This was a story request from Dreamlover1102 and TaiOokamiYoukai. I don't normally take requests for chapter fics for a variety of reasons, but this was one that I felt I could do justice, although it didn't turn out to be the comedy that it was intended to be. This is what happens when you try to be funny; you're not. Heh.
A big thanks to my writing buddy JayCee's RedGold (who is fabulously awesome btw and totally did not randomly insert this comment into the beta), who beta'd this story for me and provided a good deal of much needed feedback while I was writing it. Thanks for all your help and support!
Chapters will be posted every 2-3 days. There's a specific reason for this that has nothing to do with the chapter lengths, which I shall divulge about halfway through the story.
Gym Class Heroes
Chapter 1: Za Intro
Anna Marie flung open her suitcase and stomped over to the wardrobe, intending for every step to be heard by the two people below her bedroom floor: Logan and Irene. She was going under protest and was determined to make sure they were both fully aware of this fact. She scowled at the contents of her wardrobe and starting picking out things to pack.
It started a week ago. The day seemed like any other summer day, one she had spent with her tight-knit group of friends. The only thing of any real interest to occur was that Carlie had decided to put bright blue streaks through her hair, which made Anna Marie the only girl in their group without dyed hair.
"Maybe one day I will," Anna Marie had said when prompted, although she had no real intentions of seeing it through. She liked her long brown hair just the way it was and secretly liked being able to say she was the only girl in their group who still had her natural hair colour.
Anna Marie didn't think anything of it when she didn't see her mother's car in the driveway when she got home later. After all, Raven would have been working. She didn't find anything unusual about her Aunt Irene sitting in the lounge with a cup of tea either. In fact, there was absolutely nothing to suggest to Anna Marie that all wasn't well in the world, not even one of those niggling feelings people get for no apparent reason just before everything blows up in their face.
Completely oblivious, Anna Marie went to the fridge to get a bottle of water. It was a perfectly ordinary fridge, with magnets stuck on it. Beneath a magnet that said "Many people have eaten in this kitchen and gone on to lead normal, healthy lives" there was a note with Anna Marie's name on it. This was the only indication anything out of the ordinary had happened all day. Anna Marie grabbed her bottle of water, which she then opened, and had a sip before taking the note off the fridge and reading it further:
Gone to visit your brother. Don't know when I'll be back. Your father will take care of you.
Anna Marie reread the note twice, confused and not really believing what she was reading. What brother? And what did she mean she'd left? That her father would take care of her?
"Aunt Irene?" Anna Marie frowned, walking into the living room with the note in hand. "Do you know anything about this? I have a note from Mama about going to visit my brother."
"Ahh yes, your brother," Irene said, setting aside the letter written in Braille that she had been reading on the coffee table with careful precision. "I believe he contacted Raven recently. He wanted to meet her."
"So she just took off?" Anna Marie exclaimed incredulously. "I don't even have a brother!"
"He is your half brother," Irene explained with her usual patience much to Anna Marie's frustration. "Raven had an affair when you were fourteen months old."
Anna Marie was silent for a long moment.
"This is a joke, right?" Anna Marie said once she could find her voice.
"I am sorry, child," Irene replied. "Raven is long gone, where I cannot say."
"But she can't have," Anna Marie insisted, having some serious trouble comprehending this. "Mama wouldn't just up and leave me."
"She can and she has," Irene said, leaning over to pick up her letter again. "Twice."
"And she sure wouldn't go off without saying goodbye!" Anna Marie said, waving the piece of paper around. "This stupid note doesn't count."
"I told her she should tell you in person," Irene said solemnly. "I am sorry, Anna. Your father will be here in the morning."
Anna Marie shook her head violently.
"I don't believe it," she said. "I don't believe a word of it."
Regardless of what Anna Marie did or didn't believed, it was true. Raven was not only gone but her bedroom was completely packed up as if she didn't intend to return for years, if at all.
In the midst of trying to deal with the fact that Raven was really gone, Logan showed up. She scowled at him when he had the audacity to say hello. This was the guy who was supposed to be taking care of her? He was hardly ever around! No wonder Raven had an affair.
Anna Marie finished packing away her clothes and opened up another suitcase to pack away the rest of her things. As she sorted through her stuff she came across a baseball glove and a deck of cards, both of which she glared at. There had been a time when she had craved and treasured attention from her father whose military career often kept him away from his family. She bitterly remember being so excited when he came home, but in hindsight all those games of baseball, and poker, and everything else seemed like wasted time rather than quality time. Even after he retired from the military she still rarely saw him. He was always drifting from one job to another, few of which jobs brought him anywhere near Caldecott County.
"I'm surprised you even bothered to show up," Anna Marie had told her father.
"Yeah, I'm sorry I haven't been around much, darlin'," Logan replied awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck.
Logan attempted to catch up with her but Anna Marie resisted all attempts at conversation. She sat sullenly on the lounge with her arms folded while Logan sat next to her and tried everything to engage her.
"Look," he said finally. "I got a job as a gym coach in a prep school in New York. It's one of those fancy-schmancy private boarding schools."
"There's a big surprise," Anna Marie said dryly. "You're leaving again."
"Yeah, well, this time you're coming with me," Logan replied firmly.
"Umm, excuse me?" Anna Marie demanded, turning to glare at him again. "I don't think so. Just because Mama left, doesn't mean you get to drag me away from my home and my friends."
"Actually, that's exactly what it means."
"I'm not going."
"You don't have a choice."
"Sure I do," she turned to her aunt, "I can stay here with Irene."
"Nope, Irene's with me on this one," Logan replied smugly. "You're coming to New York with me—"
"No I'm not!" Anna Marie exclaimed.
"Anna, you can't stay here. Besides, this school, the Xavier Institute—"
"Sounds more like a mental hospital," Anna Marie muttered, "or a lab. 'The Ponds Institute'."
"—isn't easy to get into," Logan went on, choosing to ignore her snide comment. "They only take in a few students every year, and you have to do this test—"
"Which I haven't done, so I can't get in, so I can't go," Anna Marie cut in. "Oh no, how terrible, I will have to stay here and go to normal school with all my friends."
"—but Professor Xavier is an old buddy of mine, which is how I got the job, and he's agreed to make a place for you," Logan finished up.
"Good to know nepotism is alive and well," Anna Marie replied cynically.
She had argued, made more snide comments and demands, but Logan would hear none of it. They were going and that was final.
Anna Marie tossed the baseball glove and deck of cards on the floor and started packing up her books. The worst part happened the next day when she had told her friends about Raven leaving and Logan carting her off to New York. Her friends had been sympathetic, ranted with her about how horrible parents were. That was comforting at least but it did nothing to soften the blow when she finally got a quiet word with her boyfriend, Cody.
Anna Marie and Cody had been dating since they were thirteen and had known each other since they were kids. They'd always been close but ever since he joined the football team he had been under increasing pressure from his peers to dump his social liability girlfriend. Anna Marie suspected that only their long history had kept them together this long and that it was only a matter of time before he buckled under the pressure. She knew the moment "I'm moving to New York" was out of her mouth it was over between them.
"Cody and I broke up because of you," Anna Marie had snarled at Logan upon her return home. "I hope you're happy!"
Logan was more confused than anything else. Since when had Anna Marie and Cody been dating?
Anna Marie moved on to the bathroom and packed up her hairbrush, comb, toothbrush, and other toiletries. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and smiled at her new reflection.
On the fourth day after getting the news it was impulse that sent Anna Marie to the hair salon. She had her hair cut down to her neck, a broad streak of white put in at the front. Her friends completely approved when they saw her.
"Why white though?" Carlie asked.
Anna Marie shrugged. "It goes with everything."
Logan had been less than pleased when he saw, though not quite for the reason that Anna Marie would have guessed.
"You're going to have to dye that back," he warned her. "There's a strict dress code at the school. No dyed hair."
"Too bad," Anna Marie replied haughtily. "I'm not doing it."
"Anna, it's the rules—"
Anna Marie made a rude noise. "What are they going to do? Expel me?"
Logan stifled a sigh and dropped it. Anna Marie counted it as a victory.
Anna Marie put off packing as long as possible. She ignored the arrival of a luggage set in her room and all the hints that she had better get started. She couldn't put it off forever, unfortunately, and come the night before their departure Logan and Irene put their feet down and sent her up to pack.
"How's it going?" Logan asked Anna Marie as she passed by him in the hallway on the way back to her room from the bathroom.
"Fine," she replied tersely before slamming the door behind her.
Logan sighed and muttered something under his breath. It was going to be a long trip to New York.
Anna Marie and Logan headed on to New York the next morning in Logan's pickup. Her bags were stowed in the back and they were driving in sullen silence. Logan had long since given up on any meaningful conversation as it had become quite clear that his daughter was determined to make everything as difficult for him as possible. He should have realised the moment he told Professor Xavier that Anna Marie was a 'sweet kid' it was going to bite him on the rear.
Her mood only grew worse on the trip as Logan had opted to give her reading material in the form of the code of conduct for the school. Every word had Anna Marie chomping at the bit. The first injustice was the uniform.
"We have to wear a uniform?" Anna Marie exclaimed with horror the moment her eyes landed on the words. "You have to be kidding me."
"Nope," Logan replied, his eyes trained on the road.
"What is this? The freaking military?"
"It may as well be!"
"Relax already, darlin'," Logan said. "You only have to wear it during classes and school events. You can wear anything you want outside of school hours."
"Oh, I'm sorry, was that supposed to make me feel better?" Anna Marie snapped at him. "Because if so, it didn't work."
Logan didn't reply, and Anna Marie went back to glowering at the code of conduct. When in uniform, the only jewellery they were allowed to wear were simple studs in the earlobe and a watch. They could wear sunglasses, of a specific type. They could wear a headband if they wanted but it had to be in the school colours. No makeup, not even lip gloss. Dyeing your hair an unnatural colour was forbidden. Shirts had to be tucked in at all times. Skirts were relegated to three inches above the knee and any girls whose skirt came up higher on their leg than that got detention for the sole purpose of adjusting the hem. They had to wear proper socks. Shoes had to be polished. The list went on and on with each new item making Anna Marie fume that much more.
There were a few annoying things she wasn't at all surprised to find in the list such as the curfew and that girls weren't allowed in the boys dorms and vice versa. On the bright side there was also some kind of rewards program for good behaviour, although she couldn't determine how that was supposed to work from the code of conduct.
"I'm sure you're going to like it," Logan said some time after Anna Marie finally put the code of conduct aside. "They've got some pretty good facilities there, a lot better than anything you'd get in a public school."
Anna Marie didn't reply.
"And that's not even counting the pools," Logan said with a glance towards his daughter with each new feature searching for a reaction, "or the lake. They've got jetskis. And dirt bikes. And horses."
"Whoopiedo," Anna Marie said blandly.
Another long sullen, awkward silence later, Logan spoke again:
"The dorm rooms are full, so you'll be bunking with me," he said and when he still got no response he continued, "It used to be an all boys school, so there's a lot more boys at the school than girls at the moment. And Chuck, umm, Professor Xavier, likes to mix up the ages in the different classes, so you'll probably have classes with everything from freshmen to seniors."
Eventually they stopped for lunch and some hours later stopped again for dinner and a room for the night. It was a twin room and they changed into their nightclothes separately in the bathroom when they had their respective showers. Logan went to bed almost immediately but Anna Marie stayed up and read for awhile.
When she did eventually turn off the light and curl up under the covers she couldn't help but cry a little. This was really happening. Her mother had left her for some brother she never even heard of (how she hated this brother of hers) and her father had made her pack up and leave all her friends, Cody, and the only home she'd ever known. She barely knew her father but it was clear the only person he cared about was himself.
Logan heard his daughter's tears and the sound made him feel like crying himself. He realised she probably blamed him for all of this, everything right down to Raven's original infidelity. He also realised that he'd likely brought it on himself for not being around as often as he should. As much as he loved Anna Marie it had been far too painful to even look at Raven. He had loved her deeply, once, but Raven didn't seem to have it in her to stay faithful. After their divorce Logan felt that he moved around too much from job to job, else he might have put up more of a fight for custody over Anna Marie. In hindsight he wished he had, but it was too late for that now, and he was stuck with the consequences of that decision.
Anna Marie and Logan continued on their way after breakfast. The trip was just as sullen and quiet as it was the day before, if not moreso, because they just didn't have anything more to say to each other. In fact, the conversation dwindled to only talking when they made a stop for food and fuel. Logan found himself wishing that Anna Marie would say something, anything. He felt he could even tolerate her saying "are we there yet" over and over. Well, with any luck, she'd open up once they had a chance to settle in. After all, they would be living together, in the same building even, not just on the same campus. She couldn't avoid him forever. She certainly couldn't avoid him when he would be her teacher.
They stopped for lunch and as Anna Marie got out of the car she felt a cool breeze on the back of her neck. She rubbed it gently. It was a little weird having short hair after having long hair for most of her life, she wasn't used to having a cold neck. Thinking of her hair reminded her about the hair dyeing rules in the code of conduct and it made her scowl. Much to her further annoyance, Logan chose to ignore the angry expression on her face and led the way inside the diner.
"I'm not dyeing my hair back," she said argumentatively after their food had been ordered and Logan hadn't commented.
"Ain't up to me," Logan replied languidly as he leaned back in his seat. "It's Professor Xavier you have to have this conversation with."
"Yeah, well, I'm gonna tell him the same thing I'm telling you," Anna Marie said stubbornly, refusing to be side-tracked. "I'm not dyeing my hair back. I like my hair just like this and no stupid code of conduct for a school I don't even want to be at is going to make me change it."
Logan didn't respond.
"I don't care how many detentions or whatever they decide to give me either," Anna Marie added. "I'm not going to let them turn me into some kind of automaton."
"When you meet Professor Xavier for yourself, and see how he does things, I don't think you'll be accusing him of trying to turn you kids into automatons," Logan replied coolly.
"Oh yeah? Then why do we have to wear uniforms?" Anna Marie demanded with a smug tone.
"Makes the school look good and promotes equality between the students. He wants you kids to excel because you're smart and fit, not because you know how to dress," Logan said.
"Whatever. Uniforms are stupid. This whole thing is stupid," Anna Marie said, glaring at him sullenly. "Mama never would have made me go."
"Yeah, I'm sure Raven let you do whatever you wanted," Logan replied shortly, not wanting to talk about his ex-wife right now.
"At least she stuck around," Anna Marie said. "Unlike you."
"Really? She stuck around?" Logan asked. "Then why are you headed to New York with me?"
Having no response to that, Anna Marie slouched back in her chair, crossing her arms and glaring at Logan. Logan stifled a sigh. He'd been where she was now. He knew how much it hurt.
"She left me too, Anna."
The emotion in Logan's eyes stopped the bitter retort she had planned on snapping back with. Instead, she let out a breath and grumbled: