Title: Fresh Start
Characters: Logan, Mac, Charlie, OFC
Word count: 3,077
Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me, through therapy I am learning to cope.
Warning: Some season 3 spoilers
Summary: Sometimes it's good to have a fresh start
A/N: This was originally for the “Back to school” challenge at vmfic_gameon but since I didn’t finish it time I decided to make it work for the Table Challenge in round two. I used unburden, tasty, stifle, doubt, sicken, and schedule (though I cheated and used past tense with two of them.)
A/N2: Big thanks to hokeysmoke for looking this over for me
There was nothing like preparing for a new school year. Charlie loved the rush to get lessons planned, buy new supplies, and get his classroom set up. He enjoyed seeing his students from previous years move on, hopefully more knowledgeable and prepared –thanks in small part to him- for challenges they’d face. And he loved the excitement of getting new students and being able to encourage them to find what inspired them and go after it. However, as much as every new school year was exciting, this year was special. Susan Lavelle, who had been the head of the school’s history department for the past thirty years, had decided to retire, and Charlie had been offered her position.
Charlie looked around, surveying his new classroom. They’d been getting everything moved in for about three hours and were just about finished. He couldn’t help the grin that spread over his face. This was what he’d been waiting for since the day he’d decided he wanted to be a teacher. He’d finally made it. Charlie Stone: History teacher.
“You’re smiling,” a voice sounded behind him. “You look like a kid in a candy store who has been told he can have anything he wants.”
Charlie turned, eyes landing on his wife, Keaira. She stood in the doorway, awkwardly holding his crate of records. “What are you doing lifting that?” Charlie demanded.
“I can handle it,” she said, moving into the room and dropping the crate on the nearest desk.
“Logan and his friend just let you walk off with that?”
Keaira rolled her eyes. “Okay, one, nobody tells me what I can and cannot do. Two, I’m going to tell you exactly what I told them. I’m pregnant, not an invalid. I’m perfectly capable of helping to move some of the lighter things, especially a small crate of records.”
“Yes dear,” Charlie responded dryly.
Keaira walked over to stand next to Charlie, giving the classroom a once over. “Wow, look at this. It looks great in here.”
“You’re smiling,” Charlie teased.
“I can’t help it. I’m married to the new head of the history department; it’s a massive turn on.”
Charlie chuckled before bending down and capturing her lips in an impromptu kiss, shivering as she wound her arms around his neck.
After a moment Keaira pulled back and after another light kiss, moved over to his desk, hefting herself up to sit on the edge. “So, I was thinking, how about we have a little party to celebrate this momentous occasion? We can get pizza, chips, those little lemon candies you think are so tasty, and just stay up watching old movies.”
“Sounds like my kind of party.”
“Yeah,” she paused. “And maybe we could invite Logan and Mac.”
Charlie chuckled at his wife’s gentle encouragement of brotherly bonding. When he’d first discovered that she had been meeting with Logan behind his back he had been livid, the arguments that followed were some of their worst. For as long as he could remember he’d resented Logan.
As a child he’d seen Logan as the boy who had everything he wanted, a father who acknowledged his existence, a father who was there to support and love his family. By the time he was a teenager his mother had been putting all money from Aaron into a savings account for him to have once he turned eighteen, hell bent on building a life for them without help from the man who saw them as his dirty secret.
When he was a teenager he’d resented Logan for his easy life filled with chauffeurs, maids, and cooks, while he’d worked an after school job to help his mother make rent. He had thought he’d put the past behind him but once that reporter had come around it had awakened past pain, and Logan outing him on Larry King had just been like pouring salt on an open wound.
A few weeks after finding out about Keaira and Logan’s secret meetings he’d agreed to meet with Logan. He’d wanted to get Keaira off his back and give Logan a piece of his mind. Logan had suggested they talk at his hotel room, as it offered privacy and Charlie agreed, not wanting an audience for what he had to say.
However once he was actually there, sitting across from Logan, watching as the younger man nervously pulled his sleeves over his hands as he stumbled his way through an apology, Charlie was struck with the realization that he was looking at his little brother. Yes, he’d always known they were related but being in the same room, actually seeing him made it real and he found he couldn’t do it. Despite all the bitterness of his past and his anger over recent events he couldn’t bring himself to unburden all of that on to Logan. Instead he’d informed Logan that he was not ready to forgive and forget but he was willing to meet with Logan and see how things went from there, though he’d made no promises that anything would come of their meetings. That had been nearly three months ago.
“He’s nothing like I thought he would be,” Charlie admitted. “Logan is a good guy.”
“So,” Keaira pressed. “You would like to build a brotherly relationship with him?”
Charlie nodded slowly, not trusting the smug smile crossing her face.
“Just say it,” she said, looking rather proud of herself. “Trust me, you’ll feel as if a weight has been lifted.”
“You were right,” Charlie answered, rolling his eyes.
“I was right,” she said, emphasizing each word with a poke to his chest.
“You know what I find interesting?” Charlie asked as he moved to collect the box she’d earlier dropped.
“You spent six years telling me your life was none of my business; we then spent a year and a half in therapy learning that you are not an island and it is not my job to fix the lives of everyone I love. But, now you seem to have developed a fondness for my previous disorder.”
“I’d tell you I’m sorry but that’d be a lie,” she responded, watching as he removed his records from the box and started alphabetizing them. “I couldn’t take it anymore. He called every month hoping you’d change your mind. I just…I couldn’t stand the thought of you allowing your anger to keep you from seeing if some kind of a relationship was possible. He’s your brother. The two of you shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of Aaron’s actions any more than is unavoidable.”
“We are the consequences of his actions.”
“Yes, but both of you are smart, kind, determined, and incredibly sexy consequences.”
Charlie removed a record from one of the piles he’d made, moving to place it on the record player. “Should I be disturbed that you find him sexy?”
“Well, I find you sexier.”
The beginning of Tom Jones’s “You can leave your hat on” suddenly filled the air and she was unable to hold back her laugh as he side stepped his way towards her, gesturing for her to join him.
“Oh, I don’t think so,” she chuckled.
“Come on, I thought I was supposed to be the uptight one.”
“I’m in no condition to dance. Look at me, I’m a whale.”
“You’re beautiful,” Charlie said, pulling her off the desk and forcing her to join him.
Logan had never really gotten into preparing for a new school year, the whole buying new clothes, getting a new backpack, and all that other crap. It would have been pretty ridiculous to get excited about getting things he could have any time he wanted. He had however enjoyed high school, not the classes but the escape it provided. At school he hadn’t had to worry about his father being around every corner or be on his best behavior to forestall Aaron’s inevitable blow out, and he hadn’t felt the pressure to put on a happy face in hopes that he could stifle his mother’s urge to reach for her pills. At school he had been in control.
Going from high school to college had been an interesting transition. With his father dead, media interest back down to a bearable level, and thousands of other students in the school, Logan often found himself blending in pretty well, all things considered. Sure, he still got stares, the occasional idiotic question, and random paparazzi showing up from time to time but otherwise he was just another college student.
Of course college brought on a new set of problems, the biggest being what he was planning on doing with the rest of his life. It was honestly not something he’d ever given a great deal of thought. For the longest time his two goals had been getting away from his father and avoiding becoming anything like the man. It had been quite sobering to realize that beyond his recreational activities he had no idea what truly interested him.
He really wasn’t even sure college was right for him. At first he’d gone because Veronica was going. Things between them had been fragile and he’d known opting out on the college experience would have been looked upon unfavorably and caused friction. After they had broken up he’d considered taking some time off but then Keaira had contacted him and though she’d been supportive of the idea, once more he’d been too afraid of rocking the boat. Charlie had already had a less than favorable opinion of him and he hadn’t wanted to give him any more reason to avoid meeting.
He had been meeting with Charlie once a week for the past few months and so far things had been going well. They’d both been playing it pretty close to the vest but Logan was cautiously optimistic about things. And when Charlie had called him to ask if Logan could help him switch rooms Logan immediately responded in the affirmative.
Logan was pulled from his thoughts by a sudden increase in weight at his end of the desk he and Mac were currently carrying up a flight of stairs. “You got it?” Logan asked as he repositioned the grip he had on the table.
“I’ve got it,” Mac answered, sounding winded.
“Still got it?”
“Yes,” Mac clenched her teeth.
“Still got it?”
“Unless I tell you otherwise just assume I have it,” Mac panted. They made it three more steps before Mac stopped. “Logan?”
“I don’t have it.”
They both moved to rest the desk against the stairs, Logan keeping his position behind the desk to ensure it didn’t slide down the stairs. He watched as Mac stretched her fingers and massaged her sore arms.
“Thanks for doing this.”
“No problem,” Mac smiled lightly. “Any time you need heavy crap hoisted up a long ass flight of stairs, I’m your girl.”
“I just didn’t want to spring Dick on them too soon.”
“That’s what she said,” Mac joked then paused. “Or he said.” After a few moments she began again. “So, how are things going with Charlie?”
“So far so good,” Logan shrugged. “I don’t think he trusts me yet, not that I blame him.”
“I’m sure he’ll come around,” Mac offered. “You’re not as bad as you think you are.”
“Yeah,” Logan nodded, still looking unsure. “How are things going with bio mom?”
“Good, I guess. I like her. I’m glad I’m getting to know her. I just…it feels like I’m cheating on my parents or something.”
“They’ll understand. It’s natural to want to know where you came from.”
“Yeah, I know” Mac shrugged. “Still…”
“How are things with Max?” Logan suddenly asked, trying to keep conversation going. A bemused look crossed Mac’s face and Logan rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I know, I’m a big girl.”
“He’s…I hear he’s good.”
“We’re taking a break,” Mac admitted, still unsure about the conversation. “You know, I just…I don’t need him to be moving in the direction I think he should be moving. I just need him to be…moving.”
“He’ll come around. He’d be stupid not to,” Logan finished lamely. He didn’t exactly think he was someone who should be handing out relationship advice.
“Have you talked to Veronica lately?” Mac asked.
“You don’t already know the answer to that question? And here I thought Veronica was your best gal pal.”
“Oh Logan, Veronica’s great but she’ll never take your place in my heart.”
Logan joined her in laughter before adopting a more somber expression. “I already said everything I needed to say.”
And he really had said everything he’d needed to say. A couple of days after his fight with Gory, Veronica had shown up at his door with that familiar gleam in her eye. Though he had wanted to respond, wanted to lay her across his bed and remind her just how good it could be between them, he hadn’t. Nothing had changed, neither of them had changed. He loved her. He would probably always love her but the chances of them failing were always higher than the chances of them succeeding and he wasn’t sure he would survive another bad ending.
“Yeah,” Mac nodded. “Veronica mentioned something before she left. So you two are…over?”
“All we do is make each other miserable.”
Mac gave a sad smile. “I seem to remember you two being happy at times, sickeningly so.”
“Honeymoon period, it never lasts.”
Mac sighed, looking thoughtful. “I miss being a kid. Relationships were so much easier. A boy pulls your pigtails, you force feed him a mud ball before knocking him on his ass and it’s true love.”
Logan chuckled. “What was his name?”
Logan regarded her not bothering to hide his smirk. “I’m having a hard time picturing it.”
“I was a lot…bolder then.”
Logan nodded as he moved to pick up his end of the desk. “You ready to go?”
Mac nodded, quickly getting into position, grimacing as they hoisted the desk and continued up the stairs. When they finally reached Charlie’s classroom their arms were sore and they were out of breath. They dropped the desk outside his classroom with an audible thud.
“Free at last,” Mac sighed before pausing, leaning towards the closed door. “Do you hear music?”
“Yeah, sounds like…Tom Jones.”
Mac put her hands up and moved back. “After you,” she said, nodding towards the door.
Logan moved closer so he could peek in through the small window. “It’s safe, looks pretty PG to me.”
“Still,” Mac gestured. “You go first.”
Charlie swayed to the beat with his wife, thoroughly enjoying their spontaneous dance. It was a little awkward with her belly between then but they were managing just fine. He moved her into a tiny dip, enjoying girlish laughter. He moved in for a kiss but came to an abrupt halt when he noticed Logan and Mac standing in the doorway. At Keaira’s questioning gaze he nodded to the newcomers.
“Hi,” she chuckled. “I know it looks like we’re messing around and leaving the rest of the work to the two of you…that’s probably because we are.”
Charlie was slightly embarrassed at being caught and quickly moved to shut the music off. “Is that the black desk?”
“Yeah,” Logan said, trying and failing not to smile. “Where did you want us to put it?”
“Uh, before we get into all that,” Keaira cut in. “I was wondering, do you, do the both of you want to join us? We’re having a movie night.”
“Uh, we wouldn’t want to…impose.”
“Logan, you’ve known me long enough to know I don’t inconvenience myself just so I can be polite.”
“Okay then,” Logan smiled.
“Um, sure,” Mac said, more out of a desire not to be rude. “Thanks for the invite.”
“Okay, that means I’ve got a bit of shopping to do. Mac, would you mind giving me a hand? I’m sure these two big strong brothers can manage just fine without us tiny little women.”
Mac looked to Logan but just got a shrug in response. “Sure,” she said, giving an uncomfortable smile.
“I don’t bite,” Keaira promised as she led the way out.
“That’s my wife,” Charlie chuckled once both women had disappeared from view. “Subtle as a herd of elephants.”
“So,” Logan rapped his knuckles on the desk. “Where do you want it?”
Charlie looked around the room, contemplating his options. “Probably in that corner next to the window.”
They each grabbed an edge of the desk and moved it into position. Charlie took an extra moment to make sure it was situated to his liking, much to Logan’s amusement.
“So, how much is left to bring up?”
“Not much,” Logan replied. “It’s just a few boxes and your chair. It shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes.”
“Okay,” Charlie said as they headed for the door. Suddenly he stopped. “Wait a minute. I wanted to say something.”
“I wanted to apologize for ignoring you all those months, and for how I acted when we first agreed to meet.”
Logan dug his hands into his pockets, looking very much like a young boy. “I don’t blame you. I mean, I outed you to the world. I’d have been pissed too.”
“And I was angry, I had a right to be and there was some doubt as to whether you were the kind of person I could associate with, but that was only half of it.” Charlie paused to consider his words. “I was angry with Aaron and I guess I felt meeting with you would be allowing him a place in my life, and the thought sickened me. But I was wrong on all counts. I’m glad I was wrong.”
Logan just nodded, not knowing how to respond.
“Look, you’re a good guy. You’re…you’re my brother. I don’t want you to feel like you have to walk on egg shells every time we hang out.” Charlie cleared his throat. “I was thinking we could do away with the scheduled meetings. I mean, you wanna hang out just call me. Maybe we could go surfing this weekend.”
“That’d be good,” Logan replied, unable to keep the smile off his face.
“Off course you’d have to teach me how to surf,” Charlie chuckled.
“No problem. I’ve got an extra board you can use.”
“All right,” Charlie smiled as they made their way out of the classroom. “Well, let’s get the rest of the stuff moved so we can go save that friend of yours.”