Ma Rue

“What?” Shad Rue choked out around a mouth full of General Tso’s Chicken, sure the he’d somehow misheard his older brother.

I’m starting a ghost hunting business,” Ted Rue repeated with no small amount of obvious annoyance on his bearded face. He spoke very clearly around a fork full of beef and broccoli. “Already got a few cases lined up. You gonna help or what?”

Shad swallowed and scraped down the sides of his takeout box for the last little bits of food. He should’ve known something was up when Ted came home with the food. His brother never sprung for Great China’s food. It cost more than Kung-Pao Chicken’s and Ted never paid a single penny more on anything than he had to, quality be damned.

Which also meant there was more coming than Ted’s decision to turn Ghostbuster. Shad’s help in any of Ted’s harebrained ideas was a given for as long as he lived in his brother’s spare bedroom.

“Okay,” Shad drew the word out, letting his brother hear his suspiciousness, “and?”

Ted picked a shred of broccoli out of his beard and flicked it into Shad’s empty container. Unconcerned with his brother’s tine of voice. Possibly because he heard it so often. “Got a guy out on a farm, about five miles south of Bairnes. Says his horses are being messed with at night and it ain’t kids doing it. He’s willing to pay a nice little sum for your insight into it. And even more if we make it go away.”

“My insight,” Shad dropped the box and fork on the coffee table and glared at his brother. “You told someone?!”

“Every group’s got a psychic. People expect it now days,” Ted reached out and roughly patted Shad’s shoulder in the useless placating gesture he used every time he threw Shad under the bus. “It helps that you’re a real one.”

“That’s not the fucking point!” Shad growled as he shoved Ted’s hand away and fell back on the couch. Slouching until his long legs came out the other side of the table. It wasn’t something he was proud of, his little scrap of psychic ability. The barest shadow of what their mother had when she was alive. “I don’t want anyone to know!”

“Hey, take it easy,” Ted said. He leaned back next to Shad, jostling him with the weight shift on the creaking couch. “Guy already knew about it. He used to talk to Ma a lot. Said she’d told him he’d need you in the future, and not to hesitate in asking.”

And that. That felt like a kick to the gut to Shad. Nearing fifteen years since Emily Rue passed away and they were still getting hit with the things she’d done, the things she’d left for them. Mail sent out from perfect strangers in her handwriting when things were particularly bad for either of them. Ted’s house, willed to him by an old woman who’d never spoken to either of them, but spoke glowingly of Emily in her will. People stopping them in the street to relate a story or fact that Emily had asked them remember for that particular day.

“Goddammit, Ted,” Shad sighed and closed his eyes, because now there was no doubting that he’d help. It wasn’t Ted or the farmer asking. It was Ma. Asking in that gentle way of hers that never stopped even after she was buried. Shad could almost hear her soft laughter and voice, gently urging him to use his gift. To stretch just a little farther, push a little harder.

“Yeah,” Ted agreed with a grunt. Reaching out to lazily pick up his warm bottle of beer. “What can you do though? You know she loves us.”

Loves. Not loved, because their Ma had always been a force of nature and death hadn’t stopped her from taking care of her two sons. Shad smiled, wry and rueful because there weren’t many people who had to deal with meddling from beyond the grave.

“Yeah,” Shad rolled up enough to grab his own bottle. Grimacing at the lukewarm beer. God only knew why Ted liked it that way. “Love you to, Ma.”

Ted tilted his bottle up in an agreeing toast and they drank in silence. Neither of them had to pretend very hard to hear a light laugh and warm presence wrap around them.


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