Character/Pairing: Nick, LJ – Gen with possible undertones,
Requested By: liberateourtime
Summary: Nick and LJ. The cabin. Bonding.
Thomas Nnirvas was a twice divorced correctional officer at the Cook County Jail. The general consensus was that he was good guy; he helped train new guards and has never had a single inmate complaint filed against him. He has a loving wife a child on the way.
On the night of October 21st, two weeks after being served with a restraining order from his second ex-wife, Nnirvas was taken into police custody for the Thursday murders of Laura and Jon Conbime and their three children. Nnirvas, who the police say was an "investigative lead" contd on A4
Sweaty hands turned a brittle page.
Nnirvas entered a plea today of not guilty in the 1971 murders of a family of five in Beverly. This will be the third trial for Nnirvas, the other two have ended in hung juries.
Watery eyes blurred words and a dirty sleeve wiped a running nose. His eyes jumped around as he flipped through the pages, catching random word combinations here and there.
9 days of deliberation... returned a guilty verdict today... sentencing is schedu... life without the pos... appeal was turned down today for the...
A heavy hand came down on his shoulder and LJ physically jumped in his seat. His heart raced and the book slipped off his lap into a clutter of dust and torn paper on the floor.
Apologies overlapped and hands bumped as they both scrambled for the book. They were both silent as they tried to organize the now torn pages from the scrapbook.
"You changed your name."
Nick stilled for a moment before answering.
"Yeah. When I was sixteen."
"It was a big case. Teachers always had that sad look in their eye and I couldn't get a job better than fry cook at McDonald's because no one would hire me."
"Your mom let you?"
"I asked if I could change mine when I was twelve, right after dad got sentenced."
"I take it she said no?"
"Yeah. She said he needed," he sniffed and rubbed at his eyes with his right hand, knuckles bloodied and nails bitten. He inhaled a deep breath of air. "She said he needed me more then than ever and that she would burn 'Burrows' into my forehead if I ever managed to change it." LJ scrubbed his hand over his face again and pulled in another surge of air.
"I wish I could say it stops hurting but it doesn't. Time goes on and eventually you get used to the pain and it just becomes another part of you." Nick placed his hand on LJ's back; his thumb rubbing small, soothing circles in an attempt to calm the boy down some.
"I think," LJ coughed out a half-sobbed laugh. "That if I had wanted her maiden name instead of my Uncle Mike's she wouldn't of had a problem. But I still don't think I would've survived a week of school as LJ Wverkamin."
"You're talking to someone who went through junior high with the name 'Nicky Nnirvas,' you'll get no sympathy here." The sleeve of LJ's shirt passed roughly over chafed skin, soaking up snot and tears as he leaned against Nick. Nick's hand, in response, dropped lower and slid around to grip loosely onto LJ's side.
"That name just screams wedgie, doesn't it?"
"Yeah well lets just say I learned how to fight young."
For a few minutes the only sounds that filled the old cabin were the faint rush of water coming from the shower in the bedroom and the labored breathing in the living room.
"Dad taught me how to fight when I was nine. Eight? Nine. One of the two. Anyway I was getting picked on by one of the older kids at school and I told Mom and she just did that Mom thing where they say that if you ignore them the bullies will stop."
"And of course they don’t." Nick doesn't ask why he's telling him this. He knows that who he is or what he is or where they are don't matter right now because even if LJ were still in whatever dumpster it smells like he spent the night in he'd probably still be saying this and the only difference between talking to yourself and someone else is just how irrationally sane one of them makes you feel.
"Course not, Moms live in some weird magic world where everything always goes just the way they say it should. Anyway ignoring him made it worse so I told Dad about it. He told me to hit back and then taught me how." LJ couldn't help the face he made as he spoke. He knew his Dad (And it still amazed him how easily his brain switched from "Linc" to "Dad") honestly tried his best to help. "I got my ass kicked in the middle of the lunchroom and got suspended for fighting."
"I'm… sure your father thought he was doing the right thing at the time." LJ also couldn't help but notice the pause in that sentence.
"You don't like him much, do you?" The hand rubbing LJ's side stilled suddenly.
"It's not that I don't like him. I just..." Think he's a despicable human being and is the embodiment of why all states should have heavy three-strike laws. "I don't like the angelic view that Veronica seems to paint him in. I think that's he's a," horrible, "human being and humans make mistakes --I'm not saying that he killed Steadman but, that maybe he wasn't --isn't perfect."
"Then why would you help him? I mean, you're... you could die," his voice crackled and broke. "From helping us and that's really a lot for someone who... for anyone really."
"Because I believe with every fiber of my being that he didn't do the crime he was accused of and he shouldn't die for it. I'm not sure whether I think he should be released from prison though because whether or not he did the deed he went there with the intention of taking another person's life."
"It's okay that you don't like him really. Most people don't. Mom says it's because he has no tact. Uncle Mike says he's a jackass and doesn't care what most people think and that's why no one likes him."
"He does speak his mind, doesn't he?"
"Yeah. Uncle Mike says it's because the way they grew up you couldn't really sugar-coat things like most people do."
"You look up to your Uncle Mike, don't you?" A guilty look crossed LJ's face and he smiled a little awkwardly.
"Mom always says," Nick doesn't correct his tense, "that I have some kind of weird hero-worship for him. It's not like I... He's cool and he pays attention to me and he doesn't treat me like I'm a little kid. Mom doesn't really like him much though, probably because I used to call her Lisa because of him." LJ smiled a little to himself and continued. "I was like six and thought he was my big brother and so I thought that if he called Mom 'Lisa' that I could too. I was like eleven when I started calling her 'Mom.' I don't think she ever really forgave him for that, Dad either really, I think he thought it was funny."
"I'm pretty sure that my mother would have beat me if I would have called her by her first name."
"Dad would never hit me, he would just get disappointed. Somehow it always hurts worse."
"Prison can change people. Sometimes they don't know what they're doing until it's too late."
"What was your Dad like when he got out?" LJ's head lolled against Nick's shoulder.
"He was... He got arrested before I was born so I don't really know what he was like before except from stories, but he just seemed very withdrawn. He spent fifteen years in a room by himself, because he was a guard before he got arrested he was put in protective custody, and then he came out and I think it was a lot for him to handle at once." He let out a sigh and let his head rest lightly on LJ's. "Me and him had a strangled relationship already because going into visitation, you know what that's like, it's three inches of glass and a phone between you two and everything's recorded so you're always afraid you're going to say something wrong and get him in trouble." The hand hanging limply at LJ's side started it's previous movements again as Nick's mind traveled back. "The day he got out me and Mom were there and we all hugged and then went home and ate dinner and that was it. After dinner I went back to my dorm and everything was just...different and the same all at once. I was already grown and living out of the house and he was just this guy who lived with my Mom and happened to share my genes."
"Dad got out of prison once when I was eight," LJ started. "Uncle Mike took me to see him because this was back when Mom was still mad he existed. We rented a car to go pick him up and Uncle Mike made it cry all the way there because he can barely drive and stick-shifts really aren't his friend. It took four hours to get there and we left at three in the morning so that when he was let out at eight we were already standing outside waiting for him, we went to a steak-house and then got a motel room for the night and watched crappy movies and talked. Uncle Mike woke me up in the middle of the night and showed me a trick with some water and a phone that made Dad piss himself in his sleep. It was funny until we realized that we all had to sleep on the floor after that."
"Spending a few months cut off from the rest of the world and surrounded by guys is a lot different than three years in a room by yourself with no human contact," he protested.
Nick knew he had to choose his words carefully because the last thing he wanted to do was insult the kid's father right in front of him.
"I just think you should take everything with a grain of salt, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Getting your hopes up like that and then having them cut down crushes you and you've already had to deal with more in the last week than most people do in their whole lives, you're a good kid," kid. "And you don't need any more on your plate."
"That was a lot of metaphors."
"Think I overdid it a little?"
"Maybe just a bit."
"It was the plate thing, wasn't it?"
"Yeah, pretty much."
"Something in my head told me to stop but I just couldn’t. You get what I'm saying though, right? I'm not saying that you should hate him but... You're a smart kid and I think you're smart enough to remember that he's not an angel and that he has done some bad things in his life."
"I know. I didn't... like my Dad for a long time. Part of it was... Okay, Uncle Mike got A's all the time when I was little and nothing ever went up on the fridge but whenever I got one it went right up. It's stupid but for a long time I thought it was because..." It was still embarrassing to think about. "I thought he used to put mine up because he was surprised I got them or something."
"You didn't realize that it meant he was proud of you." He remember what it felt like to try and impress an absent father; seeing his own every few months and telling him all about all the football and basketball games he was helping win for the school and telling him every time he got a B or the occasional A.
"Yeah, I thought he thought I was stupid or something. I don't have any pictures of him 'cause of it. I used to have a couple but I cut them up and threw them out because I was pissed at him. I was going through Uncle Mike's wallet once because he told me we could get Chinese if I ordered it and I saw this black and white picture of Dad in it. I almost didn't realize it was him for a moment because I've only seen him with hair like once or twice and he had this look on his face that just looked all confused and stuff, like he wasn't sure what the camera was or something. I almost swiped it but Uncle Mike saw me looking at the picture," he swallowed thickly and remembered how he had felt like complete slime at the time.
"He said Dad had just gotten out of the shower or something and he managed to snap a picture of him coming into the living room. Uncle Mike told me about the picture and said that he used to have some real bad days when Dad wasn't around and that once when he was in college he went to a party and got trashed and ended up in the hospital. When he got out Dad beat his ass and then talked to him for a long time. Uncle Mike said Dad wrote 'Because you’re my brother' on the back of the picture because it was the only thing Uncle Mike always had with him. He told me that Dad had told him that that was the only thing that mattered and it was the answer to everything, it was why Uncle Mike didn't drink or do drugs or smoke, and why he always got good grades and stayed out of trouble."
"Sounds like him and your Dad were real close."
"They still are," he laughs a bit morbidly, "they're even in the same prison now. But I remember how I really... I think I may have hated him right then because it was just like, he gave Uncle Mike long talks about why he was a good person and I got one-sided discussions about why I should tell the truth. I understand that Uncle Mike is different, I mean he's like almost thirty and he can't even cook. At all. But Dad, y'know, he never really... He tried but he never really tried hard I don't think. It was almost like he didn't even want to bother sometimes."
Another bout of silence overtook them as the shower shut off.
"I... Your father loves you LJ, that I'm sure of. Maybe --"
"It's okay. I know he loves me, it's just that sometimes I just... Wonder. Kinda. Sometimes." A cold shiver ran down his spine and LJ quickly climbed up and started walking away before Nick could even register new movement. "I'm gonna go and take a shower. Since Veronica's out and everything. I'm sorry about the book; I didn't mean to drop it."
"It's okay LJ. Listen if you ever want to talk again --"
"It's a small cabin. I know where to find you." With that LJ quickly fled the small room and left Nick alone with his thoughts and dusty memories.
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