Lee Scanlon stood on the front step of the Dubois household and glanced at his watch. Okay, he was a few minutes early, but you'd think somebody in the house could manage to open the door. He shrugged and knocked a second time. Then he waited some more. He was just getting ready to knock a third time when the door opened, letting out the faint sound of a young child crying.
Allison's husband Joe was standing in the doorway, looking frazzled. "Hi, Detective Scanlon, come on in. Allison should be out in a second." He walked over to the couch without waiting for a reply and placed a harried kiss on top of his middle daughter's head. "Bridgette, honey, go tell Mommy her ride's here," he said, and disappeared down the hall.
"Okay, Daddy," Bridgette yelled after him, but she didn't get up. Instead, she continued putting the finishing touches on the picture she was coloring.
Lee shook his head, amused at the domestic chaos, and stepped inside the house, shutting the door behind him. He sauntered over to the couch and sat on the end. He might as well make himself comfortable; it seemed Allison would be a while. Bridgette glanced over at him briefly with a small smile, but otherwise seemed content to ignore him.
After a few minutes of silence, Lee decided to try to make small talk. "So what are you drawing?"
Bridgette gave one last, decisive scribble with her crayon and held the picture out.
Lee took it and examined it carefully. It seemed to be a gray tube pointing at a red circle, both of which were surrounded by yellow splotches. "Beautiful! Uh. What is it?"
Thankfully, she didn't seem offended. "It's Daddy's work, silly." She pointed at the silver tube. "That's the rocket he's building." Her finger moved to the red circle. "That's Mars. And those," the yellow splotches, "are all the stars in outer space."
An exasperated voice came from behind them. "Bridgette, we talked about that." Joe was holding the baby, rubbing gentle circles on her back. "Daddy's working on a secret project. You can't tell anyone about it. Okay?"
"Okay, Daddy," Bridgette said, not at all abashed.
"And I thought I told you to go get Mommy?"
"Okay," she said brightly, and hopped off the couch and ran back to her mother's bedroom, trailing crayons and construction paper in her wake like a multicolored hurricane.
Lee put the drawing down on the coffee table. "Sorry about that."
Joe smiled ruefully. "It's not your fault. I never said a word about the project to her, but she knew anyway." He shifted Marie into a more comfortable position in his arms and sat down in the armchair next to the sofa.
Lee nodded. "And I suppose the concept of security clearance doesn't mean much to a ten year old."
"No. Bridgette never met a secret she didn't like and want to share with the world."
Lee hesitated, then decided to hell with it and asked anyway. "Is that...hard? Being the only...I don't know, the only normal guy...in a family of psychics?"
Joe looked at him sharply for a moment. Lee didn't know what Joe saw in his face, but whatever it was must have satisfied him, because he just nodded slightly and answered the question. "Most of the time it's not an issue. We lead pretty normal lives and we have a pretty normal marriage, with its ups and downs, just like any relationship. You'd think being married to someone who can read your mind would cut down on the number of stupid misunderstandings, but it doesn't seem to work that way."
Lee snorted. "Of course not; that'd be too easy."
"I didn't believe her, when I first met her," Joe said. "I wish now that I hadn't given her such a hard time about it, back then."
"Yeah." Who would believe something like that? It was a preposterous claim, and the fact that it was true didn't change that. "You're a scientist, right?" he asked. Joe nodded. "I think scientists must be kind of like cops. We need evidence. You can make whatever claims you want; if you can't prove it, it doesn't mean much. And Allison -- she's her own living proof, isn't she. It just...takes a little time to see it."
Joe smiled a delighted smile. "Exactly! And fortunately I didn't make too much of an idiot of myself before I saw what was in front of me." Marie made a sleepy sound and squirmed a little, pressing her face into her father's chest.
Lee nodded towards her. "Do you ever wish that your kids weren't...." Fearing he'd gone a bit too far, he trailed off.
"Hmmm...sometimes. It's hard on them, to know so much about people. The older they get, the harder it is."
"I bet," Lee murmured. That was the worst part of what he did for a living -- knowing all the horrible, stupid things people were capable of doing to each other, while the rest of the world went on in happy ignorance. He'd come to terms with his own loss of innocence a long, long time ago, but the thought of children -- of these bright, happy girls -- being put into that position through no choice of their own made him ache a little.
"I have to keep telling myself to look at Allison," Joe was saying quietly, as if talking to himself. "She struggled with this thing for years, and she turned out all right. She's this amazing, self-possessed, utterly capable woman, and a big part of that is because of all the crap she's had to deal with. She knows who she is."
"And she has you, too."
"Uh," Lee said, embarrassed. "She has you. You help keep her grounded. It seems that way to me, anyway." He cleared his throat.
Joe had an odd expression on his face -- he wasn't smiling, but something in his eyes made it seem like he should be. Lee glanced away. "So," Joe said. "To answer your question: is it hard living with psychics? Yes. But--"
Allison finally emerged from the bedroom, dressed and ready to go. "Sorry to keep you waiting, Lee!" She gave Joe a brief peck on the lips. "Hi, sweetie."
"Hello, gorgeous," he said, and pulled her in for a much longer and more thorough kiss.
Allison grinned at him when he finally let her go. "What was that for?"
"That was just to say good morning and thank you."
"For being you." Joe smiled at her and looked over at Lee. "I wouldn't have it any other way."