Highlander

Highlander

"Eye of the Beholder: Alternate Ending"

Summary: Richie doesn't get out of his encounter with Piton completely unscathed.

Author's Note: I know the end of this episode was a classic, but I thought of another way it could have ended. This is a companion to my "Epilogue" stories. I hope you like it.

Warning: Spanking with a belt. DON'T LIKE, DON'T READ.

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, I just wrote this story for fun.

The ride home from the jail was awful. Mac was incommunicado and that most definitely WASN'T a good sign. Richie Ryan bit his lip, worried. He had pulled some dumb stunts before, he admitted, but he didn't think he'd ever seen Mac this steamed at him before.

Okay, he admitted to himself, breaking into Piton's apartment had been a dumb move and so was setting the B on fire. Okay, maybe stealing that policeman's gun and going after the psycho Immortal wasn't so hot an idea either, but come on…nothing had actually happened. Except his night in jail, that is. But that could be easily overlooked.

Couldn't it?

"Mac," he started to say, but the Highlander cut him off.

"Not now, Rich," he said, tightening his grip on the steering wheel. "We'll talk when we get home." He fell silent after that, never once taking his eyes off the road.

Richie winced. Oh yeah, he was as good as dead.

After pulling up to the barge, they got out and headed inside. "Where's Tessa?" Richie asked, hoping the blonde Frenchwoman would be there to offer him some support.

"Shopping," Mac told him, going over and checking their answering machine.

Richie couldn't stand it anymore. "I'm sorry, Mac," he said. "I know he was your friend."

The Immortal sighed. "Sit down, Richie," he said, pointing to the sofa.

Hesitantly, the eighteen year old did as he was told. Quickly looking around, he didn't see Tessa's hairbrush. That had to be a good sign, didn't it?

The Highlander paced up and down the length of the sofa, attempting to calm the raging sea of emotions rushing through him. Anger, fear, anguish…all of these poured through him at the thought of what the boy's utter lack of thought could have brought him. It could just as easily had been Richie's head rolling across that design studio's floor instead of Gabriel Piton's.

He and the boy had had several "chats" about his "act first think second" attitude back in the States and while the lad had pulled a few "less than stellar" stunts since they came to Paris this was by far the worse of them all; here or there. He knew he needed to do something drastic to get the boy's attention ONCE AND FOR ALL. Sighing, he momentarily flashed back to what his own father would have done in this situation.

I can't! Can, I? It would be too harsh. Wouldn't it?

He looked at the teenager sitting on the sofa. Oh God, he looked SO young and helpless! He was still but a child in so many ways. A child Duncan MacLeod had come to love in the nearly ten months of their association with all his heart and soul. If anything ever happened to this boy…

A resolve settled over the Immortal in that moment and he knew exactly what he had to do. Neither he nor Richie was going to like it, but it had to be done. Steeling himself, he said, "I'm very disappointed, Rich."

Richie looked hurt by that. "Mac, I…"

MacLeod held up his hand. "Let me finish," he said, sternly. "What you did, Rich, wasn't just dangerous. It was plain old stupid! Piton could easily have killed you instead of just having you arrested!"

Richie decided to try and defend himself. "What was I supposed to do?" he asked, angrily. "He said he was going to kill Maya unless I showed up! He said if I told anyone he'd kill her anyway!"

"The moment she found that earring she pretty much signed her death warrant, Rich," Duncan told him, just as angry. "Piton intended to kill her all along and he was just toying with you before he killed you, too!"

Richie growled. "I did what you would have done," he through back into the Immortal's face.

This was a mistake.

It took every ounce of patience and control the Highlander had in him not to go off on him in that moment. "Richard," he said his voice low and dangerous, "you do not want to go there. What I have to do to protect myself and others, and what you did yesterday are two completely different things!"

Richie deflated at that, knowing he was right. "So I was stupid," he finally admitted, sourly, "just sue me why don't you?"

"Suing isn't what I had in mind," Duncan told him. "Stand up." He reached and undid the belt from around his waist.

Richie's eyes widened in horror at the sight. Mac was going to beat him!

"M-Mac, no," he said, his voice small and frightened. "P-Please don't beat me!"

Duncan sighed, understanding the lad's fears. "Richie," he said, firmly, "I'm not going to beat you. The only place on your body my belt is going to touch is your butt. Believe me, you will be sore for a LONG while afterwards, but you won't be scarred in any way. This is a spanking, Rich, nothing more or less. I would never hurt you like that, lad. Now stand up, turn around, and drop your pants and underwear."

Richie gulped. He was still afraid, but he trusted this man more than he did anyone else in the world. Standing up, he shrugged out of his jacket and reached for the button of his jeans. After undoing the fly, he let them and his underwear drop to the floor. His face reddening in embarrassment, he waited for the Immortal to tell him what to do next.

Inwardly, the Highlander heaved a huge sigh of relief. If Richie had balked at the punishment any further after his explanation, he WOULDN'T have gone through with it.

The boy's obvious show of respect and trust for/of him touched his four hundred year old heart in a way no other had. In that moment, he loved the boy more than just about anyone else in the world…except maybe Tessa, but that was a different type of love.

"All right, Rich," he said, evenly, "now bend over the back of the sofa."

His heart pounding in his throat, the eighteen year old obeyed. "I'm sorry, Mac," he told him over his shoulder.

Duncan's eyes softened at that. "I know, Tough Guy," he said, and then raised the belt back. He brought it down across the exposed behind with a resounding CRACK!

CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!

Richie gasped and hissed at the amount of pain those first swats inflicted. And he thought Tessa's wooden-handled hairbrush hurt! His butt felt like someone was slowly roasting it.

CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!

Richie bit his lip, hard. His butt now felt like it was on fire and he just knew he would never be able to sit on it again! Tears stung his eyes and he didn't think he could last much longer.

CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!

That did it! The tears were flowing now and a sob was forming in his throat. He didn't think he could keep silent much longer.

"I know, Tough Guy," Duncan told him, rubbing his back gently for a moment, "but it's almost over." He brought the belt back one last time.

CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!

That final smack caused the sob to fly from Richie's mouth and his knees buckled from out from under him. Duncan literally threw the belt across the room, caught him, and spun him around; he then crushed him to him in a tight hug. Both went down on their knees as the boy sobbed heartbreakingly into the man's chest.

"I'm sorry, Mac," Richie bawled. "I-I'm sorry I disappointed you!" That was what hurt even more than the spanking. Knowing he'd done something that had caused the man to lose respect for him.

Duncan held the boy tighter. "Shh," he whispered. "It's okay now, Rich. You're forgiven and I'm not disappointed anymore. Part of me never was."

Richie looked at him in surprise. "You weren't?" he asked, startled.

Duncan shook his head. "What you were trying to do, Rich," he said, "was noble and brave. I respect that. What scared me out of nearly four hundred years of life was HOW you went about doing it."

Richie grinned at that, wincing at the pain from his butt. "I really am sorry about your friend, Mac," he said, meaning it.

Duncan sighed. "Piton may have been my friend, Rich," he told the boy, "but you are FAMILY. There is no one more important than you and Tessa in my life, pal. I love you both so much that it scares me." There were a few tears falling down his own face now, but he didn't care. He loved this boy so much and he didn't give a D about what anyone else thought of him.

Richie had only ever seen Mac cry once before and it had been a similar situation. How could the man love him so much? They hadn't even known each other a year and yet he knew without a shadow of doubt that he loved this man like a father. "I-I…" he stumbled, angry at himself but knowing that this time he would say it, "I love you, too."

Duncan had never thought he'd heard anything more beautiful than those three little words before, especially considering whom they were coming from. "I know, Tough Guy," he said, pulling the boy into another crushing hug. "I know." Richie hugged him back, clinging to him almost desperately.

They stayed that way for a while, but then Duncan noticed something and chuckled.

"Hey, Rich," he said, "don't you think we'd better get up now?"

"Why?" the boy mumbled from somewhere near his chest.

Duncan smirked. "Because," he said, "if we don't Tessa's going to walk in and get a beautiful view of your bare behind. Now, I'm sure she wouldn't mind the sight but it might embarrass you a bit."

Richie blushed, realizing he had forgotten his pants and underwear were still down. Getting up, he pulled them on and glared at the Immortal.

"You're evil, Mac," he said, good-naturally.

Duncan laughed, reaching out to ruffle his hair. "I know," he said, gesturing toward the kitchen. "You can help me prepare lunch. How does roasted goose sound to you?"

"I think my goose has been cooked enough for one day," Richie told him, reaching back to rub his throbbing behind.

Duncan stopped, blinked, and then burst out laughing.

Richie glared at him. "You're making fun of me," he accused, sourly.

Duncan looked at him innocently. "Would I do that?" he asked, smirking.

"Yes," Richie told him, sullenly.

Duncan just grinned. "I love you, Rich," he said, reaching out to ruffle the teen's hair affectionately.

"Oh, shut up!"

The Highlander's laughing continued to echo throughout the barge, much to the dismay of one sore teenager.

Sore, but very well loved.

That, he supposed, made it all worth it.

But it still HURT!

The End.