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50.2 - The Odd Couple (Alycia and Summer Edition)

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As cued from here . Retcon away the in-game comments about much of this scene taking place earlier. Or, from a non-meta standpoint, continued from here . The gaggle of girls slowly exits Want of a Nail,  nattering and chattering in a way that Alycia simply doesn't understand, and really doesn't want to. She can do it -- small talk is a key facet of social spycraft -- but she's never felt comfortable at it. Another facet is maneuvering through a crowd, and Alycia's better (and more comfortable) at that, and she makes her way beside Summer without causing a ripple in the pack, as they head down the street to yet another of the innumerable wittily-named coffee shops in Halcyon. As if they need to be more heavily caffeinated. This is moving faster than she'd wanted, but it's unclear if she'll be able to grab a moment with Summer over the weekend, and she has no doubts that the smug Director will force her to commit to a decision. She has to maximize her options before they get cut off. Yes, and I also need to -- She shuts that off. Yes, I know that, be quiet, she counters to herself. "Summer," she says, softly, not drawing attention to herself from the others. "Do you have a moment?" Please note that, despite the title, I don't assume anything about the outcome of this conversation. #RP #Cutscene
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Summer's unique chemistry doesn't benefit from most modern beauty treatments. Her hair won't be fuller, bouncier, or anything-elsier with the expensive new shampoo on television. Her skin won't soften or turn supple with renewed youth. All she could do was politely decline Duskshine's dizzying array of cosmetic options, and smile along. In some ways, she seems a little more tired than when she went in. But at the question, she turns, and via body language and facial expression, her personal sun peeks out of the clouds. "Yes, Alycia. What is it?"
Alycia deftly cuts her out of the herd, to the brick-paved edges of the sidewalk, stopping with her in a small pocket between a quaint light pole and a now-empty newspaper box corral. If she's done her job right, the others won't notice unless they explicitly want to chat with one or the other. Alycia considers it unlikely anyone will initiate chat with her, and Summer's eschewing of mani, pedi, or hairi treatment makes her, for once, less a center of bubbly attent -- She brings that thinking to a halt. Now's not the time. "I need your help," she says, after a moment, her voice even softer as if she's afraid someone will hear. "I -- I may not have been informed. By the others. If there was some movement on the team getting a base of some sort. Something with, I don't know, accommodations. Living quarters. Someplace I -- someplace people can sleep. Did anyone say anything to you?"
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Summer thinks a moment. "Hmm. I don't think I remember any specifics. But y'know, I'm not one of you." There's just a hint of awkward pauses. "The Menagerie, I mean. I was just filling in for Leo and Aria while everyone was away, you know?" "I can ask Leo about a base, if you want." She puts together the pieces she has. "Oh. If there's a base, is AEGIS going to let you stay there too?" She smiles more brightly. "I think that would be great, if you were able to stay together with everyone. I've got an apartment and I pay rent, so hopefully the base will be covered somehow. It seems like it'd be expensive."
"No, no, of course not. I thought, everyone trusts --" She growls audibly. "They want me to sleep in a -- or with -- rrrg." She closes her eyes. "Priorities," she says aloud. A deep breath. Her eyes snap open, and then she rolls her eyes. "Summer. I have wronged you." She presses one fist against an open palm. "You are in fact a true soul who deserves the respect worth any validly cognizant creature." She pauses, then adds, "Which isn't much, except that -- yes, you are a true soul. I have wronged you." She huffs a breath. "Dammit, this isn't some sort of weird alien ritual. I fucked up, Summer. I'm ... sorry." Cars swoosh down the street. Girltalk chatters along the sidewalk. Alycia's gaze does not meet Summer's.
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Summer's responses have wavered and wandered as her own troubles occupied her. Now she mentally sets those aside, and orients on what she's hearing. "You said robots had hurt you. I'm a robot. If this bothers you, just tell me and I'll stop. Or, y'know, tap out, like a wrestler." And with that, she slides her arms around the other girl and pulls her carefully, cautiously, into a hug. There's no force - she's ready to let go at any time, at the slightest sign of hesitation. "Friends hurt each other. And friends forgive. If you want. Okay?"
Alycia doesn't pull away or tell her to stop. But, then, she's endured far worse in stony silence.  She feels real enough -- warm, soft, strong ... Is that what Jason -- She cuts herself off, and instead says, "I've not been a friend to you. I was wrong in my foundation for doing so. If you forgive me, I am in your debt." The words, even distant stilted as they are, are hard to utter, betraying a weakness she hates to reveal. But the honesty, the integrity, of the moment is more important to her. Which means she has to push forward. "And you'll think the less of me in the timing. I need a favor." She quickly adds, "I'm not saying all this to get a favor from you, but because I can't ask for one until I have."
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The nearby street light and newspaper boxes feel like they strike a balance of solitude and sanctuary. It's a sad feeling, like being at the edge of a crowd of strangers. Some of Summer's melancholy returns, as the earlier conversation at Blintzkrieg tries to take over her memory. Alycia is here, but.. distant. No. I knew this was going to take time, and be difficult, for both of us. Baby steps. If she's not ready for a full hug, then maybe.. a glompromise? The joke brings a smile back to her face. She pulls out of the hug, but not once does she fully break contact. A hand on the shoulder, or the arm, is enough to remind Alycia that she's here, and that she's not rejected. Summer doesn't know for sure what is going on in that head. All she can do is try and reassure, and the best way she knows is basic human closeness. Be respectful of her feelings. She said this for a reason. But... it sounded wrong. What can I say instead? "I believe.. that forgiveness is how you get out of debt, not into it," she says quietly, with her best soothing smile. "I'm guessing your favor has to do with a place to stay. You want to know about a base. Or if there isn't any plans for it - or maybe even if they are - just somewhere you can call home for a bit. I'll do whatever I can to help with that, Alycia. I promise."
Alycia realizes she's chewing on her lower lip a bit and forces herself to stop. Be composed. Looking weak is not going to help this.   She nods. "AEGIS is willing to give me my freedom, but only if I'm living someplace ... they approve of. Which for them is at an AEGIS dorm --" She shudders slightly. "-- or, if need be, with Parker. That doesn't sound like fun times. They did say if the team had a base, that might work, too. I know they -- we -- were hanging out at Jason's, and that isn't  what I would want." Why not? No, not right yet.  "But after it got wiped out by Vector ... we've been spending more time in Study Hall than anything else. When we've actually been in town. So --" She shrugs, tension in her shoulders "Could I --" She pauses, takes a small breath, then finishes in a rush. "-- crash at your place?" She adds, quickly, "It would just be temporary. Until I can work something else out." Part of her inside is shaking her head.  Nǐ fēngle ma? Living with ... her? It's a visceral reaction much more than a reasoned one -- even with what she knows about Summer, the girl is still a robot, thus an existential threat. That's what Alycia's gut tells her. But ...  Needs must when the devil drives. "I can pay rent --" She manages a weak smirk. "-- from my generous AEGIS stipend."
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Summer's face registers dull surprise, a product of the astonishment she feels. Okay, that was a reversal... Aria, you must have said something amazing to her during that time-travel adventure. It's short-lived, though, as she moves forward to the practical matters. "I have a roommate, and it's her place technically, so I'll need to ask her permission," she says, and pulls her phone - only nearly fumbling it one time in her continued surprise - and starts texting. "Juuust a second here... It'll probably be okay, though. She just has one strict rule, no loud noises while she's sleeping. You can use my bed, I'll take the couch. Hmm. I think there's a KeyMe kiosk at the store near work. I'll get a duplicate key made for you." She puts the phone away and smiles again, unsure of just how to feel, but feeling happy nevertheless. "Do you have any stuff you need help moving?" Another comment comes tumbling out, without prompting and apparently without conscious intent. "So you're getting a dress. I hope Jason likes it. Thank you for coming with us. Thank you for everything."
Alycia hadn't even guessed that Summer might have a roommate. For some reason, that's more troubling than being alone with the robot. This mystery person is a completely unknown quantity. Sure, she was presumably vetted at some level by Summer, but Summer's such a persistently upbeat and nice person Alycia has little confidence in her ability to exercise healthy paranoia about other human beings. Is it too late to back out? Yes, dammit. "I can't put you out of your bed," she quickly says, finding her speech both quick and clumsy. "I can take the couch. I'm used to sleeping anywhere." She feels her face heat. "Actual sleeping, I mean. Not --" Why am I getting flustered about this? "And, no, I don't have a lot. Mostly just my clothes. I assume they'll let me take my toothbrush and toiletries. Oh, I'll need to bring my costume and kit -- that needs to stay secure and out of the --"  She stops. "Shit. This isn't going to work, is it. The roommate, I mean, isn't going to work. Keeping my weapons and so forth under wraps? And if I need to do some maintenance, cleaning the guns, a couple of improvements I have in ... Urf." Alycia shakes her head again. "Having a secret identity is an unexpected pain. One that requires a costume and weapons, at least. I'm used to going by another name and all that --" She makes a nervous gesture of dismissal at that, then stops and looks at Summer. "But ... thank you." Her face is completely serious. "It was ... unexpectedly kind of you to offer to help, to open your home to me after I ..." She trails off, shrugging. "Thanks." ... ... "Yeah, I hope Jason likes it, too. He's --" Alycia sighs. "-- he's buying it for me. As a gift. Which I hate, but it's sweet, but I really hate."
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Summer frowns for a moment, uncertain how to respond to Alycia's ambivalence - about the house, and the dress, and everything. But she finally decides to smile again, and finds it easy to do. "It's not easy when people do stuff for you, is it?" she asks softly. "Jason is sweet. I'm so glad you two are going together. To the dance, I mean. I don't know if you're y'know, going together generally, not my business, but I wish you both luck, and--" She's rambling, she realizes. "And my roommate will be okay too. She goes to community college, and works part time. The only time I see her is when she's at Blintzkrieg to hang out with friends, and she's only at home to sleep. I mean, I've only actually talked to her twice there, and I was still a glitchy hologram, and she didn't notice at all. I seriously doubt she will notice anything you bring home, even weapons or a costume. I know for a fact she's never entered my room, so you can keep stuff in there." She pauses, and finishes with a wry smile. "I mean, I promise 'my roommate is a robot' is a lot bigger secret to hide than 'my roommate cosplays and has weapons'. If I'm okay, I think you will be too."
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Alycia might find another person in the house a bridge too far, and come up with another plan. If so, that's okay too. Or she might be swayed by Summer's argument (robots vs. cosplay), or just find herself out of options and willing to risk it. For what it's worth, since I hadn't heard back on the question of who the roommate actually is, here's what I came up with:&nbsp;<a href="http://wiki.menagerie.team/Applehack" rel="nofollow">http://wiki.menagerie.team/Applehack</a>
Alycia hesitates a long moment. "Cosplay. Huh. That might ..." She closes her eyes a moment, then brings them back open. "Okay. Let's try it. After all, like I said, it's just temporary, until I discover what my 'stipend' looks like, and we get the whole base thing figured out. If we do. Never met a more disorganized ..." She trails off to a mutter, then smiles crookedly at Summer. "Cosplay. Yeah, I like that." "As to Jason ..." Alycia rolls her eyes. "I have no idea what's happening beyond this dance thing. I mean, we were supposed to go on a date, and then the time travel stuff got in the way, and now suddenly it's dance time and we've only had time to text to each other and he's buying me a dress, and I don't know what that means to him. Or to me!" She realizes she's raised her voice. Also that she's standing here talking about Jason with Summer. Changing the topic, she says, "And what do you mean you're not in the Menagerie? Are there formal rules for that sort of thing? I mean, Jason sort of sponsored me in, I guess, before (harrumph) quitting." She raises an eyebrow, then composes her face and gives Summer a small bow, hands together in front of her face. "If you need a sponsor, I can, um return a fraction of the favor you've done me. Assuming you actually want to be on the team." [Btw, I can definitely see some synergies between @Applehack and Alycia coming up ...]
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Summer is happy to listen, and smiles even more when the talk turns to Jason and Alycia. Without having to do anything, I got to see them start to come together and open up. It would have been a disaster to intervene. And.. she said 'date'. She wants to hug herself with delight. Or Alycia with delight. But that would be awkward, so it's enough to keep nodding along. She becomes suddenly diffident when the topic of team membership comes up. The words come back to her, in spite of her hopes for progress. "The extent that I want to 'get to know you' is to understand your strategic goals". "'I am a robot' trumps all that." "You're still a machine, Summer." She takes a slow breath and attempts a fragile smile. "The team doesn't need me. You have Aria, and Otto. After the Rook robot incident, I thought, y'know, maybe people need to see robots in a positive light. A lot.... a lot of people don't, y'know, think we're.." people . "But I also wanna make coffee and have friends and be a student. It'd be tough to be both." Do I dare say this? Let's find out. "Does the 'dreaded&nbsp;Alycia Chin, notorious daughter of et cetera' ever wish people would see her real self, and wish they could accept her, and be afraid they never ever will? 'Cause that's what I feel. So... for now, I chose the easier path."
Alycia looked like she was going to say something at the start of Summer's demurrer, but she grows still as Summer continues. "Don't think we're ..." humans, people, real. Dammit, this is partly my fault. I wanted to hurt her, and I think I did. And I was so goddamned wrong . I have to fix this. &nbsp; But Summer goes on, and Alycia feels her own blood chill a little at that last question she asks. "Accept me?" she says, her voice low. "Yes, oh, yes. See my real self?" A sad shake of the head. "That's the self I'm trying to change, to leave behind. But accept me for what I want to be, what I'm trying to be ... yeah, I get it." Her lips tighten. "You are a person, Summer. I realize that. I know it.&nbsp; I didn't before, and that's --" A pause. "-- one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made. And I'll be trying to make amends for it for a long time. But don't let my ignorance and prejudice -- or anyone else's -- stand in the way of your being what you can be. What you want to be. What you can do for others as well as for yourself." She clenches her fists, then relaxes them. "Maybe that's just being a barista and going to school. Or maybe it's juggling those things with being a hero. Protecting those you care for, and other folk you don't even know. For --" A quick shrug. "-- whatever reason drives you. But decide for yourself, not because of what other people don't understand about you." Alycia snorts. "What would you say to me if I told you I couldn't be -- couldn't try to be -- a hero because too many people could never trust the daughter of Achilles Chin? That's precisely the reason I have to try."
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Summer bites her lip and scrunches up her face. She hides her failed attempt not to cry by hugging Alycia again, less hesitantly than before. "I'd tell you that this is your real self. The girl who cares, the girl with a big heart, who hesitates sometimes but never gives up. Even when you said those things to me at Blintzkrieg, it was for something important to you. You wanted to keep Jason safe from a danger. I want you to be keep being that girl, please? I accept you, I accept all of it, all of you, all the things you said, good and bad together. Okay?" I Am What You See : When you spend time talking to someone about your identity, you can ask them which Label they want to impose on you; their player will tell you honestly. If you accept what they tell you, take +1 forward and either mark potential or clear a condition. She doesn't pull away until the sound of tears and sniffling end after an exercise in silent self-control. Her face is adorned with a smile again, though her eyes are still moist. "I guess with such wonderful people behind me, I have to step up, and show the world. Leo, sis, Otto, the Menagerie, and even Jason and now you... Eight people down, seven billion to go, huh? I have to know. What did she say to get you to change your mind? Aria, I mean. Or was it Leo? Or Otto?"
Alycia doesn't stand there stiffly the way she did before. It's not a lot, but she does, with great restraint, give her a pat or three on the back. When Summer pulls away .... "I owe you that. But I owe Otto the explanation first. It's -- complicated. But --" She gives a crooked smile. "-- words had nothing to do with it. Which, given Otto, shouldn't be a surprise." Then her features fall for a moment. Her shoulders slump. "Thank you for your kind words. I'm not sure I'm worthy of that much --" She shakes her head, her eyes closed. "Your trust is more precious than I can say, Summer."&nbsp; Then her eyes open, lock with Summer's. "The others, the team, AEGIS, anyone else -- they don't trust me. Why should they? That whole 'dreaded' thing, right? I need your help, Summer. what you said. I need others to hear it. I need ..." It's not a smile, it's more a grimace. "I need an advocate." She doesn't quite extend her hands, but they twitch outwards anyway.&nbsp;
I Am What You See : When you spend time talking to someone about your identity, you can ask them which Label they want to impose on you; their player will tell you honestly. If you accept what they tell you, take +1 forward and either mark potential or clear a condition. You are human, and grounded, and compassionate. In all the good meanings of the word, Mundane.
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Summer rubs her eyes first, then takes Alycia's hands in her own. "I'll do what I can. But Leo said that you operated the Heart Factory. If he let you do that, then he also trusts you, more than I can easily explain." She smiles warmly. "And if I hadn't before, that would have been enough." She's not sure what to make of the references to Otto. And she's not sure if she should ask. Perhaps it can wait. That seems to be what Alycia is asking for, anyway. She changes tack, releases her grip, and rubs her hands together. Down to business. This isn't meddling,&nbsp; she asked for this . "Right. First, the dance. People don't know you, but everyone knows Jason. This is your chance to make a great first impression. But there's gonna be some girls who are jealous, too. Just be gracious and ignore them. I'll be there. If you need anything - anything at all, just a reassuring word, or somebody's giving you trouble, or anything, get my attention, okay? Aria and I love dealing with those sorts." A thought occurs to her. "You must have made at least a couple school friends by now. I know your secret, but they don't. I think you'll want both kinds of friends. I can introduce you to Nono, and we can talk to some of the other Ponies too." "AEGIS.. hmm. You have a handler, like Leo does, yeah? I feel like if you're couch surfing with me, I'll need to meet her anyway. Is it Parker? I'll be happy to talk with her, if you think it'll help."
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[Team Moves!Scion: When you share a vulnerability or weakness with someone, ask them if they would defend you against those who mistrust you. If they say yes, clear a condition and shift Savior up, and any other Label down. ...]&nbsp; Alycia's hands clamp onto hers tightly for a moment. Then they let go and seem to push away slightly. It's ... confusing to Alycia, likely even more so to anyone else ... ... "Someone might be ... jealous of me? And cause trouble? And I suppose that --" A dozen examples of unfavorable social interactions at the Zhukov Military Academy, and tactical mitigation alternatives, ripple through her mind.&nbsp; Choke holds, kick to the side of the knees, shanks ... "-- I should exercise ... restraint?" Arm held around the back, off to a side corridor, belt / clothing / zip ties / re-purposed&nbsp;wiring to nullify hands, feet ... This is going too fast. From request for asylum to offers of protection against social offense? Too much, too quickly. &nbsp;"Let's just see how that goes." ... Freya preserve us. I'm not ready for the Ponies. &nbsp;"Yes! Yes, I have some ... study partners. Partner. Not in the trade, not up to speed on my secret. Daph Palin. She should be there." If she and Marion both followed instructions. ...&nbsp; "Yes, Agent Parker. Like I said, her place was one of my options to doss down. I will need to confirm with her, or ... her boss, as to whether I can stay with you for the nonce." Crap. Yeah, they'll probably say okay because they want observations on Summer. Shit. &nbsp;"But you don't need to talk with her. Unless she takes a mind toward it. She's a bit ... insistent over things she thinks are important."
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Summer grins. Everything's working out so very well. I still don't have a date to the dance. Looks like I'll be too busy to notice. The harpies will be circling with talons out. "Okay. I'll follow your lead on Parker. If you feel like introducing me to your friend Daph, I'd love that too." She glances around, piecing together what's happened. "Hey, in the short term, how about we go catch up with the friends we already have?" She starts moving, pivots around on one foot, and shows a smile that's fireworks on a starry night. "I can't wait!" This seemed like a logical closing point, though I'm sure Alycia will have private thoughts after this. If you had more, go ahead and I'll edit this accordingly. :)
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Alycia gives her a half-smile, falling in a half-step behind.&nbsp; Chikushō, what have I done? Was this the right move? I mean, it's one thing to no longer dread someone for what they are, quite another to move in as a room mate, temporary or not. And she's the sort that will want to get all up into my life, which is not something I want. I think. Probably not. On the other hand, she trusts me. I'm the least likely, on so many levels, to get that trust, but she does anyway. I should step away from that before someone gets hurt -- but I don't dare.&nbsp; I'm getting into a lot of trouble. But maybe, if someone like Summer is willing to stand by me, things aren't as bad as I think.&nbsp;
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This was really a blast. It felt like a perfect followup from the previous conversation, with Alycia and Summer both bringing their issues and their hopes to it, circling around a simple question like "can I crash at your place". Thanks for taking the time. :)
[Thank you for letting me, er, Alycia, crash there. :-D ]
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Summer is on her own. The conversation with Alycia earlier is still with her. It sometimes circled around Jason, but never really landed, and Alycia didn't address what she'd said before. "A rival for Jason Quill's affection." Those words still ring in Summer's ears too. How could she think that? Doesn't she know Jason? I guess.. not? How long has it been since they last really talked, before just recently? Is she still uncertain about Jason? Probably. But they're - well, not dating, but planning on a date, and a dance. She needs to hear this from me, the way Aria told me, the way I told Leo. There can't be any confusion, anything in the way. She starts writing an email. I couldn't just say this to her face, could I. I admit, I'm lonely and confused, but it's just general loneliness-and-confusion, it's not give-Jason-to-me loneliness, or I-wish-Aria-would-share-Leo-after-all loneliness, or.... god, I'm a mess. She resumes the email, but with plenty of edits and revisions to a very embarrassing first draft. "I'm not a rival with you for Jason. I'm your supporter. It's important to me that you know why." "Imagine you're at his place, watching movies. You two went out earlier.&nbsp;You're leaning against him. You feel safe and warm as you ever have. It's really nice. And then he calls you Summer by accident." "I don't ever want to be called Alycia by accident." "I don't want to doubt what he feels, or for whom. But I would, unless I knew he'd clearly made up his mind. And if he didn't want to make a choice, I'd be hurt by that too. I deserve better. And so do you. So I'm making that choice easier on him, by keeping some distance." "I think he really cares about you, but is confused about what happens next. I think you are the same way. But I know you both are wonderful people, and will figure out together what you both want. All I want is be friends with you both, no matter what happens. And I believe in you both."
[I'm assuming that's the final draft there, complete with Sun emoji? And that she hits send?]
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Yep. I imagine the first was a wreck.
[Just wanted to be sure. Also wanted to confirm she didn't do so much cutting and pasting back and forth that she inadvertently ended up with a big chunk of first draft down below her signature that got sent off with the rest, because that mortification gold&nbsp; never &nbsp;happens ...]
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She almost CCed Jason, good enough? :)
[HA!]
Alycia stares at the email on her phone, a fierce glower across her brows and forehead. "God dammit," she mutters. "You have got to be some sort of ... evil fiend. Because nobody can be that ... goddammed ... noble ." She realizes to her horror that her eyes are wet. Ugh. How does that girl do that? She closes her eyes. Regains her composure. Takes deep breaths. Then dives into a reply. Because this needs to be cleared up before she can move in. Elephants in the room are one thing. Awakened Eldritch Beings from the Netherworld are something entirely different. This is definitely on that level. Summer: I fully expect Jason to call me Summer some time by accident. Two reasons.&nbsp; First off, he really, *really* likes you, and has unresolved feelings for you too, and I am *fully cognizant of that.* If we (me and him) fall madly in love and get married and happily live to be 100 (so very unlikely) I will still expect him to call me Summer sooner or later. And for that matter if he calls me Summer by accident in that kind of circumstance you describe, it would be because maybe he was associating being with me with being with someone really nice and comfortable and pretty and safe and NICE. So it would be a *compliment.* I would still retaliate against him in a way that doesn't bear contemplating. Continuum of response my ass. (Just Kidding) (Mostly) (If he called you Alycia some time, it would probably mean he was feeling like you two had a long enough history that you were associated with lots of good memories (I hope). So that would be a complement, too.) (I would still expect you to retaliate against him as well, not just get all sad. Because of the second reason:) Second reason, it's Jason. I'll be lucky if he doesn't call me *Hecate* some time, even after that 100 years thing. Because his brain works in mysterious ways, its wonders to perform, but few of them meaningful. Which drives me nuts sometimes. People are complicated, and carry baggage and regrets and what-ifs and stuff. Even if they make up their mind about something and are satisfied with that decision, that stuff is still in the mix somewhere. BELIEVE ME. *Whatever* happens, whether it's Alycia + Jason, or Summer + Jason, or Ultra-Knockers Lass + Jason, or whoever ends up with (and don't count out that last one, because Jason), he will have bits and pieces of you and me running around in his memory (that was the whole point of the Heart Machine repair stuff, right?), and that *never* really goes away no matter what he decides. Which may lead to blurting of wrong names.&nbsp; I know you are a person, but you may not have enough experience with your own time on the planet to realize this. Memory is good sometimes. Memory sucks sometimes. But Memory is.&nbsp; Don't be afraid of others memories. And *really don't* give up going after what you want. (Except Jason, he's mine. (Just Kidding (Mostly))) We will always be rivals for his heart (I cannot believe I actually *just wrote those words*), whichever he chooses (or even if he chooses neither), and even if we've both moved on, too. He's stuck with that, as are both of us. Also, to be perfectly clear, I accept your support. But I DON'T accept your concession. I am not a charity case in this, too. And if things end up Alycia + Jason, how secure can *I* be in the result if you gave up the match? And how would Jason feel if he found out? And this all even assumes that Alycia + Jason is a real thing. (And I will confess this to you *once* because you wrote this note, dammit. I think *you* would be better for Jason than me. But I'm not conceding, either, because I'm selfish enough not to. And if you show that to anyone it would be very bad.) This is way too long and I should probably either delete it or rewrite it or wait until after lunch to send it, but I do *not* want to leave this stuff churning through my own head (memories!). We need to talk about this, like maybe in person or something radical, but let's wait until *after* the dance when I might have better Alycia + Jason answers. I ask only one thing: please don't do the "I see them dancing together and my heart goes [shattering sound] and so I run from the dance in tears." Because that is so cliche and only makes everyone miserable. Plus then Jason would see that and run after you and OMG now I'm worried about romance movie tropes, too, dammit. Another thing to piss me off. Don't do that.&nbsp; Okay, I ask *two* things: if this is going to cause a problem with the room mate arrangement, wait until we can talk about it before kicking me out. Priorities. I am more embarrassed about writing this letter than anything I've ever done. Also, my thumbs are really sore and if I get into a fight with a supervillain this morning and die because my thumbs were too sort to use my guns, I will haunt you like fuck. So there. See how mean I am? Grr. &nbsp; Alycia starts to re-read it, growls, and hits [Send]. And tries not to immediately regret it. She shakes her head again. "Dammit, Jason."
[True story: While I have never (so far as I recall) called Margie by my first wife's name, I did once comment to her about how some upcoming event was going to be on her birthday, only to be made quite definitively aware that, no, that wasn't Margie's birthday, but my first wife's.]
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Bill G.
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Summer bites her lip, scans the email in mounting dread, breathes a sigh of relief, and lets go of her tension. On re-reading it, her brow beetles thanks to a complex combination of emotions. She gets to work typing. "I had wanted to say those things before. I knew I would say them when I was accepting you as a roommate. There's no problem now, and there won't be. I wouldn't do that to you." "I know oh so well that people are complicated and that people carry baggage. I'm glad you do too. I just don't want to be the one left holding the bag, so to speak. And don't want that for you either." "So maybe this isn't a concession. Maybe I'm just letting things happen the way two of my friends want. And maybe, you know, I will meet some interesting guy at the dance and he'll ask me out. That won't happen if I'm mooning over Jason. It's really flattering that you think I'd have a chance with him. But right now isn't the time for me to take that chance, is all I'm saying." "And honestly the thing I will haunt you for is that Jason/Hecate mental image, I mean jesus. I'm gonna go uninstall my eyes." "And what makes up for all of this is that you wrote back. Even though it was embarrassing. It means a lot to me. Thank you." "P.S. if you ever need to know what a serious rivalry is like, I can get access to Jason's private pictures folder and I have a holographic body that can look like anything I want. Let's go. Finger guns!" Summer looks doubtfully at the postscript before sending, and lets out a sigh. She deletes it, letter by letter, and gives the email the same wary rereading she did last time. There's absolutely no reason to pick a fight on this topic, is there? The P.S. won't be sent, but I included it for comedy value since you asked about first drafts. :)
Alycia finds herself checking her phone every few minutes, waiting for ... something. Anything. Classic intelligence conundrum. Is silence a meaningful message, or simply lack of message? Was it stupid to try and correct her? What would Father say about turning down an enemy's offer to quit the field? Okay, well, that's a good sign that I was right to do the opposite.&nbsp; Was I too aggressive? Should I have gone back and reevaluated the socio-emotional index of each expression and mapped it out to Summer's presented biases and memetic gaps? No. Honesty. That works best. The best policy, right? (Yes, I know what Father would say.) This would be a hella easier if I really knew what I thought about Jason. About me and Jason. Right. One terrifying prospect at a time, Alycia. She does this through normal typing, right? I mean -- I'm pretty sure she doesn't just tap into the Internet and directly get her mail and respond through mental interface. Alycia goes back and reads the earlier email. No, it wouldn't read like that if it were a direct consciousness link. She thinks. 89.5% certain. So 10.5% uncertain.&nbsp; So she has to get the message to her phone. She has to have the opportunity to read it. She has to consider her response. She has actually type it out and send it. That's why I haven't gotten anything yet. Makes perfect sense. Refresh. Refresh. Oh, for&nbsp;Topogh's sake ... Refresh. * * * When the email comes in, she forces herself to take a breath. To get a glass of water. To drink it. Then to read. * * * Huh. It's the typical maddening Newman-fu she should be used to. Saying "No" in the politest way, embedded in an array of uninvited "Yes"s. Alycia takes a deep breath. Types. Thanks for not retracting the invitation. I do appreciate it. And, as I said, this is going to be just temporary / short term.&nbsp; I carry enough baggage to start my own shipping company. :-) I know you know that. I just don't talk about it because it's my responsibility to carry it, whether I chose to pack it myself, or it was thrust on me by someone else. Shùn qí zìrán. If you choose to not go after Jason, that is your choice, for you. I *don't* advise choosing so for Jason's sake. I don't *want* you choosing so for my sake. If it is what *you* want, though, then do it. Ugh, I did not mean to imply even in jest about no yuck.&nbsp; An earlier generation would find it ludicrous that we would discuss this all by email. "Call," they would say. "Go and talk." Maybe we can discuss this, honestly, because we have that separation, and the opportunity to relax between exchanges. But I do promise you a f2f to update you post-dance. Thanks, btw, about the dress. I was looking at longer ones, planning on weakening some of the stitching as a contingency plan, but you were correct in noting that a shorter hemline would make kicking that much easier without any mods. Just in case the dance is attacked by Vyortovians or something.&nbsp; See you there. P.S. Your "letting things happen" does not trump my intent for you to have at least one dance with Jason. Because "letting things happen." And, I assure you, I do know how to manhandle a robot. Just saying. After a moment, she hits [Send], and thinks about how strange life can be, sometimes.
There's absolutely no reason to pick a fight on this topic, is there? The irony being that Alycia would be on much more comfortable footing with someone who bandies / banters / postures aggressively. She would know how to respond to that, and how to gauge that response. Dealing with niceness is damnably more difficult for her. :-)
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Bill G.
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Summer feels like something is really happening here. As Pneuma, she remembers the news that Harry had been attacked by Jason's nemesis, Alycia Chin. This is that same girl? Then again, I'm not the same girl. "&gt;&gt; If you choose to not go after Jason, that is your choice, for you." "Let's clarify and say that it's not my choice to go after him&nbsp; at this time .&nbsp; &nbsp;But this choice is for me, and about me, yes. Me supporting you means letting you and Jason choose your own fates without interfering." "Confession time. Early on when Jason and I were talking, I thought I should do something to get you and him together. I was a fool, and I apologize for that. I'm learning to trust you. You are smart, but you are also wise." "&gt;&gt;&nbsp;But I do promise you a f2f to update you post-dance." "I'm holding you to that. I want all the details. Okay, there's some details I can really do without, so, use your discretion." "&gt;&gt;&nbsp;my intent for you to have at least one dance with Jason. I do know how to manhandle a robot." "Yeah, but my fear is that Jason knows too.&nbsp; If he does, which of us gets to retaliate in assorted unspeakable ways? Is there a round-robin system? Do we flip a coin? Anyway, hopefully we will not find out." "BTW if you really need Jason to step up his game, ask Leo for a dance. &nbsp;Like don't do this if Aria's around though. Like in North America around."
&gt;&gt; Early on when Jason and I were talking, I thought I should &gt;&gt; do something to get you and him together. I was a fool, and &gt;&gt; I apologize for that. Okay, now I'm curious as to what you did. Or maybe it's best I don't know. &gt;&gt; I'm learning to trust you. You are smart, but you are also wise. Urf. I will accept smart. Wise I would have never mind. &gt;&gt; Okay, there's some details I can really do without, so, use your &gt;&gt; discretion. The one thing I am highly confident about the dance is that there will be no details of *that* sort to not talk about. &gt;&gt; my fear is that Jason knows too.&nbsp; &nbsp;If he does, which of us gets &gt;&gt; to retaliate in assorted unspeakable ways? Is there a round-robin &gt;&gt; system? Do we flip a coin? Anyway, hopefully we will not find out. Okay, there are details of *that* sort in this letter I don't want to talk about. 😒 &gt;&gt; BTW if you really need Jason to step up his game, ask Leo for a dance.&nbsp; &nbsp; Oh, no. I will say that, as the daughter of a world-class science villain *and* as someone who's been involved with Jason Quill, there are some situations even I won't even pretend to get involved in. 🤯 &gt;&gt; Like don't do this if Aria's around though. Like in North America &gt;&gt; around. Yes, not helping the robo-phobia there, Summer. 😬 😉 This is madness. I feel like I need to sing Javert's swan song (and I don't even like that show), the world turned upside-down. If this is some cunning plot on your part, then you are enough smarter than me that I acknowledge I am doomed. I'll prefer to say instead I am disarmed. I think next stop on your tour is the Middle East to talk some sense into them. Okay, gotta start prep for the dance. Dress + makeup + hair and not at all easy in a [REDACTED] washroom. Jason's sending "a vehicle" for me for dinner, which is Not At All Worrisome. I will see you there.&nbsp; 👉👉 PS Thank you.
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[Huh. Apparently the Win10 emoji keyboard does not actually resolve when the post is saved. Irksome, that.]
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Bill G.
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I discovered high Unicode doesn't work awhile back, so have been including images from emojipedia instead. :) I wasn't expecting this much back and forth in the email either, but it feels like these two characters just have a lot to say to each other. Mostly about Jason. :)&nbsp; But as before, I really feel like "Jason" is mostly a proxy for them connecting with themselves and each other, and I'm happy with that.
Yeah, that's where I pulled the sigs in the previous two posts, but when I saw a bunch of small emoji, I thought you might be doing something more straightforward, which prompted me to actually Google how to do emoji on Win10. Which loaded into the edit screen just fine, but don't display when saved (and apparently can't be reedited). For the record, the ones I put in were, in order ... talk about [narrowed eyes] ... get involved in. [head-splode] ... robo-phobia there, Summer. [teeth-gritting terrified] [wink] Signature: [finger gun] [finger gun] The email back and forth was worth it for, if nothing else, remembering the days of &gt;&gt; carets for copied text. :-) Also, yeah, there's a weird breakthrough there which feels both accelerated (as these sorts of stories do) but also organic. Gestures made on concession to gestures made by the other keep building up until all of a sudden they're communicating like human beings. That may ebb and flow some, but it's a good sign. If we hadn't just gone through a cycle of it, I'd claim another Share Vulnerablity/Weakness team move with Summer. Which for Alycia is kind of crazy. Hopefully she doesn't wake up in the morning and decide that all goes under the heading of "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you." (Just kidding (Mostly).) I'm actually writing up the Alycia/Jason pre-dance dinner at the moment. Will try to have it done in time for the game. Summer might come up in conversation (if Alycia has anything to do with it).
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Bill G.
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*** Dave H. said: I'm actually writing up the Alycia/Jason pre-dance dinner at the moment. Will try to have it done in time for the game. I'm definitely looking forward to that. Summer might come up in conversation (if Alycia has anything to do with it).