55.2 - The Butterfly Effect (Alycia and Summer)

The hardest thing to do is wait.

She wants to track Summer down, right then and there. She wants to sit in the basement and compose a chickenshit email back. She wants wants to run off and enlist with AEGIS as an operative somewhere very far from Halcyon. She wants to pretend she never got the email.

Various things – honor, anger, fear, stubbornness, duty – stop her.

She waits, then. Until Summer is back at the house. Back in her room. No sound of other footsteps creaking on the floor above. Or voices filtering through. So 97.3% likely by herself.

Alycia realizes if she just keeps taking deep breaths, she’s either going to fall asleep or hyperventilate. Neither is going to address what she needs to do.

Neither will worrying about what she should wear. And, no, my armor is not an option.

She climbs the stairs from the basement. Goes down the short hall. Knocks on Summer’s door. Three short raps.

And then she waits.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6855324

“Just a second, I’m changing.”

There’s the sound of a click, coming from the room - something mechanical locking into place.

A few seconds later, the door opens to reveal Summer, still pulling her shirt down. Her face freezes for just a moment, considering that what she did might have actually had some kind of effect and realizing that she has no idea what it might be.

Then she smiles.

“Hi. Sorry. I’m here, what’s up?”

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6855372

Alycia feels a brief surge of curiosity about what was going on. I’d love to take her apart and understand – and that thought horrifies her with its mindlessness such that her already not-terribly-coherent thought processes seize up and need a quick reboot. Instead, she just waves around her mobile for a few moments, until she can pick up her planned text. “I got your email. And, uh, yes, of course, I read the four docs.” That’s about as far as she goes for the moment.

Her face is fairly impassive, but her body is tense – shoulders slightly hunched, but also weight bobbling almost imperceptibly on the balls of her feet.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6855426


Summer hesitates. Her face is expressive and animated, despite her lack of coherent sentences.

“Good.” It’s not good at all.

“I mean. I sent them to you. So. Good.”

Some semblance of organized thought penetrates her skull, and her mouth gets in gear. “I’m listening to you. I wanted you to know that. I’m sorry for embarrassing you by being a stupid kid. You’ve been patient with me, and I’m grateful.” And in spite of her uncertainty, she is, if her face is to be believed.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6855445

Alycia opens her mouth, then closes it again. She cocks her head, opens her mouth again, then closes it. Closes her eyes a moment, too, then opens them. Draws a breath, lets it loose.

Her face relaxes, and nods. “My apologies in advance. I am – not good, dealing with – conflicting strong emotions.” Her voice is a calm, almost somnolent, calmer than it should be. “I’m a creature of both reason and of focus. ‘Simplicity of cause and clarity of passion’. When pulled in different directions, I --” She pauses. “I don’t function well, Summer. So I apologize for that. I’m trying to restrain that poor functioning.”

She draws a breath. “I am sorry for hurting you. I let some personal aesthetic idiosyncrasies and, secondarily, concerns about you, to hurt you. To make you uncertain about yourself. Your --” Her mouth works for a moment, before continuing. “-- your purity of spirit is something – precious.” The word almost pulled out of her lips. “I deeply, deeply regret if --” A flicker of furrowed brow, drawn up lip. “-- I regret what I’ve done to hurt that. You – deserve better.” Her mouth is open, then closes, thin-lipped.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6855713

Summer visibly relaxes. The smile remains, and if anything deepens.

“I don’t know what I deserve. Can I be happy with what I have, and who I have it with?” she asks, and reaches out a hand. She doesn’t quite touch Alycia’s arm, mindful of what was just said about strong emotion - maybe even a little contact is too much for her, sometimes - but makes it clear that she can be met halfway.

“I probably made a mistake sending that stuff to you so soon, after everything that’s happened… I just… I wanted you to see me.” She curls her lips into a sadder form of her smile. “Thank you for reading it anyway.”

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6855750

I am the Heir of Achilles Chin. I have been raised to feel nothing but righteous anger, to believe in nothing but the inevitability of dominion, to be the avatar of humanity’s salvation, to …

That smile cuts like a knife.

I have been brought up to trust nothing. No blandishment or complement. No attempt at manipulation, no appeal to mercy, no dissent from the Great Cause, Father’s Mission …

_He would tell me to mistrust that sad smile. Those calm, innocuous words. _

He would mock me. He would deride my sentimentality, my weakness. He would consider me unworthy.

She closes her eyes. She sees his face, the contemptuous laughter. The anger. The pain it promised. The penance it portended. The punishment …

Alycia reaches out, without looking, taking Summer’s hand. She squeezes it, tightly (for a human).

Fuck him. dammit. Fuck him to hell. I am me_. And what_ she feels matters more than what he does.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6855973

Summer takes the hand, pulling Alycia gently into a hug, with just enough gap to allow a graceful exit at any time.

“I’m really a mess right now,” she whispers. “I broke up with my first boyfriend - twice. I’m - I’m having to learn everything over. It means a lot that you’re sticking with me, and you have all your own stuff going on too…”

She suddenly laughs, a strange sound when mixed with that of choked-back tears. “I’m gonna make sure you get free blintzes for life.”

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6856019

“I lead an active life. But not active enough to deal with bottomless blintzes,” Alycia says. She returns the hug, stiffly – or, perhaps, just awkwardly. “I’m a fucking mess, too,” she whispers. “If you – I’m just … rrg.”

Silence, a moment. Then, “When I run, it’s not because of you, it’s because of me.” Her voice drops even lower. “Being afraid.” A deep breath. “Please, _please, _don’t let me ruin you.”

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6856103

Summer pulls back, not to gain distance, but so that Alycia can see her. She keeps hold of her hands.

She puts on what she hopes is her best impish face, the one that says she’s not being serious. “Well, I was gonna fatten you up with sugar until you couldn’t stop me, then become Blintz Bitch and take over Halcyon’s coffee shops, but ya ruined that one, ya do-gooder!”

Her smile returns, full force. “In all other ways, Alycia Chin, you have been a blessing in my life. I promise.”

“I know that he’s in your head. Might always will be. I know that being friends will take time, and work. I know the fear may never go away completely. So I’ll keep reminding you of what a kind, amazing person you are, and how much I need that, whenever you need to hear it.”

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6857042

There’s the faintest trace of a smile on Alycia’s lips. “Likely often, though it causes enough cognitive dissonance sometimes that it makes me want to scream – or, yes, run away.” She closes her surprisingly wet eyes, shakes her head slightly. “Thank you for saying it, though. I won’t quibble on the words, but knowing you hold me in high regard … helps more than you know.”

A few moments later, she opens her eyes again. “And you – you epitomize the magical butterfly princess hero, Summer. And yes, there’s still a part of me that says that with a bit of snark, but – it’s also true, and a good thing. I might even call you my magical butterfly princess hero, but then either my head would explode or I’d have to shoot myself.” Alycia smirks briefly, then sobers. “I was wrong to object to something that brought you such joy, and if you won’t get angry about it, I’ll have to on your behalf.” She arches an eyebrow.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6857212

This is probably too much for Summer to easily process. She pulls back a bit, looking confused.


“…I mean that’s incredibly nice of you to say, and I’m touched…” This much is true - her eyes are watering up again.

“…I’m not sure I know what you’re saying, though.” She pauses as a thought occurs to her, and reaches for her phone. On the screen is the Tweet sent by Troll, and others like it. “Fail-or Moon”. Other criticisms of the useless butterfly princess that just hovered there. No points for guessing how long she’s been staring at those.

She holds the phone up for inspection. “I thought… I thought it would hurt more, but it didn’t at all. These people are laughing at me, like you said, and… it doesn’t matter to me. Their opinion doesn’t mean anything to me. Yours did. Does.” She’s either sincere about this, or an excellent actress.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6857594

If Summer is willing to shrug off the cruel comments, Alycia is not. Her face gets red, her brow furrows, and she mutters something too soft and .garbled to even tell what language it’s supposed to be. Maybe Turkish. “Yes. This sort of shit.” She flexes her fingers as though wishing they could go around – or through – someone’s neck. “Okay, I don’t care what it takes, the team has to stay together long enough to run into Troll one more time. Just. Saying.” The words are jovial. The facial expression is not. It’s even possibly daunting.

She visibly reins in her anger, and her eyes go back up to Summer’s. “I’m really sorry I was ‘right’ about that. And even if it doesn’t bug you, it’s shit you shouldn’t have to put up with, because it was meant to hurt. Sort of like a broken thumb or two would be.” She glowers at the phone.

And sighs again. “Anyway. My words hurt. I saw that in the the things you wrote. I’m really sorry. I’d break my own thumbs, but it wouldn’t be the same, would it?” She smiles on that one, which almost certainly indicates she’s kidding, right?

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6857797

“Every time you say sorry from now on, I’m gonna feed you a blintz,” warns Summer with a smile.

“What you said was out of concern for me. That’s what makes it okay.”

The two have been standing and talking - and almost-crying - for a few minutes, and she already feels wobbly. She gently pulls, to see if Alycia will let her guide the two of them over to the bed and sit down for a bit.

“I sent you that stuff because I want to acknowledge my need to grow up a little, and the pain I feel doing it. That pain is unavoidable. But I’m going to adjust to it, and I know having you around will make that part easier too.”

She thinks this next part over, and grins. “And yes, I do hope we encounter Troll. Maybe, you know, I can change his mind. And if not, well, I get a chance to try out the new costume and see what he thinks of that one. As he’s getting pummeled.”

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6857913

Alycia follows her and sits, though a bit stiffly. “My life seems sometimes a series of apologies – or doing things that require them. Twisted evil aside, sociopathy does have the advantage of a not having to say you’re sorry.” She raises another eyebrow. “And in thinking of what you just said, maybe I owe you yet another apology for … I don’t know, maybe infantilizing you, not wanting you to ‘grow up a little.’ Perhaps my own fear of change.” She holds up a hand. “Hypothetically, speaking, of course, in a thoroughly non-blintzing fashion.”

She shakes her mobile again. “Also, don’t give up ‘silly dreams.’ None of them can be sillier than, oh, trying to be so much of a hero that people would never care who your father was, or how he tried to shape you. The greatest dreams are, I think, foolish, simply because the world resists great dreams, and to have them is to put yourself up against the world, which is the heart of folly but also a necessity.”

Alycia pauses, then forges on. “And, also, your love life. Which sucks. And I am not going to apologize, even if I feel irrationally guilty about my part in that.” She taps her forehead. "Irrational. You don’t need to correct me, I know it’s irrational. But – we do need to find you a worthy boyfriend. Just so I can then complain about Jason without feeling guilty about it."

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6858042

Summer tries hard to parse this, up until the last bit. She’s not sure if Alycia’s just apologizing and being supportive, or if she’s obliquely telling her to put the old costume back on, or … what. But she listens attentively, confident that the most important way to honor her friend is to listen to her talk. And it’s strange, to hear Alycia talk now about silly dreams in a positive way.

She feels like she’s experimenting with herself, trying out a new way of thinking, to see how she reacts to herself. I should be supportive of that.

The needle jumps off the record when the words “love life” come up.

“Wait - what part do you have in my love life? I told Leo I wasn’t going to pursue him, and… that was that? Sweetie, I know you told me you’d think of me as a rival for Jason, but, y’know, we both know who he’s with. And I hope we both know he’s happy with that choice.”

Is he? Oh Christ I hope he is, they both need each other so much–

“So what is this about a worthy bu-boyfriend then?” The words come out far less confidently than she’d planned.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6858067

“Summer, I can read intel reports and interpret data into information. There are --” She pauses, looks for the right metaphor. “-- there is a Leo-sized hole in your heart. It’s one that Jason might have fit into, but that’s not currently an option. Especially in your journals around the dance, there’s clearly stress and unhappiness and, I believe it was, ‘grump’ involved.” And … yeah, had I been in your shoes, I’d have been kicking things with them. A lot."

She cocks her head. “By the way, this is the place where I shift from introspection to action. Doing things, solving problems, that’s my go-to distraction. Punching things is sometimes most effective, but that’s just a specialized form of problem-solving. Most of those problems have usually been tech problems, but interpersonal problem-solving could be a new thing, too. Just so you know.”

Alycia gives her head a sharp nod. “Now, as I understand these things – largely from the media, to be sure, but in most cases I’m going to deal with that as a counter-example to the truth – I don’t see finding a True Love for you, a Leo or a Jason class relationship, easy or likely, at least in the short term. But finding you a someone you can go on a date with … that’s something we should be able to fix.”

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6858227

Oh god, was she just praising the value of dreams, and telling me she supported me growing up, all so she could set me up?

It’s not really a fear, just a sudden supposition, but it still sends Summer’s train of thought right off the track.

“That - that journal was just me being whiny, though, it’s fine, I was just being stupid.”

She turns in her seat, clasping her hands together in uncertain, nervous energy. “Anyway, nobody’s asked me out before, and I have a job, and I have to be a superhero too, and if you think about it, my relationship with Leo means any other guy would disappoint me, and dating a robot just raises the risk of exposure, and nobody wants to date a machine, so really, it’s just not gonna work.”

She smiles hopefully. Did you buy that? Please say yes.

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6858251

Alycia frowns. “That’s not how that reads. Nor is it just being whiny. And those other things sound like excuses. I --” I’m being pushy. I’m doing this wrong. Again. Dammit.

Her eyes widen slightly. “I’m not good at boundaries either, Summer. If I’m overstepping, I need you to tell me. I just … want to help. It’s what friends are supposed to do, right?”

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6858549

Summer freezes.

This is important to Alycia. She wants to help. I want her to be more social, or at least as comfortable as possible. That means interacting. But it has to be on her terms - it’d be rotten of me to throw her at the Ponies unprepared.

At the same time - god, I trust she’d find a guy if there’s guys to be found, but if he hurt me or disappointed me, he might get hurt. Like, physically violently hurt. Eep.

And she said something just now - complaining about Jason. Shit. Is there something going on there? I have to know. If this is the only way–

She smiles again. She just had a great idea.

“You’re doing just fine, Alycia. You’re right. I’m probably making excuses. I’ll make you a deal. I’ll accept your help finding a date - but I get last word on anyone you come up with. But in return, you’ll talk with me about Jason - if you want - without feeling guilty. If something’s going on, I want to hear about it, even if I can’t help. Promise me.”

Without even waiting for an answer, she leans closer, looking intently.

“So. What’s going on?”

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6858581