In His Image
His excitement mounted as he neared Burns' Manor, peddling as fast as his old hand-me-down bike would carry him. He couldn't wait to show Mr. Burns a smile that wasn't full of metal for once. He skidded to a stop directly in front of the black, wrought iron gates. These strange, new feelings he'd developed for Mr. Burns were a little scary and at times overwhelming for the sixteen-year-old to fully understand.
It wasn't that he was naive about such matters of the heart, but it was the fact that this was Mr. Burns he was dealing with, a man of the world. A real old fashioned gentleman with refined taste and all the frills of the posh lifestyle. He had really lived the high life and had rubbed elbows with the best of them from celebrities to the big-shot millionaires.
He'd had a life full of adult experiences, gorgeous women, a closet full of expensive clothes and shiny polished shoes. What could he possibly ever see in little Waylon Smithers Jr, a mere ghost of his father's image? He was nothing more than a kid in Burns' eyes and at times, he felt as if he were a nuisance when all he really wanted was the friendship and acceptance of the only male figure he'd ever had to look up to.
As he stood there peering past the iron gates, lamenting over circumstances beyond his control, his eyes were suddenly drawn to the object of his distraction as he exited the mansion. Mr. Burns was dressed to kill, as always, in his white, pin-striped suit and hat. He would have stood there admiring him from afar a little longer if Burns hadn't noticed his presence. He gasped, his heart racing at being caught so blatantly staring.
"Waylon? Is that you?" the familiar voice called.
"Yes sir!" he called back, his voice cracking awkwardly.
"Well don't stand out there staring all day like a lost puppy, get in here." Burns ordered.
Waylon jostled the gates which he found opened easily, emitting a loud creak as they swung open. He walked up the long driveway to where Burns stood near the steps and stopped in front of him. He swallowed as he got a closer look at just how debonair and sophisticated the older gentleman was dressed with his red tie and matching red feather tucked neatly in to the band of his hat. He drank in the site of the man for a moment, complete lost in his own little world until Burns' voice brought him back to reality.
"What's wrong? Cat got your tongue young lad or did you forget how to speak?" Burns laughed. Waylon felt his face growing hot as he struggled to find an appropriate response.
"Ah...uh...y-you... you look so..." he muttered. His eyes widened with embarrassment when he realized what he was about to say and upon seeing the perplexed look Burns was giving him he quickly added, "I meant... I meant...ah..." he froze suddenly as Burns eyes were fixed intently on him, almost melting under that gaze.
"Waylon." Burns interrupted, leaning closer to him. His breath hitched in his throat as Mr. Burns gently reached for his face, turning it to the side as he inspected the swollen, bruised cheek he'd sustained from the fight earlier. "What have you done to your face? You look as if you've been in a good old fashioned knock-down-drag-out!" Burns paused, inspecting the injury. "Did you deck him one too?" he added with a sly grin.
"Uh... I... um..." Waylon muttered breathlessly as Burns' fingers still lingered on his face.
"Gotten yourself into another schoolyard brawl?" Burns asked, but for the life of him, Waylon could barely muster a response, he only stared back at him with a glazed over, lovestruck look that he couldn't seem to shake.
"Uh..." he replied feebly. He could read the confusion, perhaps even suspicion in the older man's eyes and only hoped Burns couldn't read the state of pure hormone-induced distraction he was in.
"No matter." Burns withdrew his hand and sighed in defeat, unable to get a complete sentence out of him. Waylon took a deep breath, his hole body feeling both relief and protest at the loss of contact. Mr. Burns stepped back and turned to leave. "Come along inside then, those wounds need to be attended to."
Waylon stood still in his tracks, watching as Burns ascended the steps to his mansion. Why was he being so generous today? Of course he had always been welcome in Burns' home, but today the man seemed a little more caring than usual, an almost somber look about him.
Waylon shook his head, awakening from his love-struck stupor and rushed to catch up to him.
- o - o - o -
"Sir, would you like me to deal with Mr. Smithers?" came the resonant, yet formal voice of Mr. Burns' butler as he greeted them at the door. His name was Raymond and he was the paragon of everything that a butler should be, black hair slicked back neatly, impeccably dressed for work as always. Waylon had always thought Burns' servants were luckiest lot as they got to spend so much time at the mansion serving Burns and actually getting paid for it. Oh how he envied them.
"That won't be necessary Raymond. I can handle it." Burns waved him away and continued onward towards the back room past the grand staircase. "Come along Waylon." Burns called without turning back. Waylon followed him down the hallway until Burns stopped in front of the bathroom upon which he opened the door and stood aside, motioning for him to enter. Waylon hesitated a moment, unaccustomed to the five-star treatment Burns was bestowing upon him, but he didn't question it and entered the bathroom. Burns crossed the room, rummaging through the cabinet beneath the sink.
The room was large and airy, much larger than the average bathroom with its golden arches reaching the high ceiling and hues of rich gold and pale coral. White drapery and various decoratively placed house plants finished off the decor with sophistication, but Waylon's favorite part of the room had always been the large mural behind the tub depicting various spiny seashells centered between two windows over-looking the forest behind the property.
He walked over to the sink and leaned over to look into the mirror, assessing his injuries and finally getting a painful look at the nasty, half-inch gash marring his right eyebrow and the large purple bruise that he now sported on his right jaw as well as the scuff marks and dirt from where he hit the ground when he fell. He winced at the sight.
"Damn that really looks bad doesn't it?" Waylon muttered. In the mirror, he could see Burns approaching him from behind. He hated Burns seeing him like this, being used as a punching bag. He and everyone else probably assumed that he never fought back and just took it like a door mat.
Mr. Burns leaned closer and brought a damp cloth to Waylon's forehead, hovering it cautiously over the scar on his forehead which still throbbed with a pain, but at least it was subsiding even if minimally. His whole body jumped involuntarily, partly out of pain, but mostly out of the fact that Burns was so close and touching him in such a caring way. Burns abruptly pulled his hand away, his face full of concern like Waylon had rarely seen before.
"It looks worse than it really is." Waylon uttered.
"Nonsense Waylon. I barely even touched you and you were practically writhing with pain." Burns gently grabbed Waylon's arm and turned him towards himself for better access. "We should clean these wounds before the germs settle in."
Waylon braced him self, gritting his teeth as Burns carefully swiped the warm cloth across the wound, a myriad of conflicting emotions coursed through him ranging from sharp pain, elation, to downright confusion. Why was Burns doting over him like a mother hen all of a sudden? Rare was it that he saw actual concern behind those often callous eyes.
Burns took some medicine from the first aid kit he had laid on the counter and dabbed some of it onto the scars. He had to admit, he had been aware, for a couple of years now, the effect Mr. Burns had on him, yet nothing had ever messed with his sensitive hormones and emotions as much as Burns did now as he leaned in so close, close enough to kiss him if he so dared, however unlikely that was. The sight of the man, all polished and donning his best attire, his red satin tie, his white, feathered hat perched slightly askew, rich cologne mixed with the heady scent of old money and a scent that was uniquely his alone, it was all too much to bare for the confused young Waylon as he let out a small whimper.
"What? I wasn't even touching you then, stop being such a lily-livered recreant." Burns responded. He was thankful that Burns couldn't look into his mind right now and see all of the turmoil and teen-aged lust he was experiencing at the moment.
It was still surprising to himself how he was reacting. Never had he been attracted to someone so much older than himself, someone he considered an integral fixture in his life since his memories allowed. He took a deep breath as Burns finally placed the bandage across the scar, sealing the duration of their closeness.
"There. All patched up and ready to go." Burns took a step back to admire his handwork. Still, he wore that slightly mournful, distant look, his eyes betraying his calm facade. He looked as if the weight of the world had been suddenly thrust upon him and he was unsuccessfully trying to suppress it.
"Sir, if I may ask... Is everything okay? Why are you being so nice to me today?"
"Hm? Oh, nothing's wrong. I'm perfectly fine." said Burns stoically, almost as if trying to convince himself more than anything. "And what do you mean nice? I'm always nice to you!" he quipped.
"Forgive me sir, at times it seems you barely tolerate my presence. It's those rare times... when you let your carefree, childish side show through and allow me into your exciting world... those are the times that I cherish the most."
"Smithers... Why are you going all sappy on me? Now of all times..." Burns spoke with annoyance as he stalked off towards the door, yet Waylon could still hear the unmistakable hint of despair as his sentence trailed off, voice wavering unstably.
It wasn't lost by him either, the fact that Mr. Burns had addressed him as Smithers, a title that had been mostly reserved for his father. Not Mr. Smithers, but simply Smithers. Sure it was a surname, but the way Burns used it in such a familiar, intimate way was endearing. As if they were old pals and more than just boy and older father figure.
"Why? Something's going on. I know it." Waylon persisted. Mr. Burns remained static, standing with his back to him near the door. He hesitated a few seconds before answering.
"It's nothing for you to worry about... just ghosts from the past you could say." Burns sighed. Now it was Waylon's turn to hesitate, cautiously approaching a subject that he know would likely result in Burns attempting to hush him up and change the subject uncomfortably.
"Is this about my father?" Waylon treaded cautiously towards him.
"Perceptive young lad aren't you?" said Burns without turning around, his hands clasped securely behind his back as if to shield himself from the uncomfortable scrutiny he was under. "A real chip off the old block..."
"So I've heard." Waylon added.
"Waylon. Today is the ninth of December is it not?"
"Yes." he replied.
"It has been fifteen years then..." Burns trailed off wistfully.
He knew by Burns' tone what the man was referring to, finally he knew the source of Burns' lament. It was the anniversary of his father, Waylon Sr.'s death. He felt guilty for not feeling as sad as he should, but it wasn't if he had ever known the man since he had died when he was hardly a year old.
"Sir I... I'm sorry. I didn't know." He felt a little guilty for letting the day's date slip his mind and wanted nothing more than to reach out and wrap his arms around Burns. Figuring that would be greatly overstepping the man's boundaries he opted to reach out and place a hand on Burns' shoulder instead. Burns started at the touch.
"For a moment, you reminded me of him just then, always ready to offer a comforting hand on the shoulder." Burns laughed sadly. "I'm fine really. I've got a thick skin Waylon," Burns stated defiantly, turning around to face him. "but occasionally... memories hit you when you least expect it, you know?" his tone softened, speaking just above a whisper as he avoided his gaze. "Seeing you... your likeness is uncanny. Hm... you wouldn't understand." Burns shook his head. "What tragedies could you have possibly endured?"
"Sir, I may not have led a life full of experiences yet, but I understand sadness. I've heard my mother cry herself to sleep at night. My stepfather, never approving of anything I've done... not one damn thing..." Waylon snapped, letting his irritation that Burns would be so dismissive get the best of him. "I wish you could understand that I'm not the same little kid anymore. I wish you could at least see me as a friend. I may not be my father, but I can be there when he can't." Waylon avowed passionately.
"You're right. I don't give you nearly enough credit do I?" Burns laughed, his usual vigor for life slowly returning with warm laughter. "If you are anything like him, then I know you'd be capable of anything." He then surprised Waylon by ruffling his fingers through his hair playfully making it even more spiky and unruly before exiting the room.
If anything, Waylon was grateful that he had managed to cheer the man up, even if it was his likeness to his father that had gotten Burns into such a downed mood in the first place.
A. N. - After 15 years, I think Mr. Burns would still be sad for his lost friend even though the pain must have considerably faded. The anniversary of a death can bring back the pain, even if momentarily. Conversely, the episode "The Blunder Years" that featured Waylon Sr. first aired on Dec 9th.