The End is the Beginning

Disclaimer: Charmed belongs to Constance M. Burge. Highlander belongs to Davis/Panzer. I own nothing.

Something was wrong. She wasn't supposed to be here. She had been somewhere else, somewhere dark and cold. Everything here was so bright and warm, so clean. It didn't make any sense.

"Ms. Tessa Noel?"

Tessa turned to see small blue lights join together to form a man. He was rather young, probably mid-to-late twenties, with blond hair and green eyes. A big smile spread across his handsome face. He wore a white button-down shirt and blue jeans, and his thumbs were hooked into the pockets.

"Do I know you?" Tessa asked. Something about him seemed familiar.

"You've probably seen me around your antique shop," he said. "I usually fixed your plumbing."

A name popped into her head. "Leo Wyatt, right? The handy man?"

Leo nodded. "That's right."

Now that she remembered Leo, other memories began to fall into place as well. She remembered a street, Duncan's car, Richie. But if she was supposed to be at the car, how did she get to this strange place? Even though she recognized Leo the handyman, she didn't trust him. She took a step back.

"Where are we? Where's Duncan?" she demanded.

Leo stood where he was. His smile faded, though, leaving a look of concern. "I can't tell you, but I can take you to someone who can. She's waiting for you right now." He offered an arm to her. When she didn't move to take it, Leo's smile reappeared. "It's okay. This part is always a little tricky."

"What part?"

"Tessa, I'm not just a handyman. I'm a Whitelighter. Your Whitelighter, and I'm here to escort you to Marie, one of the Elders."

"A Whitelighter? The Elders? What are you talking about?" Confusion turned to anger. "Who are you? What have you done with Duncan and Richie?"

"They're okay. They're safe." He held his hand out to her as if she were a scared rabbit. "I promise. Marie will explain everything."

Realizing the only way she was going to get any answers was by going to this Marie, Tessa reluctantly took Leo's hand. He tucked her hand in the crook of his arm, and then the empty white space disappeared in a swirl of blue lights.

Tessa thought she was prepared for every strange thing that could come her way. Her life had changed thirteen years before when Duncan MacLeod placed a gun in her hand and told her to shoot him. When she didn't, he pulled the trigger himself. Before she could call for an ambulance, he came back to life and told her he was an Immortal. Tessa eventually came to accept the fact that Duncan could never father children and would always look like he was thirty-three while she would continue to grow older. It wasn't easy, but she couldn't imagine a life without Duncan.

Then last year, Duncan's cousin Connor showed up, and with him came something called The Gathering. Duncan wasn't the only Immortal in the world, and it turned out he could die permanently if his head was severed from his body. Apparently, the rule was there could be only one Immortal left in the whole world, and all the others were beheading their competition to be that One. From then on, Tessa worried she would eventually lose Duncan, but even with that fear, she couldn't leave him.

And now she was stuck in this weird place, Duncan was missing, and this strange man who claimed to be a handyman she had seen a couple of times was teleporting her from one place to another. She wasn't sure if she could handle any more surprises.

When the blue lights vanished, Tessa noticed she and Leo were standing in the middle of an open, white room with tall, Roman-style columns. Tessa reached out, touching the one closest to her. The workmanship was beautiful, almost flawless. She admired any artist who could do that. Looking away from the columns, she saw small groups of people wearing white robes with hoods pass them without acknowledging their presence. Strange.

"Marie is waiting for us in here," Leo said, indicating a huge door, also white, in front of them.

As they approached, the door swung open on its own. Stepping through, Tessa saw a room similar to the one they had recently left. Standing in the middle of the room was a small woman with long, dark hair. Tessa and Leo slowed down as they grew closer to her. The woman, obviously Marie, gave off a sense of power, one that made Tessa want to bow her head. Tessa resisted, though, and met Marie's brown eyes.

Marie reached out and took Tessa's hands in hers. "Welcome, Tessa Noel. We've been watching you for a long time."

"We?" Tessa turned to look at Leo, but he had stepped off to the side. She turned her attention back to the small woman.

"Yes, we, the Elders. We watch over Whitelighters, who in turn watch over good witches and other creatures of good." Before Tessa could ask what that meant, Marie continued on. "You're a brave woman, Ms. Noel. Not many people could willingly choose to remain with an Immortal. It is a hard life, and one with many sacrifices."

"It wasn't a hard choice," Tessa interrupted. "I love Duncan."

Marie smiled. "I know. Because of that love and dedication, the other Elders and I would like to make you an offer."

"What kind of offer? What's going on?"

"What do you remember before coming here, Tessa?"

Tessa thought back, trying to remember how she had gotten there. She remembered the dark and the cold again. She remembered running to the car with Richie, while Duncan stayed behind. Kidnapped. She had been kidnapped, and Duncan was dealing with her kidnapper. The fear returned, sharp and painful. She gasped as she closed her eyes, letting the memories wash over her. Duncan had saved her, though. She should be relieved.

But something had happened before Duncan could catch up to them. A kid, terrified and holding a gun, approached them. He demanded money. She didn't have her purse. Tessa remembered the gun going off. Fear seized her heart as her eyes flew open.

"Richie!" She pulled her hands out of Marie's and started for the door. "I have to see if Richie's all right."

Marie appeared in front of Tessa in a swirl of yellow lights. Tessa stumbled back, and nearly fell to the floor. Marie rested her hands on Tessa's shoulders, steadying her. A sense of calm came over her, and she knew Richie and Duncan were alive and safe. She, however, must not have made it.

"Richie is fine. He is an Immortal now, and Duncan is teaching him how to survive," Marie said.

"But I didn't survive, did I?" Tessa asked.

Marie shook her head. "No, I'm sorry."

She swore she felt her heart break. She wasn't supposed to be dead, not yet. She still had a few more years with Duncan. She had to. They were finally getting married. A tear slid down her cheek as she realized that wedding was never to be. She wiped it away and met Marie's eyes.

"What happens now?" she asked. "Will Duncan and Richie be all right?"

"I'm sure they will be," Marie said. She moved a strand of Tessa's blond hair out of her face. "Tessa Noel, you have been chosen to be a Whitelighter, like Leo and others before you. There is more to the battle between good and evil than Immortal sword fights. Good witches have the power to protect mortals from demons and warlocks, but they can't do it alone. Whitelighters watch over them and heal them when they're hurt. We think you'd make an excellent Whitelighter, Tessa."

Tessa took in everything Marie said. Magic? Good witches? Demons? Warlocks? It was too much. She felt her knees weaken, the fight going out of her. Marie nodded to Leo, who brought out a chair. Tessa sat down and stared at one of the columns. No wonder the work was flawless. No human hands could have made it.

As she considered the column, she thought about Duncan. He never had a choice in what fate had given him, but he never once complained. He almost considered it a duty, a way to keep the world safe. She always loved that about him. If he could take on such a duty, perhaps she could, too. She looked at Marie.

"What happens if I accept?" Tessa asked.

"You'll always look the age you are now and would return to Earth. You can continue to be an artist, maybe even teach art, but your charges will come first. You'll train, learn how to use your new powers, and learn how to be safe." Marie touched Tessa's shoulder. "It isn't an easy life, Tessa. I won't lie to you. There are demons out there who can and will kill Whitelighters, permanently. But the more witches you guide, the better chance our side has."

Tessa sighed and thought about everything. Part of her had always felt like a burden to Duncan, a way other Immortals could get to him. Now she would be active in this fight against evil. A weight lifted from her shoulders, and she felt her lips curl into a smile. She could do this. She knew she could. Determined, she stood, a new sense of strength giving her the energy to do so. If Duncan could fight evil, so could she. She held her head high.

"I'd like to help," she said.

Then she remembered what Marie said about returning to Earth. Would she be able to see Duncan again? Be with him? The thought overwhelmed her. She would have to see if there was a chance, no matter how small.

All of this was so new and so promising. Tessa couldn't quite believe it all. But she would face it, no matter what the future might bring.

Marie pulled Tessa into a hug. "Welcome, Whitelighter Tessa Noel."