This story is based on Tyger Magick's "Father Figure". Thanks, Tyger, for
Summary: A few weeks after Caitlin's sickness and nightmare, she and Jim
draw closer as family, surprising (and pleasing) Caitlin.
Jim was giving Caitlin a ride into town for school, since she'd overslept
and missed the bus. Normally, whenever she and Jim were alone together, she
was uncomfortable and quiet. Since the night she'd been very sick and had
nightmares of a foster home she'd spent time in some years ago, the way
he'd taken care of her had gone a long way towards relieving both of them
from the tension that always seemed to spring up between them whenever they
were around each other.
It was a good feeling, she decided, not to feel that way around him
anymore. She was still wary at times ..old habits died hard, and she
doubted she would ever completely be free of that, because of the way her
life had been till she'd come to live with the Lowes ... but, she was
Maybe there was hope for her after all..
"What's the smile for?" Jim asked her, startling her from her thoughts.
She turned to him, keeping the smile on her face .. "Nothing . I was just
thinking about how much . safer . I feel these days."
"Yeah?", he replied, giving her a slow smile in return. "You know, Dori
had nothing to do with that, really ..it's been all me - cause I'm such a
cool dad and all ..." He turned to her, then, and wriggled his brows,
hoping to make her laugh. She had a beautiful laugh, he knew, and loved to
coax it from her when he could.
Giggling, she said, "Yeah, Jim ... you're just TOO cool for the rest of us.
Why don't you see if they can rename your office, "Sheriff Cool's Jail"?
Might make the criminals feel more warm and fuzzy in the cells!"
The light bantering between them had just appeared, it seemed, in the days
after Caitlin's bad night some weeks past. And her nightmares had seemed to
have pretty much gone away, a fact that made everyone in the house much
happier - especially Caitlin.
"Hey, listen - I can just let you off right here, young lady!", Jim joked,
slowly pulling over to the shoulder in the road they were on, causing
Caitlin to squeal.
"NO, no ... that's alright ... I definitely don't want to get to gym class
sweating before anyone else there!", she laughed.
"All right, then ... behave, and respect the taxi driver."
"Yes, gracious father!", she joked, mimicking the dialogue from the kung fu
movie they'd both watched last night on TV.
The cab of the Jimmy truck suddenly fell silent as Jim and Caitlin both
considered the unexpected words she'd just uttered ..well, actually just
one word - father. She'd never used that word before around anyone . or
"mom", "dad", or "brother", for that matter. She'd never thought she'd ever
use them, either, until the feelings she'd lately been having around the
rest of her new family had come into her heart. Wow - did she just say,
Jim sat still, just looking straight ahead at the road they were on heading
into town, not daring to look at Caitlin for fear of embarrassing her.
Hearing the word "father" from her, even in a joke, startled him. He knew
she was very careful expressing her emotions around people, and after the
stories she'd told him about her old foster family, he understood why a lot
better than he did when she'd first arrived to live with them. Still, he
didn't want to push her or make her uncomfortable around him . he loved the
closer relationship he and Caitlin had started building lately, and didn't
want anything to spoil it. He decided to speak first, since he was sure she
"Look, Caitlin ... I know that you feel kinda wiggy about talking about
certain feelings and words, and I want you to know that you don't have to
feel that way here, right now ... OK?"
"It's OK, Jim .. I was just as shocked as you were, I guess. It was out of
my mouth before I could really think about it. I mean, we were just joking
around, and ...", she said, her voice trailing off as she gazed out of the
passenger side window.
"What?", he replied gently, when she stayed silent after several moments.
He was afraid she would say next that she really didn't mean to say it, and
to just forget it. He didn't want to go back to having that sort of
relationship with her again, but he would never push her beyond where she
wanted to go. He wanted her to reach her comfort level at her pace, not
"I'm not sure. I mean . things have been so good between us lately, and I
don't want to ruin it," she said, turning to look at him with a small smile
- the one he'd decided meant that she had gotten comfortable with whatever
she was saying at that moment.
"I know, and I don't want to ruin it, either . it's been a lot of fun, and
I love your sense of humor so much." He risked turning to face her as he
finished, returning the smile she given him a minute before.
"Thanks. No one's ever said that to me before. It's nice .. I always
thought my sense of humor was a little offbeat, like me."
Jim laughed and said, "But that's what makes it so good and unique, Caitlin
..it's a reflection of your personality, and everyone who knows you here
seems to enjoy it as much as I do."
Caitlin's cheeks flushed and she smiled again .. Jim always had a way of
making her feel good about herself. With Dori, she knew that they had that
"women's vibe" going on, and she also knew she could always talk to her
about things ..but with Jim, it was different - and the same thing, at the
same time. Very confusing ...
"You're embarrassing me .. I never think about myself in some ways until
you say things like that, and then I think I might not be that much of a
freak, after all."
"You're no freak, Caitlin, trust me," Jim replied, reaching over to lay his
free hand on hers. She didn't flinch, which was a new thing in itself. She
could get used to this, she thought.
"I know that you've been through things no one should have to deal with,
especially at your age. But one of the many things that amazes me about you
is how strong you are in spite of everything. Believe me, Caitlin, it isn't
easy having to face your own demons, let alone having to deal with someone
else's. I only wish I could get my hands on that foster guy who hurt you ."
She felt his hand tighten on hers as he said that last part, and she knew
at that moment, knew without any doubt what Jim would do to him if he ever
got the chance. Shivering slightly as she sensed his tension through the
contact of his hand, she knew it would do no good, and hurt him like it had
hurt her. And she also knew that she didn't want him to be hurt ..by her
past, or anything else.
"Jim," she said, getting his attention and watching his face as he turned
to her, "he's not worth it. You always tell me that the past is the past,
and it's important to leave things like that behind. I don't want my bad
life to hurt you or anybody else. Let's just talk about something else,
OK?" Before she realized it, her fingers had wrapped around his larger
ones, and she held his hand in hers as they got closer to town.
"I can't believe you actually listen to me!", he teased, dissipating the
remaining tension in the air.
"Kinda hard not to sometimes, when you're jolted from a deep sleep by this
extremely loud voice saying you've got fifteen minutes to get a ride to
school or walk!", she replied, laughing.
"Yeah, Dori hates when I yell like that so early in the morning, but if a
certain person wouldn't insist on staying up to watch TV too late, and then
doesn't get enough beauty sleep .", he said, as his voice drifted off
"Hey - BOTH of us were watching that movie on TV, you know . and SOME of
us don't need any beauty sleep at all - but OTHERS need all the help they
can get, especially considering what they have to wear each day to work! At
least I get to wear jeans .you have to deal with polyester issues!", she
teasingly replied, reaching over to pluck at his uniform shirt.
"Yeah, I know," he replied, shaking his head. "I wish I could wear jeans,
too. But this getup comes with the job, ma'am."
"Don't 'ma'am' me! Have you forgotten I'm only 16?"
"Don't remind me! I'm surprised you weren't waiting to drive ME into work
this morning, just for the chance to get behind the wheel!"
"Hey, GOOD idea ..", she said mischievously, her eyes glittering at him as
she smiled the biggest smile he'd seen on her face yet that morning.
"Oh, God .. WHAT have I done!" he moaned, shaking his head and chuckling.
Laughing with him, she smiled, then quieted after a minute. "Hey, Jim .. ",
"I never told you thanks for taking care of me the night of that storm .. I
was so messed up and sick, and I still can't believe you cleaned up after
"Hey, it's OK. I'm glad I was there to be with you. I thought to myself
the next day, 'What if she'd been home alone?' Anyway, I felt so bad
because you were so sick .. hope I didn't scare you too much when you woke
up to find me there in the rocking chair."
"No, it was OK. I couldn't believe you stayed there all night in that hard
chair watching over me ..it really meant a lot to me," she replied,
squeezing his hand again.
"I didn't want you to feel alone or scared in case you woke up during the
rest of the night. Your nightmare ..it was pretty intense. I've never seen
you look that frightened before, not even when you came back to help me
pull that guy out of his burning truck at that accident we came across."
"I was really scared .and the storm and being sick just brought it all
back, I guess. It's weird ..cause I actually like walking in the rain,
believe it or not. If it's not thunderstorming, of course .."
"Well, bad experiences have a way of coming back at you like that. But I
want you to remember, if they come again ..you don't have to face them
alone. I'll be there, and I won't let anything happen to you."
After he finished, he sensed she was watching him as they reached the town
and headed for her school. As he turned into the school parking lot, he
switched off the engine and turned to her. Immediately, he noticed the one
tear flowing down her cheek, and, concerned, he asked, "Caitlin?"
"I know ." she started in a quiet and strained voice, watching him as he
reached up to gently wipe the tear away from her cheek.
"I know nothing will happen to me cause you're there."
"Good," he said, nodding and holding her gaze as she squeezed his hand,
smiled, and turned to open the passenger door, grabbing her backpack from
the rear seat as she jumped out of the Jimmy before turning to head to the
entrance of the school. She reached the glass doors, and turned to watch
him as he started up the engine. He felt her eyes on him, and he looked up
at her and held up four fingers, letting her know he'd pick her up at 4:00
to go home. She nodded, smiled, and waved to him as he backed out and drove
They both felt the smiles on their faces as they began their days.