AN: Here you go guys, sorry for the wait. I thought I had posted this chapter, but apparently not lol. Thanks again to SouthernChickie for all the help. Please Review.

Richie wiped his face wearily. The last thing he wanted to talk about was Keating. Still he found himself speaking: "I was fifteen and Keating was my last foster father before I wound up living on the streets…,"


Richie quietly crept in the door to Keating's house. He hoped that the older man was out or sleeping so he wouldn't know that Richie had been late getting home. Richie tiptoed to his room and put his backpack away. Then he went to the kitchen to start his chores.

Richie's heart skipped a beat when he entered the kitchen. Keating was sitting at the table with his feet propped on a second chair. His eyes were dark and twinkled with the promise of a punishment that was very, very painful.

"Where have you been?" Keating asked in his southern drawl.

"At school," Richie answered truthfully.

"School was over an hour and a half ago," Keating said in a low tone. "So don't lie to me boy."

"I'm not lying," Richie exclaimed. "I got thrown into detention!"

Keating asked, "What for?"

Riche clamped his jaw shut. He knew if he came out with the truth Keating was not going to be pleased.

"I asked you a question boy," Keating yelled.

Richie jumped, his heart pounding wildly in his chest. "I got caught smoking in the bathroom."

Keating shook his head, but kept eye contact with the teenager. "You can't stay out of a trouble can you? You get in trouble at school, with the cops, with me. If you weren't such a trouble maker that one foster mom of yours would probably still be alive."

Richie visibly winced from the accusation. He hadn't meant to get Emily killed. He knew it was his fault, but he wished Keating didn't have to remind him all the time. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry doesn't cut it, boy," Keating said getting up. He had an electrical cord in his hand.

Richie's eyes widened. His heart began to race even faster from the fear that flooded him. He took a step back. "Keating, no I'm sorry! It'll never happen again!" It wasn't the first time he'd been hit with that thing, but in no way did he want to have it happen again.

"Take off your shirt boy." Keating said walking towards him.

Richie took another step back, his breath coming in short, ragged gasps at the memory of being whipped the last time. He could feel the cord searing through his flesh just from thinking about it.

"Don't make this worse on yourself."

He took another step.

"Take off your shirt, boy!" Keating yelled.

Richie's panic took over and despite his better judgment he ran. He tore through the living room, jumped over the coffee table, and bolted out the door. He could hear Keating's footsteps pounding the pavement mere seconds behind him. His mind raced to find the best route of escape, but he had been so preoccupied with getting away, his mind couldn't piece together how. The plan was a giant jigsaw puzzle that his brain couldn't fit together.

All Richie knew for sure was that he was not going back. He couldn't get beat again, not like last time. He was willing to face the unknown terrain of the street. Anywhere seemed like Heaven compared to the place he just came from.

Keating's voice traveled up the wind to him, "You're only making it worse on yourself, boy."

Richie's legs burned as he pushed himself farther. He had to find someplace to hide. He couldn't run down the street forever. Frantic to find an escape, Richie ducked down an alley hoping to find a short cut. He received an assaulting smell of grease and rotten food as he ran between the restaurants. Between the smell and his fear Richie felt his stomach begin to churn.

Richie looked over his shoulder to see how close Keating was. Not paying attention to where he was going he ran into a chain link fence. He bounced off and landed hard on his butt. Keating was just behind him. Frantically he stood up and began climbing the fence.

"You shouldn't have run, boy," Keating said jerking him down. Richie fell hard on his side.

Richie pushed himself back against the fence. "Please don't."

Keating shook his head and smiled. "I was only going to give you a few licks before," He said. "But with you runnin' and all it's going to be a lot worse now."

Keating walked up to him. Richie pushed himself against the fence so hard it bowed. "It's not going to happen here," He told the teen. "But you're going to walk with me back to the house without any trouble. The more trouble you cause, the worse it's going to be, got it?"

Richie looked around frantically for any means of escape. Keating grabbed his arm and jerked him up. A terrified Richie tried to jerk his arm away, but it was no use. He kicked Keating in the shin and the man let go of his arm. Richie tried to run, but Keating caught him around the waist and threw Richie to the ground. He kicked the teen in the gut knocking the wind out of him.

Keating kneeled next to Richie as the boy tried to catch his breath. "I told you to come along quietly." He grabbed Richie's arm again and helped him up again. "No more stunts, boy."

Richie nodded in defeat, trying to gasp in air. It was hard to keep control of his breath between his heart racing and his lungs protesting against actually working. It was all Richie could do to make his legs walk along side Keating's. His mind and body screamed for him to fun away, but he knew if he tried to run anymore that Keating would do more than just beat him with the electrical cord. Richie would probably land in the hospital.

Once they were inside the house, Keating locked the door. If Richie tried to run again he'd have to stop and unlock the door, giving Keating the extra time he needed to catch the boy.

Keating walked over to the coffee table and picked up the cord up from where he'd left it. He turned to Richie. "Take off your shirt," He said menacingly.

Shaking, Richie brought his hands to his shirt, but found that he couldn't take it off. He was petrified of what was about to come.

"Do it, boy," Keating barked.

Reluctantly Richie did as he was told. Thin, white and red scars covered his back. Richie knew that more were going to be added to the collection and he did not look forward to it. Inside he was screaming, whimpering, pleading for Keating not to do this, but the words fell silent on his tongue.

"Against the wall," Keating ordered.

He turned around, and walked to the wall, placing his palms flat against it. Richie squeezed his eyes shut in anticipation of the first blow. He wanted to cry in fear, but a tear never fell to his cheek. Keating would call him weak and beat him more for it.

Richie cried out when the first lick hit his back. Preparing himself for it didn't take away the pain. Then came the second blow and another scream tore from Richie's lips. When the third hit his back, Richie's arms buckled and his body fell against the wall. He was still standing, pushing himself against the wall as much as he could. He wished the wall would open up and swallow him so he could get away from the pain.

Richie finally felt his skin split open. He felt warm blood ooze down his back. He was screaming almost non stop now. The pain was too intense, he felt like he was going to die. He couldn't take it anymore. His mind protested, but his body ried to side step Keating. Richie tried to run.

"You know better," Keating growled. He grabbed Richie and threw him to the ground. "No wonder that bitch got killed," He said between Richie's strangled screams. "What was her name? Amy, no Emily, that's it. She'd be alive if it weren't for you always getting into trouble. You are nothing, but an overgrown waste of space!" Richie frantically tried to scramble up, to get away from Keating's harsh words and ruthless beating, but the older mans foot in the middle of his back kept him down. Mercilessly Keating continued to whip the boy.

"Please," Richie cried hysterically, tears streaming down his face. "Please, Keating no more!" He struggled and fought to get up, but Keating was too strong. The more Richie struggled the harder the older man beat him.

Richie didn't know how long the beating went on. It seemed like it would never end and he prayed silently to die. He was more than grateful when the sweet abyss washed over him and took him away from the pain.

Richie moaned as his eyes fluttered open. Pain shot through him and he bit his tongue to keep from crying out. The last thing he wanted was for Keating to come back.

Richie sat up slowly. His body protested every movement. Richie looked around and realized he was in his bedroom. Four bare walls, a dresser, and a bed. Keating was just so good to him.

He hated Keating more than he had ever hated anyone in his life. He didn't understand why his foster father hated him so much. Richie wondered what he had ever done to make Keating have so much rage towards him.

Richie had no idea how long he'd been out. It was dark outside, so it had to be at least a few hours. The teen stood up, cringing as the skin on his back stretched. Movement pulled on the wounds sending a searing pain through his back. He walked to the door and opened it as quietly as he could. He peaked his head out to make sure Keating wasn't around. Seeing no sign of the man he silently walked to the bathroom.

Richie flicked on the light and shut the door. He sighed when he saw himself in the mirror. The sides of his ribs were purple. Keating must have kicked him a few times after he passed out. Richie turned to the side and looked at his back the best he could. It was covered in bloody lacerations and there were faint bruises from where Keating's boot had been.

Richie sighed. He couldn't take another beating like this. He wouldn't. Richie cleaned himself up as best he could and went back to his room. He grabbed his backpack and filled it with clothes. He opened his window and knocked out the screen. He eased himself out the window and took off.

"Keating didn't come after you?" Mac asked when the teen finished his tale.

Richie shook his head. "I guess he figured I wasn't worth it."

Mac put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "How long had you been living with Keating?"

Richie shrugged Mac's hand off. He was not in the mood to be touched right now. "They placed me with him when I was thirteen I think. I took off when I was fifteen. I figured I had a better chance on the streets than with Keating."

"Why didn't you ever go to the police?"

"I did, they didn't believe me."

"What do you mean they didn't believe you?" Mac asked incredulously.

Richie stood up and started pacing, a habit he seemed to be picking up lately. "I was a trouble maker. I'd go to them for help and Keating would swear that I came home that way. Because of my history of running away and getting into fights, no one doubted him."

"Not even with the scars?"

Richie shook his head.

The Highlander himself had never noticed any scars. Of course Richie didn't expose his body very much so that could very well be why. Richie had only been living with them for a couple of months. Mac knew the boy came from hard times, but he never thought it was anything that bad.

"You know that what happened with Emily wasn't your fault," Mac told the pacing teen.

"It doesn't matter, she's alive! She should have come back for me!"

Mac understood some of Richie's animosity towards Emily now. Had she come back for him, he wouldn't have suffered through all the beatings Keating had laid down on him. "Richie I'm sure she would have if circumstances had been different."

"I just don't understand," Richie said sinking back on the bed. "Why didn't she want me?"

"I'm sure Emily wanted you, tough guy," Mac said gently. "I just don't think she had the opportunity to come back for you."

Shaking his head, Richie said, "No, I think what Keating said was true. I'm nothing, but a giant waste of space."

The Highlanders heart was breaking at the look of weariness in Richie's eyes. "You are not a waste of space," He said adamantly.

"Sure I am," Richie replied. "That's why Emily didn't come back for me. She didn't want me."

"Richie, you are not a waste of space," The Highlander said, a hint of anger seeping into his voice. He wasn't angry at Richie, but he was furious with Keating. This man had drilled so much garbage into Richie's head it was ridiculous. "And the only way you're going to find out why Emily didn't come back is to go and talk to her."

"I know," Richie exclaimed. "But…"

"But what?"

"I'm scared all right," Richie said angrily. "Is that what you wanted to hear?" He got up and walked to his dresser. Richie pounded his fists on top of it, causing the whole thing to shake.

"What are you scared of?" Mac asked gently.

Richie turned around. Leaning against the dresser, he crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't know," He said meekly. "I just…."

"You're scared of what she's going to say," Mac said getting up and walking over to him. "And of finding out why she didn't come back for you."

Richie nodded. "But as much as I'm scared to find out, I need to know even more."

"So you've made your decision?"

Richie looked up into Mac's gaze. "I'm going to meet Emily."

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