Chapter Five: Remembering the Good Times
"Okay, guys, this Friday," Sarge announced. "Team only, no kids, no wives." He paused, pinning both Spike and Lou with Looks. "No girlfriends."
"Where we going?" Ed drawled, leaning back."
"It's a bit of a jog," the Boss admitted, "But I've heard some good things about a place called Pearly's."
The constables traded glances and shrugs, debating the outing and proposed location. Lou scowled, preferring their usual spot, but when Ed gave him a 'give-it-a-try' glare and Spike nudged him, the less-lethal specialist gave in with a smirk and a 'sure-whatever' shrug. Their boss observed, amused by the completely silent argument and equally silent surrender.
"Sounds good, Boss," Ed remarked, pointedly ignoring the slight pout from Lou.
The crowded restaurant was full of people and noise, but when Sarge gave his name at the front desk, the hostess smiled and guided Team One to a smaller, quieter room. "Reservations, Greg?" Ed pressed, his tone light, but eyes intent.
"Grant and Brady recommended it if we wanted a table," the Boss explained.
"This place is that popular?" Lou asked.
The Sergeant chuckled, gesturing back at the crowded main part of the restaurant and the horde outside the door, waiting for their beepers to go off. Spike elbowed Lou, eyes alight with laughter, then snatched up one of the menus. Their teammates followed suit.
The food, Spike had to admit, was very good. Not too heavy on the spices, but still enough zip to know they were there. Nor had the restaurant dumped pepper on everything in sight, only seasoning what needed to be seasoned. The fluffy buns with just a hint of honey on top were worth the price of admission all by themselves – the bomb tech fully planned on absconding with any that were left over.
Then Wordy swiped the last one, earning a pleading look from Spike and a mock whine from Lou. "Get your own," the brunet countered, slicing the bun open to butter it. "Oh wait, you did."
"About three each," Jules concurred without even looking up from her pasta.
Sarge coughed to hide his laugh, then waved down their waitress to ask for another basket. When she was gone, he informed his bomb techs, "Last one, so make it count."
"Will do," Lou agreed.
"Don't steal 'em all," Sam called, snatching a tomato from Jules' neglected salad and dodging her fork defense.
"Sam, quit stealing from Jules," Wordy interceded. "Jules, stop leaving your salad wide open."
Both constables glared at Wordy in mock affront. "Yes, Dad," Sam quipped.
Spike choked on a laugh, ducking down to avoid the ensuing banter war between the three even as Ed joined the fray on Wordy's side. Another basket of buns appeared near his elbow and dark eyes lit.
"Aww, but Boss," Spike whined.
"You can come back another time," Sarge chided, though he smiled to take the sting out of his words. For a minute, the pair watched the banter, rapidly reaching new heights and threatening to trigger a prank war. Lou jumped in, his voice a deliberate drawl as he hit both sides with a snarky crack about parents and teenagers.
"Oh, he did not just go there," Spike whispered, earning a chuckle from his boss.
"I think he did, Constable Scarlatti." Sarge arched a brow. "Going to back him up?"
Spike shook his head. "Nope; he wants a prank war with the whole team, he's on his own. Wordy and Sam are vicious when they team up."
Another chuckle. "The two of you can be just as bad," Sarge pointed out. When Spike merely shrugged and returned to his meal, the stocky negotiator leaned closer. "How you doing, Spike?"
Grief flashed. "Still hurts, Boss."
Sarge let his knife fall to reach out and grip Spike's shoulder. "I hear you, Spike. It might hurt less, but it always hurts."
The bomb tech let his chin bob. "I'm glad though."
The Boss tilted his head, question clear.
"He…he was proud of me at the end," Spike whispered. "He wasn't trying to get me to quit the SRU anymore." After a moment, he added, "After that thing with Wordy, he started asking me about my day."
"About the job?"
"Yeah, Boss." Fidgeting with his fork, Spike admitted, "After McKean, he and Mamá knew about magic, so I started telling him stories. I mean, he wasn't talking to me anyway…"
"So what did you have to lose?" the Boss finished. "That's good thinking, Spike. Sounds like you wore him down."
"Maybe," Spike conceded. "He still didn't talk to me until…" He didn't finish his sentence, but the Boss nodded understanding. Hesitating, Spike bit his lip until his boss arched an inquiring brow. "What…what about your father, Boss?"
"Was he proud of me?" Sarge asked, his tone guarded.
For several minutes, silence hung and Spike regretted his question as hazel darkened in old pain and sorrow. Finally, the Boss replied, "I don't know if he was, Spike. The last time I saw him, he was so far down a bottle he didn't even realize the cop paying his tab and dragging him out of the bar was his son." Hazel darkened even further. "I swore that night I'd never end up like him."
"And you didn't," Spike insisted.
"Not because of anything I did, Spike."
Lou nudged their boss from the opposite side. "So you didn't quit cold-turkey, end up in rehab, and transfer to the SRU?" he teased.
"Because I'm pretty sure you did all of that," Spike agreed instantly.
To the bomb techs' considerable relief, the Boss's eyes lightened. "Well, I didn't do it alone."
"None of us do, Boss," Lou pointed out, solemn. Leaning forward from his new spot, the less-lethal specialist said, "So? Give. What story finally cracked him?"
Spike perked up. "I think it might've been our Lord of the Rings poster," he replied. "He asked if he could see it the day after we found Wordy."
"Or maybe it was you asking him for help," Wordy put in over his shoulder before diving right back into his banter war with Sam, Jules, and Ed.
Spike choked on a laugh. "Maybe," he whispered. Glancing up at his best friend, he asked, "Any stories from your childhood?"
Catching the reference to the funeral, Lou laughed. "Only if you tell me the end of that kitchen explosive story."
The bomb tech considered. "Deal if you tell me why you joined SRU."
Their boss chuckled at both of them as they clinked glasses to seal the bargain.
Then Spike yelped as the Boss swatted him away from the bun basket, scooping up two of his own before passing it to Wordy.
"Sarge! No fair!" Spike whined, Lou offering an identical expression of dismay.
Sarge just smirked at them and their teammates laughed, right before the waitress appeared with the team's to-go boxes.
And two more boxes full of honeyed buns for the bomb techs.
Author note: Happy Easter 2020, everyone! This is probably the oddest Easter I've ever remembered experiencing. No church (aside from online) and I'm tucked away in my apartment just like I've been for the past couple weeks.
But as Easter dawns, so too will the day when everyday life begins once more.
Some of us have been left without jobs (or businesses for those many who have gone under in the midst of this pandemic) and wondering how to pay the bills, but I have faith that He is Good. He will not leave us in dire straits and just as He cares for the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, so, too, will He also care for us.
Some others of us have essential jobs, so we're not worried about money, but perhaps we're worried about the virus (or dealing with increasing anxiety from those we work with). Jesus walks with us through each day and He will not leave us alone to flounder; even if shoppers start fighting with employees and each other, He is still there.
So on this Easter, please remember our God is not like other gods throughout history. He came down among us and walked on the Earth as a man. He is the only God who can ever understand our deepest fears and most difficult troubles - because He experienced them Himself. He understands our suffering: He has been hungry and thirsty and He even knows what it is like to be without a job. He even died on the cross for us and rose again from the dead - all for our sake. No matter how deep the darkness gets, our God knows what it is like and He is with us.
He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed.