A/N: Hey, guys! Now I know holiday stories aren't exactly new, but I just couldn't help myself. This particular story takes place in the future; three years after "My Finale." Also, while it's not really spelled out, I made it so that Perry and Jordan bought a house and are no longer living in their apartment. Anyway, with all of that said, here it is – another Thanksgiving Day one-shot. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own a very large nothing.
Our First Game of Catch
Dr. Cox breathed in the smell of roast Turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie – all of which were being cooked by the last three women in the world who would ever be viewed as "kitchen orientated." The truth? They were all ra-heely amazing chefs.
"Hey, Stick! If you could take a moment away from 'taste testing' I'd appreciate some help over here with the sweet potatoes."
"Well, the perfect pumpkin pie requires a lot of taste tests."
"No, the perfect pumpkin pie requires there to actually be pie, and if you keep on eating the batter the way you are, there'll be nothing left by the time it hits the table."
"Oh, and what about you? I remember there being at least twenty biscuits on that cookie sheet. Interesting how there's only fifteen now."
"Excuse me, Blondie, but there are kids in the house! I was being a good mom by eating them first and making sure they weren't poisoned."
"That's the stupidest –"
"Ladies, could we not? Jordan – those potatoes are ready for the oven. Elliot – let the batter stand for a few minutes before dishing it into the crust. I'm going to start slicing apples for the third pie, and that'll be it for desserts."
"I need a martini…"
From his position on the couch, Dr. Cox grinned at his ex-wife's latest comment. Yeah, she was good cook, but the kitchen definitely wasn't her atmosphere of choice. Since retiring from the board to be a stay at home mom, she'd put her cooking skills to use more often than before, but usually, she cooked for Jack and Jenny alone. Peanut butter sandwiches, chicken nuggets, and spaghetti with meatballs didn't exactly require a lot of time in the kitchen; something the former board member thoroughly enjoyed, even if she did know what she was doing while she was "behind bars," as she often referred to whatever time spent in the kitchen was like for her.
While they all knew Carla was a great cook, he had been beyond surprised to find out how Elliot's skills in the kitchen were right up there with the nurse's. He had found this out the first year they – or rather, Newbie – decided to start this tradition of bringing their families together for Thanksgiving. It'd been a year since Trish's departure, and the brunet had wanted to kick off the gathering by hosting it at his place. When it was finally time for dinner, Perry had straight away commented Carla on the various dishes. When she only laughed and turned her attention to the blonde, Dr. Cox looked over at the woman in question, clearly shocked. Elliot had stared back at him, grinning in a cocky way that Perry was convinced she had picked up from him sometime during her early years at Sacred Heart. What had impressed him even more, however, was that she had accomplished the meal while being so far into her pregnancy. Of course, when she suggested that Carla, Jordan, and herself work together on the meal for the following Thanksgivings, he could only assume the process had been a stressful one.
Dr. Cox looked back into his kitchen – this year's Thanksgiving (and the third since the tradition started) being hosted at his house – as the three women went about whipping up the meal like it was nothing. It was one of the few days during the year in which he would not tease any of them for even a second. Besides the fact that he was afraid of being dragged into the boiling environment and forced to help them out as punishment, he had an unspoken respect for how those three managed to multitask during what was supposed to be a relaxing holiday. It was, admittedly, very impressive.
Of course, that didn't mean he was going to offer his assistance. Not when the football game was playing on his very new, very massive, very wide screen television.
Dr. Cox sat on the edge of his seat, beer in hand, as the players got into their respective positions for the kick off. Three, two, one – "What in thee hell kind of kick was that!? God in heaven…" The auburn haired doctor threw back a mouthful of his drink, clearly frustrated. Two seconds into the game and he was already feeling let down. Of course, his frustration could have also been caused by the very random but not so surprising echo of his latest remark.
"Yeah! What kind of kick was that?"
Dr. Cox turned around, eyebrows raised in question, as he stared up at his protégé, who was still trying to pull off looking angry as he stood behind the couch; eyes darting back and forth between Perry and the TV screen. "Do you even know what just happened there, Carol?"
"Of course! One of the guys in the blue kicked the ball and did a bad job."
"Uh-huh…so what did 'that guy in the blue' actually do wrong?"
Dr. Cox turned more fully around, arms crossed in front of his chest as he tried to not openly grin at the embarrassed and awkward blush that was slowly creeping onto his protégé's face. "What did he do wrong? In fact, what's the name of what he just took part in?"
"'The name?' It's called kicking, Dr. Cox. That's simple."
"Yes, Susan, it's very simple, but to no one's surprise but your own, you still managed to answer incorrectly. It's called a kick-off, and the reason it completely sucked was because that jackass decided to kick it to the far right."
Rolling his eyes for good measure, Perry turned back around to face the game, but his attention was soon drawn to the sudden weight that sat next to him on a couch he had planned on stretching out on as the holiday progressed. "Ah hell, Newbie, what are you doing?"
"I'm watching the game!"
"Sabrina…? You didn't even know what a kick-off was. Now I have no problem being interrupted with questions about what's happening in the game when it comes to Jack, seeing as how he's young enough where not knowing how it works is understandable. Not to mention him even asking puts me in a fantasy world – yes, Newbie, I have them too – of his image being added with a roaring crowd of boisterous applause to the Football Hall of Fame, but if you plan on sticking around just to ask a series of questions on every little thing that confuses you – which will undoubtedly be the game in it's entirety – then I would highly advise you to scram, as I am in no mood to explain to you that the colors they're wearing aren't there to make them look 'spiffy.'"
JD pouted. "C'mon, Perry, please? I wasn't going to bother you, but the kids are all out playing on the trampoline right now, Carla sent Turk out to get some missing ingredients, and when I went to sample some of the girls' food, they all but beat me with a spatula."
Dr. Cox tried not to laugh at the mental image his protégé's latest remark brought on as he shot back with his final decision on the matter at hand. "N O spells 'No,' Newbie. Now scram."
JD continued to pout as he made to stand up, but it was at that minute when the front door swung open, little Sammy in its entrance as he toddled over to where the two sat comfortably on the couch. "Hi, Daddy! Hi Coxxie!"
Dr. Cox ignored JD's giggle at the way Sam now greeted him. He used to call him Uncle Cox, but became fond of "Coxxie" after hearing Uncle Dan refer to him as such on a multitude of occasions. "Hey, Sam," he responded with a small but genuine smile. "What happened to the whole 'Uncle Cox' thing?"
"Coxxie is betterer."
Perry turned back to the big screen TV as JD reached out for his son, picking him up affectionately and placing the small child on his lap. "Why aren't you out on the trampoline, Sam-a-roo?"
"We weres playing Popcorn, and I gots out. Now Jack an' Izzy are left, so they still playin'. Uncle Turk took Sissy and baby Gale to da' store, an' Jenny is mixin' pie stuffs, so I can't play wit' dem eatter. Why does Uncle Turk make dem be togetter all the times?"
"Because in case you and Izzy don't end up, um… Well, he wants our kids to, uh… Never mind, Sammy. It's out of love though, I promise."
Dr. Cox just rolled his eyes as JD kissed the top of his son's head, causing the youngest of the three to giggle playfully. After a few moments of staring at the screen, head tilted curiously to the side, Sammy asked a question that would put JD in a place he hadn't prepared himself for in the slightest. "Daddy?"
"Will you teach me hows to play football?"
JD's eyes popped comically as Dr. Cox practically choked on his beer, trying not to break out into hysterical laughter. Oh, poor Newbie… He really hadn't expected that, had he? The older man turned to give him a teasing grin, but stopped when he took in his protégé's expression. His initial reaction at having been asked how to play football by his son was amusing, but the fact that his eyes still remained wide with complete and utter horror was not, especially now that his skin was turning a ghostly sort of pale.
Was Newbie really that unsure of himself? It was no secret that the kid sucked at sports, but he wasn't actually afraid of teaching his son, was he? After all, Sammy was only three. It'd more or less be their first game of catch together; nothing too complicated. JD knew that though, right? He wasn't really that scared of having to teach his son, was he…?
"I, um…of course, Sammy. Yeah. Yeah, of course. You go, um…do you have a ball?"
The brown haired boy nodded enthusiastically. "Yup! Jack said we could play wit' his."
"O-Okay then. Let's, um…outside, right?"
Sam nodded happily as his father stood up from the couch, taking his hand and leading him out into the yard. Of course, Sam was too young to realize that there was any significance in a person's palm being sweaty, which is why he didn't hesitate to ask why his father's was; loudly.
"It's hot in here," JD replied calmly, despite the small shake his voice gave. "It'll be better outside though, Sam, don't worry."
Dr. Cox listened to the front door open and close, doing his best to remain focused on the game in front of him. He'll be fine, he told himself quietly. Newbie doesn't have to know how to play properly just to teach Sam how to catch. It's no big deal.
Yeah, but this is JD we're talking about, and while you may never admit this, he's very much like you in that he wants to be the best father he can possibly be. If he goes into this thing knowing nothing – which really is how he's going in there – then he's going to end up devastated. He's going to look back on a moment that should've been special to the both of them with disappointment in himself for not being the "perfect father." He's too early into his life as a dad to know it's ra-heely not a problem if he doesn't know how to teach the kid the right way to throw.
Oh, give me a break with the whole, "The first game of catch between father and son," moment. It's not that big of a deal...
Oh, really? So I'm guessing you don't remember anything about your first game of catch with Jack then, huh?
Of course I remember! It was summer and he came home from kindergarten really excited because he won a baseball and...shit.
Frustrated, Perry stood from his place on the couch, combing a hand through his curls as he made his way over to the window that faced their backyard.
Sammy was jumping up and down excitedly, tiny arms raised in the air and waiting for his father to throw the ball. JD was across from him, the distance between them short, as he fumbled with the football, looking for all the world like he was holding some sort of alien creature; afraid to pass it on to his son in order to keep him safe.
What are you doing, Newbie? Throw it, for God's sakes! Your kid's waiting for you!
Stop it, Perry. You know what you need to do.
Get the hell out of here. He's fine. He'll be fine…
And if it hadn't been for the fact that the window he currently stared out of was an open one, he may have been able to convince himself of just that, but when Sammy brought his arms back down, his smile slowly morphing into a small and heart wrenching pout, Dr. Cox couldn't help but overhear what came out of the kid's mouth next.
"Daddy…? Why you not throwing? You…you don't wanna play wit' me?"
Perry's eyes quickly darted over to JD, who looked like he was either going to cry or vomit; quite possibly both. Oh, God, he couldn't watch this. No sane father could.
Ignoring the game that was playing on his brand new TV, Dr. Cox marched out the door and into the backyard, doing his best to appear casual as he walked over to the two Dorians.
"Dr. Cox? What're you –?"
"Hey, Sam. How about you go inside for a while, alright? I need to talk to your Dad for a bit."
"But we was gonna play!"
"And you will kid, I promise, but how about treating yourself to a cartoon marathon on Uncle Cox's big screen TV. Your Dad and I will call you back out when we're done."
Sammy toddled off towards the house, leaving both mentor and protégé alone. Dr. Cox turned to JD then, surprised by the slight trace of anger that showed on his expression. "I'm not an idiot, Perry. I can teach my son how to play catch. You didn't…you didn't have to interrupt us like that."
"Yes, actually, I did. Because while your complete lack of athletic prowess does not make you an idiot, you are, in fact, not smart enough to understand that not knowing how to properly throw a football does not make you an incompetent father, and from the train wreck I was witnessing from the window, a moment that I'm sure you want to be special between you and Sam would have ended in tears – most likely yours – if I had not gone ahead and intervened."
Whatever little amount of anger that had been on JD's expression vanished at once after the Irishman's latest remark. "You were watching?"
"To hell I was!"
"But you just said –"
"Shut up and give me the damn football, Susan. I'm going to show you how to properly hold the thing."
JD gawked at him; arm slowly extending so that Dr. Cox could take the item in question. "R-Really?"
"Now look," Perry started, ignoring the brunet's stunned expression as he pointed to the football in his grasp. "See this white line here?"
"Those are the laces. When you hold a football, make sure your fingers are between the laces with your thumb on the bottom for a good grip."
When Dr. Cox didn't receive a response, he looked up at his protégé, not particularly surprised to find that he was still staring at him; shock written into every molecule of his being. A sharp whistle accompanied by a quick snap of the fingers made him jump, pulling the brunet out of his stupor and back into the reality of the moment. "Hey, Lucy-Lou? I'm trying to teach you over here. Now pay attention."
After mastering the art of holding a football, it was time for JD to learn how to throw. Dr. Cox stood beside the brunet, observing the way he held the ball prior to his guidance. Perry shook his head while JD began to blush. "No, Newbie, not like that. If you throw it that way, the ball won't go far. You'll be using whatever power's in your wrist and that's it. It's gotta be the whole arm, Newbie, the whole arm." The older man leaned forward, adjusting the kid's arm so that it was fixed in a proper position for throwing. Quickly after, he held up his hands. "Now don't move until I give the go ahead, alright?"
JD nodded, the blush on his face still apparent as Dr. Cox backed up five or so feet.
The brunet's eyes popped at the command, not having expected it so soon. "Just…throw?"
Dr. Cox rolled his eyes. "No, Newbie, I meant take it for a walk. After that we can tuck it in and read it a bedtime story. Yes, you idiot, throw!"
JD obeyed at once. The ball came hurtling towards Dr. Cox; the power behind it lacking as it shook a little bit in the air. Still, Dr. Cox caught it without having to dive forward. It wasn't the strongest throw, as to be expected, but the kid did reach him alright. Pretty good, considering the source.
"Okay, Newbie, good." Dr. Cox stopped there, silently taking in JD's blush and sort of, kind of liking that it was no longer due to embarrassment. "Alright, now I'm going to throw it and you're going to catch it, hear me?"
Perry watched on, quietly amused, as JD instantly paled. "W-What?"
"Throw, catch. Throw, catch. That's sort of how the game works. Are you ready for this or what?"
"Are, um…are you going to teach me how?"
"Yes, Newbie, that's kind of why I'm here. But I want to see how you do first so I know what it is you're doing wrong. You know…besides everything. Now let's go."
Perry threw the ball at once, though he threw it lightly; the way he often did for Jack when the two of them played together. From there, he watched JD reach out for the ball; the leather bound item grazing the tips of his fingers and flying out of his reach. The brunet went to get the ball after it landed in a nearby pile of leaves; posture slumped and head down. Fantastic. One of the few times in which he wasn't intentionally trying to humiliate the kid, and it was still ending with an embarrassed and awkward Newbie.
When JD returned, he walked over to Perry, handing him the ball with his gaze set on anywhere other than his mentor's. "So what did I do wrong?" he finally managed.
Dr. Cox sighed. "Okay, here's the thing about football – you don't have to catch it with just your hands like you do in baseball. A lot of players catch it with their entire body, or more specifically, their chest."
"You catch the ball with your hands, yeah, but it doesn't hurt to pull it into your chest for a better grip. Otherwise, you're liable to fumble with the thing and drop it to the ground."
JD's embarrassment was leaving him now; his curiosity and desire to learn overcoming his earlier emotions. "But my hands didn't even get close enough to make it to the point of catching."
"Yeah, Newbie, because you didn't even move. You don't have to stand in the same place the whole time. If I throw and it veers to the left, then move to the left. If I throw and it's higher than you anticipated, then you step back a few paces and catch it the way I taught you. Now let's go."
The first couple of times that followed ended the same way JD's first attempt to catch the ball did, but as the lesson progressed, the brunet finally caught one, bringing it to his chest and staring at the desired item with a look of absolute awe. From across the way, Dr. Cox actually grinned. "There you go, Newbie. Another throw?"
JD complied at once, his expression suddenly eager as they continued on in their game – back and forth, back and forth. Perry found himself grinning more than once during their time together, doing his best to hide it whenever JD focused back in on his expression. He thought, at best, he'd be able to give the kid enough confidence in order to teach Sammy how to play, but he hadn't expected to actually enjoy what it was he was doing with JD. Sure, Perry still wasn't using his full strength, but he certainly wasn't bored either. And the look of absolute glee on the brunet's face after each time he caught it or each time he threw correctly was making him feel oddly similar to how he felt when Jack did well at the various things he accomplished.
It wasn't until about thirty minutes in when JD's level of confidence morphed into that of a dare devil. Well…daring for him, anyway.
Dr. Cox, who had just caught one of JD's throws, watched in a combination of surprise and curiosity as JD stepped back farther than he normally did…and farther some more. By the time the brunet was satisfied, they were practically on different sides of the yard.
"Are you serious, Newbie?" Dr. Cox shouted over to him.
"Yeah!" JD exclaimed. He was jumping up and down excitedly now; much like Sammy had been when Perry watched them from the living room window earlier that afternoon. "C'mon, I can catch it! Throw it Dr. Cox, I dare you!"
"Oh, God…" Perry rolled his eyes, though an obvious air of playfulness showed through as he did so. "You ready there, Priscilla?"
"Yeah, yeah! Do it!"
Dr. Cox let his full strength shine as he threw the ball; his body having leapt forward from the impact behind the throw. He watched it, silently waiting, as it twirled and whistled through the air, diving closer and closer to where JD currently stood; arms outstretched as he backed up even farther and farther and – holy shit! He caught it! He actually caught it! Dr. Cox really couldn't help but feel – God save him – proud, and was actually getting ready to clap. Until, that is, he noticed JD's wide eyes and half open mouth; the ball pressed just a little too tightly against his chest. Oh God, he didn't, did he?
Perry couldn't help the strong bout of laughter that escaped him as JD stumbled backwards; landing into a pile of leaves with a thump. The kid had caught it alright, yeah, but he had knocked the wind out of himself in doing so. Dr. Cox ran over, grin still in place, as JD regained his breath while surrounded by shades of orange, yellow, and red. "Good throw," he finally managed from his little nest of leaves.
"Good catch," Perry responded, extending his arm in order to help JD up.
Of course, it was this same gesture that alerted Perry of what it was he was currently doing. Red alert, Perry, red alert! Showing the kid you care too much! Showing the kid you care too much! Go, go, go, go!
JD seemed to sense Dr. Cox's sudden change of heart, his gaze averting to his sneakers as he shifted back and forth. "That was…that was really fun."
Dr. Cox just said, "I'll get Sammy for you."
Feeling like shit, Perry turned to go, but was stopped by the familiar voice of his protégé; the desperate tone that laced his question stopping him in his tracks. "Can I tell you something? I mean…will you promise not to laugh?"
Acting as though he was tired, Dr. Cox turned around with little enthusiasm, hands stuffed in the pockets of his fall jacket. "Can't make any promises there, Newbie, but even if I stormed away and refused to listen to a word out of that ever running mouth of yours, I'm sure you'd find a way to get whatever it is you want to say to me out and in the open sooner rather than later, so you might as well just do it now and get it over with."
JD flushed as he began fidgeting with the ball; one hand tracing the laces as the other hand kept the thing steady. "I just…I just wanted to thank you. For teaching me all of this. Not only for Sammy's sake, but…I don't know. My dad never did this with me when I was younger. We never had that moment. And I'm not…I don't say that to do the whole 'poor me' thing. I know I'm not the only kid who didn't get to have that experience, but I…that's one of the reasons I kind of freaked out when Sammy asked me to teach him. It wasn't just because I didn't know how to play, but because I really did want it to be perfect. I want to be there for him, Dr. Cox. I want to be there and do all the things with him that my dad never did with me. I want him to grow up happy. I want him…I want him to be able to rely on me."
Dr. Cox stood between JD and the entrance to his house. The fall air picked up as the two stood across from each other; one doctor with his head still down, the other doctor with his eyes set firmly on the overly gelled head across from him. The door to his house was right behind him all the while. What awaited him inside was the smell of good food, a large screen TV, and a warm, comfortable couch. He could easily go inside and get Sam. It wouldn't be unusual, and JD certainly wouldn't be surprised.
But instead, Dr. Cox crossed the space between them, silently enjoying the smell of autumn and the leaves that crunched beneath his sneakers. Quietly, he took the ball from his protégé, playing with it a little as he said what he said next. Though unlike JD, his eyes never once left the shocked gaze that stared back. "You are doing that, JD. You're a great father. Not knowing how to throw or catch doesn't determine how good of a dad you are. It's being there when your kid needs you, ready and willing. Sam…Sam's real lucky there, Newbie, real lucky. There's no question as to whether or not he can rely on you. There's no question as to whether or not you love your son."
JD stared at him, blue eyes wide and misty. He sniffled as Dr. Cox chose that moment to look at the ball rather than JD, nodding in acceptance when the doe eyed doctor said it was the cold autumn air that had him suddenly in need of a tissue.
The moment was interrupted, however, as a sudden mop of blonde hair leapt forward and into the arms of his father. "Daddy!"
"Hey, Jack-O," Dr. Cox greeted. "Having fun?"
"Yup, yup! I beat Izzy in Popcorn."
"Whatever," the young girl mumbled as she walked by and into the house.
Perry chuckled. "Be careful there, Jack. If Carla's genes are as strong as she is, then Izzy's a girl that you ra-heely don't want to piss off."
Jack nodded in agreement. "Is dinner almost ready?" he asked after another second or so.
"Yeah, kiddo. Probably in another hour. For now, how about you and I go get Sammy so he can spend some time playing with Aunt Carol here."
"Okay!" Jack turned to JD then, all smiles. "Whatchya' guys gonna play?"
JD beamed, the mist in his eyes having evaporated when Jack first made his presence known. "Football!"
The younger Cox-Sullivan kicked his legs excitedly. "Football!" Quickly, he turned his attention back to Perry. "Can we play too, Daddy, please?"
"Not right now, Jack. Let's give Aunt Carol and Sammy some alone time first."
"But then afterwards, can we play with them?"
JD rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "That sounds fun, buddy, but I don't think your dad –"
"Sure, we can play with them. It's up to JD though. Newbie?"
Perry tried not to grin at having officially lost count of how many times he managed to shock the poor kid in just one afternoon. It took a few tries for the brunet to form a proper response, but when he did, his enthusiasm was more than genuine. "I…yeah! Yeah, of course!"
Jack let out a joyful yay as he squirmed out of his father's hold, sprinting inside the house and calling for Sammy to emerge. Now officially alone in his backyard, Perry only hesitated for a fraction of a moment before reaching out to pat JD's shoulder. He could feel the brunet's gaze on him as he turned to walk inside, only stopping to ruffle Sammy's hair as he ran past and into the waiting arms of his father.
He told himself he wouldn't look, but upon entering the living room, he just couldn't help himself. Ignoring the TV and whatever new station it was currently blasting, Dr. Cox looked out of the living room window, a small, affectionate smile taking over his expression. He watched on, smile still present, as Sammy caught JD's latest throw, jumping up and down with excitement as his father ran over, picking him up and spinning him around with a love that no one would ever be able to question.
A/N: I haven't written the father/son dynamic in quite a while, so that was really fun to do again. Anyway, I hope you guys have a good one, and I hope to see you again around Christmas time as well. (Emphasis on "hope") Until then, and Happy Thanksgiving!