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"So, have you heard from Richie lately?" Joe enquired of his
companion; he was trying to sound unconcerned, but he had spoken
little to his young friend since his guest had moved in.
The man wasn't exactly mad at Richie for the way he'd acted, but he
knew that there were some things he needed to discuss with his
comrade. What either man had seen of him had been brief, and Joe
hadn't seen the youth at all in a week.
Duncan looked up from the computer where he'd been working on his
accounts, his gaze showing that he'd noticed the less than subtle
question for what it was. The Highlander smiled at his companion;
Joe made a face and admitted hotly, "Well, I'm worried, last time I
saw him he snapped my head off, metaphorically speaking, I haven't
seen him so short-tempered since..." The man trailed off as he
realised when that last time was.
"Since Haresh Clay," MacLeod hadn't made four hundred without some
intuition, but he seemed to take the association more easily than the
Watcher and reassured, "Look, Joe, Richie's a big boy now, we can't
chose his life for him, much as we'd both like to throttle him
The look on Duncan's face told Joe that he wasn't alone in his
anxiety; the Watcher couldn't recall anyone who made him feel quite
so much like a parent as the wayward young Immortal, and he knew the
Scot felt very much the same thing. He'd realised a long time ago
that Watching Immortals and befriending them didn't mix, but he kept
on trying anyway. Altea was still one of 'the others', Immortals to
be Watched not with whom to associate, and he wondered if she'd ever
be more than that to him. She was dangerous, of that the man was
sure, he'd seen in her eyes when she'd attacked him, and he was
concerned for Richie's head.
"I know," Joe frowned at his admission, "but Altea...well I just
don't think she's good for him."
At that, MacLeod grinned and shook his head. The bearded man gave
him a black look, but the Clansman was still grinning as he observed,
"He thinks he's in love, and only time will tell us if there's
anything in it." He straightened then and continued, "Richie can
handle himself at least physically when it comes to Altea, and I
think he feels he needs to help her. I hope to god she doesn't hurt
him, he's seen enough grief in the last year, but he has to find that
out for himself."
At last, Joe nodded with a sigh and the look which passed between the
two men spoke of the mutual, but necessarily restrained care for
their young friend. However, in a second, the glance was gone, and
Joe was more than aware of the meaning of MacLeod's scan of the main
door. The identity of the figure who walked in did not surprise him,
but his appearance did. Richie looked very much worse for wear.
Stubble accentuated the young man's chin and his skin was pale,
making greyness around his normally bright eyes all the more
striking. His face was set in a frown, and his stride was flat. The
Watcher didn't try to hide his reaction to his friend's condition,
but his unspoken opinion only seemed to darken the young man's mood.
"I know, I look like hell," Richie snarled acidly as he walked over
to the office; however, Joe was a little heartened as a guilty look
crossed the youth's face as he realised what he'd said and he
continued immediately, "I'm sorry, Joe, I'm just a grouch today."
"Woman trouble?" MacLeod asked as innocent as a babe.
Ryan's black look returned as he glared at his friend for that little
dig, but Mac just grinned and pressed on, "Come on Rich, it can't be
that bad, she's still here isn't she?"
"Yes, she's still here," the young man answered flatly, his
enthusiasm appearing to have waned, "but most of my crockery is in
pieces and for once I'm glad bruises don't stick around on
"Oh," the listeners said in unison and glanced at each other.
"I can't get through to her on any level," Richie complained more
plaintively as the others showed at least a little sympathy. "She
just doesn't want anything to do with me, or this city, or even this
The youth paused, but there was more to come, and Joe followed
Duncan's lead in merely waiting. He felt for his friend, but in
truth, he couldn't shake the feeling that maybe it was better the
relationship ended swiftly before things went any further.
"She obeys me completely," he sighed, a mixture of anger and sadness
in his face, "I think I could tell her to do anything and she would."
Richie's tone made it more than clear that devotion was not the
reason for this woman's obedience and the idea seemed to make him
uncomfortable. "She knows I wouldn't touch her and she's using that
to get at me. The woman walks around my apartment naked," he moaned,
an acute frustration in his voice as he leant his forehead against
the door post. "I only have so much self-control -- my showers are so
cold they'd make a yeti shiver!"
Joe couldn't help it, the image in his head at the disclosure just
struck him as funny; he glanced at Duncan, and there was a laugh
being stifled in that face as well. Alone, they might have been able
to hold it back, but they corpsed each other.
"Thanks for the support, guys," Richie snarled defensively, "I'm
trying to sort out your little problem, and all you can do is
laugh." He glared at Joe and the Watcher fell silent, any amusement
gone at the accusation hidden in the words. Yet, again, the young
man's temper caught up with him, and he seemed disappointed in
"There I go again," he lamented, and apologised a second time, "I'm
sorry Joe, I didn't mean that. Altea's just got me so damn angry
that I'll lash out at anyone."
"Maybe it was never meant to be," the mortal patted his friend's arm
as he decided to voice his opinion.
Richie's reaction was forceful, and with a fire in his eyes he
returned hotly, "No! I won't let her down. Even if she doesn't know
it, Altea needs help, a friend."
"Hey, calm down," Duncan stood and used his full height to step
between the two men.
Joe moved back and was ready for the apologetic look he received;
Richie didn't bother to voice the thought this time, he just sighed
and told them, "If I could just talk to her, make her see, but if I
try, she starts a fight or runs away. She never goes far, but I
always manage to lose her in the city. When she comes back, it
starts all over again. I just need some time alone with her."
Richie's friends were startled by his vehemence, only then realising
that the young man was at his wits' end. Joe suddenly felt guilty
for trying to undermine the faith Richie was putting into this
relationship. Instead of making any more remarks, the Watcher
remained silent, letting MacLeod handle the youth's frustration.
"How about the island?" the Scot suggested on what appeared to be a
stroke of genius. Richie gave him a curious look asking for
clarification, and was given it in, "Well, it's in the middle of a
lake, Altea can't go far, it will give you the time alone, and
there's nothing breakable....except you."
Duncan grinned impishly at his last suggestion, and it was
infectious. The idea seemed to give the youth a new strain of hope
on which to bolster his spirits, and as he made sense of his friend's
offer, the corners of his lips curled upwards.
"Thanks, Mac," he breathed sincerely, and his eyes brightened as new
possibilities were visibly firing off in his thoughts.
Joe was astounded at the change in energy level of the young
Immortal; from grey and listless, his shoulders straightened, he
gained a few inches in height and his face lit up. He seemed
suddenly restless. MacLeod laughed at the obvious wont to be gone up
the new avenue of possibility.
"Go on," he turned back to his desk and waved his friend to the door,
"we'll see you in a few days. Just don't blame me if Altea decks you
when you dump her in the middle of nowhere."
"I won't," Richie responded, almost not listening to what he was
saying as his feet carried him towards the exit; his mind was
definitely on the future, and he just about remembered to shout a
goodbye as he disappeared round the door frame.
Joe turned back to the Highlander as the young form exited the dojo,
and there was only one thing he could find to say.
"He's definitely in love."
Cold, but slightly interested eyes watched as Richie left the dojo.
Felicia couldn't help admiring how much he had changed since their
last encounter. Then he had been a clumsy kid ... although he had
tried hard ... now there was that unmistakable quality about him that
spoke of danger. She was no fool, she knew he'd developed into quite
a fighter, but once she'd finished with him he would be just as dead
as if he was still the boy. Maybe she could have some fun first.
The motorbike was a nice touch as far as Felicia was concerned and
she watched him ride away with a small smile on her face. It would be
a shame to put an end to such a fine example of the human species,
but he wouldn't fall for her tricks like the Highlander almost had,
and she would take him whilst she was still sure she could. Going
into a fight she might loose was not in Felicia's mindset, and she
was confident that Duncan MacLeod would soon be short one student.
The battle would keep, however, Richard Ryan and whoever he was
shacked up with weren't going anywhere just yet. No one knew she was
in the city and time was on her side. She had watched his routines,
and there was plenty of opportunity to plan her attack. That was if
the hell cat of a woman with whom he was sharing an apartment didn't
take him apart first. Felicia had never been close enough to really
find out about the vixen Richie spent so much of his time with, but
she found the obviously explosive relationship very amusing.
"I'll show you fireworks you won't forget," the woman whispered to
herself as she watched her quarry disappear, "see you soon, babe."
Then she turned and walked away in the opposite direction, her mind
working through gruesome scenarios which left her expression
The stilted way in which she held onto his waist told Richie that the
woman sat behind him was uncomfortable and hostile. There wasn't
much chance for conversation when wearing a crash helmet, but body
language was more than enough to tell the young Immortal that Altea
was not happy with him.
'So what's new?' he thought to himself as he drew his bike to a stop
in the deserted open space that was the start of MacLeod's favourite
For a moment he paused there, allowing himself to be distracted by
the immense presence of nature which spread out before him. Yet, as
his pillion shifted impatiently behind him, waiting for his lead, but
expressing her dissatisfaction none-the-less, Richie sighed. The
sound was hidden by the helmet, but his warrior-trained companion
felt the gesture through touch, and she stiffened. Deliberately,
Ryan pulled off the protective head-covering and turned in his seat
to look into the hostile eyes through Altea's visor.
"We're here," he announced rather lamely.
The young woman had made eye-contact with him, always quietly defiant
-- of what - Richie didn't know. Yet, as soon as she was given
leave, the exotic creature's gaze was gone and she slipped gracefully
off the machine. Richie watched her move, fluid, precise, and he was
caught for a moment; trapped by the fine lines of her body displayed
through the close-fitting biker's leathers she had selected.
Cascades of hair tumbled over her petite shoulders as she too removed
her helmet. Then bright eyes surveyed him again, and Ryan turned
quickly back to his bike as those dark pool narrowed at his
Taking a deep breath to calm the fire in his heart, the young man
secured the bike and climbed off, taking another moment before he
faced the animosity once more. Conflict was a wearing state of
affairs -- Richie hoped Mac's idea would provide a solution. For
now, he steeled himself for some kind of attack, mental or physical,
he couldn't be sure, Altea wasn't predictable in that respect, he
just knew that she wasn't going to like it when he told her that this
wasn't the extent of their outing. Revealing his insecurity about
her around Altea never did Richie any good, so he tried to seem
confident as he forced himself to stare into that beautifully aloof
The young woman stood off a little way, far enough to launch or
defend against any assault, always just out of reach, careful,
distrustful. The Immortal idly wondered where she'd concealed her
labrys. As he registered her coolness, Ryan decided explanation
could wait until there was no escaping his immediate vicinity, then
she could scream, shout, hit him, but she couldn't desert another
confrontation. Instead, he played the role he thought she was half
expected, the same way he had to get her out of the apartment, he
slipped the Immortal ice into his manner and told her, "We're going
across the lake, there's a boat."
Altea's eyes flashed a moment at the order and her companion held his
breath for fireworks. Yet, none came. The anger seemed to have be
reconsidered in the moment it was conceived, and tight-lipped, the
young stalked off towards the water; the contrary nature of his guest
never ceased to amaze or attract Richard Ryan, and a little perplexed
by feminine wiles, he began to remove his hold all from his bike.
Richie gave his companion a few minutes alone in her new
surroundings, feigning attention to his bike, but watching her still
form by the edge of the lake. He hoped his senses weren't deceiving
him as he thought he saw the tension in her shoulders release a
little. The youth wondered if this was close to the home she had
known so many centuries again - natural, untouched by modern man.
'Well it's as close as I can get," he mused.
The young man warmed to the freedom in Altea's balanced stance as he
observed it discreetly. Yet he wasn't naive enough to expect it to
last as he finally made his approach. The Amazon's disposition
cooled as she registered his footsteps. Saddened by the effect he
had on the timeless beauty, Richie put it aside as he drew level with
her. He kept his eyes front as she did, surveying the calm lake with
their goal at its centre.
"It's beautiful," he murmured.
Altea didn't reply, leaving the young man with the consolation that
at least she hadn't derided his observation. He fell silent. The
brush of the wind and a call of a hawk over the northern lake were
the only sounds to disturb the peace. Yet it had to end, and the
Amazon broke it this time.
"You don't fit in here," she perceived as she turned to regard her
The statement was matter-of-fact, and Richie sensed no maliciousness
attached to it, but he couldn't stifle the hurt the unintentional
insult gave him. She must have seen him twitch at the sting of her
words as he looked quickly away, and Richie was surprised as she
qualified the disclosure in a way that almost sounded like an
"I meant no offence," the young woman continued, "but you are no
"No, I'm not," the youth replied, but chose not to answer the hidden
request for an explanation of their presence out of town that lay
underneath their almost friendly remarks. "Let's go."
The young man walked off towards the jetty without waiting for any
reaction from his fellow.
It was getting on for two o'clock, and the air was losing the heat of
noon. It had threatened rain around lunch time, but the Autumn
weather had held off for the beginning of a beautiful afternoon. What
was not so pleasant for the world was the woman standing in the
shadows across the street from Richie's home. Felicia had spent the
later part of the morning spending money that was not hers, but now
she was once again the Immortal hunter waiting for her prey. If her
victim stuck to his habitual routine he would be returning very soon.
He usually spent at least some time before midday in a waterside cafe
with a computer. What he did, Felicia had never ascertained, but she
wasn't there to step into the head of the man she wished to kill.
There was no movement from the windows, and there were no sounds
making their way into the warm air, which was quite strange for
around this time of day. It was possible that the couple had gone out
together, but unlikely. The more plausible scenario was that the
vixen had abandoned the den and her lap dog would return to find her
absent. Felicia took perverse pleasure in watching the tigress run
rings around Richie. It was entertaining seeing him disappointed or
angry because the 'little woman' wasn't playing nice.
Altea watched Richie's back as he climbed out of the row-boat. He
hadn't said anything since the shore, just stared at her as he rowed.
She wondered if she'd really hurt him with the 'no woodsman' quip,
and then asked herself why she should be bothered even if she had. He
was a man, one who didn't know his place -- but then, maybe he did,
in this place and time. The young woman's conscience piqued for a
moment as she thought about how such a put down would have affected
her, but she buried it quickly with the knowledge that she was here
in yet another strange place at this man's behest, no explanation and
no consideration for her wishes. It was time that an Amazon had
Climbing out of the boat, the warrior woman stood tall on the small
piece of shore and called out haughtily, "You will tell me why we are
He turned. Altea raised her chin and stared him down. Richie didn't
even try and win the glaring competition, he was obviously tired, and
dropped his gaze quickly. Yet, the Amazon felt a little frustrated
as she recognised the fact that she got no satisfaction from winning
the little competition.
"Well?" she demanded, trying to find some compensation in disdain.
"There's a cabin, we're staying here for a few days," Ryan began.
Altea bristled as he tried to be as cold in his manner as she; modern
men were weak, they showed too many emotions, she wanted to find it
disgusting, but as the weariness showed in Richie's face she could do
no more than deny that she saw it. Yet she was not going to be
satisfied, and the young woman protested again, "Why?!"
"Look," Richie gestured wildly and the Amazon stifled a tremble as
his intense blue eyes met her own gaze; they calmed simultaneously,
Richie to a resignation that showed in his manner as he rested one
hand on his hip and continued, "We need to sort this -- no us, we
need to sort out us."
"Us -- there is no us!" Altea responded out of defensive instinct and
stalked rapidly up the beach to where the focus of all her anger was
"That's what I mean," the man was not backing off as they came
almost nose to nose.
"How dare you!" the Amazon hissed dangerously as her values were
insulted by the upstart of a male.
The woman wasn't quite sure why she then reacted as she did, maybe it
was the depth and emotion in his open gaze, maybe just his audacity,
maybe her own confusion -- whatever, it brought out her defences in
all their forms. With a scream that only just resisted being a war
cry, Altea lashed out. Ryan was a warrior, he reacted with speed and
agility, but only to avoid her swipe. That made her angry. Why
didn't he ever fight back? She wanted him to react, be cruel, give
her reason for her rage. Yet, he had never raised a hand to her, and
now was no different. That just made her madder.
"Runt!" she yelled and pressed on into him.
Her hands formed frighteningly easily into fists, and she tried to
pummel at his chest. Richie didn't back off this time, just
scrabbled to grab her wrists. Altea twisted out of his grips even as
they were made, but he just reached again, and again. She caught her
opponent hard a couple of times, but mostly her blows were deflected
and neither side seemed to be winning. The young woman growled as
the stalemate merely fed her frustration, and she chose another
tactic. She put all her anger behind one almighty thrust of her
whole body. She came close to him, close enough to breathe in his
scent. The woman screamed again, but not at him, at the confusion in
her own soul that was inspired by the proximity, and she finished the
shove in perplexity. It was a relief as he fell away from her,
upended by the sudden movement, and immediately the Amazon stalked
Altea halted as she reached the cover of the trees and took a glance
over her shoulder. She wasn't sure what she felt, but it was nowhere
near the satisfaction for which she was hoping as he saw her
opponent. He was sitting in a heap on the scrappy piece of sand
where she had pushed him, his head in his hands. The young woman
denied the feelings the dejected figure inspired in her; they weren't
right or proper. She couldn't care about this man, she was bound to
him by duty...or was she? Altea ran away from that thought as she
fled the landing area.
Her eyes were on his back -- again. Richie could feel his
companion's stare as if it were a physical act, and he'd been trying
to ignore it since beginning to make the campfire outside the cabin.
It wasn't that her gaze bothered him, quite the opposite in fact, he
liked being the focus of her attention, that was the problem. The
young woman wasn't about to miss how much her regard affected him.
Yet, since she had joined him at the cabin a few minutes ago, he
hadn't found her observation any where near as hostile as before, and
he was reluctant to break the calm, rather comfortable mood into
which they had both settled, he the worker, she the observer. He'd
been extra careful as he built the fire from the materials he had
gathered over the last half hour, heeding Mac's instruction; he
realised he was trying to prove wrong a statement he himself had
accepted as true, he wasn't as at home in the wilderness as MacLeod,
he was a city kid, but no one had ever said he couldn't learn.
'There I go, comparing myself to Mac again,' he mentally chided
himself, but still smiled in satisfaction as he finished a fairly
He swivelled in the crouch he'd taken up to make the wooden
construction and grinned at Altea. If he'd been hoping for approval,
then he found none, but then neither was there disapproval. The
young woman's gaze was thoughtful, and she seemed a little surprised
that he was interested in her opinion. Richie sighed and bowed his
head as the differences between them once again became obvious.
'Why the hell should she care?' he asked himself again.
Yet, Richie wasn't in the mood for self-defeat, and decided that it
was time to broach the problem once more. His companion seemed
calmer than before, apparently accepting his choice of surroundings,
so he stood and walked slowly across to her. She blinked up at him
from her seat on the grass -- at least she wasn't getting to her feet
in defence of her position. The young man took the lack of hostility
as an invitation to sit and was pleasantly surprised that her regard
did not change.
The status quo held until he opened his mouth.
"Altea, we need to talk," he began, hanging back from the commanding
manner he had to use to gain any obedience, this had to voluntary.
The pessimist in Richie was not disappointed as he looked into the
beautiful features, which clouded at his impudence. Yet the woman
stayed rooted to the spot, her stare cold, but daring him to
continue. Well aware that he was playing with fire, Ryan pressed on.
"You say there's no us," the young man breathed heavily, "but as long
as we're together, there is, and we have to work out what that
He paused; there was only statuesque chill from his companion.
Richie took his courage in both hands and jumped off the cliff.
"I think you know how I feel."
He stopped at Altea's abrupt reaction. She stood and backed off, her
glare as black as he'd ever seen it. The young man hit the rocks at
the bottom of his precipice and he knew he'd stepped off the ledge
too soon. The intense creature's whole manner announced her disgust
at his apparent revelation, and Richie wasn't sure if she was faking.
Had he misjudged the woman that badly? God he'd been wrong before,
but this was so different. Crestfallen, the youth didn't even try to
follow, as for the second time in less than two hours, Altea stormed
away from him.
For a moment, the young man felt shame and hurt at the way she
obviously viewed him. Then, very suddenly, it welled up into a rage.
For the first time, he let out the frustration he'd been feeling
since first trying to communicate with the wild woman, and he yelled
wordlessly. He didn't care anymore, she could damn well know what
she was doing to him, and he howled at the world. In the midst of
his expression, Ryan picked up a stone which came to hand and hurled
it at the most convenient thing he could destroy. The unlit fire
crumpled as his missile splintered its main stays. Richie stared at
his broken work for a few moments, but then closed his eyes against
the world and his mind against the fury.
It was almost dark, and the temperature had cooled considerably. The
twilight hid a very annoyed Immortal. Felicia had waited all
afternoon, and not a sign of her prey. There had been nothing from
either of the occupants of the apartment, and she was beginning to
realise that they might not be coming back in the near future. She
should have at least seen "the bitch" by now. Was it possible that
she'd actually been spotted? Had her victim run away? Ideas flew
through her mind at tremendous speed, and each one made her all the
more angry. Throwing caution to the wind she strode out of her hiding
place and across the road to the building.
The locks were no obstacle to a woman of Felicia's experience and
those she did not have the patience to open she kicked in. The cold
fury at the audacity of her prey to run away was slowly growing as
the concept settled in her mind with irrational surety. The final
door opened with a loud bang, something the neighbours would not
think anything of after living next door to the rowing couple.
There was nothing in the living area to indicate that anything was
out of the ordinary, but then Felicia hadn't expected there to be.
With an impatient speed she crossed the apartment to the bedroom
area, and she saw everything she needed to see. Several draws were
slightly open, and there were two discarded bags on the floor. Some
one had packed in a hurry.
"How dare you!" it started low and built as the phrase went on, until
the furious Immortal shouted the last word. She was very unhappy, and
that made her violent.
The first thing that came to hand was a lamp sitting on a table by
the door. She picked it up, and unheeding of the fact that it was
still attached to the wall, she threw it as hard as she could. It's
flight was not graceful. It arched across the room with un-
aerodynamic twists, and almost came to complete, shuddering halt as
the flex stretched to it's limit. It's momentum cut is dived towards
the floor and shattered with a loud, gratifying crash. Pieces of
glass from the bulb spread out across the wooden floor, and the cheap
china fanned around the wreckage far beyond any help of repair.
The pieces crunched under foot as the furious Immortal walked further
into the room, hell bent on destruction. She pulled the bed apart,
using a short hunting knife she carried in her pocket she sliced the
mattress to pieces. Her rage would allow nothing but total
devastation, and she set about her task with an enthusiasm that was
beyond the psychotic. The draws were next and they flew across the
room, strewing their contents on the floor as the went, and hitting
the far wall with splintering force. Anything that was breakable and
some things that didn't at first seem to be were picked up and
smashed or crumpled. The noise could have woken the dead, but nobody
came to investigate.
Once the bedroom area looked as if it had been hit by a nuclear war
Felicia moved onto the living room. The TV was the first to go as she
forced a small stool through it. It sparked and died without a fight,
it's tube imploding as the force hit it. There was little chance for
the VCR, and it degenerated into little pieces as the Immortal picked
it up, and almost absently, just dropped it. She worked her way
through everything, nothing went untouched. Furniture caved at the
touch of the knife and ornaments did not bounce. The evil woman took
especial pleasure in smashing a photo of Richie and Duncan which sat
on the sideboard, and ground the glass into the picture with the heel
of her foot.
She was like a tornado, ever moving and destroying everything in her
path. It was only when there was nothing left to break that she
finally came to a halt. As she looked around her rage began to
dissipate, and it was replaced by the cold calculating mind.
"No one can disappear," she said more to herself than the rest of the
world, "I'll find you Ryan."
The mess was complete, but strewn here and there were some
significant items that gave her ideas. With one last look at what she
had done Felicia picked up the address book laying at her feet and
walked towards the door. She paused momentarily at the frame, playing
with the idea of setting alight the bonfire she had built, but
decided against it. It would be better for the devastation to be seen
first hand, rather than through ashes, since she had worked so hard.
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