by Flaw

Disclaimer: If I owned them they'd still be on the air for everyone to enjoy.

Notes: A sequel of sorts to Angry and Beautiful Child. Can be read on its own...I think.

Feedback: Is often the highlight of an otherwise dreary day...and I'm not above trying to make you feel bad enough for me to send a note. ;)

I had finally convinced Chris that if I went out for lunch I’d come back again. I was only hoping that maybe a lunch break would be a convenient time to miss a certain visit he’d been planning. Only, my timing has never been a thing to write home about, that is, if there were even a home to write to most days, and he was in the lobby when I got back. My first thought was that Chris had sent him there to wait for me, ambush me even. But he looked as surprised as I felt and when he held out his hand to greet me with an impersonal handshake, I took his hand and pretended that it didn’t matter. I pretended that nothing of this was affecting me. We rode the elevator up together, and for once, the small space didn’t bother me. But it wasn’t because I was with daddy-dearest. It was because I was doing my best not to punch him in the face. I was doing my best to prove to him that I didn’t care.

But I do.

He’s sitting in Chris’s office, and they’ve been laughing a bit, but mostly just chatting and watching me pretend not to watch them while I sit at my desk. I’ve been watching because I keep thinking that something will come back to me. A memory from before I was even born. A sense of some recognition. I could see it in his face that he saw something he knew when he looked at me. But I didn’t see anything in return. It wasn’t like looking at Chris the first time and knowing that I’d finally found the brother my soul had always been yearning for. It wasn’t even like meeting the boys the first time and recognizing something kindred in them, recognizing that I’d found a family when I’d least expected it. It wasn’t anything like that at all.

I looked at him in the lobby, and if I hadn’t known he was coming, I would have walked by him and never gave it a second thought. And I think that hurts worse than anything else could have. What if I had walked by him before, in the past when I needed him? What if I could have had a normal childhood with a family but I didn’t because there isn’t anything in him that I recognize? So I’m wearing my blank face. Because I can’t let myself think about that without breaking down in the office. I can’t let him know that I care about how this is affecting me, about what might happen now that he’s walked into my life.

Twenty-seven years ago I was born to the most beautiful woman in the world. She was kind and caring and used to hold me and rock me and sing to me songs that I can’t remember except that she sang them in a sweet high voice that still rings in my ears some days when I wake up. I had five wonderful years with her, during which I can’t remember her ever saying anything about a father or an extended family. I can only remember that she loved me, and that was enough. She loved me so much that we didn’t need anyone else to make us more of a family. We didn’t need anyone at all, until the point when she had to leave and there wasn’t anyone there to save a little boy from the horrors of twenty-odd years alone. I liked to think, during those years, that it was enough because I had had my mother with me for a little while, but now, with the boys around me, I know that I was lying to myself. I know that I never want to give up what I have now. I know that I never again want to be without a family.

So why is it, now that I’m being confronted with a father and all the other people that means he may bring with him, that I’m sitting at my desk trying to show that world that I don’t need this? That I don’t care?

Because it’s easier to be apathetic, to push everything away, than it is to admit to myself that I want this, and that letting myself want it means I might lose it.

I know that Chris and the others aren’t going anywhere, short of anywhere that a bullet might send them because those are the risks we take in this job. I know that I could lose them, but the only way I’ll lose them is a way that means they’re not leaving me voluntarily. We’re already a family, and not even death will tear that apart. Just like my mother. I miss her, but I know that she still loves me, and she still watches over me. But this? This man who shows up after years of not giving a damn? What’s to keep him from walking away again?

I can see it in Chris’s eyes that he’ll never leave me, that I can live each day knowing that he’ll be there for me if I need him. I can call him or I can drive out to find him, and if I can’t, he’ll find me. I know that if I go missing or something happens to me, Chris and the boys will do their best to find me and help me. I never asked them for that, it’s just something that family does for each other, and I know that they know they’ll get the same from me. We will always look after each other. This man shows up with a smile on his face and says he’s my father, but it wasn’t until Chris did something about it that he showed up. He didn’t look for my mother, and whether he knew I was out there or not, he didn’t look for me. If he never cared in the first place, how can I trust him to care in the future?

So I just don’t care. If he sticks around, then I’m not about to chase him out of town or anything, but I surely don’t see it as my responsibility to try and make sure he stays. Besides, if he does take off, then I know I got six brothers who’ll be there for me.

But if I don’t care, why do I keep staring at him through the glass of the window in Chris’s office. Why do I brace myself when the door opens and they step out together?

Chris’s eyes are trying to tell me that it’s going to be okay, that he thinks we can trust this man. I stand up and face them directly, and I can feel the other boys lending their support. It’s only a few drinks I tell myself. It’s only sitting down and trying to have a conversation with a man I’ve never met before. It’s only trying to learn if there’s a future for me that includes more than six brothers, but a father as well. I look up, brace myself to really meet his eyes for the first time and tell myself that it doesn’t matter if what I see there isn’t love and the knowledge that he’s going to stick around. I tell myself that I just don’t care.

I meet his gaze, and something inside me cracks.

I never was good at lying to myself, so even if I didn’t recognize the man himself, I recognize something now that I think we can work with. I recognize something that I’m not going to be able to ignore, something that I’m already starting to care about.