|just what you'll say when you get home
Author: rose griffes PM
It's Ted's turn to be caretaker. Post-finale fic: Ted, Charlie, Dani.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Friendship - Words: 3,442 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 10 - Published: 01-11-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7731105
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
He left Charlie a basket of fruit on the counter and a note: Went to Spain. It's not the best way to support a friend who has just rescued his cop partner from a Russian mobster, but Ted finds himself in the grip of an impulse. Not the first time he's acted impulsively, but hopefully the consequences this time around will be less far-reaching.
He's not worried about Charlie. Well, he is. He always worries, but he tells himself that Charlie is the guardian. Charlie's partner is safe again, Charlie's okay too. Ted is just one more person Charlie has saved.
Ted checks his watch again. It's ten p.m. in Los Angeles, one a.m. in New York and eight a.m. in Spain. His plane is somewhere over the Atlantic. Not sleeping-it's not that he's frightened, but there's that thrumming noise. Noise from the plane, noise from his own head. Olivia, orange groves, his daughter Ann, his grandson, Amanda... red lipstick, cigarette smoke and artifice. Devious, helpful, domineering. Why is he thinking of Amanda while flying to Spain to find Olivia?
He's been pining over Olivia for months; now that he's almost close enough to talk to her, he doesn't know what he'll say. Hi, Olivia. I've been thinking that I'm in love with you, but now I'm not so sure. It's not clear anymore. The space in his heart that he thought he was saving for her has been taken up by time and life. Charlie getting shot. Weeks back in prison. Teaching, investing Charlie's money. Dealing with the fallout from, well, everything.
He closes his eyes and thinks about his grandson again. Thinks about how Olivia's young enough that maybe she wants kids of her own. A fresh start, he muses, then remembers the mess he made the first time around.
Ted really wants to meet his namesake. He thinks of his daughter, eyes red as she sat on the couch next to him, crying. (He was crying too, he remembers. Wishing he could put his arms around her, but feeling like he couldn't.) Maybe if he sets up some kind of trust fund for his grandson, his daughter will let him visit. After he finds them, of course. Which brings him back to Amanda, who knows how to find people, and that brings his mind back to Olivia again.
What does he know about Olivia anyway? She's pretty. Kind. Patient.
Amanda's not exactly patient, though she's determined. Kind? Maybe if it has a side benefit. Ted doesn't know why she told him where Olivia was. Your Olivia, she kept saying. Your Olivia's in Spain.
Staring at the blackness outside the window, he finally realizes that this is the most he's thought about Amanda since he learned who she worked for, other than in context of what she could do for Charlie and Charlie's partner. She's safely thousands of miles away. If they were in the same room, Ted would probably be thinking scary, and about how he doesn't really like the smell of cigarette smoke, and wondering if he's one of those people whose behavior she would describe as "almost always disappointing." He checks his watch again, then slides it back under his sleeve cuff.
When he finally gets to his hotel in Madrid, the clerk hands him a note: Crews needs you. There's no name attached to the message. That ends his indecision right away; instead of checking in, he takes a taxi back to the airport.
After paying for an expensive ticket back to the US, he tries contacting Charlie but Ted's phone doesn't work here. He can't figure out how to use the pay phones in the airport.
Next time I'll buy one of those phones that can do international calls, Ted resolves. He boards the plane and tilts his seat back. Before falling asleep (exhaustion finally beating out the thrumming noise) he smiles; no one knew the hotel where he planned to stay. He can think of only one person who could track down his whereabouts that quickly. Terribly sweet and serious gentlemen, that's what Amanda had said of him and Charlie.
He'll take a favor from her if it means he can help Charlie.
He's on the flight from New York to L.A. when he realizes that he's violated his parole by leaving the country. His next few hours are spent in a haze of worry about his parole officer finding out. He should have known better than to act on impulse.
His worry was needless. No one other than Charlie (and Amanda) has noticed his absence in the chaos he finds when he gets back to L.A. Charlie's at the house, gun confiscated while the LAPD do their investigation. He's been told not to travel outside of California, though it wasn't an official request. Charlie's not really talking to him about it.
Ted is used to being the co-conspirator, the one who Charlie talked to about everything. The one who went with him to find pieces of the puzzle. It's hard being shut out.
"It's not like you have spousal immunity. And you're certainly not my religious leader," Charlie tells him.
Ted snorts at that idea.
"Do you think there would ever be a friend's immunity? No, they wouldn't do that." Charlie keeps talking, finishing Ted's half of the conversation for him; no breaks, his eyes bright. Scary-bright, like they used to be when things were... well, when things were bad. Bad, like back-in-prison bad.
Amanda fills in some of the blanks for him. Ted tries not to count how many favors this might make, and thinks that it's probably-no, it's definitely a good thing that the LAPD won't be asking her for information about the case.
He guesses that Charlie killed Roman. Ted's not really shocked by this. He's seen just how terrifying and fast Charlie can be, back when Charlie saved him in prison. Ted's not sure what Charlie and Dani and that FBI agent have told the LAPD, but it's not the whole story.
Four dead FBI agents, a dead Russian mobster who was supposed to be in prison, Charlie's partner's safe return... the LAPD and the FBI have a hell of a mess to hide.
That's why Charlie's waiting here, vibrating with an energy that Ted would swear he can feel bouncing around this big house. No going back to work until the investigation is done. No investigation done until the LAPD is satisfied that they have enough answers. And since they have a love-hate relationship with Charlie, Ted doesn't know how long that is going to take.
He feels a bit like he's retreated into a bunker with a soldier under siege. At least he has a class he goes to teach a few times a week, Ted tells himself. Charlie doesn't get to work. His outings are to talk (or not talk) with the FBI and the LAPD, his new lawyer next to him.
After three days, Ted's starting to wonder why anyone thought he could do any good here. He can't give Charlie what he needs.
He feels stupid when he thinks of it-his little plan. Then he gets on his computer and finds some likely possibilities.
He brings it up at breakfast the next day. "Charlie, I need you to come look at some of these farms."
"Farms, Ted?" Charlie's already looking intrigued.
Ted says, "Yeah, I've been looking for ways for us to diversify your portfolio and I was thinking that if we used some of your money for long-term investment in properties that are trying to go organic, we can get into that niche."
"You know. Organic food is a hot commodity now, plus it's good for the environment."
Ted doesn't have to do more convincing. It's easy to go from discussing the hypotheticals to driving up the coast to Sonoma Valley. Charlie drives. They still don't talk about anything important, but there's sunshine and the coast and some really weird farming machinery that enthralls Charlie.
It's a good afternoon. Ted starts researching more investments for other road trips; hunkering down in the bunker isn't as appealing as another visit somewhere else.
He almost doesn't hear it-the quiet knocking on his door. It's late; Ted was almost asleep. Groggily he calls out, "What?"
The door opens a crack. "Hey," says Charlie.
"Charlie? Is-is everything okay?"
"Yeah, I just.." he opens the door the rest of the way and enters the room. "I couldn't sleep. Bad dreams."
Ted feels weirdly parental. Ann used to come to their bedroom after nightmares. He can remember walking to his own parents' room when he was little and saying the same thing to them. "No clown stories, okay?"
Charlie gives him a half-smile, barely visible in the dark. "No clowns." He sits on the floor, knees drawn up to his chest. He takes a deep breath and tilts his head back, eyes closed. "You ever think about death, Ted?"
"Think about death." He's torn about how to answer and settles on a question in return. "Why?"
"Because. Because we're all going to die eventually. Because someday, Ted, our bodies will stop breathing and they'll put us in the ground." Charlie doesn't look perturbed as he says this; his eyes are still closed.
Ted takes a breath. "Yeah, I think about death sometimes." He thinks about timing more than anything else. Will he know his grandson by then? Will Olivia come back to the U.S.? He has a mental list of things he wants to accomplish that he's scared to do, like apologize to certain people. Will he have anything crossed off his list?
"Me too," Charlie tells him. He doesn't have that ridiculous smile that he usually gets when he finds a point in common. "I think about being still..."
Maybe someone who just met Charlie would find it a funny statement. Ted knows otherwise. He also knows that Charlie's stillness can be followed by violence: effective, justifiable, scary violence.
Ted says, "I think about who would miss me." And who wouldn't. Lots of people wouldn't.
"I'd miss you, Ted." Opening his eyes, Charlie grins at Ted from across the room. He shifts until his back is against the wall, then tilts his head back and closes his eyes again.
It's quiet in the room; Ted can hear Charlie breathing. He feels himself falling asleep even as he's thinking, Charlie needs me to listen.
"I just want to be still," Charlie repeats.
Ted remembers his parents again. Hush, they would say when he told them his nightmares. It's okay. But it isn't. It isn't.
Charlie's partner has come to the house a few times in the last week. Ted doesn't know if Detective Reese and Charlie are having sex or talking or not talking or what. He doesn't think it's sex; they still stand like cops around each other.
Maybe the walls feel like they're closing in at her home. Too big, too small: that was Ted's reaction to his first apartment after prison.
She looks different somehow, though Ted doesn't know if it's really her or just his perception of her since he knows about her abduction.
He walks out to the pool for a swim one morning and she's floating in the deeper end, wearing a beige bra and black panties instead of a swimsuit. That's the detail he notices right away, before trying not to notice anything else.
"We, uh, we have some extra swimsuits here. If you wanted to use one." He feels vaguely stupid once he says it. She probably knows, and if she didn't, he wasn't being particularly helpful pointing it out now.
"I know," she says.
"Mind if I swim?" Another thing he feels foolish saying since he lives in this house, but he doesn't want to intrude if she'd rather be alone.
"Go ahead," she tells him. She's holding onto the pool edge, legs drifting aimlessly in the water. Ted walks down the steps and swims several laps.
The pool is Ted's place for meditation-what he thinks of as meditation, anyway. Mostly it's him just thinking. Or not thinking; he tries that sometimes as well. Charlie's influence; Ted from before prison wasn't interested in introspection.
He floats and sorts through everything in his head. He's aware of Detective Reese, but for a few moments he's able to concentrate on the puzzle pieces rather than her. Charlie, Olivia, his grandson, life and death and what it means to be alive and waiting for the next thing.
She catches him by surprise when she says something to him. He can't hear her at first; floating means his head is partly submerged. Flipping upright, he asks, "Sorry, what did you say?"
"What did you think about? When you were in prison?"
He's surprised; few people have actually asked him specific questions like that. Maybe because he doesn't have many friends-which may be because he'd been in prison. He thinks before he answers. "It was... it was harsh. No soft seats or easy chats or dim lights." That's how he remembers it; before prison he'd had private planes with plush chairs and lush women and hushed voices.
"But what did you think about?"
Right, he hasn't answered her question. "I thought about what I missed and how stupid I was and how I really, really wanted anything that would make it go away."
She has that focused look; not quite the cop look, but close. He adds, "I didn't think about fruit. At least not much."
She doesn't smile at him, but she doesn't not smile-which is pretty much the equivalent of a smile for her. Finally she says, "I did. I thought about fruit."
It's certainly not the full truth, but he gave her a half-smile anyway. Her eyes look so old, he thinks.
She looks away after a moment and says, "Sometimes I used to wonder what it might be like."
"Wish I could forget," Ted mutters automatically.
"Yeah," she says. The water laps against the side of the pool as the breeze picks up.
"I'm, uh-I'm glad you're back."
"Me too," she answers, looking surprised at her own statement. She repeats, "Me too," like she's more certain now.
Charlie's new lawyer is sharp. She's not quite as terrifying as Amanda Puryer or Detective Reese, but she's intimidating enough. (Amanda was the one who told Ted to make sure Charlie got a good lawyer, so Ted took her advice.)
When the laywer tells Charlie that he'll be cleared for duty soon, they know it's only a matter of time. Ted thinks he might be more relieved than Charlie.
They're by the pool, looking at the view of the city below. Bright sun, the layer of smog hugging the valley below; it's another white-light day in LA. They're both drinking beer in the heat. Charlie's face is a blur of white and orange in the next lounge chair.
Charlie's having one of those conversations with himself again about religion. He asks Ted what he believes.
Ted figures they've had maybe a hundred versions of this conversation over the years. "I guess I still believe in karma."
"So do I!" Charlie has a delighted grin on his face.
"Charlie, you're-you're the one who told me about karma." Ted doesn't believe in reincarnation. He's not even sure he believes in God, but the idea of a universal force of balance, of retribution-that he can believe.
"Right. Right, I was." Charlie smiles again and then says one of those things that Ted figures came from that book. "For every event that occurs, there will follow another event whose existence was caused by the first, and this second event will be pleasant or unpleasant according as its cause was skillful or unskillful."
"Karma," Ted finally says when Charlie looks at him expectantly.
"But then what if there's a third event? Is it pleasant or unpleasant according to the first event or the second event?"
Ted looks at him. "I don't know."
He's thinking about this while Charlie rambles on; remembering other conversations they've had and wondering how to tell Charlie what he's been thinking since he got back from Spain.
Finally he interrupts him. "Hey, Charlie?"
"Don't be karma's police all the time." Charlie's eyebrows go up. "I mean, I know you're the police, but... don't be Batman for too long. I think Batman probably has really bad karma."
Charlie doesn't interrupt him for a change, so he keeps talking.
"Because even though he's the force that creates balance, he's also just... really messed up. And I think he's probably not very happy."
Charlie stares at him for a moment, then says, "I think you're right, Ted."
"Okay, then." Ted takes another drink from his beer bottle and watches the tiny cars barely visible on the freeways below. He thinks about karmic retribution and the price everyone pays eventually for their actions. How much more do I have to pay? Ted wonders.
When they go back inside, Charlie's phone has a message: he's cleared for duty. Tomorrow they'll do the paperwork and the next day he can start again.
Ted makes a celebratory breakfast for Charlie's return to work. Detective Reese arrives while he's still cooking, badge and gun at her waist again. Seeing her back in cop mode is reassuring; that creature who went for swims in the pool and had confiding chats was alien to him.
Ted's good at pancakes. A box of mix, the right skillet-it's one of the few things he's always done well. He used to make pancakes for Ann when she was small.
He cooks up some bacon too and slices some fruit. Detective Reese looks suspiciously at the meal, like morning and food is some kind of aberrant combination.
"You're still not Alfred," Charlie tells him. Detective Reese looks confused but unsurprised at the apparently random statement.
"In fact, you're a superhero," Charlie continues.
Ted has no idea where Charlie's going with this train of thought. He flips a pancake in the skillet and waits.
"Your superpower is listening to what's not being said."
"Oh. I-okay. Thanks." If he understands Charlie-and that's always a big if-he's flattered.
Maybe it's karma, but Charlie and Detective Reese's phones both go off right as he's putting the finishing touches on the meal. A homicide: they need to leave right away.
Charlie grabs a mug and fills it with the fruit; Detective Reese takes a pancake and folds it neatly in quarters. She smiles at him-a genuine, sweet smile. "Thank you," she says.
He smiles back at her.
"Do I get to drive yet?" Ted hears Charlie asking as they leave.
"No." Detective Reese has that exasperated tone; Ted figures that she's heard this question plenty of times.
"Will I ever get to drive?"
She pauses for a moment, pretending to be pondering the question. "Probably not."
The bickering continues as they go out the door, and it's like something clicking back into place. A universal force, maybe.
It's quiet in the house after they're gone. Ted puts a big pile of pancakes on his plate and sits at the table, pulling out his course syllabus to start planning the next lesson.
After a moment he shoves the papers to the side and gets out his phone to find Amanda's number. Maybe it's time to look for Ann.