Richie walked into the old church, feeling the slight hum of power that he'd come to associate with Holy Ground. He wasn't sure why he'd come here. There were more important things to do than seek spiritual guidance, like hunt down the demon or some explanation for it, but something had made him enter. He had never been big on attending religious services, though he sometimes went with Mac when the older Immortal attended services. In Richie's mind, Holy Ground had always been more of a refuge in case of emergency rather than a place to find meaning for the things he couldn't easily explain.
He looked around, seeing the hard wooden pews, the assortment of religious artifacts, the simply decorated altar at the front. There was no one around, though he imagined the priest was somewhere close by. For a moment, he was struck by a sense of déjà vu, though he knew he'd never been in this particular church before. The feeling unnerved him, and he was already on edge about his mentor's state of health.
Slowly, he moved down the aisle to the front pew and sat down. His mind was a jumble of thoughts and emotions, and he took a deep breath, exhaling quickly. The sound it made seemed loud in the stillness of the church, and he jumped. He swore at his nervousness, barely remembering to temper the curse out of respect for the sanctuary. He fought the urge to run screaming in the other direction.
God, I am so scared. I've never been this scared. What if Methos and Joe are right, that there isn't a demon? Mac's been through so much the last few years, and Methos is old enough to have some knowledge, so maybe I should listen to him. What if Mac is really crazy, like when Garrick got a hold of his mind? Unconsciously, Richie rubbed his throat, remembering how close he'd come to losing his head. Joe and Methos think Mac's really losing it. I don't want to believe it. Mac's all I got. He's been there for me like no one else ever has, except maybe Angie when we were kids.
He stared at the altar, seeing the plain gold cross. It seemed like a lifetime ago that he would've considered the street value of such an item, would've sneered at the thought of a Higher Power at work in his life. Religion had been all too often an excuse in his life to try and pound some lesson into him that he hadn't wanted to learn. Until his path had crossed with Mac's, he had been fairly content to believe that there wasn't a God, that a person lived and died with no cosmic purpose or guiding hand at work. Now, he wasn't entirely sure.
Immortality had made him question his existence, even before he'd died the first time. He'd asked Mac about it one night, and had walked away from the conversation with even more questions than when he'd started. Then he had died, and started to understand that Mac hadn't been able to answer some of the questions without revealing to Richie just what he'd become. Mac had tried to shield him, tried to make him treasure every second of his life without risking it needlessly. Richie had been too cocky, too sure that he'd live forever... but he'd never once imagined just how prophetic that attitude had been. He closed his eyes at the wave of pain the memory evoked.
In the days following Tessa's death and his own resurrection, Richie had questioned everything. He hadn't been able to talk to Mac, guilt over Tessa's death haunting both of them. He'd been angry at the universe then, angry with Mac for hiding the truth, heartbroken over the loss of the woman he'd alternately seen as a big sister and as a surrogate mother. Mac had left to bury Tessa in Paris, and when he'd returned, the questions Richie had wanted to ask about why he was Immortal and Tessa hadn't been had died unspoken. Some instinct had kept him from asking them, at least until Annie Devlin had shown up and the pent-up emotions had come pouring out of both of them. Even now, sometimes, in his darkest nightmares, Richie swore that Mac had tried to kill him for not protecting Tessa.
It wasn't my fault! Richie screamed silently. Why did she have to die? Life is so unfair. If there is a God, why did He pick me to be Immortal and not Tessa? he asked for the umpteenth time. Why couldn't it have been me that died forever? I'm nobody important. I don't stand a chance in the Game, and from what Joe lets slip, if my first teacher had been anyone other than Mac, I might not have survived this long.
He snorted. The first time anyone would've come after me with a sword, I would've thought they were on drugs and tried to run in the opposite direction. I know better than to mess with anyone when they're stoned, unless they pissed me off. And I'm sure I would've been pissed off. Then I'd be dead right now.
I still don't know why Mac didn't just hand me off to Connor. He says it's because Sir Lancelot told him I needed watching. Watching, hell. Why didn't Connor do it himself? Every time I've ever asked that question, Mac says something about honor. He could've refused. For that, I owe him everything.
Richie leaned back against the pew, feeling the press of his sword on his back, a sword that Mac had given him in the not-too-distant past when his first sword had broken. I was so angry with him for all the things he'd done that were wrong, and yet he still had faith in me. He still wanted me to live. It had nothing to do with survival, or the Game, or even trying to make up for nearly killing me twice.
The young Immortal closed his eyes as he leaned forward and bowed his head. I've never had anyone believe in me like that. Well, maybe everyone believed I was fast and lazy and bound to be a criminal, but Mac was different. He believed I would keep his secret, believed I was worth something more than just a punk kid from the streets. Am I wrong to return that faith unconditionally? Should I listen to Methos, who's been right before about things that could've gotten me killed, like Kristin and the false Methos? God, I don't want to let Mac down. I don't know if there is a God or not, but if one is listening, I'm definitely in the right place for prayers. Is believing in Mac when no one seems to too small a sacrifice to make? I've sworn I won't make it easy for Mac to come after me again, but what if Methos and Joe are right, and Mac tries to take my head?
A shudder of remembered fear rippled through Richie. That last time, Mac would've killed me. Almost did, but if Joe hadn't been there... Is this how I repay Joe? With doubt? God, I'm so torn. I don't want to believe that Mac's insane. Not again.
I'm not so naive to think that there isn't a possibility that he is. I just know that Mac's stronger than this, and he wouldn't lie to me about something this big. Hide the truth, maybe, but not outright lie. I know him. I trust him. He's given me everything, taught me about honor and faith and respect when I couldn't have cared less about such things. I can't begin to repay that debt, but if standing by him is the least I can do, then what Methos and Joe think doesn't matter. Mac needs someone to believe him. I know you can't go through life without someone believing in you. God knows I've had enough of that.
"I won't fail him," Richie swore, opening his eyes and rising to his feet. I don't care what Methos and Joe say. They don't know Mac like I do. I know crazy. Mac isn't crazy. If he is, then we'll get through it, together. I don't care what happens. I owe Mac this much.
With one last look at the altar, Richie turned and walked out of the church.