Universe: A virtual "6th" season wherein "Modern Prometheus" was the finale of season 5 and ignores all events in the "real" season 5 finale and all of season 6, as well as the last movie. This season takes place 1997-1998

Summary: I know it's been done. A lot. But the Richie muse forced me into it! My take on the sequence of events between The Gathering and Family Tree.

Disclaimer: If I owned them why would I waste my time posting to fanfic sites? I'd be off making lots and lots of money! But since I'm not, I therefore don't, nor do I pretend to.


Duncan MacLeod was sitting at behind the wheel of his T-bird on an all-too-warm September day at what had to be the longest stoplight in all of Seacouver, and he was fuming. He had just left Johnson's Antiques, without the Greek sculpture that Johnson himself claimed to have waiting for him. He said that a loyal customer offered him top dollar and he couldn't refuse her. That piece was the fifth and final of a set that Duncan had been trying to collect for the past two years. Individually, each sculpture wasn't worth very much (as far as priceless antiques went), but the complete set would have fetched untold gains at the auction next month.

Duncan wasn't upset because of the money. It was the principle of the thing. Two years he spent trying to track down the remaining four pieces, acquiring three of them along the way. He had finally managed to arrange, through a series of legal (more or less) dealings to have the fifth and final piece shipped to him from a private collector in Cairo. Unfortunately for him, the shipping company dropped the package off at the wrong Seacouver antique store (because apparently it was easy to confuse 'Johnson's' with 'MacLeod and Noel').

After much hassle and many hours on hold Duncan tracked the package through the shipping company to Johnson's Antiques. He immediately phoned Mr. Johnson and told him of the shipping snafu and asked him to hold on to the piece for him. Mr. Johnson agreed, and Duncan had foolishly decided that he could wait until the following morning to pick it up. The following morning turned into the following afternoon as he was forced to work the store for Tessa, who woke up with a cold that he suspected was the beginnings of the flu, and by the time he arrived at Johnson's antiques he discovered that Mr. Johnson had already sold the piece. Now instead of a neatly packaged Greek sculpture in his back seat, Duncan MacLeod had the photocopy of a credit card receipt folded in his wallet, the prospect of negotiating with a private buyer ranking just above 'wrestle live alligators' on his wish list for the day.

He had opted to take the shortcut through the less affable section of town because it involved just the one traffic light instead of the three on his usual route. Had he realized that the light would take this long he would have reconsidered that decision. By the time the light finally turned green Duncan had gotten to wondering if some technologically advanced criminal had tweaked the timing on the light cycle just a bit to aid him in his endeavors.

Exasperated and relieved that the light had finally changed, Duncan hit the clutch and shifted back into gear. He was just about to accelerate when he had to slam on the brake again. A black and green blur that Duncan surmised was a human being, wearing what had to be the ugliest gang color scheme he'd ever seen, suddenly darted out in front of his car at breakneck speed only to just as promptly disappear down an alleyway. Duncan cursed in Gaelic (a driving luxury he afforded himself only when Tessa wasn't with him) when the sudden stop caused the T-bird to stall out.

"There's one born every minute!" he exclaimed as he made ready to drive off again. He had just stepped on the accelerator again when another blur shot out in front of his car. This blur was loosely identified as a pack of boys, dressed mostly in orange and likely chasing after the original black and green blur that had just passed by. Duncan's day to this point was such that as he restarted his car — again — he was torn between doing absolutely nothing (gangland violence was not something he relished getting involved in) and taking his frustrations out at five to one odds (five to two if you count the first blur, but he couldn't bet on it). He realized that he had plenty of time to think about it as the light had cycled back to red.

All of a sudden though the right tumblers clicked in Duncan's mind — he knew that kid! Duncan had been too preoccupied to notice the pre-immortal buzz for what it was. That black and green blur was Richard Ryan, the kid who broke into his antique store a few weeks ago. With another string of curses from various languages Duncan shifted into gear and ran the red light. He took the next left too fast and his tires squealed in protest. He sped the next few blocks, hoping that he wouldn't suddenly lose track of the pre-immortal presence. He turned down the third left and saw the kid emerge from the alley with the pack beginning to close the gap. Duncan slowed down as he passed the entrance to the alleyway. The kid slowed, unsure of himself, and now the pack was nearly on top of him.

"What do you want, a written invitation?" Duncan called out, his voice thick with impatience. "Get in, quick!"

The kid didn't need to be told twice. He dove head-first over the passenger door and landed in the back seat with a hollow thud. Duncan quickly sped off, leaving a bunch of pissed off gang members in his wake.

After taking a few darting turns, Duncan decided to pull into the parking lot for the playground in Columbus Park. Fortunately there weren't too many people there. He killed the engine and engaged the parking break, then turned around to face his passenger. The kid was still huddled on the floor of the back seat, making sure to keep all body parts out of all possible lines of fire.

"You can come out now, no one's going to shoot at you," Duncan said, staring down at the figure that seemed to more resemble a caged animal rather than a frightened boy.

The boy debated silently for a moment and then eased himself into a sitting position on the back seat. "Thanks, mister." His voice gave the impression that he was not used to expressing a genuine thank-you.

"You're welcome," Duncan replied, his voice carefully neutral. "You mind telling me why those—"

"Oh my God, you're him!" Interrupting, wide-eyed and pale as a ghost, the kid quickly fumbled for the door release. Having found it he shoved the door opened and launched himself out of the car.

Duncan cursed yet again. Apparently the boy had recognized him, too.

"Wait!" Duncan called after him as the boy began to run. Suddenly he was reminded of his promise to Connor; that he would look after the boy. He knew that if he let him get away now he would have blown his last chance to make good on his word. Duncan started to run after him. "Wait!"

Perhaps it was desperation, perhaps anger tinged with frustration, but something about Duncan's tone would have made even the most hardhearted criminal stop in his tracks. Thus it was more than enough to stop the boy, who seemed to freeze like his life dependent on the cessation of movement. Duncan smiled to himself, having effectively pulled off his best imitation of Connor to date. He walked up to the kid, determined to figure out exactly why he was tempting fate with entrance to the game.

Richie turned around slowly when he heard Duncan approach. "Look, mister, I'm sorry about the store." His voice was steady, but quite a bit higher pitched than Duncan remembered it from their conversation in the police station. And his hands were trembling slightly. "I'll pay for the window and the alarm somehow. Just give me the chance."

Duncan heard what the boy said, but not the actual words. He was too busy studying the unbridled fear in those ice blue eyes. The knowledge that he was the cause of such fear was unsettling. Unfortunately his silence — along with a facial expression that made Richie feel like a bug under glass — didn't help matters any.

"I'm just the kid that was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the overactive imagination, remember?" Richie stammered hastily, effectively bringing Duncan back to the here and now. "Ok, so my curiosity got the best of me, but that's no reason to—"

"Enough!" Duncan firmly (but not harshly) attempted to stop the babbling.

The boy recoiled as if slapped and Duncan noticed his lower lip began to tremble before he bit it for a moment to keep it steady. "What do you want from me?" he asked in a tone that led Duncan to believe, despite all the bravado he remembered the kid possessing, that he was not above begging for his life. Duncan was searching for the best calming thing to say to him when he noticed the stain on the boy's jacket.

Blood.

Duncan's eyes went wide and he made an abortive move forward. The kid flinched so he added, "you've got blood, there." Funny, it hadn't sounded quite so ridiculous in his head.

Richie's already too-pale expression washed over to ashen. "Jesus, you want my blood?" he asked, fearfully incredulous, backpedaling. "What are you, some sort of vampire?"

"You're hurt!" Duncan exclaimed, trying his best to sound patient and non-intimidating.

The kid backed up again and Duncan stepped forward to match his distance. At his fearfully questioning gaze Duncan gestured towards the boy's midsection. The kid inspected his jacket carefully, putting his hand where he saw the stain. It came away bloody.

"I guess Romeo stuck me harder than I thought," he said, sounding slightly awed as he stared at the blood on his hands. Then all of a sudden he wobbled on his legs and that was all the warning Duncan got before the kid suddenly collapsed in a heap. An immortal's reflexes were all that allowed Duncan to catch him before his upper body hit the ground.

"Don't…" he managed to beg before passing out in Duncan's arms.

"Great," Duncan groaned sarcastically as he eased the boy to the ground. "He's seen that I'm immortal but thinks I'm a vampire," he muttered sarcastically as he unzipped the jacket, then lifted the boy's shirt to get a better look at the wound. "And now he's dying," Duncan deadpanned. "Wonderful"

Duncan gave up and swore in English this time as he grabbed the bandana from Richie's head and pressed it onto the wound. He knew that the kid needed medical attention fast or else he'd bleed to death.

Knowing that the T-bird was the fastest way to get the kid to the hospital, Duncan scooped him up and carried him back to the car. He put him in the front seat and hurried over to the driver side. He started the engine, shifted into gear, and completed the drive to the hospital one-handed, his right hand serving to both keep pressure on the wound and monitor Richie's pulse: it was fast and faint, but relatively constant.

It started to bottom out as Duncan pulled into the emergency section of the hospital parking lot and right up to the front doors. He didn't bother to turn his car off as he grabbed the boy and jumped over the doors on the passenger side. He carried him in through the ambulance entrance.

"I need some help here!"

Two EMTs suddenly swarmed him. "What happened?" the first asked, wheeling a gurney.

Duncan put the boy down, but kept his hand on the soaked bandana that covered the wound. "I don't know," he lied, "the kid just collapsed right in front of me. I think he's been stabbed."

"Heart rate's forty-eight, BP's ninety-two over sixty-four and falling fast," the second EMT rattled off, looking up from his instruments.

"Looks like he's in shock," the first answered. "Send him to trauma two and page Dr. Worthington."

"Blood type?" the second asked.

"I don't know," Duncan answered, feeling helpless as he a nurse replaced his hold on the bandana with a wad of triage gauze.

"Prep some O-negative and prepare to cross-type him!" The EMTs began quickly wheeling the gurney down the hallway.

"Thank you, Sir. We'll take it from here," said the nurse as they rounded the corner and disappeared from sight.

Duncan just stood there for several seconds, staring blankly ahead. This was not the reunion he'd planned on when Connor told him to keep an eye on the boy. That was a fine eye, MacLeod.

Duncan found a payphone and called Tessa, hating to have to disturb her rest, and told her to bring a change of clothes to the hospital. After quickly reassuring her that he had been helping an accident victim and was now waiting to hear on his condition, Duncan hung up the phone and walked back to the ER waiting area, fastening his coat to hide the bloodstains on his shirt.

It was only then that he remembered that he left the T-Bird running. Duncan went back outside only to find it missing. Great. Perfect. Wonderful.

Duncan went back inside the waiting room and sat in one of the morbidly uncomfortable standard issue plastic chairs, offering a few silent prayers heavenward that the boy would be alright. He was too young to enter the game. Immortals that young never finished developing. He'd never be big enough and he'd never be strong enough. Not that some immortals didn't make the lack of such weapons work for them. Look at Connor, or even Amanda. Still, with the gathering so close at hand his odds of survival were vastly increased by every extra year of mortal life.

Another thought, one that he only gave passing credit to, was that if the kid were to become immortal right now Duncan was almost certain that he wouldn't be able to teach him. The most important thing in teacher-student rapport is trust, and that kid looked like he wouldn't trust his own mother as far as he could throw her. As much as some part of him ached to be given a chance with the boy, he knew that realistically he would be a poor choice for a teacher if the kid were to enter the game tonight. Richie would need someone he could have an easier time identifying with, someone closer to his own level that would by association be easier for him to trust. Unfortunately, Duncan didn't have that many immortal friends who fit the bill that he could trust enough to ask.

At the top of that list Duncan thought of Rebecca. She had more patience for the younger generation (whichever generation that might be at the time) than any other immortal he'd ever met, with the possible exception of Darius; but Rebecca had her own life and a husband she loved and he couldn't saddle her with a student knowing that she would accept without question. That left only one other option.

Connor.

Duncan hated the prospect of having to resort to asking his own teacher, given that he felt a strange sense of possessiveness mixed in with his protectiveness towards the boy. No, the only acceptable outcome was for the boy to leave the hospital still untouched by the game. Resolved that tonight could not end any other way, Duncan prepared himself for the potentially long wait ahead of him.

Some time later Tessa entered the emergency room carrying a shopping bag. She looked a little better than she had that morning, but Duncan was sure she was still running a bit of a fever.

"Duncan," she called out to him.

Duncan looked up at the sound of her voice and stood to greet her. "Hi, Tess." Tessa leaned in to embrace him but he held his hands up to stop her. "Not a good idea, I'm rather gross." He opened his jacket to show her the bloodstains covering his shirt. At her startled expression he flashed his most charming smile. "Don't worry — none of it's mine." With that he took the bag from her, checking its contents to be sure she brought everything, and turned to leave.

He made it half way to the restrooms before turning back to her. "Oh and if the doctor comes back, I'm waiting for news on Richard Ryan."

"Ryan?" Tessa remembered the name but wasn't able to place it. Then all of a sudden her expression changed to one of indignant surprise. "Isn't that the boy who—"

"Yes it is," Duncan affirmed, cutting her off. "But the kid nearly died in my arms this afternoon, so try and go easy on him." With a smile and a kiss on her cheek, Duncan turned back around and headed into the men's room to change.

When he reemerged a few minutes later, Duncan's feeling of refreshment was chased away by one look at Tessa's expression. With the air of a kid sent to the principal's office, he sat down in the seat next to her and, putting the bag of soiled clothes by his feet, made ready to explain himself.

Tessa addressed him before he got the chance. "Hospital security called, just before I left. They told me to tell you that your car has been impounded for being parked illegally in the ambulance zone." Her tone was clipped, as though she had barely won the war with herself to allow Duncan to explain everything before voicing her own opinions on the matter.

Duncan sighed tiredly. "Well, that's good news at least."

Tessa didn't detect any sarcasm in his voice. "Pardon?"

"I was afraid it might have been stolen."

"Why would you think that?"

"Because I left it running outside the ER."

"You what!" Tessa exclaimed loudly enough to garner a few offended glances from the others in the waiting room. Then, lowering her voice: "Duncan MacLeod, how could you have been so careless?"

"Well I was more worried about the kid bleeding to death in my front seat at the time," Duncan defended.

Tessa was all set to argue when all of a sudden her expression changed. "Was he really hurt that badly?"

Duncan reached into the shopping bag and removed his soiled shirt for her to see.

"Mon Dieu," she exclaimed softly, concern evident in her voice as she studied the flecked patterns of blood adorning the blue cotton.

"None of this is mine," Duncan reiterated before putting the shirt back into the bag.

"From the beginning," Tessa directed.

"Right," Duncan agreed, trying to decide where and how to begin. "The beginning."

He told her all about the mix-up with Johnson's Antiques and his decision to take the shortcut. Then he mentioned how the boy had darted out in front of his car, chased by five members of what he had dubbed 'the orange gang.' He told her how, even if he hadn't recognized the boy (which he had), seeing the five-against-one odds bothered his Highland code of honor, and that he drove around the block to provide the kid with a getaway car. He left out the incident in the playground and Richie's reaction to recognizing him, instead telling her that the kid passed out from the blood loss in the front seat of the T-bird and that he had driven him straight to the hospital, forgetting to turn his car off in the heat of the emergency.

"What do you think happened to him?" Tessa asked once he was done. "Why was he running?" The anger had left her to be replaced with genuine concern.

"I honestly don't know Tess, he passed out before he could tell me. My best guess is that one of the gang members stabbed him."

"But why?"

Duncan gazed at Tessa's intent expression, only able to respond with a half-hearted shrug and a weak smile.

"What are you going to do?" she asked then.

"Well, he came in here without any identification. I'm guessing the gang stole his wallet. I'm going to wait here, see if there's anything I can do for him." Upon seeing Tessa's quizzical expression he added: "Because he had no ID the hospital wasn't able to contact next of kin. He's just a boy, Tess, someone should be here for him."

Tessa nodded in understanding. "So you'll wait for news. What then?"

Duncan sighed, considering. "Well he's probably in surgery now. No telling how long that will take, or what condition he'll be in after. Someone should be here, in case…"

Tessa's eyes widened in alarm, and the severity of her question forced her voice into a rough whisper. "Duncan, you don't think he could die, do you?"

Once again Duncan was forced to shrug. "I really don't know, Tess."

He left out the part where if the kid did die, then he would wake up in the morgue an immortal, and he felt the need to be there if that happened.

"Do you want me to wait with you?"

Duncan smiled. He loved how compassionate she could be, even in the face of illness, and even towards the punk kid who broke into their store. It was one of the many things he loved about her. "That's ok, Tess. There's really nothing you can do here. Go back to the loft and get some rest, this could be a while."

Briefly she debated arguing the point, but decided against it. Duncan was right, there really was nothing she could do, and she was still feeling ill. Finally she nodded in acquiescence. "Call me the minute you have word," she said as she stood up, grabbing the bag of soiled clothes in the process.

Duncan stood with her. "I will," he promised.

"When you are ready to leave, we'll see about getting your car out of the impound."

"Thanks Tessa." He was referring to more than just her willingness to give him a ride.

Tessa smiled at him and gave him a brief, tender kiss. "I'll be waiting." With that she turned towards the exit, leaving Duncan to return to his seat and wait it out.

After what seemed like an eternity, but really only a few hours later, a relatively young doctor entered the waiting room.

"Is someone here for Richard Ryan?"

Duncan stood. "I am."

"And you are?"

"Duncan MacLeod."

"Ah yes, the Good Samaritan."

"Can we dispense with the pleasantries, doctor?" Duncan asked, annoyed and impatient. "Just tell me how the boy's doing?"

The doctor nodded. Then, taking a brief look around the waiting room and discovering it to be a bit too crowded for his liking, he gestured for MacLeod to follow him. "This way," he said, holding open the door to the emergency room. Once inside, the doctor led them off to one side so they could talk freely.

"The boy's lost a lot of blood," the doctor began. "While the knife missed his vital organs, it did nick one of the arteries that feeds the left kidney. The damage was reparable, and we've given him a transfusion to compensate for the blood loss as well as fluids and a healthy dose of antibiotics." The doctor paused to see if Duncan was following him. "Once the antibiotics have dealt with the possible infection he should recover."

Duncan noticed that there was something off in the doctor's tone of voice. "But?"

The doctor sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "But," he admitted, "the kidney was oxygen-starved for an unknown amount of time. While we've since corrected this, we don't know how serious the lasting effects of the oxygen depletion will be."

"Meaning...?"

"Meaning we'll be monitoring his kidney function closely. He'll live, but we don't know how much of his kidney function will return."

"Well do you have a guess?" Duncan asked, clearly concerned by this latest development.

"There's really no way to tell. It could recover completely or not at all, or anywhere in between."

Duncan nodded his understanding. "When will you know?"

"We'll be testing the fluids he puts out over the next few days, comparing the possible curve against normal healthy kidney output for a boy his age. We'll have the definitive numbers about four days after he starts producing fluids again."

"That means you'll be keeping him here for about a week," Duncan concluded. It wasn't a question.

"About that, yeah," the doctor admitted. "He's being admitted now."

"Can I see him?"

The doctor was silent a moment, clearly debating. "He's in recovery now, and from there he'll be taken to the ICU. I'm afraid that only next of kin have visitation rights. Now, he'll only be in there until we're sure an infection hasn't set in. After that he'll be moved to a normal room — and you can visit him then." That last part was tacked on quite hastily after the doctor noticed the expression on Duncan's face.

The Highlander only belatedly unclenched his jaw.

"That reminds me," the doctor added, "do you know any next of kin we can contact?"

"No," Duncan admitted. "I've only met him once before. He didn't mention any family."

The doctor nodded. "One more thing. Because of the nature of his injury we were forced to treat it as an attempted homicide. By law we had to notify the authorities."

"And they'll be wanting my statement," Duncan concluded ruefully.

The doctor nodded again, sympathetically.

"Well when they get here, send them to the waiting room. I'm not leaving until I know the boy's family is here."

The doctor looked like he was about to say something, but Duncan didn't give him the chance. He turned around and stalked back to the waiting room. He had to call Tessa.

From the payphone in the waiting room, Duncan relayed what the doctor had told him about the boy's condition. He also told her that he needed to wait at the hospital for the authorities to question him about the incident. Tessa told him that she'd tracked down where they had impounded the T-bird and that she would shower and dress (having previously returned to bed) before coming to get him. Once he was through with the authorities they would pick up the car and then decide what to do from there.

He had just hung up the phone when two plain-clothes detectives entered the waiting room. Duncan recognized one of them as Sergeant Powell.

"Ah, Mr. MacLeod," said Powell, approaching him. "They tell me you're the one who brought in Ryan."

Duncan eyed him warily. There was something about the detective that set his teeth on edge. "That's right."

"This is Detective Anderson," said Powell, introducing the other detective. "Would you please follow us downtown?" It wasn't a request.

"Firstly," Duncan began, trying to remain patient, "my car's been impounded, so I can't 'follow you' anywhere. Second, I'm not leaving until that boy has someone here for him. If you want my statement, fine. You'll just have to get it from me here."

Powell opened his mouth to argue, but changed his mind upon seeing the look on Duncan's face. It didn't really matter where he took the statement anyway. "Fine," he acquiesced with an annoyed sigh. Then he turned to the woman behind the desk. "Is there someplace private we can go?"

"You could try one of the private waiting rooms adjoining ER," she said after some thought.

Duncan gestured lazily. "After you?"

Powell led the way through the door back into the emergency ward, followed by MacLeod and with detective Anderson bringing up the rear. After a bit of a search they found an empty waiting room. Waiting closet's more like, Duncan thought. The room had a loveseat and a coffee table with out-of-date magazines strewn atop of it, and a water fountain in the corner that was out of paper cups. Detective Anderson took out a small notebook from the folds of his trench coat and sat down on the loveseat, setting his notebook on the coffee table.

"Ok MacLeod," Powell began. "You know the drill. From the beginning."

Duncan sighed and then spoke slowly so that Anderson could write it all down. "I was on my way back from Johnson's Antiques—"

"What were you doing there?" Powell interrupted.

Duncan bit back a choice comment — how was that relevant? "I was trying to pick up a piece of Medieval Greek sculpture that my shipping company accidentally delivered to his antique store instead of mine."

Powell nodded. "Did you get the sculpture?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because Mr. Johnson had already sold it by accident." Duncan was finding the struggle to feign politeness rather difficult, and it showed in his voice.

"Wasn't the sculpture legally yours?"

"It was," Duncan replied, his patience wearing thin.

"Then Mr. Johnson had no right to sell it."

"As I said, it was an accident."

"An accident like that is bad for business."

"No kidding," he agreed with harsh sarcasm.

Powell seemed unmoved by Duncan's emotional state. "Did Mr. Johnson tell you who he sold it to?"

"Yes."

"Are you going to have your lawyer inform them that they have no claim on the piece and that they should return it to your possession with a full refund from Johnson's Antiques?"

Correction, Powell actually seemed to be enjoying this. What the hell?

"I thought we were here to talk about Richard?" Duncan asked rather frostily.

"Oh right. The Ryan kid."

Duncan seriously considered hitting the man for being so heartless towards the boy. He also seriously doubted if Powell would even follow up on the case.

"Continue," Powell directed.

Duncan took a deep, calming breath before beginning again. "As I said, I was on my way home from Johnson's Antiques. I took a shortcut down Seabrook Drive."

"That's one hell of a shortcut, MacLeod," Powell interjected, his distaste for the neighborhood clearly showing.

"It was broad daylight, and it's got only the one stoplight where Seabrook crosses Madison," Duncan explained, his opinion of the detective lessening by the second.

Powell just nodded. "So you took the shortcut down Seabrook..."

"I took the shortcut down Seabrook and got caught at the traffic light."

"Caught?"

Duncan's right hand clenched involuntarily as the last of his patience drained away. It took a near act of God to prevent him from hitting the detective for his arrogance and quickness with unflattering assumptions. "I missed the light cycle," he said through clenched teeth.

Powell accepted the correction, but Duncan could have sworn that it was with an air of disappointment.

"So you were stuck at the red light..." Powell prodded again.

Duncan took another deep breath, counting silently to ten.

In Cantonese.

"The light just turned green and I had barely stepped on the gas when Richard darted out in front of my car and disappeared down the alley. After having to slam the breaks, I was ready to start driving again when five more boys darted in front of me. They were all wearing something orange. I'm sure they were part of a gang."

"The Nickel Bombers," Powell interjected, familiar with the gang referred to. "Ryan used to run with them."

"Well he obviously doesn't any more," Duncan concluded sarcastically, impatient.

"Guess not," Powell agreed, unenthused. "Then what?"

"Then I turned left down Madison and went after them."

"Why?" Powell asked, sounding more suspicious than curious.

"Because I saw a kid being chased by five gang members," Duncan answered as though it was obvious. "I caught up with them four blocks later."

"But why did you?" Powell probed. "Don't you know it's dangerous to get involved with gangs in this city?"

"It looked to me like Richard was the one in danger," Duncan pointed out, wondering how a cop could be so apathetic.

"Yeah," Powell admitted skeptically. "But why get involved?"

"Because five on one seemed a bit unfair?" Duncan offered, hardly believing Powell had the nerve to ask.

"Then why put yourself in those same odds?"

That was it. Duncan MacLeod had had quite enough of the sergeant's judgmental apathy. "The gang was gaining on him, Powell. What you have done, if you were me?" There was venom in Duncan's voice at the question. "Just let them catch up to him? Take him down, five on one? Allow the miscreants of society to take care of their own problems, not caring about a murder so long as it rids the city of another gang-banger?"

"That's enough MacLeod!" Powell barked, forcing Duncan had to suppress the urge to grin at striking a nerve.

"Then what would you have done?" he asked again, his voice devoid of emotion this time.

Powell grimaced. "I would have called for backup and then gone in there with my partner, badge showing, gun drawn, and arrested the lot of them," he answered at last, his voice returning to it's normal snide yet detached tone. "But we're two armed police officers with backup on the way. You're a lone, unarmed antique dealer. So why'd you do it?"

Duncan sighed, exhaling slowly. He was physically exhausted and quite tired of this whole process. "I didn't really do anything," he admitted at last. "I just slowed down long enough for Richard to jump into the T-Bird — I had the top down. He dove into the backseat without touching a door."

Powell nodded. "Then what?"

"Then I drove away," Duncan continued, the exhaustion showing in his voice. "After I made sure we weren't followed I took him to Columbus Park. I knew he would rather walk home than tell me where he lived, and that seemed as central a location as any. He didn't talk the whole way there, just in the back seat on the floor like he was expecting to be shot at." Duncan paused to be sure that Anderson was still getting everything down, now that the conversation had returned to relevancy.

"Once at the park Richard thanked me and got out of the car. That's when I noticed he was bleeding. I called after him, wanting to see how badly he was injured. I think in the adrenaline rush he didn't even realize how badly he was hurt. His last words were to that effect right before he passed out. When I saw how badly he was injured I used his bandana to put pressure on the wound, and then I drove him straight here."

Powell nodded when he was sure that Duncan had finished. "I see. But I thought you told us that your car had been impounded?"

Duncan sighed. Would it ever end? "It was towed away from the emergency entrance while I was inside."

"You parked in the ambulance zone?"

"Well I was more concerned with the boy bleeding to death in my front seat at the time," Duncan explained impatiently.

"I see," Powell echoed. "Well don't expect the kid to pay you back."

Duncan had to laugh at the ridiculousness of that statement. "You think that after all this I give a damn about the fines?" he asked incredulously.

For once Powell decided that it was best not to say anything further on the subject. "Well I think we're done here MacLeod—"

"Good."

"We'll be back to get the kid's statement once he wakes up," Powell finished curtly.

"I'm sure you will," Duncan added dryly as Powell turned to leave.

"Anderson," Powell called over his shoulder as he left the room. The other detective closed his notebook and replaced the pen in his pocket.

"Wait!" Duncan called after him.

Powell turned around slowly. "What is it, MacLeod?" he asked, this time the one to show impatience.

"Does Richard have any family coming for him?" Duncan asked.

Powell sighed, exasperated.

"He turned eighteen a few days ago," said Detective Anderson, speaking for the first time. "He's no longer a ward of the state so his DSS and jouvie records are sealed and according to his caseworker his last foster family dropped off the radar months ago."

"Months ago?" Duncan was shocked. "Then who picked him up from the station after he broke into my store?"

"You know how underfunded and understaffed the DSS is," said Anderson. "His caseworker had to authorize his release over the phone because she couldn't get to the station to pick him up. He walked out on his own."

"Because you refused to press charges," Powell added unnecessarily.

"So you're telling me he has no family?"

"None that we've been able to locate," Anderson admitted. "The DSS sealed his record so we don't even know the name of his most recent foster family and now that he's eighteen his caseworker can't even speak to us without a court order."

"So no one else knows or cares that he nearly died today," Duncan realized, speaking mostly to himself as he voiced his thoughts aloud.

"No one but you," Anderson conceded.

Duncan nodded, wishing that this cop could have been the one to conduct the interrogation and left Powell to take the notes.

"See you 'round, MacLeod," Powell bade him farewell as he left the room. Anderson half shrugged and followed after his partner.

Duncan sighed and followed after them, making his way back to the front waiting room where he was sure Tessa was waiting for him, and indeed she was.

"I take it that didn't go well," she said as she approached her weary lover, who was eying the detectives disdainfully as they exited the hospital.

"If Powell could arrest Richard for this somehow, he would."

Tessa nodded, sharing his opinion. "How's the boy?"

"Nothing's changed that I know of since I spoke to you on the phone. He's in the ICU so we can't visit him, even though he has no real family."

"What do you mean — he has no one?" Tessa asked in disbelief.

Duncan told her what the detectives had said.

"That's not right," she declared after he was through. "A boy shouldn't nearly die and have no one around to care about it."

"I know, Tess," Duncan agreed. "But it's not like there's anything we can do about it."

"I know. But that isn't going to stop us from visiting him when he wakes up."

Duncan smiled genuinely, the exhaustion melting away. "Oh, sweetheart..." Duncan pulled her into tight embrace. He left his thanks at her compassion and understanding unspoken and kissed her briefly before they separated.

"Come on," she said, taking him by the hand and leading him to the door. "It's too late for you to get your car now. Let's get something to eat. We can come back tomorrow." She was practically dragging him on his feet out of the hospital, as he was loath to leave the boy alone and unprotected. "Come on, Duncan. You know there's nothing more we can do tonight."

Finally his mind rationed that she was right. "You're right," he admitted, squeezing her hand as they made their way to the parking lot and her white Mercedes. "I'll come back tomorrow."

"We," Tessa corrected.

"Fine, we'll come back tomorrow," he amended, fully intending to stick to that arrangement as soon as visiting hours began.