Supposed to Be

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Their house was three stories high in a neighborhood of other three story houses. They all matched on the outside, but the insides were all different. Napoleon knew this because he'd been into the house across the street, and both houses on either side of his own, and one other that he'd gone into on a whim and never found again. He'd forgotten to check the number.

He wasn't supposed to have gone into any of them. It seemed to him that there wasn't anywhere a twelve year old boy was supposed to be, except at home or in school. Even in those two places, he wasn't supposed to go into Dad's office, or the school's staff room, or other classrooms, or the kitchen at home, or the gun room, or...well, there were a lot of places he wasn't supposed to be.

But sometimes being somewhere he wasn't supposed to be was better than being where he was supposed to be.

Tonight, unfortunately, he was where he belonged. In his room, doing school work, and trying not to hear the yelling from the floor below. This time it was Mom yelling at Dad instead of the other way around. That didn't happen too often. Mostly Dad yelled at Mom: where was dinner, what was she wearing, why had the books in the study been moved, had she been into his office?

Napoleon had tried to interrupt one of these fights, once, but he'd only gotten yelled at by both his parents. He wondered sometimes if they liked screaming at each other. They sure seemed to like talking it over with him after. Mom would tell him at great length while he ate why his father was wrong; Dad would call him into the study (a privilege) and explain in detail that Mom was mistaken, and if he'd just lend a hand to make her see that...

The only thing they seemed to agree on was that Napoleon should keep out of trouble. If the principal had to call them, they teamed up in the yelling whenever he came home from school. It was a very expensive private school and didn't he know what they were doing for him and he ought to show proper respect, and why did he have to stick his nose where it didn't belong?

"Maybe I like it better there than where it does belong," he'd said, mulishly. That got him grounded for a week.

The yelling downstairs slowly grew more and more distinct. Mom and Dad were, apparently, migrating up the staircase. A fragment of conversation slipped under his door... "...don't you ask him, then?"

Great. Now they were going to bring the fight to him.

Napoleon abandoned the schoolwork on his desk and flipped the deadbolt on his bedroom door. Something else that's not supposed to be there. He'd never risked using it before, but tonight he hoped it would buy him a little time.

The window slid open smoothly. Slinging one leg over the sill, Napoleon found the groove beneath the window (it isn't supposed to be there, either) and dug his toes into it. The top of the window casement was just wide enough to grip with his fingertips, allowing him to swing his other leg out. A little shimmy and he was far enough to the side to grab a hold of the drainpipe.

From there it was easy. The drainpipe was magic. Once he had his hands around it and his feet on the braces, he wasn't a boy escaping from his house. He was...a famous thief escaping from jail...a knight climbing down into the depths to rescue a princess...a circus performer descending to center ring...a hundred other things.

This time, he wanted to be someone who went where he wasn't supposed to and got to be proud of it. By the time his feet struck the ground, he was Napoleon Solo, secret agent, carrying microfilm to the drop point, world peace depending on his safe arrival.


He ignored the shout. That wasn't him. He wasn't Leon in a three story townhouse and an expensive private school.

He was Napoleon Solo.