“Freeze!” Derek shouted, pointing his fingers in a gun-like gesture at Eli the moment he entered the apartment. “You’re under arrest.”
Eli put his hands up and smirked at his son. Ever since Halloween, Derek hasn’t stopped donning on his police costume and writing fake tickets to him and Sam; playing cops and robbers with his friends (and sometimes Eli); and even bugging his grandfather for more ride-along sessions.
Eli thought Derek was obsessed before, but now…now he knew there was a new ultimate level of obsession he and Sam never even thought possible. Was it healthy? Eli wasn’t sure, but he wasn’t about to stop Derek from enjoying his games and fun. Eli wanted Derek to play and be a kid for as long as possible.
“So, what did I do this time, officer?” Eli asked Derek.
“You’re late for dinner.”
This was true. Eli was late coming home. Today he had a long meeting with his parole officer, and couldn’t get out of it. Eli was determined to stay on the man’s good side, and not fuck up his parole again.
“I am. Can you let me off with a warning?” Eli asked.
Eli laughed and put his hands down. “Well, I guess you’re going to have to catch me then.” He took off in a slow run to the table and heard Derek take chase. He ran around the table and grinned down at his son.
“I have you cornered. No where to go, Dad.”
Eli chuckled. “You think?”
Derek nodded hard. “I know.”
Sam stepped out of the girls’ bedroom and shook her head at Eli, and smiled. His breath hitched. Every smile Sam gave him, gave Eli more of an incentive to do right by her and his family now. He was never going to fuck up his life again.
Sam walked toward them. “Derek, did you clean your room like I asked?”
Derek nodded, and kept his gaze on Eli. “He’s resisting, Mom.”
“Oh really?” Sam smirked. “Didn’t Grandpa teach you anything, Eli?”
Eli snorted. “Yeah, to run faster.”
He ran toward her and pulled her into his arms and stepped back from Derek. “Now, I have a hostage.”
“Oh no, Derek, save me.” Sam played up the part in the worst acting job. Eli wasn’t going to say that to her, though. He wasn’t stupid.
“Unhand her,” Derek said.
“No way.” Eli kissed Sam on the cheek, softly. “I’ll never let go of the woman I love.”
“Charmer,” Sam giggled.
“Yuck!” Derek put his hands down. “No kissing. That’s gross!” He stormed away after Eli gave Sam a much more heated kiss.
The two laughed as they heard the door down the hall close, and Derek rumbling about parents being gross.
In the morning, Eli found Derek dressed in his police uniform and sitting at the table eating breakfast. Sam trying to get Dakota to eat more of her pancakes. While Bailee ate and listened to more stories Derek had to tell about the Lamb twins.
This was another thing he missed out on—family meals. He sat and poured himself a bowl of cereal. He glanced around and smiled. “Morning.”
“Morning,” Sam said. “Dad called. Wanted to make sure you were still up for watching the football game this afternoon?”
Eli nodded. “Yeah. I texted Anthony and the guys last night to say we were still good. They should be here around three.”
Eli couldn’t wait. Football with his friends at the apartment. Rather than having the normal poker game, they decided to have their annual Super Bowl party at Eli’s place. It was going to be awesome.
“Dad?” Derek spoke up. “Can we play cops and robbers today?”
“Maybe. Is your room still clean? And have you finished your homework?”
Derek nodded his head hard.
“And will Bailee and Dakota want to play?”
“I do!” Bailee raised her hand. Eli smirked. He loved his girl’s enthusiasm for just about everything.
“Okay. How about I finish eating breakfast, and then we can play until the guys get here. Deal?”
They both agreed.
Soon after breakfast, Eli found his kids in Derek’s room.
“You’re the robber, Dad,” Derek claimed.
He knelt down and faked a pout. “And why can’t I be the police officer?”
Sam snorted behind him. Eli had no idea she was there. “Do you really want that question answered, Eli?”
Eli rolled his eyes, and stuck his tongue out to his wife. Figures she would laugh at him.
Derek, though, gave him an answer. “Grandpa says you’re not allowed to be the cop. He told me.”
Yeah, Grant would say that to Derek. “But…Grandpa isn’t here, now is he? Why can’t I have a turn?” He turned his head up to Sam, “Mom, don’t you think Derek should let me have a turn to play the cop?”
“Mom, no!” Derek and Bailee both shouted and shook their heads.
Sam sighed. “Come on kids. Let Dad see what it’s like to be a good guy for a change. Who knows, it might teach him to stay out of trouble.”
“Thanks, Sam,” Eli said with a roll of his eyes. She patted his head in reply.
“Fine,” Derek conceded and handed his hat to Eli. “But just this one time, and you can’t wear your jersey. Cops don’t wear football jerseys.”
“I’ll be right back then.”
When Eli returned, Sam laughed when she spotted him with the police hat. “Oh my god, Eil.” She was in fits and giggles.
“Thanks,” Eli laughed.
Yeah, he knew he looked like a fool, but it was a great feeling to play with his kids and be the good guy for a change. For the rest of the morning and a little bit longer after their lunch, Eli enjoyed the games he played with his kids.
They made “pew-pew” noises and ran around the house, shooting the bad-guys that were either imaginary or that ended up being Derek, Bailee or even Sam and Dakota when they were in the kitchen.
Sam even took a few photos of Eli and Derek in their police costumes. Eli was sure that one of them was going to be the next Christmas card, and it was definitely going to be framed on the wall. Heck, he may even send one to Grant as soon as he got his hands on a copy.
Their time quickly was cut when the first guest arrived. Behind him, Eli heard a belly of a laugh. “In your dreams, Bro,” Anthony teased.
Eli turned and grinned. “What? Don’t I look good as a cop?”
Anthony snorted. “Impersonating a police officer is a serious offence, you know.”
“Grant’s not here, and you’re not really a cop, so…”
Eli laughed. Derek’s expression, however, was something else. He was no longer smiling. Eli knelt down to his kids. “Sorry, kids. But play-time is over. The guys are arriving.”
“Can’t we just play a little longer?” Bailee asked.
“Sorry, sweetie. I know you two love when I play with you, and I love it too. But we’re having guests over. We’ll play again. Promise.”
“Why do you want to hang out with Uncle Butt-Stick anyway?” Derek asked with a pout. “He’s mean.”
Eli was shocked. Did Derek just call Anthony Uncle Butt-something? “Excuse me? What did you call your Uncle?”
“Uncle Butt-stick. You know, because he has a stick up his butt. Remember? You told me he did.”
Okay, that was pretty funny. Eli had to hold it in. But damn, did he want to laugh. He forgot about telling Derek that.
Now, how to scold his son and not laugh his head off at the same time?
Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh. Keep it together, Eli.
“Derek,” Eli said, or at least tried to sound like he was serious and not like he was holding in a laugh. “That’s not a very nice thing to say. In fact, I don’t ever want you to hear you call anyone names.”
“But…you told me—
“I know. I shouldn’t have though. Uncle Anthony is family, and we don’t say things like that about our family. Or anyone, in fact.”
Eli shook his head. He was having a very hard time keeping it in. But he also knew if he didn’t nip this in the bud, Derek would go on thinking the worst about his Uncle. “No buts. If I hear anymore name calling, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble. Understand?”
“Fine,” Derek pouted.
Eli stood and handed the hat back to his son. “You guys can still have fun without me, okay?” He left before Derek kept digging himself into trouble. Eli didn’t want that for him.
Before finding his brother to tease him, Eli headed back into his room and changed back into his San Myshuno Pirates jersey on.
He found his brother already making himself at home and enjoying one of the many beers Eli bought for the party. With a beer in hand, he smirked and sat next to his brother. “So…Uncle Butt-Stick, how’s it going?” Eli laughed at the shocked and mortified expression on his brother’s face.
Anthony shook his head. “Bastard. I still can’t believe you said that to your son.”
“Can’t blame a guy for being pissed off in prison.”
“You know, I was totally thinking about getting some revenge on your ass at one point.”
Eli totally believed that too. He cracked a grin to his brother and tipped his beer bottle toward him. “Forgive me, bro?”
Anthony huffed. “No.” But he clinked Eli’s bottle with his own. “Asshole.”
“You know you love me.” He smirked at the Oasis Springs Thunder Cats jersey Anthony was wearing. “You do know that Oasis has no hope, right?”
“Fuck you. At least they made it to the Bowl. Unlike your Pirates.”
Derek spotted Grandpa and pouted over to him. He didn’t like Dad lecturing him. Uncle Anthony was still a jerk. Why couldn’t he just keep the nickname?
He watched as Dad and Uncle Anthony greet Grandpa with a shake of a hand. Derek walked up to Grandpa.
“Hey, kiddo. How’s my favorite Junior Detective?”
Derek shrugged. “Good, I guess. Grandpa, Daddy did a bad thing. He and Mom made me make him the good guy today when we played cops and robbers. I had to be the bad guy.”
Dad grinned over to Grandpa. “And I donned a police hat, old man.”
“And I got pictures!” Mom shouted from the kitchen. She came running with her phone and showed a few of Dad and Derek playing cops and robbers.
Grandpa shook his head. “You look ridiculous, Elijah.”
Dad laughed. “What, you don’t think I make a good cop, Grant?”
Grandpa shook his head. “You make a better robber any day.”
“He was one last night,” Derek shared. Then pouted. “But he got away. He took Mom hostage and said the only thing he ever learned from you was to run faster.”
Grandpa laughed a large belly laugh where his head was thrown back. Derek wasn’t sure why that was really funny, but he grinned at his grandpa, and then joined in when Uncle Anthony, Mom, and even Dad joined in on the laughter. Derek guessed it was funny. He still wasn’t sure why, but if Grandpa thought it was, he’d laugh with him.
Derek got bored soon after the rest of Grandpa and Dad’s friends arrived. Even though they were also police officers (except for Uncle Marv), they were there to drink beer and watch football. Both of which sounded boring to Derek.
He headed out after asking Mom for permission to play with his own friends.
Eli finished helping Sam with the dishes. The Super Bowl Party had been a success. The kids kept to themselves in their room, and Derek had gone to see his friends down. Dakota was the only one that kept joining them and wanting to play with Eli. He didn’t mind his baby-girl crawling all over him. He loved it.
Once the party died down, and Sam and Eli started to clean, Sam texted Derek to return home.
“So, you had fun?” Sam asked.
“You know, I had a blast. It’s still a little different, but I’m managing. I think Anthony and I are getting along a little bit better. I mean, at least better than Christmas.”
“That was your own fault, Eli.”
He agreed. He should have not brought up that crap over Christmas Dinner. That had been a nightmare. He definitely didn’t like being treated like he was a kid again when Mom separated him and Anthony.
Sam patted his back. “He loves you.”
“I know. And, we’re getting there. I just have to keep reminding myself not to bring up all that stupid shit he did inside.”
Derek popped his head around the corner after the two heard the front door open and close. “I’m home.”
“Hey, sport. Have fun with your friends?”
Derek nodded. “Yeah.” He stepped closer to Eli and Sam. “Dad, can we play like we did today and last night, tomorrow? But this time you be the bad guy?”
“Sure bud,” Eli said, but he really didn’t want to make that promise. Still, what was a guy to do? His kid was obsessed, and Eli wasn’t about to destroy that obsession.
Derek beamed up and thanked him before running into his room, only to call out “Goodnight” to them before shutting the door.
Eli shook his head and sighed.
“What?” Sam asked.
He shook his head. “Nothing.”
Eli turned off the rest of the lights and headed down the hall with Sam. It wasn’t late, but he was tired and he knew Sam had a double shift in the next day.
He finally voiced his concerns as he headed to the bedroom. “Do you think Derek will ever find something else to obsess about?”
He shrugged. “I dunno. Guess I’m just getting to tired of being the bad guy every time I come home. Wouldn’t mind if he wanted to do something else for a change. Anything else, actually.” He shook his head. “I am such a horrible father thinking that.”
“You’re not a horrible father.” Sam opened the bedroom door. “Come on. Let’s get to bed. I’m sure you’ll think differently in the morning.”
Eli was pretty sure he wouldn’t, considering he had been thinking this for a couple of weeks. But he didn’t say that. “You’re probably right.”
Derek closed his bedroom door and wiped the tears from his eyes. He hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, but he just wanted to get a glass of water.
He curled up on his bed and held the fake badge Grandpa had given him close to his chest. That night, he did something he hadn’t done since Dad was arrested…
He cried himself to sleep.