"No! No! No!" That little vein on the left of his forehead was throbbing in concert with each no. "You are not enlisting in the army! No! Absolutely nothing good, at all, can come from you enlisting. NO!"
Charlie Finley slammed the door behind him as he stalked into his room, away from the fight with his father.
He lay on his bed and sulked. His parents just don't get it. He hates school, it's too easy, too useless. He has no desire at all to go onto Uni. There's nothing less interesting to him than spending every day of the rest of his life trapped in front of a computer moving numbers around.
He wants to be out there, doing things like his Uncle Sam, cool things, blowing-stuff-up things.
But most of all, he wants to get the hell out of this house and away from these insane, overprotective people who are determined to force him to lead an excruciatingly boring life.
Two minutes later, his mum knocked quietly and poked her head into his room, "Charlie."
"What?" He knows what, but still, she's going to sit there and look all worried at him, and it'll just rip his heart out and he doesn't want to deal with it.
"Charlie, you have to stop doing this," she says, sitting on the edge of his bed.
"No, I don't. Just because you and Da are some sort of insane anarchists doesn't mean I have to be one. The military is a perfectly good career choice. It's an honorable choice. It's going out and doing good things and making the world a better place."
"No, baby, it's really not."
"Stop calling me baby! I'm not a child! And how would you know anything about the military? Neither of you've ever been any closer to the military than Uncle Sam. And he served, with honor, and did good things for the American Navy, and I want to serve my country, too."
Fiona Finley, Fiona Glenanne once upon a time, sighed. She and her 'husband' Michael (the rings are real, and so was the ceremony, even if the marriage certificate is forged) had been debating for close to five years now when it was going to be time to tell Charlie the truth. (Well, most of the truth. For example, he knows that Fi and Michael aren't his birth parents, but he's been calling them Mum and Da for as long as he can remember. He knows he didn't always live on the Isle Clare just west of County Clare, but like Mum and Da, that's also something he's been doing as long as he can remember.)
Tomorrow's his eighteenth birthday. The day he'd be legally able to enlist.
It's time to tell the rest of the story.
"Okay, Charlie, if you're determined to enlist, you will. But first you're going to have dinner with your Da and I, and you are going to listen to everything we have to tell you. It's going to take a long time, and you're going to have a lot to think about. But until you've heard it and had a chance to think about it, don't enlist. Promise me, you'll wait at least ten days after hearing this, let it sink in, talk to your Uncle Sam and Uncle Jesse about it, and then think some more?"
"Fine." He rolls his eyes. There's no way his parents can change his mind. Nothing they can tell him he doesn't already know. Like, okay, they've been telling him they're 'social workers' for years now, but he knows people who have parents who are actually in social work, and first off, they've got way too damn much money for it, and also, real social workers don't end up coming home in the middle of the night bleeding.
Whatever the hell it is they do, it's not social work.
His private theory is that they're drug runners. That's the best reason he can think of for why they're always so nervous when the coppers are around.
His mum kisses his forehead, smiles at him, and says, "Dinner, tonight."
Dinner at the Finley house is usually a catch as catch can sort of thing. His da can cook, but usually doesn't. His mum… well, they eat a lot of take away.
Tonight Da cooked. Salmon. He's good with fish.
And there's wine.
For all three of them, that's, not exactly new, drinking age is eighteen, and they've been willing to bend that for family dinners, the ones where Uncle Jesse or Uncle Sam (sometimes both of them, and Aunt Elsa and Aunt Meg, too, those are fun nights) come as well, for the last two years.
So the three of them sat there, Da and Mum staring at each other, and then at him, and finally Da said, "My name was Michael Westin, I used to be a spy. Your mum was Fiona Glenanne, she was part of the IRA, then a freelance gun runner, and after that…"
And between the two of them they told the story.
It took four hours.
And at the end of it, his Da said, "If you actually want to make the world a better place. If you want to help people, good people, people who made mistakes or were in the wrong place at the wrong time and need someone who can solve problems, then we'll get you to America and your Uncle Sam and Uncle Jesse can train you.
"But I am asking you, because I know you'll be good at it, I know you'll get there, and you'll be brilliant, to please, don't join the military. They will turn you into a weapon, use you for whatever games they want to play, and they will ruin your life, drag you and everyone you love through pain like you cannot imagine."
Charlie looked at both of them, blinked slowly, and without a word went back to his room to think.
Ten days later, he was standing in broiling sunlight (neither of his parents had mentioned how bright or hot Miami is, but it does feel vaguely familiar) next to his Uncle Sam and said, "So, I was born here?"
"No. You were born in Las Vegas. But you lived here with your Grandma for about a year."
"So where do we start?"
"Jesse and I are going to meet a guy about a job. That's how it always starts. Your job is to sit there, listen, and not say anything."
"I can do that."
"Good. Let's go."
Charlie stowed his bag in the back of Sam's car.
"Oh, and one other thing, 'round here, Chuck Finley is a legend. If you're gonna have the name, you've got to live up to it."