ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This story was a commission for [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It belongs to the Danso & Family thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Trouble on the Line"

Howl had gotten into something itchy in the compost heap and was living up to his name. Apparently you couldn't have a greenhouse without also having compost, which meant they now had a lidded compost crock in the kitchen for vegetable scraps and a pile of yard trimmings in the bare corner that never would grow anything. Hannah held onto the wriggling, whiny toddler with one hand so that he wouldn't scramble out of the tubful of tepid water, and used the other to spread foam soap over his sensitive skin.

Aidan leaned against the doorframe, fidgeting. "I didn't think it would hurt him to play in the clippings," he said. "I mean, he plays in the yard. He needs to learn to touch things, and he hardly ever seems to show any initiative ..."

"I probably would've let him try it too, for those reasons, although I wouldn't have let him roll in it," Hannah said with a sigh.

The house phone rang. Hannah lifted her head, Aidan pushed away from the door, but the third ring cut off abruptly as someone answered it. Thank God for responsible kids, she thought, secretly feeling a bit guilty because the older ones were so parentified that it worried her.

A minute later Danso knocked on the wall and leaned past Aidan to hold out a cordless phone. "It's for you."

"I'm busy," Hannah said, waving a soapy hand. "If it's important, take a message and I'll call back after I finish washing Nathaniel."

"I really think you need to take this call, Mom," said Danso. "Easy City SPOON base is on the line. I don't think they'd call you unless it was urgent."

They had darned well better not, because she'd taken herself off the list for emergency fostering and moved to consultation alone. She had her hands full, and everyone knew it. Still, Hannah couldn't very well ignore SPOON; Danso was right about them only calling on serious business. "Fine, I'll take it," she said.

"Trade you," Danso offered with a shy half-smile. Hannah wiped her hand on a towel. Danso handed her the phone, then sat down to deal with Nathaniel. "Hey there, bitty brother. Cut it out with the air horn imitation or you're gonna get soap in your mouth again. You know how yucky that tastes."

Amazingly, Nathaniel stopped howling and subsided to sniffles.

Now Hannah could hear to answer the phone. "Hannah Patterson speaking. What do you need from me?" she said.

"Coast Guard picked up a refugee ship with one survivor, a toddler whom our spotter believes to have Soul Powers. Right now she's in the hospital recovering from exposure, but she can't stay there indefinitely. I know you're logged off, but we're wondering if you could possibly --" the dispatcher began.

"I'm sorry, no," Hannah said quickly before he could get his hopes up. "I have five superkids in care now, and it looks like these may prove permanent. My standard limit is two. I really can't take on another child for the foreseeable future."

"I know that, ma'am, and I'm sorry to ask, but we have to try something," the dispatcher said. "She's already initiated a bond with one person. We need to contain this before somebody gets hurt."

"If she's bonded, why do you need a foster parent?" Hannah asked.

"It's the commander of the Coast Guard ship. He was able to give her up, but we can't risk a tighter bond forming with another nonconsenting party," the dispatcher said.

A soft touch at her arm made Hannah turn to find Aidan. "One minute," she said, putting the phone to her shoulder. "What, Aidan?"

"It sounds like you've got trouble on the line," Aidan said, a look of concern clear on his face. "Tell me what's going on. Maybe I can help."

Hannah summarized the problem for him. "Aidan, I can't foster another child, no matter how bad the situation is. I don't know what to do -- there are never enough adults who can handle children with superpowers."

"I wish I could do something," Aidan said.

"Maybe you can," Hannah said, an idea beginning to form. She didn't know much detail about Aidan's special abilities -- he was cagey about them, and she hated to pry. Still, he handled her five fosterlings just fine, which was more than could be said for most people. "You could take her. You told me that you've raised children before."

"Well, yes ... it's been a while, though," Aidan said.

"Could you keep her from hurting herself or anyone else? She's too little to have much control yet, so that's the big issue here," Hannah said.

Aidan gave a thoughtful hum. "... probably," he said, fingertips drumming against his thigh. "At minimum, I could prevent her from doing things to me without my consent."

"That's it then," Hannah said with a firm nod. She lifted the phone from her shoulder. "Sorry for the interruption. I can't take the girl myself, but I have someone else here who might. He can help contain her powers. If it looks like this will work for you, then you can expedite the paperwork to get him approved as a foster parent. It sounds like you've got some time before she's released from the hospital anyway." They'd done that before, streamlining the approval process for anyone willing and able to care for superkids in need.

"Thank God," the dispatcher said. "We can send a courier to teleport him at your convenience; we have your coordinates on record."

Hannah still remembered the crying Cajun girl whose sudden manifestation of Animal Control -- minus any real control, just attraction at that stage -- had surrounded a house with gators and necessitated moving Ida out of their habitat until she learned to handle her new ability. Fortunately that had only taken a few months before Ida could return to her family.

"I'll let you know when he's ready to teleport," Hannah said.

"I just need a few minutes to pick up my --" Aidan said.

"No you don't." Hadyn trotted up with Aidan's bag, packed hastily with everything he'd brought today; a spare shirt trailed one sleeve along the floor.

Lakia had his jacket. "We heard you talking. We know you're leaving, so we thought you'd want your stuff," Lakia said.

"Bless you, girls, that was very thoughtful," Hannah said as Aidan took his things from them. "Aidan isn't leaving forever, though. He'll come back to visit."

"Sure," Hadyn said evenly.

Hannah couldn't blame them for being wary of promises, after their experiences on the street. They'd learn, though, that Aidan was a reliable sort.

Aidan unclipped his spare set of car keys and gave them to Hadyn. "Thank you for helping me pack," he said to her, "and you too, Lakia." Then Aidan turned toward the bathroom, where Danso was rinsing soap off Nathaniel. "Boys, thanks for pitching in with the greenhouse."

"You're welcome," Danso said as he wrapped Nathaniel in a towel.

"I'm all set to head out," Aidan said, slinging his bag over his shoulder with the ease of long practice. "I meant to have more time, but ..." He shook his head.

The greenhouse was finished all but a few minor details. Most of what they were missing was a leisurely goodbye. "We understand," Hannah said.

Aidan exchanged quick hugs with the children. Danso had Nathaniel out of the tub and slathered with lotion that would hopefully stop the itching. "I'll come back when I can," Aidan assured them.

"Everyone hold onto your talents, I need to drop the null field so the courier can come get Aidan. I'll put it back as soon as they leave," said Hannah. The older children nodded. Nathaniel's gift didn't do anything outward, and Rosita was sound asleep. Hannah pulled in her own talent, allowing everyone else's to function normally.

"We're ready for pickup," Hannah told the dispatcher.

Moments later, Leapfrog appeared with a soft pop.

"Aidan, this is Leapfrog, one of the Easy City couriers. Leapfrog, this is my friend Aidan, who's been helping me with my current fosterlings," Hannah said.

"Thanks for volunteering," Leapfrog said, offering a hand to Aidan. "Saraphina is a sweet kid. I can take you to meet her now, and we'll get the paperwork started. She um ... wasn't in great shape when they pulled her out of the boat, so it'll be a few days before you could take her home."

"It's my pleasure," Aidan said as he took Leapfrog's hand.

Another pop, and they disappeared.

"Wow, he's really quiet," Danso said, his tone low and admiring.

"You could feel Leapfrog's talent?" Hannah asked as she carefully reset the nullification field.

"Yeah, it's like ... those gymnasts on TV, coming down just where they mean to," Danso said.

Hannah smiled. "He actually does something like that, too. You should see him freerunning; the SPOON site has a video of it."

Lakia crept closer to press herself against Hannah's side, wrapping her tail around their legs. A moment later, Hadyn joined her on the other side. "We're really glad you didn't send us away to make room for a new kid," Lakia said.

Hannah couldn't help wondering if exactly that had happened to Lakia before. "I would never do that," Hannah promised. "You can all stay here as long as you need to."

The sudden warmth behind her was Danso, leaning in with Nathaniel in his arms. "Thank you for that," Danso said.

"That's what family is for," Hannah said.

* * *


Compost is decomposed organic matter used in gardening. Learn how to make a compost heap. This is the kitchen compost crock that Aidan bought for the family; he gravitated to something made by a local crafter instead of a commercial model.

Here is one example of organic foam soap.

Parentification refers to children taking on adult tasks too soon. It's a known symptom of abuse or neglect. It can cause challenges in foster care, especially in sibling groups, but a savvy foster parent will use this bond to everyone's advantage instead of trying to break it. Danso shows the most, but Hadyn has also helped look after herself and her younger siblings. In Lakia, it manifests as precocious independence.

This is one natural anti-itch lotion.

Attachment, particularly reactive attachment disorder, can be an issue for foster care or adoption. There are ways to help children form new attachments. Try some five-minute bonding exercises. Hannah has been working hard with all five of her fosterlings, and it's really starting to show that they are connecting with her in addition to each other. This is probably the first place Lakia hasn't wanted to bail out of.

Glee, glee glee!

Date: 2014-08-23 02:12 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Aidan is SO FAR OVER HIS HEAD! It's going to be WONDERFUL!

Yes, I asked Ysabet to write a story which COMPLETELY upended my character's nice, safe, boring world. Aidan is incredibly averse to risk, but he is just as eager to /help/ others. There is no way that these traits won't conflict, and having someone else set him up was just /amazing/! Like the very best part of tabletop gaming, with a tangible product to boot!

Thank you!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-25 09:25 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Awwwww. More to say about this, but I have kidlets of my own (yeah, the possession arrow points the other way on this one :) to deal with. :)

Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-25 09:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm glad you enjoyed this.


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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