That stupid crossover is giving me fits. Totally bogged down. Sigh. So, here I am trying something else, instead. Again. Darn it. I tend to get rather anal when it comes to writing. I need to finish one before I go on to another, but when you get stuck, you're stuck. Anyhoo, Red Soprano passed on this little idea, which also helps with the 'age regression' challenge. (See, Allison? I didn't forget). This is sort of a follow-up to 'Panic'.
The disclaimers are still in force. I don't own them, although, if I did, I could possibly make some money at this; but since I don't own 'em, I don't make any money. They remain the property of their creators, as do we all...
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They gathered at the loft on Friday for dinner and some needed male bonding. Primarily, it was a cop thing. They could have just as easily met at a bar and joked and drank themselves senseless, but they were too responsible to do that. So, they met at the loft. Blair cooked one of his weird and wonderful anthropological concoctions (complete with detailed background lecture on the origins and meanings of each dish and ingredient), washed down with beer for those not driving and coffee or soft drinks for the drivers. Even those who were drinking were moderate, not trying to become intoxicated, just a little mellow, relaxing and unwinding from the stresses of the preceding week. A special guest had joined them this particular evening, Daryl Banks, Captain Simon Banks' son was joining the group for the first time. He, at sixteen, was the designated driver, allowing his father to relax and enjoy himself.
They watched the Mariners get clobbered by the Dodgers, groaning in dismay at the unequal competition. Daryl simply watched the action, cheering the good plays and groaning at the bad ones for both teams. He had not yet learned about local team loyalty.
"Hey, Daryl, how's the car?" Joel asked, knowing that Daryl had been given a little beater VW by his dad.
"It runs great. I'm still working at getting the paint stripped off. Jim's helping, and when it's ready, he's got a friend who's going to give me a deal on painting it." Was Daryl's excited reply. Typical of a boy with his first car, he was proud and avid in his talk about it.
"Did you get the valves adjusted?" His father asked.
"Jim's going to show me how to do it tomorrow. Remember? That's why we brought both cars? So I can leave the bug here and you can drop me off so we can do it when the engine's dead cold?" Giving his father an exasperated look, thinking that he was glad his dad wouldn't be the one driving them home.
"Oh, yeah. That's right." Simon grinned. He hadn't really been drinking that much, but it was still affecting him, or perhaps it was the meal that was relaxing him to the point of almost dozing off in his corner of the couch.
"How's the driving, Daryl?" Brown asked. "Got your first speeding ticket yet?" Grinning.
"No, Sir. I'm gonna do my best to never get any tickets. I like having a car too much, and Dad said if I mess up, I'll lose it."
"Those were the days." Joel chuckled. "I remember when I first got my license. I borrowed my folk's car for a date, and ended up drag racing it. I was lucky. All I got was a speeding ticket. And my folks grounded me for a month." His tale was met with laughter from his friends.
"I got my license the day after my sixteenth birthday, and my first ticket the next day." Blair said, "I was making a left turn, sitting in the middle of the intersection when the light changed to yellow, I started, the light turned red, someone ran the red light, and almost hit me. There was a cop in the intersection, saw the whole thing, pulled us both over and gave us both tickets, the other driver got one for both speeding and running the red light, mine was for an illegal left turn."
"That doesn't sound fair." Rafe said with a frown.
"Yeah, well, the cop took one look at me and wrote me up. I fought it and lost." He shrugged. "Hey, I was sixteen. When you're a new driver, anything you do is wrong, and your fault." He shrugged. "It was funny, though."
"Why?" Joel asked.
"The other driver? It was Naomi."
"Your Mom?" Jim asked in shock. "Oh, that must have been a good one. Who grounded whom?" Laughing.
"Neither of us. She was so mad at the tickets, that she ended up getting taken in for resisting arrest, 'cause she refused to sign the ticket." Smiling at the laughter from his friends.
"Oh, that's awful." Rafe announced. "I've been pretty lucky, so far. I've never had a ticket, or an accident." He shrugged, "Just lucky, I guess."
"More like just careful." His partner, Henri Brown replied. "You drive like my grandmother." Which statement called forth laughter from the others, and a blush from Rafe.
"How about you, Simon?" Brown asked.
"Well, I've had a few tickets, but my biggest problem was passing the driving test. We had this old pickup truck, granny gear and all. I had the hardest time with that damned clutch, and back then we had to parallel park, I must have killed the engine a dozen times before I got it parked. I kept apologizing to the guy giving me the test...I flunked the first time, of course, and the second. When I showed up a third time within the month, still having trouble with that clutch, he passed me. I still think it was because he was just tired of seeing me." His friends laughed, his son smiled at him over this little piece of his father that he never suspected existed.
"How about you, H?" Blair asked, curious.
"Well, I didn't get my license until I was eighteen. My folks wanted to make sure I finished school, and held it out like a carrot, the week after I graduated, I took the test and got my first car, a week later, it was stolen and trashed. I was so mad. That's when I decided to become a cop. The cops who took the report were so nice, when they found it, they came and got me and took me to look at it. They'd hit stuff with it, but it still ran great. My Granddad helped me beat out all the dents, it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. I really got to know my Granddad, and learned a lot about our family, where we came from, who we were. When I told him I was gonna be a cop, he was pleased. The only member of my family who was, really." He looked at his colleagues. "There's a lot of gang members in my family." He explained.
"Which is why I snagged you for Major Crime. You've got the gang contacts." Simon announced.
"I wondered." Brown replied, nodding in comprehension. "Hey, works for me."
They all looked at Jim. He looked back. "What?" seemingly confused.
"Well, we've all told about our early driving mishaps. What about you?"
Jim blushed. "Oh. That."
"Yeah, that." Simon had that 'I insist' look on his face. Jim sighed.
"I went down for my driving test. I passed. I got my license." He turned back to the ball game.
"What are you leaving out, Jim?" Blair asked, caught up in the amusement of the others.
He closed his eyes, remembering...
"What do you want, boy?" William Ellison looked up, glaring at his eldest son.
"You promised to take me down to DMV for my driving test today."
His father sat back and looked at his son. "Is that a fact." He grumbled. "I don't feel like it." Going back to his newspaper.
"Why aren't I surprised." Jimmy growled, turning to leave.
"Hold it right there, mister!" His father barked at him. "You think I should just drop everything and 'run you down to the DMV so you can get your license'? I have a business to run, bills to pay, responsibilities. But you wouldn't know about that. All you think about is yourself." The tone was sarcastic, the volume was high. "Now, if you manage to behave yourself, I might be convinced to take you down later today. If you can demonstrate your ability to take responsibility, yourself. LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU, BOY!"
Flinching, shoulders stiff, he turned back and glared at his father, jaws clenched, chin jutting out in belligerence. "Forget it. I can keep riding a bike. You don't have to take any of your precious time out for me." He turned again to leave, fighting back the disappointment, again. Wondering what he'd ever done to make the old man hate him so much. Hurting, but not having any outlet for it, he sublimated it to anger. He slammed back up to his bedroom, slamming the door behind him. Hearing his kid brother laughing at him and making snide comments about how he'd blown it, again. He picked up a book and started reading...
Even though he'd only been up for a few hours, he fell asleep over his book. The knock at his door startled him awake. "Yeah?" He called out, yawning.
"Jimmy, let's go. I don't have all day."
It was his father's voice. Puzzled, he got up and opened the door. His father was in a suit, briefcase in hand, looking impatiently at his watch. "Come on. I've got a meeting in an hour and a half. Let's go." Staring at his son.
"Go where?" Confused.
His father exhaled an exasperated sigh. "To get your driver's license? Remember?" His annoyance obvious.
"But you said..."
"Look, if you want it, we have to go now. Well?"
"Yessir." He closed his door and followed his father down to the car. Even though he was about to take the test, his father drove. Not allowing him the last minute practice he felt he needed. He was nervous the entire trip, not speaking, staring out the window, trying to understand...
Jaws clamped tightly shut, he eased the car out into traffic. Constantly checking his mirrors and blind spots. Careful and cautious in his piloting of his father's car. The driving examiner kept trying to engage him in conversation, but he only answered in monosyllabic grunts. He'd just completed his parallel parking portion of the examination and was preparing to cautiously pull back out into traffic, when he abruptly slammed on the brakes. The car that had just come screaming around the corner nearly hit them. Had his reactions been just a split second later, they'd have been hit. The examiner smiled at him, nodded and marked his sheet, writing a comment, as well. Checking again to see if it was clear, he cautiously pulled back out into traffic.
He was sweating with the strain, wondering how he'd done, whether or not he would pass. Frightened and exhilarated over the prospect of passing his driving test. He had just pulled back into the DMV parking lot when another student driver there to take a test broadsided them. He felt the metal crumple around him, his head hit the side window, or did the side window hit his head? He was puzzling over it as darkness descended.
When he came to, he found himself lying in a hospital bed, wondering how he got there, and why. He moved, and gasped in pain. Staring down at the cast on his left arm, noticing the tape on his ribs, and the splint on his left knee. He couldn't remember what had happened, and his head hurt, too, now that he was able to separate the different hurts. He cast a glance around the room, not at all surprised to be alone. Wishing that someone were there to tell him what had happened...Oh, no. His dad's car. He closed his eyes, replaying it in his mind. The driving test. Oh, man. His dad was going to kill him. Unconsciously clenching his jaws in distress. Reaching up to wipe away the single tear that managed to escape his control. He fell back asleep a short time later, and didn't notice when the door opened, admitting a slight Oriental woman. She pulled up a chair beside him, reached out and took his cast hand in both of hers, settling herself as comfortably as she could, to await his reawakening.
When he next awoke, he realized that someone was holding his hand. Cracking his eyes open, he cautiously peeked down to see his dad's housekeeper, Sally, dozing in a chair beside him, holding his hand in both of hers. He smiled in gratitude, grunting as he attempted to sit up. His first movement woke up his visitor.
"You lie still. I'll get the doctor." She admonished him, squeezing his hand gently. She stood and left the room. She returned almost immediately with the doctor in tow. The doctor was a big man, with a ready smile and pleasant demeanor.
"Well, it's about time you woke up, young man." He looked at the chart. "Jim, isn't it?"
"Yes, Sir." Smiling tentatively back at the man. He'd always been called Jimmy, but he liked the way Jim sounded.
"Well, Jim, do you remember what happened?"
"I think so, Sir. I was taking my driving test...I guess I failed, huh?" Turning disappointed blue eyes to Sally. She smiled gently at him. "I had just pulled into the driveway, and we got hit." His brow furrowed into a puzzled frown. "I'm not sure what exactly happened." He looked up, "I sort of remember the door coming in on me..." He paled, if that was possible. "Oh, no. My dad's gonna kill me." Too sedated to be able to stop the tears, he tried valiantly to wipe them away with his IV encumbered right hand, since his left arm was in a cast and unable to reach his face.
"Hey, hey, there." The doctor soothed. "It's OK. It wasn't your fault." He looked at Sally with a puzzled expression, "Where is his father?"
"He had a meeting." She glanced at the distraught young man. "He took a taxi." She didn't mention that he had left before his son had been extricated from the damaged car, although he had waited until the paramedics arrived.
Jim closed his eyes, fighting to not show the hurt. Knowing that his father had left him at the scene to go to some meeting. Realizing, once again, that his own father didn't think he was worth waiting to see if he was going to live or not. Wiping the hot tears away as they formed, struggling to keep his breathing even, to keep from sobbing.
He felt a gentle hand on his cheek. His eyes snapped open to look up at the doctor. "Well, If you'll excuse us, I need to examine my patient." He glanced pointedly at the woman, who nodded and made her way from the room. Focusing all his attention on his patient, he smiled encouragingly. "Now then, young man. Let's take a look at you." He pulled out a penlight and proceeded to examine the boy, checking out his concussion and looking for any other damage that might have been missed when he came through the emergency room.
"Well, Jim, you have a concussion, and I'm sure you noticed the broken arm, not to mention the cracked ribs; hurts to breathe, doesn't it. You also wrenched your left knee, although I believe that occurred in extricating you from the car..." he was looking at the chart, "You were unconscious for quite a long time, so I think we'll just keep you here for a few days, until we're sure you won't be having any other problems from the concussion. You're going to be pretty much flat on your back for several weeks, I'm afraid." He made some additional notations on the chart. "How are you feeling? Does your back or neck hurt? The x-rays looked clear, but they don't show soft tissue damage..."
"My head hurts, and..." He had to think about it, but, once he concentrated past the more acute pains, he was able to tell... "Yeah, my back hurts some, too. Kind of in the middle..." Unsure how to describe the area.
"Above the small of your back? Below your shoulders?"
"Yeah. Pretty much." He watched with worried eyes as the doctor made some more notes on the chart.
"Good. I'll add something for it, flexiril. It will help alleviate the muscle spasms. You're already on Tylenol for the pain...If you think you need something stronger...?"
"No, Sir. It's fine." Afraid of becoming dependent on the drugs, having seen some of his classmates become drug dependent and wanting to avoid it like anything.
"Well, then. Do you have any questions? Do you need or want anything?"
"Uh, something to do?" Turning hopeful eyes on the doctor.
"I'm sure I can find something for you. Anything else?"
"No, thank you, Sir." The medication in his IV was making him drowsy again. After the doctor left, Sally came back in. She handed him a piece of paper. It was the results of his driving test. He'd passed. As soon as he was able to get up and around again, all he had to do was take this piece of paper down to the DMV and get his picture taken for his driver's license. He smiled up at her. "Thank you, Sally. For always being there for us, for me."
"You are welcome, Jimmy. Can I get you anything? Some juice, perhaps?"
He blinked, seeing his friends around him, waiting patiently for him to tell his story. He sighed, remembering how Sally had been the only member of the family who had even come to the hospital to visit him. Ever. In the entire two weeks he was there. Finding that it still hurt, so many years later.
"My father took me down, I took the test. I had one close call when pulling out after doing the parallel parking, someone came fast around the corner. I managed to stop in time to keep from being creamed by it. Then, as we pulled back into the driveway at DMV, I was hit broadside by another student, totaled my dad's car, I had a broken arm, cracked some ribs, wrenched my knee, hurt my back, and a concussion." He shrugged. "I had already passed, so, when I got out of the hospital, I just had to go down and finish up the paperwork, get my picture and prints taken and got my license. That's all."
"No wonder you're so hard on vehicles. Talk about karma, man." Blair said softly.
"Hey," Joel protested, coming to Jim's defense, "It wasn't his fault. He was the victim."
"Yeah, Blair." Rafe added, "Besides, wasn't it you who was driving the Expedition when it crashed?"
"Only the first time, man. That creep from Cyclops Oil is the one who actually totaled it out."
"Doesn't matter. Jim's bad luck with vehicles goes clear back to when he learned to drive." Simon chimed in.
They were all laughing and joking about Jim's bad luck with cars. With an almost inaudible sigh, Jim stood up to get everyone refills on their drinks. Daryl watched the older man, cringing at some of the crude remarks his dad and subordinates were making. He stood up and followed Jim to the kitchen.
"I'm sorry." He said softly.
Jim gave him a puzzled look. "Why? You have nothing to be sorry about." Confused.
"You didn't tell them everything. I can tell. There was more." The teen was growing up, becoming a man that his father had every right to be proud of. Jim smiled.
"No. It wasn't everything. I left out the part where my father left me still unconscious and trapped in the car to go to a business meeting, and the part where Sally, our housekeeper, was the only one to visit me in the hospital. I need to remember to call and thank her for that. I'm not sure I ever did." He didn't react when Blair's arm stretched across his back to offer comfort to his friend. Jim smiled. "Hey, Chief."
"Hey, Jim. Sorry."
"Yeah, there is, for me." He tightened his grip across his friend's back. "You OK?"
"Yeah. It's taken some time, and once in a while I still get pretty mad about it, but it's better." He stretched an arm across Blair's shoulders, returning the half-hug. Daryl smiled.
"Hey, can I get some of that, too?" the smile broadening as the two adult's free arms opened in invitation to the teen, who joined in the group hug.
The others barely noticed, although Joel nudged Simon and gestured toward the small group. Simon just smiled back at his friend, accepting it at face value, not needing the details. Turning back to the others and continuing the conversation as the Mariners finally started to make a comeback in the ninth inning, only to lose by a single run.
"Hello? Ellison residence."
"Hi, Sally. It's Jim...Jimmy."
"Jimmy? Is something wrong?" Worry tingeing the woman's voice.
"No, nothing's wrong. I was just thinking. I don't think I ever thanked you for being there for me when I was a kid. When I needed someone to be there. When I was in the hospital after that crash." His hesitant words expressing some of his still hurt feelings from his childhood. "I wanted to make sure I didn't forget again. Thank you for being there for me. For caring when no one else seemed to. I...I love you, you know." The last barely above a whisper.
"Oh, Jimmy. Thank you." He could hear her crying. Recognized it as joyful tears.
"Look, are you busy later? I'd like to take you to dinner, tonight, or, if you've got plans, tomorrow?" Hopeful, not quite pleading.
"I would love to go to dinner with you. Tonight is fine."
"OK, then. I'll pick you up, seven-thirty?"
"That is good. I'll be ready." There was a pause, "Jimmy?" Tentatively.
"I am very proud of you. You have grown up to be a very good man."
"I love you, too, you know."
"I know. We just never thought to say it to each other, before. Too bad. It might have made a difference. Knowing, I mean." Not accusing.
"It was not my place." Sally replied, softly.
"It should have been. I'll never be able to repay you for all you did for me, and I never even noticed. How you were always there, ready to listen and help. Thank you." Blinking away his own tears.
"You just have." Was her reply.
It was after midnight when he finally got home. He was exhausted. He had taken Sally to one of the finest restaurants in town. They had talked over dinner, and then had gone for a long walk along the beach, still talking, laughing, crying. When he finally took her home, he hugged and kissed her, telling her again just how much she meant to him.
"Jim?" Blair's sleep voice mumbled from the doorway to his room.
"Sorry, Chief. I didn't mean to wake you."
"'S OK. Is everything all right?" Just a touch of worry in his voice.
"Yeah. I think it is. We talked a long time. It was good."
"How do you feel?" More awake, coming out of his room.
"Not bad, Chief. Not bad at all. In fact, pretty good. I liked being able to finally admit how much she meant to me, means to me. I think she was happy to finally hear the thank yous. She certainly deserves it. More than I will ever be able to tell her."
"I think you told her well enough. The fact that you admitted it, I'll bet was enough for her."
"Maybe." He looked at his sleep-tousled friend. "It's after midnight, I'm for bed. Good night, Chief."
"G'night, Jim. Sleep well."
"You, too, Blair."
Silence descended on the loft, as both men dreamed pleasantly of happy times and the people they loved.
The advantage of taking up a challenge is being able to do what you want to with it.
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