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His Work Is Noiseless

The Outsider heated oatmeal on the stove while Ira settled into his chair. He was moving a little slow this morning. Once, a little tumble out of a chair would've been nothing to him -- hell, Dr. Nemesis dropped him out of an airplane once, and he climbed out of his crater with a grin and a joke -- but now, with his invulnerability faded in some places but not others, he didn't have any bruises, but he had a lot of wrenched muscles.

"Getting old is hell," Ira said.

"So I've been told," the Outsider said mildly.

Ira watched her dark hand stirring the pot. "Will you ever get old, do you think?" he asked her.

The Outsider shrugged, and scraped the oatmeal into a bowl. "I am, sometimes, and I ache and creak just like... like any other old person. Whether I'll ever get old permanently? I don't know. I doubt I ever will know for sure, until and unless it happens."

Ira watched her until she brought the bowl over to him. Her black hair was drawn into neat cornrows today, though it had been a short afro on Saturday. He thought that many women would give a lot to be able to effect that sort of change from day to day. He picked up his spoon. "What... who were you first?"

The Outsider flashed him a grin. "That would be telling." She poured hot water into a cup. "How do you feel this morning?"

"Like hell," Ira said. "But I'm glad to be out of the damn hospital."

"Hospitals aren't very nice when you don't really need them," she said, settling on the other side of the table with a cup of tea. "What happened? Suzanne gave me a very brief account, and she seemed puzzled herself."

"Well, I couldn't very well tell her," he said, adding some sugar to his oatmeal and stirring. "She already thinks I'm crazy."

The Outsider watched him in silence.

After he took his first spoonful, he glanced at her and sighed. "I... well, this girl came in. College-aged, like most of our girls. But she was... she looked just like... her name was Tin Lizzie."

The Outsider's eyebrows arched higher over her dark eyes. "She'd taken the name Tin Lizzie? Did she look like your wife?"

"I... I thought so." Ira stared into the lumpy surface of the oatmeal. "She had her smile. And brown hair. And she wore pigtails, just like Lizzie did when I first met her. And her nose was just like. And her eyes. I... I guess she did look like her."

"You don't sound sure."

Ira's shoulders slumped. "It was all so familiar and yet... yet... she came to visit me yesterday in the hospital, and she was still familiar. But... her eyes are hazel."

The Outsider's fine eyebrows knit together now. "But I've heard you tell Josh that his eyes were just like his mother's."

"And his eyes are blue," Ira said miserably, sticking his spoon into the oatmeal's surface and watching it stand there. "Bright sky blue. Like hers. But not like this girl's. Who looked just like Lizzie. Except for her eyes. Except for the brown hair. Except for the pug nose. Except... except she doesn't look anything like her at all. Oh, god." He held his head in his hands and felt heat grow in his eyes. "Maybe I am cracked. Maybe I should be in a home. Oh, god, maybe I should be put away."

He didn't hear the Outsider get up, but he felt her put her arms around him.

Though he didn't want them to, the tears ran red-hot down his cheeks then. He couldn't stop the hard, wracking sobs either, and the whole-body shaking that felt like it would shatter either him or the house.

When he finally managed to get it all to stop, neither he nor the house were in pieces, and everything was as it had been, except that the Outsider's green blouse had a few damp spots and his eyes felt like they'd been sandpapered. He blew his nose on his big blue handkerchief (monogrammed with the Mr. Metropolitan logo at the corner) and shuddered as he tried a deep breath.

He stared at the logo on his handkerchief for a long minute, not daring to meet the Outsider's gaze. He could feel the warmth of her standing close at his side. "I wish --" he said, and his voice cracked. He tried again, voice strained against tears. "I wish I'd never got powers. I wish I'd married Norma Pearlstein. I wish to hell I'd stayed in Hoboken and gone into Papa's shoe business."

Ira rubbed his face to stop more tears, snuffled, and stuffed the handkerchief into his pocket. He extracted his spoon from the cooled and congealed oatmeal, and took a mouthful of the stuff. "Getting old is hell," he muttered again.

Date: 2012-01-27 06:32 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Augh, poor Ira.

Though now I'm getting curious if we'll ever get an objective history of this world, timeline shifts and all. I'm pretty curious about what has and hasn't happened in it.

Date: 2012-01-28 04:51 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
I think I would have to render such a timeline in several more dimensions than we currently have available to us. :) I'll probably never attempt such a thing. It would nail down the canon too much!


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