st_aurafina: Helen Magnus from Sanctuary - a shot of her face (Sanctuary: Helen Magnus)
[personal profile] st_aurafina
Title: When I'm Sixty-Four
Fandom: Sanctuary
Rating: PG
Characters: Ashley, Helen, Bigfoot
Summary: The first time Ashley understands what it really means that her mother doesn't age.
Notes: [livejournal.com profile] artaxastra wrote Normal, in which Helen realises that Ashley is going to age normally. I wondered what it was like from Ashley's point of view, to have a mother that will always be the same age while you move through time like everyone else. (Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] lilacsigil for the beta.)



Ashley couldn't remember when she was told that her mother had lived for a long time: it was always something she understood to be true. The first time she really understood what that meant – that her mother didn't age – was the year she turned twelve. She was in sixth grade – one of the sporadic years that she attended school – and it was the year she found out about the Rapture.

Larraine Mulford had told her about it in the cafeteria, in a hushed voice, much like you'd tell someone a ghost story. Larraine had started school mid-semester, which made her even more of a freak than Ashley. On top of that, she was painfully awkward and her parents were very religious, so she was forbidden to attend certain classes. Ashley felt sorry for her, and more than a little responsible: most of the people who had picked on Ashley for being weird had swiftly transferred their attentions when Larraine, a far better target, arrived in class.

"The Rapture could happen at any time, like tomorrow or in a hundred years, but probably soon," said Larraine. "If you're one of God's chosen, you go up to heaven. And everyone else gets left behind, with monsters and demons and it's basically like Hell and stuff.

Ashley was dubious, but she had to admit it made a good story. And she knew, instinctively, that if and when this Rapture occurred, her mother would be there. She'd help the monsters who were left behind, and stop the frightened people from hurting them, because that's what the Sanctuary was all about. It was the first time that Ashley really understood what it meant to the world that Helen Magnus did not age: Helen Magnus would always be there to help.

The euphoria of knowing she had really did have the best mom in the world dissipated when Helen found, stuffed furtively in Ashley's bag, a leaflet describing the Rapture and touting creationism.

Her mother's rage was blistering: at the school, at Larraine's parents and at their church. It was unexpected, too; Ashley was accustomed to seeing in her mother a general respect for religions, no matter what their beliefs claimed. How was believing in the Rapture any different from believing in Ragnarok?

While her mother was on the phone berating the principal, Ashley slunk away to hide in the kitchens with the Big Guy. He let her roll out scraps of pastry and cut them into little people, just like when she was a kid.

"Is she mad at me?" It was the only logical conclusion Ashley could draw from the matter: it was Ashley that had brought the offending material into the house, even if it had been Larraine that had hidden it in her bag.

"Hrmph." The Big Guy sealed the crust of a pie with delicate pinches. "It's the evolution part. That's why she's taking this one personally. She probably knew Darwin. Imagine someone spread lies about your friend when they aren't around anymore to stick up for themselves."

Ashley poked patterns onto her pastry people with a fork, giving them stripes or spots or buttons. "I guess you're right."

She imagined what it was like for your friend to die. More pieces fell into place: people grow old, while her mother did not. People died – people her mother loved. This anger wasn't anything to do with religion, it was because her mother was sad.

The Big Guy passed her a jar filled with currants, and she gave her people eyes: sometimes two, sometimes three or one, depending on the size of their heads. When the pastry people were puffed up and golden brown, she put them and a pot of tea on a tray and carried it up to her mother's study.

The study was quiet; this was a good sign. Ashley deftly balanced the tray and tapped on the door.

"Come in." Her mother's voice was still tight with anger, but Ashley felt sure of herself now that she had thought the whole thing through. She settled the tray carefully on the desk, then wrapped her arms around her mom and squeezed her tight.

"You know I don't believe any of that Young Earth stuff, right? And I'm not about to get ready for the Rapture, either."

Her mother sat back in her chair with a sigh. "Ashley, you can believe anything you like. I mean it. Just promise me you'll question everything on the way. Don't let people keep you ignorant. Make your own mind up."

Ashley stood up straight. "I will. You know I like to ask questions. I don't think that's ever going to be a problem. I just wanted to tell you that it's pretty stupid to say evolution is made up." She added hastily, "Not that I want to study it or anything." She didn't want her mom to get the idea that she was too interested in science. Her mom took to that idea far too well.

Her mother pulled her down onto her lap. "Oof, you're almost too big for this. I'm sorry for losing my temper."

Ashley leaned her head against her mom's. "I love you. You're an awesome mom. When I'm an old lady, you'll still be kicking butt on Darwin's behalf. I'll still think you're an awesome mom. But you can make the tea, because probably I'll have bad knees and false teeth."

Her mom stroked her hair. "Well, then. When the time comes, I shall rejoice in the wholeness of my knees. I'll bring you pastry men with currant eyes for tea, and we'll remember this conversation, and we'll laugh."

It seemed impossibly far away to Ashley, but it was nice to know that, even in the far-off future, her mom would still be her friend.

Date: 2010-12-22 03:15 am (UTC)
trialia: River Song (Alex Kingston) drinking a cup of coffee. (Default)
From: [personal profile] trialia
This is lovely. Adorable. Thank you.

Date: 2010-12-23 02:20 am (UTC)
trialia: River Song (Alex Kingston) drinking a cup of coffee. (Default)
From: [personal profile] trialia
Not at all - have you seen how many interests your list shares with mine? :D

Also, email me for a word? @gmail.com :)

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