A/T: Eeps! I'm sick! (Sick enough to skip band, which is very rare. After all, wild horses can barely drag me away.) So I decided to use this lay-around time for Good, not Evil; I've had this idea in my head for a while now, and I hope you like it. I wasn't sure whether it was worth writing, much less posting, so drop me a line and tell me what you think. -smiles-
Oh, and I love music. Every single type (the exception being rap and bad 80s, but to each his own.) I was listening to Treadmill Trackstar this morning (they've split up, but I still love their tunes) and printed inside their CD booklet is Pain is the only antidote for writer's block and if it doesn't come naturally, you have to force it. If any of you know me, this goes against every rule I write by. There are those who have suffered horribly; there are prisoners of conscious who are tortured daily and children in the Sudan who are starving to death, living off of tree leaves. There are those who've parents have died or who've been raped or something equally heinous and I think that if you've had the good fortune to have not suffered like this -to always be fed and safe and generally content- then you shouldn't create pain. There's enough as it is.
Write something cheerful once in a while. It's good for you. Happy endings are healthy for the spirit!
Disclaimer: CSI doesn't belong to me. Unfortunately, the germs do. -mutters to self- So typical!
Bill Stokes had a job.
It had been hard to get said job, because it had involved a lot of ass-kissing, a lot of agreeing, a lot of things he silently felt were wrong. There were a lot of long nights at the office, a lot of skipping the kid's birthday parties, a lot of conforming to the rules. The rules part didn't bother him as much as the rest of it did, because rules were the things that kept the world a sane place. This is what he would occasionally tell his children on the rare chances he actually had the time to speak to them.
As a lawyer, he thought he knew plenty about the world. He had been a defense attorney, which he's not exactly proud of. After all, he had seen many a criminal –rapist, murderer, jaywalker- go free due to mundane, transparent technicalities that weren't even relevant to the crime.
Perhaps it was because he had the opportunity to give his family such a good life that he was able to forget he actually helped with those technicalities. Whenever he could buy his daughter the exact dress she wanted or whenever he could pay for one of his son's baseball trips, it was easier to sleep at night. The fortune he was making by keeping bad guys on the streets was going to a good cause –his family- and somehow, maybe, it balanced the scales.
It was Nick, the youngest of his seven children, who complicated matters.
He was born a quiet child that rarely pouted or cried. He was always honest (maybe because he was a bad liar, but that was neither here nor there) and always chose to confess instead of getting tangled up in a lie. He made good grades, did what was asked of him, and never questioned what he was told. Bill remembered the night Jillian found Nick crying in his bed. He was nine and they were returning from a gala of some sort –probably a fundraiser or charity ball- and although he had a suspicion, a little tug of the conscious, Nick still claimed it was nothing. And when Nick claimed it was nothing, then it was nothing, and that was the end of it. He turned a blind eye to the scalding hot showers his youngest child was suddenly taking, the way he never let anyone touch him, how he became solemn and preoccupied.
Bill had recognized the signs.
But no law firm wanted a senior partner candidate with a molested son, so Bill didn't push it any further. Perhaps because he felt so guilty, he began paying more attention to Nick and they began using their secret names, Cisco and Pancho. Nick had become more like his old self when he turned ten, but he was never quite the same. Somehow, the secret names made Nick feel safer, as if he alone and no one else had a special link to his father that could protect him from the next bad thing that would inevitably disrupt his life.
Because Nick had the worst luck.
Bill sighed as he glanced out his window towards the courtroom steps. The vultures were waiting, as per usual. They often hounded him, but the constant media attention was ten times as worse now, thanks to Nick's burial. A Texas Supreme Court judge's son had been buried alive; it was a media craze fest, and feast they did. They dug into the Stokes's lives, trying to uncover all the secrets, the scandals, the gossip-page headlines. Bill hated them. But wasn't that part of his job?
He sighed again as he hung up his robes and gathered his keys and wallet.
He remembered how Nick began questioning his father's career when he was about fifteen, asking things like why Tyler Martin, accused rapist, had gotten off scot-free. It was hard to say, "I was able to prove the alleged victim had slept with him previously," but he did say it, hoping his son would understand. "Yeah," Nick had replied. "But she said no that time. She didn't want to." It was then that Bill knew his son would never understand the rules that kept the world rational. It was also when he realized that Nick had a set of ethics that he'd never seen before; any hope he had of Nick following in his footsteps was squashed, because there was no way Nick could knowingly put a rapist back on the streets. And for some reason, Bill had once thought that such a principled conscious was a bad thing.
After that conversation, it was as if Nick was counting down the days until he could get a job. And at sixteen, he did. He worked at the local Food World, using his paycheck to buy almost everything he needed. Although he never admitted it out loud, he didn't want his father's stained money; it wasn't as if he was angry, it was more like he was disappointed. And when Bill was sworn in as a judge, he thought his Devil Advocate days were over; Nick was in college by then and he graduated with honors and a degree in Criminal Justice. Things were supposed to be simple from the on out, but Nick decided he wanted to move to Las Vegas.
Bill never understood (and still doesn't) why Nick chose Las Vegas specifically, but he could identify with Nick's point of view. Texas reminded him too much of when he was nine and fifteen. So off Nick went, making certain that lawyers like Bill had a hell of a lot harder time getting criminals off the hook.
He had heard rumors over the years about Nick –guns, a stalker, a window, an explosion- but it wasn't until last month when Nick's coffin was miraculously found that Bill had picked up the phone. He had wanted to talk to Nick, explain everything, because when he had visited the first time, Nick had been too doped up on medication to really understand much of anything. So he had dialed Nick's home number, but it wasn't Nick who answered. It was another man, possibly a neighbor or co-worker or friend or-
And Bill suddenly realized that he probably disappointed his son again by voting for the anti-sodomy law in Texas. When, he wondered, had it become the reverse? It was the children who usually tried not to disappoint their parents, not the other way around. But Nick was a story all his own, and although he never kept score, he could most likely write up a list a mile long that cataloged everything his father had ever done to let him down. From the day his father knew he had been molested to the day he realized Cisco gave murderers Get Out of Jail Free cards for a living to all the missed ballgames and birthday parties and school plays in between.
Bill locked his chamber door behind him and then shrugged on his jacket. He nodded his good-nights to his assistant before heading towards the elevator, resigning himself to the media craze just outside the building. It was one part of the job he could certainly live without.
An indoor security guard quickly caught sight of him and asked if he wanted to be escorted out, but Bill declined. No reporter had actually ever attacked him before, so he was willing to take his chances. It's not like he was planning to talk anyway, and if he did, it would be a nice, long string of "No comment" all the way to his car. A car that, by the way, cost too much, but he could afford it. He could afford almost anything… except the respect of his son.
He took a long breath, grabbed hold of his briefcase, and opened the door. At least twenty pairs of eyes swiveled his direction, like a hound dog sniffing out rabbits, and then the voices came.
"Judge Stokes, how do you feel about your son's trauma?"
"Will this effect you work?"
"Sir, do you believe your son adequately protected himself from his attacker?"
It was like a badly written musical number with an even worse choir; he'd done this song and dance plenty of times before. All he wanted was a drive home to his wife and four daughters who were still living there, although they could certainly take care of themselves. Two were engaged, and Jillian was walking on air when the thought of grandchildren hit her. His thoughts wandered back to Nick; he had, once more, suspected that Nick wasn't exactly straight, but Nick had never done anything to prove this. Not until some man by the name had Greg Sanders had answered his phone, anyway. In that one moment, Bill knew Jillian would never get grandchildren from Nick and he was suddenly glad for his other six kids.
"Do you have any plans on removing yourself from the bench?"
"How is your son, psychologically speaking?"
"Judge, is it true he's in a mental hospital?"
Did Nick's being gay really change anything? Bill had known the minute Greg had answered the phone that he would have to rearrange some of his priorities and beliefs. He remembered how Nick played football, had joined a fraternity, had done all the "manly" things that were supposed to distinguish gay men from straight. Nick was still the exact some person with the small exception of living (and loving, as Jillian had been quick to point out) another man. So no, it didn't really change much. And besides, what sort of society praised a man for freeing a guilty murderer while chaining an innocent man to the back of a truck and dragging him along the road for the sole reason of his being gay? It wasn't the morals themselves that were tricky; it was what society made of them that often held the most weight.
"Sir, how is your family reacting to all of this?"
"Will you remain in Texas?"
"What about your wife? How is she dealing with the situation?"
Bill sidestepped a particularly persistent reporter and walked on.
What was it like to be gay? How long had Nick hidden the secret? What was it like to live in a state where being yourself was against the law? Bits and pieces of the phone call ran through his mind. It had rung twice, Bill nervously tapping his fingers against the table, anxious to speak to the full grown man who had once been so small, a little boy who begged for piggyback rides and ten cent ice-cream cones at the Dairy Queen.
"Hello?" Someone had answered, but it most certainly wasn't Nick. On the other end of the line, Bill had blinked.
"To whom am I speaking?"
"Greg Sanders, but whatever your selling, we're not interested. And if this is Visa, I've already told you that we only need one card. Can't you take us off the call list or something?"
And although Greg didn't say We're a couple and living together, there was certainly enough "we" and "us" in there to speak for them.
Greg had been embarrassed and apologetic when he discovered it was Nick's father on the other end and he had promptly handed the phone to Nick. Bill could hear voices in the background and he strained to hear what the two men were saying, but could only make out words like "I'm sorry, Nicky, it was your dad." and "Would you tell him I'm really sorry?" and "He probably thinks I'm an idiot now."
"Dad, before you ask, whatever you're wondering is true."
"Is it my fault?"
"Why would it be your fault?"
"Cisco, it's no one's fault. Well, it might be a little bit of Greg's fault."
"He's kinda perfect for me, for which I completely blame him." Pause. "Are you mad?"
"No, Pancho. I'm not mad."
He wasn't lying; he was merely surprised, uncertain on how to react. Besides, there was no way he could be angry; Nick had sounded so scared to hear the answer that he couldn't bear to disappoint him again. Greg had taken the phone back at the end, making certain that the judge understood he didn't usually answer the phone like that, but it had been pretty crazy around there and their caller I.D. wasn't working and did he mention he was sorry?
"Judge Stokes, how does this affect you personally?"
"How will this affect your son?"
"Sir, is it true your son's gay?"
And that's when Bill froze, his many years of shit-eating smiles and lie-through-your-teeth techniques failing him. His hand lingered over his car door handle. The camera lights were flashing and the bulky microphones of the sound crew were hovering over his shoulder. He knew the best possible action was to just get in his car and drive home to his family and a nice meal their cook dreamed up. That, and maybe a whiskey in his study, but he was getting a little ahead of himself. To his credit, he had every intention of doing this until another journalist not three feet away from him snorted and said, "A fag? You've got to be yanking my chain."
He found himself turning to face the vultures anyway. Was that his career he saw flashing before his eyes? Probably. But God, he remembered watching the feed and thinking to himself, I'll give anything to have Nick back. My house, my car, my job. Just… please, God, get him back to us. And God had returned Nick in one piece; Bill felt it was only right to keep his end of the bargain, and he realized Nick's morals were slowly but surely rubbing off on him.
"I would hope," he said, giving the smarmy man a dark look, "That you would have more professionalism than to be so crass as to use that kind of language. On live television, no less."
The reporter, undeterred, spoke again. "Are you saying it's true?"
Bill rolled his eyes and fished his keys out of his pocket. It was pointless to talk to these people; they lived to twist your words and ruin your life.
"How does your family feel about your son's sexuality?"
Ah, the joys of keyless entry.
"Isn't it a fact that he's currently living with someone?"
Open door, toss in briefcase, resist urge to strangle the person closest to him.
"Are you ashamed to say yes?"
Was he ashamed? God damn these people! What right did they have?
"And you're sure you're not… upset?"
"Why would I be upset?"
"Well, it could affect your job."
"Pancho, you're more important than my job."
"Judge Stokes, if your son were to return to Texas, how would your view of the anti-sodom-''
"Listen, because I'll only say this once," he barked, feeling his blood pressure rise even as he successfully silenced the mob. God, that whiskey was looking really good right about now.
"My son, through no fault of his own, was buried alive. He was found still living when he had the option of ending his life. He's stronger and braver than any of us, myself included, and if you have the audacity to ask whether I love my son any less because of the meaningless detail of his being gay, then I'm proud to say that neither I nor any other family member have changed our views of him. He's not a label and he's certainly not any derogatory slur you feel you have the right to file him under. He's my son. Maybe you'll understand that one day."
And with that, he slid into the driver's seat, locked his doors, turned the ignition, and drove away. He turned up his stereo, playing whatever burned disc Greg had sent him for his birthday a few weeks ago. Something about counting crows and vertical horizons. Oh, well. If Nick and Greg liked it, then he liked it as well.
Halfway across the United States, a man who was once addicted to gambling, a redhead who used to dance, and a young girl sat in front of a television. The red head wiped some tears while the gambler (although that wasn't his label) and the girl high-fived as they watched a Texan judge speed away on CNN.
About three miles away, a woman had turned down her police radio to listen to the news. She grinned to herself, her gap tooth visible and her smile brilliant.
At the Las Vegas crime lab, a pensive man with graying hair and glasses stared at a small television set, his pen poised over a crossword puzzle, trying to relax himself before shift began. He didn't usually like TV unless it was educational, but he had recognized the face and had sent a small prayer that Mr. Stokes wouldn't lapse back into the habit of routinely disappointing his son.
In A/V room of this lab, a woman with black hair, a self certified Trekkie, and a lanky, sardonic man stood watching a large screen television. The woman and the Trekkie did a small victory dance at what they had just seen. The lanky one, while declining the invitation to participate, seemed rather pleased at what he had just seen.
But most importantly, two men in a home four miles away were staring at their TV set in absolute awe. The dark haired Texan plopped onto his couch, unable to rely on his legs to keep him upright.
The blonde sat next to him, not faring much better.
That was all they said, but the blonde found the Texan's hand and laced their fingers together. He leaned forward, his breath ghosting affectionately over his boyfriend's ear. They had been through so much for so long that anyone would have to had been crazy to think he was going to ever let him go.
"Ready to go rescue Las Vegas?"
"Only if it's with you, G."
And for once, Nick didn't feel any disappointment at all.