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Old November 8 2008, 06:20 AM   #18
SLWatson
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Arc of the Wolf: On the Nature of Wind - Part I, Chapter 4

Chapter 4:

Saturday, December 31st, 2242
Unmarked Lane in BFE
Outside of Aberdeen, Scotland, Earth


The moment he got there, Corrigan understood all of a sudden exactly why Scotty had been so nervous first walking up to his house in Maine. It wasn't so much the uneasiness of being in a strange place... in this case, on a dirt road a good several miles from Aberdeen proper, half-secluded in the woods, a stiff wind blowing out of the North, and the underlying smell of another country all together. No, it wasn't that, it was knowing that you were going to talk to people who you didn't know, and try to make a good impression because that was what was expected of you by your best friend and co-conspirator. That was why he stood outside of the brightly lit house for a good twenty minutes in the cold, mustering his courage.

The house itself was two stories of stone and wood, and the windows glowed in a cheerful welcome. All around were people's vehicles, and that alone was an odd lot, from an actual shuttlecraft off in the clearing to the right to a horse-drawn carriage. Laughter occasionally drifted out from the cracked door, and every once in awhile a shout was heard for something or other.

So he took his time getting up his courage, trying to figure out how he would fit into Scottish customs, since from what he had heard, they were far flung and varied. He paced, rubbing his hands together, and hoped for salvation.

"So ye plan on standin' here all night, just bidin' yer time?"

Corry turned on his heel, raising an eyebrow at his roommate who had snuck up in the shadows. "I'm... I'm just admiring... I mean, I'm taking a breath of fresh air. Long ride here, you know."

"Aye, right." Scott stepped over, sticking his hands into his pockets. "I dinna think ye'd make it."

"Didn't," Corry corrected, though more jokingly. Near a year ago, he'd been more serious about toning down that accent -- now it was habit. "And I did."

Scott twitched at the correction, probably suffering flashbacks to when he was being stopped every sentence. "Sorry, didn't. And speakin' of, my cousins decided to tell me I was talkin' odd."

Corry grinned. He counted that as a success. "Yeah? Well, that just makes my day. But I haven't quite succeeded in getting you ostracized yet."

Scott smirked at that, briefly. "I've ostracized myself. Mum went and put me in charge o' watchin' the whole lot o' brats. And while they may well be bonnie lads an' lassies every other day, they've been eatin' pure sugar all evenin'." Tossing a glance back at the house, he grinned wickedly. "I'm in no rush to get back in."

"Makes two of us, then," Corrigan muttered, leaning on the fence that lined the driveway. "Anything I should know before going in there? Like... greetings, or um... and do I have to eat haggis? Or wear a kilt? Or do some sort of weird sword dance?"

"What?" Scott shook his head, amused, and leaned closer. Dropping his voice to a conspiring whisper, he confided in perfect deadpan, "Corry, whatever book ye read tellin' ye this muck... throw it out."

Corry frowned. "But I thought--"

"Know what she made? Steak an' potatoes, oysters, um... Chaudrée de l'Atlantique au saumon--"

"Huh?" Corry asked, trying to ignore how the French was utterly butchered.

"Salmon chowder. French salmon chowder."

"Like chowder as in New England Clam Chowder? Red or white?" This was already beginning to look a little brighter. Corrigan was almost sure he would have to go through arcane rituals, and now someone was presenting him with a sort of homelike dish.

"White, and it's somethin' like that, aye," Scott admitted, with a barely concealed smirk.

Corry thought about it for a moment. "So I won't have to eat haggis?"

"Nooooo."

"And you have something like clam chowder?"

"Aye." Glancing to the door again, then back at Corry, Scotty raised his eyebrows. "Ready to give this a try, or should I go and slay a sheep first, bathe in its blood and chant a spell to keep the demons away from ye?"

"I think I'm ready." Corry steeled himself as well as he could, walking towards the house. He wasn't sure what he expected when he opened the door, exactly, but he certainly noticed that there were people everywhere. Everywhere. Older people, people his age, children... it was a madhouse. Backpedaling slightly, he ran into his roommate, who gave him a shove. "Uhhhh..."

"Chicken."

"Am not."

Scott rolled his eyes in exasperation, leaning on the doorframe and pointing. "All right, we'll start nice and easy. That's my mum Caitlyn back there, the one dishin' out soup. She's the reason we're eatin' French food. And over there's my father, Robert. He's an artsy type... does interior designin'. The bitch he's talkin' to... pardon the language, is Callie. She's my sister, and thinks she's the best thing to come to the art community since Monet. Still with me?"

Corry nodded seriously, filing the names in his mental cabinet. Caitlyn - angel, Robert -artsy, Callie - bitch. "Still here."

"Those're the important people, since they'll still be here tomorrow mornin' when we're hung over and in foul moods." Smirking slightly, Scott nodded to a middle-aged woman sitting on the couch, surrounded by children of all sizes. "That'd be Colleen, one o' my aunts, and that brood beggin' her for candy consists of... in no particular order, mind ye... Mary, William, another Robert, Tara, Heather, Heck... I still think he was named as a joke... Fiona, Kathleen, and Abigail. Now, they don't all belong to her... some're Stuarts, a couple o' McGowans, one or two Scotts."

"Is that all? Please say that's all," Corrigan whimpered, just trying to remember a few of those names -- and that was only about a fourth of the people actually in the room. He was suddenly glad his family was so contained.

"No, we still have the rest o' the aunts and uncles..." Apparently feeling some pity, Scott grinned. "But I'll let ye take a--"

"Montgomery! Who've ye got there, lad?"

"--break." Taking a deep breath, Scotty shrugged at Corry and started weaving his way through the people, trying hard not to step on any children who happened to be underfoot. After looking back over his shoulder to make sure his hapless roomie was following, he made his way to the back table where his mother was. "Mum, this is Corry... er, Andrew Corrigan, my roommate at the Academy."

"Oh, I'm so happy to meet ye!" She seemed to be, too. She practically beamed. "Ye know, it's really good Monty has a friend, he was always so shy--"

Scotty wasn't quite able to stifle a tortured wince. "Mum..."

"Ne'ermind, Montgomery, ye just be a good lad and get a few more bowls from the kitchen."

"Aye, Mum," Scott said, with a sigh, slinking off down the dark hallway towards the other brightly lit room.

Corry resisted the urge to smirk, though some part of him winced in sympathy. But it was kind of nice to see the tables turned somewhat, and he offered over his best schoolboy smile to Caitlyn. "Ma'am, it's a pleasure. And this chowder smells just terrific."

"Ye mean that? Here, let me get ye a bowl, ye poor thing, ye must be starved after flyin' over here from Maine." Smiling in turn, she went to ladling out some of the white soup.

Taking the few seconds to get his bearings, Corry finally relaxed. Aside from the hustle and bustle of so many people, the house itself was very warm and lively. It wasn't as brightly lit as his parents house, sort of mellow lighting, and a fire was burning in the stone fireplace. Every spare piece of furniture was in use, and it seemed like everyone was relaxed -- just a rather large family gathering.

Taking the bowl that was offered to him, he smiled thankfully at Caitlyn. Christ, it was almost uncanny how much Scotty looked like his mother... same coloring, same lines. It wasn't hard to see who had inherited what from whom. "You're a professional chef, right?"

"Aye, spent my whole life cookin'. Monty told me ye hailed from Maine, and I thought ye might like somethin' that reminded ye of home a bit. Been meanin' to try this out, it's a little diff'rent from what I use to make on tour." Pausing for a moment to fix a lock of hair that had fallen loose from the bun, she looked around the room. "And speakin' of, where's that boy gotten to? He's such a good lad, but it doesna take much to distract 'im."

Corry nodded at that, though in the back of his mind he was wondering where she got that from -- trying to distract Scotty when he was working was like trying to get blood out of a stone. Admittedly, it still remained one of Corry's favorite hobbies. He took a bite of the soup, then asked, "Want me to go find him?"

"If ye like. Kitchen's just right down there."

Nodding smartly, Corry took his bowl with him as he made his way back towards the kitchen. Stepping in, he didn't immediately find the other cadet... well, until he looked around the corner of the counter and found him fiddling with the garbage incinerator. "Your mother's looking for you."

"In a minute," Scott replied, distractedly, sitting back for a moment to squint at the readout panel. "I just got this thing workin' a few days ago, and the cheap piece o'... nevermind." Taking a moment to sigh with an expression that could only be described as 'henpecked to bloody ribbons', he looked back up at Corrigan. "Bowls, right?"

"Yeah. I'll get 'em if you want, though."

"Ye'd have my eternal thanks."

Corry chuckled, shaking his head and searching through the cabinets until he found the bowls that matched the one he left on the counter. "You look like you need to get out of here."

"Understatement o' the century there."

"So what're we gonna do?"

Scott stood, brushing his hands off and leaning on the counter, thoughtfully. "I was thinkin' that if we decided to avoid runnin' around the whole o' Aberdeen with the family, we could be smart lads and spend Hogmanay doin' a little... how to put this politely?... ditchin' the relatives and gettin' stupid at the pubs."

"Hmmm... hang out with your brood or go drink, hang out with your brood or go drink..." Corry grinned, a grin of complete mischievousness. "I think I'll take option B."

"Aye, I thought ye might."

Corry finished the chowder while Scott took the bowls out to his mother. It wasn't that he would have minded going around and doing whatever they were supposed to be doing, but after seeing just how many people were there, the idea of branching off seemed a lot more appealing. He crossed his arms, waiting until Scotty made his reentrance, looking even more henpecked than before... if that was possible. "Clean getaway?"

"Clean as it gets, in this house." Buttoning his jacket, Scott tossed a glance to Corrigan. "Ready?"

Corry shrugged, standing up straight. "Ready as I'll ever be."





"So, here I was, took off like a bloody fool in the middle of a gale... a'right, wasna the middle o' the gale, but the wind was kickin' up. An' me, bein' the patent idiot I am on occaaaasion, jus' stayed aloft, clingin' to the bar for dear life." Downing what had to have been his umpteenth straight shot of Scotch, Scotty leaned on the bar with a distinctly plastered look. They still hadn't made it into the actual city, having stopped off at one of the smaller roadside taverns for just one drink. That was several drinks ago, and not even a full hour; they had started the night pretty much like that had every time they'd gone pub-crawling -- basically leaping into a wager on who could drink more quicker and still remain standing.

Corry laughed, shaking his head and pushing his hair out of his eyes. "Didja land safe?"

"Nooooooo, oh no, nu uh. I'm really..." Nodding a few times and trying not to giggle, Scott leaned closer, whispering, "...dead. As a doornail." Sitting back again with a bright grin, he continued, "O' course I landed safe. Right smack in the middle of a bale o' hay, had to wade through cattle, an' got home stinkin' to high Heaven. Was a right bonnie trip, that."

"I once took the boat out alone in a storm." Corry nodded as well, with a seriousness that was bordering goofiness, draining his own glass and gesturing for another. "Was all kinda windy out there, white capped waves, and here I was on a skiff getting the hell beat outta me. Made it back alive, though, unlike you."

"Aye, poor dead me. I'll drink to that."

"And I'll drink to being alive."

Picking up his shot, Scotty took it in one belt, which was no doubt less painful this late in the festivities. Slamming the glass down on the bar, he looked at the clock -- almost 2200, and they still weren't even into the city itself. "We haveta go."

"I dun wanna move, though." Corrigan complained, though he pulled himself up off of the barstool reluctantly. "Tell me again why we took horses?"

"Couldna convinced anyone to let us take a real vehic... ve..." Not quite able to get the word right, Scott finally settled on, "ye know."

"Ayuh." Tossing down a handful of credits and not even bothering to count them, Corrigan half-walked, half-staggered out to the tree where they had tied the two horses they'd hijacked quite slyly from the carriage. Looking up at the largish beast, he tried to figure out how to climb up, what with riding bareback like that. Hard enough when he was sober, but now that he was officially getting just a bit tipsy, it proved to be impossible. "Can't we just lead 'em?"

"Ye wanna walk?" Taking the bridle and half using it for support, Scott led his steed (the put upon beast that it was) over to the steps of the tavern. After about three tries, he succeeded in getting up onto the horse's back, and promptly gave Corry a smug little look. "See? Easy as can be."

"Smartass."

"Just c'mon."

Following the other cadet's example, Corry took his few tries before clambering up. Taking the reins into his hands, he looked down both ways of the darkened road, pretty oblivious now to the cold wind that was still powering down from the North. "Which way?"

"Thattaway," Scott said, nodding proudly towards a footpath into the woods. "I know a short... short..."

"...shortcut?"

"Aye, that."

"Is that a good idea?"

"Ye wanna get there before midnight, right?" Pulling on the reins and bringing a whole new meaning to the term drunk driving, the Scotty headed for the path, singing some barely-coherent Gaelic-sounding tune. After a moment, still not sure it was a good idea, Corry followed.


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