Disclaimers: Don't own.

TOUGH LOVE

Richie gunned the engine and looked to his left at Ben who gunned his engine in return. Richie grinned smugly and turned his attention to Angie who stood in front of and between the two cars. She raised a red bandanna in the air and waited a few seconds then brought it down. The second the bandanna moved down, Richie let go of the break and shot down the dark road tires squealing. Den was right next to him driving a '76 Chevy. After all the bragging Richie had done, he wasn't about to let the T-bird loose out to an old Chevy. He pushed down the accelerator and glanced at the speedometer. 85 mph and climbing.

"Come on, baby," he encouraged the car. "Just a little more."

. . . . . .

"Where's Richie?" Tessa asked coming out of his room. She and Duncan had just gotten back from dinner with the governor honoring the sculpture she had done for the city's bicentennial. Richie had nearly gone into shock when the limo had shown up. She had been expecting him to be demanding a ride around the block as soon as they got home.

"Where's my car?" Duncan asked looking out the back window expecting to see Richie's bike missing, not his car.

"Maybe he had errands to run," Tessa suggested.

"At one in the morning?"

"Maybe if the errand's name was Michelle." Tessa held up a note she found by the TV remote. "With Michelle, took car, back late," she read. "Not much for words, is he?"

"Only when he's trying to get away with something. Look at this." Duncan held up a scrap of paper that Richie had tried to throw away but missed the trashcan. "12 farmhouse Michelle," he read then showed her the note so she could see the doodles.

"Looks like somebody's in love," she smiled.

"What does this tell you?" Duncan asked his anger rising. At first, Richie was just going to get a lecture for taking his car without asking, but now he was in big trouble.

"He met Michelle at twelve," Tessa said.

"At the farmhouse."

"Is that a make out spot?" she asked missing the significance.

"For the winners it is. Kids drag race there. He took my car drag racing!"

. . . . . .

Richie dared a glance to his left and saw Ben's bumper trying to pull even with this side view mirror. Smiling he turned his attention back to the upcoming finish line, the third intersection from the starting line.

"One more time," he assured the car and pushed the pedal to the metal.

. . . . . .

"You hear that?" Duncan asked as the roar of engines approached them. "That is the sound of an overworked Thunder Bird."

"Duncan," Tessa sighed. "You don't know if Richie's been racing. He may have just come to watch."

"I know he's racing," he argued. "Only Richie is dumb enough to.." Duncan was cut off as two cars raced by the intersection they were approaching.

"That was the T-Bird!" Tessa exclaimed.

"And a streak of blond."

"Go get him!" she ordered.

"No, I'm going to let him revel in his victory, then kill him," Duncan decided getting out of the car. "We'll see you at home. You go on ahead."

. . . . . .

"Told ya!" Richie exclaimed proudly putting the car in park and leaping out. "This baby can fly!"

"You were awesome, man!" Jarred cheered. "You smoked him. No offence, Ben."

"You know, I'm liking the congratulations, but what I really want is the money," Richie announced smiling in the middle of the crowd. "Let's have it!"

Duncan slowly approached the small cluster of teens. A curly haired girl made her was to the center of the group.

"You want your money?" she asked Richie waving a roll of bills in his face.

"Michelle, you know I came for you. but the money would be nice," Richie smiled.

"You really want it?" she asked him as two boys took him by the arms.

Duncan watched expecting Richie to throw a fit for being restrained. Instead the boy blushed and watched Michelle put the roll of bills in her cleavage.

"Come and get it," she purred.

"If you say so," Richie grinned. A cheer went up from the crowd as Richie leaned in face first to get the money.

"Congratulations, Rich," Duncan said just before Richie's teeth closed around the bills.

Richie froze. "Uh-oh."

"That's an understatement," he assured him.

"Parents!" someone yelled and the crowd moved to disperse.

"Richie, Angie, Jimmy, Michelle, freeze!" Duncan ordered naming off the kids he knew. All four stopped in their tracks. "Come here!"

The teens exchanged looks. "We're screwed, might as well face it," Richie mumbled taking the first step toward Duncan; the rest followed.

"What the hell did you think you were doing?" Duncan demanded. Nobody answered. "Do you have any idea what could have happened? What if one of you had crashed? Someone could have could have gotten hurt. or killed! What would you have done then?" Again none of the teens spoke. The all stood in a single file line heads bowed and hands behind their backs. "Well?" he demanded again. "Richie?"

"Mac, can you just chill?" the boy asked when he found his voice.

"No, I can't. Now do any of you have a ride home?" The four teens exchanged looks before slowly shaking their heads in unison. "How did you get here?"

"Ben," Jimmy answered. Angie nodded silently adding herself to the group that had come with the other racer.

"And you came with Richie?" Duncan asked Michelle. She nodded. "And who's idea was it to race in the first place?"

Michelle opened her mouth to answer, but Richie cut her off. "We don't know."

"So you just magically showed up here at the same time," Duncan said. "I believe that one."

"Word gets around," Richie shrugged.

"Who gave you word?"

"I don't remember," he answered at the same time Michelle said. "I did."

Duncan smiled a smile that sent shivers down Richie's back. "Caught in lie number one. Do you care to amend your claim of not knowing whose idea this was?"

Richie set his jaw. "No. I don't know who started this."

"Do any of you know?" Duncan asked Richie's three friends.

"Don't say anything, you guys," Richie instructed.

"You know what, Rich?" Duncan reached out and grabbed Richie by the arm and pulled him close spinning him as he did so. Richie ended up with his back to Duncan's chest. Duncan used one arm to pin Richie's arms to his sides and the other hand to cover his mouth. "I don't want to hear anything from you right now."

Richie didn't struggle but snorted and glared at his friends, telling them to keep their mouths shut.

"Well?" Duncan demanded. "Who wants to start?"

For a few minutes nobody said anything. After all, rule numero uno was if you get caught don't let anyone else in on your misery. Michelle started at Richie, who did his best to look bored and not scared out of his mind. Apparently it didn't work because she started to talk. She told how at first Richie was just going to watch and how he had dismissed all the other cars saying the T-bird was better. Then Ben challenged him to put his money where is mouth was and race.

Richie flinched as Duncan's grip tightened when Michelle said the T-Bird was his. The hold got stronger and stronger as she recounted the race and how fast Richie had been going. Finally, Richie couldn't take the growing pain and moaned into Duncan's hand.

Duncan hadn't meant to hold onto Richie the entire time and let him go. He gave him a shove toward his friends. Richie hadn't been expecting the push and stumbled into Jimmy.

"So, Rich, that's your car?" Duncan asked. Richie rubbed his jaw and didn't answer. "When did you get it?" Richie just glared at him. Duncan reached toward Richie again and spun him to face his friends. "Tell them who's car it is," he instructed. "Or at least tell them who's its not." Richie looked at his feet and mumbled something. Duncan forced his chin up so he had to look at his friends. "What did you say?"

"It's not mine," Richie repeated. "It's Mac's. I borrowed it."

"Borrowing means you asked," Duncan said in Richie's ear. "Did you ask?"

"No," Richie answered. He could feel his cheeks burning and his anger rising. Duncan was embarrassing him on purpose.

"I guess that means you stole it, huh?"

"I didn't steal anything!" Richie insisted pulling himself out of Duncan's grip and turning to face him. "I have a key!" He pulled is keys out of its pocket. "You gave it to me!"

"You had a key," Duncan snapped snatching the keys out of his hand. "Get in the car."

"What about my friends?" Richie demanded. Normally he'd leave them for not sticking up for him. But he doubted he would stand up to Duncan either if he wasn't being picked on.

"You all get in the car too. I'll take you home. And you'd better give me the right addresses because I'm not leaving until I talk to your parents."

"Mac, you can't do that!" Richie protested. "You have no right!"

"Richie, shut up."

"No! You can't tell them what to do! And for that matter you can't tell me what to do either!"

"Richie, shut up and get in the car," Duncan groaned. Richie had worked his way up from a lecture to scrubbing toilets for the rest of his life. One more word and he was a dead man walking.

"No! You're not the boss of me!"

"Funny thing to say to the man who signs your paychecks."

Richie paused putting together the last couple sentences in his head. "That has nothing to do with right now!"

"You are under my care. So I suggest you listen to me before I loose my temper and call the police."

"Why; so they can make me listen to you?" Richie scoffed.

"By the time they finish ringing up the charges, you'll be begging to come home."

"Charges?"

"Drag racing. illegal. Gambling. illegal. Grand theft auto. illegal. You're just lucky you're too old to be breaking the city curfew. But you are supposed to be home by two; it's two fifteen. So it's up to you."

"Fine, you may be able to push me around. But you have no right to do it to my friends."

"You're toeing the line, Richie," Duncan warned. "I suggest you take a big step back before you cross it."

As if the line was more than just a figure of speech, Richie took a few steps back until he was in the relative safety of his small pack of friends. The teens stood in silence watching Richie, who was waiting on instructions from Duncan.

"I want the money," Duncan said putting his hand out expectantly.

Richie took the roll of bills from Michelle, counted out fifty dollars and handed the bills to Duncan.

"What's this?" Duncan asked.

"The money I put in."

"No, no, no you don't understand. I want all the money."

"No way," Richie said, giving the rest of the money to Jimmy. "Just make sure everyone gets what they put in."

"Richie, come here," Duncan said. Richie slowly approached him. "Let's take a little walk." He put his arms around Richie's shoulders and led him to the passenger side of the T-Bird. "This is how this is going to work. You are going to cooperate so you don't get in anymore trouble, you understand?"

"Mac, you can't take their money," Richie insisted. "You can't talk to their parents, you can't tell them what to do."

"I'm going to take the money," Duncan told him. "And talk to their parents. If they want their kid's money back, they can have it. The rest is going to charity."

"No," Richie told him flatly.

"Richie, I've had just about enough of your attitude. So you either behave or I'll make you," Duncan warned.

"You'll make me?" Richie scoffed. "How?"

"You'd be surprised, Rich. I've contained myself for this long. but you're this closing to getting a whooping you'll never forget."

Richie stood up a little straighter and puffed up his chest trying to look as intimidating as he could. "You wouldn't," he challenged.

"If you push me, I will."

"I don't believe you," he scoffed.

"I've never lied to you before and I'm not about to start now."

"So do you mean you start swinging if I push you literally?" Richie asked giving Duncan a shove.

"Richie, that wasn't smart."

"You know, Mac. I'm real sick of you playing daddy all the time. I'm not going to take it anymore." He threw a punch that Duncan easily blocked.

"Richie, have you been drinking?" he asked smelling the air and catching a whiff of alcohol. "You stole my car and decided to kick back a couple beers before racing it?"

"Not a few beers, just one," Richie corrected. "I'm not drunk. And I didn't steal anything!"

"We've been over this, Richie. You didn't ask and this was not an emergency.you stole it."

Angie, Jimmy, and Michelle watched Duncan and Richie argue a few dozen feet away. They couldn't hear what was being said but from the looks of it, things were about to get physical. Richie shoved Duncan and then tried to punch him. They argued a little more and suddenly Richie attacked. His fighting ability had improved somewhat since any of them had last seen him fight, but he was still no match for the older man. One punch sent the boy to the ground. Satisfied Richie wasn't going to argue anymore, Duncan called to the others.

"Get in the car!"

They all quickly moved to comply and piled into the backseat. None of them dared to say a word. It was hard to tell if Duncan's one swing had been in self-defense, a reflex, or out of anger. They weren't going to risk finding out.