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Fic: Tales of Albuquerque (Act 4)

year of the cat
Title : Tales of Albuquerque - Act 4
Fandoms : Avatar: The Last Airbender/In Plain Sight
Rating : PG
Characters: Mary Shannon, Marshall Mann, Zuko, Iroh, Brandi Shannon, Peter Alpert, Ozai, Azula
Summary : A car bombing in San Francisco lands Marshall Mary Shannon in a whole lot of hot tea or Zuko and Iroh hid out from the Flame Triad in witness protection.
Disclaimer: Avatar: The Last Airbender and In Plain Sight belong to other people. I'm just messing with them


Federal Courthouse, San Francisco
Present Day


By the time Mary hits the hallway Lee is nowhere in sight. There are still a handful of people lingering from the trial but after the little show in the courtroom they are all studiously avoiding eye contact. Even as Mary considers interrogating them about any hysterical teenager sightings she hears a crash from the men’s room.

Lee is standing with his back to the door when she barges in. He’s hunched over, hands on his knees, panting slightly. The trashcan lies slumped against the wall where Lee threw it, its contents, a sea of paper towels flecked with needles and a used condom, are dashed across the floor.

“Feel better?” She asks. “Want to borrow my gun? Put a few rounds in it?”

Lee just glares. Apparently property damage is not as cathartic as you might think. “I want to testify.”

“Wait, what?” Who is this kid and what has he done with the Lee who just this morning was ranting about not being a traitor.

“I want,” he repeats through clenched teeth, “to testify. Is it too late to do that?”

Mary considers the boy in front of her. He is simultaneously the calmest and the angriest Mary has ever seen him. It’s pretty clear that whatever brought this on is a heck of a lot more serious than the fact daddy never loved him. “Have you ever seen him commit a crime?”

Lee shakes his head.

“Okay, have you ever heard him plan a specific criminal act?” She asks just to cover her bases. Even if Azula was right and he never stuck around for the ‘good’ parts, they could still nail Ozai for conspiracy.

“No,” Lee admits. “Nothing specific.”

Mary sighs in frustration. “Then yeah, Lee, it’s a little late to testify.”

Lee’s face contorts and for a second Mary thinks he’s actually going to cry before he takes a swing at the mirror instead. It’s one of those moves that looks all cool and dramatic in the movies but in real life ends with a trip to the hospital and a bunch of stitches.

“Whoa, hey,” Mary yells, dragging him backwards before his fist can connect with the glass. “What the hell?!”

“He killed her!” Lee shouts back, his voice breaking. He is actually crying now. Tears are streaming down the right side of his face while the burned eye is bone dry. He looks lopsided; he looks broken. “Mom got him everything he ever wanted but she did it for me so he killed her.”

Christ. That’s what their little cryptic conversation was about? She is so very not prepared to deal with this. “Lee,” She says, easing him to the floor beneath the sinks. He’s sobbing in earnest, and she’s not sure how to follow up. The standard ‘there, there’ with a pat on the back clearly is not going to cut it. She’d go get Marshall or Mushi except she’s pretty sure leaving the kid alone right now is an epically bad idea.

“Never forget who you are,” he tells her, gulping back his tears and swiping at his face with his sleeve. “That’s the last thing she said to me and I don’t even know my name any more. I have no idea who I am.”

Okay, identity issues. That she can work with, that she knows how to handle. “Tell me about Zuko.”

Lee frowns slightly, considering. “Dad always said Azula was born lucky and I was lucky to be born.” Somehow it doesn’t surprise Mary that Ozai told his kid that. After all, if you’re going to be an emotionally abusive bastard it helps to start early. “I had to fight for everything,” Lee continues. “Mom used to say she loved that I tried.”

Mary nods. Sounds like Zuko’s a momma’s boy, his father’s punching back and a well intention screw-up. From what she’s seen, Lee’s angry and, despite the lack of a mother, apparently still something of a momma’s boy. “So you’re a fighter,” Mary offers diplomatically.

“I used to be,” Lee grouses.

Mary just sighs because really. They’ve been over the whole karate thing how many times now? “You ever thought about fencing?”

Lee stares at her blankly. “What?”

“I know a guy,” Mary offers with a shrug. “Seriously, fencing, you get to stab people. Could be fun.”

Lee’s still staring at her like she’s sprouted an extra head. “Fencing,” he repeats woodenly.

“You’re a fighter, right? There are a whole lot of ways to fight and a whole lot better things to fight for than a pat on the back from your asshole father.” Lee still looks dubious and Mary’s getting fed up. “You’ve at least got to try.”

That does it. If you can’t appeal to daddy issues, go for the mommy issues instead. Lee nods sharply. “I can try fencing,” he agrees.

“Great,” Mary say, clapping him on the shoulder and hauling him to his feet. “I’ll set it up when we get home. Now, clean up this mess” –she gestures to the trash still strewn across the floor- “and let’s blow this Popsicle stand.”

*****

Mary leaned against the door of the hotel room. She could here muffled voices from the room behind her where Lee and Mushi were hugging it out. She wasn’t sure what, exactly, Lee was telling Mushi but no one was yelling, at least not yet. Marshall had gone to get them all some food and for now Mary was left alone with her thoughts and, more worryingly, her phone.

The damn thing was there, in her hand, taunting her. She’s called Brandi a million times since their argument over a week ago and has yet to hear back from her. Her tactics clearly aren’t working and it’s time to try something new. Mary’s just not sure she can.

“Oh, come on,” Mary mutters to herself. If Lee can face down his psychotic family, Mary should be able to leave her sister this one voicemail.

She takes a deep breath and hits Brandi’s number on her speed dial. She listens impatiently to the chirpy message on her sister’s voicemail and then it’s show time. “Brandi, I’m sorry.”

*****

Family shapes you, slots you into roles in the family drama. There’s the caretaker and the screw up, the favorite and the scapegoat. We learn our place with every reminder to be more like our big brother, learn our lines with every repeated argument. Is it healthy? Probably not, but in the end it’s who we are.

Brandi sits on the couch in the apartment she shares with Peter with her phone in her hand. She stares at it for a long moment before raising it to her ear to play the message again. It’s only the fifth time she’s listened to it and she’s still trying to wrap her head around it.

“Brandi, I’m sorry.” Mary’s tinny voice says over the phone. “The massage thing is your big dream and I guess I haven’t been supportive but…Squish, I changed your diapers and I don’t…you don’t need me anymore. Whatever. You’re probably just going to delete this anyway.”

The message ends and a recording prompts Brandi to save or delete it from her voicemail. She hangs up instead, placing the phone on the table and regarding it wearily like a potentially venomous insect. Brandi worries her lip. She reaches for the phone, pulls back and reaches again. “Oh, come on,” she mutters to herself and snatches it up. She punches her sister’s number. Mary picks up after the first ring.

“Mary,” she says in a rush before her sister can get a word in, “we need to talk.”

*****
We can change things though. Yeah, we’ve been typecast but tweak the delivery here, adlib a line there and it’s a whole new show. Maybe, if we’re lucky, a better one.

Lee stands with a sword in his hand at his first fencing lesson. The mesh mask and heavy canvas jacket are quite a switch from his old, lightweight karate gi and he’s already drenched with sweat. His drill partner, on the other hand, wears the heavy gear like it’s nothing.

“Lunge,” shouts the instructor, a dusky skinned man with graying hair.

Lee lunges forward driving the blunted point of his weapon into his drill partner’s chest. He holds the position for a moment before pulling awkwardly back to a sloppy guard position. The instructor comes and nudges Lee’s feet so his heels are in alignment and adjusts his left arm farther back behind him.

“Again,” he commands and again Lee lunges and recovers. It’s practically perfect this time. “Good.”

****

Mushi beams at her from behind the counter as Mary ushers her sister into the warm candle heart that is the Jasmine Dragon. Even Lee manages if not exactly a welcoming smile than certainly a lessoning of his usual scowl as he looks up from the table where he is pouring tea for a pair of yuppie lovebirds. He gestures to one of the few free tables with a jerk of his head. They slip into their seats and Brandi gazes at the eye-watering decor in wonder.

“I’ve never been here before,” Brandi says. “It’s new right?”

Mary nods. “Best tea in the city,” she tells her sister.

“Really?” Brandi asks, understandable skeptical. They haven’t been brought menus yet after all. It’s all right though; Mary can see Mushi at the counter putting together a tray with some esoteric but no doubt delicious tea and her favorite buns. He won’t even charge them. After all, friends and family drink for free here.

“Yeah,” Mary assures her with a grin. “The secret ingredient is love.”

act 3<< (act 4)


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year of the cat
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