The Hidden General

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by The Mood is Write, Mar 10, 2015.

  1. It's January 2015, and it's been nearly ten years since Biocybera's short-lived "empire" fell. The children from her army have been returned to their families, put in foster homes, or fled into the less-civilized parts of Scandinavia.

    This roleplay follows the story of one of the Generals from Biocybera's army as he deals with keeping his identity a secret, his PTSD and depression, and trying to cope enough to figure out what he's going to do with his freedom-- not at he'd wanted it like this, anyway.

  2. [​IMG]
    Sharon Leanne Falk

    appearance (open)

    Small, thin and unassuming, Sharon could, perhaps, seem fragile and insubstantial, even delicate, but there is a stubborn presence to her pixie cut and crooked smile that belies appearances. Standing, she is about 5’3”, an extra half inch might exist or might just be her stubborn imagination but we will add it on anyways. Sitting, she is, of course, decidedly shorter; unfortunately, she tends to be sitting fairly often. She makes a very demure picture in her wheelchair, with her hands in her lap, surrounded by tall family members, until one realises there is a mischievous slant to the way she is looking up at them expectantly, just waiting for them to catch up with her humour.

    Her hair, cut short as it is, is relatively thick and so dark a brown as to look black in most light, although grey is starting to show. She keeps it short for the ease of caring for it, but has grown used to the look in the mirror and the feel of it and finds herself worrying at it if it gets longer than two inches. Her eyebrows are thin, straight lines over wide brown eyes. Her face would be round, but due to lack of appetite has thinned into sharper angles and high cheekbones, but the lines of care around her mouth are easily offset by the crow’s feet edging the corners of her eyes. Her lips have a habit of quirking up on one side or the other in quiet expression of her thoughts without much conscious encouragement.
    Sharon prefers to look put together even when she does not have company over, because her family is not any less worth the effort than friends or acquaintances, and generally wears a long skirt or dress slacks and a blouse, or a simple dress. Although she will often give in to the temptation of wearing thick wool sweaters and hard soled slippers if it is cold. She rather likes being cozy.

    Her voice is a breathless mix of crackling overuse and smooth, low assurances when she finds just the right balance between breath and words. She rarely raises it above a normal speaking volume, and is often quieter than she really needs to be. It will catch on emotion if she talks too fast or sharply, but otherwise simply fades if she runs out of breath before her sentence is through. With the belief that clear, precise language is key to proper communication, Sharon speaks with careful diction and never uses contractions.

    Personality (open)

    Sharon is a woman with a smile for every occasion. They are not always happy smiles, but they promise that she cares and that she always will. She has learned that a little bit of understanding and support is far better than a lot of fragile treatment and overwrought sympathy. So, she is empathetic rather than sympathetic, always willing to listen, and comfort, and soothe, but she will not bend the truth about, and she does not sugar coat things to make people feel better. She might soften the truth a little, depending on what it is and to whom she is speaking, but she will not pretend things are better or different than they really are. Of course, she might not share the same perspective as someone else, but that is just the way life works.

    She is a practical woman. Down to earth, and accepting of her limits, but she does chafe at them from time to time. She tries not to let it show, but too much fussing will make her retire from company far faster than matter of fact help. Her greatest annoyance is anyone telling her to breathe. What do they think she is trying to do? She has a few regrets yet to be laid to rest. Nevertheless, living is not done by dwelling, so she tries to spend as little time as she can thinking about things she cannot change. She does not always succeed, but she has found a way to think through, rather than wonder ‘if’. She does not like wasting time thinking about could bes and maybes and should haves. But she can spend hours brooding over anything that puzzles or worries her.

    Still, she endeavours to live in the moment, because it is the moment that you miss if you do not, and she has missed so much already of her boy’s life. It is not that she refuses to think about the future and plan ahead or does not like remembering the past; it is merely that the present has become more important to her, and she makes every attempt to save reminiscing or planning for times spent alone, so that she does not miss anything else. It has made her a little bit more the observer than she would like, but it also helps remind her to take it easy and enjoy every breath.

    By nature, Sharon is a quiet person. She is never loud or argumentative or rude (unless extremely pressed to express herself). She does not force her opinions on others or jump about demanding attention. She is not, however, a very reserved person. She is not afraid to speak her mind or to get angry. She does not worry that maybe nobody is interested in what she has to say or that she might embarrass herself. She is not above manners, of course, and tries always to be polite. But if she needs something, she will let you know. If she wants something, she will say so. If she is angry, she will not hide it. If she is happy or proud or amused or upset, you will know. She generally tries not to make a big deal out of anything, but sometimes, a big deal is necessary.

    She respects everyone she meets at first, and tries to remain understanding for as long as she can. She always appreciates it when this is reciprocated. She holds family in high esteem, but knows that sometimes that is the most she can do. However, she does not think that anyone should be without a family of one sort or another. She will not pressure anyone too much into reconciling if there is a good reason, but she will invite them to stop by for dinner far more often. Sharon has her own little quirks and bits of advice to pass on to the younger generation that range from how to remember your manners to how to cry when the tears will not come on their own. She believes that sharing knowledge, and always being open to learning something new, is the way you leave your mark on those around you. She may have been influenced by her mother, and her job, or perhaps she was the influence on them, but she has certainly retained her schoolroom manner, even so long after leaving her job. Sharon particularly enjoys the chance to get up in front of a class and teach these days, now that it is a rarer opportunity.

    Isaac Falk - husband
    Daniel Falk - son

    Outside (open)


    Floor plans (open)

    #2 Nemaisare, Mar 10, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2015
  3. “I hope any of you listening in your cars are staying warm and out of the wind today. It’s looking full of bluster out the studio window. Coming up is a request from one of our listeners. Music from the old days before instruments were added. Plainsong is so much less frenetic than the classics we’re accustomed to probably because it is exactly that, plain song, and this is a beautiful piece. Here is O Quando in Cruce. A Benevento chant from the 7th or 8th century, replicated today by Ensemble Organum….”

    Sharon had paused the vacuum when she heard the music stop, she had meant to listen to the name so she could write it down and look it up later, unfortunately, the host quickly moved on to the weather, distracting her with a glance out the window to confirm what they were saying. She was not sure why, they did not broadcast from a nearby station, and she knew that well enough. Still, her first instinct whenever anyone mentioned the weather was to look outside for herself. What she saw was suitably winterlike, and she sighed. At once glad she had told Isaac to delay his drive home until tomorrow, when the forecast was infinitely improved, and worried that it might make a poor impression on Sidney. It was not the most inauspicious start when one foster parent couldn’t even be there to welcome him into their home. Hopefully, he would understand.

    Now, as male voices echoed in elongated notes through Latin phrases she could not translate, she started the vacuum up again, its close hum turning the radio into background noise, and continued her cleaning. Behind her, the window showed blinding sun off white snow, drifting flakes and trees getting blown about now and again. It was the sun she was worried about. It had melted things yesterday, made the roads icy. She was, admittedly, easy to worry, but it seemed prudent, if he didn’t have to come today, to let him come tomorrow, when it might be a little safer on the roads. And with more traffic to notice if he needed help.

    It was that same sensible concern that had seen her cancel her piano class today to give her more time to clean. She did it slowly enough as it was. Why she was cleaning when the boy coming to stay was a teenager and probably used to mess was anyone’s guess. But she preferred to show what she considered was the proper attitude towards guests. A clean house, even if it might not stay that way for long, was worth the effort for anyone she cared enough to have inside. And effort it was, indeed. Sharon was lightheaded by the time she had finished the floor, and needed to sit down for a breather before putting everything away. Checking the time, she wiped the table while she regained her breath, frowning at scratches in the varnish, and considered what she was wearing. Sidney did not seem to hold to very high standards when it came to clothes, and she did not want to make this final coming together of all the pieces any more uncomfortable than it was bound to be by dressing overly well.

    It was an occasion, but it was no night out on the town. Her light blue dress, a heavy sweater and slippers would likely do just fine.

    When she had her breath back, and had put the vacuum away in its closet with the rest of the cleaning supplies, she had a half hour left before school was let out for the day. The weekend actually. They had all decided that moving Sidney in over the weekend would be better than during the week for numerous reasons, not least of which was to avoid distractions. She hoped his boss at the diner had been amenable to losing his, or her, busboy for the evening, she did not know if their plans had cut into his schedule in anyway, the boy had not mentioned any conflicts when they had mentioned it.

    Sharon filled the kettle in case any tea was wanted when Sidney and Kiera, the care worker, arrived, and checked on the meat she had almost forgotten to take out of the freezer. It was still frozen in the middle, so she stuck it in the fridge and decided that pasta would do. Her meal plans were never set in stone for this very reason, she was absolutely horrible about remember to get meat from the freezer, or to buy that one specific, and all-important ingredient when she went to the store. Sticky notes were only useful when you thought to read them, unfortunately.

    With cleaning done, the hard wood floor was thankfully easy to maintain on both floors, and everything else she could think of prepared: she had vacuumed, cleaned bathrooms, dusted, washed sheets and remade the bed in what would be Sidney’s room, printed out a map from their house to the school just in case… She turned off the radio and began heating the kettle to wait through the minutes until they rang the doorbell in silence, hands wrapped around an empty mug, wondering anew at her nervousness. She was not new to parenting. Not even new to fostering. She knew the routine. Knew this did not have to be permanent if it did not work out, though she hoped it did. She knew there were people willing to help and offer advice if she needed it. She even knew that she had liked Sidney, the few times they had met before now. He seemed, on the outside at least, to be very put together.

    Maybe that was what worried her. That she was about to find out he was not quite as calm and collected as he seemed. Well, really, there was only one way to find out, was there not? For a moment, her expression lightened from its worried frown as her lips twitched into a half-smile, and Sharon shook her head at herself, reaching for the newspaper crossword for a distraction. Five more minutes before they would be arriving at any time.
  4. Sid adjusted his grip on his twin backpacks as he rode in the passenger's seat of his worker's minivan. The heater clanked sporadically, and the hot air burned at his bare arms after being outside in the snowy cold not long before, waiting for Kiera to pick him up. His other home, with Mr. and Mrs. Wernberg, had decided as a group that he wasn't a match for them. Their three kids were suspicious of him, and the oldest framed him repeatedly for food theft in the house. The youngest always tried to bully him. The middle child avoided him, but said nothing of why. The telltale scars on her neck were enough-- once upon a time, her comrades were burned. Once upon a time before that, she was taken from her family. Unce upon a time, Sid had forced her to fight.

    Sidney felt grateful she didn't tell anyone his identity, though anyone who paid attention might have noticed he lacked the usual scars on his neck.

    Absently, he touched the faux leather collar that hid his unscarred flesh. Others from BC Corp used similar methods, so he went unnoticed as an outlier-- as someone who should have been found burnt in the rubble.

    A shiver ran up his back.

    "Hm?" The female voice beside him asked. Kiera adjusted her catseye sunglasses and looked at him briefly.

    "Nothing. Just thinking." He released his grip on his bags and waved absently, then paused and grabbed his bags again.

    "Ah." She flicked her turn signal on and slowed to a stop at the sign. "Do you have your homework for the weekend?"

    "I just have one paper to finish. I did the rest in study hall."

    "Did you tell your boss?"

    "Yeah. He was cool with me taking the day off and just having a longer weekend. Said I should try to make friends with Sharon."

    Kiera looked at him a few seconds, her minivan still stopped at the sign. "Are you sure you're fine with moving this soon?"

    "Yeah." He nodded, repeating his assent. "The Wernbergs didn't want me to stay longer than I had to." He slid forward, elbows resting on the dash. "I'm still to be allowed internet so I can keep up my blog therapy, right?"

    "I told her about that. It's up to her, though." She shook her head. "We're almost there. Do you want me to drive around the block to give you a bit more time? We're running early."

    The large boy looked toward the house that was supposed to be his home now, then to its small, snowy yard, where the blinding white made his vision spark. There weren't many footprints to mar the snow.

    His mind took him back to Base, back to BC Corp. What he wanted was to give noogies to a boy his age, but his opposite, in a wheelchair. He wanted to chase a blue woman through the halls. He wanted to see the back of a strong woman with brown, tangled hair bent over some machine or another, asking him for tools as they talked. He wanted to help his soldiers with their form and firing accuracy. He wanted to be in Norway. He closed his eyes. "Let's go."

    Kiera watched him a few moments. "Flashbacks?"

    He shot her a look of amusement. "You'll know if I have one. I'm just thinking. Let's go invade that poor woman's home." He forced a grin that he didn't feel, and the rest of the drive went by quickly. He could scarecely remember climbing out of the van and walking with Kiera to the door, let along Kiera ringing the bell.

    Sid tightened his grip on his backpacks and swallowed his unease. Time for a battle more difficult than any from his childhood-- the battle of acting normal during a move. He waited, ready to greet Sharon with a smile.
  5. It took her a moment to realise she was not only hearing things when the doorbell rang, and she paused on her way to the door to check the kettle’s progress. It was still just warm… She turned the element on farther before taking the last few steps, possibly trying to delay the inevitable, though she might have denied it if anyone else had seen.

    Aware of the cold before she opened it, Sharon stood as far back as her reach would allow in a mostly futile attempt to escape the air that drifted in with them. Snug in her sweater, she had the excuse of looking cold, though the truth was she risked getting the crisp air caught in her throat if she stepped into it too suddenly. A coughing fit did not seem like the best way to introduce Sidney to his new home. So, she chivvied them in with a smile and brisk, welcoming wave.

    “Come in. Come in, please. No letting the cold in. Is that all-” The catch in her throat almost betrayed her, but she held it back, swallowing carefully before continuing. It also reminded her that questioning the young man’s choice of clothing right off the bat, even if he was bare armed in weather below freezing, was not, necessarily, her place. So, she cautiously amended her statement to something a little less critical. “Is there anything else you will need from the car?”

    When it seemed clear that he was, in fact, carrying everything with him, she glanced between him and Kiera, reluctant both to invite her in and to have her leave without being invited in. Quite the conundrum. Luckily, they knew each other well, as Sharon taught Kiera’s daughter Lalia. And the woman took her cue without fuss, smiling readily and nodding her encouragement as she stepped back to leave Sidney in what she was sure were capable hands. She’d really only been there to make sure someone was home, and in case Sharon wanted anything. Also, because neither of them had wanted Sidney to walk there on the first day. If he wanted to the rest of the year, he could discuss that with Sharon.

    “That’s everything with him, the rest of his things should be arriving soon. I hope… If either of you two need anything, call me anytime. You’re alright here, Sid? Good, alright, okay, I should get going. Have a good weekend!”

    Sharon could not help smiling after the woman, before an incautious breath had her ducking behind it out of view to cough into her arm before she shut the door, wheezing. “I must. apologise already. Oh, that… It is a little chilly. here.”

    She leaned against the door to catch her breath, making some attempt through gestures to indicate that he was free to make himself at home while she recovered. The kettle had started to whistle. Warmer than she had thought, apparently. A good idea, yes, getting away from the cold door. “Would you. Would you like some tea?”
    #5 Nemaisare, Mar 13, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
  6. When Kiera left, the boy looked down at Sharon, slouching, with eyes that were not brown like a person might assume after seeing him across a table, but black, then nodded. "You sound like you could use it more, but yeah. Tea sounds nice." He slowly shifted his two backpacks to one hand, then offered an arm to help her. "Kitchen's that way?" He jerked his head toward the source of the whistling.

    Standing up, Sidney seemed a lot taller and much more obviously muscular than the last time she saw him, when he'd slouched in a chair trying to disguise his size. His outfit had been the same last time they met-- he liked his outfits to look similar to each other, almost like they were a uniform-- granted, his choice in outfit dated back quite a bit.

    His shoulders were massive for a sixteen year old. He looked like he had been munching almost as many 'roids' as Ahnold, though she had been informed that he had taken up body-building early, and recently tested negative for steroids. He ate more than most kids his age, and the school gave him permission to have snacks throughout the day because his placement in foster care and his diagnosis of mental illness got him an IEP.

    After the pair made it to the kitchen, Sid awkwardly stood back. His uncertainty over who 'owned' the kitchen and where things were stopped him from tending to the tea himself. "So, how much did Kiera tell you about my situation?" He asked, almost automatically assuming a parade rest stance by the doorway, though his knees remained bent slightly as his eyes traveled up to the ceiling, to make sure he wasn't about to hit his head.
  7. “Oh, thank you. Yes.” Sharon accepted his offered arm and leaned on it slightly, trying to hide her surprise at his height now they were standing so close together. “Just. to the. right. Yes.”

    Of course, he had been sitting before. As had she, generally. So maybe it was not as strange that she hadn’t noticed. Sixteen, had Kiera said? Maybe he had had his growth spurt early. It was possible, she supposed. Entirely possible. But she would hope he didn’t grow any taller, she was already small, if he and Isaac were both going to be tall around her, then she would feel even smaller. Ah well, it was hardly their fault they thought they were giraffes.

    His skin was cool under her fingers, and she frowned lightly at it as they went, not wanting to watch his face so that he could keep his thoughts private if they accidentally escaped. He surely should have been wearing something a little warmer, though she could not imagine Kiera letting him go outside without a jacket unless he had insisted. Maybe he did not feel the cold as much. It had made her cold though, seeing him there on the front steps and bare-armed. Oh, it made her cold just thinking about it and she shivered before patting his skin lightly and shifting her weight to lean a little on the counter when he stopped moving forward.

    The kitchen was very much her domain. She was no stranger to any of its cupboards, excepting, admittedly, the very high shelves. But those mostly held only dust, as she could not reach them anyway. Now, she pulled down two mugs, forgetting that she had already taken one out for herself and left it on the table. She did not immediately address his question, going on with her tea preparations first. Asking if Earl Grey was alright and whether he liked honey or sugar, milk or lemon juice. Once she had his answers, and the ingredients down, and both mugs steeping, she turned back to face him. Conversations, she believed, were better served face to face when one had the opportunity.

    “Kiera told me you needed a home. She said you have had trouble, sometimes, fitting into families. That is normal, I think.” Sharon shrugged. “Why should it be easy? If they a-not your family.”

    She took note of his stance, awkward but ready, like the stranger at a family dinner. Or a soldier, she realised, vaguely alarmed as her thoughts crossed that path. He did not look so young, anymore. Her words emerged quieter when she continued, softer, though less breathless now.

    “She told me that you were. part of the army BioCybera raised, and you have not forgotten. what she taught.” The politest, and least intrusive, method she had for saying, yes, I have been told about the difficulties you are dealing with and no, I do not pretend to understand them. Her job was to give him a roof over his head, enough meals that he would not go hungry, stability and structure, and maybe discipline if it was required. She could support him, but she was not a psychologist. He was probably old enough to understand that much. Or experienced enough, Kiera had also mentioned he had gone through many homes since that time. She hoped hers would be the last.

    “Do I need to know more?” He might tell her something else or he might not. She would not mind either way. It was his choice. She waved him forward now though, because his tea was ready to have whatever he wanted put into it. And he was perfectly capable of doing that on his own. For herself, she was going to have lemon juice and honey.
  8. Sid watched her as she spoke, attentive and listening. She appeared to have a basic grasp of his situation. Good. "No, not really. Kiera got it covered, I guess." He nodded absently, and his shoulders relaxed slightly. He eased himself out of parade rest, and when she waved, he walked forward and took his cue to take his tea. He added plenty of honey to the liquid-- the energy would be welcome. He had been without a snack since lunch, and normally he had a sandwich after school while getting ready in the back room of the diner. Had this been a normal day, he would already be bussing tables. He stirred the tea with either a provided spoon or his own finger, then licked whichever clean and took a sip without any indication it burned his tongue. "Thanks."

    He looked around the kitchen, trying to guess at where everything was-- especially things like knives, should anyone try to attack his new host.

    He took another sip, then looked toward Sharon, not sure if any other topics would be important at the moment. He went through the mental list, and quickly found something. "Do you have any rules I should know about?" Very important. He didn't want to step on any toes. He nearly asked after the wifi password, but... maybe not yet. He always felt rude when he asked about it directly, like he was trying to avoid conversation-- something not the case at all. He just liked to talk to online friends to unwind after a day of things changing.

    The boy shoved his hair absently from his face as he returned his mind to the present to listen for the woman's answer, and he took the opportunity to get a good look at her.

    She was short-- most people were, compared to him. He slouched slightly in response to that thought, then reminded himself he was listening.
  9. Sharon handed him a spoon as he came up beside her before using one herself. Now that his situation had been covered, she was not certain how much control she should take over the conversation. At least he looked more relaxed rather than less, knowing what she knew. Maybe his concern had been more for whether or not he would be the one having to update her. She supposed it could be just as much trouble having to talk about yourself as it could be knowing that others were talking about you while you were not there to hear.

    His licking the spoon clean and following gratitude made her smile lightly, and she nodded before taking his spoon back to put it and hers in the sink. The doubled scrape and clink felt satisfying to her mind. It was always better to have company, even if you had not yet worked out how to keep the silence from being awkward. Having something to do helped, as did drinking their tea, though Sharon found hers too hot.

    Now, she made her way to the dining room table, which was meant for dinner meals only, but it was the only table in the house where they could sit, so it had very quickly become the table where everything was done. She sat where she had been before the doorbell rang, eyeing the empty mug ruefully, before setting both it and the crossword aside to reach over and pat the table near another chair. He could sit or stand as he liked. The main floor being an open plan, there were no walls to separate them should he prefer to stay where he was in the kitchen. “We will talk about those. Would you like to sit?”

    She waited until he’d made his decision before returning to the subject at hand. “I do not like making rules, so I leave them to respect and courtesy. If I say something you do not like, you may tell me. If you can be respectful. The same goes for talking with Isaac. No swearing in my house. No loud noises, especially at night. It is. rude to the neighbours.”

    She paused to sip at her tea and run through her list of requests to make of him. Her rules were flexible, but it never hurt to tell him what she preferred so he would have a foundation to work with. “If someone else is making your meals, you come when it is ready. We ring that bell. I cannot shout much.”

    Sharon pointed out the little hand bell resting on the kitchen’s island counter next to the sink. It was small, but impressively loud. Enough, at least, to be heard on the second floor if anyone was in their room up there. “You may ask for the same respect we ask for, if you do not think we are giving it… Am I missing anything?”

    She probably was. It was hardly possible to think of every situation, and she did not know what he might think was important to know. “Oh, yes, you let me know when you are going. to be outside the house. So I not. worrying.” She nodded after that, glad she’d remembered, because it was not always thought of, but she believed it was very important to know where those she cared about were.
  10. Sid pulled a chair from under the table and sat across from Sharon at her invitation. Automatically, he slouched, his muscular upper arms resting on the table as he cradled his cup and listened closely, watching the woman as she spoke and explained how she ran her house-- which he noticed felt bigger than the cramped outside, but still felt cramped in general.

    No rules, but close reliance on respect and typical manners. Reasonable. Not too demanding. She offered more freedom than most homes. He sipped his own tea as she continued on. No swearing and no being loud. He needed to show restraint if he stubbed his toe. Again though, nothing too demanding. He didn't constantly spout slurs and curses, after all-- they were not only rude to anyone in the area, but there were better ways to express emotions, in his opinion. The only exception was "shit", which he used when he hurt himself. It was low-grade, and let him use something that was not an insult to any group of people. A glorified word for poop.

    The young man took another sip of his tea. He wanted to gulp it down, but that wasn't how people drank tea. He returned his wandering attention to the woman and followed her finger to the bell and nodded understanding. She concluded with a question, then paused and continued as she seemed to remember something important. More common sense. "No problems there, though if I do utter another word for poo, I apologize. It's my go-to for if I stub my toe or something. I'll uh..." He trailed off, then nervously pushed his hair back, out of his face. Hiding underneath was a nasty-looking burn scar that left a bare spot along his hairline, otherwise covered by his hair. He paused a moment, then pulled his hair back down. "I'll do my best to restrain it." He paused thoughtfully before he continued. "I do have a few questions, though."

    Another sip, this one slightly longer as he put the words together in his mind. "Will I have a curfew? What are your rules for accessing the internet?" He paused, realizing that asking too much at once wouldn't give his foster mother a chance to answer, so he waited and took another sip. Just as each other time, he didn't look at her as he drank, and instead closed his eyes or looked down into the cup. He'd been raised in Europe, after all. Some of the kids he'd trained had been drilling each other on manners, and one, he mentioned, said that it was rude to look at another person over the edge of your teacup.

    It had seemed so silly to him at the time, but now that he had matured, he could see why. It felt slightly more enjoyable this way, though it was hard to listen well when he wasn't looking at the woman.
  11. She was glad he chose to sit down with her. It felt both more and less formal. Whether that was merely because his slouching now accomplished more sitting than it had while he was standing, she had no idea, but it was good to be face to face. Perhaps it also felt more comfortable to him. She hoped so. Of course, this was not his table, and maybe he would be too aware of that fact to relax. Although, he no longer looked… it was not wary, or suspicious, but there had been a moment when her thoughts drifted over both those words, and now she could find none better. At the very least, he no longer seemed uncomfortable. That, she supposed, would have to do.

    His acceptance of her little list, which was not, in retrospect, as little as she had planned on keeping it, made her smile. The wrinkles around her eyes deepened in understanding and she nodded serenely, despite finding some small amusement in this large boy, with such a mature comportment, saying poo like that. She let him ask his questions before addressing his apology first. “Sometimes it is hard to avoid, yes? Your best is all I ask, other times, if no one can. hear you. no one can be offended.”

    His nervous gesture had not escaped her notice, though her gaze had been drawn to the table out of her own sense of respect by the action. She rarely enjoyed having others see her nerves, so she assumed most felt the same way. But now she had more questions to answer. A nail tapped against the side of her ceramic mug, a momentary tac of sound before she nodded to herself, silent decision made. “A curfew on weeknights, I think. How late are you usually working?”

    She could not, in all fairness, say he had to be home before then, and it was, honestly, something she would need to know at some point. If for no other reason than to know if he would need dinner ready when he came back or should have something to take with him in the morning, that was still reason enough. With the heat of the mug vanishing into her palms, she lifted the cup and more readily took another sip. It had cooled sufficiently that she had no more worry about burning her tongue, but it still slid, warm and sweet and soothing down her throat. Oh, she would have left that front door closed until it stopped snowing and spring came back had it been up to her. Of course, that was an impractical idea, but she enjoyed entertaining it nonetheless, and often wished she could go through with it. Maybe one of those draft stopping cushion things would do instead… She would have to look into that.

    When he answered, she nodded. “I will remember. For now, if you are home after work, that will be well. I am in bed at ten, and would like to have you home before then. We will come back to that. later. when you are settled in.” She was reasonably certain he knew how to look after himself. He certainly looked capable of it. But assuming that he could was very different from thinking that he would, if he found trouble. So, until she had a chance to get to know him properly, and he had a chance to decide for himself whether he’d prefer to be outside or in here with her, they would leave it at that. So long as he followed the rule about telling her where he was going to be, she did not see much reason to restrict his movements.

    “For the internet… We do have wi-fi. I will find you the password. It has been a while.” She might have to ask Isaac where he’d written it down if it wasn’t by the computer.

    “You can use the computer there if you need it.” It was currently behind him, so she only nodded in that direction rather than point through him, towards where it sat on a table only just big enough to hold the monitor and the keyboard. With a smaller side table holding up the printer. They were always telling each other, her and Isaac, that they would find a proper desk for it soon. It had yet to happen, and the desk they used now might well have become an antique in the meantime.

    “I am assuming your fellow students. can thoroughly educate you on what you will find… whether I block you or not, so you may use it as you like. After you have finished your homework.” It was her only condition, though she would not police it except with the occasional straightforward question. He could decide for himself whether or not to follow it. She was relatively certain he would feel too embarrassed about being in the middle of the living room to use it for getting into trouble. If he surprised her, she might reconsider her generosity, but until such time as he proved himself guilty, she saw no reason to believe he could not behave responsibly.
  12. Sid pursed his lips, then let out a slow breath. "I usually get out about eight because the owner knows I'm still in school. I should be able to make it back by nine at the latest, if the weather's bad. I work three days a week, and weekends if I'm called in." Her decree that she was in bed at ten and wanted him home before then made perfect sense, and he nodded his agreement. "I can be back by ten, I'm sure."

    She moved on to talk about the internet. Good, they had wifi. When she offered the computer, he waited until she was done speaking before he spoke up. "I actually have my own laptop I brought with me. It has all of my homework files on it already. I don't like installing programs on other people's computers unless they ask me to, so I saved up and got it." He was babbling. It was actually against fostering rules in Michigan for him to have a laptop or unsupervised internet access. He could have his laptop taken away and not get it back-- even after it was time to move to another home. Foster kids, he'd seen in the past with his cell phone, didn't have true ownership of anything unless it was hiden inside a bag-- and its discovery often led to confiscation.

    "I only use it for homework, music, and my support group. I don't like spending all day staring at a screen." He glanced at the two bags that rested against a table leg beside him, hopeful she wouldn't order him to hand over the laptop. He would, of course, but it had cost a lot to get something that could handle being banged around in a highschooler's backpack. It had thick sides, and was probably high performance, though he'd never actually used it for anything more demanding than his skype-based support group's occasional video call. "I don't use it for anything iffy." Nervously, he looked away, then back at his host, then back at his backpack.

    'Please don't ask for it,' he begged internally. He tried to hide his nerves behind taking another sip of his tea. He saved up for it back in middle school, when he couldn't legally hold a job. He'd gotten an allowance though, and saved every penny he found on the sidewalk. He mowed lawns. He raked yards. He walked dogs and had a paper route. Anything that could make money, he did it until he barely had time to go to the YMCA to work out, and then he did more until he had several hundred dollars sewn into a hidden pocket in his backpack, and he secretly bought his laptop. It was small, but the salesperson said that it could survive large drops-- he wasn't sure how, but it lasted this long and still worked decently well. It wasn't as fast anymore, but that was normal, wasn't it? He glanced again at the woman who held the fate of his device in her hands.
  13. Needless to say, Sharon was surprised when he admitted to having his own laptop. A sign of the times, perhaps, that he did. While her memory of the rules was a little rusty, she had neglected to reread them since the last time, she believed there was a section about supervision concerning internet access. Not to mention, laptops were rather expensive. If it really was his laptop, she did not believe the government would have splurged for one individual. That meant he had probably bought it himself.

    Her eyebrows rose as she considered that option. Well, if it was his, then it was his. That he had brought it up voluntarily allayed her suspicions that it might have been a ‘gift’ from his last family. His continuous glancing towards his bags, and she still thought he should have had a little something more than two backpacks full of things, at least a jacket, in this weather! Told her very readily that he was nervous about her knowing it existed. So, why had he mentioned anything? Was he testing or trusting her? With a laptop, she hoped it was no test. Risky business, otherwise. Still, while it was convenient, she did want to make sure that she could at least say she was keeping an eye on him while he browsed the Web.

    Finally, after what was likely too long a silence for his liking, she smiled again, crowsfeet wrinkling at the corners of her eyes. “That will be most convenient. You will not have to worry I will be playing poker when you. need to do homework. It is a terrible addiction, I have.” She was not actually prone to gambling, and she probably would have gotten a few rules wrong had anyone asked her to join a game. And she winked when she finished, to make it obvious she was joking. Although, to be fair, she had been spending rather a lot of time at that desk lately….

    “You will still use it down here, though, yes?” Technically, there was no table or desk in the room she had prepared for him, so unless he kept it on his lap and sat on the bed, he would have to use the table anyway, but she decided it would be best to make her conditions clear. She did not want to limit him too much, but better safe than sorry.

    “Do you have Skype on it? If you are using that, you can stay in your room if you like.” She knew what privacy could mean to teenagers, to anyone, really. But there was a more important motive behind her asking. “Did you put it on yourself? Daniel did, for us. I am afraid I deleted it.”

    A beginner’s mistake she did not want to admit to, not when she had done the deed almost right after her son complimented her on being so much better with technology than his friends’ parents.
  14. "Yeah, I'll use it down here." He nodded, not at all concerned or embarrassed. Her willingness to let him keep the laptop put him at ease, and he grinned, a big, goofy grin that made his face look all of twelve. "I don't like feeling like I'm tresspassing, and I always do if I'm on someone else's computer." The boy quickly seemed to be relaxing in her home and presence. Yes, it had been a bit of a test, and if she'd failed, he'd be quite unhappy and distrustful of her, but she'd passed and shown herself worthy of his trust, and that felt like enough.

    He hadn't done the same test with the family before. They made no effort when meeting him to act like meeting him could be anything but a thing of business-- like they were only giving him a roof and meals out of a sense of obligation. Just getting tested meant he had some level of trust already, he reflected. Trust that the one taking it would pass.

    He took a sip of tea, then looked up after mention of skype. "Yeah, Skype's what I use with my support group when I need a quick way to cool down-" He cut off at her question, and her comment about deleting it from her own computer. "I did, yeah, and if you want, I can help you put it back on your computer." He assumed she did it on accident. Whether correct or not, he knew at least how to install and uninstall programs. "I could also block the ads that come through on skype, and show you how to keep your computer safe from malware and viruses."

    He could at least do that much, if she needed it. It would feel like a way to at least partly pay rent if she let him, and he didn't mind doing things for others. "One of my friends who's a computer-builder showed me everything he uses for computer safety, and that seems the sort of thing that should be shared, I mean." And the ease at which it could be done meant even someone with better things to remember, like Sid, didn't mind having such knowledge.
  15. His smile was nice to see. Of course, she did not expect that the first few days would go entirely smoothly. There would be ups and downs, misunderstandings, awkward moments… Already, she had seen this boy seem out of place, be nervous, relax a little, and it would be a while before all those emotions settled. But they would find a middle ground somewhere, soon enough. Of that, Sharon had no doubt.

    His answer concerning Skype, that he had it, used it, and could help her put it back on her own computer, were met with a grateful smile and slow tilt of the head. Yes. Yes, she would appreciate that very much.

    “That would be nice, yes. Before I am supposed to. call Daniel. Then he will never know.” Her smile widened momentarily, the corners of her eyes crinkling up again with her simple amusement at the predicament she had set herself into. “The rest would be nice too. I am good with what I know, but it is not. as much as I would like. You are very right. It is good to share these things.”

    Sharon nodded serenely, pleased that he was already willing to offer help. She might have nudged the conversation in that direction, certainly, but his decision had been entirely voluntary. She hoped…

    “Oh! I should ask now, do you like spaghetti? It is what I am thinking for dinner. There are other options though.” Off-hand, she could not immediately think of anything other than pancakes or French toast, perhaps, but she was sure a growing boy would be happy enough simply to be fed, and who did not like pancakes? “I will be wanting a list, sometime… Of your favourite meals. When you have time. Of course, you will eat what I cook, yes. But even better if you like it.”
  16. Sid nodded, he'd do it whenever she needed it. It wouldn't take long, he was sure.

    Her question about food caught his attention quickly. "I love food. I think the only thing I don't like is flavorless food or canned greens." His smile broke into a huge grin that seemed like it took up half his face. "And I'll try anything once. I'm easy to feed-- well, talking about what I'll eat. I do eat a lot throughout the day. My teachers complained at the other family I was with about my snacking, it was that much. I just get hungry a lot." He absently tapped his shoulder. "Probably from this."

    His spine straightened as he indicated the muscle, and his head lifted. His eyes shone.

    He worked hard for his muscle, and he was proud.
  17. Now that was the face of a growing boy. She would recognise that anywhere. Her answering smile was pleased to hear enthusiasm. Though she could not help wrinkling her nose at the thought of canned anything. Preserves and jams, yes, there was a raspberry patch outside that had gone a little wild. And she never could eat half as many as she picked, so she made jam. Sometimes pie. Raspberry and rhubarb was a surprisingly tasty combination. But vegetables were not meant to be canned. Unless one counted cucumbers in brine. But that was entirely different. Obviously. Sharon liked pickles…

    Try anything once, would he? Well, that was just the sort of man she needed in this house! She had the occasional desire to experiment and Isaac was, sadly, a very meat and potatoes kind of man. Oh, he would eat whatever she put in front of him, even if he did not enjoy it, but he never really got into it. Unless it was dessert. He appreciated it when there was new dessert to try.

    Sharon’s crow’s feet deepened again as her smile broadened at his explanation. She could see the pride swelling his chest and lifting his head. A good thing, she thought, for anyone to be proud of. She knew how much effort could go into building muscle and she had never tried to the extent that Sid clearly had. His success spoke of determination, not to mention a particular kind of diet. If he was always hungry, he obviously was not on the right one. Workouts took energy.

    “We must feed you properly then. And make you do all the heavy lifting.” Not that there was a lot of that around here… Sharon took a larger sip of her tea, relishing the fading warmth as it slipped down her throat. She was doing a lot more talking than she usually managed at once. “More carbs, and fruit. Yes. And no crinkly packages for classroom snacking.”

    It was not hard to tell that she liked this idea. Having someone else to cook for, outside of the weekends. It was, if she was honest with herself, one of the main reasons she did fostering. If there were children who needed to be fed, and she was happy to do the feeding, and someone else paid for the food, she could see nothing wrong with volunteering her time. There were, of course, other issues to think about and concern herself with before agreeing, but it was a good motivating factor. Now, smile diminished but not at all faded, she tapped her mug again and tilted her head, wondering if there was anything else of vital importance that they might have missed.

    “If you think of anything else…” He was to let her know. She paused to clear her throat and take a sip to prevent another bout of coughing, then carried on with the next subject of discussion rather than continue a sentence she thought had a rather obvious ending. “The ground floor, as you see, is very open. This table, we use for everything. Meals, work, Sudoku… We only clear it completely if. guests are over.” It was, otherwise, rather too much effort.

    “That is the kitchen.” She was sure he had noticed. “It is mine.” Very much hers. Isaac could cook, but preferred not to, and while Daniel had followed in her footsteps, he hadn’t lived here for over two decades now. So… “But I do like to see it used. So long as it is clean after. Speaking of… Please keep things off the floor down here. You can be messy in your room.” His bags were fine for the moment, because he had nowhere else to put them yet. “Which I will show you when we are finished our tea.”

    “Hmmm, the bathroom. is near the front door. The piano there, I teach lessons, so others will be in and out. I do not know if the playing might bother you, I think you will mostly be out. when they are in.” Business had picked up a little since the last kid she had fostered grew too old for the system, but she was sure if the overlap did cause a problem, they could come up with a satisfactory solution. “Do you play? Any instrument?”
  18. "That'll be nice." His grin widened as she brought up food. "I like being fed and put to work. Ask me to help with anything you need. As long as it doesn't involve crawling into small spaces, I can usually do it, or look up how to." He wanted badly to be useful again to someone. He missed the days when he trained hundreds of kids to teach them how to survive and win fights. How to shoot. How to sneak. He missed being counted on by his mother- no, not his mother. She wouldn't want to be called that. The Mistress. His smile faded enough that he closed his lips, and then noticed Sharon was speaking.

    Sid paid close attention to the verbal tour, nodding after each location. He sipped his tea, only to find it nearly gone. "No, I don't. My music teachers so far gave up and called me tone deaf. I'm better at listening than making it."

    Memories of middle school returned. He was put in band, not that he cared at the time. He did his best, but the teacher winced each time he blew into his shitty plastic recorder flute. The other children giggled at him, all except for one child who simply refused to play. Sid remembered watching that boy, who had scars on his neck and hearing damage from the fighting that felt like so long ago.

    He pulled himself away from the memories. This wasn't the time, nor was it the place, to recklessly remember.

    If his brother taught him anything, it was that some people could 'listen in' on such things.
  19. Oh, she would, she would indeed. No one came into this house without eventually learning how to share the work that went into keeping it nice. And if ever he grew restless or seemed a little aimless, she would make work for him. His eager volunteering, however, did not go at all unappreciated. “I will remember.” Sharon was already pleased with his attitude, glad that he had so far avoided being sullen about this situation. “Probably, I would fit into smaller spaces than you anyway.”

    Tall and well-muscled he might be, but that was not without drawbacks, especially in a townhouse. But in case he had given that condition because he was claustrophobic, she would try to remember in case any such situation arose. Now, however, was not the time to quiz him on his phobias, so she turned instead to offering a tour. It was not much, given as they could see almost every part of the main floor from where they were sitting, barring the front hall, the front hall closet and the bathroom door… At least that meant it was over quickly, and there was little to remember. Hard to get lost in this house. Hard to hide though, too.

    “A teacher should never give up on a student.” Sharon frowned as she said that, aware that there were, in fact, moments when it might be prudent to set a troubled child, or adult really, on a different path and maybe direct them to another teacher who could help them more readily. Still, tone deaf was hardly a challenge when playing the piano, so she may have an advantage a school music teacher did not. Actually, she knew that quite well, and shook her head at herself.

    “Well, never mind, a piano does not care if you are tone deaf. I can show you some time. if you would like.” If he did not like, there was little point in pressing the lessons in him when he had no need for them.

    Then, finishing off the last of her tea, she braced herself on the table and stood, making sure she was standing straight before moving away. She had, more than once, neglected to make sure after standing too quickly with a light head, and had since decided that keeping to the routine would ensure her patience in the matter and never mind that she was not always in danger of toppling over. Better safe than sorry. “Are you finished?”

    She thought he was close, but did not mean to rush him. If he was, she would take his cup to the dishwasher as well.
    #19 Nemaisare, Apr 13, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2015
  20. The boy nodded in response to pianos not caring about being tone deaf. "Well, I would like to learn something artsy." He nodded, then let that topic drop with her at mention of being done. He offered his cup to her after he watched how she seemed to strain to stand, and stood quickly. "Do you need help getting around?"

    Why did he say that? Yeah, it was a good question, but maybe a bit too blunt?

    "Sorry, I just noticed how careful you are." He rubbed the back of his neck as his face reddenned. "I mean..." He gripped the back of his neck and looked down. She seemed to walk fine, once she was on her feet, though maybe a bit slowly. His face remained red as he struggled to figure out what to say-- he didn't want to offend her.