Disclaimer: I don't own them. DPP think they do. Except for Richie (who is really only talked about) who is sunbathing on the banks of the River Denial.
Rating: PG for some minor swearing.
"You want to do what?" I turned to look at Duncan, unable to believe what I had just heard. But the look on his face was serious, intent on his purpose.
"The boy who broke into the shop, you must remember him." His gaze never wavered, and acted as if this was not the most preposterous request he had ever made of me.
I stare back at him, trying to decide if he has lost his mind. Remember? Every event of that night is firmly etched upon my memory. That night took the world that I knew and turned it completely upside down, twisted it around and laid it back at my feet in a crumpled heap. It holds that almost unreal clarity in my mind that is also shared by the memory of him jumping onto the tour boat where I was working, or the night where he died by my hand to prove his immortality to me. The long hours that followed have faded a bit, but every word spoken, every sound, every colour is so sharp in my mind that I know it will never fade. And now Duncan brings it up again, dredges it up and back into the realm of discussion. There he sits, staring across the table at me calming reaching for his wine glass acting for all the world as if this conversation fell into to the normal realm of dinnertime discussions. My own hands are shaking a bit as I lay down my fork to level my gaze at him. "It is not a night I am ever likely to forget Duncan. But I donít understand why you are so concerned with this Ricky--"
"I don't care what his name is. What I want to know is why you are so determined to become a part of his life. That is what your intentions are. Correct?" He nodded. "I suppose that answers the question about what you have been spending your afternoons doing this past week after we got back from the cabin." Almost from the day we had returned from his island hideaway, he had been leaving for several hours each afternoon, answering my questions with generic answers of things to do. I didn't push him on it, afraid I wouldn't like the answer. Although I'm not totally thrilled with what he did come up with, I do have to admit, it's not quite as bad as I had feared.
Duncan swallowed the mouthful of chicken he had been chewing. "Yes. It took me several days to figure out where to find him, and a few more to convince him to actually speak to me."
He sounds almost surprised at this, but after remembering the boy's introduction, I certainly couldn't blame him. "What did you expect Duncan, the first time he saw you threatened to kill him and the last you bullied him into keeping his mouth shut. I wouldn't want to see you hunting me down under those circumstances." I shook my head and looked down at my rapidly chilling meal. "Exactly why are you so concerned with him?"
I watch him closely as he took his sweet time in answering. After a few moments of sipping his wine, clearing his throat and fiddling with his fork he finally looked up at me, leveling his gaze as he answered. "That wasn't all of it Tessa. He saw too much."
"What do you mean 'too much'? You said that no one even believed what he said about that night in the store." Visions run rampant through my mind, of reporters and police swarming the store.
"He won't say anything about that night. He's too afraid of jail time." Duncan sounds so confident that the visions fade and I began to relax a bit. "But he was there that night on Soldier's Bridge." The visions return again, this time more intense, Duncan in handcuffs, the phrase 'Accessory to murder' echoing through my mind. My panic must be showing on my face because he continues. "After finally speaking with him, I think he'll stay quiet about that too."
"How can you be so sure? One word out of him Duncan and our lives that we have created here are over Duncan. This boy, this thief, could destroy everything." I can hear my voice rising, and I hate it. He's beginning to get that look on his face that he always gets when he thinks I'm heading into hysterical territory. And like most times it appears on his face, I have to resist the urge to slap it off. How can he stay so calm after telling me this.
"Three reasons. First, he doesn't think anyone would believe him. Second, he still has a healthy fear of me. Not surprising after what he saw, but it still works in my favour. And lastly, I plan to do everything I can to make sure the boy stays where I can keep an eye on him." He continues to look across the table at me, confident and relaxed.
All the pieces have fallen into place by now. "So you want to spend time with him, become his friend to convince him to keep your secret. It is definitely better than the alternative" I go to pick up my fork and return to my now cold meal.
A slightly uncomfortable expression crosses his face and I know there is more to this than what he has told me already. "That's one reason Tessa, but there is more to it than that. I promised Connor that I would watch over him. Keep an eye on him as he grows up."
My mind spins for a moment, trying to figure out exactly what Connor MacLeod has to do with this situation, but figure that between the night in the shop, and whatever this Richie saw that night on the bridge, it was enough for his suspicions to encompass Connor as well. But knowing Duncan's loyalties to his teacher made me wonder exactly what he had planned for his future with the boy. "How much time are you talking Duncan? Surely not more than just a few hours a week." Surely not anything that will intrude too much on our lives here. I recognize and hate these selfish feelings that keep flowing through me, but I can't imagine Duncan wanting to totally disrupt our lives in order to convince this boy, who already stated that he had no intention of talking, to keep quiet.
However looking at Duncan makes my heart sink. He won't even meet my eyes. "Tessa, you have to understand the life that Richie is leading right now." I open my mouth, but he raises his hand to quiet me and continues. "He has no family, he has been bounced around from foster home to foster home for years. It took a lot of time and effort to track him down, because when I went to the address he had given for the police report, the people there said that they hadn't seen him in months. I finally managed to track him down, living in this rundown building down by the docks with about 8 other runaways. They have no electricity, no running water, and the building is in such bad shape I'm surprised it hasn't been condemned."
A cold chill runs up my spine as I feel my heart reach out. This total contradiction of feelings catches me a bit off guard, and my voice turns chilly as I turn my gaze on him. "So what exactly did you have in mind?"
The next words out of his mouth come as no surprise to me. "I want to let him move in here. He can help out in the shop, help out around the house."
"You want to let him move in here? Duncan, he's a thief!" I can't say that the request comes as a shock from the big-hearted Scot sitting across from me, but it still upsets me. There is just enough of a selfish streak in me to rear it's head and refuse to easily sacrifice our privacy and tight-knit home, and this same streak will not give in and make it easier for him. If this is what he wants, then he is going to have to convince that part of me. And even though I know deep in my heart what the answer is going to be, somehow I can't be as big-hearted as he and make it easy for him.
"He is just trying to survive Tessa. For a kid like him, it is probably the only way he knows how." He reaches across and takes my hands in his. I didn't realize until then just how cold they had gotten.
"Then why doesn't he get a job?" I struggle to keep up my side of the argument, but even I can tell that my resistance is growing thin. From the look on Duncan's face I can tell that he knows it too.
"Where is he going to get a job? He's seventeen years old, I doubt he has a high school diploma, he has no way to clean himself up to go to a job, other than in the sink in a gas station bathroom. He has a criminal record and no decent references. Would you hire him?" He sighs. My heart melts at that point. I know he thinks he is doing the right thing, and even I feel sorry for the boy. I am about to give into his request when he speaks again. "I just want to help him. Give him a fair chance. He really has no place to go except back to his foster home. And after seeing how he is living, I figure that things must be fairly bad there to keep him from going back. Not to mention the fact that he will be 18 in three weeks, giving him absolutely no place to turn. He is a bright kid, you can tell that just by some of the attitude that comes out of his mouth, but he's never had a break. I don't want to see him burn out by the age of 21. He's got far too much potential for that."
His emotions just pour off of him sometimes, and this is one of them. It makes it so hard to turn away his requests when he puts his whole heart and soul into it. I have seen him time and time again go to the aid of people who need it, but I can't ever remember a time when he was willing to give up so much of himself to help someone out. I don't know what part of him this boy has touched, but whatever it is, it runs deep inside him. I can feel the tears pricking a bit in my eyes as I squeeze his hands. "How can I say no to that Duncan. I can't lie to you and say that I am happy about this. I don't think I can even begin to imagine the sacrifices for us that this is going to entail."
He laughs. "You are just afraid that someone besides me will see you in the mornings, or on your lazy days when you do nothing but lounge around in my old T-shirts and read the paper."
I glare at him. "That has nothing to do with it. I just don't want to have to give up our evenings out, or our time alone."
"Tessa, he's seventeen, not seven. He won't need constant supervision." He knows that he has won at this point and relaxes into his chair. Smug bastard.
"Are you sure that we can trust him alone here? After all, the only time I have ever seen this boy was when he was trying to walk off with several thousand dollars worth of our store stock." I narrow my gaze as I look at him, trying to put him back on edge a little bit. It didn't work.
"I trust him. You've always trusted my judgement before, and regardless of what he has done before, yes, I think we can trust him. If you would like, I can have him come over to meet you before you make your final decision. And make no mistake Tessa, it is your decision." He turns those damn puppy dog eyes on me and practically bats his eyelashes. He really is shameless at times.
"How can I tell you no? For years everything I say, you say alright. If this is really that important to you, then fine. I still want to meet him first, but if that goes well, than yes, he can move in." The smile that crosses his face is almost reward enough for all the inconvenience that I know is coming. Even though he told me it was my decision, I can't help but think that he played me like an instrument. Duncan has always been good about convincing me to do what he wants, and even some of the time managing to make me think it was my idea. Fortunately for my survival, it's a skill that works both ways.
A blast of music from what used to be the spare bedroom startles me out of my study of store invoices. "Richie, turn it down!" I can not believe how naturally that comes to me. Then again, many things have come a lot more naturally to me in the two short weeks since Richie has moved in. Duncan was rather quick about setting his plans in motion after I agreed to let Richie move in. A little less than 24 hours after the subject was first broached to me, he was sitting at our table with us, eating like only a teenage boy can. In the process he was slowly starting to worm his way under my defenses with those blue eyes that can express so many emotions, from laughing and joyous, to haunted and hurt, in just a matter of emotions. He tries so hard to keep up that cocky exterior, that I wonder if he knows just how much of his soul is visible through those eyes.
Richie and Duncan have surprised
me in their interactions. They tended to dance around each other for the
first few days, Richie's nervousness, and even to some extent fear, was
obvious to begin with. He was even more uncomfortable around me, if that
was possible, but as the weeks have passed, each day has gotten a little
easier. He has settled in more, and we have grown more accustomed to having
him in the house. The non-stop nervous chatter that caught me so much off
guard the first few days has now moved into something resembling conversation,
making Duncan and I much more comfortable around him. But as we all work
at it day by day, it is getting harder to imagine life without him here.
Day By Day (Donnie Vie)~~As performed by ENuff Z'Nuff
It's not the way you lounge
around in T-shirts.
It's not the way you smile when you sleep.
I'm getting older, and you're getting better.
And everyday I wonder if you keep,
The thrilled sensation of loving me,
It's so good having you around and we...
Just take it day by day, we
make it last all night.
Whatever I say you say, alright.
No one's shaken, baby no one cries.
And there's nothing inside to loosen the bite.
When I'm alone I'm still pretty
'Cause I have you to think of at night.
And though I don't know the meaning, I still say I love you.
And though I don't understand, the words just sound right.
Under my arm, cruisin' to your door.
Tonight it's over I'll be back for more.
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