"Kid Status"

Summary: Mac and Tessa trust Richie to make his own decisions and act responsibly…so what happens when he breaks that trust?

Author's Note: Okay, I know I said I wasn't planning on posting anything new for a while, but this story idea simply would not leave me alone…so sue me? (Smirks.)

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. Never have, never will.

Of all the things Tessa Noel thought she would be doing at one o'clock in the morning, getting out of bed to hunt for her Immortal lover wasn't one of them.

She found him in the living room, dressed only in a pair of blue jeans, pacing the floor and muttering to himself.

"Mac?" she asked, gaining his attention. "What are you doing?"

He scowled at her. "Pacing."

She snorted, placing her hands on her hips. "I can see that. Why are you pacing?"


Ah…that explained it.

She grinned and crossed the distance between them to put her hands on his bare chest to stop his back and forth motions.

"What about Richie?"

"He isn't home yet."

She grinned even more. "So? He's come home late before…"

Since moving in with them, they had allowed the eighteen year old to come and go as he pleased…so long as he did his job and didn't participate in any 'criminal' ventures, that is.

"Yeah, but then he told us he was going to be late or he at least called! This time? Nothing."

He scowled fiercely, letting his annoyance…along with his worry…show.

"Perhaps, he just simply forgot," she told him, casually.

"Well, perhaps," he growled at her, "he's gonna have some fast talking to do."

He started pacing again.

Tessa sighed.

"We never specifically told him that he had to call us, love," she reminded him.

"It's common courtesy, Tessa," Duncan told her, grunting. "He should know better."

She grinned. "He's young, Mac," she reminded him. "Were you so courteous at his age?"

"No," the Immortal admitted, "and my father didn't hesitate to remind me of it, either."

She shook her head. "You aren't his father, Duncan," she told him, gently. "He has a right to make his own choices."

He stopped and looked at her. "What if he makes the wrong choices?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "What do we do then?"

She shrugged. "What can we do?" she asked him.

"We can care," he told her, firmly, "enough to make sure he doesn't do it again."

"We do care, love," she told him. "Otherwise, you would not be pacing the floor at one o'clock in the morning, no?"

He sighed. "What if he's hurt, Tess?" he asked, concerned. "He's so damn reckless…"

"I know," she said, biting her lip. "It worries me, too."

He smiled at her. "I'll make room if you want to pace, too," he told her, stopping long enough to come wrap his arms around her.

She smiled. "No, thank you," she said, "but do you think something has happened to him?"

Duncan sighed. "I don't know," he said, "and that's what is so frustrating. Like you said, he's come home late like this before…"

His brow furrowed deeply as he trailed off as the door downstairs was opened and shut with a bang.

"See," she told him, smiling. "He's home."

The Immortal just continued to glare in the direction of the stairs. "He'd better have a damn good explanation ready," he muttered to himself.

They both turned toward the stairs as the sound of feet was heard, and a few seconds later Richie Ryan made his appearance.

Albeit, more than a bit shakily.

The boy smiled lopsidedly at them. "Hey, guys," he greeted them, stumbling over to them, "what are you still doing up? Wait...don't tell me…you're role playing, right?"

The couple looked at each other and then back at him.

"Richie, have you been drinking?" It was rhetorical question.

The boy's unsteadiness mixed with the fact that he smelled like a brewery answered the question for him.

Richie held up a hand. "Just a little bit," he admitted, grinning. "It was a great party! No body throws a party like my buddy Gary! You guys should have been there! It was awesome!"

"Richie," Tessa said, "how did you get home?" She was almost afraid to know the answer.

She was right.

"On my bike, 'course," the slurred at her, "how else was I gonna get 'ome. The others were pretty wasted…they can't hold it, ya'know."

"Apparently," Duncan muttered, darkly, "neither can you."

"Ah, c'mon," Richie said, smiling at him. "This is nothin'."

"Oh, it's something all right," the Immortal growled at him, "but let's wait and talk in the morning. We need to get you into bed."

"Bed?" Richie asked. "But it's early."

"Yes," Duncan agreed, wrapping an arm around the lad's shoulders and starting him toward his bedroom, "it's early in the morning. That means its way past your bedtime and ours."

Richie snorted. "Bedtime, right?" he grinned. "Good one, Mac."

He tried to wrap an arm around the Immortal's shoulders, but didn't quite make it.

"Easy there, Rich," Duncan told him, catching him as he stumbled. He sighed.

Deciding to throw gentleness to the wind, he hefted the boy over his shoulder and carried him the rest of the way to his bedroom. Tessa went ahead of him to pull the bedclothes back.

Duncan deposited the boy onto the bed unceremoniously, causing him to grunt.

"Hey, easy there," the intoxicated youth explained, grinning foolishly again. "I break easy, Big Guy."

Duncan scowled. "That's what worries me," he muttered, turning to Tessa.

"Why don't you go on to bed, love, I'll get Rich settled and then I'll be along."

She placed a hand on his shoulder. "Promise?"

He nodded. "My word of honor," he told her.

She nodded, and then bent down to kiss Richie's cheek. "Pleasant dreams, Petit," she told him and then left the room.

"Boy, Mac," Richie said, grinning. "Tessa's something, ain't she?"

Duncan snorted. "Yeah, Rich," he told the teenager as he pulled off his sneakers, "she is."

"What'cha doin', Mac?" the boy asked, curiously.

"I told you," Duncan said. "I'm putting you to bed." He pulled the boy's shirt over his head.

"Oh," Richie said, "okay." He laid back and closed his eyes. He was snoring softly in seconds.

That alone told Duncan just how out of it the boy really was.

Normally, he'd have fought him tooth and nail if he so much as thought about "tucking" him in.

After pulling off the boy's jeans, leaving him only in his boxers and socks, he pulled the covers up to his chin.

Gazing down at the slumbering youth, the Immortal grinned.

"What am I gonna do with you?" he asked, quietly.

It surprised him. It had only been a few weeks, and yet the boy had managed to worm his way into his heart quite thoroughly.

He smiled, remembering the day he'd brought the boy home…

The lock clicked, and the door opened slightly.

Richie smiled. "Bingo," he said, proudly. "Let's the games begin."

Unfortunately, just as he started to pull the door open to enter the store a hand stopped it. That same hand pushed the door firmly closed. The lock re-clicked.

Richie let loose an epitaph that was none too polite and gazed up at the owner of the hand.

"When I was your age," Duncan told him, casually, "my mother would have washed my mouth out with soap for using that kind of language."

Richie's eyes widened. It was him!

Duncan raised an eyebrow, smirking. "Here I thought nothing could shut you up," he told him. "At least, it seemed that way at the police station."

Richie still didn't move, he barely breathed. He was waiting for the moment when the man would take his big old sword out and…do what he did to that guy on the bridge.

Duncan calmly, and casually, reached down and pulled the boy up. "I'm not going to hurt you, lad," he told him.

That seemed to snap him out of his stupor. He snorted.

"Then what the hell do you want?"

"There's a drug store across the street," Duncan told him, crossing his arms.

"So?" Richie asked, puzzled. "What the hell does that have to do with anything?"

"They sell soap," Duncan told him, giving him a pointed look.

"Oh," Richie said, blushing.

"Oh, is right," the Scotsman said. "Tone down the language."

A defiant look crossed the boy's face. "Or what?" he asked.

Duncan smirked. "Do you really want to try me and find out?" he asked, knowingly.

Richie gulped. "Uh, no," he admitted, "not really."

"That's what I figured," the man said, chuckling. "Now, would you like to ask your question again…without the language this time, please?"

Richie sighed. "If you're not here to use that big sword I know you're carrying on me," he asked, "what do you want?"

"To talk," Duncan told him, honestly. "You hungry?"

Richie bit his lip. Of course he was hungry. Why else would he be trying to rob a store in the middle of the day?

"Maybe a little," he said, not about to admit anything to this man.

Unfortunately, his stomach told on him.

Duncan smirked. "More than a little, it seems," he said, latching onto the boy's arm.

"C'mon, I know a great place where we can get something to it."

Richie allowed himself to be pulled along toward the man's car, a really cool looking classic black T-Bird.

"Nice car," he commented, quietly.

"Thanks," Duncan told him, opening the passenger's side door. "Hop in."

Richie hesitated, but then got in. After all, if this man intended to whack him there was nothing he could do to stop him. Something told him, however, that that wouldn't happen.

He didn't know what it was; maybe it was the man's eyes…

"So, what do you like to eat?" Duncan asked, as he headed toward the Heights.

Richie shrugged. "Pretty much anything," he said, "as long as I can pronounce it."

Duncan shrugged. "How does fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, carrots, and rolls sound to you?"

Again, Richie's stomach answered for him.

He blushed, but the man just smiled. "Don't worry, lad," he told him, "I was a bottomless pit when I was your age, too."

Richie couldn't quite figure this guy out.

He knew the man was dangerous, had seen him literally cut someone's head off, and yet his easy going manner made him…trusting.

They pulled up in the alley behind the Antique Store and Richie looked very confused.

"I don't get it," he said, puzzled. "This is your place."

"You remember it, huh?" Duncan asked, smirking.

Richie snorted. "Hard to forget," he said, "and besides I never forget a place I've robbed…uh…"

"Tried to rob," Duncan corrected him, pointing a reproving finger, "and one you're not going to try and rob ever again. Right?"

Richie nodded emphatically at that. "Oh, yeah," he agreed. "Definitely ain't gonna try that again."

"Good," Duncan said, smiling, "so c'mon." He gestured for the lad to get out of the car.

Richie vaulted over the door instead of opening it and said, "I don't get it. You said we were getting something to eat."

"We are," Duncan told him, going and opening the back door. "Tessa should have lunch all ready by now."

"Tessa?" Richie asked, as he was ushered through the door. "Is that the blonde with the nice…uh…body?"

Duncan raised an eyebrow at him. "Uh huh," he said, a slight edge to his voice, "and she's twice your age…almost old enough to be your mother…and you'll treat her with respect and courtesy. Got it?"

Richie nodded. "Hey, man," he said, holding up his hands defensively, "no sweat. I didn't mean nothin' by it."

Duncan draped an arm over his shoulders. "It's okay," he told him. "I happen to think she has a hot body, too." He smirked at him.

"Who has a hot body?" Tessa asked, greeting them at the stairs.

She seemed unsurprised to see him, Richie noticed.

"Uh…" he said, hesitantly glancing at Duncan.

The man just wrapped an arm around his lover's waist and pulled her close.

"Now, who else would I be talking about having a hot body if not you?" he asked, kissing her.

From over her shoulder, he winked at Richie.

The couple separated and Tessa fully regarded him for the first time.

"So," she said, "you must be Richie."

"Uh, yeah," he said, still more than a little weary of the beautiful French woman.

"I'm Tessa," she introduced herself, holding out a hand.

He quickly wiped his own sweaty hand on his shirt, then reached out and shook hers.

"Is lunch ready?" Duncan asked her, hoping to make the boy less nervous.

The French woman nodded. "Yes," she said, "I hope you are hungry."

"Oh, we are," Duncan assured her, winking at Richie again. "Right, Rich?"

"Oh, yeah," Richie said, but then blushed. "I mean…yes, ma'am, I am hungry."

"My," Tessa said, smiling brightly, "such nice manners. It's enough to turn any girl's head. I bet you have quite the way with the ladies, no?"

He blushed more, but her compliment made him feel great. He definitely liked her.

She just grinned at him some more, and then turned to lead the way into the kitchen.

"C'mon," Duncan said, clasping the boy behind the neck and guiding him in that direction.

All the food he'd promised the lad was waiting on the table… along with a thick chocolate pudding for dessert.

The sight of the boy's face lighting up at the sight of the food made him realize his decision had been the right one.

He had had no problem convincing Tessa that they needed to help the youth, she had the largest heart of anyone he'd ever known, but he had a feeling it was going to take some quick thinking to get the boy himself to go along with what he had planned..

Lunch would help, but it was only a start…

Richie came out of his bedroom with eyes full of sleep, a head full of wool, and a mouth…well, he really didn't want to know what his mouth was full of.

To top it off, any little noise sent little drummer boys pounding in his skull.

He wanted to seriously maim whoever had set his alarm clock.

All he wanted right now was a hot cup of coffee, followed by a nice hot shower…at least he did until he walked into the kitchen.

Then all he wanted to do was go hide under the bed.

Mac and Tessa sat at the kitchen table, the latter nursing a steaming cup and the former reading the newspaper; neither one looked up at his entrance.

He gulped, and wondered if he could make a retreat without them noticing.

"Good morning, Richie."

Obviously not.

Richie sighed. Knowing it was inevitable, he went and sat to wait for the lecture he knew was coming.

Tessa regarded him, her eyes concerned. "How are feeling this morning, Petit?" she asked, gently.

"Uh, not so hot," he answered, truthfully.

This received a snort from Mac, who had yet to look up from his newspaper.

"Would you like some breakfast?" Tessa asked next.

Richie normally wouldn't have refused food, but just the thought of it this morning made him want to hurl.

"Uh, no thanks," he said, wrinkling his nose. "I'm not sure I could hold it down."

Another snort came from Duncan's direction, earning him a glare from his lover and a wince from the hung-over teenager.

Man, Mac's pissed. Well…might as well get it over with.

"Mac," Richie said, quietly.

Mac raised an eyebrow, glanced up at him, and then folded his newspaper to sit it on the table.

"Yes, Richie?" he asked, his voice neutral.

Richie gulped. "About last night…"

"Tessa and I had a long talk last night, Rich," Mac told him, cutting him off.

The teenager glanced at the French woman, who gazed at him silently, and then back to the Immortal. "Uh, you did," he said, nervously, "about what?"

Mac raised an eyebrow. "You know what."

Richie grimaced. "Mac, look," he started to say but the Highlander cut him off again.

"Richie," Mac said, seriously, "we allowed you to move in here on certain conditions…like that you could come and go as you please as long as you didn't cause any trouble that would involve the police…now, though, we feel that was a mistake."

Richie felt his heart stop. "Mac, please," he begged, "I'm sorry about last night. I swear, it won't happen again…"

"Oh, I know it won't happen again," Mac agreed, firmly.

Richie felt ice settle in his stomach. "P-Please," he begged, "you know how much I need this job a-and I've got no where else to go. Please, Mac, don't kick me out…"

"Richie," Tessa said, her eyes wide with shock, "we're not asking you to leave."

"Y-You're not?" Richie asked, feeling his heart rate slow a bit. "B-But then what did you mean?"

"We meant the part about you coming and going as you please was a mistake," Mac told him.

Richie frowned. "I still don't get it," he said.

"When you first moved in, Rich," Mac told him, "we wanted you to feel comfortable here, therefore we chose to allow you an adult's freedom to make your own choices—you are eighteen, after all—but last night proved you're obviously not yet ready for that."

"The law thinks so," Richie said, just a trace of defiance in his voice.

He wasn't sure where this conversation was going, but he didn't like it much.

Mac snorted, making his opinion quite clear what he thought about that particular statement.

"You might be an adult under the law, Rich," Mac said, "but that doesn't necessarily make you one in reality. Hell—you're still physically maturing not to mention mentally and emotionally."

"So, what are you saying?" Richie asked, frowning even more.

Mac sighed. "I'm saying that from now on," he told him, firmly, "Tessa and I are going to start acting more like parents than buddies."

"Parents?" Richie asked, indignant. "I don't need parents anymore!"

"Last night, Richie," Tessa said, quietly, "proved otherwise."

Richie wrinkled his face. "Ah, Tess," he groaned. "It was just one time!"

Mac's hand slapped the table, loudly. "It was one time too many," he growled, his dark eyes flashing angrily.

Richie gulped. That was the look he usually reserved for evil Immortals…or reckless teenagers who couldn't keep their mouths shut.

"You're eighteen years old, Richie," he growled, "and that is still three years below the legal age limit! You shouldn't have been drinking in the first place!"

Richie snorted. "Like you never drank when you were my age," he threw back at the Immortal.

"When I was your age," Mac reminded him, his voice low and dangerous, "a boy younger than you could be hanged for stealing…without a trial. There weren't any laws except maybe the ten commandment and those were taken deadly seriously."

"Jeeze," Richie exclaimed, "that's harsh."

"It was," Mac told him, "and I was just as foolish to drink as you were. I could have passed out, fallen into the lake, and drowned!"

"News flash, Mac," Richie told him, sullenly, "you're Immortal!"

Mac's fist clenched. "Damn it, Richie," he growled, "you're missing the point! You acted reckless, immature, and foolish last night. That more than proves you aren't ready for adult responsibilities yet and until Tess and I feel you are you can consider yourself back on minor-status."

"That's not fair," Richie growled.

"Neither is life most of the time," Mac threw at him, harshly. "Deal with it."

Richie couldn't hide the hurt that crossed his face at the man's blunt words.

Not saying anything, he got up, and headed for his room.

The door slammed shut a few seconds later.

Tessa reached over and placed a hand on his arm. "Mac," she said, gently.

He sighed. "I handled that badly," he said. It wasn't a question.

"You handled it the way any upset father would have, I think," she told him. "Did your father not overreact at times?"

The Highlander looked thoughtful at that. "Do you think…" he trailed off, leaving the thought unfinished.

Tessa understood. "Yes, I believe he does," she told him, "otherwise why did he react as he did. It is, I believe, natural for father and sons to have battle of wills. Yes?"

Mac chuckled. "He's not gonna be happy with me for a while," he said, knowingly.

Tessa smiled back. "Teenagers go back and forth between hating their parents and loving them," she told him. "I know I did."

He smiled. "You ever come home at one in the morning drunk, love?" he asked, smirking.

"Well…" Tessa said, blushing.

"You did, didn't you?" he asked, laughing.

She slapped him playfully. "I was young," she defended herself, "and foolish."

"You're still young," he told her, pulling her into a kiss, "but maybe not so foolish."

"Oh, I don't know," she told him. "They say only fools' fall in love."

"Then we're both fools, love," he told her, "and I'm more than proud to be one."

"Me, too," she told him, kissing him again. "Go on, go speak to him. I will be in my workshop."

He nodded. "All right," he said, smiling. He then turned and headed for Richie bedroom.

He sighed. He didn't want to drive Richie away, but neither could he allow him to get himself killed, either.

It had taken him these last few months to gain the boy's trust. He smiled.

He never would forget the day he'd told the boy about Immortals…

"You're kidding, right?" Richie asked him, staring at Mac in disbelief.

Duncan shook his head. "Nope," he told him. "I am four hundred years old, Tough Guy. I was born in the 1500's in Scotland. When I was thirty-five, my Clan went to war with a rival clan. I was mortally wounded and died…only I didn't stay dead."

"You mean you just popped right back up?" Richie asked. "Like a daisy!"

Duncan chuckled. "No, I believe it took me about an hour to revive that first time," he said. "I scared the hell out of the poor old woman who was praying over my body at the time."

"I can imagine," the boy said. "I'm surprised the poor old bitty didn't drop dead herself."

Duncan snorted. "She did faint," he told him.

"I bet your Clan were surprised," Richie said.

"They were and afraid, especially my father," he told him, quietly. "I can't blame them, I was scared out of my wits. I mean, I didn't know what had happened or why it had. I wouldn't find out for nearly a year."

"Is that when Sir Lancelot found you?" Richie asked, curiously.

Duncan smiled at the boy's nickname for Connor. He'd have to tell his clansman the next time he spoke to him. He'd get a kick out of it…at least, he did.

"Yeah," he told the boy, "that was when Connor found. He told me about what it means to be Immortal and about the Game."

"The Game being where you guys go around challenging each other to sword fights," Richie said, "and the loser winds up a head shorter, right?"

Duncan wrinkled his nose at the boy's pun, but nodded. "It's not a nice thought," he said, "but yeah."

Richie nodded. "And there can be only one of you guys left standing in the end?" he asked, curiously.

Duncan nodded, sadly. "Yes," he said. **I pray that one will be you, lad**

"You think you'll be it?" Richie asked him, hesitantly.

"I don't know, Rich," he told him, truthfully. "There's always someone better than you out there and one day…" He shrugged his shoulders.

"I hope it won't be too soon, Mac," Richie told him. "It wouldn't be the same around here without you."

Duncan felt his heart swell with pride with that admission, knowing the boy didn't trust easily.

Maybe, just maybe, he was finally earning the lad's trust…

Duncan knocked on Richie's door, waiting for an answer.

"I'm not in," came the reply from within. "Leave a message after the beep."

Duncan shook his head. "Richie, I'm coming in," he informed the boy, "whether you like it or not."

He heard a sigh. "Fine," the boy said, "whatever."

Duncan frowned. Great, this looks like it's going to be fun.

He turned the door, opened it, and went in.

Richie sat on his bed, his legs drawn up with his arms wrapped around them.

He still hadn't bother to put on any clothes, Duncan noticed as he came over and sat down on the bed.

"Look, Rich," he said, gently, "I didn't mean to lose my cool in there. I'm sorry."

Richie snorted. "About what?" he asked, sullenly. "Getting pissed or treatin' me like a kid?"

Duncan smirked. "Yes to the first," he said, "but no to the second. You are a kid, Richie. There's nothing wrong with it."

"Easy for you to say," the boy muttered, sourly.

Duncan sighed. "I know up 'til now you've gotten the short end of the stick," he said, "which is why you try so hard to prove your independent and can take care of yourself…"

"I can take care of myself," Richie growled at him. "I've been doing it for half my life."

Duncan nodded. "I know that, Rich," he told him, gently, "but you shouldn't have to and now—with me and Tessa—you don't have to. We're here for you, pal, and I promise we're not going to let anything happen to you. You mean too much to us."

Richie gulped, feeling a sob bubbling up in his throat. "Thanks, Mac," he whispered.

Duncan grinned. "Don't mention it," he told him, reaching over to pat his knee, "but…that still doesn't get you off the hook for last night, though."

Richie wrinkled his nose. "It doesn't?" he asked.

Duncan shook his head. "Not even close," he told him, sternly. "Like I told you in the kitchen, from now on Tess and I are going to act like parents…"

"So…you guys are going to want me to tell you where I'm going, who I'm going with, and when I'll be back, right?" Richie asked, knowingly.

"Bingo," Duncan told him, "got 'em all—except one. Instead of telling us when you're going to be back…we'll tell you when to be back."

"You mean…a curfew?" Richie asked, wrinkling his nose.

Duncan grinned, but nodded. "Afraid so," he said, "and I wouldn't make any plans for the next two weeks, either."

Richie sighed. "Grounded, huh?" he asked.

Duncan nodded. "Got it again," he said. "Two weeks. No phone calls, no going out with friends, and absolutely NO parties. You work in the store, do any chores in the loft that needs doing, and then to your room."

"Man," Richie muttered, leaning his head against the head board of his bed, "this sucks."

"It's no fun on this end, either," Duncan told him, truthfully, "but we're only doing it because we care."

Richie smirked. "I don't suppose you care a little less, huh?" he asked, grinning.

Duncan chuckled. "Sorry, Tough Guy," he told him, "but that isn't going to happen. Tessa has a large heart—and I have fairly big one, too—and there's a whole lot of love in there for you."

Richie's eyes widened. "Love?" he asked, chocking up. "C'mon, Mac, you guys can't love me."

"Why not?" Duncan asked, puzzled.

"Because," Richie said, but then elaborate any further.

"That logic might mean something to teenagers, Rich," he told him, "but us old folks need a bit more than that. Why can't Tessa and I love you?"

"Because," Richie said, "everybody that every said they loved me…"

"Left you," Duncan finished for him, knowingly.

The boy nodded, unable to answer vocally.

"Ah, Rich," Duncan said, reaching over and clasping the boy by the back of the neck.

Tugging gently, he pulled the boy out of the sulking position and into a large hug.

"I can't make any promises, Rich," he whispered in the boy's ear, "because—frankly—no one but God knows what tomorrow will bring, but I'm going to do everything in my power to make certain that you, me, and Tessa stay together for a very long time to come."

Richie looked at him. "Really?" he asked, sounding much younger than his eighteen years.

Duncan smiled at him. "You better believe it, pal," he told him. "We're a family now, Rich, and families stick together. No matter what."

Richie smirked at him. "Does this mean I get an allowance now?"

"Maybe," Duncan told him, grinning, "it depends on how well you behave? Think you can go a whole week without getting' into trouble?"

"Uh…" Richie said, unconvincingly.

Duncan chuckled. "I'll take that as a no," he said, laughing.

"Hey," Richie said. "I'm young, I'm too handsome for my own good, I'm…"

"A pain in the butt," Duncan said, earning a pillow in the face.

"I was gonna say devilishly charming," Richie told him, pouting.

"Uh huh," Duncan said, grinning. "All that sums up to one thing: a pain in the butt."

Richie snorted. "You're not bed of roses yourself, Mac," he told him, smirking.

"Maybe not," Duncan agreed, "but then again…as long as you are around I think I'll be looking pretty good."

"Hey!" Richie exclaimed, tossing another pillow at him.

This one he caught and tossed it back…hitting the boy squarely in the face.

This, naturally, began a pillow fight that lasted a for several minutes until Duncan managed to pin the boy and began tickling him mercilessly.

"Alright," Richie exclaimed, hardly able to breathe from laughing so hard, "I give! Uncle! Uncle!"

Duncan let him up. "That'll teach you, laddie," he told him, pointing a finger at him. "We Highlanders are well known for being the best at drinking, wenching, warring, and…"

"Pillow fighting," Richie said, smirking. "I didn't even think they had pillows in your day."

"I'm not that old, Rich," Duncan told him, feigning indignantly. "Cavemen were just a little before my time."

"But not by much," Richie said, grinning from ear to ear.

"Okay," Duncan said, "just for that… you can add no desert for two weeks, either."

Richie's eyes widened. "Oh, c'mon," he groaned. "I'll starve!"

Duncan chuckled. "Yeah, I guess that would be cruel and unusual punishment," he said, smirking.

"You got that right," Richie agreed, but then sighed. "Man, grounded for two weeks." He shook his head.

Duncan shrugged. "Can't really blame no body but yourself, pal," he reminded him.

Richie nodded. "I know," he said, sighing, "but I still think I'll try."

Duncan just grinned.

"You do know I'm sorry, Mac," Richie said, seriously. "Right?" He was more than a little afraid to look the man in the eye.

The Highlander reached over and lifted his chin. "I know," he told him, sincerely but then turned very serious, "but if I ever find out that you've been drinking—not to mention driving and drinking—I promise you, Rich, I'll blister your backside 'til you can't sit down. Is that clear?"

Richie gulped. Mac was giving him "The Look" again.

He nodded. "Clear," he said, his eyes wide. "Like crystal."

Duncan smiled. "Good," he said, standing up. "You might want to brush those teeth…and maybe take a shower."

"Hey," Richie said, indignant, "I've got teenage hormones going on here!"

Duncan smirked. "A cold shower would take care of that," he told him.

Richie scowled. "Thanks a lot," he said, and then smirked. "Hey, Mac?"

Duncan looked back over his shoulder. "Yeah, Rich?" he asked, quietly.

"I mean that," the boy said. "Thanks."

"For what?" the Highlander asked, curious.

"For caring," Richie said, "even enough to…you know."

"Chew your butt out when you make a mistake?" he asked, grinning.

"Yeah," Richie said, quietly.

Duncan smiled. "You're welcome," he said, turning back toward the door.

"Hey, Mac?"

Duncan smiled and turned back around once more. "Yeah?"

"When's lunch?"

Duncan laughed.

Oh yeah, everything was going to A-Okay.

The End.