Past Mistakes

DarinValore

129% of people exaggerate.
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The buzzer sounded and the door began to open. Beams of sunlight peeked through and shone in his eyes. Tucker squinted to limit their interference as he looked out over the surrounding area. It had been such a long time since he'd seen anything without looking through the links of a fence or simply the puffy white clouds that dotted the blue sky over the walls. He took a deep breath and sighed in appreciation. It was as if the free air outside the prison walls smelled different the air inside. It was nice, and something he had been looking forward to for five long years.

“Been a long time coming huh, Evans?” the burley guard in a brown uniform spoke as he walked beside Tucker.

“Too long to be honest. I’m ready to go home,” Tucker replied as he ran his hands over his jeans and white t-shirt. The very clothes he’d been arrested in.

“I don’t want to see you here again. Do you understand, Evans?” the guard ordered.

“You don’t have to worry about that, Officer Nimens. I wasted enough time behind bars. I just want to see my family and move passed all of this,” Tucker replied as he watched the gate open before him.

“Well, I do hope everything works out for you,” Nimens replied as they cleared the open gate and stepped into the parking lot.

“It will,” Tucker replied and then turned to the guard. Extending his hand, he shook the man’s hand, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope I never see you again,” he said with a smile.

“No offense taken. I told you I didn’t want to see you either,” Nimens gestured toward the parking lot with a small smile, “Now get out of here before everyone gets the wrong impression and thinks you’d rather stay.”

“Ya,” Tucker laughed, “Thanks for everything.”

Flashing a quick smile, Tucker waited for the officer to leave before he turned back to the parking lot. Slowly a car pulled up to a stop in front of him. Peering into the passenger’s window, Tucker sighed when he recognized his childhood friend, Eric.

“What? Not happy to see me?” Eric said with a smile.

“Nah, man, just thought someone else might come get me,” Tucker said as he stood up and took one last look at the prison that had been his home for the last five years. Slipping into the car, he closed the door and hopefully the worst chapter of his life.

“Sorry I’m not someone else,” Eric replied with faux offense.

“Man, you know what I mean,” Tucker smirked as he pulled the door open and slid into the car.

Eric shifted in the driver’s seat awkwardly and then spoke, “You know the rest of the guys want to see you again now that you’re a free man.”

“I don’t know, man, the last thing I want to do right now is talk to the guys. I just got out. Kinda just want to go home and take a nap in my own bed, and eat a cheeseburger or something. Not sure where home is right now, though,” Tucker said flatly as he looked out the window.

“You could always crash at my place,” Eric offered, “Do you know where your things ended up after Lucy broke it off?”

“I have no idea. Maybe we could swing by Lucy’s just to see if she can tell me where any of my things are,” Tucker suggested.

“Sounds like a plan,” Eric agreed.
 
Last edited:

Elle Joyner

I guess...
Roleplay Invitations
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Prestige
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Male, Primarily Prefer Female
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
Probably a mix. When I GM I tend to prefer mostly aggressive, but with input from my players. I like to offer ideas and receive them. I don't like when people just take the reins and run with it though...especially in a 1x1.
Favorite Genres
Political intrigue, fantasy, futuristic, sci fi lite, superheroes, historical fiction, alternate universes. Smittings of romance, but only as side plot.
Genre You DON'T Like
Anime. Ever. Just not my jam.

Smut. Romance as a main plot. Horror. Grimdark.
"He gets out today, doesn't he?"

Hanging the chit from pull window, Lucy looked over as Carmen addressed her, the question drawing a frown from the young blonde. Folding her notepad in half, she tucked it into her apron and reached up to adjust her ponytail, "Yeah, Carm... So?"

"So? You gonna see him?" Her tone was colored with concern, but Lucy could pick up notes of curiosity in the woman's voice, and her frown deepened as she smoothed out her apron front. She meant well, Lucy knew, but small town gossip was about as addictive as heroin, and she was a source unlike any other.

"Why would I go see him, Carm? I haven't talked to him in years... I've got nothing to say to him..." Giving a shrug, she tugged her pen from the apron pocket, and rolled it between her fingers, "Besides, I have to pick up Jake from Mom's and take him to his piano lesson."

"...You know what you need? A girl's night out, Luce... You need to have some fun. Call your mom... see if she can take him for you. Let's go to Tapper's and get our drink on."

Shaking her head, Lucy tucked the pen into her ponytail, "Carm. You know I love you... but sometimes, it's like you don't even know me. I'm gonna go finish up Mr. Tennison and then I'm out of here. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

With a sigh of defeat, Carmen nodded, giving Lucy's arm a squeeze, "It's okay, you know... If you wanted to see him."

"Carm. Enough..." Shaking off the hand, she grabbed a tray of drinks from the counter and crossed the room. Picking up on Lucy's foul mood, Carm didn't ask any more questions after that, and another half hour later, Lucy was clocked out and on her way home. Her fingers drummed the steering wheel to the rhythm of her mind, racing, as her thoughts revolved on the last conversation she'd had with Tucker Evans. Their relationship had always been a little rocky - mostly due to Tucker's poor choice in friends - but it had not been his arrest and subsequent incarceration that had finally driven Lucy to hammer the last nail...

Her phone buzzed in her pocket, and with a brow raised, she pulled it free, "Hey Mom..."

"Hey, sweetie. How are you?"

"Ugh. Wishing people would stop asking me that? I'm fine, Mom. What's up?"

"Just wanted to tell you not to worry about picking Jake up. We went out for ice cream after lunch and I'm close enough to Sue's that I can drop him off. You don't need to worry about all that today, okay?"

"...Mom. I said I was--"

"I know, Lucy. Just... go home. Relax. We'll see you after practice."

"Thanks, Mom." With a sigh, Lucy hung up and pinching the bridge of her nose, she pulled into the driveway of her home, killing the engine.
 

DarinValore

129% of people exaggerate.
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Eric carried on about what everyone was doing that didn’t get pinched in the arrest five years ago. Jimmy was a married man now and a mechanic making an honest living. Leslie had moved out of town and had enrolled in college and was earning her bachelors in either business or education, Eric couldn’t remember. Even Eric seemed to be straightening up. He had a girlfriend now and was working in a janitorial position for the local high school.

For every good story, though, there were the ones that didn’t succeed on getting out. Benji was slinging dope in the slums and Jesse had signed up with the thirty-fifth street boyz. That one hurt the most. Tucker had taken Jesse under his wing when he found the boy living on the streets after his parents were innocents killed in a shootout. Tucker had failed him the moment he was arrested.

Eric was in the middle of a funny story when they rounded the corner down Lucy’s street. Tucker watched as a car pulled into her driveway and then as she stepped out and any smile on his face vanished. He’d never forgotten how beautiful she was, but to see it in person again was a whole nother thing.

After Eric pulled the car to the curb, Tucker stepped out and cleared his throat, his hands shoved nervously into his pockets, “H-Hey Lucy,” he managed to say.

At the voice, Lucy spun and her hand dove into her purse, settling around the small can of mace she’d started carrying on her when the rough neighborhood had started to encroach on their own. For a split second… maybe two, she considered using it as her eyes fell on the ginger haired man, heart slamming against her chest. After all this time, the way he said her name still gave her chills, and she hated him for it.

“...What the hell are you doing here, Tucker…?” She asked, hand falling back to her side as her expression hardened into a cool mask of irritation.

“Woe, Luc, woe,” he put his hands up in surrender, “I got out today...thought I might see you there.”

“...Thought you’d... Are you kidding me?” A frown formed, and slamming her car door behind her, Lucy shook her head, “Thought I’d made it pretty clear I wasn’t interested in seeing you, anymore.”

Tucker glanced over his shoulder to Eric who was already ready to leave. Turning back to Lucy, he rubbed the back of his neck, “Ya, guess you did,” he nodded as his hand dropped back to his side, “I was just wondering if you had any of my things left, or maybe you could tell me where they ended up?”

“Your things…” Breathing out a humorless huff of a laugh, Lucy turned away to set her purse on the front of the car. For a moment, she dug around inside, before producing a small silver keychain. Key in hand, inhaling, hand shaking lightly, she crossed the grass and thrust it out to him, “Jefferson Storage. 5A. Mack has the secondary key… you’ll need to settle the bill with him before he opens it…”

Taking the key, Tucker shook them in his hand and spoke quietly, “Thanks.”

A crunch of tires against gravel sounded, and looking over her shoulder, the color drained from Lucy’s cheek as her mother’s car pulling up behind hers. As her mother slid from behind the driver’s side, Lucy swore softly.

“...He forgot his bookbag…” The older woman offered weakly, her eyes shifting with venom to Tucker, “...What is he doing here?”

“Just trying to find my things,” he inserted quickly, taking a step back toward Eric’s car.

A second door opened, and a little boy left from his seat, feet pounding across the lawn as he threw his arms around Lucy’s waist, “Momma! Guess what! I ate a whole ant today! Billy Nickles told me I couldn’t, but I did! It was nasty!”

Jaw tightening, her arm slung around his shoulders, “...Get back in the car, Jake. Mom… Please.”

Tucker watched as the scene unfolded before him. The moment he saw the boy and heard him call Lucy “Momma”, a sharp pain struck his heart. The one woman he’d ever really loved had a son, “You have a son?” he asked her, surprise evident in his tone, after Jake made his way back to his grandma.

Lucy’s eyes narrowed as her mother secured Jake into his seat, fury dancing behind baby blues. Taking a step forward, her voice lowered to an angry his, “Are you… Are you kidding me, right now? What the hell kind of question is that?” Breathing out, she folded her arms over her chest, “...Did you even read it, Tucker? Or did you just not care?”

Confusion riddled his face as Tucker was caught off guard by Lucy’s angry outburst, “Read what?” he replied, “You only wrote me the two letters, and I read and replied to both of them. Hell, I wrote you more than the two letters in reply, but your letters quit coming, so I assumed you didn’t want to hear from me again. What is it that I’m supposedly not caring about, Lucy?”

Shock reflected for a moment, as Lucy took a step back, shaking her head, “No... no. I sent you three letters.” Her eyes drifted back to the car, as a cool twist of dread rolled along the back of her neck.

“You have to stop this, Lucy… It’s not healthy. What sort of father can he even be from prison? Do you want your child growing up knowing what sort of man he came from? Do you want that stigma on his shoulders…? Don’t send it… Don’t.”

“Oh my God…” Covering her mouth with her hands, she spun back to Tucker, slightly wide-eyed, the color leaching from her skin, “...You don’t know…”

“Don’t know what, Luc?” he said before washing a hand over his face and through his beard, “It’s been five years, I’m sure there’s a lot I don’t know.”

A twinge of something crossed her face, like a grimace. It would be… so easy. So easy to drop it. To let it go… and to move on. Wasn’t that what she wanted. What she’d always wanted? To move on. Press ahead… Shake it off…

“He deserves to know, Lucy. If.. if I had known sooner? The time we could’ve had together… Don’t take that from him. Your mother isn’t always right…”

Biting the inner lining of her cheek, her eyes closed, and looking to the car again, she shrugged, “...He’s five years old, Tuck.”

It only took a moment for her words to register in his mind. His brow knit together as he placed a hand over his mouth and looked skyward. It felt as though the air had just been forced from his lungs. When his eyes fell back down to her, he lowered his hand, “You saying that,” he pointed to the car, “that’s my son?”

“No.” Frowning, Lucy’s hands fell to her side, her fingers curling inwards, tight enough that her knuckles whitened, “...No. That’s my son.” She paused, and her eyes filled as she dug deeper into her palms, fighting the emotions welling up, “But you are his father…”

Tucker faltered. He wasn’t sure what hurt worse, knowing that he had son for the past five years that he didn’t know about, or the words that came out of Lucy’s mouth, “What do you mean ‘no’? If I’m his father, then that makes him my son. I didn’t know, Lucy. You can’t hold that against me.”

“...I can’t hold that…” Pausing, Lucy stared at him, and her eyes narrowed slightly, as she shook her head, “Maybe you didn’t know, Tucker. And maybe that’s my fault. But what isn’t my fault is the fact that you have spent the first five years of his life in prison. And what isn’t my fault is that I have spent every day of his life caring for him on my own. Every doctors appointment, every bad school, every nightmare and monster in the closet, every scraped knee and broken heart… That was me. And I can and will hold that against you. You don’t just get to be a part of his life, because you’re a part of his DNA.”

His eyes bounced between the blonde hair he could barely see in the backseat of the car and Lucy. Slowly, he nodded as he swallowed back every urge he had to argue, “You’re right. I fucked up and got locked up, but I’m out now and now that I know that I have a….” he looked down at the gravel and then back up, “That he’s here, I’d like to be a part of his life. I’ll do whatever you want me to do to, Lucy, just give me a chance to know him. I know I screwed things up with you probably beyond repair, but I won’t with him,” his eyes turned to the car in time to see his hair swish as he turned his head still unable to see his face behind the seat. Tucker jingled the keys in his hand and he turned his attention back to Lucy with a shake of his head, “You don’t have to answer now...in fact, I don’t want you to. Could you at least think about it?”

Falling silent, Lucy studied him a moment, teeth pinching hard at the inner lining of her cheek as she breathed in. When she spoke, her fingers uncurled, and she gave a small, weary nod, “I’ll think about it. Under one condition. He can’t know who you are, Tucker. I mean it. One word, one word to him about being his father, and you will never see him or me, again. It’s not a yes… but… but I’ll think about it.”

“I’ll take it,” he flashed a sad smile, “Can I leave my number and when you’re ready to talk about it, you can give me a call?”

Nodding again, Lucy pulled her phone from her pocket, holding it out to him, “...Don’t get your hopes up, Tucker. I’m not gonna risk hurting him. Not for anything…”

“I won’t. The last thing I would want to do is hurt him, so do what you think is best,” he took her phone and put in Eric’s number and then handed it back to her, “It’s Eric’s number until I can get my own phone. Might be a couple of weeks before I have my own number. Gotta get back on my feet and all.”

Frowning, she took her phone back and opening a message, she texted the number that he had entered with her own number, before looking back up at Tucker, “...There. Eric has my number, and I have his… Don’t call me until you’re on your feet, Tuck. I mean it…”

He nodded and then hung his head for a moment, “I won’t. I get it,” he said, a hint of sadness in his tone as he turned away before pausing, “Hey, Luc...Thanks for thinking about it.”

Shaking her head, Lucy stepped back, crossing her arms over her chest again as she gave him a sturdy, pointed look, “...Just… don’t make me regret it, Tuck…”

“I won’t,” he stated as he turned around and started back toward the car.
 

Elle Joyner

I guess...
Roleplay Invitations
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Several Posts a Day
My Usual Online Time
8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Writing Levels
Prestige
Genders You Prefer Playing
Male, Primarily Prefer Female
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
Probably a mix. When I GM I tend to prefer mostly aggressive, but with input from my players. I like to offer ideas and receive them. I don't like when people just take the reins and run with it though...especially in a 1x1.
Favorite Genres
Political intrigue, fantasy, futuristic, sci fi lite, superheroes, historical fiction, alternate universes. Smittings of romance, but only as side plot.
Genre You DON'T Like
Anime. Ever. Just not my jam.

Smut. Romance as a main plot. Horror. Grimdark.
"This is a mistake, Lucy, and you know it!" Her mother's voice rocketed from the living room, as Lucy sliced down on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, severing the bread into two triangles. As she placed the sandwich on a plate and set it before Jake, she smiled and brushing his chin with her finger, departed the room. Through the doorway, her expression hardened to stone.

"What happened to the letter, Mom...?" She asked, pointedly, ignoring her mother's previous protest. The woman's jaw tensed as she straightened up a little, her eyes averting briefly, fingernail scratching her temple. The silence dragged, and Lucy's nostrils flared lightly, "Mom! What happened to the letter?"

"I threw it away." Her mother answered, coolly, finally looking up. There was a narrowed pinch to her eyes, but despite her attempts at a frigid glare, her lip quivered as guilt roiled, "...I... I thought you were making a mistake. Just like you are now. Luce... he's no good. You know this! Look at what's happened so far. You know that if you let him back into your life... into Jake's life..."

"Keep your voice down." Lucy hissed, shaking her head, "It wasn't you business... You had no right, and as far as I'm concerned, that negates any right you have now to decide what is best for me or my son. How dare you try and lecture me about this! And how dare you keep it from Tucker. I don't care if you approve of him or not, Mother. He is Jake's father, and he deserved to know he had a son..."

"I was scared. For both of you, Lucy. I was... I was just scared. I know that I shouldn't have done it, but please don't make the same mistake now that you made back then. That man has brought nothing but tragedy into your life. He's poison, Lucy..."

"...But that's not your call... I think it's probably best you leave. I'll... I'll call you tomorrow." Frowning, she turned, and without waiting for her mother's response, she returned to the kitchen.
 

DarinValore

129% of people exaggerate.
Original poster
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Male
Tucker never had to work harder in his life just to find a job. Turned out everything people said about simply having a felony on your record making it more difficult to get work was true. He tried all his old places, but they seemed to have forgotten his work ethic and simply pointed out that they weren’t in the business of hiring felons. He didn’t understand. He had been rehabilitated and was simply trying to get back on his feet so that he could start a relationship with the son he never knew who could never know he was his father. Despite the troubles, two weeks later, Tucker found himself sitting across from a small restaurant owner whom, Tucker had heard, made it his business to hire felons.

“You understand I don’t hire anyone who’s guilty of murder or manslaughter, Mr. Evans,” Mr. Palowski said.

“I understand, sir,” Tucker said before tugging on the white polo he was wearing, “I didn’t kill anyone. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Mr. Palowski smiled, a chuckle following as he ran his hand over his bald head, “Do you realize how many people come through here telling me that?”

“I’m sure a lot,” Tucker admitted and shifted in the chair, “It’s true, though.”

“What was the charge?”

“Armed robbery, but I didn’t know they were going to do it. We were just out for beers and one of the-”

“Were you there?” Mr. Palowski interrupted.

“Yes, sir.”

“Did you know they were capable of something like this?”

“Yes, sir. My girlfriend...she warned me about them.”

“And you went anyway?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did you do anything to stop it?”

“No, sir.”

“Then you’re as guilty as they were,” Mr. Palowski leaned forward and laced his fingers together, “Look, Mr. Evans, I’m not in the business to employ innocent men just looking for a job. If that’s you, there’s a McDonalds down the street. Go flip burgers there. I employ guilty men trying to show society that they still have shit to give it. My question for you is which one are you?”

Tucker looked down at his fingers as his shoulders slumped. A disappointed sigh blew through his nose before he looked up, “I’m just trying to get back on my feet, sir. My girlfriend...my ex-girlfriend was pregnant and I didn’t know about it. I have a son, and I want to get to know him, but I can’t until I get back on my feet. This job’s my last chance. Everyone else has turned me away the moment they saw my record.”

Mr. Palowski sighed before he stood to his feet, “I’m sorry, Mr. Evans,” he shook his head, “but I don’t have a position for you.”

“What?” Tucker said as he looked up in disbelief, “I saw the sign. You’re hiring! Why can’t you hire me?”

“You can show yourself out,” the man spoke as he started for the kitchen door.

With a clinched jaw, Tucker shook his head. His pride was the only thing keeping him from getting this job, and as he watched the man retreated toward the door, he could hear Lucy’s words in his head as clear as though she were standing next to him:

Don’t call me until you’re on your feet, Tuck. I mean it…

With a frustrated growl, Tucker slapped his hands against the table and shot to his feet, “I did it! Damn it. I’m guilty. That what you wanted to fucking hear?”

Mr. Palowski stopped and without turning to Tucker, spoke, “No, but it’s a start. Be here Monday morning at five thirty. Don’t be late, Mr. Evans.”

A mixture of frustration and relief washed over him. He had a job, which meant he might get to see his son, “You won’t regret it, Mr. Palowski.”

Waving his hand dismissively, the owner slipped into the kitchen without another word.

Hurrying out, he dug Eric’s cellphone out of his pocket and clicked on Lucy’s name.
 

Elle Joyner

I guess...
Roleplay Invitations
Not Taking RP Invites at this Time
Posting Speed
Several Posts a Day
My Usual Online Time
8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Writing Levels
Prestige
Genders You Prefer Playing
Male, Primarily Prefer Female
Playing Style- Passive or Aggressive
Probably a mix. When I GM I tend to prefer mostly aggressive, but with input from my players. I like to offer ideas and receive them. I don't like when people just take the reins and run with it though...especially in a 1x1.
Favorite Genres
Political intrigue, fantasy, futuristic, sci fi lite, superheroes, historical fiction, alternate universes. Smittings of romance, but only as side plot.
Genre You DON'T Like
Anime. Ever. Just not my jam.

Smut. Romance as a main plot. Horror. Grimdark.
It was tempting, to say the least, to let the call roll to voicemail. Life had been easier, a few weeks ago… Lonely and a little pathetic… but easier. Now, she was standing face to face with a decision she had never wanted to make and never thought she would have to make. Whether or not a man deserved to take part in his son’s life…

The phone rang and Lucy stared at the number, a sigh escaping as she rubbed her brow, “Jake, sweetie. I’ll be right on the front porch…” She called to him. He waved a hot wheels car in her direction and returned to the track as she stepped out the front door and pressed the call-answer button, “...Hello…?”

“Hey, Luce, it’s Tucker,” he answered before pausing a moment, “I..uh..I got a job. I start next week.”

Breathing in, a steady, deep breath, Lucy took a moment to collect herself. It was fast. Faster than she’d expected, and the idea was somehow more frightening than it was disappointing. In truth, it was probably a good thing that he was invested, but bringing Tucker back into her life… into Jake’s life was easily the most terrifying parenting dilemma she’d encountered, yet.

“...Where?” She finally asked, after a beat of silence, “And doing what?”

“It’s at the small diner on the corner of Main and 2nd. The owner gives jobs to guys like me to give them a second chance. I’ll be working in the kitchen probably flipping burgers and stuff,” he told her. Admitting to stooping to burger flipping stung, but he’d do whatever he had to in order to meet his son.

Settling into a chair on the porch, she pinched the bridge of her nose, “...You have a place to stay? A car?”

“I have a place lined up on Anderson Street. I could have gotten a place for cheaper rent, but if I ever had the chance to bring Jake over...I’d want it to be somewhere in town I knew he’d be safe. As far as a car is concerned, old Gallahan at Gallahan and Sons has a car he said I could have if I can fix it. He’s letting me use the garage, and I’ve been working on it. I’m waiting on one part to come in.”

Jaw clenched, Lucy shifted, straightening up a bit. He had thought of a lot, but that didn’t mean he’d thought of everything, “...And how many of the old gang have you talked to? Seen…?”

“None. Eric’s been keeping me accountable, and I’ve not missed a meeting with my probation officer. I’m not gonna mess this up, Lucy. Can’t afford to risk that.”

Eric. Lucy couldn’t deny the man had pulled himself together over the years, and it would’ve been a lie to suggest that of all the old friends Tucker had, he was the worst… Grimacing, she took another breath, and her eyes traveled back to the door, where just a few feet away, the little blonde was driving his monster trucks off a coffee-table cliff…

“...You’re a friend. From work. A friend, Tucker. That’s how you introduce yourself… Twenty minutes. Enough time for a cup of coffee. Understood?”

“Ya, I got it,” his voice carried a hint of excitement mixed with sadness, “A friend from work. Nothing more,” there was a brief pause, “When can I meet him?”

Rising, she moved to the door and peering inside, studied Jake for a moment, before a soft sigh escaped, “...We’re home, now. Twenty minutes, Tucker.”

“Right now?” he asked, “Okay. I’ll hurry there….Thanks, Lucy.”

“Sure, Tuck…” Hanging up, she rubbed her brow. There were so many reasons not to do this, and she could count on one hand reasons in favor of it, but her mother was wrong. Whether anyone else thought so, it was Tucker’s right to meet his son… And Lucy had enough discernment in her to determine whether or not that was all the man got to do or not…

Opening the door, she breathed in, “Hey Jake. Mommy’s friend is coming over for a little while… Can you clean up?”

“Oh! A friend?” Grinning, the little blonde looked up from his mass of car destruction, “What’re they bringin’ me?”

Shaking her head, Lucy laughed and bending, scooped Jake up into her arms, “You better stop asking that, little man, or Grandma is gonna be banned from bringing you presents…”

Pouting, Jake reached out to poke Lucy’s nose, “...Party Poop.”

“...Yeah, yeah. That’s me. C’mon… let’s get cleaned up.”

-------------

Tucker did his best to get to Lucy’s house as quickly as he could. Since his car was still down for the count and Eric was at work, he had to take the bus and then walk the rest of the way. He wasn’t going to let it be a reason he couldn’t see his son. Still, fear and uncertainty paralyzed him as he stood in the driveway looking up at the house. He began to question his motives and wonder if maybe Jake would be better off Tucker just stayed out of the little boy’s life, but what would that teach the boy about his father? That his father was a troubled man who got arrested and then never took the time to seek him after his release? Tucker would not be that man.

Taking several deep breaths as he walked to the door, Tucker shook out the remainder of his nerves through his hands before he raked his knuckles against the door.

When Lucy arrived on the other side of the door, Tucker was not greeted eagerly, and the expression she wore was a guarded one, but the hostility she had shown him the day of his return had fizzled greatly, and as she pulled the door open, she gestured him inside with a nod of confirmation.

“Just put on a pot… Still take it with two spoons of sugar?”

“Hi,” he started as he stepped through the door, “Ya, thanks,” his eyes took in the home and he nodded, “you’ve done good for yourself, Luce.”

Looking back at him as he commented on the house, she smiled faintly, almost dryly, shaking her head, “...Dad’s inheritance. I’m still at the diner on Main. But the hours work out for Jake…” Heading into the kitchen, she moved to the coffee pot as it finished percolating, and grabbing down two mugs, she filled one, then another, “Jake’s out in his club house… I… I’m not sure how I feel about introducing you to him yet, Tuck.”

Spooning sugar into one of the mugs, she turned, to hand it to him, “I meant what I said… when you found out. He… he’s my entire world, and I… I’m not gonna risk him getting hurt. Not for anything.”

“As badly as I want to meet him, Lucy, and believe me when I say I want to meet him, I don’t want you to feel forced to. I get it..why you’re so protective of him. I made some stupid decisions even when you warned me, and you don’t want to expose him to that. I’d understand if you didn’t want me to meet him ever. I wouldn’t like it, but I’d understand, so I don’t want to risk never getting to meet him by making you feel pressured. We’ll do it on your time.”

Tucker looked out the door to see the little boy playing. A sad smile teased at his lips, “Truth is..I’m scared as hell to meet him. I wonder if it’s better to stay away, but then I remind myself that I don’t want to be that kind of father,” he looked at her and swallowed, “Maybe I’m not ready to meet him yet either,” he let out a sigh and washed his free hand over his mouth and beard.

“Good… It should scare you.” Looking away, she addressed her own cup of coffee, before shifting closer to look out the door beside him, a small smile forming as she watched the boy climbing the small ladder that led into the second level of the play house, “My mom… she… I wrote a letter. When you were still locked up. As soon as I found out I was pregnant. I… I wanted you to know, Tucker. After everything that happened with my dad. Mom not not telling me about him till I was older, and then finding him… finding him when it was too late… I didn’t want that for Jake. I guess… I guess a part of me didn’t want that for you, either. But Mom, she… you know how she is… She threw it away, the letter.” Looking up at him, she shook her head, “I’m sorry… that you found out the way you did. I never intended to keep it a secret.”

Looking down at the coffee in his hand, he shook his head before returning his gaze to the boy, “I wouldn’t have blamed you, though, if you kept it a secret,” he looked at her and studied her a moment, “A lesser person might have lied about it the day I saw him just to get back at me for all the pain I caused,” he turned his body toward her, “I’m so sorry for leaving you to raise him alone..for making you walk through the pregnancy without me. I..I should have listened to you, Luce. I shoulda listened.”

“Yeah, well… Hindsight is twenty-twenty, right?” Shaking her head, she took a sip of the coffee, a moment, to do anything else but talk, “I’m not… I’m not ready to let you back in, Tuck. I need you to understand that. I’m doing this because I think Jake has a right to make the decision himself, whether he wants a relationship with you. When he’s ready to make that choice. But you did so much worse than break my heart, and I… I’m not ready to forgive you for that.”

“Ya,” he spoke sadly as he turned back toward the door and looked out the window, “I got a lot to make up for...a lot to fix. Not sure where to start though,” he drummed his thumb against the side of the coffee cup after he took a drink, “Do you think..you think I could just watch today? I don’t know what I’d say to him.”

“...Not everything can be fixed, Tuck… I wish it could, but…” Trailing off, she nodded, before she stepped over to the table and took a seat, gesturing to the chair across from her own, “Is… is there anything… Do you wanna know anything? About him?”

Joining her at the table, Tucker’s mind raced with questions, “Well,” he sighed, “When’s his birthday for start? Anything medical I should know?”

“April 3rd…” She smiled faintly, glancing to the calendar on the wall, “Few weeks ago, actually. Um… nothing medical.” Lowering her eyes to her coffee, she skimmed the rim with the tip of her finger, “...He has your eyes.”

An April baby,” he frowned a bit, “Another birthday missed,” he perked up a little, “My eyes, though. At least he got the best part of me,” he smiled lightly.

Looking to Tucker, she smiled faintly, shaking her head, “He’s got a few of the good bits… and a few of those bits that drove me nuts.” Twisting a lock of hair around her fingers, she watched as Jake swung down the ladder again, bouncing in front of the shed with a thin stick, waving it like a sword, “...Stubborn as a troll.”

“Me? Stubborn? No,” he said sarcastically before sobering, “It’ll do him good if its tempered. If anyone can do that, its you,” he paused a moment and then continued, “School? Is he going to school or homeschooled? What’s his favorite color? Is he a dinosaur or cars guy?”

Chuckling, Lucy shifted in her seat, lowering her mug again, “Slow down, slow down… I’m gonna need to write these down if you bombard me. He goes to school. He’s um… he’s brilliant, Tuck. Does piano and karate… and he’s obsessed with space. Knows more about the planets than I ever did. His favorite color is green… and he is… definitely a car guy. Dinosaurs are a pretty close second, though…”

“He gets his smarts from you. I’m glad you’ve got him doing piano and karate. It’s better than just sitting at home all the time. He needs to be doing other things,” he pause a moment and took a drink of his coffee, “you’ve done a great job with him.”

“I've done what I can…” Shrugging, she took a sip of coffee, before returning the mug to the table with a frown, fingers pressing into the porcelain, “You missed a lot, Tucker. And you shouldn't have. Was it worth it? That last job?”

“Hindsight’s twenty twenty,” he answered, “if I had known, Lucy...I wouldn’t have risked it. I didn’t know that Josh was going to have a gun...hell, I didn’t know that they were going to hold up that store. I thought we were just..” he shook his head, “nothing would have been worth missing all of this...having you hate me and a son who doesn’t know me.”

“I don't hate you, Tucker.” Looking up, her eyes met his mismatched set and she shrugged, “I was angry… For a long time. I was young and scared and I was alone when I shouldn't have been. But Jake is the best thing in my life. And I wouldn't have him if it weren't for you. I could never hate you… Wanted to hit you, sure. But I don't hate you.”

“You can still have your chance if you want it,” he smirked and looked at his cup of coffee. There wasn’t much left in it, and it saddened him, “Anyone help you out, now? I saw your mom the other day, but has anyone else stepped up to give you a hand since I was away?”

“I might take it. We’ll see…” Her retort was teasing enough, but there was a flicker in her gaze that suggested maybe, just maybe she was considering it, “Mom, mostly. She watches Jake while I’m working…” Biting her lip, she looked down at the mug in her hands, “Hasn’t really been time for… for anyone else.”

“Well, I’m glad someone is helping you,” Tucker took the last swig of his coffee, placed the cup on the table, and sighed, “One cup,” he said as he turned to look out at Jake.

Looking at him, Lucy seemed to take a moment to gather herself, before she rose to her feet. Grabbing the coffee pot, she returned to the table and refilled his cup, setting the sugar down beside it, “...This is it, okay?” Sitting, she palmed her own cup, “...You wanna say hello?”

After running his hands on his pant legs, Tucker took another drink of his coffee, black, and then stood up. Taking a deep breath, Tucker nodded, “Ya, I think I’d like that.”

Rising as well, Lucy took a steadying breath, before moving to the door. Hand on the knob, she cranked it open and stepping onto the back porch, called out, “Jake! Come on inside a minute.”

Mid-sword swing, the little boy dropped his sword and raced across the backyard, excitement lighting up his face. He slowed as Lucy held out her hand and excitement was quickly overrun by a sheepishness, huddling behind his mother's leg.

“Jake, baby. This is Mommy's old friend, Tucker. Tuck… this is Jake.”

“Cool beard…” Jake said, muffled by his mother's leg.

Tucker couldn’t help but smile as he looked down at his son, “It is pretty cool, huh? Maybe one day you’ll grow one just like it.” Tucker squatted and held out his hand, “It’s nice to meet you, Jake.”

“Oh… I dunno about that. Kinda hard to be a superhero with a beard.” Giving a shrug, he eased out from behind Lucy, studying the man before him carefully, with unmerciful scrutiny, “You got mixed up eyes, too…”

“They aren't mixed up, Jake. We talked about this…”

“That's what Billy says…”

“Well Billy's an id-- unfriendly boy, and you shouldn't listen to him. They're beautiful, Jake. Just like you.” Bending to kiss his crown, she straightened, looking to Tucker, “Plus… They give you a really cool super power, right?”

“Your mom’s right, Jake. Your eyes are perfect and have super secret powers. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And this thing about beards,” he smirked, “We’ll get you passed it. Besides, Superman’s had a beard, Green Arrow has a beard, Tony Stark has facial hair,” he shrugged, “There’s plenty out there.”

“Woah woah…” His expression awestruck, Jake stared up at Tucker, wide-eyed, “You know Tony Stark??”

Grinning, Lucy shook her head, “You know he can't tell you that, Jake. Gotta keep our heroes safe.”

“Pretty soon, you’ll be one of those heroes. Saving the day and protecting people. You already do such a great job protecting your mom,” Tucker swallowed the lump in his throat, then looked up at Lucy before he continued, “You’re already a Junior Hero in my books.”

Blinking, Lucy looked away suddenly, her fingers curling around Jake's a little tighter, as his smile widened, “You wanna see my costume?” He asked, a little breathless.

“You have a costume?!” Tucker gasped, “Absolutely, I want to see it!” He stood to his feet with wide eyes, “I can wait here while you put it on.”

As Jake sprinted away, streaking from the room and pounding up the steps, Lucy looked to Tucker with a small shake of her head, “You can't get attached to him, Tucker…”

His smile faded and his eyes dulled as he looked at the ground and then to Lucy, a red hue taking to the whites of his eyes, “How am I not supposed to?”

“I… I don't know. But you have to figure it out. Because I don't know how to let you be a part of his life when it hurts this bad to let you be a part of mine, again…” Lowering her gaze, she bit hard at the inside of her cheek, “I don't know how to trust you.”

“It’s not like a switch, Luce,” he told her, “I can’t just ‘turn off’ my desire to get to know him, to spend time with him,” he shook his head, “I don’t know how you’ll trust me either, but I’ll do whatever I have to. He’s my-,” he looked toward Jake’s room and then whispered just so Lucy could hear, “He’s my son,” he washed his hands over his face and continued, “I know I blew it with you, and I’ll live out the rest of my life regretting that, but I’m not going to do that with him. I can’t...he’s all I got out here..and I don’t even have him. So you name it, Lucy, and I’ll do it. I’ll do whatever I have to for you to trust me so that I don’t lose this, too.”

“I… I just need time. I need… I need to see that he's gone, Tucker. The old you. That you can be a father. I don't know that anything else could do it. Wanting to be a part of his life, it's not enough.” Rubbing her arm, she kept her eyes down, distant, “You don't know what it was like after you… after everything. How… how scary it was. I can't go through all that again.”

“I’d take it all back if I could. But I can’t. Only thing I can do is try to show you that I’m not that guy anymore. I’ll show you, Lucy. You’ll see,” he promised.

Footsteps pounded down the stairs again, and Lucy looked as the little boy arrived in the doorframe, wearing a complicated array of costumes - ninja turtle pajamas, a Batman mask and what appeared to be the cape and boots from a Superman costume, with a pair of winter gloves over his fingers. Grinning, he put his hands triumphantly on his hips, “Don’t fear! Uh… The good guy is here!”

Smiling, hand brushing swiftly at her cheeks, Lucy nodded, “That he is… Look at you. So cute…”

“Moooom…” Jake whined, fidgeting, “...Superheroes aren’t cute. Can Tucker come out back and play?”
Looking to Tucker, Lucy flinched slightly before shaking her head, “Tucker has to get back to work, Jake. But uh… maybe he’ll come by again, sometime.”

“It’s okay, buddy,” Tucker squatted again before he bounced his eyes from Lucy to Jake, “Your mom’s right. I’ve got to get back to work,” the lie hurt him more than it did the unaware child, “You can show me everything that awesome costume does next time I see you, okay?”

“Cool! Can I go play, Mom?” Jake asked, bouncing on his feet.

“Sure, bud. Go ahead…” Before she’d finished, Jake was gone, out of the room and turning to Tucker, the smile faded, “...We’ll take it slow. You can come back next week… same time. That’s the best I can do, for now.”

“Then it’ll do,” he told her as he stood to his feet, “Thanks for giving me the opportunity to meet Jake. I know that wasn’t easy for you,” Tucker finished off the remainder of his coffee and smiled, “Good coffee as always.”

“You’re welcome, Tucker…” Moving towards the door, Lucy pulled it open, but not before looking up at him with a small frown, “...Contrary to what you might think… I do want this to work out. Not… not just for Jake, but for you. I’ll see you next week…”

Tucker paused as he began to step through the door, “That means a lot coming from you. See ya next week,” he sighed before exiting her house. Tucker paused one last time at the sidewalk to take in the home before he started his trek back to the bus stop.