Shadows And Sunshine
*Shadows and Sunshine is a continuation of the aired episode, Shadows.
*Shadows and Sunshine is written under the assumption that Jack Simon wasn’t killed until A.J. was approximately ten years old, as alluded to in the aired episode, Revolution Number 91/2, and based on a work of fan fiction entitled Journey Into The Past by Brenda A.
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The door slammed shut behind Rick Simon as he entered his brother's home on Saturday morning.
“AJ? Hey, A.J.!”
"Yo!" A.J. called back in way of letting Rick know where he was.
The elder Simon poured himself a cup of coffee while taking note of his brother, dressed in blue jeans and a red polo shirt, reclining on the living room sofa with a thick novel propped up on his chest.
"Reading?” Rick wrinkled his nose with distaste as he parked his lanky frame in the easy chair. “On a Saturday morning?”
A.J. laid the book on the floor and looked at his brother. "Yes, I'm reading. Or at least I was until a moment ago when I was so rudely interrupted."
"I'm not bein’ rude. I just stopped by for coffee."
"You know something, Rick? I get the impression that you think this is A.J.'s Twenty-Four Hour Diner."
Rick's eyebrows rose. You mean it's not?"
"I suppose it won't do me any good to say no, it's not."
"No, A.J., it won't do ya’ any good. It's your own fault anyway."
"What’s my fault?"
"It's your fault 'cause you make such darned good coffee. I don't know how you do it, but yours is always perfect," Rick complimented as he took a sip of the steaming, aromatic liquid.
"You could make good coffee, too, if you motivated yourself to do more than mix hot tap water with Folgers instant. "
"Aw, too much trouble, kid,” Rick scoffed. "That's why I come over here."
"So as I’m willing to go to the work, you’re willing to show up for a cup of coffee, is that it.”
“Yep, that’s it,” Rick agreed. "I tried to call you last night, but I guess you were out."
"Yes, I was. I picked Allison up from her foster home and took her out for pizza and a movie."
"Do you think that was wise?"
A.J. didn't answer Rick right away, but rather stared at the far wall for a time. He finally sat up and swung his feet over the edge of the sofa. Rick didn’t miss the defense in his brother’s tone when A.J. asked, "Why?"
“Well..." Rick hesitated, then plunged on. "She's a young woman, a young teenage woman, a...uh...experienced teenage woman, and vulnerable right now, and--"
A.J. interrupted Rick's attempt to pass on some brotherly advice.
"Rick, I realize all those things, but you can stop worrying about it. Allison thinks of me as a big brother. She told me that the other day, and then again last night. I wouldn't have taken her anywhere had I thought otherwise. She just needs someone right now. Someone who can show her that not all men treat women like some kind of...playthings. She needs to be treated like a teenager. That's all last night was."
Rick smiled. "A big brother takin' his kid sister out for a movie, huh?"
A.J. nodded in remembrance of the previous evening. "Exactly."
"That was a nice thing for you to do," Rick complimented. "I'm sure you had more mature women you could have spent your Friday night with."
A.J. shrugged. "She's a nice kid once you get past that hard-as-steel exterior she tries so hard to keep up. She just needs somebody right now who won't disappear out of her life just when she's beginning to open up and let the real Allison come through."
"Yeah, I suppose she's got a rocky road ahead of her. First she's planted in some foster home, and then in a few days she'll be uprooted and sent to live with an aunt and uncle she hardly knows."
A.J. nodded in agreement. "It's going to be rough on her for a while, and on her aunt and uncle. She's lived all of her adolescence with no discipline, no rules whatsoever. I don't envy the job that awaits her aunt and uncle. I hope for all their sakes this works. Allison really deserves a chance at a good life, but she's seen and experienced more bad things in her sixteen years than most of us will in our lifetimes. I just don't know what that means for her future."
"Hell, A.J., even kids raised in the most loving, stable homes don't have any guarantees about their futures," Rick pointed out.
"Yes, I suppose that's true. But a good home environment when you're growing up can go a long way in ensuring a good future if you ask me."
The brothers sat in silence a moment, Rick drinking his coffee, A.J. lost in thought. When A.J. spoke again he said, "Allison asked me if she could live here."
"Here, as in here in San Diego? Or as in here here, at
"At my house."
"Oh boy is right."
"What'd you tell her?"
"No, of course. Which didn't go over too well, I might add."
“I can imagine that it didn't."
"She almost ran out of the restaurant on me, as a matter of fact."
"How'd you get her calmed down?"
"After a lot of talking on my part I was finally able to make her understand that no judge would ever award custody of a young woman to me, a single man. Especially since I'm not a blood relative. She tried to argue that by saying she'd tell the judge the same thing she told Child Services - that I had been good to her, and treated her kindly and with respect, and that I'd make a good father."
Rick laughed at his brother’s last sentence.
"What's so funny? You don't think I'd be a good father?"
"I think you'll be a terrific father someday, A.J. What I can't quite picture is you becoming an instant father to a sixteen-year-old girl. Especially one as precocious as Allison. I don't think your blood pressure could handle it.”
A.J. couldn't help but smile back at his brother. "No,
I doubt that it could. Allison definitely has a wild side to her, that's for sure."
"So she finally understood that her living here with you wouldn't work out?"
"Yes. After Allison used the argument concerning me being a good father, I explained to her that a good father, especially when there's no mother in the home, works a job that has stable hours so that he can be with his children before and after school. I told her the nature of our job just doesn't allow for that. I told we work a lot of odd hours, late nights, and sometimes weekends, therefore I can't provide her with the stable home environment her aunt and uncle can. She tried her best to convince me that Mom could make up for the stability in her life that I can't always provide, and that she'd be willing to think of our mother as her grandmother."
Rick shook his head in admiration of Allison. "She had her arguments well thought out, didn't she?"
"She sure did. She's a bright kid," A.J. said. "Anyway, I told her that Mom's days of child-rearing are long over, and that it's not fair of me to expect a woman of her age to deal with a teenager on a daily basis. I didn't go on to tell her what I was really thinking."
"What was that?"
A.J. smiled slyly. "That Mom had already raised one wild teenager, and that she doesn't need to experience that pleasure again in her golden years."
"Hey!" was all Rick could give in the way of protest to A.J.'s words.
"See, you can't argue my point because it's the truth," A.J. gloated.
"Okay, okay. I might have been a little wild."
"A little?” A.J. laughed. “That's the understatement of the century."
"All right, all right, I concede defeat on this issue."
"You have no other choice," A.J. said as his eyes twinkled in amusement. The blond man leaned back into the sofa cushions. "I think I was finally able to convince Allison to give living at her
aunt and uncle's a chance. Abby told me that they have three children under the age of six. I believe given the right guidance, Allison will make a good big sister. I told her that, and also promised that I'd call her once she's settled to see how she's doing. I told her, as well, that she can call me anytime if she needs something, or just needs someone to talk to. I think that helped a little. I think it made her feel a bit less abandoned."
"That was a good idea. Maybe just knowing she can keep in contact with you will help ease her mind about the whole situation. I imagine underneath all her bravado she's pretty scared about going to live with people she hasn't seen in twelve years, and barely remembers."
"I'm sure she is. I remember how scared I was after Dad died that something would happen to Mom, and that you and I would be uprooted, separated, and sent to live with some faceless, far off relatives we didn't know. "
"I remember that,” Rick nodded. “That really worried you for a long time until I finally got out of you what was buggin' you, and Mom assured you that wouldn't happen."
A.J. smiled a bit at the memory of a ten-year-old’s fears. "I worried that I'd be sent to live in Buffalo with Dad's goofy cousins, Orville and Wilbur, and that you'd disappear some place I couldn't even pronounce to live with Uncle Ray."
"You really thought that?"
"Yes, I did."
"I can't believe you thought I'd let someone split us up like that."
A.J. shrugged. "I was only ten, Rick. I was scared. And I guess I thought that if someone sent both of us to live with Orville and Wilbur, that you'd run away. The logical place for you to run to back then, at least to my young mind, was to Ray. So that's the scenario I had in my head for quite some time after Dad died."
"I wish you'd told me that back then. I could have assured you that I wouldn't have ever run away and left you anywhere by yourself, especially with those nut cases, Orville and Wilbur."
A.J. gave a laugh at Rick's words. "Don't worry about it. It was a long time ago, and after Mom talked to me I forgot all about it."
Rick let the subject end there after that assurance. The oldest Simon brother spent a few minutes savoring the last of the coffee in his cup, and then rose to pour himself more. "You want a cup?"
"No, finish it off. I've had all I need for one day."
Rick came back to the living room with his coffee cup and reseated himself. As he stared out the French doors he thought back to the time right after their father had died, and how hard it was on himself and A.J., especially on A.J. Then he thought of Allison's words spoken on the boat two weeks earlier.
"How could he leave me like that? I waited two whole days. Do you know how that feels?”
Rick could still clearly hear A.J.'s soft reply from that day of, "Yes," and still clearly see the far off look in his brother's eyes.
“All I ever dream about is that he’s gonna come back to me. Why did he leave me?” Allison had asked of A.J.
All A.J. could do was shake his head while he held the crying girl and lightly kissed her hair.
"All I tried to do was love him," Allison had sobbed to A.J.
A.J. had nodded his head at those words as if agreeing to them, and identifying with them, while he held Allison in a strong hug.
Rick came back to the present and focused on his brother who was still seated casually on the couch. Recalling Allison's words, and A.J.'s response to them, made him ask quietly, "They brought back some painful memories, didn't they?"
"What?" a confused A. J. asked as he was roused from his own daydreaming. "Who brought back some painful memories?"
"I meant Allison's words," Rick explained. "What she said to you on the boat about her father, about how he left her and she waited two days for him to come back. About how she dreams of him returning to her. About how all she tried to do was love him. Her words made you think of Dad, didn't they?"
A.J.'s brow knit in puzzlement. "About Dad?"
"Yeah. You had this distant look to your eyes while she was sayin’ all those things, and I could tell that you were...identifying with her feelings of abandonment, loss, and anger. I know how much it hurt you when Dad died. It hurt me, too. Some of Allison's words really hit home with me as well. I remember being so mad at Dad sometimes for leaving us like that. I can remember hoping it was all a bad dream, and when I woke up it would be like it used to be. Dad would be there taking us fishing, and to ball games, teasing and joking with Mom, even yelling at me to take out the garbage or to do my homework. I really missed those things for a long time after he passed away."
A.J. nodded. "I did, too."
"So anyway, that's how I know why Allison's words struck a cord with you, 'cause they did with me, too."
The brothers fell into a companionable silence. The only sound that could be heard was the humming of the refrigerator, and faint quacks coming from the ducks on the canal. Rick's thoughts receded to a time long in the past now, as he reminisced about his father. He remembered what Jack Simon's favorite aftershave smelled like. Remembered how much fun it had been to be four years old and sprawled out on the living room floor with his father on a lazy Sunday morning as they read the funny papers together. He could recall vividly how it felt to be six years old, and have his father's beard stubble playfully rubbed against his smooth little face as he stood in the bathroom early in the morning, watching his dad shave.
A.J. was busy doing some reminiscing of his own, but the time his mind was on didn't involve his father. He thought a moment longer before finally confessing, "Rick, I wasn't thinking about Dad that day with Allison. I was thinking about you."
A.J. slowly nodded his head yes.
"But why?” Rick said with a hint of hurt to his tone. “I don’t understand.”
"Look...I'm sorry I brought it up. I didn't mean to upset you. It's not important."
"Yes, it is important. I wanna know what you meant by that," Rick insisted as he leaned forward in his chair and sat his cup on the coffee table.
"Forget it, Rick. It was a long time ago. I was just a kid. There were a lot of things I didn't understand about life, about growing up. It's all water under the bridge now. I think we should just drop it."
"Well, I don't think we should," Rick disagreed. "You started something here, so let’s finish it. I wanna know what you meant by that. What you meant when you said Allison’s words made you think of me.”
A.J. didn't say anything in reply, but without even looking at his brother he could feel Rick's steady gaze. He wasn't sure how Rick would accept what he had to say, and was regretting having brought the whole thing up in the first place. It was something they hadn't discussed since A.J. was fifteen or sixteen years old, and Rick had probably long forgotten about it. The blond detective was tempted to try once again to get his brother to let the subject drop, but as he glanced over at Rick, A.J. knew his chances of succeeding at that were slim to none. Rick had that look in his eyes that said he wasn't going to leave his brother's house until he had some answers. The blond could stall no longer as he was prompted with a firm, "A. J.?"
"I'm not so sure you want to hear this."
Rick smiled slightly. "I'm gettin' that impression. But yes, I do wanna hear it. Now come on, out with it."
A.J. hesitated a moment longer, then finally took a
deep breath and started. "You're right, when Allison said those things, when she asked me, ‘How could he leave me like that?’ I understood exactly how she was feeling. When she asked me why her father had left her, I couldn't give her answer because I didn't know. But, I did know how it feels to sit alone and ask myself that same question over and over again - why did he leave me?"
Quietly, Rick said, "You mean me. You were wonderin' why
I left you."
"When I went to Nam?"
"No, no. By then I understood that everyone has to grow up and go off on his own, make his own decisions concerning life's choices. I might not have liked that particular choice you made, nor agreed with it, but I understood why it was made. I was talking about earlier, when I was thirteen."
"When I left home for the first time," Rick contributed.
"Yes," A.J. nodded.
"You really thought I’d left you?” Rick's voice rose an octave with astonishment. “That I was trying to get away from you?"
"For a while I did. I wondered what I had done to cause you to want to leave, even though the last couple of weeks before you did go you kept assuring me that I had nothing to do with your decision to ‘hit the road’ as you put it."
Rick nodded. He recalled those discussions that sometimes got out of hand as A.J.'s hurt and anger spilled forth over what the young teenager deemed Rick's abandonment of not only his brother, but his responsibilities as the man of the family.
A.J.'s voice broke into Rick's thoughts. "I guess I had become too dependent on you. Looking back now, I know I had. You really got me through the pain of Dad's death, and in a lot of ways you had taken his place as my father. I realize now, that was a hell of a lot of pressure for a fifteen year old to live with, but--"
Rick interrupted with a soft, "I didn't mind."
A.J. smiled. "No, I don’t suppose you did. But still, I know that had to be hard on you. I had expectations of you. Mom had expectations of you. Other family members put pressure on you to grow up and become the man of the family. To make Dad proud of you by accepting responsibilities no fifteen year old should have to. I know that had to be very difficult for you to deal with. You weren't much more than a kid yourself. I can completely understand now, why at age eighteen you had to get away from it all. Unfortunately, when I was thirteen, I couldn't understand any of it, and I only made things harder for you."
"What about how I made things for you?" Rick asked as he recalled Allison's words of, ‘All I ever tried to do was love him.’ "I guess I've always kinda wondered if you thought I kept leaving on purpose back then."
“Um...yes, I guess for a long time I did. You'd be gone a couple of months, come back for a week or two, and then be gone again. Sometimes that was harder for me to take than if you'd just been gone for a straight year."
"I don't know," A.J. shrugged. "I suppose it was because each time you came home, I'd get my hopes up that you were back to stay, only to have you take off again in a few short weeks. So many times back then I blamed myself for that. I kept thinking, if only I wasn't such a pest, or a pain in the butt, if only I was a better kid brother."
"Hey, you were the best kid brother a guy could have," Rick stated firmly.
A.J. smiled before confessing, "When Allison said of her father, ‘All I've ever tried to do was love him,’ I knew exactly how she felt. For a long time I felt like my love wasn't enough for you, because no matter how much I loved and admired you, you kept leaving."
All was quiet in the room after A.J. said those words. Rick studied his brother from his chair, while A.J. studied his feet, refusing to make eye contact with Rick.
Slowly, A.J. looked over at Rick.
"Your love was always enough. It always will be. It's what kept me comin' home, kept me callin' every few weeks just to say hi. It's what kept me dropping postcards in the mail from places like Seattle, Tucson, Reno, Sacramento, and Boise. You were right, I was feeling a lot of pressure concerning Dad's death and the responsibilities that had been laid on me because of it. But those things weren't your fault, A.J. Hell, they weren't anyone's fault. I was just a victim of circumstance, and of my own desire to prove to my dead father that I could take on the kind of responsibilities he would have found surprising had he lived. Other people didn't put nearly the pressure on me to be the man of the family as the pressure I put on myself.
And you were right, too, when you said you realized that my decision to hit the road came from those various pressures. Well, that, and my desire to see how Uncle Ray had lived all those years, movin’ from place to place. Never stayin’ in one town, or state, or country, too long. But, never did it have anything to do with you. Honest to God, A.J., you're the reason I kept coming back home. You're why I kept in touch with my family, remained a part of my family."
At A.J.'s look of surprise, Rick reminded him, "Remember how that last year when I was in high school Mom and I didn't get along too well?"
"Well, we tried to keep our disagreements to a minimum when you were around, but there were times when you weren't around that we really went at it. She didn't like my friends, didn't like the way I dressed, didn't like the fact that I wasn't doin’ well in school, didn't like the fact that I wasn't going to college, and didn't like the fact that I planned to travel after graduation. I remember one time when we were having the biggest argument I've ever had with her either before or since, and she yelled at me, “You'll be a worthless bum, Rick, just like your Uncle Ray!’”
"Whew!" A.J. exclaimed at the harshness of his mother's long ago words.
"Yeah," Rick agreed."Not only did it shock me, it shocked Mom as well. She ran out of the kitchen crying after she said that. I think you were stayin' overnight at a friend's house, ‘cause I know you weren't around at all that day, or later that night when Mom apologized to me for what she had said. Then she spent a long time talking with me. That was the first night in quite a while that Mom and I talked about my future without yelling at one another. She didn't approve of what I wanted to do, she made that really clear, but she promised that she'd try to accept it, or at least learn to live with it.
"But, as you probably remember, she and I weren't on the best of terms when I left after graduation. So, if it hadn't been for you still bein' at home, A.J., I don't know how often I would have called, or come back for a visit. Without your being aware of it, your presence kinda patched things up between Mom and me. She told me more than once back then, ‘Rick, I won't give you any arguments or any hassles when you come home to visit. Your brother needs to see you as
often as you can make it back. I won't jeopardize that, or the closeness the two of you share.’”
A. J. smiled. "Mom's always been pretty smart."
"Yeah, she has been,” Rick agreed. “Sometimes way too smart for me."
"As if that would be a difficult feat," came A.J. 's sarcastic quip.
"Watch your smart mouth there, kid," Rick threatened idly in return.
A.J. thought for a moment, then said, "Now I want you to understand something, Rick. Yes, Allison's words struck a cord with me. They brought back a lot of old feelings and memories. But, regardless of that, as time passed I did come to understand your need to leave home, and I realized as well, that it had nothing to do with me."
“Oh, when I was around seventeen. During my senior year in high school, when my own desire to leave home and live on my own started to kick in. I realized then, that was a natural inclination for young adults, and that there was nothing more than that to your desire to get away a few years prior. I finally came to understand that, even if Dad hadn't died and you weren't dealing with all the pressures surrounding that event, you still would have left home right after graduation to travel or whatever."
"I would have," Rick confirmed.
"I felt pretty guilty then, about all the shit I had given you when I was thirteen."
"Don't worry about it. Even back then I understood where you were comin' from."
"I'm glad to hear that."
Rick picked up his coffee mug once again, took a drink, and then fingered the handle of the cup for a moment before focusing on his brother. "I think I owe you an apology for the hurt I caused you back then. It wasn't intentional. I'm sorry."
"Forget it, Rick. I know it wasn't. I've known that for a long time. And I think it's me who owes you an apology for being such a little jerk sometimes. I can't deny that there weren't times when I tried to purposefully make you feel guilty over leaving."
Rick chuckled. "I knew that all along."
"You did not!"
"I did too, A.J. I could read you like a book. Still can. "
After a pause, A.J. conceded, "Sometimes."
“Most of the time."
A.J. laughed. "Okay, most of the time."
"Now, are we through apologizing to each other for stuff that happened twenty-five years ago?"
"Yes,” A.J. nodded, “I think we're done."
"Good," Rick said as he stood up and stretched. The lanky man then walked over to the couch and began pulling his brother up as well.
"Hey, what are you doing?"
"It's breakfast time."
"Rick, it's ten-thirty in the morning," A.J. pointed out as he looked at the kitchen clock.
"I know that, and all I've had so far is coffee. How about you?"
"I had two pieces of toast around seven-thirty," A.J. stated as he was dragged into the kitchen.
"Aw, A.J., two pieces of toast aren't enough for a growing boy like you. You need something that'll stick to your ribs." Rick poked his head inside the refrigerator and began pulling out bacon, eggs, cheese, onions, green peppers, and mushrooms.
"Anything you make usually sticks to my ribs, and everywhere else for several days afterwards," A.J. wisecracked while taking stock of what was being set on his countertop.
Rick dug around in the cabinets next, retrieving A.J.'s big skillet, a spatula, and a mixing bowl. While he moved over to grab the cutting board and several knives he stated, "Today I'll promise you a simple, yet filling, Rick Simon Super Deluxe Omelet."
“How can something called a Rick Simon Super Deluxe Omelet be considered simple?”
“That’s the beauty of this omelet, kid.”
"And there won’t be anything weird in it?"
"Just the nutritious ingredients you see before you on the counter."
"Okay, that sounds good," A.J. agreed as he began pulling out plates, silverware, and bread for toast.
"I'll do all the cookin'," Rick threw over his shoulder as he began cracking eggs against the side of the mixing bowl. "Just do me one favor."
"Make more coffee."
A. J. laughed, shook his head and said, "Some things never change."
Rick caught his brother's eye from across the room. "No, they don't. And I wouldn't want them to, A.J., ya’ know?"
"Yes, Rick, I know. And neither would I."
As Rick clicked on the kitchen radio to an oldies station and began chopping vegetables and slicing cheese to the beat of an old Supremes tune, A.J. smiled fondly at his sibling’s back and said softly once again, "Neither would I, big brother. Neither would I."
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