Ruins

Maiyri

Don't own. I'm just a 17-year-old girl at her computer, trying to shut up those bloody muses.

Series of double drabbles – 200 word stories. There are fifteen, set in an AU future.

First posted AGES ago. Now reloaded because I feel like it.

--

One

The phone rings, I take a swig of the latest bottle of cheap wine. Three already today. I'll regret it tomorrow. I'm slumped over the table. I'll have to get up off my ass to answer. And I can't be bothered.

Like usual.

How did I become this wreck of a person?

The phone keeps ringing. It's Nudge. She's the only one who ever bothers to call me anymore. I drove the rest of them away years ago. You're not perfect, and too paranoid to live. You can't be happy, always convinced that something will go wrong. You push people away. They leave you, because they can't get past your walls.

The phone's been ringing for five minutes.

She knows I'm here, I never leave the house, so she'll leave the phone ringing until I can bother to get up. I'll never hang up on her, and she knows it. If I get up, it's to answer.

And she'll ask me the question I've been dreading since last year. She's wondering if I'll come and visit for Christmas. And like every year, she'll push me into agreeing, and like every year, I'll make up some last minute excuse.

And I won't come.

--

Two

I get up eventually. The phone got annoying, buzzing in my half-drunk, half-hung-over-from-yesterday brain. I hate my brain. I hate it a lot. It makes me think.

It's Nudge, and not some overly persistent telemarketer. I was pretty sure those guys had an alert about me, especially after last time.

She doesn't reproach me for not answering earlier. She doesn't say anything about it. She knows that I do the best I can, and that the best isn't good enough.

But we don't say that.

Nudge and I talk for about an hour and a half, before I hear Lucy's bike pull up on the gravel outside. Crunch. She's the excuse I need, so I make my promises to Nudge, and say my goodbyes.

I put down the phone as the front door opens. Lucy sees it. "Aunt Nudge?" She asks. She knows the answer. And that I hate it when she calls Nudge 'Aunt'. She does it anyway.

"She wants us all together for Christmas." I see Luce's face brighten. She's just maybe old enough to go on her own this year, the both of us are thinking. Thirteen's a good age.

Both of us know I won't go.

--

Three

I'm home again. Home from school. Mom's on the phone, rare enough. I'm curious. Why is Aunt Nudge calling this time?

It's nearly Christmas. Auntie always calls with the invitation, Mom always accepts, and then we never go. She can't, and she's told me why she can't. Or at least, why she thinks she can't.

I think that she should, just get it over with, because she can't hide forever. But I'm only 13, and she's not going to listen to me just yet. I'm her daughter. She's my mother, and she's the one who supposedly knows the best.

Yeah, right.

When she can be bothered to pull her head out of the bottle, or is that the bottle out of her mouth?

Or is it both out of her ass?

Minor parental issues here. Lucky for Mom, she never had to deal with any of those.

"Can I go?" I ask, use of the singular pronoun deliberate. Mom flinches, and gives a diplomatic not-answer. It's always later with her.

Later, when the headache's gone.

Later, when we can discuss it.

Later.

Or worse, 'when you're older.' Yeah, thanks. I'm older than you were when you escaped from the School.

--

Four

Running away from home is probably the most stupid thing I have ever done. Okay, fairly high up on the list.

But, if I'm right, and this works, things are about to get a lot better.

Mom can't keep running away.

December 23rd. Two days until Christmas, I'll be at Auntie Nudge's place by tomorrow night, although I'm not sure. I know I'm heading in the right direction, and if Mom's even half as smart as I give her credit for, she should arrive sometime on Christmas day.

Or slightly earlier if she's driven all night, when I can't fly, because I'm too tired.

And then there's the fact that I haven't really done any cross-country flying before, thank you Mom.

And then there's the fact that I'm not wearing a waterproof jacket and it's starting to drizzle.

Didn't think this through.

I can see the lights of a town down below, and I know that this is the best I'm going to get.

There's a payphone too, thankfully. I can call Aunt Nudge from here, tell her where I am, someone should know. Just in case.

I wonder if she realizes that I haven't come home from school yet?

--

Five

Where the hell has that girl got to?

I know that it's the last day of sch… at the academy for the semester, but this is ridiculous.

It's eight already, and even if she'd gone to a friend's house, she usually calls before now if she's going to be this late. I don't mind if she's eating around at a friend's, but I'd like to know, thanks.

I don't need this two days before Christmas.

I don't need the stress and the worry about some angry little teenager who wants to visit the aunt she hasn't seen since she was six years old. We've been through this.

I don't need another bombshell, or the media to drop on me again.

What I do need is the bottle opener, where the hell did I put it?

Goddamnit, there's the phone. Bloody girl, she know that she's supposed to be in by dark. "Where the hell are you?" I all-but-yell into the mouthpiece.

"At home, like usual," says Nudge drolly. I hiss in frustration. I don't need her on my case. "I'm guessing that you were expecting Lucy." Nudge pauses. "That girl's definitely your daughter."

What's she gone and done this time?

--

Six

I pick up the phone, expecting a friend, or maybe Fang.

"Aunt Nudge?" I know that voice. Lucy.

I suppress a sigh of disappointment. Damn in Max! Lucy'll be calling, like she did last year, and the year before, to tell me that 'they're not going to make it this Christmas, maybe next year'.

"Aunt Nudge, I think I've done something a bit stupid."

Or not.

"I'm listening, sweetheart." The poor girl sounds tired, and a little scared and worried.

"I'm flying out to your place, for Christmas. I didn't tell Mom that I was going, either." She explains.

Max is not going to be happy, at all.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath, concentrating on the fact that someone (my eldest son) had a bad phone call sometime (around noon) yesterday, and that Psychometry is annoying, rather than getting angry with my oldest niece.

"Do you want me to call her?" Damage control first off.

"Could you?" I can hear the worry in her voice. "I'm in a town called Warnslow, and it's raining."

I know the one, and I tell her. She's about seven hours flying time away, so she'll be here by tomorrow night.

--

Seven

"That girl's definitely your daughter," I tell her mother.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean!" she snaps back, voice distorted faintly over the phone. I sigh. Luce's right. Max needs a wake up call, and badly. "Damn it Nudge!" She curses me.

"Oh, come on, Max!" I yell, exasperated. "You've got to have been half-expecting something like this, me and Fang have…"

"Half-expecting something like what!"she asks in that dangerous tone that still makes me feel like an out-of-line eleven-year-old and not a twenty-six year-old mother-of-eight.

I rub at my eyes, thinking of how to best phrase this piece of unwelcome news.

"Max, she's flying out here. By herself." Alright, screw diplomacy, this is my niece we're talking about. "All because you can't be bothered getting up off your ass and driving out here. It's Christmas for God's sake!" I think a silent apology for my blasphemy. "She's got family in us here, Max, and she knows it. Maybe she just wants to spend some time among some avians who aren't depressed alcoholics…"

"Or maybe just some avians, fullstop," she retorts, and I hear the jangling of car keys before the former leader-of-the-Flock slams down the phone.

--

Eight

I drive. I drive like a lunatic.

I probably am one, so it makes little difference in the end.

I know the way, that page in the map book is almost falling to pieces I've looked at it so many times. I don't need to look at it to know where I need to go. I know.

'Please', I think desperately to whatever higher power exists, 'keep my daughter safe, she doesn't know all that's out there'.

Because I've sheltered her, tried to keep her safe just like I couldn't keep the others safe, like I couldn't keep myself safe.

She's too young.

She doesn't even know what pain really is. She doesn't know what it's like to feel this old.

I never got a chance to be young. Is it wrong to try and give my only child the things I never had? Isn't that all I can do?

Because I don't know what to do anymore to keep her out of harm's way, not when she's running away from me.

I know I was never a good mother to her, or to my flock, but I did the best I could do. It wasn't enough, but I tried.

--

Nine

I reach into my purse for my cellphone. It's there, somewhere, with everything else that I keep in the dark depths.

I don't go in here often, and I never bother to clean it out, and the fragments of my old life are probably in there somewhere

I'm shocked but not really surprised to see the photo, even though I thought I'd buried them all in the dust of that box in that attic a long time ago. Not much surprises me. Not anymore.

Even so, I pull over to the side of the road and turn on the roof light and look at the face who my daughters' resembles so much. It's an old photo, very old. We're standing there, his arms around my waist.

She has my hair, and my eyes, but his face. And his smile.

My temper, his intelligence, His determination and stubbornness.

My wings. His enormous feet that she can't help but trip over all the time. She's not clumsy, no way, not when she has my grace in the air.

Really, she got the best of us both when she was conceived, and has had the worst since. He's gone. And I'm a wreck

--

Ten

My Aunt Nudge and Uncle Iggy have a pretty two-storey house in the suburbs complete with dog(s) and a white picket fence.

Auntie opens the door when I knock, and looks me over for obvious signs of illness, insanity and ill-feelings. I know that look. I'm not sick, or crazy, or angry, just really cold, and I'm shivering. She pulls me inside.

She yells up the stairs at her eldest daughters, who're a year younger than me to turn the shower on and get some warm clothes out for me.

I let her take care of me because it's so nice to be mothered. And there's the smell of cranberry pudding and chocolate chip cookies coming from the kitchen.

My cousins and Aunt Nudge drag me upstairs into the bathroom and strip me off and shove me into the shower. It's nice and warm, and exactly what my aching wing muscles need.

--

Eleven

Me and my oldest cousins are all sitting in their lounge upstairs. The uncles and aunts, Fang and his wife Melissa, Gazzy and Katy, and Aunt Angel just got here, dragging kids and pets and presents behind them.

My cousins have this room, and the babies are downstairs with the parents, who're telling 'Flocker' stories and other stuff that we mostly don't want to know.

The boys, Rob, Jos, Hamish, and Jamie are all fighting over the computer. Me and the girls, Ali, Tiff, Rach, Cass, Cath, Liss and Lizzy are all sprawled out on the couches. The younger ones don't know me too well, and I don't know them, so it's good telling stories with people like me. Although Cass, and Lizzy only listen, because they're just four. We're gabbing like we've known each other for years.

It's kinda amazing that the five 'Flock' families have 18 kids between them and two on the way. Especially when I'm an only child.

I still haven't stopped smiling, and I'm full to the brim with food. I don't think I've ever been this happy. Or this guilty. Because Mom's going to get here soon. And then things are gonna get nasty.

--

Twelve

Neither my twin nor me have all that much luck reading anyone else. We can read each other's mind like 'that', but trying to read the parent's minds is hard, and most of the siblings have some mental ability, so we can't read them either.

Lucy's easy though, and happiness just wafts off her, though anxiety shows through the cracks.

We asked Dad, and he said it's because our Aunt Max, who we haven't seen since forever, is coming. Lucy's worried, because of what she did. We think that we would've done that years ago, so we quietly broadcast reassurance at her, and she doesn't think about it too much.

It's easier because she doesn't know we're telepaths, yet, so she doesn't know our tricks like Mom, Dad and the siblings do.

Cass and Lizzy pull Lucy over to the table where they're now drawing with crayons. I see Lucy gasp as she takes in Cass's masterpieces – Cass is precognitive, she draws what she sees – next to Lizzy's scribbles. Ali gives me one of those looks. You think Lucy's got powers? She thinks at me.

No. Doubt she's needed them, no younger siblings. She catches my eye and we laugh.

--

Thirteen

I pull up outside Nudge's house, snorting as I see the fence. Nudge always wanted to be something like normal. I knock on the door and hear the cheerful voices and laughter inside silence. I see the curtains at the front window twitch. Nudge opens the door. "Max!" she cries, wrapping me in a hug. I force myself to hug her, instead of demanding to see my daughter. Now.

As if responding to my thoughts, Lucy materializes at the top of the stairs. She's looking scared, uncertain, but happy too. She's got a family now. I'm angry, but she's okay, and that's all that really counts. She disappears around the corner. I relax

Nudge gives me a warning look and then pulls me into her lounge. Angel tackles me with a vocal and mental "MAXMAXMAX!" while Gazzy and Iggy give me hugs. Total yaps at me, so I scratch him behind the ears.

Fang gives me a nod.

I glare at him, then hug him, ignoring the glare of his wife.

The pre-pubescent horde descend from the second floor, and I'm introduced to them, picking out who is whose fairly easily, although I won't remember names. Despite myself, I smile.

--

Fourteen

Mom's here.

She's actually here, visiting friends, practically relatives, at Christmas. This is new, different. This is good, really good. She's smiling and laughing, teasing Aunt Angel, getting teased by Aunt Nudge and Uncle Iggy.

I'm still half expecting her to stomp out here and find me and give me a large chunk of her mind, but I think Aunt Nudge and the rest are protecting me, keeping Mom talking so that she can't storm off without looking rude. It's only been a decade since they last sat down like this and talked, so there's a heck of a lot, and seventeen kids to catch up on.

There's so much that I have to catch up on too, who's whose kid, what powers they have, what hobbies…it's amazing, and it's scary.

For once I'm happy at Christmas, and these kids, my cousins, don't care that I don't have anything for them but stories. It's like it was back when I was a little kid, when no-one knew I was the girl with the drunk mother. When the other parents didn't tell their kids to stay away from me.

I'm well and truly home – I'm the oldest daughter of the flock.

--

Fifteen

I sit down on the back porch next to Lucy, who is gazing up at the stars. We should have had this conversation ages ago. "Luce, your father…" I trail off. She doesn't push me.

"He was a boy I went to school with when I lived with your Grandma Martinez. Things were fun, and then you happened, and he didn't want to know. His family moved away. He'd been the first boy who'd accepted me being a hybrid," she nods.

"He threatened to expose me, and the flock." I sigh, "I told him if he kept quiet, he'd never hear from me again. I was pretty angry by then."

"He contacted me when you were about four, said you'd got a half-sister with leukaemia, needed bone marrow. I told him to go to hell. Things got very nasty."

I hand her the photo of me and her father. "Thanks Mom." she says. "For telling me. It's not like I know him, anyway. And he doesn't sound like a nice guy."

I smile. "He can't be too bad, he gave me you."

She blushes, and changes the subject. "Hey, why don't I have any cool powers? The twins are telepaths…"