A/N: To clarify, this fan fiction is based on the movie "Safe" written and directed by Boaz Yakin, featuring Jason Statham and Catherine Chan.
I haven't been able to find any fan fiction for this movie, so I'm not sure how much attention this fic will receive. However, I am not one to dwell on stats, all I ask is that you read and enjoy. I'm not sure if this is going to be anything more then a one-shot, so praise, flame, or ignore the review box to your heart's content.
Safe in Small Numbers
In the heart of Seattle, former NYPD officer Luke Wright was standing in line at the grocery store. It was an interesting feeling, paying for groceries with money he hadn't particularly earned, still unemployed at the moment and falling back on his and Mei's copious savings. It wasn't just that, however. Buying groceries in this bulk was a nice change from dumpster diving and living off of the budget of a dollar a day, sometimes less. The last time he'd done anything like was a year ago, when Annie was still alive. It felt good to be off the streets. It felt good to have a purpose again. With the disks in his reach and both Russian and Chinese gangs off of their backs, he actually did feel safe. Not only safe, but after so much time feeling utterly miserable, enough to bring him to the edge of that subway tunnel, he actually felt kind of happy. Things were actually turning up.
As good as things were, he still had business to take care of, and he knew how serious Mei was about business. He looked at his watch. 2:42. He looked back up at the front of line, a woman fumbling through her purse, apparently looking for her check book. Luke had never thought of himself as an impatient man, but for the last year, he'd never had someplace where he needed to be—and this woman was taking forever. If he was held up any longer, he would be late to the "parent-teacher conference" that he was required to attend with Mei after school, the commute from their apartment about twenty minutes time while the school day ends at 3:10.
"I can help whoever's next in line."
Thank God. Luke thought as he made his way to the next line over.
When he reached his car, he placed the bags in the back seat before getting in himself. He adjusted the mirror before returning his hand to the wheel, but for a brief moment was lost in his reflection.
"Yeah, Annie," he said to himself, though he really did feel as if she were there with him, watching over his new life with pride now that he'd turned his life around. "—thought my first day at school would be with our kid, too." He smiled, looking away from the mirror. "Got to admit, though, I think this'll be more interesting."
"So, Mr. Wright, you're Mei's adopted father?" asked Mei's home room instructor, Mrs. Kimberley. She was a woman who couldn't be more than 50, and by the looks of her classroom, was an expert in the field of mathematics. Her graying hair was pulled up in a bun, which remained Mei of her mother, but only a little.
He'd expected the obvious questioning though he'd already explained and verified everything to the administrators when registering Mei for the school. Well, almost everything.
"Yes." Luke answered, glancing at Mei who was sitting just next to him. They had already agreed that the titles would be taken lightly between them, knowing that in the eyes of society, they were father and daughter, but in reality, they were just good friends. Friends who saved each other.
"How'd you tell?" Luke went on, looking back at Mei's instructor. "My accent, or the fact that we look so much alike?"
He earned an amused smile from the woman sitting across from him. "Well now, I see where Mei gets her sense of humor."
He gave a small smile in return, choosing to leave out the fact that they'd only known each other for a little more than a month. But naturally, he felt a bit of pride as well, wondering what Mei had said earlier to give away the fact of her cleverness. She was exceedingly cunning for her age, it in deed a trait he felt they had in common.
"Mei, can you be a dear and step outside for a moment?" Mrs. Kimberley asked, her eyes now meeting Mei's. "Before we can talk about our plans for your private schooling, there are some confidential things your father and I are required to go over."
Mei nodded, hating the wishy-washy-fluffy tone to the instructor's voice, treating her and Luke as if they were dumb children. She glanced back at him before leaving the room, their eyes meeting, a look of understanding crossing his face. They always seemed to be on the same page. Though Luke may look like just a pretty face—judging by the looks random women gave him on the street, anyway—Mei knew from experience that he was not as stupid as he seemed. But just as crazy. He was still crazy.
When Mei closed the door behind her, Luke was still able to see her silhouette against the fogged glass of the classroom door. Mrs. Kimberly cleared her throat to get his full attention, which she did promptly receive. When she spoke her tone changed immensely, her attitude becoming very serious.
"Here at our school for the gifted and unique adolescence of today, this meeting is to be treated with the utmost importance." Her eyes stared into his, looking for a confirmation that her understood the gravity of this hour they would spend together planning Mei's future at the academy. He gave a quick nod, not at all intimidated by her, but respectfully aware of his compliance. She continued. "Even parents of direct relation to their children can have the worst of intensions." She paused, opening a drawer and taking out some papers. "This is the parent contract. In order for Mei to attend this school, we need you to pledge your full dedication to her and to us, stating that you are not enrolling her here for your own benefit. I personally think this policy is a bit harsh, but necessary. We've had some troubled children here, abused, used, by parents and foster parents alike."
Luke looked at her, then at the papers. He took the pen she offered and read through them silently, understanding his situation perfectly. He was an American born in the UK, his resume stated that he'd been kicked out of the NYPD and had taken a job in garbage disposal; his records stated he'd been homeless and broke for a year, then just right out of the blue, he had money, was still unemployed, was living in Seattle and had adopted a genius eleven year old girl from China.
They were bound to be a bit suspicious.
As he started signing the forms, he thought he needed to prove his point personally, to make it plainly clear to this instructor what he'd been through and how serious he was about Mei. It'd be a talk she wouldn't soon forget.
"Before I met Mei," he began, eyes still on the papers, hand still writing. "My life meant nothing. Everything I'd ever known was taken away from me and there was nowhere to go and no one to turn to." He stopped writing. "I was about to end it, there was nothing I had to offer to anyone, and there was nothing I could do." He looked over to the door, Mei's silhouette still plastered to the window. "The first time I looked into her eyes, I knew that she was special. I swore to protect her because she saved my life." He looked at the instructor then, seeing the understanding in her eyes, along with the burning curiosity. He slid the papers to her side of the desk. "In no way would I ever use her, she's had enough of that."
Mrs. Kimberley was speechless for a moment, fixing her suit jacket and fidgeting with the papers, putting them into a file folder and placing it in another drawer. He could tell she had questions, but could see that she was too professional to ask them. At least directly.
"You adopted her to protect her? From…"
The he knew. This woman really did know something about them. She knew about Mei being the girl so many were after in New York just weeks ago. She knew he was the one who was able to call off the search for her, even though she didn't know how, and didn't want to know.
So now she knew why. More or less.
"We'd like to put the past behind us." Luke finally said. "So please—"
"Of course." She reassured him. "It's a pleasure to have her in the academy. And I must say, she couldn't be in more capable of hands."
"I've heard of your school's credentials, so I think she'll like it here, too."
"No, Mr. Wright. I was talking about you."
He regarded her statement for a moment, than nodded, making his way to the door to let Mei back inside.
"I don't like her very much, but at least she's smarter than my old teachers. Way smarter." Mei said as she finished her dinner. "I only liked my old school because of my friends and because I didn't have to work too hard."
Luke nodded as he stood and took their plates. "Why don't you like her?" he asked.
"She talks too much and she smells like fake cherries." Mei scrunched up her nose a little in disgust.
"You mean like the ones Jack in the Box puts in their shakes?" Luke asked as he started to wash the dishes. Their dislike for those gross excuses for cherries was also something they had in common, something they'd figured out on their drive to Seattle from New York.
"Yeah. But she's not my only teacher, and I'm glad, I don't even like math."
"But you're so good with numbers." He replied jokingly. He actually had quite a good understanding of having talents and not wanting to use them. He was in no way looking for another job in law enforcement. Maybe he'd try for something a little classier then garbage disposal, but he'd never really been unhappy with the job.
After she didn't reply, he tried to keep the conversation going. "Well, if you don't like math, what do you like?"
"I don't know." She shrugged, standing from her seat and walking into the small kitchenette, propping herself on the countertop across from him as he dried off his hands. "Science is kind of fun, but boring most of the time. English is Ok, but boring, too. History can be boring, but it depends on what war we're learning about."
"So everything bores you?" Luke said, more a statement then a question.
"Everything's easy. I don't forget anything." She replied, swinging her legs slightly over the edge of the counter. "At least here, they don't repeat as much as they do in normal school."
"Well, this was your first week, maybe it'll get less boring." He went to the fringe and asked if she wanted anything to drink. She declined and he got himself a beer, making his way to the living room. Their apartment was small, but had two bed rooms and two bathrooms, so it was good enough. Their living room consisted of a coach and an entertainment center complete with a flat screen and a DVD player. They only had three DVD's so far, all Mei's favorite American TV shows, she having already watched them all. As he sat on the coach, he thought out loud.
"You say you remember everything you learn?"
"Duh. Then I wouldn't be here." She remarked, sitting next to him, grabbing the remote instinctively. He waved off her comment knowing that that was how she approached questioned she didn't quite care for—and that she liked messing with him.
"Then why do you like watching cartoons over and over again? What's the point in seeing them more than once?"
He waited patiently for an answer, at first thinking she'd pull another smart remark. But no, her silence was consuming his curiosity and heightening his concern all at once. Her answer—if she answered—would be a serious one. He gave her time, and eventually, she spoke.
"I used to watch them at home, with my mother. I had to take care of her because she was sick, and sometimes, watching TV would make both of us forget all the bad things." She met his eyes then, having never told him about her mother. Seeing how he was now obviously invested in her story, she continued. "When they took me, they said they would take care of her if I helped them. If I didn't, they would kill her. So I went with them. And sometimes, when Quan let me, I'd watch TV and it would help me forget everything. Sometimes, it would help me have better dreams."
"Nightmares…can haunt you." Luke said almost under his breath, sympathizing with Mei completely. He could easily guess what her nightmares were about, knowing how the Han Jiao worked. Business, what a brutal thing to put a little girl through. He thought. "Do you know what happened to your mother?" he asked, his tone as subdued as possible, he didn't want to pry.
"She died. Two weeks before I met you. They didn't want me to know, but I found out."
"A friend. But…she's dead now, too." She said, her voice shaking now. Her head sunk down, her eyes staring at the floor, her unshed tears now consequentially harder to keep hidden at this angle. She didn't want him to see her cry. She didn't want to cry at all, but her body was betraying her mental strength. What did she want? Her mother to be alive? Her friend to not have died? Her life to be as it was before all of this happened?
"Mei." He said, wanting her eyes to meet his. They didn't. He scooted closer to her and wrapped a strong arm around her small figure. "You don't have to worry anymore. About anything. We're going to take this one day at a time."
"It's—it's just not fair!" She sobbed, trying desperately to stifle her cries, wanting anything but to look weak in front of him.
"I know, I know. It's Ok, let it out."
"But—I don't—want to!"
"Sometimes, you have to." He said softly, knowing the feeling all too well. His eyes burned at the not-so-distant memories of living on the streets, hating himself for not having been able to save Annie. He took a moment to compile his words and spoke when he was ready. "For half last year, I cried myself to sleep every night. I had to, even when I didn't want to."
Her sobs continued for a minute more, her face in her hands, leaning on Luke as he willingly held her there, safe to let her release these pent up emotions, her sorrow ebbing into a numb, weary awareness. She tilted her head up to look at him, her face stained with tears. "Why did you cry?"
Luke sighed. She had told him her story, it was only right that she knew his. Besides, it might be a good thing to follow his own advice and let it out, he'd never told a soul his story. And if he and Mei were going to be as good of friends as they needed to be if they were going to live with each other, then it was her right to know. She scooted back a little, giving him some room as he removed his arm from around her and sat sideway on the coach to face her. She did the same. He sighed again.
"You remember the Russians that tried to steal the code from you?" he asked. She nodded, a smart remark not even crossing her mind as she pulled back a few stray strands of her hair. "Well, a year ago, I worked for a wrestler in a casino. The Russians bet a lot of money that I would lose the first round, but I didn't. So…instead of killing me, they got to my wife." He paused, looking up at Mei for a moment, then back down. "They made it so that if I spoke or interacted with anyone, they would be killed. So I was homeless for that entire year. I cried for Annie, my wife, because I couldn't save her." He looked up at her again. "Didn't even get to say goodbye."
Mei nodded. "Me neither."
Luke let a ghost of a smile grace his lips. "Then I saw you, and life made sense again."
Mei matched his not-quite-smile and spoke from her heart, as he had. "I'm glad."
They were silent for some time, unknowing of exactly what to say, both knowing that there was so much more to talk about. Mei finally surrendered to her curiosity, wondering how such a softy could hold up for as long as he had.
"So, you still miss your wife?"
"All the time." He answered easily.
"But you don't show it." She pressed on.
"You let go of the sadness after a while, then you're happy with the good memoires you have. I used to cry to mourn her, but now I just remember."
"Ok." She paused, letting his knowledge of such tragic events sink in. She would learn from what he already knew. "Mom would have said that we met because of Fate. She was superstitious."
Luke gave a real smile. "I don't think I believe in Fate."
Mei shook her head in agreement. "I don't. Not really."
"How about luck?" He suggested, now a bit interested as to naming their seemingly fateful meeting.
"Maybe." She shrugged.
"Sheer coincidence? Random encounter Cosmic justice?" His voice got a bit higher at that, having fun with this. She actually laughed at the tone in his voice and called him crazy, which lifted the mood greatly. Whatever it was that brought them together, they were both glad for it. And in moments like these, they both felt safe in all aspects of the word. They would continue to save each other, continue to give each other support and purpose, continue one day at a time.