Title: Something for the Simons (posted in four subtitled parts)
By: Lacey McBain
Date: July 2003
Rating: G/PG
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 on this page are mine.  No copyright infringement is intended and I am making 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 you?"

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 last night, which looked none the better for having spent  the night on the floor.  A.J. yawned loudly as he continued his morning ritual of carefully 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 his long arms up over his head, then rubbed at the partially swollen black eye that was a remnant of the case they'd just wrapped up, helping Sarah Caulfield find her father and busting up a bevy of drug runners and murderers in the process.  "And I slept on the floor.  Wouldn't want to get your precious couches wet.  Besides, Mom got 3 blenders last night, so I'm sure she'll be thrilled to let you take one off her hands," Rick continued.

"And what's that smell?"  A.J. said wrinkling his nose as a slightly wet and putrid stench caught his attention over the percolating coffee.

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 adolescent mind set.

"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 on, A.J.  I know it's early, but use your head.  It's the sand dabs that stink.  Marlowe pushin' the cooler off the deck into the canal didn't help their aroma any either.  But, look at it this way–at least they were free!"

"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 his 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.  Honest.

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 at his brother.

"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, set his heavy mug down on the table and looked over at his brother.  "Would 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 could almost see the rapidly spinning whirlpool that Rick would have turned his cup into with the spoon.  He'd done it with his chocolate milk when they were kids, and he still did it now.  A.J. had to fight the urge to smile–he wanted to be mad at Rick, at least for a little while.  And if Rick felt guilty, he might actually get some help out of him.  A.J. could hear the fridge door open and close and he knew the subsequent rattle of cutlery signalled that leftover chocolate cake was being hacked into two pieces and thrown onto paper plates.  Rick's idea of a peace offering, no doubt.  His older brother's habits were as familiar to him as his own, and though they sometimes frustrated him, they also provided him with a degree of comfort that he doubted he would ever be able to explain 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 plate in front of A.J. and handed his brother a fork.  Rick sat back down 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 him 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 fishing.  Preferably both.

"That would be nice," A.J. said, lifting a forkful of chocolate cake to his lips.

"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 up, 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 anything to 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 for another reconciliation with Sarah, and A.J. silently hoped that it would work out–for 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 the sink.

"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 and leaned around the wall, looking back at Rick.  "Thanks for breakfast," he said smiling.  "And if we get done early, maybe we can take the boat out."

"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 really.  Well, maybe he'd just have to ask him what was the matter.  Rick grabbed his duffle bag from where he'd thrown it last night and searched for a set of clean clothes while he waited for A.J. to get out of the shower.  He pulled out a denim shirt and a pair of faded jeans and gave them a quick once over.

"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 why 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, hey, aren't you usually the one telling me how great this job is and how good 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, you know?"

"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, clutching a briefcase full of cash, certain it was from her father even though there hadn't been a Christmas present or a birthday card from him in fifteen years*. Sarah Caulfield's father had abandoned her when she was just a child, left 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 sorry attempt to buy back her love with money, and Ben was still struggling with the demons that had made him run in the first place.  Rick thought that considering the tenuous circumstances of their reunion, A.J. had awfully 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 after his unscheduled swim in the canal.  She knew how uptight A.J. was about wet dogs in his house–it was enough, Cecelia had probably figured, that A.J. was going to have to tolerate a wet and slightly inebriated brother for the night.

"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.  Rick bent 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 always did greet the dog first."

"Hi, Mom," Rick said, standing up to give her a hug.  "Has Marlowe been behaving?"

"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?"

"Yes, ma'am."

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 get 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 case."  Rick wrapped one arm around his mother's shoulders and steered her into the house.

"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 A.J.," Rick said, raising his voice slightly, "I wanted to talk to you about something."

"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 cookies.

"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 said, checking his watch.  "He's been acting, well, kind of strange."  Rick grabbed a glass from the tray and a handful of cookies.

"What do you mean, strange?"  Cecelia said, sitting in a nearby easychair.

"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 happy ending."

"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 to accept 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 lemonade.

"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 was that 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 same way.

Cecelia sat quietly for a moment, watching Rick thoughtfully downing a chocolate chip cookie.  The two looked at each other and shared a moment of understanding.

"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 well."

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 wanted to believe those stories just as much as he did."  Rick leaned forward, setting his empty glass back on the tray and dusting cookie crumbs from 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 on 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 houseboat.

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, and 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 no sign of the preoccupation and distraction that Rick had noticed during the Caulfield case.  He hoped this meant that A.J. had put whatever had 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 bed.  He'd been mentally going over their caseload for the week ahead.  Rick 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 preparation for a day in court, and they had a fairly routine stakeout at the Quickie Mart to check up on a light-fingered employee who claimed the store had been robbed.   Nothing too dangerous, but still, he needed A.J.'s 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 it right there."

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 what's going on?"

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 through, Rick knew he was about to become part of it.  "I just didn't feel like being 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 happen and what you think will happen aren't necessarily the same, and there lies the problem.  You wanted a happy ending for Sarah, and she didn't get it."

"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 Rick's 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 feel.  I would give anything to have the chance to talk to Dad again, to yell at him for leaving us, for not being there to watch us grow up."  In spite of himself, Rick felt long held-back emotions trembling in his voice.  "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 as he always did when he was nervous.  Rick squeezed his brother's leg 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 front of him.  He downed the shot and set the glass back down on the table, 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 have 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 proper 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 Rick's gesture.

"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 especially for 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 for other people, for our clients, but you don't let yourself admit to those things yourself and you have to or you're going to go nuts.  And hey–" Rick gave A.J.'s shoulder a reassuring squeeze.  "I think mom can only 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 closet.


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 surprise, the couch was vacant except for a neatly folded pile of bedding and a short 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 his eyes.

"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 the silence.

"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 colour of the ocean beside them.  There was no hint of last night's storm in those eyes, although Rick knew A.J. well enough to sense that the turmoil wasn't far from the glassy surface.

Rick flashed his brother a triumphant grin.  "I usually am," Rick said confidently.

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 her father."

"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.  And a 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 way of pushing all of his buttons, even when he didn't mean to.  Sometimes A.J. was amazed at how close Rick got to the truth of how he felt about things, even about those things that A.J. didn't want to admit to himself.  But then again, he was pretty astute at reading Rick's emotions too.  A lifetime of actions, reactions, arguments, schemes, working together, playing together, fighting with each other and against each other.  There was no simple explanation for their relationship, but A.J. was always grateful for it.  Unconsciously, he steeled himself for whatever Rick was about to ask.

"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. suspected the direction that the conversation was about to take.  He wasn't sure if he was ready for it, especially when he already felt like his emotions 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 in front of him.  They had just been left for dead by the drug dealers who'd been after Caulfield.  They had treaded water in the cold waves off Pescado while they tried to convince the men they didn't have the money.  Their leader had thrown bloodied fish pieces into the water to attract the sharks.  A.J. remembered diving as a flurry of gunshots rained down on them, the awful taste of salt and blood that had been in the water as the boat roared away from them.  His feeling of panic as he reached out for Rick, the two of them clinging to Rick's discarded field jacket like 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 knowing that it was now or never.  He'd seen the dangerous arc of the shark's 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 of the water, thanking their rescuer–the man they'd been searching for all along.  Then there were other things to discuss, other tasks that required their attention and A.J. was able to forget about their brush with death, if only for a while.

Rick's voice broke into A.J.'s thoughts: "Well, what were you going to tell me?"

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, and felt 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 this for A.J.

"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 hurting.  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 sand.

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.  We'd been battling for years by that point.  Do you think I don't regret that?  All the fights we used to have?  I wanted more than anything to have had the kind of relationship you had with him.  And when I had my chance to make it up, to do something good like being there for you after Dad died, what did I do?  I got the hell out as soon as I could ‘cause I didn't want the responsibility.  It scared the hell out of me.  Who was I to try to take Dad's place for you?" Rick pulled his boot back on with 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 because I'm not a father.  Do you know what I told him?  I told him: ‘I don't have to be a father to know you don't run out on a kid.'"** Rick shook his 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 down 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 me.  You weren't equipped to take on Dad's role, but you tried anyway, and we let you.  It's no wonder you wanted out after a few years of trying so hard to hold it together for me and for Mom.  We both leaned on you and you didn't lean on anyone.  God, Rick, you were the reason that we survived.  And yeah, I was angry when you left for Vietnam, but it was ‘cause I was afraid that you were going to die, just like Dad.  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 his feet.

Rick grasped his brother's outstretched hand and smiled as he stood up.  "I guess you thought those sharks were just gonna swim around us waiting 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 started the long trek back up the beach to Rick's houseboat.  As they walked, they fell into the easy banter that marked most of their conversations.   As they reached the houseboat and climbed aboard, Rick thought about how 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 Rick knew with overwhelming certainty that whatever happened, the two of them 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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