18 May 2010 @ 11:36 pm
FIC: Better Than No Family At All [Friends'verse AU]  
So anyway, there's this AU of the Friends'verse where Hetty Lange is a Tok'ra, LJ Gibbs is a woman and Cam's daddy has a much older sister that no one really talks about who left Black Mountain when she was 17, and you can probably see where this is going by now ...  I lay the blame for this solidly at the feet of [personal profile] killing_rose who made the comment that spawned this as-yet unnamed AU and then totally egged me on to write it, as well as [personal profile] ilyena_sylph who made a comment about "powerfully Southern  names" and led me to conclude that  of course Gibbs (of either sex) is a Mitchell, because that explains everything.  This snippet?  Totally their fault.

[also x-posted to my personal journal]


She’s born in 1958, in a little town called Stillwater, Pennsylvania, (barely a dot on the state map: hardware store, gas station, couple of little restaurants including the one where her Momma waits tables) to Jackson Gibbs (whose daddy owns the hardware store) and “that scandalous Southern woman.”  Momma calls her Lorena Joy (always both names) and teaches her to shoot a rifle almost as soon as she can walk.  Daddy calls her “baby girl” and lets her watch while he works on cars.  Her teachers call her Lorena Gibbs (in horrified tones), right before they send her to detention for bringing a frog to class, or for fighting with boys (again). 

By the time she goes to school, Lorena Joy knows the neighbors don’t approve of her Momma because Momma wears pants and dyes her hair and smokes the wrong kind of cigarettes and can beat all their husbands at poker.  But Momma says it don’t matter none, because they’re all a bunch of stuck-up Yanks and anyway, she’s got her Jackson and little Lorena Joy, what’s all she wanted out of this life in the first place.

Momma comes from somewhere “down North Carolina way” called Black Mountain (which is just a little dot on a different state map, but after the stories Momma tells, Lorena Joy thinks of it more like somewhere out of one of her books of fairy tales), and she “done left when she was 17, got on an ol’ Greyhound bus, and ain’t never looked back,” but her daughter knows she’s lying, because on rainy afternoons when Lorena’s climbing the walls from being inside too long and Daddy is off working the register at the hardware store, Momma brings out her little box of pictures.

They’re black and white and wrinkled and creased from too much looking, no matter that Momma handles them like they’re precious artifacts.  Lorena Joy can name all the people in the pictures by heart, has looked at them so many times she can close her eyes and see all of them, from a little boy who’s her uncle Everett to Uncle Bayliss who’s Momma's oldest little brother, and her gran’pa Elias and gran’ma Hildy.  At night she likes to lay in bed and imagine the big house where they all live in this mysterious Buncombe County place, with the old part and the new wing and the back forty  and hallways that go on for ages.  They wouldn’t look at Lorena Joy with disapproval like Grandfather Gibbs does.  Sometimes she looks up at the stars, closes her eyes, and wishes as hard as she can that someday her Momma can stop being “that Mitchell girl what probably no one talks about anymore” so that they can leave awful old Stillwater and fly away to Black Mountain, where Momma will smile and gran’ma Hildy will make pie for everyone. 

Momma gets sick at the end of ’68, though they don’t talk about it much, and for the first six months she’s mostly just tired a lot.  One night Lorena Joy wakes up to hear her Momma and her Daddy having a fight about it, and Daddy’s saying that it’s been fifteen years and what Momma did has to be water under the bridge by now and she should go and be with her family before – something (and then Daddy starts crying, and Momma starts crying, but she says she can’t go back, not ever and Daddy yells something about goddamn stubborn stiff-necked Southern pride). 

Two days before Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, they bury her Momma, and Jackson isn’t the same after that.  He used to call Lorena Joy “baby girl” but now when she offers to help him in the garage, he snarls, “Why can’t you act like a damn lady like you’re supposed to?” and when he bothers to talk to her at all (and most of the time Lorena Joy’s pretty sure he can’t stand to look at her anymore, maybe on account of she looks so much like her Momma), mostly all he calls her is “a disappointment.”  When things get too bad, she locks her door and spreads the pictures out on her bedspread, runs her fingers over Bayliss’s and Everett’s and her gran’ma’s faces until she imagines they’re imprinted on her skin.  She thinks sometimes about getting on Momma’s ol’ Greyhound bus and going the other direction, from Stillwater to North Carolina, but she’s too afraid that the Mitchells won’t like her any better than the family she already knows, since Momma was always afraid to go home (and Momma promised Lorena Joy that when she was older, she’d tell her what happened, but she died instead). 

When she’s eighteen and her grandfather’s passed and the silence that stretches between her and Jackson Gibbs has gotten to be too goddamn much for either of them to stand anymore, Lorena Joy tucks her little box of pictures and some clothes and the little bit of money she’s saved from working after school bagging groceries into a suitcase and gets on a bus.  By the time the week is out, she’s sitting in front of a Marine recruiter (and Momma always said the Mitchells figured that the military was the next best thing to family and there was no greater calling on God’s green Earth than serving one’s country).

She does her basic training at Parris Island in South Carolina in the summer of 1976 (hell of a lot closer to Buncombe County than Stillwater, PA), and when she’s got a few days’ leave before she ships out to Camp LeJeune, she drives up to Black Mountain on a whim, but she loses her nerve five miles outside of town (and you’re a fucking coward, Lorena Joy Gibbs.  Fine Marine you make).  Realizes she doesn’t know what she’d say to these people she knows in her heart but has never met, realizes she doesn’t want to know if they hate her for whatever it was her Momma did all those years ago, or if they’ve forgotten her Momma completely and Lorena Joy may as well not exist.  Because when it comes down to it, imaginary family is better than no family at all, so she turns the beat-up white Volkswagen Rabbit she borrowed from Mark Kemp around, and drives back the way she came.


 
 
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greenbirds[personal profile] greenbirds on May 19th, 2010 06:20 pm (UTC)
Re: gah...that's IT???
There will indeed be more.

And thank you!