There was something about the two men who walked into the Haven that just made Kindred look at them. Two Toreadors, one Gangrel and three Brujah all found that they were watching the two walk towards the bar with more than just a passing glance.
"Mac, will you stop following me around," the younger, blond one of the two protested as his companion sat down at the bar beside him. "You know I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself, so what the hell's got into you this time."
"You're hunting a man who used to be my friend, Richie," Mac said calmly, "I know him better than you, and I want to know what changed him."
Now to most of the people in the club, their conversation was inaudible, but of course to the various groups of vampires, listening in was no challenge. The word hunting caught most attentions.
"He's mine, MacLeod," the shorter man said evenly, but firmly, "I was the one he tried to kill. It wasn't some game, Mac, this was like an attempt to permanently terminate me. Now my information says he comes here, and this is where I'm going to stay until I find the bastard."
The Highlander looked at his young friend for a long moment and finally nodded. He had no right to interfere. There had been a challenge and Damon had run off when he failed to win. MacLeod had been trying to talk his protege out of going after the older Immortal for three days now, following him here had been a last resort.
"Okay," he said with a resigned expression, "but at least let me buy you a drink. It's just hard for me to believe what he has become, he used to be such a good man."
"Sorry, Mac, but he's not anymore," his companion replied.
That was the point in the conversation when most of the listeners lost interest, it seemed that anything worth hearing had already been said. A discussion about what to drink was not going to hold anyone's attention for long. When Frank walked into the bar, everything seemed to be perfectly normal.
Okay, so Kindred made him nervous, but he was damned if he was going to stay away from them and play the intimidated cop. His partner was one of them for a start, and Sonny was an okay guy, in fact he seemed perfectly normal most of the time. They were people, the young officer kept telling himself, they just had a weird set of rules. He wanted to know as much about them as possible: forewarned was forearmed, and he realised this. Being angry at them most of the time did help him hide the fact that he was anxious about being anywhere near them. It was the Brujah that made him really edgy, but that had a lot to do with him being a cop and them being the mob.
The officer noted an empty stool by the bar next to a young looking man in a brown leather jacket, and made a bee-line for it. For all he knew the guy he chose to sit next to was a vampire, but what the hell. He didn't notice the slight hiccup in the conversation as he sat down as the younger of the two covered easily.
"So you know this place," the blond man was saying to his companion as Frank ordered a drink, "how come?"
"I was friends with the owner once," the dark man with the ponytail replied and gained Frank's interest.
Now the police officer thought that Lillie had owned the club for a very long time, the odds on these two being Kindred was going up. Neither of them looked old enough to quite fit how the taller of the two had said `once'. The younger one of the pair had obviously picked up on the use of the word as well.
"Oh," he said with a half smile, "old, old friend or just old friend?"
That might have sounded like a peculiar question, but the three people who were still listening took it in their stride. The two Toreadors in the corner looked at each other questioningly. Was it possible that these two were vampires that had managed to fake humanity? They had heart beats and they smelt human, but could it be some sort of trick? Was it possible that they were Tremere cloaked in some form of illusion? This was definitely something for which it was worth alerting Lillie. One of them slipped out of their seat quickly.
"Just a passing acquaintance," Duncan told Richie with a smile, "and it was quite a while ago. This place is a lot different from the one I knew."
Lillie had been expecting Julian to turn up any time, so she was not pleased when there was a knock on the door and it was not the Prince. It was, however, with her habitual curiosity that she listened to her subordinate intently. The description the young female Toreador gave her could have been many people in the area, but the name rang a bell.
"I knew a MacLeod once," she said, half to herself, half to her companion, "but that was sixty years ago, and he was mortal."
She looked at her subordinate contemplatively for a few moments. The meeting with Julian could be important, but could this turn out to be more interesting. She was of course fighting the eternal Kindred curse: boredom. Playing with a man who claimed to know her might be fun, and she could always break off when Luna decided to show up.
"I'll be down in a few minutes," she told her companion, "keep an eye on them `til then."
"Of course," the woman replied with a smile as she saw the glint in her Primogen's eyes. "Oh, and the Prince's cop is downstairs as well, came in a few minutes after the other two."
Lillie's red covered lips drew into a smile to match her companion's, maybe there was more fun to be had this evening than she had first thought.
When the head of the Toreador clan walked across the floor of her club, she was at her most devastating. Her ability to snare men was unequalled, and several of the mortals around found their partners disapproving of the attention they gave the stunning woman. Her Kindred minions smiled approvingly as she passed, and those of other clans did their best to ignore her without being rude. It was only as Lillie walked through the see of parting bodies towards the bar and actually laid eyes on the back of her quarry that she almost faltered.
The black hair and the square set of the shoulders struck a chord in her that she could not quite dismiss. The brief affair she had had with a dark eyed Scot so many years ago had made an impression on the wild Toreador, and something stirred within her. It was when she heard him speak to his companion in a deep voice with the slightest hint of an accent that her heart actually beat in her chest. Her reaction actually caused her clan to stop in mid sentence as the situation became suddenly interesting.
It was half way through a comment to Richie that Duncan felt a slight tingling between his shoulder blades. It was the most concrete feeling of being watched that he'd ever experienced and he turned slowly. Two pairs of eyes opened wide in complete shock.
"Duncan MacLeod?" Lillie's voice was half questioning, half totally sure.
"Lillie?" the Highlander sent back his own unresolved enquiry.
Now Duncan's hormones slipped quite easily back into the total control they had held the last time he had seen Lillie Langtry, and as for the vampire, her Toreador blood came out full force. The two stared at each other in motionless disbelief for just a second and then they both moved. Mac moved forward and Lillie threw herself at the man she'd never thought to see again. The two caught each other in a fierce irrational embrace in the middle of a very public club. They clung to each other as if their Immortal lives depended on it, but eventually the spell had to break.
Both brains clicked in at the same moment and they drew apart.
"But you're not," the two of them started at exactly the same time.
Neither of them chose to finish the sentence.
Richie and Frank were sat next to each other, both slightly shocked by the incident. The pair had never seen the half of the two other people they knew, react in quite the same way to anyone else.
"I'd say they know each other," the Immortal of the pair of men said with half a smile on his face.
"Yeah," Frank agreed in only the way a total stranger could.
Lillie became aware of her clan responsibilities once more and smiled awkwardly.
"Lets go upstairs," she said with a smile and firmly refused to look at any of the faces watching at her, "we can talk."
A not quite decided glance was sent in Richie's direction by the Highlander as the club took the hint and conversation started again. Now the division in those eyes the younger Immortal understood completely.
"Go, Mac," he said with a knowing grin, "I can drink alone."
He'd seen the Highlander under Amanda's feminine spell before, but even she didn't quite have the same effect as Lillie. A woman's wiles were no competition for those of a vampire and Mac was one hundred percent caught. Of course, the Toreador was as much at the mercy of her urges as the man in her clutches, and she had no idea that his Immortal physiology was affecting her.
"Don't get into trouble," was all the normally level headed Highlander managed before the pair fled the public arena.
Richie found that hysterically funny, considering who was being led across the floor in a total daze. The young Immortal turned back to his drink as his friend disappeared still chuckling. He noted the fact that the man sitting next to him was trying not to appear interested in the whole thing, and was immediately intrigued.
Ordinarily, the blond man would have set to scoping out the local night life, but today he had other things on his mind. He was waiting for an Immortal, and a young lady on his arm when his quarry walked in would not be the easiest thing with which to cope. Talking to the guy that seemed to be interesting would be far more suitable.
"Don't you hate it when that happens," Richie said chattily as Frank tried to pretend he was purveying the local talent.
The smile was friendly, the tone amiable, but the look in the Immortal's eyes warned the cop that all was not quite as it seemed. What he appeared to be looking at was a teenager drinking illegally in a night club, who had just lost his older companion. Frank already knew that this man was older than he looked when the bartender had checked his ID, something to which he had seemed resigned. There was also something about the way he held himself, an air that would have told rivals that this man knew how to take care of himself. The brown haired man was almost certain he was about to enter a conversation with a Kindred.
"Par for the course around here," Frank returned with a smile of his own.
Well if he wanted to know about them, he was going to have to talk to more than Lillie and Julian.
"You from out of town?" he enquired conversationally.
"Yep," the younger looking of the two replied, "just in the area looking for a business associate. San Francisco is a nice city, and it's warmer down here than up north."
"Nights are shorter though," Frank decided to see what sort of reaction he could get.
To his surprise the man sitting next to him just grinned and cast an eye around the room.
"Well you can't have everything," he said lightly.
Somehow, Richie realised that he had said just the right thing to keep this conversation rolling, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what. There was an undertone to the discourse that he was trying to figure out. It was not sexual, of that much he was sure, but this guy wanted something from him and he didn't know what that was.
"Richie," he introduced suddenly and stuck out his hand.
"Frank," the other returned almost automatically.
"Well since I seem to have lost the only person I know in this town," the Immortal said amiably, "can I buy you a drink, Frank? Then you can tell where all the local hot spots are."
If it hadn't of been the Haven and a den of vampires, it would have just been two guys getting talking over a beer. As it was, it turned into quite an interesting evening. Frank couldn't say anything open unless he was totally sure of whom he had engaged in conversation, and Richie had no idea what the subtle hints were all about.
Lillie planted a kiss on Duncan's smiling lips almost before the door of the office closed. She hadn't felt a need like the one cursing through her body at that moment for quite some time, and she almost let it consume her. The fact that her desire was more than mirrored in the eyes of her companion did not help matters to be rational.
"Oh, Duncan," she said as his hands ran up the back of her dress, "it's been so long. You should be an old man, but you're still so ... alive."
It was partly a question, but the Highlander was too busy nibbling at Lillie's neck to be interested. All logic had been thrown out the window the moment he'd lain eyes on the beautiful Toreador, and he wasn't even aware enough of this to notice. The Primogen of her clan, however, had not reached that position without a little self control and she pushed her companion away just for a moment.
"What are you?" she asked breathlessly.
He smiled at that, and ran her fingers down the side of her face.
"I could ask the same thing," he returned as if it were the most sensible question in the universe, "but you're not going to tell me, are you. Does it matter, Lillie?" he send back an enquiry of his own. "I'm here, you're here, let's just forget the details."
It was the elemental Duncan MacLeod talking, and at his core, he really didn't care how it was that his lover of so long ago was still alive. She wasn't Immortal so she wasn't a threat, and yet she had not whithered and died as he had seen so many others do. For the brief moment in time, he let himself be happy and ignore all other factors.
There was only so much self control that Lillie could exert, and staring into the Highlander's deep brown eyes she found out where her limit was. With a smile of total abandon she pulled him close.
"You're right," she said seductively, "just don't tell my friends."
Several of his shirt buttons were not up to the test of the Toreador's rather fast fingers. Just about then, Lillie couldn't have cared if the Prince himself was about to walk in, she had thoughts only for getting into Duncan's trousers.
The trail of clothes stretched from close to the door, half way across the room, at which point the pair had given up trying to get any further and had opted for the sheepskin rug on the floor. Mac had noted on his last encounter with her, that Ms Langtry was a strong woman, but he hadn't realised quite how strong until she flipped him onto the rug and straddled him.
"You do things to me, I can't explain," she said with a feral smile. "I like that."
"Always happy to oblige," was the quick response, but he soon lost the ability to speak as Lillie bent forward and started nibbling his torso.
Her nails made little red streaks down his sides, and he couldn't help but respond. This was going to be an experience he wasn't going to forget for a very long time.
"Remember last time?" she enquired with a mischievous glint in her eye, and pulled away slightly.
"How could I forget?" was the honest reply, and a large smile filled the Highlander's features.
Amanda had her interesting quirks, and so did Lillie. The couple had explored many of them last time Duncan had been with her, but there was one that stuck in his mind particularly. Staring into her face he knew that they had the same idea in mind, and it was play time.
The conversation with Frank had petered out slowly, and finally neither of them had been able to find anything else to say without giving away that they were digging for information. It had been just over an hour since the cop had wandered away and found himself a quiet corner of the Haven to just sit and watch. Richie had chatted to a couple more people over that time, but he had not left the bar and he had not tried for anything deeper than a casual comment or two about the music, or some such subject. As soon as a young looking brown haired man sat down next to him and smiled, the Immortal knew he had gained some attention he didn't want.
Alexae had spotted Richie the moment he'd walked in the club, a few minutes previously, and he'd liked what he saw. If he'd been younger and local, one of his clan members would probably have tried to stop him as he approached the young stranger, but Alexae was not your average Kindred. This Toreador was Lillie's personal guest from Europe, an Artiste, respected by his entire clan for his talent, and known for his varied tastes. He was easily the oldest vampire in the club, well over two centuries, and nobody tried to tell him what to do. Yes he happened to have zeroed in on the friend of Lillie's current companion, but there wasn't a Kindred in the place who was going to try and tell him he wasn't allowed. Alexae displayed one of the greatest talents in the Toreador clan, he also displayed most of their weaknesses. Calling this vampire arty was doing a complete injustice to his temperament, and touchy didn't even cover it.
Whether he wanted to paint the Adonis or ravish him wasn't quite decided in Alexae's mind, but a mixture of the two showed in his face. The moment he sat down, Richie began to think it was a good time to move.
"Good evening," the Toreador purred with what had to be considered a very handsome smile.
He was hoping that this young man would not be averse to his company, but the half embarrassed, I'm outta here look appeared in the Immortal's eyes almost immediately. It was unfortunate, but not too much of a problem.
"Ah, hi," Richie said with a fake smile, "I have to be going."
"Oh, you don't want to be doing that," Alexae said smoothly as the blond man went to move, "it's still early."
The dark green eyes snared the young Immortal's gaze and he was trapped. The muscles that had tensed to help him stand relaxed and suddenly his body had decided it didn't want to leave. What the vampire next to him could not have guessed, however, was there happened to be a little part of Richie that was still insisting he should be going. Most of the Immortal was caught, just as any Mortal would have been, but deep inside there was a voice yelling that something really strange was going on here, and it would not quit.
"Can I buy you a drink?" Alexae offered amiably.
"Thanks," Richie returned and smiled, "I'll have the same again."
Other Kindred in the club just looked at each other, a few smiled and others shook their heads. It was quite obvious that a seduction was going on.
After a couple of suggestions that the blond Immortal should be quite happy about the company he was keeping, the conversation was becoming quite animated. The Toreador was in no hurry, and he wanted to get to know the young man before they retired to somewhere more suitable. On the outside, Richie appeared much the same: relaxed, friendly and chatty, but on the inside a slight pressure was building. The little voice of derision was getting louder. An Immortal psyche was not something that should ever be played with, it took a certain control to maintain sanity when a person habitually absorbed other people, and hypnotism could alter that. All Immortal's had a certain degree of natural mental stability, some more so than others, and messing with it was a very bad idea.
Richie's brain thought it was not good as well, and slowly it was sorting out the mess. It was just beginning to occur to Alexae that he was having to exert quite a bit more influence than usual when, as far as he was concerned, the most extraordinary thing happened. One moment he was talking quietly to the young man who's name he had discovered was Richie, and the next the Immortal's head shot up. The reason he was losing control was uncertain, but Alexae saw it instantly and decided he didn't want it to happen. He put every ounce of influence he could muster into the gaze he sent at his companion and managed to snare the young man once more.
"It's nothing," he managed to get out, before he actually felt a mental shove back.
The Toreador could have sworn that he actually saw a spark of light dance across Richie's eyes, and then the young man tore his face away. As far as the Immortal was concerned, the presence of another of his kind had impinged itself on his consciousness and wiped everything else into insignificance. Given time to think he probably would have realised that something strange had been going on, but as it was all he cared about was the man standing just inside the doorway.
Damon spotted Richie at the same moment, and surprisingly he just stood there. He was quite a large man, and he'd been in his twenties when he'd died for the first time. He had short, almost shaved hair and a semi-casual sense of fashion. The folds of his long black overcoat hung with familiar heaviness, and as the two looked at each other he smiled.
Now Kindred could spot animosity a mile away, and it wasn't just Alexae who had noted the atmosphere between the two men. How it had allowed a human to escape the snare of an experienced Toreador, was intriguing. As it was, Richie stood up as if he wasn't even aware he'd been talking to anyone.
The two Immortals took a moment to size each other up, and then, with a flick of his head Damon indicated they should take their discussion outside. A slight nod back and the meeting was arranged. The older looking of the two did a one eighty and left the way he had come, and Richie turned to the barman.
"If my friend ask where I've gone," he said quickly, "tell him I'll meet him at the hotel. Thanks."
Then he to was gone. For a few moments Alexae just sat there a little stunned, then with a half-amused smile he headed for the door. Never let it be said that this Kindred wasn't up for a challenge.
It was only a few seconds later that Frank couldn't contain his curiosity either. However, outside, everyone of interest seemed to have just vanished into thin air. The cop stood there listening to traffic noise for a long moment, and gazing down the street, but there appeared to be no sign of anyone.
"Dammit," he said loudly and glared at a couple of Gangrel perched on a motorbike.
They favoured him with amused smiles, as if they knew exactly what he was up to, before they sped away. It was like watching a rerun of empty world, not a soul remained in sight. He was left with two choices, go back into the club, or just head home, it was after all his night off.
Five minutes later, Frank was still standing there trying to decide what to do, there was just something about this situation that nagged at his instincts. He was almost convinced that it was a Kindred thing going on, but it wouldn't let him just leave it alone. He was beginning to talk himself out of the need to investigate when he heard a faint clanging of metal. With the city noises it was almost masked, but his police trained eyes and ears he narrowed it down to an alley across the street. He didn't need urging on twice, and with an `I don't believe I'm doing this' shake of his head he trotted across the road.
Now Frank had seen some things in his time, but he was not expecting what he found when he rounded the corner in the blind alley. Richie and Damon were doing a very skilful job of trying to carve each other into little pieces, and the nineties police officer's brain rebelled at the idea. Two men were hacking at each other with four foot long swords, well hacking probably wasn't the right word, but it was just about all Frank could come up with. It was only the thought that this might be Kindred business that kept the cop in the shadows.
The Gangrel that had taken up a viewing position just behind a dumpster grinned as the energetic battle rallied the beast within him, and Frank also spotted Alexae. The thought of two pissed off Kindred going for him because he interrupted a private dispute kept him in place for a few more blows. Part of the police officer admired the skill the two combatants showed, and he noted the way that both players had taken at least one chunk out of their opponent. Yet there was still something that seemed very wrong about two people fighting with swords in the current day and age. The fact that the cuts on both warriors seemed to have pissed them off more than hurt them, was unsettling.
Frank managed to control himself for a full five minutes, before finally his police instincts took over. He reached into his jacket and pulled out his gun just as Richie seemed to gain the upper hand. He took a deep breath and stepped out of the shadows, levelling his weapon on the two men.
"Stop, police," he said loudly and managed to cause both men to look round.
The younger looking of the two made a face, and if expressions could have killed, Frank would have been dead. Damon on the other hand looked slightly relieved, and he smiled wickedly.
"Damn," Richie would have sworn more colourfully, but he was too wound up, "loose yourself, Frank," he continued hopefully, "you really don't want to get involved in this."
Neither of them were going to get any choice in the next events, however, as the Immortal's opponent took the opportunity to bend the rules.
"Sorry, Ryan," he said coldly, and drew attention back to himself, "but I've had enough of this. Maybe next time."
Before anyone could move, metal glinted in the air and a stunned look crossed Richie's face. He gazed down for a moment and just about had time to investigate the ornate dagger sticking out of his chest. If Damon was anything, he was accurate, and the blade had found the other Immortal's heart.
"You bastard," was all the blond one of the pair could say, and then he collapsed ungracefully.
Frank was so shocked by the move that Damon was already on his way past before reality kicked in. The truth of the matter became starkly obvious as the cop was sent reeling backwards by a hefty shove. He managed to level his gun just as the Immortal disappeared. By the time he glanced back at what was now a dead looking individual, Alexae was gone, along with the unnamed Gangrel, and another, worried looking Kindred jumped off the roof at the end of the alley and ran towards the Haven. A feeling that he would not be in control of the situation much longer settled squarely in the police officer's mind.
In the time it had taken the whole affair to take place, the one person who could have sorted it out had managed to leave the Haven and head back to his hotel. For this reason it was Lillie who decided to clear up and avoid a police enquiry into a sword fight just outside her club. Resigned to letting Kindred handle what he thought was their business, Frank actually lent his help. Julian turned up just after they had placed Richie's body in Lillie's office, which was why two Kindred and one human were stood staring at a corpse about ten minutes after he had died.
Since Frank believed he was looking at a Kindred paralysed by a stake, he was confused as to why the other two were just standing there. Why they didn't remove the dagger which was keeping the young looking individual imobile was beyond him.
"Would someone mind telling me what exactly was going on in that alley," the police officer finally asked. "Is there some weird ritual that Kindred have for finishing each other off?"
For the first time, Julian actually took some notice of his companion. He raised one eyebrow and frowned thoughtfully.
"He's not Kindred, Frank," he concluded after a moment's thought, "and I'm afraid he's very dead. We're as much in the dark about this as you. It's just we'd rather not have such a peculiar crime on our doorstep. This I think may be more in your line of work."
He ignored the fact that the young cop's mouth was hanging open and continued on his own investigation of the body. They'd put Richie on Lillie's desk and beside him lay his sword, the Prince picked up the weapon almost reverently.
"A truly beautiful antique," he commented respectfully, "and very well maintained."
He looked at the dagger next and much to Frank's growing horror just pulled it out of the body.
"So is this," the Ventrue said quietly, "but of an entirely different era."
"But if he's not ..." the police officer said slowly, "how come. What was he doing in the Haven, and how is it his friend knows Lillie?"
It was the Primogen of the Toreadors' turn to look awkward.
"His friend?" Luna enquired evenly.
The Prince could almost see the thoughts run through his one time lover's mind, and he waited patiently.
"Duncan MacLeod," the other Kindred finally gave up the name, "I've known him ... a while."
It would be very difficult explaining exactly how a non-vampire came to be the same after sixty years. She was, however, saved the trouble of doing any explaining just at that moment, because Richie's body chose that moment to regain life. One second he was lying flat on his back and the next he almost rolled onto the floor as he reacted to the last memory in his brain. He wobbled precariously as he sat up way too fast and the pain of his still healing injury impinged itself on his consciousness a millisecond or so later. He groaned loudly and lay back down again without trying to think too hard.
Stunned didn't quite cover the reaction of the other three in the room. Richie opened his eyes to see what were to him three, upside- down, startled faces.
"Oh great," he said quietly, "the cop, Duncan's friend, and a complete stranger. Mac's gonna kill me."
It was the Ventrue who recovered his composure first.
"That would seem a somewhat difficult thing to accomplish," he said slowly.
Richie chose not to comment on that, his mouth had a habit of getting him into trouble. The fact that one of the three people looking at him was holding his sword, and the dagger that had killed him, was unsettling. The pain in his chest was subsiding so he decided to slowly sit up and take stock of the situation. The right way up he had a much better view of the three observers. It wasn't difficult to see who was in charge, authority just oozed out of Julian, and that begged a few questions. Richie had been on the street a long time before he met Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod, and now he came to think about it, Frank looked like a cop, the man with him did not, and Lillie was most certainly not an officer of the law.
"I don't suppose we could just forget you saw any of this, could we?" well it was worth a try, wasn't it.
"No, I don't suppose," Luna returned evenly.
Someone coming back from the dead was not only intriguing, it could have consequences for the Masquerade, and that meant Julian was very interested.
"Why don't you explain how it is that you are still alive," the Prince said with an smile that sent shivers up the young Immortal's back.
"And while you're at it," Frank put in, "why the hell you were trying to kill someone with a sword."
It was an accusation and Richie found his mouth reacting before his brain could stop it.
"I was trying to kill him because he has been trying to kill me,... for quite a while," the Immortal said vehemently and gave a good indication as to his character.
Frank seemed somehow glad about the way the Richie had reacted. It made him feel that he hadn't misjudged the young looking man quite so much as he could have. There were no such feelings in Julian Luna, and he wanted answers. The expression on Richie's face said he was not in the mood to talk.
"I asked you nicely," the Ventrue said calmly, "now I'm insisting."
The Kindred pushed his face directly into the younger man's line of vision and Richie's eyes opened in shock as Luna's irises turned a violent yellow. Julian was not pulling any punches, and the force of his will came down on the Immortal like a tone of bricks. His mind really didn't like that much, but at first it was helpless.
"What is your full name?" there was no holding back with the enquiry, and Richie's will caved like a house of cards.
"Richard Ryan," he said dully.
"How old are you?"
"Why were you fighting?"
There was a slight hesitation before the young man replied.
"There can be only one," Richie eventually responded, as the familiar line came into his mind.
"One what?" Julian was quick to jump on the information.
"Immortal," the blond man responded with even more of a pause.
It wasn't taking long for Richie's mind to find a way to fight the influence that was being exerted. Unfortunately, it was not the most coherent defence and it was taking time getting going.
"How many of you are their?" if what this man believed were true, then the Kindred might find that they had a problem.
"Don't know," was the honest reply.
It was becoming more difficult to answer, and the words came slowly.
"Is Duncan MacLeod one of your kind?" Julian asked, oblivious to the fact that his control was slipping.
"Yes," the response was dragged out of the young Immortal, and now his inquisitor noticed something wasn't quite right.
"If there can be only one," Luna tried a slightly different approach, "why are you travelling with one of your own?"
There was a long moment when it looked like Richie wasn't going to reply, but he lost the battle.
"He's ... my friend," it was almost a look of pain that creased the Immortal's features.
"You're loosing him," Lillie commented as she watched.
The Prince just glared at her as if to say `I know' and continued.
"How do you kill each other," there was nothing for it, he had to try the direct line of questioning, before it was too late.
The battle being waged was slowly tipping in the Immortal's favour, and that was just the wrong question to ask. Some information was simply off limits, and that was the point when Richie's mind totally rebelled. He felt his mouth about to betray him and he dipped into the will power that made him what he was. What he found was as much of a surprise to him as it was to the vampire trying to influence him. He reached into himself and found Mako's unwavering following of the law, and he used it as a mental club.
Julian stepped back a little startled as he actually saw blue lightening lance across his subject's eyes. The essence of Richard Ryan fought back and the vampire felt what could only be described as an unadept, mental battering ram. The trance like state was broken instantaneously and the Immortal found himself staring into the eyes of a Kindred unmasked.
"Jesus," he managed breathlessly and, despite the command to stay still he sent, his body, moved backwards sharply. "What the hell?"
Frank knew the feeling and couldn't help but sympathise. He, however, wasn't an Immortal who seemed almost totally invulnerable, so the emotion lasted only a few seconds as he remembered that Richie was.
"Interesting," was all Julian said and let his eyes fade back to their normal dark shade.
The two vampires looked at each other as if they were not quite certain what to do, and then the Ventrue made a small signal with one hand that the Toreador understood instantly. A feeling of dread threatened to take Richie as he saw the smile that Lillie gave him: it was just so disarming.
"You're tired," she said gently, "sleep."
Now this was a totally different form of attack and the Immortal had no defence. This command gave no threat to what he was and he felt his eyelids become heavy before he could do anything. The Primogen of the Toreador clan waved her hand in front of his face and he literally relaxed into her arms.
"We have to know more," Luna said firmly, "but we're not going to find out anything by forcing it out of him. Have him taken back to the alley, and make sure he forgets all this."
With a thoughtful glance, Julian turned to the still slightly bemused police officer.
"Frank," he said lightly, "how do you feel about keeping an eye on this young man for us?"
"Are you going to kill him?" the cop asked suspiciously.
Kindred did seem to have a tendency to terminate anything they perceived as a threat.
"The truth is, I'm not sure," the Prince had learnt that he had to be honest with Frank, nothing else worked. "At this point I don't think so. I have to speak to Daedalus."
The only mortal in the room reluctantly agreed, what else could he do?
The first thing that occurred to Richie when he opened his eyes, was that there was no pain. This was odd since he definitely remembered a dagger protruding out of his chest in the recent past. The second thing that entered his head was that Frank was staring down at him with said dagger in his hand.
"You're alive," the cop did a very good job of seeming surprised.
Everything but the fact that he had been discovered fled from the young Immortal's head.
"Ah, I can explain," were the words that came flooding out of the blond man's mouth.
Now Frank was not here to be difficult about this, in fact he was sure the best way to keep an eye on this man was at a distance.
"Man, I don't want to know," the cop shot back with just the right amount of fear cum repulsion. "What I don't need is having to explain you to anyone, just get out of my sight."
Richie couldn't believe his luck, and he scrabbled to his feet quickly. He didn't quite know what to say, so he picked up his weapon and did as he was told. The street was empty as he virtually fled round the corner. In the alley, Frank counted to twenty and then very carefully followed him.
Alexae was mourning the passing of the young man and had tried, unsuccessfully, to find something to distract him in the Haven. As it was he couldn't get the pale face out of his mind, and decided it was time to go back to the apartment in which he was staying. He concluded thoughtfully, that in his current sate of mind he might even be able to produce a work of poignant pain. He was an Artiste, eventually everything came down to his next creation.
What he definitely did not expect when he wandered out of the club was the sight that met his eyes. Complete incomprehension washed through him, followed quickly by a wave of red hot desire as he watched his Adonis leave the alley opposite and jog down the street. When Richie had turned into a possession was unclear, but Alexae did not argue with his own psyche. All that mattered was that his life was incomplete without the youth heading quickly in the wrong direction, and he needed him. This Toreador was not going to go through the same experience of earlier that evening, again, and because of that he saw only one way forward.
With half a smile he set off after his living work of art, the logical course of action clear in his mind. He was not going to loose his Adonis again, and so he was going to take him home.
One moment Richie was moving rapidly down the empty sidewalk, intent on getting back to the hotel, the next his way was blocked by a dark figure. He was in such a hurry that he didn't realise who it was until he tried to go round, and the man moved to block him.
"Oh, no, not you again," the Immortal said.
Tonight the world seemed to be conspiring against him. As if dying in front of a cop wasn't bad enough, he had an admirer, who although he was very good looking, was of entirely the wrong gender for Richie's tastes.
"Look, I'm not interested, so would you mind just getting out of my way?" he was a little too annoyed, and way too aware of the bloodstain on the front of his shirt to be particularly polite.
"I can't do that," Alexae purred back, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
This time the Kindred was in no mood to play mind games, they had proved too unpredictable. Instead he went for the direct approach and threw a very hard, very fast punch at Richie's jaw. The Immortal didn't stand a chance, even invulnerability had it's limits and he folded into blissful blackness.
It was just not possible, there was no way anyone could just vanish into thin air like that. Frank was having trouble believing that he had managed to loose Richie quite so fast, but the empty street spoke for itself.
"Damn Immortal's as slippery as Kindred," he whispered to himself, and tried to think of a way to break this to Luna. "Later," he concluded finally, "I'll tell him later."
There could be a trail, something to indicate where the blond man had gone, so Frank started to look around.
He was annoyed, very annoyed and Richie began to spit curses the moment he opened his eyes. He awoke to find himself tied to a chair in what appeared to be an art studio. This state of affairs did not please him, and what pleased him even less was that someone had relieved him of most of his clothes. On a quick inspection the only garments he retained were his boxers and his jeans. He remembered the last time he had been the victim of a mad artist and realised with a sinking feeling that there would be no MacLeod to rescue him this time.
"Oh, you are so beautiful," a voice said from just beside him, "truly one of mother nature's finest."
"Wait `til I get out of these ropes," Richie growled back, throwing all of his anger into the words, "then we'll see who's beautiful."
It really didn't surprise him when Alexae laughed.
"I can't explain how you're alive," the Toreador said with a wide smile, "maybe it has something to do with Luna, but I'm not one to question such good fortune. Neither did I expect you to understand all of this."
He closed his eyes and listened to his prisoner's heart beat for a few delicious seconds. He could almost feel the blood coursing through his Adonis' veins, and he could barely contain his longing.
"You're so perfect," he continued and ran his tongue over his lips, "so unmarked."
Richie never thought he'd regret his Immortality in quite the way he was doing so now. There was something very alluring about the man standing in front of him, but there was also something that made the younger man draw back as the other took a step forward.
"Tonight I'm going to change you," the Artiste said and much to the Immortal's growing horror, ran a finger down his cheek, "I'm going to give you forever."
"I already have forever," Richie couldn't help it, it was the only thing his desperate mind could throw up as a defence.
That drew another laugh from his companion.
"Ah, the young," the Kindred said calmly, "always so thoughtless to the rigours of time."
The young blond man stiffened as the prowling vampire wandered to the side of him and round behind where he could no longer be seen. The hand rested on the side of his neck, the fingers gentle, but oh so cold.
"You will understand soon," Alexae purred into his victim's ear, "and then we shall have eternity."
Long delicate nails stroked the side of Richie's neck for a tantalising moment, and then suddenly there was the pain as one of the fingers dug in. The Immortal would have cried out, but the sound stopped in his throat as a mouth replaced the hand and the agony became ecstasy. It was like nothing he had ever felt before, as he literally experienced the life being sucked out of him.
Part of his mind screamed, but the rest of him revelled in the sensation. His consciousness soared away as his body submerged in the overwhelming stimulation of nerves and muscles. His thoughts likened it to a Quickening, but this was all being taken from him, not given to him, and he surrendered to it like he never thought he could. A connection was being made, but it was not of his doing, and all he could do was let it happen. As his mind gave in to Kindred dominance all the events of the night came flooding back. He now knew everything that had gone on, but he had no will to care.
The mouth at his neck was more tender than a lover's embrace, and yet more savage than a sword's bite, all at the same time. The moan that escaped his lips was involuntary, but totally revealing as he gave himself to the pleasure of dying.
When something wet and metallic was forced to his lips, he was barely aware, only instinct led him on. Instinct and a gentle voice that coaxed him to drink, like a mother to a babe.
Alexae cut the ropes that bound his captive with one hand and prevented the young man falling out of the chair with another. His childe had collapsed into exhausted sleep, and the Toreador was pleased with his work. Gently he lifted Richie into his arms and carried him over to chaise by the far wall.
"So beautiful," he whispered as he put him down carefully, "like an angel. You're a fallen angel now, my Adonis," he continued quietly, "but you will be so for always."
With a smile he stood back and then picked up a paintbrush. With the joy of one who was doing what he loved most, he began to paint, and record forever the last moments of his childe's mortal life.
Duncan wasn't quite sure what to do. When Richie hadn't returned to the hotel he'd been worried, when he'd scoured the city for him all day and found no sign, he had become anxious. When an Immortal didn't come back it usually meant that they weren't going to, but for some reason, the Highlander just couldn't bring himself to believe that his friend and pupil was dead. Why he found himself outside the Haven he couldn't quite explain, but this was the last place he'd seen Richie.
The rock music flowed over him in one big wave as he walked into the club, but he barely heard it. All he was interested in was the woman sitting by the bar. He walked quickly between the various tables, heedless as to who was there, and came to a stop beside the owner of the establishment.
"Why, Duncan," she said with a genuine smile, "this is a surprise."
She'd had to explain all she knew to Julian the previous evening, but she couldn't stop the effect the Immortal had on her. She, unlike her Prince, chose not to be paranoid about the existence of another long lived race. In her opinion, if they'd remained hidden from each other this long then they were unlikely to be a danger to each other. Lillie noted that her old friend was somewhat agitated as soon as she saw him.
"Have you seen the young man I was with yesterday, since then?" the Highlander enquired rapidly.
"No," the vampire replied evenly, "why, have you lost him?"
"He's disappeared," the Immortal admitted slowly. "He said he'd meet me at the hotel, but he never came back. Now with Richie, normally I'd say he found someone else he'd rather be with, but circumstances last night were,... different."
It was nicely hedged, if Lillie hadn't of known something very interesting had happened the previous evening, she never would have guessed. She was not totally immune to what other people were feeling, and the way Duncan looked so worried, tugged at her heart strings. With a sweet smile she patted him on the arm.
"You stay here, darling," she said calmly, "I'll ask around."
"Thanks," Mac replied honestly.
He wasn't sure exactly where in the local hierarchy his friend was, but he was pretty sure it was quite high. He hoped any news she came up with, was not bad. The Highlander ordered a drink and sat down, there was not a lot else to do, until he found out what Lillie knew.
He didn't spend his time idly drowning his sorrows, however, he took the opportunity to just watch. The number of people his sometimes lover spoke to who immediately hurried away to do her bidding, was surprisingly large. It was, however, when the man he had left sitting next to Richie the evening before, came in and walked straight up to the owner of the Haven that MacLeod became very interested.
"Ah, just the man I need to talk to," Lillie said as Frank sauntered over. "Where's our pet Immortal at the moment, Duncan's worried about him."
"I wish I knew," was the police officer's reply, "but I lost him almost as soon as he woke up last night. I have just had the pleasure of explaining this to Julian. The guy just disappeared into thin air. He was more difficult to track than one of you guys."
"Do you make a habit of following us around, Frank?" the Toreador asked with a smile, unable to resist the jibe.
She then dragged her mind back on track, and noted the information which had been passed on.
"Did he give any indication of where he was going?" she enquired calmly.
The reply she received was a slow shake of the head. There had been nothing, not a scrap of a clue to follow. Frank should have known, he had spent all night looking for one.
"Look, I have to get to work," the cop said evenly, "I just called in to see if you'd heard anything. Since you're asking me questions, I assume we're as in the dark as each other. Luna has people out looking now, but no-one seems to know anything. If you find out any information, would you mind giving me a call?"
"For you, Frank," Lillie responded with a smile, "anything."
Duncan took the news that nobody had any information calmly, and then went out to continue his search. There were things going on in San Francisco which he did not understand, and he was beginning to sense a bigger picture. He began to look, not only for Richie, but for anything sinister that might also be going on.
It had been three, very fulfilling days as far as Alexae was concerned. When his creation had awoken, he had been surprisingly submissive, almost childlike in his reactions to this new world into which he was born. There had been no anger, no accusations, only an almost innocent acceptance of life as it was. The Toreador had decided that his childe's mind had retreated from the reality of the situation, and was coping with the change to being Kindred. Since there were times when he looked into Richie's eyes and saw a very adult, very powerful gaze being returned, Alexae just assumed he'd break out of it sometime.
As it was, the Artiste had spent his time drawing and painting his new centre of attention, and leading the fledgling through his first few days. Neither of them had strayed far from the apartment, and the only time Alexae had gone out was to hunt and bring back a beautiful young thing, who had left the next morning just a little paler than usual.
There were sketches and paintings of Richie all over the living space, and much to his sire's delight, the new Kindred had even picked up a pencil himself the previous night and shown considerable talent. If Alexae had been paying as much attention to how his Adonis looked on the inside, as he did on the outside he might have noticed that something was not quite right. Richie had been changing the entire time since he had been embraced, and although the other Toreador took it as normal adjustment, it most definitely, was not.
As it was Alexae was about to find out the hard way. He turned and smiled as his protege walked up behind his towards the end of their fourth night together.
"You're not supposed to move when I'm painting," the older vampire said as if scolding a child, "go and sit back down."
It was then that he noticed the look on his childe's face. The expression had lost the innocent touch and as he smiled, Alexae knew that he should never have let his guard down. Richie's grin was almost demonic and his eyes changed to a rich golden yellow as his sire watched. He was holding one of the Toreador's large paintbrushes by the bristle end, and he waved it menacingly. As Alexae watched he realised that this was no ordinary Kindred, and if he hadn't known he had embraced him only days before, he would have said he was facing one of the really old ones.
"The game's over," the Immortal Kindred said coldly, "now it's my turn."
The sun was coming up and Richie had absolutely no idea how he came to be wandering up to an all night cafe. The only item of clothing he was wearing that he recognised as his own was the brown leather jacket with his sword nestled in it's usual place. The rest was nothing he remembered ever owning, including the black silk shirt and the new black jeans. The last thing he vaguely recalled was Frank standing over him and telling him to get out of his sight, the rest was hazy at best. That was why, when he saw the cop sitting in one of the booths he figured that there was a good reason he was here.
There were vague recollections of men with glowing eyes, and hypnotic words being whispered in his ear, but they couldn't be called real memories. He didn't remember going to the Haven and finding Cash outback, or dominating the Gangrel's mind as if it were second nature. He had no thoughts of demanding to know about Frank, or of leaving the Kindred in a daze that had kept him standing there for minutes. Richie's mind was as empty of the event as Cash's was, and he was confused as he walked up to the only face he remembered clearly.
"Frank?" he said tentatively, since the cop hadn't heard his silent entrance.
The man whirled in his seat and his eyes opened wide with shock. The last person he had expected to meet here was this Immortal.
"Richie," he said with a surprised note to his voice, "we'd all but given you up for dead."
There was not much sign of a reaction to the comment in the young looking man, he just sat down.
"What's going on in this city, Frank," the blond Immortal asked pointedly. "Something's happened to me that I don't understand, and I want answers."
It was at that point that the cop noticed how pale his companion was looking, and without thinking he reached out and touched the other's hand. He knew that cold feeling all too well.
"Jesus, you're Kindred," he said almost too loudly.
Thoughts of betrayal were very strong in Frank's mind, and the first thing that occurred to him was that this was one of Luna's jokes. Immortals fighting each other, no more than something to keep the pet cop occupied.
"What are Kindred?" Richie shot back and brought a halt to the other man's thoughts. "What's happened to me? Why can't I remember?"
As he became agitated his eyes changed colour, and it suddenly occurred to Frank that something unusual was going on. The Immortal looked like no Kindred Frank had ever met, in fact more than anything he looked lost. Now the sun was coming up rapidly, and the cop knew enough to know that Richie did not look like a vampire who had recently fed. Since Kindred in that condition had a habit of spontaneously combusting, he decided that he had to get this one out of the public eye.
"I'll explain as much as I can," Frank said quickly, thinking on his feet, "but not here. Let's get you somewhere a little more private and a lot darker, before you get a suntan you won't forget."
The younger man's state of mind was such that he did not have much will to argue, and Frank managed to get him in the car quite rapidly. When they reached his apartment he closed all the curtains and locked the door, whilst leaving Richie sitting on the couch. The blond man seemed suspicious, but he didn't appear to be able to decide what to do.
"Are you going to tell me now?" he said as his companion finally stopped moving.
There was nothing else for it, Frank was going to have to explain. He sat down on a chair slowly and tried to remember everything he knew about Kindred.
"I think you've been recently embraced," the cop said carefully, "you've been turned into a vampire. Not like you see on TV," he hurried on quickly as he saw the look that crossed Richie's face, "but still blood drinking, night dwellers. I'm not really an expert, I'm more in this by accident. Embracing is when they drain all your blood and replace it with Kindred blood, then you become one of them."
The other's gaze seemed suddenly distant at the words. The feeling of his life slipping away in slow blissful second caught Richie off guard, and as he remembered his eyes shifted once again.
"Do you remember who did this to you?" Frank saw the memory on his companion's features and he needed to know.
He had the feeling that something was very wrong here, and he knew Julian was not going to approve. The longer he stayed in this man's presence the more eerie he was beginning to feel. There was something almost tangibly strange about the creature who was Immortal and Kindred, the cop could feel it.
"No," Richie replied, snapping back to reality, "but they must have given me these clothes, only the jacket is mine."
He looked so lost and helpless that Frank could almost overlook the fact that the Immortal was staring at him with orange eyes.
The police officer did his best to explain all he knew and he tried to convince the new Kindred to seek help from Julian Luna. Richie, however, resisted loudly even after he had been given the low down on the structure of vampire society. Since Frank still had reservations about the way the Kindred ran their affairs, he didn't push it just yet. Instead he offered to make coffee, and to his surprise his companion excepted gratefully.
When the cop wandered back in from the kitchen he was in for a shock, however. The curtains were open, early morning sunlight flooded the living room, and standing there as if he were a flower was Richie, soaking up the rays. He turned to Frank and smiled an ironic smile.
"I think starting off Immortal has it's advantages," he said dryly.
It was slightly later that the cop decided his guest had to be Toreador clan when the young man started doodling on the phone pad, and seemed to become completely lost in the design.
When night finally came round to the city once more, it found Richie asleep on Frank's couch and the officer himself sprawled on the bed. The new Kindred had persuaded the cop to wait until sundown before they did anything, and with all the peculiarities the Immortal was exhibiting, the officer had decided to play along. Richie woke first, the moment the sun dipped below the horizon, and when Frank's alarm went off he found his guest staring out the window.
"I'm going to the Haven," the Toreador said with a certainty that had not been there earlier in the day. "Are you coming?"
The eyes that looked at him were ice blue, but they held a danger that could only come from a Kindred gaze. Frank didn't feel like arguing with that visage and he nodded firmly.
"Give me five minutes," he said calmly, even as a small shot of adrenaline soaked his system.
The cop was almost surprised to see his house guest still standing there when he dived back out of the bathroom. There didn't seem to be a lot that was helpless about this man, and Frank had the feeling that he was invited along more as a courtesy, than an ally. The night seemed to have nurtured a very different Richard Ryan than the day.
The two men walked up to the outside of the Haven with the Immortal in the lead, little or nothing could have stopped Richie as he walked in. Kindred recognised Kindred immediately and there were several glances in the fledgling's direction. Those who had been in the club the other evening recognised the newly embraced individual, only those who hadn't been there, actually took stock of what they were looking at. Advance knowledge was sometimes a block to seeing the truth, and most of those who had not seen Richie before made a mental note to keep out of his way.
The two men had not spoken much in the car and Frank wasn't exactly sure why they were here. He was tagging along more out of curiosity than anything else, mixed in with a slight suspicion that the Prince of the city may just have something here he couldn't deal with. That in itself made Frank smile.
"I'm looking for Luna," Richie said to the barman as soon as he had covered the distance between himself and the counter, "is he here?"
Lillie had put one of her own in charge of the drinks and he made the mistake of not actually looking at the Kindred to whom he was talking. He glanced at the Immortal, recognised him from his last time in the Haven and made the wrong assumption.
"What's a fledgling like you want with the Prince," the Toreador responded with a slightly disdainful look.
It was early, there weren't many humans in yet, so there was no-one to hear. That was not the right thing to say to Richie, however, he was in no mood to play games. He reached one hand over the counter, took hold of the other Kindred's waistcoat and pulled him off his feet. The glowing scowl he showed the vampire who should have been many times his superior, made the barman reconsider his position.
"I didn't come here to answer questions," Richie said slowly and pointedly, "I came for answers. Now, is Julian Luna here?"
"No," the other replied, just a little afraid of something he did not try and understand.
The few mortals in the club who saw anything ignored it, they'd seen stranger stuff in the Haven, the Brujah who'd been in the club the other night, however, did not. They had a couple of friends with them and all they saw was a chance to teach an uppity new Kindred a lesson. When Richie and Frank turned to leave they found themselves confronted by six Brujah just itching for a fight. The fact that the Immortal smiled widely as he saw the challenge did not do anything to defuse this situation.
"Playing with the pet cop?" one of the other Kindred asked snidely.
"Get out of my way," Richie said evenly without even responding to the jibe, "we're leaving."
"Not until you apologise to our friend," the Brujah leader shot back had grinned at the barman.
Now it wasn't exactly right to say they were friends of anyone in the club, these Brujah stuck with their own clan, but it seemed a good excuse to the thugs. The half amused look that never faltered on Richie's face really should have warned them.
"I'll ask once more," the Immortal said calmly, "get out of my way or I'll make you."
Now every Kindred in the club wanted to see this. Six Brujah against one Toreador had to be worth watching. The thugs laughed as if they were all connected up to the same voice box, and Richie had just about had enough.
"Okay, times up," the new Kindred said loudly and deliberately stepped right up to his first adversary.
It couldn't even be called a fight really. The Brujah didn't even get a look in, as Richie took hold of his jacket and almost casually threw him across the room. Now Kindred were strong, but the effortless way the throw was executed showed the deep routed skill that MacLeod had drilled into his pupil. It didn't take the other assailants any more to realise that something was not quite right here. Kindred didn't get to be that fast until they were a lot older than a few days. Like a pack of animals the clan members decide to attack on mass.
The first to reach his target was met with a swift blow to the head and went reeling backwards. The second received a knee in the stomach and was bodily thrown into one of his accomplices. A little improvisation was required for the third Brujah, and a foot shot out with deadly accuracy hitting him squarely on the chin. The fourth thought he'd blocked the arm coming at him, but quickly discovered that the elbow was far more painful. The fifth had disentangled himself from his companion who had collided with him, and he suddenly found himself looking at a barely bothered Kindred whose whole attention was focused on him.
Now the Brujah may have been somewhat violent, but they were not stupid, and this one knew when he had no chance. He held up his hands as he surveyed his fallen comrades and actually got out of the way.
"Coming Frank?" Richie asked calmly as he slowly walked past the other Kindred.
Well there was no way the police officer was staying in the Haven. He didn't quite believe what he had seen, but he was not about to question it now. He could live without a pack of angry Brujah on his tail. The two men walked out the way they had come, and Frank didn't need to be told where they were going.
Phones started ringing all over the city.
The mansion was impressive, but Richie wasn't there to admire the architecture. Several of Julian's security people tried to stop him outside the house, and Frank just trailed on behind past the unconscious bodies. He wasn't quite sure what he was following, but he knew Richie was no ordinary Kindred, and he also knew that he was not in a particularly good mood. The pair walked into the hallway unchallenged.
It was Cash who strolled out of one of the interior rooms, looked somewhat surprised and decided to take on his role as chief of security.
"The Prince is not available this evening," the Gangrel said with an amount of restraint that actually made him proud of himself. "How did you get in here?"
"Funny, that's what everyone's been trying to tell me," the Immortal shot back. "Thing is, I don't believe you anymore than I believed them."
Now the Primogen of the Gangrel clan was on his guard.
"I'm going to have to ask you to leave," he told the pair evenly.
If Richie had been his own clan or possibly Brujah, Cash could have accepted the behaviour, but he recognised Toreador when he saw them. What he obviously hadn't realised was that this was the man everyone had been looking for over the last few days. He was in charge of personal security, Julian had found someone else to do the foot work. Frank would have been happy to explain, but he knew he wasn't going to have time. Short was not quite the word for his companion's fuse this evening. The police officer was beginning to wonder when Richie picked up a Russian accent, however.
All that Cash knew was something hit him. There was virtually no warning and no way for him to get out of the way. The far wall was very hard, and after colliding with it, the floor seemed a very comfortable place to go to sleep for a while.
"You know, just talking to them might get you somewhere," Frank commented as they proceeded further into the house.
"I'm not interested in lackeys," was the cold but calm reply. "If you want action, you go to the centre of power."
There was definitely a slightly patronising tone to the voice, but the police officer chose not to comment. He figured he'd be better staying on this guy's good side: humans had a tendency to break a little more easily than Kindred. The two pushed opened the doors to the conference room and walked in as if they owned the place. They didn't find Luna, but they did meet Daedalus.
"Good evening, gentlemen," the Nosferatu said calmly, "you have a great number of people looking for you, Mr Ryan."
"It's nice to be wanted," Richie responded evenly. "Where's Luna?"
The other Kindred smiled, he knew something was strange with this Toreador and he found him intriguing. Julian would most definitely want him kept here, and finding out who embraced him would be interesting. His current state of health explained a lot about the last few days.
"Our Prince is in his study," the Nosferatu replied as if he was not bothered by Richie's presence in the slightest. "I'll tell him you're here if you wouldn't mind waiting."
"Don't bother, I'll go myself," patience was obviously not one of the Immortal's current virtues.
He moved off in the direction that instinct lead him, and found his way blocked by a very large, menacing vampire.
"I'm afraid I must insist that you wait here," Daedalus said as pleasantly as possible, "I'm sure Mr Luna will not keep you waiting long."
Now Frank knew a little of the Nosferatu reputation and this was the Primogen of the clan, he didn't think going against him was a good idea. Taking on a pack of Brujah was one thing, but this was the Daedalus, taking him on was pure stupidity.
"Ah, Richie," the cop said, hoping that he could talk some sense into his companion, "let's just sit down, huh. The chairs look comfortable."
"I'm not in the mood to sit down," the Immortal said coldly.
His eyes changed colour dangerously, but all Daedalus did was smile. The Nosferatu let his own Kindred face reveal itself and two vampires stared into each other's gaze. Richie scowled at the creature who blocked his way, scowled and asserted his will. The Immortal stared down the Primogen of the Nosferatu clan and came out sane.
"What are you?" Daedalus asked for once in his life, surprised by what he saw.
It took a lot to shock a Nosferatu, but Richie managed it. The Kindred also decided in that moment that this strange fledgling could be a threat. Daedalus let all the traits of his clan appear, and fangs and claws became readily apparent.
"Wanna play?" Richie enquired, totally unafraid of the display of power.
The games were over, this was for real and the Nosferatu did not waist anytime. A clawed hand grabbed Richie by the throat, intent of exposing the jugular and giving a clear strike to drain the troublesome individual. A bloodless, weak Kindred was much easier to deal with than one who seemed to possess far more power than should have been possible. The only thing was, the grip didn't hold.
Daedalus found his arm being slowly pulled away from it's target, and a hand going for his neck. The Nosferatu was very lucky that Kindred instincts were ruling Richie at that moment, it never occurred to the Immortal to go for his sword. The blond man literally snarled at his opponent as unnatural strength battled with unnatural strength. For the first time the Nosferatu doubted his own ability to force this anomaly into submission, and he put all his power into one throw.
Richie went sidewards a good five feet and collided with a chair, but he was still upright, and seemed to be actually enjoying himself. He used Toreador speed to very good effect, and Daedalus found himself at close quarters again almost instantly. Material ripped as both Kindred went for handholds on their opponent, and the roar of an angry Nosferatu filled the room. The Immortal gained the upper hand this time and Daedalus went flying through the air just like Cash before him. The picture he landed against followed him to the floor, but the Nosferatu did not stay down. What climbed to his feet bore little resemblance to the calm, efficient creature most saw. This was Daedalus at his most dangerous, and he was quite willing to frenzy. He threw the wrecked canvas aside and growled his anger.
"Stop this," the command was loud and held the roar of authority, just as the two were ready to go for each other again.
The sound actually shocked the pair out of the rage that was quickly taking over both of them, and two sets of golden eyes turned to look at Julian Luna.
"Well, well," Richie said coldly, "the man himself."
The Prince scanned the room slowly and took in the destruction that had occurred. He also took a long moment to observe the creature standing in the centre of the carpet. He knew instantly that the combination of Kindred and Immortal had created something neither race could claim to know. A being who was neither totally vampire or totally human, and one that it appeared, was very powerful indeed.
"We've been looking for you," Julian said and calmed himself completely. "You didn't have to assault every one between here and the gate, you are quite welcome in my house."
He decided to try the civil approach, he could have every member of staff jump on his guest later if that failed.
"They didn't seem to think so," Richie returned calmly.
It was at that moment Cash decided to stagger through the door. He came to a rapid halt as he saw what had been going on.
"Your friend, Duncan MacLeod, has been worried about you," it was a relatively safe tack to take. "I can give him a call if you like."
The name brought an astounding change over the young man before him. He had not allowed his eyes to fade to their normal blue, but at the mention of MacLeod he blinked and they lost their supernatural colouring.
"Mac," he said slowly, seeming almost confused.
Now this was the person Frank remembered letting sleep on his couch. The accent was gone and so was most of the aggression. All the Kindred heard what happened next and found it most intriguing. Richie's heart started beating, even when he had fought, it hadn't done that, and sparks lanced across his eyes. It was as if all strength just leaked out of him, and he collapsed to his knees his head in his hand.
Nobody moved as Julian's watchful gaze kept them in place. Daedalus' mask of logical reason was back in place and he looked on with cold curiosity. Cash just clamped down on most of his instinct.
It was confused, almost frightened eyes that looked around the room, as the real Richard Ryan tried to work out what was going on. The only person he recognised properly was the man he had come in with.
"Frank," he said quietly, "how did I get here?"
Now Julian took charge.
"Do you remember anything that's been happening," he asked almost kindly and walked towards the kneeling individual.
He could be cold and ruthless, but the Prince could also be compassionate and kind. He helped the young man to his feet, much to Cash's growing concern, and sat him in a chair.
"Bits," the Immortal responded slowly, "I was at Frank's flat, then I remember something at the club, but I don't know what I'm doing here."
An insane Kindred was not the best person to have around, but then, Julian had already decided that this was no ordinary vampire. In this state he seemed almost like the fledgling he was, but there was an underlying power that radiated out of him.
"That's not important now," Luna told him with half a smile, "you're newly embraced, and that takes some getting used to."
The situation was way too complicated to explore just now, but there were just a few pieces of information Julian wanted.
"Do you know where you've been for the last couple of days?" he asked calmly as Lillie entered the room silently behind Richie.
The Immortal shook his head, everything was fuzzy.
"Paints," he said slowly, "all I remember is, there were paints."
"How about who embraced you?" Julian suspected that he was not going to get an answer, but he tried anyway.
His subject just looked blank.
"It has to have been Alexae," the voice was Lillie's and she walked round to get a better look at the man who had so recently wrecked part of her club. "I should have realised earlier. He hasn't been around since this one disappeared, I just assumed he was creating something, until I was informed what had walked into the Haven this evening. Alexae took an interest at the club the other night, I didn't think he'd go this far."
Again a name caused a reaction in Richie and the image of lying on a couch half naked while a man painted him flashed through his mind. Then the memory turned red and became unclear again.
"Didn't want to loose me," was what Richie found himself say, even though he had no idea where the thought came from.
"Where is he now?" Julian did not let up on the questions, there was no telling how long the young man would remain rational.
There was real concentration on the Immortal's face as he tried to remember at least a scrap of information, but the mists in his muddled mind would not clear. There were barriers in his mind that he did not understand and could not get past.
"I don't know," he said finally, "there are just these big blanks."
The Prince looked up at Cash and the Gangrel disappeared, he knew where Alexae should be and he was going to check. If the Toreador had gone to so much trouble to create a childe it was unlikely he would have just let him go.
It seemed that there was little information to be had out of Richie and in this state he seemed very pliable. Julian exerted only a little of his own power and the Immortal calmed visibly. His heart was beating in a slow rhythm, and he looked more human than vampire.
"Why don't you wait in the other room," the Prince suggested calmly, "we have some business to deal with, and it looks like you could do with some rest. There's a large couch in there and Daedalus will show you the way. If there's anything you need, just ask."
The Immortal didn't even try to protest, he just excepted the hospitality without even considering the ulterior motives behind it.
As the Nosferatu walked back into the conference room he found his compatriots sitting in their respective seats, and Frank pacing around nervously.
"He found a pencil and paper on the table," Daedalus observed calmly, "and appears totally absorbed in drawing pictures of you."
He looked directly at Lillie, but she said nothing.
"He did that at my place," the cop commented and tried to bring his feet under control. "He's been with me all day, and take it from me, he has no problem with daylight."
"Why didn't you bring him straight here, Frank?" Julian asked and managed to make it sound almost like it wasn't an accusation.
The man looked unhappy by the tone of the question, he didn't like his actions being questioned.
"I would have done, but he didn't want to come," the cop shot back, "and if you expected me to argue with him, you have to be mad. The guy has hearing like a wolf, and was sleeping next to the phone, what did you expect me to do?"
It was a sensible argument and Julian decided that maybe Frank had had no choice. At least everything seemed to be going their way for now.
"Okay," Luna said calmly, "but what I want to know is what has Alexae created with his meddling? There is power in our new associate that cannot come from any source I know."
There were ways that Kindred could increase their individual abilities other than just surviving, but not to the extent that they could take on a Nosferatu after just days. It was Daedalus to whom all eyes turned.
"I cannot explain the source of his prowess," the white skinned man said evenly, "but I will say that I believe it is fading. In the few moment for which I was in contact with him, I believe I actually felt his abilities diminish. It was only marginal but it was definitely there."
He looked at the other two Kindred thoughtfully.
"I had thought the stories I had heard of other eternal beings to be legend until proof of their existence was shown to me," he continued calmly. "Since they actually exist it is logical to assume that the tales are not all fiction either. If so it would seem that to combine an Immortal and a Kindred would be to try and pair direct opposites. They are fundamentally alive, we are fundamentally dead, I would hazard a guess that by his very nature, Mr Ryan cannot be one of us. I would therefore go as far as saying, I believe he is becoming human again. I cannot say how long it will take, but I would suggest we keep him here until the truth of the matter is revealed."
Daedalus never spoke unless he meant it, so Julian just accepted what he said. He nodded and glanced around calmly.
"That leaves the mystery of how it is he feels like a Toreador of more than a few centuries," the Prince said slowly. "Even if this problem finds it's own solution, I would still like to know how it came about. This is something we do not want to happen again."
The others nodded in agreement, even Frank could see the sense in that. Unfortunately for him, his beeper chose just the wrong moment to go off.
"Damn," he said loudly and then looked at Julian. "Can I use your phone, please?"
The Ventrue half smiled, but nodded as well. It seemed like such a normal event amidst what had been complete chaos. There was a lot of talking to be done, and Julian expected trouble from Cameron's direction, thanks to what Richie had done to the Brujah. As the cop disappeared through the door, he called the meeting to order once more.
There were no signs of life at Alexae's apartment as Cash and two of his most trusted clan mates walked up the stairs to the penthouse. It was only as they came through the last floor door, into what was almost a lobby that anything untoward became apparent. Lillie's money paid for private security and no nosy neighbours, but even so it was usually wise to shut the front door. The three Gangrel headed for the inner sanctum swiftly and silently.
They were met by an utter mess: there was furniture every where, and spots of paint over just about everything, almost as if someone had thought to create a work of art. There was a strange order in the chaos and even as they looked, the three Kindred found their eyes dragged to the centre of the room where they immediately saw the major exhibit.
On a table in front of a very large canvas, Alexae was lying, sprawled over the surface with a paintbrush sticking out of his heart. If it hadn't been quite so serious a matter it might actually have been funny. An Artiste, paralysed by his own tools. Richie had not stopped there, however, and if any of the recently arrived Kindred had been Toreador they would have admired the workmanship. Alexae had had most of his blood drained via a slit in the side of his neck, but his childe had not used it to bolster his own power. Instead, in his rage and madness, the young Toreador had used it to create, and on the canvas was a tonal study of Lillie.
The blood painting was perfect, down to the finest detail, but that really wasn't what was on Cash' mind as he hurried to the side of the prone vampire. He didn't even hesitate as he gripped and pulled out the wooden shaft, releasing Alexae from paralysis. He expected a show of anger, even though the Toreador would be weak from lack of blood, what he did not think would happen was what did.
"My god, he's magnificent," were the first words out of the older Kindred's mouth.
The helpless creature had been lying there all day, and his first sentence was in praise of the Kindred who had done this to him.
"It was incredible," the Toreador insisted with all the strength he had left, "he was so powerful. And this," he turned to the canvas and actually smiled, "has so much style."
At that the Gangrel Primogen decided he would never understand his Toreador cousins, and chose to ignore the reaction. He had a feeling Alexae was lucky to be alive, but he wasn't going to comment.
"The Prince would like to see you," he said evenly, "we have a car downstairs."
The older vampire didn't seem to really hear him, he appeared entranced by the painting, but he had no strength to resist when he was politely herded towards the door.
"Stay here and make sure no-one disturbs anything," Cash told one of his companions, "I think Mr Luna will want to see this."
Then he took his charge out of the apartment, and left his associate with the somewhat disturbing painting.
There had been no measure of time as far as Richie was concerned as he sat by the window and drew on the pad that he had found. He had no understanding of his need to create, and before Alexae, would have claimed no ability either. The pencil seemed to have a mind of it's own, and he was actually quite content as he produced a miniature portrait of the Primogen of his clan. It was only as he finished it that he found his outlook had changed once again.
He smiled to himself, once more in the grip of Kindred passions and gazed around with vampire senses. No heart beat sounded in his chest, and the night filled his mind.
It was not the angry want of power which drove him now, but it seemed to be a fusion of childlike wonder and a taste for freedom. He really had little idea what he was doing, but without hesitating he put the picture aside, stood up and flexed his powers of shape-changing for the first time. Nobody notice the eagle which soared out the window as if it had been born to the sky.
They found him gone only a few minutes later, and Julian was not very happy.
"He may become human again soon," he said with a cool anger, "but for now he is my problem. Get Duncan MacLeod over here, we need to know what we are up against."
He turned and stalked into his study, leaving the others to do his bidding.
The roof top was like hundreds of others all over the city, but the bird swooped down as it saw a shape which caught it's interest. Almost as soon as he touched down, the Kindred morphed back into his own shape, and stood staring at the back of the person who had attracted his attention. She was pale against the night sky, dressed in a long white dress with only a battered leather jacket against the chill of the air. Her hair fell in long blond tresses around her shoulders and for a long moment Richie just stood there looking at her.
She was staring down at the road below the apartment building as if fascinated by the distance, and her sorrow was almost tangible to the vampire behind her. He was as silent as the moon, and she had no idea he was there, not until he spoke.
"Are you going to jump?" he asked in a voice that could have charmed the birds from the trees.
Her back tensed slightly, but she did not look round at him.
"What's it to you if I am?" she asked in a cold, deriding tone.
"Oh nothing," Richie replied calmly, "I was just wondering. Do you live here, or did you just pick this building because it's high?"
She laughed at that, she hadn't expected him to be quite so remote about the whole thing. The question really did make him sound as if he was just curious.
"I live here," she replied, eyes still intent on the drop below her, "not that anyone cares. I'm going to fall past all those closed windows, let them see me jump to my death. Then they'll know my name, then they'll realise I exist. The mouse from number 46, finally done something with her life to warrant notice."
She felt his closeness before she actually looked up to find him standing on the edge right next to her. He was watching her with wide open blue eyes, but much to her surprise he was not reaching for her. There was a slightly sad expression on his face, but his gaze told her that he was not going to stop her if she chose to step into thin air.
"Maybe I can give you something that is better than that," he said quite calmly and smiled.
It was the smile that made her tremble inside, and the eyes which made her reach out her hand.
The phone call had not really surprised MacLeod, he had been waiting for them to get round to him. In the days he had spent nosing around he had come to the conclusion that Richie was not dead, and that the peculiar community around Lillie that was not quite the underworld, had something to do with his disappearance. Julian Luna was a man with a past which did not quite add up, and the Highlander recognised the signs. The fact that he was now invited to the man's mansion was not much of a shock.
He had been admitted by a young looking man with a slightly wild look about him, and he was shown into a room with a large table and several cold faced people. Lillie and Julian he recognised, most of the others he had seen around, but had no names for the faces. Only a stunning individual with long brown hair and classically good looking features gave him someone to look at he had not seen before.
"Good evening, Mr MacLeod," Luna greeted calmly, "please, have a seat."
There were chairs positioned at the end of the table which obviously did not usually belong there, and from the seating the Highlander quickly realised that he and the new face were the only two who did not `belong' in this room. There were five of the others and it did not take much to work out that they were used to their places.
"Thank you," the Immortal replied as he sat down, "you phone call said this has something to do with my companion."
There was no point in wasting time.
"That it does," the Prince replied, happy with the Highlander's wish for speed, "but first I think there are a few things you should know."
If he was going to be able to help, first he had to understand, and although it could be considered dangerous, the ruling body had agreed that the Immortal should be told the truth. MacLeod's people had their own Masquerade, and screaming to mortals about vampires would not be a probable course of action.
"You know that Lillie is not quite what she seems," Julian began evenly, "anymore than you are. What you do not know is what she is, and therefore what we are."
A slight nod gave the indication that Mac was following this perfectly.
"We are known as Kindred, Mr MacLeod," the Prince informed him slowly, "or more coarsely, vampires. We live among humans, just as you do, hiding what we are, and continuing with our lives. We need blood to survive, but we do not kill to get it, that would endanger the Masquerade. We create more of our own kind by embracing carefully chosen mortals, which is what brings me to the problem at hand."
MacLeod's gaze did not falter as he looked directly into the Ventrue's eyes. The Prince was given the distinct impression he was looking at a man just as powerful as he.
"We became aware of a battle that took place in an alley close to the Haven, and we found what we assumed was a dead body. Because of the unusual circumstances of the death we chose not to inform the police," Luna continued, "and shortly after discovered that the young man we had found did not stay dead. We questioned him, made him forget he had ever seen us and let him go. It was then that he disappeared."
The glare that he was sending in Alexae's direction made it very clear who was to blame. It didn't take much to read between the lines, and Duncan reached a conclusion before he had to be told.
"Are you trying to say that he embraced, Richie?" the Immortal didn't sound particularly happy about that at all.
"It's all right, Duncan," Lillie put in rapidly, "we're almost sure he's returning to normal. We are completely incompatible with your physiology, and you friend seems to be fighting off the change."
That made Mac feel a little better, but he was still not best pleased.
"Why did you ask me to come here then?" he enquired pointedly. "You must have a very good reason."
"We do," Julian returned with his usual calm visage, "we want to find out exactly what happened to Richard when he was embraced, and make sure it never happens again. You see, your companion did not become what could be considered a ... normal Kindred." He paused to try and decide how to phrase what he was about to admit. "In the last twenty four hours he has, ... disabled his sire, taken on six males of another clan, at the same time, broken into my home, past my security, and held his own against the strongest of us all."
By the time, the Prince had finished there was a low chuckle coming from the Highlander's mouth.
"Richie's kicking ass," he said, finding the whole thing quite amusing, "and you don't know what to do about it. I'm sure there's a motto in there somewhere."
There was a slightly unhappy look on Luna's face as he saw the Immortal's reaction, but he did not choose to voice his feelings. Instead he sat forward and waited for the sombre mood to have it's effect on MacLeod.
"That is not the centre of the problem," he commented slowly as the Highlander became serious again. "What I wish to know, is how a twenty two year old man can transform into the equivalent of a Kindred many centuries his senior. What is it about your kind that gives you that sort of power?"
That stopped Duncan in mid thought, as he could not help but come to one conclusion. To give them the answer he would have to reveal part of his own secret, but they had already seen the idea in his face. He was a strong willed man, but he had taken in the underlying atmosphere and realised that he could probably not stand up to six vampires.
"We are not just what we were when we died for the first time," The Highlander finally said slowly, "and it isn't just age which makes us powerful. If you saw a fight and questioned Richie, you must have found out that we battle our own kind, and attempt to kill each other. What you don't seem to realise is what happens when one of us wins."
He paused to make sure he had everyone's attention: he didn't what to have to repeat himself.
"The victor gains the essence of his dead opponent," Duncan wasn't quite sure how these people would react, but at one level he didn't really care. "Richie's taken the heads of several old Immortals, and therefore their Quickenings. The only thing I can think of to explain what you've been telling me is that the combined power of those who've challenged him, translated directly into whatever you perceive as ability in your race."
"Fascinating," Daedalus could not contain his wonder: very little could be said to captivate the Nosferatu, but this newly discovered species had him hooked.
It was at that point that he skipped ahead of most in the room and realised there was more to it than that.
"Could these ... Quickenings, explain the rapid personality changes that Mr Ryan appeared to go through?" he enquired politely.
Those words caused Duncan to go cold all over, although the only obvious sign was the way his heart beat speed up. His mind flicked unbidden to his own battered soul when the dark Quickening had taken him. Without letting himself dwell in the memory he prayed that his protege was not in as much turmoil as he himself had been.
"Yes, they could," the Highlander said with no sign of emotion. "It's not unknown for an Immortal to suffer from multiple personalities, although there was no sign of any such thing in Richie before you got your hands on him."
It was a direct accusation that he could not help, but he pushed it aside quickly. All he could hope now, was that with these people's assistance he would be able to bring his young friend back.
"We'd better find him, soon," was all he said.
The apartment was small and full of nondescript furniture as Jessica let herself and Richie in. That was all that had passed between them since the roof, a swap of names, there had been nothing else to say. She had decided to die, and she didn't really care who this man was, she just knew that if she had jumped she would have missed something interesting.
He threw his coat on the couch as the white panel door clicked shut and blocked out the outside world. It fell open as it landed and the hilt of the sword it contained became obvious. With a fascinated little stare she just looked at it for a while, not quite sure what to do now. If she gazed back at him she probably wouldn't even think about it, but just for a moment she wanted to feel the long dead emotions that it stirred in her. There was just a little fear at the sight of such a weapon, and to experience something she had decided she had lost, was good.
"A sword?" she said quietly, still not turning.
"Yes," said that sweet voice in her ear, "does it matter?"
"No," she replied after a moment, and finally let herself face him.
There was something almost magical about him, and he captivated her on more than one level. He was handsome, he showed the signs of a man who could handle himself, and yet there was a strange gentleness in the gaze that caught hers. He reached out and cupped the side of her face in one tender hand, the half smile playing at his lips again.
"A goddess who has seen heaven, but can no-longer find her way there," he said quietly, and his tone almost made her want to cry.
So many emotions that she had buried so long, in such a short time, she was almost giddy. He stepped towards her and drew her to him in one swift move. There was such a sweet taste in her mouth as his lips covered hers, and the kiss was long and passionate as strong arms held her. She clung to him as if he was the only thing that could keep her head above the waves, and yet she already knew that what he offered was not something she had ever been given before.
Jessica was a mouse, but she had had her share of lovers, and this man did not represent the same things they had. It was funny, there was the small pit of fear in the recesses of her mind, but it did not well up and consume her as so much of her life seemed to have done. Maybe it was something to do with the presence that she felt from her companion, maybe it was because she had given up on her life. Quite frankly, it didn't matter anymore.
His skin was cold against hers, and his touch was excitingly chilly as his hands pushed the jacket off her slim shoulders. She was a beautiful woman, but the nagging doubt from a childhood of being teased, had always stopped her from allowing herself to fall for the kind of man who could show her more than a quite, harmless relationship. She wasn't going to let that stop her this time, and she gave herself to this man she had only just met.
They spent a long time in each others arms, but eventually the human contact had to end. There was a reason Richie had come to her and a different hunger stired in the pit of his stomach.
He had pushed himself away from the bed they had shared, his eyes were closed. She could feel that there was a difference in him and she suddenly remembered where he had found her. He would be gone tomorrow, that she knew, and the whole futility of her sham of a life hit her. When he opened his long lashed lids, she almost knew what she would see.
The golden gaze should have filled her with terror, instead it gave her a hope she had not felt in a long time.
"Do you want life or death?" he asked in a husky voice as he fought the hunger which threatened to take away his sanity.
The only way to save her was to run, but for that she had to release him from teh spell she had cast. As she gazed into his eyes, he could see the answer.
"Kill me," she said calmly and turned her head to one side.
There was no second chance, he could control the desire no-longer, and all he could do was as he was bid. His teeth sank into the flesh of her neck and she let out a little sob at the initial pain, but it soon turned into a moan of pleasure. As he drained her she was totally taken by the sensation.
She lay beside him, pale and barely breathing and without faltering he pulled away from her. He was sated and blood dripped from his chin as he dug his thumb nail into his wrist. His skin was warm now, but hers was getting colder by the second. Putting the cut to her mouth was easy and even in her unconscious state she suckled like a babe. He was exhausted by the time he ran his tongue over the wound, closing it, and he quickly collapsed on the bed. Both sank into untroubled sleep soon afterwards.
They'd told him that they were scouring the city for Richie, but Frank was pretty sure they wouldn't find him. He'd spoken to the peculiar half breed long enough to know that if he did not want to be found, no-one would stand a chance. It was the beginning of a beautiful morning and the cop watched as the sun began to rise over the water. Why he had come to the place that always reminded him of Alexandra, he couldn't say, but today he had wanted to be here. It was only as the bridge turned crimson in the light of the new day that he realised he wasn't alone.
"Morning, Frank," Richie said with half a smile as the police officer whirled to face him, "I figured you be here."
That begged the question how, but the cop decided he really didn't want to know.
"Yeah, well I thought you'd be avoiding everybody," Frank commented, recovering his composure with long practised skill.
"I am," the younger individual replied, "but I thought I'd check in just to make sure no-one gets jumpy."
In the rich dawn, Richie still looked pale, but as Frank too a moment to examine his face the Immortal did seem somewhat more lucid. There were large grey patches under his eyes, and his hair was unbrushed, but all in all he looked to be in much better shape than the day before.
"Your friend, MacLeod," the police officer decided to explain exactly what was going on, "Julian told him just about everything last night. They're working together to find you."
Much to Frank's surprise, his words caused his companion to laugh.
"What's so funny?" he enquired, just a little annoyed at the lack of seriousness with which Richie seemed to view everything.
"Oh, just thinking what they'd get if they tried to embrace Mac," was the truthful reply. "You see, Frank, I'm almost sure I know what's happened to me, I can feel it. I'm beginning to remember what I've been doing these past couple of days. The embrace set free all the Quickenings of the Immortals I've killed, and I've been merging and swapping personalities ever since. I'm loosing the ability to do all those weird Kindred things, but I'm regaining my sanity. Not a bad trade, don't you think?"
He grinned as the continuation of the thought entered his mind.
"I'm small fry as far as Immortals go," he continued slowly, "Kristov and friends are but a handful of heads. I became a Toreador equivalent to all of them stacked on top of each other, and if they ever tried something like that with Mac it would be like Armageddon. He'd truly make a Kindred from hell. A couple of hundred people all in the one body with the ability to kick ass, big time."
Even Frank had to grin at that: he could just picture the look on Julian's face.
"Not a pretty thought," he commented dryly.
A small chuckle escaped Richie's mouth, but soon afterwards he became serious again.
"If you see him," the younger man said slowly, "tell Mac I'm okay and I'll see him soon. I think I've worked out what will bring me back, all the way. I'm going to finish what I came here to do, then we can go home."
The reply was a solemn nod from his companion, and the cop made no move to follow him as he turned and walked away. There was no need to explain anything else, Frank would find out everything eventually.
The room was in total darkness as she woke, and even before she opened her eyes, Jessica knew she was alone. He was gone, and there was a small ache in her heart was she knew he would never be coming back. On the table next to the bed there was a hand written note with her name on the front. Turning on the light as she picked it up, she began to read.
Dear Jess, I'm sorry, but one night is all I can give you. The creature I am as I write this will no-longer exist by the time it gets dark again. I was never supposed to be Kindred, it is opposed to what I really, and the power is fading already. I don't know what I would have done if your pain hadn't called out to me last night. I think giving you what I can never have helped me on the return to my real life. You must learn what it is that you are now. Go to the Haven night- club as soon as it gets dark and ask for Alexae. His is my sire, and I think that he will love you more than he could ever love me. Know that you are Toreador, and be proud of it. Sleep through the day, love, and go to Alexae before the hunger becomes too great. He will teach you, and he will understand.
She let one blood tear fall on the paper, and then she put it aside. Curling up in the covers, away from the single crack of light between the curtains she thought of the night before. Her life up `til now had been empty, and without knowing how she realised that there was a family waiting out there for her. It was a family of blood, and she went back to sleep with an image of a man in her thoughts.
It was day, he should have been sleeping, but Alexae could not put aside the thoughts of what he had done. Ever since Richie had attacked him and left, the bond of sire to childe had been somehow broken. He had no sense of the Kindred he had made, as if the raw power cancelled out all hold he had over his own creation. It saddened him, and with the other ideas which plagued him he could not sleep.
He was lying on the bed in one of Julian's spare rooms, but he could only close his eyes for a minute. It was as he focused on the ceiling for the hundredth time that he felt his soul touched. It was like the bond being made all over again, and for a moment he thought that his childe may have come back to him. As the initial feeling wore off, however, he knew that the spirit which touched his was not Richie's. His mind filled with the idea of a young woman, and suddenly he understood.
Tears ran down his cheeks as he realised that what everyone had been saying was true: he would never regain his creation, his Adonis was beyond his reach forever. Yet it was not only sorrow that caused the red streaks on his face, because he also realised that his gift had not been rejected completely. Alexae knew that the new Kindred in his thoughts was a gift from Richie, the power had been passed on and this woman would come to him.
The message Richie had given to Frank had been passed on, and the police officer had been politely asked to turn up at the Haven when evening came around again. All his instincts told the cop that the night-club would be a very bad place for him to be at the moment ... after the previous night, but Luna hadn't seen it that way. Since Frank hadn't seen hide nor hair of the younger Immortal since their earlier meeting, and he really wanted to know what was going on, despite his reservations, he showed up.
He was walking along the sidewalk towards the entrance of the club when a car pulled up beside him. It's presence had barely registered on the preoccupied man's mind when he felt himself grabbed from behind and bundled into the vehicle. Somebody threw a coat over his head and a grip like iron pinned him to the floor. He didn't need much more to realise that he'd been snatched by Kindred. The only questions remaining were: by whom, and for what purpose. After a few moments he gave up struggling: the hands that held him would not give, and he was just hurting himself.
From across the other side of the study, Lillie watched Duncan as he paced back and forwards. They were waiting for Julian to appear, and then they would be going to the Haven to liaise with other members of the clans. The Highlander hadn't spoken to her much since the previous evening, and he seemed very edgy as he wore a groove in the carpet.
"I'm sorry this happened," the Primogen of the Toreador clan said suddenly, much to her companion's surprise. "Alexae is my guest, this is my fault."
The look she received from Duncan said he wasn't quite sure whether to let her condemn herself or not. Eventually his generous nature won through and he could maintain the silence no longer.
"You couldn't control his actions anymore than I could have controlled Richie's," the Immortal finally said. "I know I'm standing here blaming you, but that's just me, I'm blaming everyone including myself. The moment I realised that you were still the same I should have turned around and walked out, taking Richie with me. I'm always reminding Richie that his libido will get him into trouble, and what did I do, but go and follow my hormones like a kid."
Lillie had to smile at that, she could have been a little more careful herself. There was an animal attraction between the two, and both sides of the relationship had followed it quite happily. There was a fair amount of affection there, on both parts as well, but as they looked at each other across the room, they knew that they would not be sharing a bed again. An Immortal would make an interesting life partner for a Kindred, but these two would not be exploring the possibilities.
"You have managed to get under my skin, Duncan MacLeod," the Toreador said with a sweet grin, "and that is very hard to do. I think perhaps I will be glad when you choose to leave."
Duncan smiled back, quite frankly he would be happy to leave San Francisco.
"As soon as we find Richie I would be most happy to accommodate your wishes," he replied honestly.
The young man in question was, at that moment, walking down an empty street towards an old apartment block. It had taken him all day, but with a little street wisdom, a touch of Kindred dominance, and a lot of leg work he had tracked down his prey. He didn't think Damon would run, and he was proved right as he strolled up to the entrance and felt the approach of the man in question.
"I thought you'd left the city," the other Immortal said as he emerged from the doorway, "and then what do I see out of my window, but you approaching. Isn't it a little dangerous wandering around after you died in front of an officer of the law?"
"Oh, he was an understanding cop," Richie replied calmly, "with some strange friends. The information about my demise is quite safe from the authorities."
The other just smiled as the quip.
"Well it's your life," he returned evenly, "and it's our battle. I know this quiet little spot just down the road. Shall we?"
He motioned in a vague direction and began walking, Richie followed.
"So what have you been doing with yourself for the last few days?" Damon enquired conversationally. "I noticed your friend poking his nose in all over the place, so I assumed you'd high tailed it out of here, without leaving a forwarding address."
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," the younger of the two replied and said no more.
His opponent's choice of battle ground was an old abandoned lot, with a high, wooden fence around it. The two Immortal's had no trouble forcing their way through the slats where many a school child had been before them. The ground was quite uneven, but Richie wasn't really bothered, he'd trained on worse.
"I can't promise I won't cheat," the older of the two said as he discarded his coat and pulled out his sword. "My survival instinct is very strong these days, and honour seems such a handicap."
"Oh don't worry," was the even reply, "I'm not quite the same person you left dead in the alley. I'll cope."
They saluted each other in a vaguely gentleman-like way, and then they started manoeuvring for position. The lot was relatively well lit by a couple of street lamps, but it was much easier for Richie than it was for Damon. Senses still heightened by Kindred blood found it easy to pick out every hole that could cause a fall, and every stone that could trip a person. Even as the first blow was struck, it was obvious who was the superior by quite a long way.
What was left of the Toreador speed and agility gave Richie more than just an edge, and as the clash of steel ran out, the look on Damon's face said he realised that something had changed. Strike, followed parry, followed lunge, and the older Immortal couldn't land a cut on his opponent. Every time he thought he saw an opening it turned out to be a feint. As he went for it, Richie would dance out of the way and bring down a carefully aimed blow somewhere else. It was like fighting a ghost: one minute he was there and the next he was gone, attacking from another position.
Damon was not a bad fighter, but he was not as good as his opponent. In fact he seemed to be at a complete disadvantage, and there was no luck to be had on the vacant lot. His white shirt was slit in several places and blood oozed from some relatively deep cuts. There seemed to be continual healing going on, and occasionally a bright spark of energy would become visible, sealing an abrasion in an ever present cycle.
There were no flippant comments from Richie as he fought. No snide words for his adversary, as he continued to carve up Damon's defence with an almost effortless ease. This was a battle that had been fought before, and one he should have won, he had no intention of letting it go again. Move flowed into move as his mind worked and his instincts led him to small victory after small victory. It was only a matter of time before the other Immortal would tire and loose what concentration he had left.
Richie had just landed a particularly vicious cut on Damon's leg when the opening appeared for final conquest. By lunging forward and going for his opponent's thigh, the younger Immortal had appeared to leave an weakness to his right side. By now his adversary was desperate, and although he had been fooled before, he had no choice but to try for at least a damaging blow. As Damon moved in for a slice to his side, Richie spun and locked his own sword under that of his opponent. With a quick flick of his wrist and a little turn of the blade, the other Immortal's weapon went spiralling into the air.
Defeat was written in Damon's stance, he knew he was going to die, and yet the emotion didn't quite reach his eyes. There was one last trick up this Immortal's sleeve. He'd used it before, and it never failed. Seeing Richie out of the window had given him time to prepare, and there was more than just the dagger in his boot, on his person. A small device nestled on the inside of his left wrist, and contained within was a blade coated in poison.
There was the smallest click as he flicked his hand back and a spring released, but much to his surprise, Richie heard it. There was no way human senses could have picked up the small projectile, but with the Kindred edge, the younger Immortal saw it fly through the air. His free hand lanced out, and with the dexterity of a swallow picking flies from the air, he plucked it from it flight path and threw it away.
"You've cheated me of your head twice, Damon," Richie said, even as he moved in for the killing blow, "but not this time."
The other Immortal's face was glazed with shock, and the last thing he saw was the golden eyed gaze of man who was about to kill him. The body slumped to one side as the sharp blade of Richie's sword separated it from the head. The first mists of the Quickening appeared immediately and twisted slowly into the air. The victor just stared at them with vampire eyes as the wound round him, not quite touching him, as if they were exploring first. There was a tentative touch that sent a shiver up his spine, almost as if the Quickening was making sure of what he was. Then it hit him all at once. One second there was deathly hush and the next the lightening took away all thought.
The pain was different at first, it lanced right to the very heart of him and found the changes the embrace had made. It destroyed them like a red hot poker removing infection in a wound, and fought to reclaim this body. Then, satisfied that this was a vessel suitable for it's gifts, it entered him with full force. Bit's of stone exploded around him, and one of the street lamps fused as stray energy lanced into them. Damon was not a young Immortal, and he had taken many heads in his time ... the Quickening lasted a good few minutes.
As the final tendrils left him, Richie fell to his knees, totally exhausted, and feeling somewhat strange. He looked around him slowly, and realised that he was scarred. It was not anything that would show on the outside, but his Immortality had found something it could not totally wipe away. Although not a keen as before, his surrounding did not appear to be in quite as much darkness as they should have been, indicating that his eyesight had retained some of it's sensitivity. With little effort he found that his hearing was in a similar state, as well as his sense of smell. It appeared that there were still hints of Kindred about him, although as he stood up he was feeling a great deal saner than he had been for the last few days.
The world had returned to the perspective he expected of it, and there were absolutely no signs of any other personalities in his head. For all intents and purposes he was back to normal, and he gazed around, a small smile appearing on his face. The extra sensitive senses might fade with time, or they might not, for now he decided they were probably useful.
He could say that he was almost happy as he dragged the body under some rubbish, removed all items that could be used to identify it immediately, including all weapons, and set off to find Duncan.
Not many people were speaking to Alexae, and he chose to stay away from the trio of Lillie, Julian and MacLeod who sat in a booth. He hadn't mentioned the piece of knowledge he had come by the previous evening, but it was difficult not to notice that he appeared to be waiting for something. Those who knew about Richie, assumed it had something to do with that, others just didn't care.
Cash was sat at one of the side tables, watching everything with his habitual vigilance, but tonight he did have something to distract him from time to time. They'd broken it off, they'd yelled at each other, they'd decided that clan loyalties had driven them apart, but whenever anyone decided it was finally over they'd turn around and find Sasha and Cash together. The Brujah in question was sitting opposite the Gangrel, sipping on a cocktail and smiling at her lover. Both sets of clan members watched the pair with disgust, but tonight the couple weren't arguing and so they didn't much care.
It was Sasha who spotted the entrance of the willowy looking girl first.
"Now, what do we have here?" she said lightly, and indicated to show her companion the source of her question.
There were lots of eyes on the newcomer, and she seemed kind of nervous. Jessica had chosen the white dress, a velvet jacket and silky pumps as her outfit this evening, and with her hair flowing about her shoulders, she looked every bit the siren. It didn't take more than a second glance to figure out she was Toreador clan. She looked around rapidly, in her haste not seeing Alexae at first, but as her eyes ran back again she was suddenly overcome by relief.
The Artiste had seen her instantly, and he was already on the move. There were questions in most Kindred's minds as the pair came together, and the stranger literally beamed at the older vampire. This newcomer was young, only just made and not fully through the change, but there was an air about her that warned all to stay away. This was heartily backed up when, as he slipped his hand under her elbow to guide her across the room, Alexae glared at his compatriots in warning.
"Let's go somewhere a little more private," he said warmly, and Jessica just nodded.
The older Toreador looked across the room to Lillie and indicated upstairs with is eyes. The Primogen was a little surprised, but nodded and smiled anyway. The two disappeared towards the stairs quickly.
The pavement was hard, that much Frank found out when he was dumped out of the car directly onto it. The first thing he saw was a pair of feet, and he slowly worked his way up. The face that met his gaze did not bode well for his future. One of the Brujah that Richie had so cheerfully beaten the crap out of the previous night was leering down at him, and as he slowly climbed to his feet he became aware of the others as well.
"Not so brave without your friend, little man?" the leader of the pack sneered loudly.
A cold feeling started in the pit of the police officer's stomach.
"Hey, look," he said slowly, "last night had nothing to do with me, I was just with the guy. I have no quarrel with you."
"Wrong," another of the group said from behind, "you laughed at us."
That wasn't true, but then talking a Brujah out of something they had decided were the facts could be like chiselling granite with a bobby pin. There was only one route left open to the cop.
"Um, look I was supposed to meet Julian Luna at the Haven, he's not going to be pleased if I don't show," the implicit warning was there, but it fell on deaf ears.
"Oh, don't worry Franky," the leader started, "we're not going to kill you. We thought we just have a little fun and rough you up a bit. Now Mr Luna might be a little annoyed at us for a while, but he's not going to go against Cameron over some bruises."
The police officer had a sinking feeling that the brute might actually be telling the truth. All safe ground just crumbled away from him.
"Can't we just talk about this?" he tried, a little desperately.
His reply was a fist in the face. Now that hurt like hell, but not as much as the one which followed and did something nasty to his kidneys. Now Frank could handle himself pretty well, and he even managed to land a couple of punches, but he was not Kindred and he really didn't stand a chance. Every time he turned to try and bloke a blow, one of the other Brujah would attack from behind, or beside him.
He really had no idea what he was doing by the time he flailed out desperately and managed to sink his nails into flesh. His legs weren't under his control, he'd taken so many hits that he didn't know which way was up, and the Brujah were passing him around like a toy, but somehow he fell in just the right way to actually do some damage. There was an angry yell from whoever he had managed to hurt and then strong hands grabbed him and literally threw him through the air. His head found the car, and there was a nasty snapping sound: Frank knew no more.
The six Brujah were suddenly very still as they looked at the crumpled body.
"You broke him," was all one of them said to the ring leader, who had blood running down the side of his face.
What brought Richie to the docks he would never know, but on his way to the Haven he had been unable to resist the urge to see the water. The sight that met his eyes made him very angry, and he moved forward before his better judgement could get in the way. He barely realised he had a sword in each hand.
"Which one of you killed him," he yelled at the top of his lungs.
To say that the sight of him scared the hell out of the Kindred gathered around the body was putting it lightly. He still felt like Toreador even though he had given up most of the powers, and blades like those he was carrying could be nasty for vampires. These Brujah knew death when they saw it coming towards them and they ran.
The question had brought the look of guilt to one face and it was this Kindred who Richie pursued. The Immortal dumped one sword by the side of Frank's lifeless body and then charged after his prey. The dagger he had lifted from Damon was very useful in bringing down the vampire before he could change shape or escape. The knife in the leg wouldn't hurt him too much, but it did cause him to fall.
With an incoherent cry, Richie ran at his victim, sword at the ready and swung it for the killing blow. It was the look of pure terror on the fallen Kindred's face that drew the slice up short. Millimetres from the Brujah's neck the blade stopped, and the Immortal glared at his prey.
"This time you live," he said slowly, quite surprised by the sentiment himself. "Frank's dead now, but he won't be for long. This time you escape with your life. We are something you do not understand, we are something you should fear. Remember that well."
The vampire was too scared to do anything but nod. He hadn't been so afraid since he was mortal and the younger looking man's words hit home.
"Run home, dog," Richie said with a dangerously quiet tone, "and next time you see Frank, remember to be afraid."
He turned on his heel and just walked back to the car, in a few seconds the Brujah was gone.
The keys were in the ignition and the doors were open so it didn't take Richie long to load the police officer and the sword onto the back seat. There was a chance the clan members would come back for their vehicle, and without the help of surprise, the Immortal could live without facing them. He drove away quickly, and rapidly decided to head for his hotel.
The journey was half over when Frank opened his eyes again for the first time.
"Welcome back," Richie greeted and kept his eyes on the road, "I wouldn't move for a while if I were you, those Brujah really did a number on you."
"You're telling me," was the slow reply, "my head feels like someone's hitting it with a base ball bat."
"Lie still and it'll pass," was the next instruction, "dying's hard on the body."
There was silence from the back seat for a while, and then Frank's brain caught up with what Richie had said.
"Dying, what do you mean dying?" the tone was a little anxious.
He didn't feel much like he thought a vampire should feel, they couldn't have embraced him, could they?
"The beating ended with you breaking your neck," his companion supplied helpfully. "At least that's what I suppose killed you, since your head was at a very funny angle. You're Immortal, Frank, like me and Mac, you just didn't know about it before. Now you've died for the first time, you'll heal fast, never get sick, and lots of junk like that."
He glanced round and grinned before turning back to the road.
"A shock, yeah I know," he said cheerfully, "at least I had a little longer to get used to the idea of Immortals. Let me guess, you're the type of guy who must have weeks of vacation time backed up at work, right?"
This was a new turn to the conversation, but Frank was too bemused to answer anything but the truth.
"Ah, yeah," he responded blankly, "the Captain's always trying to get me to take some time off."
"Great," Richie said and turned into the street which contained his hotel, "then I suggest you take it now. You have a lot to learn and not a lot of choice about it. You're lucky, only Kindred saw you die and they're not likely to blab, so you won't have to move on. Mac taught me how to be Immortal, and you're going to have to learn as well. There's this nice dojo up north, where we can both give you the crash course if you like."
He pulled over and looked at the startled police officer.
"There's a lot you don't know, but to stay alive you'll need help," the blond man continued sincerely. "Mac and I can give you that help until we can sort something out down here. Take the sword you're lying next to and go hole up in my hotel room for now. I've got to go find MacLeod, and then we'll explain everything. Room 228."
Frank wasn't really thinking very clearly, he decided that following the instructions might be a good idea.
Several conversations just stopped as Richie walked into the Haven, and he grinned at the shocked expression on Duncan's face. The slightly opened mouth visage dissolved into one of relief as he recognised his young friend's habitual disposition.
"I think he's back to normal," the older Immortal commented as his comrade began to walk across the room.
There was a quizzical look on Lillie's face as she watched the younger man approach.
"Not quite," was her quiet response, and she looked to Julian for confirmation.
"Mr Ryan still feels somewhat like one of us," the Prince offered slowly, "but his heart is beating, and he appears human on the outside."
Cash was hastily looking in his employer's direction, even as Sasha surveyed the new talent, and Julian just smiled. The Gangrel tried not to look too uptight as he suddenly found the younger Immortal was headed in his direction. He was most surprised when Richie actually stopped.
"Look, sorry about yesterday," the blond man apologised calmly. "Love the jacket, man."
Then he walked on not waiting for a reply.
"So, what happened yesterday," Sasha enquired curiously, "and who's the guy with the mixed up messages?"
Having been hanging out across town for the last couple of days, the Brujah hadn't been part of all the excitement. All she knew was that there had been some fuss over a human that she was neither interested in, nor part of.
"I'll tell you later," was all the Gangrel replied.
The young Immortal slid into the booth on the opposite side to his mentor, and just smiled at the others.
"I thought we'd go home now," he said lightly.
Nobody was quite sure what to say to that.
"Are you okay, Richie?" Mac finally asked slowly.
"Fine," the younger replied calmly, "a good Quickening will do wonders for a guy."
For Duncan that explained it all, but Richie went on anyway to make sure all was clear.
"Damon's dead, I'm as close to normal as I think I'm going to get," the blond Immortal said evenly, "Frank discovered death as well, by the way, but he'll get used to the idea. I've really had enough of this town, and I'd like to go home, where nothing more exciting happens than the odd Immortal trying to kill me."
It took a while for everyone to catch up.
"What happened to Frank?" it was Julian who asked, and he was not happy.
"Some Kindred decided to use him as a punch bag," was the quick reply, "and he broke his neck. Since he's Immortal it didn't bother him for long, and I have him stashed somewhere where no-one can find him until he feels like being found."
Righteous anger flared in the Prince's eyes, and Richie had his next question figured before he asked it.
"Who were they?" he demanded hotly.
Now Richie had no intention of giving the brutes up to the slaughter, he thought they'd probably learned their lessons.
"It doesn't matter," was the calm reply. "Take it from me, they will not be trying it again."
The two men locked gazes for a moment as Julian thought about pushing the issue. He didn't like to be told what to do, even in situations like this, but he quickly found the stubborn streak in the younger Immortal. The Ventrue looked angry for a moment, but slowly the expression changed into a smile.
"Have it your way," he finally said and much to Lillie's surprise, gave in.
It was the Toreador Primogen who spoke next.
"Well gentlemen," she said with a smile, "I hope you don't mind, but I'd like to steal Richard for just a little while. I'd like to have a few words in private."
Now it was the blond man's turn to look surprised, but he did not object as the dark haired siren led him to a quiet corner. She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment and then kissed him on the cheek.
"Thank you for what you did for Alexae," she said warmly, "your gift arrived here a while ago. After what he did to you, your actions surprise me."
Now Richie understood why she had wanted to talk to him, and he smiled.
"I got rid of all my anger when I staked him," the young Immortal returned honestly, "and my more rational side came into play. I saw Jessica as she was about to throw herself off a roof, and I suddenly knew that they would be good for each other. He needs someone, that's why he tried to take me. She has never seen how life can be good, and he can give that to her. I just followed my heart, which, for once, doesn't seem to have landed me in trouble."
Lillie ran her hand down one side of his face and just smiled at him for a while.
"You're very kind," she said slowly, "I wouldn't have expected that in someone who has to kill like you do. Don't ever let go of your soul, Richard, it makes you a wonderful person."
Then she kissed him again and walked back to Julian, leaving the Immortal to contemplate what she had said.
It had taken them another day to get out of the city, what with explaining everything to Frank and getting him to organise his vacation, along with the formal farewells. Julian had wanted more information, but he couldn't really push it. Even though these Immortal's appeared friendly, he was sure they could be very dangerous, besides which, he would have time enough to talk to Frank later. After all the hassle in San Francisco, the days of rigorous training that Duncan decided to put Frank through, using Richie as an example, seemed almost restful.
The blonde Immortal had not been able to shake the desire to paint, another lingering Toreador trait, so his apartment now had an easel and canvases strewn around. He found himself doodling at the oddest moments, the most bizarre of which had to be when Duncan had caught him making patterns on the counter with the salt. He was trying to keep the urge under control, but occasionally it got the better of him.
"So why don't you just shoot them and then take their heads?" the cop asked as he and the younger of the other two Immortal's took a break in a sparing session.
He was looking at Duncan for the answer, but the Highlander just huffed and walked into the office. When Frank turned to Richie for help he found the young man laughing.
"Those kind of questions are best left unthought," the blond man said lightly, "especially with Mac around. He has this big honour streak in him, and ideas like your tend to tick him off."
The ever practical side of the newer Immortal still couldn't see the problem, but good sense won over.
"Okay," Frank admitted, "it was only a thought. So what was this move you're supposed to show me?"
"Well, it's like this ..." Richie began and they walked toward the centre of the floor.
Then they both looked up at the door, Frank wincing slightly as the presence of a new Immortal made itself very plain to his brain. It was an odd sensation to get used to, but he was managing. Richie was holding the wooden sword he had, defensively, until Adam Pierson strolled through the door with a broad smile on his face.
"Hi guys," he said, a little too brightly, "it's only me. So who's the new recruit?"
MacLeod walked out of the office with a broad smile on his face.
"Phone, Adam," the Highlander said jovially, "I know it's a modern invention, but it's useful. Prevent heart attacks, and misunderstandings."
"One day I will call," Methos said lightly, "then you'll get worried."
He wandered further into the dojo, happy that no-one was going to try and give him a height adjustment, and came to a stop just beside Richie. It took a few seconds, but suddenly the two were staring at each other, wide eyes.
"Gangrel," Richie said rapidly.
"Toreador," was what the other Immortal replied.
"You were embraced," they both said in unison.
Methos found this very funny, Frank and Duncan just looked at each other.
"You must have made one strange Kindred," he said with a laugh, "I'd only taken one head when they tried the number on me, and I had a split personality for weeks."
The younger of the two was looking rather shocked.
"When, how long ago?" he almost demanded.
It was a surprise and a relief to find out he was not the only one who had made been in contact with the wrong vampire.
"A while," Methos returned with a smile. "I'll tell you exactly after we've had a long talk about ages."
Some Immortals were touchy about how long they'd been wandering around, Richie accepted this and moved onto his next question.
"So do the after effects wear off?" he inquired directly.
"You mean the hearing and things," the ancient returned lightly, as if this was the most normal conversation in the world. "No. They might fade a little over the next hundred years or so, but you're stuck with them. I have also been reliably informed that, from time to time, in the throws of passion, my eyes change colour."
Richie looked a little dubious.
"Ever had any complaints?" he finally asked.
"No so far," was the cheerful reply.