Note: Jade Reporting is only the name of the community account, not any of the authors whose stories are posted here. If you wish to learn more, visit our profile.
Title: The Sun and The Storm
Rating: PG, for mild language on the part of everyone's favorite Texan pig. ;)
Genre: Dramatic. Also could be considered songfic, in a fashion, because it does incorporate lyrics from a real-world song. I hope the method makes sense, though. :D
Warnings: Aforementioned mild swearing from Pey'j. That's it, really.
Summary: Taking place shortly after Pey'j and Jade come to Hillys, Pey'j has some inhibitions about being stuck holding the baby, as it were. It might take a little bit of thought for him to come to terms with it.
The sequence was so perfectly timed, it almost seemed programmed.
A bolt of lightning, just overhead. The brick-and-mortal walls of the lighthouse shook. CRACK.
A beat, as if the world needed time to realize what had just happened. Then, from within the walls of the building, the high, keen wailing of a baby, tired and frightened and badly in need of a bottle. "Waaaaaaaaaah…"
A shelf full of things rattling as somebody hit their head beneath it. And finally, a sharp, agitated, and thick: "Consarnit!"
Another lightning strike briefly illuminated the inside of the lighthouse, and the baby in the cot beat her hands and legs angrily as she tried to fight off the scary sounds and flashes of light. Her caretaker rubbed the space between his floppy ears angrily, trying to push down the bump. He hit the light switch by his workbench, flooding the space beyond his desk with light. The baby was not soothed. He pulled off his gloves and turned away from the tangled mess of wire and metal writhing in front of him.
"…Flagnabbed… Well fer heaven's sakes, Jade…"
The baby turned over in her cot, dragging her blanket beneath her. She whimpered as the rain picked up speed, the roof rattling as if it were coming undone.
Pey'j rubbed his arms as the cold sea air hit his exposed flesh, bringing up goosebumps all over his triceps. The pig man spun his work stool around, throwing his body weight to the side. His body trembled as he pulled himself off the chair. One more shaft of lighting boiled the ocean as he crossed over to the crib where Jade tossed.
He hissed through his tusks at her, trying to calm her down. "At ease, kiddo," he said, patting the air above her head. She turned her head to the sky, bleating plaintively, her mouth so wide it distorted her nose.
He dipped his arms into the crib, scooping her up against his chest. Her small, squat body wriggled and rocked on his uneven arms as he struggled to get a sturdy hold on her. She rolled into the sweaty front of his shirt, curling up into the safe walls of his meaty arms.
He sighed. "All right. Now what's the problem now?" He patted her rump. "Don't need changin'…" He gave her arms and legs a quick once-over, and felt the top of her head. "Didn't bump yerself in yer sleep, didja, Jade?" There was a green bandage plastered over her knee, but that cut was a day or so old. One year-olds did tend to trip a lot, after all.
"You hungry, maybe?" he asked her. The storm snapped, and she flinched into chest with a whimper.
"Aww, c'mon now," he said. He tried to turn her over with a gentle nudge. She squirmed and burrowed back into the familiar, sweaty smell of his t-shirt.
"Well, it's only a little rain! Come on, Jade! It's all out there! See?" He balanced her against his chest and pointed out the window. "It can't get you in here! And neither can the lightning, fer the record. There's nothin' to be afraid of…"
A violet-hot streak of lightning flashed into the ocean a few yards from the lighthouse window. The glass visibly rattled in the resulting thunderclap. Jade howled, her frightened moan cut short by a tiny hiccup.
Pey'j's nostrils flared as he huffed. "Come on, you" he sighed. "Let's go get you something to eat. Maybe a fully belly'll help you feel sleepy. 'Ere we go!"
Locking his arms around Jade, he set off with a swagger out the bedroom door and down the creaky ramp that led downstairs.
The bottom floor was drafty. The door at the front of the lighthouse was on its last hinges; it clattered and knocked around in its frame, damp, icy gusts shoving their way in around its edges. Jade whimpered, shifting around in Pey'j's arms. She tried to press her knees into her stomach, but there wasn't enough room between her and Pey'j's chest to slip through.
She rocked about unsteadily as Pey'j lifted one of his arms to browse around inside the refrigerator, sliding her back into the cup of his arm. He bent over; she clenched her fingers around the damp fabric of his shirt. He pulled a pre-prepared baby bottle from one of the lower rows of the fridge, and shifted sideways toward the stove.
"Alright. I bet you're pretty cold already, so let me just git this thing warmed up for ya… Gonna be a bit hard, one-handed." He grunted. "But I'll—"
Jade turned her face out from his chest and made a yearning, begging sound. One of her hands reached out and pawed at the air.
"What, you want it now? All cold? Well, OK then, your choice, I suppose, but don't come cryin' to me if it makes your stomach feel all—"
He brought the bottle up to her, offering it to her. She reached toward it, but she angrily knocked it away with a kick of her foot. Pey'j let go in shock, and the bottle spun through the air. The lid popped as the front end hit the floor, and a broad, white puddle began to spread over the kitchen floor.
"What the—oh, fer cryin' out loud, Jade!" The baby whined. "I'm not a psychic! You can't talk! I don't know what the blue blazes you want! Not hungry, not wet, and fer cripes' sakes, I can't do anything about the storm! Oh, if I could, I would, believe you me! It'd be nothin' but clear skies and summer showers from here on out! But I can't, so it's no use cryin' about it!"
Jade gave a muffled, high-pitched whine into Pey'j's arm, her knees and elbows poking and prodding at him as she turned and shifted.
Pey'j looked angrily up at the ceiling. "Dammit, Anthony!" He banged the countertop with his free hand before slipping it back under Jade. "I don't know why you signed me up for this!"
Wobbling back and forth between his feet, he ambled over to the nook by the now-dark fireplace, and let himself fall back into the cushioned ledge there. He patted Jade on the back, and she hiccupped into his chest with a low moan.
"Aww, heck, who'm I kiddin'? Sure I know why I signed up for this. You put me up to it, that's why! 'But you're my oldest pal!' 'You're the only one I can trust to raise her like we would've wanted in case something happens to us!' 'You can fix the ship if something happens to it! You can bring us to her!' 'Nobody would suspect you! You're just the clever comic relief in the group…'"
He leaned back against the wall of the nook and sighed. "I'm an expert in machines, not babies. Why the hell'd you ever think I'd make a good father?—Godfather, whatever the blue blazes I'm suppose to be. I wouldn't even know one end of a baby from the other if they didn't have to be changed so blamed much…
"And you never even finished!" His hands were preoccupied holding Jade, so he shook his head angrily at the ceiling, showing his tusks. "It's bad enough that now I've got to finish the ship by myself, without your plans, but you never even told me what I'm dealing with here!" He brought Jade up to the level of his chin. She swiped at it with her tiny fist. "Is this the Messiah or the stupid Antichrist here? Jesus!"
He pulled Jade back into his belly, resting his arms in his lap. He wiggled one of his arms free and ran in over her forehead. She made a small, protesting sound, but her flailing legs went limp. "You didn't even ask for any of this, didja? Sorry you got mixed up in all this nonsense, baby girl. It's not your fault you got stuck with the pig who can barely dress himself in the morning, let alone you."
Jade's eyes closed. She winced at another thunderclap, but she seemed to calm down. Her chest bounced with another hiccup.
"Yeah… And you didn't ask to get some kinda ancient mumbo-jumbo holed up in you, either.—Well, by all that's good and holy, Anthony, what am I gonna do when all this stupid junk starts comin' out? I'm terrified enough of what I'd do when she hit puberty, let alone when she starts magickin' all over the place and… makin' zombies, or whatever!" Pey'j sighed in defeat. "I swear to God, Anthony, if you don't get out of there alive, I'll—"
He trailed off into the sound of the rain. "Well—I promise ya, Jade, an' I can't make big promises, but—I'll try to look after ya best I can. Guess it's all I really can do. On account of I promised your dad I wouldn't call him or your mom, in case they traced me here. He might already be dead, f'r'all I know…"
He stroked the side of her face, teasing the soft, wispy strands of black hair sticking out of her scalp in sporadic intervals. "I know you don't like the thunder, but please try to get some sleep, for me. You're scarier than any old thunder. And I mean that as a compliment!"
Jade gurgled, but lifted her arms and wiggled.
"Aww, c'mon, now. I'll sing you a lullaby! How about that? Huh?" He slid his other arm beneath her, heaving her up as he stood.
He swayed his arms back and forth, trying to mimic at least some kind of rocking motion. "Hush, little Jadey, don't say a word… Pey'j is gonna buy you a mock-ing-bird… …Dunno why you'd want one, but that's how it goes.—And if that mock-ing-bird don't sing, Pey'j is gonna buy you a dia-mond ring.—Seriously, though, what's a baby gonna do with a diamond?" He shrugged as he rocked. "And if that di-mond ring don't shine, Pey'j is gonna… uh… something some-thing some!"
Jade almost looked puzzled.
"Yeah, you're right. That's a dumb song anyway. Who'd buy all that stuff for a little kid? You'd probably prefer a… a teddy bear or some'in. Uh… 'Rock-a-bye baby…' Naw, wait, that one's creepy. Hmm…"
He looked toward the door he couldn't see, hidden at the end of a small hallway that was ostensibly designed to keep the cold sea air out. He shivered, and wondered if it was the door or the hall failing to do its job.
"I guess I know one. Earth song, I think. S'posed to be pretty, but, uh, I'm a pig, not a songbird. And it's kinda… Not right for now. Well, sorta. I guess I could take a crack at it…"
He cleared his throat. He tried to bounce Jade in a soothing way.
"Ahem. You are my suuun-shine, my only suuun-shine…"
The sky cracked, bright and angry, as if it wanted Pey'j to stop.
His face twisted into a frown for a moment, and his back hunched. But he pulled himself upright and continued.
"You make me haaappy, when skies are…" He looked toward the window purposefully. "…Graaaay."
The sky offered no more rebuttals, despite the fact that it had just been insulted.
"…Right. You make me haa-ppy, because I looove you… Please don't take my sunshiiine away."
He looked from her to the window. Jade yawned in the middle of a hiccup, and turned over into Pey'j's chest for what seemed like the last time. She folded her hands together, and seemed to get comfortable.
Were there any more verses? He didn't know. He repeated himself. "You are my suuun-shiiine, my only suuun-shiiine…"
With the hand cupped around her back, he rubbed the back of her skull with his two fat fingers. "You make me haa-ppy when skies are graaay…"
Jade took a deep, even breath. The sound of it rushing in and out of her chest slid in alongside the rain. Pey'j blinked wetly, scratching her at the base of her neck.
"You make me haa-ppy, because I looove you…"
He let his arms lay still, and Jade neither moved nor responded. She lay, peaceful and asleep, in the cradle of his arms.
"Please don't take my sunshiiine away."
In the distance, the sound of the rain began to fade. Pulling Jade in close to his heart, Pey'j started up the ramp to the upper floor. He considered putting out a hand to steady himself, but kept it in. He wanted to make sure that Jade stayed secure.
The morning smelled of damp grass and sweet, fresh mud. Pey'j tramped barefoot out onto the green in front of the lighthouse, letting the mud squish beneath his trotters. Jade giggled in his arms, reaching down at the ground.
"Well, I guess a little mud never hurt nobody," Pey'j chuckled. He grabbed her under the arms and set her down in the wet grass, the blades tickling her feet. Taking hold of her hands, guiding them around, he let her stomp in the mud. Little brown beads of earth spattered her legs and the lower half of her onesie, but she laughed at kicked at the slush.
"I suppose you and I got something in common after all!" he laughed boisterously. He drove his food into the mud, letting it swallow the top of his foot. The ground burped when he pulled it up. Jade laughed so hard, she nearly broke free of his hands.
Pey'j sighed. "Sorry 'bout last night. I didn't mean to go off on ya. It's just… times are hard for both of us, I think."
Jade stomped happily in the mud. She didn't even look as if she remembered.
"You know, if something did happen to your mom and dad…" He stood still for a moment. "Well, I can't promise you perfection, you know that. But—I can promise you that I'll do my best. Someone's gotta love ya, and by golly, if I can't do nothin' else…"
If she understood him at all, she never showed it. She watched a horned ladybug crawl to the top of a flower stem and take flight, buzzing low over her head.
Pey'j looked up at the thin clouds overhead. "You hear me, Anthony? Even if I'm not the best, if anyone's ever gonna be here for your little girl, it's me! Even if I don't know what the hell I'm doin'!"
Jade began to make upset noises. Pey'j picked her up, wondering. In the puddle left by her feet, he saw a pointy stone sticking up out of the ground. He laid her back in his arms and checked the bottom of her feet. There was a speck of red in amidst the brown.
"Wuh-oh," he said, turning towards the door. "Better get that cleaned up. Don't want dirt-germs gettin' in your foot. Luckily, we've got plenty of disinfectant." Jade didn't quite look like she wanted to cry, but her face was twisted and upset.
As Pey'j carried her inside, she reached back over his shoulder. She grasped at the air outside, as if she wanted to take a fistful of the morning inside with her.
"Don't worry, kiddo," he chuckled, heading back into the lighthouse. "The sunshine ain't goin' anywhere."