NOTES: So, apparently the last two episodes of Threat Matrix weren't even aired at all in America. Which means that some people reading this won't know what's going on. Basically, what you need to know about the episode 'Cambodia' is that Kilmer's father went MIA during the Vietnam War, and he and his mother never found out what happened to him. Kilmer's mother waited for 20 years before moving on and remarrying. In Cambodia, Kilmer finds a guy he believes could be his father. As it turns out, the guy is instead a friend of his father's, who was deeply affected when he witnessed the elder Kilmer's death (he stepped on a landmine). John comes home with his father's military dog tags, and having finally learned what really happened to his father all those yeas ago. This story picks up after the episode ends, soon after Kilmer has returned to the US.
SUMMARY: Post-ep for 'Cambodia'. Kilmer has to face telling his mother what he has learned about his father's death - a situation that leads to a renewed connection between him and Frankie.
SPOILERS: Big ones for 'Cambodia', obviously. All other episodes are fair game, though no specific references to those eps come to mind.
TITLE: Old Wounds
PART ONE - News from Home
'You heading home soon?' Frankie stood in the doorway of his office.
Kilmer looked up briefly from his computer screen. 'In a while.'
'Is that your report?'
He gave a grunt of confirmation.
'It can wait 'till tomorrow, can't it?' He didn't respond, and she went on, 'Don't take this the wrong way, but you look terrible.'
At that, he wiped a hand over his face and propped his face against it. He looked up at her in resignation.
'It's just the jetlag.'
She nodded as she came around the desk and perched next to him. 'I'm sure exhaustion is a large part of it. The emotional rollercoaster you've been on these past few days hasn't helped, either.'
'Don't start,' he said tiredly.
'Okay,' she agreed easily, 'But I will point out that if all this had been going on with someone else, you would have already ordered them home by now. Don't be so hard on yourself.'
'I'll go,' he promised, though making no move to that effect.
She considered him quietly for a few moments. 'You don't want to talk about it, do you?'
He snorted. 'I know that's hard for you to believe, Ms. Psychobabble.'
'You forget how well I know you,' she replied, not taking offence at his sarcasm.
'No, actually, I don't.'
She didn't take offence at that, either, just looked at him evenly until he shook his head, wincing.
'Sorry,' he said, 'But stop trying to read me, okay?'
'I'm not. I just want to make sure you're okay.'
He sighed, and changed the subject. 'I called my mother before.'
'Asked her if she could come up to visit sometime soon, like it was some spur of the moment idea.'
'You're going to tell her about your father?'
'I have to. She has a right to know what happened to her husband. No one cares about an incident in Cambodia thirty-five years ago - I won't be sharing any privileged information.'
It sounded to Frankie as if he was trying to sell her on the idea - or himself.
'It'll be difficult, though,' she suggested, 'Dredging up the past like this.'
'Yeah,' he breathed out heavily and sat back in his chair. 'Anyway, it's not exactly something you can do over the phone.'
She put her hand on his shoulder for a moment. 'You should go home, get some sleep. Hopefully come back in the morning looking less like the walking dead.'
He returned her smile, if somewhat half-heartedly.
'I will,' he promised, and this time she thought he might actually mean it.
She heard him start typing again as she left his office.
All the way home from the airport he let his mother talk, informing him of all the family news he wasn't currently up to date on. The recent goings-on at the women's shelter at which his mother volunteered; Jemima-the-cat's trip to the vet to investigate the rash on her belly; his cousin Mike's wedding plans, which had apparently stalled for reasons currently unknown; what his step-father was going to get up to with a weekend all to himself ('he's probably going to spend the whole time on the couch drinking beer and watching sports', his mother said - Kilmer knew there was a reason he liked the guy); and so it went on, easily filling the time.
And when they arrived at his apartment, he left his mother to freshen up while he made coffee, and then they sat down on the couch and he said, 'Mom, I have something I need to tell you.'
He'd tried to think of the best way to do it, but the truth was there was no easy way to say it, no tactful way to work up to the subject. So he just said it.
'It's about what happened to Dad.'
It was classified, mostly. After he eliminated what he couldn't tell his mother, and what he wouldn't tell her, there wasn't much left to the story.
'A few weeks ago I found out... I met a man who knew Dad during the war. He was there when he died. He told me what happened.'
He related the story as he had heard it, and his mother asked him if he was sure. He showed her the dog tags, and then she tried not to cry, and he tried not to cry. And then after a while she hugged him and stroked his hair like he was a little boy.
'It was so long ago,' she said some time later as she frowned down at the metal tags in her hands. Her fingers slowly traced over the imprinted letters and numbers. 'I know you never blamed me when I started seeing Howard, but even after all those years I still felt guilty.'
'You deserved to be happy,' he said simply.
It was something he'd always firmly believed, and he'd never seen a reason to resent his mother for moving on, or the man with whom she'd made a new life.
'I know that now,' she spared him a smile. 'It took me a while to get it through my own thick skull, though.'
She took a deep breath and let it out. 'This must have been so hard for you, John. You've been carrying this around with you since it happened. And you were just a little boy.'
'I'm okay. I've had a few weeks to process it already. I didn't want to upset you, but...'
'I'm glad you told me,' she said with sudden conviction. 'All this time not knowing anything - thank you for finding out. Is there anything you haven't told me? How did all of this even happen?'
He'd known the questions would start eventually, and that he'd have to face giving his own mother the company line.
'I can't tell you much more,' he reluctantly told her, 'Especially about how I came by the information.'
'Well, I suppose the 'how' isn't so important,' she conceded. 'He was so young... so kind and brave. He never wanted to leave us, when he went away, but he wanted to do his duty. You've grown up so much like him, you know.'
'I wish I could have known him longer.'
She pressed the dog tags back into his hands then, saying, 'I wish he could have known you longer, too.'
'Feeling better, Mom?'
It was late afternoon, and Joyce Kilmer had just emerged from the bedroom after having a short nap.
'Much, thank you.'
He was seated at the dining table working on his laptop and she laid a hand briefly on his shoulder as she passed, heading into the kitchen area where she began opening and closing doors.
'It's all looking a bit bare, John,' she said, peering into the refrigerator. 'How do you live like this? Anyone would think you were a work-obsessed divorcee.'
He rolled his eyes, not bothering to answer or turn around. His mother was definitely feeling all right if she was making jokes at his expense.
'Do you even own a kettle?' she asked after another minute of banging going on behind him.
'You know I don't drink tea.'
'That's why I brought my own,' she said, her voice muffled as she searched through a particularly cluttered cabinet. 'But I thought at least you'd have... Oh, here it is.'
He got up and leaned over the counter to watch, as she emerged and held up a rather dusty teapot.
'This was your grandmother's, you know,' she reproached him as she took it to the sink to clean. 'You might take better care of it.'
He shrugged. 'I don't use it. Take it back, if you want.'
She shot him a look. 'That's hardly the point.' Scrubbing out the inside of the pot, she went on, 'I didn't remember seeing it here when I've visited before. I wondered for a moment if Frankie might have it.' She turned and waved suddenly in the direction of the stove, 'Would you put on some water to boil, please?'
'Sure.' He moved around the counter, found a small pan and stood beside her at the sink to fill it. 'Why would Frankie have it?' he asked, as he set the pan on the stove.
'Oh, I wouldn't have minded. I just thought things must have gotten mixed up when you separated.'
'Mostly we just ended up with our own stuff.'
'All right, I was just wondering,' she said defensively as she dried the now-sparkling clean teapot. Setting it down she went on, 'Now, are you sure I can't make you some tea?'
'What kind is it, some weird herbal stuff?'
She moved out of the kitchen and across to the bedroom, where her luggage was, calling over her shoulder, 'I brought green tea, which is good for digestion and cholesterol, and elderflower and lemon, which is refreshing and invigorating.'
'I think I'll pass,' he said when she reappeared.
By now the water on the stove was boiling, and she set to work pouring it into the pot and then measuring out the tea. She replaced the lid and left it to steep for a while.
'You haven't told me how Frankie is lately.'
'She's fine, Mom.'
'Is she seeing anyone?'
'I don't know, jeez,' he made a face.
'I'm sorry, but friends talk about these things, don't they? And you're always telling me you're friends now. 'Friends and colleagues' I believe were your exact words last time the subject came up.'
'If Frankie has a new boyfriend I don't think her first thought will be to run and tell her ex-husband.'
'Well I know you're not seeing anyone.' She tutted. 'I don't think you do anything but work, do you?'
'Lately it doesn't seem like it,' he admitted.
She sighed. 'Will I get to see Frankie this weekend? It's been so long since I last saw her.'
'Mom you do remember that we're divorced, don't you?'
She looked away. 'I worry about her sometimes. She hasn't got any family left - she's got no one.'
'She has people,' he protested. 'She has friends, she has...'
'You?' she prompted, a hint of triumph in her expression.
He rolled his eyes. 'Yes, but not like that.'
She held up her hands. 'Like what? I'm not saying anything. I was just thinking it would be nice to see her since I'm here, that's all.'
She turned away with a slightly hurt expression, and despite the fact that he knew it was feigned, he couldn't help feeling a little bad.
'Listen, why don't I see if she's free for dinner tonight? Will that get you off my back?'
'That would be nice, dear,' she said, smiling as she poured her tea. 'It would give us all a chance to catch up.'
'Hi, it's me,' he identified himself when she picked up the phone.
Frankie sighed, thinking wistfully of the nice, relaxing weekend she had planned. 'Do I need to come in?'
'Nope, actually this isn't about work.'
'Well, this is new.'
'You know my mom's visiting?' he cut to the chase.
'That's right,' she sat down on the nearest chair and rested her elbows on her knees. 'You talked to her about your father? How did it go?'
'Fine. It was fine,' he said, but in such a way that she knew 'fine' actually meant 'awful'.
'Do you want to talk about it?' she asked.
'Not really,' he said flatly.
He proceeded to tell her why he was calling, and she soon found herself smiling.
'You sound a little desperate,' she teased.
'I don't know what you're talking about. Feel free to make up any flimsy excuse you want to get out of coming.'
'What makes you think I don't have plans - real ones?'
She looked across the room to where her gym bag was sitting by the door, and took a moment to consider how pathetic her life was, before confessing, 'I was going to go work out and then pick up some Thai on the way home. Does that count?'
'Not even close. Come have dinner with me and my mom. She'd really like to see you.'
'She's laying on the guilt, isn't she?'
'It's practically an artform for her,' he groaned.
Amused, she decided to let him off the hook. 'Okay, I'll come take some of the pressure off. But you owe me one,' she added.
'Fine,' he replied quickly. 'I'll see you around seven?'
'I'll be there.'
end part one
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