2010-12-25: Maybe the Best of Things



Guest Starring:

The Forresters and Tobias

Date: December 25th, 2010


Having saved Christmas, Maggie and Laurie bring it to the family in need of it.

"Maybe the Best of Things"

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center

Cheyenne, Wyoming

The quiet floor housing Alice Forrester glitters with the holiday. Garland wraps the nearby nurse's station, and shiny red foil decorations hang from the doors of every room in the cheerful shapes of Christmas bells, Santa Claus, and snowflakes. The sights beyond are usually less cheerful — patients lying drearily in beds — but befitting of the day, Alice's room is in fact filled with cheer. There's no room merrier.

The portable table meant for the patient has been pushed off to the side and a small square table borrowed for the deliverance of Christmas unto the hospital: Laurie's efforts in the kitchen have been transferred here, to them, and the spread decorates the tables tantalizingly, containers splashed with ribbon and bows. Apple walnut stuffed pork roast, wilted lettuce salad, vegetables, potatoes, candy bar fudge; every bit of it overwhelmingly unexpected, and every bit of it warmly welcomed by all. Even the nurses keep peeking in, both heartened and, truthfully, a little jealous.

The formerly kidnapped Forrester is awake, propped up in bed, although she's pale and attached to an IV. Every bruise and scrape gleams obviously now that she's cleaned up and beneath the hospital lighting, and her fingers are bandaged. Her eyes are haunted — but she's smiling like a trooper and it's not all forced. Two other smiling faces flank Alice: Karen, who is over the moon, and Maggie, whose fond motherly gestures with the young woman's dark hair aren't dissimilar to the mother's on the opposite side.

The patriarch of the family stands just at the door, neither in nor out, his back against the jamb, his arms folded over an appropriately forest green sweater. John's pose is a pensive one as he looks in on the room, stoic, but a close enough study could reveal the hint of gentle reflection in his eyes and note that his mouth is not a perfect straight line.

Coming from a mission of spreading holiday cheer in an orbiting radius around the Forrester room, Laurie strolls the hallway towards that gentle giant bearing less fudge than when he left, but more Christmas-themed Hershey's kisses: a donation from another ward, in the spirit of giving. Since the ranch, the visiting consultant has tucked himself in some, losing the casual capris for jeans dark and expensive enough to be dress.

Not enough cheer? They're set off well, actually, by the white sweater clinging his form, the green beneath peeking out in triangles below the end of the ribbing. Bells, either borrowed from his best friend or taken from a collection, adorn his shoes but it's really the red and white Santa hat he's magicked out of somewhere that makes the image that came with those holiday-wrapped presents of food.

"Ho ho ho!" He announces his approach — as if the bells and color didn't cover that — grinning like a man that isn't past his middle years. A wrapped kiss is popped to the patriarch with a toss not handicapped. "You look estranged," he accuses the hovering man humorously, himself also stopping short of the threshold of maternal affection inside. Not because of any testosterone-related offense to the proceedings, but to tip his head at John, as if considering the best way to herd a bull.

John's reflexes — not too dulled in retirement — spring him out of his stoic reverie as he catches the chocolate. It disappears hand over fist as his arms resume their cross. "Estranged?" He shakes his head and, chuckling just under his breath, assures, "No, no." His regard transfers to Alice; he seems fine with that for now, watching.

"You never think it's going to happen to close to you," the former detective states after a pause, as if in explanation — a somberness not matching those clues of warmer thoughts, or the merry scene ahead — certainly not matching the man in the Santa hat. Directing the words, his gaze then seeks out not his daughter nor the smiling faces at the bedside — where Karen is practically prying herself off of her daughter to go to the spread of food — but once again, the newest acquaintance and surprise chef. "But working in the jobs that we do, even as singularly odd as… this kind of thing is, place like this, that's always the fear, isn't it. We know it so rarely turns out well." A smile calmly cracks, and John's eyes return to Alice. "It's a rare day." Gratitude, there, somewhere, under a rumbling voice.

Eyes flicker to the side around movement inside, but Laurie's general watchfulness is also for the other man — more keen than his ensemble, and behavior would link to. "If you think about disaster, you will get it. Brood about death and you hasten your demise. Think positively and masterfully, with confidence and faith, and life becomes more secure, more fraught with action, richer in achievement and experience— personally, I try not to think at all; but if I did, I should like it to be positively, and always about those close."

Despite being strongly said, the quotation holds no personal opinions from the consultant, who as breezily works by with a wave of his hand, "It's Christmas. Get in there— " this, apparently, his bull-fighting techniques, as he flaps both of his hands at John — much like a matriarch, instead — "You have an obligation to be Hallmark for a moment. I implore you, as a favor to me, that I regretfully must, but unhesitatingly do, oblige you with—!"

Waving encouragement, he falls one of the hands into his pocket, swinging up and out with his phone; it's flipped open with a pop of the thumb. A second later, the other hand moves away, pulling the colorful hat from his head — and leaving his hair in a matter of disheveled — to flop it over John's.

Laurie's well-meaning antics garner the attention of those within the room — all three sets of eyes and smiles are drawn to the blur of colour. They all wear matching expressions of sudden amusement and surprise at the sight as John struggles to stop the hat from falling off before he truly realizes that means he's settling it upon his head. That's alright; he smiles. "Okay— okay," he rumbles good-naturedly enough, holding up calloused hands. "But only because I see fudge in there." He does, indeed, go to join the Hallmark moment.

A moment which, after a quiet friendly exchange with her old partner, Maggie extracts herself from, at least for now; John takes her place beside Alice and Maggie moves to take his place at the door. Though her arms fold similarly — over her unzipped coat as red as the sweater beneath — her pose is far less stoic, and she's all smiles. In fact, she seems overwhelmed by the family's happiness; it's clearly her own, too, and she's shining with it. "I liked your Santa hat," she tries to complain with a frown but fails completely; her smile is too persistent. "It suited you better than the cowboy hat."

Maggie's line of sight naturally angled to see straight down the hospital's hallway, and no sooner has she arrived and spoken than she nods her head down it. "Hey," she says to point Laurie's attention there regardless of whether he's spied what she's spied yet or not: Officer Tobias, forever in uniform and winter hat, wandering down the hall looking a little lost and carrying a shoebox. "We're not the only visitors."

"So, what you're saying is that I'm old and jolly, rather than ruggedly handsome and outdoorsy," concludes Laurie, without any trace of object, or, really, question to this analyzing of his state. "It does… have a certain head-hugging comfort…" His eyes, on the family, and now trailing the hat with wistful abandon. He's called to shift attention to the door, his phone in a constant state of almost-raised, and his never-ending smile gives an increasing tug at the visiting body. "You should probably go save him from himself," he advises, "The lady in the room right before ours thinks everyone is her husband…" The way his voice fogs over in tiny hesitance suggests there's a story there, but he doesn't indulge. Some rustling — still not the phone — and then he's summoning Maggie back first, "Oh, hey— Powers. Merry Christmas; do you want a kiss?"

Thankfully for Tobias, he's made it to the nurse's station to be pointed in the right direction — in other words, straight ahead. The bright beacon of red that is Maggie and the bells on Laurie's shoes has somehow not hearkened him to them yet; perhaps he has some detective skills yet to hone, but in his defense, he got hit on the head yesterday.

Maggie's watch of the officer is diverted quite effectively by Laurie's question — and quite quickly, at that, bringing about a few startled blinks right at him, bright and animated while her face is so full of merriment already. What begins as this deer-in-the-headlights surprise — her mouth moving as if to answer or at least question — quickly shifts with a sharpening of her warm gaze and a little arch of her eyebrows. "Hmm," she over-deliberates, scrunching her smile into a highly thoughtful expression; she bobs her head in one strong nod. "Yes," she answers with decisive, upbeat enthusiasm. She stares him down expectantly; a beat; she holds out her hand. "I saw you with the chocolate earlier."

Unto this, Tobias, rightfully directed. "Hey!" he calls out companionably, only to duck down and lower his voice, "I mean— hey," he amends as he peeks between the pair into the room; spying the happy family being lively, he straightens to normal. "Oh, she's not asleep. Alright. I thought I'd stop by, see how she's doing… and when I called the hospital just before I came on over the nurses were talking about you guys— " He squints. "Is Forrester wearing a Santa hat?"

Since he's already holding out the chocolate to be delivered — apparently, yes was going to be the only accepted answer no matter what came out of her mouth — her hand is filled as soon as it's offered; kisses are, somehow inappropriately, wrapped and, therefore, undeliverable by direct transference to the lips. Laurie observes this travesty by handing it over, arching an eyebrow at her random statement making. "And you… thoooought… 'I'm going to act surprised that he has candy; boy, that'll show him— ?" His supreme, narrow-eyed skepticism at what he's decided was her evil plan to pretend she found him Hershey's kiss-less.

All this chocolate-related diabolicalness is diverted by Tobias. "He is," Laurie declares, quite proudly, and shooting Maggie a very affected look of unsubtle challenge, "And I think it suits him— you know," he's too easily distracted by Tobias' burden, though, to keep up the act, "If that's a small animal to hilariously let loose in the psychiatry wing, you probably want to poke some air holes in there sooner rather than later… Otherwise, you just have a dead animal," he observes, growing solemn, "And that's just not funny. You want a kiss?"

As Maggie starts to unwrap the pretty foil of the Hershey's kiss, she gives Laurie a skeptical look in return even as Tobias appears; supreme and narrow-eyed to match despite the sillier sideways quirk of her smile. It all rolls away with a roll of her eyes to the challenge she's issued over the Santa hat. Moving on— "Hi, Tobias."

"Uh," Tobias is left looking down at the box between his mitten-clad hands, glimpsing up only to Maggie and her treat, and then to Laurie and back again conspiratorially: "He is talking about the chocolate, right? 'Cause he's grown on me and all but…" A reassuring raise of the detective's eyebrows and the pop of the chocolate in her mouth prompts his answer: "Sure, man. And uh…" He gives the box a harmless shake. "To the best of my admittedly slim knowledge, there aren't any animals inside. I hope not, or it means the police station has a vermin problem again. I know you're probably gonna go down there at some point before you go and all, but since I was on my way, the chief gave me this. It's for you— " Maggie, that is; Tobias hands the shoebox out, " — well it's not for you, it's yours… uh, Merry Christmas. I guess. It was in your desk. You know. When it was. Your desk."

"Oh— !" Maggie realizes with surprise but not a great deal of enthusiasm. Briefly bewildered, she gathers up the box of hidden belongings, holding it rather loosely as if she's not sure she wants it. "I cleaned it out pretty fast, and there was this… one drawer that would always stick…" A thumb running along a corner of the shoebox cover, her head gradually dips toward it; so does her voice, her smile at risk of disappearing. "I didn't feel like going back for… just this… so." She raises her head back up and bolsters her smile, dismissive of her explanations— irrelevant. "Thanks."

"No problem," Tobias says, glancing at Laurie briefly apologetically as if sad he doesn't have a present for him too. "So you gotta tell me," the officer's excitement starts to raise then, "what in the hell happened in the woods? Everyone's comin' out with a different story and meanwhile I'm like, hey, I got knocked on the head and missed everything, don't ask me."

It's a good thing the box wasn't for Laurie because, upon handing over the Hershey's and hearing disappointedly that it's not an antics inspiring animal, he's completely lost interest. Not necessarily on that it's not for him, or that it's Maggie's original things, but certainly on hearing that it's from her desk. At work. Thusly done with these two box people, he re-pioneers the task he started by removing his phone in the first place. "Okay," he announces to the part of the room that's all related to each other, "Everybody look like it's actually vaguely acceptable that I'm here — you can smile, but — you know, it has to be convincing." His purpose? To get them into the center of the little lens at the back of his phone's base, preserving this Hallmark hospital moment for posterity.

The Forresters need no prompting to smile; they already are. The only prompt they need is to look at the camera phone. Even though Alice's smile is fading tiredly, it turns up convincingly for the Hallmark despite her protest: "…I must look awful…" John's smile is only there if you squint — someone's not a fan of pictures — but his merry hat almost makes up for it. If not, his wife's smile certainly does. She calls out to Laurie brightly: "It's more than acceptable for you to be here!"

Spinning about to witness this event, Maggie leans her shoulder against the frame of the door. Her smile is as much for the reunited family as it is for their photographer— perhaps more, as it's he who she watches more than his subjects. Nothing about her smile is geared toward the box in her hands that she idly pries open. Meanwhile, she attempts to slowly formulate a response for Tobias. "When we… fell, there was a trap…"

"There's one story going around that you two trapped them in their own trap," Tobias interjects.

"No… no, not their own trap, we pretty much just got caught in theirs for a-awhile…"

"Ritter has a theory that you had to have used camouflage from the woods to sneak up on them, because how else… but he said somethin' about lasers, too…"

"The forest was camouflage itself," Maggie clarifies, considering Tobias as she gets the box's cover tucked under her arm. Inside are papers as boring as Laurie suspected, something metal — perhaps an award — a bit of sparkle in a box corner, and… speaking of pictures, there's a whole slew of Polaroids. "I didn't see any lasers, but you know, Miles never did tell me exactly what he did with that flashlight…"

"Fantastic," the idle photographer describes — while he's being discussed via side-bar — not about the reassurance of his presence, but the picture as he draws the phone down to squint at its end result. "This will make perfect blackmail for those jerks at the crazyhouse. You all have been wonderful— as you were." The phone, meanwhile, is stabbed at enthusiastically, presumably the buttons that will send it merrily along to another source.

During this, he wheels away from the Forresters and trails somewhere vaguely resembling where he'd been before, all while staring down with undue concentration at the screen; apparently, sending a picture on a phone is more difficult than sneaking up on two seasoned hunters in a forest without lasers. Jab jab jab. His mouth screws sideways, matching lightly puzzled eyebrows. Jab jab—

His eyes jump up — one instant to the other, sans warning. "Oh, neat— shake it… " and, his phone easily forgotten, regulated off to some pocket whence it came, he reaches right over and claims for himself these Polaroids as if his name were written on them, some belated Christmas present Tobias forgot about.

The photographed Forresters are left with a different set of matching expressions — that of confusion. They murmur amongst themselves ("Did he say crazyhouse?" from Karen), but ultimately, they fall easily back into their merriment. At least the relieved parents; Alice sinks into her pillow, content to just watch her mother fuss over the Christmas meal. Tobias squeezes past to give him his kind hello.

"Oh God. No wonder I left these behind— " Maggie's own discovery of the photographs is one of mixed amusement and horror — and it's quite abruptly derailed by Laurie. The way she immediately grabs for them again, one might think the photos are salacious, but she cuts off her instinctual lash-out to protect them.

They're anything but salacious, in reality: they only feature many faces unfamiliar to Laurie, some that are — John, looking at least fifteen years younger — and, mostly, one very familiar face in the form of a slightly more youthful Maggie. She shares the same faintly wincing expression of bewilderment as Maggie in the present day, sympathizing with her past self's aversion to the sudden photographs. The much longer, often braided hair the neatly starched Cheyenne Police Department uniform — just like Tobias's, just narrower, and with a proper brimmed hat — date the photos more than the face. She's smiling in some eventually; tentatively companionable and friendly with the other officers. The locales are standard fare… mostly: in the station and out and about at events, including one that seems to involve patrolling what looks like a festive rodeo.

"Okay— that's enough of that memory lane…" Maggie instructs and holds out the box for the pictures to be eventually re-deposited. "What do you say… do we hang around awhile and tell Tobias here what actually happened," a glance goes to the officer, who perks to attention at his name, "or leave them be with all this wonderful food," her smile starts to beam, "and go break into a house?"

Tobias holds his pointer finger up. "Should I be worried… I'm on-duty again in an hour…"

Laurie will decide when enough is enough, thank you very much, and he quite gracefully navigates his photo-polling hands even further from the box once it's offered. "Pictures are taken to be looked at— which is, conveniently why I took them…" he comments distractedly, flipping through snapshots of a previous time in his companion's life, milking all of the details out of them with a healthy curiosity. It can be assumed he misses no wrinkle on a bystander's shirt. "And they aren't complete unless they are; if you put them into this box, you are stealing that reason for being." He pauses, tilting his head this way and that — not, to get a better angled gander at Maggie's hairstyle — but in consideration. One that ends brightly in, "On the other hand, you could also just be transporting them easier." And she's returned to her some non-salacious photographs, sans one. A close count — and only that — reveals that Laurie's opposite hand has nimbly slipped one away and stored it quite naturally into his pocket.

He turns on the same side as his stealth, further curtaining the action, when Tobias provides convenient purpose to the move. "You should never be worried," he announces quite confidently to the officer, though with no pressure that his words need actually be followed up on, "You should only be tentatively excited— we can go."

Somewhat contradictorily, this ushers Laurie into the room, his hand raising, hovering by, but not touching, Tobias' shoulder to excuse himself as he slips by the close officer and over to where Alice rests in her bed. He flashes her a brilliant smile, stabbing a finger in his own dimple to demonstrate the expression purposefully to her. "It was a pleasure to meet you, and a supreme honor to work with the esteemed Petunia. I've decided not to bill you all of the snacks she ate out of my pockets. In fact— " with no more adieu, he reaches those same pockets to distribute onto the bed a little individually wrapped— is it a cookie?— with a large print on the top of the paper arguing THIS ONE ISN'T FOR YOU, PETUNIA.

Chin lifting, without waiting on a response from the girl in the bed, Laurie regards her father, squinting respectfully at his Santa'd form. "… I like your hat. Merry Christmas." That is all for the man of little words; the consultant disappears from the bedside to where Karen is giving detailed attention to the food. His hand slips up to her shoulder, gently wrapping it to turn her to him, "Thank you for letting me have a run at your beautiful kitchen," he expresses warmly, using her turn to hand her a second presentation from those constantly mysterious pockets. The point of this one seems immediately clear, as the box has another note attached, this one only a length, like an oversized fortune cookie, given a studied, almost calligraphic style of writing: Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

Hand gone. Laurie gone. He's strolled right on out, whistling a couple of notes, "And to all a good night~!"

Maggie is left in the heartened presences Laurie leaves behind in his cyclone of Christmas cheer, and she drifts into its warmth rather than follow him out right away. It's fair to say that Karen's hug is meant for Laurie, too; it's less fair to say that Maggie will be able to pass it on to him when Karen says to, but her own tight squeeze readily tries to make up for it. Everyone in the room gets a hug from the visiting detective before she leaves, even Tobias, if only because he takes it upon himself to get in on the Christmas affections much to her surprise. It's John whose arm she holds onto last, warm eyes expressing more than her simple words: "Merry Christmas."

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