Right This Time
It was never really silent at night, here. Even on the stillest of nights, a careful listener could hear the calls of animals and night birds. There was always the rush of the wind as it whispered in the trees or across the stones. There was, too, the continual rush of the ocean, so faint at this distance to be little more than a vibration in the air.
And then there was another sound, as of something heavy falling through tree branches. A few birds, frightened out of their sleep, flew away to a quieter location in a whirr of feathers.
It's all right this time.
Cobra felt a great rush of relief. He still didn't quite understand how it had happened, but it had worked. He stood quietly and watched the truck that had just driven past him lumber off into the distance, passing harmlessly out of his life without doing any more than ruffle the grass at the side of the road. He still couldn't quite believe that it had been that easy, but here he was, still holding the wayward cards in his hand and gripping Rick's arm with the other.
"Are you all right, Rick?" he asked.
Rick smiled up at him. "Yeah, Dad, I'm fine. Don't worry!"
"I always worry about you," Cobra told him. "You're my son, and I have to take care of you. I'll never let anything happen to you."
"I know," said Rick. "It's really okay. I'll pay more attention next time."
"Good boy," said Cobra.
But you don't need to worry, he added silently. This time, I'll do it right. I won't make any more mistakes. I'll never let anything happen to you, ever again.
Rick couldn't help but smile. It had been a long time since he'd seen his father so happy, and he had to be happy for him. He really had missed his father.
"Come on!" he said, tugging at the hem of Cobra's jacket. "Let's go play, huh? I want to try out my new cards!"
"It's time for school now," his father said gently. "We'll play after you get home."
"There's no school today," Rick told him. Which was true enough. There was never school here, unless Rick wanted it that way. "Today's a special day. We get the day off. We can play all we want, today."
Cobra beamed as though that were the best news he had heard in a long time. Rick couldn't blame him. He'd been waiting a long time to play with him again. There were lots of nice people here, and he'd even been able to visit his birth parents a few times, but as far as he was concerned, there was no one more fun to be with than his dad. He reached out his hand and closed it around Cobra's fingers.
"Let's get our Duel Disks," he said. "I get to go first, okay?"
Cobra started to follow them, and then hesitated. "I need to go to work..."
Rick shook his head. "It'll be okay if you skip just one day, won't it?"
"Well... I guess it won't hurt," said Cobra. "Just one day."
Rick nodded, smiled, and ran for the door, looking back to see if his father was following him. Cobra was undoing his military jacket and rolling up his shirt sleeves, in preparation for an afternoon of serious dueling. Rick dashed up the stairs and came down a few moments later carrying his father's dueling equipment and his own lightweight duel disk. Instead of putting it on, though, Rick set everything gently on the front doorstep, and then ran to throw his arms around his father in a tight hug.
"Now, what was that for?" asked Cobra, though he was obviously pleased.
Rick just beamed up at him. "I love you, Dad."
"I love you too, son," said Cobra. For a moment, there was a glint of tears in his eyes, but he busied himself with putting his duel disk in place, and by the time he had it on properly, he was his usual self again. "All right, stand back, and let's see what you can do with those new cards of yours."
Rick grinned and scampered a few yards away so they could begin the game.
Sooner or later, he told himself, I'm going to have to let him know he's dead. But then he thought. Later. Maybe tonight.
That was all right. After all, as long as they were having fun, the afternoon would last forever.