This story is a background to Deterrence and written as a Challenge. We love challenges. If you have any ideas for one let us know.  <G>


Close Enough

Gavin shoved the door open with his shoulder and entered the kitchen. With his arms full of grocery bags, milk dangling from his fingertips, he nearly dropped everything tripping over Martha who was dancing at his feet in greeting.  She was so happy to see him. 

“Hey girl, let me get rid of this stuff first, okay?”  Gavin dodged around her and dumped the bags on the counters. 

Martha was excited to see Gavin. But even more excited about the bags he’d placed on the counter. It usually meant FOOD! She stood on her hind legs; her front paws rested on the counter and her big nose sniffed at the bags. 

Gavin gave Martha an exasperated sigh. Jumping up on the counter and searching for food was a habit both he and Jack had tried breaking her of, but it was just useless.  She was a pig! Gavin was extremely careful about not leaving any food out on the counters for her to scavenge.  Jack was careful too, but even though he was pretty close to perfect about most things, he did seem to have a harder time remembering that for some reason.

Using his best Jack Ryan imitation, Gavin gave her The Look—practically straight in the eyes too, she stood as tall as he did—and made his voice sound Neanderthal....ish.

“Get down from there?”

Martha just gave him a passing glance; she was too busy sniffing to pay much attention.

“Martha?”  Gavin pointed to the floor.

Martha glanced out of the corner of her eye. The Little Guy was always asking questions. It could be confusing sometimes. He apparently wanted her to see something on the floor, so she followed his finger to where he pointed, hoping he’d brought her home something special and just couldn’t wait to share it with her. 

Like FOOD!

When she realized nothing much of interest was laying there on the floor she looked over at Gavin, her expression bored. 

Yes, dear?

Gavin sighed. He needed a class in Assertiveness Training At Home, for crying out loud! He didn’t seem to have this problem at work! People listened to him there!

Jack never seemed to have this problem with her. What did Jack Ryan have that he didn’t have?  It was a SECRET, one that completely escaped Gavin; it always had! And he was sure that Jack was keeping it from him!

Then he remembered something Jack had once told him about how to handle the devils—uh...kids—and forced the question mark out of his voice.

“Martha. Down.”

Martha stopped sniffing the bags and looked over again, her eyes a little wide. Who was he kidding? Sometimes he could just be so confusing! 

She decided to humor him anyway.  The Big Guy hadn’t been around much lately and apparently the Little Guy was missing him.  Slowly, she pushed herself off the counter and sat down on the floor, pity written all over her face.

Gavin beamed down at Martha. That wasn’t so hard! He patted her head.

“Good girl.”

Martha tilted her head to the side.

Yes, dear.

Forgetting the bags on the counter for a second, Gavin, still beaming and feeling proud of himself, went over to where Martha’s bowls were kept and carried them to the pantry.  He opened the trash bin where they kept Martha’s food and scooped up a bowlful, then went to the sink and filled the other bowl with water.

After carrying the bowls back to her eating spot and placing them on the floor, Gavin noticed the DVD rentals lying on the table. Jack had said he was going to drop those off on his way to the courthouse this morning and must have forgotten. Which didn’t surprise Gavin much.  This trial was turning into a three ring circus and Jack hadn’t had time for much else lately. And when he did have time for a little relaxation, he’d fall asleep. He’d even fallen asleep watching the movies.

Gavin grabbed the milk off the counter and stuck it in the fridge and then began unpacking the bags.  After putting the rest of the groceries away, he grabbed the DVDs from the table. He’d just run those back now and fix dinner when he got back.  That would time everything just about right. Jack would be home by then.

“Come on, girl?”  Gavin dug in his pocket for his keys as he headed for the door. 

Martha was still eating.  Which meant her mind was on more important things. 

FOOD!

Gavin sighed when Martha didn’t follow him.  He’d have to remember about that question mark thing. He must do it subconsciously or something. 

“Come. Martha.”  Gavin ordered, not a question mark in sight, as he opened the kitchen door.  “You can ride along with me. Hurry, I want to get back in time to start dinner.”

RIDE?  Martha’s head perked up.  She trotted for the door.  RIDE!  RIDE!

Gavin beamed as he watched her dart out the door towards his van.

Assertiveness training?  Who needed it? 

...........................................

Jack’s feet were dragging as he walked out of the den, rubbing the back of his neck.  He stretched his arms over his head and sighed when he felt his back crack. Damn, that felt good!  Maybe Gavin would be up for a back rub later.  If he could stay awake long enough to enjoy it.

He smiled as he entered the family room, stopping to lean against the doorframe. 

Gavin was lying on his belly on the floor watching television, feet waving in the air, scissors in hand as he snipped something from a newspaper. He was surrounded by a pile of newspapers; scraps of paper were everywhere. Martha was lying beside him, oblivious to the fact that she’d been buried alive by the discarded advertisement section.

“What are you doing?”  Jack asked, smiling from the doorway.  He didn’t have to ask. He already knew the answer.

Gavin looked back over his shoulder, a smile spreading over his face. “Are you finished for the night?” 

“Yeah, I’m calling it quits.”  Jack nodded towards the heaping mound of newspapers. “What are you doing?”

“I’m clipping out your picture from the newspaper, and the article about the trial.” Gavin sat up and held out a stack of clipped newspapers articles. “You’re going to be famous after this trial, Jack. There was a big article in today’s paper.”

Jack laughed, shaking his head at heaping stack in Gavin’s hand.   “How many do you need, Gav?”

“Well, Mom and Da will need a few and all your brothers and Jen.” Gavin shrugged.  “And I’m sending one to Brian and Mason; they’ll want to see.  I figure a few of the guys will want one and I’m going to send one to Tris in New York. He’s a newspaper guy; he’ll get a kick out of it.  And I’m going to send a few to my parents; they’ll want to show all of their Florida friends. And....”

“Gav, you can barely make me out in that picture.”  Jack chuckled; it felt good to laugh. “And ‘no comment’ isn’t exactly a commentary.” 

“You said, ‘No comment. This trial is being conducted in court.’”  Gavin’s voice boomed in an almost perfect Jack Ryan imitation, his face beaming with pride.  “That says it all, Jack.”

“Well, we’ll see if it does any good.”  Jack rubbed the back of his neck again.  He was beginning to think it wasn’t going to do a damned bit of good. The media was making him out to be the evil prosecutor in a very low budget movie of the week...ugh!

“Ah! I forgot to take those DVD rentals back on my way...”

“I took them back.”

“I’m sorry, I completely forgot.”

“Don’t worry, no late charges.” 

“Thanks.” Jack gave Gavin a sheepish smile. He’d been telling Gavin for years that he wasn’t perfect.

Gavin’s eyes met Jack’s. He smiled back, thinking how very close to perfect Jack was.

“You look beat,” Gavin said as he scooped up all the newspaper remnants off the floor. “Why don’t you go on up to bed. I’ll clean this up and shut off the lights. I’ll give you a back rub in bed. If I do it here, you’ll fall asleep again and I’ll never get you up.”

“Sounds like a plan.”  Jack rolled his shoulders. “Hopefully in a couple of weeks everything will be back to normal.”

“I think after this trial is over we should go away for a long weekend.”  Arms filled with papers, Gavin shooed Jack towards the stairs on his way to the kitchen.  “We could go to New York and take in a show or something. It’s been forever since we did something like that.”

“That does sound like a good plan,” Jack said as he started up the stairs. No judges, press or courtroom dramas. A long weekend alone with Gavin. He smiled, thinking of Gavin in New York, watching his face light up at the hustle of the city, listening to all of those little Gavin-like insights that Jack loved to listen to and would never have thought of otherwise. Yeah, it sounded like a really good plan.

“I’ll check some flights, see what I can find.”  Gavin started down the hall towards the kitchen.

“Come right up, don’t get distracted.”

“I’ll be up in a second. Promise.”

A few minutes later Gavin entered the room chattering and stopped just inside the doorway.  A smile spread across his face. Jack was sprawled out on the bed, softly snoring. He’d probably fallen asleep as soon as his head had hit the pillow.

After slipping off his sweats, Gavin climbed in bed and pulled the covers over them both.  He rested his head right in the middle of Jack’s chest.  He shifted a little, searching for that perfect, familiar spot and when he heard Jack grunt a little, he knew he’d found it. 

Gavin knew from experience that he and Jack both slept so much better ....when Jack couldn’t breathe.

............

Gavin stuck his hand inside the doorway of the den, holding a cup of tea like a white flag, and then peeked his head around the corner.

“Is it safe to come in here?”

Jack looked up from his notes for the next day’s cross and smiled in appreciation. “Thank you.  I was just thinking about stopping for a minute.”

“Thought you might be ready for a break.”

“I could use a break.” Jack pushed his chair away from his desk and patted his lap. “Come sit for a minute.”

Gavin went around the desk and plopped in his favorite lap, happy for a few minutes of Jack Time. 

Jack grunted in reaction to the plop and shifted his legs until they were both comfortable, his arms resting casually around Gavin’s waist.

“Sorry I was such a grump earlier.”  Jack’s voice was a little sheepish again; he smiled at Gavin in apology.......
No, not so perfect.

Gavin smiled back, accepting the apology.......
Close enough, Jack. Close enough.

He leaned his head against Jack’s shoulder, his voice teasing.  “Well, maybe you should wait until after you’ve tasted your tea, before apologizing.”

“I’m not worried about the tea.” Jack chuckled. “But I haven’t been around much the last month. I’ve been worried you might get fed up and take off with some other Neanderthal.”

“What good would that do, Jack?” Gavin held his hands out, palms up, and shrugged, a grin in his voice.  “I know you’d find me.”

“You know it!” Jack growled.  The sheepish tone was gone. It was replaced by that possessive tone that he had never once made an apology for. And he’d be damned before he ever would.

“I do know it.”  Gavin tilted his head to the side and grinned up at Jack. He loved it when Jack got all territorial. “Besides, as Neanderthals go, you really aren’t so bad.”

“Ah, I see.”  Jack dug his fingers in Gavin’s ribs. “Better the Neanderthal you know than one you don’t?”

“Exactly!”  Gavin batted at Jack’s fingers. He twisted around in Jack’s lap, one elbow casually resting on Jack’s shoulder. “But I’m happy with the Neanderthal I’ve got.” 

“I know.”  Jack smiled, thinking what a lucky Neanderthal he was.

“Lucky for you.”

“That’s what I was just thinking.”

“I know.”  Gavin grinned.  “But from the looks of those papers on your desk, we won’t be *getting* lucky anytime soon.”

“I’ll be glad when this trial is over.”  Jack looked over at those papers and groaned.  He loved the law and he liked this particular challenge, but he hoped it would be a while before he had to tackle another one like it.  He patted Gavin’s butt.  “But I had better get back to work before you change my mind.”

“Can I get on the internet?” Gavin pointed to his laptop lying on the desk. “I want to check on some flights to New York.”

“Good idea.  They have some great deals right now. Weekend after next would be good.”

“That’s what I was thinking.  I’ll be in the family room so I won’t distract you.”  Gavin scooted off Jack’s lap and picked up his laptop off the desk.  “Would it be okay if I talked online while I’m looking up flights?  Maybe check out my story group? I know I’m not supposed to do that before nine, but...I figured since I’d be on it anyway...?”

Jack looked at the clock.  He’d been in here working since dinner and he knew how lonely this big house could seem from when Gavin had been distracted with work.  Jack couldn’t wait for things to get back to normal.   

“Not too long though. We both know how obsessed you get when you start posting to that spanking fiction group.”

“It’s Discipline Fiction, Jack!” Gavin huffed. “Discipline Fiction!”

“Well, the lack of discipline you have regarding that fiction usually ends up with you getting spanked because of it.”

“I’ve not been in trouble in a long time.”  Gavin huffed again, then after remembering last week, he added a disclaimer. “Well, at least not about that!”

“I know. Let’s keep it that way.”

“I’ll be off by ten. I promise.”

“I’ll be finished by then too.”

“Good. Maybe we *can* get lucky tonight, Jack.” Gavin grinned as headed for the door.  He grabbed the door handle and peeked around the corner. “…if you can stay awake long enough!”

Gavin heard Jack’s laughter and the sound of a something hitting the door as he closed it behind him.

……………

Gavin came down the stairs, cleaning supplies in hand. Saturday was cleaning day and he was way ahead of schedule.  Jack was just coming out of the kitchen, plate in hand, already scarfing down a sandwich as he walked by.

“I was just getting ready to fix lunch. Is that all you wanted?” Gavin fumbled with the cleaning supplies in his hands.

“Yeah, thanks anyway.  I’m working on my closing argument and I’m on a roll. I’ll be ready for your first critique in about an hour.” 

“Just yell when you’re ready.” Gavin smiled; he loved being Jack’s sounding board during a trial. Why, if it weren’t for him, Jack would still be making that silly gesture he used to have, arms held out in front of him, palms up, when he was trying to make a point.  “I can’t wait to sit in on the trial Wednesday.  I’ll take you out to dinner after you win.”

“Wish you were on that jury, Gav.”  Jack laughed, shaking his head. No matter how frustrated he got with a case or how insecure he felt about one, Gavin had a way of making him feel like a winner.  Even when he lost.

Gavin headed for the kitchen, deciding on a sandwich for lunch.  He dumped the cleaning supplies on the counter and opened the bread drawer.  No bread.  He thought for sure he’d picked up a brand new loaf when he was at the market. 

He searched another drawer, then another, before spotting the crumbs left on the counter, probably where Jack had made his sandwich.  Jack wasn’t normally so messy. But he could be a—well, a Neanderthal at times. 

Gavin grabbed the rag from the sink and cleaned off the counter.  He looked down at the floor and noticed the trail of crumbs that led from the kitchen to the dining room.  Gavin groaned; he was sure if he followed that trail, it wouldn’t be Jack Ryan he’d find at the other end of it. Jack was a Neanderthal, but he just didn’t DO Hansel and Gretel.

“MARTHA?!” 

Gavin took off for the dining room, sure he’d find the Counter Thief there!  They couldn’t leave anything food-wise on that counter or she was sure to find it!

And DEVOUR it!

It was one of the downfalls of living with a dog the size of a horse!

Martha was hiding behind the dining room table, her favorite hiding place when she found those little treasures her guys would leave for her on the counter. They were generous sorts, her guys.

Gavin stood in the doorway, hands on his hips. 

“Martha, you know better than that?”

Jack came in dining room, curious as to what Gavin was hollering about and grimaced when he saw their house-horse enjoying the feast he’d apparently left on the counter for her.

“I left the bread out again, didn’t I?”  Jack shook his head, giving Gavin a sheepish smile.........
No, not so perfect.

Gavin smiled back.........
Close enough, Jack. Close enough.

“She has to learn not to do that.  The book says….”

“Yeah, that book....”  Jack laughed; that book didn’t help much when it came to monster dogs and their food. 

Gavin turned towards Martha and pointed to the living room. “You go get in your bed?!”

She looked up at Gavin and tilted her head. 

Yes, dear?

Jack stood behind Gavin, snapped his fingers at Martha and pointed towards the living room.

Yes SIR!

Martha immediately stood up and took off towards the living room and her bed.

Gavin turned around beaming, unaware that he’d had any help in that little altercation.  Who needed assertiveness training? 

Jack sighed. “I’m sorry. There isn’t any bread left, is there?”

“That’s okay.” Gavin, still feeling extremely assertive, shooed Jack towards the den.  “Go on, get your closing finished?  I’m going to fix some soup and run to the store.  You’d better have that finished by the time I get back?”

Jack smiled and headed for the den.

“Yes, dear.”

…………………….

“Gav! I’m home!”  Jack called from the doorway of the kitchen.  He’d left work a little earlier than planned, after calling Gavin’s office and finding out he’d already left for the day.

Their flight to New York was scheduled for 8:09 that evening. The plan had been for them both to leave work early, finish up the packing and get Martha settled with Jenny so they would have plenty of time to get to the airport. 

The trial had ended Wednesday and the outcome had turned out better than Jack had anticipated. He was satisfied and just damned glad it was over. He’d spent the last two days getting things cleared off his desk and he was ready for a break.

Gavin entered the kitchen, feet dragging.  He forced a smile onto his very flushed face when he spotted Jack.  His voice sounded like a bullfrog’s. “Hey, you came home earlier too.”

“Yeah.”  Jack appraised the situation by giving Gavin a once-over and decided their plans had definitely changed.  “Missy said you left early because you weren’t feeling well.”

“Missy has a big mouth!”  Gavin croaked, the flush on his face deepening in aggravation.

“I would’ve figured it out, Gav,” Jack said as he made his way over to Gavin and felt his forehead with a palm.  “You look awful. And you have a fever.”

“I never get sick.” 

“I know.”  Jack said, silently thanking God for that. Gavin was the worst patient in history.  “But you’re sick now.”

“I’ll be fine once we get to New York,” Gavin croaked as Jack pushed him down on a barstool.

“We’re not going to New York.” Jack’s voice was firm. “Let me see your throat.”

“Jack, the tickets aren’t refundable.” Gavin opened his mouth at Jack’s prodding. “Ack...i...ot...ick.”

“I bet you have Strep,” Dr. Ryan stated as he looked in Gavin’s throat. He opened the address book on the counter to the first page and picked up the phone.

“Who are you calling?  I’m not sick?  I’ll be fine once we get to New York?”

“We’re not going to New York.” Jack pushed some numbers on the phone and held it to his ear. 

Martha jumped up on her hind legs, her front paws resting on the counter, interested in what was going on. Something was up, she could tell.

“Martha, get down?”  Gavin croaked.

She blinked over at Gavin. 

Yes, dear?

Gavin glowered at her.

Jack Ryan, Attorney at Law, Doctor without Credentials and Boss of the Whole Wide World, apparently, was consulting with one of his colleagues, an actual Doctor *with* Credentials, on the other end of the phone. He snapped his fingers at Martha, never stopping his consultation, and pointed to the floor.

Martha immediately removed herself from the counter and sat down right where that finger was pointing.

Yes Sir!

Gavin glowered at her.  He was definitely going to look into that class on Assertiveness Training for the Home! Since he lived with Neanderthal Man and his trusty sidekick, Traitor Dog, it was the only way he would ever get HIS way in THIS house!

Jack hung up the phone, brushed his lips against Gavin’s forehead and prodded him off the stool.  “The doctor’s gone already. We have to go to Stat Care instead.”

“No!”  Gavin crossed his arms.  Jack deserved this trip!  Why did he have to be sick NOW?  “We’re going to New York!”

“Gavin, we are not going to New York.”  Jack tilted his head and cocked a brow. “We are going to Stat Care.”

Gavin squirmed on his stool.  The Neanderthal’s eyebrow could always make him squirm.  He scooted off the stool, still complaining. 

“You were looking forward to this trip.  I’ll rest at the hotel.  I’ll feel better by tomorrow!”

“I hope so.”  Jack put his arm around Gavin’s shoulder and guided him towards the door. “I was looking forward to time alone with you, Gav, not so much New York.”

“You and me in New York, Jack, it would’ve been just about perfect!”  Gavin was still complaining as Jack bundled him into the SUV.  “You are a Neanderthal, Jack Ryan!”

“Yeah, but you wouldn’t have me any other way.” Jack smiled, kissing Gavin’s head as he put the seatbelt around him. “And you and me—at home, alone—is even more perfect.”

Gavin opened his mouth to complain a little more. It was part of his charm, after all.
But he really didn’t feel very good and being charming was exhausting sometimes.

And besides, he decided there really wasn’t very much to complain about.

The Neanderthal did have a point.

Gavin really wouldn’t have it any other way. And he and Jack—at home, alone? —well, that really did sound perfect.

Or close enough, anyway.