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Old November 1 2008, 05:36 PM   #2
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Arc of the Wolf: Distant Horizons - Best Smile

Title: Best Smile
Rating: G
Words: 842
Timeline: 2228
Disclaimer: Scott belongs to Paramount, not me. Unfortunately.
Notes: Six year old Montgomery Scott has already learned a few lessons, and one of those is simple: "People leave. Even when you don't want them to." Not quite his POV, not quite apart from it. Originally posted here.


The first thing he always did, after he took in exactly where he was and with whom, was look for something to take apart. There was nearly always something that could be pulled apart, though there weren't always tools with which to do it. After he narrowed in on a target, he would look for something to take his target apart with. And while he was doing that, he would try to guess if he would get in trouble, and to what degree -- a shout, or an exasperated headshake, or by having everything taken away from him and put where he couldn't get it, or if maybe he would just be allowed to do his thing without any interference, depending on where he was. Sometimes it was worse. Sometimes it wasn't anything at all. He tried to guess where it would fall.

These were all a matter of instinct, not of thought out courses; rarely did these processes have words. They simply were.

There was a handful of children playing with some paints at the table, making a mess, laughing. He didn't watch them for long, standing quietly and patiently by his mother's side, and instead looked at the toy shuttle that he could already see had skewed proportions. There was also a screwdriver up high on a shelf that would be a difficult but not impossible climb to get to, probably used to do quick repairs on toys with loosened pieces.

He didn't really listen too closely to the conversation between the woman and his mother -- the woman was plump, gray skinned and haired, and sounded English, and his mother just sounded like she always did, a fast speaker with a light, happy tone. He'd heard this conversation before, nearly verbatim. The woman commenting that of course, he was no trouble, except that he liked to break things -- his mother commenting that he used to be a very fussy baby, but was now such a quiet and thoughtful lad.

That was always his favorite part, the part that he listened to, because she sounded proud.

Then the woman would say that he really didn't seem to like to play with the other children, and he would focus all of his attention back to how he could build a ladder to the shelf, retrieve the screwdriver and then take apart the badly-proportioned shuttle. He already had a good guess of how he would, and that was when he thought in words: This part, to that part. Mind, go slow. It'll break if it's forced.

He didn't play with the others because he really didn't want to. There were times when the interactions would make him look up from whatever he was doing -- if not taking something apart, then practicing his letters and numbers and reading -- and those times made him want to join in even less. They were mercurial to him; unstable, unpredictable creatures that could be smiling and happy one minute, then ostracizing one of their own the next with jeers. They left him alone. No hatred or teasing -- he was, if anything, the least favorite crayon in the proverbial box in these situations. You don't hate the crayon, you just ignore it.

His mother said that he was just shy, and had been for a long time, never grew out of it, but maybe he would when he was a little older and he had just started school so she expected that he would make lots of friends. He was a bright child, did the woman know that he could already do double-digit addition and subtraction?

He would have liked the proud tone then, but he didn't, because he knew that the conversation was coming to a close. Instead, he concentrated fiercely on the project he had already started in his mind, but it didn't ever work like he wanted to, because he knew that when the conversation was over, his mother would leave, and she wouldn't come back for a long time. He didn't realize that he had edged over until he practically had his head against her side, and then she rested a hand on his shoulder and he hoped, even though he knew better, that maybe this time she wouldn't go.

The project and the pride were forgotten when she looked down at him with a smile; told him that she would be back in a week, his aunt would watch him in a few days and his father the rest, that he should be a good lad for the caretaker.

He already knew, had already learned, that tears wouldn't do anything but make her frown and he hated making her frown. And she would still be frowning when she left, if he cried, and it would be awhile before she had that proud voice again.

She gave him a smile, looking happy and light.

He gave her his best smile back.

She never saw that it didn't reach his eyes.
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