Jump to content
angrydurf

Sweater Weather

Recommended Posts

Ellis stared into the mirror comparing ties, which he rarely wore outside of work functions to start with, and let out a heavy sigh, "What am I doing?"  he mused under his breath as he quickly and methodically tied the hunter green silk in place.  He looked up at the sound of a muffled laugh behind him turning to fix a long suffering look on his younger sister, "Getting ready for your daaate."  she teased with a smile as she stepped forward and somewhat needlessly straightened the tie with his collar.

"It is not a date."  he countered perhaps too quickly, "She's a parent at the nicholson school and it may be a good match for the kids."  he pointed out not for hte first time since he'd broached the subject of the coffee, meeting, with his sister.  He looked down at her sternly, "That is all.  I don't have time for dating, nor,"  he cleared his throat, "Inclination."  he rushed a bit belying the little white lie.

"Sure sure of course not."  Grace replied with a smirk her tone thick with a younger siblings biting sarcasm, "Just two single adults taking time out of their day to meet one on one and consume beverages and possibly food."  she posited with an arched brow, "That sounds nothing like a date at all to me."  she added with a faux authoritative nod.

"Exactly."  Ellis confirmed with a smart no of his head, "Just two people meeting for coffee to discuss prospects for hte children."  he said almost more to himself than her.

Grace was unable to hold it together any longer and barked a sharp laugh as he ran the lint roller over his shirt clearly not for the first time this morning.  "What exactly do you think dating in your forties is Ellis?" she countered tilting her head to fix an incredulous look his direction, "You look nice."  she complemented tapping his shoulders and let out a small sigh, "You're allowed, no you deserve, to be happy."  she said quietly, "Even if you are absurd."  she added with a smirk, "Barbara would want you to be happy."  grace whispered barely audible drawing a stern look from her brother.

"I am not having this conversation."  he said sternly, "No it is hackneyed narrative right out of a lifetime movie and I won't have it." he said firmly though with a hint of a smile, "Thank you for watching the kids."  he said finally as he headed for hte door shutting the heavy oak front door to the sing song, "Have fun on your daaaate."

***

Elis arrived a bit early, perhaps intentionally though he'd blame light traffic over the bridge certainly.  He kept a brisk pace as he walked first past the agreed upon coffee shop, the cheekily named Neutral Grounds, glancing in the windows to see if Stesha had already arrived before turning and with a deep breath entering the shop and ordering an oversize black coffee and taking it to a table with an indirect view of the door trying his hardest not to look like he was watching the door avidly and the handsome doctor earning his fair share of whispers from the barristas over who he might be waiting for.  A slow tuesday morning perhaps not the best choice if one strived for anonymity in a coffee shop one did not frequent, live and learn.

Share this post


Link to post

The appointed hour came and went, then another minute, then five more. They were very long minutes. Suddenly the bell on the door jingled and Stesha rushed in, looking slightly windblown and flustered, a couple of the yellow flowers trying to escape the intricate loops of her green braids. She glanced around the shop and smiled in pleased relief when she saw him waiting. "Hi Ellis! I'm so sorry I'm late!" she told him as she hurried over. It was hard to tell if she'd agonized over her clothes the way he had, but she was looking very pretty in a hand-knit heather gray sweater and dark slacks that gave very little clue as to whether or not she considered it a "date" or a "meeting."

"I was on my way out the door on Sanctuary," Stesha explained, "I was going to be early and try and organize all the information I got from the school and everything, but then one of the cows exploded. Not like that," she hastily backtracked, "I don't even know what happened yet, Gabriel's out there trying to find out. But suddenly one of the cows was fifty feet tall and running all over the pasture making a huge mess, and we had to call out the dragon, so at least somebody was happy about it..." She shrugged and spread her hands. "It was kinda weird." Shaking her head, she gave him another smile. "So have you been here before? What's good?" 

Share this post


Link to post

Ellis stood as she approached the table and offered a gentle shake of his head, "Not to worry." he said relived enough she had shown that the somewhat agonizing minutes of uncertainty were banished from memory.  He sat slowly after she had and glanced to the menu with a shrug, "My first time though it's highly rated on yelp."  he offered with a small smile.  "The french roast is quiet good."  he offered with a nod to his still mostly full cup steaming on the table.  "There are a selection of breakfast pastries that look quite good, local bakery I believe."  he offered with a tilt of his head to inquire if she'd like anything in particular.

Her full explanation left him a bit stunned and he took a quick sip of his coffee to hopefully mostly cover the shock at the simplicity with which she explained the fantastic.  "Well."  he paused with a calming breath, "That certainly seems a reasonable delay then."  he offered easily.  "Don't worry over much about the materials."  he comforted her concerns, "I'm sure I'll be able to get those with the asking if desired."  and likely if not desired, the amount of paperwork distributed by schools for their assorted programs was astounding.   "I mostly wanted to talk to you."  he said with a smile then coughed lightly, "Ahh about your thoughts on the school."  he correct somewhat 'Smooth' He thought to himself and offered a wan smile, "The other parents at the party were obviously big fans."  he said flatly, "I was wondering your thoughts thoughts though you sounded less certain about sending Amaryllis."  he asked carefully. 

Share this post


Link to post

"Oh sure, I can do that," she assured him brightly. "And I do have all the stuff, it's just sort of in a big pile. Let me grab some coffee and we'll sit down and relax." Stesha headed to the counter and placed her order, then shared a few friendly words with the barista and looked like she might have signed an autograph as well. In a couple of minutes she was back with a caramel-scented latte and some kind of flaky pastry. "Whew," she said, sinking into her seat with a laugh. "Big morning. Okay, Nicholson." She steepled her fingers and gathered her thoughts. "You're right that I'm not sure if I'm going to send Ammy there, but it's not actually because of anything I've heard about the school. I've taken tours there and talked with the principal, and it seems very good. But I run a school district of sorts for almost two thousand children on Sanctuary, and I feel a little weird if I don't send my own daughter there, if you understand what I mean?" 

Share this post


Link to post

Ellis nodded and motioned for her to feel free watching her go and glancing out the window for a long moment as he waited for her to return.  When she seated herself once more he turned with a gentle smile and nodded, "Certainly sounds like."  he agreed with a good bit more aplomb with a few minutes of time to let the reality of how far off from his normal hers was.  Then again he'd spent half the night chasing a nightmare through the halls of the pediatric oncology wing.  Maybe not so different in scale, well, dragon, there really wasn't matching that, but otherwise.  He listened with active interest as she explained her own concerns mostly masking his shock at the numbers she'd listed for her, world?  

"I can understand that."  he agreed easily, "Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the curriculum."  he suggested thoughtfully.  He paused and looked somewhat side on as he began to inquire, "I don't mean to pry,"  he began, "But two thousand?"  he inquired carefully, "I hadn't thought, ah Sanctuary, so populus."  he suggested curiously wondering what the story there was.  He supposed in part he had expected Sanctuary to be mostly adults but really who wouldn't there be children he wasn't even entirely certain what sanctuary was when it came down to it.

Share this post


Link to post

"I didn't exactly plan it that way," Stesha admitted with a rueful laugh. "When I started working with Sanctuary, it was a blasted husk of an alternate Earth, destroyed by something back in the days when the horseless carriage was a big new thing. The landscape was so ruined and dead I thought nobody could possibly have survived, so I adopted it as sort of a sandbox while I was trying to learn my powers. Someplace safe to do big landscaping projects without worrying about anybody being hurt or getting annoyed that I terraformed their backyard. I put a little weekend home there, and a shelter in case I needed to teleport civilians out of danger in a pinch. Which happens more often than you might think!" she added, raising her coffee cup and having a sip. 

"Anyway, it turns out I was wrong about there not being people on Sanctuary. A group of survivors found my evacuation shelter and started living there because there were live plants and food and clean water. I absolutely wasn't going to throw them out, so I recruited some help and got a village going. A couple post-apocalyptic generations had been really unkind to their knowledge base, and everything else as well, but they were really eager to learn the skills to get a community up and running. Then my archnemesis got sent to prison, and asked me to take care of his giant bee colony. Super long story, but I brought them to Sanctuary as well, and got a friend to help me build them a colony. Then a couple years later one of the kids from Claremont asked me for help to evacuate her home before it got eaten by the Doom Coil. Terminus, you know? Incredibly bad news. I certainly couldn't say no, not when the alternative was letting them die, even though it was closer to ten thousand refugees instead of the thousand we'd been expecting. We doubled up and made do, and I got some friends to help me get the materials and people necessary to build two more villages and hugely expand the one we already had. Then on top of that we've got the support staff of teachers and doctors and farmers and such who are passing along their skills, the monks in the monastery, and a couple of other superheroes who base there, plus Ammy and I. As of last Tuesday morning, the population is 10,789 people, and somewhere around fifteen hundred bees, though I have stopped trying to keep count of them. But you met some of them at the party!" 

Share this post


Link to post

Ellis listened to the story with interest and nodded thoughtfully, "That is quite the,"  he paused searching for an appropriate word, "adventure?"  he asked then shrugged as he let it pass for hte time being.  He offered a warm smile, "I think then you may have less to worry about if you do put her in nicholson?"  he opined with care not wanting to be too invasive, "I mean It depends what Amaryllis wants i suppose but also what you see for her future."  he suggested evenly, "Think of it more as choosing between an Arts Academy and a prep school right?"  He considered earnestly, "If she's to be another resident of Sanctuary working the fields or what not then that education may best suit."  Ellis explained more fully but shrugged, "On the other hand it sounds as if she takes after her mother her life may be a good bit more exciting and an education in that may be more suitable?"  he asked looking to Stesha with a smile.

"I don't mean to tell you how to raise your daughter though just the thoughts of a fellow parent."  he clarified quickly realizing he'd expounded quite a bit on her small personal dilemma.  He glanced back around them uncertain how much the odd tales had attracted other patrons attention but it Was freedom after all.  "It's been on my mind much of late as well truth be told."  he offered with a small sigh.  "My late wifes, ah, legacy."  he explained quietly, "Is usually hereditary, or a family business kinda deal."  Ellis stated quietly fidgeting once more with the spot his ring would have rest had he still worn it.  "From what Phantom has explained at least it was with a great deal of training they did what needed doing." the doctor uncertainly revealed,

He took a deep breath and admitted finally, "And they haven't had it nor have I."  Elis looked down a hint of shame and sadness on his features, "We fought about it, I thought them too young and that we couldn't decide for them."  he shook his head with a wry laugh, "Now there isn't anyone left to teach them, or me."  he clasped his hands in a gesture of 'what you gonna do?' and looked back to her waving off any growing concerns, "So now I decide if they should without actual powers go to one of these schools and start to learn more or,"  He trialed off and shrugged not sure exactly what the alternative was he certainly couldn't just do this forever could he?

Share this post


Link to post

"That's a hard decision for any parent," Stesha agreed softly, sympathy warm in her blue eyes. "The supernatural can be a dangerous world. Dangerous to our kids, and it can make our kids dangerous. You couldn't have known what was going to happen, and you wanted to protect them while they were small. And you've obviously done a good job, you've got great kids. They seem pretty comfortable with what they've seen of metahumanity so far. Do you think they'd prefer to be at Nicholson, or at a more conventional school?" 

Share this post


Link to post

Ellis nodded with a small laugh, "And before I went babbling on about my problems that was the point I was trying to make to you."  he said apologetically, "Thank you."   he stated warmly as he thought on her question a bit more and sipped at his coffee, "They were raised in Freedom here so there has probably been enough exposure not to completely freak them out."  he opined and looked up from his cup to Stesha, "I think I'm the most disturbed by all of this in truth."  he admitted tiredly but smiled, "Though the company if quite pleasant once one becomes accustomed to the eccentricities of the lifestyle."

He pondered a moment more and shook his head, "I really don't know what they would prefer."  he answered honestly he clearly hadn't been the most frank with them about everything about their mother nor now himself, and the one conversation rather required the other.

 

Share this post


Link to post

"You're handling it very well too," Stesha pointed out with another small smile over the edge of her cup. "Getting powers and taking care of your family on your own in a weird new world, that can't have been easy to cope with. And yet here you are, just smiling and nodding at all my stories that sound so normal to me until the instant I say them aloud in a coffeeshop. Unless it's exploding cow day, I tend to forget how strange all of this is to people who aren't used to it. How long have you had the powers now?" 

Share this post


Link to post

"Thank you."  Ellis replied with a smile of his own, "It does not feel that way at all."  He replied self deprecatingly and shrugged a small careless motion relaxed and genuine.  "I'll be the first to admit that it is startling but really I think it a matter of scale."  he smirked, "not that this is what I ever expected of my life but there you are right?"  he noted casually.

Laying his hands on the table he looked down, "I know objectively that it is just another skill set, another normal."  he explained easily, "I work with people everyday who routinely hold peoples hearts in their hand, sometimes literally."  He joked and peeked up at Stesha to make sure the medical humor wasn't heading to gallows as it often did when doctors gathered.  "Giant cows, dragons, and other world refugee schools."  he rolled his shoulders turning up his palm, "Who am I to say that is less normal just because its normal for fewer people."

Run out of evading the question he looked down at his cup eyes somewhat unfocused as if not looking at something in the present, "A little over a year."  he said with just a hint of sadness, "But I didn't really start working with them till around three months ago though."  he glazed over the impetus of realizing nightmares running unchecked were worse news than anticipated.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post

"I'm sorry," Stesha murmured. She'd only gotten the bare bones of Ellis' background from Taylor, but it was enough to evoke her greatest sympathy. "The learning curve with powers can be very steep. I moved to Freedom City almost as soon as I got mine, thinking I was ready to be a superhero, and boy, I was wrong about that. But I learned. Being around other heroes helped a lot. I still have plenty of unpowered friends, but there's just something about the company of people who understand what it's like to have this gift and this duty... it makes it less lonely. I think that may be the biggest reason so many heroes come to Freedom City, not for the action, but so they don't feel alone." 

Share this post


Link to post

Ellis shook his head, "don't be."  he assured her as he looked up eyes still with a hint of sadness but his features well controlled now.  It was an old scar that may never heal but it was already fading.  "Yes I expect that would be so."  he agreed easily, "Lessons with Phantom may be cold comfort but are comfort."  he said with a small laugh and looked to Stesha, "And I think you are definitely right the load is lighter with others to share in at least the knowledge if not the efforts."  he considered thoughtfully and smiled to her once more.  "It is comforting to not feel alone even if one is." he considered and smiled lightly, "I think that is why so many have such trouble not sharing the secret."  Ellis pondered thinking of course of his own wife's revelation to him but knowing as well many heroes shared their exploits rather further than prudence would suggest.

Share this post


Link to post

"I know there are some non-powered kids who go to Nicholson, and even Claremont Academy, the high school," Stesha offered. "Your guys wouldn't be the only ones if you decided to send them there. And it might give them some grounding for when they do come into their powers. But on the other hand, at a regular school they'd have peers who are more like they are now, not like how they someday might be. It's a tough call. Maybe you could ask them how they feel about the idea of going to super school without powers?" 

She cut a bite of pastry with the edge of her fork. "Sometimes I think it's just easier that Ammy's powers manifested so early. There's never any wondering about whether she'll be powered, whether she'll take after me or... or her father. I know for certain that as she gets older, she'll need training in some things. Of course, early manifestation tends to correlate with strong powers, so she'll probably still be a terror when she's older," she admitted, laughing a little. 

Share this post


Link to post

"Yea I think in some ways that would be easier."  Ellis agreed, "I mean at least if you're prepared for it."  he added as it was likely pretty rough on normal parents with toddlers flying out of cribs or bursting into flame or what not he frowned slightly at the thought.  "I probably should talk to them about it but I mean they're kids."  he rolls his eyes, "Most people are barely ready to decide what they want to be when they grow up when they are grown up."  he said with a laugh and shook his head.  Pausing thoughtfully Ellis added with a chagrined shrug, "then again I decided to become a doctor at ten."  he laughed lightly, "So perhaps I am being over dramatic about it."

"I should probably talk to them about it."  He acknowledged, "I mean Jenny is gonna figure it out soon if she hasn't already."  he said indicating himself, "And it's not like the school is going to be bad if they don't go forward to become the next Dread Pirate Roberts."  he joked lightly and winced a bit, "I was so caught up in not deciding for them that I kinda was I guess."  he admitted with a shrug.  As for who if not his kids that was a problem for another day.  Hopefully one long away.

Share this post


Link to post

"And it's not as though they need to decide whether they want to be superheroes right now," Stesha pointed out. "Nicholson isn't going to make them sign a contract that they'll suit up and become heroes when they're of age. Right now the big decision for them is going to be more along the lines of what kind of social life they want to have, and whether they want to cope with the issues of hiding your secret identity from their school friends. They could want to go to hero school where everything's a little more exciting and more out there, or they could easily prefer to go to a mainstream school where they can be normal kids. Both options have good and bad points. Have you toured the school yet?" 

Share this post


Link to post

"True enough."  Ellis mused quietly, "Barbara, my late wife, started her training around Gabes age."  he explained to further elucidate where he was coming from, "Her family has some kind of hereditary duty I guess."  he was a bit light on details himself having pieced bits together from diaries, rare conversations, and Phantoms knowledge.  "But the kids weren't ready, and there wasn't anyone else."  he said somberly and frowned slightly, "I'm sorry I don't mean to lay this all on you now."  he apologized genuinely and took a deep breath before moving on.

"Long story short they only get powers at all if I hand them off."  he explained with a shrug, "So there is that at least."  he smiled slightly, "I haven't done a tour, really I was just feeling things out after Taylor and Erik and Richard all were so enthused."  he explained carefully edging away from discussion of the fringe benefit of talking to seemingly the most grounded of the heroes he'd met.

Share this post


Link to post

"Don't be sorry," Stesha encouraged, reaching her hand across the table to touch the back of his hand lightly. "Sometimes it helps just to have somebody to talk to, especially when it comes to making decisions about your children. I think maybe that's the hardest part of not having a partner anymore, you have to make all the decisions. And I think it was very brave of you to step in and take on that legacy instead of letting your kids shoulder it. When they're older, they'll understand and appreciate what you did for them, whether or not they ever become heroes themselves." 

Share this post


Link to post

Ellis twitched uncertainly at the touch but seemed relaxed by the contact and looked across the table with a gentle smile, "Thank you."  he said earnestly, "That is certainly true."  he agreed happily, "Just someone who knows the weight of those decisions you know."  he shrugged with a shake of his head, "Grace, my sister, tries but she still compares her husband and cats to having children."  he rolled his eyes at that knowing full well he'd been as bad before Jenny came along.  "It does help to have someone to talk to and someone so understanding."  he admitted quietly and turned his hand up to meet hers palm to palm, "I'm glad you agreed to meet." he offered honest words with only slight nervous hesitation, "I think the others Taylor introduced me to there and around are very nice people."  he said diplomatically, "But I feel for some reason like you're the only one who remembers how odd this is to step into."  he shrugged, "Or at least you look at me like less of a mad man for beign shocked."  he quipped with alight laugh as he withdrew his hand and lifted his cup for a long drink perhaps to hind some embarrassment at the admission.

Share this post


Link to post

"I tried to keep a foot in each world for a long time," Stesha admitted with a soft chuckle. "It wasn't until I had to go full-time on Sanctuary that I totally gave up my civilian job and my apartment. And it wasn't until my divorce got splashed all over the tabloids that I gave up my privacy. Most heroes do a lot better at balancing their normal lives and heroic lives. But it's still easy to forget how bizarre and downright frightening it can all be at first. Whether they go to the school or not, your kids will grow up knowing more about the metahuman world than most people ever do. That'll probably be good for them in the long run, even if it means occasional nightmares from understanding more than most kids their age. Children are so resilient, it's amazing what they can absorb and bounce back from that would break an adult." She took a drink as well, watching Ellis with calm blue eyes.  

Share this post


Link to post

Ellis smiled along with her story sparing a sympathetic sigh at the tabloid divorce though eh allowed her to move on unhindered it seemed a poor choice of conversation for a date, erm not a date, either way.  "Oh I imagine it is."  he agreed, "And I haven't so grand a hidden life."  he explained humbly, "Though that is one area my children don't have to worry much about at least."  he offered with a mischevious smile, "I figure its the least I can do with what these powers have cost them that they should reap some of the benefits at least."  he stared into his cup for along moment before meeting her gaze again, "You are right though they should at least know and then we can figure out if they want more or less of all that in their lives."  he added with a laugh, "I suspect more given their fascination with everyone at the party." 

Share this post


Link to post

"Heroes are cool, especially in Freedom City," Stesha agreed with a grin. "And it's nice if you can expose them to the good parts of heroing, and not just nights when you have to be away, or times when they understand you might be in danger. It's good to know that there are upsides, especially if it's a choice they'll be making one day. They'll see a lot of hero work just by living in Freedom City, most likely. It was a huge change for me when I moved here from Chicago, there are only a handful of superheroes living there. I guess you didn't grow up in Freedom City either?" 

Share this post


Link to post

Ellis smiled an almost shy smile that lightly dimpled his cheeks, "Well I certainly think the ones I've met so far are pretty cool."  he acknowledged and looked away schooling his features for a moment as he shook his head, "No actually i'm a native born and raised."  he offered with a shrug, "It seems like there's one on every street corner but other than a couple doctorate in a week wiz kids never met one in person till."  he waved to indicate her and the others at the party though technically Phantom preceded them.  He blushed slightly, "Well other than Barbara of course."  he added swiftly though clearly even with everything he still thought of her first and foremost as wife and mother not super hero.  

He paused for a moment after the, for him, awkward juxtaposition and cleared his throat lightly, "I was grew up in Hanover, other than a few vacations never really been outside the greater Freedom area."  he offered with a shrug.  Ellis looked around the shop for a moment almost nervously and glanced back to Stesha, "Well and one trip to a truly lovely alternate world."  he added with a smile before finishing off his coffee.  He met her eyes once more and earnestly stated, "Thank you for meeting me it has been, incredible to talk to someone without..."  he couldn't really put in words the weight off his shoulders of not having to hide the powers end of things or the awkward comforts of semi strangers over his loss, "Everything."  he said finally and steeled himself, "Would you be interested in maybe grabbing lunch sometime?"  he asked and frowned not sure if that was too casual, "Or dinner?"  he added then walked it back, "Breakfast, a meal." he winced slightly and sighed, "I'm really out of practice."  he admitted, "But this is the best conversation I've had in a long time and I'd like another some time."  he finally laid out with a wince as he realized he hadn't even confirmed she was single though he knew about her ex-husbands departure vaguely.

Share this post


Link to post

Stesha looked a little bit nervous as Ellis began to ask his question, but began to smile as he fumbled the words, his discomfiture seeming to relax her. "It's okay," she assured him. "I'm pretty rusty too. I'd love to go out with you sometime, to any meal. It's just... I was only married for three years," she began, her smile slipping away as she wrapped her hands around her cup. "And most of the time they weren't very good years, but I loved him. I... it's not like I'm waiting for him to come back, or that I would ever be with him again if he did, but I have a lot of feelings I'm still working through from that time. I don't know what exactly I'll be ready for, or when. But I've really enjoyed talking with you, and I'd like to see more of you." She studied his face, looking more uncertain than he'd seen her so far. 

Share this post


Link to post

Ellis reached out gingerly to take her hand if she didn't withdraw, "Stesha."  he said firmly more decisive in this than his fumbling attempt at asking her out, "I understand."  he said and let that hang in the air for a long moment, "I am not trying to replace anyone nor find a replacement."  he sighed slightly, "Regardless of my sisters eternally unhelpful advice."  he grumbled with a slight dimpled smile at the levity, "I look forward to getting to know you better and more pleasant conversations."  he said finally with a bit more certainty then bit his lip consideringly, "Sooo,"  he drug out, "Is lunch next or are we on to dinner?"  he asked with a gentle smile, "Because I really have no idea what the norm is and refuse to ask my sister or the girls at the hospital." His smile was delicate at the last and his eyes hopeful that he'd eased her mind and perhaps lifted her spirits a bit.

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...