The soft strain of blues guitar drifted to his ears as Richie opened the door. The ray of sunlight pierced the dark interior of the bar, illuminating the tiny motes of dust that were disturbed by his entrance. His slipped in quickly and quietly, easing his way over to the bar and keeping close to the shadows. The young Immortal's eyes quickly took in every thing about the bar, from Mike drying glasses behind the bar, to the silver haired man seated on the small stage, strumming and singing to the guitar.
Richie's attempt to enter unnoticed failed, and the guitar player raised his head, his bright blue eyes meeting those of the Immortal. With a smile, the strumming stopped, and he began to set the guitar aside.
"Don't stop on my account, Joe."
"And miss the opportunity to grill you about your latest exploits in Europe?" The man smiled, using a cane to push himself to his feet. He walked forward, somewhat striding, somewhat limping.
As always, Richie's eyes darted to Joe's legs, wondering again how the man lived with the prosthesis. He didn't think he would quite have had the older man's stoicism if he lost both of his. Of course, if it were a choice between losing his legs or being an Immortal- well, sometimes Joe seemed to hold the more enviable position.
"Grill me?" Richie quickly brought his eyes to meet the other man's. "Like you don't know already know the details?"
"I know what's in the reports," Joe Dawson clapped Richie affectionately on the shoulder, propelling the young man toward the bar. "I also know you and Mac have a way of making sure Watchers see and hear only what you want them to see and hear."
"Even Immortals deserve a little privacy."
Joe shook his head, raising an eyebrow. "Privacy? You died in the middle of a respectable family home and you want to talk about privacy?"
The young Immortal settled onto a barstool, trying to ignore the warm blush that rose to his cheeks. Leave it to Joe to tease him with only half the story.
"So, why don't you tell me the whole story?" The Watcher prompted as Mike produced two long necked bottles of beer.
Richie started. Clearly, he had spent too much time around the Tomorrow People. For a moment, he almost thought that Joe was reading his mind. Still there was an edge to his teasing, "So, what are you a mind reader now, Joe?"
"Like I said before. I know you, Richie."
Richie took the bottle, and took a long drink. He shrugged. "There's not much to tell. I was just trying to protect some kids from Maris."
"Mm-huh." Joe's grunt told the young Immortal his friend's opinion on that version. "I don't expect my field people to know all the details of what goes on when Immortals talk, Richie, but I know there's more to it than that. Why would Maris want to kill a group of kids?"
"It's not important, Joe." Richie thought about the Tomorrow People again, remembering his promise to General Damon, Frank, and Adam to keep their secret. Theirs was as dangerous to them as his Immortality was to him. He saw first hand the effects of that type of knowledge had on Maris Keillor. "Maris can't get them now."
His mouth quirked at the last. He really hadn't wanted to take her head; he hadn't wanted to kill her until that last moment when she knelt before him. Her clear blue eyes had looked up at him, and she had promised to slit each of their throats if he let her live.
Richie had believed her and the sword had dropped.
Still, the killing was never easy. It was even harder in the light of meeting the Tomorrow People with their brightness and the promise they offered of the future.
"You sound like Frank. He was pretty much skirting the issue too." Joe sighed, and took a drink from his own bottle. "Of course, I'd expect that from Frank. The man's been working with World Ex too long. I bet they still don't know what a good man they have there."
The Immortal reflected on General Damon and his attitude toward Frank. "I don't think so, but they're-" Richie stiffened, the familiar pressure and awareness pressing down on him. His muscles went rigid, and his hand twitched, flexing and reaching instinctively for his broadsword. The ~Presence~ of another Immortal made itself known.
"That'll be Mac," Joe assured him. "He just got back last night."
Richie didn't relax until his mentor's dark head appeared in the doorway.
"Richie!" Duncan MacLeod smiled brightly at the younger Immortal. "I heard you were staying in London for a while."
The two men shared an affectionate and brotherly hug, Richie grateful for the distraction from the conversation he had been having with Joe. He was also grateful to see Mac still had his head-Richie was convinced that one day when Mac ran off to rescue Amanda from one of her hare-brained schemes, it would be the death of him.
"Nah, Mac. London's a bit too busy for me," Richie commented as the older man settled onto a barstool beside Joe. "I like the calm and quiet of Seacouver."
MacLeod shot Richie a surprised look. "Calm? You?"
"Let's just say that I've had enough excitement for a while."
MacLeod accepted the beer Mike pushed across the bar with a nod. "Thanks Mike."
"You're welcome, MacLeod. I'm going to unload those crates now, Joe." Mike bid a farewell to the two Immortals and disappeared into the back of the bar.
Turning his hazel-brown eyes to his young counterpart, MacLeod took a long drink. "So, what sort of trouble have you been getting into, Rich? Joe was a little vague with the details."
"It was nothing, Mac. And it's over now."
Richie didn't miss the look the older Immortal exchanged with the Watcher.
"Who was it, Rich?" The man's voice softened; he knew the heart ache and pain that the killing drove into them. Maybe more so than any other.
Taking a deep breath, Richie exhaled it slowly. "Maris Keillor."
"Maris?" MacLeod's eyes flickered back and forth between Watcher and Immortal. "Maris?"
"Mac knew her, Richie." Joe's whispered words chilled his blood.
The vice grip that locked around his stomach made it nearly impossible to breathe. No wonder Joe had wanted details. Mac knew Maris. Richie clutched the bar for support, his words sounded dull to his own ears. "I had to do it, Mac. I didn't want to. I just wanted her to leave them alone."
"Leave who alone?"
"I talked to an old man of mine, MacLeod." Joe interrupted, smoothly getting MacLeod's attention while allowing for Richie to slow the beating of his heart. "Maris had apparently become an assassin. She was out to assassinate five teenagers."
"Kids? Maris would never kill kids! She loved children!" MacLeod's voice held storm clouds.
"That's what I thought, and that's what I told Richie. But, Richie caught her. One of our people even got her on camera." Joe paused, giving Richie a sympathetic nod. "I'm sorry, Mac. Something turned her."
"Did you try to talk to her?" MacLeod's eyes held Richie's.
Richie panted, his breath coming hard and sharp. His mind only now registered the sharp and biting aches where she had scored hits; he could feel the beginnings of healing, but the pain was still real. She cowered before him, her head lowered, and he brought his blade to rest against the skin of her exposed neck. "Walk away, Maris. Don't make me do this."
Slowly her head turned, the cold ice of her blue eyes eating into him. "Let me walk, and I swear I'll slit each of their throats. They don't deserve to live. They are unnatural."
"So are we."
"But we are meant to rule the world."
"No. We're not. They are."
"Have you ever seen a mortal bleed from a throat wound, Ryan? It's beautiful. Kill me, because I won't stop until I kill them, your precious Tomorrow People."
Richie pulled himself from the memory, trembling slightly. He hated the vivid awareness of Immortal memories. He stared down at the bar because it was far easier than meeting the pain and accusation in his mentor's eyes. "She wouldn't listen. She said that she would kill them if I let her live."
"But why? Why would Maris want to kill teenagers?"
With a silent "I'm sorry" whispered to Adam, and Ami in particular, Richie raised his head to meet the other man's eyes. With a deep sigh, he began his story. "Because they're The Tomorrow People."