Warnings: Some potentially disturbing imagery. Some violent imagery. Mainly in chapter two. More than typical for me. I understand everyone rates what may be personally disturbing at different levels, so while some may feel this warning could be overkill, I don't want anyone walking into something they'd rather avoid. Also, anything beyond this sentence will be fraught with spoilers. Too many to be specific about. The story itself stands on the assumption that readers will have a basic understanding of the characters and of the show's premise before venturing through. It is likely that readers going in blind would be able to piece things together in context without too much difficulty, or could find a quick episode guide that would lay out the characters nicely enough, nevertheless, that is my warning. Also. Flying without a net here. No beta.
Random Notes: Posting Street Justice fan fiction has never been on my life's list of necessary accomplishments, or even unnecessary accomplishments. However, a while back when a friend reintroduced me to this obscure little show, and since I process most tv input by writing random bits of fiction—most of which never see the light of day—this story came about. A few months back, after sifting through documents recovered from a crashed computer, I found it again, pulled the pieces together and decided, what the hell. So, here it is. It's nothing fancy. On the whole a fairly straightforward fan fiction, utilizing some common fan fiction tropes—tropes the show itself used repeatedly. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about the writing. And it's surprisingly long for an audience of… well, pretty much just me. But in case one or two others out there might enjoy it. Bon apatite.
Story Specific and Show Related Notes:
Before re-watching the episodes, I'd had only vague memories of the premise. Though essentially an 80's/90's formula show, I enjoyed the idea of four very different people finding common connections and building a pseudo family around those connections. While the execution in some episodes was awkward—and the prison episode kept making me wonder when Grady and the other prisoners were going to break into their own rendition of Please, Mr. Jailer—the overall concept was pretty awesome.
In the midst of that awesomeness, I did learn quickly that Street Justice is a show in which continuity was definitely optional. It doesn't just invite AU-ish fan interpretation, it demands it. The show contradicts itself so many times, the audience must bend the space/time continuum for any of the characters' individual chronological histories to work. I'm going to highlight three examples, simply because they relate to this story, but there are many more that could harm your mind if you're not careful.
One. Grady was supposedly in a Vietnamese prison for ten years somewhere between the time Adam left him at age eight and when they were reunited. However, at age nine he was in an orphanage, and at age seventeen he was in a refugee camp in Hong Kong, making his way to North America shortly thereafter. There's just no way to fit ten years into that. We could assume he lied, I suppose, or that we all misheard the dialog, but for the purpose of this story, I'm going with the premise that, though not for ten years, Grady was in prison in Vietnam for a very specific amount of time.
Two. When, where, and how Grady learned martial arts is its own mindbender. I lost track of the gaps and contradictions as I watched. In this story, I do touch on it, and have therefore invented my own continuity. Parts of some episodes will support my insinuations, parts of others will need to be ignored.
Three (my favorite). Grady's parents were killed in 1973. He was eight. Adam left Grady at age eight after Grady had spent nearly a year in his care. Adam then searched for him for twenty years, reuniting with him in 1991. So, really, eighteen years. More likely, seventeen years. If Grady was eight-almost-nine when they separated, after twenty years, he would be twenty-eight. But if he were eight in 1973, he would have been twenty-six when they reunited. The second season saves this one a little by having Adam say it was "nearly" twenty years. It's not really a big deal, I suppose, but for the purpose of this story, I'm going with the "nearly" option.
The recurring nightmare had stopped being a nightmare the moment Grady had finally showed up in his life again. Alive. Grown. Relatively intact. Adam had thought that would be the end of it. No more glass box trapping him motionless in a war zone while eight-year-old Grady screamed for his help.
He should have known better. He should have remembered the illusion of such beliefs.
The images were less specific now, coming to him in slivers, creeping into his finest dreams, leaving gaping footprints in the wake. Morphing themselves into a new beast somewhere between myth and reality. Built taller with twisted additions from the present.
Sometimes the dream was exactly the same as it'd always been, but he would wake with the sensation of Grady's foot cracking against his face, and instead of screams—words. Accusations.
That's for leaving me in Da Lat!
You could have come back for me!
That's for leaving me…
Accusations in perpetual echo. Copper tang from the blunt hit to his face riding on the back of his teeth.
"Adam. Hey, you want this?"
Adam blinked, then reached for the mug Malloy held out to him and took a sip, loosening his tongue from the phantom taste of blood.
Right amount of cream. Too much sugar.
"Thanks," he said, keeping a gentle grip as he settled it to the marble surface of the bar.
Malloy folded a towel next to the sink then looked at him. "Are you okay? You look about a million miles away."
He sighed and lifted the mug. "I'm fine. Just didn't sleep well last night." He tried to force a casual tone. "Guess I'm paying for it today."
Malloy played along, giving him a light smile. "Uh huh, just don't come dragging around at Happy Hour like this or you'll cut into our profits."
He loosened his fingers from around the porcelain rim. "We have profits now?"
"Very funny," she said, tossing the towel at him.
He caught it one-handed and rose from his stool, sliding the mug towards the sink. He glanced at the darkened back room as he rounded the bar to start putting up the glasses Malloy was drying. "Isn't it Grady's turn for morning cleanup?" he asked.
She nodded. "Yes, but he said he had something going on at the dojo early, so I told him he could go."
An uncomfortable prickle danced down Adam's spine. "Malloy, we've got kegs being delivered today and I gotta go to work. Grady's supposed to be here to help you with that." He sounded sharp and he knew it, but the old accusations were echoing in his head. He was trapped in a glass box, and couldn't get away from them.
That's for leaving me in Da Lat!
Help me, Beaudreaux! Please. Help me!
You could have come back for me!
Malloy kept drying dishes and laughed. "First of all, I have handled many keg deliveries without his help—or yours, for that matter. I will be fine. Second, I told him he didn't have to, but he called Miguel who agreed to come by at the appointed time to aid with the heavy lifting."
Adam accepted a glass from her and huffed shortly, putting it up on the rack. "And do any of you remember that this is a bar and Miguel is underage?"
"Hey," said Malloy, setting the next glass aside and turning around. "Miguel's helped with this before, at your request I might add." She narrowed her eyes. "What's with you today?"
"What are you talking about? Nothing's with me."
"Really? Because if I didn't know better, it would seem to me like you're searching for a reason to be angry with Grady. Did he do something?"
"What?" he scoffed, taking the glass she'd abandoned and starting to dry it himself.
"Calling it like I see it." She gripped his hand before he could reach for the next mug. "Adam. Talk to me. What's going on?"
He stopped and shook his head. "Nothing," he said, then seeing her look, sighed. "Sorry. Nothing I can pinpoint, anyway. Just a feeling." He leaned his hip against the counter, folded his arms, and took a calming breath. "Has Grady been acting strange to you? The last few days, maybe?"
Malloy looked contemplative. "I don't think so. He seemed a little under the weather yesterday, but looked fine this morning. Why? What do you think is going on?"
"I don't know. I just know I feel like something is. Something he's not telling me. And I've known him too long to ignore something in my gut like this."
"Have you asked him about it?"
Adam threw his hands up in frustration. "That's the problem. He's avoiding me. Every time I go to talk to him lately, he's nowhere. It's stupid, but I feel like I'm back in Da Lat after that damn mission, looking for him all over again. I keep thinking he should be right where I left him. Meanwhile, he's somewhere else entirely, God-knows-what going on with him. I don't think I've even laid eyes on him in the last four days."
Malloy smiled, a compassionate smile. "Adam, come on. You've had a stressful time at work. You just closed that family homicide case and you know how those affect you."
Rocking back, he began to protest.
"Adam," she cut in. "Let me clue you in. When you get stressed, you like knowing exactly where everyone is, and it bothers you when you don't."
He let his mouth hang open, then closed it. He couldn't exactly deny it.
"Look," she continued. "How about we have breakfast tomorrow? We haven't done that for a while. Pancakes at your place? You leave a message with Grady at the dojo. I'll tell Miguel when he gets here. We'll meet up tomorrow and you will find we are all present and accounted for. Grady included."
Adam gripped the air in his lungs a long moment, then released it through his nose. He opened his arms as Malloy leaned in to hug him. "Yeah. Yeah, okay," he sighed. "Pancakes tomorrow." He nodded rotely as she let go, but kept his hands on her shoulders. "Just do me a favor, huh? Just in case I'm not paranoid? Keep an eye on him a little. If he looks off, just… just let me know. Okay?"
"Sure." She turned back to the glasses as he started towards the door. "Pancakes tomorrow," she called.
"Tomorrow," he agreed.
The computer locked him out for the fourth time in a row and Adam rolled his chair back in frustration. At this rate he'd never get the closing reports finished and he wanted this case off his mind. "What's with the system today?" he called to Kelsey.
"I don't know," she called back, "but it's happening to everyone."
"Hey, Sarge?" Rothman interrupted, swiveling to face him. "Call on line two. It's Grady."
Adam sighed, feeling the knot at the base of his neck loosen. He reached for the phone.
"Hey, B." Grady's voice was light and easy, replacing the accusatory tone from Adam's dreams. It made all the fears he'd been feeling suddenly seem ridiculously unfounded.
"Hey," he answered back. "You okay? You need something?"
"Nah," said Grady, and there was a hint of laughter in the word. "Malloy just kind of, you know, strongly hinted that I should call you."
Adam grimaced, thinking of what she might have said. And maybe how it might have sounded. He was overprotective, sometimes, he knew, and it wasn't fair to someone no longer eight years old. But sometimes he just couldn't help it. "Yeah," he said. "Sorry about that. Just… hadn't seen you for a few days."
"Yeah," agreed Grady. "Been busy I guess. Lot going on at the dojo with the tournaments coming up." He paused, and Adam could hear the jerk of someone hitting the punching bag in the background.
"Not working too hard, are ya?" he asked. "Malloy said you looked under the weather yesterday."
"Me?" said Grady. "No, I'm fine. If you want to talk to someone about working too hard, look in a mirror, pal."
Adam laughed. "Yeah. Yeah, alright."
"Listen. I've got kids coming in for extra work tonight, but Malloy told me about breakfast tomorrow. And Miguel's in. I'll see you then. Okay?"
"Okay," agreed Adam, rocking closer to the receiver of the phone. "Grady?"
"Thanks for calling."
There was a pause. Almost too long. "No problem, B. No problem."
"Community ed classes?" Miguel choked on his sausage, dropping his fork back to the table and reaching for his juice. When he stopped sputtering, he looked at Adam with dark eyes. "Man, don't you ever quit?"
Malloy and Grady were laughing.
"Oh, come on," said Adam. "You have the intelligence. That's all I'm saying. You could do it if you wanted to. Community ed would be a nice low key way to get into some classes—you know, just to see if there's something out there you would enjoy studying more in the future."
Grady reached for the syrup, drawing a line over his last bite. "Yeah, Miguel. Weren't you saying the other day you thought it'd be cool to—what was it—work with animals?"
"No no," Malloy cut in. "He said it'd be interesting to work in community relations."
"Dealing with bureaucrats? Same thing," said Grady.
"You're not helping," said Miguel, glaring at them both before turning back to Adam. "Beaudreaux. Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't think I'm ready for community college." He spread a palm on his chest. "Tell the truth, I don't think community college is ready for me."
"I'm not saying you have to go next week, Miguel. I'm just saying… think about it. It could be a real possibility for you."
Grady laughed again and rose, taking his plate over to the sink. Miguel gestured towards him as he walked away. "And why am I so lucky to get this lecture? Why aren't you bugging him about this?"
"Oh, he has," said Grady, turning back from the sink with an annoyed expression. "Do not open that can of worms, my friend." He wagged a finger in Miguel's direction. "You. You at least have a high school diploma to work with."
Miguel stood after him, picking up his plate with a parting shot at Adam. "Yes. I do. Everyone should be so lucky to be incarcerated and forced to finish high school."
"You didn't exactly have to," Adam corrected.
"No—only if I wanted a chance in hell with the parole board." Miguel shook his head and muttered, "And they say prison has no benefits."
Grady snorted. A softly bitter sound. "Not the prison I was in."
Adam swallowed. Grady never mentioned prison in Nam. Not since that first day in Adam's apartment. This time, he could tell Grady had meant the comment light but it came out dark, played too serious, and for a moment there was nothing but the sound of running water as Grady rinsed his and Miguel's dishes.
Malloy met Adam's eyes. He stood carefully, taking her plate up with his own, moving cautiously into the kitchen and rethinking whether he should be worried about Grady these days or not. "Hey," he started to say, but Grady turned around, glanced at the looks on their faces and forced a smile. Adam hated the forced smile.
"Ah, man, I'm sorry guys," said Grady. "I didn't mean it to come out like that." He looked to his left. "Word to the wise, Miguel, talking about prison is pretty much a party killer." He tossed a wet towel in Miguel's direction and watched him catch it deftly.
"You know it, homes," Miguel agreed seriously, tapping a light knuckle into Grady's arm.
The tension of the moment broke slowly after that, but it did break. Grady stayed behind the others, working through a round of chess with Adam before taking off for the dojo. It all felt normal and routine, but Adam kept thinking maybe Grady was under the weather as Malloy had said. His eyes looked sunken in—the line down to his hip from his shoulder more rigid and narrow than usual—but he passed it off as nothing when Adam asked about it.
"You worry too much." Grady chuckled as he put on his jacket. "Malloy's got you seeing things. B, I'm fine."
"Sure?" Adam pressed.
Grady rolled his eyes, then stepped forward to pat Adam's shoulder. "I'll see you later," he said deliberately, and walked out the door. Adam watched him go, all the way until he disappeared around the corner, then shook himself, knocking his knuckles against the doorjamb as he moved back inside.
He didn't see Grady again that day. But that night, he was back in the glass box, hearing Grady scream. In the middle of the police station. In the middle of the bar. Back in a war-torn jungle. Powerless. Things going on he couldn't reach.
He woke while it was still dark, accusations echoing in his head, feeling his jaw ache.