Father of Mine: Girl
Notes: Argh! I need to stop this rampant stupidity of mine and actually figure out the facts of something before I start writing…I still think Jim looks ten, but, eh, who am I to argue with people who know? I am, however, amused that I worked Sarah's age out by guesswork and my own theories before I found out the official shtuff. Anyway! This is the first time I've written Jim's father – sort of – and I certainly hope it's all right. I do think my interpretation of him is more 'weary' than 'immature,' but I'm crazy, so forgive me. I've also addressed that peculiar time in a boy's life when he first realizes girls aren't automatically carriers of something akin to the bubonic plague.
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Set: Around the age of eight – curse it!
You would take me to a movie
would take me to the beach
You would take me to the place inside
That is so hard to reach…
-Everclear, 'Father of Mine'
Jim was careful to keep the slippery winds on the plateau from tearing away the unsealed box outfitted with the delicate photosensitive canvas he would need to stitch into a strong sail later, and he tried to multitask it: fiddling with the easily marred wiring he was installing in the metal shell, keeping an eye on the landing ports jutting like spokes from the inn, and checking routinely that the box was in place. A tiny spark struck his finger and he flinched, pulling his hand briefly from the tangled cords to shake it, the mild pain dissipating as quickly as it had appeared, and he blew a breath out. Biting his lip as he joggled the offending red-swathed wire that had granted him the unexpected blow, he connected it to another red strand, molding the soft material coating the outside of the gleaming wires together. He reached to the side without turning his head, patting arched fingertips along the rippled stone below the earthen security that bled from the descending stairs up to the inn's homey door, and clutched one of the small bolters, an almost miniature flintlock designed for the purpose of handiwork. Flicking it on briefly, he leaned his neck forward, eyeing the crackling stream of thin blue as he did his best to keep his hand steady, using the tool to melt the coating into a solid, if temporarily gooey, unity.
He grinned, satisfied, and set the tool aside, reaching over the unfinished board to fumble through a second, heavier box made of dented metal for the tiny octagon scales that were dull until given sunlight and reason to activate. A small handful was jostled into his palm for poking through, selecting with nimble, slender fingers the six best suited ones, and he shook his hand over the smaller box to let gravity take free the ones clinging yet to his palm's shallow lines. Fitting his fingers over the sharp edges of one of the cells, he picked it from the others beginning to quietly glitter in his hand and held it to the light, peering through the misty orange crystal and smiling broadly. He scrabbled to his knees, propelling himself forward to his feet, ankles bending oddly, and he staggered in a mild run to a small, elongated rectangle, fisting his hand to keep from spilling the amber-shaded jewel pieces.
He dropped the one he held 'twixt fingers cautiously to the ground, settling the five fiery others to a ways from it, and then lowered himself onto one knee, opposing foot scraping over the traces of dust lining the stone an inch or so from the earth piled on the natural rock. Checking the sky briefly for any sign of approaching ships, he took his hands from a hovering guard over the cells to grab the rectangle box, thumbing the half-panel open to study the thin slots lining the back side, a short distance from the opening. Jim plucked the segregated disk up, balancing the rectangle on his bent knee to hold it still that he might manage to jab the glittering material into the waiting slot, and tediously worked it in the chosen place, waiting with unusual care for a telling click that meant it was ready. A few minutes were spent that way, picking one of the other disks by his lowered knee and carefully selecting its perfect slot, edging it in and holding it down to keep it in place. He had just finished setting the sixth and final one in, leaving eighteen slender spots vacant for more paper thin cells to be chosen, when a telltale wind picked up, whipping strongly at him and tossing the fledgling ponytail at the back of his head twining into a fan on his neck.
Scooping the rectangle into his arms, he clapped the panel shut and, ducking low to avoid the strong air current bursting about in dusty waves from the humming whine of the ship lowering to one of the docks further out, hurried to pick his way back to his main work area. He pushed the lid for the heavy box containing the cells into place, settling it with infinite care in the folds of delicate cloth held in the next box, and wedged the rectangle in as well. It took some degree of effort to gather the large box into his arms and he found need to abandon his unfinished board, confident that its metallic weight would keep it stationary as the massive ship twisted in a vertical drop, docking with a strong crosswind.
Staggering again, just a bit, he thumped up the steps to the inn and edged it open with his shoulder to enter, cheeks red from the wind and mild chill, desperately clutching the box. "Hi, Mister Delbert," he greeted with a smile as the Canine choked on his coffee, inexplicably surprised to see the boy tousled completely with a layer of dust and carrying his largest box of materials. "Um, have you seen Mom?" he continued, turning to the side and dropping his box, shaking his hand into his sleeve and sneezing into the cloth, wiping at his face. "I think that musical group just landed."
"James Pleiades Hawkins!" came a familiar, muffled shout from the kitchen and he winced, looking at the scholar for any form of help and, finding none, creeping to the stairs. "I thought I told you to keep that solar stuff outside the inn, not in it!" Though he couldn't help but wonder how, exactly, his mother knew when she was still in the kitchen, he studied his feet guiltily anyway, slowly idling toward the stairs in hopes of escaping before she could find irreversible proof of his transgression. "Honestly, if your father was here, would you do that?" she continued, an undercurrent of something painful in her voice as she came from the kitchen, laden tray in tow to deposit various bowls to waiting customers.
"No, ma'am," he replied dutifully, lowering his head so his dark hair hung slightly, the inch or so of hair he had barely scraped into a ponytail coarse against the back of his dirtied neck. "But I think there's a dust storm coming," he added, "and that big music circus thing that was supposed to be booking here? It kinda just docked." Her eyes widened as she lowered a dish of something spicy and fluorescent, and he took advantage of her momentary distraction to dash up the stairs, showering clumps of dirt peeling from his overly large shoes to scatter over the clean wooden steps.
"James!" she cried, seeing for certain that he had indeed brought the offending box in, as Doppler, adjusting his spectacles, began picking at his food with a skillful fork.
"Can't hear you, Mom!" he answered, barreling down the hall to his room and closing the door gently to avoid an unnecessary racket, thereby avoiding a later scolding. He kicked one of his boots off, following it with the other as he pried at it, peeling his socks off and tossing them in the vague direction of a basket he was technically supposed to put his dirty laundry in, not near, and turned to look for a loose shirt and some trousers he could wear after his bath. Finding ones close enough to the general description, he stuffed them into his arms, skidding over the floor to his bed and digging under his mussed pillow for a sealed envelope. He checked the scribbled handwriting on the outside, just in case, and smiling widely, placed it somewhere between the articles of clothing he clutched.
He peeked his head cautiously around the edge of his doorway, not wanting to be caught by any adult figure that would shepherd him down the staircase he could navigate with his eyes blindfolded, and crept along the mirroring stretch of the hallway to the idly closed door of his mother's room. Holding his things close, he turned the knob and stepped in, shutting the door and listening for the standard click that meant the aged metal had slid sufficiently into its counterpart embedded sturdily into the carved wooden doorframe. Pausing, curling his toes in the carpeting, he leaned his ear against the door, listening in case she had discovered the trail of dirt left on the stairs, and he crossed his fingers comically, in hopes that by the time she did, it would be late enough for him to use bed as an excuse for hasty escape. Prudently, he lifted each foot in turn, checking before he crossed her favorite carpet for any scraps of dirt or vegetation possibly clinging to his toes or heels, and having been assured he was as free of it as could be expected, picked a careful path across the swirling exotic pattern of the carpet. He was thankful and more than a little proud of his recently attained height, a skinny sort of gangly existence that saved him from the ritualistic torment of his unsurprisingly cruel peers, able to stretch his legs farther than a mere four months prior. Taking advantage of it, he crossed the carpet in stretching strides and clumsy leaps, ducking easily into the adjoined washroom and sending his clothes tumbling to the floor with soft whispers of shifting cloth.
Jim let his arms fall limp by his sides, the muscles somewhat worn after lugging metal around all day in a determined, stubborn desire to finish his new solar surfer before his father came home again, and he scratched at the back of his ear, shuffling around on his heels to face the wash basin. Leaning over the gleaming, polished wood, he encircled his fingers around the clean porcelain neck of the pitcher resting on its equally shimmering platter to pour a crystal stream of the cool water onto the platter. He cupped his hands together and dipped them into the rippling pool, raising a handful of shivering water and splashing it to his dirt-stained face, spitting some of the water out and shaking his wet hands over the deep wooden basin. The speckles of water trickled down into the drain, vanishing into the inky depths from which they would seep into the earth, and he blew some air out, reaching behind his head to pick at the string tying his hair into the still miniscule ponytail.
In the carefully tended mirror framed by a swirling design of lacy wood, attached by gleaming, patterned bits of silver, he saw, for the briefest moment, an image of his father, seeing the broader shoulders and heavier chin mixed with the glimmering blue-green eyes they both shared. It gave him stern reason to slowly weight his arms, growing bored with struggling to untie the string and simply yanking it off, and he leaned forward, trying to recapture the disappearing likeness. His eyes he knew were like his father's, gleaming jewel tones that were nearly always blue, sometimes verging on a greener shade, and his gradually gaining height, of course, but was he all that much like his father? "It'd be cool," he said with a smile, shutting the washroom's heavy door and twisting the small gear lock, the tumblers sounding quietly.
Kneeling by the relatively clean clothes spilled carelessly on the hard floor, he unwound shirt from pants, shaking both out and setting them aside disinterestedly, his goal being the simple envelope of shaded parchment clutched between the two. He raised it, sticking fingers under the stiff wax that held the envelope shut in an angled line, peeling the hardened, pearly white wax from it and brushing the crumbling remnants away with his youthful palm. He leaned against the wall at his back, pushing his weight to it and sliding down, pressing his feet to the solid oak of the basin stretching like a sudden monolith above him, and he flipped the envelope's tongue up, a delightfully anxious feeling overtaking him. Working the single sheet clasped in its internal wrap, he tossed the envelope aside and unfolded the thrice-bent paper to read the twisting, uneven scrawl of his father's handwriting.
"Should I read it?" he asked no one present, angling his eyes up as if to ask God for divine permission, and he shrugged his thin shoulders, knees locking in place, flat on the washroom's immaculate floor. Taking a preserving swallow of the cool, milling air in the room, he flicked his eyes to the ceiling cast into light and shadows by the large, fat candle hidden by a bulging shield of glass, waiting for a second or two in case something might stop him from reading. Nothing presented itself at the moment and he smiled, turning his rapt attention to the letter.
"'Dear James,'" he read solemnly, dropping his arms slightly to rest them on his thighs, and he continued, his smile widening just a bit at his father's formality, "'I haven't written many letters before, not to you or anyone at all. I don't like having to sit down and write them, but I thought my son deserved at least one letter from me.'" Pausing briefly, letting the soft trickling of time come to mind, he nodded and slouched forward, mouthing the words in subdued movements of his lips as he shifted into silence, reading it from the beginning once more:
I haven't written many letters before, not to you or anyone at all. I don't like having to sit down and write them, but I thought my son deserved at least one letter from me.
I've been doing a lot of thinking out here, about the way my life is going, and I'm tired of a lot of things. I hate having to choose between the Etherium and my family, and one day you'll understand. You're still a boy, James, and things come to you as you grow. You'll learn to be a man someday.
This is a difficult thing, writing a letter, but I'll give you this. I care about you, James, you and your mum both, and I want you to always know that. I haven't given you a lot, and I haven't taught you a lot, but my father didn't try to teach me and I learned anyway. You'll understand that later, too, and remember that in many things there aren't many people who can help you. Always be ready to take care of yourself.
I'm coming home soon, maybe a month after this gets to Montressor, and I swear I won't be leaving again. Like I said, I've been doing a lot of thinking, and maybe it's time I stopped coming and going. I won't be able to teach you much, but I'll do my best. If you have any questions, keep them until I'm home and we'll go over them together, okay?
See you soon,
"'Leland Hawkins,'" said Jim softly, finishing it aloud and slowly refolding the paper into even lengths, the smile on his face widening until it threatened to shatter his cheeks. Snatching the envelope up, he tried to shove the letter back in with a standard lack of grace, and that failing, he wedged it in, the paper buckling slightly in its regained bonds and adding a looping fold to it. He scrambled to his feet and, preparing to launch himself out the locked door and downstairs, yelling for his mother to come and read the letter that had come in the golden afternoon, froze, hearing a hesitant knock at the bathroom door. An image of thick, heavy soil on the freshly cleaned stairs took momentary precedence over his father's return.
"Jim?" came an equally hesitant voice and he visibly relaxed, recognizing the familiar tenor of Delbert, rolling his eyes with friendly sarcasm. "Are you in there?" The doorknob jiggled a little and, suddenly realizing that it was very possible his mother had sent the easily flustered scholar up to drag him downstairs for inevitable punishment, he lunged to the wooden tub, frantically catching the string dangling from the carved spout.
Tugging sharply down, there was an echoing rumble from deep in the recesses of the heavy water tank bolted to the backside of the inn and, swiftly, a fountain of chilly water burst into the tub, thundering sharp droplets to the surface. He passed his hand quickly over the twinkling panel set deep into the side of the tub, keying the heating power on, and a resonating hum sparked, thrumming through the tub with a sudden cascade of heat that would strike the hurling water to a comfortable heat some degrees below a painful steam. "I'm taking a bath, Delbert," he shouted, voice barely carrying over the sound of the water, and he thumped over the floor, gathering his fresh clothes and tossing them to the side, stuffing the letter carefully into a pocket of the pants. "Geez, why else would I be in here?"
"Urm, well, Jim," came a decisively embarrassed tone from the other side of the door as he skimmed his shirt off, a button at the top of the collar snagging momentarily in his hair, "your mother just wanted to know if you were all right. She also wanted me to tell you that if you are all right, she is planning on some rather painful forms of, er, punishment. If you want my advice, take a nice, long – very, very long – bath and fake illness." With that, the doctor strode away from the door in his loping, hurried steps, and Jim leaned toward the door, balancing on his back foot as he listened for any possible sounds that implied anyone was out there, such as his mother.
Hearing none, he plucked his shirt off of his wrists, kicking it over the floor toward the washbasin and looking at his scrawny arms, frowning deeply at the continued proof of his apparent inability to grow anything but taller. "Skin and bones," his mother had said the week before, shaking her head as she bound a skinned knee with a patch to heal the cut in the day's passage. "You're still skin and bones, Jim." He decided that if being skin and bones meant he was going to resemble a rail for all of secondary school, then it was undoubtedly a bad thing indeed.
Padding over to the tub, he stared into the swirling depths, a miniature whirlpool swarming about as the tub was slowly filled, a metal oval having switched out upon his palming the heater pad to cover the drainpipe, and glanced at the candle. With a shrug, he smacked the heel of his hand to a small orange circle embedded firmly in the glazed wall, sending the identical trails of light encircling the ceiling into brilliant existent as he moved to blow the candle's flame out. The vain flicker was extinguished, replaced by the brighter glows of the rarely used ceiling lights, and he stuck his hand into the water to feel if it was balanced perfectly between scalding and sternly warm, wiggling his fingers mildly in it and nodding that it was of an appropriate temperature.
Pounding down the stairs, head facing the steps as his damp feet threatened to slide right over the edge of each next drop, plummeting him awkwardly to the floor at the bottom, Jim clasped the guardrail with a strong grip, rotating his ankles easily to all but glide down the steps. The boyish forcefulness of preadolescence interrupted his otherwise perfect descent, adding noisy rhythmic stomps to his each movement, and he paused for a second, guiltily recognizing that the dirt had been scooped aside on the staircase. It was past closing time for the inn, late enough that people were kindly, but firmly dissuaded from entering, yet early enough that those who were paying to stay the night had no fear of being sent packing to their crisply tended beds. This was a double blessing: on the one hand it meant he wouldn't be scolded in front of people he knew by first name, and on the other it meant his mother would be much freer with her scolding and likely grounding of his youthful rights.
Swirling at the end step, catching his equilibrium with some care to keep from tumbling off the last step and flat on his face, he raised his head, wet hair tied back by a plain white string, and nearly hugged the round knobbed block of the rail's end. Apparently, he had completely forgotten the Wagner Musical Troupe was staying the night, and he knew his eyes were much rounder than normal, startled and horrified to see the eclectic bundle of several people gaily seated about a long table they had erected by pushing several other tables together. He was, in a nutshell of a word, doomed. His mother had no mercy. He had ruined her stairs, however superficially, and come heaven, high water, or the Lord's sovereign-and-undeniable prayer, he was never going to see the light of day again without wondering if the troupe remembered the boy they had watched being massacred.
One of the few women in the troupe, a tanned individual with stringy black hair and a few rather painful-looking piercings dotting her face, glanced up from arguing with two thin Insects and spotted with an almost alarming accuracy the light-set boy frozen at the bottom of the stairs. "'Ey, lad," she called, leaning forward to cross her arms over the table and smile in a friendly manner, causing the ring in her lip to look not quite as menacing as before, "whatcha doin' jus' standin' there? We ain't gonna bites ya." She moved back, gesturing helplessly about her at the varying creatures to her left and right, and he was discomforted to find the horror was replaced with a sort of nausea that wasn't sickening, but unusual. "Shove to th' side, Ruma," she snapped, elbowing one of the Insects, a lanky bug that resembled a mosquito, and it grudgingly obliged, making a scant space between her hips and its body.
"Wanna sit here, laddie-day?" she asked rhetorically, waving him over with a hand, and he did so, finding his tongue suddenly too heavy for him to say anything; a part of his mind that wasn't acting completely weird informed him that maybe he could hide from his bustling mother for the time being, seeing as she was in the kitchen again what with the few cooks they had having been granted leave an hour before. "Come on now, squeeze in," she helped, by way of yanking down on his arm and sending him clattering on to the bench beside her. Laughing wholeheartedly, she slapped his shoulder lightly and bit into one of the rolls lined in the baskets around the table. "You the one as to made the board we found and brought in?" she asked around it, chewing thoughtfully and jabbing her thumb at the metal carcass he had left outside in the rush to get inside the inn.
Jim tried to think of something, anything, that he could possibly say in reply, and simply settled with focusing his eyes on the table, a sudden heat infusing the youthfully soft skin of his cheeks as he nodded mutely, unable to tell why exactly he was suddenly having difficulty when he usually could hardly shut up. A few chuckles came from the Insects and the clownish humans seated near him, and the needle-nosed Insect dug a sharp elbow into his side, grunting something in a silvery voice that sounded very much like an insult and he flushed a deeper red, stung even though he had only the faintest clue of the meaning.
"Leave 'im be, ya mindless twit," she snapped, leaning over his head and smacking the back of her hand into the hard skin over the bulbous, rainbow-faceted eye on the Insect, Ruma. "'T'ain't ya place ta be makin' fun a the proprietor's son, nitwit," she continued, tongue acidly sharp, and Jim looked up at her, at the dark face smeared with exotic ebony shadow over piercing black eyes matching the shaded tint of her pierced lip. The feeling of nausea in his stomach, one sort of like that of flying or – well, he wasn't too sure what it was like, but it was apparently caused by her and he wondered if maybe he was getting sick. When she spoke again, it was in a gentler voice, prodding his shoulder with a long finger as she asked, "Ain't ya pater taught ya how to be speakin' with ladies?"
"If you're a lady, Irine," one of the man, a severe looking one with white eyes and tendrils of inky hair growing in sentient waves such as tentacles, wafting slightly in the air, "then Ruma here is a god to whom we ought to prostrate ourselves." Those listening in on the odd conversation snorted, masking laughter or showing it blatantly, and the woman beside Jim stuck her tongue out rudely at the man, her hand on the boy's shoulder in a protective gesture.
"You shouldn't talk to girls like that," said Jim before he had opportunity to think on the wisdom of his words, his tone almost impudent but not quite, and he glanced at the table. "Mom says it's wrong to talk to girls the way you just did," he continued, voice nearly dying into an incomprehensible mumble, and several of the males started laughing callously.
"Y'want I should pop ya nose open?" Irine demanded, raising her fist in obvious threat as she narrowed her dark eyes at them, her fingers squeezing comfortingly into his shoulder. "'Cause so help m'God, I ain't gonna back down from no imbecile the likes a ya." She sneered again, flipping an obscene gesture at the four across from her and turned to Jim, who had begun to smile shyly. "I think it's cute that ya listen to y'mum, unlike some a these ungrateful slobs," she shot a dirty look across the table, black shawl coated with lace and silver beads shifting as she moved her head slightly, "an' don't get t'frettin' 'bout anythin' the lugs be sayin' to ya, laddie-day."
She smiled at him, a smile that was unlike any he had received from those older to him, one that had no hint of condescension and was not patronizing, but somehow as sincere as the ones his mother would give him when she told him things about the worlds he would fly to one day. It was like an explosion in the back of his head that made him feel as though he were flying, like being given the largest bowl of chocolate ice cream in the entire universe and all the time in the world to eat it, like his entire face had been lanced through with a thousand majestic pinpricks of sunlight, and it was all from a smile. He put the question of wanting to know why in that box he had in the back of his head, wanting to ask his father about it, and simply smiled back, a tentative twist of his lips.
"Now," she began, stabbing a finger toward the
unfinished, rough board laid to rest on the floor by the booth near the evening
blackened bay window, "is that y'board?
It's not a professional one, mind ya, but it's a piece a work,
'specially for a kid as young as you.
Ya pater teach ya the makin' of it?
Lovely thing for a boy'n his pater t'make t'gether. If'n I ain't a been a girl when I was born,
my own mighta taken the time a the day t'teach me the way to make it all
cheap-like and efficient."
Though he did not understand what she meant by pater initially, he figured it out quickly enough, as he did most things, and tried to hide the disappointment it brought inside. "My dad and I haven't had a lotta time together," he said quietly, looking at the board and trying to think of what the days spent laboring on the handmade surfer before it would have been akin to had his father been there, "an' I've been making it on my own."
"What's with this face y'got here?" she interjected, pulling his attention away quickly, and he glanced up at her, saddened face coloring at the placid smile she gave him soothingly. "Now, see, it ain't be fittin' someone such as y'self, what with this lovely piece a hair y'got in the back." Nimble fingers tugged playfully at the small ponytail he had painstakingly bunched together, drawing already tightly pulled hair even closer together and pinching his scalp enough to give him reason to wince as she turned to declare in a scolding fashion to those around her, "Each a ya could be learnin' somethin' from the laddie-day's style here. I been sayin' it f'years, what's a crew without someone's a mullet, eh? Cain't be a crew at all, e'en a singin' one at that."
"The boy doesn't have a mullet, Irine," the man from before state wearily, with sarcastic jest in his voice, and Ruma made a skittering sound of obnoxious approval. Jim felt at his ponytail, swirling his head slowly around as he tried to judge the faces of those around him, shifting on the bench with Irine scowling at all those about.
"Or," she enunciated clearly, overriding the interjecting comment in a self-contained way, "leastwise some proper tail a hair at the back a ya head. Laddie-day ain't got a pater, but he's got hisself, which is the on'y thing ya need. He's got a proper style a hair, he knows how to be the makin' a boards, and he knows 'ow t'be treatin' a lady. I think he's gonna be doin' fine for hisself soon as he gets out into that sprawlin' ether singin' his bally name, so you twits can get to the shuttin' up stage."
He smiled again, looking to her as she grinned and planted her hand on his head, rubbing her palm fiercely and friendly through his damp hair, and didn't mind the blushing or the strange feeling in his stomach anymore. They were still there, but he knew he could ask his father later, and there was something else he couldn't explain about the feeling of sheer niceness, he supposed it was.
"James, would you please take your things to your room and leave the guests in peace?" his mother, harried and carefully weaving to the makeshift long-table, asked in a warning voice he had long grown accustomed to, and he sprang up from the bench, nearly tripping.
"Yes, ma'am," he said dutifully, ears turning red when he heard several members of the troupe guffawing and elbowing each other at his loss. "Thanks," he added to Irine, smiling as he took a step backwards toward his waiting, docile board.
"See?" she exclaimed. "He's got the smile any heartbreaker would be wantin' an' he's a lot more civilized than you rowdy buffoons." Irine glowered at the men across from her as Sarah, shaking her head and stifling a small laugh of her own, rested several plates of steaming food before them all. "I'll bet ya he ain't ne'er see a lick a trouble in his day, an' that you lot be the ones doin' licking, for scraps."
Outside the wind howled, sending streams of numbing dust into windows and boards, funneling around the sturdy plateau hosting the Benbow Inn in silent, perfect grace, and as Jim hoisted his board into his arms, struggling just a bit with the weight, he took a moment to turn the screen to an image of brilliant sunlit seas. He kept his heart secret, thinking on the disconcerting woman just a few feet from him and knowing that his father was coming home.
Coming home, the wind sang to him outside, coming home!
End Notes: I am suspicious that Irine's character was influenced greatly by Ellie from 'About a Boy.' Do note that, though it says Leland was a miner, I'm stubbornly insistent that he had to have been involved with the etherium somehow. Off-planet mining, perhaps? *cheesy grin* And, yes, I know Jim's eyes are more blue than green, but I swear they look green in a few scenes. That and I'm a stubborn delusional idiot, but who's taking notes?
Thanks: Katarik, yes, I know. *sad face* It's probably only going to get more melodramatic as the story continues (until…well, I'm actually not too sure yet). Tigrin, ^^. Everything seems rather bittersweet, doesn't it? In any case, I've always felt that Leland can't have been a totally horrible father, just not a particularly good one – and, after all, there have to be some happy spots, no? Thanks, both! Very appreciated.