Polly~ Okay so I thought it over and decided to go with the hospital scene. Richie with a 'tude is fun to write about. So just for you I give you the first scene of this chapter in the hospital.

Richie slouched in the hospital waiting room arms crossed and pouting looking about half of his nearly eighteen years. Duncan looked at the form in his hands, then up at Richie.

"Do you know any of this stuff?" he asked.

Richie looked at him with a knowing smirk, "I know I had the chicken pox when I was seven," he replied smugly. "But as far as the next of kin shit goes, nothin'." Duncan cleared his throat and glared at Richie making the teen shift uncomfortably under his gaze. "What?"

"Replay that last sentence in your head and tell me what was wrong with it."

"Did I end it in a preposition?"

"Try again."

"Fine, sorry. But I told you, I don't like this stuff."

"Richie!" A short dark haired woman raced up to him and immediately started inspecting his face. Richie glared at Duncan out of the corner of his eye.

"Hi, you must be Duncan, I'm Marcus White." The woman's husband introduced himself.

"Oh, yes, hi," Duncan stood up and shook Richie's current foster father's hand. "Sorry I didn't call you sooner. . ." he started to apologize.

"Oh, I understand. You probably have to tie him down before he let you call." He turned to Richie who was patiently waiting for the woman to let go of his face and still glaring at Duncan.

"Katherine, let the boy breath, fussing over him won't help." Katherine looked up and went over to Duncan.

"I'm sorry, I just saw him like that and all my maternal instincts went crazy, I'm Katherine. . . oh, let me deal with all the paper work." She took the clipboard from Duncan's hands and busied herself filling it out as best she could.

Duncan turned and watched Marcus and Richie. "So Mr. MacLeod says you got into a fight," Marcus was saying.

"Mac has a big mouth," Richie replied bitterly resuming his pouting position.

"So how did the other guy look once you got done with him?"

"Do ya see 'em here? I kinda lost," he snapped.

"You know if you'd just let me show you some moves my old man taught me you can go kick the guy's butt tomorrow." Marcus continued seemingly oblivious to Richie's attitude.

Richie rolled his eyes. "Maybe I should just ask my old man to- - oh wait that's right. . . never mind."

"Well, I'm just going to let you take it from here," Duncan said. "Richie, why don't you take a couple days off and come by sometime Friday."

"Fine, whatever, see ya later."

"Good," Duncan decided not to push Richie any further and let his attitude slid, "I'll tell Tessa, but don't be surprised if she calls to check up on you."

"Whatever," Richie repeated not looking at him.

. . . . . .

Riche looked confusedly at the 'CLOSED' sign in the window as he opened the door.

"Hello?" he called.

"Come on up!" Duncan yelled from the loft.

"Why you guys closed?"

"We're celebrating." Duncan met him at the top of the stairs. "You look a lot better, I take it a couple days off was just what you needed," he commented looking at the nearly healed cut on Richie's cheek. "You can barely even notice your nose." Richie's hand immediately flew up to cover his still slightly swollen nose. Duncan noticed Richie had taken to wearing his watch on one arm and a couple bracelets on the other to cover his wrists when the sleeves of his jacket didn't completely get the job done. "Come here, I want to show you something." He led Richie to the spare room.

"So what are you celebrating? You Jewish or something?" Richie asked trying to figure out what religion had a holiday in mid-September.

Duncan laughed, "Something like that. . . What do you think?" He opened the door.

"Oh, hey, you finished it." Richie walked into the room. "Guest room, huh? Looks good."

"Figured you'd want to see what you'd been working on. Do you want to stay for dinner?"

Richie turned around, slightly embarrassed but the blunt invitation. "If you guys got somethin' going, I mean, I didn't mean to interrupts or anything, I was just dropping cause you told me to."

"You're not interrupting, besides we had tones of food, even if you join us."

Richie smiled and rolled his eyes. "You sure you don't mind?"

"Of course not."

"Well, if your sure. . ." Richie couldn't bring himself to look Duncan in the eye as he accepted the invitation.

"I'm sure."

. . . . . .

Duncan began to clear the dishes once everyone had finished. When Richie began to get up to help he had to practically force him back into his chair insisting that he as a guest.

"Mac, come on. . ."

"You complain when I ask you to do something, you complain when I tell you not to, shut up and sit," Duncan ordered with a smile.

Tessa engaged Richie in conversation carefully distracting him from what Duncan was doing in the kitchen. She discovered Richie had a flare for telling stories and got him talking about his childhood adventures.

"You sound like you were a bit of a handful," she commented.

"A bit?" Richie laughed. "I was worse than Denise the Minace and Huck Finn combined. You couldn't trust a word that came out of my mouth, I was always into everything, and good luck tellin' me what to do and gettin' me to actually do it."

"How is that any different from now?" Duncan asked keeping his back to the table.

"Very funny, Mac."

"I'm just saying you're still a bit of a handful," Duncan said turning around.

Richie twisted in his chair to reply, but whatever he was going to say left him when he spotted the birthday cake complete with eighteen glowing candles in Duncan's hands.

"Happy birthday," Tessa said with a grin.

"My birthday's not for another two days," Richie said awkwardly with a shy grin.

"Wouldn't you have been a little more suspicious if we had invited you to dinner on Sunday?" Duncan said placing the cake in front of Richie. "Make a wish."

Richie got a somber look on his face and he stared at the candles for a couple seconds before taking a deep breath and blowing them out.

"Welcome to adulthood," Duncan said.

"That's a scary thought," Richie laughed.

"We got you something." Tessa handed him a small box.

"What is it?" Richie asked.

"A present," she answered.

Not quite sure how to react to all the attention he was getting Richie opened the box. Inside were three keys: two brass and one aluminum. He looked up at Duncan and Tessa.

"I don't get it," he said slowly.

"We figure any employee should have a key to the store. That goes to the front door and that goes to the back door," Duncan explained pointing to the two brass keys.

"Employee? As in I'm going to get paid instead of blackmailed?"

"That would be the idea, yes."

Richie's shy grin turned into a wide smile. "Cool."

"Don't you want to know how much we're going to pay you?" Tessa asked unable to keep her own smile from her face.

"Whatever it is, it's more than I make now," Richie said happily.

"$250 a week more," Duncan told him.

"Two. . . two hundred and fifty?"

"Plus I'm sure you can make a little extra doing odd jobs if you want. But there is one condition."

"What is it?"

"$200 of it goes in the bank, every week no exceptions."

Richie's face fell. "Look, I mean to sound ungrateful or anything. . But that leaves me fifty dollars a week and I'm going to have some expenses. Two hundred a month might cover food and gas but not rent, too."

"All you need to do is find a rent controlled building."

"That's not as easy as it sound," Richie said softly looking at the table.

"You'd be surprised. It just so happens that we know a couple who owns one. And they have an empty room waiting so you can move in." Duncan reached over and picked up the third key from the box and held it up in front of Richie. "That's not a guest room."

Richie looked up and met Duncan's gaze. "You mean. . . here?" he looked over at Tessa. She smiled and nodded. "Are you serious?"

"You need to have some money in the bank set aside for later. The less you have to spend the more you can save. Think of it like a nest egg. Fifty dollars a week spending money is more than enough," she explained.

"So the deal is, two hundred a week goes in the bank, you leave it there until you're twenty-one, then you can do whatever you want with it," Duncan added. "You do that, you can live here rent free until then."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. . . wait a minute. Let me see if I got this right. . . You guys are going to pay me $250 a week, plus odd jobs and I get to stay here for free?"

"As long as two hundred goes in the bank," Tessa added.

"You don't think you're getting a raw deal, do you?" Duncan asked.

"No, no. . . I think you guys are getting the raw deal," Riche clarified.

Duncan thought a moment. "Fine, I'll tell you what. . . you do the odd jobs for rent money, but the rest of the deal stands."

"Still sounds like the scales are tipped a bit in my favor, if you ask me," Richie said his smile returning.

"It's our final offer, take it, or leave it," Tessa said.

"I'd be pretty stupid not to take it. . . but I still think you guys are getting a raw deal."

Duncan smiled and put his hand on Richie's shoulder. "Let us be the judge of that. You just be packed and ready to move on Sunday."