Mini-Interlude 2 – Avalon

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(The following is another mini-interlude. For information about what that is and how they are commissioned, please see the mini-interlude section of the donations page here)

“I miss the tree.”

Avalon Sinclaire stood on the balcony of her adopted mother’s apartment, looking out over the jungle in the distance. Her voice was soft, barely loud enough to reach her own ears, let alone anyone else’s.

And yet, as she finished whispering, the young woman heard movement behind her. Gaia stepped out onto the balcony as well, putting her hands down to lean against it while casting her own gaze out into the dense foliage. “It must take some time to grow accustomed to living among such heights. I’m not entirely certain that I could adjust to living in a city built at the top of a tree.” Turning her head slightly toward Avalon, she added in a gentle voice. “But it must have been very beautiful.”

Avalon didn’t respond at first, her gaze remaining fixed on a flock of birds flying just above the jungle. “It was. It is. And it’s dangerous. You know how many of their students make it from initiation to graduation? Fifty percent. Everyone else is just… they don’t make it out of the crucible. That’s half. Flip a coin when you start out. Heads you make it, tails you die before graduation.

“I was almost one of the failures, really early on. I was too small, too weak, too scared. Fuck. I was scared of everything, Gaia. Terrified. My father—my dad, his… his bullshit left me so fucking terrified of my own shadow. I couldn’t speak up for myself, I couldn’t even talk without stammering. I would’ve died as soon as the real trials started. I would’ve been one of the failures. The wrong side of the coin flip. I was too broken. I’d be dead now if it wasn’t for…” she trailed off, biting her lip.

Rather than prompt her, Gaia simply stood by, her expression calm as she waited for the girl to go on. Which she did, after a few more seconds of silence. “My dad. My father saved my life.”

Beside her, she felt Gaia move before the woman laid a hand on her shoulder. “How?”

The answer came easily. “By surviving.” Looking up from the jungle finally, she turned to the woman. “I found out he was alive, that he was a vampire. You know how I found out? Because he came after me again while we were on a trip. I don’t know how he found me, but he was there. And I was…” She looked away, back to the jungle. “I was useless. Seller had to save me from him, had to drive him off.”

She made a face at the memory before forcing herself to continue telling the story. “You know what I did after that? I literally hid under my bed. Yeah. I took my blanket and I cowered under there for a long time. I stayed there. I just hid and cried a lot. My dad was going to kill me. He was a monster.  He was one of the real monsters now. And there was nothing I could do about it. I was pathetic.”

Gaia started to say something, hand squeezing her shoulder, but Avalon pushed on. “Then, while I was hiding and crying, I realized something. I had a choice. I could stay under my bed, keep crying and then die whenever the people that were better than me didn’t happen to be around to save me anymore. I could just be afraid for the rest of my life until Dad or something else killed me like the sniveling little coward that I was.

“Or I could change. Or I could make myself better, make myself stronger. So I did. I… got out from under the bed and I went to the gym and I started training. By myself at first, but then Seller started helping me. Between him and our normal training, I was… I was pushing myself as hard as I could. Seller’s the one that taught me the most about… everything. Not just about how to fight or make myself stronger, but how to take care of myself in other ways. He taught me how to groom myself, how to clean, even how to put on make-up.

“He’s the one that helped me with my first period, poor guy. But he did it. You should’ve seen him drag me through that store trying to explain to the bystanders what we needed. There was a lot of confusing sign language.”

She smiled at the memory before sighing. “The point is, he helped me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. And if I hadn’t made the choice to be stronger. It’s like… it’s like he was always willing and ready to help me, but he was just waiting for me to make the first step. Once I started trying to work out on my own, he was right there. But he didn’t make the first step. He waited for me to be ready. Maybe so he wouldn’t be wasting his time.”

Falling silent for a few seconds, Avalon finally shrugged. “Like I said, my dad being alive, becoming a real monster and coming after me was the thing that spurred me to either die or make myself stronger. So in a way, he kind of saved my life.”

“You saved your life,” Gaia corrected her gently. “And one thing you are mistaken about. Your father was a monster long before he became a vampire. Giving a serial killer a gun does not turn them into a monster. The only thing turning that child abusing alcoholic piece of human excrement into a vampire did was arm him. The monster part was always there.”

For a few minutes after that, the two of them simply stood in silence, the proximity comfort enough. Finally, Avalon spoke in a low voice. “I still miss the tree. But… I suppose this place isn’t so bad.”

There was mischief in Gaia’s voice then. “Not so bad? Hm, well, how can we make it better? Maybe I was wrong and you would prefer a different roommate? Or a solo room, I believe we have one available.”

Turning her head slightly to squint at the woman before looking away, Avalon’s tone turned as indifferent as she could make it. “No need, I can put up with the situation as it is.”

“Oh, I don’t want you to have to put up with a situation if you’re not enjoying it,” Gaia’s teasing continued. “If I was wrong and Felicity isn’t working out as a roommate, all you have to do is say so and we’ll amend the situation immediately. You don’t have to spend another night in that room if you don’t want to.”

In spite of herself, and despite all the tricks that Seller had taught her about how to control her reaction, Avalon still felt her face heating up. She cleared her throat. “No, it’s fine. It’s okay. She uhh…” Another cough came. “She’s not that bad.”

“Oh, well, that’s good to hear,” Gaia was giving her that infuriatingly knowing smile. “But if you ever change your mind, we’ll adjust your roommate situation.”

Squinting at the woman, Avalon asked, “Can I change my adopted mother situation? Because that’s the one giving me the most shit right now.”

“I’m afraid that’s one thing you’re pretty much stuck with,” Gaia promised her, hand slipping from Avalon’s shoulder to her arm as she pulled the girl around and into an embrace. “Can you survive the disappointment?”

Slowly, Avalon lifted her arms to wrap them around the other woman. She lowered her head to Gaia’s shoulder and let out a long, low breath.

“I’ll try.”

******

Some time later, Avalon stepped quietly into her dorm room. Closing the door behind her, she moved her gaze over to the nearby occupied bed.

Felicity hadn’t turned on the privacy screen, even though it was the middle of the day. Apparently she’d been too tired to even take the time to make her side of the room suitably dark. She’d just collapsed in the bed, face down against the pillow while a tangled birds nest of dirty blonde hair spread out in every direction.

Standing there for a moment, the girl watched her sleeping roommate. A variety of emotions warred for her attention before she finally turned away, first moving to her own bed. Glancing down at the box that Gaia had given her for Felicity, she set it on the floor before straightening up. After a short, indecisive pause, she stepped over to the nearby window. Carefully, with a look back to make sure that the blonde girl hadn’t woken up, she picked up the decorated rock that sat there.

Herbie. Gods, her roommate was a dork. Taking the rock, she moved over to her own bed and lay down on it, placing the toy sword-toting stone on the blanket nearby. Tenderly, Avalon brushed her finger over it.

The damn thing still had those eyes. She wasn’t even sure what had prompted her to get the things in the first place. But at least Scout was staying mum about who she’d gotten them from. If Felicity ever found out that Avalon had been the one who provided them, she’d never shut up about it.

“Hey, little guy,” she whispered under her breath. It felt absurd, but she continued in spite of herself after giving the other bed a quick glance. “Your friend over there is a gigantic nerd, you know that?”

Voice dropping even further, she lifted her gaze to stare at the blonde. “How do you put up with her? Why is she so important to you?”

Sighing, annoyed at herself, Avalon turned to lay on her back before placing the damn rock on her stomach. She continued to brush a finger over the thing absently. As she lay there, another memory came to mind. Felicity asking for training, wanting to become stronger. Willing to work harder to make herself better.

She’d almost refused. Almost told the girl to find someone else that could work with her. It wasn’t like there was a lack of options. To that moment, even now, she couldn’t explain exactly what had made her agree to it. Thoughts, feelings, emotions all kept trying to come up in her in spite of every attempt she made to push them back down.

Then her damn roommate and the rest of the team had to go and stand up for her when Trice tried his little attack. She’d tried to tell them to just get the fuck out of there, but no. No, they’d stayed. They’d risked their lives to help her, even though… Avalon sighed, eyes closing.

Sands and the boys had willingly stayed too. All willing to fight, all willing to risk themselves just for her, in spite of Trice’s offer to let them leave safely. They stayed, all of them. And yet, thinking of Felicity’s choice to stay was… it was just different than the others. It made her feel… it made her feel…

And then she found out about Felicity’s mother, about the necromancer. The necromancer who thought he was going to take Felicity away once she was eighteen. The thought, the idea of losing her roommate, of the girl going through what that monster would put her through made Avalon’s free hand clench so tightly she very nearly drew blood from her own palm.

No. She wouldn’t let it happen. No matter what. No matter who she had to go after, no matter what she had to do, she would not let that piece of shit take away the girl who… the girl that she…

Sitting up, Avalon let the rock fall into her hand. She looked down at it, forehead knitting into a frown. “We have to protect her,” she said quietly. “You understand? Even if she is a dork.”

Picking herself off the bed, she stepped over to carefully place the decorated stone back on the windowsill. Another sigh escaped her as she looked out at the grounds before returning to her bed. She sat there, eyes on the sleeping girl.

And of course, there was the fact that her literal trouble-magnet of a roommate had gotten herself abducted by actual aliens. Because why not, it wasn’t like she already had enough things to deal with, just add that as well. Maybe toss in a few demons and a serial killer clown while they were at it.

Sure, the aliens that took her turned out to be good, and the whole situation there a big misunderstanding or mistake. But still, just the idea that Felicity could be taken away that easily made her feel… angry. It was an undirected anger, a confused fury that had no real outlet. Especially since she couldn’t even make herself think about the fact that she felt…

Okay, this was ridiculous. She could do this. She could think it. When she looked at Felicity, when she thought about her, she felt…

Felicity moved. Her hand shifted to wipe away the bit of drool under her mouth before she sat up, yawning. Her eyes found Avalon’s own.

“Wha—oh, um, hey. What’s up?”

“I…” Avalon coughed, forcing down all those other thoughts with a shake of her head.

“I was just wondering how long you were going to sleep for.”

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25 comments

  1. New mini-interlude today! This one was commissioned by reader WickedTruth. I hope you guys enjoy how it came out. As always, Monday will have another normal chapter.

    Today’s tags include: As Usual Flick Has Excellent Timing., Avalon Sinclaire, Damn It Avalon How Do You Tease Us With A Scene Of Seller Trying To Figure Out Periods Without A Full On Flashback?, Felicity Chambers, Flick, Gaia Sinclaire, Herbie, Mini-Interlude

    Thanks for reading, everyone!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. (I don’t know if this will look like I’m replying to myself, but I can’t find the reply button to your reply to this =P)

        I’m fine with that; because it means Alters exist, which means Bystanders and Heretics exist, which means there’s a chance I could get superpowers!

        (Until the inevitable Bad End comes along and we learn why being a Heretic is on the lines of “The starting penalty is five”, obviously)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That was adorable on so many different levels. Except for the emotional repression. That ain’t healthy. But one of those adorable levels is her trying to break it. Also her palpable ferocity in wanting to protect Flick. And, somehow, the fact that she thinks of her as Felicity. I wonder when that started.

    And then there’s the most shocking and adorable revelation thus far, the one I never saw coming: Avalon got Herbie his eyes..

    I was expecting her yo contribute to Herbie eventually, but to have been the first?.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. “Fifty percent. Everyone else is just… they don’t make it out of the crucible. That’s half. Flip a coin when you start out. Heads you make it, tails you die before graduation.”
    Me: That’s an unacceptably high fatality rate for their candidate pool. Garden’s training/education processes direly need to be revamped.

    “It’s like… it’s like he was always willing and ready to help me, but he was just waiting for me to make the first step. Once I started trying to work out on my own, he was right there. But he didn’t make the first step. He waited for me to be ready. ”
    Me: That looks like the MO of a good Mentor/Advisor to me.

    Well now, Avalon’s the one who gave Herbie eyes? That’s great, nice character building imo.

    “No. She wouldn’t let it happen. No matter what. No matter who she had to go after, no matter what she had to do, she would not let that piece of shit take away the girl who… the girl that she…”
    Me: Oh, I spy something interesting emotional-wise here. Anyway, with someone of Fossor’s implied strength, Avalon can think ” I’ll not let him take Flick away” all she wants, but that’s not going to stop him unless she (and the others) can pull a magic rabbit out of their collective hat.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Me: That’s an unacceptably high fatality rate for their candidate pool. Garden’s training/education processes direly need to be revamped.

      I know, right?

      Well now, Avalon’s the one who gave Herbie eyes? That’s great, nice character building imo.

      Thanks! I was waiting forever to get that out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Gee, you’d think that after being around for *centuries,* poor Seller would have been past the point of being discombobulated by female puberty. But maybe he’s never been the sole guardian of a girl going through it before….
    And why not go to a Bystander location where they speak a common language? Unless… it came up unexpectedly during a field assignment somewhere inconvenient. Yeah, that would fit. Sitcom material, right there. 🙂

    *Avalon* bought Herbie’s eyes! And she enlisted *Scout* as her intermediary — that second part is significant, I think. We already knew Scout’s not as terminally withdrawn as she appeared early on, but the fact that Avalon was willing to trust Scout with this so early in their association says something. Especially since Avalon has definite trust issues.

    And the shipping intensifies. I suspected Avalon had a steadily-growing weakness for Flick, but seeing her feel *this* attached this soon, and fighting so hard to deny it… well, trust issues, again. But part of the reason Avalon is so prickly is that she’s trying to protect against her own tendency to get attached too easily (in her opinion, at least). But the team’s gotten past her outer defenses already, by putting themselves in harm’s way for her. They made her *care* about them, dammit, she’s *never* going to forgive them for that…. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Nice look at what’s going on with Avalon here. Sellers was quite the mentor to Avalon while she was at the Garden, to the point of being a substitute father figure. Also interesting seeing those feelings she’s developing for Flick poking through, and it was a nice little thing to find out that she was the one who actually got Herbie’s eyes.

    Though that tidbit about the attrition rate at the Garden was quite a shocker- half the incoming students won’t make it to their graduation, a lot of them because they got killed somehow 😮

    Liked by 1 person

  6. His real name actually is Jester because his mother has such high hopes for him. Oh, and he prefers the term Harlequin thankyouverymuch. And the fact he’s a serial killer is in no way whatsoever tied into his choice of profession. Never mind the fact he was the Royal Court Jester for one of them French guys, bugger if he can be bothered to remember the name, always called him ‘the Big Cheese’. But in French, of course. And it wasn’t until those shabby peasants tried to take his head and he was offered an out by a… higher power that he started killing people. Kill or be killed, just a matter of survival, nothing personal, you understand, right? But there is a debt to be paid, and the only coin that will be accepted is blood.
    Again, nothing personal Miss Chambers. Nothing. Personal… .

    Oh, Avalon, you need to admit it to yourself. You care about Flick as if she was that sister you never had. Because of course it would be Philia and not Eros, because the latter is too obvious.
    Also didn’t see the eye thing coming, but it’s not that overly surprising to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Holy shit, Eden’s Garden has a 50% survival rate for its initiates? That’s both horrific and absurd. That’s so wasteful that it’s mindboggling. Particularly since there is no need to even push them that hard. I mean, fucking seriously? Any form of training where you have a significant chance of DYING is a failure of a training regimen. When Heretics live for a very, very, very long time *anyway*, pushing them so hard, so young, to the point where half of them die before they even become an adult is just utterly pointless.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Unlike your other two posts I just responded to (I doubt you’ll be alerted to the one on 9-05, but it’s there) I agree with everything you just said. But I think I need to point something out:

      Particularly since there is no need to even push them that hard.

      This seems to underline a fundamental misunderstanding of the mindset the Heretic organizations operate on.

      Basically, they see themselves as the Imperium of Man, beset on all sides by constant assault, backed up agaisnt a corner by apocalyptic onslaught. Mentally speaking, they’re constantly at that stage where the unthinkable becomes thinkable. Because both organizations honestly believe that they’re the only thing standing in the way if oblivion. Their actions become a lot more understandablr from that perspective (and you don’t need to agree with it to understand it).

      Now, they’re obviously wrong, but they genuinely believe that the situation is that desperate, and they’re certainly not the first humans to commit atrocities in the name of their beliefs.

      To continue the Imperium of Man analogy, Eden’s Garden isn’t training Imperial Guardsmen, it’s training Space Marines. Except the mortality rate for Space Marine training is a lot worse than 50%.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. The problem with that thinking is that it’s still counterproductive. A 50% attrition rate for trainees is too wasteful to be of any use in a desperate situation. You can’t *afford* to lose half of your trainees to TRAINING. Even if half of them don’t meet the standards you want for your main forces, you can still *use* that half for things. The only way such an attrition rate would make sense is if there simply wasn’t enough food or resources to care for all of them–but that obviously isn’t the case, since they could easily import whatever they needed from the Bystander world (and Crossroads has no such problems).

        Like

      2. I’m not saying it’s smart, I think it’s stupid too, I’m just trying to understand and explain why they think it isn’t.

        Like

  8. Calling it now

    Somehow, some way, Herbie is going to save Flick

    From Fossor himself or a different bullshit situation she ends up in I can’t say for certain, but it’s *going* to happen, just you watch

    Like

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