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His feet hit the pavement with soft thumps that sounded loud in his ears. He wasn't running as fast as he could. It was still raining, and the dark road was slick and dangerous. His breathing was deep and even, his arms close to his sides to conserve energy. The katana in his right hand was so much a part of him that it didn't unbalance the run. It seemed like miles of dark road sprawled out ahead of him. Somewhere, there, up ahead, was a man that needed to die. These things happened quickly. Two days ago Duncan MacLeod had been going about his business, living his life, not looking for any challenge greater than working on Richie's French. And tonight here he was, chasing his prey on foot and praying silently that he would be in time. The road curved gently.

He saw a flash of something though the trees; moonlight on steel? Edward Tomas carried an enormous bastard sword, almost as long as he was tall. Its great length would easily capture and reflect the moonlight. A woman's scream ripped out, chilling him. Was he too late? Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, to the rescue. Wouldn't Methos laugh at this one? Joe's voice whispered in his mind as he ran faster, casting caution aside.

"He likes to hurt women, MacLeod. He's never gotten past his mortal life, when women were the property of the men and punished according to their whims."

Don Edwardo Tomas had found someone new to hurt. Duncan knew her. He'd met her yesterday, when he went looking for Tomas to ask why he'd come to town. The Spaniard wasn't known as a headhunter. It quickly became obvious that he hadn't realized he was in MacLeod's territory.

Another scream. It was deserted out here. Tomas must have thought he was safe from intrusion. Duncan practically skidded around the corner, sword arm swinging wide for balance. When he saw them it was exactly what he expected; Tomas had his secretary spread out face down on the hood of his car, her skirt pushed up over her hips. There was a torn scrap of pink on the ground. He was raping her while she screamed and beat her fists on the hood of her car.

Tomas drove a Lexus, it was one of the first things Duncan had made a mental note of; a gold Lexus with California plates. From the road, Duncan had a good view. He could see them, but they couldn't see him. Methos would have simply run the man through and then chopped off his head, but Duncan couldn't do it. Even to this man.

"Tomas!" He bellowed, coming to a stop only a few feet away. "I've come for your head! "Tomas was a big man. He cuffed the woman casually and pulled free. Her head bounced on the hood of the car, and she slid to the ground in slow motion while he zipped up his slacks and turned to face Duncan. "Just let me grab my other sword," he said with a smile, rubbing his groin with satisfaction. "This is excellent. She'll be right here after I take your head, all warmed up and ready to go." He picked up his weapon from the ground beside the woman.

"You'll no' touch her again." Duncan swore. Joe had broken the rules again, to tell him about Tomas, but he hadn't gone so far as to give Duncan any hints of how good he was. He was older than Duncan, about twice his age, but that didn't mean he was any good. The giant sword gave him a hell of a reach, though, and he handled it as if it were a toy. He lunged at Duncan, who stepped back quickly. He was watching, not letting his anger get the best of him. One of the first things Connor ever taught him: lose your temper, lose your head.

"We don't have to fight." Tomas was smiling as he swung again. Apparently he thought that Duncan was afraid of him. "Let's call a truce and we can share her? Do you know how warm a woman is when she's already filled? How slick she is inside?"

Duncan swallowed the nausea the words caused. He had planned to let Tomas tire himself out swinging that big sword, but not if it meant he had to listen to the man. So he went on the offensive, darting past Tomas, the katana slashing the air in a complicated series of cuts meant to dazzle his opponent and draw his attention. It worked, Tomas let his attention be taken by the blade, and Duncan turned to take the advantage from him; a kick that shattered a knee, then the leg-sweep and Tomas was on the ground, writhing in agony.

"Nothing hurts like a knee," Connor had said once, and he'd been right. Connor was often right. Not always. Just often. Thoughts of Connor rose to the surface as Duncan brought his sword up. The words rasped from his lips -- was he really that tired?

"There can be only one."

Tired of pain and blood, perhaps. Tired of missing the person he was closest to in the world, definitely. Where the hell was Connor? The Quickening swallowed him whole, and he didn't have a chance to move the woman to safety. There was no telling what it would do to her in her condition, but he couldn't help that now. In the aftermath he sat on the wet pavement, his linen trousers soaked through, catching his breath. He checked her pulse; it was thready and weak. She was going into shock.

Duncan pulled out his cell phone and dialed 911, then he lifted her and put her in the front seat of her car. His T-bird was parked about four miles away, in the trees. He covered her with his coat and then turned to the problem of what to do with Tomas' remains. He didn't think the police would take kindly to the headless corpse. The river was only a few yards away through the trees, and the water flowed fast here, fast and deep. Another of an Immortal's first lessons, wherever he lived, was the best places to dispose of a body. He was lucky. This was one of the better places on the river. It only took a couple of minutes to carry Tomas and his head to the bank. Duncan stuffed rocks into the man's shirt and tied his head to him with his coat. The sword he would keep. It was too fine a weapon to throw into a river. It would also serve as a reminder of the women he had saved from the predator who had wielded it.

He had to wade out a bit to make sure the current took Tomas. The water was icy; he felt his testicles draw up tight as it washed over his hips. He let the body go and watched with satisfaction as it sank. That one shouldn't come back to haunt him. He saw the flashing lights of the ambulance and police car. Now would be a good time to run, but that wasn't in his nature. Slogging out of the river -his Italian loafers were ruined - he made his way back through the trees, taking the time to hide both swords. He arrived on the scene again just in time to meet the ambulance as it screeched to a halt beside the woman's car. It was a late-model Chrysler, dark green, and it glowed eerily in the flashing lights. Her face was thin and purple with bruises, and he stepped on her panties when he came out of the woods.

Two cops, two guns pointed at him, and he stopped, suddenly worried. With his hands up, Duncan spoke as calmly as he could.

"I'm Duncan MacLeod. I called you. The rapist got away - he went into the river." The best lies were based on the truth. Another thing Connor had taught him.

 

"I told you - I was out for a drive. I heard the woman scream." Frustrated, Duncan put his hands flat on the table. The cuffs dug into his wrists. "I found the man raping her and I chased him into the woods. He jumped into the river -- I tried to follow him but decided that I couldn't catch him."

"Duncan MacLeod." The detective that faced him looked amused. A small smile lit his dark face. "I've been reading about you. You've made a habit of rescuing damsels in distress. But women seem to get hurt around you, too."

"He's just a knight in shining armor." The second detective, a tall, thin white man, walked around him, and Duncan tensed. He fisted his hands, restraining his temper. "He's drawn to these women, Frank. Somehow he's always there when one of them is in trouble."

"Nah. He's just an unlucky SOB," the black man argued cheerfully. "Always in the wrong place at the wrong time, right, Duncan? What was your mother thinking, naming you that? That's a pretty sissy name, 'Duncan'."

Duncan bit back a sharp reply. They'd had him in here for hours. A day or more. He couldn't be sure. They would leave, and he would close his eyes and try to doze off, and then they would come back. He'd made his phone call, but Richie hadn't been home. Joe was out of town on Watcher business, and there was no telling when Rich would get in. If he was hanging with friends, it could be days. He didn't know where Connor was. Germany, or England. Maybe New York. If he got the chance, he could call Rachel and ask her.

"It's the name my mother gave me," he said now, with a sigh and a pang of remembered pain. She had loved him til the end, not caring that he wasn't born of her body.

"Your mother." The tall one, Bayliss, sat himself down on the table right beside him. "I didn't think people like him had mothers, Frank."

"Of course they do. It's always the mother's fault, dontcha know."

"I'd like to make another phone call." Duncan snapped. He hadn't asked for a lawyer, thinking that this could all be cleared up.

"You want a lawyer?" The black man leaned forward, his eyes intense.

"That's just gonna make us think you're hiding something. Duncan."

"Tell you what." Bayliss leaned over his face. He had sad eyes. "You tell us what happened, from beginning to end, and we'll see if we can get you a phone call."

"I've already told you what happened," he snarled, unable to keep it in. "Tell me what happened to the woman."

"Her name is Stacy Petrie," Frank supplied helpfully. "But we know you know that. We have a witness that says you visited the office she works in, just two days ago."

There wasn't anything he could say to that. He had been there, to give Tomas a warning about behaving himself in Duncan's stomping grounds.

"Is she going to live?"

"What do you care? You want to have another go at her? We got the results of the rape kit, you definitely finished the first time."

"I tried to save her," he'd been too late. He should have parked closer.

"What did you do, Dun-can? Hide your car in the trees, then walk down the road and pretend to be stranded? This poor woman takes pity on you, walking out there in the rain, and you repay her by raping her? A good plan."

"Only why call 911?" Bayliss leaned back again, his face friendly, inviting. "Did you feel guilty? Get a little too rough with her? We know you didn't mean to kill her."

"So you called 911. That could make the difference between rape and attempted murder," Frank said helpfully. "The DA will take it into consideration, that you didn't mean to hurt her."

"It just got out of hand, right, Duncan?" The words came at him in a wave, breaking and washing over him as he fought the urge to answer. "You just wanted a good time, a little fun. We understand. Every man wants that."

"And when you saw what you'd done, you were sorry, so you called for help."

"You are sorry, aren't you?"

"You do want to help her, don't you?"

"Shut up." Duncan growled out the words. He felt like Bruce Banner just before the man became the Hulk - and Richie's comic-book fetish was going to be the death of him now. "Shut up."

"Ooo, touched a nerve." Bayliss stood up, his hands on his hips, grinning.

"Maybe he did want to hurt her, but he chickened out." Frank leaned way back in his chair, his legs spread, a wide grin on his face. "Couldn't even kill her, hm, MacLeod? Chickened out at the last minute."

There was a knock at the door. Another detective, a woman, stepped in and handed a file to Frank. She gave him a look that made Duncan want to throw up. He was in serious trouble here. If the woman woke up, she would back up his story, he was sure. But what if she didn't remember clearly? What if the Quickening had fried her circuits? Sure, they could do a DNA test, but he'd never heard of one being done on an Immortal. What would it show? Would his be too similar to Tomas' for them to tell it apart? They probably carried the same genetic markers. Joe had said that the Watchers were looking into that question, but there was no way to reach him without getting him in trouble.

He needed Connor. He needed Connor.

Bayliss went around to read over Frank's shoulder, one hand resting on it gracefully.

Duncan wanted Connor to be here. He hadn't missed his teacher in months. The last time he had seen him was after Tessa's funeral, when Connor came to Paris to take care of him. Then he'd left again, the way Connor did. Headhunting.

"So, Duncan, tell me; do the women in your life always die mysterious deaths?"

They'd gotten Tessa's file. "I'm not answering any more questions until I get a phone call," he sat back, hands in his lap. The cuffs chinked together gently.

"I guess he needs time to think about it," Bayliss said. Together, the two detectives spread a series of photos out on the table in front of Duncan, just past the reach of his chained hands. Stacy Petrie. Her violated, bruised body on a hospital bed. Pictures of her private parts, bloody, the bruises on her face, her torn anus. Duncan gulped bile, was certain he was going to vomit.

"Makes ya sick, doesn't it?" Frank mocked. "Think about how it's going to make a jury feel."

"We'll go ask if you can have that phone call." Bayliss grinned, wolfish. As they went out the door, Duncan closed his eyes.

 

 

 

He got his phone call, hours later. This time Richie answered. Duncan was acutely aware of the two detectives hovering over him as he spoke. "Richie?"

"Duncan, man, where have you been? We were supposed to spar today – I went to the dojo and you weren't there." His son sounded out of breath and aggravated.

"I was arrested," he said it flatly, hoping the kid knew enough to not ask any questions.

"Shit. Who should I call?" Good boy. He didn't ask any questions.

"Call Adam. Tell him to get in touch with Joe and find out where Connor is."

"You want Connor?" Curious - Rich didn't understand the request. "I mean, Adam's still in town. He can get you a lawyer and stuff."

"I want Connor."

"Mac, that could take days - I don't think anyone knows where Connor is!"

"Please, Richie," he closed his eyes and dropped his voice. "Just do what I ask. Tell Adam to ask Joe where Connor is, and tell Connor that I need him."

"But, Mac -"

"Richie."

"Mac -"

"Rich."

"Okay. I'll do it," he didn't sound the least bit happy about it. "Do you need anything? Want me to come post bail or anything?"

Duncan glanced at the two detectives. They'd already commented on his wealth. He was pretty sure bail wasn't going to be an option. Particularly as he didn't have a lawyer yet. "Just take care of the dojo, okay?"

"If you’re sure..."

"Richie - thanks."

"You can thank me when this is all cleared up." Richie was being cheerful. "Dinner at that steak house."

"You got it." Duncan hung up the phone, and Bayliss lifted it from his hands.

"Feel better?" Pembleton asked.

"Ready to talk?" Bayliss asked.

"I want a lawyer," Duncan said. He bowed his head over his hands and closed his eyes. "Get me a lawyer."

 

"I've heard about this judge, Mac. She's a hardliner." Seated beside Richie, Joe leaned forward and added his two cents.

"It will be alright." Turned in his seat, his back to the judge, Duncan gave Richie's shoulder a squeeze. "What are you going to do if you have to stay in?" Richie was worried about him, and it made Duncan smile. "Not like Juvenile Hall, is it, Rich? I'll handle it," he glanced at the door. "I thought Adam was going to make it?"

"He's still trying to track down Connor," Joe said. Then the Judge's voice called out a case number, and Duncan stood when his lawyer did. He didn't know where Methos had found her, but she was one of them. So he didn't have to worry about hiding that from her.

"In the case of the People Vs. Duncan MacLeod, charged with aggravated sexual assault and attempted murder, how do you plead?"

Beth Warner, the lawyer Methos had found for him, nudged him, and Duncan swallowed, then spoke, probably too quickly.

"Not guilty."

It felt strange to be wearing his own clothes again. On Beth's advice he'd had Richie bring casual clothes, not one of his best suits. After three days in the county jumpsuit, anything was an improvement. She seemed to be a good lawyer. It was something some Immortals did, especially if they were, as she was, too small to play the Game well. They made themselves useful to the Immortal community in other ways, with the hope that if someone came after thier head they would be protected.

"The plea is entered. On the matter of bail?" The judge glanced around the room. There were lots of people in the courtroom and Duncan was embarrassed to recognize several that he knew, from the dojo and Seacouver University. The District Attorney, a tall woman with intricately braided hair and a southern accent, spoke first.

"The defendant is accused of a vicious rape and the attempted murder of his victim, your honor. He has the means and opportunity for flight. He owns homes in Paris and Italy. The People request that he be held without bail until trial."

"Counsel?"

"My client is being punished for the great sin of being wealthy, Your Honor. He has no criminal record. He called the police and ambulance himself. He has ties with the community, owns a business here, teaches classes at the University. He will surrender his passport. He's not a flight risk."

The judge, an African-American woman in her fifties, looked Duncan over carefully. He couldn't hide the anger in his eyes. Chained like a dog, kept in a cage, fed slop. And no one would listen to him. No one believed him. Stacy Petrie was still alive, but in a coma. He did feel guilty about that. It might have been caused by the Quickening but he wasn't a rapist.

"I'm sorry, counselor," the judge said, meeting his eyes steadily. She thought he'd done it. He could see it. "The defendant also has ties in other countries, and his history seems to be murky at best. I want this brought to trial. The defendant is remanded to custody. Bail is denied."

"Your Honor, I must protest!" He hadn't meant to speak, but the words just blurted out.

"Protest all you want, Mr. MacLeod, but you're not getting out of my jail."

Duncan's heart fell as the prison guards came toward him again. He turned his head, searching the crowd. Richie gave him an encouraging thumbs-up, but Joe looked more serious. Where was Methos? Why hadn't he found Connor? Duncan hadn't done anything wrong. Was everyone treated this way? What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Beth had warned him, but he'd wanted to believe the system would work the way it was supposed to. Now he was going to be stuck in that rathole of a jail for who knew how long. Well, he had killed a man. It wasn't something they would understand, though.

He stumbled as they walked him out of the courtroom. The guards caught him, and he remembered how easy it would be to escape them. He could kill them, kill himself, just let himself get hurt, make a run for it. Start a new life. No. He had to let this play out. If he escaped there would always be a question. He would be a fugitive. It wasn't the honorable thing to do.

Somewhere inside him Edward Tomas was laughing.

 

The scent of urine was strong in his nostrils. As soon as he entered the cell Duncan identified it and the source. His bed. They'd pissed in his bed - again. This had become a twice-daily ritual. After breakfast and lunch he would come back to the cell he shared with five other men and find that someone had urinated in his bed. The first time he'd been so angry he'd seen red. It was only Connor's voice in his head that restrained him. "Don't draw attention to yourself. When you're trapped, keep your head low and your mouth shut. Our lives do not stand up to close inspection."

He couldn't fight back. If he got hurt, and someone saw it heal - he was at the mercy of the system. The greatest fear of all Immortals. While Steven King and Tom Clancy wrote about secret government labs and blacklist projects, he and the others like him took steps to protect themselves and their society. If anyone ever found out, if they ever had real proof.... It would be all too easy to make him disappear. Lose his paperwork. Cart him off in the middle of the night. Do tests on him, reveal the existence of Immortals.

It would be the end of everything he knew. They would be hunted like animals. He could only imagine the uses various Governments would have for them, he shuddered to even think about it. It wasn't going to happen as long as he could prevent it. Even if that meant being taken for a coward in this place.

As soon as his cellmates had realized that he wasn't going to complain or fight back, they'd turned their attention to him with a vengeance. Kicked in the hall, shoved in the showers, his food taken at meals, his bed peed in.

Sometimes they made free with his body, touching him and saying things while he went to the bathroom or bathed. As much as he hated it, he's only taken two showers in the five days he'd been here. It could be months until he went to trial. Years. Duncan wasn't sure he could hold his temper that long.

"MacLeod," a guard called from the end of the hall. "You got a visitor."

He turned his back on his defiled bed and walked out of the cell. Who had come to see him? Beth wasn't due until tomorrow morning, and that was just for a check-in -- a 'hi-how-are-ya', she called it. She understood how hard this was. Knew what he was going through. Joe had come a couple of times but Duncan had told him that once a week was plenty. It was a long way for him to come. And Richie only came in the mornings, before he had classes at Seacouver University.

The University that had fired Duncan last week, almost as soon as he was arraigned. They couldn't afford a scandal.

"In there." The guard directed him to one of the small rooms. Duncan closed his eyes and sighed when he saw who sat at the table.

"Connor."

"Duncan." His clansman ignored the guard that stood just inside the door. He rose from his chair, walked over, and pulled Duncan into a tight embrace.

"Connor." Duncan clutched at him, suddenly overwhelmed. When he said the name again, it was a sob. "Connor."

"Shh, m'cushla, there, I've got you, I'm here."

Duncan began to cry, quietly. He hadn't known how badly he needed this, to be held, to be protected by someone older and stronger than he. How much he'd needed Connor to come.

"What took ye so long?" He gulped the question between sobs. Connor's hands rubbed at his head, Duncan pressed his face to Connor's neck.

"I'm sorry, Duncan. I was in Australia. I went walkabout in the Outback. You've never seen such sunsets. I would have come sooner, if I had known."

"Connor - they -" He couldn't get out the words. The sobs were getting deeper, making it hard to breathe. Duncan hadn't cried like this since Tessa died. That night there had been no-one to hold him. He didn't understand why he was crying. This wasn't the worst situation he'd ever been in. He wasn't hurt. Just his pride. His honor impugned.

"I know, Duncan." Connor's hands were gentle and soothing. "I'll take care of it."

With his face pressed to Connor's neck, Duncan could smell him, and the other man smelled like home. Duncan could almost imagine the wind scouring the Highlands, could almost feel it, could smell it in Connor's sweat. He blinked and pulled his head away, trying to get a grip on himself, saw the guard roll his eyes at them.

"Duncan." Connor tilted his face up. "Let me look at you."
Obediently he met Connor's eyes, holding his breath to quiet the sobs that were dying down. The storm was over.

Connor's eyes were so different from his own. They could be so hard, so cold. But now they were warm and worried, the brown-gold radiating care and concern. Love. A thumb stroked his cheekbone, and Duncan raised a hand to catch Connor's.

"Don't," he almost choked on the word. What was Connor doing? What was he doing, holding onto him like a lost child?

"Are you alright?" Connor had always been able to read his face. Now he let go of Duncan, slowly, and took a step away, his hands dropping to his side. One lingered briefly at his cheek, and Duncan swallowed painfully.

"It's bad," Duncan said, looking around the room. There was the table, bolted to the floor, and two chairs. A tiny window up high. He could see a sliver on sunlight through it. He missed sunlight.

Connor sat down. "Tell me about it."

"I was driving..," he glanced at the guard. The man rolled his eyes again, then stepped out of the room. Beth had said that they weren't bugged. "Fifteen minutes," the guard said, shutting the door. Connor shook his head, reached for him, tugged on his hand until Duncan took the other chair.

"No. Tell me," he ordered. It made Duncan smile, just for a second.

"It's hell in here," he sighed. "Like I'm caught in a nightmare. I keep thinking I'm going to wake up, and then it gets worse when I do," he put his hands on the table, dug into a splintery crack with a dirty thumbnail.

"I'm flying a specialist in to see the woman," Connor said, reaching to cover that hand with both of his own. "From the Royal Hospital in London. An expert in head injuries. A - friend." Duncan understood the hesitation. Connor meant an Immortal. Maybe someone who could help Stacy Petrie wake up. A Quickening was dangerous for a mortal. There was no telling which was worse on her body and mind -- the damage from the rape or the Quickening.

"A doctor?" he asked, hesitantly.

"Yes."

"Her family agreed to that?"

"They don't know I had anything to do with it."

Duncan thought about it. "Anne?"

"Yes. I tracked her down as soon as I got into town. She was appalled that anyone could think you capable of rape, and she offered to help."

"So they think she arranged the consultation."

"The family doesn't know about your history with her."

"Good." Duncan looked at their hands. He turned his over and grasped Connor's. "I'm sorry I bawled all over ye," he said softly.

"You've never done that before," Connor observed. "What's different now?"

"I don't know." He closed his eyes. "I just - it's been hard, Connor. And I was worried about yew."

"Not as worried as I've been about you. I took the Concorde back, and even it wasn't fast enough." Connor chuckled, his trademark sound. "I was afraid I'd find you on the front page."

"I've been keeping my head down."

"Which makes you a target. I know." Connor did understand. They'd had conversations about this before; the best way to deal with being trapped. How to conceal themselves and still survive. Connor had experienced it before, in a Mexican prison Duncan had saved him that time. A long time ago, in the wild West.

They sat in silence for the next few minutes. Duncan was aware that time was running out. He looked up and Connor squeezed his hand.

"Duncan, I've been thinking."

"Now we're really in trouble," he teased automatically, but his eyes held Connor's.

"We've known each other a long time."

"Aye."

"I don't think I've ever told you how much I love you."

"Connor!" Not here, he didn't want to hear this now, in this place.

"No matter what happens, I will not leave you to rot in a prison someplace."

"Connor." If the guards heard that, what would they do? "I know ye would not."

"I'm just telling you." Connor squeezed his hand again, and Duncan felt his face go warm. "I've waited long enough, Duncan MacLeod."

All Duncan could do was laugh weakly. "Your timing has always sucked, you know that?" The door started to open. Connor stood and pulled Duncan up to him, wrapping his arms around the younger Immortal and hugging him tightly. Duncan held on, wanting to remember the feeling of holding and being held. Connor.

"Break it up, lovebirds, time's up."

It was even harder to pull away, to leave Connor standing there with his heart in his eyes, to know what he was leaving behind this time, and what he was going back to.

"Duncan," Connor called just before the door swung shut. "I'll be back tomorrow."

 

 

 

In his cell, Duncan methodically stripped the bunk, turned the mattress, and put on the clean sheet and blanket before lying down on it, closing his eyes. He wasn't hungry, so he didn't answer the call to dinner, just lay there and concentrated. He tried to hear Connor's voice in his head, tried to feel Connor's hand in his own. Tried to smell Connor's body instead of the rank stench around him. After a while, it worked, and he drifted to sleep, actually resting for the first time since he'd been put in this dark place.

 

"Who is this man?"

Connor turned toward the new, hostile voice. The door of the private hospital room had opened and framed two men. The first was black, muscular, wearing a natty hat. Behind him was another man; tall, thin, with sad eyes that seemed to look into his soul. The first man had spoken.

"What is he doing here?"

"Mr. MacLeod is here to represent Duncan MacLeod's interests." Beth Warner stepped up, spoke up. Connor flashed a smile at her. Immortal lawyers were hard to find, and she was one of the best.

"MacLeod. What, you're cousins?" The irritated man came into the room and stood by the bed, ignoring the fact that he was crowding the doctor.

"We're related," Connor said blandly. Beth gave him a long-suffering smile.

"Detective Pembleton, Detective Bayliss. This is Doctor Huang Nyoshita, from the London Royal Teaching Hospital. He's a world-renown expert in head trauma and coma. He just flew in to Seacouver to treat Ms. Petrie."

"We heard." Pembleton didn't seem impressed.

"Please, detective." Mrs. Petrie was sitting on the other side of the bed, holding her daughter's hand. "I had my doubts when Ms. Warner suggested this, too. I know she has an ulterior motive. But he's a good doctor, and all I want is for my girl to wake up. I have four sons. Stacy is my only daughter. She's the only one that lives close to me. I miss her so much."

"I am sorry for your loss, Mrs. Petrie." Bayliss spoke up, going around the bed to stand beside her, looking down on Stacy's pale face. "We're just here to be sure that your daughter isn't coerced in any fashion."

"We're here to protect her," Pembleton said firmly. He gave the doctor a look that clearly said 'get on with it'.

"I've been administering a series of nuerostimulants to Ms. Petrie." Dr. Nyoshita said, his hand touching the patient's face, her arm, her hand. "It's similar to the treatment given victims of lightning strikes. We've had good results with it. I give a series of injections over a measured time, and now the final injection."

"Is there any chance this will make her worse?" Pembleton asked. "Are you risking her life here?"

"There is a very small chance that the treatment will cause a mild seizure," Dr. Nyoshita admitted as he filled the hypodermic, "If the damage is too severe or extensive. In that case there's little chance she'll ever wake up under any circumstances."

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Bayliss knelt by Mrs. Petrie's chair. "Have you been threatened or coerced by this man or that attorney in anyway?"

"Excuse me," Beth snapped. "Mrs. Petrie has made her own decision in this matter. We weren't even present when she discussed it with the doctor."

"But you did bring the doctor over to consult," Pembleton commented, his eyes hard on Connor's.

"No, Dr. Anne Lindsey invited him over."

"And she used to date MacLeod." Pembleton snorted. "A clear example of her sterling judgement."

"And you had nothing to do with it?" Bayliss scoffed at Connor.

"I knew Dr. Nyoshita was the best chance we have to get to the truth," Connor answered.

"You want the truth?" The detective sounded like he wanted to laugh. "The truth is that your 'relative' brutally attacked this woman and then he felt guilty about it, so he made up this cock-eyed story that cast him as the hero."

"Duncan is a hero, many times over." Connor knew he shouldn't say things like that, but he was quickly losing his temper with this man.

"Yeah. Tell that to Tessa Noel." Bayliss smirked.

Connor had taken three steps forward before Beth restrained him with a painful grip on his arm. Pembleton just grinned at him, mocking him.

"Looks like violence is a family trait," he told his partner, and they exchanged knowing smiles. Connor fumed, but bit back the words he wanted to throw. The doctor paused and looked at Mrs. Petrie. "This is up to you, ma'am," he said. "As a physician this is the course of treatment I recommend. We've already begun noting improved brain activity since it began. If I do not finish, I have very little hope that your daughter will ever recover."

Bayliss took the mother's hand. "Do what's best for your daughter, not just what these people want. They have their own agenda."

Everyone in the room turned their attention to the victim's mother. She was getting old. Connor studied the lines around her eyes, the wrinkles on her hands. She reminded him of his own mother, killed before his eyes. This woman’s eyes were pale blue, a bit foggy, but her voice was clear.

"I want my Stacy back."

"Do it," Connor told Nyoshita. The man hadn't been Immortal very long. His first death had come during medical school. A scientist until the end, he'd turned his attention to the particular problems of Immortality. He couldn't study the Immortals - that was clearly too dangerous. But he could study the effects they had on those around them, and the contortions the healing sometimes put them through. After twenty years Connor was still fairly certain that the Watchers hadn't tipped to him, and no one had ever come looking for his head.

The doctor held eye contact with Mrs. Petrie just a few more seconds, then injected the drug into the IV line. He cut the needle of the hypodermic and disposed of it properly, then came back to the bedside.

"What's supposed to happen?" Pembleton sounded interested in spite of himself.

"If there's going to be a reaction, it usually comes pretty quickly," the Doctor said. "She probably won't be coherent, or capable of withstanding an interrogation right away - not for at least several days, most likely. But she should regain consciousness."

"When?" Connor asked, leaning closer. Pembleton put out an arm and pushed him back, and Connor allowed it. For Duncan's sake. Getting arrested for assaulting a homicide detective would not help Duncan.

"Soon. If it takes longer than twenty minutes, then I'll call it a failure." The Doctor gave the mother an apologetic look.

Twenty minutes didn't sound like such a long time. Pembleton took a call, apparently from his lieutenant, and explained the situation to him, not making any effort to hide what he thought of the whole mess. Connor retreated to a corner to lean against the wall and brood. If this didn't work he would have to find a way to get Duncan out of jail before it went to trial.

The easiest way would be a death, but it would have to be sufficiently violent to make sure he didn't come back too soon. The length of time spent dead was usually directly related to amount of trauma suffered during the death. Perhaps Nyoshita could help him, give him some drug or something that would keep Duncan dead long enough to let Connor collect the corpse. They would have to leave and start over, but that was certainly preferable to a lifetime spent in prison. Then again, if Stacy died, Duncan might get the death penalty. But then there would be years of appeals to wait through. He wasn't going to leave his clansman in prison that long.

Something had happened to him, to Connor, during those months alone in the Outback. There had been nothing around him but desert and animals and sheer natural beauty. And none of it had been as beautiful as Duncan's smile.

Connor was used to being alone. He didn't surround himself with people, mortal or otherwise. Duncan went to lots of trouble building families for himself; Tessa, Richie, then Anne and Mary. Joe Dawson, Darius, Fitz, Amanda and the one called Adam, who was more than he seemed. They were the family Duncan had built for himself here. He needed them. Connor didn't need anyone. He needed to know that Duncan was alive, and that he was well. That was enough.

At least, it had been. Now he found that the thought of leaving Duncan again was painful. It squeezed his chest to think it, made it hard to breathe. He didn't understand what had happened. What had changed. He just knew that he couldn't wait any longer to tell Duncan how he really felt. How much he wanted to be the most important person in Duncan's family. He had no idea what his student would think of this declaration. They had been raised in essentially the same culture, but Connor had been able to leave behind those early teachings and Duncan hadn't. He still thought of himself as Clan Chieftain, and applied those rules to his life.

He might not be able to find it in himself to love a man. To physically love a man. He might not be able to see past Connor - his teacher, clansman, friend – to Connor the man. The man who had been in love with Duncan as long as he could remember.

"She's moving," Beth said quietly, tilting her head just enough to show that she was speaking to him. Connor pushed off the wall and took a step closer. Mrs. Petrie was speaking to her daughter.

"Stacy? Stacy, my angel, please wake up. Can you open your eyes for Mommy? Stacy, please. I'm so worried about you..."

Between the bodies around the bed, Connor saw the dark lashes flutter on pale skin, and then the liquid, bruised-looking eyes were open, staring up.

"Stacy? Squeeze my hand, baby, please. Stacy?" Her mother begged quietly, and Connor could see that she was crying, tears running down her face to catch in the wrinkles.

"M- mom?"

Connor sighed deeply. The doctor began asking questions, checking the patient gently, quickly. The two detectives were frowning at each other across the bed. Almost as one they turned their heads to frown at Connor. He glared back, letting his hostility and hatred show. It didn't matter now. The truth would out, and they would know how wrong they had been about Duncan MacLeod.

 

The pillow over his face stank, but he tried to breathe anyhow. Tried to breathe through the stench and the thick cotton, to suck in what little air he could. He heard the muffled laughter of his cellmates, felt their hands on his. Tugging at his zipper, slipping under it, their hands too hot on his flesh. He bucked, wasting valuable air, struggling to get them off of him. But they were holding his arms down, and pressing on the pillow and he couldn't see.

The pillow stank of piss. Then suddenly, it was removed, and he gasped for air. A guard was coming down the hall. He saw the sweep of the flashlight they carried at night. It came into the cell, washed over the others -- all of them lying in their bunks -- quiet and still, and settled on Duncan's face.

"Go to sleep, MacLeod. No trouble tonight."

He managed a nod, his hands crushing the pillow on his chest. He didn't want to cause any trouble. It was just getting harder to avoid it. They would leave him alone until the guard was done with his rounds, and then it would start again. He could fight them - they took him by surprise this time, he'd fallen asleep. He was so tired; Night after night of staying awake, always afraid to sleep. They surrounded him like a flock of vultures, sensing his weakness, willing to play with him before they killed him.

Duncan couldn't fight back. If he did he would never get out of here. He would hurt someone. He might kill someone. And if he got hurt and healed --they would notice. They would talk. Someone would listen. He'd never been fan of paranoia, but three months in the county jail was changing his view. The rules were less strict here than in prison. The guards less concerned. Security was lax. There were plenty of opportunities for a bunch of bored bullies to gang up on what they thought was the perfect victim. Big and strong and a coward that wouldn't fight back.

He might be able to grab a couple of hours of sleep before they came after him again. Duncan took the pillow they had been smothering him with, tucked it under his head, turned on his side and closed his eyes. He brought his hands to his chest, curling up as tightly as he could. He tried to think about Connor. About what Connor had said. What he'd meant by it. But he was exhausted. Gradually the thoughts drifted to how good Connor smelled, the sound of his raspy chuckle, and the strength of his hands when they pulled Duncan from trouble, time and again.

 

 

 

 

"Does that hurt, wuss?"

Duncan sat in a corner of the shower room, head down, legs up, breathing deeply. He reminded himself of all the reasons he couldn't kill this punk.

There were limits to what he was willing to put up with. He'd snuck into the shower room during breakfast, thinking he could get in and out without anyone noticing, but they must have been watching for him to try. As soon as he got the water on they had filed in; seven of them. All of his cellmates and a couple of buddies invited to join the fun.

The water running down his bare chest was tinged pink from his broken nose. He had turned in a defensive stance, his back to the wall, and the largest of them had thrown a punch that could have taken his head off. His nose was healing, but he had to use both hands to cover it, to hide it from them. They thought this was funny.

"I bet you're a fag, Mac." Duncan watched with narrowed eyes while the shortest of them went around the large tiled room and turned on all the faucets. The water sounded like thunder. Were they trying to drown out his screams?

"We saw that kid that came to visit you. He's cute. Your boy-toy? Are you his sugar daddy? You got lots of money. You're a rich guy."

It didn't matter which of them spoke. There were too many for him to fight off. He could hurt some, kill some, but there were too many. Maybe if he just killed one the others would back off. But then he would have to deal with the consequences of being a murderer. He had no doubt the courts would see it that way, with his history and training.

"A rich fag." Someone else said. A bare foot insinuated itself into his crotch, nudging his testicles, and he lashed out a hand, grabbed the ankle, yanked hard, sideways, leaning to avoid being hit by the body as the man went down. Someone yelled. Someone cursed. Someone kicked him in the side, hard.

"Fucking fag decided to fight back!"

"Guess he doesn't want to share."

The line had been crossed. There were things he wasn't going to submit to. Groping, smothering, the occasional beating in the hall....he could accept that. Rape was something else again entirely.

Even as he rose to defend himself, the corner protecting his back and limiting the number of men that could attack him at once, he thought briefly on the irony of his situation. He'd tried to save a woman from a rapist, and was now a potential victim himself. But he would go down fighting. It didn't matter if they saw him heal – he was not going to let them touch him.

If any man was going to touch him with sex in mind, it was going to be Connor. He'd figured out that much.

Then they were on him, big hands grabbing at him, by the arm, by his hair, hauling him to his feet. He fought, kicking and punching, but he was overpowered; a man holding each arm high on his back, another yanking his head back at a painful angle, his hair ripping free of his scalp, the sound almost audible. Hands tore at his skin, tried to hold his kicking legs, clamped on his throat and cut off his air.

They hoisted him high, on his back, and Duncan still fought. He was going to make them kill him. He heard a howl as a foot connected, heard the snap of bone as his arm lashed out and grabbed, twisted. Then he howled as that arm was slammed with something -- kicked, or what he couldn't tell, there was so much steam in the room he couldn't see and his testicles were grabbed and squeezed and bile rose in his throat, the agony overwhelming, nauseating.

With an effort that threatened to dislocate his shoulder he reached out blindly and grabbed the nearest piece of flesh. His fingers dug in and twisted brutally. He meant to tear off as much skin as he could, rip off the biggest piece of flesh possible. He kicked again. The water and steam helped, he was slippery, and one of his legs came free. He kicked harder, felt it connect. The pain between his legs stopped abruptly, but it wasn't much relief.

He was dropped suddenly. He hit the floor, hard, it was wet and cold and oddly sticky, and he was moving back to the corner, slowly as his ribs tried to heal. The steam clogged his nostrils and thickened his lungs, but he peered through it, crouched defensively. They weren't laughing anymore.

There was blood running from his fingertips. His balls were a flaming agony. All he wanted to do was curl around them and moan -- after he puked.

"You're going to pay for that, queer," the largest of them spoke.

They would have to kill him. At least he would get out of here then. Duncan tried to straighten, but there was too much damage that hadn't healed. He managed to get a hand on the wall. He tried to lever himself up.

"I'm going to shove my dick down your throat and let you choke on it."

Duncan shuddered. What if they didn't kill him? They could just hurt him enough to keep him from fighting back. Then he would heal, and they would know everything.

"Then we're gonna fuck you raw. Maybe your pelvis will break." Another man smiled. Duncan could just barely make out his face. "I like that sound, when the bones crack."

"Maybe we'll cut your balls off, since you don't use 'em."

The threats got more creative, and Duncan couldn't wave them off the way he should. He was afraid, well and truly. Not quite terrified. If he couldn't make them kill him, he would have to kill them. One way or another, they would not touch him.

He forced himself up a couple of more inches, and then looked for his chance. They began moving in again except for the two that were hanging back, nursing their wounds. Duncan found a positon that didn't hurt too badly. The wall was scummy, his ass pressed to it. It felt unclean. He needed to cough, the steam was too thick.

Naked and vulnerable and alone, he was going to make his stand.

They were between him and the door, and the door was swinging open, in slow motion as he rose and faced them again. A guard, weapon drawn, and then the two detectives - Frank and Tim. Pembleton and Bayliss. His accusers, his jailers.

"Back away from him!" Bayliss had his weapon drawn, too, and he was pointing it at the other prisoners, not at Duncan. He had a moment to scan himself; some blood, but no sparks of healing. He was okay. It looked like he hadn't been hurt yet.

Pembleton reached across the empty space, holding out a hand.

"Mr. MacLeod - if you could come with us, please."

Duncan swatted the hand away and straightened, uncomfortably aware of his naked state.

"Where's my attorney?" He demanded, not trusting this even a little bit.

"We owe you an apology, sir." Bayliss spoke as Pembleton extended his hand again. Other guards were coming in and starting to herd the other men out. It was loud; Duncan winced. Men were shouting and protesting and blaming each other. He was so tired.

"Stacy Petrie has regained consciousness. She corroborated your version of the story." Pembleton said.

"So?"

"So you can leave. The charges have been dropped, and we owe you an apology." Bayliss didn't quite shrug, and Duncan understood that this was all he was going to get from these men. That and the hand that was offered to him.

"Take my hand, MacLeod." Pembleton smiled gently. "Your friends are waiting for you."

Duncan looked down at his hand, noticed the blood on it. The water was still running. He stuck his hand under it and watched the blood wash away. Then he reached out and caught Pembleton's hand, taking a step. He stumbled. Exhaustion caught him.

"Is he hurt?" Bayliss asked, coming up on his other side, throwing a towel over him, getting a shoulder beneath his arm.

"I think he's just tired," Pembleton said. Duncan thought he saw a smile exchanged between the two detectives, but he couldn't be sure. He was working hard to stay on his feet. It would be bad to go to the doctor now. He just had to stay on his feet long enough to get to Connor, and then everything would be okay. Connor would take care of it.

"Connor," he whispered.

"He's waiting outside. Do you want me to bring him to you?" Pembleton asked, still holding his hand. Bayliss was helping him walk. It was hard to stay upright. Shock, his mind said. He was in shock. He must have been hurt worse than he'd thought. He couldn't let them know.

"Yes, please. Connor."

Carefully, he took unsteady steps until he could almost stand on his own. Bayliss didn't withdraw his support, though Pembleton reclaimed his hand and walked behind them. Along the hall the others were being cuffed and chained to the wall. They shouted and jeered at him, but Pembleton stared them down. He was an innocent man, and now they all knew it. Innocent of rape, anyhow.

He felt a sudden insane urge to shout 'It was the one-armed man!' just to see what they would say. Had to be Connor's influence.

 

In the privacy of a visitor's room they brought him clothes and they brought him coffee and they brought him Connor. He sat beside Duncan and dried his hair with a towel while Duncan drank the coffee and half-listened to what the detectives had to say. Connor had told them that he wouldn't sue for wrongful arrest if they just dropped the charges, and he agreed with a nod. He stood, not caring that they watched, and got dressed. Connor had brought worn jeans and a thick cashmere sweater, soft and warm. Connor helped him dress, buttoning the fly-front jeans when his hands shook and fussing with the shoulders on the sweater until it hung right. Duncan didn't care that Connor was acting like a mother-hen. He liked it, and he didn't care that anyone else saw. Especially those two. His worn hiking boots, and his coat. He could tell by the weight of it that the sword wasn't there. It was still in the woods where he'd hidden it, with Tomas' bastard blade. They would have to retrieve it soon.

Pembleton made apologetic noises. It was clear that he wasn't really sorry. He believed he had acted in good faith and that any other cop would have done the same thing, presented with the same circumstances. Sadly, Duncan had to agree.

"You ready to go?" Connor stood in front of him. The detectives waited.

"My hair's a mess," he said, idly.

"I forgot to bring a clip for it." Connor shrugged, and used one hand to push the wet mass back from Duncan's face. Pembleton looked thoughtful, and then dug into his own coat pocket, coming up with a flat silver clasp. He held it out to Connor.

"My wife's. She took it off at dinner the other night, and didn't have her purse." There was a hint of a smile on his face, as if it were a pleasant memory.

"Thank you." Connor accepted it. He stepped behind Duncan and gathered the curly hair into both hands, then smoothed it as best he could before trapping it at the base of Duncan's neck with the clip. "I'll see that it's returned."

"Either way." The detective frowned. "There will be a meeting with the DA soon. You two aren't planning on going anywhere?"

"Just home, detective." Duncan sighed and leaned back slightly into Connor's strength. "Just home."