Characters Mini!Kara, Socrata Thrace, a couple of OCs
Rating/Warnings: PG. Brief references to Kara's less-than-Rockwellesque childhood.
Author's Notes Written for the Gen Battle at karathracelives. The prompt (bundle) was: watercolors, leather jacket, slippery, nuance. The nuance is sort of... thematically implied, I hope. ;) Many thanks to rose_griffes for the beta.
Kara was almost out of paint. All she had left was green and a dab of purple, and you couldn't do much with just those colors. It would be a while before Momma would let her buy a new set; she ran through them too fast, and she kept painting the same thing over and over. Momma was pretty sure that was a symptom of a stagnant mind. Kara couldn't tell you one way or the other, she just knew the pattern made her happy.
It was 7:15. Quickly, she swept her painting off the kitchen table and put it carefully in her windowsill to dry, admiring the green and purple circles. She cleaned up the newspapers she'd been using to cover the table, and put them in the recycling. Satisfied that everything was spotless, she did one last check to be sure the corners of her bed were all neatly tucked. She and Momma were getting along lately. It wouldn't last - it never did - but it wasn't going to be Kara's fault this time.
It was 7:19. Four minutes until Momma got home from her morning run. Kara needed to be well out of sight of the house before that happened. But she could run fast, so she wasn't worried yet. (That was why she never ate breakfast; it slowed you down, and took up too much of your only time to paint.) She had time to check herself in the mirror once more before she left. She examined her braid suspiciously; if so much as a piece looked like it might come loose, she would have to do the whole thing over again. She didn't know what to make of those girls who came to school with loose, messy hair; just asking for someone to yank it really hard if they made her mad, she thought with a smirk. Kara couldn't find a hair out of place, so reluctantly, she headed for the door. She still had three minutes before Momma got back; she liked cutting things a little closer than that. Standing half in and half out of the door, she shivered. It was three weeks until the harvest festival - not that anyone harvested in Caprica City - but it was already freezing. All the other kids would be in their warm fall jackets. Momma didn't believe in jackets. It was either cold enough for a coat, or it wasn't.
Kara wasn't sure exactly what drew her to the closet that day, where she knew his jacket was hanging, undisturbed as always. She carefully took it down off the hanger, just to try it on, and grinned at her reflection in the hallway mirror. The jacket came down past her knees, but the leather still smelled like him. There was a half-crushed carton of cigarettes in the left-hand pocket. She had to roll up the sleeves three times just to see her hands, which broadened her frame somewhat. Kara decided it made her look older.
One minute left. No time left to think about it; Kara grabbed her backpack and fled.
Last night's thunderstorms had left everything wet and glistening. Rounding the corner, Kara resisted the impulse to leap into a particularly inviting puddle; she didn't want to get the jacket wet. Dasha was already waiting on her porch when she got to her house. School didn't start for another hour, but Dasha always got up early, so they could walk together every morning. Kara looked forward to it. Her family seemed to move every couple of years, and while it never took her long to get noticed, she didn't have very many close friends.
"Is that a real leather jacket?" Dasha asked, excited. She was always easily impressed, which was a good quality in a best friend.
"It's my Dad's. He let me borrow it when he came to visit this weekend." Kara thought for a moment. "Because he's getting a new one," she added.
Dasha was, as usual, impressed, and wanted to hear all about Kara's dad and where he lived and what he did when he wasn't bringing her leather jackets. Kara wasn't sure about the "where he was" part, so she said he was traveling, which was probably true. "He's taking me on a trip," she lied. "We're going to a Panthers game on Picon." The Panthers were his favorite team, even though they never won an interplanetary match. Underdogs, he called them.
"Why are we going this way?" Dasha interrupted her. They usually took the long route to avoid walking past the junior high school. But today Kara felt strong, daring. She felt like tempting fate.
"It's the quickest way," she shrugged.
"But won't the big kids be there?" At this time of morning there would be a crowd of teenagers standing on the corner barely off their campus, where the teachers wouldn’t stop them from smoking.
“I don’t give a frak,” Kara declared, breaking into giggles on the last word. Dasha burst out laughing too.
“I don’t really give a - care either.”
“You can’t even say it!”
“You can’t say it without laughing!”
They taunted each other all the way until they got to the smoking corner, where Kara felt her stomach suddenly drop at the sight of all the giant thirteen and fourteen-year-olds staring at the two of them. But she stuck her chin out and ignored the few taunts aimed in their direction -“awww, hi babies!” “Aren’t you up a little early?” “Where’s your Moms?” - until a skinny, but very tall boy stepped out in front of her.
“Hey, that’s a beautiful dress you’re wearing,” he crowed, to the amusement of several onlookers. Kara suddenly felt very small and a little foolish. “Can I have it for my girlfriend?”
“It’s a jacket. You’re an idiot.”
He laughed. “Come on, I just want to look at it for a minute.” He didn’t seem about to let them go any time soon.
Fear turned to anger, as it had a habit of doing. Kara peeled off her jacket and handed it to Dasha, who was cowering behind her. “Hold this,” she said, unnecessarily.
“Kara -” But she was already charging, to the approving cheers of their audience. The skinny kid didn’t have time to do more than laugh before she tackled – well, threw herself with all her might at his mid-section.
If the ground hadn’t been wet, she probably would have been out of luck. But his feet slipped out from under him and he crashed to the ground, and Kara knew she’d better take her opportunity while it lasted. Sitting on his chest, she managed to get in two good punches and was winding up for a third when he flipped her over and drove a knee into her stomach, hard. Kara instinctively curled up into as much of a ball as she could manage as he punched and kicked her, furious. She was hazily aware of the other kids pulling him off of her when everything went sideways.
She woke up for the second time in the hospital, though she dimly remembered being driven down there in someone’s car – probably a neighbor who had scraped her off the pavement. The doctor was telling Momma that she had a concussion and a couple of bruised ribs, and one which they thought was slightly fractured. Momma’s mouth was a thin line that told Kara she was lucky to be already in the hospital. “I don’t know how she gets herself into these scrapes,” she told the doctor, who smiled ruefully. She was a younger woman with a kind face. Doctors usually pretended to be nice, Kara knew, but you couldn’t trust them.
“Well, next time your daughter feels like practicing her martial arts, tell her to pick on someone her own size. And to stay away from the 14-year-old boys. And especially not to try and take on four or five of them at once.”
“Four or five?” Momma asked. It wasn’t exactly true; the boy’s friends had been there, but Kara mostly remembered them trying to pull him off, yelling that she was just a little kid. But she wasn’t about to correct the doctor, because Momma was looking at her in that way she hardly ever did. The same way she looked at her the last time she’d been punished, and Momma’s arm wore out before Kara made even a sound. Like she was proud of her. Now the doctor was talking about how the older boy needed stitches in his lip while Momma smoothed the hair out of her face, and Kara felt her heart leap up in her chest, just a little.
“Well, she might not be the smartest kid on the block, but she’s not lacking guts. When can I bring her home?”
She had to stay overnight, just to be extra safe. They were going to do x-rays, but the doctor thought she would have to stay home for a day or two while her ribs healed. She just hoped that Dasha still had her jacket.
Momma didn’t say anything to her when she took her home the next day, but Kara found a new set of watercolors on the kitchen table. “To keep you busy,” Momma said, “and out of trouble. Assuming that’s possible.”
Kara grinned, even though her ribs still hurt like anything, and even smiling seemed to make them hurt worse. It would be a while before she felt better enough to try her new paints.
But it was worth it, she thought, and smiled again.