The Thingness of Being

by Amanda

Once upon a time Mel wrote a story. It was called Desperate Times, Ramen Noodles and introduced the (very thinly disguised) self-insertion character, Naomi Chandler. Naomi was so popular that the saga continued in Winning Bet and The Land Of The Beautiful People. If you don't know these stories, I'd suggest you go and read them at Luba's wonderful Fonts of Wisdom site (go here: ).

Then Mel kind of stopped. But those of us who love Naomi and get ideas for stories with Thing in the title continued. So here it is - the next of the Naomi saga, fully endorsed by Mel and kind of a Christmas present for her. Hopefully this will prod her into finishing her next story!

All feedback sent will be forwarded to Mel, so feedback away. Again, with the prodding.

Disclaimer: Most of the mentioned/appearing characters are Marvel's. Naomi is Mel's and is used with permission. No money will be made but hopefully some delighting will happen.

There were feet.

There definitely should not be feet.

It was a decidedly beautiful evening - moonless but so clear that the starlight limned everything in silver, balmy and perfect. It was the kind of evening where you expected to find Storm and Rogue drifting overhead in quiet delight or courting couples on the benches scattered around the ground.

What you didn't expect to see on those benches, decided Bobby, was feet.

Female feet, for sure. They were too shapely to belong to any of the current male inhabitants of the household. For a startled moment he wondered whether they were actually attached (he was an X-Man - detached feet were a distinct possibility - heck, detached sentient feet that had come to warn them of an alien takeover of the galaxy wouldn't have surprised him unduly) but then he walked round the other side of the bench and saw their owner.

'Naomi,' he said.

She looked up at him from where she lay on the grass, her feet propped up on the bench. 'Bobby,' she replied.

'What'cha doing?'

'Watching,' she said, waving an arm somewhat vaguely at the sky. 'Things.'

He looked up at the glorious sweep of stars, the deep velvet blackness of the night sky. The grass was cool beneath his bare feet, but not damp, and the air was warm. Watching suddenly seemed like a very fine plan. 'Can I join you?' he asked.

'Course,' replied Naomi, shuftying over to the side.

He lay down beside her, propped his own feet up on the bench. A deep silence settled. The stars were beautiful. The sky was cloudless. The grass was soft. The night was fragrant. There were things. If he wanted to be technical about it there were, in fact, all sorts of things.

Bobby Drake was always the very first person to admit that he had the attention span of a chipmunk on crack.

To be rather generous to him, it was at least two minutes before he began to squirm and three before he couldn't take it any longer. He reached out into the air, where the fine moisture clustered, keeping the atmosphere just below the threshold of humid. Where his power touched, the water crystallised and within seconds ice began to form in the teeny tiny patch over Naomi's nose. A few seconds later it very gently began to snow on her face.

'Dude,' said Naomi, looking up in enraptured joy at the glittering display inches above her, positively squeaking with delight as the ice crystals melted against the tip of her nose. 'Do you know how cool that is?'

'Actually,' replied Bobby, 'I know *exactly* how cool that is.'

Naomi blushed. Audibly.

Bobby grinned into the darkness. 'Made you blush,' he said.

She blushed even harder, melting the snow on her cheeks. 'How can you tell?' she squeaked out.

'Your face is Less Cool,' he explained.

She sighed. 'An uncool face. Man, that is just so depressing.'

'Not uncool. Less Cool. More hot.' He struggled with the explanation, as he always did. 'It's all temperature differentials, you know. Because that's the way . . .' He trailed off as he realised Naomi was laughing. 'You weren't serious,' he said, accusingly.

'Often not,' she responded.

'So what are you doing out here?' he asked. 'Watching things? I mean, it sounds serious. Very philosophical.'

'Just, you know, watching,' replied Naomi. 'Because there's Henry, you know, and he's just - you get talking to him and then he makes you laugh and then you have to think because, you know, Henry.'

Bobby eyebrows wandered in some confusion around his forehead, attempting to decipher the sentence. When he did, his eyebrows decided that a little furrow was warranted, followed by a small sampling of rising in surprise. 'You mean, you understand the big blue guy? His whole - big blue guyness?'

Her tone was definitely shy, as if she was confiding in him. 'Man, he's just - a dude.'

'He is,' said Bobby. 'Most people don't get that.' He hadn't really had much of a chance to get to know Naomi, her work keeping her mostly immured in the lab with Beast, but he decided rather suddenly that he liked her. Anyone who understood the sheer wholesome big blue guyness of Henry McCoy was always going to have a running start on Bobby liking them. 'So he drove you out here,' he added.

'We were talking. About everything. The whole - everything. Like cosmology and quantum mechanics and Einstein and molecular biology and the healing power of Twinkies and - everything. So. Out here. Because. Out there.' She waved her arm again, taking in the sweep of the Universe above them.

Bobby Drake was an accountant. It had robbed him of many things: the chance to date hot girls in college, the option of naming a really cool and interesting career when asked what he did in singles bars, the possibility of not waking in sweaty fear every April when the Professor once again asked him to work out a way to claim the complete reconstruction of the Mansion as a tax write-off. But it hadn't robbed him of his sense of boundless wonder at the mysteries of the Universe. 'Yeah,' he agreed. 'The stars are amazing, aren't they?'

'Not just stars,' said Naomi. 'All of it.' She waved again, a wave that encompassed the stars and her toes and all things in between. 'Stars, yeah, but toes, too. The muscles and the cells and the interactions. And galaxies. And weather. Like the whole thing and it's just so - you know. *Thing*.'

'Thing?' asked Bobby.

'Thing,' she said again, decisively. 'The thingness of being. That's what it is.'

Bobby thought about that for a while, rolling it around in his head, before he grinned. 'The thingness of being. I get that.'

'Man,' agreed Naomi and the pair lapsed into comfortable silence for as long as Bobby could stand it.

Thirty seconds later he said, 'So, do you know the names of the stars?'

'Southern Cross,' said Naomi. 'Not,' she added, 'very helpful. Wrong hemisphere and all.'

'No, not those stars,' said Bobby, somewhat scornfully. 'The real stars. Their real names.'

'Real names?' asked Naomi.

'Yeah,' said Bobby and pointed at a patch right above them. 'See that? That is The Guy With One Enormous Foot.'

'The Guy With One Enormous Foot?' asked Naomi, somewhat startled.

'Just tilt your head a bit. And squint. And think like a four year old,' said Bobby, sagely.

Naomi took his advice and several seconds later made a noise that could only be written as '!'. 'Yeah, I see him,' she said.

'And those there?' Bobby pointed and Naomi nodded. 'That's The Nearly Straight Line.' He was rewarded with a giggle. 'And my personal favourite.' He waggled his hand at a rather crowded patch of the sky.

'What's that?' asked Naomi, her voice pre-emptively cheerful.

'That is The Great Big Bucket Of Dots,' said Bobby, very very seriously, and this time was rewarded by hysterical laughter.

Stars and laughter. Toes and galaxies and everything in between. And, Bobby realised with sudden surprise, a girl. A Less Cool girl. A living, breathing and not running in screaming fear and/or hatred girl. A rather, if he did think so himself, attractive girl. With things. Like a sense of humour.

'Your dad's not an evil overlord, by any chance?' Bobby asked quietly. He had to be sure.

Naomi choked off her giggles, answered with a startled, 'No!' She hiccupped for a moment and then added, 'They common around here?'

Bobby grinned into the night. 'You have no idea,' he replied and Naomi laughed again.

With an agonising casualness, Bobby created the tiniest of ice-slides beneath his hips and inched his way closer to Naomi, until he could feel her Less Coolness radiating against him. He lowered his voice, inclining his head closer to hers. 'So, the big blue guy. How're you two getting on?'

Naomi, unconsciously, leaned her head closer to his and began whispering back to him.

A living, breathing, attractive, not running in fear and/or hatred girl whose father was not an evil overlord, who was Less Cool and was whispering into his ear from a rather delightfully close range. For a short moment, Bobby couldn't hear a word she was saying (although there were some things that sounded suspiciously like "thing"), too busy grinning his triumph into the sky, thanking the stars and the toes and everything in between.

The thingness of being was definitely working overtime tonight.

The End

"To live at all is miracle enough." Mervyn Peake