A/N: Next couple of days will be incomplete posts set in my Ode To 11010201 series. Most of these were written back when the series was suuuper thinly veiled Teen Wolf fanfiction. Like the characters are so recognizable even though I’ve changed their names and swapped some roles around.
original here. dated 2012-11-09.
She doesn’t realize several hours have passed until Zim’s father, the stranger that is her brother-in-law, returns home. It’s late, almost one in the morning. He doesn’t notice she’s there immediately–the house is mostly dark except for the muted glow of a single lamp and the television screen. She gasps, jolted out of her doze at the sound of the door shutting. That alerts him to her presence. She’s frozen in indecisive surprise, staring. He stares back, but moves quickly, flicking the light switch on. She flinches away, blinded, but stays seated. She doesn’t have much choice.
Zim is asleep, lanky limbs stretched out over both the couch and her; his calves resting in her lap as they share a blanket. They had relocated to the living room a while ago, using movies as a preemptive buffer, but the volume had been turned low not long after. Though they had kept to light topics–likes and dislikes, silly hypothetical questions, hilarious high school anecdotes–there was a connection, thriving and earnest, made. Both were eager to share and listen, conversation overlapping out of excitement, laughter cheerfully mutual, silences brief and comfortable. That is not the case now.
Blinking the spots away, her vision clears in time to show her a wary middle-aged man, jacket over what looks like pajamas? No, scrubs. He has a baseball bat in hand, cautiously at the ready. She inhales shakily, swallows the sudden lump in her throat. He seems calm, having come around the sofa and spotting the unharmed state of his son, but still–she can imagine the damage even one swing could do.
“Who are you and what are you doing in my house?” His voice is determined and authoritative but it’s… off. This is the first time they’re speaking, but it seems as if something is lacking. He’s tired. Physically, obviously, considering the late hour. She would even tentatively guess emotionally, too, from his posture and his face. And his actions, because she’s pretty sure it’s not standard procedure to draw a weapon on someone even if they are a stranger in your home. That speaks of paranoia, extremely prepared paranoia.
Zim stirs, humming and twitching, before she can answer. He’s amazingly nonchalant considering the situation, rubbing at his eyes and sluggishly moving to a more vertical position. He ends up going too far that he’s leaning against her, pressed shoulder to shoulder. It’s notably trusting. It convinces his father to put the bat away, hidden in the umbrella stand by the door. All the while he’s murmuring, “Hey, Dad. This is Mom’s sister R, she got my letter and came earlier today to visit. We stayed in. Had sandwiches for lunch and pizza for dinner, she likes pineapple, mushroom, and black olives, too; see, it’s not weird. I forgot to wash the SUV, but I finished laundry before she arrived so I did pretty well, I think.”
The look her brother-in-law gives Zim is simultaneously relieved and exasperated. The look he gives her is strikingly blank.
“Sorry,” she blurts out reflexively, “sorry, this was completely out of the blue. I can go, it’s late, you must be exhausted; sorry,” She nudges Zim a little, he grumbles but sits up on his own, before standing. Brushing imaginary dust and not-quite-imaginary crumbs off of herself so her hands have something to do. She should probably apologize for that as well.
“No, that’s not what I meant,” Zim’s father–ugh, she’s terrible, she really should know what her brother-in-law’s first name is–holds a hand out to stop her exit. She freezes because, she’s not sure if he knows it, but that was the hand the baseball bat was in. Also, she’s sleepy enough that she doesn’t actually want to go outside. “I meant, yeah, I’m exhausted. But you don’t have to go. Like you said, it’s late, and I wouldn’t feel to good about you driving back to the inn now.”
“Oh, no, I walked,” If she were more aware, she’d probably slap herself on the forehead. Then again, if she were more aware she probably wouldn’t have said; that really was not the point she was meant to pick up on.
“In that case, you have to stay tonight!” Zim hops to his feet, somehow both sleepy and enthusiastic, “We’ve got a guest bedroom upstairs; well, we use it more as a storage room office sort of thing, but there’s a bed and I’ve just changed the sheets. I can lend you some clothes to sleep in, too.”
His father looks less keen on her presence; there’s no outright protesting, but she can tell. Zim’s tugging gently at the cuff of her cardigan, though, intent to guide her to the guest room; but… “Is this okay?” She’s turned toward him still, hasn’t looked away. She wonders what kind of expressions are dancing across Zim’s face at this halting, hesitating exchange.
“… Yeah,” It’s a conflicted permission; he doesn’t trust her, but he really wants to sleep, “We’ll have breakfast, late breakfast, in the morning. Later in the morning.” It is not a request.
“I’ll make waffles,” They’re making their way upstairs now, Zim guiding her to the guest bedroom–third door on the right of the hallway.
“If you don’t mind me using them, I can make cinnamon apple topping,” She offers, because her culinary skill set is limited to eggs, apples, and experiments often ending in disaster.
“That sounds awesome,” he flashes an easy grin then turns to his father, “Dad, you go ahead and sleep. I’ve got it, we’ll see you in the morning. Proper morning, when the sun’s up, even.”
“If you’re sure,” He hedges, but already heads toward the opposite end of the hallway, presumably where the master bedroom is. “G’night.” His door shuts with a soft click.
Their own sleepiness returns with a vengeance. After Zim grabs her some clothes–they’re comfortable but slightly too large, unsurprising, considering he’s is half a foot taller than her–they both settle down to sleep. Her temporary room is filled with boxes. She’s curious but decides not to snoop around; partially out of manners, partially out of exhaustion.
Maybe in the morning.
She’s already made a start on making breakfast, because she’s still sort of on east coast time but also her nerves have come back with a vengeance, leaving her with far too much energy to not want to do something productive. As it is, she’s been peeling and chopping some of the apples; there’s a huge bowl full of them but she’s only using six. It’s soothing, giving her hands something to do while her brain decompresses.
She didn’t actually snoop through the boxes in her temporary bedroom, but she explored the first floor of the house. From what she’s seen, it’s nice. There are hardly any doors, it’s all open archways that connect living room and kitchen and dining room into one giant space. She spotted a few things she could see that spoke of Iris, but not as many as she was expecting. It’s probably because there are two men in this house, she figures, a stark contrast to the five woman household of their adolescence.
It makes her wonder what to tell Mama, Daphne, and Zoe. If she should even say anything at all. A part of her feels guilty, since she put such a big emphasis on family yesterday. But then again, Zim was the one that wrote specifically to her, so it would be best to let him go at his own pace. Also, it makes her feel vindicated, in a sense. Smug, almost. That she’s the one he reached out to first.
(during breakfast, introductions)
“… Mr. Szymanski?”
“John. You’re Iris’ sister, you should call me John,” He offers his hand, “Is it–”
“Just call me R,” she interrupts. For the best, really.
Oh. That. That explains a lot. And yet. It hits her out of nowhere. She can’t. She hadn’t been expecting this. Something else. Iris is dead.
“Oh my god. I thought she-” Iris is dead. Her face is getting warm, at the top of her cheeks and around her eyes. She wants to cry. She want to hide her face. She wants muffle any sound that might come out of her mouth. She does not do the first but, ducking her head down and biting her knuckles, she does the other two.