This story takes place within my "Journey's End" AU. It popped into my head and wouldn't leave so I figured that I'd go ahead and write it. For those unfamiliar, James is Cal and Gillian's son. ;-)
He arrived just a few minutes early and leaned over to push the button on the intercom just to the right of the double doors.
"Can I help you?" The voice was tinny and feminine.
"Yeah. Have an appointment with Ms. Gardner."
"Hold on a minute please."
Cal rocked on his heels, glancing around but not really seeing.
"Come on in." The door buzzed and he grabbed hold of the handle and gave it a yank. He stepped into the hall and made a quick turn into the small office to the right. A middle-aged woman behind the high counter eyed him from behind thick glasses before giving him a smile. "Dr. Lightman?"
"Could you please sign in?" She pushed a clipboard toward him.
He did as she asked and she handed him a stick on 'visitor' nametag. "I presume you know where you're going?"
Cal raised an eyebrow with an expression that clearly asked if she were kidding. The receptionist flushed.
"Thanks darlin'." He stuck the tag on his lapel before turning to leave the office. He made another right, headed straight up the hall, past walls crammed with artwork and assorted other projects before hanging a left, almost to end before making another left into a shorter hallway. Four separate classrooms sprouted off from this small hub. All were 1st grade. He peered through the internal window of the second room for a moment.
A young woman sat at the desk to the side of the room, frowning in concentration at something before her. The kids were working in relative quiet at their respective tables although it was clear they were starting to fidget. As Cal watched, one little boy smeared something in his tablemate's hair. She retaliated with a pinch that had the boy biting his lip and trying not to cry. He spotted his own kid close to the window. The thick pencil stuck between his fingers had gradually slowed down as something on the other side of the glass caught his attention. Cal knew that whatever it was James was currently working on would have the extra décor of marauding dinosaurs. That was currently his thing. Did he honestly want to do this? Not really but he'd promised James. Gillian's face had immediately gone neutral when he'd told her. Her response had simply been "really?" before she turned away slightly, her hair blocking her face from view. He knew that she'd been laughing at him.
Cal let out a sigh and lightly knocked on the glass.
The teacher's head immediately shot up, a smile lighting her features. She was probably 25, tiny, with dark brown hair, matching eyes and a fair complexion. She was up and on her feet and heading to the door to welcome him. "Dr. Lightman!" One small hand firmly gripped his own. "Hello!"
James looked up quickly, having pulled his attention away from whatever one of nature's spectacles he'd been observing. Excitement flooded the boy's eyes as he grinned up at his dad. Currently staying in his seat became a very difficult prospect and he wriggled around. Cal wondered if he needed to use the bathroom. He gave his boy a wink and the grin widened even more. James was missing his two front top teeth, which together had set the tooth fairy back five bucks.
"Everyone! Can I have your attention please?"
The murmur that had elevated to a loud roar at his entrance gradually lowered back to a murmur. Almost like the low drone of insects going about their business. Complete quiet was not something easily achieved.
"We have a special guest today. This is James' daddy, Dr. Cal Lightman. Can you guys say hi?"
Cal almost winced but managed not to. He nodded and considered running for several seconds. "Hi."
"James, you can come on up to be near your dad if you'd like."
Not needing to be told twice, he flew out of his seat to stand proudly next to Cal. His arm automatically went around the boy's shoulders as James huddled close.
"Can anybody guess what Dr. Lightman does for a living?"
"Does he operate on people?" The question gave from a little blond girl in front.
"No, I'm not that kind of doctor."
Now he had 18 pair of eyes looking at him in confusion. Wonderful. As if he were going to go into an explanation of the difference between an MD and a PhD. "I'm actually the kind of doctor that can tell if your lyin' or not."
Okay. That got their attention. But not necessarily in a good way. A tiny bit of panic settled into several faces. Cal almost laughed. Why did he all of a sudden have the theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in his head?
"You see, sometimes the police will ask me to help 'em out. They may have a suspect but they can't always judge if they're tellin' lies or not. That's where I come in because I can always tell. So, if it's a bad guy, I'll know. But if it's a good guy that got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, I can tell that too."
"So, you work with the police?" A dark complexioned boy near the back wanted to know.
"It can be."
"He even works with the FBI!" James stepped in front of his dad when he made the announcement earning appreciative oohs and ahhhs.
"Really?" A little redhead with pigtails seemed skeptical.
"Really." Cal tilted his head, regarding her. "What's your name?"
Cal looked to the teacher who just nodded, a smile playing at her lips.
"You want to test me?"
She looked uncomfortable, looking to her teacher before peeking at the little girl next to her. "Um, okay."
"Ready when you are."
"What do you mean?"
"Tell me a lie. Or tell me the truth. Could be anythin'. Somethin' you did or didn't get for your birthday. The name of your hamster. Your last vacation. Anythin'. I'll tell you if it's true or not."
The little girl's brow furrowed as she concentrated on what exactly she wanted to say. "Okay. My parakeet's name is... SkippyJon Jones."
Cal's lips curled in a smile. "That's true."
Brittany's mouth sagged open as her eyes widened.
The whole room erupted with the raising of hands. Ms. Gardner had them well trained.
"You back there in the Star Wars t-shirt. What's your name?"
"Okay, Logan, shoot."
"Uhhhh…I got an Ultimate Action Dragon Destroyer Megabloks set for my birthday."
Cal leaned forward as he gazed at the youngster. "No son, you didn't. Although you really wanted one."
The boy's face crumpled. It was still clearly a sore point. Oops.
A little boy with dark hair and a Bakugan t-shirt raised his hand.
"What's your name?" Cal nodded to him.
"Tyler… and I was wondering why you talk funny."
James tensed against his side and before Cal could open his mouth, his son was screaming across the room. "MY DAD DOES NOT TALK FUNNY!"
Whoa. Just a bit of discord among the ranks. Apparently this kid and James had butted heads in the past.
He put a hand on his son's shoulder and squeezed it gently. The boy looked up at him, tears glazing his blue eyes and Cal gave a subtle shake of the head. It was unspoken communication for: we'll talk about this later. There was no way he'd embarrass his son in front of his classmates.
Tyler was smirking, obviously having enjoyed pushing James' buttons.
"I'm English." Cal stared at the boy intently and watched as the smirk fell away and fear crept across his face. A moment later, his eyes fell to his hands and he didn't look up again. Cal stared at him a couple seconds longer for good measure.
Ms. Gardner was on her feet instantly, grabbing the teachable moment. "So, does anybody know what country he's from then? And don't you say anything!" She looked pointedly at James.
"England." A black-haired girl next to Brittany answered.
"You're right Ashley." The teacher had pulled out one of those blow up globes and was pointing to the British Isles. "See, England is in Great Britain or you could call it the United Kingdom. It consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."
All the kids leaned forward, squinting to see. "That's cooollll…"
"I think you talk neat." Another little girl in purple commented with clear eyes and a big smile.
"Me too!" A couple of other kids piped up.
Cal could feel James now relaxing against him, all anger having left in a rush.
"Alright buddy?" His voice was a low murmur, just loud enough for his son to hear him.
"Yeah dad. Sorry."
"No worries mate. We'll talk later though." Cal hugged the boy to his side and he could feel James' arms quickly wrap around his waist.
"Alright everyone! I'm sure Dr. Lightman has a busy schedule. Are there any other questions for him?"
Another low roar filled the room, not unlike the sound of the ocean.
"Can he test me if I'm lying?" A girl with brown hair pulled back in a ponytail was raising her hand.
"Okay. Last one. What's your name?" Cal smiled at the girl as he heard his son's sudden intake of breath. Interesting. First crush maybe?
"Alright McKenna. Go for it."
"I went to California over the summer and I met movie stars."
Cal's eyes slid over the girl's face. "That's true darlin'. Who did you meet?"
The girl became alive with excitement. Apparently no one else had believed her. He looked down at James. Except for him. James had believed her. Good for him.
She rattled off three or four actors and Cal nodded. "Must have been excitin'."
"Uh huh. My daddy is a…uh…he works at one of the film companies and I was visiting him!"
"Okay kids." The teacher moved in to gain control of her class. "Can you thank Dr. Lightman for stopping by?"
"THANK YOU DR. LIGHTMAN!" Once again, Cal almost cringed. It was like standing in front of a verbal tidal wave.
"You're very welcome."
He shook hands with the teacher once again before leaning down and giving James a quick hug. "Your mum'll be by to pick you up in a couple of hours and I'll see you tonight, yeah?"
The boy was grinning ear to ear, the perceived insult from Tyler having fallen off the radar. "Ok dad."
He gave the boy's sandy colored hair a quick muss before turning to exit the classroom. Several small voices converged and talked to James all at once, the general consensus being: "Your dad is coolllll…"
Cal gave a tiny sideways smile as he stepped out into the short hallway. Wow. A bunch of six and seven-year-olds thought he was coolllll…
Such high praise. He'd take it while he could.