Jamie shifted on his chair and sighed, staring at his sock-covered feet. He hadn't even gotten to put on real clothes that morning -- just a quick change into fresh flannels and a long-sleeve tee before Pop harassed him down to breakfast. Because God forbid you show up at the table in what you wore to bed, unless you were half-dead. And that had been hours ago. Hours spent sitting on the floor right next to Dad as he worked. Which sucked just as much as he remembered, although it had the benefit of not being the corner. He let his face fall into the sulky lines he'd resisted all morning, picking at the side of his designation disc, pulling the thin plate out of the housing on his desg-band and clicking it back in.
He didn't even know why he bothered in his off hours sometimes; the subs rights groups won their case years ago. Same reason he kept a Dom on Record card in his wallet, even on-duty, probably. Looking down and seeing Dad's and Danny's discs on either side of his was...comforting, he supposed. Most of the time, anyway. Same as knowing that if he got hurt bad, someone would find the card and call Dad or Danny for him. It was just everything else that came with Typing out as a Sub (class: Brat, which sucked out loud ) that he hated.
He thumped his toes on the baseboard, thoroughly bored. He'd always hated when Dad did this with him. Making him stay close until he was ready to talk. Boring him until he opened his mouth and explained himself. He'd been in college last time, still a kid. He wasn't a kid anymore, but it wasn't like Dad or Danny really cared about that.
"Dad," he started.
"Are you ready to talk to me?"
That calm, "I can wait until you come to your senses" tone made Jamie want to shriek. Maybe throw his chair, too, but he had more self-preservation than that.
"Dad, come on. I'm not a kid anymore." Although even he could hear the edge of a petulant whine in his voice.
"Ah. Seems like you need more time to think, then. I'm just going to finish making lunch."
How could he be so stupidly patient ? How could he just stand there stirring soup and making sandwiches when he was killing his own flesh and blood with boredom ?
"Dad!" Jamie protested, twisting around in his seat.
That got a reaction. His dad turned away from the counter and pinned him with a ferocious glare.
"Jamison Francis Xavier Gabriel, turn around and face that corner."
He didn't yell, because Dad rarely yelled, but That Tone went right through him. And shit damn hell , his Confirmation name. Dad never pulled that one out unless he'd really dropped himself in it. Jamie whipped back around to face the corner, face and ears burning. He crossed his arms over his stomach and hunched in on himself a little, most of his will to fight quickly replaced with churning apprehension.
Had he really dropped himself in it? He had no clue what Sarge sent to Dad with the three week proac Drop leave notice...and the still-unofficial green slip. Thank God it was unofficial. He didn't want to know what Dad would do to him if he screwed up enough for an official department greenie.
He knew exactly what Renzulli wanted him to talk about--come clean about, more like. That they'd tried to kill him. He'd kept the extent of the damage to Joe's Chevelle quiet, got it fixed up again without Dad any the wiser, but he knew Renzulli knew and thought it was eating at him. And he knew that Renzulli agreed with the shrink he'd seen after his undercover stint. She thought he needed to spend more time in a "dynamically supportive" environment. Which meant home. Which was a bunch of bull. He kicked at the baseboards, clicking his disc in time with the soft thumping. Working in a Dom-heavy environment sucked almost as much as living in a Dom-heavy family.
"That's quite enough of that, young man."
Jamie froze, listening as Dad crossed the kitchen to him. He stifled his squeak of dismay when Dad hauled him up by one arm and towed him across the kitchen. He expected a flurry of smacks and a blistering scolding for immature behavior and sulking, not Dad boosting him up onto the kitchen counter and making him settle with his hands flat on his thighs. That Dad could still do that...he shivered a little, hoping he hadn't pushed too far.
"You know that I'll always answer naughty little boy behavior with naughty little boy consequences. If you're finding it too hard to behave sitting on your own, then I can keep you within reach, Jamie. Keep your hands flat and don't thump your feet."
Still calm, still patient. Jamie's stomach clenched around nerves. Faced with his father's looming presence, pushing didn't seem like such a great idea. It never seemed like such a good idea once he was back in Dad's orbit, but away from him standing in a corner? That was when he usually went a little nuts. And kicking the wall was a surefire way to get Dad's attention.
But those words . Did he have to get out the "make Jamie squirm" vocabulary every single fricking time?
And when the hell had he started spinning out? He never behaved like that, no matter what he'd classed as. 'Brat is a classification of need just like Masochist, not a descriptor of behavior, young man.' He'd heard that often enough growing up.
"I shouldn't have left you on your own in the corner, Jamie."
The softly spoken admission startled Jamie out of his descent into navel gazing misery at his poor behavior.
"S'okay, Dad. Shouldn't have been kicking the wall, anyway." He stared down at his hands, still flat on his thighs.
"Well, no, but you're unsettled and acting out."
Jamie wrinkled his nose at that. Acting out? Really?
"Dad! C'mon! I'm not five !" He hated, hated when Dad or Danny (or, God forbid Grandpa or Linda) used that kind of language to describe a perfectly normal, non-Brat reaction to everything sucking.
"No, you're definitely not five, son, but you are using your behavior to show me what you need from me. It's pretty obvious that you need your Dad riding herd on you right now. So that's what we're going to do, kiddo. Same rules as the last time you lived at home."
"Dad! That's...what do you mean same as the last time ?" Jamie spluttered.
"What I mean, Jamison, is that you're moving back home for awhile. I should have done it as soon as you took that beating, but I decided that what you needed then was your independence and your normal routine. It's been made very clear to me that what you need for the moment is your Dad and a lot more supervision."
"Dad! You can't...I don't... please don't." He bit his lip to stop it quivering as reality slammed home.
Legally, he didn't have a leg to stand on. Subs in law enforcement, especially his Class, had to have a Dom of Record acting as a guardian, who was preferably also in law enforcement. They didn't have to spread it around or designate, but they were considered dependents. They had "special needs" for "dynamically supportive" environments since they worked high-stress jobs. He only got to live in his own apartment and have his own life because Dad let him, encouraged him. Usually.
"Not forever, Jamie. We'll keep your lease current, and you will go back. But right now, right now you need more support, and I need you here."
"I need you at home for a while. Did you think you were the only one having trouble after your undercover stint and Bitterman? Pop swears I haven't slept more than four hours at a time since then. I need to be able to make sure you're okay."
"I could just come over more?" Jamie suggested, mind racing. Dad needed him close? Dad was admitting to needing anything?
"And I could meet the Pope, Jamison. Three weeks of Drop leave for a Sub whose Class means he doesn't drop, and a green slip? You ought to know that you're at least grounded."
Dad stopped what he was doing long enough to give Jamie one of his Looks. One of the ones that promised a world of trouble if he kept it up.
"It wasn't an official greenie, Dad!" Jamie protested, thumping his heel on the cabinet.
"I'm counting that as stomping your foot, young man, which you know better than to do. You also know that the officiality of a green slip doesn't matter. Sergeant Renzulli is keeping something off the books, but I will be getting to the bottom of it with you. Now, wash up for lunch."
Just like that, Dad lifted him off the counter and swatted him toward the sink.
"What if Sarge is just being overprotective?" Jamie washed his hands, drying them on a towel before he went to sit at the table.
"And what if we had pigs flying formation over midtown? You know as well as I do that Sergeant Renzulli thinks you need something that you're not getting." He tapped the green slip sitting ominously in the middle of the kitchen table.
"But you haven't...not since college , Dad!" Jamie protested, dragging his spoon through his soup.
Tomato soup and grilled cheese: the official meal of the overwrought. At least, that's what Dad always said.
"And that tells me that I've let an awful lot slide over the years, or I just haven't paid enough attention to you. So we're going back to the rules that worked to keep you settled. I won't interfere with your work, not unless there's a damn good reason, but you're going to be living with a lot more oversight. Now, eat your lunch."
"But I like it how it is, Dad." Jamie sighed before he ate more soup. "And I'm fine . I don't need anyone riding herd on me, I swear."
"I imagine you think so, son, and that you don't want any changes. But I'm not doing you any favors by letting things slide. You need structure right now, and to be home. Deep down, you know that as well as I do."
Jamie slouched in his seat, taking a few sulky bites, as much to show his displeasure as to avoid looking at his Dad. If he looked him in the eye now , he was just going to spill everything at the worst possible time. He could probably get out with his skin and independence both intact if he was smart.
"Sulking at me isn't going to change my mind, little boy. You're just confirming everything I said."
Still patient, still calm, still firm, still making him want to throw something. Jamie rolled his eyes at his sandwich.
"Whatever," he muttered.
Mary Mother of God! Would he ever learn to keep his damn mouth shut? Especially when Dad had apparently decided to find his Top card again?
"Would you like to repeat that, young man?"
Something in Dad's tone, or maybe it was the air of strangled patience he wore, made him leave his brain trying to catch up with his mouth. He felt a little disconnected, like his designation had fully hijacked his body.
"I said whatever." He glared across the table, setting his spoon down with a final-sounding clink. Challenge issued.
"That's what I thought you said, Jamison." Challenge accepted.
He had no other warning, and he'd apparently forgotten just how fast Dad could move, because he found himself abruptly dangling in the air over his Dad's thigh. He looked down, scrabbling a little for some kind of purchase, but Dad had one foot propped on the rungs of his chair. He wasn't going anywhere until Dad let him down.
He remembered, distinctly, Dad doing something similar to a seventeen-year-old Danny who'd been acting "too big for his britches" at dinner one evening. Typing out as a Dom had not done good things to Danny's behavior. Jamie counted himself lucky that he at least was afforded the privacy of no one else in the house. He yelped as Dad's broad palm connected with his bottom.
Eleven more measured smacks followed, all centered exactly where he sat, before Dad set him back on his feet. He hissed at the sting, twisting under Dad's hands resting on his shoulders. He only just avoided rubbing his throbbing backside by gripping hard at Dad's biceps. He'd forgotten exactly how much he hated that kind of spanking.
"Look at me, young man."
Jamie looked up, unable to disobey that tone, hoping he wouldn't see disappointment in his father's face. There wasn't anything that felt worse than disappointing Dad. But all he saw was patience and understanding.
"I am not putting up with any more naughty little boy shenanigans from you. You do not speak to anyone that way. Ever. Have I made that clear?"
"Yessir," Jamie nodded fervently as he spoke. He didn't think it could be any clearer in that moment. Although, he really would appreciate Dad not using the word "naughty" anymore. Or calling him a little boy. He got enough crap off Danny calling him kid all the time.
"Good. Sit down and finish your lunch."
Jamie glanced down at the hard wooden seat before looking back up at Dad, pleading for leniency.
"Oh no, young man. If you're going to act out, then you can finish your lunch sitting on a sore bottom."
Jamie gave him one more silently pleading glance.
Uncompromising, as always. Jamie found his body obeying the command, wincing as his backside hit the chair. But that one order, combined with the sting in his tail, unspooled the stress he'd carried in his shoulders and neck, leaving him feeling a little wrung out and a lot less ornery.
"Dad?" he didn't like how unsure he sounded, how lost.
Danny would have told him to can it and eat. Dad just gave him an encouraging nod. They'd about finished, anyway.
"I...I'm sorry. I don't know where…" he fidgeted with his spoon.
"I'm going to stop you right there, Jamie. I appreciate the apology. You're feeling pretty off kilter right now, hm?"
"I'd say that in the last few years you've had more than enough to try to handle. And -- no, you're going to let me finish."
Jamie snapped his mouth shut when Dad held up a hand to forestall debate.
"You've done well, Jamie, but it's time for me to step in again. I've let you get a little too far afield, and it's not good for you. You have tremendous coping skills, and I've let you fly under the radar, mostly. But I can't do that anymore. It's not fair to you, and I'm not going to let you bury your needs under determined competence anymore. I haven't been what you've needed...not since your mother...and then Joe. What you needed got lost somewhere, and you...kiddo, you're a lot of things, but pushy for your own needs you aren't."
Jamie wasn't sure where the clinking noise was coming from until he looked down at his shaking hands. Detached, he watched Dad reach across the table to take his spoon. He gripped the table, hard, trying to stop the shaking, but Dad came around and drew him to his feet. Tucked under his father's arm, he let himself be led out of the kitchen and into the living room. Dad sat on one of the sofas and pulled until Jamie curled up against him, half in his lap.
"I haven't been looking after Jamie very well, have I? And son, I promised your mother…"
"That I wouldn't be a cop," Jamie cut in quietly.
"No. That I wouldn't lose sight of your needs. But we'll make it okay, hmm? We'll get back to where we need to be, kiddo."
Suddenly, the quivery feeling in his chest caught on a sob. The safety, the security he felt held like something fragile in his father's care--there was nothing in the world like it. He felt wholly and entirely safe in a way he hadn't since his mother died. And not just physically. He felt Dad shift him fully into his lap and clung to him. He couldn't stop the tears even if he wanted to. There was that deep-seated feeling of relief, that someone else was in the driver's seat. That someone noticed and would help.
Professionally, he was fine. He loved his job, loved being an officer. Personally, though, he felt like a fraud. Like he was just faking his way through everything. Like he'd lost himself somewhere along the way. But Dad saw. Dad felt present in a way he hadn't been in years, and it felt wonderful. Yeah, he was a big guy, but there was something more, some part of his personality that drew all attention to him. Some part of his sheer presence in the world that reached deep, and told Jamie that he was safe, that he could let go of his rigid control for a little while.
Eventually, the tears slowed, leaving his face itchy with the salt, but the rest of him a lot calmer. He leaned heavily on Dad's chest, the deep quiet of the house and Dad's arms wrapped strongly around him, soothing and anchoring him through the post-crying shudders.
Jamie nodded, still too shaken to speak. He hadn't let go like that in years. Not since before Mom died. Some part of him had thought he wouldn't need to, not anymore. That he could wall off his designation and go on with life like he was Neutral. That he could be a "normal" adult. That he could control himself, keep everything to himself, and fly under everyone's notice.
"Sorry," he muttered, looking up sharply when Dad tapped his cheek.
"You have nothing to apologize for, Jamie. Do you understand?"
There was only one answer for that, no matter how Jamie felt about it privately.
"Your mother would have told me to get my head out of my backside years ago, you know. And someone from DSR did . How did you run into them?"
Jamie groaned, "We needed them on a call. She found you?"
"She emailed me, and I got it this morning. I don't think I've gotten one before with "What the hell are you doing to your child?!" as the subject line. Hell was in all capitals."
Jamie snorted, "Surprised it was that mild."
"You weren't harassed, were you?"
"She...uh she wasn't really happy. Apparently I'm not supposed to be running around with my "emotional energy cranked up that high"? Went up one side of me and down the other. She was discreet, though. Said it wasn't anyone's business, but that she noticed and had to do something. I didn't know she'd actually email you."
He'd never liked being scolded like that, no matter how discreetly. She'd respected his privacy, calling him over for a minute after everything calmed down before she very quietly ripped him a new one. He didn't know how she Typed, but she certainly hadn't given him the wide berth most of the Doms on the Force did. He hadn't been that comprehensively told off by a nonfamily member since he got green-slipped in college.
"I didn't like it, and I came very close to calling the Captain of the precinct she's out of, but she was right. When I stopped and thought about it, we haven't given you anywhere close to what you need in the past few years. I just didn't like someone outside the family pointing it out."
It hurt, a little, to hear Dad's voice so quiet with self-recrimination.
"It was a good wake-up call, especially since it's been brought to my attention that one of my kids thinks getting mouthy with a DSR team leader and his Sergeant is okay. Not to mention the scuffle in the squad room that got you your Drop leave."
Jamie's stomach dropped.
"Dad, I can explain, really," he started.
"Renzulli gave me a pretty good overview of what happened, and that email was pretty enlightening, too. Did you really tell someone who works in emergency dynamic support to 'butt the hell out'? And then follow that up by letting your Sergeant know you felt three weeks of what should have been full disciplinary leave, fixed so it wouldn't be a major roadblock to your career, was 'a gigantic bunch of horseshit'?"
Dad sounded, not angry or annoyed, but interested in a way Jamie recognized. That kind of engaged interest combined with the disbelieving note in his voice spelled certain doom in a way shouting never would. But couldn't Dad have waited until all this had blown over to switch on his Toppiness again? He seriously had the worst timing, and Jamie half wanted to blame Agent Conover for tripping it with that damn email.
"Probably?" Jamie winced. "I was pretty steamed. And the guys I scuffled with wouldn't leave the new kid alone. Sarge ripped me a new one after that."
"At which point you mouthed off to him, too?"
"Yes, sir," Jamie sighed. "That's when he green-slipped me."
Oh, he was so dead. Laid bare, without even bringing the Chevelle (and months of what Dad would classify as lying) or that he'd known a while ago he was headed off the rails (more lying, and he had a feeling words like omission and commission would be flying around soon) into it, he was in trouble up to his ears. Maybe, if he wasn't dead, he'd be able to sit down this side of Ash Wednesday...maybe. It was only just November. He could hold out hope for Pentecost, anyway.
"And what else would you like to tell me, while we're getting everything out in the open?"
The mild tone belied the seriousness of the question. Jamie's stomach clenched, the acid burn of pure, animal panic an unwelcome addition. He was, without a doubt, completely and wholly fucked. Because that tone, that tone , meant Dad knew. Everything. The Memorare started as a spontaneous background to his swirling thoughts. Maybe with some divine intercession he'd survive the next fifteen minutes.
"I would recommend opening your mouth soon, young man. If I have to start telling, you're going to be an extremely unhappy boy."
...to you do we come, before you we stand, sinful and sorrowful…
Well, sorrowful was about to be horribly true.