"Hearth and Home"

Summary: Duncan learns some surprising news about Richie, which only makes his resolve to give the boy a home and family that much stronger.

Author's Note: For the purpose of this story, Richie is only fifteen; takes place in season one just after "Family Tree".

Warning: This story will contain spanking of a teenager. If this offends, PLEASE don't read it.

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, nor will I ever. I am simply writing this story purely for my personal enjoyment.

Chapter 1: A Few Unmentioned Facts

"RICHIE!" Duncan MacLeod's booming voice bellowed throughout the antique store and the loft above.

The sound of running footsteps were heard and few moments later his teenage store clerk pulled a very Tom Cruise-like slide across the floor to come to a halt in front of what appeared to be one very pissed off Immortal Scot. "You bellowed, boss?" Richie asked, grinning cheekily.

Duncan, however, was not amused in the least. "I just got off the phone with Ms. Parkinson," he told him, raising an eyebrow, "care to guess what she told me?"

Richie's eyes widened. Miserable old bat, I knew she'd spill the beans. "It was an accident, Mac," the reddish-blonde teen began his "hasty" explanation. "She came out of no where. It's not like I meant to hit her with that duster!"

A snort and giggle came from the direction of the main store, indicating Tessa was eavesdropping. "Tess," Duncan called out, exasperated, "it's not funny!"

His beautiful blonde lover of twelve years came strolling into the office, clearly amused by the situation. "Come now, Duncan," she said, going over and putting an arm around the teenager, "he said it was an accident, after all. Besides, Ms. Parkinson is a stuffy old lady. I'm sure she looked rather nice with a face full of feathers." Tessa had never liked the woman, despite her being one of their regular customers. She had always allowed Duncan, who seemed able to charm females of any age, deal with her.

Duncan sighed, knowing when he was out numbered. "All right," he said, then pointed a reprimanding finger at their errant store clerk, "but if I catch you break dancing in the store again, you'll be cleaning it from top to bottom with a tooth brush. Understand?"

Richie nodded. "Yeah, boss," he said, snapping off a hasty retreat. "Got it."

Duncan shook his head and grinned. "What am I going to do with you?" he asked, affectionately. It had only been a few weeks since the teenager had moved in, after their rather unique introduction to each other, and already he managed to wrap him and his lover around his little finger; almost, but not quite.

Richie shrugged. "You could always give me a raise?" he suggested, cheekily.

"I'll raise you!" Duncan said, smiling. He reached out to ruffle the teenager's hair, but the boy dodged.

"Boy, Mac," Richie said, "you must be getting slow in your old age, huh?" He then beat if feet first back up to the loft and to the sandwich he'd left on the kitchen counter.

Duncan and Tessa shared a look with each other, both shaking their head in amusement at the teenager's antics. A knock on the office door alerted them to someone else's presence and they turned to find themselves facing a middle-aged woman in a cream colored business suit and carrying a briefcase.

"Can we help you?" Duncan asked her, politely.

The woman smiled and stepped all the way into the office. "As a matter of fact, you can," she told him. "Mr. MacLeod, my name is Joyce Harrison. I'm a social worker with the Southside Orphanage. I here regard the young man that just went flying out of here. Richie Ryan, I believe his name is."

Duncan and Tessa once again shared a look, this one of concern. "Is there anything wrong?" the Highlander asked her. "Should I call Richie back down here?"

Mrs. Harrison hesitated. "I don't believe that would be the best idea," she said. "What I want to speak to you about concerns Richie's files. I believe he tried to steal them a few days ago."

Duncan nodded, remembering just WHERE all that had led to. "I can assure you it won't happen again," he told her. "Richie and I had a very LONG talk about it."

Mrs. Harrison smiled. "I'm sure you did," she said, "but it isn't the stealing I'm here to discuss with you, Mr. MacLeod. It's the fact that I think you have been misled concerning certain facts about young Mr. Ryan."

Duncan raised an eyebrow, and then remembered his manners. "Will you please sit down, then?" he asked, indicating the chairs in front of the desk.

Mrs. Harrison did so before she continued her discussion. "After Richie's files were returned," she explained, "we noticed something in them that didn't quite make a lot of sense, so we checked them with the files we have on the computer. It seems there was one difference between them."

"What was that?" Tessa asked, curious.

"Well," Mrs. Harrison said, "on our computer files it says Mr. Ryan's birth year is 1975, which as you know would make him eighteen. However, on the hard copy of the files it says his birth year is 1978."

Duncan's eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "That would make him fifteen," he said, surprised.

Mrs. Harrison nodded. "Yes," she said. "Mr. MacLeod, I really do not know how this discrepancy and it is really quite embarrassing to us because of it. However, that is not the point. The point is, you are currently housing a young man who isn't of legal age."

"Y-Your not going to take Richie away, are you?" Tessa asked her, tears forming in her eyes at the very idea. "Duncan and I have come to care for him greatly.

"I could tell that," Mrs. Harrison said. "I couldn't help but hear the interaction between the three of you and quite frankly I'm very pleased. Richie has always been a very independent child and his placements haven't always been the best."

"Mrs. Harrison," Duncan said, a resolve settling over him in that moment, "what would it take for me to adopt him?"

Mrs. Harrison looked surprised. "You would consider adopting him?" she asked, a note of hopefulness in her voice.

"The reason I gave Richie a job in the first place is because I wanted to get him off the streets," he explained to her. "That boy has a lot of potential but he needs a home and family to help him reach it. We've been trying to "guide" him without really "interfering" in his life."

"We did not feel we had the right," Tessa explained, "being that he was supposed to be eighteen and all."

Mrs. Harrison nodded, understanding. "It is obvious you care for him," she told them, "but do you not want children of your own. You are both still reasonably young."

If you only knew, Duncan couldn't help but think. Out loud, he said, "I'm afraid I'm unable to have children."

"Oh, I see," Mrs. Harrison said, sadly understanding. "Well, Mr. MacLeod, it is not usually done this way, but seeing as how Richie has been acting as an emancipated adult for the last couple of months and the mistake was entirely ours to begin I will begin the adoption process immediately. In the mean time, I will need you to sign some papers that will give you legal custody of young Mr. Ryan." She pulled out some papers from her briefcase and sat them on his desk.

Duncan read through them thoroughly, understanding everything they said, and then picked up pen and signed his name. He then handed the papers back to Mrs. Harrison. "Thank you for this," he told her, grinning.

Mrs. Harrison smiled back, putting the papers back into her briefcase. "No, Mr. MacLeod," she said, standing, "is I who should be thanking you. It is obvious you care for Richie very much and will give him a wonderful home and family. I will, of course, be coming by periodically to check on things and to let you know how the adoption proceeding is going." She held out her hand to him.

"Yes, of course," Duncan said, standing and shaking her hand. "Thank you again."

Mrs. Harrison nodded, shook Tessa's hand, and then exited the office. For several moments, neither the Immortal nor his lover spoke. He then turned and headed for the door.

"Mac," Tessa asked, "where are you going?"

"Richie and I need to have a little talk, Tess," Duncan told her, "about a few unmentioned facts." He then headed up the stairs to the loft, a determined look on his face.

Tessa sighed.

For Richie's sake, she hoped the boy wouldn't be TOO difficult.