Written for the day_by_drabble challenge on LJ.


"Oh hi, Mr. Fredrickson!" Russell opened the door widely. He was dressed in his Wilderness Explorer uniform. The Ellie badge glared in the sunlight, causing Carl to squint at the boy. "My mom said you and I are going on a special trip because it's Dependence Day."

"That's Independence Day," Carl corrected testily. What are they teaching kids in school these days?

"Anyway, she said that where we are going is a surprise, so I packed my Wilderness Explorer Backpack with everything we could need. I've got bandages, mosquito spray, bottled water, and chocolate!" He reached in the bag and displayed the candy proudly.

"We'll be back in two hours, not two days," he grumbled, but he allowed Russell bring everything with him. The shuttle from the retirement home was waiting for them. He followed behind the boy and let him take a seat before sitting down himself.

"Do you think you could give me a clue about where we are going to go, Mr. Fredrickson? My mom says I'm really good at guessing things!"

That wasn't difficult for Carl to imagine. He could almost picture Russell spewing off countless answers, barely catching a breath between guesses. And that was enough to refuse the boy. He could only take so much. "No."

Russell looked disappointed for a second before launching into a lengthy discussion about the new Wilderness Explorer badges that were coming out in the autumn. Thankfully, the ride to their destination was short.

As they stopped, Russell pressed his face against the window. "The park?" He squinted slightly. "But there are chairs all over the place." His face contorted in confusion.

"That's because we're here for the fireworks," Carl replied, grabbing his cane.

"Fireworks?" Russell jumped out of the seat and sprinted out of the van. Belatedly, he realized that he nearly knocked over Carl in the process of getting out. "Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Fredrickson!" He rushed to hold Carl's arm.

The old man shrugged off the assistance. "I'm fine. Why don't you pick us out a seat?" he suggested.

"I will pick out the best one!" Russell promised. He pulled a compass from his front pocket and started walking in the directions of the seats.

Carl rolled his eyes heavenward. Give me patience, Ellie.

Maybe next year he would offer to watch fireworks in the safety of the common room on television with Russell.

"Here!" Russell crowed. "I have found one!"

The seats were directly in a tree's path. "About one where we can actually see the sky?" suggested Carl.

Russell saluted and went back to consulting his compass. Two minutes later, the Wilderness Explorer managed to find a seat that was suitable for fireworks viewing.

If asked, Carl wouldn't be able to recall anything Russell said during the half hour they had waited for fireworks. He had "accidentally" turned down his hearing aid a little early. Finally, the sky turned an inky black and Carl knew the show was about to begin.

He leaned back in his chair and waited for the explosions in the sky. Instead, he felt a small Russell-size hand pulling on his arm.

With a reluctant sigh, he turned up his hearing aid. "What is it, Russell?"

"Can I hold your hand? I'm sort of scared of the dark."

Carl's brow furrowed. "We're in the middle of a park with hundreds of people in the middle of a city and you're scared of the dark here? I don't remember you having a problem when we slept in the middle of the jungle."

"Kevin isn't here," the child answered simply.

"Fine," he gruffly replied. He reached up and turned his hearing aid down again before reaching for Russell's hand.

Their hands remained linked throughout the entire show. Each time there was a particularly colorful explosion, Russell would squeeze his hand. By the end, Carl found himself squeezing it back, offering Russell a little comfort.

Not that he would actually admit that, of course. If anyone asked, he would tell them that he fell asleep in the middle of the show and Russell had to wake him up when the show was over.

That was his story and he was sticking to it.