Disclaimers: Not mine.

Author's Note: Does it bug anyone that in "The Gathering" Richie's scared of Duncan and then in "Family Tree" all of a sudden they're great friends? When did Richie move in? Why did Richie mover in? This is my solution. . .


"Stop that boy!" a woman yelled. "He has my purse!"

Duncan looked towards the commotion and spotted a teen-age boy running towards him, dodging people on the sidewalk.

"Stop him!"

Not being able to just stand by, Duncan positioned himself in the young thief's path just as the boy glanced over his shoulder.

"Ooff!" They collided. The boy looked up surprised as Duncan firmly gripped his shoulders. "You!"

"It hasn't even been an entire day and you're already on your way to being arrested again."

"Not if you let me go," the boy said.

"Thank you, sir." The women panted catching up.

"Just shut up and play along." Duncan hissed in the boy's ear. "I'm terribly sorry ma'am," he said to the woman handing her purse back. "I don't know how he slipped away from me. I'm Dr. Johanson, the head of the psychiatric ward at Seacouver General."

"Psychiatric?" the women repeated.

"Yes, this boy is deeply disturbed and has been exhibiting cleptomanic symptoms. I don't know how he got out, but we've been looking all over for him. I terribly sorry for the trouble he's caused, but as you see it's not entirely his fault. Thank you for finding him." He started to drag the boy away. "Again I'm terribly sorry."

"It's okay," she assured him. "No harm done."

Duncan smiled and continued to drag the boy in the direction of his car. When they rounded the corner the boy started fighting his grip.

"Let me go!"

"Richie, right?" Duncan asked ignoring his demands. "That's twice I've kept you out of jail. You owe me. And I plan on getting what is owed to me. Get in the car."

"Hell no," Richie spat.

"I can just call the police if that's what you want."

"I'm not going anywhere with anyone," he crossed his arms over his chest.

"Fine," Duncan handed him his business card. "Be at that address tomorrow at five, sharp. If you're late I'll call the police and tell them about today. I trust you remember how to get there?"

. . . . . .

Richie paused across the street from the Antique store. He hung his headphones around his neck and studied the building carefully.

"If any of the weird crap starts happening again, I outa here," he told himself before crossing the street.

"4:55, you're early," Duncan said looking up from the spear he was polishing.

"You didn't say anything about being early, you just said don't be late," Richie replied irritably.

"Well, it's good to be early, show you're egar to get started. You see those boxes?" He nodded at the boxes piled in the storage room.

"Yeah, so? What about 'em?"

"That's how you're going to start paying back what you owe me. I want them unpacked and you're going to do it for me."

"Just unpack the boxes? That's it?"

"Yes, for now." Shrugging, Richie put on his headphones and was about to play when Duncan stopped him. "That's a nice system," he commented. Richie groaned.

"What about it?"

"Where'd you get it?"

"I bought it," he shrugged.


"Five finger discount," Richie said before he thought about who he was saying it to.

Duncan put his hand out expectantly. "In that case, I'll just be taking that."

"What?" Richie demanded.

"You can have it back, when you've earned enough to pay for it."

"You're kidding right?"

"You can give it to me, or you can give it to the police. And I'm pretty sure they won't give it back."

Richie rolled his eyes and put his walkman in Duncan's hand. "Man, this blows! You do know blackmail is against the law, right?"

"So is stealing," Duncan smiled.

"Fuck you, man," Richie mumbled.

"Do you want to work for the money to pay for the soap so I can wash your mouth out?"

"God, dam- - - " Richie stopped and looked at Duncan. "No."

"Then watch your language. You better get started. Those boxes won't unpack themselves."

. . . . . .

*One week later*

Duncan took the headphones off of Richie's ears. "You can go home, now."

"No he can't," Tessa said. "He needs to help me first."

Richie looked up at her. "What's up?"

"I need you to hold something for me."

He raised his eyebrows. "I just gotta hold it?"

"Yes, while I weld it on."

"Weld?" Richie squeaked. "As in a concentrated beam of fire, near what I'm going to be holding?"

"I very rarely miss," Tessa assured him.

Richie looked at Duncan for help. "How much more do you figure I owe you?" He asked.

"Well, there's sixty for the window, three hundred for the sky light. . ." Richie's jaw dropped. "The purse incident, the vase yesterday, the walkman, and I'm sure some of the tapes you're always listening to. . ."

"Wait, I didn't break the sky light, why do I have to pay for it?"

"Somebody has to, and as long as you're around you might as well."

"Three hundred bucks? That'll take me, like, forever!"

"So I guess you have a job for awhile."

"But- - but. . . why me? Tessa!"

"Tomorrow I have a room I want you to start cleaning out. Now if you don't mind I'd like to work on my sculpture." She took him by the hand and dragged him into her workshop.

Duncan smiled and listened to Tessa tell Richie what she wanted him to do. "As long as you stand still, you should be okay."

"Should be? Mac! Come on! You're the boyfriend here, why can't you do. . . Shit that's hot!"

"Watch your language, or I will burn you," Tessa threatened.

"Will? You already have!" Richie complained.

"Oh, you're such a baby."

. . . . . .

*The next day*

Richie fanned the air in front of his face. "Dude, that's vile! What is that smell?"

"That's what I want you to find out."


"It's coming from in here." Duncan opened the door to the spare room in the loft upstairs from the Antique shop.

"It smells like something died in there," Richie complained.

"Why don't you go see?"

"Let me guess, I do this or you call the cops, right?" Richie asked bitterly.

"I was thinking of this or the bathrooms."

"What a choice," Richie grumbled peering into the darkened room. "There any windows in there?"


Richie took a deep breath and went into the room, "Holy- - -"

"Watch it," Duncan warned.

"You come in here and tell me that," Richie snapped opening the window. "I think I'm going to die." He sniffed the air and walked around the room peering behind the piles of boxes. "Essence of squirrel," he said after a minute.

"Find it?" Duncan asked from the other end of the room.

"Yeah." He tapped the animal carcass with the toe of his sneakers. "How'd it get in here?"

"I don't know," Duncan crouched down and picked it up by its tail. He turned and dangled it in Richie's face.

"Hey! Dude, that's disgusting!" Richie jumped back.

"It's just a squirrel."

"A dead one."

"Fine," Duncan tossed the squirrel out the window into the dumpster in the alley. "So now you can start cleaning this place up. The boxes can go into the downstairs store room, but dust them first, and when you're done with those Tessa can tell you what to do with the rest."

. . . . . .

Richie stood in front of the display case, mesmerized by the glittering mask displayed inside.

"Taking a break are we?" Duncan asked, causing the boy to jump.

"Huh? Oh, I uh, was just ah. . ." Richie stuttered. "Um, ah, the mask!" he finally managed to get out. "I was looking at the mask. It's kinda cool."

"It's Inca. Solid gold. Strictly ceremonial," Duncan explained.

"Solid gold?" Richie repeated looking back at the mask.

"Don't get any ideas."

"Hey! Dude, chill. Just lookin'. No need to get all possessive on me."

"Just making sure." Duncan sniffed the air around Richie. "You smell pretty bad."

"So did your squirrel friend. So does that room. So don't blame me."

"You might as well go home now. I don't think I can stand that stench much longer," Duncan said with a smile.

"It's your own fault, man," Richie said returning the smile.

Duncan looked at his watch. "It's pretty late, maybe I should give you a ride."

"Nah, I'm fine. I can air out a little this way."

"I'd feel better if you let me drive you. I can put the top down."

"Seriously, Mac. I'm fine."

"Seriously, Richie," Duncan imitated. "I'm driving."

. . . . . .

Duncan pulled up to the curb. "So, this is it?"

Richie nodded. "Yup."

"It's nice."

Richie smirked. "Yeah, I guess." He looked up at the clean white stone building.

"You lived here long?"

"Uh, about three months-ish. But in another week, who knows where I'll be."

"That's right, almost eighteen."

Richie looked at Duncan. "How'd you know?"

"Powell told me when he was trying to get me to press charges after you broke in."

"Oh. Thanks by the way, for that whole. . . not pressing charges thing."

"We made a deal," Duncan shrugged. "So where are you off to after this?"

Richie made a confused face and opened the car door. "Upstairs?"

"No, I mean, after you turn eighteen."

"Oh, honestly, I don't know. Kinda low on funds at the moment. . . " A concerned expression crossed his face. "You know, paying off old debts and stuff." He tried to play it off with a cocky smirk. "Maybe if I wasn't so caught up in paying for something I didn't do. I'd have a chance to make some money."

"Maybe if you'd keep your nose clean, I'll give you that chance," Duncan replied in the same smug tone Richie had used.


"Tomorrow, five," Duncan answered changing the subject and giving Richie a light shove out the door.

"No, wait- -"

"And take a shower, you smell like a dead squirrel."

"Thanks a lot, Mac. Is this one of your 'all will be revealed in due time' things?" Richie asked changing the subject back.

"Night, Richie."