A Backdraft Fic

Chapter 4

He Comes In Mysterious Ways

Stephen insisted that he all right to go home to the boat the night of the funeral, but Helen would not hear it. She wanted him home with her. She also insisted that Jennifer stayed with them. Helen set Jen up in the Guestroom and Stephen was to sleep on the couch.

At about three in the morning, shuffling in the kitchen awakened Stephen. He blinked away confusion as he remembered where he was and why. He slowly got off the couch and went to go investigate who was making all the noise in the kitchen. He gently pushed open the swinging door to the kitchen and saw Jennifer, sitting in one of the stools. She was crying uncontrollably.

She looked up as she heard him come in. "Did I wake you up?"

"Nah," he said, sighing, "I was up, you know, thinking."

"Brian was right."

Stephen heard this and his chest tightened, he managed to croak out past the lump in his throat, "Really, about what?"

"You could not lie well." She said with a laugh. Then the tears started to fall. "God I miss him so much."

"I know, we all do." Stephen said with a crack in his voice.

"I just thought he would always come back. I mean, when he left before, yeah I was mad as hell, but I always knew he would come home. Now, I just don't know if I can do this."

Stephen made his way over to her and wrapped his arms around her. "I know it seems as if the pain will never go away, but it will subside, and you will go on living and you will have a beautiful baby."

"How are you so sure?"

"Because Brian is looking out for us." Stephen turned when he heard someone come into the kitchen. Helen had woken up and she stood there, wiping tears from her eyes. "I have something to show you two." She said, turning around and motioning for them to follow. She led them out to the living room and seated them both on the couch. She went to the bureau and pulled out a huge box of tapes and even old silent movies. She put one of the tapes into the VCR and pushed play.

February 24, 1985

A 26 year old Stephen had fallen asleep on the couch, still in his uniform, and a 21 year old Brian had set the video camera up to record his exploits. He put a single finger onto his lips to signal silence. A slow smile crept over his face as he crept up next to the sleeping Stephen. He triumphantly held up a can of shaving cream and smiled evilly.

He put the shaving cream in Stephen's hand took a slender piece of paper out of his back pocket. He turned to the camera and whispered, "Watch this." He proceeded to drag the piece of paper ever so slightly over Stephen's face and neck. At first Stephen just shook his head, and wriggled his nose, then as Brian dragged the paper along longer, Stephen's hand slowly crept up to his face and neck, smearing the shaving cream all around. Then unexpectedly, Stephen's hand reached down and he began to itch his crotch. Brian turned his head and began to laugh hysterically, which woke Stephen up.

He looked around and saw Brian with the piece of paper and shaving cream. He leapt off the couch and gave chase to Brain, all the while screaming, "I'll get you, you little shit-head!"

Mid-chase, Helen came in and sat down heavily on the couch. Brian ran shrieking from the kitchen, but halted in his steps when he saw the look on Helen's face. "Helen, you okay?" Stephen came out of the kitchen to follow Brian and when he saw the look on his wife's face.

"Honey, you okay?"

"I need to talk to you for a sec, Stephen." She said. Then her eyes flickered towards Brian, "Alone."

"Out. Now." Stephen stated bluntly

"Sheesh, no artist is ever appreciated in this house." He said over-dramatically. He stomped out of the room and forgot all about the camera. So did Helen and Stephen.

"Um, you know how I went to the doctor's today?" She began uncertainly

"Yeah, what did he say?"

"Um, I, I'm pregnant."

"You're preg—pregnant?" he sputtered in disbelief. Then a slow realization dawned on him. "I'm gonna be a dad?"

"Yeah. We're gonna be parents."

Stephen jumped up from the couch and yelled, "I'm gonna be a dad!"

Brian came in to see what all the noise was about. "What? What's going on?"

"Brian, I'm gonna be dad!"

"Wow! That's so great you guys. So when are you due?"
"Around November." Helen said, still smiling.

September 30, 1991

Stephen and Jennifer sat on the couch, tears streaming down both their faces. "I had no idea that he taped that."

"A non-accidental accident." Jen said, with a smile on her face. "Brian used to say that to me. 'Jen, that was an non-accidental accident."

Helen fast-forwarded the tape to the day Sean was born. They watched as Stephen handed the baby off to Brian.

November 14, 1985

"My God, he looks like Stephen." Brian said with amazement. "He's so tiny."

"Not small enough." Helen said, exhausted from 20 long hours in labor. Brian let out a little laugh. His crystal blue eyes were gleaming with pride and it wasn't even his baby. He handed Sean off to Helen and grabbed the camera from Stephen. "Okay, now the first McCaffrey family video."

Stephen and Helen both smiled for the camera and Sean let out a gurgle of approval. The camera faded out on both of them waving good-bye to the camera.

September 30, 1991

A few hours later, they had finished watching all the movies with Brian in them. Stephen turned to Jen and asked, "Are you gonna be okay?"

"Yeah, if you want to sleep in my bed, I'll stay out here. I can't sleep." She said.

"You sure?" He asked uncertainly.

"Yeah, go ahead. I'll be fine." She said. Stephen headed up the stairs and Jen started to look through the tapes again. One caught her eye and she picked the tape up. On the sticker, "Jennifer" was scribbled in Brian's handwriting. Maybe it was a tape of them during a summer or something. She placed the tape in the VCR and pushed play. At first she saw nothing but a chair. Then a figure came around sat down. It was Brian, as he had looked not a week ago. The date flashed on the screen and what Jen saw chilled her to the bone.

September 24, 1991

Brian cleared his throat and looked into the camera. "Hey Jen." Brian said. He paused a moment before he continued. "Um—look, I know we are not really on speaking terms, but I needed to talk to you. I needed you to know that I really miss you. I was an ass and I want to make it all better. This time—I don't know, it doesn't look like it will happen. You have every right to be mad at me.

I miss the days where I could talk to you about the weird dreams I have. Boy I had a whopper last night. I saw my mom. He said 'How's my baby Brian?' I told her that I was fine and she said, 'Not you Brian' Weird, huh?

Listen, I know you are still mad at me, but I will always love you, and you can count on me no matter where I am. I will always be there.

Love you baby."

Jen just stared into his face frozen on the screen and cried. She touched the screen. She noticed every little line and wrinkle that had sprouted over the last few weeks. He looked tired. Sad. Like he knew the end was near. How could she have let him go? He needed her the most during the last days, and she was so stubborn to see it.

Stephen rolled around in bed. Like most nights, he couldn't sleep. He glanced over at the clock and saw it blinking 4:54. He sighed and rubbed his face.

"You always did that when you couldn't sleep." Stephen couldn't believe his ears. Am I…?

"Dead? No. They're letting me come back to say goodbye."

"Brian—I—God, I miss you so much." Stephen stammered.

"Yeah. Never really thought so many people would turn up for my funeral."

"A lot of people miss you."

"Oh well, what's done is done, right?"

"Don't you even care that people are hurting because you're gone?" Stephen said sharply.

"Of course I care. Remember, I am getting used to the whole being dead thing. I miss you all like hell."

"I'm sorry. It's just hard for me. I feel so guilty."

"Guilty, why should you feel guilty?"

"I let you down. I let you die. I promised myself that I would not let anything happen to you."

"I thought you learned that you can't control a 'wild spirit'."

Stephen and Brian laughed heartily at this. Stephen cautiously put his arm around his brother's shoulder.

"Don't be afraid. You won't hurt me." Stephen put his arm all the way around Brian's shoulder. "I have a hankering for some coffee, how 'bout it?"

"In this?" Stephen said, gesturing to his boxers and T-shirt.

"Hello? This is your dream. You can wear whatever you want just by thinking about it. Now get changed and let's go."

"Can I pick out clothes for you to wear?" Stephen asked.

"I'm already dressed, though."

"I thought you said it was my dream."

"Okay fine." Stephen gave a quick smile and then they were automatically taken, fully dressed, to a nearby coffeehouse.

"Callahan's? I thought this place went out of business." Brian said. "And what the hell am I wearing?"

"They're the old house blues from Seventeen." Stephen said.

"Okay, what ever you want."

"It's just, I never got the chance to do this with you. You know the brother to brother thing." They grabbed a booth and sat down. Stephen ordered their coffee and they started talking.

"So, what's it like?" Stephen asked quietly.

"What? Death?"

"Yeah, that and Heaven. I've always wanted to know."

"How are you so sure I went to Heaven?"

"I had faith."

"Good man. Always have faith."

"So?"

"Oh yeah. Well, let's see, there's lots of hot babes and they're all naked."

Stephen nearly spit out his coffee. Brian guffawed, and slapped his brother on the shoulder. "No, not really." Then Brian got quiet. "You really want to know what heaven is? It's home. I'm home and Mom and Dad are there. Heaven is life how I always wanted it be."

"What else?" Stephen asked, intrigued.

"Well it's only been a couple days, but someone is going to be leaving soon."

"How do you mean?"

"In Heaven, we all take turns being souls." Seeing the confused look on his brother's face, he added, "You now how every child born has a soul right?"

"Yeah."

"Well, we all take turns being the new person's soul. If you're lucky, you get family."

"Um, Brian, do you know about Jen?"

"Oh, and the baby?"

"Yeah."

"Uh huh. I personally hope that Dad will be going for him."

"Him?"

"Being dead has its perks. I get to know things before hand. Not that I won't miss raising him, but I trust Jen. Help her out, okay?"

"You don't have to ask."

"I knew I wouldn't." Brian said with a smile.

"Why aren't you going?"

"I don't know. Maybe I will. It all depends on if I'm chosen."

In the distance Stephen and Brian heard the Klaxon bell ringing. It grew louder and Brian whispered, "Wake up, Sleeping Beauty."