rating: up to nc17 eventually
disclaimer: I am using other people's characters in this story.
note #1: Norman's character in DH didn't have a name. I'm calling him Norman.
note #2: If you don't know, Jeremy Reed's mother was struck by lightning while pregnant. He is albino, and is telepathic as well as telekinetic, and can attract/move metal objects through electricity. In the movie, his grandparents kept him in a basement and his only outside knowledge was through books. He went to a school when they died, a boys' school for "troubled" teens. This story plays with the ending of "Powder," in that Jeremy returns to his grandparents' home and lives there on his own.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR DARK HARBOR IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY SEEN IT
note #3: If you don't know, Norman's character in Dark Harbor was a loner, a vagrant, if you will. He gets involved with a married couple, especially the husband, David Weinberg. This story takes place AFTER that movie, and any backstory for Norman is from my mind only, NOT in the movie.
The skies have been threatening all morning, which is why he is still sitting in the diner, fingernails picking at the cracked edge of the table. He usually doesn’t mind the rain; it brings him some sort of strange inner peace. But this time it’s different. It doesn’t feel like it’s going to be one of those gentle rains that last for days. It might be an out and out torrential downpour, and he really isn’t in the mood to end up drenched after taking three steps.
The diner is one of those old-fashioned establishments that still allow you to smoke, so he’s been sitting all morning at a booth in the back, chain smoking and drinking coffee. He’s tipped the waitress well, and therefore she smiles down at him as she refills his cup for the eighth or ninth time. “Looks like it’s gonna open up out there,” he says, just to break the silence. Sometimes being a loner can take its toll.
“Cats and dogs, probably,” she agrees, snapping her gum. She’s a woman in her mid-40s, the quintessential diner waitress, from the beehived faux blond hair to the large bow holding the worn apron in place at the small of her back. “Ya know, my boss might not want ya sitting here much longer…but I hate sending you out in that.”
“How about you bring me a lunch menu, and I’ll take a while making up my mind,” he says, giving her a rare smile. She smiles back, nods, and goes back behind the counter to put the coffeepot on the burner. She slaps a menu down on the booth in front of him and leaves him alone. Norman opens the menu but does not really look at it. He continues smoking and staring out the window as the clouds let loose with a misty foam of rain.
The bell above the door tinkles merrily as someone bursts through, but the reaction from the five or six customers is less than jovial. Norman’s eyes widen as he looks at the tall thin man who has entered the diner. The man’s pants are too short, as are the sleeves of his coat. Everything he wears is dark and out of fashion, including the battered fedora on his head. Everything else about him is white. His hands, his face, his neck. Norman sees no hair under the hat. The young man walks to the counter, his steps short and shuffling, as if he hopes that no one will take notice of him. That is almost impossible, though, due to his height. Everyone stares, and most people whisper. Norman’s waitress approaches the young man, but her quick smile is gone.
“Here for your weekly pick-up?” The man nods, hands clutching at the corner of the counter as thunder booms. Norman thinks that if he was not already totally without color, his face would turn even paler. “It’s almost ready. You just wait there.” The man nods again, his head bowed.
“Well, well, well.” Another young man saunters over from his seat at the end of the counter. “If it isn’t the freak. Jeremy Reed. Thought we told you to stay out on that farm of yours where you belong. What’d we decide to call that place?”
“The freak farm,” his friend says, and both men laugh. The tall man, apparently named Jeremy Reed, doesn’t reply. He doesn’t even look up.
“You got no business being here in town, freak,” the first man snarls.
“I have to eat,” Jeremy says finally, meeting the man’s eyes. “Everyone has to eat.”
“Didn’t think they let you back in town limits,” the second man offers.
“Didn’t think they let apes out of the zoo,” Jeremy says, his eyes running over the man’s large frame. Norman smiles to himself. The second bully does indeed look like some sort of monkey.
“Look, freak, I could kick your ass and no one in this town would care,” the first man sneers. “You got no friends here, and you know it.”
“Mickey, Andy, don’t you be starting any trouble,” the waitress warns, returning to the counter with two brown paper bags. “You want this on your account?” She asks Jeremy, who nods.
“Thank you,” he says politely, sliding the bags to the edge of the counter. He briefly touches her hand. “It’s benign,” he tells her, and she stares at him in confusion. “Your husband. It’s not malignant. He’ll be fine.” She blushes and yanks her hand away.
Jeremy turns to go, but jumps as thunder cracks and a sizzle of lightning brightens the grey sky. “Oh, that’s right. The freak is afraid of getting wet,” Mickey or Andy says. “Maybe you could crawl under one of these tables here until it goes away.”
Jeremy shudders, obviously trying to weigh the lesser of two evils. He could stay and be bullied, or go out into something that seems to be scaring him to death. “No one’s gonna save you,” the other bully says.
Norman is up and out of his seat before he can stop himself. “C’mon.” He grabs one of the grocery bags and takes it to his table. He hears nothing, then the shuffling steps as Jeremy follows him. He slides the bag to the end of the booth and sits down next to it. “Sit down.” He glances up at Jeremy, who looks thoroughly confused. The pale man finally sits down, holding the other bag tight at his side. “You must be hungry,” Norman says, motioning to the bags. He looks across the room, where the two men are deep in conversation with the waitress. “Excuse me…I’d like to order now!” He calls.
“This food lasts me a few weeks,” Jeremy says, looking down at the table.
The waitress walks over. “Yeah?” She says, her former friendliness gone.
Norman orders a bacon cheeseburger and fries. He then looks at Jeremy. “How about you?” Jeremy shakes his head, then glances out the window at the storm. “My friend here will have the same. And how about a chocolate milkshake? Two,” Norman corrects himself. The woman sighs but says nothing as she walks away. “That okay?”
“Yes.” Jeremy smiles a bit, his eyes turning a gorgeous shade of blue. “I’ve never heard that.”
“Heard what?” Norman pulls out another cigarette. “Mind?”
“They’ll kill you,” Jeremy says simply, but shakes his head. “I’ve never heard anyone call me their friend.”
“Well, no one’s so wealthy that they can’t afford a friend,” Norman points out, smiling wryly. He lights the cigarette and holds out the pack. “Want one?”
Jeremy shakes his head. “No, thank you.” Thunder snaps, and he jumps.
“You live on a farm, they said?” Norman asks, trying to distract him. Something in this young man shatters him inside, a feeling he hasn’t experienced since childhood.
“Yes. It belonged to my grandparents, but they died. I went away for a bit, now I’m back,” Jeremy says simply. “My name is Jeremy Reed, by the way.”
“You can call me Norman.”
“Is that your name?”
“Most of the time.” Norman exhales, smiling up at the waitress as she brings their milkshakes. “Thank you so much,” he says with too much politeness. She nods and goes away. “I love ice cream,” Norman confides. “It’s a weakness of mine.”
Jeremy opens a straw and pulling it from the paper. He hands it to Norman and their fingers brush. “Like cigarettes,” he says. “Ice cream is a weakness that you don’t indulge in often, though.”
“Right,” Norman says softly.
“I wish I could travel,” Jeremy says wistfully, looking at the raindrops sobbing their way down the window. “I’ve only been a few miles from here, and it was pretty bad.”
“Where would you like to go?” Norman asks, intrigued.
“I’d love to see the ocean. Oceans,” Jeremy corrects. “Pacific AND Atlantic. I’d love to see an iceberg. I’ve read about them, and seen them in magazines, but I’m sure nature is not done full justice in a photo. I’d like to see Harvard. I was accepted there,” he finishes wistfully. “I took a test once, one that’s just like they give to get into Harvard, and I passed. But I couldn’t go.”
“You must be really smart,” Norman says.
Jeremy dips his head modestly. “I guess so. I read a lot. That’s all I could do. My…my grandparents didn’t let me out much. I didn’t get to go to school.”
“Christ, I would have given anything to skip school altogether,” Norman says. “I’ve traveled, though. It’s not as great as it sounds. Most people are pretty nasty.” Norman realizes what he’s saying and blushes. “I…I guess you know that, though.”
“Sort of,” Jeremy says, but he smiles. It’s a beautiful smile, and it takes Norman’s breath away.
The waitress brings their food, and Norman is eager to shift the conversation somewhere else. “You don’t like the rain.”
“I love rain. I don’t like the thunder and lightning,” Jeremy says. He watches Norman prepare his burger, and mimics his movements exactly. “The electricity in the air…it does things to me.”
“I love that feeling,” Norman says with a sigh. “If I wasn’t so beat down tired, I’d be walking in it.” Norman places the lid back on the ketchup bottle, but does not fasten it.
“You wouldn’t like this feeling,” Jeremy says quietly. “It’s not a good thing.” He places his hand a few inches above the bottle of ketchup, palm down. Norman’s eyes widen as he watches the metal cap slowly turn and twist down into place. Jeremy’s eyes meet his, and they are filled with sadness and trepidation.
“Bet that comes in handy when you’re robbing a bank,” is all Norman says, and some of the fear leaves Jeremy’s face.
“Never tried. Have to keep that in mind,” Jeremy replies, and Norman realizes he is trying to joke.
“Call me when you do,” Norman suggests, and Jeremy actually chuckles.
There is a long pause, while they eat their burgers. “Thank you for stepping in for me,” Jeremy says suddenly. “I know it’s not something you would normally do, and I appreciate it.”
“You can read minds?” The question is mostly teasing, but Jeremy doesn’t smile in return.
“Yes. You see, there is a place in our brain where we block out everything, where we hole into ourselves. We hide behind it, and that’s where lies and untruths form. I don’t have that in myself…and I’m able to see past it in most other people.” Jeremy shrugs. “I know you won’t believe it…most people don’t.” He finishes his French fries. “It’s sad, really, because there’s so much you’re missing. Not just you, everyone.”
“Jesus,” Norman whispers.
“I’m not crazy. Everyone thinks I am, and I’m not.” Jeremy doesn’t look up.
“I’ve seen a lot of crazy shit and crazy people in my life, Jeremy. I don’t think you’re crazy at all. Maybe a little delusional,” Norman says, laughing. “But not crazy.”
Jeremy motions to Norman’s hand, which is resting by his plate. “May I?” Norman looks at him in confusion, and nods. Jeremy lets his fingers touch Norman’s, just at the knuckles. He holds on for mere seconds, then lets go. “I know you’re tired…would you like to come back to my house and stay for a bit? You could sleep there…it’s not very fancy, but it’s out of the rain.”
“Wow. That’d be nice.” Norman had been planning on getting back on the road as soon as possible, but this strange man, this odd creature, has him so curious and intrigued that he wants to learn more. He hasn’t been this interested in anything for a very long time, and he IS tired. “Take your time eating, though…we’ll wait for the storm to let up.”
Jeremy smiles his thanks and goes back to his burger.