Red Dragon Inn
Catacombs => The Catacombs => Life on the Other Side => Topic started by: Gerard Finnegan on March 04, 2016, 12:23:22 AM
(OOC NOTE: For Backstory on certain characters and what happened, view these threads. You may have to copy and paste the whole url there to view it because...I dunno. The Forum's weird.
http://rdi.dragonsmark.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t= 30249 )
The bright light washed over him, momentarily blinding Gerry as it passed. When his eyes had adjusted he stood...back on the very dock he had fought so hard to leave only few weeks earlier. Ginny stood, her makeup run down her eyes, her hair askew and her pale skin dotted with bruises and minor scrapes. She apparently had put up a fight when they'd banished her there.
Gerry felt suddenly very heavy. Too heavy for his legs to support. Those usually brilliant blue eyes were drained, crushed, heartbroken as he stared down at his cooing, wriggling baby girl. Nasya made little noises of discomfort, blissfully unaware of what just happened. Gerry dropped to his knees, clutching his daughter to him, big shoulders heaving as grief took him.
Ginny rushed to his side, wrapping her arms around him, holding her brother as he wept. The two were stranded. Stuck there with no way home.
One Month Later
Gerry woke to the sound of Nasya crying. The haze of alcohol still heavy on his brain. His bloodshot eyes blinked open as he slowly came to. "Uggh...what the hell?" he muttered with a husky voice.
He peeled himself off his bed. His parents had put him in his childhood room when they'd gotten home. For the past month, he'd been looking for work. Not an easy task for a 30 year old man whose work records literally didn't exist on his current planet of residence. Even if he COULD forge documents, he'd have to find work out of town. Gerry spent most of his nights and free time from his daughter in a drunken daze, putting away enough alcohol to kill lesser men. Thank God for his sister and his parents because that kid would be screwed if it was just him.
He stood a little too fast, his hands going out to his side to keep balance. God, his head hurt. He stumbled over to the crib, a small smile coming to his face. "Heeeey, Munchkin." He reached down and scooped her up. "What's the matter, huh?" he asked her in a soothing voice, putting her against his chest. Nasya made those little worried sounds when they weren't quite sure if they were done being uncomfortable yet. He grinned, carefully making his way out of the room, quietly heading to the kitchen.
"You hungry?" he said to the still-fussing child as he readied her bottle. Nasya took to the bottle greedily, those big blue eyes staring up at him. A small laugh escaped him. "Heh...you've got your mama's appetite when it comes to bottles, you know that?"
His smile faded at that. He took a seat at the kitchen table while his daughter fed. He glanced around him, taking in that old kitchen. A sigh left him as he slumped back.
"What are we gonna do, kid?" He turned those blurry eyes down to the baby. "What are we gonna do?"
Footsteps came from the hall, and Gerry knew immediately who it was. "Hey...I heard the pipsqueak squallin'. Everything okay?" Bill asked, standing at the top of the small staircase.
Gerry smiled up at his dad. "Yeah. Just hungry."
Bill stepped down, in his bathrobe, old, almost-transparent T-shirt, and pj pants. He pulled out a chair and lowered himself with a groan. The old knees were not what they once were. The eyes, though, they were still sharp. He stared at his son. "You drunk?" He asked.
Shame fell over Gerry's face. He didn't even need to answer. The look of disappointment on his father's face didn't help. Bill reached out for his grand daughter. "What the hell's the matter with you?" He asked "Give her here."
Gerry carefully handled over the baby to Bill's waiting hands. He curled her in his arm making sure she was comfy. "Ohhhh, theeeere she is. Pops's got ya, kiddo."
Gerry watched his father, SO good with her. It warmed his heart. Made him a bit envious that he'd missed out being raised by this man.
Bill smiled down to her and tapped her nose lightly. "You are a beauty, you know that, kid?"
Nasya smiled around her bottle. "Yes you are!" Bill said to her in his playful voice. "Yes, my little angel is!" That got a giggle out of the girl. Bill's chuckled and looked up to Gerry.
His son had been so distant since he'd returned. And now he felt like things were getting worse. "You can't keep doing this to yourself, kid." Bill said with a shake of his head.
Gerry hung his head and nodded. "I know."
"Look, Gerry...I know you're hurtin'. I can't imagine what it would be like...separated from your mother, unable to tell her why I left and where one a' you kids were. It's awful. It's awful, it's *****y, and a husband and parent should never have to go through it on either side." Bill adjusted the baby and put her up on his shoulder, little Nasya resting against him peacefully. "But this little girl? She's gonna need her daddy. She's gonna need you."
Gerry looked from his father to his daughter. There wasn't a thing in the world he wouldn't do for her. And his father was right. The pain he felt was unreal. It all seemed like it should have been so simple. He couldn't handle the fact that there was no way to contact Keirra, no way to get back to her. She was the love of his life and she'd forever believe he'd forsaken her. He'd give anything to see her smile, tell him she loved him one last time.
But those were fantasies. This was reality. Nothing would ever be the same. And his dad was right, Nasya needed him. "I'm going to be better, Dad. I promise."
Bill smiled lightly. "I know you are." he said as if it were a forgone conclusion. "I've seen you when you're with her. You're a good dad, kid."
Gerry's brow furrowed, sometimes he wasn't so sure. "Am I?"
Bill's eyes, so similar to Gerry's turned up to him. "Kid...you been given some of the worst runs of luck I ever seen. Life's handed you more 'n your share of sh-" he glanced down. "Bad luck. You got this beautiful little girl here and when you're there...you're great. You dote on her. But once you get alone..." Bill shook his head.
Gerry nodded. He knew he was getting out of control with the drinking. It was irresponsible of him to be carting the baby around tonight while drunk. Fortunately nothing happened, but something could have.
"Look...I ain't gonna tell ya things are going to be easy. They aren't. You're a single dad now. And it's gonna be a bitch. But we're here. Your ma...me...Gin. We're all here for ya, kiddo. And I can promise you this. This little girl is NEVER going to feel unloved. Not here. And you are NEVER alone."
Gerry could feel his chest tighten and the wetness in his eyes. His brow furrowed as he wiped his eyes and ran a hand through his hair. His cheeks puffed as he blew out a shuddering breath of air. "Thank you, Dad."
Bill Finnegan smiled to his son. "We're your family. It's what we do."
Life had been dull for the bartender since her best friend had left for home. The usual revolving door of regulars, newbies and underage kids trying to score a beer with a crappy fake ID.
There were times she'd considered closing shop and moving on, but that would mean giving up the one familiar thing she had. Besides, she was NOT a quitter, dammit!
Rag in her hand, she wiped down the counter top. It was slow, as most afternoons were. The most she'd get were construction workers and business men for a lunch-time drink and a burger. Right now, there was no one. Her back was to the door when it opened. "Be right with ya." She muttered over her shoulder.
"Excuse me...I'm looking for Kara Aimsley? Short, kinda pudgy. Ugly little spud?"
She recognized the voice , trying to disguise the excitement in her heart when she heard it. "Yeah?" She said, in an even tone. "Who can I tell her is looking? An over grown manchild with a tiny schwanz?"
She turned around with a smirk on her face.
"Hey, it's not the size of nail, it's the hammer you're throwin' at it." Gerry stood there, hands in an old work-coat and grin on his face. She dropped all pretense, climbing over the counter and running toward him. Kara launched herself in the air and wrapped him in a big hug. Thankfully, he caught her, holding her off the ground.
"Damn, Finnegan! Why didn't you tell me you were in town! What are you doin' here?" She asked, being set down.
His smile faded. "Ran into some trouble back home. Short version is...I'm looking for work."
Kara's brow furrowed, confused. "After all we went through to get you back? You telling me we have to do that AGAIN?" She asked.
Gerry's head shook. "No. There's no going back. Not this time."
"Well...least I'll get to meet the wife, right?" she said giving him a light punch on the arm trying to cheer up the mood.
Gerry swallowed hard, looking to her. He just shook his head.
Kara's shoulders dropped, her heart breaking for him. "Oh...God, G..."
"It's just my daughter and me now. We're over at my parents' place."
Kara was distraught, her eyes flicking around trying to come up with something. "There's...there's got to be a way."
"Kara." He said firmly. Gerry's head shook slowly.
Silence hung heavily between them before she spoke again. "I'm sorry, Gerry."
A deep breath left him as he nodded. "Well...what do you think? Got any openings I might fit?"
She smirked up at him, a snort escaping her.
It took him a couple seconds to realize what he just said. "Ugh...you're gross."
She laughed almost sinisterly. "Yeah, I could use the help. Plus you're pretty good behind the bar."
"Also, the nights you worked last time saw a rise in female attendance by like...100%. So...You're eye candy, bro." Kara grinned to him "Welcome aboard."
"My god, she's beautiful." Kara said looking down on the sleeping Nasya. Her eyes turned to Gerry. "Must look like her mom. Lucky kid..."
Gerry smiled a little sadly, his voice wistful. "You have no idea. Just give her longer hair and a mouth like a sailor and you've got Ko."
A smile spread across his friends lips before she stepped away. "Come on, let the little angel sleep."
Angel. Not really a name for the sleeping scream-monster in that crib, if you asked him, but hey, whatever worked for her. Gerry stepped out of the room and down into the kitchen. They could hear his father and mother watching TV in the basement. "You want a drink?" he asked her,
"Sure. Beer if you've got any." she responded, taking a seat at the dinner table.
He scoffed. As if Bill Finnegan wouldn't have beer in the house.
Kara smiled and looked up at him, speaking quietly so they wouldn't hear. "So...how's it living with them? Bit of a pain in the ass?" she inquired as he handed her a bottle.
Gerry took a seat at the head of table by her, twisting the cap off his bottle. He shrugged. "Eh. They're alright. You know mom, she's quiet. And Dad's...Dad." He smirked.
Kara took a swig. "They don't cramp your style?"
Oh, Gerry laughed at that. "Yeah, I'm a single dad whose spent his days failing to get a job and drinking himself blind at night the past month." The bottle tipped back, pouring the cold drink down his throat. "They've been great. Dad is crazy for her. I mean, mom and Gin love her, but Dad's over the moon in love with that kid." Thoughts of his parents brought a smile to his face. He was so thankful that he'd gotten the chance to meet them and they turned out to be just amazing people. Circumstances could have been better, but he was still glad.
Kara, however, wasn't smiling. "That's good." She nodded slowly.
"So...Single?" Kara shot him a pointed look. "You're giving up?"
"I can't fight it, Kara."
"You didn't think you could before." she noted.
"Well, this time I *know* I can't." He shot back.
She looked disappointed in him. "How do you know?"
"That was the deal. My daughter in exchange for not being able to ever go back."
"So? Screw 'em. Go back."
Gerry was getting more and more frustrated "Jesus, don't you think I would if I could? I mean, I physically CAN'T. I take a ship into the Nexus like last time and the ship goes, but I don't." He lowered his head and swallowed hard. "So...I'm here. I'm trying to make a life. It's not what I chose, it's the hand I was dealt. I love my wife, but I know her. She'll hate me forever for this. She'll think I stole our child and ran. She'll think I betrayed her."
Kara frowned, listening to him, wanting desperately to help, but having no idea how to.
"And that kills me. It absolutely kills me. It keeps me up at night. Every time I close my eyes I see her face. And it breaks my heart. But I can't do anything about it, so I'm making the best of a bad situation. Not for me, but for Nasya. Don't get it in your head that this is easy. I'm BARELY holding on, Kara, and every day it seems like it's getting harder and harder to the point where I feel like I can't even breathe."
Kara lowered her eyes. The pain in his eyes just broke her heart. Gerry was a broken man struggling to survive something horrible and she felt like she just accused him of not caring enough about the woman he loved. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to-"
"I mean, I know how much you-"
"Yeah." He nodded to her.
The two of them sat there in the kitchen, silent. Kara's eyes shifted up to him. "I know this is not an ideal situation, but...It's good to see you. I missed having you around to talk to. Guess I just kind of got used to it while you were here."
That brought a smile to Gerry's face. "It's good to see you too."
Gerry was wiping down the bartop at the end of a long shift. It had been a week since he'd taken the job. Kara wasn't wrong about the women coming in there for him. He would see them whispering or shooting glances over to him as they talked. Part of him thought maybe they remembered him having disappeared when he was a kid, but in the back of his mind, his ego let him think he was just that appealing. Not that he'd ever respond to their advances with anything more than a show of the ring on his finger, but still, it was nice to be wanted.
Kara stepped out from the kitchen, a towel over her shoulder. An olive drab tank top clung to her torso and tight jeans adorned her lower body. Brown hair was gathered and pulled back in a pony tail as she passed him. "Well. That was, without a doubt, the best night we've had here in about 4 years. You know that?" She said with a smirk. Kara crossed her arms and leaned a hip on the counter.
Blue eyes turned to her, the pride of a good night's work on Gerry's face. "Yeah? That's awesome." He responded to her, setting a glass on the shelf. He was glad to be out of the house and busy again. Gerry thrived on work, and sitting around feeling sorry for himself at his parents left him feeling kind of pathetic.
"So..." Kara said, pouring herself a drink in a newly cleaned glass. Gerry gave her an exasperated look.
"...Dude...come on." he said in an annoyed tone.
"Shut up, I own them! Anyway, how's the wee baby Nasya?" She sipped her beer, blue eyes peering over the rim of the glass.
Gerry leaned over and fished around in the cooler, plucking up a bottle for himself. "She's been doing a lot of late night screaming fits lately. So, sleep's been a bit erratic. I got a full 3 hours last night."
"Good God, man, how do you live?" She asked, staring at the man as if he suddenly sprouted a third eye.
Gerry chuckled and sipped his beer. He was hoping this whole screaming fit thing was a very brief phase, and it would go away as quickly as it came. He really did miss sleep. "You ever think about poppin' out a kid or two?"
Kara snorted into her drink and burst out laughing. "Are you kidding? Those kids would be so screwed! They might as well be raised by wolves!"
Gerry smirked "You say that...but..."
"Dude, don't give me that line." She shot him a withering look.
"The whole 'you'll change your mind' thing. I don't want 'em, I don't need 'em." She said firmly.
Gerry shrugged, "I'm not saying that. I will tell you this, though...I didn't want a kid. I had NO desire to be a father. But the second I held that little girl in my arms...Man, I was hooked. I was in. I couldn't wait to see who she's going to become. I realized I would do anything if it meant that she'd be happy."
Kara smiled at him. He was sappy, but damned if he wasn't endearing about it. "You're a good dad." She said. "That kid is gonna be SO lucky. Every daughter should have a dad that loves them like you love her." Kara nodded, thinking of her own father. He was nothing of the sort, of course. Drunk and pissed off most of the time. Lot of violent tendencies. She remembered one instance where she had gotten a black eye as a 9th birthday gift from the old man and Gerry tried to help cover it up with make-up. Bill had caught them sitting in the darkened kitchen.
Kara had expected him to yell or hit her. Instead, he just looked at her eye, set her up in the guest room and let her stay the night. The next day, Bill Finnegan piled her and Gerry in the car and drove her home. They got out of the car and Bill just stared ahead. "You go inside and get some of your things." He said to Kara, his voice showing no signs that she should argue.
Kara's father got mouthy right off that bat. "Where the hell you been? Get in the house you little slut!" he slurred, either already or still drunk. He wound up his arm, ready to swat the girl.
Before he could put his hands on Kara, Bill had grabbed him and slammed him against the wall. She and Gerry ducked inside quickly and listened.
"Get your hands off me, Finnegan! I'll kick the sh-"
"Shut up! Shut the **** up!" Bill shouted slamming him against the wall again. "You're a real tough guy, huh? You like hittin' little girls? How about you take a swing at me?"
Kara's dad shoved him back and threw a wild punch but Bill leaned away and hit him once, hard in the stomach. Her father doubled over, against the wall. Kara peeked out from the window before going back to packing. Bill pulled him up, grabbing him by the shirt.
"Lot different when you?re fighting someone who can hit back, ain?t it, you piece of s***? You've lost the right to your daughter, you understand? She?s coming to stay with my family. You hear me?" He said in a low, threatening tone. Neither she nor Gerry had ever heard that sort of menace in his father's voice.
Her father glared angrily. "You can't-" He started.
"Shut your mouth, you son of a bitch. Straighten yourself out. Sober your ass up and maybe you can have her back. But I swear to God, I send her back and she has a bruise, a scratch, a ****ing indian burn that looks like it came from you, and I swear to you, I will end you, I will ****ing end you!"
Gerry and Kara walke out with duffle bags over their shoulders. Bill stood between the defeated drunk and the kids, still holding him by the shirt. As soon as they got down the stairs he let go of him. "Now. Take your drunk ass inside. Or do you have something you want to say to me?"
Bill stared a hole through him, but there was no response. "Thought not."
Gerry and Kara slipped into the car as Bill approached. Her father finally called out. "You keep her. You can keep the little bitch for all I care! Doin' me a favor!"
Bill stopped in his tracks, turned back and clenched his fists tightly. His voice was low, dangerous and shaky. "Count yourself lucky those kids are here, Aimsley."
It only lasted a week before the cops showed up at the Finnegan household's front door, ordering him to return Kara home. They'd been sympathetic, but they had a job to do.
Kara never forgot that moment of kindness when Bill Finnegan had stuck up for her. Never forgot the moment Bill had turned around in the car and said "You're coming to live with us for a bit. Okay."
She'd looked up in that rearview mirror and nodded.
"That man doesn't deserve you, understand?" He'd said. "I'd be proud if you were my kid."
THAT was a father. That was the kind of man Nasya would have in her life. That was the kind of father Gerry would be. And Kara found herself envious of an infant.
Ginny sat with Nasya in Gerry's room, the baby in her arms and her feet propped up on an ottoman. She hummed the melody of "Dream A Little Dream Of Me" to the little girl, rocking her gently.
Her voice was soft and sweet as she sang in a half-whisper. "Say nighty night and kiss me...Just hold me tight and tell me you miss me. While I'm alone and blue as can be...Dream a little dream of me..."
The Redhead planted a kiss at the top of her slumbering niece's increasingly raven-haired head. A smile on her face as she looked down at her. Gerry stepped in the room, being quiet as can be. "Hey. How was she?" he whispered.
Ginny looked up to her brother happily. "Perfect, as usual. Unbelievable that YOU two made this little angel." She said, shooting him a teasing look. She really did love this kid. Those big blue eyes, those pudgy cheeks. She was a beauty, just like her mama.
Keirra...Ginny often thought about her. As tough as it was for Gerry, she couldn't fathom how Kierra was taking everything. Did she knew what really happened? Ginny supposed not. How could she? The thought depressed her, so she pushed it away.
Her expression brightened as she remembered the good news. "Oh, so...I've been looking for someplace else. You know...someplace not Mom and Dad's. I found a pretty nice, cheap place not far from here."
"You wanna move out?" Gerry asked running his fingers along his daughter's cheek.
Ginny shrugged. "Well...can't and don't want to stay with our parents forever. Figured you and me could go out on our own for a bit. Might be fun!" She said excitedly.
Gerry had to admit that did sound pretty good, but there was one thing. "Dad would be heartbroken." He said with a chuckle. "Us taking his best buddy away from him."
Ginny nodded, her body shaking with suppressed laughter. "We'd still be close enough that could see her whenever." she reassured him. "Besides...we barely get to hang out. It'd be nice to get to do things together. Go out, live a little. Whatcha say?"
Gerry considered it a moment before nodding. "Yeah. Yeah, that sounds pretty good. I'm in!"
It had been almost a month since Ginny and Gerry had moved into their apartment. A nice, little 3 bedroom 2 bath. It wasn't quite the penthouse he'd been living in with Keirra back home, but it was something. The two of them took turns looking after Nasya, Gerry taking the day and Ginny taking the night. Their parents were a constant presence coming by to visit and play with their granddaughter.
Nasya was just starting towards learning to crawl, but she had such a cheery disposition (just about the only thing she got from her father.) Sundays were almost always spent at his parents, watching TV, helping with yard work, having dinner or just sitting around and talking. Kara was always invited and often a fixture there, as well.
It was a mundane life, in comparison to the constant drama that had been life in Rhydin, but it was good.
Tonight, Kara was over at the parents' house, Gerry was busy putting Nasya to bed in the room they'd kept for her. He closed the door carefully before walking out to the kitchen where the other's sat, waiting. Beers set out and open in front of them. He threw a strong, jean-clad leg over the chair and lowered himself down as he grabbed his bottle.
"She good?" Kara asked before taking a sip.
"Snorin' like a tiny saw mill." Gerry said with a smile.
"You know, for a little thing, she makes a lot of noise." Ginny said with a grin.
"Takes after her mama that way. At least she's not waking up denying her thievery yet." Gerry tipped back his bottle, downing some of the cold drink.
Bill shook his head, that oh-so-Gerry grin on his face, "You know..there are times I feel like it's a good thing I never met your wife."
"Nah, you would have liked her. Wicked sense of humor. And she could be really sweet when she wanted to be." Gerry allowed himself to miss her for a moment. That had been the hardest thing. If he dwelled too much on her, it would drive him crazy. He always wanted to fix things, and this was just something he couldn't. He would have loved to get all self destructive, but Nasya was there to remind him he had to think of her. And for that, he would always be eternally grateful to her.
"Yeah, when she wasn't coming up with gross, demeaning nicknames that include some form of the word 'tits'." Ginny said with a roll of the eyes.
The question was on all their minds, even Rose. Kara's eyes shifted back and forth between the table. "Wh...what was your nickname?"
Ginny's pale face turned bright red and she stared at her drink. Gerry smirked and nudged his sister with his elbow. "G'wan. Tell 'em."
The redhead's face scrunched up. "frsnch...." she mumbled.
Kara's face lit up, amusedly. "What was that?"
Ginny sighed, her face turning somehow redder. "Fire snatch."
Rose snorted as she drank her sangria. Bill just flat out started belly-laughing right along with Kara.
"Did I have a name?" Kara asked, still laughing. "When you guys told her about me, did I have a name?"
Gerry's grin faded then. Ginny shot him a pointed look.
"Uh...yeah, we never did get around to that."
Kara frowned a bit at that. "You never told her about me?"
"Kara, if I told her about you, she would have come through here and killed you." he said with a snorted laugh.
Bill smiled slightly, watching his son. "What DID you tell her happened here?"
Gerry knew the answer and it wasn't something he was proud of. "We never talked about it." His brows raised as he stared at the brown bottle in his hand. "Ko was going through severe postpartum depression after I got there. We didn't really talk much about anything." he said.
Well, that brought the mood down a bit. "She was finally starting to come around when everything happened." He said, his eyes distant.
Silence settled over them all. It was something they never really spoke of after the night he returned and explained what happened. Kara eyed him a moment and forced a smile. "What was your's?"
Gerry turned those sad eyes to her. "Huh?"
She quirked an eyebrow to him slyly. "Your nickname. "
That brought a smile to his face. "McTinyTool."
Now it was Rose's turn to blush. Bill snorted audibly, trying not to laugh too hard. Ginny rolled her eyes remembering Keirra's reasoning for the ironic nickname.
Gerry smiled to Kara appreciative. At least everyone was laughing and not feeling sorry for him again.
The night ended eventually, Ginny getting a little loaded and passing out in her old bed. His mom told him they would look after Nasya for the night while he dropped Kara off at her place. The two sat in the car, mostly quiet but for the music on the radio. An old song from the mid 90's started up. A mellow track called "Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand". It was Gerry's favorite. Partially for its needlessly long name, partially because it was just a good song.
Kara was a little tipsy, having put down more than her fair share of beers. "I love this song." She said with a smile, leaning her forehead against the cold glass of the window. Gerry glanced to her, his brows rising.
"Really?" He asked. "This is, like, my favorite song ever."
She screwed up her face, and looked at him. "Shut up."
"No, seriously. I love this song." He said with a grin.
"Me too!" She replied.
In unison they spoke, "It's so mellow!"
Laughter erupted between the two of them. Her hands went through her chestnut brown locks. "It's too bad the rest of their discography sucks."
"It does?" Gerry shot a quick glance over, keeping his attention mainly on the road.
"Oh dude. It's like they made this one good song in 1996 and were like 'Alright, band. Let's call it a day and go on to making generic crap for the rest of our careers.'"
Gerry laughed. "That is SO disappointing."
Her head lolled back and turned to him, those bright blue eyes landing on him. "I know, right?"
She just stared at him in silence, watching him drive, the street lights passing over his face in the night, the song playing on over the ride. "G?" She started.
He glanced over quickly. "Hm?"
Gerry's brow furrowed, confused. "For what?"
"I know how bad you wanted to get back to her. How hard you fought to do it. I'm sorry it wasn't what you wanted it to be when you did. And I'm sorry that...if I made things difficult. "
Gerry turned to her, eyes off the road for a moment as they came to a stoplight. "Kara...it had nothing to do with you. What happened was...it was what it was. I don't think any less of you for it, and I didn't keep it from her because I was ashamed of it."
Kara nodded, her eyes downcast.
"Ko was..." He sighed. "She was very sad. And I tried to make it better, it's just...it wasn't enough. If I'm honest, I never felt like I *was* enough."
His friend watched him a moment. She'd not heard that sentiment in regards to his wife before. "Not enough?"
He instantly regretted saying it. It felt like he was speaking ill of the dead or something. "Before I came back last time...things weren't...great."
Kara's brow creased with concern and she sat up. "How so?"
"She had these...friends... who were gypsies, by the way."
She stared and blinked, shaking her head before dead-panning "Of course they were. Go on."
"Well...I never really got on with their group. They were all kinda...I dunno. Not my kind of people, you know?" He said. "And remember what I told you last time? About the two guys?"
Kara nodded. "...your wife was sleeping with other men? Vaguely."
He laughed "It's not like that. They were gay."
She let out a breath. "Yeah, well, still! That's kinda ****ed up." She thought a moment, then turned to him. "If...if you felt like that, why did you fight so hard to get back? I mean...if you felt like she didn't appreciate you, then...why work so much harder for her?"
Gerry turned his gaze on her. "Because I love her. Because when she smiles at you, you feel..." He paused, trying to find the right word. "You feel like you matter. Like you're blessed, I guess."
He stared out his wind shield as the light turned green. "I fought for her because she was worth fighting for. Even in her selfishness and thoughtlessness, there was still someone there that I needed in my life."
Kara looked at him, a twinge of sadness to her face. She felt sorry for him. "But you don't now?"
"What? Need her? I don't know. But I do know that my daughter needs me, and she comes first. She is the one thing that could have pulled me away. She is why I'm here. She's also the only reason I'm not somewhere, drunk in a gutter right now, wallowing in self pity." He said, small smile spreading on his face.
Amazing, she thought. The guy was in a crappy situation and still managed a smile. It was doing nothing to alleviate her ongoing crush.
"Hey, G?" she said quietly.
Kara leaned her head on his shoulder. "I love you, man. Like...not in a weird way or anything."
Gerry chuckled and grinned down to her. "Love you too, drunky."
Bill was still up when Gerry got back to collect his sister and his daughter. Well...sort of. He was "resting his eyes" as he liked to put it. An old episode of the honeymooners was playing on the TV as Gerry came down the steps. Last time, the two of them had spent a lot of time watching old episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Honeymooners and the Stooges late at night. Gerry found that he really enjoyed the old TV shows. Gerry smiled down at him, snoozing lightly in his recliner. The second Gerry touched the remote, he heard him speak. "I'm watching that."
Gerry laughed. "You were snoring."
"I was resting-"
"Resting your eyes, yeah, I know." He said with an amused shake of the head. Bill grinned up at his son.
"Sit down, kid, take a load off." he hooked a thumb to the couch as he pulled the handle to sit upright with a groan. Gerry made his way over and plopped down.
"Which one is this?" Gerry asked.
"The one where Ralph and Norton accidentally pick a fight with a big guy named Harvey."
"The Bensonhurst Bomber?" Gerry asked, brightly.
In unison, the two of them quoted. "I got a friend SHIRLEY that's bigger 'n you!" The two of them laughed as Bill stood up and walked to the fridge.
"Want a beer?"
Gerry considered a moment and nodded. "Yeah, what the hell."
"How'd it go?" Bill asked, getting up to grab one himself.
Gerry's brow furrowed at his father. "How'd what go?"
Bill shot him a knowing look as he popped the top off his bottle. "You know. Kara is a fine, FINE woman."
Gerry narrowed his eyes at his father suspiciously. "Yeah..."
"And she loves your daughter." He continued, obviously building to something as he handed Gerry his bottle.
"Yeah, dad. I know."
"And she's pretty fond of you, too." Bill said as he flopped down onto his chair.
Gerry frowned at him. "Mom put you up to this?"
Bill just laughed. "Just sayin', kid. You got a good woman there. Hope you don't take her for granted."
"Jesus, dad. I'm married. Kara's great. I love her to death. But...I have a wife."
"Who you can't ever see again." Bill shot back at him.
"She's still my wife." Gerry countered.
"Look kid...I'm not saying you go and get married right away or anything. But it's been months. How long are you gonna punish yourself?" Bill asked.
His son didn't have an answer to that. He lowered his head and was just silent.
"You deserve something good. Something that makes you happy."
Gerry peered up at his father. "I'm just not ready, Dad. I know there's no hope for Keirra and me, but...It's...hard to explain."
Bill nodded at that. "I won't pretend to know what you're going through. Your mother and I have barely ever been apart since we met. I just hope you're looking out for yourself, too."
"Dad...am I giving up too easily?" He asked.
Bill frowned at the question, thinking now how to best phrase his response. "Ger....Buddy...as much as it hurts to say...I haven't know you that long. But the man I've seen wouldn't give up unless he knew the fight was over. I don't understand all this...what was it? Nextel stuff?"
Gerry chuckled. "Nexus."
"Whatever. I'm just saying...if you've stopped fighting, it's because you know there is no going back. The fight is over. I saw how hard you worked before to get back to her before. I have to believe that you would be doing that all over again if it was an option." Bill smiled at him, leaning forward on his knees.
The two Finnegan men just sat quietly for a time. Bill glanced over to his son and watched him for a moment. "Y'know, some days, I forget that we spent 19 years apart. I just...I would give anything to get those years back. See who you woulda become with your mom and sister and me." Bill smiled at that.
"Me too." Gerry smiled and took a swig of his beer.
"You turned out pretty damn good, though. Whatever you do, I'm behind ya. We're all behind ya. And if you need us to pick up the slack here and there, you know we're here. Gin, your mom, Me, Kara. We're all here."
"I know. I just...I think about Keirra. The people back there that she surrounds herself with..." Gerry shook his head. "I just hope someone is taking care of her, wherever she is."
Bill gave his son a sympathetic smile and clapped a hand on his knee. Nothing further was said as the two of them just sat and watched the black and white show together. He was glad Gerry was here with family and not alone in that apartment or back wherever that place was he'd come from. As much as he hated seeing him in pain, he was happy his son was home.
It was a friday, and Gerry had a couple hours before work when he'd dropped Nasya off with his parents. His dad was ecstatic, of course, and practically shooed him out of the house. Gerry took this time to head on down to the docks. The sky was grey, cold, and windy as he parked his truck and stepped down, walking toward the dock where he had departed just a few months prior. It felt like a lifetime ago.
Some days, he wanted to just grab Nasya, steal a boat and travel the world looking for a tear. As much as he loved his family, he missed Rhydin. He missed the weird people, the excitement. He missed her. God only knew what she was getting herself into back home without him.
Try as he might, Gerry couldn't quite get used to the fact that that entire world was lost to him. The thought kept occurring to him...maybe he should let go. Move on. Stop dwelling. Just say goodbye.
He heard footsteps behind him and glanced back to find Kara standing there, wrapped in hoodie, her arms hugging herself to keep the cool wind from getting to her. "Hey."
Gerry smiled, but looked confused. "What are you doing here?" He asked.
She stepped toward him, slowly. "I was trying to get a hold of you. Your parents said you went somewhere before work. I kinda figured you'd be here."
Kara stepped up beside him and stared out at the endless ocean. Gerry glanced down to her, his beautiful friend's chestnut hair blowing in the breeze. Those sharp, bright blue eyes squinting in the gusting winds.
"Why'd you come here?" He asked, still watching her.
"We're not opening tonight." She said, turning those eyes to him.
"We aren't?" Gerry's brow furrowed. "Why not? Did something h-" His eyes widened. "Oh ****! Did I leave the coffee maker on again? Was there a fire?"
Kara breathed out an amused laugh, before turning back to the water. "No, bar's fine. But we need to go out. You need to go out, be stupid and have fun."
He tilted his head "I have fun. Work's fun."
Kara shot him a weary look.
"Work is work. You need to go out and get this out of your system, Gerry. You put on a brave face, but man...you're wound up so ****ing tight...I'm worried what happens when you break." She said with a worried expression. "I mean...how long can you keep this up? How long can you keep burying this before it kills you?"
Gerry's eyes turned down to his feet, knowing she was right.
"Alright. So, what's the plan?" he asked with a smile.
"You go home, get dressed, drop your truck off. And then I'm gonna meet you there and we're going bar hopping, getting ****ed up." she said it all business-like. "Then, at the end of the night, you and I are going to grab a cab, go back to your place, order some 3 AM pizza, and fall asleep on your couch watching cartoons. Is that acceptable to you?"
Gerry laughed and nodded "Yeah. Yeah, that sounds awesome."
Kara's face lit up as she hugged his arm, leaning her cheek against his shoulder, the two of them silently staring out at the horizon.
Gerry was in the bathroom shaving when he heard the knock at his door. Cupping his hands under the faucet, he washed away the remnants of his shaving cream from his neck. A v-neck t-shirt under his navy sportcoat clung to his broad chest. A pair of jeans that almost seemed made for him pulled over his polished black boots.
Gerry pulled open the door to greet Kara. "Hel-ohhhh...."She said, trailing off mid sentence. She blinked back to reality and shook her head. "Wow. You, uh...you clean up nicely."
He was staring. And it was hard not to. She was dressed in low cut, black sleeveless top, and black leather jacket giving her a sort of tough, sexy look. Her dark blue jeans skin tight, tucked into a heeled black boot. Her chestnut hair cascaded down her shoulders and back in waves. In short, she looked amazing.
"Yeah. You, uh...you too." He let out a slightly nervous laugh. The two of them just stood there, awkwardly smiling before he stepped aside. "Oh! Um...come in! Come in."
Kara smiled up at him as she passed into the apartment. He took in a deep breath and let it go slowly. "So!" He said turning to her. "What's the plan?"
Kara braced her arms on the back of the couch, leaning back against it. "Well. I'm thinking we hit up The Winchester first, make our way to Todd's, then move along the strip until we can't feel feelings. Sound good?" She shot him a mischievous little grin.
"Brilliant." He agreed.
The pair sat down at the first bar taking a spot at the end. Country music was blaring, it suited the mostly redneck crowd at the bar. The bartender, was a brawny, handsome man in a cowboy hat.
"Aimsley!" He called out to Kara. "What are you doin' out and about and lookin' so damn good?"
Kara smiled sweetly to him. "Evenin', Clyde." She said. "Just taking my friend out for a night on the town."
"Oh yeah? And who's this friend here, you're out breakin' my heart with?"
"Have you met Gerry Finnegan?" she hooked a finger to Gerry.
Clyde looked him over a moment. "Gerry Finnegan? Ain't you the kid that disappeared?"
Gerry clearly was uncomfortable with that. He wasn't sure yet on how much to tell people without looking crazy. "Um...yep. But I got back."
Clyde sniffed a laugh. "Welcome back. Clyde Wesley." The two men shook hands. "What can I get ya?"
"Two beers and two shots of Tennessee Fire." She said.
Clyde moved off to get their drinks. Kara turned to Gerry, speaking low and conspiratorially. "I dated him for about a month in high school. He acts like he's a ladies man...but that dude? So far in the closet he's finding Christmas presents."
Gerry chuckled and looked after Clyde noticing the him watching the demin-clad backside of a man across the room.
Their drinks were placed before them, and the pair raised their shots. Kara considered him a moment. "What should we toast to?"
Gerry thought a moment. "To life. I don't understand it, I can't control it, but it's never ****ing dull."
She smirked and raised her glass. "To life."
Two bars and 3 shots, 3 beers in and Kara and Gerry were both feeling the affects of the alcohol. Kara sat at the table an order of onion rings between the two of them. The current topic: Music.
"Okay! Okay! Most embarrassing album you've ever owned!" She pointed at him. "Go!"
Gerry leaned his head back, "Uuuuugh! Oh, I know this one. First album I ever bought. Bryan Adams: So Far, So Good."
Kara immediately busted out laughing. She started singing in a Bryan Adams-y voice. "GOT MY FIRST REAL SIX STRING!"
Gerry joined in, putting on his best version "Bought it at the five and dime!" He laughed. "I. ****ing. LOVED that ****! With the robin hood song? Oh man!"
Kara shook her head, still laughing. "How did you hide this from me? Just picturing you jamming out to this. Kills me!"
"That's not even the most embarrassing part."
Kara looked to him with wide eyed excitement and rubbed her hands together. "Okay, okay, go!"
Gerry laughed, but tried to contain himself. "Favorite song on the album? 'Please Forgive Me.' Big dumb, lame-ass ballad."
Kara's mouth made an O shape as she stared at him. Slowly a smile crept on to her face. "Do you remember all the words?"
Gerry started to protest and then a small grin formed. He rocked his head, closing his eyes like he was totally FEELIN' it. "Still feeeeeeels like...our first niiiight tah-gether! Feels like the first kiss! It's gettin' better, baby
No one can better this!"
Kara's laughter rang out over the bar, drawing more than a few glances. "Okay! Okay! Stop! I'm gonna pee my pants!" It took a while, but she eventually stopped laughing.
"Your turn." He said taking a sip off his beer.
"Oh man." She thought for a moment, those blue eyes squinting as she dug through her memory. Suddenly they went wide. "Have you heard that song by Donna Lewis? 'I Love You, Always Forever'?"
Gerry's eyes bulged as he almost choked on his beer. "MM! MM!" He swallowed, slapping the table with an excited grin. "Near and far! Closer together! Everywhere, I will be with you.."
Kara laughed and pointed "YES!" She belted out, her face contorting with exaggerated emotion. "Say you love, love me forever! Never stop! Never whatever!"
The two of them both joined in together. "Near and far and always and everywhere and everything..."
Kara shook her head, still belly laughing. "Oh man, that **** was my JAM in 6th grade." She said fondly. It was rare that she had a fond memory of those years outside of Gerry.
"Oh! I got another!" Gerry said excitedly. "Do you remember that Mariah Carey, Boys II Men duet?"
"One Sweet Day!" She said loudly.
"YES! LOVED that song!"
"Oh my god...My Russian Aunt thought that song was the ****ing coming! I remember distinctly her making my grandmother listen to it. And being like, 'What... The ****...'"
Gerry chuckled and took a drink. "Mariah was HOT in that video."
Kara furrowed her brows and nodded in agreement. "YEAH she was..." She took a long drink from her bottle. "Oh. I got one more for ya!"
Gerry waited eagerly.
"Celine Dion. Falling Into You." She said with the seriousness of someone discussing a nuclear bomb.
Gerrys' eyes went wide as if he was afraid. "What?"
She nodded as if she'd just told him she killed puppies for fun.
"I. LOVED that album." He said slowly.
She recoiled and looked at him in disbelief. "Dude. You were just secretly a big, sappy pussy back in 7th grade! It's a wonder you survived that other place at all!"
"Hey, I was a romantic kid."
"Yeah, no ****. You were like...ready for life-long love and ****. Just gonna say...you start busting out 'It's All Coming Back To Me' and I'm kicking your ass." Kara said with a smirk.
Gerry laughed "Duly noted."
"So...when did you get to like Civilization and hear music again?" She asked.
"I was about...17?" He said, trying to recall exactly. "I found out the mainland had actual modern amenities like...you know...electricity." Gerry smirked up to her.
"Six years without music or TV? Eesh. That's brutal." Kara said with a scrunched face.
"I was on a ship for most of it." He shrugged. "It wasn't so bad...for the most part."
Kara shook her head and looked at his empty bottle. "Ready for bar number 4?" She asked.
Gerry chuckled. "Are you? Light weight like you can't have much left in her."
"Oh, dude. You are going down." She said with a smirk, grabbing her purse.
3 bars later and Gerry and Kara were walking, arm in arm, singing drunkenly and quite loudly. "ALLLLLLLLLLL BYYYYYYYYYY MYSELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLF! DON'T WANNA BE ALL BY MYSELLLLLLLLLLLLLF! ANYMO-OO-ORE!" They got to her place, laughing like idiots. She unlocked the door and held it open for him.
"Thankyou, M'lady." He said stepping in. They stepped into the elevator, Gerry leaning against the hand rail, while Kara pressed the button for the 5th floor. Earlier she had called in an order to the late night pizza place. The pair of them made their way into her apartment. It wasn't much, but then, she was on her own. The living room/kitchen had an old beat up couch, and a flat screen on the wall along with her collection of DVD's. Gerry slipped his jacket off and hung it over a chair making his way to her couch.
The tall man plopped on down. "Hey. Thank you for tonight." He said, his eyes a little bloodshot from the alcohol. Kara smiled down to him.
"You're welcome. We need to do it again." She stared down at him a moment. She couldn't believe he was there, at her place. She'd dreamed of this. And tonight, he looked so damn good. She glanced back toward. "Hey...I'm gonna be right back. Find something to watch."
He nodded and got to his knees, peering at her collection of DVD's. "Oh, man. You've got the Transformers movie?" He called back to her.
"Yeah, but not the Michael Bay one." She called from her room, digging through her dresser. "That movie can eat a dick."
"Uh, YEAH. It has 100% less Weird Al. Of course it sucks." He said, making a face.
"Right?!" She yelled back.
"We're watching this." He said.
"**** YES we are!"
Gerry put the movie in and waited for her.
"Remember when we were kids and we saw this and my mom flipped out when they killed Prime?"
Kara laughed. "Oh my God, yes! Didn't she write an angry letter to Hasbro?"
That got a chuckle out of him. "She DID!"
Kara rushed out and hopped over the back of the couch, her feet landing in his lap. Her outfit changed into a pair of green PJ pants and a tanktop, her hair pulled back into a pony tail. Gerry stared at her a moment, marveling that this was the same tomboyish girl he'd known so long ago. How had she become THIS beautiful woman?
"Hi." She said with a bright smile at him. Those pretty blue eyes taking all of him in. If she died right now, she thought, she would at least go happy.
"Hey." He said. "I like your place."
"Yeah?" Kara responded, looking around. "It's alright. Little small." Kara liked it well enough, but she'd wanted to upgrade for a long time now. She just never had any real reason to.
She snorted and gave him a knowing look. "Okay, you can drop it. You don't need any more brownie points with me." Kara smirked. "You want something to drink?"
Gerry nodded "what you got?"
"Water, coke, Juice...Beer?" She said with a seductive eyebrow.
Gerry made a face. "I think if I have another beer, I might throw up on you."
Her brow furrowed and she nodded, business-like. "That sounds like a bad end to our night." She said plainly.
"Yes, I agree."
"Water?" She said, looking at him hopefully.
"Water's perfect." Gerry said, grinning.
Within a half-hour the two were curled up on the couch watching cartoons and stuffing their faces with pizza. As the night wore on she fell asleep against him. Gerry began nodding off, himself. Her arms wrapped around his waist, her head rested on his chest, and that was how they stayed until morning. Close, comfortable and together. Kara couldn't remember when she'd been so happy.
Gerry's eyes fluttered open as the morning sun shone in through the her balcony window. Slowly, the world filled in around him. There was a weight against his body and the sound of the DVD menu of Transformers playing. He glanced down to find Kara, still asleep. Apparently at some point, she'd pulled out her pony tail, as her hair was spread wide against his chest and hung over her face. Her arms clutched tightly to him. Gerry blinked a few times and then let out a quiet laugh. She stirred but just latched tighter and snuggled against him. He rested his head back against the pillow and looked up at the ceiling.
His head was pounding, he needed water. OH LOOK! WATER! He reached over and snagged the half-drank glass and did his best not to spill on Kara as he chugged. She muttered something against his chest. He glanced down with a cocked eyebrow. She muttered again. "Isaidgoo mornimng..." Her eyes still not open.
"Mornin'." He said with a grin. Those cool blue eyes opened and turned op at him, a hazy smile cast up to him. Suddenly, the smile faded into panic. "Uh oh."
"What?" He asked, concerned.
"I think I might pee on you." She pushed off him, crushing his chest a little. Gerry let out a laughing groan before she scampered off.
He sat up slowly, his body feeling stiff. "Ugh..." His face contorted into a long, loud yawn. Oh, and look! Cold Pizza! He glanced around and grabbed a slice, shoving it in his mouth.
Bill and Rose were sitting in the kitchen of their house, Rose was cooking breakfast while Bill fed Nasya. He put on a pilot's voice as he wavered the spoon. "This is Applesauce actual to ground control, we're about to make our approach for landing."
He changed his voice as Nasya giggled. "Ground control to Applesauce, you are go for landing!" He made airplane noises as he brought the spoon to Nasya's open mouth.
The front door clicked open and Bill looked up to see Ginny, her short red hair tied in two small ponytails at the back of her head. 'Hey, sweetheart!" He called to her.
Ginny smiled as she slipped her shoes off. "Mornin' dad." She walked into the kitchen and exchanged kisses on the cheek with her mom. "Heya, mom."
Rose smiled to her. "Breakfast is almost ready."
"Oooooh..." Ginny said with a bright smile, moving to her father, hugging him over his shoulders.
Bill clutched her forearm and leaned back, kissing her cheek. "Good to see ya, kiddo."
"And how is ol' blue eyes doin'?" Ginny asked crouching in front of Nasya. "Hm? How's my munchkin face?"
Nasya smiled brightly making little cooing noises. Bill grinned, watching them. "Just feeding the hungry beast is all."
Ginny made a surprised expression, gasping theatrically. "...Is someone getting her noms?" Her expression brightened, her voice changing to an excited giggle. "Is someone getting her noms?!" She leaned in, pretending like she was eating "Nomnomnomnomnom!"
Nasya leaned away letting out a little squeal and one of those little baby laughs. Ginny just grinned at her, then turned to Bill. "Is Ger here?"
Bill and Rose exchanged a glance and a grin. Ginny's smile faded. "I'm missing something."
The front door opened and there they were. Kara in a hoodie and jeans, while Gerry looked like he'd slept in his clothes.
"Hey, guys!" He called out, trying to sound like it wasn't a big deal.
A look of realization came over Ginny's face. She looked to her father, her expression saying. "Really?"
Bill just shrugged.
All throughout breakfast, Gerry couldn't help but notice Ginny staring at him. He ignored it and they went about the conversation. A couple hours later, when they were saying their goodbyes, she hugged him and whispered in his ear. "We are totally talking about this later." She smiled sweetly to him and hugged Kara. "See you later." She said, before heading out the door.
Gerry drove Kara to her place and headed back home. He took in a deep breath and opened the door, Nasya cooing away in his arms. Ginny spun around in an office chair, her arms crossed and legs crossed. Gerry froze where he stood. "Well." She said. Ginny's head tilted to one side, her face cold and judgmental. "Well, well, well..." She opened her mouth and over pronounced the word one final time. "Well-uh."
"Okay." He said holding up a hand defensively.
"That's a nice outfit, big brother. Little frumped up, though."
Gerry rolled his eyes and moved past her. Ginny stood and followed. "You have a *good* night, Ger Bear?" She asked him antagonistically.
"Nothing happened?" He said, passing Nasya from arm to arm as he removed his jacket.
"Yeah? And that drool stain on your t-shirt...that's nothin'?" She asked with a smirk.
"It's not what you think." He said defensively.
Ginny leaned against the wall, her chin down as she suppressed a laugh. Her eyes turned upward at him. Oh, but she was loving this. "Well, DO tell." She said.
"We went out, had drinks, went back to her place, ordered pizza and feel asleep watching Transformers."
Ginny made a disgusted face. "The Shia Lebouf movie?"
"...No, the animated one."
"Oh, good. Because **** that movie."
"That's what I said!" Gerry said.
"So...nothing happened?" Ginny asked him, dropping the interrogation routine.
Gerry shook his head. "We're just friends."
Ginny frowned at that, but she understood and nodded slowly. The two of them were quiet for a while before Gerry grinned to her. "So...how long were you sitting there waiting for me to come through the door?"
"Oh, about a half hour." Ginny nodded matter-of-factly. "Frankly, I was a bout to call to tell you to hurry your ass up."
Gerry nodded "Well done." He handed Nasya off to her. "I'm taking a shower."
"Yeah, go try and wash away your sins, but Jesus knows what you did!" She called after him, teasing. She grinned and looked to Nasya. "Daddy's a big gross man, isn't he? Yes he is!" She said to the giggling baby.
20 Years Ago
Gerry had been missing for weeks. Nobody could explain it, there were no signs of struggle, no signs of forced entry, not a single shred of evidence. Which meant one thing: a lot of questions were directed at the grieving and terrified Finnegans. Some people looked at them immediately as the culprits in this. Afterall, it was Bill Finnegan who had gone over to Frank Aimsley's place, roughed him up and took his kid for a month. Lots of eyes were on him. Of course, what they didn't know is that Frank Aimsley waited a month before trying to get her back, sending the cops over to Bill's place and having her removed. No charges had been pressed, but Kara went to bat for him. This was a thousand times worse.
Bill couldn't believe he was a suspect in the disappearance of his child. He was utterly devoted to his children, and his son was missing. The looks people gave him on the street, the way parents shielded their children when he passed in the grocery store, it all broke his heart. These were his neighbors, his supposed friends.
He stared into Gerry's empty room. The police had combed over every bit of that house, little sticky notes all over the place, marking leads that ended up just telling the tale of a kid who didn't like to pick up his toys when he was done playing with them. "Where'd you go, buddy?" He whispered into the room. He heard sounds coming from outside and went into alert mode. Bill glanced cautiously back toward the room where his wife slept. With slow, quiet steps he moved into the room. The sounds coming from behind the curtains at the window. Part of him was hopeful that he'd pull them back to find his son standing there, just run off or something and back with a changed mind. He'd be mad, but so relieved. It was a pleasant fiction.
Of course...he could open it to see the kidnapper...and that filled him with even more dread. He threw open the curtains and found a skinny 11 year old girl holding onto a tree branch trying to pry the window open. She let out a little yelp in surprise. It took him a moment to recognize her in the dark.
"...Kara?" He said, perplexed. He opened the window and leaned out, reaching his hands to her. "What are you doing here?"
"Please, Mr. Finnegan, I didn't mean any trouble!" He pulled her in through the window. "I just...I couldn't sleep and...when I was here and I couldn't sleep, I'd come in here...and...and..." Her face had to scrunch, and the beginnings of a sob in her voice.
Well. That about broke his heart. He hugged the girl. "Sh. Sh sh sh...it's okay."
Kara clutched to him hard, burying her face against him. "I just miss him so much."
Bill patted her back gently. "Me too, Kid. Me too."
A few minutes later, Kara sat at the dinner table. Bill walked over with a hot chocolate for her, sliding it over. He sat down across from her. The skinny girl smiled up at him. "Thanks."
Bill just smiled to her, but it was short-lived. "How are things at home?"
Kara frowned and sipped her cocoa.
"He's not hitting you, is he?" Bill asked.
"No. No, not after last time." She said with a shake of her head.
"Good." Bill said.
She smiled. "I think he's especially afraid now that everyone thinks you-" She stopped herself, realizing that completing that sentence was probably not a very nice thing. Bill looked to her gravely. He looked like he'd aged about ten years in the past few weeks. His usually vibrant eyes looked so tired. Kara's eyes turned downward at her mug.
"I know you didn't do anything to him." She said softly. "I know you wouldn't."
Bill smiled sadly at that. "Thank you, sweetie. That's nice of you to say."
"They talked to me. The cops?" She said. It drew his attention. "Asked me a bunch of questions. 'Was he abused?', 'Did you ever see his father hit him?', 'What was his mood like the last time you saw him?'" her face showed plain and clear, her annoyance. "Acted like they knew him. Said a bunch of stuff like 'he was mad and he ran away' and tried to get me to say yes. They don't know a ****ing thing about Go. Bunch a' useless dicks..."
She looked to Bill, who stared at her with raised brows. "Sorry for cursing."
That drew a little laugh out of him. "It's ok. Did a bit of cursing myself over this." He looked over at the clock on the microwave. "It's getting pretty late, Kara. We should get you home."
Her brow furrowed at that. "I don't want to."
Stop it, Kara, he thought. I can't handle this.
"If I go home, he'll be there. He'll be there when I wake up, he'll be there when I go to bed...he'll just...be there, and I hate it! I hate him, and I hate that house!" She said.
Bill's eyes slid shut. "Kara...you know we love you. If you need anything you can always come here. But...you have to be there. You live there. He won't hurt you, I promise. And...it doesn't look good. You staying over here. Half this town already thinks we-" He couldn't even complete that sentence.
God, but Kara looked hurt. In a rational part of her 11 year old mind, she understood, but this was not a rational moment. "Please." She said weakly. "Please don't make me go back there."
"I *have* to. Legally, I *have* to."
She stared at him with watery eyes. Slowly, she nodded. Kara stood and stepped away from her chair, Bill following suit. "Come on, kiddo. I'll drive you home."
That gave Bill a pause.
"I...I think I'll walk." She said.
"Please, Kara...don't do anything stupid."
She looked insulted and put her hands on her hips. "Like what? Like lose my kid and make the whole town hate me?"
Bill looked more hurt than she'd ever seen him. He knew she hadn't meant it and was just lashing out, but damn did it cut deep. His voice was hoarse and quiet. "Good night, Kara."
Suddenly, Kara looked panicked. She felt like someone was crushing her heart through her chest. She just threw herself at him, wrapping her tiny arms around him, clinging for dear life. Bill put a hand at the top of her head. After a moment and without a word, she let go and ran out of the house. Neither knew it at the time, but it would be the last time she would visit for years. She and Bill would see each other out and about and keep in touch here and there, but she wouldn't return to that house until Gerry came back.
Kara knocked at the door, a box of donuts under one arm. She looked around the Finnegan front yard and smiled. It was idyllic around here, especially in the bright, warm spring sun. She could see a figure moving toward her through the curtained window, voices on the other side.
"Bill, I said get the door!"
"I'm getting it, Woman! Don't make me come back there and body slam you through the table!"
"Don't make promises you can't keep, Stud."
"Oh-ho-ho-ho...you sexy little minx, you..."
Kara's nose wrinkled as she laughed softly. Bill whipped open the door. "Whaddaya want?!" He said with faux anger.
Kara put on an innocent face. "Sir, do you have a moment to talk about the Lord?"
Bill dramatically rolled her eyes. "Ohhhh boy. No thanks, Jesus Freak, keep on walkin'." He turned, slamming the door in her face.
Kara just laughed and pounded on the door. "But, Hell! Hell and damnation and fire!"
Bill opened the door again. "Get in here, goof!" The two hugged as she stepped inside. "What are you doing over here?" He asked.
Kara, pushed her hair behind her ear. "I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd stop by." She held up the box of donuts. "I come bearing gifts."
Bill's eyes widened. "We accept this offering of doughnuts only if they include jelly filled nuts of dough."
Kara made a sassy face at him opened the box. "Who you talkin' to, old man?"
"Ooooh. This shall please the Gods. Come on in." he lead the way into the kitchen. "What's up?"
Kara followed. "Not much." She said as she walked over to Rose, who was sitting at the table, reading the paper. "Hey, Mrs. F." the two exchanged quick kisses on the cheek.
"G'morning, sweetie." Rose said with a smile, setting down her paper. Bill stepped back to the stove, cooking breakfast.
"Kara brought us donuts to go with the eggs and bacon." He pointed at Kara, "Eggs? Bacon for you?"
She looked a little put off for a moment. "Oh...no. That's okay, I don't want to put you out." She totally wanted some.
Bill blew a raspberry. "Oh, hush. I always make too much."
Rose glanced up to Kara, a withering look on her face. "If I didn't let him eat unconscionable amounts of bacon, he'd never cook."
A quiet chuckle left Kara. She loved the two of them so damn much. This, she thought, was what a family was supposed to be like. What she missed out on with her own parents. Bill opened the oven and flipped over the bacon.
"So?" He said, shooting her a sidelong glance.
Kara chewed on a cruller, with a raised brow. "What?"
"You two went out the other night and then show up together the next day." Bill said with a smirk.
She nodded. "Mm. We did."
Bill gave her a weary look, he was going to have to pull this out of her. "How'd it go?"
That brought a wry little smirk to her face. "Oh. Well, I hate to disappoint you, Pops, but nothing happened."
"I know that! But...anything? Even a hint?" He said.
Kara tried to look like she was taking it in-stride and shrugged. "He's still in love with her. And, I mean...that's...you have to expect that."
Rose nodded, acknowledging it made sense. Bill sighed. "Yeah...I suppose in his shoes, I'd be the same way."
Kara looked between the two of them. "I need you to do me a favor."
Bill turned to her. "Sure. Anything."
"Don't pressure him." She pointed specifically to Bill, which, of course made Rose grin. He mouthed "me" and put a hand to his chest.
"I'm serious. We might end up together, we might stay friends. I like him. I do. But he might not ever feel the same way. If he does...I want it to be because HE wants me, not because he was made to feel like he SHOULD." Yes, the thought of him never reciprocating her feelings crushed her, but she would rather have him for real than have him feel obligated to be with her.
Bill's grin faded as she explained. Eventually, he nodded. Rose, however was the one to speak. "We understand. We just both love you so much, honey. Maybe we got a little too heavy handed and lost sight of the situation."
Bill looked a little bit ashamed and nodded.
Kara gave them each a reassuring smile. "Thank you for trying, though."
BIll pulled the bacon out of the oven and turned to her. "And if it doesn't work, we get him drunk, take him to Vegas and we trick 'im. That's how you get the best ones. You trick 'em." He turned to Rose with smirk "Right sweetie."
Rose sighed and picked up her paper again. "Yes, dear." Her eyes flicked up to Kara and rolled ever so hard, getting a chuckle from her.
It was a typical night at the bar, the regulars, some newer female clientele come to see the man behind the bar, some kids home from college that had Gerry checking ID's like crazy. A nice warm breeze blew in from open doors, AC/DC playing over the din of the crowd. He had grown to actually enjoy the job. It wasn't as physically demanding or strenuous as his old place, but with Kara as his boss, he might as well have been his own boss. If there was one thing he missed at that job, it was the people. There were no pirates here, no odd creatures. There was not ONE minotaur employed anywhere in his current area code. What the hell was that?
He slid a glass to the little blonde standing in front of him and smiled to her. His attention was pulled to Kara, dressed in a tight white top that just accentuated her...attributes. A man was standing there, about 5'11". Slinky with long hair pulled back in a pony tail, and a goatee. The look and attire of a biker to him. She looked less than pleased to see him.
"Hello, Tim." She said curtly., her posture sending out a strong 'get the **** away from me' vibe.
He fairly sneered at her, his eyes travelling along her body. "Hey there, baby. Lookin' damn fine tonight."
Her face remained icy. "What do you want, Tim?" Kara said.
"I'm back! I'm back in town!" He said as if this was something she should be happy about.
"Good for you. What do you want to drink?" She said, feeling like she hadn't blinked in hours.
"Aw, come on baby, don't be like that." He said.
"Don't be like that?" She asked him incredulously. "You got drunk and beat the **** out of me and then stole my car and wrapped it around a telephone pole. How would you like me to be?"
Gerry frowned. He couldn't hear it all, but he didn't like what he could.
"Look." She said. "Why don't you just turn your ass around and get the hell out of here."
"That's no way to talk to an old friend." He said with a dangerous edge to his voice.
"Well, then it's a good thing we're not friends, then, isn't it?" she spat back at him. "Get out of here or I'll tell every woman in this bar what a tiny pecker you're packing."
He narrowed his eyes. "You know, you should watch your mouth, slut."
Gerry stepped up behind her, his green shirt clinging to his well-muscled chest, short sleeves strained against his large arms. Tim's eyes flicked up at him, Gerry staring down at the man like an insect. "Hey, Kara. Customer at the other end has a question."
She looked up at him, sharply. She softened a bit and even offered him a small smile. Gerry kept a stone face and nodded to her, his eyes staying on her as she walked away. Slowly his gaze returned to Tim, a friendly smile coming to his face. "How's it going, man? What can I get you?"
Tim smirked at the brawny man. "So, who the hell are you?"
Gerry glanced behind him and turned around acting apologetic. "Sorry. Fresh out. Maybe you should try down the street."
The rangy man let out a laugh. "You the big man around here, huh?"
"Big man? Nah. Hurlihiegh's clockin' in at 425. Me? I'm just a 6'2", 250 lb man who is very protective of his friends." Gerry's jovial facade faded slightly. "So...I'll say it again. If you're not gonna order anything? Get out."
Tim stared him down. There were men who might have bent to this guy, but Gerry wasn't one of them. He stared right back. Eventually the smaller man just laughed. "Place is **** hole anyway."
Tim turned and started walking for the door, turning and walking backwards. "Kara! I'll be seein' you around. See you real soon."
Gerry's eyes remained locked on him until he was gone. Kara shot him a thankful look and went back to work.
They were cleaning up for the night, Kara counting down the cash register while Gerry loaded the dishwasher. Financially, it had been a good night. But Gerry was concerned. He stepped out from the kitchen and rested a shoulder against the doorway, drying off his hands. Kara was counting down the cash, just finishing up.
"So...you wanna tell me who that was?" He asked.
She didn't look up, just kept counting. "Who who was?"
He made derisive little noise "You know who."
Kara sighed. "He was my boyfriend."
"Was?" Gerry asked.
"Yeah, why? Was there a warmth between the two of us that I missed?" She asked him sarcastically.
"What happened?" He asked.
"It was a long time ago." Kara turned to him. "Before you even came here the first time."
"Kara. What happened?"
She sighed and slipped the money in the envelope before reaching into the cooler and snagging a beer. She was stalling, he knew, but he would wait. "3 years ago, I was...with him. He would come and stay at my place and he'd get...really, really drunk." She stared off, calling it all from her memory. "The good nights were the ones where he'd just pass out."
Gerry could tell where it was heading. She continued, "But some nights...he'd get violent." Kara took a long drink off her bottle. "Well, one night, he comes over, pounding on the door, and I can already tell he's gone." She shook her head. "So...I let him in. He starts in about how he's going to kill this guy who pissed him off, and I'm trying to calm him down. I tell him 'Don't do that, you don't wanna do that.'"
Kara's eyes shut. "Well...he hits me. Punches me in the face." She said, her voice quieting. "Tells me never to tell him what to do." She nodded slowly, Gerry watching her as he listened.
"Well, that set me off. I get off the floor, my nose bleeding, and I jump on him and start hitting and swearing at him, telling him to get the **** out of my apartment." This blue eyes slid up to Gerry, she set her jaw. "He threw me off of him onto my coffee table. Broke the damn thing in half. He just starts hitting me over and over again, calling me...vile names." Kara shivered at the memory. "Broke my arm, got a nasty cut on my back, almost shattered my eye socket. My vision in my left eye is still not the same."
"Jesus..." Gerry said in a quiet voice.
"That's not all. He takes my keys, gets in my car and tries to run. But the bastard's so drunk, he veers off the road and slams into a pole." She said a bitter laugh in her words.
"How the hell is he back?" Gerry asked her.
"His brother's a cop. They downplayed it. Got him a reduced sentence. Said I attacked him and it was self defense and he had lost control. And because they found wounds on him that were not defensive, he did 90 days and was let go." She nodded chewing her lower lip.
"Where's he been?"
"No idea. Heard him and some of his buddies had moved to Dallas for a bit. But..." She shrugged.
"Alright." Gerry said. "I'm walking you to your car from now on."
"Really, that won't be-"
"Kara." He said firmly. "This guy is dangerous. Let me do this. I won't have you getting roughed up again."
A small smile crossed her lips. "You're sweet." She grabbed her purse and stuck her hand in. "But this is Texas." She pulled out a snub-nosed revolver carefully with two fingers. "He comes after me, he'd better pack a lunch, because he's going on a real quick road trip to Hell."
Gerry looked at the pistol, and then to her. "You know how to use that?" He asked her, his voice deadly serious.
"Yeah, it's got this real simple point and shoot interface." She said with a smirk.
"You ever have to?"
Kara's smirk faded and she tucked it back away. "No."
"It's different when it's not a target at the end of the barrel." Gerry didn't talk to her like he was lecturing, he didn't raise his voice. He just smiled sadly. "I hope you never have to."
The two of them stood in silence for a long while when he spoke. "Come on. I'll walk you out."
Freddie Prinz Jr. glanced over to Rachel Leigh cook. "D'You always where those glasses?" He asked her.
"Yeah, why?" She responded. Freddie turned his eyes back to the street in front of them.
"No reason." For a long moment, he weighed his options on how to play this. Again, he glanced to her. "You ever think about contacts?"
Rachel shrugged, scrunching up her face. She shook her head and looked at him. "I have them, I just..." She pulled off her glasses, "never wear them."
She looked at the glasses in her hands. "I dunno, the idea of just...touching my eye is-"
"Cuz your eyes are really... "Freddie reached up and adjusted her glasses, giving his best dashing smile to her. "Beautiful."
"Oh, **** you!" Gerry yelled at the screen. Kara laughed and elbowed him, throwing a shush his way.
Rachel Leigh Cook's eyes went wide. "Oh....please!"
"What?" Freddie asked.
Rachel gave him a disbelieving look "'Your eyes are really beautiful?'" She repeated as if it was the most ridiculous thing she'd ever heard. "You really broke out the big guns with that one, didn't you?"
Gerry grinned. "I love this girl." Kara had insisted on them watching this movie. Said it was required viewing when it came out. "But come on. THAT girl would have dudes BEGGING for her."
"Quit yer bitchin', Finnegan."
"I'm just saying. If SHE'S the ugly duckling, I want to live in that town." He said with a grin.
Kara looked to him. "Well, when I was awkward as hell in high school, it felt kinda good to imagine myself being a make-over away from looking like her."
She snorted. "I was 14 when that movie came out. I was skinny, had almost NO boobs, these long-ass legs I wasn't used to, and I TRIED to do a sort of....Gwen Stefani/Coolio thing with my hair. It didn't really work." She shot a look back him.
Gerry made a wincing face. "Bleach blonde?"
Kara shut her eyes and looked away dramatically. Slowly she nodded. Gerry looked at her in horror.
"Did you wear the-" He started
"Jnco jeans. Yep." She turned to him. "It was a dark time."
Gerry chuckled "Hey, I envy your poor teenage fashion choices. I had, like...2 pairs of pants and 3 shirts that I wore for weeks at a time when the only way of washing them was leaving them out in a rain storm."
Kara wrinkled her nose at him. "Ew."
Gerry nodded. "Yeah, it got pretty grodey."
Kara leaned her head against the back of the couch, green eyes on him, a smile on her face. "What was it like? Living on a ship?"
One corner of Gerry's mouth twitched into a slight grin. "Pretty awful." He chuckled. "But there were some moments...where you'd walk outside to a sunset or in the middle of the night...and it would just be wiiiide open...nothing but stars and the water."
Gerry seemed distant for moment, reminiscing. "Some nights I would lay there and stare up at the stars while all the other crew were asleep. I'd wonder if my parents or you were back home looking at that same sky." Gerry's smile faded. "Wasn't even the same stars."
Kara's eyes turned downcast. "What did you do?"
"I lied to myself. Pretended I was somewhere else as long as I could. Plus...it was beautiful. You ever been out on the ocean at night? The moonlight rippling on the water. Your boat bobbing gently?" A wistful smile crept back to his face.
Kara shook her head. "Nope. Not a big water person."
"It's serene. Peaceful. Nothing but you and hundreds of miles of sea. Boundless potential in all directions. Treasure, glory, adventure...You never knew what was out there. It made you feel small in a good way." He said to her. Kara's green eyes rested on him, a sad smile on her lips.
"I used to do the star thing, too. Go out on the roof outside my window and stare up at the stars, wonder where you were." She swallowed hard. "I did that for a long time before I gave up, G."
One thing Gerry hated was causing people pain. It seemed to be a pattern with him, though. No matter how hard he tried, no matter what he did, someone always ended up hurt. "I'm sorry."
She shrugged, turning back to the movie. "It's not your fault." She narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously. "It BETTER not be." She pointed at him threateningly.
Gerry chuckled at that. "Oh yeah. I ran off and got my ass kicked by pirates for 8 years just to get away from your skinny ass."
Kara put on a faux offended expression. "Excuse ME, sir, my ass was...was...Okay, yeah, it was bony. BUT IT GOT BETTER!" She said defensively.
Gerry laughed and shook his head. She looked at him wide eyed and leaned away from him.. "It DID! Dude, check that badboy out, you could bounce quarters off this thing!"
He continued laughing. She settled back in. "Whatevs. My ass is awesome."
"Okay, okay. You have a nice butt." He said.
Kara threw her arms up. "Dude!" She groaned. "Stop lookin' at my butt!"
She crossed her arms, shaking her head as if she was disappointed. "Perv."
Gerry had just cleared down for the evening. Kara wasn't feeling good, so she had stayed home and left him on his own. If there was one thing he'd learned from this evening it was that he was NEVER working a Saturday night on his own again. If he had to get Ginny's happy ass down there to serve drinks, he'd do it. He was just exhausted.
He let out a sigh as the front door opened, interrupting him counting down the register. "We're closed."
"Ahh...but I was really hoping to grab a beer." He heard the voice say behind him. An antagonistic air to the words that he recognized from a couple weeks earlier. Gerry turned to find Tim standing there, black leather vest and a pair of ratty jeans. That black greasy hair pulled back in ponytail and a smirk on his slim goateed face. Gerry glared at him, watching him approach.
"Maybe you didn't hear me." Gerry said in a low voice. "The Bar's closed."
Tim looked up at him, amused. "That a fact? Huh. Must have lost track of time. Well, that's alright. I'm a friend of the owner, so, how about you pour me a beer?" He sneered at Gerry.
"How about...you get the hell out of here...before I beat the **** out of you and *throw* you out?" Gerry asked him. "Sound like a plan?"
Tim chuckled and looked around the bar. "Let me tell you a little story, Jeff."
"Gerry. And I'm not interested."
"Nah, you'll love this one. See there was this guy once. Had himself a girl. But the girl....see, she had a bit of a mouth on her. " He put his hands on the bartop, Gerry glancing down to them and then back at him, the tension in the air could be cut and served like wedding cake. "So...this guy, he has to rough her up a bit. Because, the bitch's gotta learn not to mouth off, don't she?"
Gerry knew he was talking about his past Kara and it took every ounce of his strength not to choke the life out of him right then and there.
"One night, this guy, he gets a little tanked up and things get outta hand. So, he leaves a bit. And you know what he does?"
"Takes up knitting?"
Tim let out a little laugh at that. "No. He moves to Dallas. Gets a job collecting debts from low lives who don't know their place."
Gerry crossed those huge arms in front of him. Despite his size, Tim didn't seem at all concerned about him.
"One night, this guy has to stab a guy. You ever stab someone to death, Jeff?"
Gerry didn't answer, he just stared at him.
"Helluva thing, watchin' the light leave a man's eyes. Ain't like shootin' 'em. Nah. Nah, this way he knows what's happenin'. Every. Step." Tim stood up straight, looking Gerry right in the eyes. "See, he forgot his place."
Tim stared at the larger bartender for a long moment. "Best you start recognizing your's. Understood?"
Gerry nodded slowly, sucking his bottom lip and wetting it with his tongue. "Yeah. Yeah. Now let me spin you a little bedtime yarn. I know this guy named Jeff. And Jeff doesn't take well to threats. And this little prick, let's call him...Jim. Jim's a lowlife piece of **** who beats on women and thinks he's a big man. Well, one night Jim came into Jeff's bar and starts barking threats. " Gerry feigned laughter "Oh ho ho...Jeff didn't like that. And if Jim wants to leave with his nuts intact, he better do so immediately. Because Jeff's had just about enough of him." He stared the biker down, unflinching and unafraid. "You have no idea who I am, where I've been, or what I am capable of. You want to take a swing at me, go ahead. But I promise you, I'll be the last man standing, you ****ing degenerate."
Tim's grin faded somewhere in the middle of all that. He took a couple steps back and let out an incredulous laugh. "You might wanna watch your back from now on, muscles. I came in here outta courtesy to your little girlfriend there. But now? All bets are off, pal. Have a good night."
"Get the **** out of here." Gerry said, watching him leave, eyes glancing down to the pistol that sat under the bar. In Rhydin it was Jameson. Here it was this guy. It seemed no matter where he went, there was always someone like that. Always someone who wanted a fight.
Gerry sat with Nasya in his arms, humming "Dream A Little Dream" to her. The almost 6 month old smiling up at him, making little noises up at her father. The singing always seemed to calm her. If only it did the same for him. The events of last night weighed heavily on his mind. Kept him up. It was one thing to pick fights with a psycho when you were a bachelor, but now there was this little girl involved. And God help Tim if he came anywhere NEAR Nasya.
He stared down at those big blue eyes, her mother's eyes and smiled before kissing her forehead. "Love you, munchkin. You know that?" He said to his daughter. His attention was drawn to a sound...it was like glass shattering and then a hard impact. His brow raised, hearing it.
"Gerry?" Ginny's voice came from the living room...a tone of worry to it. Gerry stepped out into the living room to find Ginny staring out the window.
"What's up, Gin?"
She glanced over her shoulder, those wide round blue eyes turning back to him, concerned. "You better take a look at this."
Gerry's brow furrowed. This couldn't be good. He stepped over to the window and looked outside. The windows of his truck were smashed in, all four tires slashed, and an ax embedded in the windshield. He saw red, his chest rising as he filled with rage. "Take the the baby."
"I said take the baby!" He handed Nasya off to Ginny and stormed over to the closet.
"Gerry, what are you gonna do?"
Gerry aggressively searched the closet, deaf to her words.
"Gerry!" She shouted, startling Nasya into a crying fit.
He pulled down a crowbar and started toward the door. "Stay here."
Ginny moved after him. "Gerry! No! Don't!"
"Stay here, Ginny!"
"Gerry! Please!" She held onto Nasya with one arm and grabbed his arm with her free hand. He wrenched away.
"I said stay here!" He slammed the door behind him before she could protest. Ginny's eyes were rimmed with tears as she tried to calm Nasya, shushing her lightly.
Gerry rushed down the stairs and stepped outside, crowbar in-hand. His truck was beat to hell, shattered glass sparkling in the moonlight. His arms spread out as he looked around, they were nowhere to be found. "COME ON! COME ON, YOU ****ING COWARDS! I'M RIGHT HERE!" He shouted into the night. "YOU WANT A FIGHT?! LET'S GO! RIGHT NOW!"
There was no response. Just silence. Tim and whoever helped him were gone, but the message was loud and clear.
Gerry stormed back inside moving toward the closet. Ginny approached him slowly. "Gerry..."
"Ginny," He started. "I want you to stay here. Look after Nasya."
"Gerry, no!" She protested.
"I'm going after them."
"They're not getting away with this. This is our home." He said, not even listening.
"Gerry, just call the cops!"
"Why?! So they can put them in lock up and have them come back tomorrow? **** that! I'm going over there-"
"GOD DAMN IT, GERRY THIS ISN'T RHYDIN!" She shouted over him. That gave him pause.
"You can't just go all vigilante here!" she continued. "That's what he wants! He wants you to get all worked up and come after him! Well, you're not doing that!"
Gerry was coming to his senses and guilt was setting in.
"You don't get to leave us, you *** hole!" Ginny yelled with tears in her eyes. She stared at him a long moment before turning away and trying to comfort the baby.
Gerry knew she was right. They'd probably kill him if he tracked them down to wherever they were hiding out. He sighed and moved over to his sister, putting a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry. Gin..."
She turned back to him with those sad blue eyes.
He wrapped her and Nasya up in a hug and Ginny buried her forehead against his chest.
A few days had passed since the incident with Gerry's truck. They'd called the cops and they were investigating, but Tim and his friends left little evidence that could implicate them. And the damages to the truck were substantial. The windows on all 4 doors busted, the windshield destroyed by the ax embedded in it, all 4 tires slashed, a dented to hell quarter panel, and a headlight smashed in. It would end up running him over 5 grand to repair. And in no way did he have that kind of money. Not anymore, anyway.
His parents had picked up Nasya until Ginny got off work. Kara was waiting outside in the apartment parking lot to drive him to work, Whitesnake blaring out the windows of the beat-up old hatch back. She pointed at him with a smile, her eyes covered by Aviator's "Here I go again, on my ow-oh-own! Goin' down the only roaaaaad I've evah knowwwwn!"
Gerry couldn't help but chuckle as he approached the car. Kara leaned out the window. "Hey, little boy, you want some candy?"
"My momma said never to take candy from strangers."
"Yeah, but I got Twix. It doesn't count if it's Twix."
Gerry smirked. "Will there be funny stories?"
"Funny stories and fingerstuff! Get in!"
Gerry laughed as he slid into the passenger seat of that crappy old car. "What's up?" He greeted her, pulling the seatbelt across his chest.
"Nada, man. SSDD." She put the car in reverse and pulled out of the spot. "How are you doin'?" She asked him with a twinge of guilt in her voice.
Gerry grimaced at that one. "Good as can be expected. Cops said he didn't leave a hair or a fingerprint...nothing on the ax. Not a single thing to connect him to it."
She turned those brilliant blue eyes to him, for a moment before turning down the radio. For a bit, they drove in silence. "Go...I'm...I'm sorry. I feel like this is all my fault."
HE turned to her with a quirked eyebrow. "What? My truck?" he asked.
Kara shook her head. "All of it. Tim threatening you and then going to your HOME..." She turned to him again. "You don't deserve that."
Gerry smiled at that. "Well...I'm used to it. And it's not your fault he's a psychopath. It'll be okay, K. I've dealt with worse people than him." That was true. People like him were the reason he was there to begin with.
Kara nodded slowly, silent for a long moment. "What if he comes again?"
"If he comes anywhere near my daughter, it'll be the last thing he does. I guarantee that."
Kara frowned at that. "Don't do anything stupid. I don't want to lose you. I pretty much just got you back." She glanced to him offering a worried little smile.
"I'm not goin' anywhere." He said to her reassuringly. That made her smile. "What did you see in that guy?" he asked her.
She blushed and sighed annoyed at herself. "He had that kinda...bad boy thing going. You know, there were stories about him and I was lonely and stupid...and he paid attention to me." She shrugged. "For those first couple months he was sweet as can be. Then...well..You know." She said, sparing him a repeat of what happened.
"How is that possible?" He asked her.
"What?" she asked him.
"A woman like you?" He said, nodding to her. "How does someone like you end up lonely? You're gorgeous."
Kara blushed and smiled at that. Any compliment from him tended to send the butterflies aflutter. She shook it off and focused on the road. "Promise you won't judge me?"
"I was a bit of an addict in my early 20's. Pills, coke...stuff like that. Really into oxy. It got bad. Really bad. I..uh...I ended up in the hospital after ODing one night."
Gerry looked horrified for her. "Jesus...Kara..."
She bit her lip and nodded. "After that, I got cleaned up. Haven't done anything more than drink since." She swallowed. "But then, everyone knew. Nobody really approached me. Plus, I developed a bit of rep for being kind of a hard-ass, I guess. Not exactly the girl most guys want to go after. Plus...most guys here weren't looking for something...more than a fling." That brought a frown to her face. "Lotta disappointment there."
"Well, they missed out." He said with a smile.
That drew a little laugh from her. "With the drug addicted chick with a short fuse? I was a bag of issues, man."
Gerry stared at her. "You deserved better."
Kara turned to him. "So did you. You're an amazing man, Gerry Finnegan. Any woman who winds up with you is lucky. I know I'd kill for someone like you." She looked back out the windshield, it slowly occurring to her that she might have crossed the line there. She looked over again, worried. "I'm sorry if that was...weird. I know you're trying to-"
"It's okay. It was nice. Thank you. " He smiled to her. "I'd be lucky to have you. Anyone would."
Gerry and Kara had finished out the evening at the bar. Weeknights were always slow and tonight was no exception. The pair of them stepped outside, Kara locking up as Gerry went to the parking lot.
'Finnegan!" That voice rang out in the night. Kara's head snapped toward it, immediately knowing the speaker. Gerry turned slowly toward Tim. He wasn't alone. There were three other men with him, all bruisers, all looking ready to fight.
"What? No Jeff this time." Gerry asked.
Tim walked toward him ominously. "Nah. Nah, see I'm a quick learner. You, on the other hand..."
Kara watched on in horror. Gerry was a BIG man, but there were a lot of them. Of COURSE Tim wouldn't take him on one on one. Gerry peered around Tim at his friends. "What's the cheering section for?"
Tim grinned "Oh, I think you know why they're here."
Gerry raised his brows, staring a hole right through the smaller man. A small laugh left him "Yeah? What's the matter? Scared? Yeah, you're not going to be fighting a 100lb girl this time, I guess."
Tim's smug little smirk left him. "Oh. You're a real tough guy, huh?"
Gerry shrugged in response. "Don't need to be tough to get through a tangle with a scrawny tool like you."
"That so?" Tim said with a laugh, looking to his friends for validation. Suddenly, Tim threw a right cross at Gerry. But he was prepared, catching his fist. Even then, the bikers were moving toward him. Gerry headbutted Tim as hard as he could, sending the man to the ground. He managed to turn around in time to catch the first biker's attack. A lead pipe was swung at him, but he managed to catch it and wrestle it away, swinging wildly with it, catching his attacker's jaw.
Kara fumbled with her keys trying to unlock the bar again, desperate. A wood baseball bat slammed across Gerry's back, and sent him stumbling forward, but he didn't go down. That second attacker kept moving though, swinging the bat again. Gerry swung back with the pipe, knocking away the bat and then reversed the swipe to hit the biker in the face. Out of nowhere, he was tackled from the side by a particularly burly biker, hitting the pavement hard. Suddenly, Gerry was back on that ship from his youth, fighting for sport. He could almost hear the shouts. The two of them struggled in the dirty pavement of that parking lot, but Gerry eventually got the upperhand and went to work. He pounded his fist into that third attacker's face again and again and again. The biker's hand trying to come up and protect himself until Gerry knocked it aside and hit him again.
He was winning!
The baseball bat slammed across his shoulders, sending him to the ground. Tim stood over him, blood pouring from his busted nose. "Yeah. ****in' tough guy, huh?" He brough the bat down on Gerry's side, cracking a few ribs with that hit. Gerry howled in agony, pain radiating through his entire body. "Come on, big man!" Tim said maliciously. "Get up and kick my ass!"
Again, he hit him, another scream of agony as Gerry was hit in the back again. He crawled toward the discarded lead pipe before Tim kicked it away, just when it was nearing his reach. "Oh, nonono. Not tonight, pal." He turned and kicked Gerry in the face with a steel-toed boot, blood bursting from a new gash to his face as he rolled onto his back. Tim hit him hard in the chest with that bat, Gerry curling inward with the impact.
That boot slammed into Gerry's side again, hitting those already broken ribs. His screams echoing in the parking lot as the other Bikers were shakily getting to their feet. Tim placed the bat against Gerry's cheek, making the downed goliath look up at him. "You ****ed with the WRONG bull, *** hole." He brought that bat up to bring down on Gerry's head. It felt like an eternity as he saw everything flash before him. The ship, his friends, his business in Rhydin, his parents, Ginny, Kara, Nasya...and Keirra. Keirra who would never know how he died. Why he left. He saw joy and pain, love and hate, the good times and the bad all at once. This was it. This was the end.
The gunshot rang out in the parking lot, the bullet plowing through Tim's shoulder, just as the bat was coming down. A mist of red burst behind him as the bullet exited. Tim stumbled back, the bat clanging harmlessly on the ground. Kara stared wide-eyed behind the barrel of her pistol as Tim hit the ground. She's done it. Holy ****, she'd just shot someone! That was....it was...oddly cathartic. Huh.
The other bloody and battered bikers all stopped in their tracks, looking at the woman and contemplating their next move. Kara came back to reality and quickly she turned the gun on them. Their hands raised as they looked on her, wary of testing her willingness to pull the trigger.
"GO! GET THE **** OUT OF HERE BEFORE I CHANGE MY MIND!" She screamed at them, her voice ragged. One of them moved to help Tim up. She stepped forward, raising the weapon at him, those beautiful blue eyes turned deadly, filled with rage. "Leave. Him." She growled.
The burly biker, his face gashed and bleeding, paused a moment. She was not screwing around. He slowly held up his hands and stepped away. Kara gestured with the weapon. "Go. All of you."
One by one they made their exit, her heart pounding as she made sure they left, her arms trembling before she finally lowered the gun. Gerry lay there, weak and battered, his eyes bleary from that vicious kick to his head. A deep cash was just pouring blood down his cheeks like crimson tears. Tim had hit him HARD. She knelt beside him and gently touched his face. "It's okay..you're gonna be okay. The cops are coming." He barely seemed to register her there. God, he looked so helpless, and it was tearing her apart.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Tim stir and start to make the effort to get up. A fire was burning inside of her and that was a gas tanker dropped into the inferno. Oh, hell no, that son of a bitch wasn't walking away. Kara rose up, her hand clutching her pistol like a lifeline. She stalked over to him quickly and brought her booted heel down into his ribs, sending him sprawling onto his back. White-hot hatred in her eyes, she stomped on the entrance wound at his shoulder, drawing agonized howls from the greasy biker. The pistol leveled at his head, her eyes rimmed with angry, bitter tears, she stomped again, drawing further screams from him.
"You should have stayed gone, you piece of ****." She growled at him. "You should be in a ditch somewhere being eaten by rats, or at the bottom of the ****ing ocean, rotting, getting picked apart piece by piece." Kara's voice shook as she spoke. She had never known this kind of righteous fury, and now it coursed through her entire being.
Kara pressed her foot against the wound again, Tim groaning in pain. She glared down at him with pitiless eyes. "But no. No, monsters like you always come slithering back, don't you?" She bent down and put the barrel up against his forehead.
"Well, not this time, you piece of ****!" She pushed his head back against the pavement with the weapon.
"Please..." He managed to eke out through the pain.
"What's that?" She tilted her head incredulously. "Are you begging?"
For the first time, she saw him afraid. Terrified. Tim stared up at her like she was the angel of death, and somewhere deep down...she enjoyed it.
"Remember when I begged you to let me go that night? When you grabbed me by the hair...put me into a choke hold?" She turned the gun to the side and jammed that barrel against his temple. "You said...'Shut your mouth, bitch.' And then you threw me into a wall. Remember that?"
He tried to grab at her with his good arm, but she wasn't having it, she just knocked his arm aside and pushed his head against the pavement with her gun. "You want mercy now? You?! You, who then punched me again and again and again until I couldn't breathe. Couldn't speak. You want mercy now?" Kara thumbed back the hammer on the pistol, her teeth grit. "Guess again, asshole."
He squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for the inevitable. Kara stared down at this flea, this speck of a man cowering beneath her. He deserved death. He deserved to be removed from this world. He was a violent, abusive murderer, a bully. And he would NEVER change. She was doing the world a favor!
But...why hadn't she pulled the trigger? Her finger hovered over it, but unable to apply the minuscule amount of pressure it would take to end him. She tried. God, she tried. But she just couldn't do it. She looked over at Gerry, barely breathing on the ground before turning back to Tim. Finally, she swallowed hard and leaned back on her knees. She would not become him. She was not a killer. Slowly, Kara got to her feet. "You're not worth a bullet." She said to him in a pained, angry voice. In the distance she could hear the sirens approaching, her gaze turned back to Tim. "You try to leave, I shoot you in the knee. You don't need that to live."
With that, she moved over to Gerry, talking and trying to comfort him until the cops arrived.
Bill paced in the waiting room of the hospital, Ginny and Rose sitting and attending to Nasya. They were at least trying to project an aura of calm, but Bill was ragged. His heart has sank when Kara called and he snapped into action, getting everyone together. But now, all he could do was wait and it was killing him.
The doors opened and Kara stepped out, looking exhausted, her make up runny from tears. Bill's eyes snapped to her, a sigh of relief leaving the worried father. He walked up to her, the two wrapping their arms around each other. Kara buried her face against him, holding tight. Bill put a comforting hand at the back of her head. "How is he?"
Kara clung to the the man she considered her real father, grateful for him being there, yet again. "He's under." She said weakly. "7 broken ribs, a cracked sternum...they're still checking his back now, but they think he shouldn't have any damage there." She swallowed hard. "They're going to bring him in for a CT scan. He just..." The tears had come back, filling her bloodshot eyes. "He looked so bad, Dad..."
Bill put her cheeks in his hands and looked her in the eye. "Kara. Look at me. He's gonna be okay. Alright?" He shook his head slowly. "Nothing's wrong until something's wrong. Okay?"
She just leaned her forehead against chest. Bill kissed the top of her head and let her rest there a moment. George Miller, an officer with the local PD stepped up. "Excuse me. I'm sorry, Bill, we have to ask Ms. Aimsley a few questions about what happened."
Bill looked to her a moment. "You okay to talk."
For a moment she looked afraid, but she just swallowed it and nodded. Bill took the girl's shoulders in his hands. "You need us, we're right here."
The officer ushered Kara away. Ginny offered her a reassuring smile as she passed. "Mom...you mind?" she asked, handing Nasya off. Bill stared at those doors, wanting to just bust through them and go make his son all better. As if he could. Ginny walked up to her father, placing a hand at his back.
Bill put on a brave face for her, offering a weak smile. She hugged his arm to her, resting her head on his shoulder. "He'll be okay." She wasn't sure who she was trying to convince, him or herself.
"It's just not fair." Bill muttered. He felt like he'd JUST gotten him back and he'd almost lost him again. Bill looked to his wife, sitting with their granddaughter. Rose forced a smile for his benefit. How she managed to stay calm in a crisis the way she did was beyond him. She just sat there humming to the baby, rocking her gently in her arms.
Rose stepped into the hospital room where Gerry was resting. They were keeping him under for a little bit, letting him rest. The doctor said they were still waiting on the CT results, but the outlook was hopeful. Bill was discussing things with the doctor and Ginny went with Nasya and Kara to get some food. But, Rose wanted a moment with just her and her son.
He lay there, hooked up to that heart monitor, his head bandaged up, and his handsome face scratched and bruised. His chest rising and falling evenly beneath that hospital gown. It felt like someone had reached into her chest and squeezed her heart. A sad little noise escaped the older woman as she saw him, moving quickly to his side and clutching his hand. Her face screwed up in an agony as she stood by his bedside, bringing his hand to her lips while the tears began to fall. She let herself feel it, let it crush her for a few moments before she gasped in the midst of a sob and looked down at him.
"My boy..."She whispered, leaning down and touching his face carefully. "My beautiful boy." Her breath caught in her throat. "Please. Please don't go. Don't leave me. Not again." she pleaded with her slumbering son clutching his hand for dear life.
Behind her, the door opened, Bill peeking in. She glanced back to him, looking like she might shatter at any moment. Bill's shoulders slumped when he saw Gerry. "Oh...God..." He said in a pained tone, stepping up beside Rose. She looked up at him with that worried expression. She watched him place a hand on Gerry's forearm.
Rose stared at his hand, a smile coming to her face. A small laugh escaped her and she looked up to her husband. "You remember when he was so small he could fit right there?" She asked.
One corner of Bill's mouth upturned in that lopsided grin that Gerry had inherited. "God...yeah." Bill said wistfully. "That was here, wasn't it?"
Rose nodded. "Right down the hall." She glanced down to Gerry, her smile fading. Such a long time ago. So much had happened since then. "I can't lose him, Bill." She looked to her husband again. "Not again."
Bill put an arm around her shoulder and pulled her close, Rose's eyes clamping shut as she leaned her cheek against his shoulder. Bill turned his neck and planted a kiss on her forehead. "He's not. He's right here. And he'll be better in no time. You'll see."
One hand remained, holding Gerry's hand, the other held tight to her husband. "I love you, Bill."
"To the moon and back." He whispered to her. Rose shut her eyes and clung to the two men in the world who meant most to her.
The Red haired girl sat in the hospital room with her brother. He was still out, as he had been for the past few hours. She decided to sit up with him in the dimly lit room, the TV practically white noise to her. She just wanted him to get up and be okay again. But that wasn't to be. The doctors said that boot to the head had done more damage that he thought. A small fracture to his skull that could have caused some minor brain trauma. They would have to see what symptoms presented themselves once he woke up and then they would discuss treatment possibilities.
All Ginny heard was "He may have some brain damage." Normally, she'd have made a joke there. But now, in the reality of it, it wasn't quite so funny. It terrified her. When he woke up, would he even be him? She didn't think she could handle that. After everything she'd done to get him back into their lives, everything she'd sacrificed, and this was how it turned out? Like her father had said, it just wasn't fair.
She turned those big, bright blue eyes on her brother, just watching him in silence.
"You know..." she said quietly. "When I first met you at that bar in Rhydin...I though you were a foul-mouthed, obnoxious brute. And when I found out who you are, I felt...I felt like I had made a mistake in looking for you."
Ginny leaned forward, her forearms resting on her knees. "Like...I had wasted the past 19 years and threw away everything for someone who wasn't worth it." Her head hung low for a moment, swallowing hard.
"Then...I got to know you." She smiled to herself and returned her gaze to Gerry. "You are...the kindest...most patient...most loving man I have ever met."
Ginny chewed on her lip a little, her eyes watering. She blinked and continued. "You're an amazing father. A great son. And you're such a good brother. I wish we could make up for lost time. And...and everything that happened, through it all you've stayed THAT guy. I am so, so proud of you." She said touching her brother's hand. "Please. Please be okay? Please be you? I...I don't think I can handle it if you wake up and that son of a bitch has taken anything from you. I don't know what I'll do."
She squeezed his hand and sniffed. "I'll probably have to run him down with my car and you know that thing will probably fall apart..." She chuckled softly. "So...you gotta wake up and be okay. Alright? Just please...for me. For Nasya. For Mom and Dad...for Kara. We need you."
Ginny leaned her head on his arm and tried to distract herself with the TV a shuddering sigh leaving the tired redhead as she waited for her brother to wake up
Kara sat up in the hospital room all night, curled up a chair and staring out the window, just listening to him breathe and the heart monitor beep. Occasionally, she would glance over just in case. But still, he remained asleep. The sun was rising outside the window, Kara's head resting against the glass, her eyelids feeling impossibly heavy now.
A sudden gasp brought her right back, her head quickly turning to Gerry. His eyes popped open, a look of confusion settling in. Kara's heart leapt up into her throat. She sprung out of her chair and moved to his side. "Oh, my god, Gerry!" She leaned over him, grabbing his hand. "Are you okay?"
His face contorted in pain as he took a deep breath in, the pain from his injuries suddenly becoming a reality. "Oh...jeeeesus...." He winced, gritting his teeth. He let out a shuddering breath and reached up and touched the bandage at his head, a worried look on his face. Finally, he spoke in a weak, hoarse voice. "What...what happened?"
Kara offered a comforting smile. "You're in the hospital. You've been here since all night."
He let out a weak little laugh. "No...um..." He looked confused a moment. "No..." He shut his eyes...trying to find the words he wanted to say.
Kara smiled to him. "You trying to say 'No ****, Sherlock?'" She asked him.
A little grin crossed his lips at that and he nodded. "What happened?"
Kara chewed on her bottom lip a moment before speaking. "The, uh...the doctors said you had a fracture in your skull. They said-"
Gerry shut his eyes, frustrated and waved her off. "No...no..." He held up his hand. For a long moment, he tried to form the words he wanted to ask. "How?"
It slowly dawned on Kara as she stared at him, and it for just a moment, it filled her with terror. "You...you don't remember what happened?" She asked him in a quiet voice.
Gerry's head lowered as he tried for a moment. A frustrated look was followed by shake of his head.
She swallowed her grief hard, and pushed on. "You saved me." She said with a sad smile. "Tim came to hurt us and...and you fought him off.
Confusion covered his face, but he still grinned. "Didn't...didn't...uh...do so good."
"I might have shot him." She nodded.
He looked up to her with wide eyes and winced as he breathed out a laugh. "Didn't....um..." God, he looked so frustrated with himself.
"Kill him? No. One to the shoulder, in and out. I wanted to...but no." She reassured him. "Listen. Just rest. I'm gonna go get the doctor, okay? You just...you stay here."
Gerry nodded. "Won't...go far."
She forced a smile for him, and kissed his cheek. The second the door closed behind her she felt like her breath left her body and just sobbed. How badly had Tim hurt him? He couldn't form sentences, he couldn't remember any of the attack...What had he done to Gerry? She just hugged herself and rocked against the wall, her body shaking as she cried.
Gerry sat up in bed, surrounded by family, everyone thoroughly relieved that he was up and at least smiling. Conversation was rough going, but they were managing. They had him on some painkillers that were just...just so great. He didn't feel like he was going to pass out, just like he was living on a happy little cloud. Kara sat in the corner, looking every bit as exhausted as she should given her evening. Ginny sat beside her, a smile on her face a mile wide. Nasya was tucked under his arm on his good side, snoozing away.
Rose was fussing like crazy. "Are you comfortable? Do you need another pillow, sweetie?" She asked him. Gerry smiled weakly to her. "No...f...f...fourty ffffffive is my...uh..." He shut his eyes, thinking. "Limit."
Ugh. Jokes were hard now. Rose smiled at him and shook her head. "Alright, alright, I'll get off your case, smart guy. But if you need anything, you let me know." Gerry could tell seeing him like this was breaking her heart, but damned if he didn't appreciate her making a go at hiding it.
Nasya stirred in his arm and he glanced down to her with a smile. "Hey....hey you..." He said softly as those big, impossibly blue eyes opened. The raven haired baby smiled up at him. He'd dreamed of her while he was out. It had kept him going.
In the dream, she was a teenager, coming down the stairs of their house while Gerry sat at the kitchen table.
"Hey, Dad." She'd said, sneaking up behind him and hugging him. Gerry smiled and clutched her arm.
"How you doin', precious face?" He greeted his daughter.
"Last day!" She said excitedly.
"D'awww....my little graduate. Going off to college and leaving me here all by myself. Not fair, Kiddo." Gerry glanced back at her with a smirk.
"Aww, dry your eyes, old man. Now you can go tear it up on the mean streets of Clute again!"
Gerry laughed. "Oh yeah. That's me. 'Tearing it up'."
Nasya smirked at him. She had SO much of her mother in her. Sometimes the only thing he thought she had from him was some of his height. The girl rested her chin on his shoulder. "You're gonna be fine, you know that, right?"
Gerry felt warm inside and just smiled. "Yeah. Yeah I know." His gaze shifted back at her. "I'm proud of you kid. You're so smart, you're so good...You've always made so proud of you."
"Yeah?" she said in a mischievous tone. "Well, keep that in mind, because I'll be bringing home some tatted up biker with nose gauges and subdermal horn implants."
Well, there went his smile. "You're disowned."
Nasya belly laughed and gave him a squeeze. They just sat there a moment, her hugging him in his chair from behind. "You gotta wake up." she'd said.
"I do?" He asked her.
"You know it's not real. None of this." She said.
"I don't want to." He'd whispered in response. "I want to stay here. Stay in this."
"It's a dream, Dad. You have to wake up the world is out there."
Gerry looked worried, unsettled. "I'm afraid." he said in a shaky voice.
"Me too." Nasya responded. "But I'm out there. Waiting. And you have to make me become me. Without you, Dad...I don't know what I'll be." She kissed his cheek, and squeezed him tight again. "Come on, old man. Wake up."
That was when he'd woken up to find Kara watching him. Now he was back, and the world wasn't quite as warm and idyllic as in the dream. But the outpouring of love from his family was doing a helluva job keeping him happy. None more so than the little bundle wriggling in his arms. The girl in the dream waited for him in this tiny beautiful child smiling up at him. And in that moment, he vowed to himself that he'd do anything to one day see that girl again.
Kara had pulled a chair next to Gerry's hospital bed and the two of them sat watching Spaceballs on a laptop she'd brought in. Gerry had gotten the staff to bring the pair of them a couple bowls of ice cream.
On-screen, Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet stood wearing a comically over-sized pith helmet version of his mask while his men ran giant Ace combs. His subordinate, Colonel Sandurz turned to him. "Sir?"
Dark Helmet turned to him with a megaphone. "WHAT?!"
Sandurz jumps, startled before continuing. "Are we being too literal?"
Still speaking into the megaphone, Dark Helmet answered, "No, you fool! We were told to comb the desert, so we're combing it!" Sandurz nods reluctantly as Helmet calls to his men...without the use of the megaphone. "FOUND ANYTHING YET?!"
Two men, both white look up from their giant comb. "Nothing yet, Sir!"
"How 'bout you?!"
Two other white men look up, "Not a thing, sir!"
The camera pans over to two black troopers using an afro pick. "What about you guys?!"
One of the men looked up angrily and shouted, "WE AIN'T FOUND s***!"
Gerry winced as the two of them laughed. Gerry had just finished his ice cream and set his bowl aside. The wounded father glanced over while Kara was busy, still chuckling. He reached over with his little plastic spoon and scooped up some of her ice cream. Kara pulled her bowl away protectively, laughing. "Nooooo! Mine!"
"But...but I'm...I'm...hurt!" he said pleadingly, popping the spoon into his mouth.
"Yeah, duh! I'm taking advantage of it to GET this free ice cream."
"Knew it." He grinned to her.
Kara smirked at him and then offered him the bowl. Gerry held up a hand and shook his head, passing on it. She kicked her feet back up and went back to watching.
Try as he might, Gerry just wasn't able to remember much from the day of the accident. It came in flashes here and there, but nothing from the attack. Kara had laid out the basics for him. The fight, how Gerry had defended her, the beating. Part of him was glad he couldn't remember. If only his memory was the only thing he'd lost. He turned his eyes to Kara. "What happened to...to...uh..." He squeezed his eyes shut. He could see the name, hear it, but for some reason, it just wouldn't reach his lips.
"Tim?" She asked with a frown.
She set aside her empty bowl and brushed her hair behind her ear. "He's...here."
Even under his bandages, she could see his brow furrowed. Her small hand touched his forearm. "He's in protective custody until the hospital releases him to the cops."
"Then what?" Gerry asked.
"Then, I'm going to do anything and everything within my power to put his ass away for a long time." She said.
"Didn't get you in trouble?" He managed.
Kara shook her head. "No. He was about to murder you. Plus, it's not like any jury would buy anything he has to say. He's got a warrant out in Dallas, a record as long as my leg...Basically, they said I could have KILLED him and walked on self defense. Son of a bitch is lucky I just shot him in the shoulder."
Gerry nodded at that, considering. "Good. That's good." For a long moment, the two of them just watched their movie. Gerry's mind was elsewhere though. "You...you don't have to...stay...you know?"
She looked over at him. "You want me to go?"
"No." He said firmly. "No. But..."
"Gerry. I'm right where I wanna be."
Kara adjusted herself in her seat and leaned he head against his arm, taking his hand, their fingers intertwining.
Ginny was talking to the doctor about medications and ways to help the healing process when she heard Kara. Gerry sat in his wheelchair as she pushed him. The doctors had said he COULD walk on his own, but it was hospital policy. It did however give Kara chance to screw with him.
"Ready? TOKYO DRIFT!" She made a sound like a revving engine and they came around the corner, Gerry leaning to away from the turn, Kara making him fishtail while making tire-screeching sounds
"Quarter mile at a time, mother ****ers!" Gerry called out. "WOOOOO-ow..." He bellowed, wincing as a sharp pain hit him.
Kara looked down at him, concerned. "You alright?" she asked.
Gerry's hand touched his ribs and looked up at her. "Only because you were g-granny shiftin' not... double clutchin' like you should. NOW GET ON THAT ****!"
Kara's eyes went wide and she made various unnecessary shifting sounds along with the sound of tires squealing before she pushed him onward. In the past week, his speech had improved greatly. Some days were better than others. It seemed like he could pull movie quotes out perfectly, but conversationally...things were much more difficult for him.
Ginny stared after them un-amused. She called after him. "Hey, you break him, you bought him!" She called after Kara as she rounded the corner.
The woman's voice came back "What?! Seriously? Ger-bear, let's go find some stairs, I'm gonna go all Kathy Bates on you."
Ginny sighed and looked to the doctor. "I'm sorry. I'd say they're not usually like that, but it'd be a lie."
The doctor nodded with a grin. "Oh. No, not at all. We've seen the two of them together. Frankly, the nurses have been talking about them like they're a TV couple. The whole will-they-won't-they..."
Ginny smiled politely. "He's married."
The doctor's brow furrowed. "To her?"
Ginny went to speak, but smiled, pulling in her lips and shook her head.
The doctor gave a laugh and nodded in the direction the two of them had disappeared. "She know that?"
Ginny laughed at that before the doctor continued. "Okay...so...make sure he gets plenty of rest, I'm writing him a prescription for Hydrocodone for any pain. And try to get him talking as much as possible. Trauma to the brain is still kind of a grey area, so we can't give you a definite or even vague idea when Gerry will be talking like normal, but treat it like an exercise. Talk as much as possible. In your paperwork, I've put in a referral to a good speech therapist if he so chooses."
Ginny clung to the folder and nodded. "Thank you, Doctor."
Gerry and Kara came rolling right back up, Gerry singing the Back To The Future theme song. They came to a screeching halt and he leaned back to her. "Do the thing."
Kara did her best Christopher Lloyd. "GINNY! YOU GOTTA COME BACK TO THE FUTURE WITH US! IT'S YOUR KIDS, GINNY! SOMETHING'S GOTTA BE DONE ABOUT YOUR KIDS!"
Kara stepped out of the bathroom and into the living room of Gerry and Ginny's apartment. She reached behind her, pulling her hair back into a pony tail. Gerry was sitting there with Nasya in his arms, the little girl waving her arms around. He hadn't noticed Kara yet and just smiled down at his daughter, humming a little song to her, those bright blue eyes staring up at him and smile on the little girl's face. Gerry tapped her little button nose lightly, making a pop sound to Nasya's delight.
He gasped suddenly and Nasya froze in anticipation. "Ahhhhhh...boop!" He tapped her nose again, drawing a giggle out of the little one. Gerry chuckled with her. "You better watch it. You better watch that nose..."
Kara just leaned against the wall and watched him. When they had met up again, she never, in a million years thought she'd see this side of him. He was so good with her, so loving. And damn he was proud of that kid. Looking back, she couldn't think why she DIDN'T think him capable of. Even when they were kids, he'd been so gentle and caring. Always taken care of her. A smile crossed her face before she approached, leaning against the back of the couch on her elbows.
Gerry glanced back at her with a grin. Kara tickled the baby's tummy "I'mma get this lil' belly!" Nasya squealed and giggled.
Kara turned to Gerry. "Can I hold her?" She asked him hopefully.
Gerry's grin faded slightly. He hesitated a moment. "Yeah Yeah, of course." He carefully transferred her into Kara's arms.
Kara noted that hesitation. She knew where it had come from, too. She might have been around most of this kid's short life, but she was not Keirra. Carefully, she picked her up. "Aww...there's a little angel."
She glanced to Gerry, rocking Nasya in her arms. "Bet you missed this little one."
"More than...more than you can im....imagine." he managed with only a moment's frustration with himself.
A small grin worked it's way onto her face. "That's so weird."
"What?" Gerry asked.
"You can recite the entirety of Jack Nicholson's speech in A Few Good Men, but simple sentences are like...super hard." She explained.
Gerry wasn't quite as amused, she noted. He just nodded. "Yeah...it's...it's a...um." He closed his eyes and snapped his fingers. "Struggle! Struggle. Ugh. ****. Saying struggle is a struggle."
Kara smiled to him warmly. "Well, we'll get you back talking like before, Go."
He shot her one of his patented lopsided grins. "And then...you'll...you'll be b-begging me to...to...to shut up?"
She made a pitying face and chuckled, "Awww-haw-haw....." She glanced up at him. "Exactly."
Speaking sucked. Seriously, every time Gerry wanted to say something, he would find at least one or two words that were inexplicably blocked. He could hear...SEE them in his head, but it was like they were a different language he didn't know and his mouth refused to form them. Weeks of near constant working at it at home and at a speech therapist had helped a bit, but the neurological damage still held him back.
His ribs had, thankfully, mostly healed and weren't causing him immense pain, which was a damn good thing because someone had started crawling. Raising Nasya had turned into a constant struggle to make her NOT die. It was a task that was anything but easy, because she seemed to be drawn to ledges she could go tumbling off of, like a tiny daredevil.
Tim's day in court had come and gone, seeing him being a slapped with a hefty sentence and carted off to prison for attempted murder, with several other counts of murder being investigated. Kara was certain he'd never bother them again.
Kara was another issue altogether. Despite his protests, she was paying him even though he hadn't been capable of working. She would spend a few hours every day looking after him, bringing him lunch and helping him with Nasya while he healed. There were times she'd stop by on weekends and hang out with him all night until she fell asleep leaning her head against him.
He knew how she felt. It was hard to miss. Most men would have taken a look at a woman like her and jumped into bed with her the second she made it known she was up for it. But, Gerry was married still. Being in another realm didn't change that.
She was amazing. Beautiful, kind, funny, smart, caring...and she was wonderful with Nasya, the 7 month old taking incredibly well to her. Gerry would be lying if he said he didn't have feelings for her. But...the reality of the situation remained the same. It was all so complicated and confusing for him, but Keirra might come for him one day. She might be out there looking...and he would be ready when she found him.
Kara stepped up on the makeshift stage in the bar, tapping the microphone. A packed house stood before her, a band setting up behind. "Test...test....you guys hear me?" She asked, her voice amplified over the crowd. They responded with wild cheering.
"Alright! Ladies and Gents, welcome to McAvoy's! I want thank you all for comin' out and plunking your hard earned money on my cheap watered down beer! Woo!" The crowd cheered at that, raising their bottles along with Kara. She beamed over the gathering, a big smile on her face.
" Now, I'm sure most of you know this, but tonight is a special night here. Tonight we welcome back a fan favorite to McAvoy's Pub...Ladies. Gentlemen. Mostly Ladies. Please, give a warm welcome back...to our bartender and my best friend...Gerry Finnegan!" Kara gestured to him as he stood behind the bar offering an awkward, embarrassed wave as the crowd went wild. He, of course realized that they would have cheered if they showed them a rusty shovel at the point, but the thought counted,right? "It's his first night back slinging drinks, so tip well, tip often, but most importantly, have a great time!"
She introduced the band and stepped off-stage, moving over to her tall friend, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and kissing his cheek. Gerry was pouring a drink but grinned over to her. "Welcome back, Go." She said, kissing his cheek again.
It was a busy night, and the pair of them were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Several people talked to Gerry and congratulated him. People she was certain he didn't even know. Lots of them women.
That, she was not too happy about. Gerry was pouring a shot for a girl named Gwynnifer...this blonde 22 year old with a tramp stamp that had a bit of a...loose reputation. And her name was Gwynnifer. Who the hell names their kid Gwynnifer... ****ing obnoxious name. Kara side eyed the living hell out of her popping the cap off a bottle before handing it over with a smile.
"So, like...what do you bench?" Gwynnifer said in flirtatious tone.
Gerry considered that a moment. "It's been a few weeks, but, uh...last time I was....uh...was at the...the...****." He shut his eyes and then popped them open. "The gym I was hitting around 230, 240?"
The girl leaned forward on her elbows, her arms pushing together her cleavage as she looked him over. "Mmm...it shows."
"Oh, thanks!" He said sincerely.
"Thank you. Those arms are just...wow." She said with a grin, really laying it on thick.
Kara rolled her eyes. She wanted to go over and slap the **** out of precious little Gwynnifer. Instead she just cupped her hands. "Hey, Ger bear! Gimme a hand over here!"
Gerry glanced over to Kara. He smiled to Gwynnifer. "Excuse me."
He made his way over to Kara who just discretely stepped over to the cash register with him. "Dude...fair warning...LOADED with HPV."
Gerry chucked. "What?"
"Your girlfriend over there. She's basically just a walking crabs infestation." Kara glanced up at him, raising her brows.
"In that case I'll c-cancel the w-wedding."
Kara smirked and finished ringing up her customer. "Yeah, yuk it up. We'll see how hard your laughing when your swimming in gonorrhea."
The night wore on and eventually the bar cleared out. Kara was paying the band and wishing them a good night while Gerry was counting down the register. She waved to them as she was shutting the door. "Night guys! Thanks again!"
She shut the door and locked it, turning to Gerry and letting out a loud exhausted sigh, slumping against the door. A smile crept onto her face. She quickly went to the back of the bar, carefully hugging him from behind and peering around him. "How'd we do?" She asked.
Gerry glanced back at her, feigning annoyance. "Now I gotta s....start over." He said, making a show of rolling his eyes. With a smirk, he laid down the huge pile of cash and the credit card machine settlement.
Kara's eyes widened. "Wow." She said simply. "I'll have to beat the crap out of you and bring you back once a month if this is the kind of night we get out of it..."
Gerry chuckled and nudged her with his elbow. Kara laughed and gave him a playful shove as he moved past her. She watched him walk away, her smile fading slightly.
A glass was slid across the counter to Kara, its golden contents sloshing around. Gerry stepped up beside her, his own in his hand. The pair of them clinked glasses and looked over the now-empty bar. It was a mess, but that was to be expected after a night like tonight. They brought their beers up and took a sip.
Gerry nodded slowly. "Good night."
"Mm." Kara nodded and smiled to him. "You have fun?"
"Oh, hell yes." He said, a big grin on his face. "Ex...exhausting but g-good."
That seemed to please her. Kara leaned against him, her head on his shoulder. "Lotta people here love you, Go."
Gerry let out a little laugh. "Yeah, I'm sure it had nothing to do with the live band and drink specials."
"I'm serious. The way people respond to you, the way they look at you. And not just the uberskanks with stupid ass names either."
He glanced down at her. "You don't honestly believe I'd be into that, right?"
Kara's ice blue eyes turned up to him. "I dunno. I don't really...uh...know your type."
He supposed he didn't either. His wife was a violent anorexic thief with a chip on her shoulder and he fell head over heels for her. He wasn't sure what that said about him. And there was that brief period where he dated a woman who challenged him to a sparring match and beat the crap out of him. Did he LIKE that? Oh, GOD! Was THAT his thing?!
No. No, he decided. Coincidence. He moved on because it creeped him out. "Well...whatever it is, it's not that... ch-chick, don't worry."
That satisfied Kara. She nodded and grasped his arm, clinging him to her. He'd never say it out loud, but he enjoyed this. Kara was everything he could ask for in a girlfriend. She stared up at him with those beautiful blue eyes, that look on her face that was always only for him. He'd spent so much time fighting for every bit of affection and happiness with Keirra, often at the expense of his own, that he'd forgotten that it needn't be so hard. He'd fought so much that he never though he'd see someone fight just as hard for him. The corners of Kara's mouth upturned almost nervously, anticipation hanging in the air between them. He could be happy here. Happy with her.
Gerry went to speak, but the words didn't come out. Though, not because of his injuries this time. She stared up at him and swallowed, a big smile forming on her face. "Gerry..." She started..
At the same time, he spoke. "We should clean...up..."
Kara looked like someone told her the lottery had made a mistake and she was not, in fact, a millionaire. "O-oh..."
Gerry couldn't make eye contact with her as she let him go. "Yeah..." she said, trying to disguise the hurt in her voice. "Yeah, I guess we should."
He watched her set herself to task, not letting him see her face. She cleared her throat. "Um...you know what? I got this. Why...why don't you just go home." She said
"Oh..no. No it was my p-party, Let me h-help."
She shook her head vehemently. "No, I'd rather you just...went home."
"Come on, Kara."
"Gerry. I'm serious." the frustration in her voice was mounting.
"I am too. Let me-"
"GOD DAMN IT, JUST GET OUT OF HERE!" She shouted, slamming an empty bottle on the counter. She wouldn't let him see her face. Gerry froze in place, just watching her. The silence cut like a knife. He went to speak again, but she cut him off.
"Go." She said in a little voice.
He didn't want to leave. He didn't want to end their night like this. He wanted to explain himself, to make things alright. But that didn't happen. Instead, he walked out the door and headed home.
What a mess. What an unholy awful mess. All the fun and positivity that had come out of the GerryPalooza had been undone in those last moments of the evening. Should he call her? Should he text her? Maybe go and see her? He wasn't sure of the protocol there.
Gerry knew he'd hurt her. Knew she had thought something was about to happen. Hell...HE thought something might in that moment. He still feel his heart pounding beneath his chest as they locked eyes...and that queasy feeling in his stomach when he saw the hope leave her face, replaced by hurt.
Sleep never came that night for the single father, his little girl in his huge arms. She reached up and touched his face, making happy little noises at her father. Gerry smiled down to her making a little surprised face at her. Her tiny hands patting his scruffy face. "Are you grabbing Daddy's beard? You better s-stop it, you." he said in a silly voice.
Nasya giggled, a big grin on her little face as she patted his beard again.
"Oop! Hey! I said nnnnnNO." He said in the faux angry voice, making an exaggerated upset face.
The little girl squealed with amusement her hands leaving his face a moment...holding them apart almost like a threat.
"You better not. You better-"
She clapped her hands on his face, his eyes squeezing shut. Nasya giggled with sadistic delight. There was definitely a little bit of Keirra in her. "Oh...you are in trouble, little MISS!" He leaned in buried his face in her belly. "OMNOMNOMNOMNOM!"
Nasya let loose an ear piercing shriek followed by a prolonged belly laugh. Gerry grinned down to her...not sure how he was ever in a place where he didn't WANT to be a father. It had become the thing he was best at in any world. The sound of her laughter, the smile on her face, those big blue eyes that looked up at him with excitement whenever she saw him. Yes, there were the usual things that came with a baby. She would wake up screaming and there was more than one diaper-related war crime from the tiny little angel, but for the most part, she was perfection.
They were going for another round when a knock came at the door. Gerry glanced over and then looked back to Nasya, gasping. "There's someone at the door!" He set her in her playpen. "Hold down the fort."
The knock came again. "Coming!" He called out ,hustling over.
"Hell-ooooohh...." He said as he opened the door to find Kara standing there, two cups of coffee in her hands, a worried look on her face.
"Hey." She said, forcing a smile.
Gerry stared at her. Her hair pulled back in a messy pony tail, loose strands falling on one side of her face, decked out in a purple tanktop and a flowy dark grey skirt. She looked amazing, he thought.
"Hey. " he managed back.
She offered him the cup she'd bought him, hope on her gorgeous face. He looked down to it and took it slowly. Those deep blue eyes stared up at him a moment. "I'm sorry." She said, shaking her head.
Gerry looked down at the cup in his hand, thinking a long moment. Slowly, he glanced at Kara and gestured with his head to come in, a smile forming.
Kara's face lit up as she stepped past him. Gerry closed the door behind her, sipping his coffee. "Thank you."
Nasya pulled herself up on the edge of her playpen, seeing Kara, making little excited noises. Well that just warmed her heart. Kara looked back to him. "May I?"
Gerry gestured with his hand for her to go ahead. Kara grinned and leaned down. "Hey there, little boo..." She listed the little girl up into her arms. Nasya clapped her hands on Kara cheeks, the woman's face scrunching in response.
Gerry chuckled watching them. Kara giving him a wry look. "Your daddy is a terrible influence." Nasya smiled and giggled.
Kara walked over to the bar counter of the kitchen, hefting Nasya up, while she played with the necklace around the older woman's neck. "Listen...Go...about last night..."
The grin on Gerry's face fell and he nodded. "I know."
"I just...I thought..."
God, that made him feel guilty. He could tell it still hurt her. She looked back up to him. "It won't happen again. I swear."
He held his hand up. "Kara...I get it. I do. I know this is...difficult. It is for me, too. I didn't mean to hurt you."
"I know." she assured him. For a long moment they were just quiet until he set his coffee down and opened his arms.
"C'mon." He said.
Kara smiled and stepped forward, Nasya clung to her as Gerry wrapped those huge arms around them. Kara rested her forehead against his chest as they closed around her and Nasya. "I wouldn't be able to get through this without you. You know that, right?" He said quietly to her, placing a kiss at the top of her head.
Her eyes clamped shut as she smiled, happy and safe in his arms. He wasn't used to this. Usually after a blow out like the last night, he'd have to go chasing after the girl and talk her down off a ledge, convince her to take him back...but there she was. Kara working HARD to earn forgiveness she never had to worry about. It was weird...unnatural...and kind of great. Keirra probably would have hit him and run away...but this...this was nice.
9 year old Gerry stood next to the short, skinny tomboy that was Kara. They were in the living room of their childhood friend, Danny Dubek. Danny was the weird kid in class. He had a speech impediment and a chip on his shoulder. His parents were pretty shameless. They sat now, the old man in a sweat-stained tank top and the wife in her bra and stretch pants, both of them pudgy and sweating in the summer heat.
To say the kids were uncomfortable was an understatement, but they stuck it out, waiting for Danny.
Finally, he came out from his room, his play clothes on. The Dubeks were not a well off family, and everything Danny had was hand-me downs from his older brothers and just hung off his tiny frame. "Aw wight y'aw. Wets go!"
"Ohthankgod" Kara muttered under her breath. The trio took off, Mr. and Mrs. Dubek calling after them. "Ya'll have fun now."
"Bye!" Gerry called over his shoulder.
The trio were terrors of the neighborhood, hassling Old Lady Miller's chickens, or playing ball in the lot behind the general store. Many a window had been busted during their wiffle ball games. Today they were making their way down the street to meet up with another friend when the ice cream truck rolled up.
"Aw! you guyd! Ho'd up! Imba ged dum Ide kweme!" he called after them.
The ice cream man turned around a smile on his face until he saw the kid in front of him. He grumbled to himself and spoke. "Hi, Danny. What can I get you today?"
"I wad a owund dweam tickle. Gibbe a dweam tickle!"
The ice cream man looked weary and nodded. "You got money this time?"
Danny fished through his pockets pulling out a couple pennies and slapped them on the counter. The old man sighed and shook his head. "They're a dollar."
"I don'd godda dowah!" he said insistently.
"Well, then you can't have any ice cream!"
"Cub awn! You know I'b good fowit!" He said
"You never paid me back for the one I LET you have last week! Now, for the last time, you can't get anything for two pennies! And pull your damn PANTS up!"
Danny cursed after him as he climbed back in and drove off. "Bucker! Att ho!"
"Dah! Let's go, man!" They called after him. Dah. That name had stuck with him since the first day of school when the teacher had called him Daniel and he'd responded. "My nambe id Dah!" At first he'd hated the nickname, but eventually grew to accept it.
The three of them met up with little Glen Stark. A year younger than them, he would always try and tag along with them he was standing outside his parents house, a stupid grin on his face as he threw pebbles through a second story window.
The trio approached him and glanced up. Glen threw another pebble a goofy laugh escaping him.
Gerry's brow furrowed, looking over to him. "What...uh...whatcha doin' Glenny?"
Kara looked to him, amused. "No s***."
"Check this out." Glen said and reeled back and threw another one up. The sound of a glass breaking came from inside. along with a nasally cry. The whole group started laughing. Slowly the head of his older brother, Billy emerged from the window. Thick glasses magnified his eyes, his hair parted so precisely you could file papers in it. There were rumors that he never left his room. That he had a pee bucket to keep him from having to. He just played with his chemistry set and read sci-fi novels. Now, he looked PISSED and the laughter tapered off.
"Glen. If I...EVER...catch you doing that again..." he said in a shaky voice, Glen's head lowering in shame. "I am going to BEAT...the livin'...s*** outta you."
Gerry snorted and tried not to laugh.
"You know what ya did?!" Billy continued, "Ya knocked over bottle a' nitric acid! Burned a big hole in my desk! I hope you're happy!"
Gerry broke, a laugh escaping him. Kara elbowed him and snorted.
"I'm sorry, Billie..."He said almost crying.
The group took off and ran off to play a game of touch football with some of the other neighborhood kids...that would inevitably turn into a full contact. Mostly from Kara. One year later, Danny's parents would be transferred out of state and he was gone.
It had been 21 years. 21 years since life had changed so drastically. Now...he was home. Bright green eyes took in the exterior of that bar. McAvoy's, the place his father had gone almost every night when they lived here. It looked much the same as he remembered. Some new lighting and the music selection had changed, but for the most part, still the same. It was amazing how the old neighborhood had changed and grown in all that time. New subdivisions, a new man-made lake, new businesses...hell they had a Walmart there now and the K-Mart was an empty building, recognizable only by the dirty mark in the shape of the signage.
The town was much like him. It looked familiar and maintained its name...but was very much changed. He pushed open the door and stepped inside, Whitesnake blaring on the speakers. Whoever owned this place now had done a lot to modernize it. No longer an old man bar, the place had pool tables, music that wasn't Perry Como or Johnny Cash, and completely new decor from the taxidermied animal heads Old Man McAvoy had hung up everywhere. Danny remembered them very well. No, this was very-
He stopped in his thoughts, seeing the woman behind the bar. God, she was beautiful. And...and something familiar about her face. He was trying to place it, who was she?
The woman glanced over her shoulder and called, "Go, grab another bottle of the Three Olives from the back, will ya? I'm out."
And then it clicked, his jaw dropping. My God, he thought. Kara. And...his eyes trailed to the man who responded...a tall, hulking man in a tight t-shirt strategically engineered to earn him more tips from the straight female and gay male clientele. Go. That was what she called him when they were kids. Gerry Finnegonads. Oh, those razor sharp 7 year old wits, he thought. A sly grin curved Danny's lips as he made his way over, elbows leaning on the bar.
Kara turned to him with a smile. "Hey, how's it goin'? What can I do ya for...." she trailed off, narrowing her eyes. Something familiar about the face before her. "Do I know you?"
Danny thought back to how he used to talk and did his best to bring it back. "Heddo, Kawa." he said with a smirk.
Her blue eyes went wide, her mouth dropping and forming an "o" shape. "Dah? ****in' DAH Dubek?!"
He laughed and spoke, his voice deep, smooth, a mild British accent to it now, those green eyes squinting ever so slightly as he laughed. "That is a name I have not heard in a very long time." He said.
Kara threw her hands up and laughed. "WHAT?! Oh my g- WHAT?! LOOK at you! Holy ****! " She exclaimed. The gorgeous bartender practically ran around the bar, wrapping him in a big hug. God, she even smelled amazing.
"What happened to your voice?! You lost the...the...thing!" She said, her eyes also trailing over his body. Danny's fitness regime was very strict, as he had found himself with a lot of high impact hobbies.
He chuckled. "Yes! Long time ago. Out of necessity, as it turned out."
"What's with the accent?" She asked, sitting on a bar stool across from him.
That was when Gerry came out, a bottle of vodka in his hand. He looked around for Kara and found her talking to...who was that? He looked familiar. Gerry squinted. Finally he just put the bottle on he back shelf and approached. Danny smiled to him, flashing those pearly whites. Gerry offered him a polite nod and looked to Kara, trying to sound nonchalant. "Who's this?"
Kara face was still lit up with a smile. "Go...you're not gonna believe this but..."
Danny smirked, "Dewwy don'd be a bucker." He said simply.
Gerry's brow furrowed in confusion, but then his eyes went wide when it clicked. "NO!" He said backing away. "NO ****ING WAY!" Laughter escaped him. "DUDE! DAH?! What the hell, b-brother! Get over here, you att ho!" Danny was taken by surprise as Gerry wrapped him in a big hug, almost pulling him across the bar. Finally, he let him go and looked him over. "How the hell you b-been, man?"
Danny laughed and nodded. "I've been rather good, yeah! Just keeping busy."
Gerry looked delighted at his improved speech and accent. "Whaaaaat?! Listen to YOU, m-man! You sound...uh...you sound..uh...GREAT!"
Danny noted his troubles speaking and his smile faded slightly. He perked right back up for Gerry's benefit. "Oh...yes. Bit of a long story, that."
"Where you been?" Gerry asked him. The three of them talked, Gerry and Kara listening in between serving drinks to his stories of world travel, how he had spent the majority of his adult life writing for various news organizations and doing nature photography for various magazines, TV Shows, websites, and blogs. He pulled up pictures of him with a tribe of painted-faced aboriginals somewhere deep in the heart of Africa, several of him riding and befriending an elephant, some shots he'd gotten of Lions and Jaguars, and him at the summit of Everest. Dah Dubek had lived a helluva life.
Eventually, closing time came and the trio were alone. Gerry locked up and headed back, Danny and Kara in mid conversation.
"So, I've got this Koala bear staring me in the face, and they look VERY cute, right? Like a big teddy bear. But I know, they are just vicious little bastards, right?" He grinned. "So, I'm moving slowly back...back away from this little furry death machine, trying not to set him off. And this...bloody ****ing moron in the crew just shouts, 'Holy ****! Is that a Koala!'" Danny chuckled. "So, this little bugger snaps to him and just charges at him. He thinks it's coming to hug him or something, but when that thing leapt up and bit into his leg, he just starts screaming and trying to run away, but the Koala won't let go! I'm yelling at him 'Stop! Stop! You're just making him mad!'"
Gerry grinned and sat the table, plucking up his bottle. "Alright...so...I g-gotta hear." He started, but had trouble continuing. "Th-the...uh....the um...." He snapped his fingers, trying to find the words. "The voice!" He finally managed.
Danny smirked "Ah yes. Well...it was, uh...let's say born out of necessity. See, when my mother and father moved from Clute, we traveled all over the states. But I couldn't make any friends like I had here. When I was 13, my father was transferred to London."
Off the looks on their faces he chuckled. "Yes, the UK was ill prepared for Barry and Linda Dubek." He smirked. "Anyway, I decided to seek out a speech therapist. Basically, they taught me how to speak all over again. It took almost 3 years for me to perfect my speech and I found that when I had, I developed a bit of my instructor's accent."
"Wow." Kara said. "Well, it paid off."
"Oh, I completely agree." Danny said. "Can you imagine me going up to National Geographic and saying 'Heddo. I wanda tate pit-tuhs of po-wuh bay-uhs!'"
Gerry and Kara laughed. Danny took a sip of his bottle and turned his attention to Gerry. "Forgive me if this rude or...intrusive...but I noticed you having a bit of trouble with your own speech."
Gerry's grin faded. His eyes lowered slightly and he nodded. "There was a...a, uh..."
"Fight." Kara finished for him. Gerry nodded and gestured to her. She continued, "Gerry took a pretty vicious blow to the head."
Danny nodded. "There was some neurological trauma?" He asked, knowing the answer. "Dysnomia, right? That's what they diagnosed?"
Gerry laughed. "Yeah. It's...better some times than others."
"Well, I have a bit of experience with trouble speaking, so if you ever want to talk about it, I do know a few techniques that might help." Danny smiled as Gerry nodded.
Kara smiled to their old friend. "How long are you in town?" She asked.
"I'm not sure yet. There was that oil spill they've got me covering, but given the way the company's been acting, I think they want me to stay as long as the story develops. I figured, if I'm going to be near here anyway, I might as well visit my old home."
Gerry smiled at that and raised his bottle. "Well, Dah, it's good to have you b-back."
"Cheers. Good to be back." he said, clinking his bottle to each of their's.
Kara agreed to meet Danny for lunch the next day. Gerry was helping his parents with bring in a new bed, so he had to pass. The two of them walked down the street, leaving a Chipotle, burritos in each of their hands as they ambled along.
"So, what have you been up to?" Danny asked, a grey t-shirt clinging to his long, toned torso.
Kara glanced over, chewing on her food. "Mm!" she started, chuckling as she swallowed. "Well, I got taller. Grew myself some boobs..."
An amused grin on his face he nodded. "Yes, I would hope so." He took a bite, and waited until he'd finished chewing. "When did you take over the bar?"
She thought back a moment. "Well...let's see..." she said, her eyes squinting. "I started working for McAvoy back in...09? Just working part time, slinging drinks."
"Driving all the lads crazy?" Danny said with that charming little grin. Kara blushed a bit and tried to hide it by taking another big bite.
"So..." she continued, "Around 2010, he got really sick, so I took over most of his workload. When he passed in 2012, he left the place to me. Been running it ever since."
"Good for you." He said sincerely. "I always knew you'd do well."
Kara smiled, a little self-satisfied grin for herself. She WAS doing well, thank you. She glanced to him. "So...other than living like a Indiana Jones, how's life?"
Green yes glanced upward as his cheeks puffed out, a sigh leaving him. "Um...Good." he smiled. "It's all rather exciting, you know? I've been all over, seen and done some amazing things, met a whole lot of interesting people." He nodded. "I had a drink or two with a 98 year old man in Cape Town. Amazing fellow. He talked about all the things he'd seen and this...unbelievable life he'd lead. Running from Nazis, joining an underground resistance movement. Ended up becoming a contractor out in the middle east, digging irrigation ditches...just...phenomenal ."
Kara started giggling as she chewed her food and listened. Danny grinned to her. "What?"
"It's just...it's so weird hearing you use words like 'Phenomenal' now. No WAY could you have even attempted to pronounce that word when we were kids."
Danny chuckled and nodded. "I suppose not. Yes, it took quite a bit of work getting to where I am."
She appraised him. "Good for you. That's awesome. You look great, too."
"High praise from a Goddess. I thank you."
Her brows raised and her skin turned bright red. How did he do that and NOT make it sound cheesy? Was it the accent, she wondered? "So...Um..." She cleared her throat. "What's the story? Wife, kids?"
He balled up the tinfoil of his food and tossed it in a trashcan. "Sadly, no. I'm never in one place very long. Doesn't leave a lot of time for romance, I'm afraid."
Kara nodded and finished off her lunch, disposing of its wrapper.
"What about you? How long have you and Gerry been together?"
Kara snorted and almost choked on her food, launching into a coughing fit before she busted out laughing.
"I've said something funny?" He said with an amused smirk on his face.
"Yeah...Gerry and me...that's...it's just not." She said.
Danny tilted his head quizzically, "No? I thought I saw something...there."
"It's....a long story." Kara tried to brush it off.
"Short version, then?" He said.
"He's...technically married and has a daughter." Kara answered. That WAS indeed the short version.
"Oh? And when might I meet her?" Danny said excitedly.
"His wife? You...probably won't?" she said scratching at the side of her nose.
He quirked a brow at her. "This IS a complicated tale, isn't it?"
Kara let out a weary laugh. "Brother, you don't know the half of it."
Ginny heard a knock at the door, drawing her attention away from the TV. Gerry was on the floor egging Nasya on to come crawl to him. "Come on! Cyyyyyome on, Precious face! Come to Daddy!" She made little excited noises and crawled clumsily over to him, Gerry scooping her up immediately, with a gasp. "YyyyyYAAAAAY! NASYA'S THE SMARTEST BABY IN THE WORRRRRLLLLLLD!" He mimicked the sound of a cheering crowd and started chanting her name and hoisting her up and down to her delight.
Ginny chucked and opened the door. On the other side was a man she didn't recognize in the slightest. Reddish brown hair, a few days of beard, bright green eyes...a pretty man, as far as men went, she had to admit.
The stranger scoffed looking at her. "Virginia Lee Finnegan."
Well. That was weird. How the hell did THIS guy know her name?
"Danny!" Gerry called out.
Danny? Then, she looked at him, those already big blue eyes widening. "Wait...Danny DUBEK?"
"Afraid so, love."
Ginny took him in. "Whoa."
His brow quirked and he started laughing. She tried to recover. "I mean...hi!" She said wrapping him up in a big hug.
"How are you, Ginny?" He asked, returning the hug.
"I'm...I'm good! Forget about me, how the hell are you?!" She said. "You look amazing and...your VOICE!"
There was a prideful smile there. He tried not get too steeped in his own ego, but there things he'd earned that he still patted himself on the back for.
"Thank you. And look at you! Pretty as a picture!"
Ginny chuckled and blushed, looking away, red-faced. "Heh....naaaaaah...." What the hell was THAT? She wasn't even attracted to men!
Danny chuckled and looked to Gerry as he approached with Nasya. That grin dropped as if in utter amazement. He looked at her, mouth agape. "My God, Gerry..." He said.
"Danny, this Nasya." He said, his own proud smirk on his face. The little girl with the impossibly blue eyes and raven hair was pulling at the neck of her papa's t-shirt.
Ginny watched as their long lost friend reached up squeezing one of those pudgy little arms, drawing a high pitched giggle from her. "Hello there, munchkin!" He smiled. "My God, Gerry...she's beautiful."
It was hard to believe this was the same kid she'd known growing up. "She's due for a NAP is what she is." Ginny reached out with grabby hands. "Come on. I'll leave you boys to it."
Gerry handed Nasya over to her. Ginny took her gingerly and looked to Danny.
"It is SO good to see you." She said
Danny grinned back at her. "Likewise."
She carried the little blue eyed wonder to the bedroom.
Danny sat down on the couch, The Shawshank Redemption was on TNT...because it always seemed to be. Gerry stepped over, handing him a beer.
"Thank you." Danny said. "And thank you for having me over."
Gerry nodded. "Ab-absolutely!" He sat down with his own bottle, looking at his old friend. He rose his bottle to him. "Cheers."
Danny clinked his bottle in return. The two men sipped their drinks.
"You've got a nice place here, mate." Danny said.
"Oh, thanks." Gerry smiled over.
"So...Kara told me a few things." Danny said pointedly.
"Uh oh." Gerry responded with a smirk.
Danny chuckled. "No, no no...nothing awful. But...did you really just...wake up on a PIRATE ship?"
Gerry went to lie, but then he just grinned."Yeah." He laughed, "Yes I did. And....and...full-on, Jack Sparrow p-pirate ship. Not 'I ahm de keptin now' pirate."
Gerry remembered them being little kids and playing pirate, always trying to get Kara to be the maiden in distress, but she would never have it. She commanded her own ship of scoundrels, as she called them. Captain Red Mary was the scourge of the playground. Their imaginary crews sometimes filled in with the ranks of whatever kids were there that would do what they said.
Danny laughed. "That is absolutely amazing! She told me it's this...whole other world?"
"Yeah! Oh yeah. Like a...a..." He shut his eyes.
"Breathe. See the word. You know it." Danny said in that smooth low voice of his that seemed to charm most people he came into contact with.
"Intersection." Gerry said. "Of impossible things. D-different r-realities. All of them..." He clasped his hands together signifying that they all came together.
Danny was enthralled. A new world that few in this one had ever heard of? That sounded like an adventure he could sink his teeth into. "That....that sounds amazing."
"It is. A bit...terrifying at times. But amazing. It was home." Gerry said wistfully.
Danny gave him a knowing smile. "You gave it up for her, though, didn't you? For Nasya."
Gerry's eyes turned to his old friend. "Yes. All of it. My business, my penthouse, my money, my wife. I gave it all up."
"Well...from what I understand, you haven't quite given her up. Much to...a mutual friend's dismay." Danny said with a grin.
"I made a vow." Gerry said. "Death do us part. Well...neither of us are dead yet."
Danny's brows rose as if impressed. He raised his bottle. "You are a rock, sir."
Gerry was keen to change the subject as silence had settled. "So, you k-keep in t-touch with any of the...the n-neighborhood after you left?"
"Well...I DID see Glen once. I was in Afghanistan on assignment Had to be about...07? He was stationed there with his unit. Bold as ever, brave. But I could tell it had taken a bit from him. Some of that...that fire in him was just..." He spread out his fingers. "Gone."
Gerry frowned and took a swig of his bottle.
"We talked about life and where it had taken us and the old days and family..." Danny nodded with a distant smile. Slowly, it faded.
"Three weeks later, I heard that he was on patrol and was killed by an IED in a trashcan." Danny sat with a grave look on his face. "I was glad to have talked to him. One last time."
Gerry nodded slowly. Kara had told him about that, but it still didn't make it easy to think about. "What about Billy?"
Danny laughed and nodded with a mouth full of beer. "Ah yes...Billy. From what Glen told me, Billy was working for some laboratory in Illinois. Fitting, that, yes?"
Gerry grinned. "You remember that time we climbed his f-....fence and found that bucket."
A chuckle escaped his old friend. "Yes! Big...rusty old bucket full of just...the most disgusting glop."
Gerry laughed. "You kept poking it with a stick."
Danny was laughing so hard it came out as a hoarse wheeze. He nodded vehemently. "Yes! And then Glenny comes out..." He gasped in air. "'Hey! That's our dinner!'" His voice shook with laughter.
Gerry was right there with him. "Oh man..."He said catching his breath. "Oh! You remember Jimmy Savage?"
"Yes!" Danny said excitedly and then made a face. "Great guy. Bloody psychopath. But great guy."
"So, this was about a m....month after you l-left. We're p-playing two hand touch, right? And you remember how that always ended up."
Danny's eyes widened. "Oh God....Yes! Yes! It was supposed to be touch, but..you know...more of a guideline than a rule, of course."
"Exactly! You got it, what was his problem?" Gerry said with a grin. "So, I NAIL him. Just blast him when he's got the ball. Starts cryin' and he goes runnin' off crying to his old man."
Danny started laughing "Awww...poor Glenn."
"H-half hour later...here comes old man Stark. Big-ass turkey drumstick in his hand, just chompin' away..." Gerry started imitating the old man, making chewing noises and talking like he had a mouth full of food. "'Tell ya one thing, Finnegan. You gotta problem with Glenny, you come talk to me. You don't lay a finger on my boy.' "
Danny laughed incredulously "Whaaaat?"
Gerry held up a finger. "Hold on it gets better. He THEN points at me and goes, 'Go 'head Glenny, hit him. He ain't gonna do nothin'.'"
Danny's jaw dropped and his brows rose. "No."
Gerry nodded with a big grin. "And there's Jimmy Savage. With a baseball bat, ready to take the old man out. I had to try and signal him NOT to without them noticing." He said, shaking with laughter.
Danny busted up laughing. "COMPLETE PSYCHOPATH!"
That just made Gerry laugh harder. "But...hahahaha...but a great man!"
Bill was in garage with Gerry, the two of them working on an old 71 Challenger. The hunk of a car had sat in that garage in a state of disrepair for over a decade. Not long ago, Bill had broached the idea to him of finishing it up together. Gerry's hospital stay and subsequent recovery put a pretty big damper on that, but the old man was happy they were finally getting back to work. Oldies were playing as Bill slid into the driver's seat, setting a beer can on the roof.
"Alright, Pop, try it." Gerry said from behind the hood.
Bill turned the key, and engine whirred, trying to start, but it just would not turn over.
"Damn...."Gerry said, staring down at the engine. Bill frowned and climbed back out, snagging his can as he rounded the car. He had to admit, even when things weren't working, he was ecstatic to be working with his son.
"What ya think, kid?" He asked sipping his beer.
Gerry bent down tilting his head. "You kn-" He sighed when he couldn't come up with the word. God that always broke Bill's heart. He wanted to help, but there was nothing he could do. "Know before I came here I only ever drove a car once, right?"
Bill clasped his shoulder, giving him a sympathetic smile before moving on. "You'll get it."
Gerry grabbed his can and leaned against the workbench while Bill hunched over the engine. "So, how's Kara?"
"She's fine. You hear who's b-back in t-town?" Gerry asked.
"Remember Dah Dubek?" Gerry grinned.
Bill smirked an glanced back at his son. "Dubek...Ain't that the kid who burned down his garage?"
Gerry laughed. "That was Wally, his Brother."
"That's right!" Bill laughed. "What was that song you kids you used to sing?"
"DOUBLE YOU AAAAA...L L Y, D-U-B-E-K! His naaaame is Wally Dubek! HE burned down his garage! DOUBLE YOU AAAAA...L L Y, D-U-B-E-K! " Gerry sang with a smirk. "Never got a second...uh...second verse cuz he'd t-try to b-beat the s-**** out of us."
When he finally stopped laughing Bill shook his head. "You three were a handful."
"We were. " Gerry nodded with a chuckle.
"So, how's he been?"
Gerry sipped his beer and made a face "Oh man. That dude has had a HELL of a life. He's British now."
Bill's face scrunched up an incredulous laugh leaving him. "What do you mean he's British? You don't just BECOME British..."
Gerry shrugged. "He's got the...the...the accent. Guess he had a whole b-bunch of speech therapy in England."
"You mean he's not running around throwing garbled swears at people anymore?" Bill asked.
"No! He's kind of...uh...what's...Eloquent. Lots of big words." Gerry said feeling especially dumb with his sentence fragments and frequent word searches. Bill knew that look. The boy was disappointed in himself. Gerry watched him a long moment,
"So...you concerned?" Bill asked him.
Gerry quirked a brow turning to his father. "About?"
Bill shrugged and took a sip of his beer. "I dunno. Things with you and Kara being what they are....eloquent old friend shows up..."
Gerry laughed. "What? You think she'd go for him?"
Again, Bill shrugged. He REALLY wanted his son to end up with that girl. They were great for each other, dammit! If only the kid would stop dragging his damn fool feet.
Gerry seemed more amused than concerned now. "She's NOT interested in him. I guarantee it."
Bill crossed his arms. "If she was?"
"But if." Bill asserted. "What would you do."
Gerry sighed. "In the HIGHLY unlikely event of THAT...I'd...probably be cool with it. She deserves someone good."
Bill stared at his son with a knowing smirk. "She does." he agreed.
"And that can't be me, so..." Gerry trailed off.
Bill made a face. Gerry could be such a damn martyr...
"You know, I was married before I met your mother?"
Gerry gave him a doubtful look. Bill nodded matter-of-factly, in response. "Back in '74. Girl named Emily Brown. We were high school sweethearts. Stuck together through college, and graduated together. Seemed like it would last forever, so...we got married right after graduation."
Gerry clearly hadn't known that. He just stared at his father. "What happened?"
"We weren't right for each other." Bill said simply. "Moved into an apartment and all those little annoyances piled and piled. We were fighting more and more...eventually, I came home from work and she was gone. Just a note saying 'it's over, I'm sorry.'"
Even all these years later, Bill could still feel the sting of that moment. "That was 77. Three years later, I met your mom and I've been in love with her ever since. But it wasn't easy. See, you're like me kid. You took a vow and you hold that vow sacred. You want to live up to the words you said, the oaths you took. That was ME anyway. But the second your mother came into my life, she started making it better. Not in big, earth-shattering ways. Just the little things. Making me laugh again. Making me smile. Being there, a friend when I needed her. And no matter how fervently I denied it to myself and everyone else...there it was."
Gerry couldn't help but smile at that. "What happened to Emily?"
"She's married to a former lawyer. Had 7 kids. Whole mess of grand kids."
"The point is, if you feel something, don't deny yourself because you're holding onto something you will never get back." Bill said, looking his son in the eye. "You may miss out on the best thing that ever happened to you."
Danny sat at one of bar tables with Gerry and Kara,the place empty from customers, the doors locked for the evening. The three of them just sitting and chatting. Danny was in the middle of a story about a trip in New Zealand.
"Lovely family. They lived on this dairy farm...must have been about 200 cows in 8 separate paddocks. And...my god, Kara, Gerry?" He looked distant for a moment, a fond smile on that handsome face. "It was beautiful. green mountains all around, and off in the distance, if you looked, you could see Mount Ngauruhoe." Off the blank looks they gave him, he pressed on. "Er...Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings, so the fellow who owned the farm told me."
Kara grinned. "Wow, that's awesome."
Danny nodded. "But the humility in this place. I don't know that they knew what they had. That they lived in one of the most picturesque places I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. When I asked him about it, the old man turns to me and says. 'Yeah. I guess it's kinda nice.'" he said with a chuckle.
Gerry and Kara laughed, the former shaking his head.
Kara took a pull off her bottle. "You ever make it back here in any of this time?"
Danny made a bit of a face and shook his head. "If I had I'd definitely have tried to look the pair of you up." He assured them. "Closest I came in the state was Houston 6 years ago, I suppose."
Gerry smiled at that. "How're your parents doing?" He asked his old friend.
"Ah, you know. Being retired. Mum and dad stayed overseas. They're living in Finchley now. Life there straightened Dad out some. Mum just loved it, really."
Kara sent over a sly smirk. "What about Wally."
Danny nearly choked on his beer, drawing a laugh out of Gerry.
"Wally...well..Wally didn't do so well. You remember what hard-ass he always tried to be? Well, our schoolmates and the headmaster didn't put up with any of that. Three months after he turned 18, he moved back to America. Ended up going to some place in Illinois for Uni. Now he works for Groupon or somesuch." He grinned, a bit distant again. "Don't see him much, really."
The bar was silent a moment before Danny pressed on. "I've missed this." He said simply.
Kara and Gerry looked to him, they had to admit, they had too.
"Growing up, I always thought the three of us were going to be together forever. Running around, chasing Grandma Bunnie's chickens..." He said, laughing at the memory.
Gerry's brows raised as he laughed. He put on a thick Polish accent and imitated an old lady's voice. "DA-NEH! DA-NEH!"
Kara busted up and put on the same accent. "Da-neh, da-neh, da-neh. You useda be setch a gooooood boy. You come over, you say 'grrrrrandma, grrrrrrandm-NOWYOUBADBOY!"
Gerry was just cracking up, scratching the back of his head. "Man, Ol' Grandma got raw on ya!"
Danny nodded as if to say "RIGHT?!" as he sipped from his bottle. "Oh, you remember Shirley Bazman?"
Kara rolled her eyes "The love of your life?" She said sarcastically.
"What? She wasn't that bad..." Danny tried to justify with a chuckle.
"She had a lazy eye and she always smelled like kitty litter even though her family didn't have cats! She insisted that Silverhawks was better than the ****ing Thundercats!" Kara said as if it was the greatest crime mankind had ever committed.
Gerry rolled his eyes in mock indignation. "You know what, TIME is gonna tell on that."
"Uh...it's been like 30 years. And WHICH show got a half-decent remake? OH...right. Suck on THAT, Copper Kid." Kara said.
"Hey!" Gerry said. "Silverha-hawks had that bad-ass s-space octopus."
"Yeah, and friggin' SPACE Cyndi Lauper who fought them with the power of her rock!" She said with an incredulous look on her face.
Gerry just shook his head. "Yeah, that just makes it sound MORE awesome."
Kara went to talk, but stopped, looking disappointed in herself. "God damn it, it DOES..."
Danny couldn't help but laugh at the two of them. Being on the go so often didn't leave much room for closeness. Sure, he had made friends here and there, but nothing like the closeness the two of them had. He was just glad they extended it to him when he showed back up. Mostly, he was glad to see that life hadn't changed who they were at their core. Gerry finished off his beer and stood up. "Well...I better get g-going. Get home to the kid and whatnot."
Danny smiled up to him, the pair of them grabbing eachother's hands in a friendly goodbye. Gerry and Kara hugged each other tightly, him placing a kiss at her cheek. "Night guys." He said before heading out the door. Danny watched after him and then looked to Kara. She noticed and smiled to him.
"Hey." He said.
"Hi." Kara smiled back.
"So...I wanted to...talk to you about something." Danny said.
Kara tilted her head as she sat. "Yeah? What's that?"
Danny brought the bottle to his lips, taking a drink. "So...things are unlikely to...progress between you two, right?" He asked.
That caught her off guard. "Uh...I don't...I don't know?" She said, a bit confused.
"I know...never say never. Right?" he asked with a grin. "I'm just..." He stopped and thought. "I would like to know if you would like to...go out sometime?"
Kara's face paled. "What?" She asked.
"I think...that you are a wonderful, gorgeous, funny, strong and charming woman, and I would like to take you out sometime." He said matter of factly.
Kara still looked shell shocked. "I..I....like-like on a date?"
"I believe that is what they call it, yes." He said with a small chuckle.
"I...Danny...I don't know. I mean...it's not that I don't WANT to go with you...or that I don't think you're attractive. Because..." She gestured to him, making a face. "Come on."
Danny bowed his head in thanks. "But?"
She sighed. "I mean...with Gerry and me..."
"Kara. I'm not asking you to marry me." He said in an amused tone. "I'm asking you, a single woman to come out with me a single man. No expectations, no pressure. Just two people enjoying each other's company. Just seeing where it goes."
Danny could see the wheels spinning and he smiled to her. "I think you are amazing. And I hate to see someone amazing being forced to wait in the wings while someone tries to make up their mind." Those green eyes looked straight into her's. "I love Gerry...but you deserve better than that."
Kara couldn't help but smile. She had to admit...it felt pretty damn good to have someone pursuing HER for a change. And it was Dah! No...not Dah, Danny. And Danny looked like THAT.
"So?" He asked. "What do you say?"
Kara looked to him...and smiled.
It was a friday night and Gerry and Kara were just wrapping things up for the evening. Gerry stood behind the counter, counting down the register as Kara locked up. The slender brunette, walked over and leaned her elbows on the table.
"We filthy rich?" She asked him.
Gerry snickered "Oh yeah. Rollin' in it." Those cerulean eyes rolling to her. "We did p-pretty good. That damn concert kinda...uh...hit us." He said making a dissatisfied face.
Kara watched him a moment, the wheels turning behind those smokey blue eyes. She wet her lips and pushed a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "So, um...listen. I'm taking tomorrow night off and having Shane come in."
Gerry closed the register and put the cash and receipts in an envelope before he turned his gaze to her, concerned. "Everything alright?"
She looked to him, her brows raised before she smiled and tried to play it cool. "Oh. Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Just have plans."
Gerry looked to her doubtfully, sliding the envelope. "You sure? You sure everything's okay?"
She looked down at the envelope and collected it, checking the contents. Anything to keep from making eye contact. "Mm? " she looked up to him and nodded. "Oh. Mmhm. Yeah."
She walked into the backroom where her office was, Gerry watching her go. Yeah, he decided. She was acting weird. He followed after her, leaning on the door, watching her stow away the envelope in a safe. "Where ya goin'?" He asked her, arms crossed.
"Oh...Um...just out...with some friends." She was really keeping herself busy with ANYTHING, completely failing at looking natural.
"Uh huh." Gerry nodded. "Which friends?"
Kara looked up, wide-eyed. "Hm?"
"Which friends you goin' out with? Anyone I kn-know?"
She made an annoyed face. "What are you, writing a book?"
Gerry smirked and held up his hands. "Just curious." She breezed on past him. "So?" he asked, looking after her.
Kara sighed, her shoulder slumping in defeat. "Danny."
Gerry's lips parted as he went to say something. It slowly dawned on him what she was saying. "Oh. So..."
"Yeah. We're...gonna go out."
Gerry nodded, chewing his upper lip. "Just, uh...just the two of ya?"
Kara nodded, looking more than a little guilty. "Is that...okay?" She said cautiously.
Gerry looked up to her and forced a smile. "Yeah...yeah."
She tilted her head. "You sure?"
He furrowed his brow and nodded. "Well..." He forced that smile again. "Well, I'm gonna...head out."
Kara wasn't blind. She could see he was upset, but she just lowered her eyes and nodded. "I'll, grab my keys. Give you ride."
"You know...that's okay." He said. "It's a nice night. I'm j-just gonna w....w..walk." He said, REALLY trying to keep calm.
"Ger...it's like a mile and a half."
"I know. It's cool. I'm fine." That fake smile was working overtime. "Kay? I'll see you later."
He pushed through the side door and stepped out, leaving Kara standing there. She leaned over on the bartop, her head in her hands.
Kara leaned in front of the mirror, finishing up her make-up. The whole day she'd been getting guilt pangs, but the more she thought about it, the less it bothered her. After all, Gerry had made it pretty clear that nothing was going to happen between them. She was single, and a devastatingly handsome man WANTED to take her out. She looked at her reflection in the mirror and smiled, finally satisfied, when the knock came at the door. One last check of her lipstick before she hustled over to the door.
Danny stood on the other end, a white collared shirt open three buttons down with a navy blue pinstripe blazer on top. His chiseled jaw shaved smooth and graced with a grin as he looked her over. "Wow." He said simply.
Kara blushed, red spreading over her sun-kissed skin. She wore a sleek black dress that hugged her curves, a short, black cardigan covering her arms and shoulders. A necklace decorated her long slender neck. A smile crossed her lips as she stepped aside. "Right back at you."
Danny stepped in the two sharing a brief embrace, his lips pressing to her cheek. "How's it going?" He asked her, stepping inside.
She stepped aside and let him come in. "Good! Great to have a night off for a change."
"Aren't you the boss?" He asked her with a chuckle.
"Yeah, dude, but I leave that place in anyone else's hands for too long and that bitch'll burn to the ground." She said playfully.
Danny laughed and looked around. "Your place...it's..."
"It's a ****hole." Kara deadpanned.
"What?" Danny chuckled.
"You and Gerry both. Total bull-**** artists." She shook her head with a faux accusatory look thrown at him. "I dunno, I'm thinking about getting a nicer place. I mean...I've got the money, it's just..."
Danny watched her, having a feeling he knew exactly what she was waiting for. He decided to throw her a bone and change the subject. "Well, what do you say we get going?"
Gerry stood at the bar, hard at work. A lot of the concert crowd had spilled over into the bar. Tonight he was working the Shane. And...how to describe Shane? Every happy, dumb, douchebag coworker you've ever had. Gerry was slinging drinks while he flirted with anything with two legs and a pair of breasts. Gerry was in the weeds, a particularly redneck-y guy whistling for his attention.
"Yeah, I'll be-" Gerry started.
"YO! Let's go!" the Redneck shouted.
"I'LL BE RIGHT THERE! SETTLE THE **** DOWN!"
Tonight was already bad enough, but these people and his "help" tonight were just exacerbating everything. He finished with the customer in front of him, a dozen more demanding his attention. Where the hell was Shane?
Oh. Right. The dopey blonde kid with the surfer boy good looks and hair in front of his face was chatting up some redhead. "Shane!" Gerry called out.
"SHANE!" He tried again.
"HEY *** HOLE!" He called again. That one got his attention. Shane turned to him and opened his arms as if to say "what the hell?" Gerry gestured to the customers. "Play hide the needle on your own time! Let's go!"
Shane reluctantly moved on to do his job. Yep. This was going to be an awful night.
Kara sat in Danny's rented black Chrysler 300. She leaned back in the seat, watching the streetlights pass in the window as Danny talked. "So, there I am, 40 meters over a raging river and they've got me all...strung up for the jump. Heart is POUNDING in my chest. I'd never done anything like it in my life, right?"
She turned to him with a smile, listening.
"I'm thinking 'something horrible's gonna go wrong' and I'll end up that dumb tourist who got killed bungee jumping on his first try." He smirked.
"How'd you do it?" She asked with a shake of her head.
"I just let go. All my worries, all my hold-ups. I decided that I didn't want to waste anymore opportunities to experience something great. If I'm going to have any kind of life worth living...I have to actually live it."
That made Kara smile. It was a damn good motto.
Two wannabe cowboys decided tonight was GREAT night to start brawling. One flat out coldcocked the other. Gerry rolled his eyes and let out a disgusted sound. "Shane!"
Once again, his back up was indisposed. Gerry grit his teeth and moved around the bar quickly. The two burly cowboys grappled each other. Gerry grabbed the nearest from behind and caught an elbow to the face for the effort. He could taste the blood in his mouth as he stumbled backwards. When he realized who he'd hit, the cowboy immediately tried to apologize. Unfortunately, Shane saw the action and vaulted over the bar, knocking bottles and glasses to ground. He plowed into the cowboy, tackling him to the ground.
Danny and Kara sat at the table of a VERY classy restaurant. Her fork scooping up another bite of lobster tail as they talked. "I dunno. I love the bar, and it's not like I'm qualified to do anything else." She said with a shrug.
"Did you ever get to try college?" Danny asked her.
"Community college." She said. "When I got clean, I went and tried a few classes. Wasn't really for me."
Danny nodded, chewing on the immaculately prepared ribeye they'd brought him. "I can understand that." He said. "You ever think about getting out even for a vacation? See some of the world?"
Kara considered it a moment. "I always wanted to, but...man...that ****'s expensive."
Danny chuckled "So I've heard."
"Oh, right. Mister 'my job pays for me to see awesome things' over here." She said with a grin. "What about you? Ever think of settling down."
Danny flashed that smile again, those green eyes alight. "No. Haven't met the right girl yet."
"Ow." she said, feigning offense.
He laughed. "Let's get through the first date before I go deciding if I'm going to toss my life out the window and have a dozen gorgeous babies with you."
Kara recoiled, a wide-eyed stare at him. "A *dozen*?! Good lord man. Keep that thing away from my womb."
The pair laughed as the waiter came and refilled Kara's champagne glass.
Gerry was talking to a cop, his lip swollen. Most of the bar having cleared out after the fight. He'd had to pull Shane off the cowboy, but by that time, he'd already thrown punches.
"Look, Officer...it was a stupid mistake. I tried to break up a fight and the guy though he was getting jumped. Shane saw him hit me and got the wrong idea." Gerry tried to explain.
"Well, you know that guy wants to press charges." he told Gerry.
"What? On US?" Gerry asked incredulously.
"It happened in your establishment, involving one of your employees, so yeah." The officer nodded, finishing his write up. He looked up to the exhausted, frustrated Gerry. "We'll be contacting your employer in the next few days as we work this out. In the meantime, I suggest you control your employees. Have a good evening." He handed Gerry a citation and took off.
Danny was laughing as Kara continued a story. "So, then Gerry gets on-stage and he just BELTS out 'What A Wonderful World' to this crowd. And, like...FULL ON Louis Armstrong, gravelly voice and everything. Amazing." She said. "And there's this old black guy who just leans out behind me, hearing this giant white dude rumbling away at the microphone and he just goes 'Daaaaaamn....cracka got some pipes!'"
The two of them busted up laughing. The date has been much more fun than Kara anticipated. But it didn't escape Danny's notice that her stories were all about Gerry. The last 4 she told were about him. He smiled across the table to her, reading her face a moment.
"So...on a scale of 1-10...how in love with him are you?" He asked her with a knowing grin.
"What?" She asked.
"I'm not blind, Kara." He said with absolutely no malice in his voice. He just smiled. "You only talk about him, and when you do...you light up in the most beautiful way." He said.
"I'm sorry...I shouldn't be talking about-"
Danny held up a hand. "I don't mind. I mean...I had my suspicions when we were all together...but I wanted to be sure." Those green eyes watched her as she moved her dessert around with a fork, not making eye contact. "So...how long?"
Kara sighed, taking a deep breath and thinking. "Um...10?"
"10 years?" He asked with a quirked brow. He knew full well Gerry hadn't been back that long.
"No. Since we were 10." She said bluntly. "I never gave up hope that some day he'd come through that door again and make everything okay."
Danny frowned watching her.
"And then he does and, good news! He's married!" She said, her expression souring. "It was like a kick to the face. I'd waited for him for...19 years. And I get him back, and all he can think of is getting away from me again."
Danny leaned back in his chair, sympathetic eyes staying on her. "That must have hurt."
"It killed me." She confirmed to him. "And I'll admit...I lost my head. I did something stupid. I threw myself at a married man. Tried to get him to leave her then and there. To give up and stay with me." Kara sighed. "I regret that. It was low, it was wrong, and I wish I could take it back."
Danny nodded, neither condoning nor condemning. He lowered his eyes, thinking. "Why isn't he trying to leave this time?"
"He can't go back." She said. "Don't ask me why, because I', not even sure I understand it. He can't go back to her and she sure as hell isn't looking for him, so...I'm hoping he comes around." Her face scrunched up and she sighed, annoyed. "You know, a guy willing to honor his marriage even in the face of it being OVER should be a good thing...but it's just frustrating as hell to me." She chuckled. "Maybe there's something wrong with me."
Danny snickered. "That's got to be frustrating."
She shook her head. "You have no idea."
Danny reached across the table and took her hand gently, giving her a squeeze. "If you ask me...you two are perfect together. And if it's meant to be...it *will* be. I think he'll come around." He smiled. "If he doesn't, he's a fool."
Kara couldn't stop the grin that came to her face. She just laughed. "God...some day, you are going to make some woman feel like a ****ing queen. I just hope she appreciates it."
Danny grinned, it was his turn to blush. "What do you say we get you home?"
Kara nodded, looking at him affectionately. "Thank you for this, Danny."
The next afternoon, Gerry showed up early to accept their stock delivery. His lip still healing from last night. It had been a night from hell and he was still mad. Kara had been off screwing off with Danny, doing God knew what, and left him with the biggest idiot on the planet. If she wanted to go screw Danny, whatever. Let her. He'd just bury himself in work.
He was moving kegs in back when she stepped through the front doors. He just glanced at her, quickly.
"Heya." She said with a little smile.
He didn't respond, beyond a quick, curt nod. He set the keg down and moved back outside. Kara's brow wrinkling. "Okay...what the hell..."she muttered to herself, following him.
"How'd it go last night?" She asked, pressing on.
He wouldn't stop working, wouldn't even look at her. "*****y." He practically grunted, lifting another keg and carrying it in, breezing right past her.
Kara blinked a bitter little laugh leaving her before she trailed after him. "Care to elaborate?"
Gerry set the keg down and let out an annoyed sigh. "I'm busy, Kara. Alright?" He moved back outside to grab a case of beer.
"No, it's not alright!" She said, grabbing him by the shirt sleeve. "What's your problem?"
He looked down with wide, irritated eyes at her hand until she removed it. "While you were out with your boyfriend I was getting my ass kicked here."
Kara narrowed her eyes. "Oh. That's what this is." She shook her head. "You're jealous."
"No, I'm not. You left me with Shane and he's as useful as an *** hole on your elbow, and got us slammed with a citation and probable lawsuit from the customer he roughed up." Gerry spat back at her.
"Oh, so you're going to be a dick to me because you had a bad night?" she said, incredulously.
"You were supposed to be here and you weren't here." His voice FULL of accusation and misplaced aggression.
"Yeah, well, I hate to break it to you, but I kind of OWN the place. If I want to take a night off, I can DO that." Kara said angrily. "Seriously, what the hell is your deal? I went on a DATE, Gerry. It's not like that happens a lot."
"Well, I hope you had a WONDERFUL time." he said, the sarcasm in his voice just dripping.
She stared at him a smug little smile on her face. "You are so full of ****, you know that?" Kara shot back at him. "I saw the look on your face when I told you we were going out last night. You were pissed! Well, you know what, man? If you have such a damn problem with it, then maybe you should've made your move before someone who ACTUALLY wanted me came out and ASKED me on a date!"
"Oh, get over yourself!" He said.
"Over myself?" Her eyes were wide, on fire. "Over myself, are you ****ing kidding me?! I have doted and supported and been good to you since you came trudging back here! You've been a mopey, insufferable little bitch the past few months, and *I* need to get over myself?!"
Gerry stared at her, eyes narrowed, fists clenched. "Will you get a hold of yourself? Just go somewhere and get ahold of yourself."
"No! This is my place, I don't have to 'get ahold' of myself. I'm not letting you make me feel bad about this!"
"No! **** you! You're not making me feel like a slut for going out with whoever I want! I'm single. I can do that!"
Gerry just stared at her. "Oh, good for you." he said in a condescending tone.
"Stop that!" She shouted at him. "Stop talking to me like that! You don't get to make me feel this way! You're my friend. My FRIEND. And you are married!"
"That's right." He said, full of spite.
"You're married and I'm single, as you've made ABUNDANTLY clear! And you sure as **** aren't going to stop clinging that broken mess! You made your bed, dude."
"Yeah, well you're the one who keeps trying to ****ing sleep in it." He said, staring daggers.
Kara's lips parted. That hurt. "**** you. Seriously, Gerard. **** you. You want to cling to that miserable failed dream of yours, you go ahead. Delude yourself. Just answer me one question. If things were so good and this chick was SO worth it, then where is she? Huh? Where's your wife, Gerry? I'm sure you told her where you lived, so where is she? Oh, right. It's been MONTHS and not one word of her. Could it be that she doesn't give a flying **** about you?" Kara was going for the throat. She didn't care if it was mean, she wanted him to hurt like she did. "Do you think she even looked for a DAY? I don't. She probably just blew you off and ****ed the first guy who came along to get YOU out of her system."
Gerry's fists clenched, his heart pounding in his chest. She was crossing lines. "Don't you talk about her like that."
"She's not coming for you. She's probably moved on." Kara nodded antagonistically.
Gerry had to get out of there before he did something he regretted. "*** this." He grabbed his hat and pulled it over his head, heading toward the door.
"Yep. That's it. Run off. Run off to your wife! Oops! Can't, can you?" She said as he shoved his way through the door. As she stood there, alone in the bar, wave after wave of regret washed over her. She plopped down on a couch, her face screwing up as the tears came. She knew she hadn't meant most of what she said and it was just hurt and built up months of frustration talking. Already she'd give anything to take it back. But he was gone.
Bill was sitting in the basement watching TV, as he was often wont to do. Rose was stretched across the couch, her feet on his lap while he massaged them absently. A pleasant smile on her face as she read a Stephen King book.
Bill glanced in her direction. "How's that book?"
"Ep-ep-ep-ep...Noooo conversation, Cabana Boy." She said with a little smirk.
Bill chuckled "Oh-ho-ho-ho! Yess-um Miss Rose." he said as if afraid of her.
The doorbell grabbed her attention. She raised her eyes for a moment before returning to her book. "Bill. Door."
"I got the last one." he complained.
"Look, sweetie," She said. " we can pretend this is going to end any other way than you getting the door, but you know damn well, you're gonna do it. So, let's skip to the end."
He chuckled and pushed her feet off him. "Wise-ass." He got up and started away.
"Loooooove youuuu...." Rose said listlessly, still reading on the couch.
Bill made his way up the stairs to the door as it rang again. "Alright, alright I'm coming!"
He opened the door to find Kara standing there. A big smile crossed his face. "Hey, K-Mart special! Aren't you supposed to be at the...." That was when he noticed the look on her face. Her face was stained with tears and runny make up. Bill's face contorted with concern.
"Kara? What happened?" he asked her gently.
She couldn't hold back anymore, the tears falling as she threw her arms around him. Through the sobs she managed "I think I screwed up, Dad. I think I screwed up bad..."
Bill held her to him stroking her back gently, trying to get her to calm a bit. Usually, he loved it when she called him Dad. It gave him pride that she though of him like that. But tonight...there was none of that. She was hurting and that, in turn hurt him. "It's okay....shhhh....it's gonna be okay."
Rose came up to see what all the commotion was about, her expression falling when she saw Kara clinging to Bill. "Kara? What's wrong, sweetie?"
The younger woman sobbed into Bill's chest. She sniffled and pulled back. "I'm sorry...I just...I didn't know where else to go..."
Rose rubbed her back gently. "It's okay. Just tell us what happened."
Kara looked ashamed. "We had a fight. And....and we said some..." she wiped her eyes. "Some HORRIBLE things and he just...just stormed off." She was barely able to get through it over the sobs and sniffles.
Bill lead her into the kitchen and sat her down. "Here. Relax. Tell me about it."
Kara explained how she'd gone out on a date and how Gerry had gotten jealous. And then discussed all the horrible things they'd said to each other. They didn't judge her, didn't interrupt or chastise her. they just listened. When Kara had finished Bill just smiled to her. "I won't lie to you...you both said some stuff you shouldn't have. But I know how he feels about you and I know how you feel about him." Bill said, squeezing her hand.
Rose nodded, adjusting her reading glasses. "Nothing's so damaged you can't fix it." She reassured the younger woman. "You owe each other an apology. Yes. But this won't ruin you."
Kara appreciated that. "I didn't mean it...I was just so...SO angry. I've been over here fighting and struggling for him, and the second I pay attention to somebody else..." She looked to them. For years, they had been the closest thing she'd had to parents. It was easy to forget that he was their ACTUAL child. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't-"
Bill tilted his head. "I get it. I do. You love him. And he's been..." he sighed "Dragging his feet."
"He basically called me a slut..."
"That was wrong of him. And I think he knows it." Rose said. "If you want my advice...I say you give him a bit of time to cool off. And then, the two of you need to sit down...and have a good talk. Find out what this is." She smiled to Kara.
Bill nodded. "And no matter what happens, we love you both, and that's not going to change." he assured her.
Kara smiled, those tears coming back. "Promise?"
Bill grinned and made an X over his heart. Kara lunged across the table, wrapping her arms around him. Bill patted her head and returned the embrace. "I love you guys." She said, her eyes squeezed shut.
"We love you, too, kiddo."
Gerry didn't sleep much that night. He was just a mess of emotions. Guilt, anger, sadness, confusion. They had both been wrong, of course, but he initiated it. She hadn't said anything that was wrong, really. He WAS jealous. Kara wasn't supposed to be with Danny. She was supposed to be with him. He just...
He stopped that train of thought in its tracks. He dragged his feet. Made her wait for him to speak the feelings he knew he had. To accept that maybe the Keirra ship hat set sail. There was no going back, and even if he could, would they ever be the same? And Kara did have a point. Ko knew where he lived, so why hadn't she come looking for him? If he was honest, he knew the reason. She had a default reaction to disappointment. Run. (Or hit, but he wasn't there to hit)
She probably ran, climbed into a bottle and disappeared. The thought broke his heart, but it was probably the truth. He hoped she managed to sort through it all. He hoped wherever she was, she was happy or, at least on her way to it.
Kara, though. She'd been patient. Caring. Loving. Without her, he'd have been lost and he knew it. It must have been hell, knowing he DID have feelings but just wouldn't let himself acknowledge them. Always just out of reach.
Apologizing wouldn't be the difficult part, he knew. He'd gotten used to that with Keirra. Hell, he spent half that relationship apologizing for whatever innocuous thing had set her running. No, the moving on. THAT scared the hell out of him. He never wanted to be the guy who talked about someone he married in the past tense. Whether that be divorce, death or...whatever you would call this. He still loved his wife. He knew that much. But distance had given him a bit of perspective. Things were always a struggle. He'd build her up just to have her crumble again. Earning any sort of affection, even so much as her admitting their friendship had been a monumental task. And there was, of course the hitting. How accustomed to being punched had he allowed himself to become out of love? Why had he allowed that, he wondered? In retrospect, it seemed pretty ****ed up that he had to tell her that hitting someone was a pretty bad way to tell someone you like them.
This line of thought only made him feel like he was looking for excuses...as legitimate as those gripes may actually be. It felt like he was looking for a way to forgive himself for feeling what he felt. Six months had passed since he'd left. Was that too soon? Was he awful for it? He knew nobody around here would judge him harshly, but that wasn't the point. HE would judge himself. HE would beat himself up over it. As he had every time he looked at Kara and felt that flutter in his stomach. Every time she looked at him with those eyes. That look.
He wouldn't make the decision tonight, he decided. That was far too big. What he COULD do in the immediate future was apologize. He owed Kara that much.
Kara stood in the back room of the bar when Gerry walked in, she was putting a tap on one of the kegs. The pair of them froze when they saw each other. He stared at her with those beautiful blue eyes of his in silence. Say something, the thought. Just...say anything. But he didn't. He looked like he wanted to, but the words just didn't leave his lips. Those eyes lowered from her and he moved out to the front.
Kara swallowed hard and nodded. Was this how it was going to be from now on? Just the two of them avoiding each other? Working around each other. She couldn't handle that. She would have to figure something out. Maybe he'd do her a solid and quit. She doubted she could bring herself to fire him. She wanted that even less.
Kara finished with the kegs and walked to the fridge to grab her lunch. A salami sandwich and a small bag of chips. Not the most inspiring of lunches. She sat there in silence, dreading going out there and spending the evening with that cloud hanging over them. Having to count on each other to make it through another busy night. He darkened that doorway again, tall, strong, handsome. But she only spared him a glance before turning her attention to her food.
She barely registered that he stepped over to her until he sat beside her. Her body went stiff, a mouth full of her sandwich as her eyes turned to him. He was unwrapping a double cheeseburger quietly, his gaze steadfastly NOT on her. Kara chewed slowly again and noticed that he slid a bottle of beer over to her.
Again, she stopped, staring at the bottle for a moment. Those smokey blue eyes turning to him watching him take a bag of fries from his bag.
Gerry was keeping himself busy, pouring half onto the bag from his burger before setting the rest next to her lunch. He glanced over just slightly.
Kara reached into her bag of chips, grabbing a handful and dropped them onto his wrapper.
One corner of his mouth upturned. Glancing her way to find her doing the same. Kara picked up her beer and brought it to her lips, stopping before she held it out to him. Gerry breathed out a little laugh and clinked his own bottle to her's.
They each took a drink, their smiles widening.
At the same time, they turned to each other, speaking in unison.
After a very brief conversation (consisting mostly of sentence fragment apologies), the two of them agreed to postpone talking until after closing. At least things were a little less awkward now an they could get through the shift with out a dark cloud hanging between them.
It ended up being a very busy night, the two of them running around like mad. Apparently, the fight from the other night had done nothing to discourage people from showing up. Spirits were high, though, in the way that only making up after a fight could possibly bring. He even was able to regale some of the female patrons about his split lip when they asked. Then, finally, it was over. Gerry waved the last of the regulars off with a smile. "Have a good one, ya'll." he said. "Y'all." That was different. He never used that word. But hearing it day in and day out had worked it into his vocabulary.
He sighed and turned around. Kara had just been watching him, sitting on a stool, her hands on her knees, a sheepish look on her face. Gerry gave her a reassuring smile. They'd put this off, and that was a relief, but time was up. They had to talk, now.
She chewed on her lip, brushing a wavy lock of chestnut brown hair behind her ear. "So..." She said, a slight hint of nervousness in her voice.
"Yeah." Gerry said. He lumbered on over to her, those sapphire eyes of hers watching him all the way over until he leaned a hip against the bar.
Who should go first, he wondered? She answered that unspoken question then. "I guess we have a lot to talk about."
He nodded, swallowing nervously. "Kara...I..." He shut his eyes. "I want you to know that....what I said?" A sorrowful look crossing his features. "I didn't mean it."
She looked to the side as if considering it, making a doubtful noise. "Mm...yeah you did." She nodded as if trying to get him to admit it. "But...that's okay. Because you weren't wrong."
"I was, though. I have the problem." he insisted.
Kara squinted at him, wetting her lips. "I've been chasing you, Ger. Trying to get you. And...honestly, part of taking that date at all was to make you jealous."
He lowered his eyes. "It's just...I feel like...like I've been stringing you along. Keeping you waiting and waiting for me to finally be smart enough to-"
She held up her hand. "Gerry...Wait." She shut her eyes, trying to work through it. "Just...let me finish. Please."
He stopped and listened as she continued on. "If anyone needs to apologize, it's me. I said...some horrible things to you. I had NO right to talk about your wife, your marriage...your life like that. You love her. And...and that's something I have to get over. And I'll say it now. I'll say it because I need you to know." Those shimmering blue eyes stared deep into him. "I love you. From the moment I saw you again before Christmas until this very moment, I've loved you. I'll love you tomorrow. I'll love you a year from now. I'll love you when I'm...a tiny...shriveled up old broad like Sophia on the Golden Girls or whatever." She smirked. "But just because I feel that, doesn't obligate you to."
Kara's heart threatened to burst through her chest, it was beating so hard. She had said it. Maybe it could be implied after everything, but she NEEDED to say it.
"K...you got me at a weird time in my life..." he started.
"I know. And I just-"
"It's my turn." He said halting her with a grin. "I forgive you. I'll always forgive you." He sat down across from her, his eyes traveling over her face. "If I didn't have you, I don't know what I'd do. You don't know what you mean to me. You've helped me up when I'm down. Given me hope when I had none. You've been nothing but good to me and my daughter and..." He sighed. "I don't think I can ever repay you."
The smile that crossed her face warmed his heart. "You'll never have to."
Gerry smiled to her and placed a hand on her cheek. "Maybe...maybe we should go out sometime."
"If you're not ready...I don't want you to do something you're not comfortable with." She said, concerned.
Gerry looked at her like she was ridiculous. "The most beautiful woman in this world just told me she loves me." He said with a smirk. "Maybe I owe it to myself to take her out on a date."
Kara couldn't suppress the grin that spread across her face, her eyes lighting up with joy. She just reached out and grabbed him, embracing him tightly. Gerry wrapped her in his strong arms holding her close.
It was a beautiful day out. 75, sunny, a nice breeze. A rare, non-sweltering day for Texas in August. Danny sat on top of a picnic table outside a little ice-cream stand, a lemon flavored italian ice in his hand. Kara sat by his knee with an ice cream cone, telling him everything that had happened. Parents with their kids all around. Danny's forearms rested on his jean-clad knees, digging out another scoop of his snack while he listened. The brunette beauty beside him finished the tale. a grin forming on his face, stubble just beginning to form again. "So, you told him?"
Kara nodded, eyes widened. "Yeeeeeeup."
"Wow." Danny said with raised brows.
"He didn't say it back, of course, but with him...asking me out on a date is about as good." She said with chuckle.
Danny grinned, swallowing down another scoop. "So, when's the bachelorette party? Can I come as the stripper?" A cheeky smirk was directed her way, flashing those dimples of his.
Kara nearly choked on her ice cream, setting him off laughing. Her hand covered her mouth as her body shook with laughter. She looked to him with narrowed eyes, but the smirk said it all. "You *** hole."
"Well...I didn't just ask you here to gossip about your love life, I'm afraid." He said.
Kara acted like she was just stunned, her hand going to her chest. "My stars! You DO me great injustice, sir!" She said like a genteel southern belle.
A lopsided grin formed on his face, but faded quickly. "I'm leaving." He said.
Kara's smirk faded. "What? Why?"
Danny sighed, "There's been a development I'm not exactly allowed to go across the pond. My employer is sending me there to cover it."
Kara looked heartbroken. "But you JUST got here."
Danny nodded sullenly. "I know. And I love it here. Love being around you and Gerry, love being home...but this is my work. And I love my work." There was pride on his features then. "Maybe one day I'll come back. Meet you and Gerry's kids, hm?"
She scoffed. "At the rate we're going? We'll both be firing dust and cobwebs before that happens."
Danny chuckled. "You'll get there." He stared at her fondly. "I'm glad I got to know you again, Kara Aimsley. You are...an amazing woman. And if he doesn't go for it. Give me a call. I'll take ya out."
Kara lowered her head, a smile on her face, peering up at him through those long lashes. "Thank you."
"Come on, give a squeeze." He opened his arms to his friend hugging her tight. Kara's arms wrapped around his waist, her cheek resting at his shoulder.
"I'm gonna miss you." She said before pulling back. "You stay in touch, understand? I better not go another couple DECADES without hearing you, got it?" She pointed at him.
His face lit up with that charming smile. "You got it."
It was a first date. Nothing crazy. Nothing intense. Just two very good friends out together. Dinner and then a few drinks and a lot of conversation. It was what Gerry and Kara excelled at. There were a lot of laughs, a lot of smiles, and of course, a bit of nervousness. In the end, they wound up back her apartment hanging out and watching Tombstone with him until 3 AM. Kara fell asleep resting against him. Gerry just laid her down gently, careful not to wake her, put a blanket over her, kissed her forehead and went home.
It was a good date. And there would be many more, he was sure.
The next morning he was driving Danny to the airport. His old friend sitting in the passenger seat of Bill's truck, some Whitesnake blaring on the radio. Danny smirked, watching Gerry sing along to "Here I Go Again", clad in a plain white t-shirt, jeans and a ratty old baseball cap. He had changed the lyrics to "Here Dah goes again on his own." Because...Gerry.
"You know, this is exactly how I pictured you all those years."
Gerry wasn't sure if that was meant as a good thing, but he just grinned and continued driving. "I'll take that as a compliment." His fingers drummed to the beat of the song on his steering wheel as they pulled up to a stoplight.
Danny chuckled. "So...it go well?"
Gerry looked over to him with raised brows. "Hm?"
"You and Kara." Danny clarified with a playful roll of his eyes.
"Oh! Yeah. Duh. Good! We had a lot of fun."
"Yeah? Going out again?" Danny inquired.
A little smile worked it's way on to Gerry's face. "Yeah. I think so. Unless she was secretly miserable and faked all those laughs."
"Oh yeah, I hate it when they fake it." Danny deadpanned.
"Right?! I'm over here bringing my A-game and they're over there...feigning laughter..."
Danny laughed and looked out at the road ahead. "I'm glad. You two deserve each other. Sorry I won't be around to see it."
The two of them sat in silence for a while, listening to the radio. "You know..." Gerry said finally, "If it weren't for you...I don't think any of it would be happening."
"Ok, I know." Danny said matter-of-factly. Gerry turned to him with a furrowed brow.
"Oh, yeah, mate. It was all a part of my delightfully circuitous plan to get rejected by a beautiful woman, make you jealous and send her running into your arms."
It took Gerry an embarrassingly long time to tell that he was joking. He laughed finally. "Bond-level evil genius, man."
"Well, I DO speak with a British accent." Danny nodded.
They arrived at the airport, Gerry helping unload his bags. The two men gave each other a fond hug and wished each other well. Danny started walking toward the doors when Gerry called after him.
Danny turned around, a curious look on his face.
"You can' buy an ice cream cone with a penny! And pull your damn pants up!"
Danny's eyes turned downward as he chuckled. He looked up at his friend with mock anger. "Bucker! At-Ho!"
Gerry's face lit up with laughter as he raised a hand, waving goodbye.
Danny returned the wave, hefting a bag over his shoulder, and disappeared into the airport.
Bill and Rose owned a little cabin by a lake a few hours away. Gerry remembered, when they were kids, they would spend a weekend out there a year for family reunions. That all stopped when he was 9 and his grandfather passed. Since then, the families all sort of drifted apart. But he still had fond memories of that idyllic cabin. So, when Bill and Rose broached the idea of taking a family trip to visit the place for Labor Day, he was super pumped to go back.
Fishing, swimming, cookouts, bonfires? That was totally his jam. He asked Kara if she wanted to go with and he barely got the entire sentence out before she was in. She'd only ever heard about those trips second hand. She'd always considered the Finnegans to be her family anyway, so this was one more step in the direction of BEING family. She made the announcement to the bar, as soon as she could, that for a few days, they would be closed for vacation, but they would be back in swing immediately after.
It would be Ginny's first time there since she graduated High School. Throughout college, most of her holidays had been spent at school or searching for Gerry. This would be a rare treat.
It was bright and early when they had started loading up. The plan was to load up and be on the road by 10 and it was creeping closer and closer. The family hustled around grabbing their pre-packed bags and loading them into two separate cars.
Gerry, clad in grey v-neck t-shirt, baseball cap and beat-up old jeans, hefted his duffel over his shoulder, carrying it out toward the Rose's SUV. The redhead was securing Nasya in her baby seat in the back, talking in and excited, playful voice to her. "Some little girl's goin' for a ride! Isn't she!"
The child's face lit up with glee, a high pitched squeal leaving her smiling, sparsely toothed mouth. Ginny clipped her in, gasping in a lung of air playfully before leaning in and smothering the little one with kisses. "MmmmWAH! Love you, button nose." She lightly tapped Nasya's tiny cute nose with a finger.
Gerry tossed his bag in the trunk, Kara's ratty old clunker rolling to a stop on the sidewalk behind them. The brunette knockout looked rushed, her hair in a pony tail under a baseball cap, make up forgone in favor of a pair of dark sunglasses. She rolled the sleeves of her button up green and blue plaid shirt to her elbow as she stepped out, long legs clothed in tight, faded jeans. "Sorry! Sorry I'm late!" She said, rushing to the back of the car.
A smirk crossed Gerry's lips as he stepped toward her. "Yeah, Kara, what the hell? We're all waiting for ya and you just come sauntering in like it's not a big deal..."
Bill hollered at the house "ROSE?! ROOOOOOSE?! WHERE ARE MY KEYS?!"
"HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHAT YOU DID WITH YOUR KEYS?!" She shouted back from inside the house.
"THEY WERE IN MY POCKET AN HOUR AGO!"
"DID YOU CHECK YOUR POCKET?!"
Bill checked and produced his keys. Looking to Gerry and Kara, he pointed suddenly, between the two of them. "Not a word." Ginny snorted and he pointed at her too before moving on. "Found 'em! They were in the car!"
Kara chuckled and then turned to Gerry with raised brows. "Ohhhh. 'We're all waiting for you!'" She said, lowering her voice to mimic him. She tossed her bag at him as he chuckled. He caught it and brought it over to the car, loading them into the back.
Kara was digging through her hatchback, grabbing a small cooler. "I brought some snacks for the trip, some sammiches, jerky, and..." she set the cooler down with a grunt on the backseat hump. "Grab the bag in my passenger seat and we've got a ****load of chips n' stuff!"
Ginny looked at her wide eyed. "Oh, you are my new favorite." She said in a low, enthralled tone.
Rose came out dragging her own bag, handing it off to Bill. He took it by the straps and pulled it up on to the tailgate, sliding the bag back into the bed. Rose sighed, she was up by 6 AM today. For a woman who usually went to bed at the crack of dawn, she was not at all used to this being awake early business. "Well, that should be the last of it. Everyone ready?" she said through a yawn.
Gerry peered into the back of the SUV, his head nodding as he counted the contents of the cargo area. "Bags and poles loaded, baby strapped in..." he started, very businesslike.
"Beer's packed." Bill continued for him, patting his truck, very businesslike.
The two men nodded to each other. "Well done, sir." Gerry nodded.
Bill extended a hand. "Doctor!"
"Doctor!" Gerry responded taking his hand, aggressively shaking it.
The bit went on. And on. Both of them saying the word in a multitude of different inflections.
The girls just gave them withering looks, waiting for it to end. Ginny rolled her eyes. "You guys are idiots."
Kara grinned over to the skinny redhead, pulling open the passenger door. "Let's roll." She said excitedly, sliding into the front seat.
"Well, I think you're just sexist." Ginny said mid-argument, glaring up at her brother in the passenger front seat.
"How am I sexist?" He asked, shooting her an incredulous look.
"You don't like it because they're all women and it hurts poor man baby's ego." She said in a mocking, pouty voice.
"Wrong!" Gerry fired back. "I don't like it because the humor is completely flat, the characters all look and act like ****ing cartoons, the CG looks like complete ass, the ONE male they do have in the main cast is played as being borderline retarded-"
"Oh, what a shock! The MAN is upset by being the butt of the joke for once! But it would be okay if the character was a woman, right?" Ginny asserted. You could HEAR the eye roll in her voice.
"No! Look at the original. Was there a woman in that cast who was played up as being stupid? Even one?"
"Louis's date!" Ginny yelled throwing a fist in the air victoriously. "BOOM!"
Gerry groaned and rolled his eyes. "MAIN characters. You know...who had more than ONE scene!" He held up his hand and ticked off his fingers. "Janine. Smart-ass, bookish New Yorker. Dana? Intelligent, headstrong everywoman."
"What's your point?" the redhead asked with crossed arms, those big pools of blue narrowed at her brother.
"The point is, that despite this new movie touting itself as a 'big win' for the cause of equality simply because they made them all women, the ORIGINAL, made in...what? 1983? *They* did a better job of painting men and women as equals." Gerry said. He turned back toward her with raised brows, "Even your Louis's date example was a big a goof as HE was!"
"Oh, bull****! Dana's a 'strong intelligent woman'? Is that why she's crawling all over Peter when she-"
"She was possessed!" Gerry argued, throwing up his hands.
"Lame excuse! They had to take the most prominent female role and get her all horned up over the guy. Like always."
"Oh, so, now women aren't allowed to be attracted to men on film?" Gerry accused her.
"No that's not what I'm saying! "
"What are you saying?" He asked.
"I'm just pointing out that they reduced her to needing his dick like she'd wandered the desert for months and he was a running garden hose!" Ginny said with a roll of her eyes.
"She thought he was the key master! And she was the gate keeper! It's how they brought about Gozer!" He demanded.
"So, she HAD to get ****ed just to make that **** happen, right? Typical male fantasy nonsense." She spat back at him.
"You are so FAR off base." Gerry said, shaking his head. "And compare the portrayal of anyone who ISN'T white in those movies. Winston? Average, every day New Yorker looking to make a paycheck. What's her face from SNL? Screaming, loud, angry black lady stereotype."
"Oh, she is not!" Ginny moaned, annoyed, drawing out the "not".
"She SO is!" Gerry insisted, then imitating her voice. "'I dunno if this is a race thang or woman thang, but I'm mad as hay-ell.' Come on!"
"What?! What's wrong with that?" Ginny demanded of him.
"It's such a hacky, cheap...lame-ass joke! You took an actress who only ever plays angry and then, instead of giving her the role of an intelligent scientist, have her rolling up with a Cadillac and slapping people while screaming 'The power of Patti compels you!'?"
Ginny didn't want to agree with that one, but he DID have a point. "Okay, fine, but what about Kate McKinnon?" She asked.
"What about her?" Gerry asked.
"She looks hilarious!" Ginny's eyes wide as saucers as she threw up her hands.
"Disagree." he said with a shake of the head.
"Nope, disagree. She looks like a ****ing cartoon character." Gerry opined matter-of-factly.
"She looks awesome! How do you not like her?! She's hilarious." Ginny insisted.
"Why is she hilarious?"
"She's....she....like she's all crazy and...sassy. She's just funny!"
Well, that did nothing for Ginny's nerd rage. Her eye was actually twitching.
"Sorry." He shook his head. "Don't like her. She doesn't do anything funny, she's weird for the sake of being weird...like everything in this movie, she's just a blunt object beating the audience over the head screaming 'NOTICE ME!'"
Ginny stared at him, bewildered and enraged.
"Sorry." He said with a shrug. "It just looks like a **** movie."
He turned to Kara, who sat in the driver's seat. "What do you think?"
She looked over with raised brows. "Hm?" She blinked and then formed an O with her lips. "Oh! Yeah, no. I don't like Ghostbusters."
Both Gerry and Ginny stared at her like she had just confessed to murdering puppies by the sack-full.
"WHAT?!" Ginny exclaimed.
"How do you NOT like Ghostbusters?!" Gerry added, wide-eyed.
"I dunno. Never got into it." Kara shrugged non-chalantly.
"But it's awesome!" Ginny interjected
"And classic! It's Bill Murray, Harold Ramis-" Gerry began, ticking off his fingers with each name.
"DAN ACKROYD! SIGOURNEY WEAVER!" Ginny contributed.
Gerry hooked a thumb back at Ginny nodding vehemently. "Yeah! And Rick Moranis! Annie Potts, Kara! Annie ****ing Potts!"
Kara rose an eyebrow, making a mocking face. "I know who's in it."
"Well, we're watching it this weekend." Ginny said, the tone of a disappointed parent in her voice.
"Damn RIGHT, we are." Gerry agreed. He was silent a long moment. "You DON'T like the Ghostbusters...hell's wrong with you?"
Again silence in the car.
"LOVE the Ghostbusters." He muttered almost petulantly.
"GREAT movie." Ginny nodded in agreement, that disappointed tone still prevalent in her voice.
A little smirk played across Kara's lips as she focused on the road ahead.
The open road spread out ahead of them. And endless blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds on a perfect summer's day. Untold miles and miles of black pavement cut through sand, crops, trees. An entire world he was rediscovering. So radically different from Rhydin, yet still so familiar. Gerry's left hand gripped the wheel, his elbow propped on the open window. The air blowing through his short, light brown hair, he was reminded of being on-board the Dominous. That cool sea breeze carrying him to places unknown. Adventures he could scarcely have imagined as a child. Terrors, excitement. Sadness and joys ahead, but always the potential for something new.
Those cerulean eyes turned to his right. Kara's feet were kicked up onto the dash, her lips forming a satisfied smile as she let the wind rush across her flawless (at least in his mind) face. Her eyes closed peacefully. In the rearview mirror, he could see Ginny in the backseat, sleeping next to the snoozing Nasya. Behind them was his father's old pick up, ambling right along. His father, hiding behind a pair of aviators had his attention on the road while his mother reclined as much as she could, asleep in the passenger seat. There, with his family around him, he was content. This was perfect. This was good. If this was what life was now...he was glad.
Slowly, those long lashes parted as Kara's icy-blue eyes opened, looking over to him, the smile on her face widening. She reached across the center console, long nimble fingers taking Gerry's weathered hand and intertwining with his. The former pirate glanced at their hands a moment before turning his eyes up to meet her's. His fingers closed around her hand, giving her a squeeze. But then, he didn't let go.
The two of them rode on, hands clasped tight in the early afternoon sun. He'd denied himself this too long, and right now...for the first time in months, he was truly happy.
Somewhere in the 5th hour of driving, they decided to spit the cars to girls and boys. Ginny was behind the wheel with Rose in the passenger seat while Kara looked after Nasya in the back. A debate still going on after an hour.
"No, no, I'm not saying it's a GOOD book-" Ginny said.
"Because it's garbage." Kara asserted.
"It's NOT garbage! It's entertaining!"
"It was Twilight fan fiction!"
"IT WAS CHANGED! I don't see ANY mentions of sparkly vampires in there, do you?"
"Oh, please! Like Christian Grey isn't just Edward whathisnuts without the vampirism."
"He ISN'T! He's a billionaire and-"
"He likes to wail on women?"
"It's S&M! There's a difference!"
Rose sighed. Both women looked at her curiously.
"What?" Ginny asked.
"It's just..." Rose started, her hand to her forehead. "Those books don't get ANYTHING right about the culture..."
Ginny rolled her eyes and was about to say something then, stopped. Slowly, her head turned to her mother as something occurred to her. "Mom...why do you know about the culture?"
A sadistic little smirk grew on Kara's face. Rose just shrugged and looked out the window, a similar smile on her own face, that Kara read loud and clear.
"Mom?" Ginny asked as Kara suppressed a laugh. A disgusted look crossed the redhead's face. "Ew! Seriously? Just...UGH! No! EW!"
"What's the matter, Gin? Mommas and poppas need lovin' too." Kara antagonized her. This was so good.
"Shut up! It's not YOUR mom and dad..." She shuddered "DOING things to eachother..."
"Well, sweetie, how do you think YOU got here?" Rose asked in her kindly way.
Ginny recoiled, a distasteful look on her face. "No! Stop it!"
Kara looked up thoughtfully. "Yeah, and you know... knowing my Dad, he probably-"
"EW STOP!" Ginny demanded of her.
Rose grinned and just started chuckling. Ginny looked over at her mother and the little smug grin on her face. "What...what's that?"
"You are WAY too easy." Rose said through her laughter.
Kara just burst out into a full belly laugh from the back of the car. The sound must have amused Nasya because she let out a little joyful squeal as well. Ginny's face turned bright red as she gripped the wheel. "You cover her ears! That's not funny!"
Kara settled down a bit, collecting herself with a big intake of air. "Oh, come on! It's better than what the guys are probably talking about."
"AND I'M FREEEEE!" Gerry belted out behind the wheel of the truck. "FREE FAAAAALLIN'!" He nodded his head along with the music, biting his lower lip.
Bill was drumming on the dash, his head bobbing, really "feelin'" it. "YEAH, FREE-EE-EE-EE-EEEEEEEEEEEE! FREEEEE FAAAAALLIN'!"
The sun was setting when they pulled up to the lake-front cabin. It was a beautiful 2-story place with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a huge living room and kitchen, and a big deck overlooking the lake. The entire interior rustic and made of sturdy oak. Gerry stepped out of the truck, giving a groaning stretch. The place looked smaller than he'd remembered. Of course...he was about 5'3" the last time he'd been here. So much hadn't changed, though. The fire pit, the pier, the old tire swing, the pontoon boat still in it's shed. All just how he'd remembered them.
Bill hefted a bag over his shoulder and unlocked the house, letting Rose enter first. The lights flipped on, revealing the rustically decorated interior. A pair of old brown leather couches and recliners were gathered near a large, cozy hearth. Stained wooden stairs leading down into the living room from the second floor balcony. 4 mounted deer heads were over the fireplace. At the west wall was a long bookcase, loaded with stuff to read. Books his family had thumbed through for years. A big, 70's style turntable with a wall-full of old records. Most of it the likes of Perry Como and Bing Crosby, but Bill had updated the collection a bit to feature some classic rock. An old chess table flanked by chairs was next to a cabinet full of board games.
He could remember playing with his grandfather, the old man, more often than not, letting him win unless he got cocky. Proving that he could demolish the youngun' if he wanted and keeping him on his toes. Old Grandpa Finnegan. Pa, he'd called him. A hold-over from when Gerry had just been learning to talk. Though, later in life, Gerry just called him Pops. A tough, but sweet man, he'd always doted on Gerry and Ginny. So much so that his other children felt jealous that their poorly-raised, misbehaving brats didn't receive the same amount of adoration.
It was Pops who'd Let him have his first BB gun. Taught Gerry to shoot a gun safely, and how to respect it. He remembered it well how the old man loved his weapons, but always laid into him about how they were not toys and to be respected.
He could still remember sitting on Pop's lap on that pontoon boat while the old man let him steer. How there was always a beer in his hand. The old, battered formerly white cap he always wore hung up on a coat hangar where he'd left it on his last trip to the lake. He remembered the dulcet tones of Hank Williams singing "I'm So Lonesome" late into the night.
Gerry had never known his Grandmother. She'd passed when he was about 2. But the loss had left it's mark on Pops. The old man often told him how much his Grandma would have loved him and his sister. How she'd have been so proud of them. In this moment, he wished he could be around to see his great grand-daughter.
Gerry tromped up the stairs to the room that would be his and Nasya's, giving the door a push. He let his bag drop to the floor beside him and set the slumbering infant in the crib. He walked over and flopped back onto the bed, the springs creaking under his weight. He let out a groan as his back popped a few times.
Kara leaned her shoulder against the doorway, a hand on her hip, looking exhausted from the drive. Gerry's eyes turned to her. "I think I might lay here forever. Is that okay?" He said weakly.
Kara nodded. "I'll bring you food and water for a few days, but I'm not cleaning out your bedpan." A tired smile on her face, she walked in and laid down next to him, pulling her hair out of it's ponytail, letting it spread out over the sheets behind her. She turned her head to him. "Or I may join you."
"Works for me. Least I'll have someone to talk to." He nodded.
Kara smiled at him. "Then it's settled."
Ginny walked past the door and then back tracked, pointing at them. " Hey. None of that, now." She said with a faux stern tone.
Gerry rolled his eyes. "We're just-"
"EHP-BEP-BEP! No excuses! Sinners..." She smirked and walked off.
Gerry and Kara exchanged a look. "We may have to destroy her." Gerry said covertly.
"Oh, that'll be easy. I'll just tell her about your Mom and Dad and a ball gag." The smirk that crossed her face over his expression then was the most self-satisfied thing that's ever existed. "Huh. That's the same look she gave me."
Gerry snorted and shook his head. "You stay away from my daughter." He deadpanned, earning a little laugh from Kara.
Nasya's cries woke him out of a dead sleep, Gerry's bloodshot eyes popping open. It took a moment for him to remember where he was. "Okay...." He groaned. "Okay, I'm up, Munchkin."
He pushed himself up off the bed and went over to Nasya. After a quick diaper change and popping a bottle in her mouth, she was curled in his arms. It was about 7 and the sun was rising over the lake as he stepped out onto the back porch. It was still kind of cool out, a nice breeze hitting him. The tranquil sounds of wildlife waking up filled his ears, bringing a smile to his face.
Gerry looked down at the blue eyed beauty in his arm and spoke softly. "You know what? One day, you're gonna be bigger and we're going to come here. We're gonna go swimming and fishing. We're gonna ride on the boat and make s'mores...Just you and me, kiddo. I'm gonna teach you how to do all the things my Pops taught me and Aunt Gin. That sound like fun?"
Of course she didn't understand him, but the little girl smiled wide, just like most of the time he talked to her. His face lit up with a warm smile before he leaned down and kissed her forehead.
Gerry looked over the clearing that were the cabin's grounds, down the hill that lead to the boathouse and pier and shimmering water. The house would be a flurry of activity in an hour, everyone rushing about to get breakfast ready, but for now, it was peaceful. Serene. His daughter in his arms standing in a piece of his childhood he had almost forgotten during his tenure in Rhydin. Yes, he was right where he needed to be.
Nasya was inside with Rose when Gerry stepped out onto the deck dressed in a sleeveless t-shirt, board-shorts, and flipflops. Kara and Ginny were layed back on a pair of lounge chairs in the afternoon sun, decked out in bikinis. "Hey, me and dad are gonna take the boat out and go fishin'. Who's in?" He said, excitedly with a clap of his hands.
Ginny turned her head, blue eyes hidden behind her sunglasses. "Whole big fat dump truck-load of NOOOOOPE." She said, accentuating the nope by deepening her voice.
Gerry gave her a wry look. He never really expected his sister to be up for it anyway. His gaze shifted to Kara. "What about you, sticks?"
The beautiful brunette quirked an eyebrow beneath her glasses. "Sticks? Oh. My legs. Right."
He smirked. "What do you say?"
"Oh, man. Ger bear. I'd love to...but if I get out of this chair, there's a solid chance that it might float away. And I just can't be responsible for that." A little grin played across her features as she settled back in.
"You are a true hero." He said. "You guys are lame. Later!" He said taking his leave of them.
Kara listlessly waved to him, not looking up at all. "Go on without me! Remember me as I am! Avenge me! Avennnnge meeeeee!"
The tall man stepped out onto the boat. "Looks like it's just you and me, pop." He said, stepping onto the pontoon boat.
Bill was just setting down a cooler, decked out in a jimmy buffet t-shirt and a pair of shorts. "Good! They'd just be yackin' it up the entire time."
Gerry grinned, moving over to the driver's seat as Bill untied the boat. The two men rode out onto the lake, drifting along a bit until they got to their spot and dropped anchor. Their poles in-hand, lures in the water, and their feet propped up on the railing. they relaxed in their folding chairs. Bill cracked a beer and handed the can over to Gerry.
"Thanks." He said with a content smile as his dad got one for himself. The clinked the cans together and took a sip.
They sat in silence, enjoying just the presence of each other and the quiet that they so rarely got back home. Finally, Bill spoke.
"Sounds like you're getting words better now." he said to his son.
Gerry nodded. "Yeah! I mean, every now and again, I stumble and can't think of the word I'm trying to say, but...it's nowhere near as bad as it was."
More comfortable silence followed. Bill got a smile on his face, a little laugh escaping him. He turned to Gerry. "You remember the trips out here with your Grandpa?"
Gerry smirked. "Oh yeah. Best times ever."
"We used to drive him up a wall, me and your uncles." Gerry noted that Bill had a smile on his face when he said it. It wasn't often that he got anywhere near a smile when talking about his brothers. When Pops had died, there was a big fight over inheritance. His uncles believing they were treated unfairly when Bill was named the executor of their father's estate (despite him having cared for and ensured proper healthcare for their dying father.) After a long, ugly battle, Bill took the cabin and let them have the rest of his inheritance, with the understanding that they never contact him again. No, there was not much for Bill to smile about with regards to them.
"I remember one time, when we were kids, about 14, 15... he took us to a Rangers game. You know, back when they were the Senators...and he had this old war buddy, Schmiddy. Well, after the game, Schmiddy stays behind to hit the head while we went out to the parking lot. Dad's waiting and waiting for him, and you remember how impatient he was." Bill grinned. "Me and your uncle Dave and Jim start going 'LOOK THERE HE ISn't...', 'THERE HE doesn't go...', 'Oh, here he doesn't come.'"
Bill and Gerry both chuckled as the elder Finnegan continued his story. "And every-" More laughter. "EVERY time, he falls for it. So, dad's just getting angrier and angrier every time we pull it until finally, he just cracks." Bill straightened up, affecting a deeper, comical voice to'You listen here you little ****s! I'm gonna smack the **** outta all a' ya if ya make ONE more peep.'"
Gerry grinned, he'd heard that threat SO many times. Rarely was it ever followed up upon.
Bill started laughing again. "So...so, Jimmy sees Schmiddy coming and goes, 'Dad, here he-' 'DOESN'T COME! HILARIOUS JIMMY! HILARIOUS! IT NEVER GETS OLD!'"
Gerry's sides hurt he was laughing so hard.
"Then, Schmiddy opens the door, scaring the hell out of the old man and just sits down. Dad would NOT talk to us for the rest of the night!" Bill chuckled, shaking his head.
Gerry took a long drink from his can, looking back on a few memories. "You remember old man Fahey?"
"Fahey...was he the old blowhard whose grandkid you played ball with?" Bill asked, a hint of exasperation in his voice.
"The one and only." Gerry nodded, sporting a wide grin. "Well, you remember how Pops could bull**** with the best of 'em, right?"
"Oh. Incorrigible. A font of questionable knowledge." Bill nodded.
"Well, you remember when I was hurt that week and I ended up on the bench? Well, I hear him and Fahey just in a BS battle royale. At one point, pops is claiming he trained with Yankees back in the day, then the guy just, 'Aw that ain't nothin'! I invented the breaking ball!'" Gerry smirked, laughter in his voice "And everything pops came up with, this guy made a more outrageous claim. Pop, met Marilyn Monroe? This guy went on a date with Doris Day. Pop caught a 4 foot long walleye? This guy went sword-fishing on the high seas. The entire time, I'm just trying not to laugh, because Pops was getting more and more frustrated, and you can hear it in his voice. Well, game ends, and he grabs me by the arm and goes 'Let's get the hell outta here! That guy's full of ****!"
Bill laughed, an impressed look on his face. "Someone out BS'd my dad?! Wow!"
"Oh, man. Made him look like Jon Lovits as the pathological liar." Gerry nodded.
Bill adopted his absolute best Jon Lovits impression "Yeah...yeah...with my wife Morgan Faaaaaairchild...that's the ticket..."
7 beers and 4 keepers later, Gerry and Bill returned to the cabin. After locking down the boat and storing the fish for a bit, he returned inside. The girls were all in there, playing Cards Against Humanity, a glass of Rose's famous home-made Sangria beside each of them. Kara perked up upon seeing Gerry. She MIGHT have a been a little drunk.
"The Great White Hunters returneth!" She proclaimed for all to hear.
Bill entered just as they all let out a drawn out "woo". He shook his head and gave Gerry a nudge with his elbow. "Boozehounds." he said derisively before stepping in. "Hello, ladies. And what are we doing here?" He said leaning down and smooching Rose's cheek. She reached back, a slightly inebriated smile on her face as she clung to him.
"Playin' a card game." She said. Her smile faded quickly and she looked back at him, then. Super serious. "It's filthy."
He snorted and peered over her shoulder at the cards. "...Michael Jackson's spotted p-" His eyes snapped up, looking at each of them. Kara and Ginny giggled.
"Ya'll need Jesus..." he said, shaking his head and walking off into the kitchen to grab a beer.
Gerry pulled up a chair. "I'm in next round."
The game continued late into the night, Bill and Rose heading off to bed around midnight. That was when they just decided to switch to a drinking game, playing a little "never have I ever". Gerry learned quite a bit about his sister's surprisingly debaucherous college years. Ginny turned beat red multiple times, of course, but the more she drank, the more comfortable she got. By 2:30, Ginny was out like a light, curled up on the couch with her head on Kara's lap.
She glanced down at the snoozing redhead, grinning. "Aww...look at sleeping beauty." she said quietly stroking her hair gently.
Gerry glanced over with a grin, two beer bottles in his hand. "You two bonding?" He handed her the bottle and clinked his to her's. He turned and looked out the window as he took a swig of his bottle.
"Hey." He said turning those blue eyes on her. "What do you say we grab some more beers, some s'more stuff, and we go outside and build a fire?"
Kara's eyes widened excitedly. "Yes. Yes! Awesome, let's do that."
"You're into it?"
"I'm into it, dude. I'm gonna grab a hoodie, meet me out there?" she said, carefully slipping out from underneath Ginny, laying her head on a pillow.
Gerry grabbed a bag of s'more stuff and a six pack of beers, moving outside to the fire pit. He gathered firewood and started setting up the fire. He'd just got a good blaze going when Kara came walking out, a green zip-up hoodie over her t-shirt and shorts that showed off her long, strong legs. In one hand was an acoustic guitar. She put on a big, excited cheesy grin, bouncing. "Look what I fouuuuuuund!" She said in a sing song voice.
"Oh, dear god..." Gerry chuckled. "Where did you find that?"
"It was in my room!"
"That was my grandpa's." He said, smiling, as memories came rushing back. Nights by this very pit when Pops would play old ballads. "Red River Valley", "El Paso"...sometimes he'd play "Rainbow Connection" while Rose would sing. Those were amazing nights, Gerry recalled, as a warm smile widened on his lips. "Can you play?"
She looked down at the guitar and shrugged. "I dunno. You tell me." She said with an arrogant air, throwing the strap over her neck. She wiggled the fingers of her strumming hand as if she was about to do something really impressive... and immediately started sloppily playing random notes, super aggressively, a rock star sneer on her face like she was rocking his world.
When she finished and raised her fists triumphantly, Gerry nodded putting on a show of being impressed, slowly clapping like it was the greatest thing he'd ever heard. Kara put her hands together and bowed her head in thanks. "Yes, yes, bathe me in your adoration! I taught myself, you know?"
Laughter erupted between the two of them as she stepped over sitting on the stone bench beside him. "No. I can play, yeah." She grinned and strummed, he fingers finding a chord.
"This one goes out to guy I know named Gerry. Ger-bear, wherever you are...this one's for you." She said with theatrical wistfulness.
Her head bobbed as she played a soft sweet little melody. Her voice finally came into play. Sweet, low, a little raspy, but definitely pleasant.
"Shadows grow so long before my eyes
And they're moving across the page
Suddenly the day turns into night
Far away from the city
'Cause your love won't wait"
Gerry smiled over to her, the brunette's stunning blue eyes closed as she focused on the sweet, slow little ballad she played for him.
"Ooh baby I love your way....everyday
Wanna tell you I love your way...everyday
Wanna be with you night and day"
He blinked, watching her just soothingly own the song.
"Moon appears to shine and light the sky
With the help of some firefly
Wonder how they have the power to shine, shine, shine
I can see them under the pine
'Cause your love won't wait..."
Her fingers moved expertly across the neck of the guitar, not a single note or chord out of place. Gerry'd never heard her sing like this. They'd done a karaoke night or two, but she was mostly a Joan Jett, Bonnie Tyler, or Pat Benatar kinda girl. This...this was a nice surprise. Those smokey blue eyes opened to look at him, a little grin coming to her lips as she sang to him.
"Ooh baby I love your way....everyday
Wanna tell you I love your way...everyday
Wanna be with you night and day..."
As the song came to a close, he realized she was staring right at him. Not singing for him, but singing TO him. Their eyes meeting, locking. And in those eyes, he saw love. Real, fiery, unconditional love. Part of him didn't believe he deserved it. Not from someone like her. She looked at him as if to say "It's your's anyway." The corners of his mouth twitched into a happy smile as Kara strummed the final chord, returning the smile up at him.
"Wow..." he said quietly. "That was...that was great."
She looked down at the guitar demurely, brushing her hair behind her ear. "Thanks." Those blue eyes turned up at him again, setting his heart pounding. She had a way of looking at him that just leveled him. Gave him a wonderful pain in his stomach.
"I didn't know you could sing like that." He said with a tilt of his head.
"Yeah...I don't really do it for just anybody." She nodded, chewing lightly on her lower lip. For a long moment the two just sat there in front of the fire before she scooted closer and leaned her head on his shoulder. Gerry wrapped and arm around her waist, resting his cheek against her head. Kara's face was a mask of contentment. There with her favorite person in the world, in the most peaceful place she'd ever been, on a perfect summer's night.
Gerry sniffed out a laugh. Kara's eyes turned up to him. "What?" She asked.
"That song's gonna be in my head for a week." He said with a chuckle.
"Oh, is it?" She asked mischievously, sitting up and taking the guitar again.
Gerry looked at her with a concerned expression. "Oh no."
"Gerry...have you not heard?"
"No! No, don't!"
She started playing erratically. "AH B-B-BIRD BIRD BIRD! THE BIRD IS THE WORD! HAVE YOU HEARD? ABOUT THE BIRD? WELL EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT THE BIRD IS WORD! AH B-B-BIRD BIRD BIRD!"
Gerry lifted his fists to the sky dramatically. "NOOOOOOOO!"
The two of them were out until about 4 AM that night. Just singing songs, drinking, and making s'mores. At the end of the night Gerry walked inside with her, hand in hand. They quietly made their way up the stairs, parting ways at his door, Kara holding onto his hand for an extra moment before she closed the door behind her, throwing a tired, smiling glance over her shoulder.
The next day Gerry woke to the sounds of activity bright and early. His eyes bloodshot and his hair wild. With a frustrated groan, he rose out of bed, hands going to his head as he looked at his clock. 7:30. Ugh. What the hell was wrong with these people? He stepped out onto the balcony, looking over his family. Ginny and Rose were...vehemently discussing the merits of Once Upon A Time while Bill stood at the stove, cooking up some breakfast. Nasya was in the redhead's arms as they discussed.
"It's pretty much Disney jerkin' it in front of a mirror!" Ginny argued.
"Hush! Not in front of the baby!" Rose reprimanded her daughter.
Ginny rolled her eyes. "She doesn't know what I'm saying. Do, ya, ya little poop machine?" she asked the baby in a funny voice, earning a delighted squeal from Nasya.
Rose gave her a pointed look, such a decisively "mom" expression on her face. "It is not. They play with the old fairy tales and give them a little twist. It's fun!"
"Oh really? Then why was that one season basically Frozen 2?" Ginny fired back. "And Merida! With her...godawful wig! Totally lifted RIGHT out of the movie!"
"Do you enjoy ANYTHING?" Rose said with narrowed eyes.
"...I like that show where the kids cook."
Gerry barely noticed the figure who stepped up beside him. Her white tanktop and pj pants rumpled, her hair a wild mess. She dramatically leaned against the bannister, turning exhausted crystal blue eyes up at him. "What the hell is wrong with these people? Who wakes up this early?"
Gerry shook his head slowly. "They're out of their minds, obviously."
Kara smirked and leaned against him, her mouth opening in a long, wide yawn. The pair of them trudged downstairs and went through breakfast. Bill and Rose suggested a run into town and Ginny was the only one game for it. Gerry and Kara opted to stay behind.
After a nice long nap, with Nasya snoozing away in her crib, they woke up to an empty, peacefully quiet house. Kara stood in the kitchen, all the accouterments for an epic sandwich spread before her, when Gerry walked in, his daughter in his arms.
"Wow. You putting everything in the fridge into that thing?" He asked her, eyebrow quirked.
"Only most of it." She responded with a smirk, spreading mayo over the pile of meat. Gerry stepped up next to her, grabbing a couple pieces of bread from the loaf. She glanced at him as he piled on salami and swiss cheese. Her brow furrowed derisively.
"Dude. It's just meat and cheese. What the hell?" She chastised him.
"Yeeeeeup. I knows what I likes, woman."
"For christ sake, man, put on some mustard or something!"
A smug grin on his face, Gerry shook his head. "Don't ruin my awesome sammich with your demon condiments."
"Come on, man!" She pleaded reaching over with her squeeze bottle of mayo.
"Nooooo, dooooon't!" Gerry said imitating a childish cadence, pushing her hand away. "You'll ruin it!"
She stopped a moment and then and swiped some of the condiment off her own sandwich and wiped it on his. He stared at her wide-eyed for a long moment. "Oh. Oh, you are dead." he said.
He reached over and swabbed some off her own sandwich and quickly smeared it across her nose. She recoiled, her face scrunching up as she started laughing. "Oh-hohohoooookay..." She nodded as if accepting defeat. A pair of delicate fingers scooped up some mustard and then slid it down his face in twin lines from his eybrows to his cheeks.
Gerry pulled away from her, a shocked expression on his face. The two of them stared each other down, daring one another to make the next move.
Suddenly, she smashed the top of her mustard and mayo slathered slathered food onto Gerry's grabbing the whole thing and running off, giggling madly.
Gerry stood there, blinking. He looked own at the little girl in his arms. "These are the people in your life. I apologize."
A delighted smile appeared on her face as she stared up at her mustard-faced father.
The pair sat out on the dock, pair of poles in the water. Kara was in a form-fitting black tanktop and cut-off jean shorts. Her hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, strands coming down to frame her face blowing gently in the light wind. Gerry in a simple, faded grey t-shirt and shorts, baseball cap on his head. Nasya was strapped to Gerry's chest, little sunglasses and a pink hat covering her head. Gerry and Kara's legs hung over the side of the dock as they sat. A nice cool breeze blew in from the lake cutting through the warm air.
"You ever think about doing anything else? Closing up shop and trying something new in a different state?" Gerry said, looking over to her.
Kara scrunched her face and shrugged. "I dunno. Not really? I mean, I've got a pretty good thing going with the bar. I'm my own boss, I set my own hours and all that stuff...I don't think I could work for someone else. Plus....I like doing it. I like the people, I like the town." She turned to him, those bright blues hidden behind a pair of aviators. "What about you? You gonna bail on me to go be a dirt farmer in the midwest at some point?"
Her smile hid a secret pain that maybe he would say yes. Or worse, that he would say maybe. There was nothing worse to her than being left hanging. To her relief, he just laughed and shook his head.
"Nah. I think I'd miss mom and dad and Gin too much." He smirked to her. "And you're okay, I guess."
She shot him a wry look . "Gee. Thanks." She shot him a nudge to the ribs with her elbow. "What about you? You miss...the other place?"
"Rhydin?" He asked.
Kara shrugged. "Sure."
Gerry thought a moment. Rhydin held its share of great memories, but there was a lot of bad there, too. He turned to her. "Yeah, sometimes. I mean...everything there was sort of...heightened. Dramatic. There was always something crazy going on. Things here are quieter. More peaceful. You don't have vampires and werewolves wandering around here and I can't remember the last time I saw a weird demon pop up."
"That sounds exciting!" She said, her eyes wide beneath the lenses.
"Eh. It IS until one of them throws a fireball that burns your storage unit or your wife is crashing in the bed of a werewolf and his gay lover." He said it like it was the most mundane thing ever. Kara just stared at him.
"Were there any, like...crazy kinds of chicks you were with?" She asked him.
He took in a breath, thinking back. "Ummm...."
"Did you **** a mermaid?!" She said excitedly.
"What? Ew, no!" he responded vehemently.
"Why NOT, man?! You could have been takin' it to Ariel!" she insisted.
"Do you know how fish reproduce?" He said, staring at her like she were a mad woman.
"Oh...Oh, ew. Yeah, I hadn't thought that. No, nevermind." She said, grossed out with herself.
"I did date this one woman...superhuman strength and speed. Not a vampire or anything, but something else. Beka. Kind of an odd duck, but sweet once you got past all the toughness." He said with a fond smile.
Kara grinned. This sounded familiar with Gerry. "You DO have a type, don't you?"
Gerry let out a breathy scoff and shook his head at himself. It would appear he did.
"What happened?" Kara asked.
Gerry just shrugged. "Life. " The smile faded slightly before he continued on. "I got busy with work and she was busy with whatever she was doing. Just lost touch. Never did see her again."
"Geez...not even a official break-up." Though a part of her was happy that it worked out that way, as it brought him to her, another felt a swell of pity for him. The way he talked about her sounded full of regret. Like she was the one who got away. Or one of them, as it were.
"I'm sorry." She said. "That sucks, man."
With a shrug of his shoulders he looked to her. "Never had much of a rudder anyway. Life just kind of takes me places...some things end. New things begin. You just try to cling to what you have as long as you can and hope nothing takes it away."
"That sounds very lonely." She said.
"It can be..." he admitted. "But...it brought me here. I've got you, I've got my daughter, I've got my family...I'm doing okay."
"But are you just waiting until something takes us all away?" She asked him.
"How do you ever manage to appreciate something if, the entire time, you're just waiting for the other shoe to drop?" She asked him with a shake of her head.
"Kara...if my life has taught me anything, it's that I can't afford to do that. I had a good home. Friends. Family. It was taken. I made a new family, new friends, new home and new life when I got to Rhydin. That was taken. I got married and had a beautiful baby daughter with a woman I loved. THAT was taken. Don't you think I'd be a bit naive to believe that THIS...THIS was the thing that sticks?" He didn't want to hurt her feelings or make her feel bad, but he knew the truth, and he certainly didn't want to lie about it.
The offended way Kara stared at him told him that he had. "So...you've pretty much got one foot out the door with us, huh?"
"No, that's not what I'm-"
"Well, that's great for you. But you know, the rest of us are kind of invested in you being here. We've waited a long time without hope of it ever happening again, so if you're just looking for the way out you might want to just tell us." she started, her voice betraying how upset she really was.
"Kara." Gerry stared at her, unsure of what to say. "That's not what I was saying."
"You don't think this is permanent. Yes or no?" She asked him.
"I don't know!" Gerry answered.
"So, you're prepared for this all to just end and that's cool?" In her heart, she knew that it wasn't true, but something about what he said just pulled a massive trigger in her mind.
Gerry stopped and just stared at her. This was ridiculous. He'd said nothing wrong and she was acting really odd. "Kara...what is this?"
"You don't care if you lose us! That's basically what you just told me!" She stared at him accusingly,
"Kara. I would be devastated. Yeah, I would move on eventually, but it would break my ****in' heart. You, Gin, Mom, Dad? I just got you back and I'm terrified that I'm going to lose you all again. Life has taken and taken and taken from me. And I'm scared that it's going to take more." He looked down at the little girl in the sunglasses attached to his chest. He wasn't just talking about them. He was talking about her. In a life that stole so much from him, this little girl he didn't plan on had become so very important to him. The thought of losing her was unbearable. She was his. His little girl. Everything he'd done since being sent here had been for her. The long hours working, denying himself time grieve properly. It was all for her.
Kara stared at him, her expression softening as she understood. "I'm sorry. I just...I don't want to lose you again." She sighed, lowering her head a moment before looking to Nasya. The little beauty a bit disturbed by the harsh tones in the big people's voices. She smiled and tickled her chin gently.
Gerry's lips twitched into a smile before he looked to the side. "Kara..."
Her attention turned upwards to him. "Hm?"
Gerry pointed a finger at her pole. The bob was pulled under the surface of the cool clear water. Kara pulled off her sunglasses, eyes wide with excitement. "Ooooh!" Quickly, the brunette snagged her pole. The fish put up a decent fight, but she was game. "Jesus...come on, you little bastard!"
She was really struggling, but Gerry was right there with her, cheering her on. "You got it! You got him! Come on!"
She yelled excitedly, still reeling the fish in. "I'm gonna put youuuuu in mah bel-leh!"
Finally, she pulled a wriggling, 15 inch catfish from the water, an exuberant squeal leaving her. "YES! LOOK AT THAT!" She said, her face lit up in elation. "Is it a keeper?! What's a keeper?!"
"That is TOTALLY a keeper!" Gerry assured her.
"YES! I'm gonna name him Henry!"
The family sat down to dinner that night to feast on Henry and his fishy brethren. A look of such smug pride on Kara's face when her catch was presented to the family, that Gerry couldn't help but chuckle. After dinner they were gathered on the porch, Otis Redding's Dock Of The Bay playing on the radio. Rose sat in Bill's lap, a glass of sangria in her hand and a beer in his. Kara's feet rested on Gerry's thighs while Ginny was snoozing away in a hammock, a glass at the end table by her side.
Kara smiled at the older couple, still so in love after all the years. They were so good together, so happy with each other. God, she wanted that. "How did you two meet?" She asked, taking a quick sip of her drink.
Bill glanced to his wife, brow wrinkled in thought. "Where were we? Dave's?"
Rose nodded. "We were at a party a friend of us was throwing. I was just out of a bad break up, and Dave was always trying to get us to meet. For whatever reasons it just never worked out. Either he was busy or I was busy, or we were dating other people. We'd never even met."
Bill smiled up at her. "So, Dave throws this big shindig at his place down by the beach, and we're both there. I walk in the door and I see this...stunning woman standing by the record player talking to her friends. And immediately, I'm thinking, 'I gotta talk to her.'"
"And this hunky guy walks up to me, flashing those baby blues at me and that smile...and suddenly, there's no one else at this thing. Just me and this handsome, charming, funny guy who I am just completely smitten with." Rose continued the story placing a smooch on her husband's lips.
Bill turned to them. "We ended up sitting out in the sand, sharing a bottle of wine until sunrise. Just talking and laughing...And that was it. I was cooked."
Rose giggled. "We didn't even realize we were the people Dave had been trying to get together until our first date."
Kara's smile widened, looking between the two of them. "You guys are so lucky." She said. "How do you do it? I mean after all these years?"
Rose shrugged. "It hasn't always been easy. I mean, people are still people, and we can still drive one another up a wall. You go through tough times. You argue, you fight, you butt heads. But at the end of the day, when he looks at me, it's still the look he gave me that night. And it still gives me the butterflies I had that night. It's just more now. Because he's not just a guy I met at a party. He's the father of my children. The man who has stood by me through everything. The man who has never let me down."
Gerry beamed at his parents. What they had was beautiful. Perfect. It might seem mundane or boring to some, but to him, it looked like heaven.
"She's all I could I want. All I could need. She gave me so much in this life that I can't, and don't want to imagine a life without her." Bill finished, placing a lingering kiss on Rose's lips.
Gerry turned to Kara, looking at her a long moment. Those smokey blue eyes connected with his, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips.
Not much later, Bill and Rose retired to bed,waking Ginny to sleep indoors, lest she be eaten alive by mosquitoes. Gerry and Kara put all the glasses in the kitchen sink and headed upstairs. She turned around to face him as they got to the door of his room. "Well..."she said. "Night, G."
Those beautiful azure hues looked right into his, a warm smile gracing her perfect features.
"Goodnight, Kara." He said quietly. The tension between them thick enough you could cut it with a knife. Kara chewed the back of her lower lip a moment, still staring at him. Finally her eyes lowered a bit and she turned to head for her room.
That was when she felt his right hand wrap around her arm. She turned to find him moving toward her, his left hand going to her cheek and that was all the prompting she needed. The two them collided, his lips pressing softly to her's, his thumb moving gently along her cheek bone as one strong arm wrapped around her waist. Her body melted into his, feeling like this moment could be her last and she would die happy.
Kara's hand moved up, fingers pressing into the hair at the back of his head as she deepened the kiss, breathing him in through her nostrils. This was what she had been wanting for so long, what she had dreamed of. And this moment, it was perfect.
Their lips parted, and she could not stop the wide, blissful smile that took over them. Their foreheads resting together, the pair of them just laughed quietly, looking into each other's eyes. Gerry brushed her hair behind her ear and sighed. Kara nudged her nose lightly to his, the two of them exchanging another quick peck. "Good night." She said, elation dominating her expression.
"Night." He whispered back, the two of them reluctantly leaving each other's arms. Gerry watched as she walked to her room, her joy evident even in her stride. As she opened her door she glanced back at him, smiling ear-to-ear before stepping inside and closing the door behind her. The two of them wouldn't sleep much that night, both trying to keep their giddy laughter quiet. For Kara, it had been a long time coming. A dream she'd clung to nearly all her life. And now it was real and she could not remember when she'd been this happy.
Gerry stood out on the porch, looking out over the dock, Nasya in one arm going to town on her bottle. The others were still asleep. Last night had been...oh hell, it was awesome. There was little sleep to be had but the single father felt on top of the world. Better than he had in months. Ginny spied him standing there as she put on the coffee. The redhead stepped outside and came up beside him, her hair pulled back tight, her big blue eyes not even looking at him. She would play this coy, aloof. Gerry glanced to her with a tired smile.
"Good morning." He greeted her.
A smug, knowing smirk formed as she side-eyed him. "Yeah, I bet it is." Slowly, she glanced at him with a playfully quirked eyebrow.
Gerry couldn't help the grin that came over him. His sister gave him a playful nudge with her elbow, a low chuckle leaving her smiling face. "About time." She said, nodding. "About damn time."
Ginny turned and leaned back against the railing, crossing her arms . "So, when's the wedding?" she asked.
Gerry snorted and shook his head. "Jesus. It was a kiss. And how the hell did you know about it anyway?"
She blew a raspberry and looked at him like he was ridiculous. "Like we weren't all peeking through keyholes. "
"Creepy." Gerry said.
She rolled her eyes. Come on, man, it wasn't like they were gathered outside his door while they were boning. "We're all rooting for you on this one, Ger. Plus, we're family. We're allowed to be a little bit creepy." She said with a little grin. "How do you feel?"
Her brother considered that a moment, his brows raising with a sigh. "Good. Really...really good." He admitted.
That made her happy. It had been a long road to this. "You look it. You look happier than I've seen you since we were kids." She tried to remember the last time she'd actually seen it. When she'd shown up in RhyDin, things were already kind of tense between Gerry and Keirra. She could tell something was off. He made a good show of hiding it, of course, but when Gerard Finnegan wasn't happy...it was hard to miss.
The two of them were silent a moment, just enjoying being there in the early morning light. Gerry turned to her. "Thank you."
Her brow creased, eyes shifting to him. "For what?" Ginny asked.
"For making me come back." Gerry clarified. "I was against it. I didn't want to. I would have missed out on all of this. You, Mom, Dad, Kara..." He stared off, somber for a moment. "I'm glad I came with you."
Ginny smiled and lowered her eyes. She remembered how hard he'd fought her on it. She knew what he gave up. "I know it hasn't been easy. Leaving her behind. Moving on." She turned to her big brother. "I just want you to be happy, Ger."
Gerry turned and looked inside, Kara was shuffling down the stairs, her hair a wild mess, a faded, rumpled Van Halen t-shirt hanging off her slender frame. A tired, lazy smile on her face as she noticed to two siblings offering a lazy wave before she went directly to the coffeemaker. Gerry grinned and looked back to his sister. "Yeah...yeah, I think I am."
It was the last day of their trip and the whole family spent the day outside. Gerry and Bill set up the volleyball net and a slightly over-competitive game of girls v. boys began. Ginny and Kara carried their own with Rose barely paying attention. In the end they took the W. The rest of the day was spent getting a big cook-out ready, most of the nearby neighbors across the lake coming by for the big party.
By the time the sun set, there were tiki torches going, lights strung over the grounds of the cabin, coolers set out, full of community pot of alcohol. Beer, liquor, wine. Fireworks compiled for a late night show. Ginny and Kara spent the majority of the time setting up the music, more than one argument about how to hook everything up taking place over the course of the afternoon. People from all up and down the lake showed up, piling onto the property. A few grills going at once, the smell of cooking burgers and brats and steaks filling the air. The laughter of newly minted friends and playing children filling the air.
Gerry overlooked the scene, Nasya in one arm and a bottle of beer in the other. The baby stared up at the multicolored lanterns, just mesmerized. Bill stood at one grill, doling out cheeseburgers to the partygoers, Rose laughing with some of the others while Ginny sat at a picnic table chatting flirtatiously with a particularly attractive blonde woman in white. Kara was attracting more than few glances from the men...some Bill's age, and some far younger than her's. She didn't pay them much mind. Just kept making sure everyone was happy and making drinks. The bartender in her hard at work.
Gerry smiled. To him, this was heaven.
A few of the younger men and women had begun dancing to the music before long. Gerry stood beside his father, sipping away at his bottle and rocking his daughter in his arm. Bill glanced to his son and noted Kara standing alone. He nudged Gerry with lightly with his elbow. "Hey, Kid."
Gerry glanced over with a smirk. "You better watch those elbows, old man."
"Oh-ho-ho, you may be a big boy, but don't think I can't still spank ya in front of all these people." He grinned. With a nod to Kara he continued. "You know, where I come from, you see a lady like that standing by herself at a dance, you do something about it."
Gerry glanced to the stunning brunette, her hair done in braided pigtails, a plaid shirt tied off at her chest over a tight, white tanktop. Tan, toned arms shown off in the firelight. A pair of khaki shorts clinging to soft, sunkissed thighs. She sipped at a margarita, a soft smile on her lips. Gerry glanced to his grinning father. "Would you mind-"
"Give 'er here." Bill interrupted with a laugh. "Ahhh, c'mere, princess. You wanna cook with Pop Pop?" He said in a sweet voice to the child.
Gerry smiled appreciatively at his father, starting away. Bill glanced back at him. "Have fun."
Kara was watching the fire, not taking note of the tall man who stepped up beside her. "Hey there, sticks. Come here often?" he asked in a flirtatious tone.
A little grin crossed her lips. "Nah. First time, tree trunks. How 'bout you."
"Mm. You know, my dad owns this place."
Kara feigned an impressed gasp. "You don't say? Well, you much be a big deal."
"Well, I don't like to brag."
She snorted. "Since when."
He gave her a nudge, smirking. "Don't break character."
"Oh! Right." She cleared her throat and sipped her margarita, eyes widening all sweet and innocent. "Well, golly gee, Mister. I hope you won't look too unkindly on po' widdle plain ol' me."
Gerry chuckled, his brow arched. "Get out here." he said, offering her a hand.
Kara downed the rest of her drink and quickly moved to join him. The music then faded into Haley Reinhart's cover of "Can't Help Falling In Love" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZkih54evUs)
Gerry looked to the radio a moment and then back to the beaming blue eyed goddess waiting for his lead. He took her right hand in his left and slipped his other around her waist. Together they swayed slowly to the rhythm of the song.
Wise men say
Only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you
Kara stared up at him, those ice blue eyes peering into the very depths of him. Gerry thought back to everything that brought him here...what a winding, unsteady path it had been. "What are you thinking about?" She asked him.
He smiled down to her. "Just....everything. How crazy life works out sometimes."
Shall I stay?
Would it be a sin
If I can't help falling in love with you?
"Good crazy?" She said hopefully.
"The BEST crazy." He clarified with a grin.
Like a river flows
Surely to the sea
Darling, so it goes
Some things are meant to be
Take my hand,
Take my whole life, too
For I can't help falling in love with you
Her arms wrapped up around his neck, her cheek resting against his strong chest, clinging to him. Those smokey eyes sliding slowly shut as a content smile spread across her lips. Gerry leaned down and kissed the top of her head and looked over the crowd again. Ginny was dancing with the blonde stranger, couples taking over the dance floor. And then his parents. Bill had his granddaughter in one arm and his wife in the other. The pair of them beamed watching their children. Bill caught Gerry's gaze and smiled giving him a nod. Gerry canted his head in return.
Kara pulled back a bit, turning those eyes up at his, Gerry's attention entirely on her. Kara Aimsley. The girl he'd spent most of his childhood with. The girl who'd waited for him. Enough waiting.
Gerry leaned forward, taking her lips with his. An action she was all too eager to return. Her fingers moved up into the short hairs at the nape of his neck. Their lips parting just to reconnect and deepen the kiss.
Like a river flows
Surely to the sea
Darling, so it goes
Some things are meant to be
Take my hand,
Take my whole life, too
For I can't help falling in love with you
The pair of them clung to each other. their foreheads resting together. Life was about sacrifice. Gerry knew that. He'd given more than most. But nights like tonight, here with her in his arms, his family close by, he was reminded that sometimes life gives back.
For I can't help falling in love with you
The party ended with a massive fireworks display down by the dock. The night sky lit up with brilliant explosions of color, as Gerry and Kara sitting on the grass, her leaning back against his chest, sat between his legs. He'd lost track of Ginny an hour or two ago, but wherever she was, he was pretty sure she wasn't alone because the blonde was gone, too.
He rested his chin on her shoulder, a little smile gracing his features as she turned her head to kiss his cheek. Their fingers intertwined at her stomach, watching the display, blissful in their closeness.
After the fireworks, people started clearing out, and heading home. Bill saw the last of them out and turned to Gerry and Kara as they started cleaning up the mess. The old man looking tired and happy. And maybe a little drunk.
"Good party." He said with a nod.
"Damn good." Gerry said, glancing up with a grin. "Why don't you two get some shut eye. We'll finish up out here."
Bill did not look like he was in the mood to argue. But...just for appearances...."You sure?"
Kara waved him off. "Go to bed, old man. It's past your bed time anyway. Gotta be up early to catch some Matlock."
Bill scoffed and then softened. "I'd argue, but I kind of like Matlock..."
Gerry laughed. "Get some shut-eye."
Rose stepped up beside Bill wrapping her arms around his waist. Her husband throwing an arm around her. "Thank you." she said. Turning to Bill, she began to lead him away. "Come on, you."
Kara and Gerry had the place spotless in about an hour, the garbage bags wrapped up and placed by the end of the driveway for pick up. Inside, the pair went, washing up and getting ready to go to bed.
Hand-in-hand, they made their way up the stairs, neither really willing to let go as they came to a stop outside of Gerry's room. "Well." He said, his voice a whisper.
She smiled up at him and threw her arms around his neck, a nicely buzzed smile on her lips. "Yeah. I had a great night."
He nodded slowly, those dark blue eyes staring into her's. "Me too." his hands clasped as is arms wrapped around her thin waist.
She leaned up, on her toes and placed a soft, lingering kiss on his lips. She remained close when the kiss broke, lowering herself down and clinging to him for one more moment.
Those smokey blue eyes peered up at him as she slowly opened her eyes. "Good night." She said to him quietly.
"Night..." He managed. His thoughts wer screaming at him as he watched her walk away to her room. Don't let her go! What are you DOING, man?! Go after her! GO!
But he didn't . He just watched her walk into her room and shut the door.
In his own, he paced back and forth, daring himself to go out there. But what if she was happy to end the night the way it had ended. What if it was to soon for...that. They hadn't been dating long and what about-
OH JUST GO, MAN!
He swallowed hard, and set his jaw, a steely determination forming. He made his decision, stepping toward the door and pulling it open...only to find Kara on the other side. Her face flushed, with nervousness, eyes wide as adrenaline flowed through her.
The corner of Gerry's mouth upturned in that lopsided grin just before she launched herself at him, lips and tongue attacking his as they tumbled backwards into the room, letting the door shut in their wake.
Ginny cringed as the creaked open, despite her efforts otherwise. A cursory glance around showed nobody awake yet.
Thank god. She let out a sigh and waved on the woman behind her. Michelle had been her name. A sweet, drawling accented Texas girl with sun-bleached blonde hair, the deepest brown eyes, and sun-kissed skin.
"Coast is clear."
Michelle stepped out, looking for herself, just to be sure and snuck out onto the balcony overlooking the living room. Their night together had been amazing. Something Ginny desperately needed after a long, long dry spell. Those big blue eyes turned up to the blonde cowgirl in front of her. A smile crossed her lips as she took her hands. "Thank you for a great night."
Michelle shot her a sly little grin. "Mm...thank *you*. You've got my number right?"
A shade of red spread across Ginny's face and chest, her teeth biting lightly against her lip. She nodded.
"Good. You better call me." Michelle leaned in and placed a soft kiss on Ginny's lips, those big blues fluttering shut as she reciprocated. The pair of them stared at each other for a long moment before a giddy little chuckle left them.
"Come on." Ginny said. "I'll walk you out."
She took her new friend by the hand and started for the stairs. And that was when her heart just stopped. The door to Gerry's room opened suddenly, leaving Ginny freezing in place.
Her eyes wide as saucers, her lips parted slightly.
Gerry looked from her to the girl and back again.
A little grin formed on his face. "Nice."
"Shut up." Ginny said, her face turning beet red.
That was when a pair of arms wrapped around Gerry's shoulders. "Ger, come back to bed-" a voice said.
Ginny knew that voice. She peered around her brother...to find Kara. And it became obvious that she was wearing nothing, hidden behind the mountain of a man that was her brother.
The quartet stared in wide-eyed awkwardness for a long moment before Gerry backed slowly into the room. The door began to shut before he turned and leaned out holding a fist out to Ginny.
The Redhead's eyes shut in embarrassment as she started to turn away. A moment's hesitation, she stopped and turned, tapping her fist to his.
Gerry's eyes took in the open road, his father sitting beside him. The radio filled in the pleasant silence as they made their way back to Clute. His eyes flicking down to the cooler of snacks and drinks by the slumbering older man's feet. Try as he might, he couldn't will the old man awake.
Bill just snored, blissfully dead to the world. A sinister little smirk crossed face as an idea came to him. With a quick jerk of the wheel Bill bumped his head against the A pillar of the car.
With loud, startled snort "Wheh! WHAT? WH...hemph..."
Bill looked around bleary-eyed, blinking absently. Gerry glanced over, feigning surprise.
"Oh, hey! You're up!" he exclaimed.
Bill rubbed his eyes, looking around. "Hm? Oh. Yeah! Yeah...what's going on?"
Gerry shrugged and shook his head. "Hey, can you grab me a sammich?"
Bill dug through the cooler and pulled out a thick cut corn beef sandwich and handed it over.
"Where are we?" He asked.
"'bout 3 hours outside of home." Gerry answered.
Bill yawned and watched a sign pass. "Oooh, look. We can get porn."
He watched another pass. "...and apparently Jesus."
Gerry laughed with a mouthful of food. Bill grinned to his son. "So, you have a good weekend, Kid?" he asked, taking his shoulder in one of his strong hands. Gerry glanced over quick, happily and nodded before turning his attention to the road ahead.
"Yeah. Best weekend I've had in...probably ever."
Bill gave him friendly slap on the arm. "Atta boy."
Gerry knew there was the elephant in the...truck, and was just waiting for it. No surprise when his father spoke again. "So...you two uh-"
"Dad, that's-" he started talking over his father before he could finish his sentence
"Oh." A long, awkward silence passed between the two of them. "Yeah. Yeah, we're making a go of it."
Bill smirked and nodded. "Good for you. Both of ya." Bill stared past his feet propped up on the dash, watching the road rush toward them, the radio playing faintly. "Fair warning. You hurt her, we'll kill ya."
Gerry's brows knit together. "Jesus, old man! Whose dad are you!"
"What?! We like her better."