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Prompt: "What we didn't see, could only piece together." Specifically, the idea for this one came from a particular piece of Fehn's dialogue... ;)
Title: "Someone Different"
Genre: Don't know, honestly. I guess I'd file it under "drama," and possibly, "slice of life." I wouldn't hedge my bets on the second one, though.
Warnings: Mild innuendo, but even calling it that is pushing it.
Summary: What's worse than bringing your new boyfriend home to disapproving parents? Bringing your new, not-your-boyfriend home to your disapproving (and suspicious) orphans.
Characters: Jade, Double H, Fehn (main), all the other lighthouse kids (secondary)
"I'm telling you, Miss Jade, all of this isn't necessary," Double H said. He held his chin up proudly, as if it would help him make his point.
"Nonsense," Jade said, twiddling the hovercraft's steering stick. "My home is your home. After all you did for me back there in the Factory, it's the least I could do--"
"All I did for you!" Double H sounded almost affronted. "Miss Jade, I've hardly done--" His voice was broken with surprised, not entirely happy laughter. "Were it not for you, I would have lost my life twice over in that accursed place. There's hardly any more you need do for me. If anything, I—"
"Hush," Jade chuckled. "As it stands, you're still not a position to do anything for me. Unless I ask you to lie down and sleep the day away--which I'm doing, by the way." She gave him a teasing grin; then her face went more serious. "You're still not well. You say you're alright, but I saw your legs shaking as you followed me out of the Akuda. If you want to help me, then I think you need a few days off your feet to get you back into fighting shape before you try anything crazy." She turned sharply to the left, and the hovercraft cruised toward the dock. The cushion bumped against the platform and bounced back slightly.
Double H sighed defeatedly, even as the craft jostled. "Very well," he grimaced. "But honestly, I'd be fine if you left me in a hotel somewhere, or the Akuda, or—!"
"Ah ah ah!" Jade shook her finger at him as she pulled herself out of the driver's seat. "I won't hear it. You're staying here in the lighthouse with us, and you're getting the cozy little nook by the fire whether you like it or not." She laughed to herself.
He gave her a curious look, but pulled himself up and out of the seat. Jade looked back and watched him with interest as he wobbled upright. She took a breath and leapt to the dock as the hatch popped open, landing with ease on the other side. She moved out of the way, eyeing him with mild worry as he hefted himself out. He wasn't exactly graceful--he "oomphed" as he hit the deck, and for a moment, his body buckled. Her face threatened to frown. But he pulled himself upright with only a slight ground, and she remained neutral and relieved.
"Gonna be OK, there?"
"--Yes," he said, teeth halfway clenched. "You know the layout of this cave better than I, so—lead the way."
Jade grinned. "It's just my uncle's workshop," she said. "Nowhere to get lost in, really. Come on, let's go upstairs. She turned her face toward the wooden steps leading up to the stone floor of the hangar's cavern. He nodded and followed.
She went at a slow walk, constantly turning her head around to see that Double H was keeping pace. "While you're here, please think of this place as your home," she said. "You don't have to ask to take food or anything, but if it looks like it's in the process of being turned into dinner, exercise some caution." She chuckled lightly. "The bathroom's upstairs, and if you need soap or towels or anything, don't hesitate to ask. None of the rooms are off-limits, so don't worry about that. The kids're pretty well behaved, too. If they're bothering you, just tell them so, and they'll leave you alone."
"It's alright," he nodded. "I rather like children. So long as they don't purposefully try to get on my nerves, I imagine--"
"No, no, they're well behaved," she smiled. "Most of the time. Oh--and, don't be afraid of Woof. He's only trying to say hello."
That one actually managed to pull a smile out of him.
At the base of the stairs to the Lighthouse itself, she held out a hand to halt him. He stopped dutifully. "Wait here just a sec," she said. "Let me go warn the kids you're here. And persuade them into behaving themselves, in case they need it. I'll be right back, OK?"
"Not a problem," he replied.
She turned around to give him a reassuring smile. She hopped up the stairs, two by two, emerging into the morning sunlight on the green.
Pablo, Fehn, Oumi, and Yoa were sitting out in the field, enjoying the near-noon warmth. Yoa was sitting peacefully by the hill, almost as if she were meditating. Pablo was messing with some small device that looked like one of Pey'j's castoffs, and Fehn and Oumi appeared to simply be relaxing. They all turned their heads toward the door before she even came into full light, their eyes wide and expecting.
Several permutations of "Jade! You're back!" assaulted her happily. All four of the children pulled themselves up and began to jog toward her. Smiling broadly, she met them halfway, coming toward the hill with her arms open. Fehn dove directly into her hug; Pablo got her from the side. Yoa held back reservedly, watching from the side.
Jade ruffled the fur behind Fehn's horn buds and took a step back. "Hey, kids!" she said. "How's it going? Didn't miss me too much, did you?"
"Well, it does get kinda boring without you," Oumi said. "And I swear, we have to tie Kip down to get him to stop doing all the chores!"
Jade laughed. "Do them before he does," she said. "He's just doing what he does and being helpful."
"Sure thing," Oumi said with a grin.
She stepped to the side suddenly. Jade gave her a curious look. "Oumi?"
"Hey," she said. "Where's Uncle Pey'j?"
Jade's face fell. The four children looked up at her expectantly.
"Uh, he's... got some errands he has to run," she quickly fibbed. "He'll be gone for a few days. In the meantime, we've got a new visitor—"
"New kid!" Fehn interrupted excitedly.
Jade giggled. "No, no. A friend of mine. He'll be staying with us for—"
All four of the children suddenly became captivated with their shoes. By the grimaces on their faces, they weren't very interesting.
"Oh, don't give me that look," she said. "He's very nice, and he says he likes kids. Pablo, be a dear, would you? Go and get the extra blankets from the upstairs closet and bring them down to the nook by the fireplace."
"You didn't say please," Pablo said bitterly.
Jade rolled her eyes. "Please go get the blankets from the upstairs closet. And warn Kip and Zaza that we've got company. Where are they, anyway?"
"Making lunch," Fehn said. "And they aren't fixing anything extra."
Jade glared at him. "Buster, you'd better straighten up your attitude, or you are not gonna be a happy camper over the next couple of days." She swept out a gaze that covered Pablo and Oumi. "That goes for the two of you, too. Yoa, thank you for not being such a sourpuss—"
Yoa said something unintelligible in her language, but it had the tone of thanks.
"I'm going to go get him," Jade said. "And by the time he and I come back up, I expect happy faces," she said sternly. "At least fake it if you can't be sincere. And if you act this way toward our guest, you will be in big trouble. Understood?"
"Yes," they all answered tonelessly. Yoa nodded sincerely.
Jade huffed and turned back down toward the hangar.
She met Double H at the bottom of the steps. "I'm sorry," she sighed. "Your welcome may not be as warm as I'd hoped. The instant I told them I'd brought company, they all rolled their eyes at me! I threatened them with indistinct trouble, though. That usually works." She gave him a sly grin.
Double H looked slightly worried. "…Ah… Did I do something wrong?"
Jade sighed. "No. I wouldn't worry about it, though. Just be nice and friendly—be yourself—I'm sure they'll warm up to you."
Double H set his shoulders. "…Alright then, I suppose. Up we go?"
"Up we go," Jade agreed. They ascended the staircase in tandem, Double H following dutifully behind.
The green was empty when they emerged from the cave. The children seemed to have scattered. Pablo had presumably gone to get the blankets—that was good, then. She nodded silently to herself. Fehn had mentioned lunch, so he was probably in the kitchen kidnapping a bite to eat before anyone else. No telling where Oumi or Yoa had gotten off too, though Jade suspected Yoa had possibly gone to the cliff overlooking the sea to watch the ships in the bay. Oumi might be inside, listening to the radio or reading.
"Are they all inside?" Double H asked, noticing the empty field.
"Possibly," Jade said slowly. "Or they're hiding. Come on. Let's go dig them out. I expect them all to at least introduce themselves properly." She sniffed.
Double H looked around, observing the scenery. Quietly, he said, "If my presence is causing too much trouble…"
"No!" Jade said quickly. "You're not getting out of this and neither are they. Kids? Kids? You in here?" She headed for the doorway to the lighthouse, her steps creaking on the boards laid over the hole. Double H looked down at it warily as he crossed it. The cool sea air began to peel away as they went inside, and the distant heat of a small fire played on their faces.
At the counter in the kitchen, Kip and Zaza were preparing sandwiches. Zaza fought with the sticky contents of the peanut butter jar while Kip spread grape jelly. Their faces turned at Double H's unfamiliar, clinking-armor footsteps. Over in the nook, Fehn's foot made as if to rise, then seemed to reconsider and drew back to his side.
"Oh. …So you're our guest?" Kip seemed to be trying the "feigned enthusiasm" that Jade had suggested to the others. In truth, she thought, he looked more unsure than upset—Kip was hard to upset, if nothing else, it seemed. Zaza's face was as blank and untelling as it usually was. She tried a small smile, but seemed to decided that it didn't fit.
"Ah… Hello," Double H said uneasily. He gave a small wave. "It's nice to meet you. Who are you?"
"…Kip," he said slowly.
"Zaza," she replied.
Fehn fidgeted silently.
Jade audibly cleared her throat.
The boy sighed. "…Fehn," he said defeatedly.
"Thank you… Kip. Zaza. Fehn. I'm Double H. It's a pleasure."
Fehn huffed. "What is that? What are you, some kind of spy?"
"Fehn!" Jade scolded.
"No, no," Double H said. "It's alright. I… Yes, you could say that. In a way. I am a kind of spy, I suppose."
"If you were a spy, why would you tell me about it?"
Double H truly didn't seem to know how to answer that.
Fehn muttered to himself, "You better not be working for the DomZ."
Jade opened her mouth as if to speak, but bit down on her own tongue before she could decide what to say. She swallowed and looked pointedly at Fehn. "Double H, excuse me," she said. "Fehn? Fehn, hon? Will you come upstairs with me for a second?"
"Urrmmphh," he groaned. He stared with longing at the radio. He pulled himself to his feet and shuffled over to Jade's side.
"No. Come on. Upstairs. With me." She picked up her feet conspicuously. Her footsteps clomped on the floor, echoing creakily as she hit the ramp leading upstairs. "Now."
He hung his head equally conspicuously, swinging his arms in wide, disinterested arcs. He dragged one foot forward, letting it fall heel-to-toe. He picked up his other, scraping his toe along the floor.
Fehn scowled beneath his breath and followed at a more reasonable pace.
Jade could feel Kip, Zaza, and Double H's necks craning as their gazes followed them up the ramp.
She bustled Fehn into the children's room, putting her hands on his shoulders and forcibly suggesting him into the bed. "You," she spat. "Sit. What has gotten into you today? How dare you be so rude to a guest?"
Fehn stared into the patches on his pants, leaning back into his hands.
"Well?" Jade leaned over, trying to shove her glare into his forehead.
Nostrils flaring, Fehn said, "So, what? You're bringing home canned food now?"
A cold, sick feeling took hold of Jade's body. Her mouth drooped in mild shock. She pulled herself up to keep her balance.
"I…" Her voice trembled. "This one's—" She groped blindly for something appropriate to say. "—Not like the others, Fehn!"
"Which one isn't?!" Fehn snapped. He shot upright, fists clenching in on themselves. "Who isn't 'special' or 'different' or—whatever!" He stamped into the floor. "Is he special like Scott, huh? Is he special like Bradly or James or—"
"Hey, I never said anything about Scott," Jade said defensively. "I knew he was bad news. There's a reason I never called him back after that first date. No one who insults any of my kids is gonna show his face around here again."
"And then there was Brad, nearly as old as Pey'j—"
"You know, that's not a valid reason for disliking someone."
"The fact that he was already married?"
"Hey! I didn't know that," Jade said. He arms moved in protectively by her chest. "If I had, I would have never—"
"And Mr. Jealous James—"
"Look, I couldn't help it!" Jade's eyes widened angrily. "I would never date anyone who doesn't like me spending time with you kid—well, for goodness' sakes! Where on Hillys did you get the idea we were dating? I didn't even say anything!"
Fehn held his nose. "Oh, kids! I have a new, male 'friend!' Be good little 'golly-gee mister' and 'hiya there' urchins so maybe he'll take me out on another date! Oh, and he's 'spending the night—'"
"In the nook!"
"—so don't bother us! What are we supposed to think?"
"That I have a new friend and want to show him some hospitality?"
"Hospitality that he can't get at his own house?"
"I'll have you know, he's been extremely sick!" Jade said, strained. "I helped him, and he wanted to thank me! But he's so intent on thanking me, he's bound to hurt himself by running around before he's healed, and it was all I could do to keep him from collapsing in his steps—"
"How's he gonna 'thank' you, huh? By making out with you? What makes you think I'm gonna believe that?!"
"I—" Jade began.
Fehn cut her off by turning around. He crossed his arms finally and let himself fall into the bed. He glowered at the drawings on the wall above the pillows, the creases his scowl made in his face just barely visible on the edges of his face.
Jade crept toward him a single step. She raised her hand, and the shadow of her arm fell in front of Fehn's face.
"…I'm sick of them," he gulped. "I'm sick of 'em! I want you to stop!" He choked on a heavy, wet breath. "I don't want them to make you upset any more…" He hiccupped awkwardly, a sob coming out half-formed and falling to the floor.
Jade's frown softened. Fehn's back hunched, and he burrowed his face into his chest. She knelt beside him softly. She tried to catch the edge of his eye, but he pulled his face away. She still saw the spark of a tear as it got tangled in his fur.
She put her hands over his shoulders, running her fingers over his tightened muscles. He winced at her touch and sniffled. She rubbed his forearms in a gesture of goodwill. His body loosened, but he didn't look at her. She scratched his head, and leaned in close to whisper in his ear.
"Hey," she said gently. "It's OK. I'm not going to die of heartbreak any time soon. I'm a big tough girl. I can handle getting dumped by a cad or two." She rubbed his back at the base of his neck. A small sob shook his body.
"You don't have to worry so much, Fehn!" she laughed soothingly. "It's disappointing, breaking up with someone… But it isn't the end of the world. Never was. And hey. If it's because of something he did, to you kids, like Scott—well, his behind is out of there, no regrets!"
"But you still mope about it," Fehn mumbled damply.
"I know," Jade sighed. "Like I said, it can still hurt. But you know what? Not every relationship is like that! Nope! And I promise you, I just want to help Double H out. And he's a nice guy. Very polite," she smiled. "And he's not going to try to take me away from you kids, or get in your face, or—"
"He's not gonna be creepy like Patrick was, will he? Like he's trying to be our dad?"
"Definitely not," Jade chuckled. "But I'm thinking he will try to be your friend. Can you live with that?"
Fehn's big, silky black eyes turned toward Jade, tears pooling up in the lips of his eyelids. "…I guess," he said. His chest fluttered, but the remnants of the sob died in his throat. "But you have to promise, Jade. You have to promise he'll be nice, and he won't make you cry."
Jade laughed sweetly. "Sure thing," she said. "He'll be nice. I'll hit him if he isn't. And no matter what he does, he won't make me cry. (Can't honestly imagine what he'd do, but…)"
Fehn looked into her face critically. He seemed to be analyzing her eyes; he had on a thoughtful frown. "…OK," he said, voice unsteady. "It'll be OK."
"Told you," Jade smiled. "Now, come on. I think Kip and Zaza had sandwiches in the kitchen, right?" She stood up.
Fehn followed the curve of her arms. "Right," he said.
"And will you apologize to Double H?"
"Yes," Fehn sighed. "Of course I will, Jade."
"Good." Keeping her arms looped over him, she guided him back down the steps, into the kitchen.
The space behind the counter was empty. "Hmm," Jade said, looking at the Kip- and Zaza-shaped holes in the air about the countertop. "Huh. Where'd they go?"
"…Do it again!" someone shouted distantly.
"That sounded like Oumi," Jade said. "What the…?"
Another far-away sound grumbled indeterminately. Then, breaking apart the sea breeze:
"CARLSOOOON AAAAAAAAND PEETERSSSSS!"
Fehn's face was very still and very, very puzzled.
Jade's nearly fell into pieces with laughing.
"Ahahahaha!" she wheezed. "Yep! That's Double H!" Fehn pulled a face at the open air. She pressed her fingers into the fleshy part of Fehn's arm and dragged him forward. "Come on," she said, bubbly. "I know you'll like this part of Double H, if nothing else!"
Fehn's feet couldn't quite keep up with Jade's at first, and he dragged after her until he managed to put his mind back together.
The top of Double H's scraggly black head was visible just over the top of the hill. Jade and Fehn skipped around the side of it. He was standing in the lee of the bump, gesticulating wildly—he seemed to be telling some kind of story. Kip, Yoa, Oumi, Zaza, and Pablo all sat around his feet, listening intently.
"—There she was! Standing over in the corner, being menaced by an enormous, metal beast! Two old vents for legs! Some old machine parts for a body! And the eerie glow of the DomZ all about the thing. It even frightened me a bit, at first! 'What the heck is that thing?!' I said. But! I couldn't just stand there and let it get away with attacking Miss Jade! So I ran headlong into the fray, screaming 'W.W.T.A.O.!' That stands for, 'We Work Together As One!' It was my way of saying, 'you know, this thing will never go down unless we work as a team, you know! And she said—"
"—'You'd better not be scaring the kids,' that's what," Jade said sardonically. Double H's audience reluctantly gave her their attention.
"Oh, nonsense," Double H said. "After all, everyone loves a good, rousing tale of adventure now and again…"
"But you didn't really do it, right?" Pablo asked. "I mean, of course you didn't actually fight some kind of huge DomZ robot—"
"And why couldn't we have?" he laughed. "Truth is, after all, stranger than fiction!"
"Well, truth or fiction, I'm starving," Jade said. "Hey, Kip, where are those sandwiches you and Zaza made?"
"Still inside on a plate," he said. "I'll go get 'em."
"Nah, I'll do it," Jade said. "Fehn? You want to come with me?"
"Sure," he agreed. Together, they walked back toward the lighthouse.
Fehn caught Jade looking at him out of the corner of his eye. He quickly broke his smile.
"Oh, don't even try to hide it," she smirked. "I saw you, eyes getting all shiny there. You like him already. He's already like one of your knight stories come to life."
"Only if he isn't lying about the monster thing," he replied. "I hate liars."
"Well, you'll just have to keep listening to his stories if you want to find out then, won't you?"
Jade ruffled the fur between Fehn's horn buds. "Come on, Sir Fehn. Let us away to the scullery and get some, uh, libations and… Well, you know what I mean."
"We're already here."
"Well, then, grab the sandwiches! You wouldn't wanna miss the end of Double H's story, now would you?"
Fehn's first footsteps were quick. Then he remembered that he didn't want to look too enthusiastic. He tried to walk, but Jade giggled as she saw the bounce in his step.