Characters: kid!Kellerman, kid!Kristine (Gen)
Rating: PG-13 (subject matter)
Summary: Pre-series look at the childhood Kellerman finally abandoned behind him.
Author's Notes: Although this features a young Kellerman, this is for abused children everywhere. Written for the foxriver_fic February challenge (kid!Kellerman was one of the choices). I picked the helper prompts here of "hiding in a dark alley after a frightening experience" and "an unwelcome touch" (the last is implied).
Feet slapping the pavement, he runs like the end of the world is coming.
His steps are sloppy and uneven— harder, faster— and his lungs ache, but he keeps going. He can still hear his mother yelling: Get back here, you little bastard!
Ducking inside an alley, he races to a dumpster and crouches behind it. The stink bothers him less than his fear of being caught— Please God, don't let her catch me this time, please. The sudden dizziness of stopping catches up with him in a rush and he falls forward onto his hands, gravel and grit scraping his palms.
Got to. Keep hiding, he reminds himself, and his own panting sounds so loud he's afraid someone else will hear it— his mother, or the kinds of scary people he sees lurking in alleys on his way home from school.
He wishes he could fly or turn invisible, or be strong and powerful like Superman so he wouldn't have to be afraid.
But most of the time he's just waiting to be older so he can leave if he wants to. Even if he ran away now, there's nowhere to go…
His body hurts when he wakes up to the sound of traffic the next morning. He slept leaning against the dumpster, mostly warm enough but not very comfortable. Climbing to his feet, he checks his watch. Seven-thirty— he might as well go to school now. No sense getting into two kinds of trouble.
It's five blocks to Jefferson Elementary, but he makes it before the bell. Still, his teacher notices the missing backpack. "What about your homework, Paul? Should we have the office call your mother?"
He stammers out something fast that seems to satisfy her, and the class moves on to the reading lesson for the day while he thinks about what to do when he gets home. Maybe his mother won't be so mad by then.
Lunch is whatever his friends have to offer, though Paul's not as hungry as usual, not with wondering what's waiting for him at home. When the end-of-the-day bell rings it's all he can do to get out of his seat and head to the Kindergarden class to pick up Krissy.
"Where'd you go last night?" His little sister holds him around the waist, tilting her head back to see him better. "Mommy was so mad when you left," she adds.
He never thought about what might have happened after, to Krissy, and he should have: "Did she— are you—"
"I'm great!" she bounces happily, like his question doesn't make sense. "Come on, let's go." She tugs his hand in the direction of the side exit, probably afraid of missing The Flinstones if they don't leave soon enough.
All the way home she chatters beside him while he watches his feet move of their own accord.
The super lets them in, after Paul invents a story about locking himself out this morning by mistake. Paul has a key, but it's in his room inside his backpack. He didn't take anything with him when he ran off the night before.
He and Krissy take their things to the family room, and Paul goes into the kitchen to get them both something to eat. His gaze skips over the corner where Beau's dog-bed used to be before mom had Beau 'put down' for making messes on the floor— just because the dog was old. Paul worried for a long time afterward what would happen if Krissy started having potty accidents again. Luckily, she never did.
There's a vodka bottle on the counter. He glares at it. His mother gets meaner when she drinks (which is a lot), and he tried pouring the vodka out once. She knew it was him, though. She beat him with a shoe for that one.
"You want some toast?" he calls out to the family room.
He serves her first, then cleans up the kitchen while he eats his own snack. He tries to do an extra-good job to lessen his mother's anger.
When he's finished, he runs upstairs for his backpack. He takes the key out and puts it in his pocket, then stuffs an extra shirt and a pair of underwear into the pack, along with a sweatshirt. Going back downstairs again, he pulls his homework out onto the table and adds a couple of apples to the backpack. He leans the pack up against the wall by the front door, wishing there was a place he could hide it outside. But this is the best he can do for now, and he wants to be prepared. Especially after last night.
He does fractions and decimals for half an hour, watching the clock off and on. Part of him wishes the afternoon would stretch on forever, and the other part just wants to get it over with, whatever 'it' turns out to be.
Finally he hears his mother's key scraping in the front-door lock. He tenses, barely able to look up as her footsteps approach the kitchen. When he does, he's surprised to see that the expression on her face is one of relief. His eyes sting with tears when she moves forward and pulls him close against her.
"I was so worried, Paul, so worried— are you all right?"
"Yes," he whispers hoarsely, feeling the cheap fabric of her dress against his face.
She holds him tightly, stroking his hair wordlessly. There are no apologies for the previous night, but he doesn't expect them. Not any more.
He wonders how it can feel so much like she still loves him at times like this, even after the way she's treated him. He wishes he didn't care, but he does. He's only nine, and her love still matters.
She pulls back at last, and squeezes his shoulder. "I'll heat up some soup for dinner and get changed. Why don't you set the table?"
He nods, always the obedient son.
His mother turns toward the cupboard, but pauses as something catches her eye. She reaches for the vodka, pulling a glass from the drain board and filling it in a single motion.
Paul's stomach clenches, remembering the night before and where it led. His breath catches in his throat as she lifts the glass, and he can only stand there helplessly as she drinks.
He never knows what will set off his mother's moods, even when she's sober. But this is how it starts when it gets really bad, so bad he has to run for safety. He knows this beginning.
He's seen it too many times already.
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