Fish Tales and Fathers

by Monica M. and Debra M.

Alternate Universe: "Regents"

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He sat up in the bed slowly even with the disconcerting feeling of not immediately knowing where he was, but still somehow knowing that he was safe. As he blinked to clear his sleep fogged eyes Ezra took in the sight of the cabin and remembered exactly where he was and why. He looked across to the other set of bunk beds and noticed that Vin's had been made as had Nathan's below it. It did not surprise him that they had gotten off to an earlier start than he did, but it did surprise him that he had slept through it. But it had been a longer day than usual for him yesterday with a lot more physical activity than he was used to. He had been quite tired by the time he finally climbed up into the top bunk and he thought he fell asleep about the same time his head hit the pillow.

A short time later, Ezra made his way into the small kitchen area of the cabin. It bothered him that he had not seen or heard any of the others so far. That grew into a huge concern, as the only one sitting at the small table with a cup of coffee was Clint. The cop lowed his mug after taking a drink and tossed the southerner a knowing smirk. Ezra looked around as if maybe the six other boys were playing a trick on him and were simply hiding somewhere.

Clint's smirk widened into a grin before he stated, "You won't find the others. It's just you and me today."

"What?" The question escaped Ezra's lips without thought as his sage green eyes widened, still searching for the others to come out laughing about how they had tricked him. He ran his hands through his sleep mussed hair trying to get it into some semblance of order, a nervous gesture of trying to find a means of controlling something in his situation.

Clint eyed Ezra for a moment and could read the tension and fear that filled the teenager. The cop sighed as he realized just how vulnerable the boy was at the moment. So his tone was actually soothing as he replied, "Vin and Chris wanted to get an early start on hiking around the lake, Buck and J.D. decided to go out boating, and Nathan and Josiah headed out to the Railroad Museum. I told them to let you sleep in since you probably had a bigger day than you're used to."

Ezra stiffened at what he took to be an accusation on his laziness. "I'm not a child that needs to get his sleep so he won't be grumpy."

Clint had to work hard to make sure he swallowed down his sarcastic, "You sure about that?" Instead he nodded and answered, "I know you're not, Ezra. But I just didn't see you being so eager to go out hiking all day. Or out boating with the likes of J.D. and Buck. And somehow the Railroad Museum just doesn't seem like your cup of tea."

"I don't need anyone deciding things for me!" The anger started to rise in his voice, thickening the drawl. "All those choices sound better than being stuck here with you."

Clint reacted instinctively, lashing back out at the boy, "Well being stuck here with you, sure wasn't my first choice either!"

"Well then why didn't you go on with them? I don't need you to look after me! I don't need anyone!" the anger and bitterness in Ezra's voice was white hot, but buried in it Clint heard a catch in the teenager's voice. And he knew then that the anger was there merely to hide the hurt the young man had to be feeling at being left behind. And in that moment, with all that coiled anger being directed at him, Clint felt as if he were facing his own son. It had only been a few short weeks before that bitterness and anger were the only ways that father and son knew how to communicate. And even now they were not that much better off. So Clint knew that he was not the best person to try and reach out to this young man, right now, but he was the only one here, and just maybe the only one who could.

"Oh you don't?" Clint snapped. "So why haven't you finished what you started? Why haven't you run away if you don't need anyone?"

The boy's jaw snapped shut with an audible click. The pale green eyes went blank before flaring in an impotent anger. But now that Clint had started he was not about to back down. "You're smart! You're resourceful. I bet you could make it on your own. So why didn't you, Ezra? Why did you let me catch up to you?"

"I didn't let you catch me!" the protestation was loud and defensive but lacked conviction.

"You didn't? So you're saying that I've overestimated you all this time?" The cop leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest and eyed Ezra for a moment, studying the teenager. At first the southerner stood rigidly under the intense gaze, but then his eyes suddenly dropped to the floor in the first real sign of self-consciousness and doubt that Clint had ever seen in him. For a moment he actually looked younger than his actual years; young, alone and lost.

"I realized that I had no where to go." The words were spoken softly, with his head still cast down, so Clint had to strain to hear them. The cop knew then that he had made the right decision when he had told the others to leave Ezra with him. He had half expected the southerner to storm out of the cabin or into his room, stomp around and slam a door or two. But the fact that Ezra had stayed in the room and even made such an admission made Clint think that the teenager just might have been waiting for someone to call him on his bluff.

Knowing that he could not let things get too intense and that they both needed a breather, Clint stood up slowly and patted Ezra lightly on the shoulder. The boy flinched a little under the touch, but Clint paid that no attention. "You want some breakfast?" he asked as a distraction. Understanding what Clint was doing it and appreciating it, Ezra sank down into the chair across from the one Clint had sat in. "I'm not much of a breakfast person," he drawled, but his protest fell on deaf ears as Clint brought back a bowl, the milk, and a box of cereal. The boy's eyes drifted from the box over to Clint.

The cop shrugged at the quirk of the eyebrows. "Buck and J.D. made the food run the other day. Buck claims that J.D. picked the cereal. But I have my doubts."

Ezra picked up the box and began to shake out a bit of cereal into his bowl. He truly was not all that hungry, but he felt dazed about what he had just admitted to the cop and was just going through the motions. As Clint moved back around the table and sat back down, the teenager struggled to return things to normalcy and gave a weak smile. "Well I suppose there is no time like the present to discover if Tony here has just been making empty boasts all this time." With that he set down the blue box emblazoned with a rather boisterous tiger and picked up the milk to pour over the cereal.

Clint sat back down across from him and after spooning in a small amount of sugar into his cup, slid the sugar bowl over toward Ezra. "According to the dent the others made in this, I figure that they are only great under a blizzard of sugar."

Ezra waved away the offer of sugar as he took a spoonful of Frosted Flakes into his mouth. He blinked in surprise, as he could not even imagine anyone adding more sugar to the already incredibly sweet cereal. But it was palatable and so he continued to eat, grateful to have something to do as he tried to get his thoughts back in order. But he was finding it hard to turn his thoughts away from what had just taken place. After a few mouthfuls of cereal and an internal debate on whether he should continue the conversation or not, he looked over at Clint and asked, "So why did you agree to letting the others leave me here with you?"

"First of all, they did not 'leave' you here with me, Ezra," Clint explained. "You were still asleep and they all started talking about what they wanted to do today. When it became apparent that they would never agree on anything, they actually suggested letting you decide so it would be fair."

"They wanted me to decide?" the southerner scoffed.

"Yeah, they wanted you. But then they started trying to figure out what you would decide and that just started up more arguments. So I'm the one who suggested that they all just split up. That got them all wanting to wake you up to figure out who you wanted to go with. And that's when I told them to just let you be. See, truth be told, Ezra, I'm still not a hundred percent and up to hiking out there, or being on the water with Buck and J.D., and trains just don't interest me. So I figured if I had to stay at the cabin, at least I could have some company."

Ezra found himself completely taken aback again at this new information. His first thought was that he was being patronized, but he could not recall Clint ever treating him in that manner. If anything, Clint was one of the few adults who did not pull any punches when dealing with him, nor had he ever lied to him. He laughed a bit nervously, uncertain as to whether he would prefer that Clint was simply trying to console him because his friends had ditched him or that the cop was telling the truth and really wanted to spend time with him. "I would think that you would prefer to have your son as company. Or any of the others. I mean…" the boy paused and looked down into his cereal bowl, using his spoon to swirl the flakes around in the milk, "I would think that I would be your last choice."

"Well I won't lie to you, Ezra, and say that you would be my first choice." The southerner nodded as it was what he expected, but Clint continued, "I would have liked to have some time with Chris, but we ain't quite there yet." Clint had no idea why he made that last admission to the teenager, but it just slipped out. Maybe it was because he felt it was only fair that if he was making Ezra face up to his own bluffs that he should do the same.

The teenager held his gaze for a moment, the pale green orbs incredibly thoughtful before they flicked down as Ezra returned his attention to his breakfast. After a few mouthfuls of cereal, he looked back up at Clint and asked quietly, "So did you want this weekend to be just you and Chris?"

Clint managed a secret smile behind his cup of coffee. He knew this was a test. Ezra was testing the waters of Clint's honesty, to see exactly how much he could trust any and all information that the adult would give him. And Clint supposed it was only fair. The southerner had probably laid himself more bare with his admission of not having anywhere to turn to, than he had ever before in his life. And now he needed to know if Clint would be trustworthy with that information. Not that he could take it back, but he could at least give himself some measure of ease. And like Clint had mentioned the night before, he had some twenty years experience as a law enforcement officer and he had learned a trick or two about interrogations in that time. To get Ezra to open up a bit more, the cop would have to give up a bit of information about himself, but he was going to make certain that he learned a bit more about this crafty young man.

"Yes, I did," he answered truthfully.

The sophomore nodded again and seemingly returned to eating his cereal. But before he had turned away, Clint had seen a deep sadness in those pale green eyes. It was a wistfulness that Clint remembered seeing in Buck's eyes before he had become included in their family outings. So the cop took up the line of questioning, "Do you ever do anything like this with your father?"

The spoon fell from numb fingers, noisily giving evidence to Ezra's shock at the question. The teenager looked up at Clint as he sat back in his chair, dropping his hands into his lap. Even through the surprise, Clint could see the boy carefully considering his response, weighing how much he wanted to reveal.

It was indeed the last question that Ezra had expected. The subject of his father had only come up once or twice with the other six boys and Ezra had been able to change the subject and avoid having to answer them. That was his first reaction now, to ignore the question. But again he found himself wanting to tell this man, Chris’ father and a police officer, the truth. He could not explain it and knew that he would have to ponder it for quite some time to come. But somewhere during the previous day, Clint had changed from someone he detested to someone he actually respected. And he, who normally could not care less about what anyone thought of him, actually wanted Clint to have a good opinion of him. And he knew that the only way he would ever be able to manage that would be by being honest.

"No, my father and I never did anything like this," he disclosed.

Clint fought back the urge to question the boy further. Instead he simply nodded and waited. He sensed that Ezra would continue, but that it would be at his own good time.

And the cop’s patience was rewarded as the teenager spoke again in a near whisper. "My father wasn’t much of a outdoors man. So we never did any camping or fishing. But he loved baseball and when I was playing tee-ball and little league, he never missed a game."

Clint did not ask Ezra anything more about his father. The boy had regained that wistful look as he spoke of his dad and that alone made the cop believe that he was dead. If he had walked out on Ezra and his mother then the sophomore would have had somewhere to run away to. Clint decided then that when he got a chance he would have to dig a little deeper into the southerner’s records and see what all he could learn.

"You have a favorite team?" Clint asked as he was again trying to keep things a little loose. Ezra was not a sharer, any more than he was. But the cop knew that they had just laid a lot of groundwork and had an entire day to go back to it and see what else they could build from it.

"The Atlanta Braves," the southerner smiled, letting his dimples make their first appearance for the day.

Clint nodded. "Well I’m not much of a baseball fan myself, though I try to make it to as many of Chris’ games that I can. I prefer football and basketball." Looking for some common ground he asked, "Do you watch NASCAR?"

Ezra managed a bout of mock outrage. "Sir, I was born and raised in the South, of course I watch NASCAR." Then turning slightly sheepish he admitted, "Although it has been quite some time."

They both laughed, letting it dispel any remnants of tension that lay between them. "Well that will be our little secret," Clint joked, "that way you can keep your redneck status."

"I prefer the term, ‘good ol’ boy’," Ezra grinned back at him, his accent thickening appropriately.

The laughter burst out of Clint then. Neither of those two terms could ever be properly applied to the teenager who sat in front of him. There was just something about Ezra that harkened back to the days of the Southern gentleman. Standing up, Clint moved to clear the table. Balancing his mug and the teenager’s cereal bowl in one hand, the cop reached out his other and playfully tousled Ezra’s hair as he walked by asking, "So what do you want to do today?"

Scowling over at the cop as a means of hiding his smile at his actions, Ezra shrugged while he tried to straighten out the mess of his hair. Then as he thought more on the question, he replied, "Perhaps we could do a bit more fishing. I know this weekend will not pass without the others wanting to do that again. And I would like to make a better showing than I did yesterday."

"You sure?" Clint teased. "Cause I was thinking that tomorrow I could just catch the fish and you could clean them."

The southerner’s expressive face scrunched up in a perfect example of disgust. "On second thought, perhaps we could stay indoors today. Perhaps play a game of cards?" he suggested innocently.

Clint laughed again as he fully realized just how interesting of a day this would be. "How about we play a game of poker. And if I win, you clean all the fish that either of us catch tomorrow. And if you win, then I’ll do all the cleaning."

"Are you suggesting a wager?" Ezra asked, his tone shocked but his eyes glinting eagerly.

"I believe I am. Are you up to it?"

+ + + + + + +

Vin playfully knocked Chris out of the way as the boys jostled next to the Durango and handed their bags to Clint, who was packing them into the back of the vehicle. Chris reached out to shove the younger boy back, however the younger boy anticipated the move and sidestepped. The Texan was in a very good mood which meant inevitably there would be more than the usual teasing on the trip home. As the boy grinned at everyone, there was no doubt from any of his friends that he had enjoyed the weekend. The teenager was looking forward to returning to Regents and phoning his foster parents to share with them every detail of their trip. He smiled to himself knowing how much Henry would enjoy his "Bigfoot" encounter.

Josiah was in a pretty good mood himself as climbed into the back seat. He had managed to push all worries about his sister and what to do after graduation aside to partake in the fun with the others. After he and Nate returned from the Railway museum around mid afternoon the others had all returned from their various activities as well. An impromptu football game was started in the small grassy area beside the cabin. Somehow Ezra wangled the position of referee instead of playing and some hilarious moments were spent watching Buck argue Ezra’s decisions. Curiously when Buck appealed to Clint for support the older Larabee would uphold Ezra’s call and the southerner would smile smugly at the tall footballer. Even now Josiah chuckled warmly remembering the final decision of that game, Ezra once again making the call against Buck, who slammed the ball into the ground before growling and taking off after Ezra. The younger boy eluded capture by ducking and weaving and finally putting Clint between himself and Buck. That was what Josiah would take away from this weekend. Lots of laughter and good times spent with friends.

Nathan caught Josiah’s cheerful smile and he immediately smiled as well. Like all the boys he was in high spirits too. He’d had a great weekend and the excited chatter and teasing was still surrounding him as he settled himself in the back seat of the Durango. He had too many stories to relate to his parents and he could hardly wait to see them and tell them everything that had happened. One of his favorite moments was the cook out on the Saturday night. Clint had suggested a campfire and cooking their meals over it. The suggestion was very well liked. However, the allure of making fire proved too attractive and all the boys had their own ideas on how to start one or at least contribute to a campfire. Eventually a compromise was reached and even though the fire was too big and they had to wait nearly an hour for it to die down enough to be able to cook successfully, no one seemed to mind. Besides there was nothing like a char cooked sausage or having your bread burnt on one side. And wisely Clint had brought an abundant supply of both. More importantly and most surprising to Nathan was that no one got burnt. He never really knew where the instinct came from. He just knew he worried about any one of them getting hurt or injured. And with his friends that was always likely.

As JD sat between Nathan and Josiah, Nathan grinned at him and the young boy smiled at him conspiratorially. Just before they packed up to leave Nathan had congratulated him on playing the perfect prank on Buck. JD had almost glowed with pleasure. Nathan was grateful for the opportunity to be able to tease his roommate about his frightened yelps and of course share that moment with other classmates upon their return.

JD made a point of putting his Baltimore Ravens cap on as Buck sat in the window seat in front and grinned cheekily. Buck responded with a tease about JD losing his hat out the window on the way home but JD knew it was all hot air. He trusted Buck implicitly and knew the junior would never knowingly hurt him. He had cherished Buck’s friendship from the beginning but after this weekend he knew he had developed strong friendships with all of the others as well. He truly felt like he fit in and that thought made him very happy. It healed a little of the pain and heartache he carried with him from losing his mother. And now he had Christmas to look forward to. He was very excited about spending the holidays with Buck and Beatrice. He had hoped to be spending it with his father and his new family but even though he hadn’t admitted it to Buck this weekend, the fact was his father had withdrawn from the idea more than a week ago and since then no alternative had been offered. Consequently, he knew his father would embrace the idea of him spending Christmas with Buck and despite the hurt and disappointment that rejection caused he still held hope that his father would spend a weekend with him early in the new year like he promised. Yet as he watched Chris and Vin climb into their seats in front of him, he couldn’t help hoping that they all could spend another weekend like this one together again. And soon.

Buck turned back around and buckled his seatbelt. The kid was getting far too cocky and everyone knew that was his role he decided to himself. After fishing that morning they had gathered on the jetty to compare catches. The first he knew JD was up to something was when he threw him an impish smile before giving him a little push. Buck scrambled but could not stop his fall, however, he did manage to grab the freshman as he overbalanced and they both tumbled into the water. When they both bobbed up JD began laughing smugly but before Buck could speak or react, there was another loud splash.

Inspired by the younger boy’s mischievousness, Vin had running tackled both Chris and Ezra sending them all into the water. Buck had forgotten his own need for retribution and began laughing loudly himself. The look of surprise on Chris’ face together with a scowl on Ezra’s was hilarious. And so was Vin’s yelp as Chris grabbed him and dunked him. There was plenty of laugher from the remaining "dry" members of their group up on the jetty and predatory looks were thrown at them by those in the water. It was therefore not surprising when all three made for dry ground.

As Vin made his way noisily into the seat beside him, Buck exchanged a grin with Chris who slid into the seat on the other side of Vin. It was gratifying to see Chris relax this weekend and even see some sparks of how he used to be before the accident. Even more pleasing was the continuance of positive signs of healing between Chris and his father. Buck could see Clint was determined to reach out to his son and because he loved both of them, he hoped they both found that common ground.

Chris caught the glances between himself, Buck and Clint as his father climbed into the driver’s seat and looked over his shoulder briefly. He knew what Buck was thinking. His oldest friend was never successful at hiding much from him and Buck held high hopes of some miraculous bonding between father and son over the weekend. It wasn’t that simple but Chris had felt some improvement within their complicated relationship. He did feel less uncomfortable about spending time with his father and there were moments over the past few days where they truly relaxed around one another. It was a step and a good one. He was willing to keep trying and he now believed his father wanted that too.

He had fished with his father, Vin and Ezra that morning. He was pleased he had been able to catch more than the others. He felt he had restored some of the Larabee pride there after such miserable efforts the previous two days. He had been surprised to see his father cleaning both his own and Ezra’s catch and he made a mental note to ask him about that at the first opportunity.

Clint stowed the last bag in the Durango with a mixture of regret and relief. Having seven boisterous and energetic teenagers for a long weekend was extremely tiring. He was looking forward to plonking himself in the La-Z boy in front of the TV later that evening and not moving for several hours. He guessed it would take several days to recover and he was thankful he still had two weeks leave owing to him. However, needing several days to catch up on his sleep and energy levels was a small price to pay for the memories and fond moments of this trip.

Watching how these seven very different young men interacted and bonded in a relaxed environment was something he knew very few would see. Even with all his life experience, he was still unsure of the exact nature and complexities of their friendship or how it worked so well. He did know the positive effect of those friendships on his son. And that was the highlight for him on this trip. The encouraging feeling that his connection with his son may return. He was not presumptuous to think there was not a long way to go but he felt they had made strong steps towards becoming close once again. As the teenagers noisily got themselves settled for the trip home, Clint realized one was missing. He scanned the interior of the vehicle.

Ezra. Always Ezra. He let out a little sigh and turned back towards the cabin to see the southerner unhurriedly walking out the door. The boy smiled cheekily as he threw his duffel bag into the back of the vehicle. Clint pretended to look not amused as he slammed the back door securing it tightly.

Ezra walked to the front of vehicle, mildly surprised to see the front passenger seat left vacant for him. Climbing up into the seat he nodded towards Chris gratefully as the younger Larabee sat behind the driver’s seat. He then glanced over to Clint and smiled as the cop finished buckling up and started the Durango. With a smile Ezra reached out and tuned the radio station to one of his preference enjoying the brief look of displeasure that crossed Clint’s face but nothing was said. Another one of the side wagers Ezra had won the previous day and Ezra did so enjoy winning.

As he settled into his seat and also buckled up he once again pondered on what had happened between he and Clint over the weekend. He was not accustomed to revealing so much and that he had done so to Chris’ father was confusing. But he could not deny that he had enjoyed himself a great deal in the time that he and the cop had shared alone. Clint had proven to be a talented card player, but the southerner had of course risen to the challenge. And he had gotten a bit more of a fishing lesson, though he had made sure that everything they caught was thrown back in so that the others did not learn his secret.

Clint was a good man, obviously the apple had not fallen far from the tree as Ezra recognized that Chris was a great deal like his father. The sophomore knew that he had made horrible first impressions with both of them and yet both had seemingly easily given him a second chance to prove himself. He still had no idea why he had bothered, but was extremely grateful that he had. After his father’s death, his mother had started dragging him all around the country as she fell into scheming and Ezra had never thought he would make any attachments again. In fact, he had actually begun to convince himself that he did not want or need them. His six new friends, and now even this cop, were slowly making headway in changing his opinion there. But he was still far too acutely aware of how painful it would be when those attachments were ripped from him, so Ezra knew that he would still try to fight it as best as he could, even if that also meant fighting himself.

+ + + + + + +

Chris closed the door and turned the lock before facing his father with a sly grin and knowing look. "Well that’s the last of them."

Clint nodded before sinking down into the couch with a gratified sigh. Then suddenly realizing that Chris might misconstrue that, he sat up straighter and began, "Now don’t get me wrong, they’re fine boys," a slight pause as he considered that, "well for the most part…"

Chris actually chuckled as he dropped down into the La-Z boy. "Don’t get me wrong either, Dad, but I’m glad they’re gone, too."

Father and son shared a look of relief as they settled into an unaccustomed easy silence. Clint broke the quiet tentatively, hoping that the comfort would not be broken as well. "How do you handle that everyday?"

Another grin flashed across Chris’ face and his father realized with great joy that he had seen that smile several times over the past weekend, probably far more times that he had seen it in the last three years. He realized that could be true for himself as well. "Being in different grade levels certainly helps. Me and Josiah only have a couple of classes together, so I don’t even see him all that much during the day. Then, depending on who’s got practice when, we don’t always all get together in the evening. So it’s bearable."

"All kidding aside, Chris, those are some fine friends you have there."

"I know," he admitted softly, "don’t know what I’d do without ‘em." His son looked away and around at the living room that was part of the house that seemed to have ceased being his home three years ago. The last few times he had been here, he had felt uncomfortable, haunted. And there was still some discomfort for him, but it was more of an ache from the reminders of his loss than the sharp stabbing pains of guilt. For the first time he wondered how his father bore it, living in this house that held so many memories of a family that was gone forever. He could almost understand then how Clint had turned to alcohol to numb that pain. Turning back to his father, twin green gazes met and held. "How are things at work?"

It was Clint’s turn to avert his gaze and look around the room as he gathered his thoughts. He knew exactly what Chris was asking. He had lost a great deal of respect from his fellow officers when he took to drinking after Sarah and Eve’s deaths. He had lashed out at those who only wanted to be there for him. The only thing that had saved him was that he was a good cop who came from a legacy family of good cops. Swallowing heavily he met his son’s eyes again. "I’m working on it."

Chris nodded as he understood his father’s reluctance to talk too much about something that was an embarrassment to him. So he changed the subject, smirking over to his dad, "So when are we gonna do this again?"

Clint threw him a look of utter disbelief. It took the older Larabee a minute to be able to speak, "Whenever you want. Just don’t include me in that we."

"Now it wouldn’t be the same at all without you, Dad," Chris responded immediately. "And I’m sure I speak for all of the guys, not just me. I think you even managed to impress Ezra."

"Well I wouldn’t go that far and say I impressed him. But I think we came to a new understanding," Clint answered back.

"Yeah I saw that. You cleaning his fish and all. Just what was that all about?" his son questioned.

"It was hard enough to get him fishing, I figured one step at a time," Clint said smoothly. As soon as he had lost the bet to Ezra he had known he would need an excuse in case any of the other boys questioned him about it. He knew it sounded flimsy and could see the considering look in his son’s eyes, so he quickly changed the subject. "Speaking of Ezra, did you know he has a big interest in baseball?"

Surprise flickered in Chris’ green eyes as he considered his father’s revelation. He looked back at Clint. "Are we talking about the same southern sophomore?"

"There is only one, isn’t there?" Clint laughed back.

Both Larabee’s spoke as one as they added, "Thank God."

"I was thinking that maybe you could get him on the team," Clint prodded.

Chris shook his head but did not refuse outright. "I’ll think about it. He does owe me a favor," he added with a sly smile.

"A favor for what?" his father queried, suddenly concerned about what kinds of mischief Ezra could be leading his son into.

"Well if you didn’t hear about it, then it couldn’t have been that bad," Chris responded, not wanting to get into details.

Clint did not like having to accept that, but he did. He comforted himself that it would not be too hard for him to find anything out from the headmaster. "Well think about what I said. Obviously that boy needs to be occupied by something to stay out of trouble. And being involved in sports might be a good thing for him."

Clint shifted slightly on the couch and was surprised when his hand fell on something wedged between the cushions. Pulling hard on it, he found himself holding a baseball style cap in his hands. Seeing that it was for the Regents Lions, he started to toss it over to Chris, thinking that it was one of his old caps. But he paused in that motion as he noticed the signature across the brim. Confusion furrowing his brow, he looked over at his son, "Why is Buck signing your caps?"

Chris easily caught the cap as his dad tossed it to him with a flick of his wrist. Shaking his head even as he laughed, he corrected Clint. "It’s not one of mine. Buck’s been trying to get J.D. to stop wearing his Baltimore cap. So he had this one made up special."

"And he actually thought the kid would wear one with his signature?" the cop asked incredulously.

"You know Buck," Chris laughed back.

"Yes I do. And it’s good to see that J.D.’s a very smart young man for dumping it. You gonna trash it?"

"Nah, I think I’m gonna hold on to it for awhile. It might come in handy," Chris smirked back.

+ + + + + + +

After driving Chris back over to Regents and dropping him off, Clint settled back into the comfort of his La-Z-boy and decided that it was time to follow up on one loose end from this weekend. Picking up the phone he dialed Beatrice’s phone number. Hearing her voice answer the call with a tired sounding hello, Clint jumped right to the point. "So tell, me how was your weekend?"

A heavy sigh was his only answer for several long seconds. "Can I just say that I’d’ve probably had a better time if I had gone fishing with you and the boys? If I just say that will you be happy and leave me alone?"

Clint laughed, "Oh no, I want details."

"I’m in no mood for this, Clint Larabee."

"Oh but you’d be in the mood to hear all about the details if my weekend with the boys had gone bad. And remember even us manly men like our gossip," he pointed out.

"True," she conceded. "So then I take it things went well," some of the irritation left her voice, replaced with a pleased tone.

"Yes, very well. The boys all had a good time, and I have to say that I did too."

"Well that’s good to hear." Clint knew that Beatrice meant those words but he also heard the sarcasm in her voice.

"So what happened with you and Maude?" he asked.

His first answer was a snort of contempt. "That woman has to be the most infuriating woman I have ever met. You don’t even want to get me started!"

"No, I don’t," Clint quickly agreed. The last thing he wanted was to hear a long female rant session. He remembered walking in on a few of Sarah and Beatrice’s "discussions". "So I’m guessing that there won’t be a collaboration?"

"Well that’s the catch," she admitted grudgingly. "I like her ideas. And now that I’ve got them in my head I want to write them. But I can’t, in good faith, do that unless I let her ‘help’ me write it."

"Oh the trials of being of good moral fiber," Clint teased.

"Shut up, Clint," Beatrice ordered before she paused and considered what he just said. Considering her background, and Clint’s original qualms about it, she had to admit that she had to take that as a compliment from the cop.

The phone line was silent for several long seconds as they both tried to think of what to say next. Finally Beatrice broke the silence. "Hey, since we’re gossiping here on the phone, you want to give me the 411 on that redhead you’ve been seeing?"

"Goodnight, Bea," Clint answered and promptly disconnected the line.

Beatrice smiled as she hung up the phone. She knew that her dear friend Sarah would be happy that both her son and husband were healing from their loss. She would have wanted them to go on living and finding enjoyment in life. And Beatrice was happy that her son was there for Chris and that she could be there for Clint. As she looked down at the box of letters that sat next to her, a frown marred her beautiful face. She had put off discussing those letters with Clint because of everything that had happened. But now she felt it was time to take the problem to the cop and get his advice.

Clint sunk into the La-Z boy juggling his drink and snacks. Setting down the drink, he picked up the remote and began playing that day’s NASCAR race he had recorded. As images of Lowes Speedway in North Carolina filled his TV screen he heaved a contented sigh. After a great weekend and more importantly some warm and encouraging moments with his son, he couldn’t think of a better way to finish up on a Sunday night. Life didn’t get much better than this. And then of course that was when things got ruined once again. It was not a knock on the door that did it this time, but the words coming from the television. "Rain delay." Clint groaned as he realized that he just might get some of the race on tape but he would definitely miss the finish. It just was not fair.


Continues in A Mother's Worst Fear

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