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Heaven Sent by Sophie
This is a sequel to another story which can be found at :
Innocence and Justice


Part 3

The countryside was beautiful in the early morning misty light, flat, sun-bleached, dramatic with the greyness of the valley edges not as far away as they had been half an hour ago. Yet, Richard Ryan was not too interested in the view around him anymore. His face was creased with effort as he skidded to a halt at the entrance to the gully that was his destination, and, breathing hard, bent over, stretching the worked muscles in his legs. His body was glistening with sweat and his once light green vest was almost the colour of a wine bottle where his perspiration stuck it to his chest. His companion slowed more gradually, a look of ease on his face, and he continued to jog on the spot. Michael was definitely a trained athlete, and the speed at which he had led off with his long legs had been a hefty pace for his shorter comrade. The run hadn't been a bind, and the young Immortal had been expecting to work hard from his judge of the youth the day before, but it left him wondering if MacLeod's stride was really that bad. The blond man's muscles flexed against his lose joggers, tingling with the relief of the work down he was giving them. Richie grinned amicably at his fellow and observed, "That is some drive you have."

"When it's my best chance of getting into college, I have a tendency to push it a bit," came the reply that wasn't even sounding puffed.

"I thought MacLeod had long legs," the young man disclosed, straightening and beginning to unstrap the two long leather pouches that he had fixed to his back for the run.

"Your boss?" Michael clarified, deciding that it was time to work down for a bit as well.

"More friend than boss," the Immortal returned, "the job is more of a reason to stay around than anything else; Mac took me in when I was seventeen. He caught me breaking into his shop (he's also an antique's dealer), but instead of sending me down, he gave me a job."

"Smart break!" the ebony-skinned creature whistled.

"You could say that Duncan's a bit of a do-gooder, I was incredibly lucky," came the definite nod of agreement.

"So you've come back to St John's to do some good of your own," there was no mockery in the tone at the observation.

Richie smiled to himself, the slight guilt of the reality still with him, and he admitted honestly, "I hate to say that the idea wasn't initially mine, but I think now I'm here, I'll stick around a while."

The teenager grinned, his teeth showing white against his lips and expressing an unspoken understanding of the friendship offered in the words. Yet, his eyes shifted to the ranch, a dark blob back on the past horizon, and there was a longing in his face to be on the move once more, his spirit needing the exercise that his colleague had halted. The elder figure recognised the want, it was dedication with which he empathised, there was something about your chosen discipline that was compelling.

"Hope you don't mind going back alone," he gave the opportunity for dismissal casually, "but I agreed to meet Harry here in..." he looked at his watch, and laughed at his mis-estimation of the time it would take them to reach the gully, "...twenty minutes."

"No problem, Man," the other answered easily, and then disappeared at competition speed.

The Immortal took a few moments to watch his elegant glide, awed by the grace and pose of such a young athlete. There was promise in that one. Then he turned and descended into the gully; the rest of the world disappeared and a peace came over him that was totally unexpected. Even the vague breeze that had been lifting the dust their feet caught was absent in the mini universe. The young man came to a halt in the middle of the protected space and took in the power he felt once more. The effect of the holy ground had been fading as he became accustomed to its presence, only making a gentle impact as he had woken to it that morning, but as he stood, totally alone in the barren arena, it came into his spirit. He had assumed it had been the places distance that had created the recommendation by his comrade, but the look in Harry's eyes as he had spoken of `his' trench suddenly made sense. There was a focus here, a chance for pure concentration to take a body to new heights; he felt the strength of the Immortal run through him and it led the almost possessed form to bend for his sword. It was time to put in some practise of his own.

The sound of his blade being slid out of its housing hung around the poised figure, as, eyes closed in meditative calm, he readied himself for a kata. Life rushed through him, touching his soul and bringing forth the warrior aspect. The bright gaze which snapped open was centred on the One, the end of a battle, the Game; with perfect leisure he lifted the blade above his head and his muscles gleamed in equilibrated composure. Only his breath, controlled hisses in tandem with his movements, broke the still air, even his body shifting exquisitely through it did not seem to disturb the serenity in every direction.

There was something obsessive about the atmosphere, and it was only when it was broken that Richard Ryan realised how far inwards it had taken him. The call of his spirit was a sudden, jarring feeling which took him by surprise and sent a shiver through his taut torso. Blinking wildly, the youth turned rapidly, only holding onto his sword by instinct; he was a savage creature as he greeted the dark figure of his expected companion, his face illogically clouded at the intrusion he should have remembered was coming. The emotion was gone in a moment, but it was there long enough for the younger form to see and understand; his reaction was to smile enigmatically and observe, "You too."

There wasn't a way to describe the vigour of the gully, but it was definitely mutual, and lingered even after its solitary nature had been broken. Richie remained silent and still as he waited for his fellow to join him in the miniature valley. Only as the old eyes looked expectantly at him did he really catch up with the promise made earlier, and with a mild amusement on him at his slow response, the young man bent down to prepare for the tutorial. In an attempt to repossess himself, the Immortal began to speak.

"This one's a bit sharp for the first lesson," he commented dryly, sliding the courtly blade back into its protection and turning to the bag containing less lethal sword sticks.

An hour later, the sun higher in the sky, and his head protected by a bandanna, Richie strolled comfortably back into the farm yard next to his satisfied companion. It had been an interesting session; the older Immortal had been a willing tutee, and his tutor had found the task enjoyable. He knew he didn't have the four hundred year old grace of MacLeod, but he felt that he'd passed on a good basic start as to how to handle a sword. Harry had proved to be a fast learner, and they had been parrying blows with some speed. There was still a lot of concentration and poise to be learnt, but the raw will and skill was there to be honed by further lessons. Ryan was looking forward to moving into the more spiritual side of the discipline with his comrade; it had been the side with which, at first, he had had little patience, but the misunderstanding of its meaning had soon come clear, and it had become the most important edge. There was a satisfaction about bringing down a slice, but its true power was lost if the mind did not flow with the body. The Immortal hoped that his pupil would see it that way very soon.

"Hit the showers, Glasshopper," Richie laughed, splitting his path and turning towards the bunk house where his charges should have been rising from slumber.

Harry snorted and waved his goodbyes before jogging towards his own rooms.

Inside, there were indeed some signs of dopey activity, but it was still early in the morning and there was not much sign of intelligence behind the reactive movements that a wake up call from Jon had inspired. The Watcher was just on his way out of the male room as the energetic youth trod lightly through the door.

"Morning guys," he greeted brightly, but there were only groans from under blankets, or looks of `what-are-you-grinning-at?' from those who were on their way out of sleep; Jon and Michael were the two people who gave him welcome smiles and seemed to be enjoying the early hour.

"City kids," the Texan commented dryly, his eyes twinkling, "takes `em a bit of time to get used to the fact that there is life before seven thirty."

The young man laughed and patted the man on his back as he left. The looks he received as he turned back and headed for his own cot, were not amiable. There was no lowering his high, however, and the glib side of his manner came out as he observed warmly, "Oh come on, people, it's a beautiful day outside. Get into the spirit!"

"This hour's not respectable," Luke complained sleepily, glancing at his watch.

"Nor are you!" Randy quipped and received a pillow in his face for the trouble.

Activity started to speed up then as more of the group decided that it was a good way to wake up. Richie dumped his stuff on his bed and grabbed a towel, deciding it was best to leave the suddenly energetic youths to wake themselves up. He disappeared down the end of the room, skilfully dodging the bodies that all headed over to the initiators, and took possession of one of the three shower cubicles in the modest bathroom.

The water was warm, its jets soothing as they ran over his firm muscles, and Richie closed his eyes and leant easily against the varnished wood that was the wall. His body tingled gratefully as he wiped the soap over his flesh; it had been a good work out, but the relaxing droplets were welcome. There was something almost divine about the release of tension after such intense exercise, and the mood possessed the young man, taking him into his own world as he washed away the hard-earned grime on his smooth skin. His energies had been low despite his buoyant manner; the fresh drumming on his back refilled his unusual soul and prepared him for the day ahead. Steam rose and set up a barrier between the Immortal psyche and the Mortal world outside and his thoughts walked over the supernatural aspects of his life. Naomi and Annie were very different creatures, but they floated around in his consideration together, linked by the unspoken bond that the tiny child inspired in all around her. One was amazingly beautiful and filled his heart with thwarted passion, the other was a cherub, Eternally exquisite in her innocence, but both inspired pain in his spirit. Maybe there was always something bittersweet about his ageless race, maybe they always saw and felt more deeply, maybe that was an arrogant presumption that he could never truly believe - whatever was the reason behind the pristine agony that he experienced, Richard Ryan knew that it would never completely disappear, only become less potent as the years moved on.

Annie's situation would never change, his little darling would always be so, gentle and free of the guilt of destruction with which each Immortal lived in their own way; the revulsion at her curse was there for a reason, at the same time as never meant to be, she was there, an error in the scheme of things, who, none the less, was a boon to her fellows, as she was also the unconscious thorn.

Naomi was the taboo broken, a would-be who knew her future. The young man's spirit was set aflame as he thought of her grace, her noble attraction; but, anger, which had long since turned to frustrated hurt, which the girl's unavailability gave him sliced through the perfect feelings she otherwise created in his bosom. He could not destroy her calling, her strength in the Immortal world that would, sooner, or later become hers. Love would remain unfulfilled on both sides of their relationship.

Despite the pain, it was a warm feeling that flowed through the sometimes sensitive youth as he finally reached to turn off the shower and join reality once more. There was so much that was good in his life, especially so close to his loved ones, that melancholy could not intrude. Life was full of contradictions, these were just two more to be used to form his view of the universe.

There was a calmer atmosphere in the hut as the cleansed figure gave up his haven to someone else. The young men were more at ease with the hour and were sorting out things for the new day ahead. They had settled into the communal building with a surprising ease, and there was an embryonic sense of brotherhood that the shared conditions inspired. The conversation was still light-heartedly chiding at times, but the excitement that had started the jubilant fight had dimmed to right proportions, and was being channelled into sorting out kit.

Richie dressed silently, preferring to observe the interactions of his charges than to join in; it was they who were learning to work together, for whom this trip was meant, and he felt that he was not one who would always be around. There was a trust between the youngsters that made him smile, they'd known each other for a good few years, and the mutual situation seemed to strengthening those bonds. He was different, but for once, the young man didn't consider it as to do with his Immortal side, it was because these kids were his responsibility, and he had to maintain a small distance for discipline's sake. It felt good to know that not everything was built along the lines of Immortal and Mortal.

Yet, the warrior became very aware of those lines as he turned to tidying up the pouches that he had brought in with him. Eyes drifted over to him as he picked them up and placed them carefully on a peg under his jacket. They were not meant to be intrusive, just curious about the ominous looking leather holders about which they only suspected. The young man had predicted the response, he remembered his own nose for the possibly interesting and had prepared an explanation. His glance was carefully nondescript as he surveyed the assembled company and disclosed, "They're wooden sword sticks," he pulled one part of the way out of the larger protective casing in demonstration, "and they're off limits."

The looks he received said he'd been understood, and turning back, the young man smiled to himself; he hoped that curiosity settled, no one would look further. They weren't to know that both sticks were in one bag and that the other held his far more dangerous blade.

Ten minutes later, the risers were called outside by the sound of a shrill whistle. The youngsters, who rallied with enthusiasm, were a far cry from the hip street urchins of the day before: as per their priest's wishes, there wasn't a rip in sight on the hard wearing denim that covered most legs and some backs; if not denim, then T-shirts and neck scarves covered most torsos as common sense reigned; makeup was still in place for those females who bothered with it, but it was muted, especially in Mimi's case, as was her amount of jewellery; hats, or head scarves were also in place on every head; there was a definite air of effort from the young people. Agatha and her team were standing together to greet her guests, and she made note of their endeavours with a broad smile and the words, "Well, I must say I'm impressed by your good sense, I usually have to send at least one person back inside to find something more suitable for our weather."

A murmur of pride ran through the assembled company and Kathleen beamed at and patted those nearest to her in support.

"Glad to see we have such good humour this morning," Jon continued the discourse, another mischievous sparkle in his visage. "You're going to need it. Now, our life here is a little different to that back home; yes, we get our milk delivered, same as you, but we have a few other concerns before we pour it on our cereal. This is a running farm, we have steer out on the ranch, to get to them, we use horses, and we pride ourselves on producing our own eggs from our free-range hens. The horses are kept in the stable," he pointed to the larger of the two barns, "and they get their breakfast before we do. The chickens are in the pen out back of the house that you might not have noticed last night; they also need feeding and the eggs need collecting before we can eat them.

So, there are a few chores to be divided up. We have ten horses, so half of you will be meeting them today and for most of you, taking your first horse ride. I have those names here on my list," he waved a clip board at the group with a grin, "you will be feeding them before breakfast and then mucking them out and grooming them under Harry's direction," there were a few groans at that idea which received only a broad smile from the teenage Immortal. "As for the rest of you, there are enough household and farmyard chores to go around."

It had been made clear that rumbling stomachs were not going to be filled until work was completed, and so the youngsters dived into their chores with surprising enthusiasm. Richie found himself as one of those who would be venturing out onto the ranch in the seat of a saddle, and so he joined the group of nine who were being shown the ropes. Harry seemed quite glad that he could return the favour of passing on knowledge, and he proved to be a good teacher. He spent some time introducing every newcomer to the mount which would be theirs for the day, and seemed to have a way of setting the humans at ease with the new experience. All eight youngsters were going about the feeding and watering with contented confidence by the time Richie, accompanied by Annie, who had taken up her position close to him very soon after the morning greeting, was led to the stall in which his horse stood.

The animal was somehow larger than the young man had expected as he stood to one side of her and was urged to pat a gleaming, burgundy neck.

"She's beautiful," the youth breathed as his senses experienced her presence.

There was a quality about the creature he couldn't explain, a wildness to her spirit that spoke to his own soul, a wonder in the way she snorted at his touch. She knew he was different, unlike most of the novices that she took out on the range, and there was a moment between the pair that showed a little disquiet. The mare flicked her head up, away from the unusual man's hand in instinctive knowledge of the unusual, but she settled quickly as he spoke intuitively to her. There was a familiarity about the strange affinity, she felt it from her other two companions.

"Her name's Dusty," Harry disclosed, pleased by the reaction of both man and horse.

"Hi, Dusty," the Immortal cooed smoothly, running his hand over her sleek shoulder. "I'm Richie."

"Friends," Annie giggled brightly, and there was a snort of reply from the animal.

"I think you're right," the young man nodded with a smile at the diminutive form.

Breakfast was a hearty affair; everyone crowded around the communal table once more and shared out bacon, eggs, toast, porridge, cereal and anything else that they could get their hands on. The work had been energetic, but fun, and their chatter reflected the fun that the teenagers had gathered from the unusual to them. Washing up was done by volunteers which the growing team spirit inspired and then it was time to part company. The eight staying at the farm were looking forward to some tuition from Jon on the traditions and history of his tribe among other skill lessons, while their comrades went out on a tour of the pastures. Yet, all the group stayed together as the horses were tacked up and brought out by their riders; everyone wanted to watch the attempts of climbing into the saddle. As the one-in-charge, and so an easy target, Richie was singled out by his companions to be the first to make a bid.

Dusty, it had been revealed, was so called because she could be frisky and tended to kick up a lot of her namesake, but in the young Immortal's hands, she seemed as placid as the still air around them. Taking a deep breath, and with a pat of `please-be-good' to his mount, the youth lifted one boot into a stirrup. Holding on carefully to the saddle, the group leader flexed his leg and swept himself with surprising ease into the deep leather seat. There were cheers of support from the street kids, and with a little relief, the young man leant forward and patted the horse. He grinned down at the assembled company, a sense of satisfaction in his manner. The day was going extremely well.

The trek was enjoyable, and laughter floated on the gentle breeze that danced across the flat grasslands. Yet there was one face which was not smiling, and the bleak set of her countenance worried her chaperone. Kim rode along near the back of the pack, taking little interest in the events around her; the horse knew where it was going from years of such rides along the well trodden tracks, and she let it take her without any interest. Her black eyes were focused inwards, and her head drooped down, staring blindly at the brown saddle. There seemed to be no consoling the young woman, she said little and interacted even less. Only Emily noticed among the other teenagers, their mood being too excited to really discern the stillness of their comrade, but the caring creature did exchange an anxious glance with her leader. Richie watched the girl unobtrusively throughout the horse ride and then through the light lunch which followed on their return. By the time it was finished, there was a third person's eyes on the slender, ghostly form; Tay, as ever, watched her with a philosophical consideration on his visage. He was mainly ignored by the young people around him, another quiet figure who didn't attempt to intrude on their thrill, but his unwavering attention was eventually recognised by its centre. There was no pleasure in her manner when she finally did realise that her pain was being observed, and as the meal was finishing, it led her to beg leave.

Probably for the first time since he had been introduced, the young- looking Asian became known to his companions once more as he stood and followed. He gave his colleague a short glance to say that he had also taken in the young man's concern, and then was gone. Along with a few others, the youth turned and gazed out of the long window after the pair.

Kim stopped a little way from the veranda, brought to a stop by a soft call so gentle that, to those inside watching, it was only known by the boy-Immortal's lip movements. The young figure walked across to the female, who towered over him, and there was disdain on her face as she worded some dismissal. Yet, a small hand took hold of hers and her eyes showed surprise and disbelief at such gall from the `child' as she was forced to take notice. Richie saw as the girl focused her furious attention on the unusual creature and her manner changed. There was only the view of the back of Tay's head, but the younger Immortal knew what kind of depth must have been there to change a mind so completely; Kim's eyes went from anger, through disquiet to admission of pain in a few seconds, and the boy's kin all realised that she had seen something that, although she couldn't explain it, brought out her truth.

There were a few murmurs of surprise, as, with a quick stare of reassurance to those who knew him, the Asian Immortal gently led the crumbling girl away from public view.

"Tay's a good listener," Agatha told the gathered company, and added quickly, "for his age."

"He's weird," was all the comment that came from the youngsters, and that was from Biff, who decided very quickly that, although it was the truth as she saw it, maybe she shouldn't have said it.

Some glances slipped between Immortals, but nothing more.

The conversation soon fell back into talk of the events of the morning, none leading the discussion more than Ranger, whose first horse trek had brought out more tales of cowboys and injuns.

The adults decided to leave the animated gathering to amuse themselves, and departed to the kitchen, where they could still keep half an eye out for problems. Only Annie joined them, still attached to her hero by the elastic of adoration. The young man was more than content with her bonnie company, and lifted her onto his lap as he sat at the smaller, more intimate cook's table. Tay's quick response to the emotional exit began the review of how the day was developing.

"That boy looks to be a fine counsellor," Kathleen observed with her usual light tone, "he's managed something that in four weeks none of us have."

"Maybe its a similar ancestry that gave them an affinity," Jon suggested with a shrug.

"Whatever, at least it looks like Kim's begun to let it out," Richie continued, unwilling to stay around the subject too much. "And that's not the only success of today."

The young man smiled secretly at Naomi as his diversion worked, and the bouncy woman took up the tack.

"They're all coming out of themselves in ways I never thought possible," the chaperone gushed with immense pride in her manner. "You're all amazing: Martha didn't want to put down the paints you leant her, Agatha, and that landscape she's started is exquisite; you've captured Biff's heart with the archery course, but I think she'd rather be Robin Hood than Maid Marion," a laugh responded to that perception about which there could be no doubt.

"I think the trek made our budding cowboy's decade," Agatha decided to join the conversation as the youth in question's voice continued to drift animatedly over to them from the next room.

"This whole trip is a dream come true," Richie breathed, a slightly lost look in his eyes as he recalled his own teenage experiences; he was sincere as he continued, "I know how I felt when Duncan and Tessa took me to Paris, I don't think I stayed still for a week. As an ex- street kid, I can say that this place is Eden, no gangs, no drugs, no hookers, clean air, silence, friendship, a welcome."

"We do our best," the elder woman took the compliment with a smile as she read more out of her young friend's statement.

The Immortal was not just speaking for his younger charges, Heaven Sent held depths for him of which he was only vaguely aware. There was a calm here that could not be found in the city, a similar feeling to that which Duncan's mountain retreat inspired, and it was touching his soul. Richard Ryan was a being that, despite his bright demeanour, had parts of his spirit that were hidden and raw. However much he denied them, they remained cold and dark in the centre of his substance and his surroundings stilled his spirit enough to give them a chance to come to the surface. Those feelings and thoughts were painful, as yet, still kept back, but in time, there was a instinct that told the youth that he would have to face them and heal. The idea was frightening, half felt, half thought, but obvious in his eyes to those who were looking. Agatha knew more about her visitor than she had told, both Duncan and Naomi had given her a brief description of the trauma that was the ghost in his gaze, and she was old enough to recognise it as she listened.

"This place has always been a centre of serenity," Jon nodded to himself as he caught the mood in his companion's voice. "We've only been open for a few years, and maybe that colours the statistics, but nearly all our guests have left better for the experience."

"No, no," Kathleen continued emphatically, "there aren't any fake statistics here. I've known these kids for long enough to know that their attitudes have shifted literally over night. I mean, it's not a big change, but there's a start of something in that room," she pointed next door, "that wasn't there before, and if that's as far as it goes, then driving for two days was well worth it."

"With a recommendation like that, you could open as a health resort," Richie recognised the atmosphere building up around him, and it felt a little uncomfortable, so he cut right through it with his glib tongue.

The laughter washed away the deeper side to the discussion, and only Annie noticed. She stared up at her holder, her eyes accusing him of something that she didn't understand, but had felt in her heart. The little girl echoed the young man's own conscience, he had recognised the edge in his spirit and rejected it for the umpteenth time, and the truth within nagged at him that such a rebuff was not healthy. The young man glanced down at the hard stare, but was unable to maintain the gaze as it told too much, instead, he looked back up, across at his companions. He wasn't given a second chance by the confused indictment, and was surprised when the small body began to wriggle out of his hold. The angelic creature said nothing, but her manner spoke as much as if she'd been able to word all the concern and pain that was on her face. Richie felt the guilt as acutely as if his actions had been conscious, and his attention tracked the young body as she dashed out of the back door. Yet, he did not follow, there was too much waiting in the wings to him to face.

"Someone doesn't think that's such a good idea," Kathleen observed, her buoyant mood unabated.

The young man was glad when his comrades chose to continue the light manner, and smiled at the comment. Naomi was discrete as she got to her feet and headed after the tumult in miniature, and the conversation was not interrupted again. Richie sat silent as the others talked, muted by the butt he had become for such a short time. His soul as confused as the stare from those bright eyes, he listened to the talk with half an ear while his mind wandered. Afterwards, he had little idea how far, or where it had travelled within his subconscious, but there were ideas and images hovering at the back of his mind that couldn't be pushed away with a thought anymore. When the adults broke to rally their troops, the young man was a little paler through the tan that was forming from the hot Texan sun, and he had more things on his mind than just keeping an eye on the youngsters as they enjoyed some undirected free time.

It took some effort, but Richard Ryan did force away the musings with a will borne of the hard edged street punk, who had survived seventeen years depending on himself alone. The phantom behind his eyes could now be seen sometimes by those who did not know to look for it. It had no form, no emotion, just a darkness that nagged at the viewer, even as the caster tried to refuse it. The kids had seen the weight of memories before, many had grown up, if not understanding such a position themselves, then knowing of someone whose eyes held the same angst, and their new friend's condition did not pass them by. Richie felt eyes on his back as he played an easy game of basketball; maybe they were meant to be there, after all, he was running with the ball, but still a sense told him that their interest was not purely on the sport. Sometimes Ryan wished that Duncan had not taught him to be so alert, so observant of his fellow man. The need for the edge in battle now made him uncomfortable as he read curious concern from many an eye. Each time he paused, took breath, stopped concentrating solely on the game, he knew that the pain was there for all to see, and each time, he pushed it away with a frown and then a smile, or one liner. Yet, he was glad for the end of the game, company was becoming too close, stifling as his feelings beat at him like the sun on his head; the bandanna around his soul had been a lot thicker and more carefully placed than the red scarf on his head, but the heat of truth was beginning to burn through. A magnificent smile to his companions, and a few well chosen quips about the state of play, and the young man turned rapidly on his heel and walked to the first area free of youngsters that he spotted. It happened to be the stable.

The interior was dry and dusty where the hay residue hung thick in the heavy heat. The Immortal was tired, not only by the physical exertions of the day, but by the weight in his mind. Yet, the calm of the ranch flowed through the quiet figure as he relaxed and admitted the fight. The young man smiled oddly to himself, a feeling of unusual relief featuring dominantly in his being as he dropped the charade of denial. There was something inside him, a force which had lain there for months, created by Gervace Hemar, buried by everyday life, and the power of Heaven Sent was drawing it out of him inch by exquisitely agonising inch.

There was an empty stall at the end of the barn, which was used for storing bales of hay brought down from the loft above once a week; knowing that sleep was only a place for dreams he didn't want, but at the same time not being able to fight his weariness, Richie took refuge in the dim cubby hole. His eyes were closed before he sat down into the prickly grass, but the self-explorer hovered a little about the time between waking and sleeping, his mind drifting in the currents that his surroundings had set in motion. He saw the evil face, he felt the terror and disgust once more, but Richard Ryan also experienced a confrontation of the damage that had been done and the healing that was beginning. An Immortal, a warrior, a street-punk, a boy, a man, a sensitive soul, he slept and dreamt.

The slumber was disturbed by a gentle urge to leave the dreaming behind; Ryan had little idea why he relinquished the images in his head, only a knowledge that they would wait for him. The young man opened his eyes, but at first saw nothing but the colours that had been floating in his brain moments before, the shape of his thoughts as they had been. A momentary pang caught his dozy mind, a concern of an Immortal as he recognised two figures before him and knew that the movement of his soul at the presence of his own kind was not the mechanism for his waking. It had been two pairs of eyes on his defenceless form that had dragged the spirit from his mental images, he knew it as certainly as if someone had told him as his gaze met that of his little angel. The angst that the warning system had been somehow muted, drained away as the young man shifted a little and took in the small form as he had once before. There was the same insecurity in her gaze as she watched him watch her, the uncertain wiggle of her torso as she considered the creature she faced. It was her own reaction that noon which held Penelope-Anne back from her trusted one. Yet, it did not last long. There was a serenity in the air which the adult Immortal breathed in deeply as he pushed the sleep from his body. As he stretched away the immobility, a small smile of open contentment on his face, his darling decided that her concern was unfounded. There was the insight of the aged child in her mind, but the reaction of the toddler as Annie grinned broadly and leapt at her companion. Richie laughed in unison with a coy giggle as the girl landed on top of him and they sank back into the hay in a reunion of souls.

"Feel better," the young voice disclosed, wrapping herself around Richie's neck and hugging close.

"Mm," was the only reply as the youth let the warmth of her greeting brush away any drowsiness that he had left.

Then, as he settled with the hug, the Immortal chose to take in the second presence close by. The form was also small, and more serious than his first companion, but then, that was usual for Tay. Richie smiled silently at the boy-man for a moment, but found an instinct inside to ask a question. His tone was calm, his look intense as he enquired, "How is Kim?"

"The death of her grandfather affected her greatly," the young voice began smoothly, "and she had denied her grief through fear of what it might show her. Now she has begun to move through her anger and pain; she is releasing her feelings. It will take some time, but she is learning to face the loss."

The younger Immortal merely nodded at the disclosure as both men knew the double meaning behind the words. Tay had not seen only one person's troubles.

Footsteps broke the moment that the three unusual creatures shared. Richie's gaze shifted to the entrance to the stall as a young body rounded the wooden barrier. The young man's smile was welcoming as Jamie's hands found his hips and he half frowned in the disapproving manner of youth.

"So this is where you are," the boy chided without malice, "we've been looking for you for half an hour."

The Immortal glanced at Tay at the disclosure; it would not have been difficult for his kin to locate his slumber. The small form merely shrugged and told him in his own serious fashion, "We let you miss supper, but the others need someone to drive them into town tonight, so we had to come find you."

"There's a dance that Naomi helped organise with the local minister, and she's invited all of us to go," the Mortal breathed excitedly, and for the first time, Richie really noticed that he was dressed in unusually pressed clothes. "There's half an hour before we have to leave."

"Then I better motor," was the reply, and the young man began to move himself from the hay.

End Of Part 3