Doug sighed as he sat under the bridge, against the wall that held it up. His arm was wrapped around his little brother's shoulders as they both sat in silence. Leaned up against Doug's shoulder, Tommy shifted his body slightly so that his hair was tickling Doug's neck and jaw. They had been there for a few hours, and had remained silent for most of that time. Neither of them was sure what they should do next.
"We can't stay down here forever," Doug informed Tommy.
"I know," Tommy's voice was soft. It still sounded a bit scratchy, which made Doug's heart ache. He still could hardly believe their father had actually choked his own son. Sure, Tommy liked to talk back and didn't seem to know when to shut up... And he had gotten into a physical fight with his father when it would have been much smarter not to. But Mr. McQuaid didn't need to restrict Tommy's breathing to win a fight against the kid. The fight was already unevenly matched.
"We could go back to the house," Doug suggested, "I know they'll find us there... but at least we could sleep or something before we get taken away. Someone's going to find us eventually, so we might as well go someplace more comfortable."
Tommy frowned, "Isn't there anywhere else? There could be cops there right now. Maybe they think we bought drugs from Richard. Maybe they're waiting to arrest us. They'd probably expect us to go back there. Fuller's gonna be really mad."
Doug stared at him. Tommy looked so apprehensive. His eyebrows were knitted together and he was pouting. Doug frowned as well as he asked, "why do you care so much what Fuller thinks anyway? We didn't expect him to let us live in his house in the first place... It'll just be like he never offered that option to begin with."
Tommy looked down, but didn't offer an answer.
"It's gonna be fine. If he can't forgive us, it's his loss. He can't expect us to change overnight," Doug consoled his brother.
Tommy nodded, "I just don't want to hear him yell at us, and say how disappointed he is and everything. He said all this about how he trusted us. I knew he shouldn't trust us, and I knew he'd find that out eventually... But it didn't take long, did it? And now he's gonna try to make us feel bad."
"Do you feel bad?" Doug wondered. Maybe that's why Tommy seemed so upset. Maybe he actually felt guilty for letting the man down. Fuller had saved them last night, after all. If Tommy hadn't called him, what would have happened? Doug shuddered to think how the night may have played out. Tommy wouldn't have just left their father to finish hitting Doug. He would have fought with him, and would have probably ended up so much more hurt than he was right now. Would Tommy have even made it to the hospital to fix up his arm by now? Probably not... The boy's arm may have gone untreated for days if Fuller hadn't given them his phone number, and if Tommy hadn't called it. If not for Fuller, maybe Doug and Tommy would still be locked up down in the basement, just waiting for their father to decide they'd learned their lesson. Maybe Doug and Tommy owed this guy... Maybe they really should feel bad...
Tommy shrugged, "I don't know. We have to make money somehow," he started, "and he never told us not to sell more drugs..."
"I think he actually might have," Doug laughed, "I don't remember his exact words, but I'm pretty sure it came up at some point... Maybe after we were arrested for trying to sell Judy cocaine..."
Looking quite miserable, Tommy sighed and leaned his head back against the bricks, "well then, he's definitely going to be pissed."
"Well, he'll just have to deal with it," Doug frowned, "there's nothing we can do about it now."
"Deal with what?" Doug looked up as he heard Fuller's voice. The man was walking toward them. He seemed to be alone.
Doug felt Tommy scrambling to his feet next to him and decided he should stand too, "how did you know where we were?" Doug wondered, narrowing his eyes skeptically.
"You mentioned a bridge last night," Fuller shrugged his shoulders, "I checked all of them."
"What do you want?" Tommy cut in, "shouldn't you be at work or something?"
"Officer Hoffs said she saw you two today," Fuller started, ignoring Tommy's question.
"So what?" Tommy frowned. His tone was defensive, but his hand still gripped Doug's sleeve tightly. Doug wondered if his brother realized he was still holding onto him or if he was doing it inadvertently out of nervousness.
Fuller took a step closer, "I don't expect you two to be perfect," he explained, "but I expect you to start learning from your mistakes. You have no reason to be buying or selling drugs. Can you at least explain to me what you were doing? You wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is find a drug dealer? Are you addicted to it? Did you need a fix?" his voice was raising in volume, "I just don't understand why you feel you need to keep doing this."
"No!" Tommy's voice was raising too, as much as he could manage considering it was still scratchy and strained, "we're not drug addicts. We needed money. I wouldn't expect you to understand that. You've probably had money your whole life."
"You're right," Fuller's voice was still raised, "I don't quite understand what you two are going through. I never had to sell drugs when I was in high school. But now you don't either. I offered you a roof over your heads and food, electricity, running water... I offered to take you back to your house to pick up clothing... What exactly do you need money for? What is it that you don't have, that you need so desperately you'll sell drugs to get it?"
"We're not staying with you forever," Doug cut in, trying to give his brother's voice a break, while also trying to prevent the conversation from becoming any louder. He made sure to keep his own voice calm and relatively quiet. Listening to the cop and his little brother yell back and forth wasn't something he cared to spend his time doing.
"You don't need to worry about that. Wherever you end up, you'll have enough money. I'm not going to just stick you with the first people who will take you," Fuller's voice was lowering just as Doug had hoped it would.
"So what do we do now then?" Tommy still sounded angry, but Doug was pretty sure he was just being overly defensive. Fuller wasn't actually being that harsh. He seemed like he wanted to straighten this all out instead of just kicking them to the curb.
"You guys hungry?" Fuller asked.
"What?" Tommy's shoulders slumped.
"We could go have lunch," the cop suggested, "we'll forget about all this for a little bit."
Doug smiled, "Yeah," he agreed, "I'm always hungry."
"Wait," Tommy objected, pulling Doug's arm back as the older boy stepped slightly toward Fuller, "and then what? Is this your way of trying to make yourself feel better about kicking us out? You gonna just buy us lunch and then send us off with some social worker?"
"No," Fuller shrugged, "I'll take you back to the house. Unless you want to keep living under this bridge. I'll forgive your mistakes as long as you don't keep making the same ones over and over again."
Doug looked over at Tommy. The younger boy looked so skeptical, "come on, man," Doug clapped his shoulder, "it'll be fine."
Fuller took a step forward and reached out toward him, but Tommy took a step back so that he was halfway behind Doug. Tommy's hand was on Doug's arm, and Doug could feel his brother's fingers trembling so slightly.
He turned around and looked down at his brother. Tommy's eyes were wide. Doug looked back at Fuller, "can we have a minute?" he asked.
Fuller nodded. He looked concerned and like he wanted to say something, but he kept his mouth shut.
Doug led Tommy a few paces away and leaned down so that he was close enough to whisper. Even though Fuller was nearby, he couldn't hear them, "he's not going to hurt you," Doug assured Tommy in a hushed tone.
"I know," Tommy whispered back, but Doug wasn't so sure he was really that confident. His eyes were still wide and he looked very hesitant.
"He's not like Dad," Doug promised, "why would he have worked so hard to get us out of there if he was just going to do the same things dad did?"
Tommy scowled, "I know that."
Doug laughed tiredly, "okay then... So what's the problem?"
"Why isn't he pissed?" Tommy's shoulders slumped, almost like he was disappointed.
"Maybe he understands why we did it," Doug offered. He wasn't really that sure why Fuller wasn't more angry either.
"Maybe he's just trying to get us to come with him so he can yell at us later," Tommy frowned.
"Could be," Doug raised his eyebrows and shrugged, "maybe we should just go with him and see how it plays out. What's the worst that could happen? At least we'll get a free lunch."
Tommy narrowed his eyes, "okay," he finally agreed.
Stepping out of the bathroom and into the living room, Tommy looked at Doug who was sitting on the couch talking to Fuller, who sat in the chair opposite the couch. He didn't know what they were talking about and went ahead and took the liberty of interrupting them, "shower's all yours, Doug," he informed his brother.
"Thanks Tommy," he smiled, "Be right back," Doug nodded at Fuller as he stood and took Tommy's place in the bathroom.
Tommy sat down where Doug had been. He brought his legs up onto the couch, crossing them so that his feet were under his thighs. He then crossed his arms over his chest as best as his cast would allow, leaned back, and stared at Fuller.
Fuller stared back at him. He seemed like he was waiting for Tommy to say something. But Tommy wasn't interested in playing that game. He wasn't speaking until the cop did first. If Fuller had nothing to say, then neither did Tommy.
"Do you understand why you shouldn't be buying and selling drugs, Tommy?" Fuller finally gave in and spoke first, crossing his arms over his chest in a way that mirrored Tommy's posture.
Raising his eyebrows, Tommy sighed, "yeah."
"Will you explain it in your own words?" Fuller requested.
Tommy rolled his eyes, "whatever," he agreed, "you don't want us doing drugs because it's not healthy. You don't want us selling them because it'll be unhealthy for whoever buys them."
Fuller nodded, "true. But it's more than just that," he added, "the kind of people you're dealing with aren't the sort of people high school kids should be hanging around. You realize that man is just using kids like you. He has you do all his work, and he takes most of the profit. He's putting you at risk of being arrested, or robbed, or taken advantage of, while he sits away in hiding and rakes in all the income from it."
"Well, isn't that what lots of people do?" Tommy frowned, "Just think of anyone who's someone's boss. They make their underlings do all the work for only a fraction of the money the boss gets. You should understand that. Right, Coach? You're the police captain. You assign all the work to the regular cops, so they're out in the field, in danger, while you just order them around and get paid more than they do. What's the difference?"
"I don't put my officers in danger," Fuller frowned, "Not when I can avoid it. And if I sense they are in any danger, I get them out of wherever their assignment is as soon as possible. I don't know if you remember, but I was working at your school just the same as I had my officers doing. They were students, because they're young enough to pull it off; I was a teacher, because I can't pull off being eighteen anymore. Whenever I'm needed on an assignment, I'm there."
"But you still get paid more for less work," Tommy scowled.
"Being someone's boss is not the same as being a drug dealer who uses kids as mules," Fuller sounded angry. Tommy hoped this man's fuse was longer than his father's, "the job I do can get a lot more complicated than the jobs my officers do."
"Okay. I won't buy anymore drugs," Tommy sighed. He didn't really know much about what all the captain's job consisted of and didn't want to argue about it anymore, "I couldn't anyway by drugs off him even if I wanted to. I'm sure you and Judy arrested him. And I didn't like him much anyway."
"You can't be buying them off anyone," Fuller ordered, "you've got to promise me you won't be doing things like that. I can offer you a safe place to come home to. You don't need to worry about money or making sure you and your brother are safe. I've got that covered. All you need to do is go to school, do your homework, and just be a kid."
"I'll do my best to try to be normal," Tommy felt his lower lip quiver. He really didn't want to sell drugs. They had done it because they had needed money for various things. It they didn't have to do it anymore, that sounded pretty good to him. They hadn't really sampled the drugs they sold very much. Tommy had tried cocaine, but wasn't addicted to it. And he smoked weed sometimes, but that wasn't addicting. They had no addiction to quench. But getting into the habit of being a normal person when he never had been before wasn't going to be easy, "I can't just become perfect overnight."
"And I don't expect you to," Fuller's expression and voice softened.
"I'm probably never going to be completely right," Tom frowned.
"No one is," the cop shrugged, "all you can do is try your best. Make your mistakes, and learn from them. Everyone is entitled to infinite mistakes. Just make sure each one is different and that you take something away from it."
"Do we get to keep the house key?" Tommy wondered, "I mean... you probably don't trust us anymore, but can we still stay here if you're not home."
"I still trust you, Tommy," Fuller stared at him, "what you did today wasn't an attack against me. It was against yourselves. And like I said, if you're learning from your mistakes, I won't have to worry about you two doing something like that again. I've said this before, but I'll say it again. I think you and your brother are good kids. You just haven't ever really had anyone guiding you in the right direction."
Tommy sighed loudly, "man... If you're gonna let us stay here very long, you better hope you got a lot of patience."
Fuller laughed, "I might not always seem patient, but I think I can handle you two."
"We'll see," Tommy raised his eyebrow.
"And Tommy," Fuller added, looking at him seriously again, "you don't ever have to be afraid of me. You may receive some sort of punishment if you do something wrong, but it will never be something you have to actually fear. No matter what you do wrong, the consequence will never, ever be physical pain."
"Good," Tommy narrowed his eyes, "because you're no match for Doug and me."
Fuller stared at him for a moment. He almost looked offended, like the boy had made the most horrible joke ever uttered, but then he smiled, "you're tough kids," he agreed.
"I know," Tommy grinned.
At this point Doug walked back in, still drying his hair with a towel. He plopped himself down next to Tommy, "you guys friends again yet?" he asked.
Fuller raised his eyebrows and looked to Tommy to answer that one.
Tommy nodded, "I think we just might be able to work something out."
The only light in the room came from the faint glow of the television. Fuller had the volume turned down so that it was almost completely silent. He had so much to think about, just like he always did. His job was not one to be taken lightly. It was important, so it often lead to too much thinking, to headaches, and to him feeling quite overwhelmed.
The more time he spent with the McQuaid brothers, the more he didn't want to send them off. While he was certain he could find them a suitable home eventually, he knew no matter where they went it would be difficult. People didn't often want to adopt or foster children who were already teenagers. And many of those who did weren't suitable parents. There existed a lot of corruption in the foster home system. People often took in children just for the money they'd receive and would spent as little of that money on the kids as possible. Others were abusive and just wanted someone smaller and weaker than them to pick on. Some would even take them in trying to be nice but just wouldn't be able to handle them.
Fuller didn't want to send the boys to anyone who wouldn't love them. They deserved loving parents. Apparently their mother had died when they were quite young, and ever since then, they hadn't had any positive parental figure.
He glanced over at the couch. For the second night in a row, the two boys had decided to sleep on the couch together, even though there was a chair one of them could have used. The cop wondered if they didn't trust him. Were they so scared of people that they couldn't even sleep apart from each other? Or were they just more comfortable being close together? The captain certainly hoped they weren't scared of him.
Fuller wondered how the boys would feel about the possibility of staying with him long-term. He wasn't sure if it was a good idea, but the sight of them just broke his heart. He could see in both of them how much they cared about each other. It was also apparent that they were both nervous about their uncertain future. If Fuller went ahead and tried to find them a foster home, they would probably end up moving around a lot. Until they were old enough to move out on their own, they would probably not have a place they really felt was home. Fuller had a spare room in his apartment. It was full of boxes, but he could move them to his closet and under his bed. He could make space for the boys if they would accept the offer.
But could he handle these boys long term? He understood how Tommy and Doug got into bad habits of skipping class, getting into fights, buying and selling drugs, and everything else. He knew their life style was created by having an unsatisfactory home life. Even though they were working on fixing their living situation, that didn't mean they would turn into straight-A students and make friends with all of their classmates on Monday. Old habits die hard; Fuller would have his work cut out for him if he took these kids in.
He looked over at them again. They were both sleeping quite peacefully. Doug was leaned back against a pillow that was propped up against one of the couch's arm rests. Tommy lay partially on top of him, against a second pillow that was lying on Doug's legs. The younger boy was lying so that Fuller could see his face. The boy's hair fell forward over his forehead and would have been in his eyes if they were open. The cop wondered why teenagers wore their hair like that, falling into their eyes... It didn't look comfortable to him. He looked over at Doug. His hair was even longer than his brother's in some places, but it didn't hang in his eyes so much. The older boy was smiling slightly as he slept.
Fuller felt a smile forming on his own face as well. He knew both of these kids were good people. He also knew both of them would give him so much trouble if he let them stay with him. But when he looked at them, he felt like he might not mind the trouble they'd cause if it meant he could really help them. Maybe he'd just take his time in finding them a foster home... and maybe if it took long enough, could forget about finding them a foster home at all. They had a potential home right here, with a man who would make sure to treat them right. Fuller always checked in on the kids he helped find foster homes for... If he was the foster father of these boys, he wouldn't have to bother checking in on himself...
He had already raised one son and sent him off to university. It had been challenging, but well worth it. These boys might end up being a bigger challenge (of course they would) and there were two of them instead of one... But he had taken on the job of police captain to help people, and he had a huge opportunity to help two people who really needed it. It wasn't even just something he felt obligated to do. He wanted to keep these boys close, to make sure they were given the same opportunities in life as all kids deserved to have.
Right now he really felt like he wanted to invite them to stay at his home until they were ready to live on their own. Sometime within the next few days, he could ask them what they thought of this idea. It was, of course, a rather rash decision on his part, but he had lots of time to sleep on it.
Fuller stood up and turned off the television. Before he went to his room, he glanced over at the brothers one last time. If they accepted his proposal to stay here, Fuller would have a long road ahead of him... He knew if they stayed with him long term, they were bound to sometimes make his life hell. But they certainly looked manageable now...
Okay then. The End.
(I just recently added that last bit from Fuller's perspective... And when I was writing it I sort of felt like I was writing an essay about giving underprivileged kids a second chance... Hopefully it's not too boring, but it's meant to imply that Fuller is probably going to adopt them. Isn't that nice? ^_^)
So I hope you guys liked the story as a whole. It was very fun to write, and your reviews made me very happy throughout the time I spent posting chapters, proof-reading, editing, and posting more chapters. This was my 40th story, which is cool, since it's a nice round number. I'm glad people seemed to like it. :) If I think of more 21 Jump Street ideas, I'll definitely be writing them up as well.
It's possible I could write a story about Doug and Tommy McQuaid living with Fuller while still going to school and all that. You and I both know they won't adapt perfectly right away, so there would still be issues for them to work out. I wouldn't want to include anything about court or the adoption process though... I realize Fuller would probably not really be allowed to adopt them, since he's a single man and works all the time... But it's just a fanfiction. Only about six people will ever read it...
At any rate, thanks for sticking around til the end. You guys are all wonderful. You may be hearing from me again...