My original plan was to get Twelve Days up to the point where I could post Christmas in-fic on Christmas in real life, but that's clearly not going to happen. So, instead, you get the Cold Fusion Holiday Special (which takes place on Christmas Eve, technically, but okay fine whatever)! We'll find out what Megamind and Roxanne are doing on Christmas a little bit later in their fic, but I have a soft spot for certain other characters and I wanted to show what they're doing.
This is just a one-shot, I've had it bouncing around in my Twelve Days folder forever and finally decided to edit it up and post it for the holiday. Happy Holidays, everyone!
Oh, and you can expect to see a couple more short fics from me sometime in the near-ish future! I'm still working away on Twelve Days, don't worry, I haven't abandoned it. But I do have other side projects, too! I'm planning on posting most of them once I'm done with Twelve Days, but if you want to read them now they're over on my Livejournal. Dal-niente dot livejournal dot com.
Where the Heart is
Piles of money and power have gotten Sally many places in life. Today, they get her into a Yellow Cab without the press catching wind of her release from the hospital—although it helps that she doesn't really look like herself. The reconstructive surgeries went fairly well and a revolutionary new skin regeneration procedure had, for the most part, kept scar tissue from forming on the eighty percent of her body that had been burned; but even so, she doesn't look like Lady Scott.
Right now, she doesn't feel much like Lady Scott, either. Right now she just feels like Sally, a name half-forgotten by most of the city.
She doesn't drive by the Mansion. She doesn't need to; the construction won't be finished until early February and she can't bring herself to care. It's Christmas Eve and her husband and son are both dead. She's been mourning the second for two months, the first for—has it really only been seven?—and she's starting to wonder if she'll ever stop or if the dull ache will ever fully pass.
She pays the cabbie without really hearing him or seeing what her fare was, walks slowly across the lobby to the elevator that will take her straight to the top. She isn't home; the penthouse isn't home. It won't ever really be home. Home is where the heart is, and Lady Scott's heart is in even worse shape than her face.
How, how is she going to manage now? She has the estate to settle, the insurance companies to talk to, lawyers and advisers and architects…she doesn't want to just throw in the towel and give up, but she's so tired and her husband had always managed the family's finances.
Not much of a family anymore, is it? she thinks as she steps into the lift. At the hospital, she had insisted on coming here alone. She needs to come here alone. She hasn't even seen the penthouse in over a year; she has no idea what state it's going to be in, but she's tired and she hurts all over and she just wants to be left alone with her Vicodin.
And she wants to know who she has to pay or kill to turn off that awful elevator music. I'll be home for Christmas, you can count on me…
No, I can't, she thinks, feeling like the worst person in the world. I never could.
The tears burn, but she doesn't mind. It's better than thinking about Bobby that way and not hurting for it.
The music, that hateful, cruel song, follows her into the apartment even after the doors close behind her—but there's a difference in tone that makes her pause and blink a bit; the record seems to skip. Someone is playing the same song inside the apartment. The Bing Crosby version, the one her husband always favored, and her eyes go wide as she stares around the penthouse.
The sheets she's sure the maids threw over the furniture are gone, the floor is vacuumed and swept. Everything is glowing and lit up like—well, like Christmas. The kitchen is sparkling and golden, the warm dark stain of the cabinets and the dark granite of the counters spotless. The sitting area, high ceilinged and spacious, is lit up by both the chandelier and the winking lights on the massive fir tree by the fireplace. The lit fireplace.
She stops dead in her tracks and stares. Did someone come here first and prepare things for her? She's tempted to fire them if that's the case, she has little tolerance for people who disobey direct orders and the last thing she had wanted today was to be reminded yet again that she's alone in the world.
The CD changes. She barely registers the difference as Nat King Cole's tenor vibrato fills the penthouse apartment. Oh, holy night, the stars are brightly shining…
"Well, I think that should do it," says a cheerful voice, and someone steps out from behind the tree, wiping metal hands on a stained rag and studying his handiwork. Sally stares harder. Is that a…is that a fish? "The tree shouldn't wobble anymore; I put two extra stabilizers on. Sir won't miss them."
"Hey, thanks so much, Minion. I really appreciate it," a second voice calls down, and she freezes. She recognizes that voice. She's spent the better part of her life—not the longer part, but certainly the better—hearing it, listening to it change and grow. But it can't be, it just can't. She won't look up, she won't look up. She refuses.
Fall on your knees; oh, hear the angel voices—
"Oh, no worries, Mr. Scott," the fish laughs, and the massive robotic body turns around. "It was my…oh!" His gaze lands on Lady and he falters back a step. "Um. Hello."
A light bulb falls and bursts on the floor like a tiny grenade. Both Sally and the fish-robot jump. "Oh, damn," says that voice, sounding hurried and embarrassed, "I meant to get this done before you…damn."
Slowly, Sally tilts her head back.
And, yes, there's her son floating up next to the chandelier, a box of bulbs in one hand and two or three burned-out ones in the other, his face pale.
She needs to sit down and she needs a drink, and she isn't sure which she needs more or which she wants to do first.
Minion tenses, ready to catch her if she faints. He hasn't met Lady Scott before but he's seen pictures of her, and she's currently almost unrecognizable. The dress she's wearing is very plain, and she has no hair anymore. And there are the scars. And she looks very blank, not at all like the sharp-eyed lady in the pictures with the secretive smile.
Wayne flits down, his expression an odd blend of trepidation, concern, and outright fear. "Hey, Mom," he says, the false cheer in his voice totally at odds with the look on his face. "I…uh…I sorta owe you a big apology. Like, a really big apology. I don't even know how to…I, uh." He gulps a little and steels himself, forces himself to speak even though there really are no words that can express what he needs to say, what he desperately wishes he could explain. The hollow regret that's been eating at him for months is only the beginning—how can he ever articulate to his mother all the reasons he'd once felt so sure of but now can barely rationalize to himself? "I was…really stupid, Ma, and I just…I was selfish. I am selfish." A lot of 'I's in this apology, he thinks wildly, but his mouth just keeps going without him. "I've been hiding, and I…I just, I was scared to come back and tell you. I'm sorry," he finally says, and swallows hard. "I'm so sorry."
She stares at him—at the faded blue jeans and the old tee shirt, at his bare arms and the big belt buckle and the ponytail, at his face—and manages to speak, hoarse and painful and still rough from the fire and then the months of disuse, the feeding tube. "You have a beard?"
His face and shoulders fall a little, but he nods. "I was gonna get changed before you got home, but…well, not home, I don't mean home, I mean…I mean I was going to shave. Before you got here."
Sally shakes her head and walks forward—usually walking makes her hips and knees ache, but right now she doesn't feel anything. Wayne lands heavily, looking at his feet, shoulders curled, head bowed. His mother puts her hands on his scruffy cheeks and looks up at him, touches his long hair, his shoulders. She'd thought she'd never see him again. Not ever. And here he is in spite of everything. And suddenly, everything hurts.
"My boy," she whispers. "My good, brave boy. Look at you. You look fine, Wayne. You look fine just the way you are."
His eyes fill with tears as he gathers her close. "Merry Christmas, Mom."
She could hug him forever—he's her son, her son, and he's alive and she feels she might tremble herself to bits with the joy and grief—but slowly, after she doesn't know how many minutes, she forces herself to relax her grasp. Wayne is holding her as if she's something fragile, as if she'll break at any moment, but she thinks he might be relieved when she finally takes a small step back. "Who—who's your friend?"
"Oh, right, sorry, I didn't think. Mom, this is Minion. Minion, my mother."
Minion, who had figured on leaving them alone so they could visit and talk, has managed to creep past almost all the way to the door. But Wayne calls him back, so he turns to say hello, not sure what to expect or what she'll think or say or how to act or anything. Not because she's Lady Scott, widow of the most powerful man in the city, not because she's Lady Scott, who raised a hero, but because she is Wayne's mother.
The metal hand that clasps hers is cold and surprisingly gentle, the jagged, toothy smile unexpectedly warm. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Lady Scott." Minion's gold eyes are kind as he fans his fins in greeting, and then he steps around her, towards the door. "I'll leave you two alone. I guess you have a lot to talk about."
"Please stay," Sally blurts out. Minion blinks at her and she fumbles. She isn't sure why she wants him there, but she does want him to stay. She's always been someone who knows exactly what she wants, and while she doesn't know who this strange creature is, she knows he'd been helping Wayne and that's enough to go on for now. "It's—my name is Sally and—thank you for—whatever part you had in this, thank you."
Minion looks uncertainly at Wayne, who nods. "Stay," he urges. "It's Christmas Eve, you shouldn't be alone in that big empty Lair. Stay."
Sally looks up at her son. "He's alone?"
"Blue is in California with Roxie," Wayne explains, speaking as if this is old news, the way he used to say they were out of milk again. "Her parents are down there."
"Really?" She has to blink a few times, trying to wrap her head around the idea that her son is apparently completely fine with the idea that his ex-girlfriend is now dating the creature who—well, who evidently hadn't killed him after all. There must be far more going on here than meets the eye, and she intends to find out all of it; for now she only knows that her son is casually referring to his nemesis as 'Blue,' which he hasn't done since grade school and even then never with such a lack of contempt. She also knows that he is comfortable enough with Minion to ask for help with decorating.
She's feeling muzzy and slow from the pain medication, but she is still a good hostess to the marrow of her bones and she recovers quickly, turning to look back up at Minion in surprise. "Oh, of course! I remember you now: you're little Blue's friend! I am so sorry, I'm usually good with faces but the, ah, the gorilla suit, that's new, isn't it?" She pauses, then adds. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were…all there." There. That should do it.
Minion smiles uncertainly. "That I'm sentient? We tried to keep that a secret as long as possible, Ma'am. Don't apologize."
"Well, you did a marvelous job. But yes, please do stay." She lays a hand on Minion's arm and gives him a gentle smile, wondering if that will persuade him. "You can help fill in the gaps while Wayne here tells me what's been going on these past few months."
"You'll be better at it than me, that's for sure," Wayne chimes in with a weak grin. "I'm going to be an absolute wreck. Help. Please."
Sally glances at her son; that was surprisingly forward. Still, she nods and urges, "Have Christmas with us. There's a pull-out bed. Nobody should be alone tonight."
He falters. "W-well—I don't—"
"It wouldn't be Christmas without you," Wayne says, and Minion glances over, startled. The big ex-hero is looking at him with an odd expression on his handsome face, an unfamiliar smile playing around the corners of his mouth.
Slowly, Minion nods.