Characters: (Frank Atwood, Julie Cooper & thier son)
Disclaimer: The OC Universe, with all its assorted characters, belongs to Josh Schwartz, et. al. No copyright or trademark infringement is intended, nor is any money being made.
AN: Unbeta'd -- as always, all mistakes are mine!
"Like I told you – bar's closed now, pal. You're either gonna' leave, or I call the cops to come get you. Your choice."
Frank slammed his empty glass down, glaring at the pup of a bartender. Who needed lip from someone barely old enough to drink?
He tossed his last twenty on the counter, sliding off the stool and catching himself to keep from stumbling.
The kid behind the bar swept up the bill, looking at him with disdain, "Tell me you're not driving, fella'. 'Cause trust me, you shouldn't be behind a wheel."
"What I do is none of your damn business," he growled, the words tangling in his mouth and refusing to come out smoothly. "Lousy service and cheap-assed liquor aren't enough? You wanna' hand out fucking advice, too?"
He could feel the bartender watching him as the bar seemed to sway back and forth, noting the disgust crossing the pimpled face.
The kid frowned, "Look, buddy, why don't you do us both a favor and let me call you a cab?"
Frank lunged across the bar, grabbing the kid by the shirt and pulling him halfway over the countertop.
Frank snorted. Now that? That felt good – the first thing that had felt really good all day. The first thing that made him feel like a man.
The kid's expression was priceless – the widened eyes and pallid skin, the disrespectful mouth muted and formed into a frightened 'O'.
"Please…" the bartender choked, his hands clawing against Frank's as he tried in vain to extract himself from the older man's grip.
That's the way people should look at him all the time. With respect.
He was a powerful man – people should see that. Frank's face morphed slowly into a satisfied smile.
He used to demand the respect due him – before he'd tried to play the game. Before he'd taken classes, and worn suits, and worked for a pittance of what he was really worth. Before he'd sold his soul for 'respectability', which was a whole hell of a lot different from getting 'respect'.
He threw the kid sprawling back across the bar, chuckling to himself when at least four of the bottles lined up on shelves along the back wall came crashing to the floor. Served him right – hope the motherfucker had to pay for 'em. Tell him he shouldn't drive. Hell, he'd driven when he'd had twice as much to drink… when he'd been high on so fucking many chemicals he couldn't keep track of what he was on.
A little scotch and some beer were nothing. Freakin' nothin'.
He dug his keys out of his pocket, squinting his eyes to see in the dark lighting inside the bar. Bracing himself against the countertop to stay steady, he flipped through the keys until he found his car-key.
"Stay outta' my face, you little piss-ant," he flung back over his shoulder as he stumbled out to his car.
The car came to a halt with a crunch. Damn concrete barriers. He'd been thinking about getting them removed, anyway. He fumbled for the door handle, and pried his way out of the car, leaning back against the door to catch his balance before attempting the fucking stairs.
He thought he did pretty good, only stumbling twice up the stupidly ostentatious stairway. Who designed this front entrance, anyway? Fucking sadistic idiots?
Once inside the house, he headed to the den. He had some decent scotch in the den – some aged single malt. That's what he needed.
Entering the den, he pushed at the door, pissed when the heavy wood didn't quite close behind him. He staggered in place a moment before deciding scotch was more important. No sooner had he sloshed enough scotch into a glass than he heard the door inch open further.
Barrett's high pitched voice hurt his ears. He swung around, one hand on the credenza to keep his balance.
"Not now," he warned. The last thing he felt like dealing with was a kid. His hand shook as he raised his glass to his lips and took a long swallow, watching Barrett watch him.
"But it's Tuesday," Barrett said, as though that was supposed to mean something.
"I said not now." He let his anger fuel his words, a little self-satisfied when he saw their effect. Barrett inched backwards, his shoulders drooping a little.
However, the little snot didn't have the sense to leave. "But it's 'allowance day," he insisted.
Allowance day? Little fucker. Frank could feel his blood pressure rising. He slammed the rest of the scotch back down his throat, grimacing a little as he swallowed. He'd wanted to savor this drink, and thanks to Barrett he'd had to gulp it like some classless lout.
He glowered at the kid, feeling more powerful as the boy shrank back. "Forget about any allowance, and get out of here."
The kid's voice was shaking, but it still stung. "But you said you'd give me my allowance, Daddy. It's not nice to tell stories."
"Are you calling me a liar?" Frank's fingers felt for his belt-buckle.
Barrett blinked, looking for all the world like Ryan. The boy whispered, "Papa Gordon says you are."
That did it. That fucking did it. He lunged for the little asshole, catching him up by the shirt collar, and shoving him across the rolled arm of one of his leather chairs. His other hand yanked at his belt, stripping it out of the belt loops.
"Daddy," Barrett screamed. "Daddy! Stop hurting!"
Stop hurting? He hadn't begun. Hell, he should have done this years ago.
He raised his hand, bringing the doubled belt down across the boy's ass. The crack of leather was satisfying – almost as satisfying as Barrett's scream.
"Stop!" The kid wailed, trying to reach back to protect his ass with his hands. "Please, Daddy, stop!"
Frank sneered. About time the little fucker realized who had the power. He raised his hand again, bringing the next lash down harder. The kid's screams ratcheted louder, and Frank began to smile. His hand drew back again.
Julie burst into the den, her face ashen. Frank could have taken the ashen face – it sort of made sense, he supposed. She was a mother.
What didn't make sense – what confused him – was the horror in her eyes. He fought through his alcoholic haze to make sense of her reaction.
His fingers loosened their grip on the back of Barrett's collar, and the boy slid off the chair arm, running like a baby to his mother, flinging his arms around her for protection. Julie looked over the boy's head at him – at the supple black leather belt he still clutched tightly. Her head moved from side to side, her mouth open in disbelief.
He dropped the belt, sending it sprawling to the floor.
He had to think. He had to keep her from doing something stupid.
"I'm sorry, Julie. It wasn't my fault," he tried. She needed to buy that he wasn't himself. He'd blame it on the beer, or maybe the cheap-ass scotch he'd been drinking earlier – she'd believe that. She'd believed him before.
Julie pushed Barrett behind her, throwing her body in front of the six-year-old like a shield. The boy was staring at him the same way Ryan used to stare at him – only Ryan's stare was usually a silent accusation that made him want to smack the kid into the next day.
He'd hated that look. He'd always preferred Trey's open hostility. It was so much easier to deal with.
Julie's eyes narrowed. "What happened? What the hell happened, Frank?"
"He called me a liar." He heard his own words slurring, even though he concentrated so freaking hard. Julie's expression didn't change. Shit, he had to get her to understand. He had to say something to get her to soften. "I guess I must have lost it."
When she just glared, he tried to reason with her, "I got laid off, Jules… as hard as I worked to make that job last, and it all goes to hell anyway. They could have let at least five others go they hired in after me, but they chose me, 'cause I'm the one with a rap sheet. It's the same thing all over again… the same thing I've been fighting ever since I got out of prison, and I'm sick and tired of it. And then I come home and the first thing I hear is his smart mouth, asking me to give him his allowance – like he needs the money with all the dough you and Gordon fill his pockets with. Like my pittance even registers on his radar screen."
Julie's eyes were piercing, critical, accusatory.
Barrett stood trembling and sobbing behind his mother, his hands rubbing his ass like a little wussy baby. He'd only gotten a couple of licks, but from the tears streaming down his face you'd think he'd been given a real whipping. Hell, at six either Trey or Ryan would have been man enough not to cry over just two or three lashes.
"How could you?" Julie challenged. "How could you, Frank?"
Something in her voice sounded so 'off' – so unforgiving. He had to fix that sound. He had to smooth this over.
He took a step toward her, his hand held out to calm her. He conjured up his most contrite voice, sure that's what she wanted to hear.
"Come on, Julie, you know I'd never actually hurt our kid. This didn't mean anything, okay? It only happened just this once, Julie… just this one time, I swear."
"One time is one too many, Frank," she replied, her eyes boring into his and her voice now deadly. "I told you what would happen if you ever hit my son."
Her son? What the fuck?
His voice deepened, "He's my son, too."
She shook her head, "Not any more. We're done, Frank. Finished."
She grabbed for her cell phone, flipping it open.
"Who are you calling?" he asked harshly, drawing himself to his full height. He could tell she wasn't listening to him. Just like Dawn at the end. Before his first family sent him spiraling out of control with their needs and wants and whines and fucking never-ending complaints and backtalk and disrespect.
Who the hell did she think she was, anyway? Not listening? Refusing to hear his story? Unwilling to even try to understand?
"Gordon," she answered.
That was enough. More than enough. He'd dealt with Gordon for six fucking years, with his billions and airplanes and business interests that spanned the globe.
When he couldn't even get a decent job, despite his intelligence or his financial expertise. One look at his record, and employers virtually slammed the door in his face. A dead end job at a third rate accounting firm – back office tax preparation and audit work were his fate, it seemed. And today he'd been downsized from his last position.
While Gordon undoubtedly laughed his fat ass off. Hell, Gordon might have engineered his firing…
He acted instinctively, rushing Julie, grabbing the cell phone from her manicured fingers and slamming it against the wall. Watching it shatter was almost as satisfying as seeing the fear etched across the woman's face. She'd damn well better be afraid. Frank Atwood deserved respect.
He raised his hand…