~1770~

Walking the streets of a small town in Southern Russia Susan glanced at the various stalls as she passed them. She walked this path practically every day and saw nothing new or eye catching, the standard fair she usually seen. Granted every so often there would be something different and interesting, not that it would cause her to purchase or barter for it, she had been living a more basic lifestyle as of late. Only getting the items she really needed. Although every so often she would splurge on something if the mood caught her just right. She was only human after all.

Pausing her stride momentarily as she felt the Quickening she looked around. Silently she searched for the person in the crowd doing the same thing, and for a potential fighting place if the other immortal was in the mood for one. They spotted each other almost at the same time. Susan started to smile as she recognized Owen. Started to, that smile faded as his tired looking gaze hardened and his hand went to what she assumed was the sword hidden in his clothing. Speaking in English, since she knew hardly anybody around them would understand it, she said, "If you're still angry about me trying to take you away from Himiko..."

For some reason hearing her name made his face momentarily twist in a way she didn't recognize before relaxing his feature. "I'm sorry Susan. I thought you were someone else for moment."

"I feel sorry for this other person then," she said in an attempt to lighten the tension she was still feeling in the situation. He didn't resist as she went over to him for a quick embrace he barely returned. "How have you been Owen? And is Himiko with you? I would love to see her again."

He looked away a bit, looking pained, "Himiko..."

He couldn't say it, he didn't have to. Susan had seen a similar look on her face in the waters of lakes or in the puddles made after the rain when she lost Jean. Not caring what any of the crowd thought at the moment she held him close. "Owen I'm so sorry. What happened?"

"I...," he pulled away from her, that metal wall he had up earlier went back up. "I can't..."

"It's alright," she said as she guided him toward the place she was staying figuring he needed that more than anything. But from what he said earlier she had a feeling that was who he had mistaken her for. "You can tell me when you're ready. You can stay with me for a while. You look like you're about to fall over from exhaustion."

"I can't stay," he pulled away from her again. "I wasted too much time already. I have to find her."

"And in the condition you appear to be in now I doubt your chances if you did find this person." Getting a firmer gasp of his sleeve he herded him toward her dwelling one more time. "Rest and a hot meal, that will do you a world of good. Trust me I've been around long enough to know that."

~Now~
After the stunt he had pulled with the Thief Susan had every right to tell Owen to go to hell when he asked her to watch him talk to someone. She was going to tell him just that. But he told her, "I need you to make sure I don't take this one too far." The way he looked, knowing him for so long she knew he was being serious. He was afraid he may go over some line for some reason.

"Where was this concern when you were tracking the Thief?", she demanded.

"Susan, please, this one last time," he pleaded. "I'll never bother you again after this."

"If only I could believe that," she said. "I'm going to have my head examined for this but alright. This one last time."

"Thank you," he said looking grateful.

He took her to a pretty open public area, so there was no chance he would use her to trap another immortal. She would have maimed him personally if that was the case. He motioned to her to stay close so she decided to stay within ear shot as he sat next to some teenager. The young woman looked up, half surprised and also half expecting him if Susan was reading her face correctly. Then she looked resigned to the fact he was there as she didn't move. After a bit Susan heard Owen say, "How did you sneak the note into the office at school without being seen?"

The young woman didn't look at him when she said, "How do you know I was the one who wrote it?"

"You still have some homework assignments left behind from before you disappeared," he told her. "I compared them on a hunch."

"You're an handwriting expert now?", she practically demanded.

"Live as long as I have," Susan wondered why he phrased his response like that, "and you'll be amazed what you pick up. so how did you do it?"

Susan fought the gasp that almost came out of her mouth once she realized what note he was talking about. Whoever this person was she sent him on the path to the Thief. She paid a little more attention as the girl spoke, "As many students go in and out of that office you'd be surprised how easy it was."

"You also could have told me where she is just as easily," Owen went on. Right Then Susan realized who this young woman was after she got a good look at her. It was the student he had told her about, the one whose mother had killed Himiko. Now she understood why he wanted her along.

"I can't," she said, remembering her name was Janet.

"Then why tell me about the Thief?", Owen demanded. "He could have told me where she was just as easily. Why send me after him at all?"

"He used me," she said, so softly Susan almost didn't catch it. "She let him have his way with me. I couldn't kill him without her doing something."

Owen looked down momentarily as Susan heart went out to Janet. When he looked back up he had this determined look on his face. So determined Susan almost stepped forward to drag him out of there. "Why are you still protecting her? If she let that happened why are you still there at all?"

"She'll find me," she almost shouted. That outburst still caused a few head to turn in their direction. "It doesn’t matter where I'd go. She'd track me down and..." No matter how angry or upset Owen was with her at the moment even he had to have heard the fear in her voice. In fact Susan was glad that he apparently did as he lost some of the edge to his features.

"I can still help you leave. I have a friend," he looked right at her briefly. "He's a preacher, his church has a pretty big basement. You can hide there while I try to arrange something."

"Don't tell me she won't hurt me there because I'm not immortal," Janet told. "Your rules don't apply to me. And don't tell me you'll protect me either. Just stop acting like you care." Janet suddenly stood up and walked away.

When Owen didn't follow Susan walked over and sat next to me. Part of her wanted to asked how did it feel to get used by somebody. An older, more primal part of her mind that she tried not to listen to that much the older she got. Unless she was in battle of course that part came in real handy if you wanted to survive. But after the bomb Janet just dropped it wasn't appropriate. still she had to ask him, "Why do you seem to care? You barely know that girl outside of the class room."

"I honestly don't know," he told her. Thinking it over a bit he went on, "I suppose I want to believe she's not her mother's daughter and is innocent in this situation. Even if she did use me to take care of her problem."

"Do you regret tracking the thief down like that then?"

Again he had to think it over, "No. If he did what I think he did to her my only regret is I didn't take his head myself." Surprisingly Susan found herself agreeing with him in that respect. "Look Susan, I know I've been getting a bit obsessed being this close to finally getting Himiko's killer..."

"A bit obsessed?" she said in disbelief.

"All right really obsessed. And I know I said I would take out anyone standing between me and her." He looked right at her, "I don't want Janet to be one of them. I am willing to bend my morals to do anything possible to get her mother, this Victoria," he practically spat her name out, "but I won't have Janet's death or rebirth on my conscious."

Susan grabbed him by the back of the neck and made him look at her. She studied him for a long time. Finally she said, "That last bit you just said, that is the you I know and care about. That first bit about doing anything, I never want to see that person in you ever again. You want vengeance after all this time, get it. I lived in a time where that was common and I understand that need completely. But do it as you. You do it as that other person I just saw and we're done."

"I can't promise...", he started to say.

"I'm not asking you to promise," she informed him. "I'm telling you flat out what will happen. I'll play nice when Natalya's around, because she had nothing to do with this and shouldn't be punished for your actions. But you will be dead to me. Am I clear?"

"Crystal," he said as he started to get up. She grabbed his sleeve and kept him in place a moment longer.

"You said you’d go to Father Andrews to help her out of this if she wanted it," she began. "I'll help with her too if you need it. From what I've seen you're going to need every bit you can get with her."

He looked at her, his face was stoic but she could see the confusion in his eyes, "After I used you to get the Thief? Why would you help me with getting Janet out of this?"

"Because," she really didn't have to think this over, "despite of who raised her I think she's innocent in all this too. You're basically going to war with this woman and the other's she with. I've seen too many innocent people die pointlessly in more wars than I can count. If I can save one I will do it gladly. And that will be my only involvement in this."

"Fair enough," Owen said. He looked almost ashamed of himself when he told her, "Thank you."

"We're still friends at the moment," she told him. "Besides you can't burden the good father with all you problems now can you?" He nodded and she let him get up he went a couple of steps before she got up as well. "Owen."

He stopped and looked back at her.

"I really don’t want to kick you out of my life. If you feel yourself becoming that other person call me, Father Andrews, Natalya. Somebody. You're too good a man to go down the slope you're close to being at the edge of now. And you know what I'm talking about because you told me the father helped you away from it before."

"That would require that I see it coming."

"In my years of experience, once you been there once you recognize it if you really want to," she told him. "Trust me." Owen gave him a smile that was tired as he was starting to look. "Head home Owen. Get yourself something to eat and some rest. It'll do you a world of good."

Shaking his head he almost laughed as he said, "As many times as I heard you say that."

"Listen to experience this time," she shot back. "You'll be around longer." If he doesn't let his obsession get the best of him like she feared it would that is.