Disclaimer: Richie and the concept of Highlander belong to Gregory Widen, Davis/Panzer, and Rysher Entertainment. Chloe belongs to Gough, Millar, DC Comics, and the WB.

Author’s Note: Written for Crossfandom and The Fandom Roots Challenge.

Richie Ryan stared at the open suitcase lying on the queen-sized sleigh bed. After an hour, it was still empty, and he hadn’t made a move to actually pack anything. He sat down beside it and took in the room around him. How was he going to pull this off? How could he just leave with only a note explaining his whereabouts? He knew he should have left an hour earlier, but he was putting it off as long as possible. Torn, he stared down at the floor.

“Were you going to tell me or were you just going to leave?” Richie looked up to see Chloe Sullivan standing in the doorway, her blonde hair reaching her shoulders. Her voice was even, but the pain showed in her green eyes.

“I have to do this,” he said softly.

Chloe walked into the room, her arms folded. “Can you at least give me a reason?” she asked as she blinked back tears.

“It’s not you.”

She stood by the bed and waited for him to say more. When nothing else came, she commented, “That’s not a reason.”

Richie stood up and marched past her. Opening the closet door, he pulled shirts and jeans off the hangers. “I can’t do this anymore.”

“Do what?” Chloe turned to face him. “Live with me? Look at me everyday? What?”

His blue eyes met hers as he waited a beat. “Watch you die.”

Chloe’s temper edged a bit as confusion replaced the pain. “What?”

Richie threw the clothes into the open suitcase. “If you stay with me, you’re going to die while I won’t.”

“Richie, we’ve been through this before. I knew that when you told me you were Immortal,” Chloe explained as she gently touched his shoulder. “I chose to stay.”

Richie stopped in front of the closet, his back to her. “You shouldn’t have.” He turned to face her and took her hands in his. “You should be allowed to have children, to grow old with someone, to be safe.”

“So, you’re going to make the choice for me?” The temper in her voice returned as she jerked her hands free.

He didn’t answer. He simply gathered more items and resumed packing. Once he cleaned out the closet, he moved on to the drawers.

Chloe tried again, this time keeping her voice even. “You can’t make this choice for me. Even if you did leave, I wouldn’t be safe.” Catching his arm, she stopped him and looked into his eyes. “I’m a reporter. Whatever I do, I won’t be safe. I chased meteor mutants back home in Smallville; I stood up to Lionel Luthor himself. Growing old while you stay young doesn’t scare me.”

“And what about Immortals with big swords? Ones who could kill me, and then kill you?”

Understanding dawned on her, and Chloe let go of his arm. “That’s it, isn’t it? This is about York, isn’t it?”

In one swift move, Richie caught her up in a tight embrace. He shut his eyes as the image of her hanging from a ceiling with her hands bound above her head flooded into his mind. He could still hear York’s laughter as he had egged Richie on; he could still feel York’s Quickening running through his veins. Slowly, he opened his eyes. “I thought I would lose you. What if I hadn’t gotten there in time? What if he had killed you anyway?”

“But he didn’t.”

“But he could have. And there are others out there like York.” He faltered as he breathed in her scent. “You’re so precious; your life is so frail. I can’t stand the thought of losing you.”

Parting, Chloe brushed a golden curl off Richie’s forehead. “I feel the same way. That’s why I don’t want you to go.” She took a deep breath. “Richie, when I chose to stay, I knew the risks. When I fell in love with you, I fell in love with all of you.” She rested her head on his shoulder. “Stay, please.”

“And if it happens again?”

“Then we’ll deal with it together. Like I said, my life has never been easy. Why should this be any different?”

Not knowing what to say to that, Richie shoved the open suitcase off the bed. It landed with a thud on the floor as all of his clothes tumbled out. He swept up Chloe and placed her on the bed. As his mouth covered hers, he realized something. There was no way he would be leaving her tonight.


© 2004 Crimson Idealist