Characters: Michael and Lincoln (Kid!Fic, Gen, Fluff)
Summary: Michael's projects do not always turn out the way he'd like.
Author's Notes: Trifecta! 60_minute_fics workshop for "Bad New," foxriver_fic December challenge (I picked "a crushed gingerbread house"), and prisonbreak100 for #61, "Winter."
Lincoln generally knew when Michael was up to something, but a lot of the time he didn't know what.
Michael wasn't especially sneaky (most of the time, anyway) but he was definitely kind of… weird. Which was okay, nothing wrong with that. But Lincoln wondered what was going on in Michael's head a lot of the time, seriously. Not that asking ever cleared that up:
"Find a new book?"
"Arthropods and Sub-Phylla Distinctions."
"Huh. Yeah. Good, good. Okay, then. Have fun."
He'd catch Michael looking at the baseboards with a flashlight and a magnifying glass— Don't want to know— or mixing baking soda and vinegar together at the sink and measuring the froth, taking careful notes.
"Why?" he'd ask.
"Why?" Michael would say incredulously, like knowledge ever needed any kind of excuse. "Why?"
One day he came home to a kitchen that appeared to have come under attack by a tornado. Michael sat at the table looking dejected, surrounded by crumbs and cardboard. The sink was full of baking pans.
Mom was going to be pissed.
"What's going on?"
Michael sighed. "You have to ask?"
"No, I actually do it just for fun. Yes, I'm asking—what's this huge mess all about?"
"Failure," Michael intoned solemnly.
Well just great.
There were times that Lincoln kind of knew he had a circus freak for a brother, but he kept himself from saying it because that wasn't the point. "What are all these slabs of junk on the counter and in the garbage? How much stuff did you use?"
"Not enough. It still doesn't work."
Focus on the thing at hand, which was the mess—and getting it all picked up before Mom got home. "Why don't you tell me about it while we clean this stuff up?"
The first part involved Michael hoping to surprise their mother with a gingerbread house, like the ones he'd seen in a magazine at school. "I copied the recipe and everything."
"I don't see any houses, though."
"Just rub it in, why don't you!"
Jeez, Michael got touchy sometimes. "So what happened next?"
"The article said to make this icing and use it like glue to assemble the house—"
Assemble, for crying out loud, not "put together."
"—and it didn't work! The sides wouldn't stay glued and it kept falling down, and then the roof broke and I had to bake a new one, and the whole thing's been a disaster!"
Well, that part was obvious. "What about all these crumbs?"
"I smashed the roof with my fist after it broke." Michael looked so embarrassed that Lincoln had to turn away to keep from laughing.
"So what are we going to tell Mom?" Michael finally asked.
"About my project and how I suck and why there's no house?"
God, Michael could be such a drama king. "Sit down for a moment and let's think." Lincoln put the sponge on the table and drummed his fingers. "Mom doesn't know you're doing this, and so she's not expecting anything. Right?"
"So that's not really a problem, as long as the mess is gone. Why're you getting so worked up over it?"
Michael was silent for a moment. "Because I couldn't figure out how to get it to be like in the picture. And they shouldn't write articles about it if it doesn't work!"
"Okay…" Lincoln had definitely been down this road with Michael before. "What do you think went wrong?"
"The icing wasn't sticky enough. And the pieces of the house came out crooked—some of them aren't even totally flat."
"So, you'd have to cheat to make it work."
Lincoln waited for the light bulb to go off.
"Oh," Michael said. "I could sort of cheat, maybe."
"How?" Lincoln got up quietly and filled the sink with soap and hot water.
"I could use paper clips to fasten the edges of the house together—"
"Or put something down on the inside for the house to lean on. Like a box or something."
"Now you're talking!" And now that it had clicked, Lincoln knew he could finish cleaning up without the distraction of dealing with Michael or having him create another huge mess on the heels of the first one. He scrubbed the dishes at lightning speed while Michael worked, happy at last.
Lincoln was just coming back from emptying the garbage in the dumpster when he saw that Michael was waiting for him.
"I think it's done—come and see."
The house sat on a piece of cardboard near the edge of the kitchen table, covered with probably way too much icing used as snow and sporting a couple of raisins and crushed peppermint pieces for decoration. And—what was it?—a stick of gum folded boxlike for a chimney.
"Think she'll like it?" Michael bounced on the edges of his toes while Lincoln bent down for a closer look at Michael's handiwork. There were a couple of holes visible under the icing.
"What're these?" Lincoln pointed toward the indentations.
"Uh, toothpicks," Michael admitted.
Okay—nice to know Lincoln wasn't the only one who would have thought of toothpicks to fix a problem like a corner that wouldn't stay put.
"I think she'll love it," he said finally.
That house was Michael, start to finish and all the attempts to hide the imperfections along the way.
"We don't have to tell her about the other parts," Lincoln added.
And strangely enough, it was that last news that seemed to make Michael happiest of all.
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Author's Notes: There IS some real experience underlying this story. A few Christmases ago, my daughter went semi-ballistic at a make-your-own-house event involving graham crackers and icing (the icing would not stick, and the house kept collapsing). A few days later, I attempted a gingerbread house using molds and the recipe that came with them. The roof slid off again and again, and the sides would not stay together because the icing was "snow" and not glue. I believe I used a paper-towel holder and *koff* glue-gun to aid that problem. And my little sister had epic!Fail at her attempt on her pfefferneus house, where she rolled the dough too thin and once the icing and candies were added, it collapsed inward. Now she puts Hamburger Helper boxes inside the house for structural reinforcement (Moms and Moms-of-the-future, "structural reinforcement" will become a big deal in crafts projects and homemade Halloween costumes, so keep that phrase in mind). ;)