Right At Home


lance_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title Right at Home
Synopsis They really are good at absorbing strays! Lance learns a bit more about Squeaks' past and decides to find the way to keep her out of the foster system.
Date May 11, 2018

The Lair (or that place where the Lighthouse Kids are residing)

It's in Elmhurst, next door to Caspian's place.

It’s a quiet day around the place the Lighthouse Kids — including some of their newest members — have collectively gathered themselves in, right next to Caspian’s own place and still on his property. Most of them are out and about today, whether they’re earning some spending money or up to exploring and mischief somewhere.

Lance doesn’t realize anyone else is still home, which is perhaps why he’s got about a dozen guns of various makes and sizes spread out over a table that he’s checking through, disassembling and reassembling and making sure they’re all well-oiled and in good, working order.

He’s humming an idle tune under his breath, occasionally pausing when he forgets the next note and skipping to the new one.

In the short time since deciding she was staying with the original Lighthouse Trio, Squeaks has made herself right at home. Mostly. There are still habits, long lingering things from all her time spent taking care of herself. Usually in the form of leaving without leaving a note — although she has made some effort to change that after all the scariness that’s happened, it’s not a reliable habit. Or the small stashes of shelf-stable foods she gets from occasionally helping Raquelle which can be found in often unusual and sometimes difficult to access places.

But today is one of those days where she hasn’t taken off without warning. Instead, it’s one of those days where she’s simply gotten lost somewhere in the house. Another thing learned and well-practiced from all that time on her own, Squeaks can become pretty well unfindable when she desires.

However it’s the ambient stillness that’s drawn the girl out from wherever she’d stowed away this time. On bared feet she tippy-toes from somewhere until she’s peeking around a door frame at Lance. She’s probably been there for a good few minutes, watching, picking at a small splinter on the frame. But now Squeaks speaks up with, “What’s that you’re singing?”

“Oh! Hey— “ Lance twists a bit to look over, flashing a grin, “Hey, Squeaks, didn’t see you there.” The slide of the gun he’s working on is slipped into place, his gaze returning to his work as he admits, “It’s, uh, an older song. 21 Guns, I think it was called? Green Day. I don’t think they’re around anymore.”

The music industry took a heavy hit from the war. A lot of music these days is European or Japanese influenced, although most of the Lighthouse Kids seem to prefer the music of their youth.

The guns are gathered together, then, and he starts packing them into a suitcase. “You like any music,” he asks, glancing over curiously.

The firearm maintenance is taken for what it is: just a thing that’s done. Squeaks watches from the door frame with shy curiosity. “I don’t know.” The answer is slow in coming, as though she’s never considered if she likes any kind of music. There’s definitely no recognition to the name Green Day.

“Carolyn listened to this stuff that sounded like cats yelling. Sometimes I could tell what they were saying, but not a lot.” Squeaks takes a couple of steps away from the door frame to sit on the floor. “But I don’t think I like that kind of music.”

The suitcase is zipped up securely, and Lance leans back in his chair; craning his neck to look down at the younger girl curiously. “I think you’ve mentioned her before,” he muses, “Who is she? Or— er, was?” Uncertain, given that the girl seems to be on her own now, as he realizes just how little they know about Squeaks.

“She was married to Dad.” There’s no emotion connected to Dad. As with other times she’s said it, the word is flat, with none of the admiration or attachment a child might have for a parent. There’s also no Mom to go with it. No familial link. They are, as always, referred to as Carolyn and Dad. “They were the grown-ups that kept me until they died. She wasn’t very nice.” That last bit is added quietly, like someone might overhear that shouldn’t. “She liked fancy things and lots of parties and having all the best things.”

“Oh.” Lance considers her for a moment, and then his head’s bobbing a little, “Yeah, I’ve known people like that. They suck.” Wryly, “We never had the best things - Gillian and Brian, and Samara I guess, they tried though. And we had each other at least. Like we still do.” He tilts his head, “So, uh, where did you go after they died?” Sometimes he can be pretty blunt.

“Yeah.” There’s a little strength behind Squeaks’ agreement. They do suck. Putting it into words makes her think about it with a label instead of the black-and-white way she’s always viewed it. It seems, though she still treats all the grown-ups she meets with the caution she’d give a viper, that she’s figuring out there’s more than the two-dimensional way she’s usually approaching things.

“When Dad died we were in a house by a lake.” Squeaks’ face scrunches a little as she tries to remember all the details. Or enough to make sense. “Then Carolyn eventually had to get a small house not by the lake, and that made her really mean. She couldn’t have fancy things anymore and she was always mad at me. Then she died and I ran away for good. I didn’t know where I was going, just followed roads until I was here.”

“Oh.” An echo of his earlier words, and Lance shifts to get up from the chair, stepping over and dropping down to sit on the floor near her; legs folding under himself as he makes himself comfortable there. “Well, at least you found us,” he offers reassuringly, “We’ll look out for you. A lot of times people don’t really know what they want, they think fancy things’ll make them happy. S’not true, though. Other people make you happy.”

That really needs some pondering over. Squeaks casts a sidelong look at Lance, one eye squinted shut like it might help her know what he’s saying and what it means. “They didn’t want me. Except when it made them look fancy. There was always just me.” And that is something she’s been used to since before she can remember.

But now there’s more than just her.

“I stay here now.” It’s more than just the idle proclamation she’d made before when she’d decided to insert herself amongst the recovering group of siblings. It’s making sure she’s staying. “Not in the Underneath. Not alone.”

“Good.” Lance flashes her a grin, reaching out to try and ruffle her hair, “And if anyone tries to mess with you, we’ll kick their ass.” They do seem to have an awful lot of weaponry and combat training for a bunch of teenagers, after all.

“Besides, I’ve been down in the sewers,” his nose wrinkles, “It’s spooky as hell down there. And there’s whatever’s making the rats do that, and whoever sold all the food…”

“Like real family.” It’s as much question as statement, cautiously optimistic. And also a little afraid. Her experience with families is only the poor description of life with Carolyn and “Dad”., and some experiences aren’t easily forgotten. Squeaks’ eyes squeeze shut when her hair is ruffled. But she’s okay with that, too, and she grins when her hair is mussed.

“The Underneath isn’t bad.” Says the one who’s stayed there for the better part of several years. “I show you where it’s safe and not safe. There’s lots to see. I never knew there was a tank there. Maybe we can find William, but no more scary tapes.”

“Yeah,” Lance encourages, flashing her a grin, “Like real family.”

He rocks back a bit, his head tilting, “Yeah, sure. If you know where it’s safe… I mean, we have some old maps, but they’re from the Ferryman days, a lot’s changed down there since then. We mostly just know where to get in now.”

I know where it’s safe.” It’s boastful, but Squeaks has reason to boast. “I stayed in the Underneath when there was all the fighting above. That’s where I went when I ran away. I stayed there for a long time while there was fighting and then after. Until I stayed here. No one found me and I’m still alive.”

She hops slightly. It’s more of an awkward scoot, given that she’s sitting on the floor. But it could have been a hop, if Squeaks had been on her feet. “I made a map. Of the Underneath where the market is. The people in charge didn’t like it because …I don’t know. But it’s a lot different now than the other maps. There’s older and older maps that show tunnels no one knows about. I can find those places, too.”

“Wait, a market?” Lance blinks, then blinks again, “There’s a market down there somewhere?”

That’s certainly news to the teenager, who grins then, “And you know where the older tunnels are too…? Yeah, we gotta check this out. Sounds primal. We can all go exploring! And shit, you were down there alone all that time…? You’re pretty primal too, that’s impressive. Joe and me didn’t last like an hour down there!”

“The market is above where I made a map.” Squeaks laughs at the misunderstanding, and even claps a hand to her forehead. “Maybe there’s a market? Other people without homes live in the Underneath. There was lots when the fighting happened, not very much left now. Most left after the war.”

Her head bobs up and down with a nod. “I lived there for a long time. Before I ran away I learned how to take care of myself. Then I ran away, and I had help sometimes. Soup kitchens and places that help people with nothing. But I ran away because I didn’t want to be made to stay with people like Carolyn again. She locked me up, but I got out and ran away.”

“Oh,” Lance almost sounds disappointed, as if he was imagining some amazing underground black market filled with exotic goods. Maybe goblins. You never know. He nods, then, “Well, nobody’s gonna lock you up again… mnm.”

He gives her a look, then, brow furrowing, “We gotta figure out how to get you legal so they’ll leave you alone, especially with Gillian knowing you’re here.”

The disappointed Oh from Lance gets a Squeaks finger touching his arm. “There’s still cool stuff there.” She’ll show him. Like those skeletons she found near the tank. His assurances that she won’t be locked up are an obvious relief. She didn’t believe the older teens would have done anything like that, and the grown-ups she’s met with them seem okay. Still…

The next thing Lance says pulls Squeaks’ face into a confused frown. Legal? “What’s that mean? Is it bad that… being not that? Because Gillian knows?”

Lance’s nose wrinkles a little. “I mean, probably nobody would care, but… technically, like, you’re a minor,” he says, carefully, “So we have to figure out some things so that the government doesn’t try to put you in foster care— “ He quickly holds up a hand before she panics, “They won’t be able to, ‘cause we know a lot of people that will stop them, but, we gotta figure out some paperwork so they don’t try.”

There could have been panic. Squeaks’ expression definitely looks like she’s headed that way, face going a little pale and eyes widening. She doesn’t want to be made to leave or go anywhere else. And she doesn’t want to end up with another not-family like she had before. She’d run away again.

“Okay.” She nods, and her reply sounds brave even though she doesn’t look brave. She doesn’t feel it either. “No one cared so far.” Which isn’t totally true. She did manage to put herself on the Safe Zone Council radar, Gillian said as much. “Let’s get legal paperwork.” She’s not sure what that means, either, but it sounds better than being taken away.

“Honestly, the government has enough on its plate,” admits Lance, “Still. You’re one of us, so I want to make absolute sure nobody can steal you away. You’re ours, and the government trying to say otherwise’s just botswarf.” A reassuring smile, “So I’ll get working on that. Just trust me.”

“But yeah we have totally gotta go exploring and see stuff down there sometime,” he says more enthusiastically, “There’s gotta be some cool old stuff hidden away.”

Trusting others is something she’s still learning. Even though she’s never approached Lance or his siblings with the same uneasiness and wariness that she has toward the grown-ups they all know, trust in herself has always been the standard. There’s a lot of truth behind her claim to taking care of herself, and reliance on others is foreign to her. So when Squeaks nods agreement, it’s not without levels of worry and fear. “I’ll trust you,” she says with her head bobbing.

The weight of the decision isn’t lost on her, and it’s almost a relief when the subject is changed. There will be time to fret over what being legal means and what sorts of paperwork comes with it later. Right now in the present, Squeaks absolutely perks up a little when the subject returns to the Underneath. She fills the room with chatter about what she seen and found below, ground, while Lance continues to clean and oil firearms and make sure things are all working right. And questions of her explorations are answered freely.

The more who know about the Underneath from her point of view, the better. Because there will be more exploring to come.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License