Title: Scars of the Past
Chapter 5 – Falling into Place?
"Damn it I shoulda bolted the door shut," Ed huffs as he looks at Wordy with a heavy frown. "Chuck is out there gunning for him and this…"
"Okay, just take a deep breath and…"
"I think he mighta overheard what I told Donna last night…ah damn this!" Ed curses as he heads back into his bedroom, angrily opening the dresser drawer and then slamming it shut just as Wordy's hand lands on his.
"What did you tell her?"
"I was confused and…uncertain…how do I know what is gonna happen next," Ed stammers. "I'm an instant father for a teenage boy…who happens to be my own biological son and…I have no training…I'm not prepared for any of this and…Wordy I am not even sure I wanted children."
"You told her that?"
"No…but she kinda balked at the idea when I suggested she might become an instant step mom."
"Well you don't like to mince words."
"Yeah like you would have had the perfect thing to say!" Ed growls as he pushes past Wordy and heads for the kitchen, tossing his jeans and sweater on the floor in the process.
"I might not have had the perfect thing to say but I might have waited."
"Right because you have everything right to say all the time. You know what Wordy…whatever. Okay? Whatever."
"You're angry and backed in a corner but don't start spouting off things you'll regret," Wordy warns as Ed takes a step back and then a deep breath, shaking his head and muttering angrily. "I might not have done anything differently in your situation."
"He doesn't even like hockey," Ed moans.
"What?" Wordy asks with a small smirk.
"Clark…we have nothing in common. I have nothing to talk to him about. He doesn't want to go to school…I don't think he wants to stay here. He only came here to get me to arrest Chuck and then he's back to…to wherever. Seriously Wordy…I don't know if I can or even want to do this."
"Okay you are putting too much on yourself right now."
"He's out there with that…Wordy someone killed his parents. I think it's the same man who killed his mother and step father, his step father, Howard Brandson who just happens to be the man who put away the head of the Flanagan crime family."
"And now he's out there alone and I…I basically said last night on the phone that I wasn't ready for this and…and didn't know if I wanted him and…" Ed stops and turns around, his heart racing and mind spinning. "I don't know what to do, okay?"
"Well I wouldn't either. I have no experience with this. Did you call Greg?"
"Last night? No…would have taken too long to explain everything. I was gonna talk to him today but…"
"You think Clark went back to the shelter?"
"I can find out," Ed replies as he heads back toward his bedroom and reaches for his phone, feeling a pang of guilt as he looks at the clothes he had angrily tossed to the floor now on the bed – picked up by his best friend. "Wordy…"
"Right. Martin…Ed Lane…is Clark there by any chance? He's not? Okay thanks…yeah no everything's fine. Sure I will. Okay thanks. Not there," Ed hangs up with a heavy frown. "This is all my fault."
"Okay let's get dressed and head into the barn. While you talk to Greg I'll get Spike and see if we can use the street and traffic cam's to track his movements and find him. It's a long shot but…"
"Wordy, if something happens to him…"
"Come on…let's go."
The ride to the barn only makes Ed's anxiety surge even higher. Donna probably spent the night pondering his statement of her becoming an instant step mom if they married and now he wonders if she'll back off for good or in some small miracle if she'd be okay with it, how he'd be able to support a family of three. Both of them made descent, livable wages, but no one ever got into police work to make lots of money, certainly not enough to have only a few years to save for a kid to go to university.
They finally arrive at SRU and Ed's mind continues to race – now wondering what his boss and friend would think of his news and if he could lend any advice that would help. Of course all of that would be moot if Clark couldn't be found.
"Eddie…morning," Greg walks up to them, instantly noticing Ed's strained expression and Wordy's one of uncertainty. "Eddie do you…"
"Boss you got a moment?" Ed asks the same time as Greg starts his next sentence, both of them pausing to let other continue.
"I'll go find Spike."
"Okay but Spike's a bit busy right now," Greg informs them. "A young man came in and…"
"Young man…Clark?" Ed asks in surprise as Greg's expression finally mirrors his team lead. "Where is he? When did he get here?"
"You know him Ed?" Greg wonders.
"Yeah boss…I do. He's…"
"Ed?" Clark's soft tone is heard, making all three adult males stop and turn to see Clark standing beside Spike.
Ed….not dad…not he's my father…but simply his first name Ed. Ed's first reaction is to take Clark aside and verbally berate him for just up and leaving without telling them and making them worry and wonder when he was here the whole time. Wordy watches Ed's frame tense and slightly clears his throat, wanting to break the mounting silence and make sure Ed didn't cause a scene he'd regret. But also knowing the last thing he wants to do is cause a scene, Ed merely nods and then looks at Greg.
"Boss can I talk to Clark for a few minutes and then I'll explain."
"Sure," Greg nods; Ed finally pulling away from Greg and Wordy and gesturing for Clark to follow him, leaving Spike's side and allowing the SRU bomb tech to join the other three; Wordy telling them that he knows about Clark but it's up to Ed to make that known – if he wants to.
Ed firmly closes the small boardroom door and then looks at Clark in frustration. "What did I say last night?" Ed asks sharply and then quickly backs down. "Sorry…I was worried."
"Was it wrong to come here?"
"It was wrong not to tell me, Clark," Ed replies with a small huff. "What happened? Why did you come here? Why did you leave at all? You knew it would be…" is all the verbal tirade Ed manages before Clark pulls his phone and then shows him a message from an 'unknown caller'.
'You're not safe with him either. Ed Lane of the SRU. He can't protect you. He'll die next and then you and it'll be all your fault. You know what I want. Meet me at the CN tower base at 3pm and don't be late. OR ELSE.'
"Who sent this…Chuck?"
"I don't know…I swear. But probably."
"Why did you run? Why didn't you tell me about this?"
"He said he'd kill you," Clark insists.
"Kid listen to me and listen…good," Ed sighs as he rubs his face and the steps back. "I told you…he's not gonna hurt me…I won't let him hurt either of us."
"He killed my d…Howard and Howard said he could protect us…he promised," Clark's voice morphs into a soft sob, instantly crushing Ed's heart. "He promised."
"Clark, I'm sorry," Ed groans as he walks up to his son and pulls him into his arms. "I'm sorry. I panicked this morning and…"
"I know you are…I know it," Ed states softly. "I'm scared too okay? I woke up you…were gone…Martin said you didn't show up at the shelter…"
"I went there first but I saw Chuck out back and left. Figured you'd come here…so I did. He killed my parents."
"I'm glad you came here; Clark that was the right thing to do. And I won't let him get you but Clark you gotta be straight with me. He said you know what I want. What does he want that you have?"
"I don't know."
"Clark…I give you my word, if you tell me I won't be mad and you won't get into trouble."
"I swear I don't know," Clark groans as he slumps down into a nearby chair.
"Did your father give you anything? Anything about the case that could incriminate Chuck or anyone else he works for?"
"Nothing," Clark insists.
"Did your mother? Clark anything about the case that this guy wants bad enough to kill for?" Ed continues to press.
"No. They gave me nothing. I swear."
"What's in the knapsack?"
"A few clothes and a letter from my mom that's it."
"Yeah…I haven't opened it yet," Clark replies tearfully. "I have nothing."
Literally…now stop interrogating the poor child! His brain dictates as Ed takes a step back. "Okay. We'll find out what he wants, okay? But Clark you gotta promise me right now that you won't run out again. I mean it son…promise me."
"Okay," Clark nods in agreement; Ed's lips pursing once again but his brain begging him to give the boy a small reprieve for the moment and continue the SRU interrogation later.
"Okay…so what were you and Spike talking about?"
"His new girlfriend Nikki…she's British, he loves her accent," Clark smiles. "He met her online you know? But she lives here."
"Yeah I know," Ed smirks. "He's kinda geeky that way."
"Yeah…he is," Ed resigns feeling the weight continuing to press down instead of being lifted even slightly. "Were you trying to get his help in finding Chuck?" Ed instantly deflects the subject back to Clark's situation.
"Is that wrong?"
"It's what I would have done," Ed slumps down into a nearby chair, looking at Clark with a heavy frown. "I gotta ask Clark….did you…did you overhear any part of my conversation with Donna last night?"
"Maybe," Clark shrugs making Ed purse his lips and nod. "It's okay…I get it. You don't want me and um…"
"I didn't say that and if it sounded that way I didn't mean it. Clark this is new for all of us and…and buddy we are just trying to adapt and…"
"Was she mad when you told her?"
"It's a new change for her too. But change can be a good thing right?" Ed stammers as he races to put out something verbal that won't force a setback.
"I guess," Clark looks at Ed in suspicion. "So what happens now?"
"Now…now I gotta go explain a few things to my boss and I'll let you and Spike….continue. And then after my shift…Clark you're safe here okay? There is no way Chuck's gonna…"
"He followed me here one time remember?"
"Yeah but he won't come inside. As soon as Spike gets his picture to Winnie and she sends it through the rest of the building, he won't be able to enter and not be seen. You're safe here than at the apartment alone or the shelter which is unprotected."
"Can I text Amanda?"
"Sure just don't tell her…you know…Clark I don't know what to do on this. Part of me wants to say no because your texts could be monitored. I'd say use the internet but maybe her emails are being monitored. I don't want to put her in needless danger also you know?"
"I can set up a dummy email account and then email her friend to call me from the school payphone?"
"Sure…what?" Ed asks with a small smirk, the techno babble going right over his head. "We'll go shopping after my shift okay?"
"Okay," Ed nods before he stands up and then heads out of the small room, Clark following. He spies Donna down the hall and smiles at her, receiving a strained smile in return but no attempt to come and join them. But a few seconds later, he hears footsteps behind them and turns to see Donna, who after getting a nudge from Tom, is approaching.
"Morning," Donna greets with a warm smile.
"Donna…morning. This is Clark."
"Hey Clark," Donna sticks out her hand for a brief shake.
"Hey," Clark answers back as he takes her hand and gives it a quick squeeze and then nervously pulls back.
Ed looks at Donna and then Clark and feels like he's now standing in the middle of a gaping chasm, each side vying for a piece of his future. Thankfully Greg, who had been watching as a distant spectator, knows the body language of his team leader well enough to know when he's uttering a silent call for help.
"Morning Donna," Greg walks up to them.
"Morning Greg. Okay…I gotta run. Clark it was nice to meet you," Donna gives him one last smile before locking eyes with Ed for a few seconds and then turning and rejoining her team.
"Hey Spike, can Clark finish up with…well whatever you two were doing?"
"Sure thing," Spike grins as he leads Clark away, launching back into a discussion that revolved around the internet and online geeky things.
"Boss…you got a minute?" Ed inquires, Wordy watching from a distance before he joins Sam and Jules in the workout room.
"I have a feeling I do," Greg replies as they head into the large team one meeting room and take seats opposite each other. "I can tell by your tight fists and heavy frown that this is…well something unexpected for you? And it involves that boy? Clark?"
"Okay…here goes. Clark…Greg, he's my son."
Greg looks at Ed in utter shock, raising his dark brows but saying nothing – yet. "What?" Greg finally manages.
"I found out a few days ago…DNA proof and…I need help Greg. I am way out of my element here and…" Ed rattles off in haste.
"Whoa, okay hold on a sec. Clark is your son. And where's his mother?"
"His mother…Sophie Brandson and her husband, Clark's stepfather were killed in Ottawa."
"Howard Brandson? The mob lawyer?"
"Yeah the one that put old man Flanagan away for life," Ed explains. "Sophie told him about me a few weeks ago and Clark arrived in town a few weeks back and has been following me and then one night…we connected. There's a guy named Chuck after him. Clark says he doesn't know why but I think he's lying to me and boss…he spent the night at our apartment and then…I don't know what to do…or say…I'm out of my element here and…"
"And you need help."
"Just with the talking stuff…I got the other stuff…"
"You do," Greg states more than questions, his expression making Ed slump back in his chair and shake his head.
"Okay fine I don't. And Donna's pulling back and…part of me wants to find Chuck arrest him as soon as possible and send Clark back to his own life…"
"But the other part…the rational part knows that when this is over, sending him back to fend for himself without family isn't something you'll readily do."
"I'm lost. Greg…I have nothing in common with him."
"You know the first night Dean spent at the apartment, I made up every excuse under the sun to not talk to him."
"I had nothing to say. I hadn't seen him in ten years and then suddenly he reappears in my life as a young man. He knows what he wants, he has his own likes…dislikes…friends…girlfriends….all new to me. I was thinking to myself…do I make up rules? Will he follow them? If not will he just up and leave?"
"What did you do?"
"I was open…honest and we took it one day at a time – together. Kids see through us, especially when we are lying. If we lie and tell them we are okay with them being here when we're not…they'll see it and that will cause tension not trust."
"I don't know if Clark wants that."
"Clark will want what you want. If you want him to stay, he'll stay. If not…he'll leave. What do you want?"
"I mean last night we were…"
"Eddie, that was rhetorical," Greg smirks as Ed quickly clams up. "You hafta be honest with yourself on that."
"What about Donna?"
"Again…only you can answer that. That's one area, I won't get involved. But on how to be a friend…I can help with that."
"He likes basketball…basketball…that's not a real sport," Ed groans, making Greg lightly chuckle. "He doesn't want to go back to school…has a friend, Amanda, who's not a girlfriend just a girl who's a friend. I'm lost."
"Okay slow down a sec. I get that right now Clark's problem of the hit man that followed him from Ottawa is the main thing on his mind. He just lost his parents; he's thinking he's next. You might be his father on paper, but right now he's feeling all alone. He can't really go back home because he doesn't have a home to go back to – at least the one from the past, it's gone…for good. You need to get to the heart of this Chuck problem and then worry about school after. Because we both know that as long as Chuck's alive, nothing else matters."
"Yeah but when we are alone…I don't know what to say? I was almost praying for a heart attack last night so that at least a trip to the hospital would eat up the evening hours," Ed laments, making Greg lightly chuckle.
"First off…no heart attacks," Greg playfully answers. "Secondly…just be a friend. That's how Dean and I reconnected. I took off the Greg Parker father cap and put on Greg Parker new friend cap and got to re-know my son. Ed, he was taken away when he was five and I never had even the smallest snippet from him or his mother – I had to find out what I did second hand. We don't have everything in common. He likes sushi and I think it's for bait. The first time he took me to a sushi restaurant I nearly died," Greg smirks. "But we got past the bumps and now I feel a bit more at east putting on the father cap."
"I'm not good at…"
"Talking?" Greg interjects. "Yeah opening up to strangers isn't an easy thing for most to do, but in this case you gotta force yourself; for Clark's sake. Stop thinking about what will be tomorrow…start thinking about now. You said last night he likes basketball. Did you engage him? Ask him who his favorite team is? Favorite player? Has he seen a game live? What did he like about it? Don't ask yes or no questions…draw him out, find out what makes Clark the young man he is."
"I can do that. And his um…his home life? Do I even mention that?"
"There you need to tread carefully. It's different for me and Dean because his mom and step dad are still very much alive, he knows he can return to them anytime he wants. Clark just lost his only known family and in a horrible way at that. To hear from a friend that your parents were murdered and then to see their deaths so callously splashed across the front page of a newspaper as if it's just another headline isn't something easy to talk about; much less realize you're all alone now. That you'll just hafta play by ear."
"And I'm not good at that."
"It's like learning any new skill set."
"Father…" Ed sighs as he looks at Greg with a heavy frown. "I'm not ready to be a father Greg. I'm not."
"That again is your choice. But Clark came to you for help. I somehow get the feeling that he could have just turned to the authorities in Ottawa and got them to track down Chuck if he really wanted to. You said he survived a few weeks on his own – he's resourceful and resilient, kinda like his old man," Greg gives Ed a friendly nudge. "He sought you out for another reason. He wants you in his life."
"He didn't this morning."
"Sure he did. He's just scared. You said his step father promised to keep him safe and was murdered. You told me about the text this morning and Clark probably figured the same would happen to you. He's scared. Its not that he doesn't trust you or want to be with you he does…he's just scared to lose you."
"Why didn't he say all that?"
"Now that's rhetorical right?" Greg teases. "Would you admit that?"
"I don't want to screw this up."
"We'll help you not to, okay?"
"Ed I don't have all the answers for you, I wish I did, but I don't. This is a unique situation for you and you are just going to have to take it one day at a time. "
"Day at a time….right."
"Tell you what. This coming weekend, I'll have you two over and maybe he can meet Dean, you know make a friend his own age in the city and take a bit of pressure off you."
"We're a team Eddie, that mantra doesn't stop when the clock does," Greg kindly reminds him.
"So how was your weekend?"
"Actually pretty good. I met someone."
"Marina," Greg smiles. "Dean dragged me to some art exhibit last night and she was there and…and we hit it off. She…"
After his talk with Greg, Ed goes in search of Clark, wanting to know if he made any progress with Spike. He approaches the small computer room and stops, hearing them laugh and feeling a twang of envy at the ease with which Spike is able to talk to his son; a small feeling of inner inadequacy starting to blossom. Everyone else can talk to my son as a friend but me…Ed's mind huffs as he prepares to enter.
Be a friend…"Am I interrupting?"
"Spike's showing me how to make ninja emoticons," Clark replies with a wide smile.
"Ok-ay," Ed replies. What the hell is an emoticon? "Did you find anything?" Ed asks with hesitation.
"Still running a trace on the IP from the text," Spike pipes up. "Nothing so far. But barring…"
'Team One Hot Call'
"That," Spike groans after Winnie's page concludes. "Clark, we'll hafta finish later okay?"
"You're team one?"
"Best in the city," Spike slaps Clark on the back. "Your dad is our leader."
"Really," Ed smiles at Clark, thankful to Spike for his small words of encouragement. "Clark," Ed starts as Spike leaves the room to get ready.
"I know…I'll stay here. This place is kinda cool."
"Okay good. And then we'll hit the mall afterward right?"
Finally feeling some small semblance of inner relaxation, Ed gives Clark's shoulder a quick comforting squeeze and then hurries to join his team, thankful for Greg's words of advice and Wordy's continued support.
"You see Donna this morning?" Wordy innocently inquires as they near their destination.
"She's cooling down," Ed is all he replies rather glumly. They reach the location and all team one members emerge from their vehicles, Ed and Sam taking the flanking Sierra positions, Jules at Greg's side and Spike and Wordy ready for an aggressive entry if the negotiations fail.
"Good job Sam," Ed congratulates the tough call that Greg instructed Sam to make. Sam having the clearer shot and taking it; Ed almost thankful that it was Sam heading for SIU so that he could get back to Clark and see how he fared during the day. As they enter the parking lot, Ed looks at the time and frowns.
"He'll still be there," Wordy assures him.
"Not sure on that one. Sorry. What are your plans for tonight?"
"Clark's been wearing the same clothes since I saw him. He needs new stuff. Thought I'd take him to the mall, grab a bite and just…you know get to know…hang with my son."
"Sounds like an excellent idea."
"I know I gotta talk to Donna also. Today…Wordy she hasn't called or even texted to ask how it went and…and now I'm worried she'll just back away and I'll be left…alone."
"You know you gotta be fair right?"
"I know…this is my gig not hers…I want her part of my life Wordy, I love her. I know a son is a big step…damn I don't know what to do. I hate all this. At least Marina is meeting Dean…"
"The woman Greg met last night," Ed slightly smirks. "Okay another long story."
"Okay I get that," Wordy smiles.
"I don't want to lose her but I can't just push Clark away when this is all over. Wordy he has no one. I don't know what to do."
"I understand…tough call but I can't…I can't make that decision for you."
"I know…only I can," Ed nods as the elevator doors open and Ed goes in search of Clark. He stops and peers in Spike's small computer, only to find Clark missing and panic once again surges. Ed pulls back and heads for Winnie's desk, following her direction toward the team three meeting room. Team three? Why down here? Ed nears the door and hears Clark laughing and stops, a small smile forming on his lips; but that smile turning to an expression of mild surprise as he enters the room to find Clark talking to – Donna?
"Hey…late call?" Donna greets Ed with a warm smile.
"Yeah we just got back."
"Did you shoot anyone?" Clark wonders.
"No. Sam took the um…the final shot. Sorry to have kept you waiting."
"It's okay. I was telling him about our call today. Well the after call. Tom got stuck in a tree trying to rescue what appeared to be a real kitten."
"It was fake…a stuffed toy," Clark smirks. "It Tom okay?"
"Everything but his pride," she replies and then looks at Ed's tense expression. "So you two are going shopping?"
"Yeah…Clark needs a few things," Ed answers in truth. "Figured we'd eat at the mall."
"Cool," Clark replies as he gets up and leaves the room, his knapsack still in his firm grasp.
"Donna…" Ed starts in haste only to be quickly silence by a brief kiss on his cheek. "I'm sorry…I…"
"Don't be. He was here alone and I…I just wanted to see what he was about…on my own I guess."
"And he's a great kid. He sure has some of your quirks."
"He does. He doesn't like to open up at first," she smirks. "Have fun tonight."
"Donna, wait, about last night. I know it was wrong of me to even bring up…the whole you know…"
"Now's not the time, he's waiting."
"Just tell me now…do you still want a future with me…I guess now us?"
"It's not the easiest thing in the world to adjust to Ed. I'm being honest. I wasn't sure I even wanted children, and now if we do get married I have an instant step-son to worry about; a teenage boy. I know he seems pretty self-sufficient but…but it's a big step. But I do love you and I want to be with you."
"I do," she confesses in truth. "I know this isn't easy for you either but you have been open and honest with me about all this right from the start and Ed I love you for that, because I know it's not easy. I know if things were different, he'd be with his family and this would all be moot, or if it was me I'd want your love and support and for you to stay. But they're gone and you're all he has. I can't turn my back on you now. That wouldn't be fair to you."
"But I would understand."
"I'm not walking away that easily Ed. it's just…I guess I just need a bit more time to get used to all this."
"Fair enough," he answers with a somewhat uneasy smile.
"Now go on…don't keep him waiting. Tell you what, tomorrow night, why not bring him over and we'll…have dinner at my place and just…you know get him used to me being a part of your lives…you know me in the um…the picture," she concludes with a soft strained tone; her heart wishing she could just jump into his arms, kiss him and say it was no big deal, she'd marry him no matter what. But as much as she knows she loves him in her heart and wants to be with him, having Clark in the picture now what a bit of a tougher adjustment. Would she have to adopt him also? Could she and Ed get married and just Ed fill out paperwork to make him his legal guardian? So much to consider and ponder but she had to be honest with him and herself. It wouldn't be easy.
"Okay. I love you."
"I love you to."
Ed gives her a discreet and somewhat gratitude laden kiss; his mind unable to express in words just what her loving support means to him. She's not leaving – yet….there is in reality of course the chance she still could walk for if she had taken it up on herself to seek out Clark and try to bond with him, that was better than him suggesting or pushing her in that direction. For this all to work, all the pieces had to fall into place naturally. But with his confidence toward being a parent still very shaky, Ed directs Clark toward the exit doors and outside into the cool night air and into his car, Clark asking him about the call and Ed trying to remember Greg's advice to connect on a friendly level.
"Alright…here we go," Ed whispers as they enter the mall, heading for the food court first and then some shopping.
"Excuse me," someone utters as they rush past a man just as his thick fingers push the end of a smoldering cigarette into the tray before pulling the doors to the bustling mall open and following at a discreet distance. Chuck watches Ed enter the food court; his fingers curling around an object in his pockets the same time the upper right side of his mouth twists upward into an angry sneer.
A/N: ah the smoking man returns. Duh duh duhhhhhhhhh! Course trouble returns with him but….how did you like Greg's advice? What about Donna being there with Clark? And will Spike find out who Chuck really is in time? or will Wordy lose his best friend? Hope you are all still on board with this little AU adventure and please do review before you go and thanks so much!