My muses are still balking at working on that crossover. Bless them. So, in the meantime, here's a little one that came flashing through my mind yesterday.

The characters aren't mine. I won't make any money at this, so please don't sue me. Thank you.

Panic (or, Ohmygod He's Old Enough To Drive)


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He isn't old enough. He's just a baby. He's almost as tall as I am. He's going to be taller than me in a couple more years. When did he grow up so much? I can't believe he's sixteen. I can't believe he's going to be getting his driver's license in a few more days. I can't believe that I told him to drive.

He was sitting stiffly in the passenger seat of his car, his son excited behind the wheel. The boy...young man was nearly vibrating with the excitement of being allowed to drive his dad's car. Simon couldn't believe his son was old enough to be driving. Suddenly, he was feeling very old. It wouldn't be very long before his son was an adult, with adult responsibilities. He watched his son, his pride, his legacy, the most important thing (being) in his life. The young man turned to him and smiled. Carefully going through the checklist prior to starting the car. Seatbelts. Seat. Mirrors. He even looked over to check that his dad was buckled up. Checking all around them, then starting the car.

Again, Daryl checked all around them before putting the car in gear. Carefully backing down the driveway, constantly checking his mirrors and blind spots. Smoothly backing into the street. Stopping and shifting into drive, again checking all directions before pulling out into traffic.

Simon was impressed. The transitions were smooth, although the stops still needed some work. "If you hit the brakes just a little harder at the beginning, then lighten up as you stop, it won't be such a jolt, son." He suggested, gently.

They were coming up on another stop sign and Daryl tried following his father's advice and found that it worked. When they were completely stopped, he turned his head to his dad and smiled. "Thanks. It works."

"Of course. You don't think I'd intentionally give you wrong advice, do you?"

"Of course not." Daryl replied. "Just that, well, you're taking all this really well. Mom hates to let me drive. I don't know why. I got an A+ in Driver's Ed and Driver's training. She just doesn't trust me."

Simon winced. He understood, really. "I don't think it's because she doesn't trust you, son. More a case of how old you driving makes us feel. I can hardly believe you aren't still that little boy who was asking me to come outside and teach him how to catch a ball." Smiling at the memory.

"Oh, Dad." Daryl whined. "That's almost as bad as Mom telling me that I'm still her little baby. I'm four inches taller than her, now."

Simon chuckled. "I know how grown you're getting to be. I expect to be looking up at you within a year or two. Seeing you ready to take your driving test is just making me feel old."

"Dad, you were always old." His son informed him guilelessly. Not seeing the flinch of hurt cross his father's face.

"Gee, Daryl. Thanks a lot."

"Well, compared to me, you've always been old, Dad." He defended himself, unaware of the hurt his callous words were inflicting.

"No wonder your mother keeps trying to remind you that you're her baby. Remember one thing, son. 'No one who has ever seen you in diapers, or worse, who has ever changed your diapers, tends to take you seriously.' That means that as your father, I have the right if not obligation to bring up your most embarrassing moments at the most patently inopportune moments. Like in front of your girlfriends. Until there comes along one who doesn't scare off that easily. That's the one you'll marry and you will, hopefully, have all the joys and headaches of your own children. Who will all be just like you were at that age, whichever age that might happen to be." Giving his son a smug little smile.

"Oh, Dad." Daryl laughed. "I don't really think you're old. I've got friends who's parents are younger than you are, but act a whole lot older. They never do things with their kids. At least you've always tried to be there when I needed you. You take me places, and do stuff with me. You even have included me in some of the grown-up things you do. You're a great father. Thank you. For being my dad, and, well, everything."

Simon was flabbergasted. He had never expected those words from his son until, maybe, he had been a grandfather many times over. He had to blink the sudden moisture from his eyes. "You're welcome. And thank you for turning into the fine young man you are. I know I don't say it often enough, but I'm very proud of you, you know. I couldn't wish for a better son." He paused to take a deep breath. "Or a better friend." He added.

Daryl checked the traffic and pulled over to the curb and parked, taking the car out of gear and turning off the engine. Turning to his father, he lifted his tear filled eyes to the only person he had ever wanted to please. Reaching out for a hug.

Simon pulled his son to him. Hugging him tightly to him. Grateful that his son had never outgrown being hugged by his parents, never felt the usual embarrassment of having them show their concern for their son.

They sat that way, silently hugging for several minutes. When they finally broke apart, each smiled through their tears at the other. Laughing a little in embarrassment, Daryl quickly wiped his eyes and again started the car. Checking the traffic, he again pulled out and continued on their way.

Simon tested his son's driving skills, and had to admit that the young man was an excellent driver for his age. He gave directions and sat back and watched his son. The concentration on Daryl's face would have been amusing, if they hadn't had their talk, earlier. Instead, it filled him with pride. When they approached their destination, Daryl cast a surprised look at his father.

"Why are we going past DMV, Dad?"

"You have an appointment in twenty minutes."

"For what?" Confused.

"Your practical driving test. That is what you wanted, isn't it?" Suddenly unsure.

"Well, sure. But I thought I was going to have to wait a few weeks, at least." Still not understanding.

"Well, when your mother asked me to ride with you because she was having so much trouble with the idea of her baby driving," Daryl smothered a groan. "I checked your grades in Driver's Ed and Training. I even spoke to your teachers. They had high praise for you. So, I made the appointment. Figuring that if you could drive your old man around without freaking out, you'd have no trouble with the actual test."

"You're not old." Daryl insisted, contradicting his earlier words. "Thanks." He barely whispered the word, nearly overwhelmed with his father's confidence in him.

"So, park the car, and let's get you licensed, young man."

"Daddy!! Daddy, I passed!" He ran into his father's arms for a hug. Laughing, his father hugged him and patted his child on the back. Pleased with his son's success on this major passage to manhood.

"Now, all you need is a car." Simon murmured to his son. Wondering how to swing it.

"Not until I have a job so I can pay for my insurance." Daryl insisted. "Mom doesn't want me to work while I'm in school, but it's summer, and I found a job, but I need parental permission to take it." He hinted.

"Oh? What kind of job?"

"It's one of the 'give kids a chance to see what it's like in the real world' kind of program. I qualified for it, but Mom isn't interested in letting me do it."

"Where is it?"

"Well, I put in for the 911 operator position. I've been accepted, but I need to get you or Mom to sign the permission slip." Daryl's voice nearly pleading, giving his father a 'lost puppy' look. Simon blinked, wondering when Sandburg had managed to teach that particular skill to his son.

"I'll talk to her tonight, when we take you home. It sounds like a pretty hard job, though."

"Oh, I wouldn't be answering the phones, more of a clerk and general gofer. I checked."

"We'll see." He glanced past his son at the patiently waiting instructor, who smiled to see the closeness of the father and son. "In the mean time, I suggest we get you inside and finish this up. We don't want you to suddenly fail because of making this nice lady wait, now, do we?"

"No, Sir." Daryl agreed, turning to the woman who had tested his road skills. "Sorry, Ma'am." He murmured in embarrassment. The woman laughed, gently and handed him his claim ticket before going back into the building to turn in his test results, giving father and son a smile as she turned away.

"Joan, I know he's only sixteen. He's old enough to have a job. It's only twenty hours a week. Half time. He'll have plenty of time to play and do chores around the house. He really wants this. I think he deserves a chance. The woman who took him on his driving test said he was possibly the best driver of his age and experience she'd ever seen. He's growing up and needs to stretch his wings. I don't want to stifle him at this point." Simon was insistent. Pressuring his ex-wife into allowing their son to take the next step toward adulthood.

"He's just so young." Joan insisted.

Simon laughed. "You can say that when he's a good four inches taller than you? He's already tall enough to pass for a lot older than he is. I'd rather he take this job with our knowledge, than get some menial job somewhere less safe, where we wouldn't even know he was." Simon held his breath, waiting for his ex to decide.

Finally, "All right. I'll let him. But at the first sign of trouble, he's out of there."

"Agreed. I had my doubts about the 911 offices, but he'll just be doing regular clerk work, not answering the phones. It should be fine. He's a good boy, Joan. He deserves our trust in his ability to make a decision."

She looked at her former husband. Realizing that he was right. She smiled. "I hate it when you're right." Reaching out to touch his arm.

He returned her smile and took her hand, squeezing gently. "As bad as you and I screwed up, we still managed to turn out an exceptional young man. And I'm not being biased."

"No. You're not. Proud, maybe?"

"Definitely. No 'maybes' about it." He agreed, letting go of her hand.

When they made their announcement to their son, he was so excited and thrilled, that he grabbed both of his parents in a communal hug, laughing and chattering in his excitement. Reminding his parents of when their little boy had been much younger and smaller.

Three Weeks Later

"Hey, Daryl. What brings you here?" Blair Sandburg asked, surprised to see the tall young man in the bullpen.

"Hi, Blair. I have some reports for you guys. Copies of some 911 tapes?"

"Oh, yeah. Joel requested them. How come you're delivering them?" Puzzled.

"Oh, I've got a part-time summer job there. I'm a clerk and general gofer. It's a lot of work, but it's interesting, too." Daryl enthused.

"Plus, his old man gets to take him out for lunch a couple of times a week." Came the deep, slightly nasal voice of Simon from behind Blair, who turned and smiled up at his Captain.

"Hey, Simon. Why didn't you tell us that Daryl had joined the ranks of Cascade's finest?"

"What's this? Daryl's working for the city now?" As Jim Ellison joined the growing group around the tall young man. "Good Lord, Daryl. You're almost as tall as I am. I'm going to be looking up at you before too long." Smiling and patting the young man's shoulder. The rest of the bullpen gathered around, commenting on Daryl's new job and how tall he was getting. Joel's arrival at least allowed Daryl to make his delivery, although not escape. When he finally did manage to get away, he had a number of invitations to lunch with the various members of the squad. Catching his dad's amused glance as he left, he smiled. This summer job was getting better all the time. He'd even increased his hours (after getting his parent's permission) from four to six hours a day, thirty hours a week. He was even getting a ride home from his Dad, allowing them more time together. Not to mention frequent dinners out.

"So. Daryl's working downstairs. How's he like it, really?" Jim asked his superior.

"Well, besides giving us more time together? He loves it. He's saving all his money toward insurance. I'm thinking of getting him a car. Nothing fancy, something solid and safe. Nothing flashy or sporty."

"Daryl's driving?" Blair asked, surprised.

"Yep. He got his license three weeks ago. He's showing everyone just how responsible he can be. Joan's having trouble dealing with it, but that's her problem."

"Feeling old, huh?" Jim asked.

"Yeah. A little. It doesn't seem all that long ago we were changing diapers. Now he's driving and has a summer job. Pretty scary."

"What kind of car were you thinking of?" Blair asked.

"Oh, I don't know. Nothing special. I'm not too concerned with appearance, just as long as it's safe and mechanically sound. You know, the important stuff."

"Well, I know a guy in the Automotive Sciences shop? He's got a little old VW Bug for sale. Six hundred. Ugly, but sturdy."

"Oh?" Simon asked, interested. "What year?"

"Uh, '69, I think. It's got the worlds worst paint job. Somebody used house paint and a stucco roller on it. The interior is pretty thrashed, no head liner, crummy radio, no mats on the floors. The seats are pretty good, though. But it's got a just rebuilt engine and tranny. It runs great. And it's solid."

"Get me a number. I'd like to see it. But I don't know if Daryl can drive a stick shift."

"I can teach him, Simon." Jim volunteered. He was met with absolute silence. Simon and Blair exchanged looks. Blair blushing furiously with his efforts not to laugh.

"Jim, after what you did to my car when Megan got here, I don't think that's such a good idea." Simon said calmly. "You do not have the best of luck with vehicles. You've totaled two of your own, and one of mine. I'd just as soon pay a professional to teach my son." There was no missing the hurt in the pale blue eyes. "Jim, I..."

"That's OK, Simon. I understand." Jim turned and left the office. Simon looked to Blair for help. Blair shrugged, helplessly.

"He's really a very good driver, Simon. None of those totaled vehicles were really his fault, you know. I'm still a little annoyed that the department didn't cover the Expedition. I mean, he uses his own vehicle for work, but can't get insurance to cover it? That really sucks, man."

Simon sighed. "I know. But with the city's tight budget, and the way things are, it isn't going to happen." He sighed again. "I guess I'm going to have to let him teach Daryl to drive a stick, aren't I."

"Only if you don't want him to..." He stopped. "Funny."

"What is?" Not understanding where Blair had gone.

"Jim. I always thought he didn't show emotion. But he does. All the time, doesn't he. I mean, his eyes, man. I know you guys can read me like a book, from the expression on my face; but Jim. He shows just as much, but only if you know where to look. What to look for."

"His eyes. Yeah. The face may be stoic, but the're right. Very expressive. I'd better get out there and tell him I was kidding before it's set in concrete."

"I hear that, man." Blair agreed, allowing Simon a head start before he headed out after him.

"Easy, Daryl. It's going to take some practice to get the timing right." His voice calm and soothing. He'd driven out to the fairgrounds to give them the advantage of the huge parking lot to practice in. Daryl was having a little trouble coordinating the transitions. He did fairly well when it came to changing gears, but was having a really hard time getting the hang of starting out from a stop. He popped the clutch and stalled out the engine. Jim grinned. "Easy. Feel the clutch. Give it a little more gas. That's it." It was rather a bumpy start, but he managed to not stall Blair's car. "Good. Shift.......again." They were going in circles around the more than a hundred acres of open parking lot. No curbs, no parking stops, no speed bumps. "OK. Good. Now, back off on the gas, ... downshift. Good. Again. ... Apply brake.....and downshift. Very good."

They came to a gentle stop. Daryl was dripping sweat. He'd done pretty well not grinding the gears, but he was terrified of messing up and possibly causing harm to Blair's old Volvo. Luckily Jim was a patient teacher. Rather a surprise, from what he'd seen of the man. He thought he'd get yelled at every time he made a mistake, but that was far from the case.

"How do you know when to shift?" Daryl asked.

"Well, with this car, you can use the tachometer. When it revs to 3500, you shift. Properly in gear it should be running between 1800 and 2200 rpm. If it drops below 1500, downshift."

"Yeah, but not all cars have tachs, do they?"

"No. That's when you have to know what to listen for. Let's try it again, and you listen to the engine. When it starts to whine, shift, if it starts to lug, downshift. OK?"

"OK. I'll try." Daryl put the car in gear and carefully released the clutch while giving the car more gas. He managed to not lurch nearly as much as he began to get the hang of it.

"There. Hear it?" Jim asked. Daryl listened, first while he held the accelerator steady, then as he decreased speed, and again when he increased speed. "When it sounds like that," Jim said, "is when you should shift. It's OK to shift earlier, but you shouldn't shift any later. How fast are we going?"

Daryl checked the speedometer. "Uh, thirty-two, about."

"OK. That means that this car should shift from second to third between thirty and thirty-five mile per hour. You can do that with any car. The old Volkswagens had marks on the speedometer indicating when you should shift. Each vehicle is a little different. With experience, you'll be able to drive anything. You're doing very well."

While Jim had been talking, Daryl had gone through the gears, first accelerating through the gears until he was in fourth and going fifty miles an hour, then slowing and downshifting. Quickly picking up on the skills Jim had shown him. Bringing the car to a stop, he smiled over at the big man in the passenger seat.

"Thanks, Mr. Ellison, for teaching me. It isn't nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be."

"Why did you think it was going to be hard? And, it's Jim."

"Well," He suddenly realized that he had talked himself into a corner. "To be honest, I've always been a little bit afraid of you."

Jim looked at him in surprise. "Why?"

"Well, your reputation, for one thing."

"What reputation is that?" Honestly unaware.

"Well, when you first started working with my dad, I remember hearing him saying that you were a 'hard-assed son of a bitch with an attitude problem', but that you were also one of the best cops he'd ever seen. I think he was afraid of you, a little. Because of your work in the military. I don't know. The way you look at people. Like you can read their minds and know when they are thinking bad things. I know Mr. Rafe and Mr. Brown were afraid of you."

Jim stared at the young man beside him, absolutely dumbfounded. His colleagues had been afraid of him. Even his captain. He thought back to that time. His brow furrowing in concentration. Finally understanding. "I'm sorry if I ever gave you any reason to fear me, Daryl. I didn't mean to."

"Oh, I'm not really afraid of you. Not any more. I was just nervous." He chuckled, proving the fact. "I just didn't want to make you mad, or anything."

Jim looked at the child beside him. "I wouldn't get mad at you, Daryl. Not unless you had decided you knew what you were doing before you did and insisted on tearing up Blair's clutch."

Daryl realized that he had hurt his feelings. He looked at him, cautiously, not wanting to be obvious. It was like the man was wearing a mask. Showing nothing. But Daryl knew. Very tentatively, he reached across and touched Jim's shoulder. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I'm pretty stupid, sometimes. Especially when it comes to opening my mouth and sticking everybody's feet in it."

"It's OK, Daryl. I think I had forgotten what I used to be like." Looking closely at the teen beside him, he asked earnestly, "Do you think I'm still like that?"

"Oh, no. Blair really changed you. I remember how you never used to smile, at all. Now, well, you can be a lot of fun, you know?"

Jim looked into the earnest brown eyes of the young man. Understanding what he had been talking about. Agreeing with him. Finally smiling. "Yeah. I guess I do. I hear there's new LazerTag place down at the mall. What say we go get your dad and Blair and head over there?"

"Cool." Daryl enthused, starting to unbuckle his seatbelt, prepared to change places.

"You're driving." He was informed.

Blair was watching anxiously for their return. Simon was nearly a basket case, wondering what Jim might have done to his son. Blair worried about his car. Both men kept checking the time, then looking at each other, then checking the street, then the time, then each other. Very worried about what was happening. When the Volvo pulled safely into its parking slot, they had to stop each other from rushing downstairs and checking out their respective prize possessions. They managed to sit down and tried (desperately) to appear totally nonchalant about the entire thing. Both of them forgetting Jim's ability to hear their racing heartbeats.

As they rode up in the elevator, Jim realized what was about to occur. Smiling, he suggested that Daryl ask about the LazerTag. And totally ignoring the other's worry about how the lesson had gone. Jim was secretly pleased that the parking lot wasn't visible from the loft, except from his room or from an awkward angle from Blair's.

They barely reached the third floor, when the door to the loft opened to admit them. Both Simon and Blair looking anxiously at them. Daryl ran to his father. "Hey, Dad. Jim and I decided that we want to go play LazerTag. Come with us? You and Blair?" Oblivious to the worry the other two men were feeling.

"So, how did it go?" Simon insisted, checking his son for injuries.

"Fine. Can we go? Please?" Daryl was bouncing like Sandburg with a new Sentinel find.

Simon looked at Blair who looked blankly back at him. Turning to Jim, they asked in unison: "So, how did it go?"

"Fine." Jim replied with a slightly puzzled air. "What did you expect?"

"Uh, a demolished car?" Blair offered.

"Daryl beaten to a pulp?" Simon added.

"You with a stroke from stress?" Blair continued.

"Daryl scared to death." Simon suggested.

"Now, why would Daryl be afraid?" Jim asked, insistently.

"Well," Simon began, but caught his son's eye in time to stop. "No reason, I guess." He finished, lamely.

"So, you want to go play LazerTag?" He answered, letting his friends off the hook.

Simon and Blair exchanged a puzzled look. Shrugging, Simon replied. "Sure. We can take my car, it's got four doors." Pausing, he held out his keys. "Daryl can drive." Daryl's blazing smile immediately telling him he had made the correct decisions. All around.

To keep the game fair, Jim insisted on taking them all on. He used it as a training session for his senses. He explained it to Blair after quietly drawing him aside. Blair didn't like it, but accepted his decision. It wasn't long before all four of them got into the spirit of the game. Jim's insistence on playing three to one had been the right one. He had quickly taken out Daryl, then Blair. It was finally down to the two former military men. Jim turned down his senses, just to make it more fair. The two big men stalked each other through the maze. Occasionally coming across other players and taking them out. Finally, Simon eased around a corner...and was tagged. Jim had decided to lie in wait and take him out when he got close enough. Laughing and joking, they played another round, this time, the four of them taking on all comers. Most of the other players were Daryl's age, some younger, some older. Most of them, Daryl knew from school.

"Hey, Daryl!" One boy shouted to them as they prepared to go back into battle. Daryl looked over and recognized him.

"That's Shawn Walters." He informed his father. "He's in a couple of my classes." The adults looked over at the swaggering young man.

"School bully?" Jim asked, softly.

"Uh, yeah. Other than that, though, he doesn't do drugs or gangs or anything. He's a jock, more than anything. It pisses him off that I don't play basketball."

"Why?" Blair asked.

"Because I'm tall, and Black. He doesn't get the idea that I'd rather play baseball than basketball."

"Don't worry about it." Simon told him. "You have the right to your own decisions."

"Here he comes." Jim murmured, kneeling down to tie his shoelaces.

"Hey, Daryl. What're you doing here?" The brawny young man asked the taller, more slender Daryl.

"We're just here to play a little tag. Why?"

Passing a dismissive glance on the adults, he sneered. "What's the matter, can't find anybody to play with but old men and pansies?"

Blair took a step back in shock, Simon stiffened and stood straight, rocking forward slightly. Jim slowly uncoiled from his kneeling position. Rising to his full six foot one, leaning toward the interloper, using his greater size and bulk to intimidate. His eyes flashing like blue lasers. Surprisingly, the young man wasn't impressed. Daryl looked his classmate in the eye.

"Who you here with?" Daryl asked pointedly. Shawn gestured back at the nearly dozen boys with him. Daryl glanced over at them. Smiling, he offered. "Teams? Us against you?" He didn't look at the adults. He knew they'd follow him on this. He could tell just from his dad's and Mr. Ellison's body language.

Shawn laughed. "Eleven of us against four of you? We'll slaughter you." The sneer even more evident. There were some younger kids watching. "Tell you what. We'll give you all the babies, as well." He offered.

"No. You take them on your side. Or they can keep score. Make sure no one cheats." Daryl replied.

"You saying we'll cheat?" Shawn thrust his chin out belligerently.

"You said it, not me." Daryl replied mildly. "The choice is yours. The four of us against all of you. How about it?"

Shawn went back to talk to his buddies. Daryl looked at his father and his friends. "I hope you don't mind."

"Not at all, son." Simon smiled. "I'm in the mood to kick some ass. How about you, Jim, Blair?"

"He called me old." Blair nearly whined. "Yeah. I can deal with kicking ass. Even against all of them. Jim?"

"I'm good to go. Here he comes." His smile reminded Blair of a shark about to go on a feeding frenzy. He was glad this wasn't for real.

Shawn came back. Agreeing to take the little kids on his side. Daryl and team were given a sixty-second head start. They took advantage of it.

Simon took point, Jim the rear. They kept close together. Jim was able to track all comers and, primarily due to the experience of the two oldest members of the team, were able to take out the competition quickly and easily. Blair was a surprise with his accuracy with the laser rifles. Simon looked at him in shocked surprise when he managed to take out three attackers before he could even finish turning toward them.

"Where'd you learn to shoot like that?!" Simon exclaimed.

"Jim." Blair replied. Just a bit surprised, himself.

"He's got some of the best hand-eye coordination I've ever seen, Simon." Jim agreed. All I did was show him how to hold the gun."

"You may just have some competition at the next challenge course." Simon advised. Jim looked at his partner and smiled. "Not a problem, sir." Chuckling at Blair's shocked expression.

They managed to account for all of their opponents, except for Shawn. They paused to rest. Jim cocked his head to the side, listening intently for any sign of their opponent. Finally tracing him to a back corner. They crept toward him, setting Daryl up for the official 'kill'. Once they got to the cornered youth, Daryl called out softly.

"Give it up, Shawn. You're trapped. No way out." Shawn responded by leaping out in a suicide attack. Reaching out with his hands to physically attack Daryl, who met the attack by ducking to the side, allowing the other three members of his team to 'tag' Shawn.

Shawn glared up at the laughing winners. Daryl bent down to help him up. He batted away the offered hand. When he was standing, again, he shoved at Daryl, angrily.

"Hey, man. Take it easy." Blair admonished.

"Keep out of this, you fruit." Shawn snarled. Blair paled. Both Jim and Simon moved into the obnoxious teen's space, backing him into a corner. Shawn finally realized his mistake. Both men were very large. Not to mention very angry.

"Look," Jim growled. "You've been calling us names the whole afternoon. We just came down to have a little fun, just like everybody else. You challenged us, not the other way around. Now you've lost and you're pissed off. Give it a rest. You and your friends never had a chance, anyway."

"What do you mean?" Shawn asked, suddenly interested.

"Shawn, this is my Dad, Captain Banks, Cascade PD. These are Detectives Ellison and Sandburg. They work for my Dad. Mr. Ellison's the best shot on the force. He's also got the best arrest and conviction rate in the state. He was Policeman of the Year, last year. We expect a repeat performance this year." He smiled at his father's friends. "Mr. Ellison taught me how to drive a stick shift this morning. Mr. Sandburg helped me when I was having trouble with some of my classes by tutoring me last year. This is their kind of game. Heck, Jim, here could probably take on all comers and win. He's that good. But that's because he was an Army Ranger Captain, before he came here. You were just simply outgunned and outclassed, man. So, don't sweat it." Daryl used his calmest, most convincing voice to tell his schoolmate that he really hadn't even had a chance against them.

Shawn had the intelligence to be embarrassed. He looked at the three adults, noting that the two big ones were still glaring at him. The long-haired one was safely behind the two big ones. Like they were protecting the guy from him...or maybe protecting him from the guy. He had the good graces to apologize.

"I'm sorry, sir." He addressed Daryl's father, as the one in charge of the others. "I guess I was a little out of line."

Jim answered him. "A little out of line? Boy, if you had been any more out of line, you'd be bleeding." Growling in his annoyance.

Shawn blushed. "I'm sorry." Shrinking down a little.

Blair narrowed his eyes, "Nice act, Shawn. First you bully people, then when they show you they're stronger, or whatever, you back right down and start to grovel. You'll make a great politician, man. Just as long as you don't get found out."

Simon cast an amused look at the smaller man. "Anthro, professor?" He asked with a smile.

"No. The Psych minor. It's classic, man. First, he tries force, then, when that fails, he kowtows to superior forces, or whatever. Classic bully mentality. " He looked at the angry young man. "Chill, man. You were out gunned and outclassed. Don't take it so personal. Think of this as a lesson in real life. You can't always win, even with superior numbers and weaponry. Jim's an excellent example of a survivor. He's been trained to the max and loves this kind of stuff. It's like trying to beat out the guy who invented the game, man. So chill."

Shawn glared at them and simply turned away, leaving, his shoulders hunched in anger. Simon spoke softly, "Is he going to be a problem, son?"

"No. Even his friends are there more out of fear than friendship. I'm big enough to take care of myself, not to mention that I have my own reputation for taking care of things. Like bullies." He smiled at his dad. "I don't start fights, and I don't usually fight, but I will protect the little kids and have been known to stop the bullies like Shawn from hurting anyone. It'll be fine. You'll see."

"Well, if there's ever a problem, you tell one of us, you hear?" Jim demanded.

"Yes, sir. I'll be sure to do that. Of course, knowing who my dad is, may be what keeps people from taking me on." Daryl smiled, cockily.

Simon reached over and ruffled his son's hair. "Have I ever mentioned how proud you make me when you talk and do things like this?"

Daryl turned to his father, reaching out for a hug. "Just often enough for me to want to keep doing and saying them, Dad."

"Hey. How about getting dinner?" Jim suggested, closing the subject.

"Cool. How about the Sizzler? They've got this killer salad bar." Daryl suggested.

Simon and Jim stared. First at each other, then at Daryl, then at Blair, then at each other. "When did you take over my son's mind, Sandburg?" Simon growled, as Jim tried to smother his smirk.

"What are you talking about?" Blair asked, confused.

"He's refering to the health food stuff, Chief." Jim informed him, chuckling.

"Oh. Uh, I don't think it was me, guys."

"Naw. I discovered it on my own. I like the salad bar. It's all you can eat and includes tacos and pasta and stuff. I can eat all I want and it's really good."

"Sounds good to me." Simon agreed, "It's got steaks as well." Grinning at his friends. "OK, son. You driving?"

"Yes, Sir!"


Daryl worked hard the entire summer, saving most of his money. On his last day of work, his coworkers threw him a party, and invited his dad and the rest of members of Major Crime. He was shocked at the gifts. It was almost like it was his birthday. Most of the gifts were of the gag variety, Jim had given him squirt guns, loaded. Blair had gotten him gift certificates for the Sizzler, but his favourite gift, was a DMV certificate indicating he was the registered owner of a 1969 Volkswagon Bug. Seeing the papers, he gasped in shock.

"Dad?" Looking up, even a shorter distance than at the beginning of the summer.

"I talked it over with your mom. It's nothing fancy. Jim, here offered to help you pretty it up, but it's paid for, it's cheap to run, and you've earned it. I'll even spring for the insurance, providing your grades stay at the same level they have been. Deal?"

There were tears in his son's eyes. "Deal, Dad." Throwing his arms around his father in a heartfelt hug. "I love you, Daddy." He whispered.

"I know. I love you, too, son." Hugging back as hard as he could.

OK, time for the muses to be brought back in line to finish that crossover, now. I'm getting a laptop in a couple of days, so that may help. I'll be able to sit in bed and write all hours. Oh, dear. I'm only sleeping four to five hours a night as it is. You think I can talk the muses into bashing only during normal waking hours? I didn't think so.

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