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


Part 1

Up, defence, twist and cover the back with the sword; round, slice down. The razor-sharp blade glinted in the sun and reflected rays off glistening, taut muscles. The movement was fluid and controlled as pure concentration marked the set of Richard Ryan's features. The blond youth's cropped, grey T-shirt was several shades darker in many places and stuck to his sweat-drenched torso, creating not unattractive lines to his athletic body. His gaze was fixed ahead as he swung the weapon with practised ease, testing his skills against an opponent in his mind. Muscles flexed, breath hissed from between his teeth, clenched in focused application; this was his element since MacLeod had taught him in the tradition of the mentor, and there was a sense of strong pleasure being taken from each, self- possessed movement.

It had been quite some time since the young Immortal had had a chance to really practice his fighting techniques, and he bristled with the dangerous edge that all his kind had when a blade was held in the hand. Yet, here, with the protection of trees all around, in the bright, warm sunshine of a summer day in the wilderness, he was safe from prying eyes which could be unnerved by the steel in his gaze and in his palm. This was the creature that only others of his race saw, centred, determined, capable of taking a Quickening; he was almost ageless, no sign of the youth coming through the calm resolve. The Richie most knew, a funny man, a little naive, always ready with a one-liner, he was buried beneath the warrior, only to appear once the training session was over.

There was power being displayed here.

Up, back, protect - and then, the final, fatal, swift horizontal slice was accompanied by a sound almost like a growl which escaped the fixated being's pursed lips. Eyes sparkled with satisfaction as they followed what could have been a death blow. Then he froze, a few moments of still after the exertion of the exercise; the blade poised, hovering at shoulder height, glittering and menacing. Then the time was over; Richie took in a long, relaxing breath and, lowering his heels, eased his frame into an upright position. Lids covered his gaze for a second, and when he saw again, there was less steel and more humour to be seen. The youth smiled to himself as he began to walk in looser steps over to where he had placed his carry- all under the shade of one of the magnificent trees. He was pleased with the session, he felt invigorated by the intense nature of the shadow-joust, and his body sang with life at the exercise. He was tired, but it was a good weariness, comfortable and in recognition of time well spent.

Reaching blindly for a towel in his bag, the handsome figure let the fatigue in, and settled himself down on the hillock overlooked by the mighty forest. Wiping the dampness from his face and hands, Richie took in the clean air and surveyed the peace of his surroundings. A city kid, he'd never had much opportunity to experience the open spaces of the country, and more and more he was finding that he liked the solitude. He'd always been alone in the town, but it was a different kind of isolation, one imposed by the indifference of modern life; here he chose to separate himself from the world in the timeless glory of nature. MacLeod had known this place for many lifetimes, and as he gazed calmly out at it, the younger Immortal hoped that he would too.

Richie allowed himself a few minutes contemplation, before choosing to pack up his things. He still had energy left, and the youthful creature decided that he was going to expend it in a run through the shady tracks. A quick return to his bike to secure his belongings and he would be off to explore.

If there was one thing Mac had taught his pupil, it was to look after his blade. With a deep respect for the elegant weapon, the young man took a cloth and wiped along the shining metal. He dried the hilt which was damp with his own perspiration and checked along the cutting edge for any sign of wear that he might have caused. The styled sword was clear. Satisfied that the arm was unscathed, its bearer prepared to return it to its protection. Scabbard ready and sword in hand, the Immortal froze.

His soul spoke to him in words only the undying race could understand, and Richie recognised the presence of another. The feeling was unexpected, and the shiver that ran down the young man's spine brought him bolt upright like a startled jack-rabbit. Alert eyes scanned quickly around him, as his muscles tightened once more with the knowledge of the possible threat. Duncan was busy at the dojo, it couldn't be him, could it? If not, then who would be out here? The immediate possibilities flowed through the poised form's mind and produced the familiar nerves that the buzz always brought. The blond youth's eyes flicked over to a corner of the clearing as the snap of a twig gave him the direction of his intruder. The Immortal's face set once more as his gaze fell on a stranger.

The man, looking to be in his late twenties, was tall and thick set and almost white blond hair fell across a high forehead. Dark eyes looked back across at a potential opponent with calculated consideration. He was dressed in loose jeans and black shirt, and a leather jacket was hung over one arm. His grin was confident and smug as he seemed to assess his smaller, scowling companion.

"Gervace Hemar," the newcomer introduced himself with a nod of the head.

"Richard Ryan," was the barked return as the stiff form considered his options.

"I did not expect to find anyone out here," the calmer man smiled unconvincingly, and took a few steps forward, "let alone one of us."

"Well, we agree on one thing," Richie retorted with an edge to his voice; he had taken an instant, instinctive dislike to the self- assured stranger. "What now?"

The youth was almost sure of the answer as his intuition screamed at him that this was not a nice guy, yet still he was startled by the reply. Gervace's gait was smooth, strong and powerful as he strode more fully into the clearing; this was definitely not a passive Immortal. His tone was almost indifferent as he disclosed, "This is rather unforeseen, but..."

Richie took an involuntary step back as the other threw his jacket off onto the grass and revealed a solid-looking. two-handed broad sword. He steadied himself as the other's mouth kept working, "...I am always ready for an easy Quickening."

Ryan quickly assessed his options. This was an experienced fighter a lot older than he looked, a battle would be more than a little risky. Could he outrun him? The form was large, but not enough bulk to slow him down; this was a powerful man, with strong, long legs, so the answer was probably not. Then again, the youth noticed a scar on his challenger's neck, so he had come near to losing his head before. Unsure, the young man glanced once past his rival's shoulder, the bike was on the wrong side of him, then he stared resolutely back at Hemar's unwavering gaze.

"Nowhere to run?" the antagonist sneered, victory in his manner.

Richie didn't bother to reply, just stepped off his vantage point onto the flat of the pasture and raised his sword. The warrior returned to possess him as all his training came into play; gaze grew harder, muscles flexed through light clothing, danger threatened his opponent. The young form fixed his combatant and he waited. A raised eyebrow was the only response to the defiant pose that the youth assumed; maybe this pompous asshole's over-confidence would be his down fall - well Ryan hoped so.

Immortal faced Immortal in momentary pause as each readied himself for the fight; one smiled condescendingly, the other gathered up all the strength and training he could muster. One second Hemar stood still, looking a little too relaxed, his manner aloof, the next he swung, his visage changing from ease to lethal intent. The street- punk-turned-fighter was ready, and chose his move wisely. He was swifter than this bulk in the short term at least, and so he dodged the blow, darting away from the blade and towards the open side of his opponent. Gervace was round on him before he could bring in any cut that could reach flesh and steel clashed with the familiar, jarring sound. Adrenaline rushed through Richie's veins, pumping excitement to every nerve in his body; the hint of fear in his soul did nothing to dim the call of his race to combat, and, teeth gritted, he sunk all his energy into it.

A few strokes and Gervace was grinning once more; the younger being parried and blocked, finding himself quickly on the defensive - he had exerted a lot of energy already, his adversary was fresh to the battle. He steeled his muscles as they ached, telling him mercilessly that they'd had enough for one day, but still he had to take several steps backward away from the opportunity the other form was creating.

Another swipe, the young man drew in rapid, ragged breath as his avoidance failed and the heavy weapon caught him a glancing blow on the hip. His oppressor laughed as he staggered backwards in momentary shock. The sound was mocking, loathsome, it caught Richie's temper. What right had this stranger to judge him, deride his being? Anger flared in Ryan's eyes, if the intention had been to bait him, it had apparently succeeded. Hemar saw the fish take his hook and moved rapidly in on what he assessed to be a less coherent competitor. He could never have been more wrong; Mac was a careful tutor, and he had drummed one of the most important rules well and truly into his tutee. Richie didn't lose it that easy anymore.

There was a hardness to his gaze as swords met and locked and he stared into his rival's soul. He was a solid wall against the large form which was unready for the coolness he received, but a barricade which flexed almost instantly and thrust away his adversary. The newcomer's look was of mild surprise as he stumbled away, his weapon swinging uncontrolled for a few seconds. Macleod's pupil strode after his antagonist and lunged for the torso. The other was not so unsettled that his blow did any great damage, but he returned a flesh wound on his arm. Gervace's gaze was not so confident now as he quickly reassessed the easy Quickening, and his demeanour was more serious as he parried a slice.

The sounds of ringing blades cut the wilderness, the tone of supernatural selection. There was fight in the young being as he harnessed any anger and dislike he felt for the stranger who challenged him. This was his turf, and he was damned if he was going to give in easily to the obnoxious, condescending, pompous,....the adjectives flowed in Richie's thoughts as his cut and thrust. The strength of the wild, the will within that he felt in this place powered through him; Hemar moved gradually backwards.

It was his knowledge of the area that gave Ryan his edge.

There were shrubs all around the edge of the clearing, and the woodland around seemed sure enough. However, the view was deceptive; only a few feet from the bracken to which the fighter's moved, there lay a cliff. The youth was not so arrogant as to believe that in his present state he could fend off his opponent for ever, he was tiring even as he put every last effort into aiming for the chasm, instead, his sharp mind had already chosen an alternative to finishing the battle. Richard Ryan had grown up with a devious streak to his character when he needed it. He smiled to himself as his adversary took a final step onto the disguised drop. Thrust, lock, push - Hemar's face clouded with rage as his heel slipped and his balance left him. The glare he gave his wily companion was one which promised vengeance as, arms flailing, he fell.

"You're mine, Richard Ryan!" he screamed, maddened by the fact that he had been out-smarted.

"Not today," Richie grinned in some relief after the disappearing form, then muttered more seriously, "but maybe tomorrow. I think I need some background on this creep."

The young man backed away from the drop, and turned to face his, once again, peaceful world. Yet, his eyes spotted something alien to that place, which could prove useful; Hemar had thrown his jacket aside onto the grass at the edge of the clearing, Richie quickly moved to pick it up for a search. Picking pockets of even an enemy was not something that the ex-thief felt good about now, Mac had done enough philosophising to cure him through boredom, if nothing else , but there was necessity in his actions as he rifled the pockets of the expensive leather. Names could mean very little in the Immortal world, even if they were used so frequently, and the anxious opponent wanted something else to mark his adversary into his background. With practised efficiency, the youth flipped open a wallet that was hidden in the inside pocket and ruffled through it. There was cash, a lot of it in large bills, a driving licence, probably German by the Richie's assessment of the writing, and a crumpled piece of paper. That didn't fit with the rest of the plush interior, and drew the searcher's expert attention. It took little time to find out that it was a wharf-side address, and the lead for which the young Immortal had been hoping. Gervace Hemar would become clearer.

The wallet replaced, and the jacket slung over the cliff at approximately the same place, trainee bade farewell to his tutorial grounds, and headed home. Yet, there was angst nagging at him, making his mood black, and as he cruised into the city, Richard Ryan decided it was an appropriate time to seek out some advice.

Duncan MacLeod put down the phone and relaxed back into his chair with an air of satisfaction about him. He been winding up the tail end problems of a charity auction some of his students at the university had convinced him was a good idea; it was a worthwhile cause, but finding donators had been hard work. That call had been the last lot sorted, a beautiful, jewel-encrusted dress-sword, the prize item at the benefit sale; the Immortal had pulled in a lot of old, very old, favours to secure some of the antiques that were due to raise an expected three million for the chosen Brainhill Trust for disabled youngsters. It had been a long afternoon, but the Highlander was well pleased with himself. It was time to relax and reward himself with a good scotch.

The man was half on his feet when his soul shivered; after so long, his reaction was immediate, his muscles tensed, he was stood tall, his hand reaching for the katana sat innocently on his desk, and his dark eyes scanned the entrance.

Richie did his best to stem the pang of concern that the buzz gave him as he strode into the dojo, but despite knowing that, almost certainly, Mac was the source, his instincts couldn't help themselves, and put him even more on edge; it was times like these, when even friendship made him cautious, that he wished that Immortality had never been his. The young man's mood was obviously not happy as he came into view of his mentor. However, Duncan was feeling slightly buoyant at the closure of his task, and his first thought was amusement as he took in a slightly dishevelled form. A large slice out of Richie's grey joggers, and the blood stain around them seemed adequate enough reason for his frown, and Mac decided to try and raise his companion's humour.

"You miss?" he grinned light-heartedly, indicating to the long-healed wound.

The look he got told the Immortal that his protege was in a far more serious frame of mind, and he'd known Richie long enough to realise that something was up. His gaze straightened and he waited. The younger was still more than a little jumpy, and an awkwardness was creeping over him; he hovered a little way off from the office door at which his friend was stood and wondered why, at the first sign of trouble, he had come running back to Mac again. Still, he was here now, and so he began, "Ever heard of an asshole called Gervace Hemar, could be German?"

"Not off hand," came the response after a moment's thought, and more seriously, tutor enquired of tutee, "What happened?"

"I pushed him off a cliff," Richie admitted sheepishly.

Mac snorted, it wasn't exactly against the rules, but only Richie would have come up with such a tactic. The youth didn't find his companion's reaction funny, and continued in justification, "I'd been training for two hours, and I was spent, he didn't seem to be the kind of guy to let me get my breath, so I sorta delayed things for a while."

"So he's coming back?" Duncan clarified calmly.

Ryan scowled, his temper not improving with the disclosures, his comrade's reaction was apparently unconcerned for him; their relationship had changed, he was no longer automatically under his mentor's protection, his skills were better, his experience was greater. To stand alone was frightening, but exhilarating at the same time; yet he still missed earlier days. On the surface, Duncan MacLeod may have been calm and separate, but within, he fought the urge to move into action for his less experienced friend. He had never heard of Hemar, but Richie's mood and the tear in his clothing adequately described the unknown adversary. He'd been through this with other friends, and his experience told him that he had to let go sometimes. It was always the same with the first few years, and, sink, or swim, Duncan knew he couldn't interfere.

"He made that very clear," the blond figure nodded, choosing a hardened stare over the angst he was feeling.

There was a slightly lost look about Richie, and Duncan suddenly remembered how young he really was. Sometimes it felt like they'd known each other several lifetimes, and at others, the difference between their experiences was so obvious. MacLeod only had one suggestion.

"Maybe Joe can give you some information about him," the Scot advised with what he hoped was a reassuring smile.

The statement hadn't been meant as a dismissal, but his companion chose to take it as such. There was nothing Mac could do, why had he come here in the first place - sympathy, defence? The youth was still feeling slightly awkward about his instinct to dump his problems on the Highlander, the infamous Immortal. If he had really been looking for information, Joe was the first logical choice.

"Maybe," the younger nodded in resignation. "I'll go change and then drop round his place."

Richie wasn't good at hiding his feelings, and his angst was written all over his face as he turned to leave. Mentor couldn't let his protege leave feeling so lonely.

"Rich," he called after him, and waited 'til he was being watched once more, "if you want some practice, I'm here."

The young man managed a grateful smile, there was a lot more conveyed in Duncan's look that wasn't vocalised; understanding, concern, friendship, whatever happened, Richie knew he wasn't alone.

The bar was closed.

Richie sat down heavily on his bike, and stared down at the helmet in his hands. What to do now? He was feeling a mixture of anxiety and impatience; Hemar was a strong opponent, that much had been obvious from their previous encounter, and the youth wanted as much information on him as possible before he came after him. He'd been pursued before, but the uneasiness and lack of control the idea fed his spirit did not get any better. There was an aspect of being hunted about the threat that the German had issued, and knowledge about the Immortal would have helped soothe the feeling of being prey that edged up on the uncomfortable young man everytime he relaxed a little. Street-kid, or not, Richard Ryan had always been in charge of his own destiny as much as possible, but at that time, he had a bad feeling that the inopportune incident was going to swiftly leave his control. The thought was disconcerting, and almost made him angry; it wasn't good to lose it, especially now, and the young Immortal chose to combat his emotions with action.

There was an address in his pocket; not a home, but some kind of warehouse judging by the area listed, maybe, if Joe wasn't around to provide some answers then an investigation of the wharf would. With a new determination blocking out his worry, Ryan started up the roar of the machine.

End of Part 1