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Discoveries by Tasha

This is the second in the Dividing series, the others may be found at:
Dividing of The Ways


Part 8

It had been a strained evening: Karina had not wanted to discuss any of the days activities and she had avoided most conversations, refusing any support offered by the Watchers who sympathised with her situation. Joe was quite surprised to see her at the breakfast table the next morning, especially when she actually initiated a discourse.

"When did you finally get rid of all your colleagues?" she asked, almost with the usual enthusiasm she put into life.

"I convinced the last ones to go at about two this morning," the older man returned, pleased that at least she was communicating, but worried by the enigmatic expression on her face. "Do you want a refill for that mug?"

She'd been nursing an empty coffee cup for about ten minutes, considering standing up to refill it so she smiled and held it out.

"Thanks, Uncle Joe," she responded and he did not dispute the term this time.

He wasn't quite sure how the conversation would continue and he didn't want to force anything out of her that she wasn't willing to give, so he waited for her to go on.

"I've been thinking," she finally said, totally unaware that the discussion had been holding for her, "I feel terrible about what I did yesterday."

She looked up and there was definitely remorse written on her face, coupled with something else: the best Joe could place it as was nervousness.

"But you didn't do anything," the Watcher assured her calmly, unsure why she was blaming herself for any part of the accident, "there was nothing you could have done, it was the driver's fault."

"I know all that," she said with a sad smile, "and it's my inactivity I'm worried about. Chris saved my life and I didn't even have the courage to thank him. I treated him as if he were some monster from a bad movie, he didn't deserve that. You'd have thought a Watcher's daughter could get over the shock of seeing an Immortal come back to life."

"It took me a while," her companion returned calmly. "It's a humbling thing to see close up, I've only seen it a couple of times myself. Some Watchers go through their entire careers and never see what you've seen, let alone been through what you have. I think maybe I should have told you about Chris as soon as you met him, but old habits are hard to break and you know what we're like."

She nodded sagely and took a swig of her fresh coffee.

"You bet I know," she said, recollection in her eyes, "Dad nearly went crazy when I first broke into his computer and read his chronicle. I was only nosing because it was a challenge and I found things that made me think he was insane. Then I pieced together all the weird things that go on in our house, and voila, stuff began to make sense. You wouldn't believe the effort it took for him to sit me down and explain: he was very disappointed when I didn't sign up on the spot."

"Oh I do," Joe returned with a grin, "he was on the phone to me for about three hours after your little escapade. You know, if you learned to mind your own business every once in a while, your life might just be that little bit more stable."

At that she laughed.

"My nose is my greatest weakness," she admitted, somewhat brighter than the condition in which he'd found her, "but I get bored."

The older man shared her enjoyment for a moment, but slowly they fell into silence again. He wasn't sure how to continue and she was obviously contemplating what she was about to say. Steam rose from their drinks and for a while they just stared at their hands.

"I have to apologise," Karina said eventually, "I have to see Chris and say I'm sorry for the way I treated him."

"And you want me to tell you where he lives," Joe filled in for her, well aware that he could not head this off.

"Will you," she asked quietly, "or do I have to go through other channels?"

He reached out and patted the back of her hand.

"I'll give you his address," he said sympathetically, "but are you sure you're ready to see him? You've had quite a shock, he'll understand, he must know."

"I've been thinking this out all night," she said, more calmly than he had expected. "I know what I'm going to say and exactly how I'm going to say it. Of course it probably won't go like that at all, but I can dream."

"Conversations have a habit of taking on a life of their own," Joe agreed quietly.

He wasn't quite sure where her course of action would lead Karina, but he knew it was not his place to interfere.

The Watcher and his guest were not the only two people using breakfast time to talk, and Beren wanted to know what was on Richie's mind, whether he chose to discus it or not. It wasn't that he was taking the events of the day before, hard: he was his normal bright self, but something about the look in his eyes made his lover ask her first question.

"What's bothering you?" she enquired gently as she fished a piece of toast from under the grill.

The expression on his face started innocent, as if he didn't know what she was talking about, and then changed to a look of resignation.

"And here I thought I was fooling you," he responded with a little shrug.

"Most every thought you think travels across your face, Darling" his lover told him with an encouraging smile, "and to me you're an open book."

He smiled, it wasn't as if he minded, he just hadn't wanted to burden her with the ideas his mind seemed to have hooked onto this morning.

"Yesterday just graphically illustrated some of the things I already knew, but hadn't quite considered fully," he told her and slipped into the seat next to the table. "It was like when I took Mako's head: I knew about Quickenings, I had seen death, but I'd never killed before and it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. The reality of what I did and just realising it could happen were two entirely different things and the only way I could truly understand was to go through it. It was the same with Chris. We've talked about how he felt when I died, he's even shown me what it was like. Then yesterday I finally found out exactly what he went through and how it can affect me."

He shook his head, trying to sort out what he was saying.

"I totally lost it when I felt him go," he admitted evenly, "the physical pain was nothing compared to what his death did to my mind. I knew it would be bad, and that one day I'd probably go through it: we do tend to attract trouble, but I really didn't understand at all. I would have done anything to get to him, gone through anyone, whatever was necessary, I would have carried it out. I keep thanking whatever deity may have been watching, that the last thing he saw was Joe's sign, or I don't know what state I would have been in. I wasn't ready for the anguish, the helplessness, the utter despair and it showed me just how little I can control what's between Chris and me."

His expression was thoughtful rather than anxious: he was moving through the experience in his mind, not wallowing in it.

"It's not that I'm afraid of it or anything," he continued, a little more brightness in his tone, "I think it rather surprised me, that's all."

The breakfast was forgotten as Beren walked up behind him and wrapped her arms around his neck.

"My soul mate," she said as he took her hand, "one of the most complicated men on the face of the planet. I'm not sure if I envy you, or am very glad to be just the way I am, but I do know I love you more than life itself."

He smiled and she kissed the side of his face. He could never keep anything from her, and at that moment he was overcome by an urge to explain everything he was, everything his thoughts knew he could be, but instead he nuzzled the inside of her elbow.

"I don't think I'm ever going to understand you properly," Beren said quietly and rested her chin on his head.

"I dunno," the Immortal replied with a grin, not ready to have a heavy discussion at that time in the morning, "give it a couple of decades."

She giggled, just as he knew she would. It was time to get ready for work and the day would distract both of them. Only as Beren went to leave did Richie finally say anything more that wasn't playful banter.

"Take care, my love," he said with a totally unreadable expression on his face, smiled at her and disappeared into the bedroom to find his wallet.

The young English woman left the apartment with a warm glow just where her heart resided, and she went to meet the world like a ray of sunshine. Her lover paused by the bed with a small smile on his face as he listened to her go.

"When I understand myself, Berengaria," he said to himself quietly, "I'll explain it all to you."

"Feeling better this morning?" Craven asked as he wandered through the hall and found Chris coming down the stairs.

"Fit as a fiddle," the younger Immortal shot back, "but then that's not much of a surprise is it?"

His tone was very harsh and the look on his face was somewhere between disgust and sadness. His body was healed, nothing could stay for long on an Immortal body, but his humour was a lot more difficult to fix. Karina had not been just a passing fancy, he'd been very interested in her, more so than his rational brain could explain, and as he saw it, she was now way out of reach. He knew he'd done the only thing possible, but he was as mad as hell at himself for being hit by the car and Immortality in general for causing such tensions.

"Immortality has never been an easy road to walk," his friend said calmly, "if you want to talk about it, I'll be in the study."

Craven knew from experience that it took time to reconcile yourself to things that a resurrection could throw at you, and he left Chris to do his own thinking.

"Bloody marvellous," the twin said as his mentor left, but it was slightly less angry than before.

A lot of people had been doing a lot of thinking after Chris' accident and the revelations it had brought, but the one person Joe did not expect to find on his doorstep smiled as he opened the portal.

"Amanda," he said, unable to hide his momentary shock, "what are you doing here?"

"I came to see Karina," the Immortal woman said sweetly, "is she in?"

"She's upstairs getting ready to go out," the bearded man replied automatically whilst trying to fathom Amanda's motives.

"I'll just pop up then," the ex-thief said and stepped over the threshold before Joe could contemplate stopping her, "I won't be long."

The Watcher was left to look at an empty doorway, wondering if he'd just let a significant situation get past him.

"Hi, Kari," Amanda said loudly as she knocked on the door, "can I come in?"

"Amanda!" the Immortal seemed to be having the same effect on everyone this morning. "Ah... yeah, sure."

She admitted her guest with a brush in her hand and smiled, a little confused.

"What brings you to this neck of the woods?" she asked brightly.

"I heard about yesterday," the black haired woman replied easily, "and I came to see how you were. Richie dropped in to see Duncan last night and told us all about the accident, and how you found out about Chris. I imagine you must be pretty shaken up, so I came to offer my expert opinion."

The younger woman looked a little hesitant, but finally plucked up the courage to ask.

"So you know about them then?" she said, trying not to be too obvious.

Amanda smiled and nodded.

"I have a confession to make," she said calmly, "I am one of them."

Karina's eyes opened a little wider, but somehow, the Immortal woman sitting there smiling at her didn't seem quite the same as the Chris situation at all.

"Oh," she said, a little lost for words.

Then the wheels of her mind began turning and suspicions began to dawn.

"If you're so buddy buddy with Chris and Richie, you must have known who I was when you came to speak to me," she said, finding some of her anger again.

"Guilty," her companion admitted without trying to lie, "but my reasons were still the same. It becomes very dull when all you have to talk to, and fight with, are men, and when Chris mentioned that he'd met, I believe he eventually described you as: `a drop dead gorgeous blonde, with a bubbly personality who'd fit in well with us load of lunatics', I just couldn't resist. To tell you the truth, I get a little peevish when I don't get my own way and I think part of the reason Chris came over was to give me something else to do except giving him and the others bruises."

Well it was half the truth.

"Our friendship with Joe breaks all the rules between Watchers and Immortals, and therefore you were probably supposed to be off limits as well, but I learnt a long time ago, rules tend to put the dampers on a good time," Amanda continued. "You're new in town, so I figured meeting you and introducing you to the local night life might have been fun, but then Chris went and died and ruined all my plans."

Just the way she said it actually managed to produce a smile from her companion: it was just so rebellious. Somehow, the Immortal made the death sound so unimportant, as if it had been just a minor inconvenience.

"How old are you?" Karina asked finally, lost in the multitude of questions that had begun to pile up in her brain.

"Lets just say that the big one and three zeros is in the past," the black haired beauty replied with grin.

The younger woman's chin seemed to have developed an affinity for the floor, but this expression was one of curious delight rather than shocked anger. Amanda had originally decided to turn up to help put Karina's mind at ease about the small community of Immortals in the area and she smiled to herself as it appeared to be working.

"Now," the older woman said cheerfully, "I'm here to provide any answers to reasonable questions. So if there's anything you would like to know, I'd be happy to explain in graphic detail."

Amanda's reasons for her offer were a little confused even to her. It had quite a lot to do with what Karina would eventually become, but it wasn't just that which had urged the Immortal to borrow the T-bird and head over to Joe's house. Concerns, which not so long ago would never have entered Amanda's head, had some say in her actions. She was actually looking out for Chris' interests here as well, Richie's description of the mood his brother was in had actually had an affect on the ancient woman.

"You're kidding," Karina said as she ran over in her mind everything she knew about Immortals.

"Nope," her companion returned with a smile. "I'd be happy to impart most information you could want. It's not as if I'd be letting out any big secrets or anything: you're a Watcher's daughter after all."

The young blonde woman sat down slowly on the bed, trying to think what she could possibly ask.

"We're just people," Amanda said quietly, as she realised her friend was a little stuck for words, "we have a few unusual habits and a natural life expectancy of eternity, but we're just people. We can screw up life as easily as the next guy, or do just as well, sometimes better. What we have on our side is time."

"As long as you don't meet someone who wants your head," Karina pointed out as the discourse kick started her brain.

"True," her companion admitted, "but a lot of the time we learn to run very fast. At least, those of us who know what's good for us learn to get the hell out when the going's good. Some of my friends have a harder time knowing when to remove themselves: MacLeod has this weird notion of honour that often gets him into trouble. Maybe it's a man thing, but don't you think it's more sensible to leave rather than loose your head?"

"Definitely," was the response.

They grinned at each other in only a way two women talking about men, knew how. These two were on the same wavelength, even though there were centuries of time between their mindsets.

"Now," the older woman said calmly, "is there anything I can explain about our little pack of Immortals?"

Karina suddenly discovered that she knew exactly where she wanted to start.

Some of the crashes and bangs coming from the kitchen would have been worrying if Craven hadn't know he had a complete set of spare utensils in the attic. Loud rock music took out the silence once Chris seemed to have run out of cookware to abuse, and his mentor decided to leave him to it. Breakfast shouldn't have taken more than about half an hour, but ninety minutes after he went in, the younger Immortal was still doing whatever he'd decided would occupy his time. The melodies coming from the other room were so high volume that Manheim could have been forgiven for not hearing the door bell, as it was he caught a sound and finally deduced from where it originated. As soon as he opened the door Karina's peculiar pre-Immortal presence made itself know and his smile nearly covered his entire face.

"Good morning," he greeted and hurriedly remembered he shouldn't be able to recognise someone he'd never met. "At a guess, I'd say you were Karina."

She smiled at him shyly.

"That's me," she replied, suddenly nervous, "I was wondering if I could see Chris?"

"Please, come in," the charming Immortal said amiably, "my young friend is in the kitchen. Just follow the music up the noise gradient and you'll find him. Don't ask me what he's doing, but I don't guarantee it'll be pretty."

"Thanks," she replied with a grin, she was beginning to realise that most of the Immortals around town were nice people to know.

The reasons for Joe's willingness to break the rules were starting to become clear. Craven pointed her in the right direction, but he was not going to intrude on this meeting and he left her to find her own way. The rock ballad was on a volume only just below a level that hurt, and Karina had no problem finding it's source. She pushed the white door open tentatively and found chaos behind it. Chris was routing around in one of the cupboards on the other side of the room, behind a counter that was covered in mixing bowls, cake tins and produce of all descriptions. The young woman had to smile, it was such a funny sight. Much to her surprise, the moment she stepped into the room, Chris stood up and turned around, a look of complete shock on his face. It might actually have made for a tense situation if it hadn't been for the fact that he looked quite ridiculous brandishing a wooden spoon with flour in his hair. He reached blindly for the switch on the CD player and the music gentled to a manageable level.

"Hi," Karina said, all her fancy speeches evaporating, and then she couldn't help it she began to laugh. "What exactly are you doing?"

Her presence seemed to have snapped the Immortal back to reality and as he took in her reaction he looked down at himself a little sheepishly. There didn't seem to be a single spot on his clothes that didn't have something from the kitchen spilt on it.

"I'm baking a cake," he said with a dubious expression on his features.

"Are you completely sure about that?" his companion enquired.

There was a book open on the counter, but it must have been difficult to read through the mound of sugar that had been deposited on top of it.

"Richie suggested I try something I'd never done before," Chris tried to defend his position. "I'm not quite sure why I'm making a cake, but I think creating the mess is the fun bit."

"Want some help?" Karina asked, at least this was one way to get over any awkward silences.

"Feel free," the Immortal replied, "I was just trying to find some chocolate chips."

It wasn't exactly what the young blonde woman had turned up for, but it was a start and she decided to leave the speeches for a little later. It was inane, it was fun, it had no consequences, except for the fact they were going to have to clean up afterwards, and after much trying the pair actually came up with a concoction that could be put in the oven.

"Fourth time lucky," Chris said as they closed the door and turned on the timer.

He reached over and flicked the switch on the kettle: now would be a good time for a cup of tea.

"Earl grey, Darjeeling, Assam or coffee?" he asked as Karina pulled out one of the breakfast stools and sat down.

"Earl grey," she said with a smile and brushed the flour off her jeans, "never tried it, but it sounds interesting."

"Milk?" the Immortal asked and opened the fridge.

"Whatever," she returned, "surprise me."

[I thought I did that already,] was the idea that flicked through Chris' mind and he suddenly felt awkward again.

There was something in the way he moved and reached for the mugs that told Karina the easy part of this meeting was over. He didn't say anything and all she could see was his back, but there was a tension in his shoulders that said all that need to be said. When he finally did turn around there was a smile on his face, but it hid nothing.

"You don't have to look so guilty," the young woman said quietly, "you've got nothing to be sorry for."

"It wasn't fair not to tell you," Chris responded quietly, "you're a Watcher's daughter and you had a right to know there were Immortals around to complicate things."

"It wouldn't have changed anything," Karina told him much more calmly than she felt, "I have an ability to phase out anything that doesn't fit in my scheme of things. I would have taken the information on board, filed it away and not thought about it. The accident would have had the same effect on me no matter what I knew. I was angry when I found out about you, but if it hadn't been that it would have been something else. What I saw frightened me, not because it was so strange to me, but because it made me feel my mortality. If you hadn't been there I would have been killed and the way I treated you yesterday was unforgivable."

The look in Chris' eye at that moment almost frightened her, it was so intense and he seemed to be fighting with himself about something. He blinked and looked away, reaching for the kettle and any excuse not to look at her.

"I came here today to apologise," she continued, unable to fathom what was going through her companion's head, "to tell you how grateful I am. Last night I almost packed my bags and went home, but I couldn't, not without patching things up with you. I couldn't look at myself in the mirror if I went off and left things as they were."

"There's no need to be apologetic," Chris said, and he meant it, "yesterday was a rough day for both of us. You're only human, close shaves do weird things to people. I didn't know I was Immortal until a couple of months ago, and I nearly died in a fire when I was seventeen, I remember what it was like. If Mum hadn't pulled me out before the roof fell in I'd have been starting my Immortal career crispy on the edges."

Karina wasn't up on exactly who was who in the Immortal world of this city and she said as much with her next question.

"Mother," she asked, "who's your Mother?"

"I was adopted by an Immortal," Chris returned calmly, it was much easier to talk about this than the accident, "her name's Madelaine Seaton, and just at the moment she's in England, closing up the house. With Richie and everything, we're both relocating to this side of the Atlantic. Sooner or later I'm going to get myself a work permit, at which point I'll find myself a job, until then I'm a man of leisure."

"I'm adopted," Karina admitted in camaraderie, "they didn't think Mom could have kids so they took me in when I was one and a half. As it turned out I have two brothers and a sister, all three of whom are not adopted and haven't a clue that there big sister is no blood relation at all. The fact I have blonde hair and the rest of the family are all black haired, hasn't seemed to have impinged on anyone's thoughts. We had this long parent daughter chat when I was sixteen which is when they told me, but it never made any difference."

She actually seemed amused that in a family full of people trained to observe, no-one had spotted the obvious. Both her brothers had been bitten by the watcher bug, Tim at twenty had his own Immortal and Jeff at eighteen had just had his tattoo put on. Bethen, her sister was the only one who seemed oblivious to the occupation of the majority of her close kin, and Karina explained as much to Chris. They spent a good two hours talking about their respective families, swapping stories that they probably would never have considered talking about if the car hadn't hit Chris. The cake actually turned out to be edible and quite tasty for a first try: the only thing was, all the chocolate chips had sunk to the bottom, all two and a half packets.

End of Part 8