|A Father's Gift
Author: sbishoff PM
Set during the story "Homecomings." A look at Mark's first Father's day as the judge's son.Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 4,507 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 01-24-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4031677
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Notes: I don't own the characters, they are the property of theor creators.
This story is part of the of the alternate universe I created in "Homecomings." It takes place during that story the following year after the adoption.
It is a Father's Day story so it is either late or early depending on how you look at it. I decided to go ahead and post it instead of waiting.
This has not been beta'd so all errors are mine.
A Father's Gift
by Susan Bishoff
In the months following Mark's adoption and official joining of the Hardcastle family, he began to really feel this was where he belonged. The past Christmas was even more festive than any he remembered before. He was still adapting to life with a real family, and sometimes didn't know what to expect or what was expected of him. But the judge and Tom were helping him learn that he didn't need to change anything about himself or his actions. He was accepted for who he was.
Father's Day was just a few days away, and Mark was trying to find the perfect present for the judge. He had so much he felt he owed the older man and he wanted to let the jurist know how much he appreciated all he had done for him. The jurist hadn't had to adopt him into his family, but he had. And not only that, he had believed in Mark when everyone else had given up on him, including himself. But each time Mark thought he had it figured out, something would make him think that it wasn't good enough. He was sitting at his desk in the Gatehouse deep in thought when the door opened. He was so distracted by his dilemma that he didn't even hear the door.
Tom Hardcastle stood in the doorway, and watched his younger brother as he sat lost in thought. As he watched, he was once again reminded how close they had come to losing Mark the year before, and he realized how much he loved him. He took a moment to give thanks that Mark had been spared, and that his father had adopted Mark and made him his brother. It didn't matter that this had happened less than a year ago. To Tom it felt as if he had known Mark for his whole life, and had always been his brother.
After a few moments Tom realized Mark hadn't heard him come in, so he cleared his throat loudly.
Mark jumped at the sudden sound in the quiet room. He looked quickly to the door, and then relaxed when he saw Tom standing there. "Sorry, I was just thinking," he said, his face flushed bright red at being caught daydreaming.
Tom laughed at his younger brother's embarrassment. "I thought I'd come see if you were ready to go to the game since you didn't come over to the house," Tom replied. And then more seriously, he added, "You had better not been studying. It's semester break and you're not to touch a law book during this break. That was the deal." It had taken both Tom and his father to get Mark to agree to just relax and enjoy the break instead of spending the time studying. They knew he wanted to do well, but didn't want him to give up everything else in the process.
Mark smiled at the admonishment from his older brother. He couldn't believe that not only was the judge his father, but Tom was his brother—the brother he always wanted. At times it was hard to believe that Tom had just returned almost two years ago; it seemed like they were part of each other. He didn't believe the bond he felt for the ex-Marine could be any stronger if they were related by blood. "No, I was just thinking about Father's Day, and what to get your dad." At the raised eyebrow from Tom, he amended the statement, "Our dad. Sometimes, I still can't believe that he's really me father now."
"Well, he is, and he'll love anything you give him," Tom said, and waited for Mark to get ready.
"I know, but I want it to be really special. This is the first year that he's been my father, and it's the first year that I really have someone to give a Father's Day gift to. Guess that sounds silly," Mark said, embarrassed at his admission.
Tom thought about what Mark had said. He knew all about Mark's real father, and grew angry every time he thought about him, and how he treated Mark. That was another reason he was glad Mark was part of his family; so he finally knew he was loved and wanted. The ex-Marine nodded his head, and said, "No, it's not silly. I just don't think you need to worry about it so much. Dad knows how you feel, and anything you give him is going to show that."
"I guess you're right," Mark agreed doubtfully. If only he could think of something spectacular to give the judge. He walked over to the door to join his brother.
"Of course I am; I'm the older brother. I know these things," Tom teased, and tussled Mark's hair before preceding him out the door.
Mark laughed as he straightened his hair. He smiled at the ex-Marine, and said, "Thanks, big brother."
"You're welcome, little brother," Tom said affectionately, and threw his arm around the ex-con's shoulders.
The two men walked to the Corvette.
Watching from the main house, the judge saw the two younger men emerge from the Gatehouse. Seeing the smiles on their faces, the jurist relaxed. He had noticed Mark's distracted mood lately, and wondered what was on his young friend's mind. But every time he tried to ask him if he was upset about something or if he wanted to talk, Mark would say he was fine. As he watched the car leave the estate, the older man was certain that if something was bothering Mark, Tom would be able to find out what. It still amazed the jurist how close the two young men were considering they didn't even know each other until a few years ago.
There weren't too many things about Mark's past that the jurist didn't know about now. Most of the things Mark had previously refused to talk about had been discussed since the adoption. Mark had opened the door to his past on different occasions allowing both Tom and the judge to know and understand him better. When the judge had asked Mark why he never talked about it before when it obviously still upset him, Mark just said that it didn't seem right burdening his friends with that. But now that they were family and sharing their past with him, Mark felt that maybe it was time to share his, and all the bad hidden there.
When the judge had heard about the abuse the ex-con had endured at the hands of his uncle, he felt a rage consume him unlike any other he had ever felt, with the exception of that he felt whenever he thought of Mark's father. The jurist could still remember thinking that it was a good thing Mark's uncle lived on the other side of the country, or he might have been inclined to follow through with some of the things he wanted to do to the creep. Knowing about the abuse, and the neglect Mark suffered in the foster homes made the older man all the more determined that he would give the ex-con the life he should have had all along.
The jurist was relieved that Tom understood this need in his father, and seemed to share it. Tom had on more than one occasion told his father that he was grateful for getting the chance to know Mark better, and he wanted to show him what it was like to be part of a real family. The judge didn't remember ever being more proud of Tom as he was now that he had accepted Mark into their family.
The judge smiled as he turned from the window, and sat in the chair at his desk. Father's Day is this Sunday, and this is the first time in a long time that I'm looking forward to it. Last year was Tom's first since he came back, and I was so glad to have him back to really think about it. But this year, I have two sons instead of just one, and that makes me happier than I've been in a long while. Although even though I looked at Mark as a son long before I adopted him, I could never admit it. Now that he is officially my son, and Tom is back, I know I am truly blessed.
The only thing missing is you, Nancy. I miss you so much, and I can feel that you're watching. Although I know you miss him, I know you're glad Tom is safe. You would have loved Mark; he's a great kid. He would have loved you too. You would have spoiled him rotten. I know, don't dwell on what's missing, and enjoy what I have. You always tried to teach me that, and I think Mark helped me to finally learn it.
The jurist relaxed in his chair as he let memories and thoughts of his family fill him with happiness.
Sarah Wicks, longtime housekeeper and friend to Judge Hardcastle, stood silently in the den doorway, and watched her employer. She had come to see if he would like some coffee, but had stopped at the sight of the man sitting in his chair.
His face had a far away look on it, and the smile there told her that whatever his thoughts, they were pleasant ones. The look of joy on his face brought a smile to hers as well, and warmed her heart.
It's been such a long time since you've been this happy, Your Honor, and it's good to see. I'm glad that things worked out the way they have. Tom is home with his family where he belongs, Mark finally has the family he deserves, and you've opened your heart to love again.
As Sarah walked back to the kitchen to finish straightening up for the evening, her thoughts turned to the only missing member of the family. It was so hard for the judge after you died; he wanted to give up and die with you. But he is a fighter, and picked himself back up, and went on with life. He was surviving, and that was all until Mark came to live here. As I'm sure you've seen, that's when Judge Hardcastle really started living again. He was truly happy for the first time since he heard about Tommy, and your death. And then there were the changes it made in Mark. The Judge's guidance and caring helped him learn to trust in someone, and to believe in himself. I'm just thankful that fate saw to send that young man here. It was the best thing that could happen to the both of them. And then Tommy came home. It has been wonderful having him back home. The only thing that could make it any better would be if you were here to enjoy it also.
Sarah wiped the tear from her eye, smiled, and said softly, "I know, you wouldn't want me to be sad when there is so much to be thankful for. Keep watching over them, they love you very much, as do I." With happier thoughts, the housekeeper made short work of cleaning the kitchen.
The next few days passed quickly, and Father's Day dawned bright and sunny. Judge Hardcastle descended the staircase in a great mood, and his thoughts on the fishing trip he was going to be taking with Mark and Tom the next week. Hearing Father's Day mentioned as he approached the kitchen door, he decided to stop and listen for a moment before entering the room.
"You mean all this time Mark has been worrying over what to get your father for Father's Day? That's why he's been so subdued and distracted?" Sarah asked.
"Yeah," Tom answered.
"Doesn't he know by now that it doesn't matter what his gift is; it's the thought behind it that counts. And your father knows how much that boy loves him," the housekeeper stated.
"Yes, I know, and I tried to explain that to him, but he thinks he has to have something magnificent because this is the first year my dad is also his dad. He's never had anyone to give a Father's day gift to before, and now that he does, he thinks he has to make up for lost time," the younger man explained.
"Well, your father will love whatever it is he gives him, and then he can see that it doesn't have to be something big, just something from his heart," Sarah replied, and then added, "Sit down at the table and I'll get you breakfast."
From outside the door, the retired jurist was glad he had stopped to listen at the door. So that's why you've been so distracted lately, kiddo. I guess I should have known you'd react that way, never having had your father there all those years. It doesn't matter to me if you don't give me anything. The fact that you are here is enough for me.
Mark walked into the kitchen and saw that everyone else was already seated at the table. "Sorry I'm late," he said quietly, and took his seat.
"That's all right Mark. I kept your plate warm," Sarah said, and went to get it. As she set his plate in front of him, she bent to kiss his cheek.
"Thank, Sarah," the ex-con said, and blushed at the show of affection from the older woman.
The jurist watched the exchange between his housekeeper and adopted son, and smiled to himself. He knew she was trying to put the younger man at ease since he had been so nervous lately. The judge cleared his throat, and said, "I thought that maybe we could grill some steaks for dinner tonight."
Tom nodded, and said, "That sounds good Dad."
McCormick ate his breakfast in silence while he listened to the conversation around him. He was looking at the jurist when he suggested cooking out, and Tom responded. Something he saw there gave him an idea. What I really want to show him is how much I appreciate all he's done for me and how much I love him. But it really can't be as simple as that can it? He continued to consider this new direction his thoughts had taken when he realized he had been spoken to and everyone was waiting for a response. "Oh, sorry, I was just thinking," Mark stumbled to say to hide his embarrassment.
The jurist had a good idea what was on his young friend's mind, and decided not to further embarrass him as he would usually. Instead, he said, "Sarah wanted to know if you wanted any more pancakes, but I can see by your plate that you probably don't."
Mark looked at his nearly full stack, and grinned. "No, these will be enough for me, but they are delicious as always Sarah." The ex-con didn't want the housekeeper to think it was on account of her cooking that he had no appetite.
Sarah smiled at Mark's remark, and said, "I'll make a salad and some potatoes to go with the steaks. Is there anything else you would like Your Honor?"
"No, I think that will be plenty. I just want to spend a quiet day at home today," the jurist said, and then looked to the younger men, and added, "Unless someone else has something they want to do today."
Tom shook his head, and replied, "No, I don't have anything in mind. Staying home sounds fine to me. What about you Mark?"
"Yeah, that's okay with me too," the ex-con replied.
"Good, then after breakfast, how about seeing if there is a game or a movie on TV?" the jurist asked.
"Sure, Dad, but I have to get something first," Tom responded.
"And I have to go to the Gatehouse for a few minutes," Mark said, and stood. Before anyone could say another word, he left the room. The front door could be heard closing a few moments later.
The older man chuckled, and said, "I didn't mean right this minute. He didn't even finish his breakfast."
Tom felt he should warn his father about Mark's nervousness, especially after his brother's quick exit from the house. He took a deep breath, and said, "Dad, I think Mark's a little worried about today."
The jurist smiled at his son's concern, and said, "There's no reason for him to be worried." He didn't want to let on that he had been listening in earlier. After a moment he said, "I just want to spend the day with my sons before we go fishing tomorrow. That's all I really need for Father's Day."
"I know, but he doesn't understand that, Dad. Now that your really his father, he thinks he has to do something big to make you happy, and it's really important to him that you are pleased with his gift," the younger man explained.
"I know Tom, but it is going to take him time to learn that he doesn't need to impress me; that I love him for who he is and not what he gives me. I understand that he hasn't had anyone show him that before, and it will take time for him to relax about holidays. Part of my job as his father is to teach him that my love is not based on the value of the gifts he gives me, but on the person he is," the judge said, his face full of the pride he felt for his son. After a moment he said, "Tom, I'm glad you were concerned enough for Mark to want to make sure I understand how he feels. It's enough for me to have two such wonderful sons who both make me very proud. I don't need anything more."
The ex-Marine blushed at his father's praise, and said, "Well, you might not need anything else, but I got you something anyway. I'm going to go get it. Be back in a few minutes."
The jurist watched his son leave the room, and noticed the housekeeper watching him. He flushed at the look of pride on her face.
"They're both such good boys," Sarah said, and started gathering the dishes.
Hardcastle nodded his agreement, and said quietly, "Yes, they are."
Mark entered the Gatehouse, and walked to the closet where he had hidden the present for the judge. He stood holding the gift as he thought what this day meant. He felt pretty confident the judge would like the item he had chosen.
He stopped halfway to the door, and thought to himself, Now if I can just work up the nerve to tell him how I really feel. Shaking his head at his nervousness, he walked out of the Gatehouse and to the Main house.
As the ex-con entered the house, he heard Tom and the jurist's voices coming from the den. Gathering his courage, he joined the others. He saw that the judge was holding a package on his lap, and nervously smiled.
"Hey, kiddo. We thought you might have gotten lost somewhere between here and the Gatehouse," the judge joked, as he tried to ease his youngest son's apprehension.
Mark smiled at the remark, and said, "No, but if I did, I'm sure Tom would know how to find me."
"Anytime," Tom said seriously. The meaning behind the words was not lost on anyone in the room.
"Thanks, Tom," the ex-con replied, his voice hoarse with emotion. Deciding to change the subject, he turned to the judge, and asked, "Well, are you going to open that, or are you just going to sit and hold it all day?"
"Sure I'm going to open it. Or do you want me to open yours first?" the jurist asked.
"NO!" Mark replied quickly, and held the gift closer. Then feeling embarrassed by his reaction, said, "Since you already have Tom, go ahead and open it first."
"Okay, I'll do that," the jurist replied. He had seen the panic on Mark's face and how he clutched the package, as if afraid to let go of it. He wanted to help his son relax, and hoped that opening Tom's present first would give Mark time to regroup.
The judge felt the present all over, and asked, "What'd you get me, a brick?"
"Open it and find out," Tom said casually. He also wanted Mark to feel more comfortable about the holiday.
The jurist started to unwrap the small square package, and said, "I know, it's a doorstop. I've been needing to get one for my bedroom, but I didn't think you knew."
Mark laughed at the jurist silly comment and facial expression. He was starting to feel a little more relaxed, and was curious what Tom had gotten their father.
Tom laughed at his father's antics also, and said, "No, it's not a doorstop. Just open it." He was glad to see Mark start to enjoy himself.
The jurist chuckled at his son's impatience. He was also pleased to hear Mark's laughter. He opened the package all the way, and saw a box from a local jewelers. He removed the top of the box, and saw the watch lying inside. It was a simple watch with a gold and silver band. It was just the type he would buy for himself if he were to buy another one.
"I know you already have a watch, but I thought you could use a new one," Tom said, as he waited for his father's response.
"It's a great watch, and I like it very much. Thanks, Tom," the judge said, and embraced the ex-Marine.
"You're welcome, Dad. I'm glad you like it," Tom replied
"Yes, I do," the jurist said, his face beaming with happiness. He then took off his old watch and put on the new one. He took his time doing this to allow Mark plenty of time to prepare himself to give his gift.
Mark watched the interaction between Tom and the judge and felt his stomach clinch in apprehension. He wasn't sure he could tell the judge everything he wanted to say. After a few deep breaths, he held out his gift, and said, "It isn't much, but I think you'll like it."
"I'm sure I will," the jurist reassured his younger son as he accepted the gift. The box was about the size of a shirt box, and weighed very little. He wondered if he should play his game with Mark, but decided that this time he should just get to it. There would be plenty more opportunities to torment Mark in the years to come. The judge tore the paper from the box and opened it. A smile lit his face as he looked at the shirt inside.
Mark waited anxiously, and released the breath he didn't know he was holding when he saw the pleased look on the older man's face.
"Kiddo, I love it," the judge said, and removed the shirt from the box. It was an red shirt with blue and green parrots.
Tom decided to tease both his father and brother, and said, "Well, with a closet full of them, I'm not surprised Mark knew you'd like it." He smiled at Mark to let him know he was teasing.
"Yes, and I wanted to replace the one I lost when we went on vacation last year," the ex-con said.
"You didn't need to worry about that. I know it was an accident," the jurist responded.
"I know, but I know it was your favorite one," Mark replied.
"I think this is one of the nicest ones I've seen. Thanks, kiddo," the jurist said, and hugged Mark.
Mark withdrew slightly from the judge's embrace, and looked the older man in the eyes. He had so much he wanted to say, but didn't know where to start.
The jurist saw the emotions in Mark's eyes, and remained silent. He knew his youngest son had something he needed to say, and he would give him all the time he needed.
Mark finally just smiled and said, quietly, "You're welcome, Dad."
When Mark said those words, the judge was so elated to hear them, that for a moment he couldn't speak. He just continued to look at the younger man in front of him, and be thankful for the blessing he received in his entering his life.
After another few moments of silence, the judge drew Mark into another tight embrace, and said, "I love you, too, kiddo. I think that's one of the nicest presents I've ever received."
Mark held on to the man who had been a father to him long before he adopted him. He smiled, and said, "There's so much I want to tell you, and I don't know how."
The judge pulled back, and smiled at the ex-con. He kept his hands on his shoulders as he said, "You just did. You just told me everything I need to know."
Tom remained silent to allow Mark and his father this private moment. Where once he felt threatened by Mark, now he was proud to call him his friend and brother. He smiled to himself as he saw the look of pure joy on his father's face, and the look of love on Mark's. He was glad Mark had realized it's the gifts that come from the heart that mean the most.