by Rebecca Ratliff
DATE: March 2004
ARCHIVE: If I haven't submitted to your archive, please ask. (I'll say yes, I just like to know where it is.)
WARNING: Language, contains scenes of child abuse and suicide
SEASON/SEQUEL INFO: Season Seven. Gates of War series, after Evolution
SUMMARY: Hammond and O'Neill come to Alvin's defense when his father's erratic behavior turns violent.
DISCLAIMER: All Stargate SG-1 characters are the property of Stargate SG-1 Productions (II) Inc., MGM Worldwide Television Productions Inc., Double Secret Productions, Gekko Film Corp and Showtime Networks Inc.This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. Anybody that you don't recognize is probably mine, so if you borrow them please send me an email to let me know where they are and have them home by midnight. :)
FEEDBACK: Much appreciated.
Jonathan was wakened by his cell ringing. "O'Neill."
"Jonathan, I think I need some help." It was Jonathan's friend Alvin, and something in his voice woke Jonathan like a bucket of ice water.
"Yeah, where are you?"
"Pay phone at the convenient store around the corner from my building, but I'm gonna hide behind the dumpster. My old man's after me. He's crazy drunk."
"OK, I'll be there in five." Jonathan got his gun and jacket and took the stairs two or three at a time. Thankfully his car started on the first try. It was cold out, below freezing, and he hadn't been out anywhere today, getting all his homework done the first day of Christmas vacation.
The convenient store was open, but luckily few parking slots were taken. Jonathan pulled up in front of the dumpster and Alvin jumped in, throwing his backpack and gym bag in the back seat as he dived into the floor. "Haul ass, he just went around the corner!"
"Calm down, he doesn't know what my car looks like. Stay out of sight and we'll just be one more car on the street. What's he driving?"
"Dark blue Silverado with a rusty white cap."
Jonathan looked around and didn't see a truck that looked like that. He got out of the neighborhood onto the freeway and took the long way home so they wouldn't be likely to cross paths with Alvin's dad--just in case he did recognize Jonathan's car.
Alvin was shivering, whether from cold or fear Jonathan couldn't say. The smaller boy was wearing jeans and a thin denim jacket over a school tee shirt, much less than adequate for this weather. "What the hell happened?"
"I came home from Lydia's house and I didn't think he was home 'cause the lights were off. But he was passed out on the couch and he got mad as hell when I woke him up. He was yelling and screaming and hitting me. Then he grabbed a baseball bat and I kicked him and grabbed my stuff and ran. He chased me down the fire escape but I outran him and lost him in the alley. I remembered the pay phone and called you."
Jonathan got him upstairs quickly. Halfway up, Alvin started coughing and almost fell. Jonathan reached for his arm to steady him and felt the heat coming off the boy through two layers of clothes. "You're burning up."
"I think I'm getting the flu."
Jonathan opened the door and got him inside the warm apartment. "I think you already got it. We should call the cops, Alvin. You don't have to live like this."
"They won't lock him up more than a few days, and then he'll get me for it."
Jonathan had to nod. He put Alvin's wet jacket over the back of a kitchen chair. "You got dry clothes in there?"
"Well, get in there and take a hot shower to get warmed up. I'll fix up the couch for you, then we can figure something out."
Jonathan made a pot of coffee and hunted for some Tylenol. Between the hot shower, Jonathan's extra quilt, and a hot coffee mug held in both hands, he finally managed to stop shivering.
"I thought he was gonna kill me for sure this time, bust my head with that bat. I can't go back there anymore."
"No, you can't. We'll figure something." He handed over the Tylenol bottle.
Alvin shook out a couple and downed them with a swallow of the hot coffee. "What a mess. I'll bet he got fired off his job, that's why he was home getting plastered when he should have been at work."
"Wouldn't surprise me in the least," Jonathan said. "Does he know to look for you here?"
"I don't know."
Jonathan said, "Get some sleep. Lassie'll let us know if anyone starts up the stairs." He got some coffee himself and took his math book to the kitchen table where the light wouldn't keep Alvin awake. The dog caught on that something was up and settled herself beside Jonathan's chair. She was lying down but her eyes were open and alert. He scratched her ears and opened the math book.
Alvin fell into an exhausted sleep. After a few hours of no Alvin's dad, Jonathan figured it would be OK to get some rest. But he slept lightly with the 9mm where he could get to it fast.
Lassie's whining woke him about 0500. Alvin was really sick. He called Granny Garrett, knowing she was always awake by then. She came up with her bag and checked Alvin over. Before he could lodge a protest about all the fussing, Granny popped a disposable thermometer in his mouth and grabbed his wrist to take his pulse while the little strip did its thing.
"Yep, you have a fever all right, 101.7. No wonder you're shivering. Nausea, vomiting?"
"Not yet," he said wryly. He yelped as she put an ice-cold stethoscope on his back.
"Sorry," she said. "I guess it's colder outside than I thought. Take a deep breath."
That led to another coughing fit, and he grabbed his side. "Got used for a punching bag, did you? Where does it hurt?"
"Ribs, mostly, when I cough."
She ran her fingers over a lurid bruise. "I don't feel any breaks."
"I don't think he broke any this time. You can hear them snap."
Jonathan winced in sympathy. A kid like Alvin shouldn't know that sound.
Granny said, "You should be checked out by a doctor anyway. Any other bad hits?"
"That's the worst. And how can I go to the doctor without Dad to sign the papers?"
She pulled the blanket back up. "That is a problem. You might do best to lay low right here as long as you don't get dehydrated or get pneumonia." She got a bottle of cough syrup out of her bag. "Jonathan, did you get your flu shot?"
Granny gave him a long look. "Merry Christmas, boys."
"Merry Christmas. And thanks."
Things never looked quite so desperate in the light of day. Alvin felt a lot better for being warm, safe and dry. He ate some toast and finished off the carton of apple juice that Jonathan had in the fridge, then went back to sleep.
That afternoon Nancy and Lydia came up. They were angry to hear how Alvin's dad had attacked him, but not surprised. It wasn't the first time that had happened. Lydia had never known her dad, who had split at the first hint of her mother's pregnancy. Nancy had a great relationship with her step-dad, whom her mother had married when she was in kindergarten, but her biological father had stalked her and her mother on and off for years whenever one of his girlfriends dumped him. Jonathan wondered if anybody had a normal home life anymore.
Nancy asked, "What are you going to do? He's never picked up a bat before, has he?"
"No. I don't know what to do."
"Just stay here," Jonathan said. "You're never home when he is. He probably won't notice for a long time. Most of your stuff is here anyhow."
Alvin nodded. Jonathan gave Nancy some money and a grocery list. She and Lydia made a quick run to the store.
Alvin looked a lot younger than fifteen in his quilt nest with just his head sticking out. He looked lost. His dad had never been a prize, but he'd at least been something resembling home. Now Alvin was adrift, with nothing but a borrowed spot on his best friend's couch.
Jonathan said, "Hey. Year after next you'll be in college. You would've been out on your own anyhow, right? It isn't like he's been doing anything for you besides letting you eat and sleep there."
"Do you think he'll come after me when he figures out I haven't been home?"
"I don't know, Alvin, but if he comes around here looking for trouble he's gonna find some."
"I just wish things had been different."
Jonathan said, "Hey, it isn't your fault, Alvin. He's a sad old man who lives in a bottle. Maybe one of these days he'll decide to dry out, but until he does, you'll just have to stay away from him. There's nothing you can do to help him as long as he's drinking."
"He was different before Mom died. Nothing's been right since then."
Jonathan had a strong sense of "There but for the grace of God," and found he couldn't hate Alvin's dad for what he had become. It was in him to escape into a bottle as well. He sat on the floor. "Alvin, you know you're not alone. I mean, I know how much you miss your mom, and even your dad too. It doesn't matter if it was his fault you left, it's still OK to miss him. But you've got good friends, and before long you'll meet somebody. Starting over isn't the end of the world. Everybody does it when they turn eighteen anyhow."
Alvin nodded. "Did you have a good life before you came here?"
Jonathan said, "All in all, yeah."
"You lost your whole family except your brother?"
Jonathan nodded, and it wasn't really a lie. "I have to think you're better off without getting beat up all the time. It's gonna be all right, Alvin."
The younger boy couldn't keep his eyes open. He didn't even wake up when Nancy and Lydia brought the groceries up. Lydia gathered up a bag of laundry to take down to the washer and dryer in Granny's basement, while Nancy got busy in the kitchen.
Jonathan protested, "Going to the store for me was enough, you guys don't have to--"
Nancy said, "It's almost Christmas. Besides, we already had the flu. You'll probably catch it off of Alvin. Some vacation for him, huh?"
"Yeah, I know! Why does this crap always have to happen on holidays?"
She shook her head and opened a can of chicken broth. Into the pot went a can of water and a can of cooked chicken. As she chopped up some fresh veggies, Jonathan fixed sandwiches to go with the soup for the rest of them.
Lydia came up with a plate of brownies from Granny. "Mom called. She said Alvin's dad was over at our house looking for him."
Nancy asked, "Is she OK?"
"Yeah, she told him the truth, that she hadn't seen Alvin since he left last night. She said to watch out for him. I mean, yeah, she's the big time psychic who helps the cops solve murders. We already knew to watch out for him!"
Jonathan snitched a brownie. "He's still looking for Alvin after he sobered up, and that's got me worried."
Nancy said, "Maybe after he sobered up he was sorry, and he's worried how hard he actually did hit Alvin last night."
"Maybe," Jonathan said doubtfully.
Nancy asked, "What are we going to do if this doesn't just blow over?"
Jonathan was sure he could scare old man Connell off while he was sober, but get a little Dutch courage in him and all bets were off. As soon as he started feeling ten feet tall and bulletproof, he'd forget all about being worried about a sixteen-year-old kid. Anyway, as long as Connell had legal custody of Alvin, he held the trump card.
"I don't know, Nancy. We can't go to the police until we can be sure Alvin will be safe while the case works its way through the system. This isn't just a drunk slapping his kid around anymore. I'll talk to General Hammond, but I don't want to leave you guys here while Old Man Connell's roaming the neighborhood looking for Alvin."
Nancy said, "I'll call my dad to come over."
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