Disclaimer: I don't own Highlander or its characters.

Story summary: This story picks up at the end of "The Darkness" with a twist.

The Ties that Bind By Dawn M. Nyberg

Richie spun at the first shot, and saw the impact of the bullet hit Tessa, and in a panic he turned back towards the strung out kid just in time to hear another shot ring out. The impact of the bullet slightly rotated Richie towards the T-Bird, robbing him of air, no time to recover another shot ran out, a second bullet tearing into his chest, and he fell. Duncan had heard the shots and was running towards the street he rounded the tall shrubs at the end of the driveway. His eyes were assaulted with the site of Tessa and Richie laying in the street, bleeding and unmoving. Duncan glanced at Richie he wasn't moving, but his eyes fell back to Tessa, his sweet Tessa.

Duncan kneeled next to her and gathered Tessa into his arms, he looked into her unseeing eyes, and just before he allowed the grief to engulf him, he heard a whispered strained plea, it was Richie, and Duncan suddenly realized the teenager wasn't dead, not yet.

"Mac......." Richie struggled to speak the pain in his chest was white hot. Duncan reluctantly let Tessa go, passing his hand over her eyes, closing them forever, he gently lowered her from his lap and raised to go to Richie.

"Richie, I'm here," Duncan soothed.

Richie tried to speak but it was so difficult, "Tess," came out as a whisper.

"Shh, don't talk," Duncan started looking at Richie's wounds, he was losing a lot of blood. A neighbor from across the street came out briefly to tell Duncan they had heard the shots and called the police and an ambulance was on the way. They offered thier assistance. Duncan asked for some towels to help stop the bleeding. Duncan talked to Richie who was only semi-conscious trying to keep him as alert as he could until help arrived. Duncan gently moved the boy slightly looking for exit wounds, there were none, he knew the bullets were still in him.

Richie was pale. His lips even in the dark of the street, Duncan could tell they had a slight blue hue to them, he knew a bullet must have punctured a lung. The other wound had been bleeding profusely, but seemed to have slowed somewhat. Duncan didn't like the placement of the wound it was very close to Richie's heart. Duncan heard the approach of help.

"Stay with me, Rich," Duncan said studying the silent young man. To his surprise, pained, scared blue eyes opened.

"Hurts....." was all Richie had the strength to say.

"I know toughguy, just hang in there, helps coming," Duncan tried to infuse the boy with strength. Richie closed his eyes again, and Duncan in a panic lowered his face towards Richie's, still keeping pressure on the wounds, and felt the slight exhale of breath against his face, and said a silent prayer of thanks.

Duncan sat numbly in the family waiting room on the surgery floor waiting for news on Richie. He had been whisked into surgery shortly after reaching the ER. He made it to the hospital alive, and Duncan took some solace in that. The surgery had begun over two hours ago, plenty of time for the highlander to let the events of the night sink in. *Tessa was gone, lost to him forever, Tessa.....Tessa....Tessa* he couldn't stop his mind from repeating her name over and over. He fought even now to keep the soul consuming grief at bay, he had to, for the Richie's sake.

His mind was all ready thinking of ways to get Richie's body out of the morgue if he died from his wounds. He also thought if he lives he will surely have to care for the youth, and his recovery may be lengthy, he didn't mind he just needed to know he had at least one member of his family to cling to, to love, and protect. Duncan realized Richie would have to be told about Tessa, but not yet, when he was stronger. Duncan prayed the game wouldn't be Richie's life, not yet. *Dear God, not yet, he's so young*, he thought to himself as he lowered his face into his hands.

At three hours and ten minutes, Duncan was pacing back and forth in the waiting room, and his heart jumped to his throat every time he heard footsteps in the hallway, none of them were to give him news on Richie's condition. He sat back down.

"Mr. MacLeod?," a voice made Duncan jerk his head up and towards the door, he had been so lost in his own thoughts and concerns he hadn't heard anyone come in.

"Yes!," he said rising quickly to look at the doctor still in surgical scrubs. "How is he?," his eyes anxious.

"He surprised us, Mr. MacLeod, he made it through the surgery and is in the recovery room now."

Duncan allowed himself a grain of hope, "But how is he, Dr. Collins?," Duncan asked his eyes searching the doctors face for the answer.

"Let's sit," the doctor said leading Duncan to a seat along the wall.

"Richie has lost a lot of blood, and the surgery was difficult. One bullet did puncture his right lung, and he arrived to ER with a collapsed lung, we inserted a chest tube and his breath sounds are much improved. The lung will heal, I feel confident there was no permanent damage, although his lung volume may be decreased for awhile. However, the other bullet has given us some concerns. We were able to remove it, but it managed to nick an artery, and that was the cause of the profuse bleeding. I wanted to commend you for acting so quickly in helping to stop the bleeding, if you hadn't, he wouldn't have survived to even get this far tonight" the doctor paused for a second, and Duncan took the opportunity to ask a question.

"You said 'concerns', what concerns?" Duncan needed and wanted to know.

"There is a chance of infection even with antibiotics we'll be monitoring him for that, and because of the blood loss, there is a chance the oxygen flow to his brain may have been affected." This was the moment that Duncan began to taste the bile in his throat and he fought to control it, and spoke.

"Affected? How?" his voice strained.

The doctor looked Duncan square in the eyes and spoke, his words ringing in Duncan's ears, *Brain damage.* The doctor had said a 'chance of brain damage', but Duncans mind couldn't get past the latter part of what the doctor had said.

"Brain Damage? How bad?," Duncan's voice was trembling.

"I *said* chance, Duncan. If there has been some damage we won't know until he wakes up, and not until then will we be able to tell the extent, if any at all." the doctor tried to reassure the highlander without giving false hope.

"May I see him?" Duncan felt the need to be with the young man.

"When he's out of recovery, and we have him settled in ICU, I'll send a nurse for you," the doctor reached out and shook Duncans hand.

"Thank you, Dr. Collins," Duncan smiled and sat back down to wait, his mind spinning with two words, *Brain Damage.*

Duncan stood as a nurse entered the waiting room and smiled at him, "Mr. MacLeod?"

"Yes," Duncan was eager to see Richie and followed the nurse down the hall to the elevator and listened to her as she talked.

"Mr. MacLeod, I wanted to go over some things with you, as in what to expect," she smiled again trying to ease some of Duncans tension.

"Expect?," Duncan was almost afraid to know.

"You should expect machines, tubes, IVs, the doctor didn't want you to be too concerned with all of the equipment. She continued to talk to him while in the elevator and they got off on the sixth floor, ICU. Duncan desperately wanted to see Richie. As they approached the cubicle that was Richie's, Duncan felt the familiar and comforting hum that the young pre-immortal gave off that told Duncan he still lived and hadn't joined the game, not yet.

"Mr. MacLeod, Dr. Collins instructed that he was lifting the visiting hours restriction for you, he said you may stay as late as you wish."

"Thank You," Duncan offered a kind smile, braced himself and entered Richie's room.