The room was in total darkness as Jessica woke, and even before she opened her eyes, she could feel she was different. She was also alone; Richie was gone and she realised she was unlikely to see him again. On the table next to the bed there was a hand written note with her name on the front. Turning on the light as she picked it up, she began to read.
Welcome to the world of the Kindred. Sorry I cannot help you through this, but I was made only a few days ago and the Kindred part of me is dying. I was not made to be a vampire. My sire is a Kindred called Andre and I think I am beginning to understand why he did what he did. I think he was drawn to my pain as I was to yours. There has been a hole in my soul for a while now, but I think it is finally beginning to heal. This experience has taught me a great deal about myself if nothing else.
I give you to him and him to you; I think you will enjoy each other. You will find him at the Haven, I have written the address at the bottom. When it is dark go to him; he will know that I sent you and he will help you to become a true Toreador.
Curling up in the covers, away from the world she thought of the night before. Her life up until then had been empty, and, without knowing how, she realised that there was a family waiting out there for her. Richie had given her that. It was a family of blood, and she went back to sleep with an image of a man she had never met in her thoughts.
It was day, he should have been sleeping, but Andre could not put aside the thoughts of what he had done. Ever since Richie had attacked him and left, the bond of sire to childe had been somehow broken. He had no sense of the Kindred he had made, as if the raw power cancelled out all hold he had over his own creation. It saddened him, and with the other ideas which plagued him he could not sleep.
He was lying on the bed in one of Julian's spare rooms, but he could only close his eyes for a minute. It was as he focused on the ceiling for the hundredth time that he felt his soul touched. It was like the bond being made all over again, and for a moment he thought that his childe may have come back to him. As the initial feeling wore off, however, he knew that the spirit which touched his was not Richie's. His mind filled with the idea of a young woman, and suddenly he understood.
Tears ran down his cheeks as he realised that what everyone had been saying was true: he would never regain his creation; his Adonis was beyond his reach forever. Yet it was not only sorrow that caused the red streaks on his face, because he also realised that his gift had not been rejected completely. Andre knew that the new Kindred in his thoughts was a gift from Richie, the power had been passed on and this woman would come to him.
Richie had stayed with Frank for a couple of sex filled, very enjoyable hours after which Frank had fallen into a deep and restful sleep. Richie's last request was that Frank pass on a message to MacLeod about seeing him later and he had passed on the message as requested as soon as he had woken again. He had also called Luna and he had been politely asked to turn up at the Haven when evening came around again. He hadn't mentioned anything about what he and Richie had been doing before he was asked to deliver the message and he was still wondering about that. It wasn't the fact he had slept with a man that was bothering him; he didn't advertise it, but it wasn't like if was the first time, it was that he'd slept with Richie. It could have been very dangerous, even if Richie had seemed much saner than the previous night, but he'd done it anyway. He was beginning to think that hanging around Kindred was bad for his sense of preservation.
What's more, all Frank's instincts told him that, after the previous night, the Haven would be a very bad place for him to be at the moment, but he was still going. Since Frank hadn't seen hide nor hair of Richie since their earlier encounter, and he really wanted to know what was going on, despite his reservations, he found himself walking towards the familiar night spot.
Back to normal Richie might want to forget the morning had ever happened and Frank could live with that, but he found he needed some resolution. It was bothering him more than he cared to admit, for reasons he couldn't fathom and he just needed to understand what he had gotten himself into.
He was walking along the sidewalk towards the entrance of the club when a car pulled up beside him. He should have been on edge given where he was, but he was so preoccupied that its presence barely registered on his mind. He really did not need more complications in his life, but his life didn't seem to realise this. When he felt himself grabbed from behind and bundled into the vehicle, it was more than a shock and he barely had time to think. Somebody threw a coat over his head and a grip like iron pinned him to the floor. He didn't need much more to realise that he'd been snatched by Kindred. The only questions remaining were: by whom, and for what purpose. After a few moments he gave up struggling: the hands that held him would not give, and he was just hurting himself. He was just going to have to hope that someone noticed he was missing.
From across the other side of the study, Lillie watched Duncan as he paced back and forwards. They were waiting for Julian to appear, and then they would be going to the Haven to liaise with other members of the clans. The Highlander hadn't spoken to her much since the previous evening, and he seemed very edgy as he wore a groove in the carpet.
"I'm sorry this happened," she said, seemingly much to her companion's surprise. "Andre is my guest, this is my fault."
The look she received from Duncan said he wasn't quite sure whether to let her condemn herself or not. Eventually, however, he shook his head as if he did not agree.
"You couldn't control his actions anymore than I could have controlled Richie's," Duncan said. "I know I'm standing here blaming you, but that's just me, I'm blaming everyone including myself. The moment I realised that you were still the same I should have turned around and walked out, taking Richie with me. I'm always reminding Richie that his libido will get him into trouble, and what did I do, but go and follow my hormones like a kid."
Lillie had to smile at that, she could have been a little more careful herself. There was an animal attraction between them, and both of them had followed it quite happily. There was a fair amount of affection there, on both parts as well, but as they looked at each other across the room, Lillie knew that they would not be sharing a bed again. An Immortal would make an interesting life partner for a Kindred, but she was well aware they would not be exploring the possibilities. There was too much water under the bridge now, too much trouble.
"You have managed to get under my skin, Duncan MacLeod," she said with a sweet grin, "and that is very hard to do. I think perhaps I will be glad when you choose to leave."
Duncan smiled back and appeared to share the sentiment.
"As soon as we find Richie I would be most happy to accommodate your wishes," he replied honestly.
Richie was, at that moment, walking down an empty street towards an old apartment block. It had taken him all day, but with a little street smarts, a touch of Kindred dominance, and a lot of leg work he had tracked down his prey. He didn't think Damon would run, and he was proved right as he strolled up to the entrance and felt the approach of the man in question.
"I thought you'd left the city," the other Immortal said as he emerged from the doorway, "and then what do I see out of my window, but you approaching. Isn't it a little dangerous wandering around after you died in front of an officer of the law?"
"Oh, he was an understanding cop," Richie replied with the slightest of smiles, "we came to an understanding. The information about my demise is quite safe from the authorities."
The anticipation of the fight was running through Richie's veins and the adrenaline was beginning to pump. He didn't usually look forward to combat, but the Kindred part of him seemed to be relishing the idea.
"Well it's your life," Damon returned with a shrug, "and it's *our* battle. I know this quiet little spot just down the road. Shall we?"
Damon motioned in a vague direction and began walking, Richie followed. There was the possibility that Damon had things set up to trap him, but Richie was pretty sure he could spot anything in time. He was slowly getting back to normal, but he wanted his sanity back sooner rather than later and Damon's head was going to give him that.
"So what have you been doing with yourself for the last few days?" Damon enquired conversationally. "I noticed MacLeod poking his nose in all over the place, so I assumed you'd high tailed it out of here without leaving a forwarding address."
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Richie replied and said no more.
His opponent's choice of battle ground was an old abandoned lot, with a high, wooden fence around it. The two Immortal's had no trouble forcing their way through the slats where many a school child had been before them. The ground was quite uneven, but Richie wasn't really bothered, he'd trained on worse.
"I can't promise I won't cheat," Damon said as he discarded his coat and pulled out his sword. "My survival instinct is very strong these days, and honour seems such a handicap."
"Oh don't worry," was Richie's even reply, "I'm not quite the same person you left dead in the alley either. I'll cope."
They saluted each other in a vaguely gentleman-like way, and then they started manoeuvring for position. The lot was relatively well lit by a couple of street lamps, but it was much easier for Richie than it was for Damon. Senses still heightened by Kindred blood found it easy to pick out every hole that could cause a fall, and every stone that could trip a person. Even as the first blow was struck, it was obvious to Richie he had a major advantage over his opponent.
What was left of the Toreador speed and agility gave Richie more than just an edge, and as the clash of steel rang out, the look on Damon's face said he realised that something had changed. Strike, followed parry, followed lunge, and Damon couldn't land a cut on Richie no matter how hard the older Immortal tried. Every opening turned out to be a feint and every feint was a way for Richie to do more damage. As Damon went for each one, Richie would dance out of the way and bring down a carefully aimed blow somewhere else.
Damon was not a bad fighter, but he was not as good as Richie. There was no luck to be had on the vacant lot and Damon was losing. The Immortal's white shirt was slit in several places and blood oozed from some relatively deep cuts in various positions. There was continual healing going on, and occasionally a bright spark of energy would become visible, sealing an abrasion in an ever present cycle. Richie never let it distract him from his purpose.
He made no flippant comments as he fought, no snide words for his adversary, as he continued to carve up Damon's defence with an almost effortless ease. This was a battle that had been fought before, and one he should have won, he had no intention of letting it go again. Move flowed into move as his mind worked and his instincts led him to small victory after small victory. It was only a matter of time before Damon would tire and loose what concentration he had left.
Richie had just landed a particularly vicious cut on Damon's leg when the opening appeared for final conquest. By lunging forward and going for his opponent's thigh, Richie had appeared to leave a weakness to his right side. By now his adversary was desperate, and although Damon had been fooled before, Richie left him no choice but to try for at least a damaging blow. As Damon moved in for a slice to his side, Richie spun and locked his own sword under that of his opponent. With a quick flick of his wrist and a little turn of the blade, the other Immortal's weapon went spiralling into the air.
Defeat was written in Damon's stance, the man knew he was going to die, and yet the emotion wasn't quite complete in his eyes. Once Richie would not have seen it, but he did now and he was ready when there was the smallest click and Damon flicked his hand back. There was no way human senses could have picked up the small projectile, but with the Kindred edge, Richie saw it fly through the air. His free hand lanced out, and with the dexterity of a swallow picking flies from the air, he plucked it from it flight path. He could smell poison on the tiny blade even from a distance; Damon had clearly prepared for a possible defeat.
"You've cheated me of your head twice, Damon," Richie said, throwing the little dart away almost contemptuously, "but not this time."
Damon's face was glazed with shock as Richie moved in for the killing blow and Richie made sure the last thing Damon saw was the golden eyed gaze of the man who was about to kill him. The body slumped to one side as the sharp blade of Richie's sword separated it from the head and the fight was done. Damon would not cheat his way to anymore victories; his game was over.
The first mists of the Quickening appeared immediately and twisted slowly into the air like snakes crawling out of a pit. Richie just stared at them with vampire eyes as they wound round him, not quite touching him, as if they were exploring first. There was a tentative touch that sent a shiver up his spine, almost as if the Quickening was making sure of what he was. Then it hit him all at once. One second there was deathly hush and the next the lightening took away all thought.
The pain was different at first, it lanced right to the very heart of him and found the changes the embrace had made. It destroyed them like a red hot poker removing infection in a wound, and fought to reclaim this body. Then, satisfied that this was a vessel suitable for its gifts, it entered him with full force. Bits of stone exploded around him, and one of the street lamps fused as stray energy lanced into them.
Damon was not a young Immortal, and he had taken many heads in his time meaning the Quickening lasted a long time. Richie felt every spark of power that wormed its way into his body and his nerves became numb with it.
As the final tendrils left him, he fell to his knees, totally exhausted, and feeling somewhat strange. He looked around him slowly, and realised that he was scarred. It was not anything that would show on the outside, but his Immortality had found something it could not totally wipe away. Although not as keen as before, his surroundings did not appear to be in quite as much darkness as they should have been, indicating that his eyesight had retained some of its sensitivity. With little effort he found that his hearing was in a similar state, as well as his sense of smell. It appeared that there were still hints of Kindred about him, although as he stood up he was feeling a great deal saner than he had been for the last few days.
The world had nearly returned to the perspective he expected of it, and there were absolutely no signs of any other personalities in his head. For all intents and purposes he was back to normal, and he gazed around, a small smile appearing on his face. The extra sensitive senses might fade with time, or they might not, for now he decided they were probably useful.
He could say that he was almost happy as he dragged Damon's body under some rubbish, removed all items that could be used to identify it immediately, including all weapons, and set off to find Mac. It had been an enlightening few days, but now all he wanted was someone normal to talk to. When he realised he had thought of Mac as normal he chuckled to himself; normality, it seemed, really was relative.
Cash was sat at one of the side tables, watching everything with his habitual vigilance, but tonight he did have something to distract him from time to time. They'd broken it off, they'd yelled at each other, they'd decided that clan loyalties had driven them apart, but whenever anyone decided it was finally over they'd turn around and find Sasha and Cash together. The Brujah in question was sitting opposite Cash, sipping on a cocktail and smiling at him in the way only a lover could. Both sets of their clan members were watching them with disgust, but tonight they weren't arguing and so Cash didn't much care.
He had one eye on Andre, just in case, but otherwise it was quiet. Not many people were speaking to the Toreador at the moment, and he seemed to have chosen to stay away from the trio of Lillie, Julian and MacLeod who sat in a booth. The Toreador looked as if he was waiting for something and Cash had to assume it was to do with Ryan, but he didn't know what.
It was Sasha who spotted the entrance of the willowy-looking girl first.
"Now, what do we have here?" she said lightly, and indicated to show him the source of her question.
There were lots of eyes on the newcomer, and Cash made a quick scan just in case of trouble, but most faces were interested rather than hostile. The girl seemed kind of nervous and it was obvious to any with senses that she was new. Whoever she was, her clothes seemed to fit her demeanour: a white dress, a velvet jacket and silky pumps, with her hair flowing about her shoulders, demure and yet alluring. It didn't take more than a second glance to figure out she was Toreador clan.
Cash began paying attention as a suspicion began to enter his head and when he saw the stranger spot Andre and smile, he was pretty sure he knew what was going on. Andre, it seemed, had seen her the moment she had come in, and was already on the move. No one had been granted leave to embrace another recently, Cash would have known, and that meant this was another unapproved Kindred, but he had a feeling he knew who had broken the rules. Everyone was walking on egg shells at the moment with what had been going on and there was only one person who would have done it. This newcomer was young, only just made and not fully through the change, but there was an air about her that warned all to stay away. This was heartily backed up when, as Andre slipped his hand under her elbow to guide her across the room, he glared at his compatriots in warning. Cash was almost sure this was Ryan's doing.
"Let's go somewhere a little more private," he heard Andre say in a welcoming warm tone, and the girl just nodded.
Cash watched as Andre looked to Lillie, who gave a little nod and indicated upstairs. From the looks of things this girl was as big a shock to Lillie as she was to everyone else, which only backed up Cash's theory. It was turning out to be an even more interesting evening than he had expected.
The ground was hard, that much Frank found out when he was dumped out of the car directly onto it. The first thing he saw was a pair of feet, and he slowly worked his way up. The face that met his gaze did not bode well for his future. One of the Brujah that Richie had so cheerfully beaten the crap out of the previous night was leering down at him, and as he slowly climbed to his feet he became aware of the others as well.
"Not so brave without your friend, little man?" the leader of the pack sneered loudly.
A cold feeling started in the pit of Frank's stomach.
"Hey, look," he said slowly, "last night had nothing to do with me, I was just with the guy. I have no quarrel with you."
"Wrong," another of the group said from behind, "you laughed at us."
That wasn't true, but then talking a Brujah out of something they had decided were the facts could be like chiselling granite with a bobby pin. There was only one route left open to Frank, even though he hated to admit it.
"Um, look I was supposed to meet Julian Luna at the Haven, he's not going to be pleased if I don't show," the implicit warning was there, but it fell on deaf ears.
"Oh, don't worry Franky," the leader started, "we're not going to kill you. We thought we just have a little fun and rough you up a bit. Now Mr Luna might be a little annoyed at us for a while, but he's not going to go against Cameron over some bruises."
Frank had a sinking feeling that the brute might actually be telling the truth. All safe ground just crumbled away from him.
"Can't we just talk about this?" he tried, a little desperately.
His reply was a fist in the face. Now that hurt like hell, but not as much as the one which followed and did something nasty to his kidneys. Now Frank could handle himself pretty well, and he even managed to land a couple of punches, but he was not Kindred and he really didn't stand a chance. Every time he turned to try and block a blow, one of the other Brujah would attack from behind, or beside him.
He really had no idea what he was doing by the time he flailed out desperately and managed to sink his nails into flesh. His legs weren't under his control, he'd taken so many hits that he didn't know which way was up, and the Brujah were passing him around like a toy, but somehow he fell in just the right way to actually do some damage. There was an angry yell from whoever he had managed to hurt and then strong hands grabbed him and literally threw him through the air. His head found the car, and there was a nasty snapping sound: Frank knew no more.
What brought Richie to the docks he would never know, but on his way to the Haven he had been unable to resist the urge to see the water. The sight that met his eyes made him very angry, and he moved forward before his better judgement could get in the way. Frank was lying in a crumpled heat surrounded by Brujah and it was clear Frank was dead. He barely realised he had a sword in each hand as he ran.
"Which one of you killed him," he yelled at the top of his lungs.
To say that the sight of him scared the hell out of the Kindred gathered around the body was probably putting it lightly given the expressions on their faces. It seemed he was still vampire enough to fool them. These Brujah knew death when they saw it coming towards them and they ran.
The question had brought the look of guilt to one face and it was this Kindred whom Richie pursued. He dumped one sword by the side of Frank's lifeless body and then charged after his prey. These thugs had dared to touch someone he cared about and he was going to take revenge. A dagger he had lifted from Damon was very useful in bringing down the vampire before the creature could change shape or escape. A knife in the leg wouldn't hurt a Kindred too much, but it did cause the Brujah to fall.
With an incoherent cry, Richie ran at his victim, sword at the ready and swung it for the killing blow. It was the look of pure terror on the fallen Kindred's face that drew the slice up short. Millimetres from the Brujah's neck Richie stopped the blade, and he glared at his prey. He was not a murderer and although he wanted to kill, he knew something the Brujah did not.
"This time you live," he said slowly, quite surprised by the sentiment himself. "Frank's dead now, but he won't be for long. This time you escape with your life and this time only. We are something you do not understand, we are something you should fear. Remember that and you might not end up in a gutter with bits of your body missing."
The vampire seemed to be too scared to do anything but nod and Richie knew that his message had been understood
"Run home, dog," he said in a dangerously quiet tone, "and next time you see Frank, remember to be afraid."
He turned on his heel and just walked back to the car, in a few seconds he heard the Brujah scrabbling to his feet and disappearing into the night.
The keys were in the ignition and the doors were open so it didn't take Richie long to load Frank and the sword onto the back seat. There was a chance the clan members would come back for their vehicle, and without the help of surprise, he could live without facing them. He drove away quickly, and rapidly decided to head for his hotel.
The journey was half over when Frank opened his eyes again for the first time. The low, heartfelt groan was what gave it away and made Richie glance over quickly
"Welcome back," he greeted and returned his eyes on the road, "I wouldn't move for a while if I were you, those Brujah really did a number on you."
He remembered the couple of hours they had spent together very clearly and it made him happier than it probably should have to see Frank back with the living.
"You're telling me," was Frank's slow reply, "my head feels like someone's hitting it with a baseball bat."
"Lie still and it'll pass," Richie said and sent his friend a smile, "dying's hard on the body."
There was silence from the back seat for a while, and then Frank's brain seemed to catch up with what he had said.
"Dying, what do you mean dying?" the tone was a little anxious.
Glancing back again Richie saw Frank giving himself a once over and even checking his teeth, which made him smile a bit more. Kindred would, of course, be the first thing Frank considered.
"The beating ended with you breaking your neck," Richie supplied helpfully. "At least that's what I suppose killed you, since your head was at a very funny angle. You're Immortal, Frank, like me and Mac, you just didn't know about it before. Now you've died for the first time, you'll heal fast, never get sick, and lots of junk like that."
He glanced round and grinned before turning back to the road.
"A shock, yeah I know," he said cheerfully, "at least I had a little longer to get used to the idea of Immortals."
Frank just mumbled something in reply that Richie was pretty sure didn't actually mean anything. He remembered the shock of waking up from dying the first time, so Richie did not blame the other man at all. He decided to get to the point.
"Let me guess," he said, hoping to give Frank something else to think about, "you're the type of guy who must have weeks of vacation time backed up at work, right?"
Frank was clearly too bemused to answer anything but the truth.
"Ah, yeah," Frank replied blankly; "the Captain's always trying to get me to take some time off."
"Great," Richie said and turned into the street which contained his hotel, "then I suggest you take it now. You have a lot to learn and not a lot of choice about it. You're lucky, only Kindred saw you die and they're not likely to blab, so you won't have to move on. Mac taught me how to be Immortal, and you're going to have to learn as well. There's this nice dojo up north, where we can both give you the crash course if you like."
He pulled over and looked at the startled cop.
"There's a lot you don't know, but to stay alive you'll need help," he continued sincerely, and he really did want Frank to stay alive. "Mac and I can give you that help until we can sort something out down here. Take the sword you're lying next to and go hole up in my hotel room for now. I've got to go find MacLeod, and then we'll explain everything. Room 228. If you need to change, just borrow some of my stuff."
Frank didn't seem to be thinking very clearly, but he did take the key Richie gave him and the sword and climbed out of the car. Richie was pretty sure Frank was shell shocked, but he had to deal with other things first. Frank would take things in better when he'd had a chance to settle down a bit anyway. Hopefully Frank would be right where he left him when he got back.
Several conversations just stopped as Richie walked into the Haven, and he grinned at the shocked expression on Mac's face. The slightly opened mouth visage dissolved into one of relief as Mac seemed to realise he was no longer insane.
"I think he's back to normal," he heard Mac say as he began to walk across the room.
There was a quizzical look on Lillie's face as she watched him approach.
"Not quite," was her quiet response, and she looked to Luna for confirmation.
Richie quite liked the fact that they seemed to still be off balance.
"Mr Ryan still feels somewhat like one of us," the Prince offered slowly, "but his heart is beating, and he appears human on the outside."
It was then that Richie saw one of the guys he had flattened at Luna's the previous night, if his confused recollections were right the Kindred's name was Cash. There was a beautiful woman next to him and when Richie made it a little closer he picked up the signs of another Kindred; he made a guess at Brujah.
"Look, sorry about yesterday," he apologised calmly, pausing momentarily in front of the couple; "I wasn't quite myself."
Then he walked on without waiting for a reply.
"So, what happened yesterday," he heard the woman enquire curiously, "and I take it that's the guy everyone had been so wound up about?"
Richie smiled to himself; he wasn't overly fond of being the centre of attention, but at least he knew no one would be likely to mess with him after what had been going on.
"I'll tell you later," was all Cash replied and Richie wondered how edited Cash's version would be for what was clearly his girlfriend.
Richie slid into the booth on the opposite side to Mac, and just smiled at the Lillie and Luna.
"I thought we'd go home now," he said lightly.
Nobody was quite sure what to say to that.
"Are you okay, Richie?" Mac finally asked slowly.
"Fine," he replied, knowing just was Mac was worrying about, "a good Quickening will do wonders for a guy."
That was all the explanation Mac really needed if his expression was anything to go by, but Richie went on anyway to make sure all was clear.
"Damon's dead and I'm as close to normal as I think I'm going to get," he said with a small shrug. "Oh and Frank will be coming with us, he discovered death as well, but he'll get used to the idea. I've really had enough of this town, and I'd like to go home, where nothing more exciting happens than the odd Immortal trying to kill me."
It took a while for everyone to catch up.
"What happened to Frank?" it was Luna who asked, and he was clearly not happy.
"Some Kindred decided to use him as a punch bag," Richie said quickly, doing his best to hide the anger that was still there at that, "and he broke his neck. Since he's Immortal it didn't bother him for long, and I have him stashed somewhere where no-one can find him until he feels like being found."
Righteous anger flared in the Prince's eyes, and Richie had the next question figured before Luna asked it.
"Who were they?" he demanded hotly.
Now Richie had no intention of giving the brutes up to the slaughter, he thought they'd probably learned their lessons and he wanted that lesson spread.
"It doesn't matter," he said, making sure to be taken seriously. "Take it from me, they will not be trying it again."
The two men locked gazes for a moment Luna appeared to consider pushing the issue. It was very obvious that the Prince didn't like to be told what to do, even in situations like this, but Richie was not going to back down. The Ventrue looked angry for a moment, but slowly the expression changed into a smile.
"Have it your way," Luna finally said and, apparently, much to Lillie's surprise, gave in.
It was the Toreador Primogen who spoke next.
"Well gentlemen," she said with a smile, "I hope you don't mind, but I'd like to steal Richard for just a little while. I'd like to have a few words in private."
Now it was Richie's turn to look surprised, but he did not object as the dark haired siren led him to a quiet corner. She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment and then kissed him on the cheek.
"Thank you for what you did for Andre," she said warmly, quite different from every other interaction they had had, "your gift arrived here a while ago. After what he did to you, your actions surprise me."
Now Richie understood why she had wanted to talk to him, and he smiled. Most of the past few days were coming back to him, but it was all very mixed up and why he had done things were a little vague, but that one was more than clear.
"I got rid of all my anger when I staked him," he explained openly, "and my more rational side came into play. I saw Jessica as she was about to throw herself off a roof, and I suddenly knew that they would be good for each other. He needs someone, that's why he tried to take me. She has never seen how life can be good, and he can give that to her. I just followed my heart, which, for once, doesn't seem to have landed me in trouble."
Lillie ran her hand down one side of his face and just smiled at him for a while.
"You're very kind," she said slowly, "I wouldn't have expected that in someone who has to kill like you do. Don't ever let go of your soul, Richard, it makes you a wonderful person."
Then she kissed him again and walked back to Julian, leaving him to contemplate what she had said.
Frank, it appeared, had been through a good half of the mini-bar in Richie's room, not that Richie blamed the other man at all. If it hadn't been for the fact that Richie had had Tessa's death to deal with as well he thought he might have had a similar reaction when he died for the first time. Helping keep Mac together had actually given him something to focus on besides his own predicament.
"Feeling any better?" Richie asked as he walked into the room.
"Except for the feeling of ants inside my head I feel fine," Frank replied, rubbing his head. "I'll be glad when the ants go away for good."
"They won't," Richie said, walking over and sitting down on the bed; "but you do get used to it. That's how you can tell you're about to meet another Immortal."
Frank looked surprised at that.
"We have an early warning system?" he asked and then seemed to consider it. "Makes sense I suppose."
At least Frank did not seem to be panicking about the whole thing.
"Makes a quick exit much easier," Richie replied, looking over Frank carefully to make sure his friend wasn't just hiding a freak out in waiting.
Frank actually laughed at that and Richie could see the first crack.
"A quick exit in case one of you wants to kill me?" Frank said, sounding just a little bitter.
"One of us, Frank," he said as gently as it was possible to say it; "you're Immortal now."
There was no reply and then Frank was standing up.
"Yeah, well, I'm going home," Frank said as if he didn't know why he hadn't thought of it before; "I can cope with Kindred so I can cope with this."
"Frank," Richie began and Mac stepped in front of the cop before he could leave.
"That would be a very bad idea," Mac said with his usual serious tone.
Richie had seen Mac in new Immortal mode from Frank's position so he could understand the scowl that ended up on Frank's features.
"What, so I'm easier to find when you get fed up of me and decide to kill me?"
Frank's words were uncalled for, but Richie could understand why Frank was so upset.
"I want to help you," Mac said, clearly offended by Frank's suggestion and Richie could see the discussion going down hill; he didn't think Frank was in the mood to be helped.
"Look, Mac," he said, stepping in, "let me deal with this. Frank talked me down from freaking out when I woke up Kindred, I think it's my turn."
The Highlander didn't look as if he liked it, but the agitated way Frank began pacing must have made him think about it, because Mac finally nodded.
"Okay," Mac said and gave him the 'I'll leave it to you, but call if you need me look' that Richie was very familiar with; "I'll be down the hall."
Richie nodded and patted his friend on the arm in thanks, before turning back to Frank.
"You knew," were the accusatory words out of Frank's mouth as soon as the door closed.
It was not an unexpected accusation, he had felt the same way when he had found out that Mac had withheld the information from him as well.
"From the moment you sat down next to us at the bar," he replied, knowing that the complete truth was the only way to go with Frank. "It doesn't feel like another Immortal when you meet a pre-Immortal, but it's still there."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Frank demanded.
"Because it's not done," Richie told his friend, "because everyone deserves a normal life. I only found out about Immortals by accident; I tried to burgle Mac's shop and ended up in the middle of an Immortal showdown. Mac took me under his wing, but he never told me; I didn't know until one day I didn't die. I know you don't think so now because I've been there, but innocence is bliss."
It was all too clear that Frank didn't like that, but at least the other man was not trying to storm out.
"Is that why you were attracted to me?" Frank finally asked and Richie suddenly realised that this was not just about the whole Immortal thing. "Did you come to me because you knew you couldn't really kill me even if you lost control?"
If it hadn't been a sensible theory Richie would have laughed.
"No," he said and he didn't need to think about it to know it was true; "I came to you because I like you and because you're the only damn person in this city that I actually trust. When you found me you could have taken me straight to Luna or Lillie and washed your hands of me, but you didn't; you tried to help me, and to me that means a lot. Now I want to help you."
Richie was a little surprised by how much of the anger seemed to flow out of Frank at those words and he began to understand that maybe Frank had felt used. It made sense and it also explained why Frank had been so annoyed with him; Richie didn't like being used either.
"I need a drink," he decided and went to the mini-bar; "that's if you left anything in here."
He found a small bottle of vodka and poured it into the nearest glass before downing it in one.
"Right," he said, turning back to Frank, "now I can do the long explanations. Let's sit down and I'll tell you everything."
Frank still didn't appear too happy, but when Richie indicated the sofa, the other Immortal did sit down.
"The most important thing to know is the only way we can die is decapitation," he started with the number one piece of information, but he had the feeling he was going to be talking for quite a while.
It had taken them another day to get out of the city, what with explaining everything to Frank and getting him to organise his vacation, along with the formal farewells. Luna had wanted more information, but all leverage had been gone and so there had been no pushing. They were all aware that both sides could be incredibly dangerous and that seemed to settle things. After all the hassle in San Francisco, the days of rigorous training that Mac decided to put Frank through, using Richie as an example, seemed almost restful.
Frank was technically staying at the loft, but after a week he'd actually slept there one night. The first night Frank had stayed over at his place Richie had told Mac that they had been drinking and talking, but after the second he'd given up pretending and Mac's eyebrows might have hit his hairline, but that had been about it. He wasn't really sure what he and Frank were involved in, but he liked having a warm body to sleep next to and he was really getting to like Frank, a lot. The fact that he was wondering if San Francisco might be a nice place to spend a few months gave him a clue that he might be a little more serious about the whole thing than he was used to.
Going from completely straight to possibly having a boyfriend was quite a step, but Richie had given up arguing with the changes the embrace had made in him. He didn't know if he'd always had a thing for men and had repressed it or if he'd integrated the tendency from one of the buried psyches in his head just like the painting, but it didn't really make a lot of difference. He knew Mac was working up to having a little talk to make sure he knew what he was up to, but he was prepared for that and it was only the Highlander's way of making sure he was okay.
He now had some paints, a couple of canvases and other art equipment in his apartment, but he hadn't had much chance to use them. What with the training and alternative physical pursuits with Frank, he'd only had one chance to get them out, but he was well aware that he enjoyed it. He found himself doodling on anything and everything so much that Mac had taken to leaving little notepads around so he didn't doodle on the furniture. The most bizarre moment over the last week had been when Mac had caught him making patterns on the counter with the salt.
He was trying to keep the urge under control, he really was, but occasionally it got the better of him; that and the fact that he suddenly seemed to have a touchy feely streak when it came to Frank. How Mac had not figured out the truth the first day was beyond Richie; it had to be written up there in neon. Frank didn't seem to mind, though, which was handy. Like he had invaded Frank's personal space a little more than necessary to show him a move and Frank let him get away with it.
"So why don't you just shoot them and then take their heads?" Frank asked as Richie stepped back a little to let his lover try the move he had just demonstrated.
Frank was looking at Mac for the answer, but the Highlander just huffed and walked into the office. When Frank turned to Richie for help Richie couldn't help laughing.
"Those kind of questions are best left unthought," he said lightly, "especially with Mac around. He has this big honour streak in him, and ideas like yours tend to tick him off."
Frank didn't look like he quite believed in the whole honour thing, but then Richie knew Frank was nothing if not practical.
"Okay," Frank said with a little smile, "it was only a thought. So can you show me that move again, I don't quite remember the end of it?"
"Well, if you insist," Richie said, ever willing to get close to Frank, but he didn't have a chance to follow through.
A familiar feeling lanced through his head and he saw Frank make a face of annoyance and they both looked towards the door. Richie held the wooden sword he had, defensively, until Adam Pierson strolled through the door with a broad smile on his face.
"Expecting someone else I see," Adam said, a little too brightly. "So who's the new recruit?"
Mac walked out of the office with a broad smile on his face, bad mood gone it seemed.
"Phone, Adam," the Highlander said jovially, "I know it's a modern invention, but it's useful. Prevents heart attacks, and misunderstandings."
"One day I will call," the other Immortal said unrepentantly, "then you'll get worried."
Richie wouldn't have said that he and Adam were good friends, but he was happy enough to relax and he lowered his wooden sword as Adam walked further into the room. It took a few seconds, but a feeling slowly began to crawl up his spine, one he recognised and he was suddenly staring at Adam in shock and he found the other Immortal doing the same to him.
"Gangrel," he said rapidly.
"Toreador," was what Adam replied.
"You were embraced," they both said in unison.
After a second or so of shock Adam seemed to find this very funny and Richie saw Frank and Duncan just looked at each other.
"You must have made one strange Kindred," Adam said with a laugh, "I'd only taken one head when they tried the number on me, and I had a split personality for weeks."
Richie didn't bother trying to hide his shock.
"When, how long ago?" he all but demanded.
It was a surprise and a relief to find out he was not the only one who had been in contact with the wrong vampire.
"A while," Adam returned with a smile. "I'll tell you exactly after we've had a long talk about ages."
Some Immortals were touchy about how long they'd been wandering around, Richie accepted this and moved onto his next question.
"So do the after effects wear off?" he inquired directly, since he really wanted to know.
Being able to see quite well in the dark was useful, but he didn't want to become reliant on it if it was going to vanish again.
"You mean the hearing and things," Adam asked, as if this was the most normal conversation in the world. "No. They might fade a little over the next hundred years or so, but you're stuck with them. I have also been reliably informed that, from time to time, in the throws of passion, my eyes change colour."
Richie was a little dubious about that claim.
"Ever had any complaints?" he finally asked.
"Not so far," was the cheerful reply.