The Pot Roast Incident
Alternate ATF Universe
FEEDBACK: Good reviews are welcome, flames will be used to make s'mores and
CHARACTERS: All Seven, and satellites
DISCLAIMER: Ain't gonna an' ya cain't make me!
OCs: only a couple, very minor roles.
ORIGIN: Too much NyQuil?
DEDICATION: Anyone who's ever wanted to toss something at their other half! Or has!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Wraps around my story 'Find Out Who Your Friends Are'. You have to look, the references are in there I promise!
Chris and Sarah's house
Cheesman Park neighborhood
Twenty-one-year-old Sarah Larabee struggled through the door, juggling bookbag, purse, grocery bags, diaper bag ... and one squirming, energetic two-and-a-half-year-old.
"D'ab'o! D'ab'o! Mama, want D'ab'o!" Because she just simply didn't have the energy or patience to deal with a tantrum just now, Sarah let Adam down just inside the back door, watching in relief as he raced at his three-year-old ninety-pound best friend. If nothing else, the black Lab would keep him occupied. At least until the next time he got "hungwy," "firsty," or "Mama, I wet/stinky 'gain." She dropped the diaper bag on the washer as she passed it. One-handed, she hooked bookbag and purse over her chair at the table, then went on through the miniscule dining nook and into the kitchen. She gratefully dropped the grocery bags on the counter.
"Mama! Want Mickey Mouse!" Of course. Adam didn't quite know how to operate the TV by himself, yet. A quick detour into the front room to turn on Disney Channel - and a prayer to whatever saints might be a mind to listen that Chris would get that raise, and they wouldn't have to give up the cable to save money - and back into the kitchen.
"Oh, scat, you. Why on Earth Bucklin thought you'd be a good housewarming gift ... now get down, I said." Patches miaowed in defiance as Sarah took a double armful of cat and dumped her off the countertop, where she'd been industriously investigating the bags. In two short years, an eight ounce bundle of calico fluff had ballooned into twenty pounds of 'catitude' that was just royal enough to grate on her mistress's Irish nerves. As Patches went to investigate whether the contents of her food dish had improved in quality since her last visit, Sarah blew her auburn bangs out of her eyes and set about unloading the groceries and planning dinner.
Today was one for the books. An overnight power surge had knocked out the alarm clocks, resulting in a late start for one and all. Heaven only knew how late they would have slept, if the alarm clock in Adam's pudgy little tummy hadn't gone off. Then the discovery that the pilot light on the water heater had also blown out during the night, which meant that Sarah got the only hot shower, Chris and a between-apartments Buck got lukewarm and downright ice-cold, respectively. That had provided a moment of amusement, when the big ladies' man had come downstairs grousing, and she'd teased him that a few cold showers wouldn't hurt him! Traffic had been a regular polar bear, and she'd just gotten Adam dropped off at daycare on time. Then she'd had to fight upstream back across town to school, only to find that nearly half of her classes had been canceled, thanks to a raging flu virus. What was wrong with people, that they were too lazy and selfish to get proper flu shots? Hoping to salvage something of the day, she'd gone back home and tallied up what errands she could run now, to hopefully free up some time during the weekend. This included a trip through the kitchen, where she discovered that the only thing she needed to make pot roast for dinner was the roast itself. Just the thing on a bitterly cold day like today, and Buck said nobody made pot roast like she did. That would soothe his shower-frozen nerves.
She'd been hoping to get the shopping done before she had to pick Adam up, but no such luck. Her rotten day was holding true, straight down the tubes. Everywhere she went that day seemed to have more hassles and headaches than the last, topped off by the daycare director reminding her that this month's payment was late - again. It didn't help that the woman was British, and of the sort who refused to accept that America had won that war back in 1783, and believed that all Americans ought to be tried for treason against the Crown. That Sarah was Irish was even worse! Saying only that she'd discuss the matter with her husband - while making a mental note to deliberately forget to say a word about it to Chris, while hoping he'd be the next person to cross the woman's path - Sarah had bundled Adam up and took her leave.
Predictably, the Safeway grocery store was jammed. There was another storm forecast for the weekend, and the general population of Denver went into mass panic at the thought of being snowed in with their screaming, starving children. An aspiring teacher with several student teaching hours already to her credit, it was beginning to mystify Sarah why some people had even had children at all! Certainly at least 95% of the parents she met were so selfish and self-absorbed that she was more than half a mind to call Children's Services, just on general principle! Then there were the children who'd obviously been 'accidents,' and whose parents acted as if the child had conceived him- or herself, deliberately to screw up their parents' oh-so-important lives. And not all of those children were minorities and/or on public assistance, not by a long shot! Sarah was learning to rapidly despise the so-called 'mothers' who drove SUVs and luxury imports, and looked down their noses at the moms who drove used pickup trucks and didn't wear designer jeans. But, of course, buying another six-pack - or an expensive bottle of wine - had seemed like such a better idea at the time, rather than a box of condoms, or even keeping their damn clothes on!
Mercifully, Adam behaved in the store, even when Sarah was trapped near the dairy case by a nosy neighbor, an older woman who had cast herself in the role of protectress of manners and morals for their street; the children in the neighborhood called her Mrs. Yorkie. She hollered when a bike tire strayed too close to her precious begonias, and thought an canine bigger than her 'precious Muffsie' was a vicious beast. Her chief complaint for Sarah today seemed to be, "what sort of example did she and Chris think it set for Adam, when Buck kept bringing around all of those floozies." She'd only gotten over Chris being eleven years older than Sarah when Chris had tracked down the woman's children, and threatened to have their mother arrested for harassment, and remanded to the state hospital in Pueblo. This had gained Chris a great deal of admiration among the neighbors, who had been trying to do something about the old biddy for years. Chris having a badge to back up his threats was apparently the push that was needed. Standing in her kitchen now, Sarah couldn't recall what she'd said to the woman, only that it had gotten her a shocked and indignant, "Well, I never!" to which she'd responded with a scathing, "Well, perhaps you ought to, maybe then you'd be a more pleasant person to be around." She'd then used her shopping cart to push the other woman's out of the way and continued with her own shopping.
The checker had been another Brit - a peril of living in a military town - and had made it quite clear to the hapless bag girl that she considered it beneath her shift-supervisor dignity to be down in the trenches with the peasant vermin. Using Adam's presence as an excuse to borrow the bagger for carryout assistance, Sarah had caught the store manager by the ATM. She'd let him know in no uncertain terms that if he ever wanted not only she, Chris and Buck but anyone else they knew to ever darken his store's doorstep ever again, he'd best remind his shift supervisors that they were just as much 'the hired help' as the rest of their co-workers! As they'd loaded the groceries into Sarah's aging Taurus, the bagger had thanked her, expressing her fear that someday, the shift supervisor would run her superior attitude up against someone who really wasn't in the mood for it, and that person would come back to the store ... with gun in hand. Sarah had given the teenage girl a $10 tip, which she knew was against company regulations, having worked for 'Slaveway' herself until she'd graduated high school.
Then back out into traffic and home and she'd best get cracking if she wanted that pot roast done once the guys got home, the basketball went up on the Nuggets game at 7:30. She opened the fridge to get the carrots ... and wanted to collapse on the floor and cry.
The liquor store. She'd forgotten the liquor store. There was just simply no way she was going back out there, and now Chris and Buck were who-knew-where in this city. She had a personal policy NOT to bother Chris while he was at work, unless it was for something legitimately important. The fact that there was only one bottle of Coors in the fridge didn't count.
"I can tell Buck to go when he gets home, and I'll let him borrow my car. Maybe he can tell what awful sound is in the suspension.' She was pretty sure it was the suspension; it seemed to get worse when she made a turn, or went over uneven pavement. Shaking her head, she set to work.
+ + + + + + +
There was a half-hour left on the oven timer when the men dragged through the door, and the liquor store had once again flown completely out of Sarah's mind. As predictable as the sunrise, Adam woke from his nap like a shot once his ears got the message to his brain that the door had opened and closed, and there were deeper, male voices in the house. Chris slung him sack-of-potatoes over his shoulder as he and Buck went upstairs to change out of their dark blue uniforms and lock their guns away. She smiled as the house rang with masculine laughter and childish giggles, but she'd seen the looks in Chris and Buck's eyes as they'd come through that door. Today had been one of those days that made them look at those uniforms, at their shiny badges, and wonder are we even making a dent in this mess? An Air Force brat, Sarah knew what burnout was. She'd been barely five years old when Saigon fell, but she'd met several of the men her father had served with, men who'd resigned their officers' commissions or refused to re-enlist after the war. They'd just had enough.
Chris caught her in the pantry while Buck kept Adam distracted in the front room. "Day didn't get any better for you, either, huh?" He smiled when she rolled her eyes expressively.
"There are people in this world who'd best thank the saints that I don't have a job that allows me to carry a loaded .45 on my hip." Chris laughed as he reached to snag the bottle of Thousand Island she couldn't quite reach. Buck loved to come in the pantry and put things on the high shelves, since Sarah was barely 5'5". When she turned back around, she was caught between Chris and the shelves, and the smile in those crystal green eyes said he had no intention of releasing her until the oven timer went off, if Buck could keep Adam busy that long. They enjoyed an extremely pleasant few minutes' of distraction, until their brains reminded them that they needed enough oxygen to function properly. Sarah had brought her hands up to frame Chris's face, and now she stroked a thumb under one of those eyes. "Tough one?"
He pulled her close, her head nestling in the Broncos-blue Irish fisherman's sweater she'd knitted while she was expecting Adam. This close, she could feel as well as hear his voice.
"Domestic cases. From the minute we punched in until the second we punched out. One whole day of domestic violence cases."
Sarah bit her lip. Cops mortally despised domestic cases. Give them a good, old-fashioned gangland shoot-'em-up any day. And they hit Buck even harder than most, thanks to his upbringing. She hugged Chris tighter, felt him bend to press and kiss on the top of her head. She was just lifting her face for a proper one when an imperious little voice sounded from the front room.
"NO! Me want Daddy!" Chris's shoulders shuddered with silent laughter before he bent to ghost a kiss across her cheek.
"Later, sweet Sarah."
The table was set, the salad had just been removed from the fridge, the rolls settled in a cloth-lined basket. Chris carefully transferred the roast from the pan to a platter, and Sarah arranged the carrots, onions and potatoes around it. Buck 'rassled' Adam into his high chair and turned to admire the picture.
"Sarah, they couldn't make that look that good at The Broker." A very upscale area restaurant. "And it smells fantastic. This is exactly what I needed after today." There were shadows darkening the merry blue of Buck's eyes. He stepped to the fridge, and the words liquor store belatedly whispered across Sarah's mind.
"Hey, Pard, there's only one brew left, you want it?"
"Nah," Chris replied. "I'll stick with Coke tonight, help yourself."
Buck kept the neck of the bottle between his trigger and middle fingers while he rummaged in the freezer for a mug. Setting the mug on the counter, he then rummaged in the utility drawer for the bottle opener. "Well, where the heck did you go? Chris, you seen the church key?"
"It broke last week, remember? When Sarah was openin' her pop bottle?"
"Oh yeah, that's right. Well, won't hurt these countertops if I do it the old way." Cupping one hand against the edge of the counter, Buck attempted to open the bottle by smacking the bottle top against the edge of the counter. It was a move he'd made a million times in his life, starting with childhood soda bottles.
He missed. The beer exploded, soaking him. It was the last straw on a much too stressful day.
Two seconds later, a high, piping little voice chirped out in perfect imitation, "Goddamn sonovabitch!"
For a few more seconds, there was stunned silence in the kitchen, which Chris would years later liken to the hushed silence before a tornado. Then the next thing Buck Wilmington knew, Sarah had taken hold of the platter of pot roast, turned, and with all of her strength flung it airborne ... straight at his head.
Summit County, CO
"Okay, one of my foster dads likes to watch the ballgames on Sunday night, and that announcer keeps calling one pitch a 'slurve'. Mr. Chris, what's a 'slurve'?"
Buck choked on his beer a little, and shared a quick look with Josiah, at Olivia referring to the great Joe Morgan as simply "that announcer." They were standing on Chris's back porch, watching Chris and Olivia play catch with Diablo. The cantankerous dog had emerged from the mudroom a few minutes ago, and spat a mangled, barely recognizable baseball at the little girl's feet. Chris had set aside his tumbler of Jim Beam - which he hadn't really been drinking - and hunkered down, asking Olivia if she knew how to play ball. She'd confessed that her last foster mother hadn't considered it 'ladylike' for little girls to play sports. Handing Olivia the ball, Chris took her other hand and they headed out the door, even in January into the back yard. Chris proceeded to show Olivia all the pitches that the big-leaguers used on TV.
"Joe Morgan likes to make up his own words. A slurve is partway between a slider and a curve ball. I really shouldn't be showin' you a curve ball, it'll wreck your arm. When I was in Little League, we had a guy on my team who could throw a 65-mile-an-hour curve when he was twelve. By the time we got out of high school, his arm was fried. But since you asked, you take the ball like this, and put your index and middle fingers like this and this, and your thumb over here, now cock your arm back this way ... and let 'er rip."
For a five-and-a-half-year-old girl, she had a pretty good arm, and Diablo went bounding after the ball. Buck cracked, "That's the first time I've seen that Labrador Retriever 'retrieve' anythin' besides his supper in years!"
Chris turned and looked up at Buck. "He missed that pot roast by, what, six inches?"
"What pot roast? I love pot roast," Olivia asked.
The rest of the boys had migrated out onto the porch by now, and Chris grinned wickedly as he recounted the night of the flying pot roast.
"So Diablo takes a flyin' leap at the roast, misses, and lands on the table. And that sets Sarah off! In Irish, me and Buck could always guess how mad she really was by whether she was speakin' English or Irish."
Vin was holding up a porch post, laughing. "Ya duck?"
Buck grinned ruefully. "Not fast enough. She nailed me -- Sarah coulda pitched for the Rockies."
Even Ezra was laughing aloud. "Never a photographer convenient when you truly require one."
Chris could feel the familiar burning pain in his heart at the thought of his lost family, but the look on Olivia's face when he'd told the story made it a little better.
"I've never thrown anything at anyone like that," Terry mused. "I imagine it must feel very liberating, though."
"I have," Mary Travis replied smugly. "And yes, it does."
Summit County, CO
Nineteen-year-old Adam Larabee lay on the floor between the couch and the massive wide-screen TV, laughing helplessly. Chris and Sarah were ensconced on the massive recliner, laughing as well. Olivia was kicked back into one corner of the huge sectional, grinning wickedly at a chagrined Buck Wilmington, head bent shamefully over ... a Coors Extra Gold long neck. The sight of that bottle, the tortuous scent of a pot roast simmering in the oven and the sight on TV of Colorado Rockies rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki being drilled by a fastball to the ribs for about the millionth time that season triggered a memory in Olivia of the first time she'd been up here, and she'd innocently asked Adam if he wanted to hear something she knew about him, that she bet he didn't know. Curious, Adam had asked what Olivia could possibly know about him that he didn't, considering that they hadn't met until he was eleven and she eight, and they were both hostages to the madness of Chris's ex-wife, Ella Gaines. Olivia had run the first chance she'd gotten, not seeing Adam again until they were eighteen and fifteen, when Ella had finally been caught selling stolen American weapons to terrorists, in Dallas, Texas.
It hadn't been until quite a while after those frantic days in July that Olivia had told Chris that she hadn't known when she'd met them that Adam and Sarah were his missing, presumed dead family. "I swear, Chris, if I'd known, I would have found some way to call you." Chris had simply taken her in a bone-crusher of a hug, and the matter was never spoken of between them again.
Now Olivia's brown eyes began to glitter wickedly. "Well, Tulo just got plunked - AGAIN!" She barked at the TV screen, then looked back at Adam sitting next to her. "And that reminded me of when I met your Dad and Buck and the guys before. Diablo wanted to play catch, so Chris showed me all the big-league pitches. Then I noticed that Buck's got that beer, and there's a pot roast in the oven. And that reminded me of this story Chris told, while we were playing catch that time I was up here before."
Buck nearly sprayed his beer. "Shut her up, shut her up, for pity's sake SHUT HER UP! Nathan, J.D., Ezra, somebody SHUT HER UP!"
"You shush yourself, Bucklin Thomas!" Sarah had rejoined merrily, from the safety of Chris's embrace. "If she doesn't tell him, I will!"
Thankfully, the little kids were outside chasing fireflies, under the supervision of both Nettie Wells and Charger, the big German-Shepherd-Doberman Pinscher-Rottweiler mix. And so, with help from Sarah and Chris, it was told again. For the wives Team 7 had collected in the intervening years it was a new story - even though J.D. had certainly made Casey angry and exasperated to hurl several things at his head, and there was a laundry list of things Inez had fired at Buck while he was chasing after her, before Inez married Ezra Standish and Buck wed Mary Travis. Mary had picked right up where Inez left off, having been well-versed in the art during her tragic first marriage. Inez couldn't throw things at Ezra with any decent effectiveness, his martial-arts training meant his reflexes were quick enough to either catch the offending item or get out of its way.
"Mom threw a whole pot of chili at Buck, last fall," Mary's fifteen-year-old son Billy offered helpfully. "He dissed her new dress."
"Now, I did not 'diss' - " Buck spluttered. "I just said it - it wasn't very becoming on her, that's all." A sharp "Hah," was all Mary had to say to that. Realizing that his usual smooth-as-silk style seemed to have temporarily abandoned him, Buck covered by taking a slug of his beer, and then fixed a blue-eyed glare on Olivia. "And in any case, Miss Olivia, d'you never forget anything?"
"Are you kidding?" The teenager shot back, then swept one arm out to encompass the entire room. "With you guys, total recall is a defense mechanism!"
"Yeah it is!" Casey Dunne replied.
Marella Briggs, Olivia's birth mother - the roots of Ella Gaines's evil had run deeper than anyone had at first realized - smiled at Sarah. "Now, in that situation, I'd have done one of two things - made very sure there was enough beer on hand, or sentenced Buck to plain water for the rest of the year."
"Soda," Sarah answered. "And I relented when his birthday rolled around that July. Even I can only stand a moping Bucklin for so long!"