7/15/08: Another 15 minute fic word ( http : // community . livejournal . com / 15_minute_fic / 19238 . html ), small drabble, yada yada. ^_^

3/29/09: First off, I have only ever seen the first season of Party of Five -- I do confess that I lost interest once it degenerated into being a teeny-bopper soap opera. But the one thing that always fascinated me about the series and continued to draw me back again and again was the character of Bailey and, more specifically, the contrast between himself and Charlie. Bailey starts out the series being the responsible, almost-father figure to all three of the younger Salinger brood. He even kicks Charlie in the shins a time or three to get him in line. It's only after Charlie finally steps up to the plate (and brings Kirsten in to pinch-hit) that we start to see him relinquish that control and try to be a teenager again. And what happens when he does? Jill dies from an overdose and nearly sends him into an emotional catatonic wasteland. *sigh* Poor Bailey. Angst away. ^_^ And we know what happens when Renee-chan sees angst, don't we? ^_~ Of course, my true kink in Po5 fandom is Charlie x Bailey slash. There needs to be more of that. *eg* But... we'll post this one first and see how it goes over. Enjoy!

Under New Management
by Renee-chan

"Welcome, We're Open."

And unspoken, unprinted, were the words that should have gone beneath: "Under New Management". It was silly, really. After all, the restaurant was called "Salinger's", had been called Salinger's for 20 years. Sure, Joe had taken over running it when Nick Salinger had died, but the restaurant had always been a family business... and Bailey Salinger was a part of that family. He shouldn't have felt this awkward, this uncomfortable, stepping into Joe's shoes. But he did.

Bailey Salinger was not the first choice for the new owner of the restaurant. He knew that. Charlie had been Joe's first choice. But Charlie -- surprise, surprise -- hadn't been interested. He had politely, but firmly, told Joe that the restaurant business was not for him. He may have tended bar, he may have done his stint in management, but the restaurant was not going to be his life the way it had been his father's. He had a thriving business in construction and had no real desire to change careers now that he had finally attained his own dreams. Joe had not been happy with that, but he had tried to understand.

Bailey had watched this byplay partly in dread and partly in anticipation. He knew that Joe had his doubts about Bailey's skills in management, and worse, had his doubts about Bailey's reliability. But if he wanted to keep the restaurant somewhere in the two families, he was the only real choice. Julia was off in college and no one had any desire to interfere in her dreams -- a doctor in the family? No one was taking any chances in that dream losing steam. Claudia was meant for the stage and finally had accepted that fact. She would be wasted running a restaurant and they all knew it. And Owen... well, Joe wasn't interested in waiting 7 more years to start weaning his way into retirement. And the one thing that he did know about Bailey was that there was no way on Earth that he would say "No" if asked. Sometimes the middle Salinger brother wondered if he even knew how to say the word.

Regardless, this time was no different. Worried and uncertain, Joe had approached him with the question. At 26 years old, four years out of college with a string of dead-end jobs behind him and a great big empty list of prospects in front of him, Bailey, as predicted, couldn't say "No". That didn't mean he was confident. It didn't mean he had faith in his ability to do this. It meant... it meant that he didn't feel like he had any choice. Not that the others would condemn him if he declined Joe's offer... Well, they wouldn't do it to his face, anyway. But in their hearts, as they passed the empty storefront with its sad "For Rent" sign in the window, they wouldn't be able to help themselves. They would know that but for one little three-letter word... their parents' last legacy would still be there. And Bailey, who was nothing if not sentimental, knew that he would feel the guilt just as fully whether or not it was completely his to bear.

So, Joe had asked and Bailey had accepted. He had started out bussing tables, then waiting them, then tending bar and helping Joe with the scheduling... working his way through every menial job in the restaurant and then taking on more of the managerial responsibilities as his comfort level and skill allowed. He was a quick study because he found, to his and Joe's surprise, that he cared. He enjoyed his time spent in the restaurant, whether it was stepping in for a chef that had called out sick or helping to clean up after a particularly grueling day... he liked it. His willingness to take on any task in the place that needed doing, no matter how dirty or thankless, endeared him to the staff old and young alike. And his gentle smile and easy-going manner made him an instant favorite with the customers. Hardly anyone ever left unhappy. It set off a small glow of pride within him whenever he thought about it.

But that didn't mean that he felt prepared to do it alone. It was silly, preposterous, really. He'd spent a year training to do exactly what he was doing, and really, he'd been doing it with only a little guidance from Joe these last two months. Strapping a bit of steel to his backbone and giving himself a slight but firm mental shake, Bailey wiped off the old sign one last time and flipped it so the "Welcome" side faced outward.

Was it any real surprise that Charlie, Owen, Julia, Claudia and Kirsten were the first ones to approach once he'd done so? No, not really. He gave them a broad grin as he waved them inside.

"Let me guess... Salinger, party of five?"

Questions, comments, pineapples?

Bailey: Well, not what I was expecting...

Charlie: *hmms* Me neither.

Claudia: Yeah. And I like how she left the Kirsten question nice and vague.

Owen: *smirks* You noticed that, too, huh?

Julia: *laughs* It was kind of hard to miss. Especially the way she threw her name way at the opposite end of the list from Charlie's.

Kirsten: You almost get the feeling that I was included just to round out the party number, don't you?

Claudia, Julia, Owen: *nods* Indeed...

Charlie and Bailey: Knock it off!

Kirsten: *eg*

Charlie and Bailey: *facepalm*