DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything associated with the show… I just like playing with the characters in it from time to time. Dance Monkeys! Dance!
RATING: T for Teen
SPOILERS: Through Season 9 US Aired Episodes
WORD COUNT: 2992
SUMMARY: Jim Brass finds a new love for life.
A/N: This was born of re-watching old episodes. And the idea just wouldn't leave me be. At least one more chapter will follow. Thanks in advance for giving it a chance.
REVIEWS: Reviews are the way I know if people are enjoying the work or not. So, if you leave one, THANKS! And if not, I hope you found at least a little something to brighten your day, and thanks for taking the time to read.
If Jim Brass lived to be a hundred he would never, ever understand going to the mall. Yet, there he was, standing in line at the food court after spending the morning being pulled through store after store. And while he would never admit it, he enjoyed every single minute of it. It had nothing to do with the mall, and everything to do with the company.
She was absolutely beautiful; soft brown hair, sparkling amber eyes, a devilish smile and a wit that rivaled his. She was perfect in every way, right down the tiny little eight year old finger he was totally wrapped around. It was Spring Break in L.A., and Jim volunteered to keep his granddaughter for the week. Ellie wasn't able to get away from work and Sasha was tickled to get a whole week with her grandfather without Mom around to spoil her fun.
Jim had missed out on all the good parts of Ellie's childhood for all the wrong reasons. With Sasha he had a fresh start, and he had no intentions of missing out again.
When Ellie called to tell him she was having a baby, it shocked him, but it also signaled a shift in their relationship.
She had straightened out her life shortly after his last visit to L.A., but she was still struggling with a lot of things when he was shot. It was good to see her at the hospital, but her hasty departure had him more than a little concerned. As he recovered from his wounds, he did a little investigating. It didn't take long to find out what Ellie had been up to. She cleaned up, and she did it the hard way. Somewhere along the way, Ellie learned she possessed a knack for the recovery process. Before it was all said and done, she was actually working at a rehab center and halfway house as a counselor and administrator.
Ellie might not have been his flesh and blood child, but she had managed to pick up Jim's luck with relationships. Even before Sasha was born, Ellie was on her own again. When she began struggling under the burden being along and pregnant she did the only thing she ever knew; she called her father. There was only one incontrovertible truth in Ellie's life; if she needed him, he would always be there. All she had to do was call. And when she called, he was there.
It wasn't easy giving up the countless years of conflict between father and daughter, but for that precious little girl they did it. And somewhere along the way their relationship healed in ways Jim never expected. He was not only blessed with a beautiful, healthy granddaughter, but also with the daughter he once feared was lost.
And that's what brought him to a line of other haggard shoppers, waiting to buy a couple Pepperoni Pretzels made by a pimply faced kid in a polyester uniform. They had started off the morning with a trip to a place that reminded him of Doc Robbins' autopsy room more than a stuffed animal store. Sasha managed to turn a longhorn bull into an oddly glamorous beat cop in just under an hour, and then had the nerve to name it Porkchop. The kid definitely had a wicked sense of humor.
The rest of the morning was spent at every store in the place with a toy or clothes for girls. Jim was just about pasteled and sparkled out by the time Sasha declared she just had to have a Pepperoni Pretzel or she would die. Wanting a break from what Jim could only describe as a waking nightmare, he gladly gave in to her very dramatic demands.
After giving their order to the juvenile delinquent behind the counter, Jim moved down the line and waited for the food. Sasha was busy getting the necessary condiments and utensils for the meal as he carefully kept watch when someone behind him spoke. "Keeps you on your toes, I bet."
Jim turned at the sound of the strangely familiar voice. He was trying to work out in his head just who the woman was as he responded. "That's for sure. But at least I get to spoil her rotten and send her home to Mom."
The woman's face took on a sad smile. "I bet."
He still couldn't put a name to it, but he was certain they had met before. "I'm sorry, my memory isn't what it used to be… Do I know you from somewhere?"
"It's okay. It was a long time ago, and I wouldn't expect you to remember." The sad smile grew deeper as she continued. "And I wasn't exactly myself the last time you saw me. I had just lost my daughter."
At the mention of her daughter it all flooded back to him. Talking in front of the vending machine, the casual flirting and then… And then they found her daughter dead in the waiting room. "Sue Latham."
"You do remember. I'm impressed." She gave him a warm smile and he returned it.
"How could I forget?" It was true, that case stuck with him for a long time. Four kids' lives ruined in a flash of bad judgment and revenge, two died, one paralyzed for life, and the other still sitting in prison, taking the heat for the girl next door. "Those are the ones that never leave you. Especially that many young lives wasted."
"Yes, a waste indeed." The sadness threatened to take hold of her once again, but she shook her head and smiled. "But it looks like you've done well for yourself." She pointed at Sasha, who was walking up to them.
"My granddaughter." Sasha took his hand and looked up at the woman. "Sasha, this is Mrs. Latham."
"Hello." The girl smiled wide and put her hand out to the woman. "How do you know my Pops?"
Sue Latham grinned at the girl's question and politely answered. "Well, he was trying to help my daughter a long time ago."
Sasha pressed her brows together and asked, "Suspect or victim?"
"Sasha!" Jim quickly chastised the girl.
"That's no way to talk to someone you've just met." He turned to Sue and apologized. "I'm sorry, but unfortunately she's spent too much time at her mother's work, and she's got the manners of a street thug."
Smiling, Sue let them both off the hook. "It's okay, really. She's merely trying to size up the situation." She looked down at Sasha and said, "To answer your question, I suppose she was a little of both. But she's gone now, so I guess we'll never really know which one she really was."
Sasha squeezed Jim's hand and looked down at her feet. "I'm sorry."
"Brass?" The pimply faced kid called his name and interrupted any further conversation.
As Jim turned with his hand raised to signal the kid, he called out another name. "Sue?" Ever the gentleman, Jim picked up both orders before Sue had a chance to object.
Giving her the third pretzel bag, he shrugged, "It's the least I can do."
"Thank you, very much." Sue forced one last smile and then said her goodbyes. "I should get back to the store. I hope you two have a wonderful day."
Sasha gave her best smile and said, "Thank you, and have a good day."
Jim nudged her a little and smirked, "Good recovery, you little monster."
With an impish wink, the little girl returned, "I learned from the masters."
They quickly found a table and Jim enjoyed the respite from retail terror. Sasha regaled him with tales of her favorite music group between bites of pretzel. Bubble-gum pop was never high on his list of things to listen to, but Sasha's excited stories were at the top.
"Mom says if I can keep my grades up this year, maybe we can go to the show at Coliseum this summer. But I don't know how she's gonna get us tickets." Jim just smiled and nodded as she went on a roll. "They sell out so fast, and she's never on time for anything. And I really wanna go, because Dylan is soooooooooo cute and-…" She stopped suddenly and the rhythm of his nodding was broken. "Pops! You aren't listening."
"No, I was listening. I promise." She cocked her eyebrow in an expression Jim had seen before, on a very similar face. "Don't give me that look, Missy. I was listening." His face split in a grin when he admitted, "I just wasn't really paying attention."
Shaking her head, Sasha chided him, "Mom does that, too. It's the same thing, ya know?"
"I'm sorry, kiddo, but the old man is not exactly up on all the hip new music out there." Jim started picking up their trash as he explained, "So, you'll have to cut me some slack if I drift off a little, okay?"
"Okay, Pops. But no more smile and nod. Just tell me when you don't care anymore." The little girl was far older than her eight years as she called him to the carpet for the tactic.
The smirk on his face and the sparkle in his eyes showed his pride in the girl's reasoning. "You got it." He took a glance at his watch and then asked, "Are we ready to blow this popsicle stand?"
"Only if we can stop in that first store we saw on the way in this morning…pleeeeeeease?" Sasha exaggerated her please to the point that her voice was singing in his ears. But it was the glassy eyes and not so subtle pout that really did him in.
"Okay, okay… Just don't make those puppy dog eyes at me anymore." Jim was rewarded for his indulgence as Sasha jumped up from her seat, kissed him on the cheek and took the trash from his hand to drop in the can.
"Thanks, Pops! You're the best." She grabbed her sequin drenched police cow and took his hand to pull him out of the seat.
With mock reluctance, he slowly rose from his seat and followed behind her with another bag in his grasp. He continued to play the unwilling shopper, but truth be told, he was enjoying every minute of time with his granddaughter. She was a good kid who never really asked for much, and it made him feel good to spoil her just a little. Becoming a grandfather had been good for his soul.
After he got the call from Ellie giving him the news, Jim finally had the incentive to turn in those retirement papers. His daughter needed him, and the streets of Las Vegas would be left in younger hands. Taking his cue from an old friend, he packed everything up and left the desert behind. Except in his case it was a short lived departure. Ellie had some trouble with the pregnancy and was forced to stop working. His pension would only take them so far in L.A., and they returned to his empty house in Las Vegas.
He and Ellie managed to make it an entire year living under one roof before it started to become strained. It took her six more months before she found another counselor job at an L.A. halfway house. The day Ellie and Sasha packed up and were ready to head out on their adventure, Jim finally knew what it felt like to be a true father. There were a million reasons why he didn't want to let them go, but there was only one reason to wish them well, and it was the only one that mattered. He had to trust her, to trust that he had given her everything she needed to succeed, and that she always knew who to call if she needed a hand.
Just before Ellie pulled away from the house, she took his hand and said, "Thanks, Dad…for everything." Jim stood out on the sidewalk and watched the car drive out of sight.
He managed to keep the tears from falling…until he went in the house and found the package Ellie had left for him. Opening it up, he found a leather-bound, hinged picture frame. On one side was his favorite picture of Ellie as a girl, and on the other was a picture of him holding Sasha the day she was born. There was also a note which read, "So you can always see your girls, Dad. Remember that no matter what, we love you. You'll always have a place in our hearts. And be sure to come visit us as often as you want."
The tears were streaming down his cheeks as he carried the picture to his office, only to find the frame Ellie's picture used to be in filled with a new picture; he and Ellie at a Kings hockey game when she was pregnant. He would have stayed in his office staring at those pictures for days if not for Ellie's voice breaking through his thoughts from the answering machine. "Dad, quit your weeping and get on the phone. Sasha needs you to sing her to sleep. She's fussing, so I'm pretty sure she's already missing her Pops."
That began his nightly ritual of calling Sasha to sing her to sleep. Long about the age of seven she informed him that he could stop singing, because he sounded silly. Instead, she just wanted to talk to him about her day and find out what he was doing. Even when he was visiting in L.A., they had their little moments before she went to bed every night. Being a grandfather had been very good for his soul.
Sasha shook him out of his thoughts as the neared their final shopping destination of the day. "Come on, Pops! I wanna see if they have those super cool jeans I wanted."
Jim chuckled as she rolled her eyes at him, showing just how much she was yanking his chain. "Whaddya need with another pair of pants?" They both knew this was nothing but a futile exercise, but they didn't care. It was just something else for them to do before the end of the week.
"I'm a girl, Pops… Don't you know girls need clothes." She stuck her tongue out at him to punctuate her statement.
"Like I need another hole in my head." He smirked as she handed him the incredibly effeminate bull and started pouring through the racks of clothes in the little boutique shop. Jim looked down and shook his head. "Are you sure you don't want me to hold your purse, too?"
Her eyes nearly rolled out of her head as she tossed her answer over her shoulder, "Don't be silly… I don't need a purse. I've got you and Mom?"
As he laughed at Sasha's joke, he noticed a salesperson walking up to him in his peripheral vision. Before he could turn to meet her she was said, "Sounds to me like she has your number."
"You have no ide- Hey…" Jim turned to find Sue Latham smiling at him. He gestured around the shop and asked, "What're you doing here?"
Her smile widened, "It's my shop."
Jim looked around the place and found it to be alive with vibrant colors and a welcoming atmosphere. The shop was filled with modest clothing for young girls, but from the way his granddaughter was flipping through the racks like a pro, he knew they were also stylish enough to garner her attention. "It's quite a shop. How long have you been here?"
Sue took in a deep breath and he watched as she mentally counted back the years. "Almost ten years now." She smiled with the thought and said, "After my daughter died, I was a mess. But I saw Sheila's friend Megan about a year after, and she said something that really clicked for me."
"What was that?" Jim asked the obligatory question to keep her story going.
"Megan told me that Sheila always said she hoped I would follow my dreams once I didn't have her to worry about all the time." Jim gave her a puzzled look and she explained. "I used to work in fashion before Sheila was born, and she always wanted me to go back to it. This…" She gestured around the boutique and finished, "is both of our dreams come to life."
"That's great. Really…" Jim tried to keep his tone even and calm. "It's great you were able to find something good from all of that."
"It is great. I work with a local designer on my specialty line, and I've been able to start a scholarship program in Sheila's name. It's been a very good thing." Jim's smile grew to match hers as she relayed the tale.
Before he could say anymore, Sasha was there pulling on his hand. "Pops, we're gonna be late if we don't go now."
"Let's pretend we have some manners, huh? I was talking to Mrs. Latham here." The girl shied away from his admonishment.
"Sorry." Sasha flashed a subdued smile to soften her grandfather's anger.
He shook his head and looked down at his watch. "Oh wow." The time had gotten away from him. "I hate to cut this short and run, but-"
"But you have somewhere else to be… I understand." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a business card. "If you ever need some fashion advice for this one, please don't hesitate to call."
Jim took the card and saluted Sue with it. "I just might have to take you up on that one. Good seeing you."
With Sasha gently pulling him out of the store, Jim returned her smile all the way out into the center of the mall. He looked back at the sign over the door and grinned. Sheila's Closet had just made it onto his shopping list.