[ Sky – Master Post ]
Characters: Severen, Arkady
Warnings: Violence, slippy reality, Severen’s mouth
Notes: Severen’s really not screwed in as tightly as he pretends, but after Night, you guys know that.
There was something about hotels he never got used to. There was a smell to the sheets that was the same from the roadside motor-lodges right up to the nice rooms in expensive city hotels. They were impersonal to the point that they almost rejected a man from the moment he walked in the door, and yet the scents were cloying and the beds soft, like they never wanted him to leave. Hotel rooms were bipolar, and Severen disliked them. And still, he spent a little over half of most years in them.
He always shared a room with Arkady, since the time he’d flipped out, one fall evening, and opened his wrist into the sink. Arkady wasn’t as old as he was, not even as old as Lir, but he had a pretty solid view of reality, and decent taste in literature. It was hard, sometimes, travelling with people who were both younger and less educated, but they were decent people, or he wouldn’t have stayed in the band. It was hard being surrounded by people who didn’t understand why he was afraid — afraid of the snow, afraid of the crowds, afraid of losing everything he’d worked for.
And some nights, the passionate revulsion of a hotel room was just too much — like it was taunting him. The room had seen more than he would in a lifetime, and it found him just as pathetic as he found himself. He was a college graduate, sure, but he wasn’t a Ph.D. like Sin. Sin taught advanced theories of socio-historical dynamics. He’d taught basic literacy skills to high school students. In that, at least, he could say he’d made a difference. Then he’d run off with this band, full of talented, young, beautiful people. He had four years on the oldest of them, and he had a face like a hatchet. He had talent, though. He could admit to that. But all his fans were girls half his age, who had no grasp of the meaning behind their more serious songs. He supposed it was for the best that most of their songs were comic and parodic. There was nothing to miss.
He sprayed the bed with coffee-scented air-freshener, again, and laid down on it, still dressed from the show.
"Hey, Arkady, tell me about your parents, again." Severen stared disconsolately into the swirling plaster of the ceiling.
"My mom was a hippy and my dad was an accountant. They met in a diner, a couple miles from a little music festival that nobody’s ever heard of." Arkady laughed, and tossed a bag of popcorn into the microwave. "Mom always says that dad taught her how to be a responsible adult. Dad says the same thing about her. I gotta wonder what it’s like to be in love with the same person for twenty-five years."
"They sound like good people. Your parents give me back some of my faith in humanity." Severen rubbed at his face with a tissue, trying to get some of the more stubborn spots of makeup off.
"My parents could give the Dalai Lama back some of his faith in humanity." Arkady sat on the edge of the dresser, staring out the window. "What about your parents? You never talk about your family."
"Yes, I know. There’s a reason for that." The tissue bounced off the edge of the trash can, next to the dresser. "I haven’t spoken to them, since about seventy-seven. I’m dead to them."
"Wait, what? Nineteen seventy-seven… that means you went to college without their help? What were you, independently wealthy?" Arkady looked confused.
"My parents disowned me, when I decided to use my inheritance to go to college. They were twice as angry that my grandmother’s money went to me, instead of to them. And for me to ‘waste it on useless things that rich people do, to prove they’re rich’, as my mother used to say…" Severen shrugged, rumpling his coat against the bed, as the microwave beeped.
Arkady made no move to get his popcorn. "Holy shit, Sev. I had no idea."
"Only Singularity knew. There was never a reason to tell anyone else. It isn’t generally relevant to most conversations." Severen sprayed the carpet beside the bed with more air-freshener. "You should put up another bag of popcorn. I’m trying to convince myself I’m not actually hungry. I’m too tired to be hungry, and not tired enough to sleep."
Arkady switched bags of popcorn, and just stared at the microwave for a long moment — about forty-five seconds, according to the timer. "So, what got you on the subject of parents, anyway?"
"Tomorrow’s my mother’s birthday. I remembered that you actually liked your parents. Just wanted the vicarious experience for a minute or two." Severen sniffed and looked dismayed. "Why do hotels always smell like funerals?"
"Because dickheads like you keep trying to die in them." Arkady grinned. "Wait, tomorrow’s your mom’s birthday? If you haven’t talked to her since 1977, why is this relevant, now?"
Severen shrugged again. "How long is it logical to be angry with someone? How long is it relevant that she disowned me? It was really my father’s fault, and his doing, not hers. I’m pretty sure I loved my mother, once."
"Y’know, getting disowned is usually one of those life-long things. You get disowned, and then the family just pretends you’re dead until either you die or they die. Not that I’d know, personally, of course."
"It’s been fifteen years. I was debating whether I should get her a present, and just send it to her, but I don’t know if she still lives there. I don’t know where else she would be, but … Is it worse not to try or to try and be wrong?" The microwave beeped, again, and Arkady threw the second bag of popcorn to Severen.
"Sev? Pick up the phone," Arkady, demanded around a mouthful of popcorn. "You remember the phone number?"
"You want me to call my mother right now? It’s five in the morning, in Massachusetts." Severen looked around, irritated. "And I should have taken off this coat before I started eating greasy popcorn."
Arkady threw a box of tissues at him. "It’s the nineties, Sev. Your parents have an answering machine. And if it’s the wrong number, it’s probably got a machine, anyway. Just leave her a message. You’re making yourself neurotic."
"I am not — Fine. I’m neurotic." Severen wiped his hands and reached for the phone. "I’m doing this, Arkady. I’m doing this because you think it’s right."
Arkady flashed a thumbs up, as Severen dialled. The phone began to ring, and all Severen wanted was for his father not to pick up the phone. After five rings, the line clicked and opened into the hiss of tape and his mother’s voice.
"Hi! You’ve reached Jim and Cathy. Leave us a message."
It took Severen a few seconds to start talking. "This message is for Cathy Lindstrom. Hi, mom. It’s Sebastian. Happy birthday."
He hung up the phone, hands shaking, and picked up the popcorn again. "It still smells like a funeral in here."