|Summary||That's what Gray is.|
When Jeremy and Richard pick up Gray the next morning for an outing, Jane gives them a time to get the child home that basically means Jeremy has them for the whole day. Whatever Gray said to their mother the night before, it appears that some of her wariness about how overwhelmed they might become has been assuaged. Their gender presentation is also more ambiguous today, as they dare more to be themselves after that first encounter; the earrings have been replaced by silver hoops with pearl dangles, and there are subtle signs of makeup on their face, accentuating eyelashes and marking a touch like a glittery star on one cheek. The jeans and T-shirt are a neutral enough uniform that it's impossible to tell what statement they might be trying to make.
Breakfast is chicken and waffles, which Jeremy professes that his father invented (Gray rightly points out how WILDLY untrue this is) and then, after a fairly sedate round of minigolf at an extremely brightly decorated indoor (airconditioned) minigolf place, they end up walking through a local park not too overpopulated in the mid-afternoon heat. There are grills and picnic tables around, an unoccupied baseball diamond, and playground that Gray is currently pretending not to actually be interested in.
"You know, I'd kind of forgotten California weather," Richard says just a touch wistfully, gaze lifting to the perfectly blue sky. "I wish I could just -- ratchet down New York's humidity by a factor of twenty or something." Any nerves that he's had about meeting his boyfriend's kid have been forcefully buried underneath his need to be a steady presence for Jeremy (and his desire to actually be liked by said kid). He's probably had some missteps trying too hard to be cool. He's wearing an old Star Trek t-shirt, because sci-fi is cool right, and his hands are stuffed in his pockets as they stroll. His gaze slides over the picnic areas, baseball diamond, and playground.
"Yeah," Jeremy says. "Sometimes in New York I feel like I'm just going to sweat until I melt into a puddle." He bumps Richard's shoulder with his as he comes to rest behind a park bench, and leans on it. "I'm still full of waffles or else I'd say we should've stopped and gotten hot dogs or something."
"Mom hates hot dogs. Meat's supposed to come from recognizable animal parts." Gray gives Jeremy a skeptical look, and bites inside their cheek as they look off toward the baseball diamond instead.
"Meatballs aren't very recognizable," Richard points out, because he's super clever. "And they're delicious. Hot dogs are sacred. But I'm from New York, and they revoke your card if you don't embrace them." He shrugs tragically and nudges Jeremy's shoulder back.
"There's no such thing as a New York card," Gray states knowledgeably. They frown over the state of meatballs, never hitherto uncertain in their food pantheon.
Jeremy's smile is a little strained, but he passes the test of whatever he desired internally to say about Jane to say instead, "She's talking about the hyper processed stuff, but there's good sausage out there that's delicious. I promise if I made you hot dogs they'd be good hot dogs."
"There is /definitely/ a New York card," Richard says, his expression going very serious. "You get in big trouble if you lose it. It's a really serious deal."
Gray looks from Richard to Jeremy, because they're pretty sure this is bullshit.
Jeremy returns a poker-faced look, neither confirming nor denying this classified information.
Gray sticks to their guns: "That's not even a thing."
"Well. I'd show you, but we're not allowed to show them to non-New Yorkers," Richard says, solemn-faced. He's not even a good liar.
"That's because the laws of physics won't let you show me a thing that isn't real," Gray says, almost sneerishly precocious. They cross their arms over their chest. (Their T-shirt, incongruously, has Snoopy on it. Doing a Snoopy dance.)
Jeremy cracks up and then hides his mouth behind his hand. "You'd be surprised what the laws of physics will allow," he says.
Richard snorts out his own laugh. "I actually know /multiple/ people who can show you things that aren't real," he says.
"Whatever." The discourse of the defeated, Gray scowls crossly with their arms still hooked over their chest. "Still not a real thing."
"Okay, grumpy gus. Just don't bring the physics unless you know what you're doing." Jeremy swings around to the other side of the bench and sits down on it, digging his heel into the grass as he leans back.
"I know lots of science," Gray claims. "I have science all over. I'm a science wizard."
Richard swallows down his natural instinct to keep up the verbal sparring, perhaps remembering that, well, Gray is a kid. "Science is cool," he agrees. "I mean, there's some pretty cool science in explaining how some people can show you things that aren't there. I don't know if it's physics, but."
"Biology, mostly. Neurochemistry. Neurobiology. Genetics." Jeremy hooks his elbows back over the bench and leans back.
"I don't know any of those. Maybe some bio." Gray makes a long low tsccchht noise. "Mom says when she was a kid they let them take apart frogs in science class and now we can't, which sucks."
"That wasn't actually as fun as it sounds," Richard says with a faint smile. He glances briefly at Jeremy, then looks back to Gray. "You like science?"
"Sure." Gray lifts their chin a little what's-it-to-you about it, a small nerd with some defensiveness issues apparently. "It's not because I'm Japanese, though," they inform Richard with grave certainty. "Just because it's cool."
"Wh--" Jeremy whuffs in surprise and turns to look at him more intensely. "Who's saying that?"
Gray shrugs, animatedly nondescriptive.
"Hey, it's cool, man, I think science is cool too--" Richard doesn't really know what to do with the Japanese comments, though. He looks faintly baffled and looks to Jeremy. "I mean. I definitely wasn't assuming anything like that."
"Are you sure? Mom says white people say that." Gray includes Jeremy in their fishy look, for obvious reasons.
"I-- okay." Jeremy turns backwards on the bench and folds his arms against the back of it, leaning on the brace of his arms. "I mean, first of all, Rich isn't actually 'white people', but that's kind of a derail from what you're saying, so I'll-- just say this," he says. "There are a lot of people out there who are maybe going to assume stuff about you because you're Asian and your mom is right about that, but it's not always going to be everyone you meet. If it were that simple it would be easier to fix." As the resident white person, he gives Richard a kind of blank look, like, am I even in the ballpark of the right thing to say here? as if Rich has any better ideas than he does about this.
"That /is/ definitely a thing that white people would say," Richard can't help but agree, a bit of helpless in his humor. "And it's okay, I look pretty white. But if you're talking about being a science wizard and then someone asks you if you like science, it's probably just because you already gave them a hint." He scrubs his fingers through the back of his hair, trying to contain his smile.
"Okay." Gray twines their fingers loosely together and tips their head, plainly accepting the logic of this. They glance between the two of them, and then ask: "What will people say about the other thing?"
"The other thing," Jeremy prompts, not quite tracking.
"The other way I'm different." Gray drops their hands and shrugs them into their jeans pockets.
Richard's humor fades. He hesitates a long moment, and it's Jeremy that he eventually looks to. Not that he's forgotten his own, you know, entire life since puberty. Eventually, he says, "People will say a lot of different things."
"I mean, it's gonna depend. I hate that that's the answer, but it is. A lot of what people say is going to be mean, or scary." Jeremy fluffs his hand back through his hair and then lets his hand drop to the back of the bench.
Gray chews visibly on their lower lip, frown intense.
"But whatever happens and whatever people say or do," Jeremy continues with quiet earnest, and he reaches out for Richard's hand with one hand and reaches out for Gray's with the other, "you don't have to face it alone. Okay? We're in this together."
Richard hesitates a moment when Jeremy reaches for his hand, almost unsure, before he turns his hand open to clasp his. "Part of it's going to suck," he admits quietly. "But it'll suck a bit less than it would have -- ten, twenty, thirty years ago."
Gray looks skeptical, as many people will when faced with the idea that their parents' generations' lives were mysteriously worse than their own. They stand there for a moment, watching their hand in Jeremy's, and then draw back, tugging their hand free of his fingers. "Yeah, when you show up."
Jeremy's fingers curl loosely into a fist and then drop, but in light of that, his fingers tighten all the more clingily to Richard's clasp, however initially hesitant. Quietly, he says: "I will. I'm trying."
"It's really hard for most mutants who aren't me to get across the country," Richard says quietly, but that's all he says. He does squeeze Jeremy's hand hard, though.
Gray looks at them from critically for a moment, and then shrugs. "Okay," they say. "You guys can just sit here if you want, but I'm going on the swings." Then they turn around and abandon the whole issue of racism, mutancy, and their father's potential abandonment of them to march off to the swingset with intent, having made their point.
Jeremy watches them go, letting a long breath trickle past the purse of his lips like he's not sure what to do with that one.
Richard isn't sure, either, but he does keep his hand firm in Jeremy's as he tugs him along to sit on the bench. It's an easy view of the swings there, and it lets Richard hold the clasp of their hands in his lap. That's clearly much safer. He helps Jeremy keep an eye on Gray, but really what he's doing is just -- sitting with Jeremy. Because that's really what he needs.Jeremy leans against him in the relative quiet of the warm afternoon, and says nothing. Anything he has to say is limited to what may be spoken in their joined hands.