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Some Strange Country

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“No, no, no,” JJ says, attempting to shoulder Ellie away from the eggs in the pan at the stove, “You’re gonna burn them-- again.”

“I think I can handle cooking eggs,” Ellie returns, refusing to give up any space, “You’re twelve, what do you know about cooking?”

“Apparently more than you ,” JJ says, making a grab for the spatula, “You have to stir them--”

“I’m trying , will you get out of the way--”

“Oh, great, now they’re burnt--”

“They’re not burnt , look--”

Ellie uses the spatula to push at the yellow-ish lump in the pan but it doesn’t budge.

“They’re not burnt,” She repeats stubbornly, “Just...stuck. To the bottom of the pan.”

JJ folds his arms, stares at her.

“You’re not allowed to cook anymore,” He says flatly.

“What--”

“You’re bad at it. You’re bad at cooking.”

“Yeah? Well...you’re short.”

“At least I’m not old,” JJ says, backing away from the stove, heading for his bag by the back door, “I’ve got time to grow but you’re always gonna be old. Old and burning eggs.”

“That’s it--” Ellie says, pushing at the eggs a little more aggressively, “You’re grounded.”

“Or you can just cook dinner tonight--that’s punishment enough for any crime,” JJ shoulders on his backpack, pauses, “Oh, have we thought about that--instead of a jail, we could just have you cook for people who do bad stuff--that’ll make them think twice--”

“Double grounded,” Ellie says, pulling the smoking pan off the stove altogether, “Wait--where are you going, you haven’t even had breakfast--”

“It’s fine, Mom,” He says dismissively, “I’m meeting Walker at the Bison, we’ll grab something to eat there--”

“Walker?” Ellie repeats, leaving the smoking pan in the sink, “Claire Walker?”

“Yeah,” JJ says hurriedly--he has to get out the door before she asks too many more questions, “Yeah, we’re on stable duty today.”

“And you need your backpack for stable duty?” Ellie says suspiciously, eyes narrowed, “Every time you go out the door with that backpack, someone ends up yelling at me. Every time I see Dolly she has to remind me how shell shocked her chickens still are after last summer--”

“No chickens,” He promises, hand held up, palms out, “Honest.”

Ellie sighs with resignation. 

“Fine,” She says, and she holds out a hand, “Just don’t break anything. Like...bones or property or spirits. Please.”

JJ reaches out, completes a high-five that rounds into a swift series of gestures, a combination only the two of them really know. They’re own secret handshake. Their version of a hug.

“Thanks, Mom,” He says in a rush, “I’ll see you guys tonight.”

Ellie watches him slip out the door. She leans back against the counter. Looks into the sink at the blackened lump of in the pan.

“Fuck off, eggs…” She mutters darkly.