Holy cow! It's been forever since I wrote in this story. Sorry about that. I've been going through a rough time. I'm getting better now, hence the update.
In one of those older restaurants with fading blue wallpaper and a real jukebox in the corner, sits a grey-haired man. His aged hands – that have held up a family for decades – are wrapped around his coffee mug, tired eyes staring at the steam rising out of the hot beverage. His 'sunny-side up' eggs are turning cold as he tries to think of a way to get through to his oldest grandson.
"You want me to do what?!" Henry splutters. He stares at his grandson's wife, his mind short-circuiting.
"Come on, Henry, you know you're the only one he'd listen to on this," Linda says, a small smirk playing at the corners of her lips.
"That doesn't mean a thing."
"It does, and you know it." Linda sighs, the tiny sparkle dying out of her eyes and a more serious hue coloring them. "Please, Henry, try? The boys are scared they won't be able to say goodbye to their uncle."
"He's not dead yet!" Henry finds himself snapping. He grimaces a second later. "Sorry, I…"
"No, I get it," Lind reassures. She reaches across the dining room table and lays a gentle hand over top his. "Jamie isn't dead...but…it's been a long time since…Henry, we must face the fact that Jamie might not wake up."
Henry stiffens without really meaning to and glances away. "I know."
Her fingers squeeze his hand. "We're not giving up. We're not pulling the plug. But if something should happen, I know my boys would want the chance to have said their goodbyes. Or at least talked to him. Danny isn't seeing it that way. Please, Henry, he'll listen to you. Just...try?"
This won't be an easy conversation, not by a long shot.
But then, when has he ever backed down from a situation because its hard?
Henry straightens. "Right. You got this, old man."
"You been starin' at that mug for a while now, honey," his waitress, Maggie, says as she saddles on up. She's almost as old as he is and has been his waitress ever since he first came to this place – back when he was a beat cop and things were so much easier. She flashes him a soft smile. "Wanna talk 'bout it?"
He shakes his head with a sad smile. "No, no, I'm good, Maggie. Thanks."
She raises an eyebrow. "Henry Reagan, now I know you ain't givin' me no lies. What's got you so upset?"
"It's..." Henry starts and hesitates. He's never been comfortable opening up to people about his worries.
Maggie looks around and leans in. "Has Jamie taken a turn for the worse?"
Henry shakes his head again, this time his smile a bit less sad. "No, thank God. Just Danny."
"Still takin' it hard then." She sits down in the seat across from him. "Boy's goin' to run himself into the ground if he doesn't let up soon."
Henry sighs. "I know. But you know Danny, he's as thickheaded as they come."
"Takes after his grandfather then, does he?"
Henry scowls at her.
Maggie snorts and flips her somehow still blond hair – she swears she doesn't dye it. "Don't you try no stink eye on me, Henry. You know I'm right. You and Danny are more alike, which is why you're worried."
Henry's shoulders slump a bit. "Sometimes, I wish he'd look up to me less."
"No, you don't." She reaches across the table and lays a gentle hand on his arm. "Are you doin' all right? Danny's got his work to distract him, you're retired."
"I'm fine," Henry reassures her.
"Fine. Sure." Maggie smirks that thousand wat smile. "Just like that one time you were fine getting shot three times. Papercut, I think you described it."
Henry chuckles. "I lived, didn't I?"
She laughs along with him, but her grip tightens on his arm. A serious look settles on her face. "You're allowed to lean on others, Henry."
Henry glances at his coffee mug, then her hand on his arm, and finally at her. He lets just a smidge of the broken worry he's feeling seep through. "I don't know if this family can take Jamie dying, Mag."
She squeezes his hand.
"He was…is…" Henry swallows. "If he dies, this family will be torn apart."
"Grandpa! Grandpa!" a voice shouts, tone bubbling over with excitement. "I got one! I got one!"
The youngest Raegan boy stumbles over, bumping his hip against the picnic table but never slowing. His grubby hands are squeezed tight together. Pure, undulated joy shines from his eyes as he skids to a stop before Henry.
Henry leans forward from his foldout chair and grins. "Did you now. Is it a big one?"
"The biggest!" Jamie shouts, carefully unfolding his hands with all the care a five-year-old can muster. A tiny lightening bug zips out and into the ducky sky. "Noo!"
"Told ya to be more careful when you open your hands," Danny snorts as he passes by.
"I was!" Jamie wails, stomping his foot. He turns tear-filled eyes up to Henry. "I was careful, Grandpa."
"I know, kid," Henry says quickly, patting Jamie's head. "It just happens sometimes. They're quick little buggers."
Jamie hiccups and fiercely wipes at his eyes. "I'll – I'll try a-again."
Poor kid. It took him fifteen minutes just to catch that one.
A thin arm wraps around Jamie's trembling shoulders as the oldest Raegan boy pulls his brother to him. Joe smiles down at Jamie. "And I'll help you. I found a whole horde of them by the gorse bushes. Wanna help me get them in the jar?"
"Yes!" Jamie squeals, his woes instantly forgotten.
Danny scowls from a few feet away.
"Course, I'll need someone to make sure they don't get too high. You good with that, Danny?" Joe asks as he and Jamie start to walk towards the gorse bushes.
"Whatever," Danny huffs, even though he follows along.
Henry shakes his head. "After Joe died, Jamie became the glue of the family."
Maggie goes to answer, but glances behind him and instead squeezes his hand again. She stands. "Danny, it's good to see you, boy!"
"You too, Mrs. Norrington," Danny says, and Henry can hear the smile in his words.
"Can I get you anything?"
"Heathen," Maggie retorts – she's of the firm belief that coffee should never, ever be black.
Danny sits down with a grin as Maggie goes off to get coffee. Henry studies his middle grandchild. The boy looks two seconds from collapsing from exhaustion. There's a thin thread of anger winding through his entire body, making it stiff and brittle at the same time.
"You look terrible," Henry decides to say.
Danny rolls his eyes, slouching back in the chair. "Thanks, it's great to see you too, Grandpa."
"I mean it, Danny, you need to stop burning the midnight oil like this. Your family needs you healthy."
"I'm doing this for my family," Danny snaps back, eyes flashing.
"I know." Henry sighs. "You get any breaks?"
"Sanfino's not saying a word. Doesn't care about a deal. Just smirks and asks how my little brother's doing, as if he doesn't already know." Danny growls. "And we can't touch him."
"The trial's next month, isn't it?"
"You got a case? Erin going to be able to put him away?"
Danny grins, all teeth and predator glee. "And then some."
"Good." Henry sits back. He fiddles with the handle of his mug. Straightens his shoulders and looks Danny square in the eyes. "You should let the boys see Jamie."
"What?!" Danny's eyes narrow. "Did Linda put you up to this?"
"Doesn't matter," Henry says, waving the accusation away. "It's true. Those boys need to see their uncle, Danny."
"Not like this, they don't."
"You're not protecting them, Danny," Henry replies. "You're scaring them."
Danny stiffens. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"What I said. You're scaring them. All they know is their uncle Jamie is hurt bad and their Dad won't let them see him. They're afraid he's dying and no one will tell them the truth."
"He's not dying!" Danny shouts, grimaces when he sees everyone look at them, and settles down. He continues at a lower tone, no less firm. "He's not dying."
"He's not," Henry agrees. "So, let the boys see him. They're strong kids, Danny. They can handle it."
Danny scowls as Maggie sets his coffee down.
She glances between them, but Henry shakes his head, so she leaves them to themselves.
"He's not waking up," Danny says after a while, eyes never leaving his coffee.
"It's not been that long," Henry says. "There's still hope."
"Yes," Henry firmly states. "Always."
"The boys really want to see him that bad?" Danny peers out the dinner window.
Danny sighs. "It's not going to relieve them. Probably give them nightmares."
"Hiding Jamie from them is giving them nightmares."
Danny blinks and looks back at him. "Linda tell you that?"
"Fine," Danny says stiffly. "But I still think this is a bad idea."
Henry reaches over. "It's not. And I'll go too, if you want. You know I've got your six."
Danny grins sadly. "Always have."
Welp, that about does it. Hope it lives up to your expectations. Lemme know how I did?