1965-08-01 - That Which We Call a Rose
Summary: Jeb meets with Adam and Halgrim in the park for a study session and gets very little studying done as the conversation shifts to relationships.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
jebediah halgrim adam 


Today is a glorious summer day in New York. Warm but not hot, breezy and sunny and perfect in every way. Adam is in Central Park, at the little picnic bench that he has selected for Jeb's tutoring. For some reason, there aren't as many people around as might be expected. There have been rumors of bloodthirsty monsters in the park.

Adam sits on the ground next to the picnic table, cloak off entirely and spread out like a blanket. Two kittens, a couple months old, romp around on it. One is a mackerel tabby, one grey with white toes and tailtip.

Jebediah comes along but his feet seem to be dragging. He's not late, he would never keep Adam or Halgrim waiting but when he appears, there's not the peppy step, like the happy puppy he usually is and his gaze is downcast. He does carry a kitten in his arms, Buttermilk, much bigger than she was the last time they had all seen her and no longer sick, calico but mostly white. Jeb is wearing ripped jeans, a little bit too big for him and a white t-shirt with a paint stain around the lower hem, something he might have missed. He does manage a small smile once he sees Adam, small but genuine, but it doesn't reach his eyes. "Hey! You brought the other kittens! They look great! You're doing a fantastic job, Adam." He praises.

One of the bloodthirsty monsters in question, or at least its less monstrous and bloodthirty half, is sitting at the picnic table, his workbag on the seat next to him. Halgrim's dressed for the weather, wearing a dark gray, loose linen shirt buttoned up far enough that the amulet and scar won't be easily seen, worn and fraying khakis, and a pair of comfortable leather sandals that have seen better days. Not his usual outift at all; it says 'carefree European tourist in the Med' and not 'college professor working hard to not kill people'.

He has a small baggie of kibble from which he takes a piece and tosses to the kitten every few minutes or so, in between going through photocopies of research papers. They're all heavily marked up with notes in the margins; the current top-most page has a particular paragraph circled with ????? under it.

He blinks at Jeb, taking in the sight of him, and pauses in the middle of tossing the kittens another piece of food. The mew in frustration. "Jebediah, are you alright?"

The tabby is the dominant one, and goes after every piece of kibble, shoving his sister away. "You must share," Adam admonishes the kitten, slightly ridiculously, and nudges him away so the grey kitten can get at the kibble. "MEW!" says the mackerel tabby, flops over and tries to murder Adam's little finger. Which does nothing, and he soon gives up, flopping on his side and staring wide-eyed at every blade of grass and leaf that flickers in the breeze.

Adam looks up, smiling in his awful way. "Jebediah Guthrie. …Ah, what is the matter, now?" His smile drops, seeing Jeb dragging. "Are you ill?"

Jeb sits down Buttermilk with the other two kittens and she promptly tackles the dominant older brother for a wrestling match. That makes Jeb laugh a little. "She's a feisty thing, always tryin' to eat my brother, the one with the wings? She tries to hunt him." He says fondly, not overly concerned about the kittens hurting each other. When both Halgrim and Adam notice that there is something wrong, Jeb looks shocked. "Oh, um, well, Ah live with my brother, Ah got a lot of em, there is ten of us total, but my oldest brother, he lived with me. And he.. he went on a mission the other day and he might not come home for awhile…" Or /ever/ Jebediah says without saying, worry is etched into his features as he swallows hard, clearly trying hard not to get himself worked up. "Ah'm just worried about him and Ah really…" He sets his bag down on the table a little harder than he means to and kicks at the grass. "Ah really wish that we would all stop fuckin' leavin' each other all the gol'damn time."

Halgrim sighs and shakes his head. "I'm sorry, Jebediah I…have some experience with how unbelievably painful that can be. You have my sympathies." He frowns. "Are all—" Just as he's begun to ask the question, he stops, shakes his head. "Never mind. Come sit with us as we attempt to teach the bigger one to share. Perhaps you know a trick for making her behave, hm?"

Adam frowns, which really is terrifying, studying Jeb's face. "Your oldest brother. The Cannonball?" How does Adam manage to know something about everyone? "Come here, Jebediah." He holds out his long, long arms.

"Were you gonna ask if we were all mutants, Mister Halgrim?" Jeb asks quietly, not wanting to start some kind of riot out here in the park and get them all into trouble again. "It's okay to ask that, if you wanted to, Mister Halgrim. It's always okay to ask about me or my family. Ah'm an open book." When Adam holds out his arms to Jeb, the little electric mutant wanders over to him, sinking into Adam's arms. "Yeah, Sammy. How did you know he was called that?"

"Cannonball," Halgrim says to himself, sounding mildly amused by the images this produces. As Adam hugs Jeb, Halgrim leans back against the table. "I wouldn't presume that sort of question. That's yours to offer, but not mine to pry after. Though as I've now met Jay, and you've mentioned the older one, I assume a few of you must be." He taps at the edge of the table. "You said he was on a mission, and it made me wonder if there are…" He gestures vaguely. "Resistance groups, if you will, among mutants. Or something akin to them. But that's also not a fair thing to ask you, not being one myself, so it's alright if you'd rather not say. It's not my business." He's being entirely sincere about that, having first hand experience with it himself. "It's barely my business to be in Mutant Town."

Adam folds Jeb up in those long arms. The young mutant is almost entirely covered from sight. "I hear the others talk," he says, meaning other monsters in the Metropolis. Comforting platitudes are beyond him, though. Instead of assuring Jeb it'll be okay or Sam will for sure come back from his mission, he murmurs, "You sorrow. I sorrow with you."

Jeb snuggles into Adam's shoulder and then lifts his head so he can talk to Halgrim. "So far, Mister Halgrim, each of us has gotten somethin' when we hit puberty. Ah'm number five. So Sammy, he was first, he's the oldest, he has this ability where he can blast fire from his feet and he can fly. He has trouble with landin', that's where he gets Canonball. Then my sister, Paige, she is the next oldest, hers is kinda gross and it made everyone in our hometown think we was the product of the devil or somethin'. She can pull her skin off and have new skin made of different material underneath. So like, she can have metal skin, or wood, whatever she thinks is beneficial to her at the time. Sometimes it happens when she's upset though, it's alot of clean up. Then there's my brother with the wings, Jay, he has wings and like, cain't die. Rapid regeneration. Then there's my sister Melody, she can levitate. Then there's me, with the electric eyes, it actually fixed my eyesight. Ah used to wear glasses. Then after me, Elizabeth, she can make herself bigger or smaller. Then Joelle, Lewis, Cissie and Beth, they all too young yet to be showin'." He explains as far as his family goes.

"Yeah, there are resistance groups. Crime fighters and what not, and Ah guess they also have bad groups, that wanna get rid of all the regular humans too so there are people to stand up against them." Jeb wraps his arms around Adam's neck. "Sam and Jay, they are both on teams, different ones, but they are. Jay's one friend, Kaleb, keeps getting hurt and kidnapped because he's in one of those groups, drives Jay crazy."

He releases a deep sigh, going a little more pliant in Adam's arms. "Ah'm worried, Adam. Ah'm scared someone is gonna kill him. Someone tried to kill Jay before, who's to say they won't try to kill Sam? Back home, our neighbors, they tried to kill me and Paige because 'a what we was too. He says he's invincible when he's in the air, but he gotta come down some time."

Halgrim listens to the ever-growing list of siblings with obvious surprise. At the end of this nigh-Biblical recitation, he blinks. There's only faint hope of him remembering more than a few of the names. "That's certainly a considerable family you have, Jebediah," he says finally. "I've some experience with…groups of that sort. It would be wrong to promise things will be alright. They might not. The most you can do is hope." He glances at Adam, looking concerned now. "I had no idea there was that much activity. Of course, I don't imagine most non-mutants do."

"As with monsters, there are more mutants than meet the eye." Adam has his giant hand on Jeb's back. "And more to them, as well. Jebediah's brother Cannonball has a reputation as powerful. Is he not, Jebediah Guthrie?" he asks Jeb. "You know better than rumor, do you not? What does your head say, not your heart?"

Jebediah laughs at the shock in Halgrim's tone at how large his family is and it's a sweet sound, not forced. "We're from down south, Grims. We had a farm, you just make as many kids as you can because then they can help with the farm and help raise the other kids. Just unfortunate for my mama that my daddy died shortly after Beth was born. She got all these little brats to tame, but she's a force of nature. When my daddy died, Sam and Jay kinda became psuedo-dad. They both have given me plenty of lickin's in my time, Ah was always the troublemaker, Ah know you're both real surprised, right?" Talking about his family seems to lighten the mood a little, making Jeb smile.

He pulls back to look at Adam, putting a hand on his cheek. "My brother is really strong, and Ah trust him to take care of himself but Ah still gotta worry about him… Ah still gotta miss him… Ah… Ah ain't.. Ah ain't never had a bed all to myself before."

Carefully, Halgrim says, "Many of my ancestors farmed, Jebediah. They simply hired farmhands if the family was small." He clears his throat. "Though, perhaps this is a difference between my country and yours." It's as delicate a version of 'Americans, am I right?' as he can manage, given the circumstances. He makes a face of reluctant agreement at Adam's statement. "I suppose it must be so." He flicks a quick glance at Jeb and then considers the kittens. "Perhaps you should sleep with your kitten. That might help, if she's amenable."

"They mine, as well," Adam says to Halgrim. "The mines kill swiftly. I have been reading up on my new countrymen." American history is so much shorter and simpler than European. He delicately pats Jeb's hand, on his sunken cheek. "I cannot say I understand, for I do not. Yet you have this old monster's sympathies, Jebediah. To lose what one has always counted upon is never easy. I suspect your brother will return to crowd your bed once more. Have you never slept alone?" That's a real novelty to him, this construct who has been nothing but alone for almost all of his long life.

"Yeah, the mines are what killed my daddy. Sam went to work in them until his powers got too noticable and then he came here. Someone had to earn money to feed all of us, unfortunately. And well, we was too poor to be hirin' people, Halgrim. Kids is free labor. And if they complain, you can put 'em over your knee. Cain't do that with hired folks, Ah reckon." He teases, his smile a little wider.

He gives Adam his attention then, seeming to hear more than the question Adam is asking in his voice. He shakes his head slightly. "Ah have not. Almost always had to share my bed with one or two, maybe even three other bodies. It's… strange… to be alone. Ah ain't like it much." Jeb's heart hurts for Adam as he speaks and he bites his lower lip before giving Adam a much more aggressive hug than before. "No one should have to be alone."

Sighing, Halgrim says, "That economic situation is entirely avoidable, though sadly, many people aren't willing to do what would be necessary to resolve it." He grimaces at the mention of the mines and their toll. The history of mining in his home country is long, and due to its involvement in the war, ugly. "Ghastly. I'm sorry Jebediah, for your father." Loneliness; ah, that's a familiar topic. "It takes getting used to," he says, gently. "You become used to having someone there."

Hugging Adam is like hugging a metal statue, unyielding and cold. Yet he sighs, just a little, great ribcage carrying Jeb along with it as if he floated on a wave, and strokes Jeb's hair. "No. Nobody should be alone. You are not. The Professor is not. Even I am not. Not anymore." And not for the time being. He knows he will be alone again. He is kind enough not to say so to Jeb.

It hasn't mattered once to Jebediah that hugging Adam is not the same as hugging Grim or his brothers, that he is not soft and warm or squishy the way they all are. It clearly hasn't deterred him in the least from continuing to give them to Adam again and again. He laughs a little at Adam's sigh."You ain't gotta sound so defeated by the notion, Adam." He teases around another laugh. "But that's right. You aren't and you're not gonna be as long as Ah'm around. Ah'm gonna be around to be annoyin' until the end of time, so you both better get used to it." He teases, leaning his head back against the monster's big hand. "What have you two named the kittens, by the way?"

"Not anymore," Halgrim agrees, and tosses some kibble to the three kittens so they won't take to gnawing on Jeb or Adam. He doesn't dare to comment on the end of time and who all will, or won't, be there. "I have been calling the little one Freyja, after the goddess of my people. Her brother must, of course, learn respect, for she is a goddess of war and death. A fierce one to have as a sister, and not to be trifled with."

"Defeated. Is that how I sound?" Adam's teasing too, pulling back a little from Jeb so he he look at him. "No. I am pleased a butterfly has chosen to alight on me." Jeb's kitten is wrestling with her brother, and Adam looks at them. "I have named him Old Dan, for the hound in the book." He also doesn't mention the fate that the two dogs in _Where the Red Fern Grows_ meet. "I'm afraid, however, he has not yet learned not to trifle with Freyja. When she is a little bigger, perhaps she will box his ears and teach him."

"You sighed like it was such an awful fate." Jeb teases, and something in his chest jumps when Adam picks on him back, he wonders if he's finally taught this monster how to play. The smile on his face shows how damn delighted he is at being teased by Adam and it only grows wider when Adam calls him a butterfly again. "Ah fear my kitten's name is not near as interesting as either of those. Ah named her Buttermilk, after the kind of pancakes my mama used to make. She's a tiny hunter though. Ah'll have to bring her around… Fr..Freyja? More often, she will teach her sister how to beat up mean older brothers." He says, reaching down to scritch behind Freyja's ears, uninterested in trying to break up the wrestling match as kittens have rather sharp teeth.

Halgrim leans down to rub Buttermilk's belly as she rolls about. "I'm sure Freyja will teach her well." He offers them each a piece of kibble, which they gnaw on, crunch, swallow, and immediately return to their rough-housing. He raises his eyebrows at Adam and huffs a laugh as he calls Jeb a butterfly, though doesn't specify what's amusing him.

Old Dan, not able to pin Buttermilk, gets frustrated and goes after Freyja instead. There's tiny squeaky squalling. Adam nudges him away with a fingertip, then plucks a tassel of grass to distract him with. Old Dan is very excited about grass, going after it with stiff little hops. "Now, Jebediah. Tell us how your studies proceed. We must have you ready to sit the tests."

Jeb smiles at the dumb little kittens rolling about. "Your kitten is a bit of a brat, isn't he?" He teases Adam and reluctantly disengages from Adam's arms to sit down at the table. "Well, Ah'm doin' much better with the reading and what not, Ah'm still strugglin' really hard with math but Ah've asked my brother's… friend, Ah guess.. it's a friend he /kisses/ but he's just a friend, to help me with it because he, like everyone else Ah know." He gestures at the two of them. "Is really damn smart. Ah don't like when they put numbers /and/ letters in things."

Halgrim tilts his head at Jeb, like he's trying to decide how to say something. "So, a friend with whom he's intimate, though not attached," he suggests, carefully. "Otherwise you could refer to him as y—" he glances around them, and though there's no one, opts for, "as, *a* boyfriend." His tone suggests an optional question. It could easily be taken as a statement of his own interpretation, to be left ambiguious and unconfirmed if Jeb doesn't want to discuss his brother's love life in specific terms. "We can get some more books from the library, if you're done with any of those we obtained."

Adam looks at Halgrim, interested in what he's got to say. These issues of boyfriends and who is one and isn't one are foreign to him, and thus exotic. "I confess I do not know why one calls one's paramour one thing or the other." When Jeb implies he's not smart, he frowns at him. "You are intelligent as well, Jebediah. Do not think otherwise. Your strengths may be different from ours, but that only makes you more …" he hesitates, as if wanting a word. "More rare. Thus, more valuable."

"It's a complex thing," Halgrim explains to Adam, "not the least because of course, in much of the world only men and women may be intimate. So the ability to safely declare you are with someone of your sex is rare, and many find it precious. That not-withstanding, there is a notion that if a formal relationship isn't declared and claimed, there must be a lack. That if you don't care to set fixed terms, the intimacy is shallow, or less valuable." He adjusts his position on the bench, resting his elbows on his knees and folding his hands. "Of course, many men do this to women, to promise them more and give them nothing—again, because society places the blame for that lack on the woman, and not the man." He shrugs helplessly. "I don't understand the idea that without a stated, fixed relationship there's no value myself, but I've never been inclined to that. And of course, as a man, I stand far less to lose by thinking so. Certainly, I would hold it against no woman who refused to be with me because I wasn't interested in something committed."

He leaves off this digression and focuses on Jeb and his schoolwork once more; an equally significant topic. "Didn't we discuss this already, that you're not to refer to yourself as dumb?"

"Ah don't know, he seems real attached, but Ah guess there was some kind of fallin' out between them or somethin', and maybe Jay just ain't ready to have more than one of those. Like, he's already got one, a *boyfriend* and Ah guess he's just… worried about havin' another and what it means for their relationship but Ah'm pretty sure they do… y'know… *stuff* together." Jebediah Guthrie is *blushing* while he discusses this with Halgrim. "Ah don't know what you categorize a boyfriend and what's like, just a person you sleep with sometime, but from what Ah can tell, Jay feels at this guy the same way he feels at his current partner, so what holds him back from givin' him that title is beyond me, but if Ah gave that title to everyone Ah felt that way about, Ah'd have *many* partners, but Ah.. have.. Ah.. did… you the *stuff* we was talkin' about with a person once and Ah ain't feel like Ah wanna call him my boyfriend neither, it was just a one time thing. The person Ah would like to call that, or a version of it, Ah haven't done anythin' really intimate with. Basically," And Jeb gestures wildly in frustration here. "Ah ain't understand squat about Jay, being… you know…" He drops his voice to a whisper here, "queer or how many boyfriends you're allowed to have and what makes a boyfriend a boyfriend. Ah'm still figurin' stuff out. Also, don't tell no one that Ah did *stuff* with a guy, especially not my brother."

"Ah wasn't, Mister Halgrim!" Jeb nearly whines it, like he's sure he's in trouble now because it's only the seventieth time that Halgrim has had to remind him not to say that. "Ah didn't say it. Just that you guys are smart."

"You need not fear," Adam says, amused, "your brother will hear nothing about your bedfellows from us. The topic is not his for the knowing. Now, gentlemen, let us address what we have met to address, and leave Jebediah's brother's lovers to another time for the discussion."

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