Hearts
   by Rusty

"Gav, let me up a minute babe. Gotta go to bathroom."  Jack said softly, rubbing his hand through Gavin's hair, his head resting in Jack's lap, snoring softly. 
Apparently Gavin didn't want to get up.  He pushed his head deeper into Jack's lap, the weight of it causing even more pressure on his already filled-to-capacity bladder.

"Uh....Gavin, I have to get up a minute.""

"Mmm .... do I have to?"  Gavin groaned, not wanting to move.  He was quite comfortable.

"No...I have to.  That's why I need you to move."   Jack laughed, as he brushed his fingers through Gavin's blonde waves.  "I thought you wanted to watch this movie. It's almost half over and you were only awake for the first fifteen minutes."

Gavin lifted his head up, allowing Jack to push himself off of the couch.  "I've been watching it.  I just closed my eyes a minute."

"Oh yeah?" Jack laughed again as he headed towards the bathroom.  "I must have been mistaken.  I thought for sure I heard you snoring." 

"I *don't* snore!  And hurry up.  I need you for a pillow."  Gavin laid his head back down and tried to get comfortable, although the cushion wasn't nearly as comfortable as Jack's lap. 

The phone on the table next to the couch rang.  Gavin moaned, not wanting to move.  After the fourth annoying ring, then Jack's bellow from the bathroom  to "please answer that", Gavin strectched his arm over to the table, his hand searching for the receiver, then, after dropping it twice, he managed to get the damn thing to his ear.

"Hello?"  He grumbled into the receiver, stifling the urge add, "What in the hell do you want?" or  "Don't call us...we'll call you." 

"Gavin...it's Mom."  Gavin smiled when he heard Mary Ryan's voice.  He always called her Mom and to him...that's who she was.  He had made amends with his own mother, after several years of no communication at all, and he was happy about that.  But his own mother was....well, mother.  Mary Ryan was Mom.   Gavin knew that  she felt the same way about him, too. 

Gavin sat up from his less than comfortable position...without Jack's lap for a pillow "Hi Mom. What's up?"

"Gavin, it’s Dad.  We think he's had a.....heart attack.  The ambulance...is just leaving.  Jen is here with me and ...Oh...we're leaving now to go to the hospital."

Gavin's face paled.  His heart was beating so fast he could have given half his beats to Big John Ryan and never missed one. He would gladly do that, wished so badly that he could.

"Is he......?" Gavin couldn’t finish the thought.  He was even more afraid of the answer.

"No..no. He's....alive.  But...he wasn't .....able to talk."  Gavin could hear the tears and the fear in Mary Ryan's voice. "We're leaving now.  They're taking him to Cleveland Clinic.  Could you and Jack...call the rest of the boys.....and come?  Please."

"We're leaving now.  We'll call everyone from our cells."  Gavin choked back a sob. "He'll be fine, Mom.  I know he will.   We love you."

"Love you, too. Hurry."  Mary hung up the phone. 

Gavin stared at the phone, almost paralyzed.  He had to move.  He had to tell Jack.  He just couldn't seem to make that happen. 

"Who was on the phone?  Must have been someone important, if they were able to get you to move.”  Jack laughed as he walked back into the room.  Seeing Gavin's pale looking face he stopped laughing.  "What's wrong, Gav?"

Gavin swallowed hard.  He didn't know how to tell Jack this.  Didn't want to tell him this.  But he knew this wasn't one of those times he could just keep it a secret until everything was okay again.

"It's your Dad, Jack.  Your Mom said he's....had a ...heart attack."  Gavin pushed himself off the couch. He had to be strong for Jack.  The same way Jack was always strong for him.

"Oh God!  Is he...?"  Jack couldn't finish that sentence either.

"NO!  God, I'm sorry.  I should've said that first.  They're taking him to the hospital."  Gavin made his way over to where Jack was standing and put his arms around him.  "Your mom and Jen are following the ambulance.   We're to call your brothers from our cells and meet them there."

Jack squeezed Gavin, gathering the strength he needed from the love he felt radiating from him. "Let's hurry then."

**********************************************************
It seemed like they had moved into the hospital.  The whole Ryan clan had bedded down in the CCU family waiting room.  And waited.  The Doctors had said Big John was stable...for now.  He had suffered a "large" heart attack.  The doctors said heart bypass surgery was going to be needed.  After thirty or so hours of waiting, they now felt that he was stable enough to do the procedure.

They had said Big John's heart was weak.  Those words brought tears to Gavin's eyes.  These people didn't know what they were talking about.  There wasn't a man that ever lived who had a bigger or stronger heart than Big John Ryan. 

Gavin was stretched out on one of the couches in the waiting room, his head resting in his favorite lap.  Jack hadn't been able to relax much in the past twenty-four hours. Gavin hadn't had much luck in doing that himself, but felt better when he was at least touching Jack in some way.  He knew Jack felt the same comfort in his touch. 

Although anyone looking at the man would never know that Jack Ryan needed comfort from anyone.  The man hadn't shed a tear as yet, or never wavered in his conviction that everything would be okay.  He had held his mother and sister as they cried.  Calmed his brothers when they had become impatient.  Held crying children when they had become cranky.  Took over talking to the Doctors.  And when they felt they weren't getting enough information....he had found a way to get it.  

Gavin had tried not to burden Jack with his own fears.  After all, this was his Dad they were worrying over, not Gavin's.  But Jack...being Jack, could sense when Gavin was getting anxious or frightened.  So instead of Gavin comforting Jack, it ended up with Jack comforting him. 

Sometimes Gavin didn’t know what Jack saw in him.  He gave so much, knew exactly what to do in every situation.  Guided him.  Gave him confidence and support when he needed it.  Structure when he felt out of control.   All Gavin seemed to give Jack was…trouble.

Lori and Beth had taken the kids home late last night.  They were making arrangements for someone to take care of them today, so they could return and be with their husbands.  After so many hours of being cooped up in this room, the kids had become tired and cranky.  Everyone's nerves were frayed and the normally laid back Ryans were running short on patience in dealing with the little dev....angels.  Jack had ordered Beth and Lori to take the kids home and get some rest.  He then turned the lights down low and like the drill sergeant older brother he was, had ordered the rest of the family to get some rest too.

The sun was just beginning to come out, although no one really knew ...or cared… what time it actually was.  Patrick, Sean, Daniel, Jenny and Jack were telling childhood stories that normally Gavin loved to listen to.  He especially loved the ones where Jack was the one in trouble.  Hearing them talk of those stories this morning gave Gavin the feeling he was at a wake, like they were talking about someone in the past tense.  He didn't like that feeling.  But at least Jack was laughing.  That was a sound Gavin always loved listening to.  Mary had been in with Big John for the last half-hour.

Mary entered the room, her eyes red from crying, and came over to where the rest of the family had made camp.  Patrick stood up and guided her to a chair, then sat on the arm of it, rubbing her back.   

"They're going to be taking him up to surgery in about thirty minutes.  You'll each need to go in and speak to your Da now.  Jack and Gavin...you boys go in first.  Then Patrick and Daniel.  Then Sean and Jen.  I'll go in again just before they take him up."

Gavin raised up from Jack's lap, a frown creasing his forehead.  He wanted to see Big John more than anything, but didn't think it was right that he got to go in before the others.  

"I ....think his kids should get to go ...in first...."  Gavin didn't get a chance to finish.

Mary's Irish green eyes flashed with anger, immediately replacing the tired, frightened ones that had been there just a second before.  "Gavin Michael McCourt....how dare ya say such a thing.   Why, you're just as much a part of this family as any of the rest of us.  I wish I had me wooden spoon.   I'd show you just how much a part of this family ye 're."

Gavin eyes filled with tears again.  He'd always felt as if he were a part of this wonderful family.  A very real part.  Hearing Mary Ryan's words were like music to Gavin's ears.  He loved this tiny woman threatening him with a wooden spoon.

Patrick burst out laughing, joined by the rest of the Ryan clan.  "Gavin, you'd better do like she says.  She's deadly with that wooden spoon."

Sean laughed and agreed with his brother. "Yeah, Gav.  You really don't want to mess with her when she's like this.  Her Irish is showing."

Jack laughed along with his brothers and sister.  He grabbed onto Gavin's hand, pulling him towards the door.  "We'll hurry so everyone gets a turn."

Jack was still laughing as they walked out of the waiting room and down the hall towards the cardiac care unit.  "I've always told you Mom was scarier than Dad.  You just never believed me."

Gavin's smile was a little wry.  "She's always seemed so sweet. And she always takes MY side in everything."

Jack pushed the button beside the door and they waited until someone came to let them in.

"She loves you."  Looking down at Gavin, Jack kissed him on the forehead.  "*I* love you."

Those damned tears appeared in Gavin's eyes again.  "I love you too.  I love all of you."

"I know that.  We all know that."  Jack smiled as the door opened and the nurse let them in.

**************************************

Fifteen hours later and forty-eight hours since that dreaded phone call telling them of Big John's attack, Jack and Gavin were finally back at home.  Tired and in desperate need of a shower and shave.  Big John was resting comfortably and if everything went well he would be home, where he belonged, in three to four days. 

"I'm so tired, I could just crash.  But I know we'll sleep better if we wash this hospital grime off of us.  How 'bout we just hit the shower together?"  Jack threw his keys on the counter.

"MMmm…yeah!  We can hold each other up."  Gavin headed for the stairs. "You going in to work tomorrow?" 

Jack followed him up the staircase, his hands holding onto Gavin's waist.  "Yeah.  I'm going in at least for the morning.  Jim and Harry took over a few of my cases that couldn't be postponed, but I'll have to settle a few things on my desk. What about you? You probably have a million things to catch up on."

"I don't even want to think about it right now.  Jeff said he called and postponed my meeting with Tidy Cars.  I'll call them tomorrow and reschedule it." 

Gavin entered the bathroom and started stripping his clothes.  Jack opened the shower door; after starting the water he began stripping as well.

Stepping into the shower, Jack just stood under the spray and closed his eyes.  He hadn't really allowed himself to think too much on what COULD have happened. Every time the thought of Big John not pulling through crept into his head, he had quickly put a stop to it. He had needed to be strong for his family.  It's what his Dad would have done.  But fighting those thoughts had been exhausting.  Now that the worst of it was over, his body so tired from the battle, he didn't have the strength to fend off all those "what ifs" that had been fighting to be heard over the last two days.  Tears made their way out from beneath his lashes, running down his face; they mixed in with the water from the shower. 

Gavin stepped into the shower and stood facing Jack.  He saw the battle this strong man had waged the last couple of days.  Gavin was so relieved to see that Jack could finally stop fighting it.  He wrapped his arms around Jack's neck and they cried together.

************************************************

Missy hollered into Gavin's office, "GAVIN, JACK'S ON LINE ONE."

Gavin laughed and pushed his intercom button.  "Yes Missy, the intercom is working just fine.  Did you say line one?"

Gavin heard Missy's giggle, but she didn't push her intercom button to answer.  "YES ...I SAID LINE ONE!"

Gavin picked up the phone and pushed the line one button, still laughing. "Hi.  How's your day going?"

"It's been a long one and it's only noon.  I just called to tell you I'm heading over to the hospital to check on Dad.  I want to try and talk Mom into going home early today."  Jack's voice sounded tired.  "There's enough of us that she doesn't need to be there twenty-four hours a day."

"Yeah, well good luck with that.  She's not going to budge and you know it."  Gavin smiled, wanting to tease Jack into sounding a little less tired. "Don't push her too far or she may get out her wooden spoon.  I don't want that to happen...unless I'm there to *see* it."

"Sadist!"  Jack's laughter made Gavin feel better.  "Jen is running back and forth from school to the hospital.  The other boys are running themselves ragged as well.  I'm going to set up a schedule so that there's always someone with him, but everyone will have a chance to rest. It'll only be a few more days until Dad gets to come home, but even then we'll need some kind of schedule.   I'm going to work for a couple of hours after that.  I'll meet you at home about five-thirty.  We can head back over to the hospital around six... grab a bite to eat on the way. Sound okay to you?"

Gavin shook his head.  Oh...it wasn't okay for anyone else to spend twenty-four hours at the hospital...going back and forth, running themselves ragged.  But the ever-powerful Jack Ryan could. 

"Sounds fine to me.  Of course, if you're going to put everyone on a schedule...you may want to include your name on the list, you know."  Gavin changed his voice into his Jack Ryan impersonation.  "And I'm not going to tell you again."

Jack laughed again. "I'll remember."

"Have you had any luck finding that witness in the Fallon murder?"  Gavin loved asking questions about Jack's job.  It was much more interesting than the copyright cases Jack had worked on the last couple of years. 

"Someone said he was seen down in the Flats. We're going to trial next week and it would be really put a nail in this case if we could find him."  Jack voice sounded determined.  "Although, we have a pretty air tight case without it.  There's no way we're going to let that low life walk after what he did to that woman."

"I know you'll get your man," Gavin said, always confident in Jack's abilities to do anything.

"I've got my man.  Don't forget it."  Gavin could hear the smile in Jack's voice.  "I love you. See you later.  Don't be late getting home."

"Love you too. And I won't be late, promise."  Gavin hung up the phone.  Sitting at his desk, he tried thinking of ways he could help ease Jack's burden.  Although, he was sure Jack didn't look at it as a burden.  He was just taking care of things. The way he always did.

He was worried about Jack.  He was pushing himself so hard, trying to take care of everything.  Sometimes Gavin felt like he was just one more burden in that long list.  There had to be something he could do to help.  Maybe just going home early and doing laundry. Mowing the grass.  That type of thing.  It was stuff they normally worked on together, but if Gavin went home now, he could get all of that done and Jack wouldn’t have to think about it.


Pushing himself up from his chair, Gavin hollered out to Missy.  "HEY MISSY!  I'M GOING HOME.  I PROBABLY WON'T BE BACK."

Missy pressed her intercom button.  "Yes, Mr. McCourt.  The intercom works just fine.  Did you say you were going home?”

Gavin laughed.  He loved owning his own business.  "YES, MISSY!  I SAID I'M GOING HOME."

*************************************************

After folding the last of the laundry, Gavin picked up the laundry basket and headed up the stairs.  Having the laundry room in the basement and having to lug everything up the two flights of stairs to their bedroom was the worst part of doing laundry, in his opinion.  He was always telling Jack they should turn one of the extra bedrooms into a laundry room on the third floor.  Make things easier that way.  Jack thought it was good exercise.

Walking through the kitchen and into the hallway he headed towards stairway..  Looking up, he remembered the light in the hall at the top of the stairs had burned out.  He should just change that now. 

After putting the clothes away he got a new bulb out of the hall storage closet.  Standing under the light fixture in the center of the hall he realized he was going to need something to stand on.  There was a ladder in one of the spare bedrooms they were currently working on.  He decided he didn’t need to go to all that trouble.  He could just stand on the staircase rail that ran halfway along the hallway. He and Jack had replaced the railing and it was a strong and sturdy oak with a wide ledge.  Sturdy enough to stand on. 

He figured as long as he didn’t turn around and look down he’d be fine.  He climbed up on the ledge, making sure he faced the hallway.  Slowly standing up, he balance himself with his left hand on the ceiling and unscrewed the light fixture with his right, holding the light bulb’s screw-in side in his mouth. After taking the cover off, he juggled it in his hand and took the bulb from his mouth, ready to screw it in.

Jack came through the kitchen and looked up the staircase just as Gavin took the bulb out of his mouth.  His heart was already in his throat at seeing Gavin balancing on that ledge like a gymnast.  A gymnast afraid of heights.

Jack was afraid to say a word for fear it would startle him.  He didn’t think a sound could work its way up his throat anyway.  Realizing that Gavin just took light bulb from his mouth and his hand was ready to screw it in the socket, gave Jack’s voice box the jolt it needed.  

Just as Jack began to say, “DON’T!”

Gavin screwed the light bulb in.  The jolt of electricity that shot through his arm startled him.  He jerked and lost his balance. His feet went out from under him and he fell back losing his grip on the light fixture, sending it crashing at least fifteen feet to the floor. 

In those few seconds Jack was sure Gavin was going to join that light fixture on the floor.  Broken and bloody. But that saying about God looking out for fools and children was never truer than today.

Everything seemed to move in slow motion.  Those seconds seemed like hours.  But in the end, Gavin was hanging upside down with his knees gripping the ledge on that banister.

Jack was already running for all he was worth up those stairs.  He took hold of Gavin’s waist and pulled him up, rubbing his hands up and down his body, making sure everything was okay.  Then he grabbed Gavin into his arms and hugged the breath back into him.

“Oh God, are you okay?” Jack asked, unable to breathe normally himself yet. He was sure his heart had stopped beating.

“Yeah. I’m okay.”  Gavin thought he was doing better than Jack, actually.  “Man, I didn’t even think about the light bulb being wet and all.”

Jack pushed Gavin away from him, keeping his hands on his shoulders.  “Are you sure that you’re okay?”

Gavin nodded, “I’m fine.  It all happened so fast, I didn’t really have time to think about it.”

Jack blew out a breath.  Then inhaled again. Jack thought Gavin was mistaken.  This whole thing took about a lifetime to happen.  Jack’s whole life flashed before him in those seconds.

“You’re sure?”  Jack asked again, his heart still in his throat.

Gavin nodded his head again, “Yeah, sure.”

Jack held Gavin's face between his hands and kissed him, hard.

“Good.” Jack said, when he was finished with that kiss.  Then he grabbed Gavin by one ear and pulled him the rest of the way down the hall towards their bedroom. 

“Then I won’t feel guilty about blistering your butt.”

Jack grabbed the hairbrush off of the dresser as they passed by on his way to the bed.  After sitting down on the bed, he pulled Gavin across his knees, pushed the running pants and shorts down in one motion, and whacked that hairbrush across Gavin’s backside six times before before punctuating them with a list of examples on what a ladder was used for and another one on spit and electricity, then went on to list the reasons why only an Insane man would have stood on that ledge to begin with, let alone one who was afraid of heights!

The only thing Gavin added to the list were yelps and howls and promises NEVER to do anything like that again. By the time the last whack of that hairbrush landed Gavin could barely catch his breath. 

Jack didn’t have any sympathy for him though, he still hadn’t caught his own breath yet. He lifted Gavin up and held him on his lap.  Held him like he would never let go.

************************************************

Gavin left work early again the following day.  This whole week had been a total bust for work anyway.  He’d just start fresh on Monday.  He was still feeling kind of down today.  Why did he always have to do things that made Jack’s life harder?

He knew Jack wasn’t going to be able to leave work today to make a run to the hospital.  Mary had an appointment this afternoon and the other Ryan siblings weren't able to fill in for those few hours either.  It would ease Jack’s mind some, if someone was able to stop by and keep Big John company for a couple of hours, make sure he was still doing okay.  That was something that Gavin could do for Jack that wouldn’t cause any trouble.

Gavin hadn't gone to the hospital with Jack last night so he was looking forward to seeing Big John anyway. After the "light bulb incident" yesterday afternoon, things had calmed down some.  That is until Jack went down to the basement and discovered the iron still on...kind of laying flat on the ironing board.  The burn mark wasn't THAT big!   Gavin had been telling Jack that they needed to get one of those irons that turned off....automatically.  He'd told Jack that the last...three times...he'd forgotten to turn that damned iron off.

Well, he wasn't exactly pleased about the iron thing, but Gavin was sure that the final straw was when Jack noticed the burn marks on the curtains in the kitchen.  Gavin had tried explaining that he had sat the candles in the window sill so that the breeze from the open window would freshen the room a little more.  There were ONLY three burn marks on those curtains. No big loss! He was only trying to remove the smoke smell from the room where he had... slightly...over-baked the cookies he had made for Jack.

The laundry was done, the smell from the burnt cookies was no longer noticeable and he DID have a dozen cookies that weren't burned...too much. And they had needed a new ironing board cover anyway and they HAD planned on replacing those curtains with insert blinds. Not big loss!  He may not have replaced the bulb in the hallway, but....he hadn't fallen from the railing.  He was fine.   All in all, Gavin thought he had gotten a lot accomplished in such a short time.  He had only been trying to help!

Jack had left for the hospital...without Gavin, ordering him to shower and be in bed by nine.  He thought Gavin needed an early night, figuring it was lack of sleep that was causing this sudden desire to ....burn himself to a crisp, either by gas, fire or electricity.  He had told Gavin not to touch ANYTHING that required any of those things while he was gone.

Gavin was surprised Jack didn't call a babysitter to come over and stay with him. 

Peering his head around the corner of Big John’s room, Gavin smiled, “Hey, you feel like company?”

A big smile spread over that wonderful Irish face.  “What a pleasant surprise, boyo.  We missed ya last night.  Jack said you weren’t up to visiting. Are ye feelin’ better now?”

Gavin let out a little sigh. He had wondered how Jack had explained his absence last night.  Gavin didn’t think Jack would burden his family with the truth, by saying he had left him at home because he was just too much trouble to have around right now.

“Oh, I was feeling okay.  I think Jack just needed some space from me last night, you know.  He’s trying to keep it all together…and well, sometimes I think I can be an added stress.”  Gavin laughed, trying to make light of his feelings. “You know how sometimes when I try to help…. and, um…things don’t go quite how I imagined them turning out.”

Big John chuckled. “He didn’t tell us of any current …misadventures.  But I know your heart’s always in the right place, Gavin.  You and Jack had a little tiff, did ye?”

Gavin sat on the chair beside the bed and winced.  Big John had NO idea of how Jack handled Gavin’s …….misadventures.  Gavin didn’t WANT it known, that’s for sure. 

“Not really a ‘tiff’,” Gavin gave a little smile. “You know how Jack is.  Always knows what to do, what to say.  Never a wrong move.  He’s the strongest man I know.  No weaknesses. I don’t know what I’d do without him.  But sometimes I sure wonder what it is that I give him.”

Big John laughed, this time right from the belly.  He had a big laugh and even in sickness that rumble shook the room.

“Gavin, you’ve been with the man for years, and you STILL don’t know what it is you give him?”

Gavin didn’t want Big John to think there was any trouble between them.  He hoped he wasn’t making this sound too awful.  He knew Jack would never leave him or anything.  He just thought that sometimes their relationship was a little out of balance.  With Jack giving more than his share and Gavin just giving trouble back as payment.

“Oh…don’t get me wrong. I know Jack loves me. And he knows I love him.  It’s just ….you know…he always does the right things…and well, sometimes I don’t.”  Gavin shrugged his shoulders.  “It’s not something I worry about too much though.  He’s just got a lot going on right now and I don’t think I’m much of a help to him.  Actually, probably just more trouble.”

Big John shook his head.  “Boyo, when you discover the power ye have over the man….that’s when his troubles will really start.” 

Gavin blinked, totally confused.  “What power do I have over him?”

Big John smiled over at Gavin, wondering if should tell him.  The information he had could cause all sorts of trouble for his oldest son, if Gavin were suddenly aware of the power he did have. Always had.  Well, his son was big man, he could handle it.

“You think of Jack as a strong man. One with no weakness.” Big John shook his head.

“Well, yeah.  Everyone knows that.  He can do anything.”  Gavin sighed.  “And he always does it right.”

“Mmm.  I can think of one weakness he has.”  Big John waited for Gavin to ask what that weakness was.

“What weakness is that?”  Gavin looked really interested.  He never could find any weakness where Jack was concerned.

“His weakness….is you.”  Big John smiled.

“ME!”  Gavin looked appalled.  He knew he caused Jack endless trouble, but he never thought of himself as a weakness.  He thought Big John had always liked him.  Loved him even.

“Oh yes.  You!”  Big John sat up a little straighter in his bed. His Irish brogue, even after forty years away from his Motherland, was still evident.  “Ye’ see Gavin, Jack’s a man that needs a reason for things.  There’s right and wrong.  Yes and no.  He likes knowing which side of the fence he’s on.  He doesn’t ponder too much about the gray in-between.  He’s a lot like me in that.   You know that about him, I’m sure.”

“Oh, that’s Jack to a tee.”  Gavin smiled. He loved that part of Jack. The part that always knew where he stood with things.

Big John nodded and then continued. “When Jack …..realized who he was….or at least that part of what he was…that he felt was different than what he thought he was supposed to be, well, he was a little uncomfortable.  He didn’t have reason for it.  Didn’t understand why he was the way he was.”

“Oh…he was always honest about it.  He never tried to hide it or keep it a secret.  But he never understood it.”  Big John shifted in his bed again.  “Until …he met you.” 

Gavin leaned forward in his chair and rested his arms on Big John’s bed.  “So then he understood it?”

Big John nodded.  “You were the reason he is who he is…because you are… who you are. Because of you he was able to finally embrace that part of himself that he could never totally accept before.”

Gavin’s forehead puckered in a frown.  “How does that make me his weakness?”

“By bein’ able to accept that part of himself……he  became whole.  If he didn’t have you…if something were to happen to you….there would be no reason for him to be who he is.  You’re his greatest strength.  That’s a lot of power to hold over a man….being his source of strength. His reason for being. And because of that…you become his greatest weakness.”

Gavin liked being called a weakness when it was explained like that. “Well, he does that for me too.  I mean…he’s my strength.”

“Aye, that he is.  Isn’t that a wondrous thing….being able to give each other that strength…..and to trust each other enough that you never have to worry that power would ever be used against you.” 

Gavin had always thought Jack had inherited his heart from this man.  He smiled at Big John.  “Aye, it’s a wondrous thing.”

Big John smiled back.  “My son’s not perfect, Gavin.  But because of you….he tries to be.  He wants to be strong for ye.  Someone you could be proud of.”

“I am …so proud of him. Of who he is.”  Gavin wondered if he told Jack that enough.  Jack always told him those things. He never really thought Jack needed to hear that stuff.  He always seemed so sure of himself.


“Oh, he knows that.  What’s more important here is…do you know how proud he is of you?”  Big John asked, a knowing look on his face.

“Well yeah…I mean…he tells me all the time. And I know he loves me.”  Gavin said this with confidence.  That part he never doubted.  “But…I mess up some, you know.  And I don’t always think things through before I jump in.  Jack’s always having to ‘fix’ things when I get in over my head.”

Big John laughed again.  “Well Gavin, I’m sure he doesn’t mind. Jack’s a fixer.  It’s just another part of who he is.  He probably figures it’s a little price to pay…… when you give him the very beat of his heart.”

***********************************************

Gavin shoved the door into the kitchen open and hollered, “Honey, I’m home!”

Jack looked up over the refrigerator door and laughed.  “Did you bring Fred and Ethel with you, dear?”

“Left them at the club.”  Gavin threw his keys on the counter and kissed Jack over the fridge door. 

Leaning an arm on the door, Jack asked, “Where’d you go? I called your office and Missy said you left at noon again.”

“Went to see Dad.  I knew no one was going to be with him this afternoon, so I went to keep him company.”  Gavin smiled, remembering their conversation.  He sat down on a stool at the bar.

Pulling out two cans of V-8, Jack sat at the bar across from Gavin. “That was nice, Gav.  Thanks.  I’m sure he appreciated it.  I know I do.”

“Hey, he’s my Dad too.” Gavin popped his can open.  “Besides, I think that visit did more for me than it did for him.”

“How’s that?” Jack asked, popping his own can.

Gavin smiled.,.a little secret smile.  “Oh, we just talked about…hearts and things.”

“If you’ve spent all afternoon over there, you probably don’t feel much like driving back over with me later.”  Jack sounded a little disappointed.

Gavin looked up at him from across the bar.  He didn’t know why he’d been so worried the last few days about not helping Jack enough.  He should’ve known all Jack really needed from him…was just to be there.  With him.  It was a “wondrous thing”…. this being each other’s weakness.  It really did make you stronger.

Gavin stood up from his stool and walked around the bar to stand behind Jack.  He put his arms around him and rested his head on his shoulder. 

“I can’t think of anyplace I’d rather be…than just where you are,” Gavin said in his ear.

Jack smiled, glad that Gavin would be going with him.  “Are you sure?”

Gavin traced an X across Jack’s chest.

“Cross my heart.”