The first thing that occurred to Richie when he opened his eyes was that there was no pain. This was odd since he definitely remembered a dagger protruding out of his chest in the recent past. The second thing that entered his head was that he was not alone and he forced his eyes to focus. Frank was staring down at him with said dagger in his hand and it was then he remembered that Frank was a cop.
"You're alive," Frank said, looking very shocked.
Not really an unusual reaction when someone was dead and then wasn't. Everything but the fact that he had been discovered fled from Richie's head.
"Ah, I can explain," were the words that came flooding out of his mouth.
Not that he had any idea how to explain, not when Frank was holding a bloody dagger, but he did his very best to try and come up with something. His brain was a bit fuzzy, something that seemed to be par for the course that evening, and unfortunately it was rather empty. A cop was possibly a worst case scenario, right next to film crew and he did consider coming clean, but he wasn't sure how that would end.
"Man, I don't want to know," Frank said, seemingly somewhere between fear and revulsion and shocked Richie out of his quandry. "What I don't need is having to explain you to anyone, just get out of my sight."
Richie couldn't believe his luck, and he scrabbled to his feet quickly. He didn't quite know what to say, so he picked up his weapon and did as he was told. Sometimes the universe was on his side it seemed. The street was empty as he virtually fled round the corner. He had to disappear and disappear fast before Frank changed his mind.
Andre was not sure if he was mourning or celebrating. He had just found and lost an Adonis, but the loss was epic. It was kind of perfect in an artistic, tragic sort of way and he was a Toreador, everything was about art. His Adonis was dead, but his muse was stirring as only such upheaval could achieve and he had all but forgotten that he had only met Richie earlier that evening. As far as his muse was concerned he had known Richie for years and now he had to create. He was trying to walk back to the apartment Lillie had arranged for him, but he kept finding himself standing still as he became distracted by thoughts of how he was going to use his inspiration. Once he even found himself back in the alley just looking down at the blood stains on the tarmac.
When he found himself sitting back at the bar in the Haven he decided it was time to concentrate and he walked back out, determined to make it back to the apartment. What he definitely did not expect when he wandered out of the club was the sight that met his eyes. Complete incomprehension washed through him, followed quickly by a wave of red hot desire as he watched *his* Adonis leave the alley opposite and jog down the street. When Richie had turned into a possession was unclear, but Andre did not argue with his own psyche. All that mattered was that his life was incomplete without the young man heading quickly in the wrong direction, and he *needed* him. He was not going to go through the same experience of earlier that evening, again, not even if it had sparked his muse, the real thing would be far better.
There was only one way forward and with half a smile he set off after his living work of art, the logical course of action clear in his mind. He was not going to loose "his" Adonis again, and so he was going to take him home. He took off down the street on the opposite side to his quarry and then ran across so that he was directly in front of Richie. Richie had his head down and was not really looking where he was going and when the young man tried to step around him without realising who he was, Andre stepped into his path. Only then did his quarry look up.
"Oh, no, not you again," Richie said and seemed exasperated more than anything else.
Andre found this endearing and amusing and just smiled. He was honestly captivated now that he had a second chance.
"Look, I'm not interested, so would you mind just getting out of my way?" Richie sounded annoyed and pulled his jacket closed to hide what Andre knew was a blood stain on the shirt underneath.
He didn't understand what had happened or how his Adonis was still alive, but he really didn't care.
"I can't do that," Andre purred back, totally focused on his goal.
This time he was in no mood to play mind games, they had proved too unpredictable. Instead he went for the direct approach and threw a very hard, very fast punch at Richie's jaw. His quarry didn't stand a chance, and Richie folded into his arms without so much as a grunt. Andre wasted no time and lifted his burden onto one shoulder and then moved quickly into the nearest dark alley. No one was going to take his Adonis away again.
Frank gave Richie thirty seconds head start and then ran to the end of the alley to see which way the Immortal had gone. The first thing he realised was that the street was empty. There weren't even any Kindred hanging around outside the Haven; there was no one, no a sign of a single person. Frank swore very loudly.
"Damn Immortal's as slippery as Kindred," he whispered to himself after he had calmed down, and tried to think of a way to break this to Luna. "Later," he concluded finally, "I'll tell him later."
There had to be something to indicate where Richie had gone; people didn't just vanish without a trace, so Frank began to look. It was better than facing a pissed of Prince of the City after the night they had all been having.
He was annoyed, very annoyed and Richie began to spit curses the moment he opened his eyes. His evening was not going well and when he awoke to find himself tied to a chair in what appeared to be an art studio, he was very, very unhappy about it. What pleased him even less was that someone had relieved him of most of his clothes. On a quick inspection the only garments he retained were his boxers and his jeans. He remembered the last time he had been the victim of a mad artist and realised with a sinking feeling that there would be no MacLeod to rescue him this time.
"Oh, you are so beautiful," a voice said from just beside him, "truly one of mother nature's finest."
"Wait 'til I get out of these ropes," Richie growled back, throwing all of his anger into the words, "then we'll see who's beautiful."
It really didn't surprise him when Andre laughed.
"I can't explain how you're alive," Andre said, walking around so that he could see his captor and smiling widely, "maybe it has something to do with Luna, but I'm not one to question such good fortune. Neither do I expect you to understand all of this."
The way Andre closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, as if smelling him, just creeped Richie out. He was all but positive that Andre was not working with a full deck and, Immortal or not, that did not bode well for him. He really didn't want to know what Andre would do if he discovered that he had a virtually unbreakable toy.
"You're so perfect," Andre continued and ran his tongue over his lips, "so unmarked."
Richie never thought he'd regret his Immortality in quite the way he was doing so now. There was something very alluring about the man standing in front of him, but there was also something that made him draw back as the other took a step towards him. There were so many mixed messages in the room that Richie began praying very hard for a miracle.
"Tonight I'm going to change you," Andre said and much to Richie's growing horror, ran a finger down his cheek, "I'm going to give you forever."
"I already have forever," he replied almost instantly.
He couldn't help it; it was the only thing his desperate mind could throw up as a defence. That drew another laugh from his companion.
"Ah, the young," Andre said calmly, "always so thoughtless to the rigours of time."
Richie was beginning to think Andre was deluded in many, many ways, because there was no way the man was much older than he was. He stiffened when the prowling man wandered to the side of him and round behind where he could no longer see him. He did not like having Andre out of his sight and he tried to twist, but a hand rested on the side of his neck and stilled his movements. The fingers were gentle, but cold.
"You will understand soon," Andre purred into his ear, "and then we shall have eternity."
Long delicate nails stroked the side of his neck for a tantalising moment, and then suddenly there was the pain as one of the fingers dug in. He would have cried out, but the sound stopped in his throat as a mouth replaced the hand and the agony became ecstasy. It was like nothing he had ever felt before, as he literally experienced the life being sucked out of him.
Part of his mind screamed, but the rest of him revelled in the sensation. His consciousness soared away as his body submerged in the overwhelming stimulation that the sucking on his neck caused in him. His thoughts likened it to a Quickening, but this was all being taken from him, not given to him, and he surrendered to it like he never thought he could. A connection was being made, but it was not of his doing, and all he could do was let it happen.
As his mind gave in to Kindred dominance all the events of the night came flooding back: he remember waking in the Haven; he remembered Luna with glowing eyes; he remembered Mac's friend making him sleep and then making him forget; and he remembered Frank had been there too. He knew everything that had gone on, but he had no will to care.
The mouth at his neck was more tender than a lover's embrace, and yet more savage than a sword's bite, all at the same time. The moan that escaped his lips was involuntary, but totally revealing as he gave himself to the pleasure of dying.
When something wet and metallic was forced to his lips, he was barely aware, only instinct led him on. Instinct and a gentle voice that coaxed him to drink, like a mother to a babe. It was heady and amazing and he had no control over any of it and, even as he felt tendrils of power start to move through his body, it all began to fade. At the last instant he felt pain and he felt his Immortal physiology reacting to what was happening, trying to reject it, but even that slipped away as his mind gave up and shut down. Things were going on that he did not understand and that his psyche shied away from and unconsciousness was his only refuge.
When his Adonis slumped against the ropes that bound him, Andre was not surprised; the process of becoming Kindred was not an easy one and he had expected it. The taste of blood was still on his tongue, rich and sweet and he revelled in the essence of this human he had made his. Holding Richie with one arm, he reached for the knot in the rope with his free hand and quickly released it. His new childe all but fell into his arms and he slipped one under Richie's legs and the other round Richie's back and lifted him with ease.
There was a chaise by the far wall and he carried his burden to it, putting the new Kindred onto it gently and arranging him carefully so he would be comfortable.
"So beautiful," he whispered as he ran his hand gently over Richie's face, "like an angel. You're a fallen angel now, my Adonis," he continued quietly, "but you will be so for always."
With a smile he stood back and then picked up a paintbrush. With the joy of one who was doing what he loved most, he walked to his easel and began to paint, recording forever the last moments of his childe's mortal life.
Andre knew it the moment Richie opened his eyes as a Kindred for the first time, but he did not rush to his childe's side. He wanted to, but he needed to know how Richie was reacting first to know exactly what to do, so he stood a few feet away and waited. He saw Richie frown and rub his neck, before slowly sitting up and looking around. There was something slightly off about the way Richie moved and then when Richie finally looked at him and Richie's eyes went large and round and, of all things, innocent, Andre realised what it was.
"Who are you?" Richie asked in a tone that only backed up Andre's assessment. "Where am I?"
Richie did not sound like an adult, in fact he sounded like a scared child.
"Don't you remember?" Andre asked, not really knowing what else to do.
Richie shook his head.
This had never happened to Andre before, in fact he was not sure he had heard of exactly this happening to anyone he knew either, but he had heard of some strange things occurring because of the embrace, so he did not panic.
"I feel funny," Richie said, sounding scared and that pushed Andre into motion.
"It's alright," he said, walking across to his childe and reaching out his hand, "there is no need to be afraid. I will not let anything hurt you."
Protective instincts weren't exactly what he had expected to be feeling first, but it seemed life was determined to surprise him. When Richie tentatively took his hand he found himself smiling.
"I'm Andre," he said, sitting down beside Richie, "and I will look after you until you are feeling better."
He gave his new childe his best smile and Richie smiled back; it was the most innocent thing Andre had seen in a long time. He was used to dealing with Kindred and to see into a Kindred's eyes was to see many things, but innocence was not one of them.
"Do you remember anything at all?" he asked gently, stroking the hand in his lightly with his fingers.
Richie frowned for a moment and just for a fraction of a second Andre glimpsed something other than the childlike persona he was seeing mostly, but it lasted only a moment and then the innocent gaze was back. Richie shook his head.
"Well don't worry," Andre said, rearranging all his plans in his head, "I am sure you will remember in time; you've been through a big change and it must have affected you."
This seemed to relax Richie somewhat and the smile came back.
"I'm hungry," was the next pronouncement and it was Andre's turn to smile.
"I'm sure you are," he replied and patted Richie's hand, "but before we eat we need to make sure you are presentable. Come on, you are taking a shower."
When he stood and tugged gently on Richie's hand, his childe stood and followed him meekly and he led Richie through the bedroom to the bathroom. Then he leant into the shower cubicle and turned on the water before pulling back and looking Richie up and down.
"Now," he said with a small smile, "climb in and have a nice hot shower while I organise dinner."
Richie didn't appear to like that idea, in fact when Andre went to leave, he found his hand was clamped in a vicelike grip. It seemed Richie did not want him to leave.
"Please don't leave me," Richie said quietly and Andre had the feeling that he might have chosen an Adonis with more of a past than he had thought.
"I'll be right back, I promise," Andre said, feeling more like a real parent with every moment. "Look, you get undressed, I'll make a very quick phone call and then I'll be right back, how's that?"
From the expression on his face, Richie was clearly unsure, but Andre patted his childe's hand and left him to it. He knew where he could call to have someone come up to the apartment and it would be quite easy to have Richie feed, make their visitor forget and then send them on their way. He had hoped to go out and find prey, but clearly Richie was not ready for that yet.
It took him a few minutes to make the call, but when he went back into the bathroom, Richie was not in the shower. What made him stop and catch his breath was that Richie was completely naked and beamed at him when he walked back in. He really, really wanted to reach out and touch and possibly taste and try what was right in front of him, but then he looked in Richie's eyes and the trust there held him back. He thought possible the gods were punishing him just a little in offering him something so delectable which he could not touch.
"You're supposed to be in the shower," he said, trying to distract himself from the sudden throbbing in his groin.
"I wanted to make sure you were coming back," Richie said, as if that was a perfectly normal reaction.
Andre decided not to dwell on that.
"Well I'm here now, so in you get then," he said and did his best to think unsexy thoughts.
It occurred to him that very shortly Richie was going to be naked and wet and he almost whimpered.
Half an hour later Richie was clean, Andre was hornier than he had been in years and it was time for dinner. When Richie put on the pair of jeans Andre gave him and then seemed quite happy to wander around with nothing else, Andre thought he might die, but luckily the door bell rang to distract him and he went to let in their guest. He returned a few moments later with the young woman who said her name was Silkie, which was as likely as a Kindred wanting to sunbathe.
"Hello," Richie said with a bright smile as Andre brought her into the main room.
"Hello yourself," Silkie said and Andre felt a sudden shot of jealously.
"I think that's enough," he said and stepped between her and Richie and then he let his power free.
Silkie was no match for his age and experience and her gaze soon glazed over and he carefully sat her down.
"What did you do?" Richie asked, sounding curious rather than anything else.
The whole shower experience might have been torture for Andre, but it seemed to have relaxed Richie almost completely.
"I've made it so Silkie will do anything we ask her to and not remember afterwards," Andre replied honestly; even if Richie was hiding behind a childhood persona he intended for his childe to learn.
"Why?" Richie asked.
"Because you are hungry," Andre said and allowed his Kindred traits to rise to the surface fully, "and you need to feed, so I will show you how."
For a moment Richie looked worried.
"We will not hurt her," Andre said, smiling at his childe, "I promise. We are different from mortals, they feed us and they must never find out about us. Do you understand?"
Richie nodded, looking at the girl curiously.
"Let the hunger rise, Richie," Andre told his childe gently, "let it change you and then I will show you what to do."
When Richie's eyes glowed Kindred gold, Andre thought it was the most magnificent thing he had ever seen.
Duncan wasn't quite sure what to do. When Richie hadn't returned to the hotel he'd been worried, when he'd scoured the city for him all day and found no sign, he had become anxious. When an Immortal didn't come back it usually meant that they weren't going to, but for some reason he just couldn't bring himself to believe that his friend and pupil was dead. Why he found himself outside the Haven he couldn't quite explain, but this was the last place he'd seen Richie.
The rock music flowed over him in one big wave as he walked into the club, but he barely heard it. All he was interested in was the woman sitting by the bar. He walked quickly between the various tables, heedless as to who was there, and came to a stop beside the owner of the establishment.
"Why, Duncan," Lillie said with a genuine smile, "this is a surprise."
Duncan really hadn't thought he would be seeing Lillie again; the way they reacted to each other was more than a little distracting and he was not a person who liked to be out of control. They had not done a great deal of talking the previous evening; it had been all animal need and sex and it was quite difficult to fight down those instincts again. The only thing that kept them at bay was his worry over Richie, especially when Lillie reached out and brushed her fingers over his hand.
"Is something wrong?" Lillie asked, clearly realising that he was agitated.
"Have you seen Richie, the young man I was with yesterday, since then?" he asked, letting his anxiety show more than he would have if he hadn't needed it to keep his mind on why he was there.
Lillie was too hypnotic for her own good.
"No," Lillie replied evenly, glancing around the club as she spoke, "why, have you lost him?"
Duncan wasn't sure if Lillie was uncomfortable with the topic or just disappointed that he wasn't there simply to see her.
"He's disappeared," he admitted slowly, figuring that he had nothing to lose either way. "He said he'd meet me at the hotel, but he never came back. Now with Richie, normally I'd say he found someone else he'd rather be with, but circumstances last night were ... well ... different."
Lillie gave him a long hard look at that and he was well aware that there were things they both weren't saying and they both knew it. He didn't bother hiding how serious he thought this was and Lillie nodded. Then she smiled and she patted him on the arm.
"You stay here, darling," Lillie told him, "I'll ask around."
"Thanks," Mac replied honestly.
He wasn't sure exactly where in the local hierarchy his friend was, but he was pretty sure it was quite high. It was obvious Lillie had her ear to the ground in most things around her club and he only hoped any news she came up with, was not bad. He ordered a drink and sat down, ready for a long wait if necessary. There was not a lot else to do, until he found out what Lillie knew and he hoped she could give him a lead.
He didn't spend his time idly drowning his sorrows, however, he took the opportunity to just watch. The number of people his sometimes lover spoke to who immediately hurried away to do her bidding, was surprisingly large. It was, however, when the man he had left sitting next to Richie the evening before, came in and walked straight up to the owner of the Haven that he became very interested. He just wished he could have heard what they were saying.
"Ah, just the man I need to talk to," Lillie said as Frank walked up to her. "Where's our pet Immortal at the moment, Duncan's worried about him."
The scowl that crossed Frank's face at that was not what she had been hoping for; clearly the answer was not as straight forward as she had hoped. She had a real soft spot for Duncan and she had been hoping to give him an easy answer. The sooner he and his young friend were out of San Francisco the better for the whole community as far as she was concerned.
"I wish I knew," was Frank's eventual reply, "but I lost him almost as soon as he woke up last night. I have just had the pleasure of explaining this to your beloved prince. The guy just disappeared into thin air. He was more difficult to track than one of you guys."
"Do you make a habit of following us around, Frank?" the Toreador asked with a smile, unable to resist the little teasing.
When she had first met him she had not been overly impressed with Frank, but she rather liked him these days. He was a no nonsense kind of man and she could respect that. It was a pity he had such a low opinion of most Kindred. Pulling herself away from her thoughts she then dragged her mind back on track, and noted the information which had been passed on.
"Did he give any indication of where he was going before you lost him?" she enquired calmly.
The reply she received was a slow shake of the head. One thing she did recognise was that Frank was a good cop and if Frank had lost their quarry then it was unlikely he would be easily found.
"Look, I have to get to work," Frank said evenly, "I just called in to see if you'd heard anything. Since you're asking me questions, I assume we're as in the dark as each other. Luna has people out looking now, but no-one seems to know anything. If you find out any information, would you mind giving me a call?"
Even if Frank did claim to have a distaste for Kindred, it still amused Lillie how the cop was adjusting to working with them. She wondered if Frank realised how well he was adapting.
"For you, Frank," she responded with a smile, "anything."
Frank rolled his eyes at that, but did have the grace to smile before giving her a little salute and leaving the way he had entered.
Lillie sighed and then turned back to Duncan to give him the bad news. Things were just not running smoothly this week and she hoped that everything would settle back to normal soon.
"I take it no one knows anything," Duncan said as Lillie walked back over to him.
He could tell by the expression on her face that she had had no luck.
"Unfortunately not," she replied and seemed genuinely sorry to not be able to help. "I have my people keeping an eye out and if you give me your hotel number I will contact you if I hear anything."
"Thank you," he replied, well aware that Lillie did not have to help him at all.
All he could do was take the news that nobody had any information calmly, and then go out to continue his search. There were things going on in San Francisco which he did not understand, and he was beginning to sense a bigger picture. As he took his leave and left, he began to look, not only for Richie, but for anything sinister that might also be going on as well.
End of Part 3