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I suppose it was inevitable, really. The tabloids had been chattering about it for a couple of weeks. But it was still a shock, in the last fifteen minutes of the program, to see the square-jawed, broad-shouldered, florid white man on the doorstep of the Wonderful House. He had mostly brown hair with a few touches of grey starting at the temples.

Brandon, of course, opened the door. He gave the man one of his lazy smiles and said, "Delivery?" despite the obvious lack of a uniform.

The man's fists bunched, and his shoulders flexed back under the rumpled flannel shirt. "I'm here for my daughter."

There was a brief flicker of surprise on Brandon's face and his pale eyebrows rose. "Sure. Come on in." He stepped back from the door, and the man thumped heavily over the threshold.

In truth, I'd been expecting something like this since WonderfulHouseWatch and several other online fansites (yes, all right, I admit it, I was well and truly hooked) had posted interviews with the director and the producers, where they all dropped broad, mysterious, cryptic hints that Lizzie's little outburst with the boiling water had been set off by a messy and abusive family background. She might have kept her real name secret, but her family, wherever they were, knew who she was, and so did their neighbors. No matter how small a town she came from, they'd have to come out of the woodwork and defend themselves -- and, in fact, the smaller the town, the more they had at stake.

Simon and Jeshri were hanging out, chatting, draped bonelessly over the furniture in the living room when the middle-aged man stepped in. One of their cameras pulled back for a full-length shot: he was wearing work boots and jeans that looked like he'd slept in them, as well as the red-dominant plaid flannel. I guessed he'd left his coat in the car, wherever that was, since the week had been warm, for early March, but not that warm.

The man glowered around and said, "I'm Robert Maxwell, and I'm here for my daughter."

Simon bounced up to his bare feet. "I'm Simon Canis," he said, extending a hand. "I guess you're talking about Lizzie?"

The man gave Simon a curled-lip glance and ignored the proffered hand. "I'm talking about Robyn."

Simon let his hand drop and considered Maxwell coolly through his tinted lenses. "I'll go ask around and see if we have a Robyn here," he said, and strode toward the stairs.

The man beat him to the stairs in two long strides and shouldered past him, taking the stairs two at a time. Simon sprinted after him and grabbed the man by the belt, yanking him to a halt at the top of the stairs with a strength that surprised Maxwell (and me).

"I'll say it once, nicely, sir," Simon said genially enough, worming around the big man to stand in front of him. "I'll ask around. If there's a Robyn here who wants to talk to you, she'll come down to see you."

Maxwell's hands clenched and unclenched. Simon casually removed his glasses and stared up at the man's face. Maxwell twitched visibly under that disturbing yellow gaze, then he turned and descended the stairs like a sullen child. Simon blinked as if appalled and waved a hand in front of his nose.

Back in the living room, Brandon lolled on a chair, grinning like a hyena. Jeshri had consolidated herself in the corner of the sofa, her bare feet not actually tucked under her, just folded up onto the seat with her. One of her hands dangled, seemingly at random, over the back of the couch, but the camera angled so we could see her fingers were just inches from the nearest electrical outlet.

Maxwell stood awkwardly, his surprise arrival effectively cockblocked. I could see anger and frustration stewing in his face, though.

Lizzie came down the stairs, chin up, shoulders back, jaw tense, a woman determined to go to her execution like a queen. Simon managed to descend behind her with just enough presence to let everyone know he was there without detracting from her entrance.

She stopped at the foot of the stairs and glanced over the room. Brandon couldn't look more like a train wreck spectator if he'd brought popcorn. Jeshri was coiled tensely. Maxwell was a monolith.

Finally, Lizzie said, "Hi, Dad."

Maxwell opened his mouth to say something, then looked around at the witnesses. He said, peremptorily, "Robyn. Talk. Now." He then turned, at random, and went through a door -- the door the viewers all knew led to the hallway to the kitchen.

I could see Simon visibly biting his lip, and then mouthing He's drunk to Lizzie behind the man's back.

Lizzie looked at Simon, then Jeshri, and followed.

We then saw Maxwell in the kitchen. He turned to face Lizzie, then bellowed, "YOU! OUT!" to the cameraperson, advancing threateningly. The camera backed hastily out of the room.

And then we saw them in the kitchen. Lizzie cast a glance around the room, possibly reassuring herself of the positioning of the hidden cameras.

Maxwell paced for a moment, then turned on her. "You have shamed us," he said, thick finger pointing at her and shaking just a little, like his voice. His knuckles were knobby and red with the beginnings of arthritis.

I could see Lizzie trying for one of Simon's more ironic expressions. "You? How?"

"We had agreed," he said, not withdrawing the finger an iota, "to keep the little matter of your para power in the family."

"That's why I didn't use the name you gave me," Lizzie said.

"Like none of our neighbors would recognize you?" Maxwell said, the rage in his voice almost erasing the question mark.

"Like anyone in that desert in Nebraska matters?" Lizzie said, and flinched violently as Maxwell raised his hand.

He didn't swing, though, and lowered it after a moment's silence. "Not only did you rub your promise in our faces --" he began.

"What promise?" she shouted. "I never promised not to tell anyone! I'm an adult and I needed to register, because you are welcome to ruin your lives, but I'll be damned if I'll let you ruin mine by getting me arrested!"

Suddenly, we had a small close-up of Simon's face in the upper corner of the screen: his eyes were closed, but you could almost see his ears swiveling.

He continued as if she hadn't spoken. "-- but now you're spreading these lies about your family," he hissed, pulling a crumpled sheet of tabloid newsprint from his hip pocket.

"I never said anything to those reporters," Lizzie said, looking like she was trying to press herself back into the kitchen counter. "That was all guesses from the producers." She gritted her teeth and glared up at him furiously. I realized he'd closed the distance between them. "Besides, they aren't that far off the truth, and you know it, you bastard!"

Backed into a corner as she was, she couldn't dodge the massive fist that buried itself in her stomach. The breath went out of her with a *woof* and he pinned her against the counter with his fist, yanking her head back by the hair with his free hand. "You're coming home with me, you little bitch," Maxwell snarled, "if I have to break every bone in your body first."

In the upper corner, Simon's eyes popped open and he was a blur of motion out of frame.

Lizzie retched, her arms flailing backward for the counter. I -- and the camera controller, given the zoom -- realized she was reaching for the knife block. She knocked it over and cut herself scrabbling for a blade, any blade.

The kitchen door burst open, spilling Simon and Jeshri into the room. Jeshri reached over the table beside the door, jammed a nail file into the electrical outlet there, and instantly lit up with blue crackling fire. Simon dropped into a crouch, both hands abruptly furry and full of claws.

"Let her go," Jeshri said through her teeth. "I can hit you so that no electricity touches her. Try me."

"Or me," Simon rumbled thickly, and I noticed that his face was lengthening as we watched, huge fangs sprouting from his jaws.

Maxwell was distracted by the paranormal menaces in the door, which meant that Lizzie managed to stab one of the knives into him, just as her eyes were rolling back in her head and just before her hands went limp.

Maxwell screamed and jumped back, pawing at where a paring knife was buried to the hilt in the meat of his shoulder. Simon pounced, knocking Maxwell flat on his back, still screaming. Lizzie slid to the floor, apparently keeping just enough presence of mind to keep her head from hitting anything on the way down.

Jeshri yanked the file out of the socket and dragged out her cell phone.

The camera cut to the police, watching the EMTs carry Maxwell out on a stretcher and advising him on his Miranda rights. Cut again to the police questioning Simon and Jeshri, and even Brandon, who grinned and gave the camera thumbsups when he thought the cops weren't looking. Some other EMTs talking quietly to Lizzie, who was still sitting on the floor of the kitchen, shaking her head, her face streaked with tears. The police talking to Lizzie and then, police walking Lizzie out in handcuffs.

Tom arrived just then, and he paused on the front steps to stare after the police. He looked up at the doorway, where Simon and Jeshri stood, faces grim. "I go out for one day, just one day," Tom exclaimed, "and look at what you people get up to!"

I shut the television view off and went over to the fansites, where outrage was spilling over that Lizzie -- some people insisted on calling her Robyn -- had been arrested. Frankly, I was surprised that Simon and Jeshri hadn't been arrested as well. The policy on domestic calls in Wonder City was to arrest everyone and let the judge sort them out, because domestics can escalate to cosmic proportions here, given a chance.

The top comment on the Wonderful Forum, "liked" by well over 400 people, was, "It takes a special kind of stupid to go on national television to beat your daughter."

Reader, I hit "like" as well.


From the Author:

ETA: Shadesong has hit her fundraising goal, because Jack's surgery cost less than expected!

Vote for us at Top Web Fiction.

Date: 2011-04-20 11:24 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri

Date: 2012-01-28 06:22 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Well done, solidarity.

*likes as well*


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