Gosh, it's fun being made to go for your GED by a guy with a sword. One shot.
"Shakespeare again?" Duncan raised a dark eyebrow curiously as he entered Richie's room, skirting the piles of laundry and an empty pizza box. "This is getting to be a habit, Richie."
Richie groaned and rubbed his eyes tiredly. "Yeah," he muttered. "Tell me about it." He sighed and then he closed his book and tossed it onto his unmade bed. "Whoever thought English would involve so much reading?"
Carefully, Duncan suppressed an impending grin. Richie's voice was fast approaching a desperate whine. How best to tell him that he wasn't done yet? Oh, well. Duncan put his hand on the younger man's shoulder consolingly. "It is English, Richie," he said in a soothing voice. "The bulk of English is written and you're gonna have to read it. Sorry."
Richie's blond head drooped. "Sure," he groaned. "Take the teacher's side."
Duncan shook his head. Richie was something else. Only he could interpret things that way. "I'm not," he began. "Oh, never mind... Isn't Kerin coming over to help you again?"
Richie's head popped back up with excitement, a big grin on his face. "Yeah," he replied happily. "She should be here any minute." Suddenly, the phone rang and Richie dove across his bed for it. "Where? Where?" he muttered as he sorted through a pile of blankets and clothing. Duncan rolled his eyes. "Ah, yes!" Quickly, he unwound a pair of jeans from the phone cord and raised the receiver to his ear.
"Shouldn't you really clean this room before she gets here?" Duncan asked in concern.
Richie merely waved as if to brush the question aside. "Hello?" His face lit up with a smile. "Hi, Kerin! How are you? Where are you?" He paused to let her answer. As she went on, though, his smile disappeared with disappointment. "Oh," he muttered after a moment of silence. "Yeah, I understand... Sure. No problem... Maybe later? Okay... 'Bye." Slowly, Richie set the receiver back on the cradle.
"What's wrong, Richie?"
Richie slumped against his headboard. "She's not coming," he murmured. "Her little brother is sick with something. Measles, I think she said. She has to watch him until their mom gets home somewhere around 10." He raised puppy dog eyes to Duncan and his voice rose as well in a comical wail. "I'm sunk! I'm gonna bomb this stupid test." He flopped over on his stomach and buried his head under the pillow, a picture of pure despair.
"Richie." Duncan moved to sit next to his young friend. "You can do it. You're a smart guy. Read it and you'll do fine." He patted Richie on the back. "If you want," he continued, "I'll help you if I can... What play is it?"
A voice laced with dread drifted out from under the pillow. "/MacBeth/."
Duncan jumped up in surprise. "/MacBeth/!" His Scottish accent evolved into something thick enough to cut as he struck a dramatic pose. "I learned to read the English language using that play," he added. His dark eyes grew misty. "It was back in 1658," he continued. "I had gone to Brother Paul's monastery . . ."
"Mac! Hey, Mac!" Richie withdrew his head from under the pillow, sat up, and waved a hand in front of Duncan's face. "Now is not the time for a trip down memory lane. I need to study! If you're gonna start remembering, take it somewhere else." He picked up the book resolutely. "Having you ramble on in the background while I work isn't going to help me pass this."
Duncan made an angry noise somewhere between a snort and a sigh. "Fine, Richie," he answered. "If you're going to be that way, I'll just take my knowledge elsewhere. Have fun." He turned and slowly began picking his way to the door, taking his time as he waited for Richie to cave.
"Uh, Mac?" Sure enough, Richie's voice piped up, shaded with embarrassment. "Who are these 3 chicks?" Duncan grinned broadly and reached out to shut the door before turning back to his young friend with a mischievous glint hovering in his dark eyes. Just what he liked, he thought. A captive audience...
"Nave to chops? What's that supposed to mean?" Richie grimaced. "It sounds painful."
"It probably was... It means cut from navel to neck."
"So what these old witches are saying is that MacBeth's gonna be king?"
"Yes, and Banquo will be the father of kings."
Richie's forehead wrinkled as he worked this new problem out in his mind. "So MacBeth," he began slowly, "is a once and done deal? Banquo's kids will take over." He frowned. "Bet that's gonna piss off MacBeth."
Duncan glowed with pride. "Just you wait," he cautioned.
"She wants to kill the king?" Richie's voice rose indignantly as he jabbed a finger at a lengthy speech in the play. "What a bitch!"
Duncan nodded. "She wants her husband to receive all that the witches promised him," he answered. Then he pointed to a line. "They love each other."
"But she wants to kill the king!" Richie repeated.
"Just keep reading, Richie. She's not quite as bad as you think."
"She couldn't do it..." Richie frowned. "He looked too much like her dad so she had to have MacBeth do it?"
"All she could bring herself to do was to drug the watchmen."
Richie shook his head. "Still doesn't make her a good guy," he argued. "She still makes her husband kill the king."
Duncan raised a finger and waggled it in front of his "student's" nose. "But could she have made MacBeth do it if he didn't agree with it?"
"Don't worry, Richie. They all get it in the end..."
"Do you know about banshees, Richie?"
"That foretold death." Duncan pointed to a few lines. "That's what happened all over Scotland. The banshees sang of King Duncan's death, but no one listened."
"Hmph." Richie read the lines out loud haltingly, "'Our chimneys were blown down, and as they say, lamentings heard i' th' air, strange screams of death...'" He looked up in disgust. "Man, these guys are stupid!" Duncan laughed.
"Aw, geez! He's gonna kill Banquo now?" Richie glared at Duncan. "Why didn't you tell me I was right when I said MacBeth'd be pissed?"
Duncan smiled, a look of smug pride. "Now where would be the fun in that?"
"He calls his wife Chuck!"
Duncan sighed as he peered over Richie's shoulder at the offending words. "It used to be a term of endearment," he explained patiently.
"It was a pet name. Dearest chuck." His voice struggled to remain even.
"I never heard you call Tessa chuck."
"Yeah, but I've called you chucklehead, haven't I?" Duncan teased as he rubbed a fist into the top of Richie's head. "Huh?"
"Ow, ow, ow! Give!" Richie pulled away. "Okay... Chuck." He snorted.
"So he goes to the witches again and wants to know what's up. Right?" Duncan nodded. "And they say look out for Fife... Who's Fife? Barney Fife?"
"The Thane of Fife," Duncan corrected. "MacDuff."
Richie blushed. "Oh, yeah. It says right here." He scanned down the page and pointed. "And this one says that nobody that has a mother can kill him... What is he? Immortal?"
Duncan smiled. "Read the line again and keep it in mind."
"Y'know, Mac, I'm really starting to not like your tutoring..."
"What the? He's gonna kill MacDuff and his family now?" Richie groaned. "And you say Schwarzenegger movies have a high body count!"
"Lady MacBeth does get it in the end. And MacBeth's really rotten." He sighed. "Mac, they're all nuts."
"Not all of them," Duncan cautioned. "There are heroes. What about Malcolm and MacDuff?"
Richie rolled his eyes. "The way this thing is going? They'll be dead by the end of the next scene."
"A little jaded, Richie?"
"What's this mean?"
Duncan craned his neck to look at the lines Richie pointed at. "He was delivered prematurely," he replied after reading them. "A Caesarian birth."
"And I take it that means MacDuff wasn't," Richie dropped his voice mockingly, "of woman born." He shook his head. "I still don't buy it."
Duncan yawned. "It makes sense if you think about it," he answered. He glanced at his watch. Then he stood and stretched. "Any final questions?"
Richie stared at the open book in his hands for a moment. Finally, he sighed. "No, I guess not," he muttered. He looked up and smiled gratefully at Duncan. "Thanks a lot, Mac."
"No problem, Richie." Duncan returned the smile. "Any other questions, you know where to find me." He crossed to the door. "If I don't see you again before your class... Good luck."
Richie turned back to his book. "Thanks."
A knock on the door roused Duncan from his paperwork. Glancing at the mess of forms strewn across the couch, Duncan once again cursed the mechanics of keeping a business afloat. He wished Tessa were home. She'd give him a nice backrub and then... A second knock brought Duncan hurrying to the door. Quickly, he opened it, catching the visitor with her hand raised in preparation to knock again. "Kerin!" he exclaimed in surprise. "Come on it."
Obediently, the petite brunette allowed herself to be ushered in and relieved of her coat. "I hope it's not too late, Mac, but I promised Richie I'd come over and help him study," she explained apologetically.
Duncan shook his head. "No problem at all," he assured her. "In fact, he's even prepared this time." He grinned. "I went over it with him and made him read it word for word."
Kerin laughed. "So why am I here?" she asked. "Sounds like you have it all under control."
"You're here because he asked." Duncan pointed down the hall. "Go on in. You know where his room is."
Kerin nodded before disappearing in the direction he indicated. A minute later, though, she returned, fighting giggles.
Duncan looked up from a particularly nasty bill. "What did he do now?" he asked wearily.
"Nothing." She motioned for him to follow her. "Come and see."
"Isn't he just too cute?" Kerin chuckled.
Duncan raised an eyebrow as he surveyed the sleeping Richie. "I don't think cute is quite the word," he finally muttered after taking in Richie's gap-mouthed, sprawled figure on the bed. "Are you going to wake him up?"
"Nope. Let him sleep." She indicated the open book fallen to the floor beside the bed. "He's worked hard." Then she reached out and pulled the door shut. "Tell him I stopped by and I'll see him tomorrow." She grinned. "I'm gonna tease him about this," she added as they walked towards the front door.
"You do that," Duncan agreed. "After all, he's not reading /Hamlet/."
She laughed. "Yep. Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest and all that." She ducked out the door, calling back, "Does that make him a prince?"
Duncan grinned to himself and turned back to his papers. Richie was a lucky kid.
A/N: In case you're wondering, he got an A-.