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Dividing of The Ways by Tasha

This is the first in the Dividing series, the others may be found at:
Discoveries
Disclosures

 

Part 1

Wandering the streets of his home city was something that now made Richie feel the difference in himself. This place almost felt alien to him. Everywhere else he could ignore the sensitivity of his hearing to the traffic, and the fact that he noticed everybody and everything just in case the information could be useful in the near future. Yet here he remembered how it had been. This was the neighbourhood of his youth; the other side of a divide that he could never re-cross. It was an innocence lost forever, and the one place on earth where he could never belong again because it held too many memories.

It wasn't that he could ever really see himself wanting to come back to a place that had only ever meant trouble. It was just that it underlined how much he had changed, and sometimes that bothered him. This part of the city brought back memories of a time when life had been about just moving from one day to the next. There had been no big picture and no pressure to remember that there was always the possibility that someone would be waiting round the next corner, wanting his head. Usually he let these cares fall to the back of his mind, but here they floated to the surface unbidden everytime he noticed something new. Something that once upon a time would never have impinged upon his consciousness. No matter how many times he tried to tell himself that he was better off now than he had ever been, or that by now he should be used to his Immortality, the old haunts brought it all back. It made him wonder if the Highlands of Scotland did the same to MacLeod or whether, with time, Immortals forgot what it was like to have been prey to natures little pit falls. He usually made it a rule to stay away from where he may meet someone from his past. That way he could continue his new life without the hang ups of his old one, but today he had decided that he honestly wanted to look up an old friend.

He had stayed away from these particular roads and alleys before and the old place had changed a little. Some shops had moved owners and others actually looked better than he remembered them, but mostly it was the same. He had already checked on the person he wanted to see and he knew that she still worked in the homeless shelter just down the street. That she was running it now, rather than acting as a help, did not come as much of a surprise. If there was one thing that Angie was not, it was a follower. She was one woman who was born to lead, and given a few years it wouldn't be a homeless shelter she had under her control. Not of course that Richie would ever tell his old friend any of this. Angie always did much better without anyone pointing out just what potential they saw in her. Richie wanted to catch up on old times, and that would hopefully be the topic of conversation.

The building had a fresh coat of paint, so fresh in fact that Richie could still smell the fumes in the air even though it appeared totally dry. He stood there a while with his hands pushed deep into the pockets of his brown leather jacket, just looking. It wasn't just his physical vulnerability which had altered over time it was his outward appearance as well, he was most definitely not the scruffy street punk he had been. Richie Ryan was not a picture of opulence either, but his shirt was pressed, his boots were clean and there were no holes in his black jeans: quite a difference from how he had been most of the time he had been here.

Finally, with a deep breath he reached out and took the handle of the blue door opening it to reveal the sound of people talking. The light was dimmer inside filtering in through the two remaining windows which were not boarded up, and the place smelled equally of cooking food and disinfectant. A few of the residents looked up as Richie walked towards the counter but otherwise he was ignored, a common reaction in this part of the world. It was not good to notice things that weren't your business when seeing something could land you in trouble.

"You from the Welfare people or something?" the burley man behind the serving counter asked in a somewhat hostile manner.

"Actually I came to see Angie," the young Immortal replied with a smile of peaceful truce, the closest that anyone came to friendship in this neighbourhood until they knew your family history for three generations.

The worker eyed him suspiciously for a few seconds more, the pen with which he had been writing wavering in the air. Then shrugged noncommittally, "She's outback," he said, "wait here and I'll go get her."

"Thank you," was the genuine reply.

The individual disappeared with only one glance over his shoulder, but it was obvious that he was in no hurry, so Richie took the time to survey the shelter. This place was no simple soup kitchen, it was more of a halfway house, and most of those sitting around in the almost descent chairs were young people with the look of loss in their eyes. Most of them appeared to have been there a while and it conjured a picture of Ange with all the lost souls of the world around her. It made the young Immortal smile.

"You wanted to see me," a voice said from behind him, just after he heard the door open. The tone was nearly as suspicious as that of the one it replaced.

Richie turned slowly, a broad smile on his face and took in the view of his old friend. He was not the only one to have changed, and Angie looked for all the world like a real business woman with her own premises. Gone was the leather jacket and the henna died hair, and in their place were a trouser suit and a neatly trimmed bob.

"Hi, Ange," he greeted cheerfully, "how's life?"

It took a moment for the young woman to realise who she was seeing, and then her face broke into a huge grin. Recognition had taken some time, but the two had seen a lot of life together, and even though it had been a long time, Richard Ryan was unmistakable.

"Richie," she said jovially, "you grew up."

The young Immortal looked down at himself quizzically, her comment made him glad that even if he was ageless, he wasn't going to look eighteen all his life.

"I suppose I did," he replied with an enigmatic smile. "You turned out quite well yourself."

That brought a laugh from the ex-biker groupie, and before she replied, much to the surprise of those in the room, she threw her arms around the man who to everybody else was a complete stranger. Angie wasn't known for her tactile exhibits of emotion, well not at work anyway, and the fact that she enfolded in an embrace someone nobody had laid eyes on before, brought a few looks.

"It's good to see you," she said sincerely totally unaware of the interest she was gaining, "it's been too long."

"That's what I thought," he replied as the two broke apart and just looked each other up and down for a moment. "You're looking ravishingly businesslike today."

Angie smiled at the compliment and put her head on one side to read the embossing on the button of his jacket cuff.

"A labelled brand no less," she observed in reply, "have we gone into bank robbery now?"

"No," he responded quickly with laughter in his voice, "but when one has lived in Paris one must maintain a certain standard."

For that she hit him, now that was a reaction the residents were used to and most lost interest. He looked at her with mock shock on his face, and then his expression broke into a broad grin.

"Maybe you haven't changed that much after all," he said buoyantly as the suspicious man returned to his position behind the counter.

Angie turned to the burly individual and patted him on the arm.

"Steve, this is Richie Ryan," she introduced warmly, "a friend from the bad old days when I used to work in the kitchen. Richie this is Steve, the strong arm of this operation."

"Nice to meet you," the young Immortal said genuinely, and at last the suspicion was gone from the other's eyes.

"Any friend of Ange," Steve returned calmly and the two men shook hands in a respectful, if not chummy way.

Even if Angie didn't see it, the older man recognised an individual who could handle himself. It was one of the reasons he had suspected trouble in the first place, but now he was happy to leave this situation in his boss' care.

"Let's go to my office," the young woman said brightly, "and then we can catch up over a cup of something."

"You have an office? " Richie returned cheerfully, and as she tucked her hand round his arm he noticed the sapphire ring on her fourth finger.

He found to his great relief that the conclusion he drew from this was not even remotely tinged with jealousy, as it could have been at one time. Instead, the new information filled him with ecstatic happiness for his old friend. He kept his silence until the door closed, and then he expressed his reaction.

"Congratulations, Mademoiselle," he said brightly and took an offered seat, "who's the lucky man?"

That brought a slight look of surprise to his friend's face, she hadn't expected him to notice. As she glanced at the ring there was no hiding the look of deep love in her eyes.

"Well I was thinking of living my life as a nun after you upped and left," she said sarcastically and walked over to where the beverages waited on a stand, "but then I changed my mind and threw myself at this rich doctor type."

Richie laughed, Angie wasn't the sort to throw herself at anyone.

"More like you threw him at your feet," he shot back light-heartedly, "you forget, Ange, I've known you a long time."

She passed him a mug of steaming liquid, and then drew her chair out from behind the desk and sat down.

"Well maybe a bit of both," she agreed contentedly and took a sip of her drink.

"Go on then," was the continuation from her friend, he had never been the patient type, "give the details."

A bright smile lit up her face at his insistence and she paused, making him wait that little bit longer.

"Okay," she said finally, "his name's John, and at the moment he's only a poor resident, but soon he's going to be a rich neuro-surgeon, which means I will be able to buy a car that does not have 70,00 miles on the clock."

Richie winced at the reference, Ange obviously had a long memory and was never going to let him forget his short stint as a used car salesman.

"We've been engaged for two months and the wedding's set for June," she continued cheerfully, "and if you stick around that long I'll add you to the guest list. We met when I broke my finger lifting some boxes out back and had to go to the hospital. You could say it was love at first sight. We went on a few dates and then he invited me home to meet his parents. You should see where they live, you could build a multi-storey in their garden. Well much to my surprise I hit it off with his mother straight away. I must admit I'd been expecting the third degree for me, a lowly street brat, having had the cheek to waylay the son of such a wealthy family, but nothing of the kind. Jennifer is a lovely woman who, believe it or not, had a passion for motorbikes when she was a girl. "

She grinned at him broadly.

"My life has fallen into place," she confirmed happily. "But how about you, my old friend, how is life with you? I can see that you have no problem on the money front, but what have you been up to since we last met?"

"You wouldn't believe half of it," he told her jovially, "and the rest is not particularly interesting. I'm still hanging out with MacLeod some of the time, and I've been moving around. Paris is nice, Mac has a dojo which is nice too. I took up racing for a while, now, who knows."

After taking a sip of her drink and looking Richie up and down once more, Angie decided it was worth pushing him. In the past no one ever squeezed out of this young man any more than he wanted to give, but she was pretty sure that this time he wanted to talk.

"So how is MacLeod these days," she asked lightly, "and for that matter how's Tessa?"

A pang of grief hit Richie at that question, something he hadn't expected, and he hid it by taking a long swig of the drink in his hand. The heated liquid burned, but not as much as being reminded of a lost friend. Tessa had died quite some time ago, and there had been the incident with Lisa since, but the direct question from someone who didn't know still cut deeply.

"Mac's fine," he responded eventually, having fought down the emotion, "the antiques business is flourishing and life's going great. Tessa isn't with us anymore, she was killed by a mugger, Duncan's over it now."

"Oh god, Richie, I'm sorry," Ange said almost instantly, "I really blundered in there."

A half sad smile played across the young Immortal's lips, but it was gone in an instant.

"Forget it," he responded quickly, "it's long past. Tessa's gone and not even Mac can bring her back, the topic was bound to come up sometime. Let's concentrate on the living shall we."

He raised his mug in informal salute to the past and the future and that closed the topic of conversation.

End of Part 1