(2530-09-26) Memoirs of Finnegan Hill
Summary: This is the history of Finnegan Hill
RL Date: 09/26/2020
Related: None
finnegan tres 

Nikita, Ariel - The Graduation takes place in Ariel City

2502 - The Bid Dirl
The Hills are playing a game of ball in the front yard. Finnegan is 2, which would make Tres 10. The ball rolls out into the street and little Finn runs toward it. Kay gets to her first, grabbing the toddler’s arm so she can turn her around and pop her on the bottom. It’s not hard; just a warning shot across the bow.

Finnegan doesn’t cry. She points out at the street and says, “Penden dett it.”

“No. You do not go into the road. Russell will get the ball. He’s a big boy. Only big people can go into the street to get the ball,” Kay informs her daughter.

“Penden BID DIRL!”

So Kay marches the children into the kitchen, where she gets Russell to stand up against the pantry doorframe so she can mark his height. Then, she does the same for Finnegan. She shows the little girl the difference. “When you’re this tall, like Russell, you will be a big girl. Until then, you let Russell get the ball.”

Four years later:

Kay, “Finn, I’m going to hop into the shower. Watch the baby and let me know if she cries, okay?”

Finnegan, “No thank you. I don’t wanna.”

Kay, “Finnegan Hill, I need to take a shower and I need you to watch your sister for a few minutes. You’re a big girl now. You need to help out.”

Finnegan walks over to the pantry and measures herself up against the doorframe, marking her height with her hand, “Nope. Not a big girl yet. Guess you’ll just have to watch your own stupid baby.”

Like a comic panel, the scene cuts to Finnegan, standing with her nose in the corner. Kay didn’t appreciate wit in children.

2503 - The Game
Ok. We'll start REALLY little. Finnegan Hill is a spunky three-year-old, which would make Russell - who has yet to be nicknamed Tres - about 11. He has her at the playground, in a baby swing, pushing her back and forth. "Wheeee," she says.
On a nearby ball field, kids are trying to get up a game of baseball. One of Russ' close friends, Geoffrey, comes over, "Come on, Hill. Let's play. We need a pitcher."

"I need to watch Finny," Russell explains, nodding to the little one in the swing. "When she gets bored with the swing, I'll come over." Even then, perhaps, he was very orderly. This is what he set out to do, and, while it's very nice that he has another opportunity, he's already doing something.

"We need you. You're the best pitcher here, and we can't let the Academy Street kids win AGAIN. She can just watch. You wanna watch Russy play baseball, Finny? You do, don't you?" Geoffrey wheedles, grinning cutely at the little girl. He has bright blue eyes and an infectious smile, possibly foreshadowing a type that TinyFinn doesn't yet know she has.

Finnegan says, "I doe watts Wusso. I do high Wusso."

And maybe foreshadowing Russ's type, too! Then again - what /does/ Edwin look like? Other than 'vaguely hot'? "Okay - " Russell agrees, slowing down the swing and helping Finny out. He seems to be able to understand her baby talk. "Someone's gotta watch her while I pitch. If I can't see her, I'm out," he explains. "You wanna walk, or you want me to carry you?" he asks his sister.

"We could just put her in the dugout and shut the gate," Geoffrey says. "It's like a giant playpen. What could she do in there?" He offers his hand to Finnegan and she takes it, readily. The other hand, she slips into her brother's. "I dunna pay ball, too! I dit a home wun. I dit the ball and I wun and I wun and I wun. Dats wite."

"You did!" Russ agrees. He's old enough to find his sister endearing, rather than annoying competition. "You won and you won. You hit the ball really good." He plays with her, using a tiny plastic ball and a baby bat. "You don't know with little kids, Geoff. They put things in their mouths. Finny's real smart, but she's also curious. She might wanna taste a rock or something," he doesn't phrase it an insulting way, more just accepting that that's just how three year olds are.

She might! That is, after all, one way to tell a rock from a fossil - you lick it. Is Ariel old enough to have fossils yet? Dropping both of their hands, Finnegan runs ahead to the ball field, excited that there's a game which she thinks she's about to play. Geoffrey says, "It's not fair you get stuck with her ALL the time. Beecher wants to play short stop. He sucks at short stop."

Russ shrugs. "She thinks everything I do is great. If she has a fit, it's usually because she's hungry or tired or having some kinda," he spins his hand in the air, meaning feelings. "That I don't get. Then I give her to mom and dad. She usually doesn't get mad at me, 'cause I don't have to tell her no too much. When she does, though," he laughs, probably amused by the silliness of toddler temper tantrums. About Beecher, he just shrugs. "Let Finny do it then?" he wonders. "Long as nobody runs into her."

"I say we stick Beecher in right field with Finnegan. Nobody ever hits the ball out there. She can run around and think she's playing, he can babysit her because he can't catch a ball to save his life, and we put Allyson at short stop. She's the fastest," Geoffrey proposes. These are mostly kids that Finn knows, so she runs right into the pack of them. One of the older kids, who's a teen but still hangs with the younger kids because they're "more interesting", picks up the tiny child and swings her around. She laughs at him.

"Sounds good," Russ agrees. He keeps a watchful eye on Finnegan, making sure that she's not swung too hard, then smiles, giving the one who swings her a thumbs up. "I'm gonna put a helmet on her," he advises, assuming the kids have a slew of batting helmets and he can find one that fits that tiny head.

Fits is a relative term. It falls down in her eyes, but she doesn't care. She picks up a bat, sort of dragging the heavy end and and tells them, "I hit da ball! My turn!" Someone very gently tosses a ball at her and she swings the bat dangerously, risking life and limb of anyone who dares get close.
Meanwhile, Geoffrey is explaining the plan to Beecher, who responds like a temperamental almost-eleven-year-old. "No way. I'm ain't gonna hang out there babysitting his stupid little sister. I wanna PLAY."

Tres shoots Beecher a look. As long as Finny doesn't hear him, he doesn't intervene. But he'll remember, for sure, the next time Beecher wants something from him or someone else on the team.

Teams are decided, positions are decided, and Beecher even agrees to take Finnegan to left field because he's promised he'll get to play short stop after the third inning. He's not the best with smaller children, but he gets her out there by telling here, "This is where you play. Over here. You have the best position."

Watching, once Tres is satisfied that Finny's settled and safe and the game can begin, he rolls his shoulder a few times. He's already put his glove on, in the midst of all of this, and so now? It's time to pitch!

The first inning goes off without a hitch. Finnegan busies herself picking the heads off flowers and arranging them in 'bootiful bouquet'. Tres' team is up one run when he takes the mound the second time. Someone makes it to first. Two people are struck out. Finnegan flies like a butterfly in circles, her batting helmet falling over her eyes as she does. Beecher looks back at her, then prepares to watch the next pitch, hands on knees. The ball is hit, way out in right field. The first baseman has to run out to intercept it, meaning pitcher goes to first. It's super exciting. They managed to relay the ball back and get the running out at third. THAT'S the point where Kay Hill shows up and calls through the chain links, "Russ, time to come home. Dinner. Hey. Where's your sister?"

"Out in right field," Tres calls, then glances at his teammates. "Sorry. I have to go home for dinner," he says, then waves in whomever his natural replacement might be - Beecher? Then, he turns, jogging to retrieve Finnegan.

But, Finnegan's not there. Her battling helmet is. But Finnegan is not. The time it took for that play to go down was enough for the child to disappear.

"Beecher!" Tres freaks out, shoving the boy if he's in his way. Then, he goes running. "FINNY!" he hollers, then demands that the other kids help him find her.

Kay, for her part, also freaks out, "You lost your sister? You were playing BASEBALL and LOST your sister? Finnegan!" She starts to look for the child, too. The other kids don't mind helping - even Beecher feels bad, "What? I was watchin' the play."

Tres ducks down, looking high and low for Finnegan, wondering if she crawled under something. He ignores Kay for the time being. Kay freaks out. Whatever. It's more important to /find/ Finnegan than lose time freaking out. Ugh. Moms.

Kay can multitask! She can totally chew her son out AND look for her daughter, while panicking. "Is it really too much to ask? Just watch your sister for a couple of hours a day. Finnegan….."

Geoffrey accuses Beecher, "You were supposed to be watching the KID!"

Beecher, "I didn't want to get stuck with her. She's not MY sister."

Finnegan is not that hard to find. She left the field and went back to the playground, where she's sitting in the sandbox, oblivious to the turmoil, planting the little flower heads she picked and singing, "One little two little free little fowas."

Tres, with his brow furrowed, relaxes when he finds Finnegan. (He has continued to just ignore Kay. Maybe he just internalizes stress without an outlet. Hm!) Rather than fuss at her for breaking his rules, he drops into the sandbox with her. "Finny," he begins, patient, but wanting to get his point across before She Who Yells finds them. "I thought we were playing baseball?"

Too late. Kay is there. Finnegan looks up and sees her, smiles beatifically as she gets up and runs to the woman, "Hi Mommy. I pant fowas in a bootiful gahden for you!"
The mother scoops her youngest child into her arms and clings, taking a few heart beats to remember to breathe. "It /is/ a beautiful garden. Are you hungry, BabyGirl? It's time to go home for dinner." Kids run up, all relieved.

Beecher, "See. No big deal. She's RIGHT THERE." Geoffrey punches him in the arm. "What?"

Kay rounds on her son, "You are SOOO grounded. For the next week, you will watch your sister at home, you will not leave the yard, and you WILL learn the meaning of responsibility, and if you think that's too much, or unfair, you can make dinner while /I/ play in the park." She's wearing her work uniform, needing to head out for the evening shift right after they eat. Dad commutes from Ariel City, sometimes staying over because it's a long commute. That means Kay sometimes feels like a single parent. "Your father's running late so I had to call in Mrs. Rixell."

Tres stares at his mother, in the way that preteens have that seems obnoxious. Whatever. Ground him. He'll find things to do. There's no sense in pleading his case to a mad woman. She'll feel bad, later, if he just shuts up and takes it.

It /is/ a more effective technique in managing Kay than defiance, sometimes. She MIGHT blow up even more at him, or try to escalate the fight, but they are in public and she needs to get her kids fed so she can get off to work. If Kay does feel bad, she never really shows it, or tries to make it up to him in other ways. If they've had a big fight and she says something really awful, for example, she might make his favorite dinner. But she never. Never. Never apologizes. Half way home, still carrying Finnegan, she attempts to wrap an arm around her son's shoulders, wanting to share a moment of relief with him, just as they shared the moment of fear.

Tres doesn't want to be touched. He can be a cold child - it might just be a hormonal thing, pulling away from his mother, although even into adulthood, he still doesn't show a lot of warmth toward her. He might tolerate her arm, but he won't forgive her scolding or her grounding.

That causes her to pull away again. As they go into the house, she tells him, "I know you didn't mean to. But you have to learn."

"Yes ma'am," Tres replies, standing still, taking what he's given. Fussing back might make Finny cry - he might've learned that a year or two ago.

Kay WANTS to be close to him, so she sets Finnegan down just inside the door and, regardless of how much he seems to not want her, leans forward to kiss his forehead. "I love you, Russell."

"I love you too, mom," Tres replies. He probably stopped crying when he was sad, maybe a year or two ago. He must think that /someone/ in this house needs to manage their emotions. Or that that's what the men in the house are expected to do.

Kay goes off to work, leaving the kids with the babysitter for a short time before Atrum makes his way home. Finnegan is bathed and put into her bed, and then Dad comes to Russell's room, knocking, "Can I come in, Son?"

Russell's laying on his bed, right hand tucked behind his head, staring at the ceiling. "Sure," he replies, again in that preteen way. What's he going to say, no?

Of course not. It was expected that he'd say, "Yes." Dad moves across to the bed and sits on the edge of it, reaching out to rest a hand on Tres' chest. "Your mother called me while I was on the train. She was pretty upset. She was focused on all the horrible outcomes that could have been. I told her to stop and just focus on what IS. Everything's okay. It's time to sit back and look at what happened, and learn from it. You know we wouldn't ask you to do these things if we didn't need your help, right?"

"Dad, I love Finny. But ever since mom had her, she hasn't been the same," Tres replies. He doesn't look at his father, still, but his eyes are watery, and he stares, unblinking, refusing to cry. "But that's not Finny's fault or mine and I'm tired of it."

"How do you mean?" Atrum asks, because it's basically a kind, loving pile of oblivion.

"She's /crazy/," Tres mutters, still staring at the ceiling. "Finny's cute and fun and happy and mom just makes everything about having a baby sister /suck/."

"I know you're upset, but I'm not sure that's really fair to your mother. Having a baby sister IS what it IS. Most people don't ask for responsibility, and most people aren't ready for it when it comes, but it's something we have to accept and rise up to. My mother didn't plan on losing her husband and raising me and my siblings by herself, but she had to. She couldn't say, "This makes everything about having children suck." Your mother has her moments, sure. But she loves deeply, and wants the world for you and your sister. She works hard to make sure you have what you need."

"Dad." Tres isn't having this 'don't ask for responsibility' thing. "You two had sex. You decided to have a baby. That's great, and I'm happy for you, and I'm happy to help out and spend time with Finny. But when Finny does Finny things, mom doesn't need to lose her mind on me."

"She was worried. One day, you'll understand what it's like. There's nothing more frightening to a parent than the idea of losing a child," Dad tells young Russell. "If you're asked to mind FinnBee, then you need to mind her, and not get distracted by things that seem more important. How would you have felt if, rather than playing safely somewhere, she had wondered in front of traffic? Would you still blame your mother?"

"Yeah, that's the thing dad. I wasn't going to play baseball. But Beecher said he'd watch her, and Finny said she wanted to play. I looked back at her after every play. You two put her in her crib or let her watch tv or let /me/ watch her, and Beecher and I are the same age. So I made a decision, but mom never let me explain, she just yelled. Which is what she /always/ does," Russell explains his 11 year old logic.

"Well, that I cannot change," Atrum tells his son. "How a person reacts is really up to that person. Maybe you should talk to your mother about it. She's a woman - always going on about talking and feelings. Just make sure she's in a good mood first." This is his way of saying 'don't tell her you hate her when she's on the rag!'
Just then, a Finnegan in a soft, pink onesie comes running into the room holding her stuffed paramecium - the one that Mom got stuck with in a white elephant gift exchange at work - https://www.giantmicrobes.com/us/products/paramecium.html. She sees Dad there, clearly not having expected him to be in Wusso's room, and says, "Ooops!"

"Oh my god, dad. You're so old fashioned," Russell sighs, like he can't believe that his father brought up emotional differences. Spotting Finny, he smiles. "C'mere, Finny," he invites her. "Dad's leaving soon," he assures her, which is his (rather bratty?) way of informing his father that he's done with this conversation.

Finnegan clearly does what her brother says when it's more to her liking than what Dad says or might say. "Okay!" She runs toward Tres' bed, ready to climb up into it.
"Wait a second," Dad puts in. "You're supposed to be in your bed, Young Lady." He wraps one arm under hers, and the other under her bottom and scoops her, backwards, into his arms. "Finnegan needs to go night night. Just remember, Russell, that fashions wouldn't grow old if they didn't have something in them that rings of truth."

"That makes no sense," Tres says. "Night night, Finny," he says, keeping up a happy expression, rather than upsetting her.

Finnegan doesn't want to go night night in her bed, so she arches her back, kicks her feet and protests, "Noooo! Penniton doe seep in my Wusso's bed. Penniton stay wif my Wusso." As Dad continues to hold her, she gets increasingly agitated, promising to give Dad a good, hard time if he doesn't relent.

Maybe this is when Tres learned not to intervene, with Finnegan and their parents? He doesn't want to be the bad guy, to Finny, and he doesn't want them to think they in some way deserve his help because of birth order. He's Finny's big brother, and he'll always be that, but he's not going to be her parent.

So Atrum takes her out and puts her, crying, into her bed. He tucks Tad, the paramecium, in beside her, pulls her blankets up around her chin and talks softly to her for a few minutes. He leaves her still calling out, through a wall of tired tears, "I want my Wusso. I want my Wusso." It doesn't last long because she's tired. The sobs drop into occasional whimpers, which fade into snuffles, which dissolve into silence. Atrum walks past Tres' bedroom door again and says, "Goodnight, Son."

Russ doesn't answer. He's still annoyed, maybe even more so now, feeling lectured, rather than heard. And he thinks his father might be one of those dumb misogynists that Allyson told him about.

His father might be. More likely, he's TOTALLY whipped.

2506 - Truth
The school yard. The girls are playing a game of Truth or Dare. Finnegan never takes the dares. She’s not going across the playground and kissing some boy, or showing her underwear to other people! She’s six, and far more sensible than that, already. She’s in 1st year, and can do multiplication. Amary Grace has to go lick the swing set pole. Myra Zemanski has to tell the most horrible thing that ever happened to her. It’s Finnegan’s turn. She hates this game. They should jump rope, instead.

“Truth,” she says.
Myra, who gets to come up with the question, asks, “Did you ever wanna be dead?”
Finnegan shakes her head and says, very softly, “No. I just wanna be Felicity.” She gets up and walks away. It’s a stupid game.

Myra tells that to the teacher in idle conversation. The teacher tells it to Kay. That weekend, Kay takes Finnegan to a movie, just the two of them, and buys her popcorn and a slushee. For a few minutes, the truth changes, and it’s okay to be Finnegan. She sits on her mother’s lap through the whole movie and they giggle together at the antics on the screen. “I love you,” she smiles up at her mother. The words are echoed back at her and she believes them.

2507 - The Playground
Summer. Kay is making some sort of casserole that takes a little bit of attention and sends Finnegan outside with her 2-year-old sister. Finn will be 8 in December and, while it’s a great honor to be allowed to play at the playground without an adult, it is NOT a great honor to be stuck with a baby sister she HATES. Kay and Atty haven’t done the best job in transitioning young Finn to the role of big sister because Kay was extremely anxious during the pregnancy, anticipating trouble like she’d had with her first daughter. At four-and-a-half, Finnegan suddenly found herself un-holdable, lest she squish the baby in Mommy’s belly, or cause muscle strain that could bring on a miscarriage. Given the number of years between children, it’s likely that Kay probably had a couple of miscarriages that none of her children knew about. When Finnegan was tiny, her mother’s anxiety manifested itself as alternating over-concern or frustration with the natural scrapes and bruises of early childhood. When Felicity came, there was a new baby to smother in over-protectiveness, and Finnegan’s strong independence made it seem natural to just sort of expect maturity. At age five, this change from at least sometimes being cuddled and comforted to always held responsible for her actions, even the accidental or painful ones, seemed to be entirely because of the new addition to the family. Kay was working long hours, trying to care for a newborn, and had a pretty serious case of postpartum. To add to the mess, Lis was NOT an easy baby. She was what they used to call ‘colicky’, cutting into what sleep the family could find. The strain of the new baby took its toll on the marriage and Kay and Atrum were not getting along well. In some ways, things improved with time. Kay came out of her depression. She and Atrum worked through some of their issues. However, the rivalry between Felicity and Finnegan was a tangible thing, fueled by their mother’s lack of understanding and their father’s desire to just keep all parties happy at all times. Tres was around, but he was distant. He protected Finnegan as much as he could from their mother’s disapproval, but it was razor sharp and Finnegan was desperate to be ‘wanted’. She spent so much time in trouble that she tried to bait her little sister into doing things so that some of that anger would be re-directed to Felicity. Most of the time, it didn’t work. Finn was expected to be the older and better one, always. If Felicity bit her, she was supposed to understand that babies do that sort of thing and let it go. If Felicity ruined her toys or books, she was supposed to realize that family was more important than possessions could ever be. This is the state of things when 7-year-old Finnegan Hill is asked to watch her baby sister on the playground for 20 minutes while Mom gets dinner ready. Now, generally, Finnegan is a problem solver, so when she finds herself strapped with a baby, she solves her own problem. She lifts Felicity into the bucket baby swing, saying, “Don’t you want to swing, Lissy?”, gives her a good push, and runs off to talk to her neighborhood friends. It doesn’t take long for Felicity to realize she wants down. All the people are somewhere else. She is by herself and stuck. She can’t get her feet out of the seat to climb down, so she starts to cry. After a few minutes of this one of the neighbor mothers steps out of her house to call her children home, hears the crying child, sees Finnegan off by the slide with another little girl, and calls the Hill house to tell Kay that her baby is crying and nobody seems to actually be watching her.

Kay marches out onto the playground, horrified twice over. Firstly, Finnegan has proven herself irresponsible. Secondly, another mother called her to point it out to her, so she’s completely embarrassed for looking like a bad mother. Felicity goes to her readily, and she soothes the child for a moment before calling across the playground, “Finnegan Beatrix Hill, in the house, now!” Tres, fifteen at the time, is kicking a ball around a nearby field with a couple of other guys. He can tell by his mother’s stance that, whatever’s happening, it can’t be good for Finn. He does what he always does and tries to rescue. He said he’d watch Felicity, then got distracted, he claims. This time, though, Kay is having none of it. “Don’t even,” she dismisses him abruptly, taking Finnegan by the wrist and parading her into the house.

Dad would have asked, “Why?” He would have tried to understand. But Dad’s not home yet. Tres has already been neutralized. Finnegan is on her own, faced with a wall of maternal malevolence. Kay settles Felicity into her high chair with a few pieces of cereal to keep her busy. Back flat against a wall, where she was deposited upon being dragged through the patio door, Finnegan protests, “She said she wanted to swing!” It’s not a lie.

Kay, “You left her alone.”

“But she was safe!”

Kay, “No.”

Finnegan, “She couldn’t get out, so nothing bad could happen. Like in her crib.”

Kay, “No.”


“No,” insists Kay, “She was CRYING. She was not happy.”

Finnegan has a really good notion, by this point, that running and hiding might be the best way to avoid unpleasant punishments. When she says, sulkily, “You don’t care if /I’m/ happy,” the look on her mother’s face, which is probably despair but looks more like pure hatred to a seven-year-old, confirms her instinct. She should have run. Instead, she stands there, confused and miserable, afraid of being spanked or sent to bed without supper. What happens is ten times worse; Kay scoops Felicity out of the high chair and walks away. Finnegan stays right there, where she was put, sure that a deep breath or twitch of muscle will bring the whole house down on her head.

A few minutes later, when Atrum returns home, weary from his day’s work and commute, the first thing he hears is his wife’s voice, her words clipped and hard, “Punish your daughter.” He doesn’t know what’s happened, or what he’s expected to punish. He just knows this was NOT what he needs the minute he walks through the door. Finnegan, where she’s standing frozen, gets the thing she most fears in all the ‘Verse - more than slaps or groundings, more than yelling - a disappointed look from her father.

The spanking does come, but not until they’re sitting around the dinner table. Kay recounts to Atrum the whole story. Atty says softly, “Oh, FinnBee. What if she had tried to climb down and gotten hurt? What if someone had taken her?”

Finnegan says, through the hard lump in her throat, “If only we could be so lucky.”

Kay snaps. She’d held off on punishing the girl because she was afraid of herself - afraid of losing control and hitting too hard, or saying something that couldn’t be unsaid. Now, though, her rage surges anew and she snatches young Finn out of her chair, spanks her soundly, and sends her to bed for being an “unkind soul”. That night, both she and Finnegan cry themselves to sleep, each thinking of the other, “How could she be so mean?”

2508 - The Spelling Bee
Finnegan's big enough to have a Spelling Bee at school, but young enough that Tres is still home. So, maybe eight. It's three in the morning. The house is quiet. By this point, the two years of having Felicity around have caused some strain in the Finnegan-Kay relationship. Where, a few years earlier, Finn would have gone for Mom if she woke upset, now she doesn't. Mom is still the go-to for feeling sick, but Tres is the person to tell about other things. Feet pad along a carpeted hallway and a hand pushes Tres' door open. Finnegan moves to the side of his bed, darkness clinging to her.

This would make Tres 16 - he's an oddly responsible young man, having felt some guilt for when he originally didn't want to mind his sister and assert his own independence. He's a quiet and peaceful sleeper, although Finnegan knows she can wake him up without recourse.

Finnegan reaches out to shake Tres' arm - he is Tres, but just barely. It wasn't long ago that she gave him that name, but once she did, she never went back to Russell, or Russ. Well, except when she's angry. "Tres. Tres?"

Tres stirs awake - he opens one eye, then the other. "Hey Finny," he murmurs, then rubs his eyes. "Are you okay? Did you have a nightmare?" He worries if she wet the bed, but he's learned to not make that inquiry, anymore.

Hrumph! No bed wetting. "I had a bad dream," Finnegan agrees. "Tres, I'm scared." Without asking if she's allowed in, she attempts to crawl into his bed beside him.

Tres moves over, letting her in. He really is like a parent, in that way. "It's okay, Finny," he says, patting the top of her head. "What happened?"

"What if I tell you and that makes it really real?" Finnegan asks, curling under his arm like she belongs there. "I'm scared it'll come true."

"It won't come true," Tres assures her, letting her crawl in. "I promise, Finny. It won't be real at all. I know. I've had lots of nightmares."

"The spelling bee tomorrow. I messed it all up. My turn came and I couldn't speak the letters. They all came out like, all different. And Mom and Dad and Grandma Bea were there, and and Grandma kept saying, "Now Kay, Atty, she's trying… can't you see her tongue's all tied in knots," but Mom and Dad wouldn't even look at me and then my teacher made me go stand in the corner with the WHOLE SCHOOL WATCHING." This, for Finn, is worse than armies of Zombies eating her loved ones. This is FAILURE, at its worst. "I don't want to do the spelling bee."

Tres listens quietly, nodding to indicate that he's heard what Finnegan's saying. "Was I there, in your dream, Finny?" he wonders, once she's done speaking.

"No, because you have school too, silly." Finnegan tells him. Why? Because they do these things in the middle of the school day. Trust me. Parents have to take off work to go see them.

"Oh, well. I'm cutting school," Tres explains, calmly. "So there's no way your dream can come true. Because I'll be there."

"Really?" Finnegan asks. "Won't you get in trouble?" She walks her fingers down the arm he has around her, because she weaseled her way into that position.

"Mhm." Tres is a straight A student. He'll explain it to his teachers and go on his merry way. 'Cutting' is a bit of an exaggeration.

"I don't want you to get into trouble," Finnegan says. "That would be unacceptable U-N-A-C-C-E-P-T-A-B-L-E. Unacceptable."

"I won't, I promise. P-R-O-M-I-S-E," Tres replies, then ruffles her hair.

Finnegan closes her eyes, her whole body relaxing. If he's there, the dream can't come true. "You're my stanchion. S-T-A-N-C-H-I-O-N." That's a tricky one because it's not tion. Shuns should be tion! "I love you forever."

"I love you forever, too, Finny," Tres assures her, then kisses the top of her head. "You're my favorite. F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E."

Finnegan mmmms. She falls asleep with a contented little smile on her face, not that it can be seen in the dark. The next day, at the school spelling bee, Grandma and the parents are there. She is one of four kids representing third year. There are four from fourth and four from fifth. Finnegan gets second place, beating out all those older kids to get her red ribbon and qualifying for the inter-school spelling bee. She doesn't do quite so well at that one, given that she's one of only two third graders that made it, but she gets a special certificate that declares her to be a Championship Orthographer. Somehow, that certificate ends up on Tres' desk with a picture of Finnegan on the stage.

2508 - Books and Bridges

So, the family didn't move to Ariel City until Finn's freshman year of college, which means they're still in a place called Nikita. It's one of the cities on Ariel, close enough that Dad can commute, but far enough away from the capital city that they can afford a suburban home with a yard. They're so middle class, the whole house just screams BROWN. Like Joyce Byer's house in Stranger Things. Brown couch, wood paneling, and chairbacks that look like ships' wheels. Finnegan is eight, making Felicity three and Tres sixteen. "Mommmmm!" Finnegan calls from her tiny bedroom that's been painted a cheery yellow with a rainbow mural over her bed and white clouds up toward the ceiling. "Mommmm. Lis wrote all over my Linus Markel the Magic Minivan book!" Kay is somewhere where she doesn't hear the cries of distress.

Tres is in his room, with the door open, busily working on his homework. As this family is fairly traditional and he is a boy, he has no sense that he ought to be the one to tend to Finnegan. Nope. He just smiles, bemused at his sisters, and keeps on working, carefully checking and double checking his sums before pressing the 'submit' key on his pad.

There's a screaming cry as Finn does SOMETHING to Felicity, or maybe nothing. Felicity is manipulative and likes to play Mom against her sister. THAT makes Mom suddenly available, "What did you do?"

"I didn't do anything. I just took it back.. she wrote all over it." Finnegan complains. "Look!"

"Then why is she crying? She's a baby; she doesn't know any better, Finnegan. You are EIGHT YEARS OLD. I expect better of you."

"I didn't do anything to her. I just grabbed my book back."

Felicity sobs, "Finny it me." It's pretty predictable what will happen next, as there are the sounds of Finnegan getting smacked, Kay yelling, "You do not lie to me, Young Lady." Felicity being comforted and Finnegan protesting with nastiness until Kay hauls off and gives her a proper spanking. This is really a common occurrence, that Kay sides with Felicity over Finn even though there's no evidence that the older daughter is guilty. Kay says things like, "how would a three-year-old make that up?" Now, though, Kay takes Felicity in her arms and storms off, leaving a distraught Finnegan behind. Did she really hit Felicity? Maybe. Did she think Felicity DESERVED to be hit, absolutely. Did she think she deserved to be spanked for defending herself, hell no!

Tres winces, listening to all of this. But, he takes his cues from their father, who doesn't intervene, at least not in front of the children. He can't help but worry, though - he's seen Felicity try that with him, once or twice, but it was misinterpreted as a silly misunderstanding rather than anything that got him disciplined. Plus, eight isn't really that much older than three, insofar as little sisters go. After Kay goes, he gets up, slowly, and moves to Finnegan's room, to check on her.

Finnegan is lying face down on her bed, crying. The world is the worst place EVER. Life is totally unfair. Why'd she have to get the crappy little sister? Why is Mom so mean? And her Linus Markel book, that she saved her OWN money to buy, because it's THE BOOK, and Kay and Atrum don't just buy things willy nilly for their children.

"Hey Finny," Tres speaks quietly from the doorway, giving her a few seconds to deny him entry before he steps inside. He slowly crosses to her bed, then drops down to sit on the edge of it. He's a teenaged boy, wrapped up in his own world, so he probably doesn't understand the importance of the book or that she used her own money. But he doesn't want her to feel bad, and thus, he's brought some small token of consolation - one of his big kid books.

Finnegan sits up, trying to quell her tears enough to tell him, "It's not fair. I hate her. She never believes me. She ALWAYS believes Lissy. I wish dinosaurs were still around so I could feed that stupid kid to one. Tyrannosaurus.. No, Carnotaurus. No, BAMBIRAPTOR!"

"Bambiraptor!" Tres agrees, laughing. "I know, Finny. She's really bad right now. You were /never/ this bad," he assures her - whether that's truth or kid memory, he seems to believe it, whole-heartedly. "Darren, in my class? He's got a sister who is three? She /bites/," he points out. "I mean - if Lis bit? At least we'd have proof, yeah?" He pushes over the book - it's a book about building bridges. "You wanna build some bridges?" he suggests. "You can keep it in here. It's for my school. Lis'll get in trouble if she colors in it." And Tres will have an excuse to take it away from her that he'd think would be allowed, based on his observations of their family dynamic.

Finnegan accept the book, looking down at it and holding her crying inside, to get it under control. She really doesn't have a lot of interest in bridges, but the ones in the book are not the ones she's accepting, really - it's the symbolic bridge between her and her brother. She nods her head and says, "Thanks. Please can't I go with you to the playing fields? Please? I'll be quiet and sit and read. You won't even know I'm there."

Tres considers it. He tries to fit in. Bringing your little sister along isn't the greatest way to do that, unless you've got a reason to do it. "Okay," he decides. "But - we have to - make up a /really/ good story about why you're with me. Coach usually doesn't let younger siblings come to practice. Can you think up a good story?"

"Baby sister got hurt," Finnegan says, firmly. "We'll leave out the part about Bambiraptor. That's just between you and me. To everyone else, it was just a savage attack by the back porch, and she hit her head too hard and had to go to the doctor, so Mom wasn't there to watch me."

"Coach might ask mom about it," Tres points out, but he's fine with the lie itself. "So we'll have to tell mom that coach was confused with Darren's sister - he's on the team too. You were both there. And, you helped out by watching Darren's sister, that's what we'll say if coach calls to check up. Ok?"

"Why would he care about a little kid fall?" Finnegan asks. "You guys run into each other all the time and it's way worse than falling on the porch. And what Darren did to his arm last year; I'm pretty sure that was a compound fracture! I wonder if anyone would actually notice if we swapped Lis for Elsbeth?"

"You just never know," Tres shrugs. "And, we're bigger than she is and we're usually wearing protective stuff," he adds. He smiles when she refers to Darren's leg as a compound fracture, but shakes his head at the swap. "No way. Elsbeth is /way/ worse than Lis, I'm telling you, Finny."

Finnegan has stopped crying by now, though she still looks sulky, she gives him the ancestor of what will later become her incredulous doctor look. The one she reserves for Chandra and Gideon. This one only has a third of the potency, and so is well on its way to preparing her for flippant teenage responses. "If I didn't have you, Tres, I'd run away. They wouldn't even miss me."

"I think they would," Tres assures her, with a quiet and gentle smile. "Mom's - she just - doesn't always - I think adding Lis was a lot," he finally concludes, not entirely wanting to say that their parents overdid it with three, but he kind of thinks they did. He was fine on his own. Finnegan made a great second act. Lis just set off the balance entirely. "And dad's dad."

"Well, they're the ones who added her," Finnegan says, defiantly. "It wasn't me. It was them! And you can see she really did write all over Linus." Finn flips through the book, where there are lots of scribbles and a couple of attempts at people who have feet growing out of their circle heads. "Do you know what Felicity MEANS? I looked it up. Happiness. Know what Finnegan means? NOTHING. It means NOTHING."

Tres takes the book, examining each little scribble with a frown of disbelief. He's both distressed by their little sister's wanton ways with a marker and also putting on a good display for Finnegan so she understands that what Lis did was wrong. "Well," he considers the naming issue. "At least your name doesn't mean the opposite of how you make people feel, Finny."

"We could run away together, you and me," Finnegan says, with sudden optimism. "We could go to Grandma Bea's." That's their father's mother, Beatrix Hill. Finnegan is Finnegan Beatrix, her namesake being hard working and fair, with a hint of wisdom. She's kind like their father, but not quite as passive.

"Maybe not run away, but we could ask to go," Tres tries to be a good role model, as much as he wants to just promise his sister that they'll go. It'd be nice to get away from their mom and Lis. Finnegan's easy to mind on her own. "I bet we're both old enough to travel."

Finnegan frowns at Russell, Russ, Tres, and whatever other names he goes by. "Running away would be better." It would show everybody! Everybody needs to be shown! What exactly they need to be shown, she's not sure.

"Yes, but, we'd get in trouble," Tres offers, then wrinkles up his nose. "And grandma wouldn't be allowed to keep us," he points out. "She'd send us right back."

Right then, Atrum comes to the door, "Hey guys. Your mom said there's been trouble." He's not grey-haired yet, but has dark, thick hair and wire-rim glasses. He's home early, and already got an earful from Kay, who's in the front yard with a flower-picking Felicity.

"Lis colored in Finny's book and mom overreacted," Tres says, in a calm and even tone, expecting his father to take his word for it. "You need to go talk to her." He is, after all, a mouthy sixteen year old, attempting to boss his father around.

Atrum tilts his head at his son, "I do, do I?" He reaches out a hand for the book, so he can flip through it and see what has been drawn on the pages, "I don't know, Kiddos. Your sister might have some artistic talent. Did you REALLY hit your sister, Finnegan?"

Finnegan lowers her head to look at her Bridge book. "She wouldn't give it back and she wouldn't get out of my room."

"That's not artistic talent, Dad," Tres sounds annoyed with their father's assessment of Lis's drawings. "She should be using drawing paper, not Finny's book." He gives Finn a look when he realizes that she did hit Lis. "Mom already spanked her. It's time for the guilt trip to be over, dad, and for the other wrongs to be righted. Finn should know that Lis has been disciplined according to her age and understanding, otherwise this house will descend into madness."

That gets slightly widened eyes from the father, "Russ, that's enough. FinnBee, come here." Atrum reaches his arms out to Finnegan, and she stands on her bed so she can move into them. "Did hitting your sister make her leave your room, or fix your book?" Finnegan shakes her head. "Totaling up all the consequences, getting spanked for it, and all of that, did it actually make you feel better about your book?" Finnegan shakes her head again. "Baby sisters are like puppies - they have to be taught, you know? If we teach them violence, they will learn to bite the hand of those who strike them. If we teach them love and understanding, they will learn to look up to us and follow our good example."

Tres folds his arms over his chest - he'd like to know, based on their father's logic, how on earth that their mother can justify hitting Finn. But, he doesn't want to ruin Finn's hug, and so he starts to sidestep his way out of the room, to let her have a moment alone with their dad.

Finnegan nods her head at their father, because he's really an ally in their family structure, "Tres won't run away with me to Grandma Bea's. He says she'd just make us come back."

"That she would," Atrum tells his daughter, setting her down on the floor beside her bed, "Now, if you don't mind, your little sister and I need to have to conversation about book illustrations." He holds up Finnegan's book to show that he does intend to address the issue with Felicity. In that way, maybe he'll get the point across to Kay that there was more to the story than good kid, bad kid. It's doubtful, though. Kay is a narcissist and never admits wrongdoing. She lords over the household, and Atrum saves his energy for what he sees as 'the real' battles.

"Finn and I should get to take a trip to grandma Bea's on our own. We're old enough. We need a break from Mom and Lis and they probably want a break from us," Tres lays out his arguments for their father, his chin lifted in slight defiance.

Atrum reaches out to clap a hand on Russell's shoulder, "It's not a bad idea. Let me think about it and discuss it with your mother. You have school holidays coming up, and I have to work through them because of the big athletic shoe promotion we just agreed to do. With your mother working nights, there won't be very much to do this year."

That sounds like a recipe for them taking Lis, too, although hopefully Bea will be far more understanding than Kay is. Tres nods. "Sounds good, dad. I'm gonna take Finny to practice with me, unless she'd rather stay here with you."

Finnegan hops up and down, "Oh please Dad. PLEASE DAD. PLEASE. She'll take us to the museums AND the botanic gardens, AND the … Oh yeah. I'm going to practice." She scrambles around her bed to her bookshelf, so she can find something to take with her. She selects Jane Eyre. It's an older copy, with a green canvas cover, yellowed pages, and the smell of old libraries. The name inscribed on the inside cover is Kay Ambergrove, at 1101 East Allied Avenue, Ariel City.

"Just make sure you get her home on time. No staying to hang out, or your mother will have my head for allowing it," Atrum warns, before going down the hallway and out into the front yard to show Felicity her drawings and explain that it's a terrible thing to destroy the sacred pages of a book.

"Okay, Finny," Russ says. "I'll get my stuff and change and meet you," he offers, then proceeds to do just that.

By the time Russ catches up with them, in the front yard, Dad has scolded Felicity and is making the two girls apologize to each other, hug and kiss to make up. Finnegan has that look about her that she might tip off in the pre-teen mouthiness again, but she manages to hold her tongue this once and not get herself into trouble with a mother who does not appreciate defiance. As Felicity bounces off to do something Very Important, Atrum ruffles Finnegan's hair and says, "That's my girl," reinforcing the strange family dynamic that guides them all through their daily lives.

2510 - The Wild Girls Chili Pepper Club

Finnegan Hill, 10-years-old has formed a club with some girls from school.

Myra Zemanski - code name Habanero
Alyssa Grace - code name Bell - they tried to tell her that’s not a hot pepper, but she thought it sounded more feminine and insisted. She TRIED to spell it with an e on the end, but Finnegan drew the line.
Amary Grace - code name Serrano
Finnegan Hill - code name Cayenne

Five-year-old Felicity Hill wanders into the back yard of the Hill family home, in Nikita, on Ariel. The cluster of older girls in the corner of the yard, where the fence meets the shed, are whispering amongst themselves. The whispering is a sure sign that whatever they’re doing, she wants to be a part of it, so she sidles up to them and asks, “Whatcha doin’?”

Myra, “None of your bees wax.”

Finnegan, “No little kids allowed.”

Myra, “This is a serious club dedicated to the growing of plants that died out because people didn’t take care of them. You have to be 10.”

Alyssa corrects, “Nine. You have to be nine.” She’s a year younger than the other girls.

Finnegan gets an evil little glint in her eye and says, “You have to be TEN, because the test to get in is REALLY hard. If you want to be in the Wild Girls Chili Pepper Club BEFORE you’re ten, have to pass a test. Alyssa did, but JUST barely. I don’t think you could pass the test, Lis. Sorry.” She feigns empathy.

Felicity, raising her voice, “I want to be in the club! You have to let me play. I’ll tell Mom if you don’t let me.”

Finnegan, “It’s not up to me.” She insists, “You have to pass the test. I don’t think you should try. I really don’t think you’re big enough.

Of course, Felicity WANTS to. She wants to be like her big sister, right? “I can do it!” she protests.

Finnegan tilts her head, warily, “Al….right. But don’t say I didn’t tell you so.” She goes into the house and finds one of her dad’s hot peppers that he likes to put into things. So gross. He’s nuts.

Amary is not so sure about this, “Guys…. we’re gonna get in trouble.”

“What for?” Finnegan asks. “She doesn’t HAVE to eat it. Only if she wants to.”

Felicity snatches the pepper from her sister and chomps down on it. There’s a moment of silence as the planet stills its rotation, the air buzzes, and the littlest girl tries to interpret the sensation she is feeling all over her face. Alyssa claps her hand across her mouth in mingled shock and hilarity. Myra’s eyes go huge at Finnegan, who looks smug. Then, Felicity’s mouth opens and issues the most tortured of screams as the little girl bolts to her feet and runs in to tell Mom.

This prank not having been carefully planned ahead of time, there is no contingency for escape. Finn rallies her soldiers toward the gate, that they might flee before The Wicked Witch bestowed upon them the full fury of her wrath, but they’re not fast enough. Kay Hill appears the sliding door and says, all no-nonsense, “Girls, inside.” She takes Finnegan by the shoulders and steers her toward a seat at the kitchen table, “Please, sit, everyone.” Everyone but Felicity, who’s leaning against her mother’s hip, crying. “I am so impressed to hear about your club,” Kay starts, as she goes to the refrigerator and takes out the container of hot peppers. Wordlessly, she sets one in front of each of the older girls. By this point, Felicity realizes that vengeance is hers, so her crying subsides into snuffles and hiccoughs while she earnestly watches the proceedings.

Amary starts to protest and Kay adds voice to her silent command that they eat the peppers, “…Or, I could just talk to all of your parents and tell them how neat this club is.” She lays a hand atop Felicity’s blonde head. Now, none of these girls, except maybe Finnegan, knows how their parents will respond to their act of sister hazing, but they’re all pretty sure it won’t be favorably.

Kay folds her arms in front of her chest and waits. She has an unmovable air about her. Felicity takes on a righteous look - revenge is sweet!

Finnegan, proud and stubborn, picks up her pepper, examines it for a brief second before biting off a chunk the size of a grape tomato. She chews. She swallows. She sits up tall in her chair. The walls shimmer. The lights flicker. Everything goes completely fuzzy, lost in a haze that is not pain but is something very similar. The other girls cry, or whine, or complain, but not Finnegan. She won’t give Kay and Felicity the pleasure of seeing her flinch, so she bears it all in silent stillness.

Kay, satisfied, walks away with a parting, “I guess you’re all in the club now.”

2510 - 2511
On the 14th of December, Finnegan Hill would turn 11.

“What do you want for your birthday, Finn?”

“I want Tres back.”

Kay bought her an outfit, two books, and made absolute sure that Russ would be available to wave. THIS was just another example of how Finnegan pushed and prodded the seams of their family to create drama and set herself up for unhappiness so that she could play the victim card. She was smart enough to know that Russ wouldn’t be able to just leave the military for his sister’s birthday. They were always close, those two, and it was a beautiful thing, but it was time that Finn accepted that her brother was an adult and had to make his way in the world without her.

It didn’t help that the children’s father never took on his share of the discipline. /SHE/ always had to be the bad guy. Every time she looked at that kid, she saw her own frustrations staring back at her through Finnegan’s eyes. The difference, the real difference? Finnegan had nothing to be frustrated ABOUT. She and Atrum made damn sure that their kids wanted for nothing. They had a nice house, constant food, and all the support they could ever want. The difference was that Finnegan was ungrateful. Kay knew that there were things that she could have done differently, as a parent, but she also knew that she wasn’t the worst mother a kid could have; that would be HER mother.

When Kay was her age, she was afraid to go home. When Kay turned eleven, her mother forgot to come home, so they had to wait until the next day to have the cake that Kay had made herself. When Kay was eleven, she was told to hide in the basement behind the water heater with her little sisters because this time, this time they were really coming, and they would take the children and beat them to death, burying their bodies in shallow graves so that no one would ever find them. Finnegan was lucky to have a mother who loved her, who even knew what love was, and was guided by a sound ethical code and a realistic view of the ‘Verse. Kay’s mother was NOT okay. Kay grew up angry, hurt, and confused by the alternate reality she was expected to believe, with its violent shadows and constant threat of upheaval. When she was eleven, Kay squeezed her eyes closed and promised that, when she had kids, she would take good care of them and they would always have food and a safe place to stay. She’d lived up to that promise, and so much more. Instead of asking for something that Kay could give her, her oldest daughter demanded the impossible. Selfish. Well, she’d have to just deal, because THIS was the real world; the one that didn’t revolve around Finnegan Hill.

She walked back from the mall commuter, up the hill to the four-bedroom house on Spring Street that had been their home for the last nine years. Her baby daughter, Felicity, was six now. She had hair the color of spun sunshine and the prettiest eyes. Tres had them, too. Finnegan looked more like the dark-eyed Harpers, like Kay and her sisters, and their mother. Tres and Finn got the clever Hill minds, but Felicity was blessed with the face of an angel. On that day, as Kay made her way back from the Commuter Stop, she saw her bright-headed youngest sitting on the front step with her school bag. “Why are you out here? Didn’t Finn let you in?”

“Finneden’s not here?”

“What do you mean, Finnegan’s not here? Where is she?”


Purchasing a ticket to the city hadn’t been nearly as hard as Finn had expected. Nobody had even asked her what she was doing. Enough kids had to take the commuters to school that nobody cared, she guessed. Well, all the better for her. She chose a quiet corner of the shuttle and pulled out Jane Eyre. “Where are you headed?” asked a kind-faced lady who sat behind her.

Finnegan pulled her red coat more tightly around her and answered, “To Grandmother’s house.”

“Cute,” the lady had responded.

She wasn’t headed to Grandma’s, though. She had a better place in mind, where she’d felt totally happy for a short time the previous year. She’d planned everything so carefully, it had to work. She would stay in the library during the day, deep in the stacks where nobody would ask why she was there. Just before closing, she’d slip across the street to the magnificent domed building, to the plush velvet seats and and the gold filigreed pillars that curved around the auditorium of The Ariel City Music Hall. Still, one small but significant detail eluded her: the security guard’s route as he did his evening rounds. That first night, when she’d been gone from home for 12 full hours, Finnegan Hill stepped out of the mezzanine-level ladies’ room and right into the arms of a Mr. Titus Fillious, security guard extraordinaire. Titus was a grandfather who’d seen any number of kids run away to school playgrounds or best friends’ houses, so he knew the sort of dressing down this one was in for when her parents finally got her back. Best to leave the police out of it and let her call someone she trusted.


Grandma Bea lived in Ariel City, on the other side, near the riverfront. It was close to eleven when they arrived at her third-floor apartment. “Please don’t call them,” Finnegan pleaded. Grandma Bea was kind, honest, and fair. Finn felt sure that she’d understand. Still, no amount of compassion in the ‘Verse could have stopped the grandmother from calling the house on Spring Street, informing Kay and Atrum, parent to parents, “I’ve got her. She’s safe.” They curled up in Grandma Bea’s big bed and Finn told her all about the things in her life that troubled her. “Mom’s always on my case. She hates me, and Dad doesn’t do ANYTHING about it,, and I’m always stuck with Felicity, who’s worse than ever, and I miss Tres. All the time. I feel like he’s gone forever and I’m all alone. If I have to be all alone, I might as well do it properly.” Grandma Bea listened, heard, and understood, but she was also very stern, “Finnegan,” she said. “Your parents were worried sick about you. They called the police, they called all of your friends, and people were scouting the woods and the alleys looking for you. There will be consequences for your actions, and you will have to face them without complaint, because that is the price of the fear that you caused.” Why would they be afraid? They don’t even like me? Finnegan voiced these thoughts, and they were met with a loving hug. “You are loved more than you can ever imagine, Little Girl. Don’t ever forget that. Promise me, My Little Bee, that you will never do this anything like this again.”

The next day, Atrum and Kay came to get Finn and take her home. The entire way, a tense energy filled the shuttle compartment, but there was no yelling. The conversation stuck to neutral topics, like gardening and corrective footwear, so the child was allowed to pretend she wasn’t there, listening. When they arrived at the house on Spring Street, Finnegan expected the worst, but all that was said was, “Please go to your room. We will talk later.” It wasn’t Kay who came for that talk, but Atrum. He didn’t yell. Atrum never yelled, really. He sat on her bed and calmly explained her punishments, which ranged from grounding to garnering of allowance so that she couldn’t amass enough wealth to embark of future adventures. There were additional chores, and other requisite means of proving herself responsible. Finnegan accepted each and every one, but she might have complained a little. Sorry, Grandma Bea.


Three months later, Finnegan snuck out of her bedroom window, when the rest of the family was sleeping, for a pre-arranged meet-and-greet among the secondary school kids. All they did was assemble in an unused lot and talk, reveling in their triumph at having outsmarted The Adults. When Finn crossed the low shed roof and made her way back to her bedroom window, her mother was there in the dark, belt across her lap, waiting. The first time Finn had run off, they had handled it Atrum’s way. This time it would go her way.

“Well? What do you have to say for yourself?” Kay asked.

“Holy shit balls,” a startled pre-teen Finnegan replied. The ensuing argument between mother and daughter, which mother, belt, and bottle of mouth-washing soap inevitably won, was loud enough to wake the household.


“This has to stop.” It was two in the morning by the time the house had settled down, and Atrum could address his wife about what had happened. “I have watched this play out for years and it’s always the same. It’s not getting you where you want to be. If you do the same thing, over and over, and it doesn’t work, then you have to try something different. All this is doing is driving her away from us. We have to bring her back and show her she’s loved.”

“Of course she’s loved,” Kay snapped. “That’s the kind of mother you think I am, now?”

“No,” Atrum kept his voice cool and even to avoid waking the girls. “That’s the kind of mother SHE thinks you are. You can love her until you’re blue in the face but if she doesn’t FEEL it, we will lose her. I’m not prepared to sit by and watch that, Kay. She’s a good kid, a little headstrong, and too smart for her own good, but she’s a good kid, with a good heart, and she needs to hear that from YOU. I understand why you felt the need to blister her behind her for what she did, especially after the last time, but it stops tonight. She’s getting too old, and it’s getting too comfortable, like it’s the right answer because it’s the one we know. Well, I don’t think it IS the right answer.”

Kay pressed her lips firmly together, her voice cold and hard, angry and hurt, “What is the right answer, then, Atrum? How do I reach her? I have been trying for YEARS and she never hears me. I have tried everything.”

Atrum pulled his wife close and kissed her hair, whispering to her, “Then we just try harder, together, and love her more fiercely. She has a good head on her shoulders and she will be okay.”

The next morning, Kay didn’t come down to breakfast. Atrum ate with his daughters, the mood heavy. Finnegan’s brows hung low over her eyes in a permanent expression of discontent and her anger was palpable. Finally, Atrum spoke up, “That’s enough, Finnegan. We know you’re unhappy, but you got what you had coming to you and I think you know it.”

“But all the kids did it. It’s not like we did anything BAD. We were just hanging out.”

Atrum focused a stern gaze on his middle child and said nothing.

“Well, she didn’t have to be such a bitch about it.”

“Finnegan Hill, what you did was unacceptable, and you were punished accordingly. If I ever, /EVER/ hear you call your mother a bitch again, /I/ will be the one holding the belt. Do you understand me?”

Finnegan understood.

In June of that year, Grandma Bea died from a complication of the flu that left her heart weak and failing. Atrum, who only spoke up when he found something extremely important to say, got his way. For the most part. Kay traded hands-on punishments (mostly, save a face slap here and there for belligerence), if you for more psychological ones, like grounding and added chores. (The one who really benefited from this was Felicity, who probably would have gotten belted a few more times than she did had her father not made his stand that night.) The conflicts between mother and daughter persisted, but became quieter and more subtle. There were even times they got along. Both Atrum and a Kay (skeptical as she was) made an agenda of spending special time with Finn, with varying levels of success. Finnegan never again snuck out or ran away and, to this day, can neither cuss to her mother’s face or insult Kay in Atrum’s presence.

2511 - Lunch Money
Being 5 years apart, Finnegan was in the 4th grade when her little sister, Felicity, first came to the same school. That year, she was protected from contact by the fact that the Kindergarteners were mostly kept in their own part of the school. They even had their own playground. By the next year, though, Finn was forced to acknowledge a kinship to Felicity Hill. One day, she glanced over at The Big Hill, which really was no more than a mound of rubber mulch, and saw Felicity sitting in a tiny ball, hands around her knees, crying head down.

"What's the matter?" Finnegan asked, after an internal debate whether she should even go over to ask.

"Oscar Ostler took my lunch money. I won't even get to eat any lunch."

Oscar Ostler was a nuisance and a bully. He did stuff like this all the time. Some kids would go to bat for their little sisters, but Finnegan had been in enough trouble with her parents of late. Besides, what if she hurt him? What if she lashed out in a moment of frustration and blinded him for life, or something? Reaching into her pocket, Finnegan pulled out her own credit chip and handed it to Felicity. You can't let a person starve, right? Even if she is your arch enemy. That day, it was Finnegan who went without food, not Felicity.

2512 - Canoeing
Finnegan has had a hard couple of years. First, Tres left for the army. Then, Grandma Bea died. Instead of growing angrier, Finn retreated. She has already accepted that she’s the lesser daughter. She’s already accepted that she’ll never do exactly the right things, like the right things, or want the right things. She’s taken up violin and really likes it. She’s going to be a musician. Grandma Bea gave her the violin, and she will make her proud. She’s smart, she gets straight As, she has friends enough to get by, her teachers seem to like her. Her homework is generally done with care and, when she does decide to blow something off, her teachers are typically understanding because she does so well. She doesn’t really talk like a kid, but like a peer. She doesn’t say her dog at the homework. She says, “My mother says that dogs are filthy and that there’s no time in her life for additional responsibility, so we are not allowed a pet and my homework was not devoured by any such beast. I just didn’t do it. I’m feeling crushed by the pressure of society to always succeed and I needed to remind myself that the ‘Verse would not fail if I did.” Tell you what, Finnegan, I’ll give you another day. You can hand it in tomorrow because you’re right; the ‘Verse did not fail. It is okay to be a kid. In fact, don’t do it tonight. Hand it in on Monday. Tonight, your assignment is to go out and play.” Instead, Finnegan goes outside, finds a quiet spot where nobody will be able to find her, and reads Wuthering Heights from cover to cover.

Today, though, it’s Jane Eyre, and she’s sitting in the front of a canoe. She doesn’t want to be in this canoe. Her father has decided they should bond by doing a father-daughter activity. To her way of thinking, that means he can paddle while she reads about forlorn orphan girls. If the canoe trip goes awry, she might be one and need to know what to do. Perhaps she should have brought Robinson Crusoe, instead. How long would it be, if father were to die upon the shoals, before someone found her, living in the trees and wearing sea shells and a loin cloth?

“You can’t read and sail the high seas, Skipper!” Atrum calls to her. “And I can’t paddle alone. Put the book down and help me out, here.”

You’re the one who made us do this. You can paddle. These days, though, Finn has pretty good impulse control, having been burned by her own tongue one too many times.

“Come on, FinnBee. It’ll be fun. You love this sort of thing.”

Silently, Finnegan tucks her book into a waterproof bag, seals it in, then picks up a paddle.

“Thatta girl. I want to talk to you, Finn. I know things aren’t always easy, but I want you to know that I’m really proud of you. You’re a good kid.”

Finnegan shrugs and pulls her paddle through the water, noting the noise it makes as it goes in, then comes out again shedding water like a breaching whale. She’s never seen a whale, except on the Cortex, but that’s the image that comes to her as she watches the displacement.

“I mean it, Finnegan.”

“Then why does she hate me so much?”

Atrum is puzzled. Why he’s puzzled is anybody’s guess since he lives in the same house as his daughter and wife. “Who?”

Incredulity, “Mom.”

“Oh Bee, Mom doesn’t hate you. She loves you more than anything.” Not more than Lis, Finn thinks. “She just.. she’s MOM. She has a hard time with you and always has, but that’s not because she doesn’t care about you. She’s just, sometimes, difficult to be around, and you DO egg her on something fierce. You speak when you should be silent; you’re silent when you should speak, and you both know you do it to get a reaction from her. She knows she shouldn’t react, but she just can’t help herself. Really, if anything, the two of you are too much alike.” ARE NOT! “Trust me, Finn. I’ve stayed up late many a night talking to her about it. She loves you, Bee. She loves you to death.” One could only hope, thinks pubescent Finnegan.

Dad thinks they’re bonding, forming meaningful connections. Maybe they are. Finnegan watches the breaching whale of a paddle in silence and wishes she could pull Jane Eyre back out of the waterproof bag. She hardly says three words to him for the rest of trip. Later, when she starts dating and guys ask her what she wants to do for fun, she inevitably comes around to, “Let’s try canoeing.”

2514 - Christmas
It's Christmas. He's 22. She's 14. He's home for Christmas after his stint in the army. Tres has been home before, of course, but this time feels a little different. He doesn't /have/ to go anywhere. And he seems older, more mature than the wide-eyed kid who left.

Finnegan is different, too. She's no longer 11 and, though she's still lean, she has lines that clearly distinguish her as a young woman. She's cut her hair short, in defiance of what mother deems attractive - it's so boyish. She's one of the top in her class and, though her attitude is fairly rebellious in talking to her parents, she's really a model kid. Returning library books late seems like a huge vice, for her. Her interest in science has actually become a real thing, and all she really wants for Christmas is a microscope. She wears light makeup, but finds it more of an annoyance because she can't keep 9-year-old Felicity out of it. She's lying on her stomach on the floor and, while others watch some Christmas musical special, she is reading - no lie - a science comic book called The Sublimation Station.

Tres is sitting in a chair, having realized that he's too /big/ to curl up in it like he used to, when he was a teenager. He watches them all with a mix of curiosity and nervousness. If people in the military lose their shit, they do 100 push ups and get screamed at. He probably misses the order of it all, the decorum, whereas his family is like a minefield.

A minefield? Finnegan's just minding her own business, reading. Her mother actually says to her, "Why don't you put down that book and watch with the rest of us. This is Family Time. Your brother's home." To which Finnegan rolls her eyes and says, "You won't be so dismissive when my science saves your life, one day." To prove to her mother that she's stupid, Finn closes the riveting tale of compounds changing state and moves to the floor by her brother's chair, where she attempts to fold her hands on his knee and blink up at him, mockingly adoring.

Like that - giving Finny a hard time about reading a book. Tres wills himself to not shoot an annoyed look at their mother. Let's not let four years of military discipline go down the drain on night one, now! "What?" he says, staring back at Finnegan. Eyes wide, he's trying, and failing, not to grin.

"Welcome home. This place sucks. Wanna go for a walk?" Finnegan asks, even as Felicity snatches up Finn's comic and starts to flip through it. The older sister pretends not to notice, maybe hoping that Lis might absorb at least one useful tidbit of knowledge in her lifetime.

"Sure," Tres agrees, a little too quickly, then rises to his feet, ready to accompany her for the walk. He braces himself, waiting for someone else to insist that they ought to come along, but once he's paused for the appropriate moment, he moves on out.

Kay calls out, "Don't hold her hand or people will think you're two queers taking a stroll."
"Oh, Kay. Really. There's nothing wrong with being homosexual," Atrum scolds, gently.
"My GOD, I've read math books more interesting then this fei hua," Felicity declares. "I'm coming with you."
"Language!" Atrum warns.
Finnegan protests, "You are NOT coming with us. I was told to appreciate the fact that my brother's home, so that's what I'm doing. Nobody under 10 allowed!"

Tres swallows, maybe burying some unidentified guilty feeling about missing one of his army buddies. His brow arches when his father scolds his mother - too little too late? And then, that brow furrows in annoyance. Math books aren't boring. He sighs.

"I am totally going!" Felicity insists.
"No, you're not." Finnegan.
"Let her go," Mom.
"No," Atrum says. "Let them have some time alone together; she's missed her brother. Felicity, you come over here and show me that dance routine you were working on." They're in the clear, so Finn takes no time in getting away before someone can change his or her mind.

Tres follows after Finn. He doesn't show his relief, not wanting to hurt their little sister, but it's there. Out into the clear night, he strolls with her. Does it snow on Ariel?

Yes. Finnegan grabbed her corduroy jacket lined with sherpa-look fleece. Just to spite her mother, she reaches for Tres' hand. "I can't wait to get away from here."

Tres smiles. Maybe he's not sure if he should still hold his little sister's hand, but he does, for old time's sake, if anything else. She's still three, in his eyes. Just a very big three, far less prone to shitting herself. He's grown quiet in adulthood, likely not finding his voice again until he moves to Persephone. "Have you been looking at colleges?" he wonders.

"A little," Finnegan says, with a light shrug. "I was thinking about doing something with the violin. My instructor says I have talent, and it could go somewhere if I want it to. How's the Army? Is it as horrible as everyone says?"

"Yes," Tres says. It's not, really. But Finny's better than the army, so he won't even encourage her to waste her time. "That sounds cool, with the violin," he remarks. "I liked the recordings you sent me. One of my bunkmates was really sick, so I sent them to him. Helped him get through it."

"Really? Everyone in the house thinks it's whiny and depressing. I TRIED to tell them that's just the music they MAKE me play for school; you can do a lot with the violin. It doesn't all have to be maudlin." Yes, Finnegan's a 14-year-old who knows the word maudlin. "Mom thinks I need at least another year of it for it to look good on my resume. They DID let me stop piano, though. It was too expensive, they said, but I'm glad anyhow because I don't like being called out to play on command, and I have a ton of homework now."

"It sounds good, Finny. If you like it, you should keep doing it," Tres is firm on these things. Hello. He's 22. He's got it all figured out! "Homework is a pain, but it's worth getting done. Have you figured out how to do it during class yet?"

Finnegan rolls her eyes at her brother, "What do I look like? A novice? I normally have the first three periods done by the end of the day. Which is good, because Felicity is a pain in the ass and won't let me concentrate on anything. I wouldn't get it all done, otherwise."

"Do you have to watch her?" Tres worries, sounding a little guilty, like he thinks he should've broken their parents of that habit or be home to watch Lis so Finny can get her work done.

"Of course. Just for a few hours, Finnegan. To help the family. You have no idea what a monster she is. You know all those shows about families that don't get along until someone bullies one of the kids, then the other kids all come together and they realize they love each other?" Finnegan asks.

Tres winces at the first part of what she says, then shakes his head at the second part. He doesn't watch that much tv. Just sports, really, and movies, sometimes. "No?"

"Oh well. I'd totally let the bullies have her!" Finnegan is both confident and guilty in this pronouncement. "Mom and Dad say I don't give her a chance, but I've given her plenty of chances. I totally hate her."

"It's pretty hard when it feels like they won't give you a chance to have some space to do what you need to do," Tres replies, turning to smile at her. "Hopefully she grows up okay. I'll have a talk with her."

"Did you ever feel that way about me?" Finnegan asks. She's acting light and jocular, but there's an edge of anxiety under it all.

"No," Tres laughs. "I was excited to have a baby sister," he explains. "We would hang out a lot, when you were little? You'd come hang out with me and my friends and play with us. You fit in pretty good, pretending to be a big kid."

"Well, I was a big kid!" Finnegan puffs up her chest, just like she would have when she was three. "I'm kinda sorta grounded."

"Grounded?" Tres repeats. He rolls his eyes, already assuming Finnegan was in the right. "For what?"

"I sort of locked her in the pantry. I TOLD her I had three pages of math AND a 500-word report to write, but she kept coming into my room with a f.. with a kazoo. I warned her if she didn't go do her own homework and let me do mine, I'd lock her in the pantry. She either didn't believe me, or it was a trap to get me grounded again. Mom said that if I had that much homework, I should have to stay home and do it, anyhow. Dad said I had to see the logic in that sort of thinking, and that by lashing out at Lis I'm being a part of the problem, not a part of the solution. I need to be the bigger person." Finnegan, even at 14, can see that as funny because she's shorter than most of her friends. "I don't care."

Tres shakes his head. He's supportive, although now he's cut out directly pronouncing how ridiculous their parents are. Even if you think something's ridiculous, you have to go along with it, if the people in charge say so. It'll take him a while to grow out of that military mentality. "I'm sorry, Finny."

"It's not so bad," Finnegan says, with a shrug. Even though she just got through telling him it sucks and she can't wait to leave. "I just stay in my room a lot so I don't have to talk to them. I have headphones. Mom says I'm becoming a recluse and I have antisocial tendencies, and if she thought it would do any good, she'd send me to a shrink so I could learn to feel for other human beings. I do, you know? Feel. I'm just tired of hearing how much better I'm supposed to be than I really am."

"There's nothing wrong with you. You don't need to go to a shrink." Tres sighs, feeling himself starting to get worked up about all of this, despite telling himself he wouldn't, this time. "I know you feel for other human beings. It's just hard to feel for a kid who has no discipline from any adults and gives you a hard time," he admits, having his own issues with Lis.

"She's just TOTALLY perfect. Everybody loves her. I think it's because she's pretty. Not everybody can be drop dead gorgeous, and maybe she'll grow up with crooked teeth, or something. Besides, somebody has to be smart," Finnegan's resentment runs very deep.

"You two are too young to be caring about who is pretty," Tres insists. "Not that you ever should. That's just a trick of the patriarchy," he says, clearly still maintaining his friendship with Allyson. He thinks he's in love with Allyson. Allyson always knew better.

"That's all anybody ever cares about. I'm in secondary school now, Tres. It's literally 9/10s beauty and fashion and 1/10 actual academics. Mr. Lenders (the bagel man!) gave Xia Malochi the same grade on her science project that I got, and it didn't have a single word on it that was more than two syllables."

"That's terrible," Tres pronounces it. "That's not even how the real world works, at some point. Humanity really slid backwards after leaving Earth That Was," he adds, wrinkling up his nose.

"It's true," Finnegan agrees. "There hasn't been a single Mozart, since. All the Beethovens were left behind. And don't even get me started on Mandelbrot and Newton, even if he was largely wrong about many things."

"Mhm," Tres agrees. "Or Axel Rose," he adds him in with the list of the classics. "I think it's being spread across the planets. That's what was in this book I read," he adds. "I'll send it to you."

"What's it called?" Finnegan asks. She doesn't offer opinions about Axel. "I saw this creepy Earth-that-Was movie that claimed that humans are really just viruses."

"Something silly, like 'Why Humans Suck'," Tres admits, laughing. "It was…a slow month, a few months ago," he adds. "But it was more interesting that I thought it would be."

"That's not even clever. Why Nematodes Suck, that's clever." Finnegan lowers her head and shares a private smile with the sidewalk. She has her brother back, even if it's just for a short time.

2524 - Graduation
It's May on Ariel. The year is 2524, making Finnegan 24 years old. She somehow has managed to get through her medical schooling about a year early - probably on the college side of things rather than the medacad. She has residency lined up in ER at St. Lucy's on Ariel, and she's raring to go. Right after this little thing they call Graduation. The day is beautiful, warm but not overly, so that an outdoor graduation on the piazza outside the Medical College has been planned. Folding seats are lined up for graduates and family. Finnegan is in the main hall of the college, wearing a grey dress under her black robe, black low heels and a hood lined with royal blue, the color of the Medical College.

Tres has left the army, attended college himself, and is now in his second year of work as an engineer. Dressed neatly in slacks, a collared shirt, and a tie, he sits between Kay and Felicity in those folding chairs. He's got his camera at the ready, but otherwise sits quietly, present, for Finny's big graduation day.

Can he call her Finny on the day she graduates from Medical school and starts the journey they've all been planning for her for so long? Was it really what she wanted? No. And yet, yes. She found in it both predictability and puzzles to solve. She looks forward to really making a difference in a 'Verse that, as far as she can tell, would be just as well off without her. Their father is with her, making sure that her gown is right, kissing her on the forehead, and telling her he's proud. Then, he comes to join the rest of the family and she's on her own, alone in a snake of black and royal blue.

The snake writhes it way around the edge of the seating toward a raise platform where, one by one, the future doctors are handed a roll of paper saying they have earned a few letters after their names, and that they have bright futures. Finnegan's name is announced, Finnegan Beatrix Hill, and she crosses to shake hands with the President of the college, take her scroll, and return to stand between Gillespie and Hudson. Then, the last names are called, "Myra Lovette Zingler. Evangea Lena Zy." Applause.

Tres is always outwardly appropriate - part of his struggle with their parents is that Kay is inappropriate and Russ [Atrum] pretends that she is appropriate, so Tres makes it a point to actually be just /normal/ in public. Of course, insisting that one always be 'normal' can be exhausting, but he's still young, here. When it's time to cheer, he does - not too softly, not too loudly, just right. And when graduation is over and it's time to dole out hugs and meet classmates, he waits until it's his turn.

Finnegan doesn't seem to want to be in the cluster of socializing people. She kisses her mother on the cheek, same for Dad. Felicity gets a hug, tries to steal Finnegan's new diploma, and has it taken away from her by Atrum, who offers to hold it if Finnegan would like him to. What she really wants, though, is her brother. In her life, she's always tried to live up to her parents' expectations, but Tres is the one she has most wanted to please or impress, so she makes an excuse to the family about needing to go change into something more appropriate for going out to dinner together, takes her diploma back from Dad, and inclines her neck in a silent request for Tres to come with her.

"I'll be right back," Tres says to their parents, ignoring Kay if she protests. At this age, he takes a lot of pleasure in ignoring Kay, although he's not quite so self-assured that he does anything to let her know that he's ignoring her. He's also much more stiff, acting with everyone the way he acts with total strangers, still not quite sure how he ought to move through the world. In his own, quiet way, he's clearly happy to be here, pleased that she's had such a nice ceremony to mark the end of her school journey.

Finnegan is happy to walk with him in silence until they're out of earshot of other people. Even then, she doesn't press conversation. Instead, she reaches over and tries to slip her hand into his, like they used to do when she was little.

Smiling, Tres holds her hand, gently squeezing it. "Good job, Finny," he says, keeping his voice down, not wanting to embarrass her in front of her classmates with her nickname. "You've worked so hard."

"It has been hard," Finnegan agrees. "You know all those Cortex movies about med students doing crazy experiments or getting drunk all the time?" There have been a few of those in recent years. "Not even remotely accurate. If they wanted to portray reality, rather than worrying about their sex lives and their next big thrill, they'd show the students studying until four in the morning, trying to commit gram positive antibiotics to memory and naming every bone, muscle, and nerve in the human body. BUT, it's been good. I somehow think you'll understand that?"

"Engineering students are just about as fun," Tres shares. "Especially when they got all of their wild years out in the army." That's said with a bit of self-deprecation in his voice. Was Tres ever wild? Or will he find his wild years in his late thirties when he meets his crazy, bear-hugging boyfriend? "Cortex movies. They sure set us up for disappointment, hm?"

"Sure did," Finnegan laughs mildly. She's already done an internship in one of the nearby clinics, so she's had a little taste of medicine, but it was in Orthopedics, nothing like the wild ride she's about to have for a few years in the ER before she has enough experience to take her promised job on Greenleaf. "Are you happy?"

"I am." Tres smiles at her. There's a faraway sort of sadness in his eyes. His eyes have held that look for years, now, and they will for years to come, so it's probably not anything that would call for notice or alarm, really. Despite it, though, he's very happy for her. "Are you, Finny?"

"I'm busy," Finnegan replies. "Is that the same as being happy?" She swings their arms gently as they walk hand-in-hand. "I'm challenged, for sure. I don't think I've been bored a single day in the last three years. It seems like there's a long way yet to go, though. It's just a piece of paper, right? How will I ever know everything I need to know, and learn all that must be learned?"

"I don't think busy is the same as being happy," Tres says, in a tone that indicates he's not entirely sure, yet, what it means to be happy. "It's certainly nice to be challenged. And, it is a piece of paper, but it's a symbol of all of your hard work - a talisman for all those late nights and long hours." Smiling at her, he offers: "I think you know what you need to know for when you need to know it, Finny. And, if there's more to know and learn, you're the best person to figure it out."

"Oh, there's plenty more. They all say it - we are newborn babes, barely able to open our eyes and focus on the world. People will die because of the choices we make, just as people will live for the same reason. I think I'm ready, though," Finnegan admits. "I feel like I've stayed up all night and the test is now, when I'm worn out but also feel like I know the answer to every question they could pose. Not literally. If the best of doctors could know everything, there'd be no need for journals and medical texts."

Listening to all this, Tres just smiles. He accepts, now, that she knows more about this subject than he does. And it's pretty cool, frankly. "I think you're ready, too. You know all of the answers, and you are going to be a wonderful doctor, Finny."

Finnegan stops, looks into his eyes, and smiles. "I will certainly try. For you. Tres, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I gave you such a hard time when you left. I was so angry at being left behind. It wasn't fair to you to expect you not to live your life because I was still stuck living mine."

Smiling back at her, Tres lifts a shoulder. Even if she did give him a hard time, she's always forgiven. "You didn't really give me a hard time. You more gave yourself a hard time," he points out how he saw it, at least. "You were a kid. It was okay for you to think like one."

Finnegan shakes her head, uncertain about that analysis. "Speaking of kids, and acting like one, Felicity worries me. A couple of weeks ago, Mom got it into her head that she should come stay with me for a weekend. I TRIED to tell her that weekends are terrible times for anything because I had exams every Monday, but Mom. I think Lis thought she was coming to an undergrad keg party. She kept asking me where all the action was, so I handed her my Endocrinology text book. She didn't think it was funny. She proceeded to tell me about all the boys in her life. I don't really think she has very much of a moral compass."

Tres's eyebrows loft. He sees Finnegan as his child, and Lis as Kay and Russell's. They're free to parent Lis however they think is best, and he is free to criticize them, silently, in his mind for how they parent her. He's more like her uncle than her brother. "That is concerning," he agrees. "She's young, though. Hopefully she'll turn it around."

"Yeah, I wouldn't count on it. They made us take a very basic course on psychology, focusing primarily on the ways to recognize issues and how to medicate for them, but it surely inspired guilt. I feel pretty badly for the way I've treated her all these years. I had you; who'd she have?" Finnegan asks.

"Mom and dad," Tres says, his tone mild. He doesn't want to get into it, right now, but he's also not about to let Finnegan guilt herself over Felicity's upbringing. Their parents fucked up their sister, not them.

"Yeah, I guess," Finnegan allows. "At what point, though, do we stop blaming our parents for how we are? I like to think I've gained a certain amount of autonomy. University, it wasn't easy, seeing as they moved to Ariel City my freshman year. Mom was always trying to get me home on the weekends to do my laundry, bribing me with garlic noodles and brownies. Now, though, I hardly think of /home/. It's never really been my home. I have a room in a house they bought when I was already an adult."

"We don't have to blame them for how we are," Tres shakes his head. "But we don't need to take responsibility for how Felicity is." He shakes his head as she lists the bribes from their mother. "She always burns the garlic, anyway," he adds, not necessarily approving of /his/ dish being used as a bribe.

Everything else Kay makes is a casserole. Finnegan made it very clear from teenage years onward that casseroles were lame. Also, Kay will not touch meat that looks like meat - no chickens with bones, no fish with skin. It's a thing. Maybe it's why Finn really never learned to cook - food had little appeal for her because it was all the same. For the next few years, she won't have time to learn the culinary arts. "Nothing I do is ever right, still. You'll see. Count the time at dinner until she tells me that I picked the wrong specialty - why didn't I go for obstetrics or pediatrics? People are ALWAYS having babies, then needing someone to take care of them. Or, maybe, that she realizes that my residency position is very highly sought after, but why didn't I choose one of the less frenetic ones, like a specialty clinic?" At this point in Finn's life, she doesn't know NOT to complain about their mother to Tres.

Tres puts his arm around Finnegan's waist, then kisses the top of his tiny sister's head. Does he ever pause to realize that she's /not/ going to grow any taller? "I'll handle it, Finny. I'm here," he promises, already scheming as to how to divert the conversation from Finnegan. He hasn't yet gotten as obstinate as he'll one day be, but he will just talk about himself and his girlfriends, having tedious conversations with their parents to keep the heat off of Finnegan.

"Thanks. I still don't know why you wouldn't run away with me to Grandma B's." Finnegan looks wistful, "I wish she could have been here, today. She always told me I would do great things, if I set my mind to it. Well, I did this one, Grandma B. Wherever you are, I hope you know it."

"I'm sure she does," Tres smiles. "And, I told you - we couldn't run away. We had to handle it in our own way, to ensure that we could /stay/ at Grandma B's, when we went. If we had just run, we would've been sent back and lost all privileges to go. We were subversive."

Finnegan laughs at that. "That we were, My Brother. That we were." They're at her building now, "I'm just going to run in and throw on some more comfortable shoes, lose all the extras. I don't really feel the need to parade through a restaurant in this robe, no matter how impressive the accomplishment."

"You need to leave it on for a while longer," Tres explains, his tone patient, sweet and soft, as he breaks the nose: "Kay will want more pictures. At the restaurant. On the corner. Just bring a hanger, and I'll handle it when we get to the restaurant."

"Oh, good grief," Finnegan declares. "Okay. Just give me a moment." She slips inside to mentally prepare herself for family dinner.

2530 - Remembering Camp
Finnegan waves her parents to see how they’re doing, update them on Philip’s progress.

“Hey Little Girl,” Atrum answers the call.

“Hi Dad. How’s it going.”

Atrum, “Oh, you know, same ol same ol. Your mother’s out in the garden. Let me get her.”

Kay comes in, all exaggerated good cheer, “Hey Sweetheart. You’re looking good. Marriage agrees with you!”

Finnegan, “Yeah. We’re doing okay. Philip seems to be healing quickly. He likes the house. We’re enjoying sitting on the porch together with tea and watching the world.”

Atrum, “Lovely. Lovely. I’m getting ready to cut the grass. Love you, FinnBee.”

Finnegan, “Love you too, Dad.”

Kay, “What’s not to love? It’s a beautiful house. Maybe a little small. I hope you gave yourself enough growing room.”

Finnegan laughs, “No grandkids yet, Mom. Give it a week.”

Kay, “A woman can hope. How’s your brother. When are you sending him home?”

Finnegan, “Oh, he’s good. He’s been doing a lot of work to keep the project on target. I went by yesterday to have a look. I never realized how good he was at the manual side of things.”

Kay, “Of course he is! He’s a Hill.”

Finn, “Hey. I’ve been meaning to ask you something. Remember that time you and I went to that summer camp? Why did we even do that? You hate all that naturey stuff. Canoeing and building tables from branches….”

Kay, “Oh, well, we didn’t get to do much of that, anyhow. Did we? Your father suggested it, really. You were so lost. Well, maybe not lost, but lonely, and pulling away a little more each day. I was worried about you. Nothing I did could reach you. I tried so hard to get through to you, but the harder I tried, the harder you fought. So you father, brilliant social navigator that he is, suggested I pick something you’d like doing and try to reach you that way. Of course, it backfired miserably, like everything else I tried.”

“But it didn’t,” Finnegan says, firmly.

“We had to come home on the third day. You got bronchial pneumonia and needed antibiotics. The nearest hospital was three hours away by land, and the camp only had one rickety shuttle. You weren’t really bad enough for a medevac. Still.. I don’t remember it as being the fun experience I’d wanted for us. You were the child I never seemed to be able to talk to, no matter how hard I tried, Finnegan. And Lord, did I try.”

“You stayed up all night, holding me. I was so scared. I couldn’t breathe.”

“That’s what mothers do, Honey. Just because we didn’t seem to be able to be in the same space without fighting doesn’t mean I loved you any less. You were my baby. You are my baby, and will be until the day I die. I would stay up all night holding you still, if you needed it.”

“That’s what I mean,” says Finnegan. “It didn’t backfire, because THAT’S what I remember. From that whole weekend, THAT’s what I remember.”

Kay sounds wistful, “Well, it’s kind of you to say, but hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Still, we all made it through, and look at you now. You’re doing okay. Now, if we can only get Lis to dump that drummer and get her life on track…..”

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