UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY

JUNE 16th UPDATE NOTE: Thanks to all for the lovely feedback. While reading this over I realized that there was something missing in there... we needed some of Indy's memories of being Mutt's age. You'll find them within this updated version.

JUNE 12TH UPDATE NOTE: My apologies for the change in the ending; I realized after posting it that I had Mutt riding off into the sunset without his Harley... well, jeez, I HAD to fix THAT!! :-)

Setting:Post KotCS; spoilers within
Characters: Indy/Mutt, Oxley/Marion
Angst/Family
Rating: "T" for language and mature themes
Disclaimer: The usual... don't own 'em, wish I did. Don't plan to make anything off 'em, just hope someone enjoys reading them.

Description: Written in response to the challenge posted at the end of "It Haunts." This isn't exactly like the requested challenge, but then, I'm told that I rarely, if ever, do as I'm told…


UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY

Fall 1957

When Marion hotly asked how the damned argument started, he was hard-pressed to answer. It had seemed to escalate so fast. Surely, she wasn't blaming him for meting out punishment for cutting classes? They had both agreed that Mutt was going to finish high school, and Indiana would have thought it would go without saying that if the boy got into trouble at school, he'd hear about it at home as well.

One of the few times Henry Jones, Sr. had ever taken the trouble to administer any discipline at all after Indy's mom passed away was when the fourteen-year-old had been caught playing hooky and working down at the railroad yards. A month of having one's father escort you to school and back again, in disgrace, clearly marking you as unable to be trusted, as well as being confined to your room for all other times, had been brutal, but he'd surely got the message.

"Marion, he's got to get it through that thick head of his that –"

"Look, Jones, I know this parenting situation is all new for you," she'd interrupted, barely keeping her temper under control, "but that isn't Mutt's fault! He's had a lot to swallow in the past few months, and you could cut him a little slack. You need to get it through your thick head that he's still just a kid!"

Indy had scowled at that point, growing tight-lipped and just as angry, but refusing to engage her.

Marion threw her hands up in frustration. "What is it with you Jones men!? Indy, for God's sake, can't you remember what it was like to be seventeen and confused?" As soon as the words were out of her mouth, realization flooded Marion. A thousand emotions and memories had flooded through her husband's eyes after she'd thrown that last volley, and suddenly she knew. Her anger leeched out and an awareness replaced it, almost like a physical shifting of liquid contents in a vessel. "My God… Indy… "

His eyes were filled with hurt and anger and several other emotions she couldn't nail down. Without a word, he stalked past her. She remained riveted in place, wincing as she heard the back door slam behind her. Wearily she leaned against the kitchen counter. Remember? Of course, he remembers…Marion, you can be so damn stupid sometimes…

-&-

Mutt furiously paced his room, seething with resentment at the latest parental crack-down. Grounded for two weeks? Just for cutting one stinking class? Jeez! And bein' grounded on TOP of detention? It just wasn't fair! He angrily pulled off his jacket and deliberately hurled it at the stack of schoolbooks on his desk, covering them… out of sight, out of mind.

He'd worked himself into a good froth, stopping short as he heard raised voices in the kitchen below him. He stood still, closing his eyes, and strained to hear. It was never hard to hear Mom when she was pissed, but Henry… Suddenly there was silence. Mutt tipped his head, straining to listen and confused for a moment, then jumped as he heard the back door slam so hard it rattled his bedroom windows.

He slipped quickly against the wall and peered out the back. There was Dad, pacing in the yard, head down and hands in his pockets… Mutt bit his lip to realize he and his old man really were a lot alike. He heard the door open and close again, more calmly this time, and saw his mother slowly approach his old man. There wasn't yelling this time, but Mutt's throat tightened when he realized there was distance between his parents. He'd seen them fight and make up before; this time, Indy was keeping a cavernous divide between himself and Mom, refusing to let her in. Mutt's temper calmed down uneasily as he saw that Marion was trying to talk to her husband and he was all but turning away. Uneasiness turned to alarm as Marion apparently gave up and turned her heel, stalking back to the house. Mutt stared for a few moments at his father's motionless back as he stood in the yard, rigid and upset, staring out into the distance.

Mutt came away from the window and slowly sank onto his bed, frowning. They always made up. Mom had a short fuse, and so did Henry about some things, but they always made up. He was so deep in thought that he jumped slightly when there was a knock on his door. "It's open," he called.

Marion came in, looking weary. Mutt sighed, sagging a little. Here it comes…

"Mutt, your clean clothes haven't been brought upstairs yet; can you go down to the laundry room and get them please?" Her voice had been quiet and almost toneless.

"Sure, Mom."

She nodded and turned to leave again.

He got to his feet. "… Mom? Mom, are you okay?"

She stopped, gripping the door handle. She knew that the boy's question really was "Are you and Dad okay?" She drew in a breath and then sighed. "Mutt, you have to know I love you," she said quietly, turning around. "You know that, right?"

A lump was growing in his throat. He was worried; he could take it when she yelled, even when she scolded. When she looked this defeated, Mutt ached with shame. "Yeah, Mom, I know," he replied softly.

She shrugged helplessly, and turned around, looking at her son. "I can't be stuck in the middle between you two anymore, honey. I just can't. I love both of you too much. I just wish you two would stop these goddamn pissing matches and just listen to each other."

Uneasily, Mutt sat on his bed again. "I… I'm sorry, Mom, honest, but – "

She shook her head. "No, Mutt. No buts. You two are going to have to figure out how to get along with each other, or it's going to tear this family apart before it even gets started. I'm sick and tired of being a referee. You've got to try to understand him, Mutt. He's working at trying to understand you."

Mutt couldn't help it; his resentments bubbled up. "Yeah, it's always me havin' to change, isn't it." As soon as the bitter comment was out of his mouth, he regretted it. Marion had closed her eyes and shook her head. Her disappointment in him was so tangible he felt like he could squeeze it in his hands. "Oh, shit, Mom… I'm sorry…"

"Save it, Mutt," she said firmly, opening the door. "You two have to work this out on your own."

Mutt's heart hurt as she closed the door. The youngster put his face in his hands, trying to think.

-&-

"Can't you remember what it was like to be seventeen and confused?"

Yeah, honey... I remember. You bet your ass I remember. I also remember what it was like to be seventeen and hungry, either wet and cold, or miserably hot, mostly scared; to be shot at, held prisoner, beaten...

Indy closed his eyes, trying to blot out those memories. It hadn't been all bad, he'd told himself all these years, but the bottom line had been how much he'd regretted running off that summer; Mutt had nailed it, actually. Indy had been glad of the opportunity to be kidnapped by Villa. Anything than having to put up with Dad's benign neglect and the crushing boredom of school.

By the time he'd reached Germany and World War I, that excitement had turned to regret. Things mightn't have been sweetness and light between Henry, Senior and himself, but at least he didn't have to fear being killed. That had been a damned hard way to grow up: on a battlefield thousands of miles from home.

Since he'd begun teaching, he'd been irritated sometimes with the attitudes of some of the kids in his classes; spoiled brats, some of them, who had no idea what real life was all about. Until he realized, just a few years into the job, that for each of them, their Marne battlefield was something important to them. Perhaps they weren't staring down German soldiers, or Victoriano Huerta. But what they faced, in their lives, at that moment, was just as pivotal and felt just as intense. He cared; that made him a good teacher. He just wasn't able to take it as seriously as he probably should have to have been a great teacher.

And that's the trouble now, Indy thought sadly, as his eyes inadvertently sought out Mutt's second storey window. I've got no frame of reference, no common ground with him at this age. I can't go back to how Dad would have handled it, because Dad never handled any of this...Christ, he never handled anything when it came to me back then. It was with a poignant sorrow that Indy finally accepted that he'd truly raised himself. He'd had mentors and good advice, including some of his commanding officers, some of his older friends, but when push came to shove, he'd got himself from sixteen to adulthood.

But if I don't figure out how to connect with him, I'm gonna lose him, Indy sighed, rubbing his tired eyes. What the hell do we have in common? Besides loving Marion and wanting her to be happy?

How do I show the kid how much I love him? Where the hell can I learn, overnight, how to be a father? Dad, if you were here now, what would you do? I could use your help, old man.

Indy sat long into the night in that Adirondack chair, staring at the moon and waiting for answers.

-&-

Several hours later, Marion heard the back door finally open and close, and she set down the book she was reading on the bedspread and waited. She knew he needed time, and he needed some space. She already quietly apologized for being insensitive; now the ball was in his court.

She heard the tired footsteps on the stairs, trudging down the hallway toward their room, hesitating a moment in front of Mutt's room, then continuing on, and even hesitating a moment in front of their door. That one make her heart ache.

Quietly the doorknob turned and Indy came around the door, avoiding looking at her. He went to the dresser and pulled off his tie, removing his cufflinks and dropping them into the wooden box on his side of the bureau top.

She simply studied him quietly, and waited. He sighed as he stripped off his shirt and dropped it into the dirty clothes hamper, then finally drew in a deep breath, and looked at her, hesitant… cautious… unsure what he'd find.

Marion said nothing for a moment as she looked at him, her expression unreadable. Then, she stretched out her hand silently to him. Relieved, he walked over and took it, bringing it up to his lips and kissing it. He sat down on the bed beside her. "I'm sorry," he said softly.

She stroked his cheek. "Jones, listen to me."

He swallowed, eyes downcast and nodded, waiting. She gently tipped up his chin with her finger and gazed into his eyes. "Jones, don't ever believe you need to worry about coming in that door," she said quietly, nodding toward the bedroom door. His eyes widened a little as he understood she'd sensed his hesitation. "It's just you and me in here, Indy. This is just for us. And you never need to fear what you find in here." She sighed. "And I'm sorry, too. I opened my mouth without thinking it through – which shouldn't surprise you…" Her words stopped as she saw the wounded little boy her husband had buried deep inside himself for so long almost shudder with relief. "Oh, Indy, honey," she'd breathed gathering him close and hugging him tight. When she released him, she saw he'd regained his control and his composure, but there was a gentler … something…

He leaned over her and kissed her deeply and passionately. In moments, they were together under the sheets, the rest of Indy's clothes and Marion's nightgown flung carelessly to the floor. Their lovemaking was like something new, like an heirloom that had never been allowed to be seen was dusted off, bravely shown and now proudly displayed. When they were through, both breathless and awed, she snuggled against him, peaceful. He held her close, still unable to believe how lucky he was that she wanted him, that she claimed him as her own. As he finally reached to turn off the light, he sighed. "I'll talk to Mutt in the morning… don't know what I'll say, but I'll talk to 'im…"

Marion smiled. "Be honest with him, that's the best tactic you've got."

- & -

"Mutt? Rise and shine, kid, you're going to be late for school."

Indy stood outside his son's silent door allowing his hands to follow the old practiced patterns of tying his tie. The silence on the other side of the door started to annoy him. Mutt was so unpredictable when it came to sleep patterns: he was either up with the sun, or you couldn't haul his sorry butt out of bed before noon.

Indy finished tying his tie, then rapped on the door. "Hey, Mutt!" He frowned, as he realized he didn't hear the squeak of bedsprings, an adolescent groan of protest. Nothing. Beginning to grow uneasy, he hesitated a moment, then determinedly opened the door.

Indy swallowed hard, standing there looking around him. Mutt's room normally resembled a hurricane disaster zone; books strewn everywhere, often dirty dishes that looked more like biology projects perched precariously on any reasonably stable surface, the bed rumpled and clothes anywhere and everywhere. But now, the bed was made. The room was tidy. The textbooks were neatly stacked and his bookshelves, if not totally organized, were at least tidy.

Indy swallowed again. I've got a bad feeling about this…

He slowly advanced into the room. That feeling was of emptiness. As though the occupant was… Suddenly, Indy turned and strode to the closet. He opened it and his lips tightened. He spun to the dresser and began opening drawers. Not completely empty, but certainly not full of all of his son's clothes. The leather jacket was the most noticeably missing piece.

Suddenly Indy's eye caught something on the nightstand. An envelope. His heart in his throat, Indy forced himself to walk toward it, just as Marion came in with another load of clean clothes.

"Mutt, here's – " Her voice trailed off in shock, then she immediately brought frightened eyes up to Indy. "What's going on?"

Indy shook his head, and reached for the envelope, then wilted. Silently, tight-lipped, he offered to take the laundry basket from arms with one arm, while his other hand was outstretched with the envelope, labeled with a single word, "Mom".

"Indy," she breathed. She shoved the laundry basket into his arms and ripped open the envelope with shaking hands. She scanned the message, and bit her lip. "Oh, Jones, we've really done it this time," she whispered.

"I don't suppose he's said where he ran off to?" Indy's deep baritone rumbled, as he swallowed hard, set the basket on the bed and ran a hand through his gray hair. He gazed into space, trying to imagine where Mutt would start…

"No," she answered, wiping away tears with one hand. "But he said why." She looked up at him. "He doesn't want to come between us."

Startled, Indy's head came up and he stared at her. "What?"

"I told him last night I wasn't going to play referee between the two of you anymore," she said, in anguish, "and I think he thought I meant that I was going to just side with you."

She handed him the letter.

Indy winced to see the strong, bold handwriting, almost artistic in its formation of the letters… that was one of the enigmas that was his son, that the rough, tough biker/greaser teenager could have an artist's handwriting.


"Dear Mom,

Please don't be worried; you know I can take care

of myself. You raised me that way.

Mom, this just isn't working out. But I have never

seen you look so happy, not even with Dad… my

other Dad. You and Henry love each other and

you both deserve to have a chance at a good life

without me making a mess of things.

See, Mom, Henry and me… we just don't know

what we want from each other, I guess. I care a

lot about him, and I know he cares about me, too,

but we just can't seem to find some place in the

middle, you know? And I don't want your

marriage to get messed up because of me. That

just wouldn't be right. It's not like I'm some little

kid needing a Mommy and a Daddy, after all.

So, as soon as I know where I'm going to land, I'll

let you know. I love you, Mom

Mutt"


"Oh, Mutt," Indy had groaned softly. "Marion, call the college and let 'em know I won't be in today. I'm going to check to see if the bike's still here."

As Marion headed for the phone downstairs, Indiana sped down the stairs and hurried out the garage. No motorcycle. He glanced around the building, and saw nothing else out of place.

Indy sighed as he came back into the kitchen. Marion was pale, tears were ready to flood, but she was hanging on. She looked up as he came in. "He packed some food for the trip," she said softly.

He came to her and held her close. "Don't worry, honey, we'll find him. I promise you, we'll find him."

-&-

"Had enough to eat?"

Mutt looked up, dejectedly, from his plate. "Yeah," he'd muttered.

Harold Oxley smiled indulgently and shook his head, gathering up his plate.

"Come, now, Mutt, you knew perfectly well how I'd react and what I'd say to you when you came in, didn't you? Why entertain any fiction otherwise?" He gestured toward the plate. "Bring your dishes in."

Without an argument, Mutt gathered up his breakfast plate and followed Oxley into the immaculate kitchen.

"I know," Mutt sighed. "It's just…"

"It's just that you resent him," said Ox matter-of-factly.

Startled Mutt looked up at his old friend. Ox raised an eyebrow. "Oh, Mutt, for goodness' sake, it doesn't take a psychiatrist to figure that one out. You resent him for taking your place with your mother."

"Ox!" Mutt was horrified. "You think Mom and me – "

"Oh, don't be ridiculous, boy!" Oxley scolded him, snatching the plate from him. "And thank you, so much, for a mental image I could have done without! Honestly, young people today…"

Chastened, Mutt finished carrying the dishes from the table to the kitchen sink. "You mean… because it's been just Mom and me for such a long time…" he said softly.

"Precisely. And," Ox looked at him sideways, "from what you know of this fellow, he hurt your mother pretty badly. I daresay you're worried he might do it again."

Mutt shut up at that one, because that had, indeed, been going through his mind. He shrugged. "She's a big girl," he muttered.

"Indeed," smiled Oxley. "But she's also your mother. And you love her. And you'll, quite cheerfully, disembowel any man who tries to hurt her."

Mutt glanced up at his old friend. "Do you think he will?" he asked softly. "Hurt her again, I mean."

"Henry?" Oxley laughed and shook his head, rinsing the plate and setting it into the drain rack. "Henry Jones, Junior is absolutely besotted with your mother, Mutt. Absolutely and totally smitten, deeply in love and frightened to death about it."

Startled, Mutt looked at the older man. "Huh?"

Ox draped the dishrag on the edge of the sink to dry and tossed Mutt a towel, gesturing toward the drain rack. "He doesn't want to hurt her, either, and he knows he's done so in the past. And regrets it. On very uncertain ground, these days, is our Henry." Ox crossed his arms, thoughtfully, as Mutt picked up the first dish to dry. "Besides, Mutt… love hurts sometimes, even in the best of relationships."

Mutt thought about that for a moment. Then he thought about the argument yesterday and frowned. "Ox… you ever meet his old man?"

"Henry, Senior?" Oxley raise an eyebrow and swallowed. "No. But I surely heard enough about him." Ox shook his head. "Quite the character, Professor Jones, from everything Henry told me."

"He cared about him, right? Henry, I mean Indiana, he cared about his father..."

Ox sighed, leaning back against the counter as Mutt finished his chores. "Indiana cared about him, all right. He tried and tried to please the old man, but it seemed as though no matter what he did, he thought he always came up wanting in his father's eyes. I was glad to hear that they managed to patch things up between them before Professor Jones died. They'd spent more than 20 years barely speaking, and lost so much time they could have enjoyed together. And it turns out that the affection between them was very strong, indeed, at the end."

Oxley was pleased to see that Mutt was a million miles away, thinking hard, and decided not to interrupt. He knew that it would only be a matter of an hour or so, at the most, before Marion or Henry would be –

RRrrrrrring!

Ox smiled to himself, and reached for another towel. Faster than he'd expected. "Off you go, then," he said firmly to Mutt, gesturing toward the door.

"Do I look like a butler?" The boy had tried to bluff some bravado.

"March, young man. You can't run away forever, Henry; it's time to face the music and straighten out this mess."

Dragging his heels, Mutt trudged to the door.

"Ox, have you heard anything fr – Mutt!" A frantic Marion fell on her boy, embracing him tightly. "Oh, Mutt…" she whispered, gently pushing him back from her, not bothering to wipe her tears. "You're okay?"

"I'm fine, Mom," he'd squirmed, flushing. "C'mon, you're embarrassing me…"

"I oughta do more than that," came the deep rumble behind her. His father's big hand came around the back of his head and firmly, but still very gently, cupped the back of his neck, effectively forcing the youngster to look at him. The eyes looked him over first, as thought checking for injuries, and then met Mutt's own, questioning, you're sure you're okay? Mutt nodded at his father. Henry sighed in relief. Then his face grew stern. "I ought to blister the seat of your pants, bud. Don't ever pull something like that again, Mutt. You scared your mother… and me."

The boy stared into his father's eyes, not sure at first what he saw there, and was startled: he recognized uncertainty, worry, and…yeah, and affection; the same things he himself felt.

"Marion, Henry, have you had breakfast? Young Mutt and I just finished but there're still some muffins and coffee," offered Oxley, leading the way back to the kitchen as though nothing untoward had happened. Marion smiled at her old friend and shook her head; good old Ox…

- & -

Mutt sat, tense and antsy, in one of the two wing chairs in front of the cheerfully burning fire. The October day was sunny, but chilly for Connecticut at this time of year. Ox had managed to buy a house close by to Indiana's when they returned from Peru, and had quickly made it look as much like their old house as he could. Mutt could remember the one or two times Ox had chewed him out royally for something, and it had always been in his study… though the dimensions of the room had changed, the rugs, the furniture was all the same. How fitting that this would be place his father would further decimate him…. "Go ahead, say it," he sighed in resignation.

Startled, Indy looked up. "Say what?" He shrugged. "Honestly, Mutt, I don't know what to say to you any more."

Uneasily, Mutt looked at his father, who looked tired and somewhat defeated. "This is exactly why I thought it'd be the best thing for me to do, to –"

"To run away," Indy finished, his voice flat.

Bristling, Mutt drew in a breath. His father leaned in from the other chair. "Save it, Junior," he interrupted. "You're talking to the King of evasion, here, remember?" Indy warned, tapping himself on the chest. "You got scared, Mutt. Simple as that. You got scared that you and I wouldn't be able to work things out, that I would bail on your mother and you couldn't bear to have her go through that again. You weren't willing to give things, to give us, time to try to work it out."

Smoldering, Mutt leaned forward, falling on his fencing training and going for the attack. "Nah, old man, you weren't willing to accept that I'm not you! That I'm not some moldy chip off the old block and that you can't chisel me into some stone replica of you." At the glare he got in return, Mutt's eyes narrowed. That stung 'im.

Indy ran a hand through his hair. "Goddammit, Mutt, I'm trying to tell you I'm sorry!" he shouted finally. "I'm sorry that I'm not the father you need me to be! I don't know how!"

Still fuming, Mutt struggled. He wanted to hang onto his "mad." He wanted to hang on to it so badly! When he was angry he didn't have to get at the real emotions that fueled his behavior and his yearnings; those fears of abandonment, of having the people you love disappear on you. He'd already lost one dearly loved father and had no intention of letting that feeling happen again!

Indy pounded once, hard, on the arm of his chair in frustration. "When I was seventeen I was halfway across the world in a damned war! You think I wasn't scared and confused? You're damn lucky you had your mother, Junior! My father and I had barely spoken for years after my mom died, and I don't have any idea how to be what you need me to be! I'm trying, I'm trying as hard as I know how, Mutt. Can't you even try meet me halfway?!"

"I get it that this is hard for you!" Mutt shouted back. "I get that, but you know what? It ain't MY fault that you and your old man couldn't figure each other out!"

Indy's eyes widened in shock at that one. Good lord… could the kid be right?

-&-

Marion tapped her fingernails on the table, nervously. The first short bit of yelling between her husband and her son had been replaced since with all but silence. Ox was reading the newspaper and glancing at her occasionally in amusement. "Marion, for heaven's sake…"

"It's been pretty quiet in there for a long time, Ox," she protested.

"Quiet's a good thing."

"Not if one of 'em's dead, it isn't," she'd protested darkly.

"Nonsense," laughed Oxley. "Perhaps they're finally talking and listening to each other."

"I can't deny it's what I've been hoping for," she admitted, getting to her feet and walking around the cheerful kitchen. "Ox, will they ever be able to see eye to eye, do you think?"

Oxley started to reply offhandedly, but saw that Marion was deadly serious. He sighed and folded his newspaper, setting it down and smiling at her, pushing his chair back and patting his lap. Chuckling, she seated herself comfortably. "It's worrying you, isn't it, love," he asked sympathetically. "It's been dreadfully hard for you, being the one in the middle."

She sighed as she leaned up against her old friend. "Yes… yes, it has. I love Mutt dearly, Ox, you know that, but he's growing up, faster every day and he won't be here forever. And to have finally found Indy again after all these years… Oh, Ox, it's so good between us," she whispered. "I'm almost afraid to say how good out loud, like we'll be jinxed."

"Rubbish," Oxley said, easily, draping an arm around her shoulders and giving her a hug. "Indiana loves you so dearly, I don't believe there is anything you could do to get rid of him. Him leaving you because of frustration with your mutual brat of a son is a non-issue." He tipped his head to the side and gazed at his old friend. "Marion, you need to let them fight their own battles, that's all. Even if everything had proceeded according to plan twenty years ago, and you and Indiana had married on schedule, and he'd been there to help raise Mutt right from the beginning, they would still be having this struggle... you do realize that, don't you, dear?"

Marion sighed, and shrugged.

"Trust me, Marion… they're dancing the dance of Father and Son, of two strong alpha males, that has gone on since time began," Oxley declared dryly. "It doesn't mean they hate each other. It means that Indy needs to learn the skills required in fathering a young man, and that Mutt needs to learn how to express his desires for independence without cutting his family legs out from under himself. Give them both a little time. And just love them both. They need you."

-&-

"You've got to stop putting you and me into that same equation, man, 'cause you ain't your father, and I sure as shit ain't you!" Mutt saw that he had startled the older man into silence and pressed forward, a tad more gently. "Look, Pops… I think you're kinda caught up in this idea of what you THINK we're supposed to be acting like. But you gotta be one sandwich short of a picnic if you think our family is anything like Ozzie and Harriet."

Indy stared at his son, and the chuckled a little weakly. "True enough," he said softly, scratching his temple in bemusement. "Am I doing that?" he asked quietly, seriously.

Uneasily, Mutt leaned back in his chair, sighing. "Yeah," he said gently. "You are. Mom used to do it, too, sometimes, when she felt like she was being judged by the old battleaxes, you know? But she got it figured out eventually. She figured out we've just got to be real with each other, honest, you know?" Mutt ran his comb through his hair, and flushed a little. "It's hard for me, all this, too," he grunted. "First I haveta find out the guy I always believed was my father, wasn't –"

"No, Mutt," Indy said firmly, "in every way that really matters, Colin Williams was your father and he'd have been so proud of you."

Mutt tried to smile but what he had to say was too serious. "And second… well, Mom and me, it's been just us for a long time, now. Ox was a good friend, but he wasn't a dad, you know what I mean? Like, I can remember times when I wished I had someone to chew me out for some of the stupid stunts I pulled like my friends did, because it'd mean they cared…" Mutt's young voice broke, and he drew in a deep breath. "So you're not used to bein' a father, and I guess I'm not used to being a son… to a guy, anyway."

Indy stroked his lip, blushing a little in embarrassment that his young son could have been so insightful while he'd been so blind. He sighed and studied his hands. "Mutt, there are some things that I believe are wrong no matter what others think, including you," he said quietly. He raised his head and look seriously at his boy. "Skipping school is one of them. I take that very seriously, kid. And I might be a rookie at this father gig, but I've been a teacher for a long, long time."

Mutt sank in his seat, scowling. "I know," he grunted.

"Taking off and scaring your mother half to death is also wrong. Take your anger out on me if you have to, but remember she's your Mom, the only one you've got, kid."

Mutt had the decency to blush a little at that one. He nodded, curtly.

Indy swallowed and plunged forward. It was his belief; he could not do or say anything differently and be true to himself. "So I'm sorry if you're upset about it, but the grounding sticks. One week, no bike, no phone, nowhere but your room after school."

Mutt wished he could say he was pissed about it; but he honestly felt a certain amount of pride in his old man sticking to his guns this way, despite what had gone on between them. It would have been so easy for him to give in, to try to smooth things between them. He also realized his sentence had been cut in half, but wasn't about to point that out; grounding the Indiana Jones way was no fun, whether it was one month or one day. "Okay," he said quietly. He squared his shoulders. "You promise that you'll try to remember that you're not Ozzie Nelson?"

Indy laughed softly. "I promise." He raised an eyebrow at his boy. "You'll promise to hold up your end of the bargain with school and do your best?"

Mutt frowned, then sighed. He might as well. "Yeah, I promise." Mutt managed a small grin, and, standing up, stuck out his hand. "Deal?"

Indy smiled in return, rose to his feet and clasped the hand. "Deal." Indy stared down into his son's handsome face, suddenly overcome with the emotion of feeling as though he'd witnessed a sort of coming of age. Indy gently drew the younger man into a quick hug at that point. "I'm workin' on it, kid," he muttered, his voice rough; he released his boy, a bit embarrassed. "Let's go let your mother know that no one's going to die today..."

-&-

Marion had taken to pacing the living room by this point. "What is going on in there?" she'd seethed.

"Male bonding ritual," Ox had answered absently, as he made notes for his classes.

Marion glared at him, then spun as the double doors opened and her men came out, apparently none the worse for wear. She looked from one to the other. "Well? Did you talk it all out?"

Mutt and Indiana looked at each other. "What's she talking about?" Indy asked.

"Beats me, she's your wife, you've known her longer," Mutt grunted.

"Yeah, but she's your mother. You've known her for longer consecutively… I always had these big gaps –"

"Oh, for God's sake." Marion stalked out the front door, leaving them behind, grinning.

"Pops, you got your keys? 'Cos if you left 'em in the car, trust me, you're walking home. She's –"

The fierce revving of the Chrysler's engine, and the squeal of tires taking off from a dead stop to 40 mph in 2 seconds kind of gave them their answer.

"…pissed," Mutt finished, with a wry grin.

Indy scratched his head and chuckled. "Mind if I hitch a ride home with you, Junior?"

Mutt's eyes danced with laughter, and he swung down, slung a backpack he'd left by the door filled with his clothes over his shoulder. "C'mon! If we hurry, we'll beat her home!"

"Go get 'er revved up, I'll be right there." Indy watched him go, smiling, then turned back to his old friend. "Thanks, Harold, for everything," he said softly.

"Give yourself some time, Henry, you're doing just fine, old man." Ox smiled at him, clapping him on the shoulder. "Mutt's a wonderful boy; but he has his own personality. Help him learn to let it shine, eh?"

Indy smiled and nodded, shaking his friend's hand, then hurried out to the driveway.

Ox stood at the door as he watched as Indy swung a long leg over the back of the Harley. Mutt checked to make sure his father was safely on, then took off; Ox watched as they came around the curve of the driveway, both with identical grins on their faces as they waved, then shot off towards home.

- END