by Lilian Colby
The difference between you and I.
“That shift went by more quickly than I thought. I don’t think I’ve been to this many fires in a month!” I said exhaustedly.
"You did good for your first shift here.” Matthew said with a smile on his face.
“That brings me some reassurance. Ha ha.” I say wearily.
“You shouldn’t need reassurance. You have as much training as any other fireman here. Cap set up your schedule so your shifts are with me, so you can have a familiar routine. I’ll see you tomorrow at eight.”
“That sounds good. See ya.” I say as he and I part ways to our cars.
He was lugging a bag which I assumed his dirty clothes were in. I wasn’t carrying anything but myself, so I hopped right in my car and listen to the engine roar to life. Almost as soon as I put my car into reverse, I saw Matthew lift the hood to his truck up. I assumed he was having car troubles, and figured I could give him a ride home. It was the least I could do for someone who is guiding me like I’m a blind orphan.
“Need a ride home?” I ask him.
“Nah, I can walk.” He said seemingly stubbornly.
“Well I’m sorry, I won’t allow you to do so. Hop in.” I say with a slight head gesture to the passenger side.
“As you command.” He says with a smile and a wink.
At six at night, the air was starting to get a cool crispness to it, so I continued to roll my window up. Matthew got in and buckled up and rolled his window up. I proceeded to drive out of the lot and he told me to turn left.
“So, how’s your daughter? Is she in school yet?” I ask in attempt to start a conversation.
“She goes to head start four days a week while I’m at work. My mom’s watching her right now.”
“Is her mother not in the picture?”
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that.”
“It’s fine, curiosity can get the best of most of us. What about you. What’s your story?”
“My story is a long one.”
“I live thirty minutes away from the department. I think we have enough time.”
“Well, my Mother did drugs while pregnant with me, and she was arrested after I was born. My dad raised me until I was six, which was when my Mother decided she actually wanted me. Every once in a while dad would come down to Greenbow to visit me, but once I turned eleven it was as if he had forgotten about me. At the age of twelve I graduated high school.”
“I’m sorry, I’m not sure if I heard you correctly. Did you just say you graduated High School at the age of twelve?”
“Yes. I’m not the average person. My father is a well known genius.”
“Right. Okay, well, what else?”
“Two years later I was finally at the age where I was allowed to be a cadet on my local fire department. At sixteen, I got my licence and learned how to drive a fire truck. Then, one summer day after I turned seventeen, Dad just showed up, saying he wanted me to live him. I of course said yes, but little did I know, Dad showing up was going to cost my mothers life. She was killed by one of the most pitiful villains to ever exist. And I think I know how she died.”
“I am so sorry. I know how you feel. Losing a close loved one like that.”
“Yeah. She died while giving birth to Alex. She looks exactly like her mother.”
“I have a little brother. Jackson Michael Avery. What a kid he is, I practically raised him for my mom. His dad was recruited for a tour in Iraq. Mom basically tuned out and was in auto pilot until Kyle returned for a month. She didn’t tune out when he went back. What’s your daughters full name?”
“Alexandra Mae Casey. Her mother’s favorite name was always Alexandra. Her mother’s name was Mae.”
“What a gorgeous name. Alex is lucky to have you as a father. She’s lucky to have a father. Is there anyone who is in place as a motherly influence?”
“No. I dated for a while, but eventually just stopped trying. My attention needs to be focused on Alex. She’s my girl.”
“Haha, that’s adorable. At least she gets to live a normal life.”
“What happened after you moved in with your dad?”
“A lot of touchy things. I turned eighteen, and I got a bunch of presents I have yet to open them. The only one I have opened was one I accidentally broke. One from James.”
“A good friend of mine. Or at least, he was..."
“What did he get you?”
“A picture frame with a picture of him and another friend.”
“Are you two close?”
“I don’t really know, right now. A lot has happened in the past few days, so it’s hard to know.”
“I’m sorry about that. Right here’s where I live.”
I pulled to the side, stopping in front of a row house.
“Do you want to come in and meet Alex?”
“Of course I do!” I say with enthusiasm.
I turned off the car and got out. I followed Matt inside to find a kid running to him yelling daddy. She was about two to three feet tall, with long, curly honey brown hair and blue eyes like matthews. He picked her up, saying ‘Hey princess’ and kissed her on the cheek. He walked over to me, still holding her.
“Alex, this is my friend, Reuben. Can you say hi, please?” Asked Matthew.
“Hi, Wooben.” I laughed at her mispronunciation, noticing the familiarity between she and Jackson.
“Hi Alex. It’s very nice to meet you!” I say with a smile.
“It’s nice to meet you too.” She says, yawning.
“Time for bed.”
“But Daddy, I’m not tired.” She says, resting her head in the crick of his neck.
“I know, I know.” He says as he carries her up the stairs. A few moments after, he comes back down.
“Can I get you a drink?” He offered me.
“Nah, I better get home. I want as much sleep as possible before next shift, especially with that proby of ours. Do you think you’re going to need a ride tomorrow?”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“Well then, here’s my number in case you do.” I say as I write it down and hand it to him.
“Alright. Thank you.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow. Have a good night.” I say as I close the door behind me.
By now it was 8:45. I’m surprised I haven’t gotten a text or call from dad. I got into my car and began to head home. It’s been a long day, and a long, quiet drive is something that was needed. It gave me time to wrap my head around things, and what might happen with James and I. Would we still be able to be the same, or never speak again? “To be or not to be, that is the question.” The quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet came to mind, and let me Think about what might actually happen. It’s been three months since James and I have met, and I’ve gotten to know James pretty well. He’s like a giant teddy bear, with a heart full of forgiveness. What happened, with me killing James, it wasn’t necessarily me. I was being controlled by Modok, who was being directed by Red Skull, who basically wanted to kill off the Avengers. I just feel like there’s something Dad hasn’t told me. If Skull had the opportunity to kill the Avengers, he would. So why would he just kill James instead of Cap or Natasha? I wanted answers, but before I create more problems for myself, how about we fix some instead, shall we? By the time I got home it was 9:30, but the lights were still on in the living room. Maybe James is up. Well, it was a Saturday night, so he doesn’t have school. God, it was so weird to think I’m dating someone who is a freshman in college when I’ve already graduated, but they’re older than me. James is older than me by two years and six months. It’s funny, because he acts like a ten year old. I guess that’s natural for boys, though. Acting immature at almost everything, but know when to be serious. I wish I could be accepting like James, who wants to be a friend of the world. I only have two close friends, and they live five thousand miles away from me. And then there’s James and Kyle. Kyle is like my trouble buddy, and James…. I don’t exactly know right now what James is. I guess that I’m about to find out, though. I walk out of the elevator and to the railing to find almost everyone in the living room, including Uncle Rhodie and Pepper. I made immediate eye contact with dad, and I figured I’d tell him now instead of later.
“I need to talk to you later.” I say, trying to conceal my intentions.
“As you command.” He says bowing, and winks at me.
I hit my hand off the railing a few times and walk away to James’ room. On my way, I ran into Kyle.
“Hey, is James in his room?” I ask casually.
“Yeah, he’s playing Black Ops. Want me to get him?” He offers.
“It’s tempting, but I think I can handle a little bit of Black Ops.” I say winking at him.
“Says the one who is still the undefeated champion of the place.” He says grinning at me.
“No, you’re thinking of boxing.” I say in response.
“Uh, I’m pretty confident that Cap is the undefeated champion in that category.” He says, enunciating Cap.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever man.” I say walking away. I have no idea what I’m going to say to James, but I guess I should just go with it and say what comes to mind. Not that that went very well with Dad. I easily found his door, seeing as how much time we spent in each others rooms. We were both anti social worms at home, but once we went outside, James is the one who becomes a social butterfly. I just most of the time stick to my own bubble, blocking out everyone. I haven’t an idea where I got my anti socialness from, but I know it wasn’t from Mom or Dad. I knocked lightly on his door, and waited for a response.
"Yeah?" He said.
"May I come in?" I said in my small nervous voice.
"Of course" he responded without hesitation.
I wearily opened his door and closed it quietly behind me.
"Hey." He said, pausing his game and smiling at me.
"Uh, I think we should talk...."
"I'm not sure what we need to talk about..."
"I think you do."
"Okay, well, say what you need to say."
"Um, I'm sorry that I murdered you." I say, my voice cracked and was shaky.
"Hey, hey, it wasn't really you!" He said getting up and walking over to me.
"It wasn't you. It was modok. He was controlling you and your actions. There was nothing you could do."
"But it was me. He was controlling my body, not my mind. I made a situation in my mind that blinded me from the truth. It was a fantasy. I don't even know if I was the one who brought you back to life. That's why I'm going to talk to dad and have him go over everything that night, and if he refuses, I'll read the report at S.H.I.E.L.D. I'm going to read it even if he does tell me, because I'll want a confirmation, but I want to see if I can still trust dad to tell me everything with truth."
I didn't notice the look James was giving me until I was done rambling on about my plan. He looked at me with a face of concern and worry, but with the same compassion that I had for the truth.
"Do you think you're really ready to find the truth? You kind of had a break down last night, and I never want to see you like that. When you rushed out, it was like a part of me broke, because you were broken too. So I’ll ask you again, do you want to put yourself through something as horrible as that? I know I can’t control you, but I just need you to realize that sometimes, actions can hurt others as well, even if they're unintentional.”
And with that, I began to let my pride drop, and I felt my walls crash down. The walls that I put up years ago to protect myself, and to be strong for Jackson. The walls that kept James out, and Dad, and even my own Mother. They came with such a force, and I was in disbelief. James had finally done it. He did something that I once thought was impossible. He saved me from myself…. I began to feel a bit lightheaded, and grabbed James’ shoulder. He could tell something was wrong, and as the blood rushed out of my face, and my knees buckled beneath me, James caught me.
“Reuben? Reuben, what’s wrong!? Can you hear me?”
“Get my Dad…” I heard myself say, with tears going down my face. James picked me up, and rushed out of the room. I heard him yelling Dad’s name, but it was muffled, like he was in the distance. He sounded miles away, yet he was the one who was carrying me to my Dad. I leaned my head against his chest, and I could hear his heart beat. It was thumping faster and louder than a woodpecker. All I could see was the walls and blurred paintings as James ran by them, still yelling Dad’s name. I heard dad ask what was wrong, and James say he didn’t know. Dad told James to follow him, and the next thing I know, I’m lying down on a table with monitors all around me.
“Where are we?” I hear myself say, and nearly cringe at the weak, unrecognizable voice that managed it’s way out of my mouth.
“It’s okay, Rue. We’re in the tower.” Dad told me, stroking a few pieces of hair from my face. “We’re trying to find out what’s going on. How do you feel?”
“Numb…” I heard myself say.
“Okay, try to get some rest. You need to save your energy. I love you, Rue.” Dad said, kissing my forehead. I tried saying I loved him too, but nothing would come out. He walked out of the room, and he looked like a broken man.
Reuben looked as pale as a ghost, and the blue in her eyes had faded to a pale, unrecognizable blue, with almost any look of life sucked out.
“What the hell is wrong with my daughter?” I say in a concerned, yet angry voice to Thor. He’s an Asgardian, and that’s where the tesseract should have been. He was the only one here who knew the most about the tesseract.
“Language.” Steve said. I gave him a weirded out look.
“She has connected with both tesseracts. I feared this would happen….”
“You feared what would happen?”
“Since she is host to both tesseracts, they are battling each other for control.”
“Inside my daughter's body!?”
“Yes. The Tesseracts are not to be brought together, let alone inside the same host.”
“Well, what can we do about it?”
“I do not know. This has never happened, and we had hoped it never would, because we had the tesseract in safe keep. Until Loki took it. I must go back to Asgard to discuss this with Odin.”
“How long do you think her body can handle this?”
“Reuben is stronger than most humans, but she can’t take it forever. I don’t know how long she has, but I recommend you stay by her side, or someone keep her company. I doubt that she will want to be alone.”
“Of course we wouldn’t leave her alone.” Said Natasha.
“I’ll stay with her. We were talking when this happened, and I’m not sure she was finished.” Said James.
“Okay, well I’m going to call the doctor and have him come in. I want to be sure she is okay for now and gets her what she needs.” I announced, and told everyone they can go and let Reuben rest except for James.
Those two have become surprisingly close in such little time. I mean Reuben even killed him, and he's still trying to be her friend. James is nineteen years old, almost the same age as Reuben. I guess it’s logical that they have things in common, but I feel like there’s more than friendship. I had figured having Rue live with me would have made her happy, but I think that living with me and all the consequences that had come with it have just caused her pain and suffering. I don’t know how I could ever fix this for Reuben.It breaks my heart, because I was trying to do the right thing, but as usual, someone got hurt.
I don’t know what happened, but I know Reuben, and I know she has done nothing to deserve this. She practically raised her brother, and she’s a firefighter, going out and saving peoples lives daily. It seems as if her life has been slowly disintegrating, beginning with her Mother. I feel like there’s something there, that isn’t quite right, like there’s a missing piece to that story. Maybe, it would do justice if I found out what really happened to her mom. I texted Mom and asked her if she could bring me my laptop so i could do research, and she reluctantly agreed. When she came into the room, I shot up like a bullet and hugged her tight, and told her how I glad I was to have her as a Mother, and that I loved her. She hugged me back and of course, said she loved me back. I walked to to the chair that I had positioned fairly close to Reuben, and sat cross legged, with my laptop resting in my lap. I went onto S.H.I.E.L.D.s database and put in Reuben’s name, since I didn’t know her mother’s name. Everything to know about Reuben was one there, but I respected her privacy and went to her Birth Certificate. Rachel Samantha Bailey. Well, she was really an Avery. Maybe they should fix that. Wow. Rachel was only thirty two, and she died at the hands of a seemingly not so dangerous villain. I guess there’s nothing we can do to avenge her, Reuben’s already done that. I went to Rachel’s records, and found something so suspicious, i didn’t even think Reuben should know about it. Just then, I noticed Reuben was moving around, so I closed my laptop and set it on the small bedside table.
When I finally came to, I didn’t have a lot of energy.I felt like someone was there, and turned my head to see James.
“Hey, how are you feeling?” He asked me.
“Does it really matter?” I ask him.
“Well…. yeah, it matters to me….”
“I feel regretful, and I feel like I deserve this….”
“Nobody could do anything to deserve this.”
“Unless they kill someone….”
“YOU didn’t kill anyone, because I’m right here, having a conversation with you.”
“Are you a figment of my imagination? I feel like you are…” James then proceeded to grab my hand, and kiss me on the lips.
“Does that feel like a figment of your imagination?” He asked.
“Kind of.” I say grinning at him.
“Do you want anything? Water, food?”
“I need my laptop. I need to talk to Jackson. What time is it?”
“It’s ten fifteen and you need to sleep.”
“What I need to do is call Matt and tell him might not be into work.”
“I can do that, you just need sleep. You need to get some rest.”
“Well so don’t you…”
“No you’re not. I’m sorry I scared you like that….”
“Just try not to do it again.” He said, grinning.
“Come on, get on the bed and go to sleep.” I heard myself suddenly blurt out.
“James, you’re my best friend, I’m sure.” He got out of the chair, took off his hoodie, and sat on the bed so gently, like I was a fragile piece of glass. He swung his legs onto the bed and I scooched over, and put my head of his chest, with my arm on his belly. He put his right arm around me, and put his left hand on top of my hand.
“This feels right, maybe this is why I haven’t been able to sleep well. I’ve been missing you for a pillow.” I say jokingly. Was it a joke, though? James let out a giggle, and felt him looking down at me. I looked up at him, and stuck my tongue out at him.
“Haha, you’re cute.” He said, sticking his tongue back out at me.
“Don’t tell me what I already know.” Giving him a big smile. I put my head back onto his chest, listening to his heartbeat. It was a normal beat, and I felt him relax, with his breath deepening. His muscles finally relaxed, but he kept his arms around me, as if it was something he’s always wanted to do. At least some things are getting back to normal, minus the fact that I’m dying slowly. If you think about it, it’s actually quite ironic. The thing that has kept me alive, and helped me save other people, is also killing me at the same time. I felt my eyes glaze over, and I just closed my eyes. I wonder what it would be like if Dad had fought for me. That’s it, no more crying. No more tears, because I am done. I felt myself slowly fading into my own realm of sleep, and I just let go of reality.
The reality of my daughter dying has finally hit me, and here I am, drinking a bottle of scotch. Shows how much of a good father I am, huh? This is my fault. I should’ve fought for her, and raised her so she knew how to control her powers. I bet that her Mother would still be alive, happy with her husband and son, and Reuben wouldn’t be on that bed dying. We would also not be in this hole of lies that I dug myself into.