1963-09-17 - Chapter Three: A Kid In Need
Summary: Jean recruits Bobby to attend Career Day at Pine Bush Central School District. Bobby gets close enough to the kid in question, and learns the ugly truth about his situation.
Related: http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/plot:mortalcondition
Theme Song: None
bobby jean 


CHAPTER THREE: A Kid In Need

PINE BUSH ELEMENTARY

Banners hang along the schools gymnasium that reads: CAREER DAY! in big, bold letters. It was obviously crudely drawn by a few children who could use a little bit more tracing when it comes to their linework, but it was adorable none-the-less. Stick figures laden the banner with men in hats, women in dresses holding stick figure babies, some women in front of a table with papers and men with briefcases in oversized ties. It was quite the party! Somewhat.

Refreshments were manned by the librarians and secretaries, sign in sheets for the local representatives sat at the entrance. Long tables were set around the large space, and people mingled and carried on with conversation and idle chatter. Fifth graders were in attendance there, most notably Mrs. Peine's class. And more importantly, little Jackson Palmer, the boy that Jean sought to help.

And who would she decide to bring with her this day? Robert Drake. He was probably a straight A student and had prospects of his own career, so who better to bring? Plus he was young enough, and cute enough for the girls to stare and possibly shy away while they questioned the boy.

As Jean explains it:

"I think there's something going on with the boy. Nothing.. like us but.. I think he's being hurt. I read his thoughts; it was almost like he was crying to not go home. I couldn't get any further, it was .. a mess and I didn't want to hurt him."

Surely, the wheelchair bound X-Woman put on the big doe green eyes and possibly said that she was owed for this favor..

But they were there, all signed in with their aliases, ready to try to sneak the boy away so that they could get to the bottom of what was really, really going on with Jackson Palmer.

*

Bobby didn't put on a suit. He doesn't even own a suit. But he does have on a sport jacket and such to look the part. A teacher, even one at the Institute, can't be wearing shorts and a tee shirt during class. "If he's not like us, what made you notice him?" he asks Jean as he looks around. "Why didn't you dig further if you think there's a problem? Or check his parents?"

*

"Because it was painful." She frowns slightly at the memory. "In his mind.." She tries to describe, answering all questions at once. "..it was like some emotion I never felt before. I don't want to say fear. Dread, maybe?" Jean clasps her hands upon her wheels, moving towards the refreshment table. "It was loud. And on top of that, too many children. A lot of emotions in the area and we've just stopped him from being bullied." She smiles. "I met Johnny Storm. Pretty cool guy, given my slight resentment of him." She leans forward to grab a cup of water, then offers an official looking nod towards the librarian manning the table.

"I guess I'm just too afraid to see that if his parents are really the problem, than the kids here at school." With a tilt of her head, she gestures in that one motion towards the lone boy sitting upon the chair. He was still his pale sort; dark hair and dark eyes that make him seem like an outcast amongst so many colorful people. Though he wears a nice, soft green shirt and a little sport coat with shorts, he still seemed bland and out of place.

"That's him over there.."

*

"Resentment?" Bobby also takes a cup, giving the librarian a smile and takes a sip, half turning to look at the boy as he does so. "If it is, we should contact the authorities." he continues, once they're out of earshot of the librarian. "Either that or you can… tamper with them. So can you pick up anything from him or do you need to get him away from the crowd?"

*

"Something?" Jean was confused as well. The first time she remembers feeling resentment is when she wasn't able to learn the lesson quicker than one of her classmates. That resentment was ill placed, possibly ill thought. It was more like jealousy, and feeling like a right idiot.

"I'm.." Jean frowns.. "..well.. I didn't think of that. It's hard dealing with people who aren't like us. Does that mean we shouldn't help him then?" It was a genuine question, but her cup was smushed in between her legs so that she could use both hands to roll.

"I.. could. But I still haven't gotten to the point where I could narrow it all down. And I'm nervous. I don't want to hurt anyone." She considers her options, rolling ever so slowly.. "I'll deal with the crowd. You talk to him? Man-oh eee man-oh.." Yes, she pronounced it just as.

*

Bobby will leave the topic of resentment till later when they aren't in the middle of a normal school. "We should help." he's quick to say. "At least to start. But we might not be the ones to finish things. Not if we're not going to take him to the school." And if he's not a mutant, they aren't. "And some things deserve a little hurt." Or a lot. "But lets find out what's wrong and then we can figure out what we need to do." Giving Jean a nod, he walks in the boy's general direction without making it seem like he's heading directly toward him. Not till he's about to pass him, when he stops and glances down. "Hello there. Already talked to the representative of the career that interests you?"

*

"I think in their world they'd call it kidnapping." Jean huffs out a little laugh, then grabs her water to drink what remains. The cup is soon discarded into her lap as she nods in agreement. "Right. Moira already has an appointment to speak with the teacher, but.. I think its better we hear from him first.." Once the nod to go was given, Jean veers off into the most populated direction. The change in personality was shocking at best because she suddenly became cheerful, outgoing. Noticed. Though there was a tiny pull in the back of their minds to draw all attention here.. a small one, one to get them going, one that Bobby himself could easily resist.

The boy, Jackson kept his head down. His shoulders slumped, fingers fiddling with the other until he heard Bobby's words. It was clear that he was lost in his own world, and it was clear that he wasn't exactly happy at being noticed.

"Uh…" He straightens a little. "..no.." He looks up, then around. "I don't want to do what every body is saying."

*

"Want to know a secret?" Bobby asks in a confidential tone. "I don't like doing what everybody else is doing either. I like doing my own thing. But what specifically are they saying? That you should go from one to the other pretending you're interested in what these strangers have to say?"

*

"Uh huh.." The little boy perks up. His smile was wide soon after, but it was as if he did a bad thing in that moment. Quickly he clams up, his smile dropping, hands lifting to cover his face and then down into his lap as he shifts within his seat.

"Door to door salesman for curtains. Um. Adver.. adver.. advertising? A pilot.." His eyes soon lift to the ceiling, then down again, his feet soon swinging. "A lot of them say that we need to support our families when we get big. But I don't think I'm going to get big. Ever. So I don't want to do any of that."

Meanwhile, Jean was busy. Those who gathered around her managed to keep her out of sight, and that was a good thing for all of them.

*

"A pilot?" Bobby looks around, trying to spot the guy. "I'd love to be a pilot, myself. Don't you think it would be fun to be in a jet? Maybe not a passenger plane though, which is probably what he does." Taking a drink, he looks down at the kid. "Well, supporting your family is usually a good thing but not to be honest about it, not every family deserves it. I've always thought that you should give back what you got. That sounds fair, doesn't it?"

*

"I'm afraid of heights." The kid lowly grumbles. Now he was leaned forward, clearly engaged in the conversation even though eye contact wasn't had. The mention of family was an obvious sting, for one of his shoulders lift slightly, then lowers again, stiff.

"I guess.." He sings out. "..but I don't think it's right to give back what they've given me." He finally looks up towards Bobby, then shakes his head. "I want to be a doctor. But there are no doctors here. Just a nurse."

*

"Well, you're right." Bobby agrees after a moment. "It's better to take the high road. Be better than them." He pauses to take a sip then adds "You do know that, depending on what's going on, you could tell a teacher. They're here to help you with more than just school work."

*

"That's what my teacher last year said. To try to ignore it. It doesn't work though." He swings his feet still, keeping one foot up, then down again, like he was practicing. "I.. I did. I told Mrs. Peine. And she called my mom and dad. And dad got angry and came to talk to Mrs. Peine. She didn't call him anymore. Now sometimes she just lets me sit in the hall instead of class."

There was a cacaphony of laughter and clapped hands, the crowd around Jean parting for just a touch. A few of the people who stood with her go to get drinks, while the others still remain engaged in the conversation. Whatever they were speaking of, children were soon starting to gather.

*

"Try to ignore it? I'm not sure if that's good advice." Bobby answers, glancing a moment over toward where Jean is. "Why would she let you sit in the hallway? Usually you tell someone to do that if they're being disruptive. But you sound like she's doing you a favor."

*

"Well. Everyone always makes fun of me. They call me loser. They call me a ghost because of my skin. They call me a cry baby because.." He looks ashamed. "Sometimes on the playground they like to push me down. I skint my knees." He stops swinging his foot, which was soon set upon the seat, his shorts rolled up to show the scars upon his legs. But there were other bruises shown, just by rolling up that -little- bit of pantleg, the heel of an adult palm was slowly fading away into slightly orange marks.

"Sometimes they do it while Mrs. Peine is teaching and she can't teach if I'm in there. And.. I think my Dad told her to leave me alone. So.. she's doing what he says."

*

"Calling you names is just wrong." Bobby notes. "So is hurting you. And there's nothing wrong with crying because you're hurt. Anyone who tells you different or makes fun of you is wrong. How did you get all those bruises on your leg?"

*

Even then, hearing Bobby speak those words were a relief. A relief so much that he wanted to cry right then, but he doesn't. His cheeks finally flush with the tiniest bit of color, his eyes stinging but he doesn't dare blink. Maybe someones watching. Maybe he'll get into trouble again.

"They say I won't be a real man if I keep crying." Jackson clarifies. He quickly shifts his shortleg down, planting his feet upon the ground. One good secret is good for a returned. "Can.. if I tell you.. do you promise not to tell my Dad?"

*

"There's no such thing as a fake man." Bobby counters and looks at the kid as he thinks it over. "I don't want to lie to you." he finally says. "And I don't want to break a promise. So I'll tell you that I can't promise that until I hear what you have to say. It might be something I really think I need to talk to your father about. I can promise that I won't tell him if I think I don't have to. And if I do think so, I'll let you know. Is that enough?"

*

'David Kotkin!' A teacher nearly shrieks, chasing a young boy out the door. 'You give that back right now! This is no time for magic!'

Jackson nearly freezes in his chair as he hears the woman shriek, his eyes closing, focusing upon Bobby's words as he gives an over exagerrated nod of his head. "Okay.." His bottom lip was already trembling, his fingers even bunch up against his chest to clench fingers, which tap nervously against his chin.

"My dad drinks a lot. He.. he sometimes drinks a lot and then he gets angry and yells. And he yells at my mom a lot. And I try to pull her away and then he spanks me real hard." He looks up, then around as if someone heard him tell his secrets. "And.. my mom gets mad too and spanks me. And sometimes she leaves me in the closet all day because she doesn't want to see me anymore." He slowly begins to rock back and forth, sniffling quietly. "I really like school. I really love school. I'm.. free here but.. they hit me too.. those boys and.. it just feels like home here too."

*

Bobby goes very still as he listens, his expression growing icy. Figuratively. "I won't tell your father." he says to the kid. "Or your mother. So you don't need to worry about that. You do know that what they're doing isn't right, right? They shouldn't be hitting you to leave bruises like I saw on your leg. And you definitely shouldn't be put in a closet. So you told your teacher this? And she called your dad and he yelled at her too? Did he hit you because you told her?"

*

Jackson nods his head slowly, unable to look at Bobby now that he's told a family secret. "I know." He quietly admits. "Yes. Mrs. Peine asked, and said that I should always tell the truth. I told the truth and she believed me." He sniffs, drawing his hand up to wipe at his nose. "I.. I heard my dad. He said he would kill her." He was truly fidgeting now; scratching hard at the back of his neck. "He did. But.. I'm going to keep my head down and when I'm in my next year, I'll learn to lie. And I won't tell a soul anymore." He was truly out of help.

The crowd was breaking up, Jean had exhausted herself to the point where she needed a break. The wheels upon her chair squeaked as she rushes towards the refreshments table, even though one man, a potential suitor in his eyes, following to talk about .. puppies. "That's so sweet! I've always wanted a puppy!" Jean could be heard saying, stopping to grab a water and a napkin for an impending nosebleed.

*

"I believe you too." Bobby assures him. "I'm not going to go talk to your parents so you don't need to worry about that. But I am going to think about how I can help you because you do need help. So till then, keeping your head down is probably a good idea." he agrees. "Tell me, do you have any grandparents that you like? Or an uncle or aunt?"

*

Jackson could do nothing else but sniff, his fingers still worry at his chin, a little nervous tick that he's developed over the years. "I.. I have a granny and a granpa. My.. my moms mom and dad up north. We don't go see them much anymore." Jackson's Mom was an only child, and while his dad's siblings, and possibly parents, would be a worse come to worse situation.

Jean finally wheels her way over towards Jackson and Bobby, her eyes lighting as she sees the boy, even though she's tired. "Hello handsome.." She quietly murmurs, then reaches out to brush her fingers along his chin. "Ready to go, Mr. Drake?"

*

"I am indeed." Bobby answers. "Hang in there, Jackson. I'm going to think about this and talk it over with some people I trust. You have my word that I'm not just going to forget about it as soon as I walk out the door. Okay?"

*

Jean leans back and out of the way as if she knew it was coming. Jackson lurches from his seat to wrap his arms around Bobby, well.. as much as his little self could to give a hug. A burst of positive emotion from the boy that has him glowing. He didn't really need to say it. He couldn't. And as he hugs Bobby, Jean reaches out to lightly pat the boys shoulder in comfort. "It's okay.. we'll return. We promise." Jean soothes, then glances back as the lone man watches the three with a curious eye.

"Oh great. Let's get out of here. The guy proposed to me and tried to offer me a puppy into accepting."

*

Bobby puts his hand on the boy's shoulder and squeezes it, just staying there till he's ready to let go. « Both parents beat him. » he thinks to Jean. « The father threatened to kill the teacher if she interferes and the mother locks him in closets. Tell me I shouldn't go find them right now and turn them into ice cubes like flies in amber. »

*

Jean hears Bobby's thoughts, her features falling ever so slightly as she draws her hand away from the boy's back. She looks filled with grief, but her hand reaches up to hang upon Bobby's forearm until the boy lets go.

«I can't tell you that you shouldn't.» Lord knows.. right now? Her heart was breaking. She wanted to steal the boy away to the mansion but she knew that it wasn't allowed.

"Bye, Miss Red-Hair." Jackson finally says, feeling all the more better as he wipes away at his cheeks. "Can we play again soon?" Jean nods, her smile tightening to prevent from showing the sadness that she knows the boy has. "Yes. How about next week? I have a card trick I want to show you."

The kid was happy, even as he flops back into his chair to retain his previous sitting. Head lowered, fingers toying with the other in a game of itsy-bitsy spider. Jean looks up towards Bobby, then frowns.

*

"See you soon, Jackson." Bobby tells the boy, giving him a nod. Moving behind Jean's chair, he starts wheeling her out. « You or the Prof need to read him and the parents. I believe him. But we need to be absolutely certain before we do anything. The teacher too. If she was threatened, it'll be in her head. I think the easiest way of dealing with this would be to make them think it would be a good idea to send him to live with his grandparents. »

*

Jean waves briefly towards the boy, then faces forward as she stares towards the door. This was the first instance of child abuse she's ever heard of, and it made her angry.

«I just hope that we're not too late. I'm sure the Professor will figure out all of the details when we tell him what's happening. We'll have to protect the teacher too if it doesn't go right.»

Once they were outside, the fresh air was a bit of a relief to Jean, her shoulders slumping, fingertips pressed to her eyes to rub. "I know the Professor can fix this. And Moira. That kid is going to be alright."

*

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