Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Coda 11


Tim and Jack from CARDS ON THE TABLE

 

 

 

“Where the hell have you been?” Jack yelled before I even closed the front door.

“Sorry,” I apologized, shrugging out of my jacket. “Sorry I’m late. I swear to God it couldn’t be helped. I’m mostly packed. We can be on the road in half an hour. Promise.”

He caught my arm as I was brushing past, heading for the bedroom. He sucked in a sharp breath. “Jesus, Tim. What happened?”

I said quickly, though I should have known by then there was no heading off the inevitable lecture, “It looks a lot worse than it is.”

“Really? Because it looks like a split lip and a black eye.” He followed me into the bedroom, watching, angry and at a loss, as I grabbed my suitcase and threw it on the neatly made bed. The bed sloshed in warning.

“Sorry,” I said again, automatically. That would be all we needed. A leak in that fucking waterbed as we were about to take off on our trip up north. We were heading to San Francisco to spend Christmas Eve with Sam, one of Jack’s best friends from his police academy days, then on to Mendocino to spend Christmas with my family then back to Los Angeles so Jack could be back at work on Thursday. I was just grateful Jack’s parents had moved to Florida so we didn’t have to try and include them in the holiday endurance run.

“What happened?” he asked in an ominously quiet voice. “Did you have a seizure? Were you driving?”

“Hell no, I didn’t have a seizure!” I’m not sure why that incensed me so much because though I’d been seizure free for six months, I’d only been driving for one, and it still felt pretty new to me. I knew Jack was still worried about the thought of me behind the wheel if I did have another seizure.

“Well, you didn’t walk into a wall!” He was yelling at me again. It was so unlike him. I couldn’t understand it. I wasn’t that late and he was mostly used to my unpredictable schedule – as a cop, his own wasn’t much better.

“Look, the interview didn’t go smoothly. Mayer punched me. And I, er, punched him back.”

Jack’s jaw dropped. Which I guess was better than having him flap it at me.

Reminded of my injuries, I noticed how much my mouth and eye were smarting. A lot. I abandoned the suitcase and went to the bathroom. The sight in the mirror was not reassuring. The fact that I was wearing a suit and tie almost made it worse.

I turned the cold water tap on.

Jack appeared in the mirror behind me. His face was stern. His gray eyes looked dark and there was no evidence of dimples. “I can’t take this,” he said.

It felt like being punched all over again. I gripped the side of the sink. “What does that mean? What are you talking about?”

“You’re so goddamned reckless!”

“You haven’t even heard my side of what happened.”

“You’re a reporter and you punched your interviewee. Is there another side to that?”

“He punched me first!”

“Great. That’s your side of it? We’ve had this conversation, Tim. How many times? You take stupid, reckless chances. And I can’t deal with this anymore.”

He walked out of the bathroom leaving me to gape at my battered reflection. After a second or two, I bent and splashed cold water in my face, thinking.

Once, and not that long ago, I’d have charged back in there and we’d have had an argument that probably would have ended with one of us – me -- walking out the door. But I’d learned a few things in the past months. Learned them from Jack, as a matter of fact.  

I turned off the faucet, dried my face, and went into the bedroom. No Jack. I went into the living room and he was sitting on the couch, leaning forward, massaging his forehead.

I sat down beside him. He didn’t look at me. I said, “I’m not sure what’s going on here, but I don’t take stupid, reckless chances. Not anymore. Because of you. Because I don’t have to prove anything anymore. Mayer is a thug and the interview fell apart, but I’m telling you, I did not provoke him. I was protecting myself, that’s all.”

“You shouldn’t be talking to guys like Mayer. He’s scum. He’s a killer.”

“It’s for the courts to decide if he’s a killer. And interviewing him is my job, Jack. I don’t give you a hard time when you come home with a few bruises.”

He burst out, “Why do you have to—why can’t you--?”

I stared at him. “What? Write a society column? What are you talking about?”

He massaged his head some more.

“You wouldn’t be saying this to me if I was a girl.”

He raised his head. “What?”

“Who gives anybody this kind of a bullshit hard time over their job now days?”

“You know your situation.”

“Yeah, better than anyone. And you know that I am taking care of myself and being responsible about my health. You know I haven’t had a seizure in half a year. And when was the last time I came home with a black eye? What’s really going on here?”

Nothing from Jack.

I didn’t know what his expression meant. I said slowly, “Should I finish packing for Sam’s or should I grab a cardboard box?”

He shook his head.

I put my arm around him, pressed my forehead to his. “Don’t be mad at me. It’s Christmas Eve.”

To my relief, Jack turned to me, kissed me. He put his arm around me and pulled me closer. “Sorry,” he whispered. “Sorry. Just don’t take dumb chances.”

“I don’t. I promise.”

He nodded.

I looked past his head at the clock and said, “We’ve got to get moving or we won’t be there until late.”

“We’re not going.”

“What? Why not?”

Not that I minded. I’d have killed for an early night in my own bed with Jack. I wasn’t all that crazy about Sam, a big, dour bruiser of a cop, although I liked Rhys, his boyfriend, a lot. Even if he was a little obsessive on the topic of the afterlife.

 “Rhys is in the hospital. He got into a car accident driving up Friday.”

“My God. Is he okay?”

Jack nodded. “Sam says he will be, but I guess it was touch and go. He was in a coma for a couple of days. He’s out of it now. Sam says he keeps talking about some guy named Roger.”

I laughed. “Good for Rhys.”

Jack gave me a sour look, but I could see the dimple trying to make an appearance. He was holding my hand, or more exactly my wrist where I wore the snazzy sterling Medic Alert bracelet he’d given me. His fingers absently stroked the silver links.

“So…it’s just you and me tonight?”

He nodded. His gray eyes were still a little moody, but he was finally smiling again. “That okay with you?”

I pumped my fist. “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!”

“Merry Christmas.” Jack’s mouth found mine. “And don’t call me Virginia.”

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

38 comments:

  1. Wow! That was great. Very nice tie in to Sam and Rhys. You had me sucking in my breath in dismay and ending with chuckling over your cleverness. I am enjoying the codas tremendously. Thank you so much.

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    1. I like to see characters growing and maturing. :-)

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  2. Neatly done! I like Tim very much. Jack too, but Tim is closer to my heart.
    You made me wonder about this Roger guy. What is he - evil spirit, demon, Neil Gaiman's Sandman?

    Adriana

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    1. Jeez, I wish I knew. The whole "Roger" thing continues to puzzle me. :-D

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  3. OMG!!! I CAN'T STOP SMILING. This was my FAVOURITE coda yet and I LOVE THEM ALL.

    Thank you Josh!

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  4. Aaaah, I didn't know Jack and Sam knew one another; friends from police academy days no less.

    Which gets me asking: will there be a book one day about these two couple? Someday, perhaps? ;D

    Nice coda this one, by the way!

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    1. SOME of these people must know each other, right? :-D

      As for a follow up story...hmmm. There are only a few I know for sure I won't do, the others are more...if a story occurs to me then I'll write it.

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  5. I love that the two stories share the same 'world', are you dreaming up anything to bring all the characters together in one short?

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    1. Now that would be hard to pull off unless I did one of those big explosive Casino Royale things ala David Niven where they all end up in heaven together. :-D

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    2. and could there be friggin' sharks with lasers, a la Dr. Evil?

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  6. This one made me hold my breath a lot. More than the traffic accident, actually. I love that there was a story connection to Sam and Rhys. I love more, that in the end, there was love.

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  7. Josh, you have to know how much I love this coda; I talked so often about getting 'Cards on the Table' available as a stand-alone ebook. Tim is one of my favorite characters. And the tie-in with Sam & Rhys was a delightful surprise. Thank you for the update on these two wonderful guys.

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    1. It seems like I'm doing a lot of these older couples and stories, doesn't it? It's fascinating to go back and revisit them. I'm pleased you enjoyed this.

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  8. Aww that was a good one! I love Tim and Jack. Definitely my second favorite couple! Best line of the day - "You wouldn't be saying this if I was a girl." Love it! Thank you!

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    1. I thought that would make you laugh. ;-)

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    2. I just knew that since Sam and Rhys were M's third favorite, that Tim and Jack would have to be second!

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  9. So happy to know that Tim has been seizure-free and has got his independence driving again. He and Jack are among my best couples (but these codas have made me realise just how many favourites I have!)

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    1. Yes! I definitely wanted to reassure readers that Tim is safely past that dark point in his life.

      I'm smiling re the "favorites" comment.

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  10. Great tie-in to Sam and Rhys...very clever! I give a contented sigh after reading each coda...love visiting again with your protagonists. *happy sigh*

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    1. :-) I'm so glad -- the funny thing is how much I'm enjoying the exercise too!

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  11. Another lovely coda, thank you! Really enjoyed seeing Tim and Jack again! I'm especially glad to see Tim is happier and healthier (^0^)

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  12. I have a particular liking for this story, so the update is very welcome :-) Love the realistic portrayal of the (misguided) communication and dynamics between Jack and Tim. Initially Tim has no knowledge of Rhys' accident, yet it is the complete catalyst to Jack's emotional response to seeing Tim's black eye. Glad they worked through it and Tim didn't need that cardboard box...

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  13. As someone else said, Wow! Another wonderful coda that leaves me smiling.

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  14. Like that time Kit Mentioned an Adrian English Novel, Character cross overs make me squeal with pleasure. You should do that more often!well you don't HAVE to its your brain.. but it be nice. XD

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  15. Nice cross-over there :-). I feel a bit sorry for Sam though - he's so misunderstood!

    Cards on the table is one of most re-read novellas for me, can't explain why, Tim and Jack have a great dynamic for romance story, I guess.

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  16. I was almost afraid they would be over in this coda!
    That would have been a major surprise!
    I like it that Tim is courageous and for all his worrying, Jack does too. He said in cards on the table. This was sweet, and now I'm curious about Roger...

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  17. This is one of my favorite stories so I'm thrilled to read more of Tim and Jack. I'm glad Tim's future looks so bright.

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  18. Like others I enjoyed the cross-over surprise in the end. :) Before that you did manage to scare me a bit with the cardboard box talk and the crashed car pic. ;)

    These guys are so cute together — their relationship has a perfect mix of angst and caring in it. That made me fall for them the first time I read Cards On The Table... and the fact that Tim DOES TAKE reckless chances! ;)

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  19. Very cool. Loved the reference to Sam and Rhys.

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  20. I LOVED this! So happy to see to the guys back again! Tim and Jack were the fist of your stories I read

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  21. SQUEEEAAAL!

    I was *wondering* if "Sam" was the very same Sam. I'm like, "Maybe he just ran out of names...?" and then I was like, "Naw, that's silly. You can't run out of names, and how many police officer Sams are there running around in his head?" and then Rhys was mentioned and I was like SQUEEEAAAL!

    (This comment was brought to you by I'm So Tired I'm Giddy [TM])

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  22. Thank you for all the wonderful codas you've been writing, Josh. I'm still working through your incredible backlist so reading these snippets have given me a little taste of the stories and characters.

    Happy holidays!

    Tam

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  23. Thank you thank you thank you.
    So happy to see a slice of Tim and Jack. Love the way you worked in Sam and Rhys.
    Lovin' these codas!
    Kelly

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  24. I laughed when Tim described Sam as "a big, dour bruiser of a cop"...that's part of why he's so adorable!
    Tim & Jack are ANOTHER of my favoite couples, can't tell you how many times I've reread COTT...I see a crossover novel in their futures...

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  25. I'm glad Tim is so well balanced and manages to avoid a shouting match with Jack. Funny crossover: Roger might be a ghost Rhys met during his brush with death ;-)).

    And now I know everything about Virginia & Santa Claus (I had to do some researches, because I didn't catch the reference). But I didn't need a proof of his existence, considering that Santa is delivering these wonderful codas!

    Thank you, dear Josh!

    Ciao

    Antonella

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  26. But I’d learned a few things in the past months. Learned them from Jack, as a matter of fact.

    Phew! Tim grew up enough to learn a thing or two. One hopes that oneself could act so cool-headed sometimes. ;)

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