Title: Fathers And Sons

Author: Jane McCartney

Feedback: Don't make me beg for it. Oh hell, whatever: pleeeease? Pretty please? It'll just take a sec from ya!

Email: janemccartney@bol.com.br

Acknowledgments: Every beloved reviewer, and my beloved Theo. My fics are practically his work too. But probably not half as good as his own fics.

Summary: A six-year-old Xander has only one wish. He wants to stop running.

***

"But I don't wanna have a bath now!" I cry out loud to my mother, running away from her and hiding under the wooden table of our living room.

My mom sighs. Her eyes are downcast and, even though she's still very pretty with her long hair falling over her eyes, her face has more wrinkles than most moms of the kids where I go to school with. Plus, she's always looking so, so tired.

"C'mon Alexander, just get in the damn shower," she sighs again. Mom's always doing that too.

I put an angry look on my face. "It's not Alexander, it's Xander!" I shout, but she doesn't seem to give it much thought though.

"OK, Xander, whatever. I really don't have all afternoon," she has that impatient look on her features, as if she was wishing to be anywhere but here right now. Actually, I don't think Mom has any look but this one very often.

Of course, there are many different looks when Dad's here. I don't like them at all, but I guess they're just too similar to my own after all.

"No bath," I hiss through my teeth, arms crossed, belligerent.

I hear her voice from above, still hidden under the table. "Y'know, that's fine. Your father's gonna come home any time now, and I'm sure you'll have a good explanation to give to him when he gets here."

I gulp, and finally get out from under. But I do not wanna let her see my defeat, so I snort. Loud. Aggressive.

Dad always says, you can't let people know when you're afraid. And that's the exact reaction I got when she mentioned him.

I don't like being afraid. It's cold, and it's not like that cool kind of fear when Jesse and me watch those monster movies on TV.

Ya know, when all the hair on your neck rises up and you have chills and goosebumps? That's cool.

But being afraid of your dad, nuh-uh. That's not like cool at all.

I can swear to you that my father, once upon a time, was the coolest of all the fathers I knew in the whole world; of all families and all planets and all universes possible.

But then something happened, and he changed.

There was this one night which he came home with eyes really super-wide, and I had never seen him like that before. My pop was very brave, not the kind of man who gets scared easily, so I just knew something was really wrong.

He said something had caught Bob, Dad's brother and my uncle, some kinda twisted monster. His neck, face and chest were all wet with cold sweat, and his eyes were full of tears.

The funeral was two days later, and I had never been to one before.

Uncle Bob wasn't the first person I'd met to die so suddenly, sure. But I think that's just normal. Last week even Rebecca Levinson, Jonathan's cousin, disappeared and was found dead on the same night, near a club called The Bronze.

She was only fifteen I guess, and she was really nice. Rebecca was in the school of the older kids, but sometimes she dropped by ours to see her cousin, who's a boy that's in my class.

Rebecca had a real beautiful smile; I felt sad when the teacher told us Jonathan wouldn't be coming that day, 'cause a very dear person had had a bad accident, and wasn't with us anymore.

Anyway, at Uncle Bob's funeral, there were many flowers and wooden chairs scattered disorganizedly on the grass; but it had rained the night before, making the grass mix with some mud.

Everyone stood still, while some old guy in a long black dress read a book. Mom held me strongly by the arms, as if I wouldn't stay quiet. I wanted to yell at her that I could do what I wanted, but I didn't 'cause I liked Uncle Bob and didn't wanna disturb this moment.

Dad didn't cry like he cried that night. I guess that was the last time I've ever seen my father crying.

Everything's changed since then. And that was when I started to get afraid too many times. I don't like being a coward, but I just can't help it. I wish I could be stronger in front of my dad.

Then maybe he wouldn't be so mad all the time.

Dad used to take me to go fishing with him every weekend. I was too small, and he'd put me on his lap and even let me hold the bait can and would tell me all about fishes and the ocean. I guess he really liked the sea.

We drove for hours to reach his favorite spot, and then he'd spend hours talking about how he and his own father always used to go fishing too, when he was only a few years older than I was.

Mom smiled more often too, I remember. I don't think she has ever liked me that much, though. Every time Mom could, she'd avoid me, never having time to stay for a story like the parents of my best buddy Jesse used to tell him. I think she thought I didn't know.

But I did, and nowadays, I don't actually think she tries to hide it anymore.

I found her very pretty, the prettiest mom, and one day I told her I loved her and I showed her a picture the teacher made us draw in the art class. She and my father were holding hands, and I was between them. I didn't know how to draw very well; I was only little then.

Dad took it and smiled, and scratched my hair and messed it all. I grinned at him too. But my mother, she just forced out a smile and, the next day, the drawing was in the trash.

I never told her that. But I think she knew, and just didn't care. I felt something weird goin' through in my heart, as if it was twisting. Maybe breaking...

But all that was when I was really young, only four I guess. Now I'm a big boy, almost a grown-up.

Yeah, that was almost two years ago. Like I said, Dad changed. He comes home way too often smelling funny, and gets really angry almost every time Mom or me are around.

Those times where he isn't, he's more likely passed out on the living room floor. Or alone, just staring blankly at the wall.

I don't know exactly why, but it's the latter that gives me the more chills.

Jesse told me once that Tina's parents were getting divorced. I frowned at him then, because I didn't know what this word meant. Divorce.

I knew this word existed, but I wasn't sure what it meant. I wouldn't ask any of the kids in my class though, not even Wills or Jess. I don't want them to think I'm stupid or anything.

When I asked my father what it meant, he was too busy watching a football game that he never answered me. I thought about looking it up in that big book, the dictionary, that's always on the high spot of my parents' bedroom, but I couldn't reach it even with the chair and a set of books on the top of it. Mom said she'd get it for me later, but she never did. I think she just forgot.

I did find out one day, when I used the garden ladder to reach the dictionary, when Mom and Dad weren't home. I got curious, and asked my mother why she didn't get divorced from Dad. Jesse told me Tina's parents weren't happy together anymore, and that's why they'd divorced.

As far as I knew, my parents were anything but happy after all. I didn't like to see them sad.

My mother looked at me and, for a short second, she smiled. I know smiles are supposed to mean you're glad and feeling good, but I don't know why exactly her smile didn't make me think that. Anyway, I didn't think Mom was OK at all.

Then she told me to go study - just to make me go away. I know, 'cause she was never really interested in how I'm doing in school.

But I did what Mom always told me to do. I let it pass. Maybe I'm too young to understand things. I wish they would explain them to me, even if just sometimes. Like Will's parents, or Jesse's.

Cordelia once said my parents didn't like me. She's a very popular girl in my school, all the other girls wanna be like her and all the boys wanna hold her hand - even Jesse has a crush on her!

I don't think Cordelia was trying to hurt me when she said it, like most of the time. We were the last children waiting to be picked up one day, her dad's driver had run late. I think the car had broken down or something.

She asked me why I was there. I told her Mom said she'd pick me up, but probably forgot. It wasn't the first time.

I know Cordy looked sideways to make sure nobody was seeing us talking together, and then she asked me how she could forget, because mothers aren't supposed to forget their children.

I didn't know what to answer, so I just stood silent. Then she asked me if my parents didn't like me. I answered that she had really ugly hair and that her head had the shape of an ugly alien, and took off without looking back; running as fast as I could.

I don't know why my parents don't like me. I wish they'd tell me though, maybe I'm doing something wrong?

I don't know why, it's really a funny sensation, but sometimes I feel like I've never stopped running that day I began with Cordelia. It's odd and it's strange, it hurts I guess. It makes me more angry than tired sometimes, and I just don't know if I'll ever stop running.

And I wish Mom and Dad would be there to hold me, and let me stop running.

But I know they won't. Maybe I'm just not a good enough son.

***

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