50.1 - Goodbye Leo

In which Summer wraps up some more romantic loose ends.

Summer answers the knock at the door. She feels her heart pounding. I know I invited them here. Nobody else is home. This is the perfect time. The dance is coming up, so… This is the moment I wanted. But now that it’s here, I’m terrified.

It swings open, revealing Aria. Okay, okay. And then Leo. Her heart accelerates.

“Come on in,” she says.

Neither visitor wants tea. Too bad - Summer wanted something to busy herself, to put off what she has to say. She fills the electric kettle with water and makes a big deal out of choosing tea, while Leo and Aria wait in the living room. When she finally comes out, neither one is sitting.

Awkward.

Summer looks down at the steeping tea in the mug in her hand. She sets it down after a few moments, draws breath, and gets right to the point.

“I’m an idiot.”

Not that point, idiot.

“Ever since we talked to the Rossums, I’ve been thinking. Trying to understand his motives made me realize I should revisit my own. I’ve been indecisive and stupid. I remember this feeling as Pneuma. And I felt… stupider than ever, as I saw Aria move past it. I know I’ve been a pain to both of you.”

Both of them immediately react, stepping forward, protesting, but Summer holds up a hand and shakes her head. “It’s… it’s true. And I’m sorry. I apologize.”

Leo offers a reassuring smile. “You should do whatever you need, Summer.”

Aria doesn’t have to speak. She has a quick, warm hug to offer instead, and her face carries all the sympathy and support that Summer needs to keep talking.

Summer draws another breath as Aria pulls back. “This… is what I need. I hope you’ll hear me out…” She looks nervously from face to face, and sees silent agreement.

“I’m … like you in some ways, Leo. I know I’m my own person, but we have some similarities. I think… and tell me if I’m wrong… that what you need most is for me to be happy.”

Her heart warms when he nods.

“Well, what I need is for you to be happy too. So–” She rubs her hands together. “So, you and Aria are happy together. I’m getting what I want. I mean, I’d like a loving, smart, amazing boyfriend --”

“Like, I’m not your first choice, I know, I know, I know I could have asked, I just wasn’t ready. I accept that. And, I wasn’t Jason’s first choice either. I mean, you could say that I’m always gonna be number two, the backup girlfriend option, and that’s really sad and I don’t wanna be that because then nobody really wants me, but y’know what, Jason knew Alycia for years and he spent, like, weeks with me, and I was still an option, so that’s kind of amazing and I’m flattered, and maybe I’m someone worth loving after all, I guess? But y’know, Jason’s been lonely, so maybe he just decided I was a–”

She knows she’s babbling. It’s too late to stop. It’s the breakup speech again, from a year ago, only this time it doesn’t hurt.

“I don’t even know. The point is, Aria did what I didn’t do. She actually asked you for a relationship. Good. That’s good. And - if I meet the right guy - I know I can do the same. But you know? It won’t define my life. I really like Blintzkrieg. I really like school. I thought I wouldn’t, but there’s so many amazing friends, and I feel loved, and welcomed, and it’s so good and so warm–”

She halts, swallows, slows down a bit. “Okay. So, anyway, I know that you always wanted us to feel like our own independent people. Well, I do, Leo. I’m my own girl. I make my own decisions. I have what I want. I’m not going to be anyone’s second choice. You gave me life. Now I’m gonna live it the way I want, which is what you want me to do.”

I’m nobody’s backup. I am me.

Leo blinks. He’s hard to read right now, but it’s clear that her words are having some kind of an effect. Aria’s face, on the other hand, is like a mirror of Summer’s. She knows this struggle. She would have accepted me as Leo’s co-girlfriend, because she knows. I wouldn’t have been competition. But that’s not what this is about.

Summer smiles. Somehow the terror is fading. She feels a warm welling of love for both of the people in front of her. She wants to cry, but in the good way. “So, Leo, this is … this is it. I’ll be one of your best friends, always, I’ll never be out of your life. I still have feelings for you, but I’m not going to pursue them. Aria is everything you’ll ever need. Thank you for being willing to indulge my selfishness.”

Summer speaks again to Leo, now emboldened. “There’s one more thing I have to know, to let go. And there’s only one way to find out.”

She takes a step forward, glances for a split second at Aria questioningly - is this okay? Aria’s nod is as brief - do what you need.

Could I have been the one?”

She advances the rest of the way, takes Leo in her arms, pulls him close, and presses her lips to his in the most passionate kiss she’s ever attempted. It’s only the second one of her life, but it’s her choice, her decision, whatever comes next.

Her eyes are closed. She feels Leo’s body press against her. His arms slide around her waist, and hold her in place. She can feel him responding to the kiss eagerly, whether he wanted to or not.

This is what it feels like to kiss the boy you love.

The two separate and step away from each other, both evidently awkward and blushing.

“Looks like I need to step up my game,” Aria remarks with an arched eyebrow.

Summer looks up in surprise, and a little fear - did I cross a line? - but Aria leans in and hugs her tightly. “I’m proud of you, sis,” she whispers. It’s all that Summer needed to hear.

Aria pulls away, and takes Leo’s hand in hers, only a little bit possessively.

“I’ve always wanted you to be whatever you want,” Leo finally says. “As long as you’re getting what you need, what you want, I’m happy. If I see you at the dance, I’d like at least one dance with you, too. And I’ll always be your friend, no matter what.”

“Me too.” Summer can’t hold back tears any more. The two pull her into a warm, familiar hug. Everything’s going to be alright.

#Cutscene

#Soundtrack Missi Higgins, “Where I Stood”

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6683223

In which Leo and Summer talk about the ethical use of neurotech.

Leo asked for some alone time with Summer, and the look on his face made it clear that this was important. Aria nodded in understanding, and closed the door behind her.

Summer sits down, and Leo sits across from her. He takes the tea, and drinks, collecting his thoughts.

“I’m going to say some things,” he says at last, trying his best to sound soothing. “Some of them will make you feel like you need to blame yourself. I’m telling you right now that you shouldn’t, not for any of it. There is some responsibility here, but it’s 100% on me.”

Summer takes a long breath, trying to calm her suddenly pounding pulse.

Leo drinks a bit more tea. When he sets the mug down, there’s deliberation to it, like he’s steadying himself through the motion.

“When we do operations on living minds using the Heart Factory, we do not leave copies of those minds behind.”

Summer feels the pit of her stomach give way.

“There’s some good and some bad here. That leftover imprint of Jason allowed me to take down an older, corrupt Jason Quill in the future. We didn’t have to kill him, or even damage him seriously. Alycia, hmm, she and I talked about that situation already. I showed her the machine. She removed her snapshot already. And I took care of Jason’s.”

Summer shakes her head. “I’m sorry, Leo, I’m so sorry, I’ll apologize to Jason–”

Leo holds up a hand. “I’ll talk to him. First, because of what I just said. I don’t blame you for anything. I should have told you about this. Second, because I carry the greater weight. What I used that data for. And I was there for it, so I have to give an accounting. If you want to come along for that conversation, I’m okay with that.” He looks up, and smiles. “But if there’s any fault here, I own it. You hear me?”

“I hear you.” Summer sours a bit. This is classic Leo: bear the weight of the world, no matter what’s going on. “But I wanna tell you why I didn’t do that. Because I thought about it. Okay?”

“Go ahead.”

Summer flexes her fingers together. The knuckles would pop, if there was still human bone in there. “Okay. So, this was a pretty risky operation, right? I thought, you know, if they had longer-term mental problems as part of the merge, maybe we should, like, roll back or something? I didn’t want either of them suffering.”

Leo nods. “Yeah, I thought it would be something like that. And that’s admirable. I disagree for moral reasons - we ought not keep possession of someone else’s identity without their knowledge and consent - but we can talk about those technical reasons too. Got some paper and pencils?”

Summer fetches writing implements, and the pair move their operation to the table. For twenty minutes, the two work out equations and computations using the mathematics of Leo’s neurotech. Memetic drift, agent cascade collapse, neural pairing rates, and other factors are measured and assessed. Leo consults his phone several times and transcribes data from there to the pads - he’d come prepared for this part of the discussion.

At the end of it, the two scientists study their handiwork. “So there was a chance of it going wonky,” concludes Summer.

“Yeah, we all knew that, but this quantifies it better. Jason certainly knew the risks. He seemed pretty desperate for a fix.” Leo shakes his head. “This also is also an ethical issue. Doctors take an oath, ‘do no harm’. And both Jason and Alycia maybe couldn’t give legal consent, being minors, but since their parents or guardians were in a parallel universe and presumed dead…. It’s difficult to say. A good question for Ms. GYRO at school. I’ll try to talk to her too. But in the end, I don’t regret saving Jason or Alycia, if that’s what we did.”

Summer clings to this bit of moral hope with the strength of a drowning woman. “Can we just say that it’s good that things turned out so well?”

Leo smiles. “It’s always good when they turn out well. But good or bad, we learn for next time. I think we both learned something here, and I’m glad we did.”

This gives Summer the courage to ask another question. “Will you… are you two…?” She’s not sure how to ask what she wants to know.

“Aria and I are gonna figure some things out,” Leo says. “When I’m ready to talk with Jason, I’ll let you know.”

Summer feels her throat get tight. “I screwed up. I know what you said, but I still feel like I was careless with an important life. Leo, tell me the truth.” She swallows hard. “Can I… be trusted? Like, should I stop working on my own shell, helping Aria with neurotech, is it–”

Leo smiles, in that way he does that radiates confidence. Summer’s pounding heart shuts her mouth immediately. “Don’t stop, not now or ever, unless it’s you that wants to stop. I trust you. But what matters is that you trust yourself. And only you know that.”

She silences her doubts and tries hard to accept this. After a hard moment, she leans close and kisses him on the cheek. “Thank you, Leo.”

He grins, blushing just a bit. “Stay smiling, sunshine girl.”

As the door closes behind him, Summer lays a hand on her chest, feeling for her heartbeat. She had been right, and Leo had been right. She had been wrong, and he had been wrong. This power was terrifying, and exhilarating, and dangerous, and hopeful.

I’ll make you proud. I’ll make you all proud of me.

#Cutscene

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6683230

Image result for feels gif

Truly lovely on all counts.

On an unexpectedly related note, I know we were going to do an rp cutscene with Alycia and Summer re housing. We did sort of elide over the Alycia/Summer rapprochement scene, which was probably my fault. I think we can do the housing question one and backfill some stuff there, but I want to check with you first.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6683800

*** Dave H. said:

On an unexpectedly related note, I know we were going to do an rp cutscene with Alycia and Summer re housing. We did sort of elide over the Alycia/Summer rapprochement scene, which was probably my fault. I think we can do the housing question one and backfill some stuff there, but I want to check with you first.

I feel like they can be the same scene, if you are okay with that. Here’s why.

Alycia had some difficult talks with Summer, then Leo, then a much harsher talking-to from Aria where she seemed to relax a bit. And even then, she had difficulty accepting a hug from Aria, and that’s not even the sister she called “an artifice, a program, … a Faberge Egg” to her face. I don’t think she’s still managed to talk to Otto.

Based on that, it seems in character for her to at most start sending a text or email, or otherwise starting to say something, only to pull back for a variety of reasons, only some of which are clear to her. There could be a bunch of reasons why now is different: Parker is dangling freedom in front of her; she feels more confident after the text with Jason; the others accepted her and are going dress shopping; and so on.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6684310