A/N: My first Nudge-centric piece. A warning on language and light racial-teasing here, as the conversations are based on ones with my friends and family (and we weren't all that mature of people at that age, anyway). It's called 'tough love'.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the T-shirt.
The sun burns a curtain of red through my eyelids.
I don't want to get up. Its the middle of the week. Isn't there a rule about sleeping in on the middle days?
Max's heavy, enthusiastic footsteps and rapid knocks from door-to-door are loud on this floor. I sluggishly pull the pillow over my face. Maybe I can asphyxiate myself into unconsciousness before she gets to my door.
Held my breath, and counted backwards from forty-nine.
Forty-eight. Forty-seven. Forty-six.
Seven airsacks and a pair of lungs. Might take a while.
...Thirty-five, thirty-four -
BOOM BOOM BOOM. "Nudge, up and at 'em!" Max calls before I can finish, but doesn't come in. "Better be up when I come back!"
Oh, thank God.
I exhale and roll over to the other side, long limbs tangled in the feather-strewn blankets amid "important" projects I hadn't completed and was too lazy to put on the desk: AAA batteries, a modulator, the half-built circuit board of a PA system using BJTs, a screwdriver, a pen-light, two beanie-babies, some slightly-torn copies of Guns&Ammo and MotorTrend magazines, and what I'm sure are probably Gazzy's pliers digging into my ribs while I sleep on top of them.
To say nothing of the mess on the floor.
Thought about holding my breath again. I'd stayed up all night for that stupid circuit. Surely, I deserve a few more hours to wake up?
I bolt upright and send the magazines (and half my precious junk) to the floor. All I can do is groan again.
Stand up on the bed. Hop onto a space on the floor. Pick up an undershirt and a shirt that doesn't smell too much like oil and B.O. on the way to the bathroom without stepping on a stray screw, in what used to be Fang's basketball shorts. They're a little too long for me, and I'm not wearing a top, but I don't care - we've all seen each other's birthday suits before, at some time or another.
Besides, he and Iggy do it. Why can't I?
Pull the shirts over my head and reach for the toothbrush like a zombie. The six-foot-one, wild-headed woman staring back at me has dark circles under her eyes, ashing black skin, and thick hair that defies gravity itself, sticking off in every direction like an anime-character. Her eyes are grimy and bloodshot.
Her shirt says "I bring NOTHING to the table".
I stare at it and conclude that it must be Iggy's.
Somehow, I make it through brushing my teeth without face-planting into the sink; use my fingers and half of a broken brush to attempt to fight my hair into a less-horrifying style; use the toilet, wash my hands, and plod barefoot down the stairs, picking the down from my ruffled wings.
What's for breakfast? Anything that ain't expired. Iggy's got three pans going at once, and Max and Angel are already at the table, getting Angel's hair done. Max's own hair is back in a thick, neglected dark braid that hangs between her wings, and the scissors are on the table, so I know its chopping day. I can hear Fang and Gazzy arguing over the state of the Xbox controllers in the living room. "Well, look who's finally up."
Yawning, I shuffle into place, get the milk and lay out the plates as Iggy comes around. "We got pancakes, eggs, and sausages," he calls, dishing out the goods. The sun catches his hair, like fire. "Get it while its hot!"
Gasman sticks his head around the door. "Hey Igs, do you have any batteries?"
"Why, 's the controller dead?"
"Yeah, think so. We can't find any spares."
"Check the garage."
I squint through puffy, crusty, watering eyes as I yawn again. "There should be some in the drawer out there, but make sure you mark down how many you took, so I can go and get some more."
"We'll pay you back, Nudge," Fang promises from the living room. Gazzy grins at me and bolts to the door. "Thanks, Nudge!"
"Whoa, hey, get back in here and eat breakfast!" Max snaps. "Fang, you too! Pause the game and sit down. You know better!"
Max pulls out a chair. "SIT."
Gazzy sits. Fang shuffles in. He and Max exchange a long look, before he quietly, and stiffly, takes his place at the table. "Yes, MOM."
Angel stifles a giggle in her milk. Max glares. I roll my eyes.
Everyone holds out their right fist, slams the table once for luck, and tucks in.
As you may already well know, breakfast at our place is a battlefield - you take what you can get. Subconsciously, I'm piling on toast and sausage and pancakes and drowning it all in syrup before anyone else can stake claim without any effort, and bulldozing my way through it like a machine. My brain fizzles with a faint spark of life (clearly, thanks to Iggy's cooking), but it's not enough to start me up. Not yet.
Angel munches through her toast. "You're quiet this morning, Nudge."
Iggy shakes his head. "Thanks for jinxing it, Ange."
Max sighs between speed-of-sound mouthfuls. "You stayed up again? What is it this time?"
I shrug. "Amplifier circuit. Found a computer last week. Speakers sucked. Making external ones." Can't answer in full sentences yet.
Iggy shakes his head and tsks sadly. "Black kids and their bass-addiction. When will they learn?"
My flat retort, racist prodding aside: "Prolly when their computer-speakers don't sound like balls, Iggy. Or gingers."
Angel tilts her head, puzzled. "Balls? What do balls sound like? Like basketballs?"
Fang snorts into his drink. Gazzy just throws his head back and cackles.
And to be honest, even my lip quirks at that. And I'm a little more awake now.
"GUYS," Max warns, giving us all an incredulous warning-stare. Her wings flare with irritation. "TONE IT DOWN. Nudge, what's the rule on language when Angel's around?"
I sigh. "Sorry."
Iggy scoots his eggs around on his plate. "Yeah, my bad."
Unexpectedly, Gazzy puts down his fork, folds his hands in his lap, and looks down at them. "I'm sorry too," he says, after a moment of reflection.
Max is taken aback. "For what, sweetie? You didn't do anything?"
"No," he admits, with a failing straight face, "but I was thinking about what sounds balls made. And I think Angel heard me."
Max whirls to look at Angel, who's face is lit up with purely innocent enthusiasm, as though she'd finally figured it out. "Your speakers sounded like tennis balls, Nudge? But they just go, thwock, thwock when they're hit!"
...And it didn't matter that I'd spent the better part of over twenty-four hours awake, and not enough asleep. It suddenly didn't matter if I were a zombie coming to breakfast. It didn't matter that our family was a mess, wearing each other's clothes, cranky, and being jerks to each other.
That morning, we all, Max included, just about died at the table.
And what better way, to start your day?