Many thanks Alaidh for the beta. Pairing:
Silly hat fic from a challenge at Cape Haven. Family AffairApril 2020
Normal looked at the package one last time. It was big, too big, much too big for any of his messengers to carry on a bike. He wondered how it had ever been delivered. It had come in while he was at lunch. That idiot
, he groaned, wondering why he'd even thought about leaving Druid in charge, even for the twenty minutes it took him to walk up the road and buy a sandwich. He looked at the name and address again: Logan Cale, 17875 Mayfield Avenue, Penthouse 1
. It wasn't far, only a couple of blocks. Max hadn't returned from her earlier runs – surprise, surprise. He considered who else he could give this one too.
"Hot run, 17875 Mayfield!"
Original Cindy looked up from her lunch. "Whatcha got there, Normal?" She was sitting at the table on the "mezzanine", looking down across the main floor area.
"Hot run, 17875 Mayfield!" Normal called out again.
"Mayfield?" Original Cindy got up and strolled in a leisurely manner down the stairs. "That's Logan's joint, isn't it?" she asked.
"That is what the name says," replied Normal sarcastically.
"Where's Max? She should do this."
"Not back yet – now there's a shock."
"Hand it over, Normal."
Normal heaved the heavy box onto the counter, sliding it through the opening. "There, missy. Off you go," he said.
"What the hell do you think I am? Xena?"
"I don't care what you are. Take that and get outta here while you still have a job."
"Herbal!" called Cindy, giving Normal a dirty look, "Can ya give us a hand with this?"
"What do you need, my sistah?"
"Normal thinks I'm some kinda superhero," she said. "Take an end."
“Dis is big. How he expect you to carry it?”
“I have no idea. Come on, let’s start walkin’. It’s not far, but this package ain’t getting’ any smaller.”
They awkwardly scrambled up the ramp, forcing Sketchy to reverse out the doorway. “Comin’ through!”
“You guys need a hand?”
Original Cindy rolled her eyes. “Just get out the way, fool.”
Sketchy backed off further and let them pass before giving a shrug and strolling down the ramp to Normal’s next screech. OC looked at Herbal and adjusted her grip on the package. They wandered up the street with the package. Original Cindy carried it until she thought her arms were long enough to reach her knees, then handed it over to Herbal. They cleared a swathe through the other pedestrians once they reached the main road.
“This is just whack,” Original Cindy muttered crankily. “This ain’t no job for bike messengers. What’s Normal thinkin’ ‘bout, layin’ this on us?”
Herbal cast his eyes to the heavens and resigned himself to OC’s grumbling.
Logan studied the computer screen carefully. He was expecting Max for dinner. She would be reporting back on the errand on which he had sent her earlier in the afternoon. He rolled his shoulders and head, trying to ease the kinks caused by several hours staring at the computer screen. The apartment was quiet, save for the humming of the fans in the computers. Bling had left for the day and Logan was alone. The sudden rapping at the door was startlingly loud and made him jump – if not literally then figuratively. He looked at the computer clock and realized it was too early for Max, and she never knocked anyway – just walked in and, more often than not, scared the daylights out of him by speaking to announce her presence, or stealing the notebook out of his hand, or…The knock sounded again, forcing Logan out of his brief reverie, and was followed by a loud, "Delivery for Logan Cale."
Logan unlocked his brakes and made his way to the door, swinging it back just as Original Cindy was about to knock for a third time. "'Bout time. I thought you was dead in there and that'd I'd have to call an ambulance," she quipped.
"Hey," replied Logan, looking up at her.
"Package for ya," she said.
"Oh, okay," he said.
"Need a signature," she said, wedging her half of the package against the doorframe with her knee while she handed Logan the small clipboard from her backpack. She watched curiously as Logan signed his name and handed the clipboard back to her. "Okay, where do you want it? It's kinda big," she said kindly. Logan gestured for her to lay it across his knees.
"You sure you can manage?" she asked.
He tested the weight cautiously. "Yeah, it's fine." He felt the pocket of his shirt and pulled out a couple of bills. "Thanks, guys. Don’t spend it all at once." he said smiling, and carefully reversed out of the doorway in order to shut the door.
Original Cindy looked at Herbal and shrugged. "Let's go."
Herbal looked like he was going to speak, but then just shook his head.
Logan slid the box up onto the dinner table and, after examining the masking tape that sealed it, fetched a knife from the kitchen. Holding the box at an angle, he slit the tape with the knife and, after sitting it upright again, opened the lid of the box. On top of a layer of newspaper there was a mauve envelope with his name written on it in capital letters, underlined with a swirl.
He slit the envelope open with his fingers and pulled out a sheet of white paper partly filled with a short note in a neat, cursive hand.Dear Logan,
As you are no doubt aware, I have decided to move back to Connecticut now that I'm on my own and the boys are all established in their own homes. I was sorting through a cupboard and came upon this box, and thought you would like to have these things.
All the best,
Logan thoughtfully laid the letter on his lap and gazed sightlessly out the window. He picked it up again and read it several times, trying to detect if Margo had any ulterior motive in contacting him now, but nothing came to him. He couldn't help the feeling that, although her pity was misdirected and unwanted, she meant well and was trying to do the right thing. She had been decent to him in the past, if not motherly, and had tried, in her way, to make up for some of Jonas's excesses.
Setting the letter aside, he pulled out the sheets of newspaper, piling them on one of the chairs that he pulled out from the table for the purpose.
Logan reached into the box blindly, unable to see over the lip, and came up with a handful of polystyrene “popcorn”. He dug into it, but eventually gave up and fetched a plastic bag from the kitchen. He started to unpack the messy, slippery junk into it, although inevitably, some escaped onto the floor, the table and even stuck to his sleeve. He gave up trying to feel around for whatever the box held and moved it to the chair. After removing another couple of handfuls of polystyrene, he pulled out a pair of hand-weights – made out of heavy-duty silver plastic and leaking sand from a split. Now able to understand the weight of the package, he set them down on a piece of the newspaper he pulled out from under the box, trying not to drop sand all over the floor and himself at the same time. He pulled out an old baseball glove wrapped around a well-used ball with a splitting seam, a couple of paperback novels with dog-eared corners and some school photos and reports in a Ziploc bag. The topmost photo stared at him from where it had half-slid off the top of the pile in the transparent bag – a serious-looking green-eyed boy in round glasses wearing a lop-sided grin, his too-long brown hair falling across his face.
"Logan!" Max chose that moment to stroll in.
"In here!" he responded, fishing out a bundle of baseball cards tied by a piece of frayed string.
"Hey, whatcha doin'?" Max asked, curiously peering over his shoulder into the box.
"Just sorting through some stuff. My aunt sent a box over, and…" he reached in and pulled out a battered teddy bear, his fur badly worn and one eye hanging by a thread.
"And Teddy needs urgent microsurgery," Max quipped. She reached into the box and pulled out an odd-looking pointed hat with a tear in the brim. The crown, if a bit crushed, was stuffed and there was what appeared to be a mouth set into it. "What on earth is this?" Max asked.
Logan looked at the artifact, his expression reflective. "It's a Sorting Hat."
"Sorting Hat. You know, Harry Potter."
Max looked at him blankly, clearly not understanding.
"Harry Potter was a series of books and movies that came out in the early 2000s or thereabouts…sort of a fantasy series."
"And the Sorting Hat was part of the story."
"What does it do?"
"Well, all the new students at Hogwarts had to try on the hat and it would tell them which house they would join."
"Team…whatever you'd like to call it." Logan tried to come up with a definition.
"Hogwarts was some sort of school?"
Logan smiled up at Max, who was now standing in front of him twirling the hat in her hands. "Yes, a Magic School where witches and wizards and…whatever…went to be trained."
"And the students had to try on the hat…"
"To be sorted."
"What?" Logan asked, startled.
"Show me how it worked."
Logan sighed. "Max…"
"Okay. Well…here's how it worked…at least, this is what I remember. All the students would gather on the first day of school. The new students would have to come up one at a time and sit on a special stool and put on the hat, and the hat would tell them what house they would belong to for the rest of their time at the school."
"Put it on." Max handed him the hat. "I wanna see what it looked like." Max smiled sweetly. Logan just looked at her blankly. "Please?"
"Oh, all right." He put out a hand for the hat and, grimacing, put it on his head, holding it with one hand to stop it sliding off.
Max studied him, her head to one side, and grinned wickedly. "You look…"
"Ridiculous?" Logan prompted.
Max thought about that for a moment, "I was going to say kinda silly, but I guess ridiculous covers it." Laughter started to well up as Logan whipped the hat off and tossed it on the growing pile beside him.
"Weren't you a little old for silly toys like this? The Teddy I can understand – guess that's pretty old – but early 2000s, I mean, you were a teenager."
Logan hesitated before starting the story. "It was for school."
"What do you mean?"
"They picked me to play Harry Potter in a play."
Max, sensing there was more to this than met the eye, asked, "How come?"
Logan gave another sigh. This was becoming irritating. "Because Harry Potter wore funny round glasses and…so did I."
"Awww, Logan, that's sweet."
"If you say so." He sounded a little grumpy.
Max smiled, suddenly noticing the photo on the table just as Logan reached into the box for the last item. She picked it up and recognized the younger version of Logan, the same intense expression, the serious green eyes and the funny round glasses.
Logan ignored her, only to freeze when he pulled out the old videotape. The box was long gone, as were the labels. The only identifying feature was a name scratched into the side: "Logan" in a childish scrawl. Max became aware that he had left her and was lost in his thoughts. His stillness was almost frightening, as if he were in another place.
Logan didn't respond.
"Logan!" Max shook his shoulder, concerned.
"Oh, sorry, Max."
"What's the matter?"
He threw the tape back into the box, frightened that it could affect him that way after so long. He desperately hoped he had the bravado to make Max believe him. It was a forlorn hope. She picked the tape up and turned it over in her hands.
"What's this, Logan?"
"Some family stuff," he replied shortly, starting to put the other items back into the box. "Nothing of any interest."
"Then why did it make you react like that?"
"I didn't react like anything."
"Yes, you did. Logan, what's on the tape?"
"Family events, mostly," he admitted, conceding defeat. "Birthday parties, Christmas, that sort of thing. From when I was a kid."
"Can I see?" Max could see Logan's discomfort, or was it unhappiness. "Logan, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. It's just…" he gave up. "My parents..." he trailed off, the faraway expression back on his face.
Max stood up and strode past him into the office where she placed the videotape in the machine and turned on the TV. Logan followed reluctantly, stopping near the doorway and locking his brakes. "Max, I…"
"Shhh," she said, pulling over the Aeron chair and making herself comfortable. "Logan, I've known you how long now?"
Max nodded. "I never had parents," she said softly, watching as a child blew out the five candles on a birthday cake to the sound of crackly cheers from the old recording. A pretty woman in a blue dress stood behind the boy and steadied his arm as he cut into a birthday cake in the shape of a train. A tall, good looking man with slightly messy, thick, straight brown hair and glasses put his arm around the woman's waist. He smiled at both of them and leaned down over the boy to whisper in his ear. The boy looked up, the resemblance to his father suddenly apparent. Max became aware that Logan had drawn near and was watching intensely. The scene changed to Christmas, and then changed again, all the time, the boy growing older, taller, more confident. In the final scenes, it was apparent that the mother was ill, that she leaned on her husband and son for support. Max turned to look at Logan and saw that his face was full of emotion. She gave him a hesitant smile and turned back to the TV, letting the tape run through to its finish.
"Thank you, Max," Logan said quietly.
"You're welcome, Logan," she replied, "But I think the real thanks belong to your aunt, don't you?"
Logan pulled into the driveway of the white-painted residence and shut off the engine. He reached for his chair and transferred into it, pausing only to shut the door before he resolutely made his way up to the house itself. He bumped over a single low step onto the patio and rapped at the front door. The maid opened the door. "Mr Logan, how nice to see you," she said.
"Is my aunt in, Sophia?"
"Yes, sir. I think she's in your uncle's office."
Logan nodded and, after waiting for Sophia to step aside, did a small wheelie and bumped over yet another step, pushing his way down a long hall and making a sharp right turn into the opulently furnished room where he had last met his uncle a few short weeks before. His aunt, wearing a pair of steel-framed glasses, was reading something written on a notepad and didn't hear him enter. Logan waited a beat before speaking. "Aunt Margo?"
"Logan," she said, looking up. "What a pleasure to see you." Her smile of greeting seemed genuine enough, although she looked sad and tired.Guess even Jonas had someone who cared what happened to him,
Logan thought. "I came to thank you."
"To thank me?"
"For sending me those things."
Margo waved a hand, a deprecating gesture. "It was nothing."
"No, it was something. You've given me back a bit of my past and for that I owe you."
"Logan, no matter what, your uncle and I always cared about you. We only ever wanted what was best for you."
"I-I know, and I'm sorry about…"
'What happened to Jonas?" Margo stood and walked around the desk. She seemed to have aged overnight, the strain of the last few weeks showing in her posture and gait.
"I can see you're busy. I'll get going." He hoped the discomfort he felt didn't show on his face. He felt responsible for Jonas's death, almost as if he had pulled the trigger himself. While there had been no love lost between them, Jonas had taken him in when his parents had died, had given him room in his home and guidance, even if it had not been the course Logan chose for himself.
Margo leant down and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Thanks for coming, Logan. Despite everything, your uncle was actually quite proud of you, of the way you stood up to him. He admired your spirit."
"I never knew," Logan said simply, unlocking his brakes in preparation to leave. "Don't see me out, I know my way."
"God speed, Logan."
"And to you, Aunt Margo."
Logan quickly made his way back to the car and once he was in, sat there staring out at the manicured garden in front of the house. Driving away, his aunt's words echoed in his ears, "…your uncle was actually quite proud of you…" If only she knew…was his final thought.