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

 

Part 8

Duncan glanced into the rear-view mirror, to the couple in the station-wagon's back seat, his gaze concerned. There had been silence since they'd settled into the journey, and the quiet perturbed the Immortal's sense of the way things should be. Richie had been in contemplative calm when he had carried his small charge back into the cabin, but he'd, understandably, flatly refused to go any where near the cellar area, and had waited like a ghost upstairs while his companion had gone down and found his shoes and jacket. His shirt had not been worth replacing on his back, so now he looked more like a ragged street kid than ever as he half lay across the cushions, cradling a dozing child to his stained chest. There was a bitter vulnerability about Richard Ryan that had not been there before Hemar's attentions, it showed in his thin-lipped, bleak gaze that stared out of the window, only disappearing in a deep caring as he responded to a dreamy shift of the toddler. There was not much the Scot could do, however; he'd attempted to strike up a conversation, but had been shushed to quiet, supposedly because of the slumbering form, but it had been obvious that the youth did not want to talk yet. Reluctantly, MacLeod turned his attention back to the road ahead, time his only tool.

Richie stared at the back of his mentor's head for a few moments, he knew that the man had been watching him, and was more than a little worried, but he really couldn't think of anything to say. The loss of his usual eloquence was also a concern to the young being, but the feelings and thoughts running around his head were too raw to vocalise at that point in time. The still figure couldn't even put form to some of the fleeting instincts that crossed his mind's eye, they were ineptly left in his head as vague impressions of colour, mostly red and black. Even his brain's own imagery was an anxiety. The youth didn't like the thoughts he could interpret, they were extremes of mainly hatred for his way of life, for the insidious Game which had brought them all to this point, and even as he formed the notions, he knew that the view was biased by his emotional state and did the Immortal code an injustice, but he couldn't help it. That internal conflict wasn't doing him any good either. Only Penelope- Anne, the dear innocent, pulled him from the involuntary wallowing, and he let in all the emotion he could for her when her presence did draw him out of the stupor. She was safe, a victory had been won, her unique strength of simplicity would still captivate others for the years to come. The pain her existence caused was healthy, a reminder of Immortality's curse, but her bonnie face was more than a counter-balance, a testimony to how joyous life could be, whether eternal, or a blink on the face of time. Little Annie needed to live, to perpetuate her inherent integrity, as evidence that no matter how bad life could be, there was always a way through it; if Kenny's cold-heart was a demonstration of how the hex could damage a soul, then Annie's sweetness and trust was the proof that it didn't have to be like that.

That thought held almost desperately in his mind, Richie closed his eyes and leant back into the seat; more than anything, he was exhausted - constant renewal cost, and the Quickening had completed the rest of the task of removing his energy.


Five faces were staring fixedly at the elevator shaft as the gate was shoved upwards. Their gazes were anxious, concerned, but Richie couldn't stifle the sense that they would soon be accusing. How the hell was he going to tell the children that their ageless father was dead? The young man hung slightly back of Duncan as they walked out into the apartment, trying to keep his emotions under control. Some moments he wanted to turn and run, at others he wanted to stride over to the close family and wrap them in a hug. Instead, as Naomi gasped relievedly as she saw her little sister, he bent down and released the child, watching blankly as she ran to her siblings and was engulfed in warm kisses - at least there was some joy. Only Garion did not pay much attention to his sister, instead, his blue eyes levelled on the unkempt Immortal and asked the question that hadn't reached the minds of the others as they greeted their darling. Yet, the youth couldn't say it, he just stared right on back, afraid of what might lie behind the unsettling glare if he disclosed the facts. It was Harry who finally noticed the absences and vocalised with quiet trepidation, "Where's Patrick?"

Richie only heard the whimper of grief from Naomi as his eyes fell to the floor and he shook his head with guilty admission. Tears began to fall and the sound tore at the quiet figure's soul; in this he had failed, a dear, kind man was dead, and he had not been able to stop it. The small group were turned on each other, embraces of comfort passing between them when he did gather the courage to raise his head. Duncan had moved across to Joe; their sorrow was less open, but there was the knowledge that a good influence in the world was gone in the looks which passed between them. No one was taking notice of him, he was a ghost in the background, and he was glad. It was an opportunity, and the young man took it; he turned on his heel and headed out of the door to the early morning outside.

Duncan glanced over his shoulder as he heard the door go, but he did not move, he had expected the retreat; his companion had seemed reluctant to face the family when they had climbed out of the car, it had only been Annie's presence which had brought him all the way inside. If he went home, all well and good, it would mean at least that he might have time to think, if not rest, and maybe leaving things to the next day would be beneficial. Joe's face showed concern, but he patted the man's shoulder and shook his head in resignation. Naomi also reacted to the sound.

"Richie," she started, almost as if she had just remembered his existence, her eyes were wild and questioning as they fell on Duncan.

It was Annie who answered, in her usual, direct fashion.

"Bad man hurt him," she disclosed, a grim frown crossing her already, tear-stained features.

MacLeod decided it was better to clarify the statement than leave it as the girl's eyes clouded with emotion.

"Hemar tortured him," he admitted grimly, but added almost in consolation, "Richie took his head."

The young woman seemed to understand all the meaning that wasn't worded into the thin statement, and a final check on her siblings, she headed for the door.


The young Immortal stood at the top of the fire escape, staring down at the dark alley below. The sounds of the city moved around him, taking his soul away and the mood suited his philosophical position. He was alone as all his kind were, and the anonymity that he had known growing up made sense to him now. Maybe he had known all the time that he was different, that he was meant to lead a solitary life until the time came when his head would roll.

Richie smiled oddly to himself as a feeling swept through him and he knew he had a companion. Yet it wasn't the definite pressure of warning that told him another of his species was close by, it was the faint aura of beginning, a suggestion of what was to be one day. He lifted his head as Naomi stopped a little way behind him and waited for her to break the silence.

"Richie, you okay?" the young woman enquired quietly, her manner concerned, but unsure.

"No," the youth responded honestly, a quaver in his tone as the world rested on his shoulders.

"Want to talk about it?" his companion continued.

It was an offer that the Immortal would have refused, but Richard Ryan had a human soul, and it was hurting badly. Life had made an awkward turn, and it had caused a lot of damage to the normally carefree figure. It clarified in a sense of injustice, and the young man spoke.

"You know what, Naomi," he breathed heavily, his voice cut with a sudden bitterness, "when I first met Duncan, when I found out about him, what he was excited me: being able to live knowing you'd never have to worry about getting old; to live on a code of honour; even the sword bit fascinated me, it swept me up with a sense of romance. I was awed by how life would change if I could be like him.

Then I did become like him, and I've lived this life for two years now. Sometimes it seems like forever. And I realised something for the first time today - it isn't life that changes, it's death. I had to learn to fight, to be able to kill. I keep a sword near me at all times. I'm like all the others; we're obsessed by the chance of our own ending. We don't lose the pain of being mortal when we become part of the Game, we magnify it. Everytime there's that knowledge we wonder, 'Is it now that I will die?'.

Stay mortal Naomi, as long as you can. Enjoy real life, getting older with your friends, not watching from a distance as they change and you stay the same. Feel happy that when you cut yourself you bleed naturally, that healing is a slow process, 'cause one day you'll miss it. Stay away from the Gathering, it can be a cold existence."

The youth sunk down on the steps, almost overwhelmed by the strength of self-loathing he felt. Hemar was gone, but his sadistic brutality would stay with at least one man for the rest of his life. Richie barely reacted when a hand was laid on his shoulder, a small sigh escaped his lips, but he remained turned away from his attendant.

"But it can also be a very rewarding life," her soft voice soothed. "Patrick was a wise man, he'd lived long enough to know many things, and one thing about which he was always so clear was that his life was a good one. He'd been through hardships, but he'd also had many wonderful experiences; he smiled when he talked about the past and his old friends. Take advice from him, he used to tell us all, 'We have a gift, and with all things, it has many sides to it, some of them are hidden, some of them are obvious, some are the bad times, but most are what you make them, and that can be happy, or sad, lonely, or full of company. Treasure what you have.'"

Ryan laughed, a cold, small sound in the warm night.

"Patrick's dead," he muttered, guilt and anger in his manner.

"And you didn't kill him," Naomi's demeanour was suddenly quite vigorous, and she yanked at her companion's jacket to make him turn; the young man gazed sadly into her beautiful features. "Patrick is dead because of Hemar and no one else, and you have avenged that death. He hurt you, but don't let him go on tormenting you, you're worth too much for that. Without you Garion would have used that gun on himself, and God knows what state he'd be in now. Annie thinks the world of you, and I..." the angel paused, unsure of her words, but then emotion flowed through her spirit as she admitted, "and just because I am a nun doesn't mean I don't have feelings for you."

The Immortal remained passive, a little shocked by the statement that had been made so fervently. However, quiet did not fall between them, his friend hadn't finished her confession.

"You frightened me when we were alone in that cellar. I hadn't ever met anyone who had made me doubt that marrying myself to God was best, but that's how I felt when you looked at me. It took a while for me to admit it to myself, well until a few minutes ago really, but now I know whatever happens I can't change my soul, and I can't be afraid of those very human parts of me. Since I'm being so honest, I might as well tell you that I had considered following them through if you came back," she giggled nervously, but there was no need for her to tell the young man that she had decided otherwise, he understood the look in her eye. Yet her words meant a lot, and went no little way to calming the tumult in the injured spirit. The blond man managed a weak smile and responded, "Thank you, Naomi."

Then silence did fall as each just drank in the other for a few moments. There would be no meeting of bodies, no satisfaction of the flesh, but souls did intertwine as they helped the pain of the past couple of days begin to ease away. There was a union possible in the individual world of the Immortal, and the youth was glad that a new friendship had reminded him of the strength and depth of another. There were good times and there were bad, but friendship could span them all.

It was Richie who broke the atmosphere; gently he leant forward and placed a kiss on his companion's cheek. It was a far as he would ever go with a match he couldn't fully fathom. The girl accepted his affection with a heavenly smile as he pulled away. Then he stood up.

"Go back inside," the less pained form departed with a sense of new peace about him, "your family needs you as well."

"Will you be alright?" his soul-mate asked, standing as well.

Richie just nodded; it would take a bit longer than their one talk, but eventually, he knew he'd overcome Hemar's torture. Now was a time to be alone, to work through some of the dark images that the memories conjured. Mac would look after the injured family for the night and they could begin sorting things out in the fresh light of a new day. With one final glance of concern, Naomi turned back to the apartment.


The bus station was pretty empty, but then it was six thirty on a bright summer morning. There weren't many people catching the long- haul grey-hound that was stood in the sun-baked lot waiting for its final passengers to board. There were a few minutes left yet, and the small group of four youngsters, and four adults were taking their time in saying goodbye. It had been a week since the traumas of Gervace Hemar's designing, and Duncan had come through with a haven for the Immortal family. The Scot had contacted an old friend through his links with the Native Americans, who like him had been adopted by a tribe. They had given her a site that they considered holy on which to build a ranch, a place she had, in recent years, turned into a out-door adventure centre for disadvantaged children. Agatha had been more than willing to offer the refugees a home in the middle of Texas.

Now everything was arranged, and it was time for the healing family to leave, goodbyes were proving hard. The loss of Patrick had eventually brought Richie closer to his new friends, as close as he considered he'd ever come to family. There had been little time during the week that the group had been apart; at first they had just talked, quiet and subdued by grief, but the youngsters had recovered with the vigour of childhood, and the elder three had found succour in keeping them distracted. Richie had lost himself in showing the strangers his city, the sights and sounds, the quieter places he knew personally as well as tourist attractions, and had re-found his skill for amusing banter in doing so. There had been tough times when sorrow had taken one, or more of the group by surprise, but the bond which had grown amongst the bunch of `mismatched' Immortals had only been fortified with the moments of anguish. Stretching that tie created a mixture of emotions.

Duncan and Joe said their goodbyes, and there were hugs and tears. Annie had sown her magic around the Watcher and the elder Immortal, and they too had come nearer to the displaced family, but they had seen the wisdom of letting those who had known Patrick spent time alone together; the men, although letting their presence be felt when it was needed, had not touched souls quite so strongly as their younger comrade. They moved back to allow the youth to say his own farewells.

Tay's face was its usual, serious, philosophical self as the boy looked up into his companion's face. There was part of the seventy- three-year-old man in the look as he held out a small hand in formal dismissal. Solemnly, Richie took the offered palm, but swiftly pulled the slender figure into a hug.

"Take care of yourself, Tay," the youth breathed, a hiccup of laughter in his voice.

The reaction was slow, somewhat stunned, as the small form, who held back from much physical contact, lifted his arms around the adult body and expressed his own feelings. Tay had not been known for outburst, he was probably the most controlled of all the injured parties, but there was a mist in his eyes as the pair drew back from the embrace. He nodded sagely and the briefest of smiles ran over his features.

The young Immortal turned to Harry, and there was no surprise in their parting wishes. The teenager had been killed in a gang fight in the thirties, but sixty years difference had not stopped a bond of brotherhood forming between the two street-punks. Hands clasped around opposite wrists in a bold sign of unity and the youths pulled themselves together into a firm bear hug.

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do, Bro," the modern city kid intoned like it was a gang slogan.

"I couldn't!" the older quipped back and caught his friend a camaraderic clip around the ear.

Richie laughed, and shaking his head, turned to Garion. His smile remained, but he rejected the easy chuckle as the wide, soulful eyes of the eldest fake-boy gazed up at him. The blond form was still erratic, still worrying at times as his prior experiences broke through and threatened his nature, but Garion was Garion, and had to be accepted as he was. Since the less than amicable beginnings, the youth and he had come to an understanding, which although not always close, was well meant and welcome. Now, they both knew that they could scream and shout at each other if the moment so took them, and there would still be a strength between them that they would never lose.

"Keep them all on their toes for me," the young man spoke sincerely, laying a hand on the child-being's shoulder and squeezing.

"Someone has to," was returned with equal earnest, and there was a crack in the creature's voice.

That was all that needed to be said, and shrinking down into a crouch, the youth moved on to the next in line. Annie was pouting and fidgeting on the spot as her young mind grasped the imminent departure. Richie was going to miss the magic of her presence, even the pain, which she still inspired if he paused to think about her, was preferable to her absence. Yet, he knew that the city wasn't safe for her innocent Quickening, and he had to let her go. A sad little frown on his brow, the young man reached up behind him into the hidden recesses of his jacket. A sigh in his manner, the Immortal admitted, "I'm gonna miss you Penelope-Anne."

"Miss you too," the little girl muttered, keeping her hands firmly behind her back as her blame for the separation laid on the nearest adult.

"I'm sorry I can't come with you," Richie continued, feeling heavy in his heart. "I'm sorry that we lost Pol as well," the beloved doll had been discarded by Hemar when he had taken the child, "and I can't replace her, but..."

The young man held out his offering, it was a traditional cloth doll, stripy legs, patched dress, woollen, red hair, and a bright, smiling face.

"The lady in the shop said she was called Raggedy-Anne," Richie smiled as the girl's face lit up with wonderful joy.

The soft toy was squashed between two bodies as the angel gasped her delight and wrapped her arms around her carer's neck.

"Thank you, Rich-ee," her words were half cried, half giggled.

The young man engulfed the small form in his embrace; there weren't any more words to express the strength of his feeling for the paradoxical spirit, so he just held her tight and empathised.

It was a reluctant young man who finally released the eternal child. As he stood once more, she hugged the new doll to her and blinked back tears. Richie's eyes were misty as well by the time he finally turned to bid farewell to his soul mate. Her smile was sad as he put a palm to her cheek and felt her soft skin; his heart leapt as, with a gasp of a sob she threw her arms around his shoulders. Gladly he responded, enclosing his limbs around her waist and holding almost intimately close.

"Thanks for everything," she murmured warmly in his ear, "I love you."

The youth choked on his own words as he heard the admission; the actual statement had gone unsaid as it had become obvious to everyone that if circumstances had been different there would have been a union. Holding back too much powerful emotion, the young man whispered back, "I love you, too. Please keep in touch."

"Wild horses couldn't stop me, Richie Ryan" Naomi chose laughter through her tears as they broke the hold. "You just make sure you reply to my letters."

"I'll make sure he does," Duncan threw in a quip he hoped would ease the tension between the thwarted love.

Richie had to laugh at that one, and with a brief brush of a kiss to his companion's cheek, he let go of her completely. The young form remained static, a brief smile on his face as he watched the close group walk towards the bus. He managed a wave as the vehicle turned out of the station, and he drew in a deep breath as Mac laid a hand on his shoulder.

"How about breakfast at my place," Joe's husky tones caught both men in a daze.

"Sounds good," Richie smiled, a shrug on his shoulders, and continued brightly, "Maybe you oughta start a line in them, Breakfast at Joe's - Best Everyone Knows."

His companions groaned at the dreadful rhyme, as the youth waved a billboard shape in front of him. He laughed as two hands contacted with his shoulders and pushed him on towards where they'd left the car. The bad times were past, and the good times could cope with their stain. It felt warm inside to joke again.

The End

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