Thanks to everyone who read and to Kayyroseee, MelsieR, Callisto's Moon, and Ghostwriter for reviewing.


Alex really hoped that Jamie could behave himself for three more days because no matter what Jamie might think, this grounding had been just about as hard on him as it had been on the teenager. Or at least this last week had been, anyway. He hadn't thought about it before, but Jamie was far more gregarious than he was, and seven hours at school plus a few shifts at the station a week clearly weren't enough to satisfy his need for socialization. Which, granted, he shouldn't be doing a lot of socializing during classtime, and being grounded wasn't supposed to be pleasant, but it meant that Jamie had been basically glued to Alex's side—or glued at what he considered a safe distance, anyway—basically anytime they were both home. Alex enjoyed Jamie's company, but he was not that social.

Especially since currently Jamie was sprawled out on the floor in front of the couch alternating between writing a few words in the notebook in front of him and looking up at the television with increasingly tragic sighs.

"Jaim, if you aren't interested in the building of the Assyrian Empire," and admittedly he probably wasn't given Jamie's general attitude towards history class, "why don't you take a break and go play your guitar or something?" Alex finally suggested.

Jamie looked up and then shook his head quickly.

It wasn't really a surprise, the only times Alex had ever heard him play was when he got home to music, and Jamie always stopped as soon as he realized that Alex was in the house. Unfortunately he didn't have many other suggestions about what Jamie could do. The house was clean, the dishes were washed and put away, the laundry was done, Jamie had done an acceptable job with his book report...

Another sigh from Jamie and he mentally echoed it and then pushed himself to his feet. "All right, come on."

Jamie looked up again, eyes suddenly wary.

Alex gestured for him to stand.

Jamie didn't move except to edge backwards a little. "Why? What'd I do?"

"What?" Alex shook his head. "Kiddo, you aren't in trouble. At least not any more trouble than you have been unless you'd like to make a confession about something." He paused. "Is whatever you're working on due tomorrow?"

"No." The sudden tension eased back out of his shoulders and he made a face. "It's due next Thursday. I'm just bored."

"And I suggest you remember that the next time that you decide to do something you know you shouldn't," Alex couldn't help but point out.

Jamie groaned.

"But since reenacting whatever tragedy you're currently supposed to be reading about is starting to drive me up the wall, how about you help me find a deck of cards? I know I've got a few, but I'm not sure where they are."

"What?"

"Kids still play card games, right?"

"You'll play cards with me?"

"Yeah. Go look in the junk drawer in the kitchen while I check my desk, all right?"

The amount Jamie brightened was surprising, and Alex suddenly remembered what the Croms had said about attention. Granted that their offhand ideas had been a little off given that he still wasn't comfortable sharing Jamie's personal information without his permission—even if he had been physically capable of roughhousing with a teenager, he didn't see Jamie reacting to anything like that with anything other than panic—but the time they spent together outside of work generally involved homework or food or watching television. He probably should be looking at finding other activities especially given that they had been stuck together most of these past couple weeks.

"Found some," Jamie called before Alex could do more than open the first drawer. "What's NCEMS?"

"National Council on Emergency Medical Services. They're regular attendees at the conferences I go to." Well, they were attendees at the useful ones, anyway. But logo'd cards were pretty typical swag which was why he had several decks scattered around the place even when he didn't play much. He left his room and took at seat at one end of the couch. "Come on, we can play in here."

"Uh, the only card games I know how to play are blackjack and poker, and I haven't exactly got a lot of money," Jamie said, suddenly hesitant.

"You are way too young to be gambling with anything besides M&Ms," Alex said with a frown. "And since I don't have any of those we'll have to try that some other time."

"What other games are there? Go fish?"

"How about we try rummy?" He remembered those rules well enough to explain them easily, and it was simple enough to pick up without too much of an explanation anyway.

Jamie's forehead creased. "That sounds like an old people game."

"I'll be sure to let my mother know that the next time I hear about her playing with the grandkids. Anyway, if it is you'll be in good company the next time you visit your grandmother. Come on." He patted the couch cushion. "Bring the cards."


"Alex!"

"Jamie?" He looked up from his laptop quickly, swiveling and starting to push himself up out of his chair automatically at the shout. "What's wrong?"

Jamie bounced pretty nearly literally into Alex's room before he could take more than a step. "Can I go with Tom and his brother and their dad down to the races Friday night? It's not the for-real races, those are Saturday and sold out and whatever, but Kevin is working for the track and he says its okay if we go the night before and watch the setup and practice runs and stuff as long as we don't bother anyone. But it's probably going to be kind of late before it's done, and Tom said his parents said it was okay if I wanted to stay with them afterwards and—"

"Breathe, kiddo," Alex interrupted. "First question: Are you okay?"

"What? Yeah, of course."

"Then please hold off on entering the house yelling and getting my heart rate up, all right?"

"Oh. Oops. Sorry." He looked back up. "But can I go with them? Friday night, I mean? To the races? I can spend the night at Tom's afterwards so I don't get back at two in the morning or whatever."

He was back to bouncing in place, and Alex smiled. "You don't have shifts Friday night or Saturday morning, right?"

"Nope. Tomorrow night and then not until Sunday. Early." He made a face.

"The shifts rotate and you know it."

"Yeah, yeah."

"Your friend Tom's dad is going to be with you three at this race prep?" Alex asked, ignoring the grumbling as he stepped back and took his seat again. He still wasn't too sure about some of Jamie's friends, and there was no guarantee that their older brothers were any better—in fact, given what had happened the last time Jamie had been out to all hours, there was every possibility that they were worse—so the presence of an adult was a promising sign.

"Mm-hm. Tom's parents won't let him take their car out that late, and Kevin's apartment is closer to there than here so he won't want to pick us up and drive back afterwards. Anyway, his dad has Friday nights off and wants to see the cars getting ready too."

A responsible adult was even better. "Yes, you can go, but you get me their phone number and his dad's name and make sure that he has mine too, just to be safe. Okay?"

Jamie grinned. "Okay. Except I'll have to ask about the phone number because we don't exactly call each other too much."

Alex nodded. "And you can spend the night if you want to or come home afterwards, either way, but you let me know. The part that I don't like about you getting in at that hour of the night is when you don't bother to tell me in advance."

"I wouldn't do that again anyway." He paused. "I'll probably stay over with Tom, that way they don't have to make an extra trip to drop me off."

"That sounds reasonable. Are you home for tonight or are you headed back out?"

"Um..." Jamie looked out the window and then shrugged. "Well, I've got to go tell Tom I can go so he doesn't invite someone else, but then I'll be back. It's supposed to rain later."

"Really?" His back was a little sore, but nothing unusual. Then again, backaches weren't actually an accurate weather barometer, as much as it felt like it sometimes. "Well, do you think you can make it in thirty minutes or so? I was going to finish up here and then start dinner, but I can hold off a bit if you think you'll be longer."

"Thirty minutes is good, they'll probably be trying to have dinner before his dad has to go to work anyway."

"All right, I'll see you in a bit. Drive safe, especially if it does start to rain."

"I will."