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: A plot hole filler for the second season: Richie's life has been uprooted twice because of Mac's relationship with Darius.  Now back in Seacouver, he tries to reconcile his old life with his new one.  Post The Watchers.

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.

AN- This piece is sort of a bookend to my story Flight (wherein Richie deals with going to Paris), but you don't necessarily have to have read that one first.  This was meant as a one-shot, but I decided that it was too long for that, so I'm breaking it up into chapters.  Hope you like! 

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Richie lay sprawled out in the center of his bed, his eyes not focused on the motorcycle magazine that he was attempting to read.  He had finally finished unpacking all the storage boxes and putting his room back in order.  It was perfect, he reckoned.  Nothing out of place from when MacLeod had packed everything away nine months ago.  The highlander had closed up the store—and the loft—in preparation for the move to Paris.  Well, they were back from Paris now, and everything had to get put back to the way it was. 

The reconstruction was made easy by MacLeod's meticulous sense of order—everything in its place.  The boxes were neatly packed and their contents catalogued, just like the priceless antiques downstairs.  One part of Richie felt touched by the effort.  The other part reassured him that it was simply MacLeod's way. 

Now, lying on his bed, surrounded by his possessions, nine months later, it was almost as though Paris had never happened.  He could almost close his eyes and pretend that he hadn't just returned from nine months abroad. 

Almost.

Richie tossed the magazine aside and got up.  He needed to get out for a bit.

"I'm going for a ride," he called to Tessa, who was in the middle of making dinner.

"But it's almost time to eat," she protested.

"I'm not hungry," he said, continuing on his way to the stairs.  Tessa bit her lip.  How very unlike Richie.

"Ok," she said hesitantly as he had already whisked past her.  "Just be careful."

"Always am," he called up to her as he made his way down into the loft.  Duncan was in the store room, still trying to get the place ready to be opened for business.  Richie slipped out the front door and walked around the building to the back where his bike was parked.  Thankfully it had arrived from Paris in one piece.

Sometimes, long rides on his bike were just what Richie needed to get his thoughts in order.    

As Richie rode, his first thoughts were of how different Seacouver streets were from Paris streets.  He had never really been out of the city before, and then suddenly he found himself in Paris of all places!  Now… Driving in his hometown again, Richie could hardly believe that he used to think of Seacouver as a 'city'. 

It was also dirtier, Richie noticed.  Of course, that wasn't to say that Paris was clean, by any means.  It was just… Richie knew that Paris had to have had bad neighborhoods—every city did.  But to Richie they didn't seem as bad.  And it wasn't because the graffiti was in French or the condemned buildings were also historical landmarks awaiting renovation.  There was something else, too, but Richie couldn't for the life of him figure out what it was.

The weather was the same.  He remembered observing that fact after having been in Paris a month.  The raindrops were smaller, and the storms smelt differently somehow.  But the number of dreary, dismal, cold, wet, miserable days where you have no choice but to stay inside?  Surprisingly, those were exactly the same.

As Richie rode on, only now chancing to notice the rain as it hit against his helmet visor, he forced down the realization that after Paris, those rainy days didn't seem nearly as bad.

Richie took meandering paths all across Seacouver, essentially driving in glorified yet ever-increasing circles.  On his way, he noticed the potholes, the abandoned buildings that somehow seemed to have increased in number while he was away, the stores and restaurants he had known that were now called something else.  The traffic lights weren't hanging where he was expecting them to be.  All the signs were in English.  There were no outdoor cafés, and coffee was the beverage of choice.

Richie hadn't had a cup since leaving the States.  He'd grown accustomed to one of Darius's teas, and he drank Evian water because bottles were a dime a dozen over there.  Mac and Tessa had even begun introducing him to French wine…

He was in the states now.  That convenience store on the corner there would ask for his ID, then turn him down.  It still amazed Richie how he could be so grown up in France, and still just a boy over here.

And as he continued to drive, he wasn't sure what had changed more: himself, or his hometown.

And as he passed the park, and saw the empty tables where old men play chess—a game that Darius taught him to pass the time and ease the tension while they awaited the outcome of Duncan's fight with Grayson, he couldn't help but wish that Mac could have avenged the immortal priest in Paris. 

Richie rounded the corner onto Pauling Avenue, absentmindedly making his way from the park into his old neighborhood without even thinking, because his thoughts were stuck lamenting how he wished to God that he was still in Paris, and that he never had to come back here, though it would be a while yet before his conscious mind would admit to having such thoughts.

It was only when he passed the relatively new-looking building amongst the more decrepit others lining the street that he realized exactly where he was.  He pulled over to the side of the road and just stared at the duplex that had so captivated him.

"I used to live there…" He mused.  Two fifty four Pauling Avenue…  "Or I did, until it blew up."  Memories of a year ago suddenly flooded his brain.  His foster father dying suddenly, his one-up on social services giving him his very own apartment before his eighteenth birthday.  Then the rent money, Romeo, the stabbing, MacLeod… Richie remembers it all so vividly.  And it all started because of this little piece of land.  His townhouse apartment wasn't standing anymore.  There were no traces of it.

For some reason, that thought made Richie want to both laugh and cry at the same time.

Instead he kicked his bike into gear again and drove away.

It was raining harder now, but Richie didn't care.  He needed to see his old neighborhood again.  He drove every street, not caring that it was rapidly getting colder and wetter outside, and not entirely sure why he needed to see his old neighborhood again.  But still, he rode on.

The orphanage has a new coat of paint on it, he noticed.  But it looked the same.  The lights were on in a few of the rooms.  Richie saw the corner window on the third floor where he shared a bedroom with three other boys his age.  That window was dark.  Richie rode on.

He passed the pizza places where he used to hang out, Laundromats, video stores.  The old church that never had enough money to repair their masonry was now closed for renovations, so the sign said, but the outside looked the same as ever.  It also seemed that a few more street lamps had burnt their bulbs since he's been away.  

Seacouver was dark, Richie realized.  But then, weren't all places dark compared to the city of lights?

Richie rode on, taking in the sites and yet only passively registering them.  It all seemed to wash over his senses like the rain that was now pouring in buckets.  Yet on he rode, in direct defiance of this.

It wasn't until he was about to make a left onto Washburn Avenue that his mind snapped back into focus.  He swerved off the road and up onto the sidewalk when he saw the signs: one way; do not enter.

"Washburn's a one way now?" He spoke aloud.  Then he maneuvered his bike back towards the entrance and peered down the dark and narrow street.  Sure enough, it had been repaved, and parallel parking guides were painted off on the left hand side.  Richie revved his engine, preparing to drive down it anyway, to Hell with the changes!  But then he took notice of the rain, and of how cold he was, and with a resigned sigh decided against it.  Instead he drove back onto the street, and began a meandering path back towards the loft.

Richie rode on auto pilot for the duration of the return trip.  He was cold, wet, miserable, and tired, and just wanted to crawl under the covers and go to sleep.  Of course, what he really wanted to do, was crawl under the covers and feel the gentle lapping of minute waves beneath his bed.  It was dark now, and after dinner.  Tessa would be at the table reviewing her notes for the next work day.  Mac would have the kettle on…

He kept his eyes focused on the road, not bothering with the scenery anymore.  He had decided that there was nothing here that he wanted to see.

Richie made it back to the loft and parked his bike in the back.  Then he entered through the workshop, made his way through the store, and up the stairs into the loft.  He was soaking wet, his shoes leaving prints and his clothes and hair dripping everywhere.

"Where have you been?" Duncan asked when Richie appeared in the foyer.  The highlander was making tea.

"Riding," the teen answered tonelessly.  Duncan took stock of his disheveled appearance and decided not to press the matter… yet.

"You missed dinner," he said instead.  Richie just shrugged. 

"Save me any?" He asked, smiling slightly as the scent of rosehips and chamomile reached his nostrils.  MacLeod always brewed the tea in the kettle.

"Of course," Duncan answered, smiling in return.  "It's in the fridge."

"Thanks."  Richie shrugged out of his wet jacket and hung it on the coat rack.  Duncan frowned and tossed him a dish towel.  Richie caught it, but it took him a half-second longer then usual to figure out what it was for.  Finally he put it beneath his still-dripping coat to catch the water.

"You ok?" Duncan asked, concerned.  Richie looked up at him innocently.  "You seem distracted." 

"I'm fine," Richie answered with a smile that didn't quite make his eyes.  "Just tired."  Duncan nodded skeptically, but thought better of pressing the issue… yet.

"Why don't you go take a hot shower before you catch cold," he said instead, keeping his voice light.  Richie was soaking wet, ghostly pale, and shivering slightly.  Richie just nodded and headed for the bathroom.  A hot shower seems really inviting right now.

"Did Richie come back?"  Tessa asked, walking down the hallway from the master bedroom into the kitchen.  The sudden sound of running water in the bathroom was her answer, and Duncan just smiled at her.  "Did he tell you where he went?"

"Riding," Duncan answered plainly.  Tessa shot him a glare.

"Why would he go riding in this weather?" She asked.  "And why won't he tell us where he went?"  Duncan could tell from her tone of voice that she was more confused and concerned than suspicious.  The kettle whistled and so he removed it to an unused burner. 

"Maybe he just went for a ride," Duncan offered, grabbing a coffee mug from the cabinet.  A glance in Tessa's direction conveyed the silent question, and Tessa's slight headshake told him that she didn't want any tea. 

"Richie wouldn't just 'go for a ride' when it's pouring buckets outside," Tessa returned.  "Especially if it meant missing dinner."  Duncan made his way over to the couch with his tea, stopping only to grab the newspaper from the kitchen table.  "Duncan?"

"Richie went for a ride, came back, and is now taking a shower," Duncan explained from his spot on the couch.  "And he seemed interested in the fact that we saved him some dinner.  And it's not like Richie's never decided to just get on his bike and go for a ride."

"Yes, but he only does that when something is bothering him," Tessa reminded him.  Duncan nodded.

"He uses the time on his bike to think.  It's how he works through his problems."  Tessa sat down next to him. 

"I know why he does it Duncan," she reassured him with slight reproach.  "I sketch, you practice your martial arts, and Richie goes for rides on his bike." 

"We all have our own ways of coping," Duncan offered.  Tessa sighed.

"Mac, he hasn't been himself lately."  Duncan didn't comment, so Tessa continued.  "He's practically locked himself in his room these past few days, his appetite's been off, and he's been…"  Tessa trailed off, trying to find the right words.

"Distant?" Duncan offered.  Tessa nodded.

"Duncan, he's been like this ever since—"

"Horton," Duncan interrupted.  "I know."

"I don't understand it," said Tessa.  "Horton is dead.  Those-those watchers, are gone.  And he's home now."  Duncan shrugged.

"He's been through a lot recently, Tess," Duncan reminded her.  "First Darius, then, coming back here, and Horton and the Watchers…"

"He's been through a lot before," Tessa returned softly.  Duncan flinched inwardly, but nodded.  "Duncan, what should we do?"  The highlander simply shrugged again.  In truth, he was just as worried about Richie as Tessa was.  He too had watched Richie practically withdraw into himself these past few days.  Tessa was right: he wasn't eating like he should be, and he had taken to hibernating in his room to the point where he was sure that the teen was deliberately trying to avoid them. 

However, there was the obvious fact that Richie was still just a teenager.  By nature he's bound to be moody at times, and he and Tessa had seen it before.  Usually he would just snap himself out of it, or forget about what was bothering him, or find some sort of solution to it, and everything would go back to normal and life would continue.  And Richie has been through a lot lately, the least of which being that he was uprooted again on very short notice, this time to allow the highlander a chance to avenge Darius rather than save him.

Duncan considered these things and more while he sipped his tea, and Tessa waited patiently for some sort of answer.  Truthfully, he had expected Richie to have another one of his 'moods' as soon as the life-threatening danger had passed.  And now Richie finally decided to get on his bike, which has proven to help him in the past.  That really should be an encouraging sign.

So why wasn't he feeling encouraged?

"I think we should just give him time," Duncan concluded at last.  At Tessa's disbelieving stare he elaborated: "Richie likes working through his problems on his own.  We've seen this from him before, Tessa.  He knows that he can come to us if he needs to, but otherwise he wants us to give him his space."

"But is what he wants necessarily what's best for him?" Tessa asked.  Duncan shrugged.

"We've seen him do this before, Tess," Duncan reiterated.  "After Gary died, after Nikki and Melinda left, after Felecia, Reinhardt, Pitone… and other things we didn't know about.  After a couple of days he came through it just fine, and was back to his old self again."  Tessa bit her lip, both agreeing and disagreeing with her lover.

"And the other times?" She asked.  Duncan shut his eyes and turned away.  Not every one of Richie's 'moods' could be recovered from without help.  They centered around his fear of abandonment, and his worries of doing something to hurt, or disappoint, or otherwise incur the ire of his employers… of his family.  Such insecurities broke Duncan's heart to hear, but somehow, they had worked through it.  Somehow, either he or Tessa would stumble upon the correct phrase, or action, or… something, that would appear to miraculously make things better.  In reality Duncan knew it wasn't miraculous recovery, but gradually, he and Tessa were working to heal eighteen years worth of wounds and fade eighteen years worth of scars. 

Duncan had hoped that, after Grayson, Richie wouldn't need such reassurances from them.  They were a family now, and had been for nine wonderful months.  Surely Richie was just having one of his 'moods'.  Surely he wasn't backsliding into old fears and old assumptions and ways of thinking?

"The other times we helped him through it," said Duncan.  "But I don't think this is like those other times."  He sounded much more assured to his own ears than he truly felt inside, but the last thing he wanted to do was jump to conclusions.  Doing so would only push the lad further away.

Just then Richie emerged from the bathroom, wearing a pair of sweats.  True to his word, he looked positively exhausted.  But at least he was warm and (mostly) dry now.  Duncan shot Tessa a warning glance.

"How was your ride?" Tessa asked.  She felt Duncan tense next to her.

"Fine," Richie answered dismissively.  He grabbed a glass from the cabinet and poured himself a glass of water.

"Do you want something to eat?" She asked, rising from the couch and entering the kitchen. 

"No thanks, Tess," Richie answered, sounding as tired as he looked.  "I think I'm just gonna go crash."

"Are you feeling alright?" She asked, noticing Richie toss a few pills into the back of his throat before swallowing them with the water.

"Fine," Richie answered again.  "Just a bit of a headache."  At this remark Duncan stood and made his way into the kitchen.  Thankfully Richie hadn't seen him down the rest of his tea in one gulp so as to give him the excuse of bringing his mug to the sink.

"You want some tea?" He offered.  The teen shook his head.

"Nah, just the Tylenol and some sleep."  Richie finished his glass of water and rinsed it out.  Then he put it back in the cabinet.  Duncan and Tessa stood silently watching him.  "Good night."

"Good night, Richie," Duncan returned.  Then the couple watched as he made his way back down the hallway and into his bedroom.  When he shut the door, Tessa turned to Duncan and asked,

"Are you worried now?"