He pulled the hand-break before pulling the keys out of the ignition, so that the car wouldn't roll back down the driveway when he deactivated the engine. The headlights at the front of Daniel's old Jeep Wrangler faded, leaving only darkness surrounding the house in front of him. His new house, their new house.
He quickly checked his phone, 7:23 PM, Saturday March 17. They'd made good progress getting here, but the moving van with all of their stuff in it wouldn't be there until at least Nine AM the next morning. Tonight, it would be sleeping bags and takeout meals for the both of them. When the movers had been the next day, he'd have to go to the store and get something to cook for the both of them, if she had one more fast food burger or Indian curry, she'd kill him, probably literally with the temper on her.
The girl in question was currently asleep with her head against the window, seatbelt still fastened and her earbuds in her ears. She snoozed gently as Daniel could barely make out the pop music blaring through the earbuds. He took a risk, he knew the moment he switched off the music player in her lap that she would wake up and possibly gut him, but he did it anyway. Pulling the earphone jack out of the old IPod, the music automatically stopped and as expected, the kid's eyes flickered open.
Instead of the usual scowl he had grown used to in the past year or so, she calmly yawned as she looked over at him. "Estaba escuchando eso dick" she stated in calm and exhausted Spanish. "C'mon Kid, English please?" Daniel's accent was light Texan, being formerly a resident of Austin until he was 19 years old. He left that city when he joined the US Army in 2014, but that was a long time ago.
The little girl rolled her eyes as she unbuckled her seatbelt "What's the point of me living with you if you aren't even going to learn my own language?" She asked him, clearly annoyed.
"I'm pretty sure it takes a little longer than a year to learn Spanish, Comprende?" She didn't take this very well, as usual "Was it easy for me to learn English? It wasn't my choice, you have one, comprende?" She mockingly threw his pronunciation of the word back at him, but he could only smile at her expected ferocity "Touché, now c'mon, let's get our shit together and get something to eat. I'm starving."
He opened the door to his Jeep, and stepped out. After closing it, he moved to the back of the vehicle and opened up the rear passenger door. He noticed the kid climbing out of the vehicle as well, her smaller size making it slightly harder for her. He suddenly remembered something important "Hey Laura, grab the door key from the glove compartment, would ya?" She wordlessly obeyed and grabbed the keys. Daniel grabbed a large box with 'Las cosas de Laura' written across it. She had cello-taped it shut, obviously she didn't want anyone seeing her pink unicorn that she oh so adored and cuddled at night, least of all people Daniel.
He spotted the little brunette struggling with the key in the door, jiggling it. He heard her swear in Spanish, he recognised it, but couldn't be bothered to call her out on her bad language. "You know, if the key don't work then you just use one of your pretty little kitty claws to pick the lock, huh?" He called over to her as he lifted the box out of the back of the Jeep. She turned around at him with murder in her eyes "you want one up your ass?" Daniel chuckled, he knew she was joking, but he could also tell that he'd struck a nerve. It wasn't difficult to piss her off. "How about you take this heavy duty box of yours and let me handle the door?" Laura sighed and headed over to him, abandoning the key.
The box was pretty heavy, Daniel noticed that straight away. Must be filled with her toys, he guessed. As he handed her the box, he noticed she had not problem taking it with one hand and holding it against her side. "Alright muscles, let's see if we can't get this door open" for the first time in over two hours, Daniel saw her crack a small smile.
After a few minutes and multiple cuss words later, Daniel finally got the door open. "Guess that's one thing I need to fix, the locks don't work for shit" he said as they unloaded the remainder of their gear. He closed his Jeep and locked it, testing the handle to make sure it wouldn't open. He followed Laura into the house and smiled at their new home. It was two stories, with a living room and kitchen connected to each other. The kitchen had room for one table in it, and upstairs there were two bedrooms and one bathroom, as well as a small attic. It wasn't anything special but it was home for now. He noticed Laura was busy unpacking boxes of cutlery and and plates onto the kitchen counter.
"Alright kid, listen I know I said I'd make you something real when we got here, but it's nearly eight o' clock, and we're both pretty worn out, am I right? So what say we have takeout tonight, but tomorrow I promise we'll have something good. That ok?" He didn't even need to look at her to detect the disappointment on her face. He placed a box onto the counter, and a thought occurred to him. Turning to the small figure with her back to him, he made his voice as convincing as possible. "What say I do you favorite dish tomorrow huh? Meatballs?" He drew out the last word in a way that would seduce a lion. He knew it was working when she slowly turned to look at him with a small smirk on her face. He had her.
"But hey, I mean we could just not eat anything at all and just have something else tomorrow night...your choice" unable to contain her excitement any longer, she broke out into a huge grin. "With Parmesan on the top, Sí?" He couldn't help but chuckle at he little tyke's sudden enthusiasm. "Yeah, sure with the cheese on top. So takeout tonight, and tomorrow I make you the meatballs? Got a deal?" Laura smiled a large toothy grin "Sí, yes, yes, deal!" She was suddenly very bubbly. "Alright, shake on it then."
Daniel held out his hand and she reached over and shook it. He noticed how she squeezed his hand a little tighter than expected "no breaking your promise now" she said with a glare. Daniel huffed, he knew she'd never hurt him, but he couldn't be doing with the world of shit he'd be in if he lied to her. Daniel had lied to the girl before, but it's not like he didn't have reason. Raising a Mutant wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
"Yeah yeah, I promise I'll make you the damn meatballs, but for now, be a doll and go get me my phone, it's over there" he pointed to where he had left it by the door, he would need it to place an order to any local takeout restaurant. "I'm thinking pizza tonight, little old Italian weekend, pizza tonight and spaghetti tomorrow, sound good?" He laughed at his own joke, but Laura only shrugged her shoulders. Right now she was simply tired, and couldn't care less what she ate before bed. "Whatever, just no peppers, hate that crap" she remarked. "No peppers, got it" Daniel searched for any Pizza places in his local area.
The two had moved to the small town of Hillridge, Illinois from Arizona. The journey had been long, tiring and above all, boring. Daniel knew he wasn't the best company on long haul road trips, but then again, neither was his own present company. Laura wasn't his daughter, but he tried to make his guardianship over her enjoyable and less hostile and for the most part, it seemed to be working. And yet still, they often argued, and sometimes Laura would let her anger get the better of her. One particular incident occurred a short while back in the car, and the seats had to be replaced since they were slashed beyond repair. Nobody but himself and a few others knew it, but Laura was a Mutant, born in a lab from an unknown mother and the DNA of the deceased Mutant and former X-Man James "Logan" Howlett, better known as The Wolverine.
Laura, like her 'father' had Adamantium bonded to her skeleton, however it was only grafted onto her claws, which would retract from her knuckles on both hands and one single claw from a space on both feet. She was stronger than possible for someone of her age, and like Logan before her, had a healing factor that prevented her from certain death. But Laura, despite being a dangerous killer, was still just a child at heart and Daniel could see this. He knew she required the proper guidance in the world that she had been neglected of for many years. And Daniel tried his hardest to give her that taste of a normal, average life.
Didn't stop her from being an absolute little shit whenever she felt like it, however. But whenever she let herself snap, she was always sorry afterwards, and so far, she had never hurt him. The pair had been living with each other for around a year now, ever since they had left the sanctuary for the big wide world, so that Laura may have some hope of living the normal life of a twelve year old. She was pushing thirteen, and already the stereotypical bratty behaviour was starting to break through her usual quiet and calm exterior. He remembered his grandfather used to tell him what it was like to raise his mother, and therefore he dreaded what was to come.
Daniel found a pizza place near the centre of town, and they delivered. He ordered himself pepperoni and for Laura a plain cheese. He knew she wasn't that fussy. He placed he order and waited for it to be confirmed, before placing his phone down on the side. "Alright kiddo, it's on the way. What say we unpack a few things?" She nodded in acceptance, it wasn't like she had anything better to do.
Before long, they were say in the centre of what would soon be their living room, opening up boxes. Laura was of course the designated box opener, cutting through the cello-tape with her sharp blades. He had one strict rule for when they were out in public, and that was to hide her claws at all times. As far as the general public knew, Mutants were nigh-extinct, and even the ones that were still alive were hiding themselves away from the rest of the world. Daniel had no problem with her popping her claws when it was just the two of them alone, or in an extreme case, self defence, but he absolutely restricted the usage of them outside of the house or in public, or practically anywhere where someone might see them.
He watched as the girl cut into her box and sheathed her blades, opening up the container and just as he suspected, it contained a number of her toys and her little pink fluffy unicorn. She seemed to momentarily forget he was watching as she plucked it out of the box and hugged it tightly to her chest. However, this ignorance was short lived as she glanced him grinning like a Cheshire Cat. Clearly embarrassed, she took the toy and placed it on the floor behind her, out of his sight. "Don't Mind me if you wanna play with your dolls" he said to her. She turned her head to glare at him, he could see the anger bubbling up inside of her. "Hey relax now, it was just a joke."
He saw her unclench her fists as she realised she was letting her temper take over again. He really didn't want her to break anything on their first night here. "Look, there's some sleeping bags in that box over there, why don't you take yours out and roll it out in your room ok? I'll call you down when the Pizzas here." She smiled at him, nodded, and obediently grabbed the smaller sleeping bag from the box where he was pointing. He didn't watch her as she trudged up the stairs in her boots, but instead continued unpacking. He took out old photographs of his time in the Army, and a plaque with several of his medals on. He'd made Captain before leaving in 2025, settling for a life on the road. He'd considered working for a private company before he'd found the Sanctuary up in Canada a few years later.
Daniel pulled out some books as well, some of them belonging to Laura, most of them his. He found the dusty old Spanish translation book he'd bought when considering going to classes so she could freely speak in her native language whenever she was around him, but in the end, their complicated situation had forced him not to attend. As he was pulling out a small locked container which he knew contained his 9MM, he heard a knock at the door. Pizza was here.
Opening the door, he saw a young man stood on the other side with two boxes in his hand. "Evening sir, one pepperoni and one plain cheese, ready and..." Daniel knew this was part of his job to dish out pleasantries, so he cut in "Yeah yeah, how much do I owe you, kid?" The pizza boy stopped, and then gave the amount. Daniel dipped into his wallet and handed him the bills plus a little extra for tip, before taking the two pizza boxes from him. He closed the door as the kid walked away, calling upstairs.
"Hey kid! Pizza's here!" His voice echoed up the wooden steps. He heard slow footsteps unenthusiastically pace down the stairs as he opened the boxes and found two dishes from their clutter. "Get it while it's hot" he happily said to her. She didn't seem all that fussed. "Gracias" she uttered her thank you in Spanish, something that was obvious to him since everyone should know how to say 'thank you' in Spanish.
They didn't even have anywhere to actually sit yet, and so they were now sat cross legged on the floor, pizza boxes open and plates in their hands. Daniel had taken out two cans of soda from the package he'd brought with him in the car, and so that had served as their drink for the evening meal. Daniel checked his phone E-Mails absentmindedly while Laura silently chewed on her pizza. He was the first to break the silence "Hey Listen, you know I went ahead and got you enrolled in the local school here, so you'll be starting Monday. Maybe you can make some new friends, hang out with em?" He suggested to her. Her only response was to stare at him while chewing.
"I mean, friends who you ain't gonna rip to pieces at the slightest provocation, you know?" He laughed at his own joke, and Laura couldn't help but laugh along with him. "So tomorrow I hope you're gonna get all your books in order 'cause you're gonna need it, no more slouching around." His tone was both serious and jovial.
Laura swallowed her bite of pizza "You mean like you do seventy percent of the time?" Her Latin American accent dripped with sarcasm. He chuckled "yeah, exactly like me, you got it" Laura smiled and they continued to silently chew on their food.
It was a little over half an hour later that Daniel had ditched the dishes in the sink and left the empty pizza boxes discarded on the counter by the back door. He cleaned his hands and picked up his phone, before looking back out into the area that would become the living room. A lot of boxes were left unopened, and the few that were had been abandoned when the food arrived. They'd finish it all tomorrow he decided, when the movers had dropped off all of their stuff. He looked at his phone, 9:05 PM. Laura had gone upstairs a short while ago, and was no doubt lay on her bed with her Music player blaring some pop song down her ears.
Tired, he decided to take his sleeping bag up to his room and retire for the evening. He switched off the kitchen light, before heading over to the box that contained the sleeping bags. He picked his out, and then checked to make sure that the front door was locked, it was. He calmly made his way up the wooden staircase, deciding that upon reaching the top, he'd check on the girl before going to sleep.
Daniel approached the top step, and noticed that both bedroom lights were in fact switched off. He could however see a dim light glowing from one of the rooms. He turned on the hall light, and placed his bag on the floor and his phone in his jeans pocket. Carefully and gently, he slowly opened the door of the room she had picked out for herself, and the sight he saw made him smile.
Laura was in fact fast asleep, with only one earbud stuck in her right ear. She snored quietly and peacefully, curled up in a ball on top of her sleeping bag like some little animal. He saw her stir, and moan slightly. He could tell she was dreaming. As slowly as he could, he crept over to her sleeping form and knelt down beside her. He gently took the earbud out of her ear and pressed the power button on her music player to instantly shut the damn thing off. Thankfully, she didn't wake up. She didn't even move. Daniel watched her sleep for another minute. He knew that deep down, beneath her strong exterior, she harboured pain from a lifetime of experimentation, of not being treated like a child but rather as a weapon. And now that she was free, she deserved all the rest she could get.
"G'night kiddo" he whispered to her, before standing up and gently walking out of the room. He pulled her door closed until it was ajar, and then picked up His sleeping bag. He made his way down to his room and turned off the hall light, switching his bedroom light on to see before him a rather spacious room, just big enough for his double bed. Sighing, he pulled the sleeping bag out of its carrying bag, and unrolled it on the floor in front of him by the window.
Daniel switched off the light, using his phone to find his way in the dark. He lay down and, removing his shoes, climbed into the sleeping bag. He set his alarm for Six AM the next morning, before placing it on silent. He fell asleep almost as soon as his head found comfort, drifting away into a dreamless slumber. Daniel didn't dream anymore, he never dreamed. Hadn't done so for around a year. Because Dreams are merely fictional, false experiences inspired by reality and created in our minds to be nearly forgotten when we awake.
But memories are not fake. Memories are real events come to pass. And so to the end, he didn't dream, but he did indeed remember.