A/N: So yeah. I'm late; I know. I had a lot of stuff happen this year. My anxiety disorder kicked into overdrive, I got fired from my job of three years, and this semester of college kicked my ass. I'm doing a complete edit and readthrough of my story here and I'm working on getting those chapters up at well. I know I've probably lost a lot of readers by having this so late, and I deserve it.
I have a lot of people to respond to and credit, but I'm going to eliminate this because of the time it takes up. Not going to lie, it kinda kills my motivation. But I hope you caught the stuffed rabbit from Batman Begins in the last chapter.
My unusual ability or talent includes spitting, waking myself up from nightmares, hardly ever getting sick, and the ability to belch at will. But here's the chapter and I hope it doesn't suck too badly.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, so calm your tits.
Chapter Thirty-Two: Brown Wine, Turpentine
Goodbye, olive sky.
I am crying all the time.
There, there; don't despair.
We will find your sheep somewhere.
~The Dresden Dolls, The Sheep Song
I'm able to breathe easily for the first time in years. I'm surprised at how many concerns of mine are gone now that Falcone is incarcerated. Even supporting details, such as Don being hit by Jonathan's car, fade from my mind as Christmas break fast approaches. And then before I know it, I'll be on my last semester of high school. Last week, I'd gotten accepted into Gotham University with a decent ACT of 27 and was offered a nice academic scholarship in return for above average high school grades. Major? Undecided.
Jonathan doesn't know what to do with my happiness, I think gleefully as I shelve a book. I'm usually so moody and pessimistic and unpredictable with my feelings; now I'm stable. I climb down my ladder and grab another novel off my little cart. "I'm the happiest I've been in six years," I say aloud. I make sure my white button-down is covering my lower back before I push my cart and ladder down a ways. I climb back up.
When I told Mom about Falcone's capture, she didn't believe me. Ten minutes later, she still didn't. It wasn't until she called the Gotham City Police Department and confirmed it that she accepted it. Afterwards, she promptly went to bed and cried tears of happiness.
And Jonathan… I chuckle. He doesn't know how to handle it, but when I told him, he seemed pleased in his Jonathan sort of way. Now if only his troubles would leave. Ever since, I saved him from the crows, things have been better between us. Much better. I could almost call us friends now. Good friends, I mean. It's amazing how things can change in a little over a month. We're not buddy-buddy, but we're almost amiable around each other.
I climb back down my ladder and grab another book. I'm so deep in thought I don't notice Mr. Kipling stride up to me. "Ames, you have a visitor." I jump and whack my shin on my cart. Ever so clumsy, I drop my book.
"Troubled?" Mr. Kipling asks as he watches my antics. I sigh and bend down to pick up the tome.
"Best I've been in a while, actually," I say with a smile, cradling the book in my arm. "What did you say about a visitor?" My shin throbs but at least I didn't fall off the ladder again.
Mr. Kipling scratches his head. "I told him to wait a few shelves back."
"Say," he continues, peering at me over the top of his spectacles, "when are you on Christmas break for school?"
The glory! "Tomorrow, actually," I reply. "I can do full time the day after."
Mr. Kipling makes note. "Fine by me, dear."
"Don't forget to give me a few days off, all right?" I joke. "You old slave driver."
Mr. Kipling waves me away and continues to amble down the rows of bookshelves. "Now don't keep your young man waiting. He looked impatient," he calls over his shoulder.
I stroll back a few rows and peer down each one. No one, no one, no one, and then a little preteen boy laughing his head off over an adult novel he found. His giggles echo.
I stop and put a finger to my lips. "Shhh! Silence in the library!" He scampers off and takes his book elsewhere.
I continue down two more rows of shelves before I glance into another and see a skinny figure with its back to me. "Beg your pardon? Are you the young man Mr. Kipling was referring to?"
As he turns around, long, unclean hair flops into familiar eyes. I grin. "Hello, Jonathan."
He nods at me, and I walk toward him. I'm surprised he's here, to be honest, but I'm not as completely floored at I would've been a few months ago. "Funny seeing you here," I say simply.
Jonathan cocks his head to the side. "I'm not allowed to visit ?" he retorts lightly. I could almost say he's teasing but that wouldn't be like him.
"No, I'm surprised your grandmother isn't popping a neck vein." I only realize now that I'm still holding the book from earlier. My arm is getting tired.
"In case you haven't noticed, Grandmother has been a bit, ah, indisposed." The words tumble easily from his full, shapely lips. That's right. There's been no screaming for a few weeks. It would be enough to make me suspicious if it wasn't for the fact that her car vanished every Sunday morning for church and returned an hour or so later. I've recently begun to wonder if Jonathan is capable of doing away with someone.
Don. Oh, yeah. That was a thing. Still haven't heard.
I quirk one corner of my mouth up. "I have noticed." Leaning back against a bookshelf, I ask sarcastically, "So why are you here to visit little old me?" I find myself grateful for looking decent today. White, long-sleeved blouse, black pants, hair in a low ponytail. I wonder if Jonathan's noticed.
"What says I'm here for you? I'm not permitted to go to a library of my own free will?"
"Yes, you are, but you asked for me," I point out somewhat defiantly. Jonathan raises his eyebrows but doesn't deny it. "Why then?"
He folds his arms and leans next to me, pushing his owlish glasses up importantly. "I have news."
I almost nudge him with my elbow. "You met a centaur? You discovered your bellybutton?"
Jonathan rolls his eyes at my ridiculousness and gives an exasperated huff. He definitely only tolerates me sometimes. "No. I've been given an opportunity." He's been using more contractions lately. Neat.
"A job shadow. I can't necessarily intern as of yet because I'm inexperienced in the field." He scowls. "But it's beneficial nonetheless."
I smile at him. "Well congratulations! Where at?" Vaguely, I wonder when I'm supposed to go back to work.
His blue eyes glint as he puffs his chest out slightly and looks important. "Arkham Asylum. I'll be tailing one of the psychiatrists. Normally, they don't allow it but I was very convincing."
I blink. I blink again. Arkham Asylum. Arkham Asylum. I frown and ask, "Are you going to be safe?"
Nonchalantly, he responds, "Oh, I'm fairly certain I will be."
Then it hits me. Arkham Asylum. Dad!
I flush and shake with new excitement. Jonathan notices, and the genius that he is understands it right away. "Your father?"
I nod vigorously and stammer, "Yes-yes! Yes." I lower my voice from the squeak it became. "Can you ask about him? And in the off-chance you come across him, tell him his wife and daughter love him?" I'm asking a huge favor. I only hope Jonathan likes me enough to follow through. "We haven't seen him in six years."
Jonathan looks surprised. "He was imprisoned six years ago, yes? Hasn't there been visitations?"
I scoff and shake my head. "No."
Curious, he inquires, "What crime did Falcone frame him for?"
I wipe my suddenly runny nose and reply, "It was a brief summary, but I think it was mass homicide. Children involved. Planned alone, of course. Carried out alone."
"There's no chance of him getting out. Ever." I look at Jonathan hopefully. "Jon…can you? Please?" He's been letting me call him "Jon" a lot recently. No annoyance or reaction to it.
After a moment of heavy deliberation, he nods and adds softly in his cool voice (which has become more mature as of late), "I believe I can twist this to suit your needs."
I close my eyes and breathe pure relief. "Thank you, Jon." I stare at his passive face. "This starts two days from now?"
I don't bother to ask what his grandmother makes of this job shadow. Too indisposed to do anything about it, I suppose. I raise my wrist to my eyes and look at Dad's watch on the underside. "We've been talking a while. I should get back to work." I shift the heavy book to my other arm.
"Enjoy yourself." We walk to the end of the row of shelves and part ways in the main aisle, him in one direction, me in the other.
I quickly remind him to leave me a note before I disappear back into the tall shelves, but I never get one.
I always forget that Christmas vacation usually turns out to be like this, I groan to myself, sitting home after work, day after day, absolutely bored to death with nothing to do other than watch the snow fall outside our living room window. Break is wonderful for the first few days, but then nothing but sheer boredom takes over.
Nothing happens on Christmas for us. Mom and I have a lack of relatives so all we do is make a nicer-than-usual supper, open a few gifts we've bought for each other, and totter off to bed. I can't imagine Jonathan's is much better.
Mom does like to hang Christmas lights around the house though. Inside. I tilt my head up and let them glow colorfully against my eyelids. They're pretty in how they reflect in the window with snow falling like cotton balls. With Falcone gone, life hasn't been as exciting per say, but it's wonderful for it to be easy for once. Things are coming together.
Mom walks into the living room. I know that she, for one, is grateful for my improvement as well as feeling a little safer. She isn't as uptight.
I wonder if Jonathan's followed through on my request. He seemed really sincere. For him.
"How are you, honey?" she asks as she sits down in one of the recliners and turns the television on to some late night news channel.
I keep looking out the window. "I'm fine." I remind myself that things can indeed be so much worse. I get up from the couch. "I was actually just going to go upstairs." I eyeball Dad's watch in the dim light. 11:30pm. Definitely time for bed. "Goodnight, Mom." And for what seems to be the first time in a while, I walk over, bend down, and hug her flabbergasted body. She doesn't really respond; she more or less doesn't know what to do with her hands.
I pull away after a brief moment and leave the room. Once upstairs, I crack my window open to let in a little crisp, cold air. It's refreshing. I strip down and pull on pajamas before settling under my warm blankets with a very slight feeling of dread. My body is thrumming with energy, and I'm most definitely awake and restless.
It takes me three hours to fall asleep. It's maddening and I wake up bleary-eyed when my alarm goes off at 8am. Work from 9 to 5. This has been my life and will be for a few more weeks. I kick off my covers, close my window, and realize I have a bout of painful itching in the last toes of my feet. After scratching violently for a bit, the sensation fades. My pinky toes feel a bit larger than usual, but I toss the concern aside as I get ready for work.
I arrive at the library pretty dead on my feet, and the old lady working one of the front desks gives me a funny look, almost as if she's expecting me to slack off. I go to the room upstairs and punch my time card sluggishly. Something feels very off today. The atmosphere of this place is all wrong. Maybe it's just me.
But I prepare my little book cart and am told to run some errands for Mr. Kipling before I start my normal job. They take an hour to do. Huffing slightly, I return to my cart, examine the books on it, and decide to start in the science fiction rows. I push my cart past the odd few people sitting in the comfy armchairs in the reading area. Surprisingly, they're my age. Do they have jobs? I wonder as I move on.
Once I reach my desired section, I grab the ladder from the end of the row and slide it to the other end. I grab War of the Worlds and ascend, yawning and almost falling off the ladder on my way up. It's going to be a long day. I feel drunk off my tiredness. Tipsy. Is that possible?
It's around an hour later though that my feet act up again, almost causing me to plummet from a height again. My right pinky toe throbs and hurts in an itchy way. Like a fire, it starts also in my left pinky toe and on both feet it spreads to all toes except my big ones. Once safely on the ground, I stamp my feet and squash my toes against the inside of my shoes to relieve the itching. It starts up again two minutes later, and the sensation is so maddening that I almost cry. I repeat my earlier actions to alleviate it but to no avail.
I CAN'T TAKE IT! I cry internally as the itching pain starts once more with a fury. WHAT THE SHIT! I flop onto the floor between the bookshelves and pull off my shoes and socks and gape at what my eyes fall upon.
Both my pinky toes are red, shiny, and swollen to at least one size larger than usual. Having my shoes and socks off feels absolutely heavenly. On a closer look, I see tiny, raised, red bumps on all my toes and spreading to my foot. What. Is. Wrong. With. Me. I flex my toes and the air flowing around them helps in their relief.
Unfortunately, this is where Mr. Kipling finds me after few minutes later. "What in heaven?"
I can't even spring to my feet. "I'm sorry; I couldn't function…" I wiggle my toes at him. He actually comes over, bends down, and squints at them. "It started this morning and has been itching and hurting ever since." I wave a hand at my feet. "Now it doesn't only hurt on the surface. It's almost underneath. I don't know how it started."
Mr. Kipling sighs heavily. "Put some antifungal cream on that when you get home, young lady. For now, I'm sorry that you have to keep working, but I'll let you work barefoot. No need to make you more miserable." I gawk at him. "I've had children, you know. This happened to my daughters quite often."
My boss is swell.
"Oh, by the way, your young man is here again." My jaw hits the floor. "Ten minutes is what you're allowed. You're lucky it's been a few days." It's adorable when he tries to act strict.
I'm able to spring to my feet now. Jonathan? He's here? He must have good news. Dad! I'm very excited. I see him in the main aisle, but as I get closer, there is something very wrong about his face. It's too composed. Too carefully composed. Jonathan raises an eyebrow at my bare feet but doesn't question once he sees what condition my toes are in.
"This feels like hell," I say, pointing to them. I smile despite it. "So how's the job shadow going?"
Jonathan holds his head high. "Fantastically, actually." In those two words, he sounds the most passionate I've ever heard him. I think someone's found their calling.
I take a few steps toward him until I'm fairly close, and he doesn't even flinch as I peer at his cheekboned face eagerly. His blue eyes scorch from under his eyelashes as he gazes up at me. Yes. Gazes. My cheerfulness waivers. Something is wrong…
"Did you see my dad? Hear about him? How is he?" I ask anxiously.
And then Jonathan Crane, who had until recently considered me one of his enemies, looks straight into my soul and delivers the hardest news I've ever had to hear in my life.
"Your father is dead."
I chuckle at his strained face. "Stop it, Jon. Be serious. How is he?"
I positively snort with laughter. "No, really, how is he?"
Jonathan watches my denial without the faintest clue as to how he should react. "Ames, he's dead."
I'm hiccupping now, and my brain has gone numb, except for NONONONONONONONO. I frown and shove his shoulder. "Jon, stop being mean! It's not funny! Tell me, how is he?!" My voice rises to a shriek.
Jonathan grabs my upper arms and gives me a rough shake as the tears start to drip down my face. "Ames Manson, Damian Reilly, also known as Damian Manson, your father, is dead and has been for four years." He releases me and I fall onto the carpet.
"Nooo," I moan. It's the first time I've ever seen Jonathan look truly sorry.
It can't be.
It CAN'T be.
My dreams, all the times I've imagined that I would see Dad again, crumble into ashes and blow away. As the sobs rack my body, memories flash through my brain. All those letters I wrote…four years of nothing. With trembling fingers, I unfasten Dad's watch from my wrist and cradle it to my chest. I'm finally able to rasp, "How?"
Jonathan towers above me. "I wasn't told. Think about it, Ames. On the insanity plea, he would have had to put on a façade for years! How long were you expecting him to last?"
"But they didn't tell the family," I mumble. Jonathan tries to interrupt, but I cut him off with a raised voice. "They DIDN'T. TELL. THE FAMILY!"
"Keep your voice down," he says calmly.
My grip on the watch tightens. "Ohhh, I bet you were just itching to deliver the news," I spit at him. "To see me cower on my knees before you?"
"To see my fears come to the surface? Oh you are a fantastic friend!" I know it's not his fault but I'm lashing out despite.
I'm done here. I stand up, stumble, and make my way back to my row to collect my shoes and socks. People stare at me as I charge past Jonathan in the main aisle, and he stares at my back as I leave him behind in my trail of tears.
I find Mr. Kipling and tell him my news, completely uncomposed. I punch out, grab my coat, and I'm gone out into the cold air.
I fumble my keys as I try to jab them into Black Jack's ignition with trembling hands, tears streaming down my face. Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad. I'll never see you. I feel a dark haze wash over me, and I find myself unable to care about anything anymore.
There is no God. There can't be if he allowed something like this to happen. I understand Jonathan's loss of faith. The feeling of abandonment accompanying events like these is too great.
I drive and I don't care where I go. I can barely see the road as it is. I end up putting myself in the Narrows, of all the places I could've hypnotically taken myself. This seems to happen more often than not. I see black shadows, black-clothed ninjas, everywhere but I don't even wonder about them. I park in front of that bashed grocery store, now boarded up in the dim light. I give no thought to lurking druggies, rapists, and murderers as I stagger out of my truck. My vision comes in flashes as I propel myself forward and collapse against the side of the grocery store, the side right next to an alley.
I tilt my head to the smoggy sky and howl my grief, screaming bloody murder, rocking back and forth. I'm barely aware of someone coming and standing next to me. Almost as if he or she is keeping watch and protecting me in my despair.
Once my sobs are reduced to hiccups, the person finally speaks.
"So, why the tears?"
I glance up through puffy eyes at the familiar voice to see Edward, my riddling boy, staring down at me with a concerned, extremely caring look. I'm not sure how to react to it.
"Go away," I mumble.
"I'm not going to do it. I shall defy you!" Edward folds his arms over his chest stubbornly. He looks the same. Same sleek auburn hair, same green parachute jacket, same friendly face. The only thing different is he's wearing a pair of obnoxiously purple mittens.
I sniffle. "Aren't you cold?"
He shrugs good-naturedly. "You build up an immunity." He slides down the wall to sit next to me. "I guess since you won't tell me what's wrong, can I at least say you're never alone?"
I break down and tell Edward everything. This boy I barely know seems to know me better than myself. I tell him my whole past, about Jonathan, and the news about my father.
"It's cruel," he tells me, rubbing my back, "for you to have been so happy and to have it so quickly snatched from you."
My tears have frozen into little salty streaks on my face. "Jonathan was the one who told me the news." Despite everything, I'm feeling a little better. "I know the whole world's not a bad place and that not all people are cruel. I know that. But why is it so hard to believe?"
"It just is." Edward then asks, "How did your friend find out about your father?"
I rub my hands together to keep warm. It's starting to snow. "Jonathan was doing a job shadow." I give a bitter smile—god, I'm such an actor.
Edward's eyes sparkle as he chuckles at me. "Why do you say his name like that?"
I blink. "Like what?"
"Well, every time you do, you get the stink-eye."
"I do not!" I automatically protest. Edward raises an eyebrow. "Um, I guess he's kind of a cold bastard." Edward raises his other eyebrow. I nudge him with my elbow. "This is the part where you agree with me."
He nudges me back. "I was thinking it in my heart."
I get a warm feeling, but my legs are starting to cramp so I stand up and shake them to get my blood flowing. Then I stomp my feet. The itching has subsided.
Edward watches me in amusement. "Keep doing that and someone might toss you a penny."
I stop. "What are you doing in the Narrows anyway? We were in a different part of the city last time."
Edwards stands up next to me. "I'll ask you the same thing."
"I guess I just drove here. I wasn't paying attention," I answer.
"Are you suicidal?"
I frown "I don't think so. What about you? You're too nice to be in this part of Gotham."
He smiles brightly. "You think I'm nice?"
I blush. Actually blush. "Well, yes."
"Woohoo!" he celebrates. "As for why I'm in the Narrows, I'll never tell," he teases. A pause. "Sooo…how about a riddle?"
Shaking my head, I groan. "No, please. Not today."
"Usually I'd be offended but with you, I understand."
"Is this something you normally do? Asking strangers riddles?" I look at him in wonder.
He tilts his head. "Only certain strangers, I suppose. I had a big book of riddles as a kid. Memorized them all."
I don't inquire any further about his childhood. Why he's here, why he's alone. Does he have family? Siblings? Parents? What happened to him? Why isn't he in school? How has he managed to stay alive? But I keep my mouth shut. It's not my place to ask.
Out of nowhere. "Say, Ames, what time is it?" I start to raise my wrist to check the time, but he does it himself, grabbing my hand, pulling my coat sleeve back, and turning my arm to see Dad's watch on the underside of my wrist. "One in the afternoon. I've got places to be." He turns my wrist back over but keeps hold of my hand.
"Where do you possibly have to go?" I ask, bewildered.
"Ha! That's for me to know and for you to find out!" Edward quickly kisses my hand, winks, and scampers off.
A/N: Honestly, I was going to try and use Nigma less and less, but he's so much fun to right and he and Ames have such great chemistry that I can't resist. Whovians, I hope you caught the "silence in the library" line.
Now, I need some advice from you guys. After I got fired from my three-year job (misunderstood a company policy), I was able to find a job as a hotel housekeeper five days later and worked that whole summer. I also found another job on campus at college, in addition to a lot of volunteering since January 2013. Unfortunately, whenever I'm home for a break (LIKE THE ONE MONTH WINTER ONE), my hotel job isn't busy enough to need me to work. I'm literally sitting on my fat ass this Christmas vacation and I DON'T LIKE IT. I'm losing money. So in March, I'm going to start looking for a summer evening job because this situation is making me nervous. My need for advice is this: should I put the job I got fired from on the applications? I wouldn't have an employment gap, and I've had jobs since then but it looks like I've only started working recently. If I put the job on there, because it's work experience, should I list as being let go (like I've done before) or because my second job was acquired so closely after being fired, should I put that I quit for a new job? The place that fired me said they would only give out dates of employment, and I hope I can believe that. What would you do in my situation, or if you've been in my situation before, what did you do?
Question of the Day: Which celebrity would you punch in the face?
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Until next time! Merry Christmas!