Scene 1 – October 26th
Exterior City – Late Morning
I left the Compound with my father, still feeling stunned. He, I assumed, had received a similar message, as he wore approximately the same expression.
We reached his car where it was parked a ways away after a few minutes of walking, and he began unlocking it, but then stopped. “You know what?” he said to me. “We’ve got nothing going on for the rest of the day. Lets go get lunch somewhere. We haven’t done that in a while.”
“Sure,” I said agreeably. “Wherever you’re in the mood for is fine.” I didn’t feel as though I had the capacity to make a choice about that myself – I had been flattened by Legion’s message.
We continued walking, still in silence and more aimless than when we had been returning to Dad’s car. He didn’t seem to know exactly what he was looking for, just keeping an eye out as we roamed the downtown area.
Some time later, we ended up at a stir fry place. We ordered something simple, watched in increasing hunger as a chef cooked it in front of us, and then, finally, my dad seemed ready to talk.
Scene 2 – October 26th
Interior Restaurant – Continuous
“So,” he said as we sat with our finished dishes, “I’m guessing that she had a message for you from Laura?”
I nodded. “Not much of one,” I had to say. “Just that she didn’t want to leave, and that she was sorry. For all that’s worth.”
He sighed. “I was told much the same thing. Legion didn’t want to elaborate on what had actually happened – apparently Laura had been like a mother to her, over the years they spent together, and speaking of it is painful. But I wish…”
“That we knew why,” I said, quietly, and he nodded. “We may never know, unfortunately. Legion was the only lead, and this her is going to be gone before long.”
We ate. Slowly, still digesting the revelation we had been given, we ate.
“One great truth in life I’ve found, / While journeying to the West-” Dad began a few minutes later. “The only folks who really wound / Are those we love the best.”
I raised my eyebrow. “More quotes, dad?”
“Ella Wheeler Wilcox,” he said. “The people whose actions hurt us the most are the ones who we care about.”
“I understand the quote, I’m just not sure of the relevance.”
“We’re hurting right now. We just learned something painful – that Laura didn’t die all those years ago, like we thought, but simply… left. Somehow, for some reason. And we may never know why, because she is, after all, dead.”
“Great recap, but…”
Dad raised a finger, and I trailed off to let him continue. “We’re hurting,” he said, “because we loved her. And she loved us, too. But perhaps we can take our comfort from that – even years afterward the last time we saw each other, her last thoughts were of the two of us.”
I turned this over in my head for a few minutes as we continued the meal. Something about his proposal didn’t feel right, at least not for me, and I wasn’t sure why.
Maybe it was that… I barely remembered my mother. I hadn’t heard her voice outside of recordings until today. I had seen her in pictures, but… I barely knew anything about the woman, really. Dad spoke of her so rarely, that…
Legion’s message had been a shock to me, yes. But, I was starting to realize, not for the same reason if was for my father. It was shocking because it was forcing me to examine my feelings for my long-gone mother, in a way I hadn’t really ever done before.
I had admired her, the little I knew about her. Laura Kaufman had been a neurologist, a research doctor. She had worked in metahuman medicine, just like I wanted to. It had, in fact, probably been an influence on me – perhaps I had wanted to feel connected to her.
But the truth was, I didn’t particularly care – not as much as perhaps I should. Legion’s message was a long-gone woman seeking connection to a child that had never known her, but that connection wasn’t there. Perhaps a few years ago, yes, back in those uncertain years when I had been unsure of who I was or who I would be, when I was struggling with my gender and sexuality and finding my footing. Now, however, I knew who I was – not where I was going, admittedly, but I knew the person I was at this moment.
I was the child of David Kaufman. Laura Kaufman was a woman I had never known. It was unfortunate that it could never change, yes, but it was what it was.
“I’m no good at poetry,” I eventually said to my father, “but I think there’s one for this. And I’m sorry, but… it’s Edgar Guest, I think? Something about what makes a family?”
He rubbed at his chin thoughtfully. “The Stick-Together Families?”
“That sounds right.”
“The stick-together families are happier by far / Than the brothers and the sisters who take separate highways are. / The gladdest people living are the wholesome folks who make / A circle at the fireside that no power but death can break,” he quoted. “Is that the one?”
“I’m not sure of the relevance.”
“It’s…” I sighed. “I’m sorry to say it, but… you, me, and mom haven’t been a stick-together family.”
“No,” he said quietly. “We haven’t.”
“And maybe it wasn’t by choice, but… no one can change the past. And you and me, dad?” I reached across the table to take his hand, and gave it a squeeze. “The two of us have been a stick-together family. We’ve gotten on just fine without her.”
He didn’t say anything, just staring at the table.
“I never really knew mom,” I said, apologetically. “I know you loved her, but… I’m not feeling hurt in the same way you are. I’m feeling… more that I lost the idea of her, I guess. And you…”
“I feel like I got her back only to lose her again moments later,” he said, and I squeezed his hand again.
“I’m sorry, dad,” I said. “Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything.”
He shook his head. “No, I’m glad you did. I’ve always raised you to be honest with me. Thank you for sharing. But…” he sighed. “Maybe we should talk about something else.”
“Okay,” I said agreeably. “I wouldn’t mind not thinking about this myself.”
Scene 3 – October 26th
Exterior City – Continuous
It took us a few minutes to find a new conversation topic – long enough to pay for lunch and then make it back to the car. As we headed home, though, Dad asked, “Do you have any better idea about whether or not you’re going to join the Journeymen?”
I groaned. “No, I’m afraid not. I like the people, but…”
“Is this your anxiety again?” he asked. “We’ve been over this, right?”
“You know it’s not that simple, dad.”
“But no, it’s not just anxiety and inferiority,” I said. “It’s a bunch of things.”
“Talk to me,” he requested. “What else is going through your head?”
“Well, number one is moving cities,” I told him. “I was hanging out with the Journeymen a couple days ago, and it’s something that Simone mentioned – when you join an MLED training team like the Journeymen, you don’t have to move. Well,” I amended myself, “not unless you moved to get to a city with a compound. But in general, you don’t have to move. When you graduate, however…”
“You get moved to a different city?”
I shrugged. “Potentially, yes. They move heroes around to keep up with different situations, to give people experience working with different groups… some people end up in one city for years at a time, usually team leaders like Canaveral, but its rarely their home city.”
“I remember that he wasn’t always working out of New Venice,” Dad commented. “He was in… Los Angelos? Is that right?”
“Vegas, but yeah. He moved here four years ago and was put in charge of the New Champions.”
“Why is it the New Champions, anyway? Who were the original Champions?”
“They were the first hero team in New Venice,” I said, thinking back to my Metahuman History class. “Back in the early 20th century, before the DMO was set up to sponsor heroes. They split up a little before World War II, probably because they had sympathies for different sides of the war – one of them, Dr. Hart, actually worked for the Nazis. But that’s off topic,” I scolded.
“Sorry,” he apologized. “You were talking about maybe leaving New Venice?”
“Right,” I said. “The MLED moves heroes around a lot, so…” I shrugged.
“Is that a bad thing?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “It’s not something I had considered before. And that’s not all.”
“I kind of feel like people are pushing me to be a hero. Or use my powers at least,”
“It’s fine,” I assured him. “It’s no different than when you were pushing me to be a doctor.” He made a face, and I laughed. “But I need to untangle my feelings, you know? Figure out if I actually want to be a hero or if it’s just that everyone seems to think I should be.”
“I can see why you’re having trouble making up your mind,” he commented.
“Oh, there’s more.” Dad groaned, and I laughed again. “I think I’ve brought it up before, but it feels kind of like throwing away a career I’ve made a couple years of headway on for another career that will take years to master. It’s a big change, and not a ton of my current skills will carry over.”
“That’s true,” Dad admitted. “First aid, I suppose, but heroes are mostly able to leave that to MLED agents and paramedics, and focus on threats.”
“Exactly. There’s a lot to consider.” We turned into our driveway as I continued, “And hell, I don’t even really know what it would be like! I got the impression that the one night I’ve spent working with Canaveral wasn’t a typical drug bust. And while I’ve spent time with my prospective co-workers, that’s not the same as trying to job.”
“You should ask if they take interns,” Dad suggested.
I laughed. “Oh, everyone takes interns! The question is, do those interns actually learn anything, or just fetch coffee?”
“Hey, you can learn a lot fetching coffee.”
“How to carry hot liquid without burning yourself, for one.”
“True, true. How to run without spilling anything.”
“How to find a good local coffeeshop.”
“How to hide a body.”
“Hide a body?”
“In the coffee beans, obviously.” Dad broke down and laughed, and I cheered in victory as I unlocked the door to our house.
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