What Had to Happen…


Same stuff. I don't own them, but I do like to listen in to their conversations every now and then...


He wasn't sure what woke him up, but as he lay in bed and watched the minutes tick away on the illuminated clock on the nightstand, he realized he wouldn't be falling back to sleep anytime soon. Throwing his legs over the bed, he put his feet down on the floor and frowned at the temperature. Who said it didn't get cold in California?

He stood slowly and briefly stretched his back. Wandering aimlessly in the bedroom, he found himself pulling back the drape and looking out the window. His brow furrowed as he saw the familiar silhouette of his young friend standing in the moonlight, looking up. I'm not the only one who's having trouble sleeping tonight. He stood watching from his bedroom perch and ran through some dates in his head—dates where McCormick took on a more pensive demeanor. His mother's birthday, the day she died, his birthday marking the day his father walked out on him, the day he was sentenced, and the day Flip died. These dates usually brought on the "doldrums" as he now termed them. Tonight was not close to any of the usual dates. Sighing loudly, he rubbed his hand over his mouth and went to put back on the pair of sweats he had too recently discarded in favor of pajamas.

"You okay, kiddo?" It was a simple approach, but usually effective.

Mark turned around slowly and met the Judge's eyes, "Yeah, I'm fine. What are you doin' up this late? Feeling okay?"

"I'm not the one standing under the sky at 3 in the mornin'"

"Ah, I hate to break it to you, Judge, but you are standing under the sky—so better try another tack." Diversionary tactics. His forte. He certainly didn't want to talk about what he was actually thinking. No way to really have that conversation safely.

"Alright, you got me on a technicality. I am out here—but only because I saw you standing here mooning at the…well…at the moon!"

Mark turned to face the Judge head on. He wore a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "I've never mooned a day in my life. I may ponder, and on occasion I even ruminate, but you'll never see me mooning." His grin grew closer to his eyes.

The Judge frowned. Something was going on, and he obviously didn't want to talk about it. There were no cases they were working on right now, no important dates to tiptoe around. He was stumped. Sometimes insomnia is just insomnia.

"Judge, sometimes insomnia is just insomnia. Don't go all mother hen on me."

How did he do that? Have we been hanging out long enough that we are actually thinking alike. "Nah, couldn't be." He hadn't meant to say that out loud.

Now it was McCormick's turn to be confused. "What couldn't be?"

"Ah, nothing kid. I just thought that same thing—about insomnia. Then you said it. Just wondered when my thoughts were no longer private in this relationship, that's all." Now the Judge was scratching his head.

Before Mark could stop the words, he picked up the conversation, "I've been kind of thinking some stuff, too...about this relationship." He sighed and turned back to the ocean.

Hardcastle's concern grew. Maybe there was something going on, something bothering his young friend. "What kind of stuff?"

"Oh, nothing really. Just 'I wonder' kind of stuff. Nothing important."

"Mark, if you're thinking about it, that makes it important. Why don't you try it out on me. Maybe I can help?" The Judge was growing concerned.

Mark met his friends eyes again, "Really, its just stuff. Nothing I can really answer…and I'm not sure you want to hear. I'm serious, Judge, it isn't anything to worry about."

"Are you in some kind of trouble? Because you know you can tell me anything, right?" The Judge was obviously worried.

Seeing the concern in the Judge's eyes broke Mark down and he spoke quickly, "I was just thinking about all of the things that had to happen for me to be where I am today, living here, working with you…and it's just a little overwhelming sometimes, that's all." He continued to make eye contact to see if he was treading in dangerous water.

The Judge's response was simple. Perhaps too simple. "Things like what?"

Mark sighed and turned away. "Things you don't like to talk about, that's what. Can we just drop it now?"

Now it was the Judge's turn to sigh. He thought for a moment and continued quietly, "I think about that sometimes, too."

Mark realized he was staring again, with his mouth agape. "You do? Wait, are we talking about the same thing here?"

"Well, how am I supposed to know…you won't tell me what we're talking about, Sport."

Mark spoke quietly and slowly so there would be no misunderstanding him. If there was a time to have this conversation, it was now, and his window of opportunity was closing quickly. "I'm talking about the events in our lives that, if they didn't happen, wouldn't have made this possible" he gave a vague wave of his hand alternating between himself and the Judge. "If my dad didn't leave, if my mom hadn't died, if I never met Melinda…" his voice trailed off. He didn't want to take the next step.

The Judge cleared his throat and continued for him, "If my son hadn't died or if Nancy's cancer had gone into remission…there were certainly a lot of events that had to happen for 'us' to happen. We could even go further. What if I never passed the bar or declined the Judicial appointment. What if the Jury found you innocent?"

"It just feels a little weird sometimes to think about that each tragic event, and even each milestone had to happen. If even one didn't—then I wouldn't be standing here. And, see, when I think like this, it seems that the really bad events were the most critical. If my mom hadn't died, I never would have gone to live with my Uncle and never would have learned to hotwire a car. But, don't you see, even if my life were exactly the same, any one event in yours would have made my life so different. If Nancy hadn't died, you wouldn't have been looking for a retirement project and I'd be doing 10 years in Quentin…or if Tommy was alive…" Seeing the look on the Judge's face, Mark stopped. I went too far. "Judge, I'm sorry…"

He was waved off by the Judge, "Nothing to apologize for. It's not like my mind hasn't gone there, too. And I've come to a couple of conclusions. Maybe, you livin' here was a gift that I was given to help me cope. And if that's the case, then that doesn't seem terribly fair to you, does it?"

Before the Judge could continue, Mark jumped in "But what if you makin' me this 'offer' was to make sure I didn't spend my life in jail—and you got ripped off from a nice, quiet retirement. How fair is that. I'm just sayin' Judge, sometimes I get thinking along these lines and realize just how in tune the universe had to be for me to know you. A little weird, huh?"

"Would you change anything, I mean if you could?" the Judge asked, tentatively.

"That's not a fair question, Judge. That gives me control over your life and the lives of your family. How can I answer that." Mark was now staring at the ground, his hands stuffed deeply into his pockets. "But I can say that it seems almost wrong for me to be so happy here knowing all of the sacrifices that had to be made for me to find my way here. That's why the 3 am no-sleep thing going on. It doesn't happen often, but, sometimes…I just get to thinking…"

"Fate." The one word response caught Mark off guard. He looked questioningly towards the Judge.

The Judge caught his eye and repeated himself. "Fate. That's the way I think of it. We couldn't really control the individual events that led us here, but we can follow the lead and make the best of our…opportunities."

"Yeah, I guess that's one way to think about it." Mark had now turned back to the ocean.

"'Course" the Judge continued, "Tommy always wanted a brother…so who knows…"

The Judge had said it quietly as he turned to walk back to the house. Calling over his shoulder, he spoke louder, "Hey, as long as we're up, let's go to Winchell's and get some hot donuts…sounds good right about now."

Mark watched him walk a few steps and thought, as long as he was one of the things that had to happen…

"I'm right behind you, Judge."

"I know that, kid. I know that."