Sorry, all ye good folks who have me on Author Alert. This is another not-Transformers story. Don't hurt me! I can't help it that Brain has stomped off and gone on a serious, slightly alarming, and definitely all-consuming Knight Rider bender

So, if you're reading this and you've never read anything written by me beforewhich probably means that you aren't a Transformers fanthen you need to know one thing about me, or at least about one thing that I like to do in my writing. That would be that, for some god-awful reason that I can't explain for the life of me, I like to play with things that are tired, overdone, and clichéd. I like to spin such things and create a story that readers end up liking even though the story is, at heart, tired, overdone, and clichéd. Or at least that's my goal. I probably don't succeed as often as I'd like with the whole "readers like it" part, butI've apparently had my moments, on occasion.

Be warned that this story is a fine example of the above. Generally, this stuff occurs to Brain, and I dutifully write it all down, and then I sit on it for a while and decide if it's just too embarrassingly stupid/fangirl to share. In the case of this story, that was a tough call to make for a couple of different reason. But as you can see, I'm going ahead and posting it. *gulp* I should say that, while it has its lighter moments here and there because every long, non-comedic story has to have them, this story has a far more serious tone than the little series of Knight Rider vignettes that I've been posting lately. (And that I'll continue posting so long as they smack me in the cerebrum; I have the next one half-done.) Also be warned that this is, indeed, long.

Finally, do be warned that this story introduces no less than five original characters, so there's some necessary exposition to introduce them. One of the five has a starring role in this particular story, rather out of necessity, and you "meet" her right off the bat. (She's quite fun for me because I have to do Serious Research, Yo™ in order to make the stuff that she says and does throughout the story at least remotely realistic and believable. Given that doing research activates the happy center of Brain, this is a good thing. Even when such research involves watching icky things on video. Ew.) Next, one of the five OCs is a dog. (Hey, dogs can be characters, too! Just ask Lassie.) Yet another of the five is…well…dead. Sort of. The final two are a gay couple, so if that sort of thing freaks you out, you have been warned. (Don't worry. There's no hanky-panky of any sort in this story, unless you count a kiss on the cheek as hanky-panky. But do beware of flying innuendos on occasion. Not to mention one…er, proposition. *chortle* Those, along with a bit of stray mild language here and there, earned this thing its rating.)

Anyway, the reason these characters exist is that I have vague notions of writing a prequel/sequel or two to this story, so I guess Brain has gone and invented its own little universe to play in, in which these OCs play a part. Mostly, the characters exist for the purpose of broadening Kitt's horizons, giving him more characters to learn from and sort of bounce off of. It's something that I think he'd need, from a more "realistic" point of view, although I completely understand why the show itself was tightly focused and constrained. However, rest assured that none of these OCs are 1) "cleverly" disguised author inserts or 2) will ever be a romantic interest for any of the not-OCs. I don't do that!

Well, OK, I do do that. Or at least I did it once, for reasons pertaining to the whole liking-to-mess-around-with-clichés thing. But I'm not doing that here. Swear. Scout's honor.:)

So, off we go, then...

The photograph and the dry physical description didn't capture her at all. If nothing else, it was one thing to read in the description that she was a hair under five feet tall and weighed ninety-seven pounds, quite another to see and to appreciate exactly how tiny that was for an adult woman. She moved lightly and quickly, probably a habit born of having to hurry to keep up with the longer strides of people who were all generally taller than she was. She was pale-skinned, which wasn't surprising for a person who likely didn't have much opportunity to see the sun, given the demands of her occupation. But her most distinguishing feature was her hair, which the photograph didn't capture at all. It was a long, thick, wildly curly cascade of chestnut, some of it messily tamed into a thick braid that dangled over one of her shoulders like a climbing rope, still more flying chaotically free behind her, catching the intermittent just-past-daybreak breeze.

In short, when Michael Knight conjured up a mental image of what a respected neurosurgeon should look like, the image that his mind generated did not at all resemble the tiny, fragile-looking girl-woman at whom he was currently staring.

Michael watched her as she made her way across the hospital parking lot toward him. In addition to her slight stature, she was rather young. She had been a child prodigy, with an IQ that was off the scale. But unlike many before her who had cracked under the prodigy label and the heavy burden of pressure and expectations that naturally went along with it, this prodigy had lived up to her potential. At the ripe old age of thirty-two, she was a neurosurgeon with twelve years of experience already under her belt, and she had become known amongst the medical community of Southern California as the person to see when there was no hope. She was, so it was said, a miracle worker.

Michael needed nothing less than a miracle.

So, as she drew within range of Devon's beloved red convertible Mercedes, Michael opened the driver's side door and pushed his way out of the vehicle, drawing himself up to his full height, which was downright towering in comparison to hers, as he did so. When she was just a pace or two away from the car, he called out to her, not loudly enough to startle her, but loudly enough to get her attention.

"Dr. Jessica Macintyre?"

As Michael spoke, Dr. Macintyre had been poking around in the oversized bag that she had slung haphazardly over her shoulder, not watching where she was going. Reflexively, she gasped and her gazed jerked in Michael's direction as she heard her name spoken. She frowned, slowing her pace, puzzled at being hailed by name by a complete stranger. She was obviously uncertain about the wisdom of doing so, but she slowed to a halt just on the other side of Devon's car, deliberately keeping the vehicle between herself and Michael. In apparent confusion tinged with not a little wariness, she answered, "Yes?"

She was close enough now that Michael could see more detail. Large, dark eyes seemed to leap at him from out of her small, heart-shaped face. A smattering of dark freckles splashed across her cheekbones and along the length of her slightly crooked nose, the latter a result of a car accident she'd experienced when she was a child, according to the information that an unusually-thorough-even-for-him Kitt had provided to Michael about her. The freckles made her appear younger than she was, as did the fact that she wore no hint of make-up that Michael could detect. Still, she carried herself with dignity and confidence, which tended to draw the eye toward her despite her delicate, almost doll-like tininess. It fleetingly occurred to Michael that developing such an air had likely been a necessity in order to be taken seriously, given the contradiction between her age and her profession as well as her smallness, which was such that virtually everyone was forced to look down on her.

She was still staring warily up at Michael's face, squinting slightly into the rising sun behind him, waiting for him to say something. Not wanting to spook her, Michael leaned with his elbows against the roof of the convertible that stood between them, laying his forearms against it and clasping his hands together in a loose, non-threatening manner that kept both of them plainly visible to her at all times. He was attempting a casual air despite the urgency of his mission to see and to speak to her, to convince her. Given that the other two possible candidates had ultimately refused his offer, she was their last hope.

And perhaps she was their best hope, after all. She was by far Kitt's favored candidate; Michael had approached the other two first, over his partner's vehement protests, merely because they were both much older than Dr. Macintyre was, each with more years of surgical experience than Dr. Macintyre had been alive. That quality alone had made Michael far more comfortable with them, but Kitt had eloquently argued that in this particular case, a surplus of experience could be more of a hindrance than an asset, that intellectual flexibility, ingenuity, creativity, and the capacity for a whole lot of outside-the-box thinking were far more important for the project at hand. Kitt had pointed out that prodigies, particularly those who were still young, tended to have those necessary qualities in natural overabundance, while experience only tended to whittle away at them over time, eventually imposing conformity and narrowness of thought.

Kitt's arguments, for all that they had been understandably impassioned, were also, as usual, very logical, and perhaps he had been right. He was usually right, after all. Either way, they were running out of time. Michael had already spent – and ultimately wasted – three days tracking down and speaking with the other two candidates. So now, if Dr. Macintyre refused to help them, there simply wasn't time to find and speak to more candidates. And then…

Michael refused to think about it. Instead, he focused on his goal.

"My name is Michael Knight," he said genially to the tiny woman standing on the other side of the car from him, "and I have a business proposition for you."

She frowned at him, her brow creasing delicately.

"Mr. Knight," she politely drawled, folding her arms over her chest, "I'm a surgeon, not a businesswoman."

Her voice was lower-pitched than Michael had expected it to be, given her size, and the words that she had spoken were liberally splashed with southern Alabama, where she'd been born and raised. Because his partner was an individual whom he in a sense knew only by voice, Michael had found himself over the years becoming more attuned to the tones and inflections of other people's voices, too, almost more so than to their facial expressions and body language. He noticed layers of nuances in voices now, intuitively felt the meaning in the tones and the silences and the spaces between the two, sometimes more often than in the actual words that someone said. Voices had gained the power to conjure images and evoke strange connotations in Michael's mind, and in Dr. Macintyre's case, he found himself thinking that the color of her voice matched the color of her hair. Both evoked dark, well-aged, well-oiled woods, the sort that usually dwelled in dusty Victorian libraries.

"I know that, Doctor," he said, flashing one of the more charming smiles in his repertoire at her. Kitt had long ago dubbed it the "Lady-Killer Smile" because it invariably got Michael whatever he wanted from any given female of the species. Unfortunately, it seemed to have little effect on its intended target this time. She just tilted her head at him, her lips pursed speculatively, her overall expression a mixture of curiosity and puzzlement.

Michael sighed, changed tactics, and added, "Let me put it this way: I know of a patient who needs your help. Your expertise. In fact… He needs a miracle, and the word on the street is that you're the woman to see for those."

This time, Dr. Macintyre blinked at him, her eyebrows rising rather than creasing in a frown.

"Well, in that case," she replied after a beat, "I have office hours tomorrow afternoon if no emergency arises. I don't know if there are any openings available, but I'll give y'all the number of my office. Y'all can call my receptionist, and if—"

"No!" Michael interrupted abruptly and much too loudly, involuntarily smacking his clasped hands against the roof of the Mercedes.

Much of the urgency, the pent-up desperation, that Michael was feeling bled into his voice, pouring itself into that one strident syllable. All of it brought Dr. Macintyre up short, and her demeanor, which had begun to soften, was instantly and understandably wary again, more than it had been before. Michael flinched; he hadn't wanted that. It was, in fact, the last thing he'd wanted.

"I'm sorry," he immediately apologized. "I'm sorry, Doctor. It's just that the…the patient is…a very close friend of mine. He can't come to your office. And I can't wait until tomorrow afternoon. Please, just hear me out. Today. As soon as possible. After that, if you ask me to go away, I swear to you that you'll never see me again."

Dr. Macintyre stared at him, squinting slightly. Whether she squinted because she was considering what he'd said or simply because the steadily rising sun was in her face, Michael didn't know. He hoped it was the former. A moment later, she blinked at him again, a long, slow blink.

And then she sighed, swallowed visibly, and said, "All right. All right, I'll listen to whatever it is that y'all have to say. But I'm not promising anything."

Michael flashed another smile at her, this one unburdened with ulterior motives.

"That's all I ask," he said. After a beat, he added, "Are you just getting off work?"

Dr. Macintyre blinked yet again, this time at the unexpected change of subject, and she answered almost absently, "I just got out of surgery. Some gang kid whom the police want for killing another gang kid but who took a bullet to the head himself yesterday."

Then it was Michael's turn to blink as he responded, nonplussed, "Oh."

"Why?" she asked him, frowning.

"Well," Michael answered slowly, "I just thought we could go somewhere to talk. Somewhere not a parking lot. Get some breakfast, maybe? My treat? I mean, if you want to eat right after surgery, that is…"

The distasteful look on his face was apparently amusing; Dr. Macintyre's own face suddenly split into a huge grin. She laughed and, unlike her speaking voice, her laugh was bright, sunny, and very girlish.

After she collected herself a moment later, she drawled, "I assure you, Mr. Knight—"

"Michael, please," Michael interrupted.

"Michael," she echoed with a conceding nod, and then she continued, "I assure you that I'm well past the point where performing surgery makes me lose my appetite, much less my dinner. I was in that OR for sixteen hours, and I'm starving. Free food sounds good to me."

"Great," Michael responded, smiling at her again.

"That said, my mama taught me never to get into cars with strangers," Dr. Macintyre continued. "So I'm not getting into that car with y'all. Even though it's a really nice car," she added admiringly, her eyes appreciatively tracing the Mercedes's lines.

Michael chuckled, thinking,You ain't seen nothin' yet. Aloud, he said, "Your mama was a very wise woman, then. I'll meet you somewhere…?"

She considered that for a moment, squinting up at him again, and then she jerked her chin off to the left.

"There's a diner five or six blocks that way, up on the right-hand side of the street," she answered. "They make these enormous, greasy, artery-clogging breakfasts, and unlike most places out here in godforsaken La La Land, they actually know how to make grits. I'll meet you there in…half an hour? I have a quick errand to run first."

"Greasy and artery-clogging, you say?" Michael answered, his eyebrows lifting with interest. "Sounds great. It's a date."

Dr. Macintyre snorted lightly, an enigmatic half-smile on her face.

"I'll provide the chaperone," she said lightly, and then she walked past Devon's car, purposefully heading toward the back of the parking lot. The loose portion of her hair randomly caught the breeze in untidy tendrils of wayward ringlets as she went.

Bemused, Michael shook his head after her and then folded himself down into the Mercedes. He tried to quell the flare of hope that he suddenly felt deep down in his gut. It was, he scolded himself, much too early for any kind of optimism. Still, as he pulled out of the hospital parking lot, he couldn't hold back the smile that spread across his face.