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19 September 2012 @ 02:09 pm
Highlander Fic 1/1  
Written for the Timestamp prompt for hl_chronicles, this is a flashback set in the Browncoats & Scabbards universe. Just why does Richie want the Operative's head?

Huge thanks to aeron_lanart for beta duties.

Driftwood


Aberystwyth, 2012

Twenty years. He was forty, but the face that looked back at him in the mirror was that of a teen. He kept expecting to see that first grey hair or lines around his eyes, but nothing changed.

And yet so much had changed. His life, his whole understanding of the world had been turned upside down the day he’d decided to burgle that antiques store.

In twenty years he’d seen more than most could dream of in a lifetime. He’d gone from wiseass kid to Immortal student to, he hoped, a good man and teacher. As a friend once told him, the road less travelled may be harder, but it’s a hell of a lot more interesting. There was still so much more to learn, to see and to do. Regrets to make amends for, relationships to recover if that was possible.

He was the luckiest man alive; he’d had not one, but two second chances. A pale, barely visible scar around his neck was now the only reminder of just how unique he was.

*-*

After Nick moved on in 2002, Richie had travelled again; he’d spent too long in one place and that itch to travel was too strong. He bought a bike and rode east until it died. He spent some time there in Russia, learned the language, made some friends, won a couple of challenges. Then he bought another bike and this time headed south.

He kept following the pattern, never staying still for more than a year or two before moving on and pretty soon he’d been to most countries on Earth.

A few days before his thirty second birthday he decided it was about time he visited the UK. He hadn’t exactly avoided it before, maybe left it until last, but he might admit that he was a little concerned. For years he’d heard stories from Mac, Fitz, Amanda and some other Immortals he’d met; stories of adventures they’d had in England and Scotland and he’d built a picture of the places in his head. He knew that the countries would have changed, but he didn’t want to be disappointed. It would be like going to Disneyland and finding all the rides closed.

He didn’t need to worry. Sure, it wasn’t a fairytale land of nobles and castles and adventure, but he hadn’t expected it to be. The Scottish countryside was much as Mac had described it and the cities were vibrant and fun.

One big bonus was the legal age in the UK was only 18, meaning he didn’t get carded much going into clubs or ordering drinks.

He toured the country, riding winding country roads, going wherever they took him and spending the night in a little inn or camping in some farmer’s field.

Eventually his travels took him to Wales and it was there, in Aberystwyth, that he met Tyler Woodbridge. He looked in his twenties, but he was actually 720 at that time, a good looking native Welshman, six foot, quite tall for the time he was born, and curly hair that couldn’t decide if it was red, blonde or brown.

They met in the town on market day. Tyler admired the bike Richie was riding, it was a classic Triumph he’d picked up for next to nothing online, and the two of them spent the rest of the day talking. Tyler and Richie hit it off straight away; like Richie he was obsessed with motorbikes and had a joie de vivre that Richie hadn’t encountered in many older Immortals. Most of them were world-weary, but Tyler found things to be enthused about, he even rated sunsets out of ten; a habit that Richie found deeply endearing.

Tyler also was a pacifist, a student of the ‘other Methos’ like Richie who had been convinced to lay down his sword. Unlike Richie, he’d yet to have been convinced to pick it up again. When Richie told him of their mentor’s death, he was upset and a little angry, he’d been friends with him for almost a century, but it still wasn’t enough to make him take up arms again. He agreed with Richie that there would always be those like Cahill who wanted the prize, or who were too twisted or broken to do anything but fight, but he said that he didn’t want to be a part of the Game anymore. He just was not going to play.

“I see your argument, Richie, I really do, but I am a man of peace now. I will not take another’s life to preserve my own. I make no judgement on those that do, but this is my choice,” he explained.

“Couldn’t you at least live on Holy Ground?” Richie asked.

“And live in fear of stepping off it? I’m a pacifist, not a coward. Don’t fret so, Richie. The road less travelled may be harder, but it’s a hell of a lot more interesting,” he added with a chuckle. “Now, let’s return the conversation to more pleasant things!”

*-*

Tyler offered Richie a bed for the night, which became a week, then a month and then the offer became indefinite. In return, Richie tended bar in the pub Tyler owned and when Tyler realised Richie was a pretty good chef he asked him to take over in the kitchens. Richie had picked up some recipes from Amanda’s chefs at Sanctuary and discovered that not only did he enjoy cooking; he was actually pretty good at it. One of the chefs even suggested he had a gift for it.

Six months later, Richie realised he was falling in love with Tyler. He’d had a few one night stands with guys, mostly drunken encounters in alleys, and there was whatever had been between him and Nick, but that had been something nebulous and strange for both of them.

Tyler was gay, they’d established that pretty quickly, but he’d never made a move on Richie and he wasn’t sure if that was because Tyler thought he was straight or because he simply didn’t want him that way.

Never one for subtlety and deciding to correct the record, Richie was determined to cook a romantic meal the next Saturday and declare himself to Tyler. He arranged cover at the pub for them and made certain Tyler would be home that evening.

Early Saturday morning he went shopping to get the best, freshest ingredients he could find and spent the day preparing three delicious and hopefully aphrodisiac courses.

He was uncharacteristically nervous as the agreed time for the meal approached. He’d been flirty all week, but if Tyler didn’t get the hint this could get awkward, fast. Worse still, he had realised but just didn’t feel the same. Richie didn’t want to think about that possibility. He laid the table and dressed it with a candle and then put on some music before deciding that was too much and turned it off again. He had no idea how to be romantic with a guy so he figured he’d wing it and if it backfired he’d be able to say it was a misunderstanding.

Thankfully, Tyler did feel the same way, he just hadn’t realised Richie did. That night went well and after a couple more dates they became lovers.

*-*

They stayed together for five years, until Richie realised it was time to go and make peace with Duncan. He’d put it off for too long and it was Tyler who actually encouraged him to go; he told him he was always welcome. They parted as friends, but with the promise of more again if they wanted it.

Richie reunited with Duncan, and though their relationship would never be the same they had returned to a semblance of the brotherhood they’d shared, although perhaps more as equals than previously.

Three years later, Richie had returned to the US. He was still wandering, but he’d stopped to spend some time with Nick in New York. It was there that he received word from a Watcher friend that Tyler had been killed. He flew to Wales as soon as he could, making it in time for Tyler’s funeral.

There was a large turnout; Tyler had been well-liked and respected in the community and some of them remembered Richie and offered their condolences.

After the service, when the other mourners had all headed to Tyler’s pub for the wake, Richie was approached by Steven, Tyler’s bar manager for years and, unbeknown to Tyler, his Watcher.

“He’s left the pub to you,” Steven said without preamble. “I witnessed the last draft of his will.”

Richie shook his head. He didn’t care about things like that now. They walked from the chapel toward the grave. It had started raining, not an unusual occurrence in Wales.

“You can keep running it. I don’t intend on coming back here,” he replied. Steven nodded.

They stood in silence for a while, looking at the recently filled in grave as rain ran in rivulets down the shiny new piece of marble that read ‘Tyler Woodbridge. He loved, he lived, he took the road less travelled.’

“He decided on that himself,” Steven indicated the inscription with a smile. “Typical Tyler.”

“Who was it?” Richie asked. Steven took a step back and raised his hands.

“Don’t ask me to break my oath,” he started to protest.

“Don’t give me that, Steven. You and I both know this couldn’t possibly have been a fair fight, it was cold blooded murder. Who was it?”

“You don’t know him, and he’s long gone. Let it go, Richie. Tyler wouldn’t want you to avenge him,” Steven replied. That just mad Richie angry and he took a step closer to Steven and leaned toward him.

“Just give me a goddamn name!” he demanded.

“Robert Durden. His name is Robert Durden. But I’m not going to help you hunt him down, Rich.”

Richie softened and placed a hand on Steven’s shoulder.

“I’m not going to hunt him, Steve. I don’t do that any more, not even for Tyler. But if Durden ever challenges me, now I have a reason beyond self-preservation to take his head,” Richie replied.

He meant it too; he knew Tyler wouldn’t want him wasting any time chasing after this Immortal, but Richie’s own sense of justice and honour wouldn’t be appeased unless he was the one to take this guy’s head. No matter how long it took.

*-*
Jiangyin 2519

Richie was lost in thought, sat at the galley table polishing his sword, mind focussed on the past rather than the steel in his hands. River was seated opposite, watching him intently as she drew circles on the table with her finger. The crew were off making deals and buying supplies with their ill-gotten booty from the bank job, but Richie hadn’t much felt like shopping.

After so many centuries, he’d finally come face to face with Tyler’s murderer and he’d been unable to challenge him. He was still brooding over his unfinished business with the Operative so he didn’t hear Mal stomping down the corridor and he was startled when the captain spoke.

“Hey oldtimer, you gonna polish that pigsticker all day or you gonna come help load?” Mal asked in a way that made the only acceptable answer clear.

“Shiny, captain. Just give me a minute to stow this and I’ll be along,” Richie replied with a smile he didn’t feel. Mal nodded and returned the way he’d arrived as Richie gathered up his belongings.

River came around to stand in front of him and placed a hand on his shoulder, her face earnest.

“Don’t fret so, Richie. The road less travelled may be harder, but it’s a hell of a lot more interesting,” she said and then she pecked him on the cheek.

“Huh? How did you…?”

River smiled and tapped the side of her head before skipping out of the room.
 
 
( 2 smoke signals — Blow smoke signals )
Kay: box robot -- i heart thissilvercobwebs on September 19th, 2012 08:08 pm (UTC)
Aww, I do so love your Richie. You always seem to capture his sweetness and forthright nature without ever making him look like the naive kid he's sometimes made out to be. ♥

(unrelated, but psst: you've got mail!)
Bettina: meego me_bettina_ on September 20th, 2012 05:35 pm (UTC)
Really lovely story. :)
( 2 smoke signals — Blow smoke signals )