Author: Raynidreams PM
Fourteen year old Lee is struggling with his identity. Features Lee and his grandfather, Joseph.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst - L. Adama/Apollo - Words: 4,067 - Published: 06-30-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8270472
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: Marked Cards
Rating: T / PG13
Character(s): Lee, Joseph with mentions of Zak, Samuel and Bill.
Summary: Fourteen year old Lee is struggling with his identity.
Word Count: 3,900
Beta Thanks: wicked_sassy – thank you for tending and nurturing it, honey.
Author's Notes: This heavily references Tauron culture in Caprica. The fic was written for the Lee Adama Daily ficathon on Live Journal.
Lee eased his flip-flops off and then rubbed his feet into the brown grass. The day's dry heat had left the ground brittle like unbaked clay and dust had once again nimbly settled into the creases of skin at his heels and made tide marks around his ankles. It also landed in the red welts of the insect bites scattered all over his feet and legs. He scrubbed them vigorously into the ground, and against anything he could find, wallowing in the ease friction provided over the itch as he moved. Then grumbled when it came back twice as bad at having made his feet dirtier and the bites angrier.
"Frak," he muttered, as he reached down to skim his nails over the bumps. As he scraped, he hissed with pleasure and then with pain when he pulled the top layer of skin off. "Frakkin' things," he cursed, still scratching, the irritated welts flaring, yet somehow easier to deal with than the low-level but incessant prickle of itching. He made pathetic little noises in the back of his throat while he scratched, knowing it was pointless.
"Frak!" he said again for good measure and then gave up, put his sandals back on and attempted to ignore the fire in everywhere the little ruddy things had crawled and fed. Bored, uncomfortable and annoyed, he sighed and looked up.
There was just nothing to do. It was too hot to be out in the sun for more than a few minutes, the blaze feeling like an overweight eagle landing on his head and shoulders every time he stepped out, and there was no one to talk to. Everyone else was taking siesta. Lee would've tried to sleep too, but unlike Zak, he couldn't sleep here in the summer. It was just too hot, even with all the windows open. His grandfather's house was lovely; dark, full of strange and wonderful objects, dim corridors and delicately carved architectural details, but old-fashioned and without air conditioning - a modern convenience Grandpa Joseph had simply refused to obtain despite the pleading of his grandsons, or one of them, rather. Zak was happy to simply wander around in his boxers all summer, the skin of his face and back turning nutmeg brown right down to where his inkday tattoo designed by their father lurked on his hip. Lee, on the other hand, took more after their mother; he tanned a golden brown but carefully, through small lots of exposure. Unlike the other fairer Tauron children who lived nearby, the ones who lived in the sun and carved the soil, he was never here long enough to truly garner a natural resistance.
He came. He burned. He went home. He came back. He was miserable.
Too much City and not enough Tauron for this part of the world, Uncle Sam often joked. Zak belonged here. He was savvy to the people. Loved the land and the cultivation of the eucalyptus and lime groves. Loved asking the growers questions about how they tied and encouraged the trees in ripples of bark to spread out their branches into strong shapes so they could bear fruit to full capacity. Lee, on the other hand, didn't like to ask. He liked to watch, and smell and taste and imagine how the trees might fare in other soil and climates. He liked to see how they worked here, in lines and such uniformity towards a goal, but he took more pleasure in the wilder ones, in the trees which wouldn't be tamed no matter how the growers cursed and set ties and trellises. The ones that were their own plants. They that burst out freely and offered shade so he could read beneath them and admire their beauty, the sky laced through them. Zak would often throw himself down beside Lee, listen to him talk about his notions, then grin and ask what was the difference? Lee wasn't sure he understood himself, but the fact that he thought differently seemed important. Then they'd play and he'd forget all about it until the next time.
The differences between his connection and Zak's oneness to work the land weren't there when they lived with Carolanne. There they were a team. Brothers in everything. Home with Carolanne was a cultural suburban hub - she was a city woman and had searched the outskirts hard for a place which gave her easy access to the life she used to have. A safe place where she could leave Lee and Zak to do her own thing. Lee had come to realise that Carolanne survived on drama, and their suburb was full of it, but in a middle-class kind of way. (It was a good place to grow up, Lee knew, and was thankful for that.) People there threw angry spats over their new cars, or their kids ended up in jail for smoking leaf rather than coming to blows over burnt-out getaways, selling Purple, or glassing their boyfriends, girlfriends, or tricks. The stories from other places that were reported overlaid with red-lettered banners as they appeared on the vid screens in the late afternoon. That was the time when the programmes designed for his age group abruptly ended and the adult ones began, programmes he stayed to watch, curious and absorbed.
Lee scratched while his mind idled. Part of him wished he was at Carolanne's home, where he'd have his own stuff around him, his books and games and music. He yearned to re-readDuel of Dual Soul. He identified with the protagonist so much, especially when everything seemed so against him. When he felt like he didn't belong anywhere. The only things which seemed to like him were the damned bat-like insects that landed on him at every opportunity.
He worried at another bite on his flat stomach beneath his frayed T-shirt featuring a HiYH or 'Hades in your Heart' logo. That was his favourite band at the moment. Dad didn't get the look that went with it: the black nail polish or the torn shreds of cloth around his wrists to show solidarity; a lack of material needs, or something which Lee wasn't quite sure he understood. Whatever it was, it had to mean more than shiny blobs of gold metal or starched blue uniforms where everyone looked the same, except for additional stripes which showed differences only for deference. Lee's sometime-friends used to call him Apollo for the amount of times he bitched that his dad treated everyone else like he was Zeus - a nickname Lee had hated. He'd hated it until his mate Mushroom Ben (nicknamed from his fondness and ability to find the fungus growing on his home world and then smuggling them dried into Caprica,) retitled him AtA - Apollo the Anarchist. It seeming more appropriate for how Lee relished doing things which annoyed his dad. (When he saw him, that was, which wasn't often.)
William Adama just didn't understand him, nor care.
Lee dug his nails into the bite on his stomach until he felt wetness run down from it, then sighed again and banged his head against the wall. He hoped to shut up that nasty little voice at the back of his head which whispered that wristband rags and dress greys were both symbols, uniforms of conformity and consensus no matter the belief. The voice inside Lee also taunted him that his choices in associates and dress were less for himself, more a weapon against the world. Just like his music, where he listened to songs so loud there was no melody. The tunes becoming a mindless thump like an external heartbeat, like a thousand heartbeats nearing cardiac arrest in his ears and fondling his skin with sound, and so when his dad burst in yelling for silence, Lee could scream lyrics like:
My sires strut as warriors, killing and so must I,
I can't, for I am nothing, in the end, I'd rather die...
Then he'd throw up the ambrosia he'd stolen from his mother's liquor cabinet right at his dad's feet. Well, the last part he'd only done once, and since then he'd managed to keep his occasional drinking to himself - banking on his natural reticence and ability to stay standing even if wasted beyond belief, smiling so people found it endearing and amusing, and letting him off if they did find out. It was one aspect of himself Lee found scary, perhaps even more scary than the knife-edge violence and total unpredictability some of his friends displayed. His self-destruction went on unremarked, tolerated, hidden, whereas others were actively discouraged.
He was never sure which was worse: if his smiling on the outside but killing himself inside was better than one where everyone trod on eggshells because the response could be a kiss or a slap.
Lee pouted and picked at his nail polish and wristbands alternatively and inattentively, feeling as disillusioned as the animals around him. The goats stood under a distant olive tree, munching apathetically on dry stalks. Even the chickens looked fed-up where they clucked tiredly in their pen until one set another off and the birds squawked. They were like the old men and women who gathered in the village centre to play bowls, drink, smoke, and moan about the kids who meandered around them with their handheld coms and vid screens. The kids who held conversations with no one except the silver insects in their ears. It's happening again, they'd whisper to one another, then kiss the end of their lace effigies stitched into the scarves and pendants or touch tattoos and murmur prayers.
Lee respected them and felt at home with the older members of this village. They were Tauron, but Caprican Taurons. They believed in the soil but they also believed in making the soil something for all, and were tolerant of everyone. Mostly. For he was an Adama, and the name made some people freeze upon hearing it and then back away - not that Lee had ever been able to get to the bottom of why - something from before the First Cylon War. Something to do with the fact that his family had known Graystone before Graystone Industries had been obliterated. Something to do with the Ha'la'tha... or something... and something that Lee could never get anyone to tell him. A hidden history that Lee had never been able to discover and connect into a whole.
Yesterday, an old man on the outskirts of the village had made him inquisitive about the past again when he'd ranted that Lee should take the land more seriously, that he would need its lessons more than his grandparents ever did. The man had grabbed the teenager and said that eyes like Lee's were intended for a distant sky. Lee had been startled and a little afraid of the iron grip the man held on him. He'd run as soon as he was released.
Lee still felt out of sorts from when he got to the main market seeking Zak, only to find him playing pyramid with children his own age. Zak had welcomed him over, but there were too many strangers. The group was full of people he only half knew, and would have to make panicky effort to engage with; the girls with their first tattoos of fight or womanhood being the most scary. It seemed safer to retreat. Having people come close twice in one day with the potential to get burned hadn't been appealing. Lee sighed and reflected now how some things seemed fated to happen. He touched the graze on his jaw, then up to the pain around his black eye. In avoiding one uncomfortable situation, he'd found another more painful. Getting roughed over in the fields as he returned alone hadn't been part of the plan.
He puffed out air. He felt thoroughly wretched.
"Thought I'd find you out here," a voice interrupted. Lee jumped and his quick reflexes brought him around to find his grandpa leaning up against the cooler; the machine rumbled by his hip in its own little distracted monologue. "Not sleeping?"
"Nah. I thought I'd relish and take advantage of how much there is to do."
"Ouch. So we're boring now? You never used to think so."
Lee wanted to keep his grumpiness, really, really wanted to, but it melted. It was hard around his grandparents and brother. They always had time for him, not matter what his mood. "It's the coolest place I could find," he explained in a less defensive manner. "And I swam all morning and couldn't be bothered to get back in the lake at high sun."
His grandpa ambled over and sat beside him. The bench creaked under his additional weight and a few more flakes of paint peeled floated into the ground.
"I know, I saw. You looked like that fox in Uncle Danya's story."
"The one that went out to sea?"
His grandpa smiled.
"I'm getting too old for his or Uncle Sam's stories," Lee bitched, finding his bite marks again.
His grandpa slapped his hand away and pulled an aloe leaf from a handkerchief in his pocket. "You could try an old women's cure, instead."
Lee didn't want to take the offer. His grandpa pulled a face and Lee found it hard to hold back his unwanted grin in reply. He took the triangle of green, walked to the hosepipe and sprayed the dust off his feet and legs, then used the soothing juice from the plant. "It's true what gra'ma says, then."
"Humm?" Joseph enquired, watching Lee dance about, covering his skin.
"Women are smarter than men?"
His grandpa laughed. "Equal... I like to think we are... but except where your Tsatti is concerned," Lee arched an enquiring eyebrow and Joseph battled his smirk before continuing. "She's way, way, way smarter."
Lee gave a little chuckle and came back over. "So, true." He flicked at the peeling paint. "You know I'd tell her if you said otherwise."
Joseph nodded mock serious, and then asked, "Better?" when Lee sat back down.
Lee bumped his shoulder against his grandpa's bony one. "Much."
"And?" Joseph prompted.
Lee scrunched his eyes up in puzzlement until he followed his grandpa's meaning. "Ah, yes, thank you."
"You're welcome, Leland. And remember..."
"Manners cost nothing, except to a Caprican," they chorused together in Uncle Sam's voice.
Joseph grinned, then laughed. "Don't repeat that in front of your ma or Tsatti."
Lee bumped shoulders with him again in solidarity.
"How about a story from your Tsatti then, as the paragon of wisdom?"
Lee's lip pouted out a little. He could feel a lesson coming on like the threat of a storm.
"She once told my older son, my dead son, your father's brother that a ship's crew might change but it still remains a family. She taught your father the same."
Lee looked at him. "I thought you were going to give me a lesson about running faster or hitting harder or not being proud?"
Joseph put his hand up to Lee's cheek and gently brushed a hand across his bruises and cuts. "Why would I need to teach a smart kid like you anything like that?"
Lee glowered beneath the caress. Joseph sighed and picked up the damp handkerchief that had held the aloe. He cleaned a smudge on Lee's face, then breathed on the cloth. The ritual made Lee frown.
"Gram'ma used to do that. Never seen you do it before."
Joseph tilted his head and leaned back. The orange sun slanting through the holes in the awning ran in bands across his eyes. It looked to Lee like a glowing visor over his eyes, like he was seeing into the sun. "The soil on your skin and your skin entwined returns to the soil. As we are from the soil, so shall we return. With our breath in the wind, so say we all."
"Wow, way go with the proverbs," Lee mocked.
"Hey, less of that," Joseph warned.
"Sorry, guess I'm not gelling with much of anything today."
Joseph caught his hand and held it, looking deeply into his face. "Lee, traditions are important. They give us grounding. Our people's history is there for us as the land is. And where they are not to be abused they're also not static." He smiled gently.
"Because history is history. It is to be respected. People are to be respected for certain. Family to be respected and loved most of all. But never, Lee, don't be who you are. Doubt who you are. Be afraid of who you are. The land gave birth to us like a mother, and she can be hard as well as soft. Give her respect by giving yourself respect. We are all children of this world now. And like we would've on Tauron, when you were born, we shaved your hair and gave its weight in grain back to the land so it could grow. It could grow free, not to be eaten, not to be prepared, but as the sun and the land and the seed itself wills to grow. You are an individual, Lee. You are not just of the dirt. You are of the river and the sky and the fire. You are a flower at a roadside within a field of flowers, but one which faces south instead of east because it is made of all elements. You don't look for the sun rising, you watch its whole arc and see the shadows it makes as well as the light. You are perfect, my grandson. And I love you."
Joseph puffed out after his speech. "Wow, guess I am full of proverbs today. But then, I'm an old man and myths are the language of the old."
Lee had pulled away and sat stiffly during his grandfather's talk, hunching up his shoulders and trying to gain back some of his composure. He loved his grandpa, but when he was being teachery, it made Lee feel uncomfortable. It made him think about the old man at the market. When he'd touched him, it felt too close. Claustrophobic. Just like the time his grandpa had explained the hair at his groin and the tremble in his voice. How he'd kept on explaining it even after Lee had cut one conversation short and how Lee already knew in part and didn't want to be told. His distance from such changes would suffice until they were fact and he understood them himself. (Cutting short on his want for his grandfather's words to have come from another mouth.)
Joseph let him have his physical distance but said, "You and Billy... gosh, so alike. You so want to reach out towards others, but always need to find people that need you back before you can release yourselves. And by Jupiter, how you worry about things. Work at them layer by layer, angle by angle, all this by degrees until you know the bone by heart."
"'Pa, I don't wanna talk about dad."
Joseph ignored him. "But no matter how much you worry at and gnaw, it's still just bone and even getting down to the marrow isn't always going to feed you the answer. Worrying about the past, resenting your dad, none of these things make you move forward, Lee. Even here is the past. Take lessons from it but be your own man. Don't crawl in your skin."
Lee stood and turned towards him. "What, the skin that doesn't fit in here? The flesh that got beat up for no reason? The bones that Pa can't even be bothered to come home for when it's my inkday!" He shouted the last bit, then gritted his teeth about letting out what was really bothering him. An inkday was just an inkday after all - why the frak it should mean something when he'd missed all of them so far would make a difference... but it did. He'd turned fourteen last week. At his party had been a grand total of six. His grandpa, gram'ma, Uncle Sam, Uncle Larry, Zak and himself. No friends and his skin was still unmarked, unlike Zak's. Something in him was not worthy enough to have shown a lesson learned.
"Your father loves you, Lee. He just has trouble expressing it. Like you."
Lee marched a few steps away, then came back. "It's not true!"
"Like you, Lee," he repeated. "You have acquaintances, and it's not a bad thing. It just means that when you do fall in love, it's going to be hard to not love with everything that you are. And I think to give up part of yourself is going to be the hardest thing you'll ever do, son. Like your dad." He shushed Lee with a hand. "You'll be with people, you'll fight for them and care for them, but only some will ever get into your heart. I see you'll never be able to just let go." He looked at the ground a moment. "I doubt."
Lee twitched and turned his back towards his grandpa and stepped out into the sunlight. The branding heat thumped down onto his skin.
"You make love and life sound like Triad," he muttered.
His grandfather's bubble of mirth popped like the ducks landing in the lake.
"Oh, it is. It is. It's a match where you hold all your cards until you're sure of your hand and then you shout it out."
"What happens when they don't deal you the right cards?"
Joseph sighed deeply, expelling air down his nose, then stood with a groan. He unfolded and placed the cool damp handkerchief over Lee's hot head. "That's for you to decide, Lee. Do you fight or give up on the game?"
Lee kicked at a pebble and watched as its bounces lessened and then faded to nothing. He turned, and weakly propped his head on his grandpa's shoulder. "Sometimes I just wish I could have a different hand."
"I know, but you don't, Lee. That's life."
Lee pulled away and mumbled bitterly, "I know that already."
Joseph kissed him on the cheek. He smelled reassuringly of sandalwood and lemons. "You're too smart, Lee. I think that's your problem. Too smart in some ways, but too clouded in others. Want another lesson from your Tsatti's back catalogue?"
Lee sourly grumbled something unintelligible, but afterwards looked up and nodded. His face was golden in the sun, Joseph thought. Light, but like all the brightest things, cast the darkest shadows. "She'd tell you to think another way about the game."
Lee's eyes scrunched up and then he got it. "To not be defeated by my hand, but play a different game."
Joseph pressed another kiss to Lee's cheek, then settled an arm around his shoulders. "See, a smart kid. You're too smart for our stories now. Come, let's actually play cards rather than talk about it," he said as he guided Lee back towards the awning.
Lee leaned into him as they walked. "I'll never be too smart for your stories." The shade seemed much cooler and the day better when they sat back down to play.
"And therein you show wisdom, young Adama."
"Whatever, grandpa, whatever..." Lee shot back with a grin.