Characters: Dee, Arnon, Tommy, Barry, Ryo, OCs
Setting: After the manga, with reference to Vol. 6 Act 18.
Summary: Fourth of July 2015, Dee and Ryo go to the street fair to see whether Dee’s friends will keep their promise.
Word Count: 2726
Content Notes: Mentions death of a minor.
Written For: Challenge 142: Fortune at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own FAKE, or the characters. They belong to the wonderful Sanami Matoh.
After Arnon was killed, the three surviving friends visited his mom. Among his things they found the sealed envelope containing his fortune from the previous summer.
“What should we do?” Tommy asked the question in all their minds.
“We made a pact,” Dee said quietly, “it’s a promise we can’t break, especially now. Arnon’s the one who talked us into visiting the fortune-teller in the first place, it would feel like… I don’t know, some kind of betrayal.”
The other two nodded agreement.
“So we stick to our plan. I guess one of us will have to keep Arnon’s fortune for him.” Barry’s tone was unusually sombre. “You were closest to him, Dee, I think it should be you.”
Dee let out a heavy sigh. “Okay.” Picking up the sealed envelope, he tucked it inside the breast pocket of his jacket. “I’ll put in with mine when I get back to the orphanage.”
“I miss him,” Tommy said quietly.
“We all do; nothing’s the same. We need to stick together, more than ever now. And we steer clear of anything to do with drugs. They cost Arnon and Jess their lives, let’s not make the same mistakes they did.” Dee’s green eyes were hard and bright with anger. “When I’m a cop, I’ll make those bastards pay for what they did. Arnon was just a kid; how many others are there just like him, sucked in by the offer of easy money?”
“We’ll always be friends though, won’t we?” Tommy looked at his buddies. “No matter what, right?”
“Right,” Barry and Dee agreed.
As always happens when kids grow up, despite their best intentions they slowly drifted apart. When they graduated high school, Barry landed a football scholarship and headed off to college. Dee, fresh faced and eager, entered the police academy, while Tommy, with no way of affording college fees, drifted from one dead-end job to another for a few months before accidentally walking into an army enlistment office while delivering leaflets. He came out an hour later having enlisted for four years.
In his junior year, Barry tore up his knee and his dreams of a pro career were over. Throwing himself into his other studies as a distraction, he discovered a previously unknown talent for computer sciences, and decided to become a teacher, eventually graduating from college with degrees in both. He joined the staff of a nearby high school for the fall semester.
A couple of years later, when the clapped-out old Ford he’d been driving finally gave up, he starting searching the ads for something better. A cherry red Corvette caught his eye, but somewhere in the back of his mind, something nagged at him. Instead of handing over the cash, he went to look at the last car on his list, a far less flashy blue sedan. The Corvette was gorgeous, but the sedan was more practical, and while haggling over the price, he met the owner’s neighbour. They went on their first date the following night and she moved in with him a few months later. A fellow teacher bought the Corvette and had nothing but trouble with it, while the blue sedan never gave Barry a moment’s bother.
Tommy thrived during his time in the army. He went all over the world, visiting every continent at least once and gaining a reputation for being phenomenally lucky in the process. Despite all the dangerous situations he found himself in, he always made it through in one piece.
One day, out on patrol with his squad, they stumbled into a minefield; it hadn’t been there the last time they patrolled the area. Two good men lost their lives that day, but Tommy led the rest of them to safety. When asked later how he’d done it, he simply shrugged and said he’d followed the white dog; it seemed to know the way.
“But Tommy,” one of his buddies said afterwards, “I didn’t see no dog.” No one else had seen it either.
There was a thoughtful expression on Tommy’s face and he was silent for a several minutes before he finally spoke. He had no idea why he’d been so sure that they’d be safe if they just followed where the dog walked, and at the time he’d believed it to be a real dog, but now he had to wonder if maybe it had been something else, like a guardian angel of some sort.
“I knew this kid when I was growing up in New York, scrawny little guy with white-blond hair. He died when we were sixteen. I think… maybe he’s been watching over me and came back to lead me to safety.” It was as good an explanation as any.
When his four years were up, Tommy received an honourable discharge. He briefly considered re-enlisting, but decided that would be pushing his luck. Besides, he was ready to try something new; he still hadn’t given up his dreams of becoming a writer so he went home, back to New York, got a job tending bar and spent his free time trying to write. He’d thought the bar would be a great place to pick up ideas, but nothing seemed to inspire him until he met a young single mother.
They started dating, and in the evenings he’d tell his girlfriend’s small daughter fantastical tales.
“You’re really good at that, Tommy,” Stella told him. “Why don’t you write your stories down? Maybe you could get them published.”
When he’d first dreamed of being a writer, he’d imagined himself writing great novels full of action and adventure; instead, he became a children’s author. By the time his first book was published eight months later, Stella was expecting and they were planning their wedding.
A few more years passed. By now, Tommy and his wife were living in a small town on the coast of Maine with their three children. One day, in mid-June, Stella found her husband in his study, staring at an envelope in his hands. He had an unreadable expression on his face.
“Not bad news, I hope.”
“Oh, no. It’s… hard to explain. Stel, d’you mind if we go to New York for the Independence Day celebrations this year?”
“Any particular reason?”
“Yeah. Fifteen years ago on the fourth, me and my three buddies made a pact to meet up again at noon on July Fourth this year, at a certain spot, and open these envelopes.”
“What’s in them?”
“We got our fortunes told and we though it’d be cool to see if the fortune-teller got anything right. It wasn’t that we believed or anything, mostly we just thought it would be a good laugh. I’d really like to see them again, we sort of lost touch over the years.”
“You think the others will show?”
“I don’t know. Arnon was killed when were sixteen, but Barry and Dee…” Tommy shrugged. “Even if they don’t turn up, I made a promise, and I’d like to keep it.”
“Then of course we’ll go.”
Down in California, Barry was having a similar conversation with his girlfriend. They booked time off work, bought plane tickets and made hotel reservations for ten days in New York.
“What if your friends have forgotten?” Gina asked as they boarded their flight.
“Then at least I’ll get to re-visit my old haunts and show you where I grew up. Besides, I want to visit Arnon and Jess’s graves, let them know I haven’t forgotten. They were good people.”
Dee and Ryo arrived early, strolling among the stalls and sideshows, trying their luck whenever they felt like it. They could afford to now. So much had changed since Dee had been fifteen years old and counting every penny. He’d come here almost every year since he and his friends had made their pact, only missing on three occasions when he’d been working other areas. Most of the time he’d managed to swing it so that if he was on duty on the fourth, he was patrolling in and around this street fair. This year, he and Ryo had booked the time off in advance, though they were still keeping their eyes open for any illegal activity. Cops were never completely off-duty, especially where there were crowds.
Dee fingered the two envelopes tucked in the breast pocket of his shirt and checked his watch. Eleven thirty five. The meeting place was only half a block away, the bench looking more or less the same as it had back then, just older and weathered by time. It had been new in the summer of two thousand, this whole area freshly regenerated. Everything had a settled look now, lived in.
“Do you think your friends will have remembered?”
“No idea.” Dee shrugged casually, as if it didn’t matter, but he couldn’t fool Ryo. “Last I heard, Barry was doing well at college down south, and Tommy had enlisted.” A wry smile quirked his lips. “Never saw that one coming!”
“Even people you know well can surprise you.”
“Yeah. Look at us!” Dee twined his fingers through Ryo’s. They’d been working together for nearly three years, but lovers for only a few months. Despite how well they knew each other, they were still capable of giving each other plenty of surprises.
“Ice cream?” Ryo suggested, gesturing to a parked van that seemed to be doing a roaring trade. “My treat.”
“Sounds good.” They ambled over to the van, taking their place in line, looking over the heads of the kids and frazzled mother in front of them to view the list and deciding on cones of vanilla and strawberry. Ice creams purchased, they continued slowly on their way, enjoying the coolness of the ices in the heat.
It was still ten minutes before noon when they reached the bench. Dee glared at the youths lounging on it and they beat a hasty retreat, leaving the seat free for the two detectives. They’d been walking around the fair for almost three hours and were more than ready to take the weight off their feet for a bit.
“Guess we’ll just wait here and see if the others show up,” Dee decided, settling himself comfortably. “I’ll give ‘em until half twelve, if they’re not here by then…” He trailed off, returning his attention to his ice cream.
“There’s our bench.” Barry pointed.
“Looks like it’s occupied; your friends?”
“Still too far away to be sure, but it could be.” They kept walking and as they drew closer, Barry broke into a grin. “That’s Dee, the guy with black hair, I’d know him anywhere. Used to wear his hair longer, but it’s him. Don’t recognise the other one though. It’s not Tommy.”
“Barry! Hey, Barry!”
The shout came from behind him and Barry stopped, turning to face the man jogging towards him. “Tommy?”
“Hey, man! I thought that was you!” Tommy was on him in an instant, hugging him and slapping his back before pulling away to look at his old friend. “You look good! Wasn’t sure if you’d be here.”
“Wouldn’t have missed today for the world. Tommy, meet my girlfriend, Gina.”
“Hello, good to meet you at last.” Gina smiled as a woman pushing a double stroller came up to them, a young girl of about eight years old walking beside her.
“Likewise,” Tommy grinned. “This is my wife, Stella, this young lady is Grace, and the lazy pair in the stroller are our boys Matthew and Michael. Any sign of Dee yet?”
“Check out the bench; looks like he got here first.”
Tommy looked further along the street to where Dee was deep in conversation with another man. He hadn’t spotted them yet. “Well what’re we waitin’ for? Let’s go join him!”
Dee looked up at the approaching group of people through his sunglasses, recognising his old friends. “You two are late! I was startin’ to think you weren’t comin’.”
“Only by five minutes, man! Can’t believe you got here first,” Barry joked good-naturedly. “You used to be so lazy!”
“He still is,” Ryo said with a grin.
“I’m not lazy, I’m just smart enough to conserve my energy,” Dee corrected, getting to his feet. “Good to see you guys. It’s been a long time.”
“Yeah, it has. When did you get so tall? We used to be about the same height.” Tommy shook his head ruefully and Dee laughed.
“Mother fed me too well.”
“How is she?”
“She’s good, I stop by the orphanage every month or so to fix anything needs fixin’. You’d better go visit her before you leave or she’ll never forgive you. Or me.”
“You still live in New York?” Barry asked, surprised.
“Where else would I go? Someone had to stay. So, aren’t you goin’ to introduce me to all these lovely ladies?”
“You haven’t changed a bit,” Barry snorted.
Once the introductions were out of the way, the three friends turned their attention to the reason they were all present, pulling out four battered, crumpled envelopes.
“How’re we gonna do this?” Dee spoke quietly, looking at the two envelopes he held.
“Open Arnon’s. It was his idea, he should be first.” Barry’s voice was firm.
“Just like fifteen years ago.” Dee smiled sadly. “God, we were so young back then!” He slit the envelope open with his pocketknife, pulling out the sheet of paper and unfolding it, scanning the few short sentences. He didn’t say anything, just passed the flimsy paper to Barry, who read it in sombre silence himself before handing it to Tommy.
“He made the wrong choice,” Tommy finally said in a choked voice. “If he’d chosen differently, he’d probably still be here.”
“Yeah, and if I hadn’t had the stupid idea of keeping our fortunes secret, maybe we could’ve stopped his from making the wrong choice.” Dee sounded angry.
“I doubt it. He and his mom needed money; he would’ve done anything to get it. You know how stubborn he was once he made up his mind about something. Besides, we all agreed, so if you’re responsible then we all are. Barry, you’re up next, let’s see what you got.” Tommy tried to shake his friends out of the gloomy mood they’d sunk into.
Barry tore open his envelope and passed his fortune around, then Dee, and finally Tommy.
Just like Arnon’s, the other three fortunes were uncannily accurate.
“Choose the blur car, not the red.” Barry chuckled. “I’d forgotten where that idea came from, but it stuck with me. If it hadn’t been for that blue car I wouldn’t have met Gina.” He put his arm around his girlfriend and gave her a squeeze. “Did you follow the white dog, Tommy?”
“Yeah, I did, it led me out of a minefield. Funny thing is, nobody else saw it. I always figured maybe Arnon sent it to save me.”
“Maybe he did.”
“I’ve never believed in fortune-tellers, horoscopes and stuff, but that old lady… How could she have known all this?” Dee waved his fortune. “These aren’t just vague predictions that could fit anyone, they’re too specific.”
“Maybe she was the real thing,” Gina suggested. “My grandmother always said that her mother had the sight.”
“You believe that?” Barry teased.
“I never met her, so I don’t know, but I’d like to believe it’s possible.”
“So what happened to the fortune-teller?” Tommy looked at Dee.
“Beats me. I’ve been at this fair almost every year since, but I never saw her again. Probably went somewhere she could make more money; she wasn’t exactly busy the year she was here.” Dee folded his and Arnon’s fortunes and put them back in his pocket. “Don’t know about anyone else, but I’m starvin’, I know a great little café a couple blocks from here, whaddaya say we go grab a bite to eat then try some of the games we couldn’t afford last time?”
That idea was met with universal approval.
Together, they set off along the street once more, talking about old times; they had a lot of catching up to do. Dee hoped they wouldn’t wait so long in future before getting together again. Old friends; they keep you from forgetting where you came from and remind you of how it felt to be young. Those were things worth holding on to.