Continued from yesterday:
Todd smiled and traced a little heart on the screen with his finger. She had logged off, leaving nobody but himself and Big Blue.
FrogPrince: Thanks for everything, doc. Sorry i gave u the bums rush.
Big Blue: Np. Kids in love do that. Happens to me like u would not believe.
FrogPrince: Got kids? O.o;
Big Blue: Not my own.
Big Blue: Brat! What was that face for?
FrogPrince: Meep *hides* nothing!!!
Big Blue: Lol. Go 2 bed. U are usually asleep around this time.
FrogPrince: My girl’s feeling slightly better now. Knows what to xpect. S'all good. So i *could* go 2 bed.
Big Blue: Worry?
FrogPrince: Sorta. :/ And I am gonna have trouble sleeping.
Todd told him about what had happened to his window.
Big Blue: Not good. U need xtra blankets? Know a place you can get them for cheap. Almost nothing.
Frog Prince: Nah, i got a couple nice ones - knitted an’ heavy. Anywayz, g'night.
Big Blue: Night then, sleep well
He logged out of AIM and saved the conversation he’d had with Sara. Frankie froze up at the request to go into standby mode, so Todd had to resort to a ctrl+alt+del command to turn the computer off. The boy stretched, grabbed the blankets and pillow off his bed, and trudged downstairs to make up his bed on the couch.
Todd burrowed under the blankets and curled around himself until the cool air between the cushions and coverings became filled with trapped body heat. It wasn’t a quick occurence so Todd lay awake thinking about what the scales would look like and whether or not Cerebro would pick them up. The latter thought made his stomach do unpleasant things.
He didn’t want her to believe she had to dislike him. He didn’t want her to be pressured to give him up.
_No way in hell,_ Sara’s voice in his head assured him. _I’ll love you no matter what._
Todd wished with all his might it was real.
He closed his eyes finally and dreamt of a woman with snakes in her hair, flaring nostrils and beady red eyes who Sara introduced to him as his mother-in-law.
Sara was reciting something with her eyes downcast and filled with tears. She looked miserable. Todd kept trying to tell her that she didn’t have to do anything she didn’t want to. Her mother’s snake-hair hissed at him. She took out a yardstick and struck him across the shoulders every time he spoke out of turn.
She belittled, degraded, ridiculed him. Made Sara recite the same words after her. Sara cried at each one. Todd grit his teeth and spat slime over the woman’s mouth to silence her. Butterflies flew from his throat instead of gunk and they flurried around her face like dandelion fluff. She smiled horribly and Todd knew he had to run. He reached for Sara’s hand only to have her pulled back and away by an unseen force. Todd ran after her.
How he ran.
His heart hammering in his chest, Todd whimpered himself awake to find tears on his face. He didn’t wonder at the cause. He was afraid. The wide and unfamiliar space of the living room cast in total darkness did not help.
Todd turned over on his side and buried his face in his arms as the storm outside continued to howl.
Sara was still awake by the time Todd was fast asleep and dreaming. So far, her animation had stock sounds and music. She’d do some composing in the morning. The need to sleep finally overtook her around two AM, and it was just a complicated wiggle and a step to the niche in the bookcases that sufficed as her bed.
For the first time in her life, she stripped to her underwear and did *not* slip her nightshirt on. Her skin was prickling and prone to itching at the faintest contact from fabric, so she doused herself liberally in calamine and flopped stomach-down onto her bed.
She dreamed of waking to discover her eyes were capable of moving independantly, and that she could spear bugs with her tongue. Her dream-self even snapped up small birds, much to her personal horror. And always, Mom was there, lecturing her on how proper ladies would never be such exhibitionists about eating live birds. She suggested eating a frog instead, since the world could do with less of them.
But every time she looked at a frog, the poor creature turned into Todd. He’d look up at her as he perched on his lilly pad and say, “Don't listen to her, sweetums. She’s trying to poison you.”
Somewhere along the way, she turned into a snake, and itched to bite someone.
She felt moderately like hell when she woke up. The rash-lumps had spread, creeping around to the front. Her back was no longer itchy, but it *was* irritable. Extremely sensitive to the touch and it felt like it had something *stuck* in it.
Several billion small somethings, to be precise.
It was worse than the time Pamela Anderson accidentally-on-purpose pushed her through the glass wall at the conservatory at Babel Towers. She was finding infitessimal pieces of glass for *ages* afterwards. This was worse because somewhere inside her, she *knew* that this irritation couldn’t be plucked out with tweezers.
She winced at the touch of a bathrobe and snuck out to her little eastern balcony. At the first touch of the dawn’s light, she let robe, bra, and underpants drop and, very soflty, began to sing.
“Lalalala, lalala, lalala, lalalalalalalow…Good morning starshine, The earth says hello… You twinkle above us, We twinkle below. Good morning starshine… You lead us along, My love and me as we sing, Our early morning singing song…”
The sun always made her feel so much better. Especially the fresh new light of the new day. She washed herself in the light, dancing gently to the music in her head.
The song, like all good things, ended far too soon and she quickly became self-conscious. What if someone *caught* her doing this? What if *Mom* found out? What if the help knew?
Sara flew into her robe and stuffed her underthings into a pocket. She quickly tied the sash and bolted for her room. Yesterday’s clothes went into the laundry hamper, and she riffled through her T-shirt collection for today’s wear. Something kind to tender anatomy, for certain.
Ah yes. Her “Free the Thylacine” test-shirt. One hundred percent pure, non-allergenic cotton, and soft from multiple washings so it didn't irritate.
The rash was going to be trouble, she was sure. It had crept onto her face. _Looks like we might be on the fast-track, dear._ She could claim an allergic reaction today, and hide at the boarding house tomorrow. Lord knew she’d given herself enough days off by borrowing her mother's voice.
Mother-dearest *did* have the opinion that not a single day’s worth of education should be wasted. She’d sent Sara to school with chicken pox, measles, and even the mumps.
It was Sara’s own fault for being something of a dab hand with makeup effects. One home zombie movie and one’s sick days were forever revoked.
Large Evian bottle, check. Books, check. Emergency supplies, check. Her bag was packed, and it was barely past five.
Sara toured down to the kitchens and rustled up breakfast for herself, mother, and the help. She wasn’t much, but at least she could be useful. A little artful arrangement, and she had a tray for Mom. She was always quieter than a mouse when she entered her mother’s chamber. A sort of ninja mission to deliver a covert gift.
If Mom ever knew that Sara cooked her breakfasts, she’d never eat them.
Sara hurried back to the kitchens so she could chat with the house's servants about this or that. She even asked if they knew what could cause such a horrible allergic reaction in her skin.
She barely remembered to be careful about her thirst.
Mother came down with her face submerged in her coffee mug. “I trust you found time to do your homework?”
_In under five minutes, total._ “Of course, Mom. Would you like to check it?”
“It’s too early for that sort of thing,” sniped mother. “People awake at this ungodly hour are only there for the people who wake up later.”
Sara shared a nonverbal I’m-sorry with the help.
Mom refreshed her coffee and stumbled back upstairs. The staff breathed a collective sigh of relief.
“Almost time for you to go, ma'am,” said Ray. He sounded mournful. "You know your bike has trouble starting in the mornings.“
"And that’s *with* the blankie,” Sara sighed. “Don’t worry about Mom. She’s just angry at the world. As soon as I move out, she’ll feel better.”
“If you say so, ma'am,” said Ray.
It was too soon. She wanted to stay home longer. But she had to go to school regardless of how self-conscious she was about her bubbling rash.
Another day, another dead rat. This one smelled of almonds, so it was a safe guess that it had been poisoned. Five seconds and a rubber glove saw it into the bin.
Her eyes itched and watered.
“Thara, Thara, plain and tall…”
_Oh *Gods*…_ “Janine… could you - not do that?” Ack. Rubbing them made them worse.
“Whoah. It’s jutht a *joke*… I didn’t know you were thith thin thkinned.”
“Nah. I’m allergic to something. My eyes are giving me gyp. Oog.” She forced herself not to rub. “I take it your orthadontist was mean to you?”
“New plate, threatening headgear, three more rubber bandth… do you know what you’re allergic to? Could it be *boyth*?”
“I’m thinking I might be allergic to this school,” said Sara, knowing she wasn’t going to be heard. “I just feel so rotten.”
“I told you thingth go wrong when you thwallow thperm…”
Sara scrunched her eyes shut. “That’s an urban *myth*, dear.” When she opened them, and blinked past the tears, Janine was gone.
Someone was shrieking with laughter down the hall.
Apparently, the rumour mill was grinding away.
“Todd, dear,” she murmured, “*please* come by?” Slowly, and very dejectedly, she made her way to morning assembly.
 Large enough chameleons *will* eat small birds.
 No relation
Todd awoke some time around three in the morning to the sensation of cold skin. His stray hand sought the blankets which were most likely pooled around his ankles or had fallen off the couch. His hand came up with nothing.
The boy muttered and opened his eyes, searching around the room. He was *cold* and whosever’s idea of a joke this was, it was not cool. His eyes fell on the awol blankets lumped up in an armchair. “Yo, what gives?” Muttering, Todd got up and made his way over to the kleptomaniac furniture to steal back a few more hours of warmth and rest. A tug on a blanket’s edge resulted in a string of muffled obscenities. The lump shifted away from him and struggled to tuck the edges of the blankets even tighter around itself.
Todd thought he recognized the voice. “Tabby?” he groaned. “Yo back already?”
His answer was a middle finger.
“I was sleepin’ here! You got yo *own* room.”
“So do you. Piss off.”
“Yo just too lazy to walk up the stairs and turn a doorknob!” Todd shouted back. He got flipped off again. “Fine. *I’ll* go sleep in yo room.” The lump struggled mightily at this and struggled to extract itself from the armchair and blankets. Todd raced upstairs, opened and shut Tabby’s door, and stealthily hid in the linen closet.
The sound of heavy footsteps and death threats bumbled past his hiding place. Todd waited while Tabby’s door opened and shut again. There was another string of curses and a soft ‘flop’ upon squeaky mattress springs. Todd made his way downstairs with the utmost quiet and reclaimed his blankets.
He curled back up on the couch and fell asleep until about six thirty when two small time bombs nestled between his back and the couch cushions knocked him yelping to the floor. “OW!” he ranted, gingerly exploring now blistered skin. “Tabby, you stupid bitch!”
“Good morning to you too, froggy,” the blonde girl replied cheerily from the next room. “Oooh! Grapenuts! I love those!”
“Those are mine!” Pietro snapped. There was another explosion. Todd winced, knowing Pietro was in no shape to zip away from Tabitha's effects. “I… guess you could have *one* bowl,” the speedster amended, sounding woozy.
Lance was naturally pissed that Tabby had come home early. The fact that he’d been half threatened into giving her a ride did not make for a happy trip to school. Principal Kelly arrived at the same time and upon seeing Tabby, approached the Brotherhood wearing his famous 'you’re-in-deep-muck’ face.
“Ms. Smith,” he glared. “I’d like to have a word with you about your truancy–”
Tabitha waved his words off as if they were fruit flies. “I know, I had a whole bunch of stuff come up. My mother nearly had a heart attack.”
Kelly raised his eyebrow. “Nearly?”
“See, we *thought* she was having one, but it turned out to be a mild case of cerebral palsy so she’s okay.”
Todd was currently making a valiant and painful effort to maintain a straight face. Kelly’s expression required him to duck out of notice. "Ms. Smith, I’m not amused. Report to my office after morning assembly.“ Kelly walked away, either not hearing or not acknowledging the raspberry Tabitha blew at him.
Todd’s snickering broke out into a fit of giggles and fortunately the other boys started laughing at about the same time. Tabby gave them all death glares and stalked toward the school entrance.
"I think that was about the best thing that happened all morning," Pietro commented, to which they all agreed.
To Todd, the best thing that would happen was if he managed to score a seat next to Sara at assembly. He detached himself from the safety of his friends and went looking for her.
Sara was making her way toward the gym, dodging and apologizing as she tried to dance around people both smaller and larger than herself. Someone tripped her, or tried to. Todd saw her stumble and regain her footing. She was unhurt, though the smile on her face was replaced with a sort of resigned sadness. Todd ducked and twisted until he was near her enough to touch her hand. She looked at him and… there, the wonderful smile was back. And it was for *him*.
Todd returned it and squeezed her hand as they walked on. "Sit next to me?” he asked unnecessarily, but not daring yet to assume.