Unexpected Gifts Redux


aura_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif felix_icon.gif

Scene Title Unexpected Gifts, Redux
Synopsis Once Upon a Time in a Bright World, Felix got an unexpected gift. Now it comes full circle.
Date June 9, 2019

Felix's New Apartment, NYC Safe Zone

Aurora's head is poking into the meager boxes of stuff that Unca Felix brought with him from Rochester. She reaches in and comes out with a T-shirt that she sniffs and gives him a look of childish disgust. "Don't they gots wash machines where you lived, Unca Felix?!" Eeew! With two fingers, her nose screwed up into a look of disdain that he has seen a few times on her mother's features, Aura carries the offending garment to a corner of what's going to be his bedroom and drops it. She's gotten really used to having clean clothes again, unlike in the wasteland and the flooded worlds. "That's disgustin', Unca Felix. Unca Lee would put his boot up your arse." She forgets sometimes that Unca Lee isn't here, and isn't anywhere anymore.

And as soon as the words are out of her mouth, her hazel eyes go wide and well up with tears. "Pras-tee1, dyadya!" She tries to remember not to bring up Unca Lee.

This Felix is just as much of a sucker as the one she knew. "That's my workout and cleaning t-shirt, Briar Rose," he tells her, with only a hint of a smile. "But you're right, it's stinky. I'll wash it. We'll use this cardboard box as a hamper."

Then she's swearing and he's biting his lip not to laugh….until there's such genuine distress, all he can do is swoop in and pick her up. "It's okay, peachpie," he tells her. "It's hard to remember what things are like now, when things used to be so different. It's okay. I know you miss him."

Part of Felix does, too, a permanent ache like a broken tooth.

The petite little urchin wraps both arms around his neck, along with Blossom — who is never far from her reach — and hugs him tight. Maybe he should be glad her arms aren't longer; there might be some choking going on there! But she buries her small face against his jaw and nods against his face. "It's good here. I gots Daddy an' Mummy an' Mom an' Ricky an' Lili an' Aunt Kaylee an' you… but Unca Kain went 'way cuz he needed some time fer learnin' here. An' Aunt Isa an' Unca Shahid don't come see me. An' Unca Magbutt is sad cuz he can't find Addie. An' I miss Unca Lee an' Cam an' Yggy an' Other-Unca Felix an' Other-Aunt Kaylee."

There's lots of changes for the little one. For a child who's been through as much as she has, the number of people she calls family is kind of staggering.

It’s heart-breaking to think of, this little angel subjected to all that displacement. “It’s going to get better and better,” he assures her. Someday she’ll be able to wrestle him - no child of Liz will lack self-defense training from Uncle Felix. “You came at a good time.” He has to believe that - that the future will be brighter, especially for the Evolved.

Leaning back in his arms, Aura looks intently at him. "Lyublyu tebya, dyadya." She brings up her free arm and shows him Blossom. "Bossum too. We're glad you're movin' close an' that you an' Mummy will work togevver." She kisses his cheek. "I gots Mister Maffew t' keep me safe, but Mummy needs you. Me 'n Bossum n' Ricky 'n Lili don't want nothing to happen to peoples. So you'll be safe wif Mummy." She sighs, relieved to be able to tell Unca Felix — who has always been a cop! — that she's nervous about all this.

God, Russian in a child’s voice. That’s enough to send him for a loop as it is. Wait until she’s old enough to really understand how to manipulate her adult companions. Felix is doomed.

He looks into her eyes, smiles. “We’ll keep each other safe,” he says. “We’ve been doing this job for a very, very long time before you were born, dumpling. We’re very good at it, especially when we work together.” He kisses her on the forehead. “Promise.”

Maybe it’ll be enough to keep him from getting shot up, keeping that promise in mind. Life is no longer so cheap.

There's a subtle frown at that… although she knows stories of Mummy being a policeperson, she's never lived that. Mummy was a singer and then she did stuff to get us here for a long time. But she's never lived Elisabeth as a cop. Still… she's not skeptical about Mummy's ability to keep Unca Felix safe. She hugs him tight once more and then as she gets back down to help him more, she says, "You gots to have more furniture. How am I gonna stay the night wif you if I don't got a bed?" she asks practically.

As she starts rummaging in that box that caught her attention earlier, Blossom is set on the floor. His neck is a little frail where she carries him by it in the crook of her elbow, and his collar jangles to the floor as a seam finally gives up. Even though it's been mended several times, the poor dog is starting to fall apart. With the collar half off, though, there's a glint of something else within the the dog's stuffing. Something shiny.

"Unca Felix, do you gots enough dishes to eat off of? Mummy said she was bringin' some from home cuz you don't gots no pans. But do you gots plates an' bowls?"

“I’ll work on that, sweetpea. I could get a special couch, one that turns into a bed at bedtime,” he suggests. Poor Blossom. He’s already stooping to pick up the doggo. “I’ll fix him,” he says, hastily, lest she think clumsy Uncle Felix has maimed her precious puppy.

But even as he speaks, he’s probing the stuffing for that shiny thing. His first thought is that it’s a bug, or a tracker. Paranoid with long justification, right?

Later, Elisabeth will be grateful for his paranoia — after all, who knows what it could be? Though she herself might not have gone there, since the dog is almost never out of Aurora's hands. The child looks up as he picks up Blossom and sighs. "Poor Bossum. Daddy fixed him when we got here, but Mummy said he might need to have stuffie surg'ry." Not that she has a clue what that means. She looks hopeful. "Can you?" Fix him, she means.

And when he starts poking Blossom, she gets a little suspicious. "Unca Felix, why are you pokin' yer fingers in Bossum?" She likes to know things. LOTS of things. And she comes over, less worried that he's damaging Blossom than that something weird is going on. Cuz you know, Unca Kain hadda fix him a couple times, and Unca Kain isn't good at that!

"What's that?" she asks as he comes out with the golden something or another on a chain. The little girl tips her head. "Is it part of his collar?"

He feels….it isn’t a chill. More like an echo, a bell struck in some distant room somehow resounding…..or the glass-trembling basso of the monks he heard once, long ago, in Russia. But it takes him a moment to reply to her, as he holds it up. “I don’t know, Aurora,” he says, gently. “It looks like a tag, or a pendant. But yes, I can fix him. I can sew.”

Who taught him? Some relative long lost, that whole family he once had over the horizon. He had no siblings, but a score of cousins, other Ivanovs who’ve had to survive in whatever hell for the Evolved Russia has become.

One handed, he turns the locket in his palm, starts to edge it open with a thumbnail.

Ooooh! Unca Felix can sew and there's shiny things on Blossom? "Primal," Aura breathes out, eyes wide as she watches him. Inching closer, she stands on her toes to peer into his hand curiously while he works on getting it open.

There's a frozen moment where he's almost afraid to open it, for fear of what it might contain. And he's still, regarding it with that almost distant look.

Then he says, more under his breath than not, "Strike the bell and bide the danger," and opens it. A tiny slip of paper, with something printed on it in Russian too small to be read easily.

"A message, Aurora. Tsvesti brought a message for me, from first Uncle Felix, I think." 'Tsvesti' being the Russian word for blossom. He holds it carefully, curls his finger around it, and then fishes in a pocket with his other hand. Out comes a worn Swiss Army knife….and he folds out its magnifier, and holds it over the paper.

Well… that's not an expected response. Aurora's hazel eyes flicker up to him uncertainly. "Is… is it a secret message like the hidey-hole box?" They're supposed to be safe here… to not need hidey-hole boxes no more. And yet her go-bag is still packed and hidden in the bottom of her closet… and now Blossom has a secret. She swallows hard. "Are we gonna hafta go again?" The question is soft, a worried crinkle in her small brows.

That tone - no child should ever have to worry about something like that, and he looks up, quickly, meeting her gaze. “No, devochka. No. I don’t think it’s anything bad.”

And he forces himself to square his shoulders, smoothing out any worry in his manner, though he doesn’t go so far as to force a smile. She’s a smart cookie, like her mother, she’d see through any actual falsity.

Then he’s holding the magnifier over it, squinting through. Uncle Felix that was must’ve written this and shrunk it, somehow. Downsized it….but with magnification. He mouthes the words to himself….and then closes his eyes, for a long moment. Against tears, truth be told. He may be naturalized for thirty years, but Russian sentiment runs strong yet, apparently.

Then he opens them again, gives her a smile. “Yes,” he says, softly. “First Uncle Felix sent a message - I think he knew you would find your way to me. He says….he says that he sends away his greatest treasures with this dog, and that I should love and protect you as he did….and would do if he could.”

The hazel eyes that watch him from the small features just beginning to lose their baby softness are mirrors to a knowledgeable little soul. She's waiting for bad news. Aurora hasn't forgotten her life Before the magic doorways that sent them to new places… good things happened sometimes even in the bad places. But she's often wary. So when he holds the little paper like his heart is aching, somehow… it's just expected.

Little arms wrap themselves around his neck and Aura holds him tightly. "it's okay, dyadya," she comforts him.

When he tells her what's in the note, though, the worried expression eases into a brilliant smile. "Daddy says I'm the luckiest person cuz I get to have two Unca Felixes. Me an' Bossum pertected Unca Felix's note for you! I held on tight and din't lose Bossum even in the ocean when we almost drownded! Now you know he's happy you found us!" She's proud of herself for doing a good job!

Wise beyond her years, as children who’ve passed through crucibles like that so often are. IT’s a watery smile, but genuine enough. A heart aching in sympathy for his doppelganger in that brighter world. Especially since his own Liz is gone.

He tucks the note hastily away in its locket. “I don’t know that that makes you lucky,” he says, momentarily dry, as he holds her carefully. “Two of me is quite a lot, eh?” He can’t ask a six year old if the prosperous, married version of himself is as much of an asshole as he is.

Tipping her head, Aura stares into his watery blue eyes and reaches up to gently wipe his cheek where something might have escaped. "That is a lot. If bof of you was togevver, you'd have to have races," she tells him solemnly. "Nobody else could keep up."

Her sweet smile pops up with an impish glint. "Mummy telled me you broke some of your armor. She said it was really funny. That the science man cried." Because she knows how to make Uncle Felix laugh. "Bozhe moi, dydya, you musta been goin' really fast."

She’s got her mom’s instincts for defusing a situation, too. He grins at that. “I did! It was meant for people who are strong and need protection, not for people who go fast. See, when I run that fast, it’s almost like shaking it really hard. Like an earthquake. So the weak parts, the joints, they just fell apart. They put it back together and made it so I could use it, but they had to do a lot of work. You know, I’m not sure where that armor went. Maybe your mom could guess. She might know.”

That thought is of little interest to the sprite in his arms. She's looking thoughtfully at the chain and locket that the message came in. "I 'member that. Unca Lee and Unca Felix gived it to me on my birfday." She reaches out and takes it from him and grins as she opens it wider to show him the image in it. "First Unca Felix sent a pitcher of Cam! He's my cousin." The little girl had no idea that he was technically her half-brother.

The small portrait is a simple headshot of a laughing boy about 5 years old with Felix's bright blue eyes and soft brown hair.

God, that’s a jolt. He doesn’t gasp or go rigid, but he blinks, and there’s that betraying stillness. A son. That other Felix is really a father, isn’t he? “What’s he like?” he asks, gently. “Tell me about him? Did you used to play with him?”

He holds it closer, as if he could divine with it. Read something of the future he never had. The family that was supposed to be, but wasn’t.

Well, that's an easy enough question for the little girl. Aurora wrinkles her nose. "He's boy. He's awways kickin' a soccer ball an' gets mad if I kick it better'n him." For kids her age, time is somewhat fluid and even though she's been a lot of places in the past two years, that was home, so she remembers it better. "Mummy teached us piano, an' he's lots better'n me. His mummy hadda go to heaven, so he got to have two daddies instead." She sticks her lip out in remembered annoyance. "That wasn't so fair. But Unca Felix said one Mummy was equal to two daddies, so Cam hadda stop bein' mean about it. He talks a lot."

There's a pause as she looks back at the little boy's picture. "He gibbed me a f'ower once. A purple one cuz it's my fav'rite color. An' we bof like choc'late cake an' mint ice cream. He had a puppy just like Bossum, on'y it was white an' grey an' his name was Frosty." She clearly misses Cameron. "We bof gots the name Ivanov in our names … well, mine's Ivanova, but it's cuz his mummy loved Unca Felix before she hadda go to heaven. And my mummy loved you." She has no idea that Cam's mummy was the other Elisabeth, of course. Nor that there were multiple reasons she was given Ivanova.

Two daddies. Fel purses his lips in that way he has. That lucky bastard - a son and a husband. Even if he has his Liz now, and the other one has lost her. If only there were some way to really reach beyond timelines…

“So, you like to play soccer, huh?” It’s a welcome divergence, even if he has that look in his eyes, thoughtful and distant. Then he looks down at her more sharply. “Mint ice cream…. Bet we can find it in a shop around here, sometime.”

The pixie bounces a bit and says, "Me an' Cam played soccer onna same team! Cuz boys an' girls bof get to play!" She enjoyed it, clearly. "An' I got the ball in two whole times! But the shirts was ugly orange. I din't like that." Aurora grins slyly at the offer of ice cream. "Do you like mint ice cream too?"

It's about this time that the child's mother finally returns with another box of housewarming accoutrements. "Hey — I got lucky down at the market," (Do not say it, Felix!) "and found a small set of actual matching dishes at one of the stalls. So you've got four plates, teacups, and bowls, at least," Elisabeth announces cheerfully as she bumps the apartment door open with her hip. "And two saucepans and a frying pan."

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