This is my AU version of Lee and Chip. Please feel free not to like the story but allow me the right to write my own fiction. If you envision a different beginning for these two people I would love to read it as I enjoy them all.
I have tried to define all the places and words with which people might not be familiar at the end of the story. If you want to check them out first it might save some confusion. Thanks to my tremendous beta, Liz, who corrects me when I need it and encourages me always. The errors are all mine the inspiration hers. Thanks Carol for posting all of our stories don't know what we would do without her hard work.
NO EFFORT WITHOUT ERROR
"You'll have a great time. We do Thanksgiving in a big way, big turkey, big dinner a really fun time." Chip smiled at him and spread his arms expansively.
Lee shook his head 'no' for about the thousandth time. He just couldn't see himself having Thanksgiving in the middle of suburbia. He couldn't really see himself having Thanksgiving at all. Oh, he knew all about Thanksgiving, what American kid didn't? You had turkey and watched a football game and family came and ate, he assumed, the turkey 'and all the fixings'. He was a little vague about what the 'fixings' were but he knew it included pumpkin pie from 'Over the River to Grandmother's House'. He was also a little uncertain if they ate the turkey during the football game or after but he was sure the two went together some how. He had nothing against either turkey or football but just couldn't see the point in a whole lot of people getting together to watch football after eating a bird.
The past five years he'd spent Thanksgiving in the Virgin Islands racing in the Coral Bay regatta but this, his first year at Annapolis with only the one week break in classes, there was no time for the racing, no time for him to work into a finely tuned crew and do the boat justice. Not that he minded at all. Annapolis was a dream come true, both harder and easier than he'd imagined. Having no time for racing was not a problem while he was living his dream of Annapolis. And that brought him back to Chip and the Thanksgiving thing.
The whole roommate business had turned out to be both the best and the worst of the Academy. He'd expected and prepared for the physical parts of plebe summer and had had no problem with the PEP and the running and the hazing. He'd memorized his Reef Points the month he got accepted. No the hard part had been the roommates. The enmity of the upper classmen he knew and understood from his years at St. Albans where he'd been immediately recognized as an outsider and treated as such. He knew hazing, what he didn't know was how to deal with the overtures of friendship.
I-Day when he'd walked into that room and seen those other three boys all looking at him, he'd frozen. He'd known there would be no fighting, that would have been the way to separation before they'd even begun at the academy. So he knew no one would jump him when he wasn't looking, no punching and kicking. He figured for silence and the wary posturing he was accustomed to at St. Albans when those rich, snotty, Upper Westside boys had been forced to deal with the kid from Sunset Park. They'd fought him when they could and when they couldn't they'd ignored him, but always there'd been the snarkey comments the nasty cracks about his accent or his clothes or his looks.
So he came into the room cautiously not making eye contact with any of the others, keeping his business to himself, trying not to start any trouble. But making sure they knew he'd stand his ground, not be disrespected in his own room.
"Left bunk this side is free," the big blond had said gesturing to the bunk he was standing next to, a smile on his face. Lee had hesitated glancing at the other two boys trying to judge if this was on the up and up or was some sort of 'get the new boy' deal. Cautiously he'd headed into the room and managed to get his gear stowed and the bunk made up without any trouble from the other three plebes. Over the next few weeks he'd begun to slowly relax his guard.
His roommates seemed as anxious as he was about their welcome in the room and at the Academy. They'd all soon been much to busy with classes and the innumerable upper classmen to worry much about each other. The exception had been the big blond. He was a junior varsity football player, a top student, a real Fresa and for some reason he kept buddying up to Lee. Trying to talk to him, offering him the cookies and brownies he got sent from home, offering free advice he didn't need.
Lee had no idea what to say to him, what he was after. So he tried to be polite and keep away from him as much as he could. Tried to figure out what the boy wanted with all his sweet-talking and nice acting. Just couldn't figure out what was going on with him.
Things might have gone on like that all year except the Fresa started failing Spanish. Lee couldn't understand how even a blond Fresa from Illinois could fail something as simple as Spanish. But two months into the year he found himself conjugating irregular verbs with Chip Morton on Saturday afternoons and eating home made chocolate chip cookies, just like a Fresa. Now a month later he was being invited to eat a turkey with a whole family of 'real Americans' and he didn't know what to say.
He couldn't go to New York City for the Thanksgiving leave. He didn't dare go back to Sunset Park, the neighborhood had become increasingly dangerous to him the older he got. As a nine or ten year old he could skirt the gangs, then later he had Chico watching out for him keeping him out of Los Malos but safe from them as well. Now with Chico dead if he went back to Sunset Park he would need to either declare his affiliation to the Malos or be fair game for either the Malos or the Vatos both of whom would consider him a member of his local gang without that gang's protection.
So, Sunset Park was closed to him--not that he had anyone he wanted to visit there. After a string of foster homes in Sunset it just seemed the logical place to think of as home, the place to go when he wasn't at school. But he had no where there to go, no one there to visit except Joe at the Boy's Club and no where to crash in Sunset and every reason to avoid the gangs.
That left the Cranes, but they'd made their reluctance to see him in the apartment after he graduated from St. Alban evident and he'd way too much pride to go where he was clearly not wanted. They'd finished with him long before he'd finished St. Albans but they'd paid his tuition and provided him a room as long as the state required. Had to give the Cranes credit. They'd figured out early on adopting him was a mistake, but they'd kept their side of the deal with the state and provided him with shelter and an education. That deal was done now he had his scholarship and his stipend--he was on his own. He wasn't sure who was happier about that, him or the Cranes?
He'd planned to spend his leaves at the Academy or sailing for Captain Hughes but they were closing Bancroft Hall for a week at Thanksgiving to fumigate and the Captain was in VI racing with an already full crew. He'd figured to get a room in Annapolis, see if he could pick up some crewing spots in the Thanksgiving yacht races until Chip Morton had invited him to dinner.
He didn't know why he kept coming back to that invitation but it was so intriguing to him. When Chip was out of the room he looked at the pictures on Chip's board over his desk, pictures of his parents smiling at the camera, smiling at Chip, pictures of Chip with two blond girls, must be his sisters, pictures of Chip with more blond people than he'd ever really thought could exist. Chip with more relatives than Lee had thought it was possible for one person to have.
He'd read a lot about families. He knew families were important and just like good manners, the proper pronunciation of English and the items in the Reef Points; he'd tried to learn them. But now he was curious to see--could there really be a Bill Cosby Show kind of family out there or was it like Law & Order with its understanding cops and beautiful prosecutors, all made up for television?
The really dangerous thing about his curiosity was he thought he was using it for an excuse because he wanted to go with Chip. He wanted to go with Chip because he liked the Fresa. He, Lee Crane, smart boy from the streets, the chameleon who'd managed to fit himself into one weird foster home after another by keeping his head down and his mouth shut and himself nearly invisible had made friends with a kid from the suburbs.
He smiled to himself as he turned and started his next pass across the yard. One good thing about marching off demerits, gave a man a chance to think. He met Chip's eyes but kept his face expressionless and pointed straight down his line of travel as the two men passed. He thought the demerits were worth it for the look on O'Neil's face when the whole company had turned out with their shirts hanging out over their pants a reminder to the upper classman that he'd sat down on a freshly painted chair the previous day. That Lee and Chip had freshly painted the chair was known only to the two of them and made their revenge on the over zealous hazer all the sweeter.
Yeah, he was really beginning to like Chip Morton very much. But Thanksgiving? He wondered did you bring a gift for Thanksgiving; was it sort of like Christmas in that respect? He would check the Internet. He'd been saving his entire stipend. He had enough money for the plane ticket. Turkey, huh?
The visit started off really well he thought. He still wasn't old enough to even buy a bottle of wine so he'd ended up bringing a box of chocolates for Mrs. Morton. He'd looked it up on the Internet and Martha Stewart had said chocolates were always perfectly acceptable. He figured any gringa with a name like Martha Stewart and her own TV show must know a good hostess gift.
Mr. Morton was like Chip being a big man, heavy in the shoulders but unlike his friend loud in his voice and manners, where Chip was quiet and self effacing. Mrs. Morton though, she was a miracle to him. She'd given him a hug as soon as he came in the door. Right off, not even meeting him before and gave him a warm hug.
And the two sisters were great. Chip talked about his sisters as if they were imps of hell. But they weren't. They were twelve and fifteen and pretty and clever and a little silly. They'd been following him around ever since he and Chip arrived on Tuesday night. Mostly they didn't say anything just giggled every time he looked at them and sometimes when he didn't. He thought they were really cute. Chip said they were ridiculous.
Yeah, everything got off to a really good start and he began to think maybe there was some truth to the Cosby Show, until things had started going really badly. The oldest sister, they called her Sissy, came down stairs to where Lee and Chip were sitting with Chip's Dad. Lee was listening while Chip and his Dad caught up on relatives and tried to include Lee in who was coming for dinner the next day.
Sissy had on some sort of short skirt and t-shirt outfit, it looked all right to Lee, but Mr. Morton didn't like it. And told her she couldn't go with her friends dressed like that because she'd freeze and he didn't want his daughters going around town half undressed anyway. It hadn't taken long for the discussion to turn to yelling, Sissy shouting all her friends dressed the same way. Mr. Morton yelling she wasn't going dressed like that. Getting loud in his indignation.
Chip grabbed Lee's arm said, "Let's get out of here; this could get violent."
Lee stood frozen not knowing what to do. He couldn't leave Sissy there if it got violent and he couldn't believe Chip would either. He let his friend drag him out of the living room into the front foyer where their jackets hung.
"Let's go outside and shoot some hoops."
"You're just going to leave?"
"Yeah, best thing to do. They'll sort it out. Less bloodshed if there's no audience. Sissy's mostly playing to the crowd."
"Chip." Lee didn't know what to say. He knew he really had no idea how violent Mr. Morton might get but he couldn't leave Sissy there. Maybe if he and Chip both stayed in the room, maybe both of them being there would be enough Mr. Morton would think again. Lee would back up his friend; he needed Chip to know he'd back him up. He thought now he understood why Chip had been so anxious to bring him home. He'd tried this a couple of times himself and he knew it didn't work. But they were older now then when he'd tried bringing someone home to dispel the danger, almost men themselves. If they stood together they could take Mr. Morton and he would know that and maybe not do anything.
"What?" Chip asked when Lee stood rooted listening to the yelling in the living room.
"We can't leave her. If we're both there maybe he won't … you know."
Chip looked at him clearly confused. Lee guessed he'd never tried to stand up to his father. Lee didn't know how it worked in families but he thought it was probably harder. In the foster homes you learned early on to recognize the dangerous ones and avoid them when you could, fight back if you had to and suck it up when you couldn't do either. But in a family it probably wasn't so easy because they had you right from the beginning. You probably never learned to stand your ground, just always ran away like Chip was doing now.
"Oh, she'll be fine."
"We should stay, Chip. I'll stay with you."
Now it was Chip's turn to stand in thought looking at him with a bemused expression on his face. "Stay and listen to Sissy argue about how long her skirt is?"
"Stay and make sure she's okay."
Chip got a really funny look on his face now and stood studying Lee for a long moment. "I'll take care of it, Lee," he said quietly giving Lee's shoulder a quick squeeze.
Ducking back into the living room Chip called over the raised voices, "If you'll put on a pair of jeans Lee and I'll drive you to the mall and buy you and your friends a soda."
Sissy squealed with delight, sounding like a cat with its paw caught in a trap and ran up the stairs. Mr. Morton snorted at Chip and then smiled, "You studying diplomacy at the Academy?"
Chip laughed and said, "My thanksgiving good deed."
Lee stood in the entryway to the living room watching the two men, trying to understand what had happened. All the anger seemed to be gone and he saw Mrs. Morton in the kitchen doorway wiping her hands on a towel laughing quietly. "One thing about boys, at least they aren't trying to freeze to death every time they go outside."
"Tell Sissy we're in the car when she finally gets done changing in ten minutes."
"Ten minutes," Mrs. Morton said. "I think you're being wildly optimistic."
"Ten minutes and we're going to the mall without her." Chip grabbed Lee's arm and a jacket and half hauled him out the door and down the walk to the car.
Once they were in the car Chip turned to him with a strange look on his face. "What did you think was going to happen in there?"
Lee didn't say anything. He thought maybe he'd misread this whole thing and now he felt like a fool. He replayed the scene in his head, the yelling, the threats, what Chip had said. Clearly he'd misread the scene, he just didn't know where he'd started going wrong. He thought if Chip didn't get real mad and send him back to Annapolis, that this trip might turn out to be a real education after all.
Lee looked at his friend and shook his head. "Sorry, Chip. I…um…he seemed pretty steamed."
Now it was Chip's turn to sit silently looking at Lee. "Yeah, I guess he did. We're a family of shouters and yellers. I guess I should have warned you. Only at Sissy and Jean though, I mean there used to be some shouting and yelling at me too but I sort of figured out how to get along a couple of years ago, so not so much any more."
Lee nodded as if he understood what Chip was telling him. As if he'd heard people yell like that at each other and then walk away without doing anything about the anger. "Sure."
"Doesn't usually happen when we have company. That's what I meant about Sissy playing to the crowd. She wouldn't have tried that outfit except she thought with you there Dad would let it go." Chip smiled. "Wrong."
Lee smiled back berating himself for a fool. How stupid could he be thinking people in the suburbs did that sort of crap.
"Lee?" He looked at Chip and widened his smile and shook his head. Chip nodded to him and started the car and blew the horn. "She wants to show you off to all her friends; she needs to get her ass out here."
Sissy was out the door in another minute and they were off to the mall and soda with four fifteen-year-old girls and one of the nicest afternoons Lee had ever spent. They drank soda and went in stores and looked at the girls in a variety of identical outfits. They ate ice cream and went in stores and looked at more identical outfits. They laughed at the silly things the girls said and wandered around a huge building full of stores. Lee didn't think it was nearly as nice as wandering around Fifth Avenue but it was certainly warmer.
The next day they ate the turkey. Turned out they ate turkey before the football game and then after the football game they ate more turkey. Turned out fixings were more things than Lee had ever seen served at the same meal in his entire life. Turned out there were even more Mortons then he'd thought looking at the bulletin board over Chip's desk. Turned out a lot of them were very loud. Turned out they all seemed to be very kind. Turned out he loved Thanksgiving almost as much as he loved all those loud Mortons.
********** the end**********
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About the Title
*It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic" delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910 by Theodore Roosevelt. This is one of the many excerpts in the Reef Points Plebes are expected to memorize.
PEP: Physical Education Program, calisthenics and running part of the physical training of Plebe Summer
Reef Points: A book of information Plebes need to memorize during their Plebe Summer
I-Day: Induction Day. The day Plebes get inducted into the navy after parents drop them off. The first day at the Academy.
Upper Westside: The Westside of Central park a very wealthy section of New York City.
Fresa: Originally a Mexican slang word used to describe disgustingly rich, preppy stuck up Mexicans with blonde highlights who usually are the offspring of rich Mexican political figures. Has come to connote any rich kid.
Sunset Park: A very poor, predominantly Hispanic section of the Bronx one of the five boroughs of New York City.
Los Ninos Malos and Vatos Locos: Two New York gangs. Los Malos Locos are predominantly in Sunset Park. Vatos Locos is a rival, very violent gang.
VI: Abbreviation for Virgin Islands.