A/N: Originally written in December 2010 as a Christmas present for my sisters. When Richard told Whit to stop by his house in "The Homecoming"-"Would you stop by my house? I wanna get my things. Then, if you'd take me to the bus station . . ."-I figured that Richard was going to apologize to his family before he left. We Odyssey fans already know about Richard's little sister from "Bad Company." I figured she had to be his half-sister, since her last name is Woodworth, and Richard's last name is Maxwell. I had fun with alliteration and made up the names of his mother and father. Rated K+ for unstable family situations and mention of arson.

Disclaimer: I would never be able to keep up with deadlines if I actually owned Adventures in Odyssey-don't own it and never will. Not making money with this fic either.

Forgiveness

John Whittaker's truck braked to a halt beside the driveway that Richard gestured. Richard sighed. Lucy had been right—he was a coward. He had asked forgiveness from everyone that he had hurt in Odyssey except the people that he needed to ask the most. And he had waited until the last moment to ask them, arriving at the house before his bus was scheduled to leave so that he would not be able to stay long. It was pure cowardice.

He turned to Whit with an apologetic smile.

"This may take longer than you expected, Whit."

"Take all the time you need," Whit said earnestly.

"Thanks, Whit."

Richard got out of the truck and shut the door. The walk up the driveway was over too quickly. He took a deep breath to try to slow his racing heart and knocked on the door.

Several nervous seconds later, his mother's face appeared in the doorway. Richard put on his most charming smile and said, "Hiya, Ma!" His mother groaned softly, and he stopped smiling. "Can I come in?" he asked in a significantly more subdued tone. She vacillated briefly then opened the door wider.

"Who is it, 'Mona?" called a man's voice. The owner of the voice stepped into the hallway, and Richard smiled weakly at his stepfather.

"Hey, Woody," he greeted him. Richard instantly wished that he had kept his mouth shut. Mr. Woodworth's lips tightened at the familiar address. It was really more of a disrespectful nickname that Richard had invented during his years in this house, because he had rebelliously refused to call his stepfather "Dad" or even "Mr. Woodworth."

"Ramona, what is he doing here?" Mr. Woodworth growled.

"I don't know, Randall," his mom said, shrugging helplessly.

"I just came to pick up some things—and talk, if it's okay with you." He searched their faces hopefully for some sign of acceptance. His mother looked at Randall uncertainly, while Randall glared furiously at him.

"Now you want to talk, huh? Just like that? You never come home, you rarely call, and the last I heard, you were in the detention center for arson! After all the trouble you caused us and all the grief you put your mother through, now you want to talk? Well, what makes you think we want to listen?"

Richard took a breath to steady himself.

"Look, I know I made a lotta mistakes in the past. That's why I'm here now. I wanna make things right. Please, just gimme five minutes," he pleaded, looking at Randall for consent. Randall's jaw tightened.

"Two minutes," he declared coldly.

Ramona and Randall sat down on a couch in the living room, and Richard stood in front of them.

"Ma," he began quietly. "I know I've been a lousy excuse for a son, and a bad influence as a brother. I got into a lot of trouble, and I disappointed you a lot, and I'm sorry. I just wish there was a way for me to make it up to you. Mr. Woodworth," he continued, meeting his stepfather's eyes and seeing only anger there. "I'm sorry for never listening to you. Maybe if I had respected you more, Rachel would respect you more now and wouldn't be so rebellious—"

"Don't you call my daughter rebellious, you criminal!" Randall barked.

Richard pressed on and fought to keep his voice steady. "I-I'm sorry for not treating you as a father or even as a stepfather. I know I don't deserve to ask this, but will you . . ." He ran his fingers through his hair nervously. ". . . forgive me, Ma . . . Mr. Woodworth?"

His mother looked ready to burst into tears. Looking up at him with a quivering smile, she nodded.

Richard grinned. "Thanks, Ma," he whispered. He looked imploringly at Mr. Woodworth.

"Your two minutes are up," Randall muttered. "Get your things."

Richard wanted to break down and sob, but he only nodded obediently and headed for the stairs. He found Rachel lying on her bed in her bedroom.

"Hey, Rach. Can I talk to you?" he mumbled.

"Stay out of my room," she commanded. Richard took a step backward and rolled his eyes in irritation.

"Now can we talk?"

"Sure. What's up, Richard?"

"I wanted to tell you—" He broke off with a sigh. "Look, can we go to my room? I don't wanna talk out here."

"You can talk fine right where you are," Rachel argued calmly. Richard stifled an angry growl. She was pushing his buttons again.

"This is important to me, Rach! Why can't you do what I want for once?"

"Fine, we'll go to your stupid room," Rachel said. On her way out, she slammed the door spitefully.

"Richard! What's going on?" Randall bellowed from below.

"Nothing!" Richard and Rachel called simultaneously. At least, Richard called. Rachel's voice was louder than her father's.

"What did you slam the door for?" Richard hissed angrily.

"Because I wanted to, that's why!" Rachel whispered just as angrily.

Richard managed to hold his tongue until they were in his room.

"Sit down, will ya?" he said. Rachel plopped down on his old bed, and Richard sat down next to her. "I just wanted to say . . ." He paused. No matter how many times he apologized, saying the words never got easier. ". . . I'm sorry, Rach. For everything. I'm sorry for not spending more time with you. I should have been there for you more. I'm sorry for not setting a better example for you. You're the only kid in school who has an ex-convict for a brother. I'm sorry, and I want you to forgive me. Will you do that for me?"

Rachel stared incredulously. "Forgive you? Only Christians ask for forgiveness. What's with you, Richard? Are you a Christian now?" The sarcasm in her voice irritated him.

"No, I'm not a Christian," he answered snappishly. "Why can't I make anybody understand that I'm sorry? I'm so sorry! Please, please forgive me!"

"Okay, okay. I forgive you."

Her flippant tone slapped him in the face. How could he have expected her to understand? She couldn't see the years of regret behind his apology.

He stood up, grabbed a backpack from his closet, and began opening drawers and shoving clothes into the backpack.

"I'm leaving for Chicago in about twenty minutes," he said.

"Why?" she asked.

"I have some things to take care of there."

"When are you coming back?"

He had to blink back tears at her innocent question. He wished he could stay here in Odyssey and catch up on years of lost time with her. He wished that he didn't have to give her a reason to ask that question. He cleared his throat of the lump in it and returned to his bed with his backpack in hand.

"I don't know. So give me a hug that will last until I get back."

He put his arms around her and she hugged him back. All the things that he wanted to say to her would have to wait. Maybe he could apologize to her again in a few years, when she was old enough to understand. Then maybe she could forgive him for real.

"I'll see ya around, Rach," he said huskily.

"Bye, Richard."

He rose and headed down the stairs. Once more he poked his head into the living room.

"Mr. Woodworth . . . please?" he begged, trying unsuccessfully to keep his voice from cracking.

"Get out," Randall muttered.

"I just—"

"Back for ten minutes and you're ready to take off again! Isn't that just like you. It's gonna take a lot more than ten minutes to make up for years of misery! Now get out!" Randall shouted, tears rolling down his cheeks.

Was his stepfather actually crying?

Richard left the house and stumbled down the driveway, trying to control his sobbing. He didn't want to cry in front of Whit, but his bus schedule wouldn't give him extra time to compose himself. He got into the truck and wiped his face on his sleeve, but as hard as he tried, he couldn't stop crying. Whit's hand settled on his shoulder.

"Dear Father in heaven . . ."

Richard wanted to tell him to stop, to tell him that he wasn't worth praying for. But he knew Whit would deny it. Just as he had told him so long ago that his life was worth saving, he would tell him now that his soul was worth saving.

"I pray that you would watch over Richard as he travels to Chicago and wherever else he may go. If it's Your will, Father, bring him back to Odyssey one day so that I may see him again. Watch over his family. I pray that the seeds that were planted today will bear much fruit in time. It's in Your precious name I pray, amen."

What in the world was Whit talking about?

"S-Seeds?" Richard repeated unknowingly.

"Yes, Richard. You see, God is not a god of chance. Everything that happened today happened according to His plan. You planted your seed of repentance in a lot of hearts. In some people, that seed was quick to bear fruit, and they forgave you right away. In others, that fruit will take a little more time to grow. But while you were busy planting your seeds, God was planting His seed of salvation in you. Of course, it's up to you to make it grow."

Richard thought about Whit's words. "What if none of those seeds grow?" he asked. Whit seemed to enjoy his question, because he smiled.

"The answer can be found in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Matthew. It's a story that tells about a farmer who planted seeds. Some seeds fell on fertile soil, and they took root. Other seeds fell among thorns or rocky soil, and still others were eaten by birds.

"You planted your seeds of repentance. Now Tom, Lucy, and your family must decide whether to tend those seeds or to let them whither. You also have to decide what you want to do with your seed. As much as it hurts you not to be forgiven, it will hurt far worse to stand before Jesus unforgiven. The pain will go on forever. You understand?"

Richard wiped his face again. "Yeah, I understand." He was thankful that the tears had finally stopped.

Whit started the truck and drove to the bus station.

"I'll keep praying for you, Richard, and your family."

"Thanks, Whit. It's nice to know at least a few people in Odyssey are in my corner. To think that my best friend in Odyssey turned out to be an old man!"

Whit looked sideways at him with eyebrows raised. "Old? Is that what you think I am?"

Richard laughed aloud. "No, that's what I know you are!" Whit laughed along with him.

"Oh, to be young and to have the freedom to tell old people they're old," Whit chuckled.

A short time later, they arrived at the bus station.

"Well, here we are," Whit announced. They got out and Richard scanned a nearby bus schedule.

"It looks like my bus leaves in five minutes," he reported.

"I hope this isn't the last I see of you, Richard," Whit said ruefully. Richard grinned at him.

"Don't worry. I'll be back. I have to give this forgiveness business another shot, remember?"

"Time, Richard. Just give them time. They'll come around," Whit told him.

"Yeah," Richard answered, although he wasn't convinced.

How could it hurt so much not to be forgiven? Denial of forgiveness tore at his heart. But forgiveness was like a salve that healed his heart anew.

"Richard, look!" Whit said in astonishment.

Richard looked where he was pointing and saw a girl wandering toward them and searching in every direction.

"Lucy?" he whispered disbelievingly. Whit grinned triumphantly.

"I told you it would just take time."

"Lucy, over here!" Richard called.

As he watched Lucy hurry to them, Richard thought that the feeling of being forgiven was worth the cost. It didn't matter how much it hurt or how much he had to humble himself, as long as the burden could be lifted from his shoulders and he could be granted forgiveness.

"The End"

A/N: Poor Richard Maxwell. I figured he'd lived such a rebellious life that it was time to pay for his sins. I can't remember what Bible verse says that if Israel repented of their sins, God would forgive them, but there were still consequences for sin that the Israelites had to pay. That's what is happening to Richard in this story. It's not as though asking for forgiveness will immediately fix his life. He, like the Israelites, has to make amends for his sins. Read and review, fans of AIO and Richard Maxwell!