Title: Something for the Simons (posted in four subtitled parts)
By: Lacey McBain
Date: July 2003
Warnings: None in particular. Some references to violence, some
language. Very mild.
Summary: Takes place immediately after the episode "Something for
Sarah." This story is more about the brothers' relationship; it
is not an action-style piece.
Disclaimer: "Simon & Simon" was created by Philip de Guere, for
which I am very grateful. The characters are his, but the words
page are mine. No copyright infringement is intended and I am
no money from this.
Something for the Simons
Part 1 - Wasn't That A Party?!
A.J. Simon stood at the bottom of the stairs and surveyed the
damage. His eyes took in the overturned chair in his living room,
the slightly askew lampshade, the remnants of paper strewn across the
floor. In the corner beside a lopsided Ficus tree lay a pool of
shattered glass and the dark
red sprawl of a stain that he knew with certainty would never come out.
"Well, it could've been worse," he said to no one in particular,
running a hand through his dishevelled blonde hair and crossing over to
the kitchen counter to measure out his morning coffee.
"What are you talking about? That was a great party," a familiar
voice said from somewhere in the living room.
A.J. stopped short, momentarily startled by the voice that didn't seem
to be attached to its usual owner.
"Rick?" A.J. asked, peering around the living room. "Where are
A hand reached up from the floor in front of the couch, grasped the
edge, and in a moment Rick Simon pulled himself into view, shrugging
off a blanket of wrapping paper. Carelessly, he swept a pair of
pillows and an assortment of boxes onto the floor, then proceeded to
flop down on his back in the
now vacant space on the couch.
"I thought you went home," A.J. said. "To change," he added with
emphasis, noticing that his brother was still wearing his clothes from
night, which looked none the better for having spent the night on
floor. A.J. yawned loudly as he continued his morning ritual of
measuring, grinding, and brewing his favourite dark roast coffee.
"Nah. After teaching Aunt Edie how to make the perfect margarita–"
"For which you owe me a new blender," A.J. interjected.
"–and then by the time Town and I got Marlowe and the cooler outta the
canal, well, it was just easier to sleep here." Rick stretched
long arms up over his head, then rubbed at the partially swollen black
that was a remnant of the case they'd just wrapped up, helping Sarah
find her father and busting up a bevy of drug runners and murderers in
process. "And I slept on the floor. Wouldn't want to get
precious couches wet. Besides, Mom got 3 blenders last night, so
sure she'll be thrilled to let you take one off her hands," Rick
"And what's that smell?" A.J. said wrinkling his nose as a
slightly wet and putrid stench caught his attention over the
Rick looked up at his brother blankly, lifted one arm and
sniffed. A.J. rolled his eyes and shook his head at his brother's
"That fancy French coffee you like?" Rick offered helpfully,
sniffing the air.
"No, the one that smells like Marlowe brought something dead home for
dinner," A.J. said with frustration. It had been a long night and
a long week on the Caulfield case before that. He was really not
in the mood for Rick's banter this morning.
"You don't think he did, do you?" A.J. said suddenly concerned about
the mysterious odour.
"Who? Did what?" Rick asked, shaking the cobwebs from his
head and trying his best to follow his brother's line of thought.
"Marlowe. Brought something dead home," A.J. said more loudly
trying to penetrate the obvious haze that had wrapped itself around
Rick's brain this morning.
"Not since Liz," Rick muttered to himself. He looked over in time
to catch a look that could have silenced the Sirens. "Oh, come
I know it's early, but use your head. It's the sand dabs that
Marlowe pushin' the cooler off the deck into the canal didn't help
aroma any either. But, look at it this way–at least they were
"That was Mom's birthday pres--. . .you said Barnaby charged you. . .I
gave you twenty bucks, Rick!" A.J. stumbled over his words, staring at
brother in utter amazement. Rick Simon strikes again, he thought.
"Oh yeah," Rick mumbled, smart enough to feel at least a little guilty
about misleading his brother. He was gonna pay him back.
A.J. poured himself a cup of coffee, righted the living room chair, and
sat down across from Rick. Rick rolled onto his side and looked
"Coffee smells good," Rick said tentatively. A quiet murmur of
agreement was the only response as A.J. sipped the steaming brew.
A.J. moistened his lips, catching his tongue between his teeth for a
moment while he measured his words carefully. He let out a sigh,
heavy mug down on the table and looked over at his brother.
you like a cup?" he asked, summoning as much politeness as he could.
"I would love some," Rick said sitting up and reaching for A.J.'s mug
all in one smooth motion. A sturdy slap on the back of his
outstretched hand caused him to pull back just short of his target.
"Get your own," A.J. said with exasperation, picking up his mug
again. "Jeez, Rick, just because we're brothers doesn't mean you
can help yourself to everything that I own." A.J. readjusted his
robe and took another sip of his coffee as Rick headed for the kitchen
to get his own cup. A.J. listened to Rick rattling around in the
kitchen for a mug. He
heard the familiar clink of the spoon burrowing into the sugar bowl and
almost see the rapidly spinning whirlpool that Rick would have turned
cup into with the spoon. He'd done it with his chocolate milk
they were kids, and he still did it now. A.J. had to fight the
to smile–he wanted to be mad at Rick, at least for a little
And if Rick felt guilty, he might actually get some help out of
A.J. could hear the fridge door open and close and he knew the
rattle of cutlery signalled that leftover chocolate cake was being
into two pieces and thrown onto paper plates. Rick's idea of a
offering, no doubt. His older brother's habits were as familiar
him as his own, and though they sometimes frustrated him, they also
him with a degree of comfort that he doubted he would ever be able to
to anyone else.
Rick returned to the living room with his coffee and a monstrous piece
of cake for each of them. Without a word, he set one sagging
in front of A.J. and handed his brother a fork. Rick sat back
on the couch and speared a piece of cake.
"So, whatchya doin' today?" Rick asked as if nothing had happened.
Reaching for his plate of cake, A.J. paused purposefully and looked
around the room, then gazed pointedly at Rick.
"Gotcha," Rick said with a mouthful of cake. "I suppose you want
some help cleaning up?" he asked half-hoping that A.J. wouldn't take
up on it. It looked like a gorgeous day outside. Clear blue
skies and just a touch of wind. A perfect day for sailing or
"That would be nice," A.J. said, lifting a forkful of chocolate cake to
"Sure you wouldn't rather go fishing?" Rick suggested.
"Haven't you had enough contact with fish lately?" A.J.
asked. "Aside from the sand dabs, we spent half our time in
Pescado either on boats or being thrown off of them. I think I'd
rather keep my feet on land for a little while if it's just the same to
you." They ate in silence for a few minutes each of them
preoccupied with his own thoughts of the
case they'd just finished.
They were lucky they'd made it home in time for their mother's party,
although they had arrived at A.J.'s only moments ahead of the guest of
honour. In retrospect, A.J. thought, it was lucky they'd gotten
to the party at
all considering that in the last few days they'd been shot at, beaten
and thrown to the sharks. At least two people had died for Ben
Caulfield and A.J. wasn't even sure that the man's daughter would have
do with him. They'd left him at a motel over by the marina with
promises to check in on him in a few days. Ben was going to try
reconciliation with Sarah, and A.J. silently hoped that it would work
both their sakes.
With a last quick sip of coffee, A.J. got up and went into the kitchen,
throwing his empty plate into the trash and the rest of his dishes into
"I'm going to take a shower, and then we can get this mess cleaned up,
okay?" He headed for the stairs, but stopped on the second step
leaned around the wall, looking back at Rick. "Thanks for
he said smiling. "And if we get done early, maybe we can take the
"Deal," Rick said with a grin, watching his brother head
upstairs. He knew A.J. wasn't really mad at him, but he seemed to
have a lot on his mind lately. As Rick cleaned up the last crumbs
with his fingertip, he tried to place what had been bugging him about
A.J.'s behaviour up in
Pescado. He'd been quiet, but that wasn't unusual for A.J.–not
Well, maybe he'd just have to ask him what was the matter. Rick
his duffle bag from where he'd thrown it last night and searched for a
of clean clothes while he waited for A.J. to get out of the
He pulled out a denim shirt and a pair of faded jeans and gave them a
"Clean enough," he said, and headed for the stairs.
Part 2 - Mother Knows Best
It was less than an hour later when the ringing phone interrupted their
cleaning frenzy. A.J., now wearing jeans and a red polo shirt,
waved unsuccessfully at Rick to shut off the vacuum. He finally
gave up trying to get Rick's attention and pulled the cord from the
socket as he reached for the phone.
"Hello," A.J. said, as Rick turned around to see what had
happened to his power. "Hi, Ben," A.J. continued, nodding at Rick
to pick up the second phone. Rick crossed the living room and
picked up the extension. "OK, Ben. . . .Thanks for letting us
know. We hope everything works out. . . .Good luck," A.J. said
hanging up the phone with a sober expression on his face.
"So he's going over to see Sarah," Rick remarked. It was a
statement, not a question.
"I hope they can work something out. It'd be a shame if they
couldn't after everything they've been through," A.J. said, swinging
back and forth on the bar stool at the kitchen counter. "But I'm
really glad that's over," he added quietly, almost as an afterthought.
"Oh, come on, A.J., it wasn't so bad. The money and the drug
dealers are in police custody, and Sarah and her father have a chance
to make up
lost time," Rick replied.
"Yeah, and Jody Stout and Don Shoop both ended up dead, we almost took
a permanent swim with "Jaws," and your eye has more shades of black and
blue than a paint store. I tell ya, Rick, sometimes I don't know
we do this."
"We do it because people like Sarah Caulfield need us," Rick
said. "Besides, a few bumps and bruises are par for the course,"
he said, one
hand unconsciously reaching up to teach his tender eye. "And,
aren't you usually the one telling me how great this job is and how
it feels to help people?"
A.J. hopped off the stool and walked around to the fridge. "The
trouble is, it doesn't really feel like we helped them at all.
They're still two strangers, and she's so angry that she can't be in a
room with him for more than a few minutes at a time. You want
anything?" he asked Rick as he opened the fridge and pulled out a beer.
"Nah," Rick said, following A.J. into the kitchen and leaning on the
edge of the open refrigerator door. "A.J., you can't solve
everyone's problems all of the time. Sometimes they have to work
it out on their own,
"I know," A.J. said shutting the door and leaning back against the
fridge. There was something in his brother's voice that Rick
couldn't quite place, a sense of tiredness, a hint of defeat. Not
for the first time, Rick was reminded of how seriously A.J. took each
of their cases. It really mattered to him that people found what
they were looking for and it bothered him to see people hurting.
Rick reached out to pat his younger brother on the shoulder.
"Let's get this place shipshape and get the hell out of here, okay?"
"I'll meet you at the boat in about an hour," Rick called to A.J. as he
headed out the door. "I'm going to stop at Mom's and rescue her
from Marlowe–or the other way around," he said more quietly as he shut
the door behind him.
The midday sun was beating down intensely, as he put the Power Wagon
into gear and backed out of A.J.'s driveway. Rick's mind kept
going back to the Caulfield case and A.J.'s quiet insistence on
following it through to the end. It hadn't been an easy case in
any way. Emotionally, he suspected it had cost A.J. more than he
was willing to let on.
Sarah Caulfield had shown up in their office just over a week ago,
a briefcase full of cash, certain it was from her father even though
hadn't been a Christmas present or a birthday card from him in fifteen
Sarah Caulfield's father had abandoned her when she was just a child,
her and her mother because he thought they'd be better off without
him. Ben had never imagined the grief and sorrow his daughter
would go through as a result of that decision. And trying to
leave a case full of drug dealers' money on her doorstep was,
unfortunately, not the ideal way to
bring them closer together. Sarah was bitter and angry about his
attempt to buy back her love with money, and Ben was still struggling
the demons that had made him run in the first place. Rick thought
that considering the tenuous circumstances of their reunion, A.J. had
high hopes for a reconciliation between father and daughter.
Rick put his thoughts about his brother's behaviour on hold temporarily
as he pulled into their mother's driveway. A quick look in the
rearview mirror revealed that his black eye and bruised face were going
to be obvious. He didn't think she'd noticed them last night with
the birthday celebration going on around her, or if she had, she hadn't
said anything. He'd
been grateful, though, that she'd offered to take Marlowe home with her
his unscheduled swim in the canal. She knew how uptight A.J. was
wet dogs in his house–it was enough, Cecelia had probably figured, that
was going to have to tolerate a wet and slightly inebriated brother for
"Oh well," Rick said to his reflection, readjusting his
sunglasses. He hopped out of the truck and headed for the door.
His mother must have heard him pull up because as soon as he neared the
house, the door opened and Marlowe came bounding towards him.
down to pet the big dog, ruffling the fur around his neck and
ears. "Hey, Marlowe," he said affectionately. "How ya
doing', boy." Marlowe licked his face eagerly, happy to see his
master. Rick pulled back slightly as the fading smell of wet dog
and sand dabs greeted him warmly.
"Guess your priorities haven't changed any," Cecelia Simon said with a
slight smile as she leaned in the doorway of her house. "You
did greet the dog first."
"Hi, Mom," Rick said, standing up to give her a hug. "Has Marlowe
"Well, if you count chasing Mrs. Ferguson's cat all over the
neighbourhood and digging up my–" She stopped suddenly when she
caught a glimpse
of Rick's bruised face. "Did your face look like that last night?"
Cecelia surveyed her oldest son with a worried expression. "Either I'm
getting used to seeing you two boys battered and bruised, or I need to
my eyes checked. How's your brother?"
"He's fine, Mom," Rick said giving Marlowe's head a final pat.
"So am I. Just a little misunderstanding on the Caulfield
Rick wrapped one arm around his mother's shoulders and steered her into
"If that's your idea of a little misunderstanding..." Cecelia began,
shaking her head as they entered the cool interior of the house.
She grimaced as Rick removed his dark glasses, revealing a black
eye. "Does your brother look as spectacular as you do?"
"Not on his best day, Mom," Rick returned with a grin, sliding back
onto the sofa as his mother went into the kitchen. "Speaking of
Rick said, raising his voice slightly, "I wanted to talk to you about
"Your brother's refused to lend you any more money and you want me to
talk to him" Cecelia said, bringing in a tray of lemonade and homemade
"Mom, I'm hurt." Rick feigned annoyance. "I just finished
helping him clean up his house. Really," he added as he saw a
look of disbelief cross her face.
"But, seriously, I wanted to talk to you about A.J. I'm meeting
him out at the boat in less than an hour, so I can't stay long," Rick
checking his watch. "He's been acting, well, kind of
Rick grabbed a glass from the tray and a handful of cookies.
"What do you mean, strange?" Cecelia said, sitting in a nearby
"Well, he was really intent on getting Sarah and her father back
together. I think he's upset that it didn't have a perfectly
"From what you told me on the phone, Sarah has a right to be angry with
her father. It's going to take her some time before she's ready
him back into her life."
"I agree, but A.J. seems to be really affected by the whole
thing. Like it's personal, and I can't quite figure it out."
"Have you asked him about it?" Cecelia said, taking a sip of her
"No, I figured I'd wait a couple of days and see how things were going,
see if he snaps outta this mood he's in," Rick said. The truth
he and A.J. didn't really have that many deep philosophical
conversations. Sometimes it was just easier to leave things
unsaid. They worked together every day, they saw each other
constantly. There was a lot of baggage between them, and
sometimes it was better not to delve too deeply into one another's
thoughts. Besides, a lot of times, the words just seemed
to get in the way and they ended up arguing when really they felt the
Cecelia sat quietly for a moment, watching Rick thoughtfully downing a
chocolate chip cookie. The two looked at each other and shared a
"It's about Dad, isn't it?" Rick said quietly.
"A.J. was awfully young when your father died. It took him a long
time to accept the fact that he wasn't coming home."
"I know. He used to ask me to tell him stories at night and for a
long time he only wanted to hear ones where Dad had been called away on
a secret mission and would suddenly turn up on our doorstep alive and
Cecelia looked at her eldest son with surprise. "I didn't know
that," she said.
Rick shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe it wasn't the best thing to
do at the time, but it seemed to help A.J. sleep, and truthfully, I
to believe those stories just as much as he did." Rick leaned
forward, setting his empty glass back on the tray and dusting cookie
his washed-out jeans.
"Rick, I think the best thing would be just to talk to him, ask him how
he's feeling. In some ways, he never really dealt with your
father's death. He thinks he has, but I'm not so sure. When
anything hits too close to home he tends to withdraw."
"Yeah, I know. And I can't afford to have him do that. I
need him to be focused on work," Rick said standing up. "Thanks,
Mom. I'll talk to him. I'm sure it's just this thing with
Sarah and her
Dad that's making him nostalgic." He bent down and kissed his Mom
the cheek before heading for the door. In no time at all, he and
Marlowe were heading down the highway to the marina and Rick's
Part 3 - Tequila Sunrise
It was late afternoon when they pulled away from the dock heading for
the bright blue waves of San Diego's harbour and out around Coronado
Island. The graceful spires of the Del glimmered in the setting
sun by the time
the brothers decided to head back after a lazy day sailing, fishing,
sharing the comfortable silences that you can only find with a good
friend. A.J. grilled a couple of steaks for them on Rick's small
BBQ and they laughed over a few beer before putting into port as the
stars were starting to twinkle. The Caulfield case seemed far
away at the moment, and for that Rick was
grateful. When they said goodnight and Rick watched A.J.'s Camaro
drive out of sight, he breathed a sigh of relief. There had been
sign of the preoccupation and distraction that Rick had noticed during
Caulfield case. He hoped this meant that A.J. had put whatever
been troubling him to rest.
The clock was just striking twelve when Rick decided it was time to be
thinking about shifting his aching bones from the couch to his
He'd been mentally going over their caseload for the week ahead.
was grateful for once that it looked like things were going to be a bit
on the dull side. They had to go over an old casefile in
for a day in court, and they had a fairly routine stakeout at the
Mart to check up on a light-fingered employee who claimed the store had
been robbed. Nothing too dangerous, but still, he needed
head in the game.
Rick was just setting up when he heard what sounded like someone
walking along the deck of his houseboat. Without thinking, he
reached across the coffee table, pulled his gun from its holster, and
checked that it was loaded. He rolled off the couch, one knee
planted solidly on the floor, and listened intently. A shadowed
figure appeared in front of the
glass door, and Rick raised his gun instinctively as he shouted, "Hold
The figure froze and A.J.'s voice drifted through the night.
"Rick? It's me."
Rick lowered his gun, heart still racing. He moved across the
room and slid the door open. "Jeez, A.J., what are you trying to
do, give a guy a heart attack?"
"Sorry," A.J. said as he stepped into the large room that served Rick
as both a kitchen and living room. "I figured you'd still be
up. I guess I should've called first." There was something
in his voice that Rick couldn't quite place.
"No, it's okay," Rick said, gesturing for A.J. to sit down. "I
just wasn't expecting to see you again today, that's all."
A.J. settled back against the couch, his arms folded across his dark
red polo shirt. He had a distant look in his eye and Rick had to
ask him twice if he wanted a drink.
"No, I'm fine," A.J. finally said.
"You are many things, little brother, but I don't think ‘fine' is one
of them," Rick said with concern. "Why don't you just tell me
A.J.'s blue eyes caught Rick's. Rick was reminded of the ocean
when a storm is blowing in. Whatever storm A.J. was going
knew he was about to become part of it. "I just didn't feel like
alone. I was feeling restless, so I took a walk."
"You walked here?" Rick said in shock. "A.J., that must
be–well, it's a hell of a long way. Why didn't you drive, or pick
up the phone and call me? Or better yet, you could've just stayed
if you were feeling this way."
"I don't know, Rick. I didn't intend to come here. I didn't
want to bother you, but I seemed to end up here anyway."
"For God's sake, A.J., it's not a bother. I'm your brother."
Rick got up and grabbed the bottle of Don Diablo that he always kept in
the corner cupboard. He clasped two shot glasses between his
fingers and headed back to the couch. A.J. raised an eyebrow at
his brother's action. "I said, I didn't want–"
"I know what you said," Rick said, uncapping the bottle of tequila and
pouring two glasses, which he set on the wooden table in front of them.
"Talk." He pushed the tequila towards A.J.
"I don't know what to say. I really don't." The frustration
in A.J.'s voice was clear. He had been wandering around for the
last few hours trying to figure out why he felt like his world was
spinning out of control. His gut was aching with an
uncontrollable feeling of loss and yet he had no idea why.
"All right, let me take a stab at it. You feel like hell.
You've been quiet and moody ever since Sarah Caulfield walked into our
office. You like Sarah and in spite of yourself, you even like
her old man. You wanted them to have a perfect father-daughter
reunion in Pescado, the kind where he says he's sorry that he left and
that he loves her and she
forgives him for not being there and all is right with the world."
"Gimme a break, Rick. I'm not that naive," A.J. said, a bit of
his usual spirit creeping back into his voice.
"I don't think you're naive. I think what your head knows and
what your heart feels are two different things. What you want to
and what you think will happen aren't necessarily the same, and there
the problem. You wanted a happy ending for Sarah, and she didn't
"Not yet, anyway. There's still a chance," A.J. said stubbornly.
"Yes, there is. For Sarah and Ben." Rick paused, not quite sure
how to proceed. He looked at his brother, took a deep breath, and
plunged ahead. "But you're never going to have that same chance
and it hurts like hell to see her throwing it away." A.J.'s face
seemed to turn
pale and then flushed within an instant. His eyes flew away from
face, but not before Rick caught the look of hurt and panic in the blue
eyes. Rick thought for a moment that A.J. was going to leap off
the couch and
storm out, but his brother didn't move.
Rick reached across the table to put a hand on A.J.'s knee. His
voice softened as he continued. "Look, kid, I know how you
would give anything to have the chance to talk to Dad again, to yell at
for leaving us, for not being there to watch us grow up." In
of himself, Rick felt long held-back emotions trembling in his
"And then I'd want to hug him and never let him leave."
A.J. was looking away from him, silent tears refusing to fall, his jaw
clenching and unclenching, his tongue running habitually over dry lips
he always did when he was nervous. Rick squeezed his brother's
gently in what he hoped was a reassuring gesture.
"I miss him, too."
Rick's matter-of-fact statement seemed to bring A.J. back into
focus. He took a deep breath and said softly, "I know you
do." He paused
for a moment before reaching for the Don Diablo that Rick had set in
of him. He downed the shot and set the glass back down on the
making a face as he did so.
"That stuff never gets any better, does it?" A.J. asked with a note of
resignation in his voice.
"Nope, but it never gets any more expensive either," Rick replied with
a slight smile, as he drank his own shot and poured two more.
A.J. ran his hands through his blonde hair. "You know what, Rick?"
"I know it's ridiculous, but the whole time we were looking for Ben
Caulfield, I kept thinking that if we could find him, maybe somehow
someday we'd find out that Dad was alive somewhere."
"But wouldn't it be worse to find out he was alive and that he'd just
left us?" Rick asked. He couldn't imagine how that scenario could
a happy ending for any of them.
"At least he'd be alive. I'd have a right to be angry, to feel
cheated," A.J. said forcefully, leaning his elbows on his knees and
holding his head in his hands.
"Whoa, hang on just a minute," Rick interrupted. "You have
every right to feel angry and cheated. You were just a little kid
when Dad died."
"But he died, Rick, don't you see?" A.J. said with sadness, still
keeping his eyes averted. "He died. He didn't do it on
purpose; he didn't walk out like Ben did. Dad didn't have a
choice in the matter. So I couldn't blame him. I couldn't
blame anyone. I just had
to accept that he was gone."
Rick felt his heart aching at the sound of pain in his brother's voice
and the obvious struggle A.J. was having to maintain some semblance of
control. He knew exactly what A.J. was saying, and as he thought
back to the years right after their father's death, he suddenly
realized how quickly the happy carefree little blonde boy had turned
into a cautious and responsible adult at the ripe old age of ten.
For a fleeting moment, Rick wondered what they would be like if their
father had lived. Would he have bounced from one place to another
looking for fulfilment in the arms of strangers, at the bottom of a
bottle of tequila, or on the back of a Harley?
Would A.J. have been so damn straight-laced, so button-down, boy-scout
for most of his life?
With one clear and perfect moment of understanding, Rick saw things
from his brother's perspective. As he looked at the blonde head
bowed across from him, he knew the terror of being ten years old and
knowing that your life was changed forever. The father that he
adored, that adored him, would never read another story, toss another
baseball, bandage another knee. Would never lift him in his arms,
tuck him into bed, kiss him goodnight. Never. And a big
brother, no matter how hard he tried or how deeply he loved, was a poor
substitute for a father.
Rick got up and went to sit beside A.J. With a caution he didn't
usually feel with his brother, he tentatively put his arm around A.J.'s
shoulder. He felt A.J. tense up momentarily, but he didn't resist
"A.J., listen to me," Rick said quietly. "I know that Dad's death
changed everything for you–and for me, and for Mom. But
you. And if I could've done anything to change it, I
would've. And I know that I couldn't take his place, even though
I guess sometimes I
tried. I didn't do a very good job of it."
"Rick–" A.J. started to say.
"Just let me finish," Rick said. "I know how desperately you
wanted things to have a happy ending for Sarah and Ben–and they still
might. But you've got to accept that Dad's not coming back and
that it's okay to feel something because of that. Not just for
other people, but for
yourself. You carry so much hope and fear and anger and sadness
other people, for our clients, but you don't let yourself admit to
things yourself and you have to or you're going to go nuts. And
Rick gave A.J.'s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "I think mom can
handle one nutty son."
"That's for sure," A.J. said and managed a weak smile.
Rick knew A.J. well enough to know that he was really hurting
inside. He was probably barely holding it together, and though
part of Rick wanted to put his arms around his little brother and tell
him to just let it out, he knew that A.J.'s pride probably wouldn't
allow it–at least not without several more shots of tequila.
"A.J.," Rick began, but his brother cut him off.
"Rick, thanks for everything," A.J. said looking at his brother, then
quickly looking away before the emotion in his eyes could give him
away. "I don't think I can talk about this anymore tonight.
Do you mind if
I crash here?"
"Sure," Rick said, nodding. Maybe after a good night's sleep,
A.J. would feel more like talking. He got up, giving his brother
another pat on the shoulder, and went to find the extra blankets he
kept in the
When Rick rolled out of bed the next morning, he took the silence to be
a positive sign. I hope A.J. got some sleep, Rick thought to
himself as he walked stealthily towards the living room. To his
the couch was vacant except for a neatly folded pile of bedding and a
note in A.J.'s familiar neat writing:
Rick – Thanks for everything. Needed some time to think.
See you at the office later. A.J.
Rick sighed and headed for the shower. Somehow he had a feeling
that this was going to be a long day.
Part 4 - Blood and Water
It was still early when Rick caught up with A.J. on the beach.
A.J. stood and looked at his brother expectantly.
"Well?" A.J. said.
"Well, what?" Rick asked, adjusting his hat to keep the glare out of
"How'd you know I was here?"
"I'm a detective, remember?" Rick said with a grin, falling into step
beside his brother. "Besides, you always come to the beach when
you're trying to work something out. And with no car, well, I
knew you weren't far."
They walked in silence for a while, taking in the cool breeze off the
ocean, the raucous noise of the gulls as they flirted with the wind and
the waves. Rick was just beginning to wonder how much longer he
could stand tramping through the sand in cowboy boots with holes in,
when A.J.'s voice broke
"You were right, you know," A.J. said quietly, and Rick turned his head
to catch his brother's blue eyes, eyes that seemed to reflect the
the ocean beside them. There was no hint of last night's storm in
eyes, although Rick knew A.J. well enough to sense that the turmoil
far from the glassy surface.
Rick flashed his brother a triumphant grin. "I usually am," Rick
A.J. continued, smiling slightly. "You were right about
everything–about Dad, about how I've been feeling.
Everything. And I don't even think I really knew that's what it
was until you brought it up. I
just knew that I had to find a way to make it work out for Sarah and
"There's nothing wrong with that, A.J.," Rick said. "Caring about
people the way that you do is what makes you a good detective.
good friend," Rick added.
The corner of A.J.'s mouth lifted in a half-smile. Rick knew that
A.J. appreciated the compliment, but wasn't entirely convinced of its
truthfulness. Sometimes his brother had an awfully hard time
accepting the good things
that other people saw in him.
"There was one other thing I wanted to ask you," Rick began, figuring
that he had nothing to lose at this point.
"Yeah?" A.J. said with a small measure of trepidation. He
knew that Rick's question could be anything from a pitch for new
equipment from Surplus Sammy's to something so personal that it was
likely to leave him
feeling like someone had punched him in the stomach. Rick had a
of pushing all of his buttons, even when he didn't mean to.
A.J. was amazed at how close Rick got to the truth of how he felt about
even about those things that A.J. didn't want to admit to
But then again, he was pretty astute at reading Rick's emotions
A lifetime of actions, reactions, arguments, schemes, working together,
together, fighting with each other and against each other. There
no simple explanation for their relationship, but A.J. was always
for it. Unconsciously, he steeled himself for whatever Rick was
"What do you wanna know?" A.J. said, feeling as if he'd just taken a
very large step off an even larger cliff.
"Remember when we got dumped in the water, just before Caulfield came
along and picked us up?" Rick wasn't looking at him, and A.J.
the direction that the conversation was about to take. He wasn't
if he was ready for it, especially when he already felt like his
were hanging by a thread.
"Of course, I remember," A.J. said quietly, looking at Rick
searchingly. "What's on your mind?"
"Well, when we were in the water, you said something just before
Caulfield came along, but you didn't get to finish what you started."
A.J. wanted to tell Rick that he didn't remember, but the conversation
from that day came floating back to him as clear as the cloudless sky
front of him. They had just been left for dead by the drug
who'd been after Caulfield. They had treaded water in the cold
off Pescado while they tried to convince the men they didn't have the
Their leader had thrown bloodied fish pieces into the water to attract
sharks. A.J. remembered diving as a flurry of gunshots rained
on them, the awful taste of salt and blood that had been in the water
the boat roared away from them. His feeling of panic as he
out for Rick, the two of them clinging to Rick's discarded field jacket
a rapidly sinking lifeboat.
"There's something I gotta tell ya." A.J. had turned away
from Rick slightly, unsure of exactly what he wanted to say, but
that it was now or never. He'd seen the dangerous arc of the
fin cutting through the water towards them.
"Save your breath."
"It's important to me." A.J. had never felt more
frightened or more convinced they were about to die. And he'd
never felt more
at a loss for how to tell Rick what he was feeling.
"As important as this boat?" And then the Sarah Jean
had appeared from out of nowhere and they were pulling themselves out
the water, thanking their rescuer–the man they'd been searching for all
along. Then there were other things to discuss, other tasks that
attention and A.J. was able to forget about their brush with death, if
for a while.
Rick's voice broke into A.J.'s thoughts: "Well, what were you going to
A.J. sighed and look at Rick frankly. "I don't remember. I
was a little busy at the time trying not to be eaten by sharks."
Rick noticed the tension that had sprung into A.J.'s voice. And
his mind had definitely been somewhere else the last few minutes.
Probably back in the water with the sharks and the blood, Rick thought,
a small shiver course down his spine in spite of the California
heat. He didn't really want to dwell on what might have
been. He turned
his attention back to A.J.
He knew it had been a tough few days for A.J., but Rick figured he had
to get all of this out of his system so they could get back to work and
concentrate on other things. Rick told himself that he was doing
"If you don't want to talk about it–" he began.
"I don't want to talk about it," A.J. responded tersely, picking up his
pace so that Rick had to hurry to catch up.
"Well, dammit, you need to talk about it," Rick said, frustration
taking over. "And will you just hold up for a minute. I've
got enough sand in these boots to start my own desert." Rick sat
down and proceeded to empty sand out of one of his battered boots.
"Jeez, Rick, what do you want from me?" A.J. responded, as he
stopped walking and turned back towards Rick.
"I want you to trust me enough to let me help you. I want you to
stop feeling like you're the only one in the world that's
You don't get to corner the market on regret, you know," Rick said more
bitterly than he meant to.
"What's that supposed to mean?" A.J. said angrily, flopping down in the
sand beside Rick who was now emptying his other boot in a flurry of
Rick stopped shaking the boot up and down for a moment, and hung his
head in frustration.
"You know, A.J.," Rick began. "For a smart guy, you're none
too bright sometimes." Rick turned and looked at his brother,
still clutching his boot in his hand. "We're not that different,
you know," Rick continued, ignoring the roll of A.J.'s eyes. "Not
in the important things. We don't always deal with things the
same way, but we sure as
hell feel them the same. When Dad died, I was a teenager.
been battling for years by that point. Do you think I don't
All the fights we used to have? I wanted more than anything to
had the kind of relationship you had with him. And when I had my
to make it up, to do something good like being there for you after Dad
what did I do? I got the hell out as soon as I could ‘cause I
want the responsibility. It scared the hell out of me. Who
I to try to take Dad's place for you?" Rick pulled his boot back on
so much vehemence that A.J. thought he would topple over in the sand.
"Rick–" A.J. tried to interject, but there was no stopping Rick.
A.J. briefly wondered how long this had been building in his brother.
"I was mad as hell at Ben Caulfield–same as you were. And then he
tries to tell me that I don't understand the choice that he made
not a father. Do you know what I told him? I told him: ‘I
have to be a father to know you don't run out on a kid.'"** Rick shook
head as he got to his feet. "You don't run out on a kid," he
repeated, almost to himself, "but that's exactly what I did to you."
A.J. was looking up at Rick in shock. What he had taken for anger
was really a well-spring of pent-up emotions. A.J. knew that the
anger in Rick's voice was not directed at him, but rather at
himself. God, sometimes it was scary how alike they were, and yet
no one would ever believe it.
"Rick, sit down," A.J. said with a rare note of command in his
voice. Rick looked at him with a hint of surprise that seemed to
bring him back
into focus. "Sit. Now," A.J. continued, and Rick flopped
a few feet away.
"I–" Rick began, but A.J. cut him off.
"You had your chance. Now it's my turn, so you just sit there and
listen." A.J. stood up and began anxiously pacing back and forth
in front of where Rick was sitting. "You wanna know what I was
going to tell you? That day in the water with the sharks? I
was pretty sure we weren't coming back from that little swim, and I
wanted you to know, before the end, how much you mean to me, dammit!"
A.J. was angry now. Angry that he had to spill his guts like
this, angry that it was always so hard, even with Rick, sometimes
especially with Rick, angry that loving somebody always seemed to hurt
so damn much.
A.J. pointed a finger at Rick and said, "And don't you dare think that
you ran out on me. We were both kids when Dad died, not just
You weren't equipped to take on Dad's role, but you tried anyway, and
let you. It's no wonder you wanted out after a few years of
so hard to hold it together for me and for Mom. We both leaned on
and you didn't lean on anyone. God, Rick, you were the reason
we survived. And yeah, I was angry when you left for Vietnam, but
was ‘cause I was afraid that you were going to die, just like
I couldn't stand losing you, like I'd lost him."
"I know," Rick said quietly.
"And then when you charged off into oblivion on your bike, I was angry
at you for leaving me behind again. But I knew you'd always come
back. Somehow I knew you'd always find a way to come back, and
you always have," A.J.'s emotional tidal wave had lessened.
"Rick, you've always been there for me, even when you haven't been
around. I couldn't have asked for a better brother, or a better
friend. Dad's death was a terrible thing, but it made us what we
are and I like who we are and what we do." A.J. ran his fingers
through his wind-blown hair and looked at Rick. "That's what I
was going to tell you," he said reaching down a hand to pull Rick to
Rick grasped his brother's outstretched hand and smiled as he stood
up. "I guess you thought those sharks were just gonna swim around
for you to finish your speech, huh?" Rick's blue eyes twinkled with the
relief that only comes from the release of pent-up tension.
"Oh, shut up," A.J. said, but his smile revealed his true
feelings. He didn't resist when Rick pulled him towards him in an
impromptu hug and slapped him on the back affectionately.
"Time to go to work, little brother," Rick said, breaking the hug, but
momentarily keeping an arm around his brother's shoulder as they
the long trek back up the beach to Rick's houseboat. As they
they fell into the easy banter that marked most of their
As they reached the houseboat and climbed aboard, Rick thought about
many storms the two of them had weathered together. They had been
a part of each other's lives for as long as A.J. had been alive, and
knew with overwhelming certainty that whatever happened, the two of
would find a way through it. Together.
** The End **
The scene in the water and the quotations in that section are taken
directly from the episode "Something for Sarah."
The storyline assumes that A.J. was around ten when his father died,
therefore it disregards the "facts" presented in the later episode "May
the Road Rise Up," but it is consistent with other episodes.
* Episode quote: RICK: "Not a Christmas present or a
birthday card from your father in fifteen years, and now you think he's
dropped this on your doorstep."
** Direct quote from "Something for Sarah."
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