Jessica (galfridian) wrote in ducks_fiction,


All right. This one-shot? Is completely random. You see, I saw a few new pieces by darling Mary and was instantly (not to mention quite terrifyingly) hit with the urge to write some Bombay!father/Charlie!son angst. So here we are.

Title: "Propinquity"
Author: galfridian
Rating: G
Pairing: none
Character(s): Gordon Bombay
Summary: In which Gordon learns about facing fears, so that worse fears cannot take their place, and a bit about how proximity to a situation can distort your views.
1. propinquity - proximity; nearness; kinship; similarity in nature.
2. This piece is oh-so-very unbeta-ed. Sorry for any atrociousness in grammar or spelling, though I'm usually quite careful.

It was unnerving, Gordon Bombay decided as his traced the rim of the shot glass on the counter before him, that humans so often failed to see who and what was, in a sense, just short of unarguably essential to their existence…until that who or what was gone.

He first met Hans when he was just a young boy. He, so eager then to make his father proud, had decided to play hockey. Hans had watched him, following his father around the store with wide, excited eyes and had just known what was on his mind. His father went off around a corner – to find a new hockey stick for himself – and Hans seized the opportunity to bestow his wisdom, as best as he could, upon Gordon.

It wasn’t until he was nearly an adult himself and his father was dying that Gordon realized the meaning of Hans’ words that morning. After that, he never took what Hans said lightly again, though he didn’t always like the message.

Now, he thought, staring bitterly at the empty glass, Hans was gone. Just like that, all of that wisdom and understanding just gone. Gordon knew that there would be many countless times he would wish Hans would be there to make things clear for him, but he couldn’t help thinking that what he would miss most would be that light in Hans’ eyes. A light he had only associated with Hans until he knew – really knew – Charlie Conway.

He missed Charlie now.

Rather, he had missed Charlie before Hans’ death. He had missed all of the Ducks, but he had missed Charlie most of all. It was no great secret that Charlie was “coach’s pet,” though Gordon suspected that all of the Ducks and their parents came to the realization before he did.

He missed Charlie more now.

Before Hans’ death, there were memories to comfort him and the stubborn belief that these opportunities – his job, the Ducks’ scholarships to Eden Hall, under the coaching of Orion – were what was best for everyone.

Hans’ funeral tarnished those comforting memories, abolished his stubborn conviction. There were the Ducks, just as he left them, only not. Each of them looked so tired and weary; he saw this as devastatingly and dramatically as he had during the Junior Goodwill Games when he had his good sense shoved unceremoniously into his face by Hans. They weren’t happy and they barely looked like a team. What had torn them to pieces so? Surely not Ted Orion, the only man Gordon could see himself trusting the Ducks with.

If the team, as a whole, looked that poorly, Charlie was a heart wrenching sight. There were a thousand thoughts and feelings at war in Charlie’s eyes, none of them in the least bit positive. Such despair and loneliness, as though he had been abandoned. Gordon realized that Charlie believed he had been.

So he stayed – for a few days, at least. He stayed and pushed Charlie to understand Ted, who would, in turn, understand him. Despite the miles that separated him, he would no longer be so distant and uninvolved in the Ducks’ lives, in Charlie’s life.

Why wasn’t that enough, then? Why wasn’t being the Ducks’ lawyer, looking out for the team from afar, enough?

“Because, Bombay, you aren’t meant to be their lawyer; you’re their coach.”

Gordon turned his attention from the rim of the shot glass to the man next to him, a man probably full of just as many, if not more, problems than him, but a man who had listened to his nonetheless. “You say ‘coach’ as if they’re not interchangeable, but they are. It happens all of the time. It was a mere coincidence that made so many of the Ducks members of the Good Will team when I coached.”

“Sure, ‘coach’ is often interchangeable, but you worked wonders in those kids’ lives. Not just that rag-tag group you started with in the Pee-Wees, but the kids who joined them for the Good Will games. For a lot of them, the word ‘coach’ will always be associated with you, no matter who their coach is at the time. Imagine those of them who will play in college, perhaps even professionally. That first day of try-outs, the coach introduces himself and the singular thing that crosses their minds before that grueling work begins is your face.”

Gordon was speechless. “I never thought of it…”

The man shrugged, a slight smirk lighting his features for the first time that evening. “Propinquity. Too close to the situation to see it. While we’re on it, you should also realize that the reason that Charlie Conway kid seems so helplessly lost, even after you brought him and Orion to an understanding, even after their victory over that varsity team, is that you are so much more than just some interchangeable coach to him. He definitely sees you as his mentor and friend, that part is undeniable. But, it’s also very likely that he sees you as the father he never had.”


“So patting the boy indulgently on the shoulder while you try to make him believe that barely having you in his life at all won’t be so bad, since Ted Orion is a good guy, Eden Hall is a good school, and he has his mother. For some reason – perhaps for many reasons – you are special in Charlie’s life, so to be without you at all is a rather unfair deal in his eyes.

“He asks so little of you, really. He’s never expected you to be his coach his entire life – maybe even realizes how irritating that could possibly be if he’s in his twenties, playing professional hockey, and you’re his coach – but he’s come to expect that you’ll be part of his life.”

There was a significant pause in conversation in which Gordon was forced by the man’s piercing, knowing stare to consider every word just spoken. It was a lot to take in, but the man felt no pity. It seemed obvious to him, all of this going on around Gordon Bombay. After a few minutes, he spoke again. “Give it a bit, you’ll come to it. The question now is this: are you happy?”

“No, not really.” Gordon was more than a little surprised how quickly and easily the words flew from his lips. The man, taking another beer from the bartender, seemed unfazed by the answer.

“Do you know, then, how to be happy? Do you realize what happiness entails? It’s not money or the opportunity to be important to some organization. It’s the satisfaction and completion a man feels when there’s a place – with people to love and to be loved by – that he calls home. Your home is in Minnesota, with a team that loves you and a boy who, when no one is listening, calls you ‘Dad’.”

Silence, again, until the thought crossed Gordon’s mind: “If you’re so wise about happiness and fulfillment, why are we both in this bar?”

The man laughed. “Look at me, Bombay. I’m old – I’ve had my happiness, long enough to understand its worth. Tragedy took my children; the circle of life took my wife.” That soft, sly smirk again. “Besides, who would help hopeless men like you if I sat at home feeling terrible for myself?”

“Don’t joke – you’re probably right. I am hopeless.”

“Maybe, but that’s your choice. What now? It’s your move.”

“I’m still not sure –”

A groan of disapproval. “Surely you’re joking. Is it some sort of fear that keeps you from weaving yourself into the place that’s already destined for you in a tight-nit circle of friends and family?”

Gordon sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe. I haven’t had a family in so long and I doubt I really have what you would call friends.”

The man nodded. “Becoming unfamiliar with things can cause you to be weary of them. Look at it from another perspective, then. Look to another fear.”

“Another fear?”

“Exactly,” the man responded, as if it were simplest solution. “For example: You care about Charlie, right? Might even say that you love him?”


“OK, good. Now, think of Charlie and how much you care about him. How you want to protect and guide him. What you would do for him, if you could only find your courage. You got that in your head? …Good. Now, imagine that Charlie’s fate is to not live past the age of twenty. Imagine your world without that young man; imagine your heart beating on and on, but his stopping.”

Gordon was trembling, despite his attempts to steady himself. He shook his head vigorously, trying to force those thoughts and feelings from his very being. “That’s –”

“—terrible? I don’t doubt it. But it’s another fear. You simply have to choose which you fear you wish to conquer: the fear of going back to the home where you belong, with the people you belong to or taking the risk that that home and those people will be taken from you and, for the rest of your life, you will regret not clinging to them when you had the chance, the chance you have right now.”

Gordon took a number of deep, steadying breaths, then stood. With a smile and a nod, he said, “Good night, sir.”

“Wait a moment – don’t at least get to know how this ends?”

“Tomorrow, I prepare my two weeks’ notice and book a flight to Minnesota. There may even be a ‘happily ever after.’ Only time will tell.”

“Good man, Bombay.” The man smiled. “Good night.”

“Good night – and thank you.”

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