Title: Discomfort for Nick (2/2)
Date Written: 12/29/02
Author: JanetD
Rating: PG (language)
Summary: A peek at a part of the conversation between Laurie and Burton on their first date. Guess who they're talking about? =)
Author's Notes:
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. The characters in this story are borrowed from the TV show "The Guardian". No money is being made from this story. Any resemblance of a character in this story to any real person living or dead is purely coincidental. Likewise, any resemblance between an organization depicted in this story and any such actual organization is purely coincidental.

Burton and Laurie are at dinner. It's their first date. They've ordered, and have been talking companionably. Then Burton says,

You know, after I met you the other day I realized I'd seen you some place before.

Uh-huh. In that hearing last year, when Nick was petitioning the court to be a foster parent for the little girl with the bad heart.

Lesley Walker.

I didn't realize you were in the courtroom then.

Burton nodded. Yeah, I was there. I remember what you said...about Nick. It kind of stuck with me, afterwards. The judge asked your opinion, and you said, you said that you'd overheard somebody in the hall calling Nicholas Fallin a son-of-a-bitch. And you said, that you thought he was that, but that you also thought he had the, the right things in his mind'--I believe those were your words--and that it was your belief that he'd follow through in caring for the little girl, even if it was just out of stubbornness, just to prove other people wrong.

Laurie colored slightly. I'm sorry, I--

Burton raised a hand. No-no, don't apologize. I like a woman who speaks her mind. And I thought there was a lot of truth in what you said. I wouldn't go so far as to call my own son a son-of-a-bitch', mind you.... He laughed. But I thought you were pretty much on the mark with the rest of your assessment.

Laurie smiled with relief. Well, I'm glad you feel that way. And I certainly wouldn't have wanted to offend you.

You didn't, although I admit I was taken a little aback...at first. Burton smiled. If you don't mind my asking, what, uh, what's your opinion of my son now? Now that you've known him a little longer.

Laurie sat back in her chair. What's my opinion of Nicholas Fallin? I think he's bright and determined and true-of-heart. I think he can be incredibly rude one moment, and surprise me with his compassion the next.... I like him. I like him a lot, but he's also a puzzle. I sense there's an emotional chasm inside your son, Burton, that he carries a lot of pain, deep-seated pain. Am I right?

Burton lowered his gaze. Yes, yes, I think you are. Nicholas...well, his mother died when he was twelve--cancer. We went through a messy divorce a couple years before that, and after the divorce, I was kind of, uhm, I guess you could say I was Public Enemy Number One in my son's eyes. Then when his mother died, we...well, Nicholas had a tough time of it. He'd always been an independent little cuss, but after he lost his mother, it was like he didn't want anything from me--anything at all--didn't even want me around. We were like two strangers living together under the same roof.

Laurie looked at Burton with compassionate eyes. That explains a lot...the loss of his mother. Adults often don't realize how devastating the death of a parent is to a child. When a child loses a mother or a father it's like half their world has suddenly disappeared, just...ceased to exist. It's overwhelming. And if the child doesn't have a good relationship with the surviving parent, it makes it all the worse. I understand now a lot of the things I've sensed in your son.

Yes, well, I decided that maybe the best thing for both of us was for Nick to go away to school. Give us a break from one another. So that's what I did, I sent him to school. I, uhm, I thought that when summer rolled around that maybe we'd, we'd be able to make a fresh start. But somehow that never happened. Nicholas just seemed to withdraw from me further.... I'm afraid, I...I wasn't much of a father to him. We never seemed to be able to click', just weren't on the same wavelength...I don't know. I could never seem to tell what was going on inside his head. Hell, I still can't. Burton took a sip of his drink.

He's a difficult young man to read.

Burton said quickly, and that's one of the things that makes him so good at what he does. He's a regular shark, my boy, when it comes to business. Nobody can beat Nicholas in a tough negotiation session. He'll come out on top every time. Although...he seems to have become a bit more of a soft touch since he's been involved with the clinic. I think the experience has changed him. He paused, considering that. Anyway, back to...the other. I think my big mistake was sending Nick off to school. I never should have done that. I should have tried to work things out between the two of us, no matter how much grief Nicholas put me through. I should have made that my priority. Instead, I shipped him off to boarding school and made him somebody else's problem.

I'm sure you did the best you could.

No...no, I didn't. I did what I usually did--handed off a difficult problem to somebody else to deal with. I'm sure if you would have asked Anne--Nicholas' mother--she would have told you I made a habit out of that, that I excelled at it, in fact. Burton laughed self-deprecatingly, then grew quiet. When he spoke again, he said slowly, I often think that if I'd been able to work things out with Nicholas, that he...he would never have gotten involved with the drugs.... I often think that. He took another sip from his glass. Anyway, I've tried to make it up to him, through the years--the loss of his mother and my sending him away. I've tried to make it up to him in lots of different ways, but I can't say I've had much success.

None of us are perfect parents, Burton. We all make mistakes with our kids...some more...lasting...than others. But we can only go forward, not back. Nick is not a little boy anymore. He's what? Thirty-one or thirty-two?

He just turned thirty-three.

Thirty-three. Fine. That's too old for him to still be blaming anyone else for his problems. He has to take responsibility for his own life, his own choices...stand on his own two feet. I know it's hard, but there comes a time as a parent when you have to let go.

Oh, I know that. Believe me I know that, but it's easier said than done. He laughed softly. I just wish...I really wish Nick and I could have a relationship like other fathers and sons. I don't think we'll ever have that.

Laurie was quiet for a moment, then said, Don't give up hope. Stranger things have happened. I bet you've mellowed as you've gotten older, and Nick probably will too. You may still come to some common ground, some common understanding. Give it time.

Time...yes, well...thank you, Laurie. You're a good listener. I'm guessing that's one of the qualities that makes you good at your own job.

Laurie smiled. I guess it is.

The End

Author's Note: While it might seem there should be more to this story, this is all I wrote. And since I wrote it more than a year ago, and the story of The Guardian has moved on, I wouldn't plan to add anything further. JanetD