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Joe Umland
I would have expected you to dramatically deflect it instead
Wed Jan 31, 2018 22:00

Joe loved his family, but after this summer, he was grateful to be away from them. For one thing, Europe really had been too much togetherness, at least with that group of people – William had been too much, and it was not comfortable being around him, John, and Julian all at the same time. John and Julian he could take, Julian and William he could just barely take, but all three of them together was horrific and he didn’t even know why. Then Lenore had joined them, and Joe was pretty sure she and John had been doing something he would have thought was a violation of John’s Code in France, and then John had come home and promptly set Julian on the warpath by moving in with Sammy Meeks, of all people –

Well, this time, he had to sympathize mainly with Julian, for all that she was the sibling he’d left home with an unresolved fight going on with this time. Julian had ordered – not asked, ordered – him to tell John that his conduct was Not Okay With Us. Joe had pointed out that if John wouldn’t listen to her, why would he listen to his younger brother? Julian had shouted at him about it not bothering him that some person might be taking advantage of their brother, at which point Joe had almost asked what she thought her cousin had been doing on the Riviera, before he’d remembered two things: one, that he had no proof of what had gone on, and two, that he was reasonably sure Julian would agree with him that their brother hooking up with and/or conducting wildly illegal and immoral experiments with her cousin was weird and that she would have been hysterical had she had any inkling that it was a possibility. Joe had only caught on because he, without such intrigues or any prospect of them, had been bored out of his skull much of the time they’d spent in the south of France. So now he was annoyed with Julian for yelling at him and with John for being a massive hypocrite and he was glad to let them get on with their love lives while he came back to….

Well, that was an interesting question.

In retrospect, it was kind of funny, when he wasn’t too busy being humiliated by it. Joe couldn’t count all the times he’d successfully covered up some slip of his or John’s which might have made people ask questions. He’d looked William in the eye when his brother-in-law was in Important Ministry Official Mode and lied to him. And then Raine’s older brother had called him on his nonsense without him even saying anything. Statute of Secrecy? He was a law-abiding citizen and therefore above good and evil when interacting with his Muggle neighbors. Harboring criminals? He was perfectly fine with that if sufficiently emotionally involved with same. Becoming a full-blown criminal - rather than just the accessory - by technically helping kidnap some people? He didn’t blink. Hula-hoops? Busted, which was embarrassing on an unimaginable number of levels even before he’d reached the good-God-smite-me-now levels of embarrassment which had occurred when Starr had been very, very casual about the whole thing, seeming to regard it as totally normal that Raine might be - affectionate - with strange people her brother didn’t know.

Maybe it was. Joe didn’t know. In his family, everyone had looked at William like some bizarre exotic centipede whose intestines Julian had brought in on her shoes when he came around as properly as a gentleman caller in an old book - how, they had all been wondering, disturbed, had she even ever interacted with such an object without them knowing about it first? Starr’s nonchalance couldn’t have seemed much more alien to Joe if it had involved green antennae and a spaceship.

One of them, clearly, was weird. Either way, though - he had concluded that Raine really had been suggesting...something in that neighborhood, anyway - that evening in MARS when he’d made such a fool of himself, but he had no idea where that left them now, or even really where he wanted it to leave them. As a result, at one point in France, Joe had actually attempted to do something far, far too normal to have ever have had a chance at success in his family: he’d asked his big brother. Naturally, the conversation had gotten very strange very fast.

”You’re seriously telling me you don’t think a bit differently about Joanie than you do about Clark?” asked Joe in exasperation – a sentiment only strengthened by the expression of amazement which crossed his brother’s face then, as though he couldn’t believe what crass stupidities he was confronted with.

“I’m not telling you that seriously – or at all,” said John. “It’s very different. It’s like….” John’s eyes slid out of focus and away from Joe as he thought, and then Joe was startled when he abruptly grabbed Joe’s wrist without looking back at him. “Me and Clark, we’re like this,” he said, holding his free hand up to Joe’s now captive one. “Pretty similar, yes – but one of us would win an arm-wrestling contest.”

“Christ,” said Joe, reclaiming all his appendages. “You’re telling me you think you’re better even than your best friend?”

“Don’t swear,” said John in a manner rather reminiscent of their mother. “And you have it backward – we’re equal or he’s better usually. I am better than him at being a cynical jerk, but that’s just because he doesn’t try. I’m sure he could top me in that too if he wanted to.”

Joe stared for a moment, unsure what to make of that incredible pronouncement. “And Joanie?” he asked finally, deciding to just let that one go.

“Tell me, Joe – what’s your relationship with your bone marrow like?”

“My what?”

“Bone marrow. Produces blood cells and fills up bones and all that. How do you feel about it?”

“I can’t say I’ve ever really thought about it,” said Joe.

“But you’d do so if it wasn’t there, or wasn’t functioning properly.”

“Well, yeah. Since my only options in that case would be painful death or really painful medical treatments.”

John nodded. “That’s Joanie.” He looked back at the book he’d been reading when Joe interrupted him. “That year - Clark being gone, that was - alone, and nobody to bounce off of. I didn’t like it. With you and the others - not good. All of you - like I’d lost a leg. With Joanie it was like I’d had a hemispherectomy.”

“So you – what are you even talking about?”

John was tapping his foot now, agitated, clearly not liking something he was thinking about – or else lying about something. “I used to tell you that I didn’t get bored,” said John. “It’s not a fact now. But with Joanie, or Clark, or – with both of them, I’m - awake. But it’s different. With Clark, I – I can see him, and I can see me, and I want to be better. With Joanie – doesn’t matter. Clark’s my friend. Joanie - she was my friend. Now we’re accomplices. No way out. Your bones don’t care if you swing or get canonized – you stick together until then anyway. Now do you understand?”

He hadn’t, and he still didn’t.

Even if Raine was of the opinion she’d appeared to be last year, though, and at least part of her family was really incredibly casual about that, those facts and the dilemma of what to do about them if they existed weren’t relevant to the Opening Feast anyway and so he was able to temporarily put the problem aside.. At the Feast, his primary concern was seeing who got prefect and thinking about whether there was any way he could increase his chances of being elected Head Boy. That was, technically, the one thing neither of his siblings had done – John had had the title, but only because someone else forfeited it by not coming back. His classmates hadn’t actually given him the honor and Julian’s hadn’t given her Head Girl either.

He applauded politely for this year’s honorees, none of whom he knew well, and mumbled through the school song before gratefully turning to the food and an odd remark from Jozua. He went back through the last few things which had been said and done in the room.

“Prefect or something to do with a genetic tendency to make things grow flowers when they’re not supposed to?” he asked, thinking that asking that about the end of the school song was not as strange a question as it might have been - Jozua’s family apparently had a well-established tradition of living up to their surname, so it stood to reason he might think some family called Flowers had an irresistible compulsion to make deserts literally bloom.

OOC: The remainder of Joe and Starr’s fair conversation discussed with Raine’s author.

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