell me I must live by my own rules? With no man to take care of me?" Her voice rose with each word. "I shall die on the street!"

"No. Emma, listen to me." Grace placed her sword on the bed. She strode to the hysterical woman and crouched down to meet her eyes. She touched her shoulders. "I will not turn you out into the streets. You will stay here with me until you learn to take care of yourself. We will take this one step at a time." She took a deep breath and stood. She offered Emma her hand. "We will start now by walking out of this room. What do you say?"

Emma hesitated. Grace was right. Her whole world and everything she had ever known was gone. Even though she missed her family and Simon terribly, a part of her wanted to know how to live this new life. She reached out slowly, took Grace's hand, and stood on her own two feet.

Grace nodded. "You are stronger than you think you are." With that, she led Emma out of the room and towards the first lesson of her new life.

© 2007 Crimson Idealist