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
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
"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
"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 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
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
"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.
the twin said as his mentor left, but it was slightly less angry
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
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
"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
"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
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,
[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
"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
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
of Part 8