The following is a commissioned mini-interlude focusing on Avalon and Gaia after that certain kiss…
“Are you winning?”
The voice took the girl who called herself Avalon Sinclaire by surprise. She jolted upward, a sound that was equal parts curse, threat, and embarrassing yelp slipping from her mouth even as she spun around to face the unexpected intruder. And yet, no threat presented itself. None of her enemies had come to make another play for her life. Instead, the person who stood in the doorway of the training room was quite the opposite.
“Gaia,” Avalon spoke sharply, belatedly wiping an arm across her face to gain a second to collect herself. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you. I was… working out.” The last bit came out softer than the rest as she glanced over her shoulder at the heavy punching bag that hung from the ceiling nearby. In mid-glance, however, a frown lightly touched upon her face and she turned back. “Wait, did you ask if I was winning?”
Stepping into the otherwise empty room, Gaia gave a slight nod of affirmation. “Yes, I was under the impression that you were engaged in a very intense psychic battle with a most dangerous foe.” Her voice turned suspiciously casual. “Of course, I wasn’t aware that you had actually gained any such powers, but it was the most immediate explanation for what appeared to be roughly ten minutes of standing completely still while alternately scowling and smiling at that bag there.”
Avalon felt her face heat up before she tried to shake it off. “Yeah, well, I was planning my… preparing…”
Before she could continue, Gaia held up a hand. Her expression had softened. “If you wish to talk, I will hear anything that you would like to say. But you need not invent an explanation. I am not here to embarrass you or demand answers. But I am here… for as long as you would like me to be.”
The words made Avalon turn away quickly. It was easier to look at the still bag than to see Gaia standing there, expecting, hoping… thinking… she didn’t even know. The woman mattered more to her than she could ever hope to tell her. She and… and…
“I kissed Felicity.”
Gaia’s voice was quiet, almost a whisper that Avalon nonetheless heard perfectly well from across the room. “Good.”
That response was enough to make the girl turn that way, eyebrow quirking up. “Good?” she echoed.
“Of course.” Gaia moved across the room, her smile turning up slightly. “Avalon, you have wanted to kiss that girl for quite some time now. The only thing stopping you was you.”
“But I kissed her,” Avalon snapped back, feeling her emotions tumbling within her. Good, bad, fright, delight, terror, overwhelming joy. It all fell together like a boulder in the pit of her stomach. “I kissed her,” she repeated dully. “That means… it means that… that…”
Gaia was in front of her. “What does it mean?”
“It means they’re going to take her away!” Avalon abruptly blurted, the words coming in a shout that was louder than she intended it to be. Then it all came out in a rush, an avalanche of words propelled by feelings that could not be contained. “She was my friend, and they already hurt her, they already tried to take her away. And now, now I kissed her. I kissed her and I can’t take it back. I can’t hide it, because she’ll know. She’ll come and she’ll talk and I want to push her away because it’s the only way she’ll be safe but I can’t do that because she’ll look at me and I can’t do that to her, I can’t make her look at me like that. Her mom is gone and people leave her and I can’t leave her. I can’t even pretend. I thought I could pretend it wasn’t anything important but I can’t because she’ll be hurt and I can’t hurt her. I can’t hurt her but I already hurt her because they’ll hurt her. They’ll hurt her to get at me so I should push her away but I can’t do that because she’s my—she’s my…
“She’s my Flick.” The last words came out very soft, as the girl slumped forward from the weight of it all.
A moment later, Gaia’s hand was on the back of her head, and Avalon felt herself pulled against the woman. Her face found her adoptive mother’s shoulder before Gaia spoke softly. “Do you know what happiness is?”
“What?” Avalon’s voice cracked a little bit, and she flinched at the sound of it. “What do you mean, do I know what happiness is?”
In response, Gaia slowly and gently ran her fingers down through her hair, then back again. The feeling was soothing, despite the turmoil in the girl’s stomach. “Happiness is a brick.”
Avalon’s mouth opened and shut. “A brick?” she echoed flatly.
The woman’s body shook just a little as she chuckled before explaining. “Each moment of happiness is a brick. We use those bricks to build a wall to protect us from the things in the world that would try to make us feel pain. With enough of them, we build more walls, and even add a roof. As we collect these moments of happiness, we protect ourselves from the storms which inevitably arrive.
“There are those who see happiness as a precious resource to be hoarded and viciously protected. But if I can teach you nothing else, then let me teach you this: happiness is not a treasure to be shielded from sadness. It is a wall to protect us from sadness.
“Those who hoard their happiness, always afraid of what they may lose end up standing in the torrential downpour of terrible things, shielding their pile of bricks while insisting to themselves that at least they are protecting their happiness. But those who use it, those who gather and seek it out, and build their house from the bricks of their happiness are shielded from the storm. And they may still get wet. A brick may be lost here and there. The storm can get very bad at times. But that house that they’ve built will not crumble.”
Leaning back, Gaia reached down and used a couple of fingers to tilt Avalon’s face up by the chin. “I will not tell you that you will never experience any loss or unhappiness with Felicity. I will not tell you that things will be perfect. There will always be a storm on the horizon, but the bricks are there.
“Building the house is up to you.”