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


Part 8

He didn't want to wake up, it was not time to face reality once more. Yet, there was the tumult still around, playing inside his being as well as pushing on his senses outside. His body hurt, ached and burnt at the same time and an unconscious wish for the lack of feeling to return was what brought the young Immortal from senselessness. What opened its eyes was more than just a battered Eternal, and as he sat up, Richard Ryan knew there was something with him that had forced his damaged body from healing sleep. As he scanned the room, there was a force behind him that saw as well, that took in Annie's toys scattered across the floor, that registered the half open door and heard the low conversation which drifted through it. There was also a purpose in his mind, a knowledge of the reason behind the terrible storm which was still shattering the night - the evil had not been removed from the land.

The youth's body complained as he shifted off the bed where he had been placed; his movements were slow, still dazed and awed by what he vaguely recalled. Absently as he wandered to the window, Richie glanced down at the wreck that was his clothing; his clothes were covered in dust, but what caused him a moment's angst was the brown scorch marks in places across his jeans and shirt. Yet, there was no time to deal with such considerations, there was an urgency in his brain that he had not placed there, a need to free the sacred surroundings of its adversary. The Immortal saw something in his mind, a picture of what had to be a human being, a pathetic form curled around itself into a protective crouch, hiding in terror more from the storm than the lights which passed him by. It was a passing thought that came and went with a clap of thunder which deafened the valley, but the message was clear enough for the Eternal.

Ryan's eyes set with the hard edge of the hunter and he headed for the nearest exit, the window. What he saw outside was surveyed by the unusual guest in his head and kept him in the shadows; there were three police cars out front, and the silent figure that was no more than a moving piece of the night settled himself down on the porch within feet of an officer stood at the kitchen door. Mortals were merely an inconvenience to the poised form as he waited for some kind of distraction to cover his exit. The Immortal was working in tandem with the power that hung around and within, and the storm howled within seconds of his need. He moved with a speed that defied the tingling in his renewing limbs, crossing the yard away from the house under direction of his visitor.

His strides were silent, even against the still of the tumult in between its rage, breath so controlled that it escaped his lips without a sound, muscles trained to almost glide the body over the ground between the hunter and his quarry. The Immortal was a dangerous sight as he found the track he wanted and increased his intent. Was it the storm reflecting in his eyes as it ran its omnipotent course, or did the fire in his eyes come from within?

Distance was irrelevant to the possessed being, and he crossed ditch, hillock, stream without a cut in his stride - he knew exactly where to find his prey. Hill was only made aware of his pursuer by the deliberate skid into which he moved to bring himself to a stop at the bottom of the bank where the convict was hiding. The Mortal started in terror as two angers were lit by a strike of lightening in the distance. There was no doubt as to the purpose in the ageless figure and there was hazard in his eyes. The man cried out his fear, standing and waving the sword he still clutched to him; yet, he was not any kind of menace now, broken by the savagery of the tumult which spoke to his murderous soul. The shout which came in return to his attempt at defence was enraged and rang with the harmony of the storm as the athletic form charged his adversary.

Richie went straight under the weak swipe which tried to keep him back, and the elegant rapier glittered as it flew through the air away from the tussle. The men slammed into the ground; Hill scrabbled desperately against his opponent, but there was power in the Eternal being that was not his own. The Mortal stilled, petrified as the moon broke the clouds and lit the maddened visage only inches from his own. The Immortal held him firmly by the shirt and it was the anger in the youth which thudded the shivering body into the bank a couple of times in satisfied retribution.

"You killed a man in cold blood," the young man screamed, "you had no reason except jealousy."

Hill didn't attempt to deny the statement, only a whimper escaped his lips, a ghost of the man that had been destroyed by what he had witnessed.

"You violated a holy place," the guest shrieked through its host.

It seemed that for the first time, the Mortal understood the lore which he had broken. The tempest had finally shown him the power of the lands and it had wrecked his will.

"You are going to pay for everything," Richie spat and the man's eyes widened in abject dread at the threat. "And you're damned lucky we're still on holy ground, or you'd be in pieces."

The disclosure did not offer any boon to the fallen creature, he just cowered away from the harsh grip and listened.

"You are going down for this, you will offer no defence for what you've done, you will confess that you killed a man and you will make no mention of what you think you know about us," the youth shook his quarry and forced terrified eyes to meet his before he finished, "You will do all this, Hill, or you will spend the rest of your pathetically short Mortal existence looking over your shoulder for this face, exactly this face. I have plenty of time to donate some of it to destroying you, and your end will not be pleasant. Pray you stay in prison for the rest of your life."

There was no denying the horror in the Mortal eyes at the cold vow that was made. Richard Ryan knew his words had rung true as he held the glare for a few moments. The loathing in his eyes was obvious and it made him powerful. There was no resistance as he hauled the trembling body off the ground.

There were voices calling his name as the Immortal marched his charge into the area lit by the main house. His eyes were steel as they surveyed the faces which fell on him, Naomi, Agatha, Jon, policemen he didn't recognise. With the rest of his anger, he threw the hunched form onto the ground in front of the surprised officers and ordered with pain in his voice, "Get that animal off this land."

The men didn't need a second offer, and the young man watched with his second self as the submissive Mortal was picked up and shoved towards a car. There was an agony in his heart, caused by the hatred that the average-looking figure inspired, but it was easing with every moment. The lands knew they would soon be free, but they watched with the statuesque Immortal, waiting to see their task complete. As the car moved off, the storm began to die down. Richie looked up to the sky and felt his guest leave; it wasn't a definite touch, only part of his own being which settled once more.

A hand touched his arm, and suddenly tired eyes returned to earth. Naomi's face was concerned as she took in the exhaustion that returned with a finality that weakened the youth's knees. He groaned as he felt himself falling and he couldn't stop his descent.

"Jon!" his small helper called for aid as she struggled to keep his larger form from the ground.

Richie was absolutely no help as he felt several pairs of hand grab him before he fell. He could barely find the strength to breathe, let alone move his limbs as he leant heavily into the capable form of his saviour. The Native American's face was smiling as he hoisted the failing body into his hold. The young man complained at his inability, but his words came out like a strangled whine.

"Easy Kid," the dark-skinned man soothed, as he and Naomi between them walked their charge to the house. "The spirits have taken their toll, let us do the rest."

The Immortal had little choice as the weariness reached his brain and he gave in to blackness.

Waking up the next time was a gentler affair; Richie opened his eyes with the strength of renewal in his body. Gentle light of early morning streamed in through the window, and the young man was glad to see a clear sky outside. He lay still a moment and let the returned serenity wash over his being; he smiled as he recognised the power around him. Heaven Sent was calm once more, and as usual, it reached into the depths of his soul. The youth sighed quietly as he felt the familiar touch, there was peace without, but now the consequences of Hill's intrusion into the ranch's life came to the forefront of his mind. The possibilities that entered the young mans brain broke his own calm and he sat up.

He was back in Naomi's room, but this time in the bed. He looked over to the smaller bed close by and smiled at the scene before him; both his Immortal darlings lay together, the elder beauty wrapped protectively around her little sister, and they were twice as warming to his heart in the serenity of sleep. The youth did not want to disturb the exhausted slumber.

Richie left the house quiet in the early morning and headed out onto the prairie; there were things he needed to consider alone.

The figure was calm, unmoving without, a statue of a handsome man, rough at the edges where events had overtaken appearance, but still an attractive creature, knelt before an equally well crafted sword its point set into the ground. Only a gentle breeze moving his blond locks, and the almost invisible rise and fall of his chest told the world that Richard Ryan was more than a carved figure. He had no idea how long he'd been prostrate before the powers of the land, his eyes were closed, focused inwards as were all his senses; minutes, hours, time didn't matter as he moved over the events of the previous day in his mind and chose his course of action. He was Immortal, there were rules about letting Mortals know of the unnatural existence - most of them had been broken by Hill, but the dilemma was whether to break the rest. That which had been witnessed could not be swept away, but there was more to be told if the telling was right. Yet, would knowledge serve any purpose, would knowledge of the Game change his friends' lives? There was another course of action that could be taken, it pained the youth to consider it, but it was the thought in his mind as his contemplations were disturbed.

Richie breathed in deeply and opened his eyes as his soul moved and his spine tingled. He surveyed the immediate area, stifling the momentary panic that the feeling caused him. The youth relaxed and smiled in welcome as he fixed on his beloved. Naomi's face was a mixture of concern and annoyance that he'd chosen to disappear again, but there was also a gentle understanding in her manner as she found her quarry. She skidded down the dry slope as an arm was held out to her, and there was a body on his knees in moments. The young man wrapped his hands around the slender waist and breathed in the sweet scent of his lover. The girl's adorable face lost focus as she leant forward and kissed him, all her worry coming through the passion with which she pressed close. Richie was only too glad for the warm touch and embraced with equal fire. Naomi was a boon in the midst of his solitary considerations.

Yet, as the girl drew away from the kiss, she saw his sadness through the love in his eyes. Her smile straightened and she brushed at his unkempt hair soothingly as she observed, "Now we face the aftermath."

"I can't explain Us to them," the Immortal sighed, disliking the idea he held in his head.

"So what will you do?" the girl was matter-of-fact in her question, holding back her own opinions and feelings for the sake of the conscience of her lover.

"I have to leave, disappear from their lives," Richie admitted to himself as much as to his companion, "then, hopefully this will all eventually blow over."

Naomi raised an eyebrow at the optimism, and it only echoed the dissatisfaction in her paramour's soul.

"Without me here, Agatha may be able to smooth things over," the young man shrugged.

His kin did not look convinced, but she didn't argue with the unhappy gaze which met hers. She was silent as she laid a peck on his nose and then wriggled out of his embrace. The young woman paused a moment as he placed an arm around her legs when she stood; she held his head close to her body, her grasp trying to offer comfort, but feeling like a desperate sadness. She moved so fast to try and hide her own hurt at the decision, but there was no concealing the emotion in her tone as she murmured, "I love you - come back soon."

The Immortal kissed the heavy material of the girl's jeans and clung back for a few moments, unable to give reply to her pain that was echoed in his own heart. He didn't want to leave his goddess, not so soon after their initial encounter, but circumstances had overtaken them. Reluctantly he loosened his hold; Naomi ran. Richie sat still once more, letting his emotions run through him unabated. There were tears in his eyes as his gaze came to rest on the symbol of his Immortality - the rapier, and at that moment he cursed the florid curves of its hilt and the deadly blade.

It was breakfast time when Richie crept back into the farmyard. He was as silent as he could be as he headed to the deserted bunk house to collect his things. The man was a mess, stubble on his chin, clothes torn and battered, hair in tangles, but there was the edge of the Immortal in his movements. It was the only way Richard Ryan could cope with the decision he had made. Running away was not an option he liked: he felt for his new friends, and had enjoyed his role as chaperone, and the new part of his life was crumbling around his ears with every furtive step he took. Yet, not every eye missed his return, someone whose mood was not on food saw the scruffy figure slip into the building, and followed.

The carryall was not difficult to fill, a handful of clothes out of the cupboard by the bed and it was packed. The high-pitched slice of the zip as he pulled it closed cut at Richie's ears through the secretive silence and it cut his calm facade. The youth sat down heavily on the bed and stared at his possessions; sadly he considered what he was throwing away.

"Leaving so soon?" a voice edged with contained anger daggered into his thoughts.

The young man glanced guiltily up at the form of Kathleen in the doorway; there was no smile on her face this time and he didn't like the extra depth to her gaze that Hill's revelations had put there. Richie was silent, his glance bleak.

"Just going to desert us were you?" the woman's tone was caustic. "You want to destroy those kids?"

The look the woman received was shocked and wondering at the accusation. Kathleen saw the pain in the young eyes and her manner softened a little as she explained more coherently, "They've just suffered a major trauma, but at the moment they're coping, if anything, they're pulling closer together, but if you walk out on them it'll tear them apart. You know what its like for them, `everyone walks out on street kids, they can't trust anyone'. Yet, they put their trust in you. You want to ruin years of work in getting them to even consider trust?"

Richie had no answer, he was dealing with too many conflicting arguments to provide a rational response to the disclosure. The young man just stared at the floor. His companion was not going to let it rest there however, and her final words were clear, "Get yourself cleaned up and into the main house. I don't care if you lie through your teeth about whatever happened yesterday, but you're going to tell those kids something plausible to give them a reason for what happened. Then you can do what the hell you like."

The figure who walked into the dining room half an hour later was a serious creature, neatly dressed, carrying a jacket, his eyes unreadable. Breakfast was a quiet affair, the youngsters subdued by the trauma so recently past, but even the quiet murmurs that were passing between the eaters stopped dead at the entry. Agatha's gaze was barely hidden alarm as she considered what kind of decision had brought Richard Ryan back into her house; Jon seemed pleasantly surprised to see his friend; Harry held firm hold of Annie, who wanted to run over to her protector, as he registered his comrade's manner; Garion and Tay regarded him with a vague angst as they failed to gauge his mood; Kathleen was calm, stood at the far end of the table, waiting; the teenagers were uncertain, and there was an unconscious fear in their eyes; Naomi rose from her seat and walked around to greet her lover, understanding in her gentle features.

The Immortal had chosen to confront the trepidation he knew would be in the room, and his break of the silence was dramatic. There were a few gasps of shock as he slung his jacket aside and laid its hidden contents on the table. The young man had cleaned the gore from off the rapier's blade, but it was still a daunting sight as it was placed reverently before the Mortals. The gesture was obvious, and there was a mixture of uncertainty and truth in the youth's eyes as he spoke, "What you all saw and heard yesterday is knowledge that you shouldn't have. I can't give you any more, and I can't promise that you'll come away from this any the wiser than you already are, but I will try to answer any questions you want to ask."

There was silence for a few moments, but there was a want to discover heavy in the air, and it did not take long for someone to begin. Jake saw his role as leader, and chose to act on it, he looked directly at his mysterious companion as he asked, "What was it between you and Tarant, some kind of secret society?"

"Not exactly," Richie began carefully, "secret, yes, but society as in race. It wasn't some club I joined, I was born part of it."

"You carry that thing `cause of your race?" Randy sounded disbelieving as he pointed awkwardly to the rapier.

"Is that all you were born to do, kill each other?" Emily cut in, her tone cold as the fear she had suffered clouded her mood.

The young man was glad for the hand in his and the body by his side as he tried to meet the accusation.

"It doesn't have to be like that," he countered quietly. "Yes, there are some of us who hunt the others, so we learn to defend ourselves, but for the rest of us, we just get on with our lives."

His manner was emphatic and his word seemed to be taken. It was Biff who continued the conversation. She's seen the difference in his eyes more than most, and her question reflected a curiosity about it.

"How did you recognised Tarant as `one of you'," she asked tentatively.

"We have our ways," was the enigmatic response and it was clear that there would be no definite answer.

Eyes narrowed at the evasion, but there was no ground given, only an opening for another question. Jake tried again, aware of the halting nature of the conversation.

"So you grew up learning how to fight?" he sounded flatly.

Richie shook his head and smiled sadly as he remembered his awakening to the Gathering, "I was a foster kid, I never knew my parents. I found out a few years ago."

"When Duncan MacLeod took you in," Martha made a connection and her insinuation was obvious.

"No, not then," the youth answered quickly, "later than that."

"Is he one of you?" Pog pressed, the interrogation beginning to gather momentum.

"Look guys," Richie raised his hands and evaded once more, "we live our lives just like you. I grew up on the same streets as you, probably got up to the same mischief. I bleed red, I'm not some kind of alien - apart from the sword thing, I'm as ordinary as..."he paused for a moment and with a flash on inspiration disclosed, "...as Father Macey."

"Is he one of you?" a bright spark in Michael received a `don't even think that' look.

"My father was `one of them'," Naomi decided to adeptly redirect the conversation and she wrapped her arm around her lover's waist in a sign of unity. "That's how I met Richie."

"Did you challenge him?" Emily was still wary and her tone suggested disgusted disbelief.

"No," the young man smiled at her, trying to offer some reassurance, "as I said, most of us don't generally go around doing that. No, I was challenged by a man who was also involved with Patrick."

"Did he kill Patrick?" it was Kathleen who asked.

Both young Immortals nodded and there was grief in their eyes.

"Richie helped us," Harry took his kin's part as words failed them for a moment.

"You took the other guy out," Luke made a statement, not a question, and the set of Richie's features gave nothing but confirmation; his past loathing showed in his eyes as he recalled the sadist.

There was concern among all the gathered company at the admission; from his manner it had been obvious the previous evening that the youth was capable of fighting with a sword, but the actual thought of an ability to kill was another matter.

"Hemar was a bastard," Harry's voice was cold as his eyes showed recall of the pain the man had caused. "He would have come after us as well. He used Annie as bait for my father, if Richie hadn't been there, she'd be dead too."

The young form let his sister go, and she dashed off his lap towards her `big brother'. Richie swept the child into his arms and the warmth in his manner was clear. There was the same mixture of age and innocence in the angel eyes that gazed into his, the young man's face was unreadable to most as he experienced those feelings that were so familiar to any Immortal close to the unusual child. The protector showed in his manner as he comforted the new and old angst in the toddler with a reassuring smile and a brush of her golden locks. They had all seen the closeness before, everytime the youth had spent time with his cherub, but its advent in that moment spoke far greater than any words. The exchange cut through the disquiet, more than merely a justification for events past, a tribute to character as well.

Yet the interview was not over, there were still questions obvious in many a face. However, Annie's presence at the head of the table halted the flow, her infant naiveté making the interrogation more awkward than it already was. In her own unique way, the tiny girl sensed the reality of her situation, and it was adult eyes which looked up one last time into her compatriot's; they told him of her understanding and offered a supportive smile in return for the abatement of her momentary distress. Naomi was close enough to see the look pass between the Immortals, and as the girl wriggled out of a loosening embrace, the beauty offered her own arms out to the bonnie figure.

Once Annie was safely in another's clasp, Richie looked up and out at the faces opposite him, and waited again. There was a pause as the courage for another enquiry was formed. It came from Biff as she still chewed over the unusual.

"If you're so normal, what happened last night?" the girl challenged.

The Immortal was ready for that, and he came back with a shrug and honesty, "I don't know, I think Jon might be better at explaining that than me. I have never experienced anything like that before. Yes, we have a lore about fighting on holy ground, but it was a lot more than that."

The young man looked to the Indian for support; there was a faraway look in the elder man's eyes as he agreed, "The spirits are powerful here, they did not like Hill."

It felt good to have a little bit of the mystique taken away from him and Richie smiled at the disclosure.

"So you don't know why you freaked out?" Ranger was just making sure as he levelled the check.

The young man just shrugged again, beginning to feel easier with the conversation at last. However, the hair on the back of his neck stood on end as he was reminded of events prior to the invasion.

"But you do know why you freaked out earlier," Mary moved the questioning on.

Richie laughed, a quiet, mournful sound and he stared down at the table as he admitted, "This is hard to talk about."

There was a pregnant pause as the youth worked over the emotions that the enquiry had inspired, and they were obvious as they ran across his face. No one disturbed the moment, it was clear that no amount of pushing would work the disclosure any faster. The young man eventually looked around at every face - he saw a mixture of regret at bringing up the subject, sympathy, curiosity. He took a deep breath and disclosed, "The cellar gave me a nasty shock by reminding me of something I didn't want to remember. Gervace Hemar caught me off guard when I got between him and Annie, and he had some unusual ideas about our code. The guy was a viscious son of a bitch. He had a cellar - and toys. The entertainment value went strictly his way."

The honesty in the admission went further to building back the bridges that had been crumbling than anything that had gone before. It was an intimate thing to admit, as the pain and ghost of suffering showed in the young features. The youth looked around at the silent faces, unsure of himself. The atmosphere around was touching him again, removing his normal controls which hid his memories from even his own conscious, and the emotions within were welling up. There was not much more that could have been told, he had revealed all he was going to, and he did not know how to cross the silence that had fallen. There was only one more thing to be said, as it came to the young man, so he said it, emphatic, hurt, he disclosed quietly, "Some of us are evil."

Then he turned on his heel and left.

Richie sat in the bunk house, staring once more at his packed bags. He hadn't the energy to decided whether to pick them up and escape his feelings, or to begin to unpack once more. The manner in which he was disturbed this time was more peaceful. A polite cough brought his attention slowly round to a figure in the doorway, the figure was unexpected, it was Kim. She smiled, the sadness of her own grief in her manner. The girl did not receive much encouragement, but then it became apparent that she did not need it. She walked a way into the room, stopping a few feet from the bed.

"You were leaving?" she questioned, but there was an instinct in her that had already considered the conclusion; she of all the teenagers had seen the good side of that which Immortality brought.

"I was," the youth replied flatly.

"You are like Tay," the girl observed, "both you and Tarant - ageless."

"Only in body," Richie answered, taking a little more interest as the teenager's more accurate knowledge became clear.

"You're not much older than you look," was Kim's next perception, and she knew the truth of it as her gaze was met.

The Immortal could not read the small smile that still sat on the girl's features, her presence made no sense, and he voiced his confusion, "What do you want?"

"Agatha explained a bit more after you left, and we all wanted someone to come find you," the teenager shrugged and sat down on the bed next to him, "I volunteered. We were worried when you left like that - do you do that a lot?"

The young man blinked back surprise, he had not expected the trust which he read from her face once more as a hand was laid on his arm, and the humour took him unawares. The action was light, reserved, but held all the feeling that the youth needed. The consideration warmed the part of him that had gone cold thanks to Hill's meddling and he smiled. There was still an air of past angst about the Immortal, but he returned the gesture and disclosed openly, "No. I'll be okay. Tell the others I have to unpack, I'll be out later."

Kim nodded and stood; her piece finished, she recognised the request for a few more minutes alone.

Richie sat a while longer once she was gone, but there was a life to get on with. As he stood to begin his task, he decided something - it was time to lay old ghosts once and for all.

Duncan climbed out of the hire car and gazed around at the ranch he hadn't seen in twenty years. He smiled to himself as the air of serenity filled him once more, and made him wonder why he ever left the native ways behind. Then his gaze fell on an old friend who came out of the kitchen covered in flour as she was alerted by the shift in her soul; Agatha's face lit up when she recognised her comrade and she ran like a girl.

"Duncan!" she called, over-joyed by the surprise.

"Hello, Darlin'," the Scot greeted, wrapping his companion in a warm hug, "it's been too long. When my new friend here," he waved at the form of Macey appearing from the passenger seat of the car, "phoned and told me my employee was staying on here an extra week, we decided to fly down together and find out what you've all been up to."

The woman laughed and walked round to offer a warm shake of the hand to the priest she had met only through phone calls.

"Welcome both of you," she breathed happily.

It had been three days since Hill's unwanted interference, and things had gradually begun to heal. The teenagers had found their spirits returning, and Heaven Sent was working its usual magic to help along the process. Agatha had seen the speedy recovery and offered another week's lodging to the young adventurers to keep the mending going. No one had objected.

There were shouts of pleasure and bodies running towards the vehicle as those youngsters not out on the morning trek recognised their friend. The father was surrounded by teenagers in seconds and Duncan smiled to himself as he watched the scene. He liked his new associate, there was something inherently generous about the reverend which he had registered immediately on meeting him. They had talked incessantly on the flight over, finding parallels of interest in all aspects of their lives. A topic of conversation which had come up more than once was Richie, and the youth came to mind as the elder Immortal leant on the car.

Agatha walked across to him once more and joined him as an observer. They were silent for a moment, the comfortable contemplations of old friends. Yet, Duncan knew the details of the events which had led to the extension of the stay, and he was compelled to ask, eventually, "How is the recovery going?"

"Well, all things considered," was the reply, "you know kids, they're bouncing back fast."

"And you?" Duncan turned to his companion and looked into her face.

"Still a little shaken," was the honest reply, "in all my years I have never felt anything like the storm we had here. The place was almost alive. If ever I meet that scum off holy ground, he won't last long."

There was vehemence in the woman's eyes, and a vague vulnerability as she considered the invasion of her land. Yet, the look was gone almost as soon as the statement finished, and a smile returned.

"Richie will be glad to see you," she observed, "he took the brunt of it all."

"Where is he?" the Clansman questioned, surveying the immediate area but seeing no sign.

Agatha's face was slightly amused, a little sad as she returned, "Well, he offered to go down into the cellar and fetch me some apples about half an hour ago, and he hasn't come back up yet."

The insinuation was clear, and with a nod, the elder Immortal disclosed, "About time someone went to find him."

Richie was sat on the cellar steps, his arms wrapped around the pillar support and staring blankly into the centre of the room. Everything was running around inside him, the pictures, the feelings, the hurt that had been caused in the room's doppleganger. All of it, the young man let in and he brought each image to the front of his mind, facing the emotion it conjured, trying to make sense of it. He was focused inwards, but the call of his body brought him out.

The youth glanced behind him as footsteps cut his silence; his stare was momentarily bleak, still caught up in the nightmares, but as soon as recognition touched him, the familiar smile caught his features.

"Duncan!" he greeted warmly, and waved him down.

The Scot grinned back, and shaking his head in mock disdain observed, "What is it with you and trouble? I leave you alone for a few days and..." he did not need to finish the sentence.

Richie laughed, but it was a short sound and died as his friend sat down beside him. There was a silence as the youth looked back into his recollections. At that moment Duncan felt an opportunity for which he had been waiting for ten months; his tone was full of concern as he asked carefully, "Richie, you okay?"

The glance he received told him of many of the thoughts that were going through the young soul. There was a closeness between tutor and pupil, and it strengthened further as the young man admitted, "I didn't think this still affected me so badly."

There was a touch of disbelief in the protege's voice as his own feeling still did not make complete sense.

"Want to talk about it?" the elder offered sincerely.

The waiting was over, and it made the Clansman feel safer inside as his tutee responded. Richie sighed, but there was healing in his tone. The reply held an air of relief, an end to a hidden tension, a circle finally closed. The young Immortal's answer was simple, but held release for both men.

"Yea, Mac, yea, I think I do."

The End