*waves to Chels*
Title: "There's Hope"
Character(s): Gordon Bombay, Charlie Conway
Summary: Sometimes, it's too little, too late; sometimes, there's hope.
Note: Cross-posted to my fiction journal, vision__prose
When he was twelve, a tall, domineering man named Martin asked Charlie's mother to marry him. Martin was manipulative and often belittled and intimidated Charlie and his mother, but he was charming, when he wanted to be, and he had one thing Casey Conway couldn't pass up: money. He wasn't spectacularly rich, but he was well enough off that he, Casey, and Charlie, as a family wouldn't have to struggle, enough that Casey wouldn't have to work anymore double shifts.
Confused and disappointed, Charlie wrote, "He doesn't really love Mom and he doesn't like me. I don't want her to marry him. He isn't fun or smart or nice. He isn't you. I hate him."
All he received in return was a phone call:
"Give it a chance, Charlie. Your mom is happy with him. Give him a chance."
"But, Coach -"
"It'll be okay," Bombay had reassured him. "You just have to give it a chance."
Charlie had sighed. "Okay," he had replied, still uncertain. After a moment, he had added, "How's the game?"
"Good." A pause. "I'm sorry. I have to run, Charlie."
Then, nervously: "Charlie, I -" An abrupt stop. "Be good. Bye."
When Charlie was thirteen, Martin wasn't just manipulative. He threatened Charlie and Casey, sometimes held their wrists too tightly. Charlie worried about his mother, but, at his Coach's insistence and his mother's begging, let it go. He spent his time at the skating shop.
When Bombay returned, it was easy to forget. Charlie and the other Ducks went to the Junior Goodwill Games and had something to fight for. With Bombay at his side, Charlie didn't have to think of Martin.
When Charlie was fourteen, he came home for a weekend away from Eden Hall to find his mother bruised. Despite her claims that it was an accident, just a clumsy accident of her own fault, Charlie knew from her sad eyes and Martin's anxious behaviour it wasn't true. He turned to Bombay, the only person he knew he could count on.
Without proof, however, Coach Bombay assured Charlie that he could do nothing.
When he was fifteen, Martin's beatings worsened, but Charlie never saw them occurring. He begged his mom to leave Martin, but she was too blind to see that Martin could control his anger, no matter what excuses he fed her.
A few months after Charlie's fifteenth birthday, Martin wandered in on Casey helping Averman's single father with a present for Averman's sixteenth birthday. When an argument broke out, Averman's father had shown himself out - just in time for Martin's drunken rage to reach a new peak. By the time Charlie dragged Martin off of his mother, she was unconscious - cut and bruised everywhere.
Hours later, when he was assured his mother was stable, he wandered back into the general waiting area of the hospital, not entirely surprised to find Gordon Bombay sitting in one of the cold, uncomfortable chairs, head in hands.
"Charlie!" Bombay stood so quickly, he nearly fell over. "She's okay, right?"
Charlie nodded. "She will be."
Bombay's eyes were red, his expression full of guilt and regret. "I'm sorry. I should have listened to you."
With a sigh, Charlie sunk into a chair. "You don't usually, anyway."
"I'll do anything, Charlie."
"Mom will need a lawyer. Not just for the divorce papers, either."
He nodded. "I'll make sure that she's more than taken care of."
There was a very long pause. "It's not just this, you know."
"With Mom. There are other things, other times I wish you would have listened."
Bombay nodded. "When?"
"During the Junior Goodwill Games. I tried to tell you - you were becoming someone else. You wouldn't listen. You were too caught up."
"When you left us with Coach Orion. It wasn't that I thought you would always be coaching the teams I played for. The team did need you, but it was more than that. I needed you. Not Coach Orion, not Martin. Not Jan or Hans or anyone else. You."
"Coach." Charlie sighed. "I don't have to hear excuses. I've heard plenty from enough people in my life."
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Coach Bombay's voice cracked. "I really - I -" He sighed. "Charlie, you don't know how many times I've wanted to stay here, but there have always things pushing me away."
"Like what?" Charlie snapped disbelievingly.
"My stubborn belief that there had to be more to life than working at a skate shop in Minnesota. Or being a lawyer in Minnesota. Or coaching in Minnesota." He frowned. "There was more, though. After the Junior Goodwill Games, I felt more out of place than ever. The Ducks were going to Eden Hall and, although Eden Hall wanted The Ducks, it didn't want me.
"The Ducks didn't need me to coach, Jan had apprentices at the shop and didn't need me to work there. And you - you had a mother and a step-father. I didn't want to get in the way of anything." He sighed, rubbing his temples. "Mostly, though, it was fear."
Charlie, who had been staring intently at the tile floor, looked up quickly in surprise. "Fear?"
"Of course. There was a very long time during which I wasn't attached to anyone. At all. I forgot how much you could care for someone, how overwhelming it could feel. With the Ducks - especially you - I felt myself caring and it scared me. There were easy outs and I took them, even though, all along, I really wanted you in my life more than just a few phone calls a month. A lot more."
"You did?" Charlie felt a familiar racing in his pulse: a surge of hope.
"I do," Coach Bombay replied seriously. "Charlie, I love you. You have to know that."
"Sometimes, I thought you might. Other times, I wouldn't let myself."
"I learned a long time ago not to hope for something too much. The less you wish for, the less you're disappointed."
"I disappointed you..." Charlie studied him careful - he sounded so dejected.
"Sometimes. Other times, though, you were far from it. It wasn't just a team you performed a miracle on, it was me. I may have spent most of these last few years keeping my hopes and expectations low, but before you, I didn't have any."
"Do you think maybe, after your mom gets out of the hospital, we can start over? If it isn't too late, I mean."
Charlie was silent for a moment, before he nodded. "That'd be nice."
"Great. How do you want to start?"
"Can we...go for dinner? All three of us? Then a movie marathon?"
Gordon grinned. "What movies?"
Charlie returned his grin. "Original Star Wars?"
He laughed. "Of course."
A nurse joined them then. "Charlie Conway? Your mother is awake. You can see her now."
"Good. Thank you." He turned to Bombay. "You coming?"
"Sure, I-" He began.
"Oh, I'm sorry," the nurse interrupted. "Family only, for now."
"Oh, that's -"
"He is family."
"He is?" She looked far from convinced.
"Yeah. He's my father."
The nurse gave them a long, calculating stare. "Okay," she said finally, still not entirely convinced.
Charlie had never quite seen the man before him smile like that before. "Coming, son," he replied, standing and placing his arm around Charlie.
As the elevator doors closed, Charlie said, "Coach?"
"I love you, too."
Coach Bombay smirked. "Just remember who said it first."