AN: Sorry this took so long! Here it is; the end! And please keep in mind that this is December 1992 while they are opening gifts. Top of the line then is nothing now. It is then, not now that the gifts are being received. That said. CHAPTER FIVE!

Tessa woke up in Duncan's arms the next morning. It was a rare treat to see him asleep in the bed with her after six in the morning.

"Good morning," she whispered when she noticed him open his eyes.

"Good morning."

She smiled at him and just looked into his eyes for a minute. "How are we going to tell him?"

"I guess we'll have to.eventually."

"Duncan, he's suffering! He's so worried about not seeing him again."

"He's not going to die if we keep it from him for a few days. We don't even know if this will work."

"But I hate seeing him like this."

"Why get his hopes up?"

"Because he'll at least know we tried."

"I'll tell you what." Duncan rolled onto his side and propped himself up on an elbow. "I'll leave it up to you. As the woman, you're better with feelings and junk."

"Feelings and junk?" she repeated indignantly. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"It means women are more sensitive than men."

"That wasn't the case last night."

"That's different. That is the one topic men are very sensitive about."

She smiled as he rolled toward her. "Oh really?"

"Yes." He was just about to prove his point when there was a soft knock on the door. "This is what we're going to be up against," he sighed. "Yes?"

"Um. Papa and I are going to breakfast, so I need to get dressed and take a car," Richie said through the door knowing the couple too well to open the door until he was given permission.

"Come in," Tessa called.

"You ARE going to breakfast and you're TAKING the car?" Duncan asked him as the teen made his way to his clothes.

"Yeah."

Tessa smiled at Duncan as she reached around him to get his keys off his nightstand. "Have fun, Richie," she tossed him the keys as he slid on his shoes.

"You're welcome," Duncan added as Richie left.

"Uh, thanks," he shrugged, closing the door behind him.

"He is a greedy, oblivious little kid," Duncan told Tessa. "Did you see the way he just walked in here 'I'm taking the car and going for breakfast'? Who does he think he is?"

"A teenager," she amended. "And if things work out, we'll have another one soon."

. . . . . .

Richie and Jean got back a few hours later and Richie was quickly ushered out of Tessa's workshop to make sure he didn't catch a glimpse of the impromptu present she was making him. They all spent the afternoon lounging around being pretty much useless, except for Duncan who was spending a lot of time on the phone in the office.

"Okay, we came up with a plan," Tessa announced late afternoon. She and Genevieve had been chatting for a bit while Richie and Jean were talking about computers again.

"Plan? For what?" Richie asked.

"Tonight."

"Decided what kind of cookies you're going to leave for Santa?"

"Be quiet." Tessa rolled her eyes at him at slapped lightly at his leg. "We will have a late dinner then go look at Christmas lights until mass starts at eleven thirty."

"When?" Richie asked.

"For midnight mass, mon brave" Genevieve explained. "The choir starts a program at eleven thirty then mass starts at midnight."

"Oh, okay." Richie was not entirely pleased about going to church, much less church at twelve at night, but he wasn't going to make a fuss. He had a feeling Duncan was roped into this against his will as well.

The plan was set so around seven thirty everyone began to get dressed. Richie, who had been very compliant about dressing up, did complain a bit about being stuck in a suit and tie.

"I hate these things," he mumbled as he attempted to knot his tie.

"Want to know a secret?" Duncan whispered reaching around to help him. "I do, too."

"Then why don't we start a revolt and not bother?"

"Because it's Christmas."

"That's a stupid reason."

"But it's the only one I have, so go with it."

"Maybe I can start a revolution?"

"You're not the revolutionary type, Rich."

Richie stared at himself in the mirror. "Can't I just try?"

"Here, we'll do this." He turned him around and loosened the knot and unbuttoned the first button. He swapped out Richie's jacket for one of his own, which fit but was a little big. Then he pulled on Richie's shirt so it was a little baggier around his waist. "There, now you have a whole different look." He turned him back around to the mirror.

"I like it," Richie admitted. "But Tess will never go for it."

To prove his point, Tessa came out of the bathroom still placing the back of an earring on. "Richie, stop goofing around and get ready. Our reservations are in twenty minutes. What are you doing in Duncan's jacket? It's not right for you. You're too.it's too big."

"You were going to say I'm too small for it weren't you?"

"No, I just misspoke."

"It's bad enough your mom thinks I'm a pipsqueak."

"What are you talking about?"

"I heard her when I walked past that first night on my way to the couch." His voice got high as he imitated her accent. "Oh, Tessa, he's tiny! How does he keep those pants up?"

Tessa smiled. "Richie, she just thinks that you're cute."

"She said I was tiny."

"Well, your ego certainly isn't," Duncan teased him taking his jacket back and handing Richie his own. "Tessa's brothers are all really big. She just not used to good old fashioned American kids."

"Besides there is always someone bigger and always someone smaller."

"Okay, can we change subjects?"

"Fine, come in the bathroom so I can fix your hair." Richie thought about protesting that he could do it himself, but then he remembered she didn't like the way he did his hair.

They made the reservation with just minutes to spare because Tessa wouldn't leave until Richie's appearance was up to her standards. They sat through a leisurely meal then drove around the residential streets looking at the lights. Church was a long, drawn out service that Richie could barely sit though. The pews were hard, the kneelers were worse, the building was crowded, it was too hot and Tessa wouldn't let him take off his jacket, he couldn't hear the priest, and the kid behind him kept screaming. It was the church service from hell, if there was such a thing.

When they got home, Genevieve made everyone hot chocolate (with extra marshmallows for Richie) and they all sat in the living room talking with a fire going in the fireplace. After a while, Duncan sent Richie to get ready so everyone else could go to bed. By the time everyone was changed and Duncan came out to say good night, he found Jean on the couch and Richie lying on the floor watching an old movie on TV.

"Good night," he said.

"Wanna join us?" Richie asked. "We have no idea what movie this is, but it's not 'It's A Wonderful Life' and that's all that matters."

"No thanks. See you in the morning."

"It is morning," Richie reminded him.

"Good night, Duncan," Jean interrupted seeing a sugar induced bit of feisty energy coming out of the teen that the man wasn't going to be able to get away from if he stayed too long.

"Night, Mac." Richie's attention was back on the screen.

Two hours later, answering to a biological need, Tessa peeked out to check on Richie and her father, both of whom were fast asleep. She tiptoed around, turned off the TV and pulled the afghan over her father. She took the bedding off the chest behind the couch and covered Richie with a blanket then carefully maneuvered a pillow under his head. She turned off the gas valve and the fire lowered then flickered out.

"Good night, petit, Papa."

. . . . . .

"Oh, Duncan, look," Tessa whispered pointing to the lump on the floor. Jean was asleep on the couch and Richie was fast asleep on the floor where Tessa had left him. He was right between the fireplace and tree, a perfect place to get a good view of the screen, but with his hair mussed and huddled under the blanket he looked like a child waiting for Santa Claus. As Duncan came near, she ran for the camera.

A faint smile played across Duncan's lips as he walked toward the boy. "Rich, wake up." Duncan gently nudged him with his toe. Richie didn't move. "Rich." He nudged a little harder.

"Ugh!" he scooted away and slapped blindly at Duncan's leg. Tessa came up just as he moved and frowned at Duncan.

"Duncan, move! I want to get a picture!" She quick took a couple, the flash never bothering the boy.

"Leave him alone until breakfast is ready," Jean said as he folded the afghan and put it on the back of the couch. "He was up late."

"How late?"

"Last time I looked at the clock it was two in the morning and I was tired; he was still going strong. Let him rest."

Duncan consented and the adults congregated in the kitchen. Genevieve banished the men to the table with their coffee while she and Tessa made a breakfast of eggs, sausages and toast for Richie and caviar and toast for the adults. Once they were done Duncan was sent to wake Richie.

"Riiich-iiiiie." he sing songed, waving a sausage under his nose.

After a few seconds, Richie's eyes fluttered open. "What are you doing?" he asked thickly, stretching.

"Breakfast is ready." He popped the sausage into his mouth and gave Richie a hand up off the floor.

"Joyeux Noël, mon brave," Genevieve gave him a quick kiss.

Richie gave her a quirky grin. "Um. Merry Christmas, Maman," he ventured.

"Tres bon." She kissed him again.

Then it was Tessa's turn to give him a kiss. Jean gave him a hug and Duncan gave him a nuggie. Richie tried to get Duncan into a headlock and ended up pinned to the counter with Tessa closing in threatening to tickle him. He was shrieking and laughing before she got within a foot of him. Tessa's wiggling fingers finally made contact and Richie went into helpless hysterics. He writhed and pulled, but couldn't break Duncan's grip on him. Finally, he rasped out that he couldn't breathe and was released. Then they all sat down to eat.

Once seated Richie noticed one very big difference in his plate compared to everyone else's. "What's that?" he asked Duncan.

"What?"

"That black stuff."

"Caviar to put on the toast."

Richie's eyes widened and his jaw dropped. "What?"

"Look at that face!" Genevieve giggled.

"Richie, we had no intention of making you eat it," Tessa assured him. "That's why we made you eggs."

"Thanks." Richie shifted his attention away from the fish eggs and back to his food.

The closer they got to the end of the meal, the more curious Richie got about his presents. He had kept his word about not snooping in the closets and for the first time in a long time, didn't know what he was getting. By the end of the meal, he had a fixed stare on the boxes under the tree. They finished breakfast, did the dishes and sent Richie to Duncan and Tessa's bedroom while they brought out the last of the presents as to not reveal their hiding places (the hall closet was only one of them).

At first, Richie sat on the bed to wait then he cleaned up the corner trunk where he was keeping his clothes, washed his face, brushed his teeth and sat back on the bed to wait, then got back up and paced the room. After what felt like an eternity, Duncan came.

"Are you ready, oh caged tiger?" Duncan teased him.

"This has to fall under cruel and unusual punishment," Richie grumbled.

"We could have made you eat the caviar," he reminded him.

Together they went out to the living room where Tessa, Jean, and Genevieve were sitting and talking as if everything was normal. As if they hadn't been torturing him for the past four maybe five minutes. Richie paused in the doorway just long enough for everyone to notice.

"Are you ready?" Tessa asked him.

Again, a just-noticeable pause. "Sure." They sat him in front of the tree so he could hand out presents. "Who wants to go first?" he asked.

"Just grab one and see whose it is," Duncan told him.

Richie closed his eyes and reached as far under the tree as he could, grabbed a box and pulled it out. "Mac." He passed it over.

It was from Jean and Genevieve. "Oh, wow. Where did you find this?" It was a first edition, signed by the author, book of Scottish poems over a hundred years old.

"I came across it while I was hunting for that book of French Fairytales for that buyer of yours," Jean explained.

"Can I see it?" Richie asked and Duncan handed the book to him. He flipped though it and read a few lines. "Can I borrow this when you're done?" he asked handing it back.

"Sure thing." Duncan and Tessa shared a look. "Who's next?"

"Get one of yours, mon brave," Genevieve told him.

"No argument here." Richie didn't have to look hard to find a gift with his name on it. It was five cds cleverly disguised in a box from Neiman Marcus. They were from Tessa. He thanked her absentmindedly as he read over the song lists and struggled with the cellophane wrap to look over the liner notes. Finally, Duncan interrupted him to retrieve a gift that went along with the cds. Richie opened the box and looked inside. He was shocked; he had only heard that they were thinking about making these!

"It's a walkman for cds," Duncan explained, mistaking Richie's awe for confusion. "This way you can listen to your music without torturing the rest of us with it while you're in the store room."

Richie grinned up at him. "So this is really for you?"

Duncan shared his smile. "Tessa, too."

Richie got a smug look on his face. "Maybe I should get one of these for you so I don't have to listen to that opera crap you keep playing."

"No, you need some culture in your life."

Richie rolled his eyes and mumbled something as he sifted through the packages to find something without his name on it. It was a book Jean had asked for. Richie hid a little smile. 'I hope it's not a guy thing. I really don't want a book for Christmas.' Then he fished around and found a gift for Tessa from Duncan. It was a gold locket on a long chain with something engraved in French on the inside that made Tessa giggle and blush. The pair refused to share their secret. Next, it was once again Richie's turn. He found a large rectangle box that had held his curiosity for over a week, now.

"Holy."

"Richie!" Tessa cut him off.

"Oh, man!" he amended. "This is awesome!" A just on the market Super Nintendo was now his.

"These too," Duncan handed him several small gifts. Richie hadn't even noticed him coming to sit next to him.

Richie opened them. Four new games to go along with the game system. "Dude! This is sweet! Thanks, uh." Duncan gave a little wave. "Thanks, Mac!" And once again he was lost in reading the back of his gifts to get a full description.

"Rich, we're not done yet," Duncan prompted.

"Oh, right." He blushed a bit and began a search for a gift for Genevieve.

"You open your gifts, mon brave," Genevieve interrupted. "That's why we're all here, anyway."

"But you guys have stuff, too."

"But Christmas is for children," Jean told him. "We can wait. You go."

"You sure?" Richie scanned the room; everyone seemed intent on him going first. "Okay, but if you change your minds, just tell me." He then began ripping open package after package, leaving the biggest for last. He commented on each and every gift, genuinely gushing over the coolness of each one. He got the Star Wars and Indiana Jones video box sets, lots of clothes (which were met with the least, though still plenty of enthusiasm), some computer games and in the huge box he found.

"A suitcase." Finally the excitement left the teen.

Tessa started laughing. "Look at his face!"

"Oh, he's trying to be excited," Genevieve added.

Richie looked helplessly at Duncan. Maybe it was some strange joke gift that the French found extremely funny. Instead of addressing Richie Duncan turned to Jean. "Maybe you should explain it to him."

"Richie, the gift is not the suitcase; it's what you use it for. This summer we thought you might like to spend a few weeks in Paris with us."

"Paris?!"

"Oui. If you would like."

The excitement flooded back and Richie was at a loss for words.

"There's more, you have to open it," Jean told him.

"What's with you people and gifts that go together?" Richie mumbled fondly.

"This is for before you come."

"Uh-oh, Mac.can I use the computer?" Richie pulled out a French tutor computer program.

"No," Tessa answered promptly. "You have too many games on that computer. It's supposed to be for the store."

For the second time in five minutes, Richie was speechless.

"We can fix that." Out of nowhere it seemed Jean produced a brand new laptop. "Now he's out of your hair and he has that much more memory to himself."

"Papa." Richie breathed taking the computer.

"Jean, that's very generous of you," Duncan hedged.

"Mac." Richie whined softly turning to him.

"Duncan," Tessa added saying something in French. "Okay, Richie, you're done for now. Is there anything else under the tree?"

Richie perked up again. "Yeah." He grabbed some boxes and handed them out. "These are from me."

For Genevieve, he bought a silver tea tray with the family crest engraved on it and for Jean a hand carved tobacco pipe.

"Richie," Tessa sputtered. "Who gave you these ideas?"

"You did. I'm sneaky," he grinned proudly.

"Mon brave, come here," Genevieve held her arms out. Richie crawled over and let her have her hugs and kisses. Jean clapped him on the shoulder with a proud smile.

"Now you two," Richie grinned sitting between Jean and Genevieve one the floor.

Tessa went first. "It's beautiful," she breathed removing the crystal pendant from the box. "Oh, I love it!" She slid the necklace over her head and admired how it looked against her sweater. She leaned from her chair and kissed the top of his head. "C'est le cadeau le plus beau jamais," she whispered.

"Now, Mac." Richie was especially proud of this present.

Duncan unwrapped the box. Richie seemed to have gone all out on gifts and despite his usual self he was a bit excited to see what Richie had gotten him. He lifted the box. "A tie." He continued in his head, "A very ugly tie at that."

Richie bit his bottom lip nervously. "You like it?"

It was a really really REALLY UGLY tie! "It's just a shame I don't have anything to go with it," he said, picking the fashion monstrosity out of the box. It was purple and red and orange and green and blue with a yellow inkblot in the middle. "This really is an.unique looking tie."

"It's very.colorful," Tessa added with a fake smile on her face.

"You have some taste, mon brave."

"It will take a very specific suit to go with it," Duncan tried to work up a more genuine smile.

"Oh, yes, not just anything would work with it," Tessa agreed.

Richie snickered and then burst out laughing. "Yeah, a really ugly one!" he chortled, clutching his sides. "Oh, man! I can't believe you guys! You actually thought that.that.that I would actually.oh man!"

"It's a joke?" Duncan ventured.

"Of course it is!" He straightened up. "Keep digging, the real one's in there." He grinned broadly.

Duncan pushed away the tissue paper and uncovered a shiny dragon head dagger that looked like it was made to go with the katana. "Wow," he said in the same calculated voice that he had used when he saw the tie. "It's nice, Rich."

Richie's face fell. "You don't like it."

"Well, like isn't the word," Duncan started.

"You hate it?"

Duncan's calm, objective face melted into a smug grin. "It's beautiful; I love it."

Slowly Richie grinned again. "Really?"

"Now we're even." Richie's grin grew as he realized he had been a victim of his own joke. "Is that everything?"

Richie peered under the tree. "That's it."

"One more," Tessa told him handing over a small gift.

With a curious look he tore off the paper. Inside was a simple metal picture frame with the picture of Richie and Michael displayed inside. The single word across the bottom of the frame 'Brothers' put a hopeful question to Richie's lips that he dared not ask.

"Richie, how would you feel if we told you that you may have to share your room for a while?" Duncan asked.

"You mean, you guys? You're the couple interested in Michael?"

"What do you think?" Tessa asked.

"Are you serious?"

"Well, nothing is final," Duncan told him. "But we have expressed our interest and we're working on the paper work now. Then we have to turn it in and wait to be approved."

"Oh, my..I can't believe it!"

"Don't get your hopes up, but know that we're trying."

"Thanks, guys!" He gave enthusiastic hugs to both Duncan and Tessa. "You're the best!"

That night as Richie was playing with his new computer Duncan came out to talk to him.

"Bonjour, M. MacLeod. Comment allish-bous ?"

Duncan smiled. "Comment allez-vous," he corrected.

"I was close. What's up?"

"I just have something for you." He handed him an envelope.

"What is it?"

"Just a commission I forgot to give you. For that African mask."

"Oh, cool." Richie opened the envelope. "Mac.the commission on that couldn't have been over a hundred bucks. This is three hundred and fifty."

"Oh? My mistake. Don't worry about it; think of it as a holiday bonus."

"You already gave me one, that's how I could afford Tessa's gift."

"Well, I've been meaning to give you a raise. We'll call it back pay."

"You didn't take out any taxes."

"Are you always this observant?"

"Only when I think someone is up to something."

"What makes you think I'm up to something?"

"I don't know, but you are."

"Fine." Duncan sat on the couch next to him. "I just want you to know that I'm proud of you."

"For what?"

"What you did for those kids. You spent money you have been saving for months on them without thinking twice."

"I asked you for it first."

"But were you going to ask for three hundred dollars? I don't think so. When given the option of keeping the money for yourself or spending it on kids who needed it more; you did the right thing. That's what I'm proud of. And to be quite honest I was a little worried about how you were going to react to all this attention. I even told Jean that he couldn't buy you that stereo or just give you money for it. I thought you'd be spoiled or get spoiled. And to be quite honest, again I was wrong. I've been telling people that deep down you were a good kid. There's no deep down about it; you're just a good kid. I don't know why I didn't see it before. But you deserve your money back because I was too blind to see that you are above being a statistic."

"Statistic?"

"I didn't see any other orphanage alumni at that pageant, spending three hundred dollars on those kids, spending time with them, singing to them. I bet they all walked away and never looked back. You looked back and you went back. That takes real character. The way you saw what Jean and Genevieve were willing to do and spend for you and didn't ask for anything special. You didn't ask them for your stereo, or a computer or anything expensive. You asked for some cds. You could have taken their generosity and used it to get everything you wanted. But you didn't. That takes character. And I'm proud of that. So I want you to take this money put it in the bank and next week we'll go get your stereo."

Richie paused for a minute. "Thanks, Mac. That means a lot to me.well, not the stereo, all the stuff you said. Nobody's ever said anything like that about me before."

"At least not that you've heard, I'm sure." He reached out and squeezed his shoulder.

"Hey, Mac?"

"Yeah?"

"You guys aren't going after Michael just for me, are you?"

"To be."

"Perfectly honest, I know."

"We had been thinking about it for a while. And seeing you with him made up our minds for us. You really care about him and you're not going to be separated if we can help it. As long as you're okay with it."

"I'm really okay with it."

Duncan smiled. "Good. We hoped you'd be. Don't stay up too late."

"I won't."

"Good night, Rich."

"Night, Mac."

The rest of the holiday went smoothly. Jean and Genevieve left three days later.

"Call when you decide when you want to come," Jean told him as they hugged at the terminal.

"We can't wait to see you this summer," Genevieve added.

"Okay."

"Work on your French," Jean added.

"And mind Duncan and Tessa."

"And keep working hard."

"And mind your language in public, mon brave."

"I will, Maman."

"And help out around the house, especially when your little brother moves in."

"Oui, Maman."

"And be nice to him. Help him with his homework. Don't pick on him too much."

"Oui, Maman."

"Oh, and."

"Maman!" Tessa interrupted with a laugh. "I think you've covered everything. You're going to miss the plane."

Jean said something in French that Richie didn't catch. Genevieve suddenly grabbed Richie and covered him in kisses like she had the first time they met, rambling in French as she came up for air. When she let go, Jean ruffled his hair and a quick hug, then led his wife through the gate.

They drove back to the empty feeling loft. Richie moved his stuff back into his room while Duncan took his sheets down to the laundry room and Tessa brought in fresh ones. The next day, they focused all their energy on finishing the paperwork for the orphanage. While Duncan and Tessa did that, Richie was sent to make copies of important documents. All the papers were in the next day. All that was left to do was wait.

AN: Can you spell sequel? Coming soon!