2007-05-03: Kids Say the Darndest Things

Starring:

Niki_icon.gif Micah_icon.gif

Guest Starring:

DL_icon.gif

Summary: Micah's had just about enough of secrets, but finds more. A short phone call to D.L. spirals out of control. Niki tries to defuse the rhetorical bomb. Dysfunctional Family Is Dysfunctional.

Date It Happened: May 3rd, 2007

Kids Say the Darndest Things


Monica's House, NYC

Today - so far - finds the Sanders-Hawkins-Dawson residence relatively quiet. Mid-afternoon light filters into the living room despite the best efforts of the closed curtains; someone is trying to hide regardless of the lovely day outside. It would seem that someone is Niki. On her side on the couch, beneath the window that looks out onto the street - or would, if it weren't for those curtains - she's been sleeping on and off for about an hour or so. It's not a restful nap. Every so often her face tightens under the strain of dreams and she makes a soft noise of distress.

After having finished his homework, Micah closes the notebook on his desk, then rises up to his feet, giving himself a bit of a stretch. With a look towards his laptop, where he sighs at not finding any new email from Hanna in over three weeks, he frowns and ambles into the living room. With a stretch of his arms, he looks over towards his mother on the couch, watching her for a moment, before clearing his throat. "… Mom?" He asks, reaching over to give her shoulder a light nudge.

Niki wakes up with a start, but instead of sitting upright like a bolt, her eyes fly open and her head just lurches slightly off the pillow her arm is cradling. It takes her a few moments to focus on Micah, just staring at him blearily. Before she even registers that it is, in fact, Micah who woke her up, she pretty much assumes - without resentment; she needed to get up anyway - to be him. "Hey," she says quietly, pushing herself up into a seated position, though she doesn't swing her denim-clad legs over the side of the couch just yet. "It's not time for supper yet, is it?" She still looks a little plagued by sleep. Or maybe nightmares.

"Nuh uh. You were making noises." Micah says as he slips his hands into his pockets with a shrug of his shoulders. "Were you having bad dreams, momma?" He asks, settling himself down on the coffee table across from her, dropping his chin a bit to stare at her more evenly. With a chew on his bottom lip, he looks thoughtful. "I can get dinner for us if you want. You don't gotta do it. I'll just getta pizza."

"… Yeah," Niki replies, recalling said bad dreams; even so, her answer has a dismissive quality about it. She looks away from her son's even stare and she squints off to the side - but it's not long before she's smiling at Micah, forcing her grogginess and lingering nightmares to the dark corners, tipping her head down and looking at him. Is that so? "/You/ just want an excuse to get pizza. Little do you know that we're gonna /make/ one. They don't only appear magically from phones, you know."

Wrinkling his nose, Micah looks a bit offended by the suggestion of 'making' a pizza when one can order perfection from Pizza Hut. ".. Last time daddy did that, he set the oven on fire." He says with a soft breath. "Then we had to order it anyways. How about.. if.. we don't make one.. and skip the smoke, and get extra meats?" He attempts, giving her a roguish grin on his face as he tilts his head one way. ".. What were you dreaming of, mom?"

Niki's brows rise when Micah relays the story about setting the oven on fire, but she can't help but laugh - even if it is a little… scoffing. That must have happened when she was, you know, incarcerated. "Well, /we/ don't have to worry about starting any fires," this time," she says matter-of-factly with a reassuring smile to match. "/I/ won't let it happen. And your dad isn't allowed in the kitchen as long as me and Monica are around! It'll be good. You just gotta give it a chance." She reaches out to take Micah's forearm gently. "It was nothing. I don't remember. But can you do me a favour, sweetie, and get me the aspirin? It's in the table beside the bed."

Nodding his head, Micah looks relieved to know that D.L. won't be in the kitchen, burning pizza tonight. He's OK with the PBJ's, but other than that, it's practically inedible. As he pushes himself up to his feet, he trudges down the hallway, and into the room his parents share. He looks around for a moment, then heads to the bedside table, and opens it up, starting to root around for the bottle of aspirin.

The bottle is there, and behind that, a white envelope, once crisp but now soft around the edges. It's open, as if shoved in there in a hurry, and its contents start to spill out when the drawer is jarred. The very edges of numerous colourful photographs can be glimpsed. Pictures of art. In the sliver of colour that can be glimpsed? A signature: Isaac Mendez, just like in 9th Wonders.

Having knocked the envelope out by accident, Micah doesn't pay it much mind until he finds the bottle of pills. As he leans down to pick up the pictures, he pauses for a moment, then widens his eyes. Isaac! Maybe it's his birthday present! Exclusive artwork of his comic? He flips the pictures open, and starts to look at them as he settles on the edge of the bed.

They're all there - the series of thirteen paintings that have been sending would-be heroes in a flutter all over the city and beyond. Fire, samurai warriors, gruesome deaths, threatening scenes, a biohazard vial, a tornado, all of them, in crystal clear snapshots as if owned by an art distributor. One of them even involves a girl that, if you use your imagination, resembles Molly, being held at a rooftop ledge. On the back of each is a stamp marking them as property of the Linderman Group.

Out in the living room, Niki is just pushing the pillow aside to the corner of the couch. Her feet are on the floor now, but otherwise she hasn't moved. She looks tired again when she's not smiling - like she could really use that aspirin ASAP. "Micah…?"

Squinting his eyes, Micah's features slacken a bit as he stares at the picture of Molly. Frowning, he turns it over, then back again. Licking his lips slightly, he glances up as he hears his mother calling his name, then quickly stuffs the picture under under his shirt, tucking it against the brim of his pants. "Found it mom! I'm coming!" He calls out as he starts to fumble with the other pictures, trying to shove them into the drawer quickly. Hopping to his feet, he makes his way into the living room, handing the bottle over to her.

Niki was pretty sure that the bottle of aspirin was in plain sight once the drawer's open, but side from looking at Micah with a tiny hint of questioning, she doesn't seem to think anything of his slight delay. "Thanks," she replies with a smile, reaching up to run a hand through the ends of Micah's curls as her other hand takes the bottle. "Did you finish your homework?" she asks, unscrewing the cap. Grabbing a half-empty (half-full, whatever) water from the coffee table, she downs a couple of aspirin.

Putting on his best poker face, Micah forces out a quick smile, eyes rolling upwards as he watches her play with his hair, then settles his gaze on her. "Yup. I got it all done. It was easy." He says with a bright smile on his face, shrugging his shoulders. "Have you heard from Mohinder lately? I want to see Molly again." He says with a tilt of his head. "I um.. I really miss her! Do you think he'll let her go to school with me now?"

"Of course it was. What was so easy this time? I need to keep track of all the classes you're passing with flying colours," Niki says, smiling brightly all the while. Despite her headache. She's pretty good at that when Micah's around. "I haven't heard from him, but we can give him a call. You know school's almost over," she points out. "It'll be summer soon."

"It was just English, and math. Algebra is easy." Micah says with a chuckle as he smiles brightly to her in return, just hamming it up. "Maybe she can come next year with me then. I really want to see her more. She's like.. my only friend here." He says with a pout. "You think she's OK, right? She hasn't called me in a bit." Subtly probing his mom for answers? You betcha.

"*I* don't remember algebra being so easy," Niki counters, smirking. She moves off of the couch to slip onto the coffee table so that she's beside the standing boy, wrapping an arm around him. "I'm glad you two are getting along. It's just, sometimes her family's really busy." Really busy /hiding from Sylar/, but she doesn't say that worrying part. "I'm sure she's fine." Then again… "I'll call Mohinder after supper. Okay?"

Leaning into her, Micah nods his head, playing the thoughts in his head a bit. "OK mom. Thanks." He says with a quick smile upwards, staring with his dark eyes. "So, where is dad at?" He asks. "He'll be home for pizza, right? Oh, my teacher wants to take all of us to the zoo. Can I go? I need a permission slip signed, and I /really/ wanna see the animals."

Micah's mom looks up at him, leaning her head against him. The bottle of aspirin, still in her hand, is neglected on the coffee table with a little rattle. "He better be. If not, he doesn't know what he's missing." In point of fact, Niki has no idea where D.L. is, so naturally, she ever-so-gently avoids that part of the answer. "Of course. Just get me the permission slip. Would I deny you animals? Please," she leans harder, a playful nudge.

"Well, I don't know. Would you?" Micah says with a giggle as he gives his mom a hard squeeze around the waist, tucking his head on her shoulder. After a bit, he pulls away and stands up a bit straighter. "Do you like your new job, mom?" He asks. "I'd love to work at a book store. I'd sit around and read comics -all- day." He squints his eyes some. "So.. speaking of. I guess my comic isn't coming out anymore.. I wiki'd it, and.. the artist died." He says with a frown.

"He did?" Niki sounds genuinely surprised, her brow frowning in sympathy - not only for the artist, but because Micah won't be getting his favourite comic anymore. "That's too bad, baby. They can't, like… get a different artist?" So sue her. What does she know about comic books? Not a lot. "Yeah, I like it at Enlightenment. It's … different, but it's okay. My boss is super nice. I think you'd like her."

"Yeah, his name was Isaac Mendez. He lived here in New York." Micah says with a nod of his head, watching his mother's face as he says the name. "He was the one who was writing all about the super heroes. My favorite character was Hiro. He was really funny, and goofy. He said lots of Star Trek stuff. It was cool, in a geeky way." He chuckles, putting on a quirky smile to her.

Isaac Mendez. Isaac Mendez… why does that sound so familiar? Never mind "Hiro". That's more forgettable, some comic character. But Mendez…

It clicks.

Niki tilts her head, just a bit, while slanting a rather pensive gaze at Micah. The foggy beginnings of recognition have gradually cleared up. She definitely recognizes the name, if that's what he was looking for. "… Well, I guess we'll have to go to that comic store we found in the East Village and get you hooked on a /different/ comic." Casual, upbeat. Now that /she's/ put two-and-two together, she has no idea that Micah's putting two-and-two of his own together, too. "I think we should call your dad to make sure he doesn't miss pizza. What do you think?"

It seems that Micah is waiting, for just that moment as he realizes his mother has figured things out. "OK. I guess I can read X-Men, or something." He says with a smile, shrugging his shoulders upwards. That picture tucked under his shirt is practically burning away at him. He's dying to ask her, but afraid of what he'll get. "Kay." He says as he hops to his feet, and heads for his room. "I'm gonna pack my bag for tomorrow." And hide that picture.

What picture? What? Pictures of the expensive art Niki and D.L. /stole/? Oh, she's thinking about them, but not because Micah's harbouring one of the photographs. That doesn't even cross her mind. "Okay. Come out and help me in the kitchen later, alright? I'll need help with the toppings."

"OK Mom!" Micah calls out as he checks the hall for a moment, then takes the picture out from under his shirt, looking it over again. He stares at the imagery of the city, then sits down in front of his computer. He slides the picture into the scanner, saves it to his personal folder, then stuffs it into his sock drawer for later.

While Micah’s in his room, Niki picks up the phone, pacing slowly around the living room with it.

PHONE: You dial the number 283-7468. It begins to ring.

PHONE: The other end answers, "Hello?"

PHONE: Niki is on the other end. "Hey."

PHONE: D.L. says, "Hey. What's wrong?"

PHONE: Niki says, "… Nothing's wrong. I was just wondering when you'd be home. We're making pizza."

PHONE: D.L. says, "… Oh. Uh. Later. Soon. I'll be home soon."

PHONE: Niki says, "Where are you?"

PHONE: D.L. says, "Working."

PHONE: Niki doesn't exactly sound satisfied, let alone impressed, with that answer. "Working. Working where, D?"

PHONE: D.L. is automatically on the defensive. "I said I'll be home soon. I want pepperoni."

Inching closer to the doorway, Micah listens carefully to the one sided conversation as he can hear his mother's voice. Mom doesn't know where his father works at? This gets his attention as he quietly lingers, trying to be as subtle as he possibly can.

Niki, by now, is between the kitchen and the living room with the phone to her ear; her back is to Micah, luckily for him and his spying.

PHONE: Niki says, "And I was trying to ask you a question. I'm just worried. After everything… I thought we were supposed to be honest."

PHONE: D.L. says, "I can't really say. It's a job. We'll talk about it later. I promise."

PHONE: Niki sighs, albeit quietly. "… Fine. Just— be careful."

PHONE: D.L. says, "… I will."

PHONE: Niki says, despite the tense topic of conversation, "I love you."

Still frowning, Micah squints his eyes a bit in thought, then makes his way back into his room. He's a bit agitated, and for good reasons why. He can't help but feel that both of his parents are hiding things from him, big things, that he can't seem to grasp just yet. After least year's adventure of being kidnapped, and watching his father nearly die by gunshot, he isn't exactly thrilled to continue with these types of Cloak and Dagger games.

PHONE: D.L. pauses. For longer than usual. Especially when it comes to these three words. "… I love you."

PHONE: Niki is next to pause, perhaps unnerved or maybe just reluctant to hang up all of a sudden. But that's what she does. "I'll see you later."

PHONE: You end your current call.

Micah reaches over to the small cell phone at his desk and squints at it. With a look over his shoulder, he concentrates, then attempts to find his father's whereabouts via GPS. Frustrated, he wants to know 'where' his father is working at.

Staring down at the cordless phone in her hand after she hangs up the phone, biting down and making her jaw tense harshly, Niki eventually strides across the room to hang it up. She stands with her hands splayed on her hips for awhile, just… looking at the floor, thinking, a dark expression having found its way to her face. D.L. better make good on his promise. She half-disappears into the kitchen.

"Hey mom, where's dad at?!" Micah calls out from his room as he looks at the phone, then starts to type on his computer as he pulls up google maps, and starts to pull a picture up of the suspicious house in Harlem. "Is he coming home?"

"He'll be back in time for supper!" is all Niki yells back. The tone of voice she had while on the phone doesn't carry on.

As Micah types away at the keyboard, he starts to allow himself to synch completely with the network, pulling up file after file. Finding out who owns the house, his eyes narrow a bit, then starts to fish around a bit deeper. Anger is rising up in the young boy's eyes, his fingers practically pounding on the keys.

After a few minutes of busying herself in the kitchen, Niki appears in Micah's bedroom door, her hip against its frame. There's a dry dishtowel in her hands, as if she just washed them and is now drying them off. Putting her abrupt conversation with D.L. behind her for the time being, focusing on Micah, especially now that the aspirin is kicking in, there's a light, pleasant smile on her face as she's poised to talk to her son, but— "What're you doing so furiously on there? Come on, I've got almost everything ready to put together. Your dad says he wants pepperoni."

On the screen is a house, and the picture of a driver's license showing off a /really/ hot black chick by the name of Tajae Jackson. The address of the license happens to match the one on the screen from Google. By now, Micah is tearing away, deep, into this girl's personal history, pulling up credit histories, bank accounts, tickets, criminal background. He is so focused, that when his mother's voice echos through the room, it slams against the back of his head. Furiously, he yanks the keyboard off the desk and throws it against the wall.

Niki is moving from the doorframe the moment Micah grabs that keyboard, and as it goes sailing violently across the room, she's rushing toward him. By the time it crashes against the wall, eliciting a wince, she's already at his side and kneeling to be closer to his level. Whatever's on the computer screen isn't so much as given a glance - yet. "Hey, hey, baby, calm down. What is it?" Motherly instincts on high alert, she moves to gently place a hand against Micah's cheek, seeking out his dark eyes with her crazy-worried blue ones - as if anticipating the petulant fit of a ten year old who will want to look away. "Micah, what's wrong?"

"WHERE IS DAD AT?!" Micah says, practically yelling as tears burn the corners of his eyes, pushing her hand away. He stands up defiantly, curls of hair bouncing at his face. "I thought he was working!" His voice is high pitched, emotional as he stares at her hard, with anger seething. "You told me that things will go better for us, that we wouldn't need to .. to … whatever.. no more bad things!"

Honest. We'll be honest. Isn't that, more or less, what she just reminded D.L. on the phone? Now, as it's thrown back at her face in the worst possible way, out of her son's mouth, Niki is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The woman's expression is almost wounded as Micah shuns her touch and his young emotions rage, and their suddenness has her swiftly steeling back tears of her own. She slowly pushes up out of her kneel, but stays crouched over, her hands on her knees. "They are. They will," she says insistently. "I don't know where he is. Sometimes, your daddy…" No. She can't put this all on D.L. Niki stands up straight. "We're trying, Micah. We're really, really trying. Your dad's out there doing what he thinks he has to for us, and maybe it's not the right thing but— we just have to get through this one rough patch…"

"I know where dad is at! He's at /her/ house. And she's /pretty/. Why is he at a girl's house in Harlem for?" Micah says, jabbing a finger at the screen, practically glaring at the beautiful girl who stares back at them, waiting for the camera. "We /always/ have rough patches! Why can't you just tell me the truth? I'm not stupid mom!" He pauses for a moment, before he stares at her. "Is Molly dead? Is that why she won't answer the phone, or email me back? Did that lady throw her off a roof?" Tears streak down his dark cheeks, his teeth bared, his body trembling.

When Micah calls attention to the computer screen, Niki finds herself staring at in a sort of daze. She hears everything he says after that, she does; but it's the screen she's transfixed on, her brows slowly pinching together as she focuses on the image, the face, the name. When her mouth finally clamps shut, she turns back to Micah, fully, totally, and says nothing of it. "I am telling you the truth, baby," Niki says firmly. "I know you're not stupid. You're anything but, Micah," she adds more gently. Wait. "What? What are you talking about— throwing Molly off the roof?"

Breathing heavily, Micah glances over to the computer for a moment, then reaches over to touch the screen. There's a popping noise as it goes dark, as if someone jerked the power cord out of the wall. Knuckling a tear away from his face, he pushes past her and heads for the hallway. "Just forget it!" He says, his voice filled with frustration. "We're gonna burn the pizza again." See, they should have called Pizza Hut after all.

Niki eyes the computer screen as it blackens, staring for a moment as if /she/ could will it back on, to memorize the address, to - to what? Swiftly deciding it's better of dead and black, she strides out of the room in Micah's wake. "Micah…" she implores. Thankfully for them, and for the safety of Monica's house, the oven is on, but pizza-free. "Micah, stop. Listen. Micah, /listen to me/." She reaches out for his shoulder, trying to stop him, turn him around, to /look/ at her, at least.

As his mother grabs him by the shoulder, and jerks him around, Micah stops and stares up at her. He remains silent, his eyes angry, his cheeks streaked from wiped away tears. "What?" He says, his voice strained.

At arm's length, Niki holds Micah's shoulders firmly and drops into another crouch, looking up at him with powerful concern in her eyes, mother's eyes that very much express 'I love you, /stay where you are and hear me out/' in the same moment. "Do you trust your father? Because I do," she manages a scant smile. It drops just as fast as she waits out Micah's answer, searching out his face for it. Maybe she means what she said about D.L.. Maybe she doesn't. Most likely? She doesn't even know what to think herself.

"I don't know." Micah says quietly. More or less, he doesn't know if he can trust either of them. Love, yes. Trust? No. "I just want a normal family, where everything is.. normal, like the other kids at school. I'm just tired of all this hiding, and pretending, and.. and just.. everything."

Heart. Breaking. You can almost hear the crack and shatter. "I know, sweetie," Niki tells Micah, going in for a tight hug. "Me too," she adds, barely above a whisper when her head's on his small shoulder. There are no bounds to how very much she means it, wishes for it. "Did we tell you," she begins on a new note, trying to sound cheerful as she pulls away far enough to look at him, "We've been looking at getting a house." Like a normal family. A normal family who doesn't have to stay with a relative (accommodating and friendly as Monica has been) after breaking the mom out of an institution of some sort.

Leaning into her arms, Micah gives her a strong hug in return, propping his chin on the top of her shoulder. "No, you didn't tell me." He sniffs, tightening his fingers up in the back of her shirt. "Is it gonna be a nice house?" Hopefully one they aren't stealing after D.L. kills someone for it. Or.. whatever. "Can I go to the same school if we do?"

"It'll be at /least/ as nice as our old house. Maybe even nicer," Niki replies with a wide, heartening smile and thumbs a streak of drying tears off of Micah's cheek. "Absolutely." She takes his head between her hands and kisses his forehead— "I love you." Then stands up. "Now, are we gonna finish making that pizza or what?" Niki grins, a hand on the boy's back in order to, hopefully, lead him to the kitchen. There's the lingering feeling like she just barely defused a bomb that could activate again any second. "You know I meant it, baby. We're all gonna be okay."

"I love you too." Micah says as he leans into her, ambling into the kitchen so that he can partake of hopefully yummy pizza, and a drama free night. He didn't get any answers about D.L. though, and that is what is troubling him. For the moment, he'll just keep quiet, and bide his time. He'll find something out, sooner or later. "I know we will mom." He says, trying to sound encouraging.

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