Title: Into The Black
Fandom: HL, SPN but set in a far future that looks remarkably like the Firefly 'verse
Characters: Dean Winchester, Duncan MacLeod, Richie Ryan; Mentions of Chloe/Dean
Disclaimer: The characters you know and love all belong to their respective creators.

Summary: Richie has been missing for over 6 months. Duncan finally has a lead and needs Dean's help to rescue him.
Chapter Summary: They are wanted men - what happens now.

Chapter 6: Into The Black

Richie slept through most of the next day. They'd woken him long enough to feed him and try to break through the dead-eyed stare. Except for that one sentence, he hadn't spoken again.

Dean and Duncan sat silently on the bridge, staring into the black. There was really nothing to say. The holovid beeped with a message from Sam. Relief flooded through Dean. His nephew was alive and apparently okay.

"Hey Uncle Dean. Glad to see you guys got away okay."

"All in one piece. How about you, Sammy? You in the clear?" Dean asked.

"Yes, the hostage ploy worked like a charm. Spent some time playing stupid about how I could have let known criminal on my escort team but they bought it. Unfortunately, your faces are plastered all over the core planets. I've attached the news video so you can see what you're up against."

Duncan sighed, "We expected as much."

"The good news is the lab and all the samples appear to be a total loss. That's not to say there aren't reports floating around but without the supporting evidence they read like fiction."

"Well, that's something at least," Duncan acknowledged.

"Listen Sam, we're gonna have to drop off the grid for awhile. I can't tell you where we're going. So…"

"Say no more, I'm glad I could help. I'll let the rest of the family know not to expect birthday cards," he gave a pained laugh. He knew this might be the last any of this generation saw of their Uncle Dean. Switching gears he asked, "How's Richie doing?"

"It's too soon to tell," Duncan replied. "He's been sleeping almost since we got him on board."

Sammy nodded, "I'm sure he'll recover. You guys are tough. Oh, I almost forgot. I tried to reach Chloe but it seems she's left Boros."

"What..." Dean sputtered. "She wasn't arrested or anything. They couldn't have traced me to her that fast, right?"

"No nothing like that. She quit her job, packed up her apartment and left. I'll keep leaving her messages, if you want me to."

"Na, don't bother and best to just ignore her if she tries to contact you." Game face solidly in place he continued, "She obviously had better things to do than wait around for me. Can't say I blame her." Dean didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed that she wasn't going to be tracking them down. He just hadn't expected her to give up on him so quickly.

They exchanged farewells and Sam disconnected. Duncan opened the news report. It was the weekly review of some major events in the Alliance that week. Their shoot out at the medical facility was the lead story. "Well, no surprise there." Duncan groused and was about to turn off the feed when Dean stopped him. The next story was a report about a theft on New Krypton.

Duncan looked at Dean, "You don't think…"

Dean laughed, "Oh yeah, that's Chloe and her BDA relatives. They piss her off about once a century."

"At least you know why she's wasn't at home."

Dean made no comment. He should have been the one to help her deal with those idiots. Damn, he bet the old man was right there with her. She claimed there was never anything between them but she'd spent a lot of time traveling alone with Methos. Dean was out of her life and it looked like she hadn't wasted anytime replacing him.

"Dean, you okay."

"Hell yeah. I'm fine. I'm glad to know Chloe's okay."

"Dean," Duncan knew he wasn't.

"Leave it, Mac. It's perfect. I didn't want her involved and now she's not. Simple as that." Before Mac could protest, Dean stood and headed for the door. "I'm going get some rest. See you in the morning."

The screaming jolted Dean out of a sound sleep. He scrambled barefoot into the next compartment. Richie was standing in the middle of his quarters, flailing at unseen assailants. Dean grabbed him from behind in a bear hug; pinning Richie's arms so that he couldn't hurt himself.

"It's okay, It's okay," Dean repeated the phrase over and over like a mantra until Richie stopped struggling. By that time, Duncan had shown up. Together they settled Richie on the cot and then sat flanking him.

Richie sat hugging himself and rocking. Suddenly, he stopped and sat up straighter. He looked from Duncan to Dean and let loose a patented Richie smile, "I'm really glad you guys are here. These little trips are the only thing that has made this bearable."

Dean was thrown. Richie still thought he was hallucinating. "Hey man, we're really here…"

Richie gave a small laugh, "Don't Dean. I know this isn't real. I just… hope you guys aren't sitting in the next lab.'

Duncan chimed in, "Richie you're free. We rescued you. This is our ship."

Richie ignored Duncan and continued talking, "I'm really sorry if I got you guys captured." His face went stony, "I'm not sure I can take it any more. It's been so hard to keep our secrets."

Richie had been delusional for so long that reality wasn't registering. Dean remembered a time long ago when he had been trapped in a genie's delusion. It had seemed so real and Dean had wanted to stay so badly. He knew Richie was feeling the same thing; wanting to stay with his friends and not daring to hope it could be real. Dean grabbed his friend by the shoulders and forced him to really look at him "Dude, listen to me. We are real. This is real. It's over. They can't hurt you any more." Dean stared at him trying to break through the fog that enveloped Richie's brain.

Richie's voice got quiet, "It's over? Am I dead?"

"You're not dead." Dean was still looking for that glimmer of real understanding.

Richie reached up, placed his hand over Dean's and squeezed. He face took on a frozen 'deer in the headlights look'. He looked over his shoulder at Duncan who gave him an encouraging smile, "It's really us."

Dean released his grip as Richie slumped back against the wall. "I want to believe it's really you guys. I…" he paused, "I want to believe."

"Then believe it," Dean said simply, "because it's the truth."

When Richie didn't say anything, Duncan began to tell the story of the rescue hoping it would shake something loose.

By the time Duncan reached the end of the story, Richie seemed more alert. "They're dead?" Richie asked, the disbelief clear in his voice. "You really shot them."

"Yep. Friggin' bastards. I should have cut out their livers; see how they liked it." Dean growled.

Richie stood up slowly and began touching things in the cabin as if trying to confirm the reality of the things he was seeing. He turned to face the two still sitting on his bed. "I'm really free. I'm really out of there." He looked haggard and worn but the old Richie seemed to be seeping through. "Thank you. I owe you both so much."

"Look Richie, you should get some more rest." Mac stood to usher Richie back to the cot. "You're Immortal healing should finally have time to have you feeling normal soon."

Richie resisted. The enormity of what his friend had done finally dawning on him, "Mac, you're wanted men now. You shouldn't have risked it."

"What are you an idiot?" Dean scoffed, "You're family of course we risked it. But I will be screening all your contact with women from now on. You may not be getting laid in the foreseeable future."

"Dean!" Duncan admonished.

Richie actually let loose a small laugh, "It's okay, Mac. He's right. I was stupid." More thoughtfully he continued, "I'm really lucky to have friends like you."
Dean chortled, "Damn straight."

Duncan rolled his eyes and pushed Dean out of the cabin. Turning back to Richie, he said, "Get some rest. We'll still be here in the morning."

Out in the companionway, Dean and Duncan couldn't stop grinning at each other. "I think he's going to be okay." Duncan offered.

"Yeah, I think he is."