Mini-Interlude 61 – Tabbris

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The following commissioned interlude takes place several months before the canon start/first chapter of this story. 

The blonde girl stared into the mirror, meeting her own expression as she announced, “So Dad says I need to get a job, something to distract me and keep me out of trouble. Which is clearly crazy talk, because getting in trouble is what distracts me.”

Although she was speaking aloud, the girl had no idea that there was another person listening. She was simply vocalizing her thoughts. Which was a habit that had thoroughly confused and even startled her young Seosten passenger when she had started doing it several years earlier.

Tabbris had briefly been convinced that the then-thirteen-year-old had somehow figured out that she was possessing her. Only a quick, somewhat panicked perusal of the girl’s surface thoughts had put that to rest. Still, whenever her unknowing host spoke to herself, it was hard to completely dismiss the thought of that she was actually addressing the girl inside her.

Or maybe Tabbris just desperately wanted someone to talk to her. Her mother’s recorded lessons that popped into her head now and then were something, but it wasn’t the same as having a real conversation. And that sometimes made it difficult to resist the urge to respond.

But that would have complicated things a lot more than they already were. Even more complicated than the fact that the woman who was supposed to meet her when she first woke up had never shown up. Years after the fact, Tabbris still had no idea what had happened to Aunt Larissa. And she was growing increasingly afraid that she would never find out.

Or maybe she was afraid that she would find out. Because by now, the answer had to be very… very bad.

“Okay,” Flick announced then, the sixteen-year-old girl’s voice snapping Tabbris’s attention back to present, “If Dad wants me to get a job for the summer, I guess I could go look at that theater. They were supposed to be hiring.”

And I think there’s something hinky about that owner guy. He’s creepy. I don’t care how much he’s donated to charity.

That last part came through the girl’s thoughts, as she was apparently unwilling to risk vocalizing the real reason that she wanted to get the theater job, since it would seem to go against that whole ‘staying out of trouble’ reasoning that her father had in the first place.

Pivoting away from the mirror, the girl grabbed her keys from the counter and headed out of the bathroom before taking the stairs two at a time. At the bottom of the stairs, Flick took a quick look around as though to make sure the house was empty before heading out through the front door. She locked it behind herself and was just heading down the sidewalk when she suddenly paused. Slowly, the girl took a couple of steps off the sidewalk, moving to the mostly empty flower garden. She stood there, staring down into the dirt, and Tabbris had the sudden thought that Flick might somehow be able to see the invisible magical runes that Tabbris herself had been placing on the house once a month ever since she had been old enough to do so.

The runes did a lot of things, including alerting Tabbris if anyone unexpected entered the house. They also drove off most minor threats that might be sent by the Seosten or other threats, though they would do nothing against anyone as powerful as the Seosten woman who had come a while back.

Tabbris’s Mama had been right about what their people would do, because that powerful and clearly very old Seosten woman had very obviously been there to possess Flick. She’d tried multiple times that night while Flick herself slept, even going as far as working her way around the room and the house itself to find and disable most of the protective spells that Tabbris had up at the time. The woman had clearly assumed that there was some kind of spell protecting her target, and had been furious when she hadn’t been able to find it.

Tabbris remembered that night. That long, terrible, awful night. She had laid there awake within Flick’s sleeping body, waiting for the moment that the Seosten woman’s anger might translate into violence.

In the end, the woman had simply left (though she and others returned now and then, as though checking to see whether the girl was still immune to their possession). But still, if she had tried anything, what could Tabbris have done? If she tried anything more substantial than breaking spells, hissing curses, and repeatedly attempting to possess the (unknown to her) already possessed girl, Tabbris would have had to… had to…She would have had to do something, though even to this day, she wasn’t sure exactly what that something would have been. She could wake Flick up, and even take over. But from there, what could she possibly have done except maybe run away in that brief moment of the woman’s surprise? Even then, would she actually have gotten very far? And what about Mr. Chambers? The man was the closest thing to an actual father that Tabbris had ever known. Even if he had no idea she existed, she had… pretended, sometimes. When she was too lonely, when she missed her mother too much to stand it for even a second longer, Tabbris had very occasionally slipped into the man’s bedroom and curled up with him. Just for a little while. In his delirious, sleep-filled mind, the man had sometimes wrapped an arm around her while believing that she was his daughter.

For those few minutes once in a great while, Tabbris let herself feel loved and protected. She let the man’s arm around her fool her into thinking that there was anyone on the entire planet who would care for her, that there was anyone who loved her like that.

Those few minutes were worth the days and weeks of guilt that inevitably sprang up afterward. Mr. Chambers wasn’t her father. He didn’t know she existed. She was taking the love that he had for Flick and abusing it. She was bad. She was so very bad.

And yet, sometimes… she still couldn’t help it. Being alone here on this planet, constantly watching out for threats, being vigilant every night, it was… hard. It was so hard.

But she had to do it. She had to be a big girl. She had to be brave. She had promised, promised Dream-Mama through the memories that had been implanted in her head that she would help protect Felicity.

Aunt Larissa was supposed to be there to help. But that didn’t matter. Tabbris could do it. No matter how hard it got, no matter how lonely she was, she would not disappoint her mother. She would make Mama proud of her. So that one day… one day, when Mama was free, she would know that Tabbris had done everything she’d asked her to.

That day would come.

It had to.

After those few seconds where Tabbris briefly thought that Flick had somehow been able to see the spells that she had put up, the other girl instead bent down a bit more to grab a coin that had fallen into the dirt from somewhere. “Hah,” she announced aloud, “I knew that dollar coin was around here somewhere. But how’d it get all the way out here?”

Tabbris knew how. Some ghosts had been trying to work their way into the house a few days earlier, and she had needed a quick spell to stop them. The dollar coin sitting on Flick’s dresser had been first thing she had been able to find that would work.

At least the ghosts were gone for now. Tabbris would have to find something else to put the blocking spell on before they came back again. Somehow, she was pretty sure that Flick would know something was going on if she found that coin out in the flower bed again.

She could have simply erased the older girl’s memory of it, but… Tabbris tried to avoid using that as much as she possibly could. Any time that there was literally any other way of handling things, she would do it that way rather than tamper with memories. Even the little bit that she was forced to do, the girl felt horribly guilty about.  

Bad. Someone else could have done a better job. If she was older, smarter, stronger, she could have protected Flick the way that her mother wanted her to.

No, the way that she wanted to. Because over these past years, Tabbris had come to truly care for her host. She would never let anything happen to Flick. Not if she could help it. She would work as hard as she possibly could to make sure that the Seosten never enslaved her like they had been trying to do. Not just because her mother had wanted her to, but because she wanted to. Flick was a good person. She didn’t deserve what they would do to her, didn’t deserve to be forced into becoming what they would turn her into. She was good, and Tabbris would help her as much as she could. Even if Flick never knew about it.

Sometimes, Tabbris liked to pretend they were actually sisters. Because then Flick could talk to her. Flick could tell her stories, and tease her about her friends at school, and Tabbris could tease her about boyfriends (and girlfriends, because who did Flick’s subconscious think it was fooling?), and they could talk about teachers that Flick had had before Tabbris would have them… And Mr. Chambers would be her father. His proud smile, his hugs, the way his beard tickled, it would be meant for Tabbris too. She could have a family, one who knew that she existed. One that would care about her.

But that was just pretending.

“You know,” a voice spoke up from the sidewalk nearby, “if you really need change that badly, I could spot you a few bucks.” As Flick turned that way, she and Tabbris both saw the man standing there, thumbs hooked through a couple of the belt loops on his jeans. “Hell, might even go up as high as a tenner if you promise to rake my yard or something.”

“Well, that depends, Scott,” Flick drawled in reply. “When you say ‘yard’, do you mean the square foot of grass you have outside of your apartment, or that giant park across the street from it. Cuz that last one might be a bit much for ten bucks.”

“You saying I should go up to twenty?” Scott shot back, grinning at the girl he had babysat for some time.

And Scott, now Deputy Utell, had been a lot more than that. Tabbris had done enough secret spells around him to know that he was no normal human. And while practicing her ability to recall right to Flick from anywhere, she had gone as far as the man’s apartment and had seen him transform into multiple animals.

He was a Pooka. That much Tabbris was pretty sure of. Why he was watching Flick, however, she had no idea. Except that he didn’t seem to have any hostile intentions. She’d made quadruple certain of that. For one thing, she had enchanted a soda can so that the liquid inside would taste incredibly bitter to the person drinking it if they harbored any ill intentions toward the person who had given it to them. She had then put it in the back of the fridge, along with a minor compulsion not to take or notice it until the time was right. Then, the next time that Scott had been over, she’d given Flick a very slight compulsion to make that be the soda she gave him.

Scott had drunk it, and shown no ill effects. That combined with the other spells that Tabbris had used to test him were enough to convince her that, whatever his intentions, he didn’t mean any harm.

Dream-Mama had told her about the group that Mrs. Chambers had worked with, the rebellion. Maybe he was one of those people, keeping an eye on their former leader’s daughter.

“Pshh,” Flick was informing the man then. “I don’t need your chump change, I’m gonna go get a job at the theater on Seventh.”

“Cal’s place?” Scott passed briefly for turning to gesture over his shoulder at the squad car sitting there. “Come on, I’ll give you a lift there and back. I need to pick up some razors anyway, and there’s that Walgreens next door.”  

Tucking the coin into her pocket, Flick moved that way. “Sure, and on the off chance that anything actually exciting happens in this town and you have to race to a scene–”

Scott interrupted while getting back into the car. “I’ll slow down juuuust enough that you don’t kill yourself when I kick your ass out of the car before heading off to it.”

*******

A while later, Scott’s car dropped Flick off again in front of her house. Mr. Chambers’ car was in the driveway, which meant that it was probably about time for dinner. Flick waved at her former babysitter before heading in as the car drove off.

On the way inside, the girl passed someone else was walking along the sidewalk just outside of the house. The older boy, tall and dark haired, offered Flick a soft smile and the vaguest hint of a wave as they passed each other, adding an absent, “Evening.”

Flick, for her part, returned the simple greeting and kept going without a second thought. Tabbris, however, mentally froze. She felt briefly paralyzed for two particular reasons. First, because they had seen that same person over a year earlier when he had been outside the school. Only he had been somewhat older then. Not overwhelmingly so, but still visibly older.

An older brother, maybe? Except no. Tabbris didn’t know exactly how she knew it, but she knew that that was actually the same person, even if he looked younger now.

And even if she hadn’t known it, there was still the second reason he stood out. The fact that Flick dismissed the man from her memory a few seconds after meeting him wasn’t just the normal result of passing a stranger and forgetting what they looked like shortly afterward. No, in this case, the man had actually been using some kind of power, spell, or something that actively erased his specific features from the girl’s memory. Flick would remember that she’d waved at someone, but not exactly who they were or what they looked like.

Why? Was he another one of those watchers? There had been something, however brief and mild, hidden in the man’s expression when he had looked at Flick. Tabbris didn’t know what it was, but she knew that there was some kind of emotion there. What was she supposed to do? Was this a good thing, or a bad thing? Was he a bad guy? What could she do? What–

“Good morning, brave girl.”

Tabbris was back in the dream-house. She was pretty sure that it was the same house that her mother had lived in with her husband and Tabbris’s half-siblings, just before everything had gone wrong. None of the others were ever there, of course. Not aside from pictures, anyway. She had spent the first several years of her life mentally growing up in this dream-space. Her mama, or at least the dream-version of her, had raised the girl, had played with her, had taught her everything she knew. And now, whenever she had a real problem or thought that triggered an answer from the memories that her mother had implanted, she was brought back to what was basically a virtual reality space so that she could learn more.

“Mama!” Smiling brightly, Tabbris leapt to hug her dream-mother. She wasn’t real, of course. And there were certain limits to how she could interact with the girl. But it was something.

She also always said ‘Good morning’ no matter what time it was in the outside world.

So, Tabbris told her dream-mother what had happened. When she was done, the virtual representation of her mama pursed her lips thoughtfully. In reality, all of the implanted memories/lessons that her real mother had left her with were being scanned through until something useful was found, which would then be presented to Tabbris with the shell of a conversation.

Finally, Dream-Mama spoke. “He could be a scout from either Crossroads or Eden’s Garden, investigating Felicity just before a potential recruitment. That does tend to happen toward the beginning of the summer. His presence last year might have been the very early steps of that. As for his younger appearance, there are any number of answers for that. He could be a shapeshifter, or he could have been de-aged by something. Or he may possess the ability to alter his own age.”

“But what do I do, Mama?” Tabbris pentively asked. “I dunno if he’s good or bad. What if he wants to hurt Flick? Those ghosts still come sometimes. What if he’s part of that?”

“I will show you a few more protective spells that might help,” Dream-Mama assured her. “And if you see the man again, you might… nudge his appearance into Felicity’s mind, just enough that she will pay more attention to him. You should not have to do anything more overt than that, unless he presents an actual threat. Remember the first rule?”

“Be prepared,” Tabbris instantly recited. “Yes, Mama. If he’s a bad guy, I’ll be ready.” She stood a bit taller then, lifting her chin. “I won’t let him hurt Flick.”

“That’s my good girl,” Dream-Mama praised, pulling her into an embrace. “Now, you enjoy dinner with Felicity and her father, and then I’ll teach you those spells later, while she’s relaxing, okay?”

Tabbris agreed, and then she was seeing through Flick’s eyes once more. Only a few seconds had actually passed in the real world, enough for the girl to reach the front door and step inside.

The smell of pancakes reached them almost immediately, as Lincoln Chambers himself stepped backwards into view to wave with the spatula in his hand. “Good timing, kiderific. I was afraid I’d have to eat these things all by myself.”

“Afraid, or hoping?” Flick shot back to him.

“Depends,” the man drawled while pointing to his daughter with the spatula. “How much trouble did you manage to get into today?”

“Pshaw,” Flick sniffed. “Pshaw, I say. Trouble? Why, I went out and got a job, so there, Mr. Doubtful.”

“Oooh, a real job?” Her father grinned. “That might be worth a whole two pancakes.”

Rolling her eyes, Flick headed that way, though she was skipping a little bit. “Sure, maybe if they’re the size of the entire stove.” Even as she bantered with her father, a smile spread across her face. And it wasn’t just because of the pancakes, which she (and Tabbris) both loved. It was also just from seeing her father. And yet, even that love was tempered by the never-far-off thought that her mother had abandoned him, had abandoned both of them.

Or so Flick thought. Every thought she had about her mother was negative, tainted by the thought that Joselyn had purposefully run off on her family. But Tabbris’s mother hadn’t believed that, and neither did Tabbris. Someone… some very bad person, had taken her. She didn’t know who, or why exactly, but it was probably the same person who kept sending ghosts to try and spy on Flick.

The temptation to try and… subtly hint about that to Flick, to make her feel better about her own mother and give her the benefit of the doubt had been… one of the hardest to resist. After all, it would make Flick feel better. It would be the truth. It would help.

But no. No. Tabbris had decided a long time ago that even that would be too much. She would still be changing Flick’s mind unfairly. She would be controlling her. And Tabbris refused to do that except when she had to. Forcing the girl to think a certain way, or even simply ‘adjusting’ how she thought like that, even with good intentions… she wouldn’t do it.

If Tabbris understood one thing, it was what it felt like to have an amazing, wonderful mother who would do anything for her… including letting her go, no matter how much it hurt her personally.

She really hoped that someday, Flick would understand that too, and would realize just what kind of person her mother really was. 

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20 comments

  1. Thanks for reading this commissioned interlude, guys! And thanks to the original commissioner, of course. I do hope that you enjoyed it.

    Two quick things. First, nominations for the joke tag contest will continue until Friday. Right now, the list of nominations stands at:

    1: ‘Gaia Casually Manipulating The Meregan Teleporter Is Like A Tiger Casually Strolling Into Space-X And Piloting Their Rocket.’

    2: ‘Damn It Flick Turn In Your Protagonist Badge You’re Not Allowed To Actually Communicate With People.’

    3: ‘Whoever Asked If I Would Ever Reuse Joke Tags – There You Are.’

    4: ‘Fear The Power Of Me Finding Out (IE Being Told) How To Use Commas In Tags’

    5: ‘Entirely Too Few Answers’

    6: ‘Something Something Dirty Joke About Harper Looking For Arthur In Avalon’

    7: ‘Avalon/Shiori/Flick Relationship Development Be Damned. Let’s Talk About This Sick And Twisted Love Affair I Have With Cliffhangers.’

    8: ‘Meanwhile – Shiori And A Reluctant Avalon Are Telling Choo A Heavily Rewritten Three Little Pigs Story Involving Ninjas – Lasers – And One Sorry Wolf’

    9: ‘Somewhere Snidley Whiplash Is Looking At Ruthers And Going ‘Maybe Tone Down The Obvious Evil A Bit Dude’

    10: ‘Normal People: “Flick You Can’t Possibly Piss The Seosten Off More Than You Already Have.” Flick: “Hold My Beer.”’
    Remember, you can e-mail me at ceruleanscrawling@gmail.com to submit your own nomination. Voting will start as of the new chapter on Friday.

    ALSO, we now actually have real reward tiers on the Patreon! Finally, I know. You may visit the actual Patreon page right here to see them, but here is the list of rewards (so far) for convenience:

    1 Dollar Per Month – Extra Interlude Voting

    Anyone who donates anything at all, ever, will be able to vote on End-Of-Arc interludes forever. But if you are a current patron of at least 1 dollar per month, you will receive extra points that you may divide as you please among any of the options.

    For example, normally, if there are six interlude options, donators rank those option with their favorite receiving 6 points down to their least favorite receiving 1 point, and the highest number wins. If you are a current patron of at least one dollar per month, you will also have three extra points that you may add to your favorite, or split up as you choose. This amount increases by one with each reward level. When you receive your end-of-arc interlude voting e-mail, it will include a note of how many extra points you have to spend.

    3 Dollars Per Month – Early Commissioned Interludes

    Commissioned interludes, also known as mini-interludes (though some are not quite so mini), will be available to both the person who commissioned them and to any patrons at the 3 dollar or higher amount one day earlier than they are released to the public.
    All patrons at this level will also receive four extra points to be added to end-of-arc interlude voting.

    5 Dollars Per Month – Early Regular Chapters

    Any patron at the five dollar or higher level will receive access to regular chapters one day earlier than the general public. This will not delay the release of the regular chapter at all from what it has been. They will still come out on Mondays and Fridays. If you are a 5 dollar or higher Patron, you will receive access to the chapter on Sunday and Thursday.
    All patrons at this level will also get the early commissioned interlude from the three dollar level, as well as five extra points to spend on end-of-arc interlude voting.

    10 Dollars Per Month – Quicky Interlude

    Any patron at the ten dollar or higher level will be able to choose one 500 word quicky interlude. These will be posted together, likely at the end of the month, as a single, completely extra collection.

    Patrons at this level also receive the early chapters from the 5 dollar and 3 dollar level, as well as six extra points to spend on end-of-arc interlude voting.

    There may be more added to this later, or rewards may be edited. They will ‘kick in’ as of next month/next arc.

    Even if you have already signed up for the Patreon and are currently donating, you will need to go and select your actual reward level because, as far as I can tell, the system does not automatically assign you to the relevant level. If you donate enough to receive early chapters, you will receive them via e-mail. And there will be a rule against open, non-spoilered comments about those chapters before they are released to the public.

    Anyway, thanks a lot, guys. I know it’s taken awhile for me to settle on actual rewards for donators, and I hope you enjoy this. We’ll see how it goes, and make adjustments where necessary.

    Tags for this chapter are: Deveron Adams, Felicity Chambers, Flick, Guys‚ How Hard Must It Have Been For Tabbris Not To Do Anything When Flick Thought Scott Was Dead?, Honestly Flick‚ If Tabbris Could Tell You Liked Girls By Sitting Inside Your Own Head With You‚ I Think You’re Out Of Excuses., I Swear To God‚ If I Had Forgotten To Tag Tabbris In THIS Chapter Too‚ I Might’ve Cried., Lincoln Chambers, Scott Utell, Tabbris, Tabbris Seeing Deveron As The Team Mentor Must Have Been Very Confusing For Her.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Please note that there have been a few… let’s call them typos that have already been fixed. Please refresh and make sure the typo you’re about to report is still there. 😀 And thanks in advance for all that you guys do point out.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awww. Tabbris has come a long way since she revealed herself to Flick. And now she finally gets to be Flick’s sister, and be with her family, and she’ll be getting tickled by Lincoln’s beard soon enough. 🙂

    And wow, that dream-simulation Sariel cooked up is way more interactive and intuitive than I thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been calling Dream Sariel a fork for a reason. Sariel created a magical AI duplicate of herself, or at least something pretty close to that, and stuck it in her daughter’s head to guide and teach her.

      Like

  4. Younger Tabbris was awesome and adorable, as expected. She was working a lot more actively than I realized, though, if she was blocking ghosts, putting up protective spells, and practicing recall. And of course she hasn’t told Flick all of this because it would feel like bragging.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. >For those few minutes once in a great while, Tabbris let herself feel loved and protected. She let the man’s arm around her fool her into thinking that there was anyone on the entire planet who would care for her, that there was anyone who loved her like that.

    Lincoln would adore you, Tabbris, and treat you as if you were his second daughter.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Pshaw! “Would”? Try “will.” Granted, Tabby has her biological family back now, but if she doesn’t spend a fair amount of time with Flick&Lincoln in the future, I’ll be shocked. Best Angel is going to find herself adopted (along with Valley and Shiori, I bet), and end up with more family than she can handle.

      Not that she’ll ever complain (much), even when she hits Sulky Teenagerhood — she’s had too much experience with being alone to forget it. Even if/when her extended family is being a bit smothering….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Like I’ve said before.

        Moon/Mason/Chambers/Atherby family blob.

        Tabbris is going to wind up with four to six adoptive parental figures even if only Lincoln will actually get called dad – she’ll also have Aunts Joselyn, Larissa and Abigail, and Uncles Deveron and Apollo.

        —-

        Theia is the crazy older cousin – Abigail has pretty much adopted her already.

        —-

        Avalon and Shiori aren’t getting adopted because they have very good adoptive parents already and there’s nothing to cause family blobbing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Avalon and Shiori are going to be the in-laws, binding the Aken/Sinclaire blob and the Porter/Akharu connection to what is already a massive family bush.

        Like

    1. Monday and Friday.

      And sometimes Wednesday.

      And whenever the author finishes an mini-interlude.

      Also, if you need your fix and have only read through once? Read the first 27 arcs again. See how many Tabbris moments you can spot.

      Like

      1. Ok thx, I’m already rereading but I’ll keep an eye out for Tabbris moments.
        Also, now that I know there’s a chapter today… I’m pulling my hair out waiting for it 😦

        Like

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