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Generated: Feb 21, 2019 1:05 AM
Post last updated: Nov 25, 2017 2:02 AM
light as your brightest dream
Silvers and native Lotus in dreamshaperverse
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Overall, Felix is happy about starting a new high school. They're starting later in the year, but he has his brothers and they have Arthur. Maira is in her own school and they even have mageborns there. She won't stand out as much, despite being a skymage-lightweaver. The move was worth it.

Speaking of other mageborn, Felix should look for that other lightweaver. He introduces himself and asks around.

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Oh, sure! Zahara, everyone knows Zahara, she's the one with the sister. She's got a free period after lunch, she'll probably be in the library.

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Thank you, individual possessor of attributes other than the knowledge of Zahara's location.

Luckily, Felix also has that period free. He goes over the library.

Libraries are the sort of places that if Felix walks in people will stare. Hard not to, with his red-orange wings. Where is Zahara?

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It's probably a fair guess that she's the one in the comfy chair, absently threading brightly-colored yarn through a little loom on her lap, while explaining geometry to two other girls.

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Extremely fair. He approaches.

"Hello, are you Zahara?"

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"Yes! Hi! You must be one of the new boys, but I'm afraid I haven't got the wings straight yet so I don't know which."

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Giggle. "The one with white wings is Fenris. The one with dark-blue and white lightning patterns is Trevor. I'm Felix, the one with orange-firey wings. Pleasure to meet you."

He bows the traditional skymage bow, opening the wings to their full wingspan.

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"It's nice to meet you too!" (She looks like she isn't quite sure how to respond to a bow, and settles for giving the tiniest possible wave.) "So, what's up? Similar triangles giving you trouble, too?"

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"Nah, I just read about you in the local mageborn community page. I have a sister that is a lightweaver too."

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"Oh! Cool -- does she go here? Older or younger?"

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"Six years younger! We just discovered her power. And she also has the greater gift of light too."

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"Oh, wow, lucky girl! She must be so excited."

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"Immensely! Not sure if her dream to just wave around and summon dresses is actually achievable, but she wants to learn how to properly weave light regardless."

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"Awwwwww. You'll have to introduce us sometime, we can trade tips! I was into weaving even before I knew, so I've had a lot of fun with it."

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"That is exactly what I was hoping for! It's already hard to find skymages outside the Stormlands and we," he waves his wings, "can't pass for non-magical."

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"Which I'm sure is a barrel of fun in its own right."

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He looks pleasantly surprised by this. "Indeed not. But on the upside: flight."

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She laughs. "I can't say I've ever wanted to fly that badly -- seems like it would mix poorly with skirts, for one thing -- but I can see the appeal."

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Giggle. "Leggings?" He offers, "Anyway, when we should introduce you two to each other?"

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"Let me check my schedule..."

She leafs through her planner. "Doesn't look like I've got anything this afternoon, actually, or Sunday if that works better? You all are welcome to come along too, if you're free, I'm never going to get the three of you straight if I don't get to know you. Did two of you really have to have names starting with the same first letter?"

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Chuckle. "Our parents wanted Felicia if they had a girl, but then the ultrasound came and they changed that to Felix and picked a skymage hero from the Worlds War Two. People don't usually plan for twins and definitely don't plan for triplets. Either day is good, I'll come with her if no one is free to."

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"Well, why don't you come over this afternoon then? What's your number, I can text you my address."

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"Perfect," Felix gives her his number.

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And she texts him her address!

"So are you and your brothers freshmen, or are you transferring in with some things already done?"

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"We are actually seniors. Managed to transfer nearly all of our credits. The school was fairly understanding."

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"Oh, that's good, sometimes they're not -- I have a friend who transferred in and they wanted to start him over as a freshman, didn't think any of his credits should count, his parents had to really push them to let him test out of things. I'm a senior too, we might have classes together."

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"Oh, we tested some things, but they're otherwise fairly accommodating to the four of us."

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"That's good to hear! I think they are in general, it's just that my friend had been to an alternative high school and they were convinced the education there couldn't possibly be any good. Do you have many classes together?"

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"We have a couple of classes with all three of us together. But most classes we are by ourselves."

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"It's too bad you can't exactly switch out for each other and fool the teachers!"

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Giggle. "Well, Fenris could easily dye his wings and tuck his claws in the feathers. Somehow Trevor and I never managed to convince him this would be a good idea."

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"Don't need to convince him if you do it while he's asleep!"

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"We could've tried that, but he wakes up easily and even floats in his sleep. Hard to dye things when he is hanging out in the ceiling."

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"...he floats in his sleep that's amazing. Oh my -- can you imagine -- some poor girl, someday..." She cracks up.

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Felix cracks up as well. "We might have made a joke or two about the fact that he doesn't have a bed and how that would affect his relationships."

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"Good to hear you've got your important brotherly duties under control!"

Someone glares. Zahara covers her mouth. "Oh, dear, library, sorry."

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"Sorry," Felix says not quite containing his chuckle, "I should leave you be before I disrupt the peace and quiet any further."

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"Probably," she admits. "I'll see you this afternoon!"

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"Of course! It was nice meeting you!"

He leaves.

Hours later here they are.

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With his little sister who knocks at their door. She briefly considers floating at eye-level but decides against it and instead is just standing on the ground like a normal person.

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A man answers the door. "Hello?"

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"Hello! We are here to see Zahara," Maira says brightly.

She is twelve and has four wings, blue with iridescent stripes that almost glow.

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"Of course you are," he says, amused. "You're new, I'd've remembered you. Her room's down the hall, second on the right, come on in."

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(Maira knows she is hard to forget, but she doesn't comment on it.)

She smiles politely. "Thank you!"

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"Thank you for having us over," Felix says.

They go down the hall and knock.

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This time it's Zahara. "Felix! So glad you could make it. And this must be the sister I've heard so much about! C'mon in."

(Her room's a bit cluttered, laundry strewn on the floor, but it's cozy. She's taken the doors off her closet to squeeze a tiny, battered couch into it; there's beanbag chairs in one corner, a desk in another, a loom taking up a good portion of space; her bed's unmade, and the trundle that's slid halfway out from under it has a rumpled duvet tossed on top; her one window's ajar; nearly all the free wallspace is taken up by tapestries.)

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Felix loves her room already.

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So does Maira, who looks around and ooohs and aaahs. "Hi! I'm Maira, did you make these," she points at the tapestries.

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"I did! And I am feeling very flattered right now. I'm Zahara, it's so nice to meet you."

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"Likewise! How long did it take you to learn? How long do you spend per piece? When did you discover your lightweaving?"

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Zahara giggles. "Some of those are hard to answer, because I've been weaving since I was eight! So it took me a while to get any good at all but part of that was because I was so little. The first time I did a full tapestry it took me two years. These days it's more like six months. Other things are quicker, though, something like a blanket can take a day to a couple of weeks depending on how complicated the design is and how much time I spend on it each day. I was younger than you when I discovered my power but only by a bit -- eleven, I think, my sister'd know for sure."

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"Oh, is she a lightweaver too?"

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Zahara laughs. "No, she just has a fantastic memory, so she remembers the dates for my life milestones better than I do."

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Discreetly, Felix frowns. Aren't lightweavers supposed to always manifest among females of a family? Maybe he is misremembering.

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Maira has more specific questions about weaving and using lightweaving.

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Zahara has answers! She shows off her laser-loom setup. "It's very convenient, actually, warping the loom is one of the more significant time investments in traditional weaving."

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And after an hour or so there is a soft rattling at the window as someone opens it the rest of the way and climbs in.

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Maira is fascinated by the laser-loom! She hovers beneath and above it to get it from all angles. She explains her idea of using hydrokinesis to make the threads to weave themselves.

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Felix is very impressed by the laser-loom. He turns to the newcomer. "Hello!"

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"Hi!" She hauls in a book-bag and shuts the window after her. "Zahara, introduce us!"

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"Jeanne, this is Maira -- she's a lightweaver -- and Felix; they just transferred into our school. Felix, Maira, this is my sister Jeanne."

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"Don't forgot to mention that we are skymages," Felix says while waving his wings.

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Maira rolls her eyes. "Hi!"

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"I might have picked up on the skymages thing somehow. Even if you hadn't been on the news."

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The laser-loom is really fascinating.

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"Yeah, people usually guess. I think I have a tell or something."

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"My sister," Zahara says, kicking the sister in question in the shin, "is charming except when she's completely tactless, sorry, Maira. Be good, Jeanne."

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"--sorry," Jeanne says, sounding extraordinarily sincere.

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"It's okay. How does this part work?" She asks about a bit that Zahara already explained.

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"Don't worry. Trust me, it was probably one of the most tactful mentions on the subject."

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"Anyone at school been obnoxious?"

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"No. Not at this one. I don't think anyone recognized us yet and that wasn't the sort of thing teenagers follow closely."

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Nod. "Jeanne only knows because I am for obvious reasons interested in that sort of thing. None of the teachers or anything?"

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"None yet. But I bet they know. The director talked to us personally and gave... a reassuring conversation on how we shouldn't worry about students."

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Zahara makes a face. "Well, any of them start giving you trouble, you tell me, OK?"

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Smile, it's very charming. "Well, thank you."

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"You can do something about trouble?"

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"Not necessarily. But in most cases? Yeah. I promise not to get anyone fired unless it's really necessary and they really deserve it."

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"It's never gets really that bad. Usually, the worst we get is people calling us prince or princess sarcastically."

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"I have milder options in my arsenal! The last time I got someone fired it was because he kept assigning online homework Friday afternoon to be due Saturday evening -- just little quick end-of-week summaries, you know -- no matter how often I pointed out that I don't use electronic devices on Saturdays."

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"You don't?"

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"Orthodox Jewish. Which, for the record, I explained to the teacher in question."

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"Wow. Why didn't he just... adapt or something?"

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"Uh, because he was an antisemitic bigot with the IQ of a sack of hammers?"

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He makes a face. "Hey, hammers are at least useful."

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"Well, I can't say I ever tried pounding a nail with him."

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 "Don't do such things. The blood will rust the nail."

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Giggle. "Ew. You're as bad as Jeanne!"

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"Am I?" He asks glancing over at Jeanne.

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"Who, me? I am entirely well-behaved." She crosses her ankles primly and grins.

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"I can fly and I still don't use windows to get into people's homes."

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"Yeah, but I bet you don't have to!"

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"Does this mean that you're not allowed in here?" He teases.

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"Zahara doesn't mind me being here, and it's her room."

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"And you're entirely well-behaved."

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"Oh, utterly. Has Zahara been telling you otherwise? Don't believe a word she says."

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"Cross my heart that I won't believe any lies and slander out of her mouth."

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"I like you already."

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"Well, thank you. I like you already too."

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"Awww, he's so sweet. Zahara, he's adorable, can we keep him?"

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"I apologize for my sister, she was raised by wolves. In a barn. Apparently."

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"Who is keeping wolves in their barns?"

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"Deeply incompetent farmers!"

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"So incompetent that they let children being raised by wolves in their barns. I suppose they went 'well, better than being raising by wolves in the wild'."

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"She can't even make it stop raining!"

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"You sound awfully sure of that!"

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"What, are you hiding a pair of really tiny wings in there?"

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"What, are you going to check?"

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"No..."

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Maira giggles nervously.

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"Raised in a barn," Zahara sighs, aiming a kick at Jeanne's ankle. "Behave, or I will throw you back out the window."

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"Sorry! Sorry."

Jeanne sounds like she means it.

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"It's okay," Felix says sincerely, "what are your interests and hobbies?"

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"Acting! ... Also I like poetry. And I'm in a lot of clubs -- debate, theater, GSA, student government, occasionally Zahara drags me to chess club with her..."

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"Maybe the triplets and Arthur are going to join the GSA?"

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"Well, we'd love to have you. Who's Arthur?"

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"Uh, our boyfriend."

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"All four of you? Wow. He must have some stellar time management skills."

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The two make the most disgusted face. "Ew! I'm not dating Arthur!"

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Jeanne cracks up completely. "Oh, that would just be beyond the pale? Sorry, my mistake!"

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Maira shifts uncomfortably and sort of hides behind her wings.

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"Can we change the subject?"

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"Of course. Sorry."

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"So... acting. That is a thing you mentioned earlier and that you're interested in."

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Subdued nod.

"It's what I'm good at."

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Oh, poor thing. "Oh, really?" He says encouragingly.

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"Yeah. The best."

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"Are you planning to become a real actress?"

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"I don't know, what makes someone a real actress?"

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"Uh... money? I guess."

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"I have in fact been paid for acting!"

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"Oooh, it was for a movie? Or a play?"

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"Oh, plays; I don't care much for movie acting, there's no audience and you do all the bits out of order and you have to put up with cameras in your face and special effects and so on and so forth."

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"Oooh, it sounds like that you really enjoy the artistic aspect of it all."

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"I really do! -- And you? Have you any hobbies?"

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"Nowadays, mostly reading terrible romance novels. We used to be too busy to join any school club, but the situation might change and I might go for arts or something."

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"He likes the ones with shirtless skymages on the cover holding fainting damsels in distress!"

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"Does he now."

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"Yes he does!"

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Felix chuckles. "It's really hard to find others kinds of stories featuring skymages. While there is an entire sub-genre of romance novels featuring them. I developed a taste and even have a bingo card for the common mistakes and bad tropes."

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"He does! I saw it. His favorite square is the one that says 'unnecessary cuddling together for warmth'."

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"And is that your favorite because it's the best or the worst?"

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"Yes."

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Jeanne giggles.

"So, a third of a boyfriend and cuddling swooning maidens? A man of diverse tastes."

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"People need variety in their lives!"

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"Someone should have told your boyfriend that before he started dating identical triplets!"

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"The triplets more than make up by having different personalities."

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"Have you got a quick reference guide?"

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"I do! Fenris, the one that floats and has high expectations about everything. Felix, the firey one has a very warm disposition. Trevor, the one that does lightning can be very sudden and flashy."

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Felix chuckles and pats Maira's head.

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Giggle. "Oh, that is handy."

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"Yes, the advantage of naturally color-coded identicals."

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"One of the many!"

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"No matter how disappointed Trevor is that we can't pull a twin-switch plot."

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"...I wonder if temporary spray-in hair color would work on wings..."

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"What? Do you need a skymage-based twin-switch plot?"

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"Really, who doesn't?"

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"Oh, I see. You have some bad guy to defeat and they need to believe they're fighting either me or my brother but in really they're fighting my brother or me!"

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"You have discerned my clever plan!"

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"Gosh, who is this terrible evil doer?"

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"I haven't decided yet. Suggestions?"

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"Well, clearly some kind of politically incorrect anti-environmentalist villain. Maybe one of those internet conspiracy theorists that thinks global warming is a skymage fraud."

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"And how are we going to make a fool of them by swapping two skymages?"

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"Well, I can also stop fire by thinking at it and telling politely but firmly to not. Maybe he needs to burn down something."

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"Oooh... how firmly opposed are you to arson?"

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"A lot!"

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"Even in a good cause?"

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"Arsonist is the exact sort of reputation that I can't afford in my life."

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"I wouldn't get you caught!" she exclaims, sounding vaguely offended.

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"That is not all that reassuring and being caught is just part of the problem!"

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"It's hardly going to affect your reputation if you don't get caught!"

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"Well, I also would prefer to deserve my reputation as a non-arsonist."

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"He hates that people find him scary."

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"You're not even a little scary," Jeanne says with great confidence.

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He smiles. It's a pretty smile. "Thank you, but not a lot of people agree."

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Maira hugs Felix. "Strangers don't count."

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It is a pretty smile.

 

"Idiot strangers don't count. You're neither objectively a risk nor threatening in manner."

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"Thank you. I try not to judge them too harshly though."

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"Well, sure. One has to judge just harshly enough."

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Maira giggles. "I think Trevor is going to like your way of seeing things."

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"At any rate. I'm glad you don't find me threatening."

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"I pride myself on my ability to see the obvious!"

Jeanne glances at the clock on Zahara's wall, then sighs, stands, and gives her sister a peck on the cheek. "I must go; Maman will be annoyed if I'm late again. I'll see you at school tomorrow!"

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"See ya!"

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Grin. Wave.

And out the window she goes.

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"You have a nice sister."

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"I do! I have the best sister. No offense to present company, of course."

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"None taken."

Back to weaving?

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Weaving!

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And eventually Zahara's father knocks on the door to tell her that dinner will be ready in half an hour.

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This is late enough that the Dalkaila should fly home.

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"Fly carefully! I'll see you tomorrow."

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"Thank you, this was very nice! Likewise!"

Off they go.

 

The next day Felix is hanging out at school with his brothers.

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And a very tall boy.

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Zahara is fixing the school wifi!

"Hi! You must be the boyfriend of whom I hear tell."

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"I'm! It's less... Uh."

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"Limiting than a monogamous relationship?" Trevor offers.

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"I was searching for an alternative word for perverted."

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Zahara frowns. "That's not a word I would have used."

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"Thank you. He meant in the sense that he does have a romantic relationship with us first and a sexual one second. People often look at the situation and make assumptions."

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"I attempt to assume that people are not giving me information about their sex lives, because I really do not want information about people's sex lives. As far as I am concerned you are in a romantic relationship and nothing else I want to know about is happening."

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"Thank you!"

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Zahara giggles.

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Jeanne turns a corner into the hallway, smiling --

-- sees the triplets --

-- spots Arthur --

-- freezes, her smile fixed on her face --

-- turns around and leaves the way she came, still smiling unchangedly.

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Fenris sees this, but since he never saw Jeanne before he just assumes is just your average person that is intimidated by mageborn.

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"...have you two already met, then?" Zahara asks Arthur.

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"Who? That blonde girl? I haven't."

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"Was that your sister? I wasn't looking in that direction."

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"Yes, that's my sister. I wonder what upset her so much, then..."

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"Maybe she saw our sweet tol boyfriend and got intimidated in the radiance of his perfection." Trevor says patting Arthur.

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"He is very tall! But not that intimidating, I don't think."

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"I try not to be?"

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"It was probably something unrelated to us."

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"I really don't think so."

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Shrug. "Your sister."

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"I could go talk to her...?"

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"I should, really, but if she wanted to talk to me she wouldn't have run away..."

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"Okay. Changing things to a brighter subject. Maira really liked the weaving yesterday."

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"We'll have to do it again sometime! I had fun too."

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"I'm glad. I'm not sure buy the whole spiel that I sometimes hear about mageborn needing people like them around, but I doubt it can hurt."

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"I don't know about need either, but it certainly seems inefficient for everyone to go around figuring out their powers on their own."

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Nod. "Absolutely. I naively didn't guess that lightweaving could get that complex. Or even weaving for that matter."

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"Weaving is unbelievably complex, when it's practiced at its more sophisticated levels! One reason weavers' guilds were so powerful, historically, was because they were some of the most intelligent people of their day. Weaving complex patterns without a power loom requires holding an incredible amount in your head."

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"I can see that. It's hard to appreciate how difficult things were before automation."

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"I am as big a fan of the Industrial Revolution as the next girl, but I do like stopping to appreciate skilled work once in a while! You can come by sometime and see my loom -- maybe when I'm doing a damask or brocade, those are tricky."

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"Sure! Maybe when Maira comes over? Assuming I don't slow her flight too much."

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...giggle. "Can she really carry you?"

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"Oh, no?" He looks at the triplets.

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The triplets laugh. "Well, she does not have the physical strength to hold you. But if we could adjust a passenger harness she could keep you both above ground. I don't think it would be a very comfortable flight."

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"But a hilarious visual."

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"Well, then, maybe some of the rest of you will have to come over and haul your boyfriend along. Assuming Jeanne gets over whatever that was."

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Nods all around.

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The bell rings.

"--and I'll be late for class if I stay any longer. Felix, if you run into Jeanne before I do, I'd take it as a favor if you'd try and see what's gotten into her, I don't have another free period till the end of classes and she'll brood in the meantime and it will get so much worse."

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"I will."

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"Thank you!"

And off she zips.

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And the boys go to their various classes. Felix keeps an eye out for Jeanne.

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If he passes near the gym he might hear Jeanne's voice, indistinctly.

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He peeks inside.

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She's orating. In French.

(Orating, in French, in an empty gym, is probably not where she is supposed to be. But here she is, nevertheless.)

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Felix is actually not allowed to take gym class because of his skymagery and the US eternal fear of lawsuits if something weird happens. So he is not sure this is a typical empty gym activity, but it does not seem like it. He goes inside.

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She stops orating once she notices him.

 

"Hi, Felix, what are you doing here?"

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"Hi, I just noticed that you were inside. Alone. Uh, is everything alright?"

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"Oh, yes, of course."

She's very convincingly all right.

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Smile. "Good. What happened earlier?"

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"I had to leave so I wouldn't be late for rehearsal with my mother, remember?"

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"No, I meant in the hallway. Me, Fernis, Trevor, Arthur and your sister saw you turning around."

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"Oh. I remembered I had somewhere I needed to be."

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"Ah, okay. Next time, stick around so I can at least introduce you properly."

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"If I don't have anywhere I need to be!"

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Nod. "What were you reciting?"

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"Les Plaintes d'un Icare."

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"I don't know French. But it sounded lovely when you spoke."

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"I could do more of it."

Has her expression changed at all in the last five minutes no it has not.

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Yeah, that is worrisome. "Are you practicing for something?"

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"Not anything in particular. Just practicing my speech skills in general."

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"Huh, cool. What is the... thing about?"

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"The lovers of prostitutes
Are happy, healthy, and sated;
As for me, my arms are weary
Because I have embraced the clouds, 

It is thanks to the peerless stars
That flame in the depth of the sky
That my burned out eyes see
Only the memories of suns.

I tried in vain to find
The middle and the end of space;
I know not under what fiery eye
I feel my pinions breaking;

Burned by love of the beautiful
I shan't have the sublime honor
Of giving my name to the abyss
That will serve me as a tomb."

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"Wow. That is... heartbreakingly beautiful."

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"It's by Baudelaire. And better in the original French."

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"I imagine it would be. It's still beautiful this way."

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"It's very expressive."

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Nod. "Is everything alright?"

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Charming smile. "Yes of course."

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"Ah, okay. It's just... this entire atmosphere is so dramatic, you know?"

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"Well, I'm practicing drama," she points out, reasonably.

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Giggles. "That makes sense!"

Permalink Eye

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Fenris comes in. "Felix? What are you... two doing in here?"

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"Poetry."

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"Poetry?"

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"She was dramatically reciting some, Fenris. It's actually very beautiful."

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"Well, we are late to class."

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"Oh, right. We should get going. Uh, Jeanne, see you later?"

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"Yes."

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"Great! See you later then!"

They leave.

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She stares at the wall for a while and then goes and shows up only forty minutes late to an hour-long class. (The teacher doesn't bother commenting. It's Jeanne, she does these things.)

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It turns out that the next time Felix sees Jeanne is during Sex-Ed class. His brothers and mutual boyfriend are there as well.

Permalink Eye

She's doodling. And rather pointedly facing directly forward and not glancing behind her.

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Zahara is in the row behind her, looking vaguely exasperated.

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The boys are on the last row. Because of their wings or, in one case, height.

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Zahara kicks Jeanne's chair.

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Jeanne turns to make a face at Zahara, but is interrupted in doing so by noticing the triplets-and-Arthur.

 

She turns back around and returns to facing resolutely forward.

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Felix tries to wave, but Jeanne is too fast. Now he is concerned...

The teacher starts the class.

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Today's lesson is on STIs. There are slides. The slides have pictures. If they are very lucky maybe they will get to put a condom on a banana.

Zahara is the oldest in the class; her parents opted her out on religious grounds back when she was supposed to take it, but she opted herself back in when she turned eighteen. She usually keeps her head down and doesn't say anything or volunteer when the teacher asks for volunteers; she's a straight-A student in all her classes, so the teacher generally lets her get away with it. She has in fact spoken in this class three times all year: once to suggest that the teacher stop dancing around the obvious reason someone might be circumcised even if it does involve talking about religion, once to point out that it's possible to have principled objections to premarital sex that aren't vaguely-culturally-Protestant, and once to offer a better explanation of a point of epidemiology.

Today, she raises her hand when the teacher says that "an infected person may transmit an STI to their partner during multiple kinds of sexual activity ... yes, Zahara?"

"Or partners," she says.

The teacher is confused. "What?"

"Their partner or partners."

The teacher blinks at her.

"People," Zahara clarifies, patiently, "can engage in consensual sexual activity with one or more partners. And in doing so, transmit STIs."

"...thank you, Zahara," the teacher says, and picks up where he left off.

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Trevor does not giggles, because giggling in Sex-Ed is too uncool for his standards. But he smiles at Zahara and then turns and blinks at Arthur.

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Arthur winks back.

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It doesn't make long before the teacher makes the mistake of saying:

"...and so it's important to communicate with your partner -- yes, Zahara?"

"Or partners," Zahara volunteers cheerfully.

"Thank you, Zahara. It's important to communicate with your partner or partners about STIs. As we saw on the previous slide, not everyone who has an STI will show symptoms, so even if neither of you -- yes, Zahara, or none of you -- believe you have an STI, it's important to disclose your sexual history and beware of the possibility of passing on an STI contracted from a previous partner -- what is it now, Zahara?"

"Or current partner!" Zahara says brightly, hand in the air again.

"Zahara, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but polygamous relationships are not the focus of today's lesson."

"Polyamorous," Zahara corrects him helpfully. "Unless we're talking specifically about, like, Mormons, then it's polygamous. And it's not just a language issue! While some polyamorous relationships are a closed complete graph, in which all the members are in a relationship with all the other members and none are seeking new partners, many people in polyamorous relationships are open to or actively seeking new partners, who may or may not be involved with the other members of the relationship. So it's important for them to keep in mind that this can't be a one-time conversation at the beginning of a sexual relationship, but rather an ongoing conversation, since any of them or any of their partners might acquire new partners at any time, thus presenting a new source of risk for STI transmission."

It takes the teacher a second. "...If you want to discuss this further, Zahara, why don't you talk to me after class."

Zahara smiles at him brilliantly.

Permalink Eye

Trevor has to try really hard to not to laugh.

[Zahara got a +100 in his book.]

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Nice that she is thinking in inclusive terms.

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Felix would agree if the triplets actually had telepathic powers.

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And he is just mildly embarrassed.

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Zahara lets the teacher move on to How To Know When You Are Ready For Sex. There is a fascinating diagram with a line from "like" to "love" and the teacher solicits suggestions for distinctions between the two (Zahara does not pipe up) and discusses at what point along the line sex is appropriate (the implied answer is "way far on the other side of 'love', possibly never") and attempts to encourage classroom discussion about what constitutes love in a relationship (with the clear suggestion that Definitely No High Schoolers Are In Love Ever).

Classroom discussion of "what is love" is a mixed bag. Someone suggests it's "like, really, really, like, liking a girl." Someone says it's "being there for someone no matter what." Someone else thinks it's "impossible to define." Yet another person proposes it's "baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more." Still another thinks it's "when you find someone who's your other half and they make you whole."

Zahara raises her hand.

The teacher takes a deep breath. "Yes, Zahara."

"No matter how much you love someone, expecting them to complete you is dangerously off base. No one person can be everything to someone else."

(The teacher, seeing where this is going, inhales to interrupt. Zahara barrels on.)

"I think most reasonable people will agree with this, on reflection. There are lots of different proposed solutions, though. For instance, some people expect to find that kind of completion in God, instead of looking for it in any human. Or, for another example, this observation can be a rationale for polyamorous relationships, where, instead of trying to find someone who can be everything to them, a person can have multiple loving relationships with different people, each of whom provides something distinct and important to them, so that no relationship is necessarily more important or central than any other; instead, each relationship strengthens all of the others, rather than competing."

Permalink Eye

Trevor starts clapping.

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Felix shifts uncomfortably in his seat.

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Fenris looks amused.

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And here is a tall and red thing, oh, wait, that is the triplet's boyfriend being self-conscious.

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Jeanne stands up, walks over to the doorway, and pulls the fire alarm.

(Sirens start going off. The teacher stares at her, splutters with exasperation, and then resignedly starts herding people out of the classroom.)

Permalink Eye

 

What the hell?

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Felix is herded away. Students that are not in the classroom with them stare at him. Hopefully wondering if he can stop the fire.

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Jeanne slips unobtrusively among milling crowds of high schoolers and follows Felix and waits for a moment when no teachers are watching to tug him into an evacuated classroom and shut the door behind them.

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Felix is a bit relunctant to go, but follows her inside. He kinda wants to say that he won't start a fire just to justify pulling the alarm, but instead he asks. "Is everything alright?"

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"I think I might have accidentally fallen in love with you and my sister isn't going to stop doing that until I tell you!"

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...

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Hug.

(Winged hugs are extra nice.)

Permalink Eye

Hugs from Felix are extra nice.

 

 

"... 'm sorry ..."

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"No apologies required."

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"...no, I..." -- unhug -- "...'m not dealing with this well ... I don't know what to do about it..."

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"I... uh... I can help. I think. Can I help?"

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"I don't know!"

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"I mean... is Arthur the problem here? Is that why you don't want to try to just date me?"

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"Arthur was maybe half of the problem but, um, Zahara kind of cleared that up -- I -- do you even like girls -- do I even like boys...?"

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"I like both. You never felt anything for a boy?"

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"-- no, I -- not anyone -- this is very confusing -- "

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"Yeah." Hugs again?

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She is kind of befuddled by hugs but not going to, like, turn them down!

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Hug. "We should evacuate. But I want to help you, okay?"

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"Okay. ... There's not actually a fire, we don't really need to evacuate..."

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"I know. I saw you and I can tell through my magic. But people will definitely want to ask me about it."

Permalink Eye

 

"...oh."

 

 

"Sorry."

Permalink Eye

Squeeze. "It's okay."

Permalink Eye

"--at least the whole class saw me pull it. And Zahara'll have thought of it, she'll be trying to make sure everyone hears about that -- but I'll do that better, yes, let's go--"

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Felix can keep a wing and an arm around her. "It's probably won't be too bad. I hope you don't get in too much trouble."

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"I don't know, really, but Zahara will. I just don't want you to get in trouble you didn't even do anything."

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Nod. "Well, no one got hurt. That is something."

The students are still evacuating. Many people stare at the two bright red-orange objects and the person attached to it. Felix ignores them and leads Jeanne outside.

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Zahara is at Jeanne's side in a moment.

"What were you thinking? -- don't answer that."

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"We can talk later -- I have to make sure everyone hears that I did it as a prank so there's not even rumors about Felix -- "

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"--Jeanne, it's a felony offense, that is not how you want to spin this one--"

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Jeanne is already mingling with the crowds telling everyone delightedly about her hilariously clever plan to get out of her test next period!

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Fenris comes over to Zahara. "Is your sister often inclined to act on bad decisions?" He asks bluntly.

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"Believe it or not, she is much better than she used to be."

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...

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"Did she used to actually burn down schools?"

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"No, that's not the sort of bad decision she'd make. Too much obvious direct risk of material harm. People could get hurt, property would be destroyed."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, that is reassuring?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes. And actually, I don't think the problem right now is with her planning, the problem is that she genuinely prefers getting herself arrested to Felix having to deal with rumors about this."

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Fenris makes a sort of disapproving noncommittal sound, which might either be a reaction to this or a reaction when they send the Gym Teacher.

"We need some people to give us an statement."

"The three of us will go with you," Fenris says in very balanced tones.

Permalink Eye

"We are glad to have been randomly selected to do that."

The Gym teacher barely makes a face, barely.

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Felix just nods. "Take care of Maira, if this takes too long?" He asks Arthur.

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"Of course."

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Jeanne is interrupted in her circulations by firefighters who have a number of questions for her.

And then teachers.

... And then police.

(She makes pitiful contrite faces. It's almost effective.)

 

When the police cruiser leaves, she's in it.

Permalink Eye

And a while after that, the triplets are dismissed. Is Zahara around?

Permalink Eye

Yeah.

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He approaches her.

"Hey, uh. Do you know if your sister is alright? We had a brief conversation."

Permalink Eye

"The police took her into custody. I had a chance to remind her that she is a minor and should ask for her parents."

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Nod. "If you two need anything. You'd let me know?"

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"Yeah. Of course."

She makes a face. "Wish they'd let us out of school for the rest of the day or something. I'm not going to be any good for anything with my sister in a literal cell."

Permalink Eye

"Yes. Do you need a hug? Are they going to keep her in a regular cell?"

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"I think minors are at least kept separated."

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"I don't know I've been trying to look it up on my phone -- I don't touch men I'm not related to but I appreciate the sentiment."

Permalink Eye

"Well, I will sentiment harder then. Do you know if they allow visitors? One of us could try getting dismissed from class or something..."

Permalink Eye

Headshake. "It's a holding cell, not prison. They have to let her parents see her, but that's it."

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Sigh. "If you think of anything. Please, let me know."

Permalink Eye

"I will."

 

 

"Um. I don't want to pry, but ... I don't know how upset to expect her to ... did she in fact manage to talk to you?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes."

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"Yeah, what was so important that she needed to commit a felony over it?"

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"I think I will not repeat the conversation which my sister committed a felony in order to have in private. -- But, um -- there was conversation? She managed words?"

Permalink Eye

"Aww. Felix, tell us about it later."

Permalink Eye

"I won't, Trevor. And there were words exchanged, yes."

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"...so...how upset should I expect her to be?"

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"Some, but... I'm not unwilling to help her."

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"Which means he is going to do everything to help her."

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"Okay. She will probably not do any more drastic things, then, that's good. ... Probably." Sigh.

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"Well-" The teachers call everyone back to their respective classes. "Uh, call me when you have news on the matter?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. I'll do that."

Off to class.

Permalink Eye

Off they go. Are there any news that day?

Permalink Eye

I haven't heard anything, if you were wondering, Zahara texts him that night. Which means she's still in custody, she'd have gotten in touch with me somehow if she could have. Doesn't mean anything worse than that, though, just that her mother won't tell me about it.

Permalink Eye

Do you think I could get anything out of her mom if asked and claimed that because of her I had to give an statement?

Permalink Eye

I wouldn't. If Jeanne hears about that from her mother ... and who knows how her mother would tell it ... that sounds like the sort of thing that gets her to make poor decisions.

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...What do you mean with that? The bit about how her mother would tell her?

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"One of your classmates, this Felix boy, he called me complaining that he got interrogated by the police, all because of you, he wanted to know what they were going to do with you"?

I mean, not that she'd definitely put it that way, but she might.

Permalink Eye

I mean. Yes. But the way you phrased it. Uh, is her manipulative? Or you meant more in the sense that we should be concerned with what Jeanne will hear (and use to make her decisions)?

Permalink Eye

A bit from column one, a bit from column two...

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If it's okay to talk to you about this. Is that related to how she found falling in love with me so confusing?

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You may actually have more details than I do on the specifics of that, she hasn't had a chance to talk to me much, but...

...not nothing? But not nearly as much as you might think, either. I'm pretty sure. Sometimes it's hard to tell.

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I feel weirdly responsible, but I'm not even sure why it happened? I don't know what did in our interactions that are felony-worth levels of falling in love.

Permalink Eye

Don't feel responsible. Jeanne is a force of nature.

 

...the felony part is more about Jeanne not taking felonies as seriously as most people than about you.

The ... manner and intensity ... of falling in love, though -- that's just ...

She doesn't do things by halves.

Permalink Eye

And to think I've read and enjoyed so many books where the protagonists are this intense.

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--that's actually not a bad way to think about it. If you can model her as thinking of herself as the protagonist in a work of fiction...

Permalink Eye

What sort of work of fiction?

Permalink Eye

 

 

Greek tragedy?

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That is worrisome. How do we change it to romantic comedy? I like those.

Permalink Eye

 

Kiss the girl?

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Well, I could try. Hopefully a series of well-timed interruptions won't be too much of a problem.

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You really need to find a way around the wings thing, that's a romantic comedy setup right there.

Permalink Eye

What do you mean around the wings? The wings are great. There is an entire subgenre about the wings being great.

Permalink Eye

But how is she supposed to mistake your identical brother for you with the wings going on?

Permalink Eye

Thank you for the laugh. Well, maybe I could get in the school play and then I would need to wear something over the wings to disguise then or something? Jeanne did mention her idea with dyes.

Permalink Eye

...getting involved in theater is not going to make her less melodramatically head-over-heels for you.

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But it is the obvious way that the story would go. If she was a singer I would need to fly her to the competition finals.

Permalink Eye

It's good that you've planned this out so carefully.

 

 

I should finish my physics homework and go to bed. I'll let you know if I hear anything.

Permalink Eye

Thank you. Good luck with your homework and sister.

Permalink Eye

Good luck with my sister to you too.

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Felix goes over to hug Arthur and then prepare meals for the next day. He worries about Jeanne.

Permalink Eye

Zahara's at school the next day.

Jeanne isn't.

 

Still nothing, she texts that evening.

Permalink Eye

Sigh. Thank you for letting me know.

Permalink Eye

Yeah.

 

 

At two in the morning he has another text from Zahara.

This one says only:

Incoming.

Permalink Eye

Well, he asleep at that hour. But luckily this a night where Trevor is the one sleeping with Arthur, so Felix can read it through bleary eyes.

Waht?

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Possibly it answers his question when his window creaks open and someone clambers in through it.

Permalink Eye

That wakes him up. He does not produce a fire to light the room, because only idiots do that while half asleep. "Jeanne?"

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"Hi."

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"Hi." He turns on the light. "Are you alright?" Hug?

Permalink Eye

"I'm okay but I really wanted to see you."

Very much hug.

Permalink Eye

In the middle of the night, through his window.

Well, using story logic it would be romantic.

"How did things go?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, it was fine." (Cuddle.) "They kept me overnight but they let Maman come see me, and today there was a detention hearing and there'll be a fine and I'm suspended for a couple of weeks but it won't go on my permanent record so that's okay."

Permalink Eye

"I guess that was the best case scenario." Cuddle.

Permalink Eye

"And you don't hate me."

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"Of course I don't."

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"Good, I'm glad."

Permalink Eye

"Do you want to continue our conversation?"

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"...how bad is it going to be?"

Permalink Eye

"No? We were talking about being confusing because you never felt anything for a boy or a girl. So it might be hard."

Permalink Eye

"...but you're not going to tell me to go away and never talk to you again?"

Permalink Eye

"...no? Why would I do that?"

Permalink Eye

...shrug, but more in an "isn't it obvious?" way than an "I don't know" way.

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Mistakes like the thing with the fire alarm are bad, but not talking will hardly make things any easier."

Permalink Eye

 

"Sorry."

Permalink Eye

"Oh," squeeze. "It's okay."

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She shakes her head rapidly. "No, it isn't -- I shouldn't have come here, I shouldn't have said anything..."

Permalink Eye

"No, no, no. It's okay. It's okay. It was good that you told me. You can't just... keep that bottled up."

Permalink Eye

"I could too!"

She sounds almost offended.

Permalink Eye

"I'm contesting how emotionally healthy it is, not if it is possible."

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"Oh."

Permalink Eye

Felix smiles at her, despite the situation.

Permalink Eye

 

"Oh," she says again, more softly.

Permalink Eye

His smiles widens.

Permalink Eye

 

Tiny high-pitched noise.

Permalink Eye

"Uh? Are you alright?"

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"I don't know!"

Permalink Eye

Well, Felix will default to hugging. "Do you think you can talk about it?"

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"I don't know words for the thing."

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"It's okay. Uh... could you classify it as good or bad?"

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"Not really no!!"

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"Both?"

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"...maybe?"

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"Understandable."

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...skeptical face.

Permalink Eye

"Well, you are experiencing romantic confusion. It is completely expected that this would lead to conflicting feelings or at least conflicting opinions about your feelings."

Permalink Eye

 

 

"I love you."

Permalink Eye

"Heh. Do you mind me asking why?"

Permalink Eye

"You're -- amazing and beautiful -- and you -- don't hate me -- and you, you, you think I'm understandable -- you don't hate me even a little -- and you -- smile--"

Permalink Eye

"Why would I hate you?" Pause. "Even the fire alarm thing was more cause of annoyance than hate, and I was concerned instead of annoyed."

Permalink Eye

She still winces at annoyance. "Sorry."

Permalink Eye

"Please don't worry."

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"...sorry..."

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Squeeze. "At any rate. I in fact don't hate you. I can't agree with the amazing and beautiful without being too self-congratulatory."

Permalink Eye

 

 

"...if you start hating me, I ... will understand."

Permalink Eye

"Okay... but you shouldn't. You say it like, it's inevitable. And I don't... hate people?"

Permalink Eye

"I'm not people."

Permalink Eye

 

"Uh, yes you are...? Even if you are going to reveal to me that you are some sort of witchcraft construct..."

Permalink Eye

"--no, I -- not I'm not a person, I'm not people."

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"I didn't mean to offend?" He is confused.

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"--I'm not offended! I just -- just because you don't hate people doesn't mean you won't hate me, okay, I'm not -- I'm not normal."

Permalink Eye

"Being a person is the key attribute here, and the collective of those is called people. Even some are beyond standard deviations of the norm."

Permalink Eye

"--yeah but I don't count though."

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"Yes, you do. I'm saying so."

Permalink Eye

 

"I don't want you to be sad when you realize."

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"And I don't want you to downgrade yourself and you natural value as a person."

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"Sorry."

Permalink Eye

"That is not something you apologize for. That is something... that is something to be kinder to yourself."

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"...sorry."

Permalink Eye

Felix sighs, but gives her a very compassionate smile.

Permalink Eye

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"I have been told that I have a good smile, but you reaction to it is priceless."

Permalink Eye

"It's a really good smile. -- I hate making you sad."

Permalink Eye

"Well, clearly, the solution to this is figuring out how to make you realize that you have inherent value and worth."

Permalink Eye

...sniffly hugs.

Permalink Eye

Hugs. Felix pets her hair.

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"That's nice," she sighs. "You're so nice."

Permalink Eye

"Thank you. I try to be, it doesn't feel like I'm doing anything special."

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"It's very special. You and my sister are the nicest people I know."

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"Aww." He finds this statement terribly adorable.

Permalink Eye

She looks terribly adoring.

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Felix smiles, then blinks. "Wow, it's late."

Permalink Eye

"--oh. Yeah."

Permalink Eye

"How did you get here? Did you took a cab?"

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"Hitchhiked."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, that sounds dangerous. Uh, do you have a better idea on how to get back?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, it's really not very. I'm good at judging who's a rape-y creep and who's just bored or lonely or worried for me or maybe wants a chance to peek down my shirt but isn't going to do anything about it. And I can take just about anyone who isn't, like, recently ex-military going hand-to-hand if I need to, unless they literally have a gun pointed at me, and I know what someone going for a gun looks like so that's not likely to come up."

Permalink Eye

 

 

"I'm mentally debating the merits of flying you there."

Permalink Eye

"--I mean, not that that doesn't sound nice? But like I said, hitchhiking's no trouble."

Permalink Eye

"Your description was not very reassuring!"

Permalink Eye

 

"Oh. It was supposed to be."

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Pet pet. "I would offer you to stay overnight, but your parents might miss you and... Well, this is house belongs to Arthur's uncle. He might not be okay with you staying."

Permalink Eye

"...if my parents notice I'm gone they'll just think I'm at my sister's," she says hopefully, cuddling into the petting. "Arthur's uncle doesn't have to know."

Permalink Eye

"The problem isn't him knowing. Well, if he knew he might make some undesirable assumptions."

Permalink Eye

"What is the problem, then?"

Permalink Eye

"It would betray his trust, even after he gave me and my family a place to stay?"

Permalink Eye

"Did he say I couldn't stay here with you?"

Permalink Eye

"No, but it's a very typical social norm."

Permalink Eye

"I don't see why not following a social norm is betraying his trust."

Permalink Eye

"There is a... set of reasonable expectations and going against them is reasonable grounds for someone to be confused, betrayed, angry or sad?"

Permalink Eye

"Right, but -- why is the me-staying-here an important expectation, there are lots of expectations, if you decided to dress up like a chicken and do ballet in your room that would be unexpected but -- I don't think it would be betraying his trust? Right?"

Permalink Eye

"They are unexpected in different ways and with different implications. People generally have a right to decide or at least be informed of who is their home, in part because it's a matter of safety. Me dressing up and dancing is considerably less a matter of safety to the people in this house."

Permalink Eye

"--but I'm here right now. And I'm not going to hurt any of the people in the house. And if I wanted to it wouldn't particularly be harder if you took me home, I could just come back again."

Permalink Eye

"It would be harder if you are not in the immediate vicinity and you being here while I'm awake and talking to you is on the edge of problematic."

Permalink Eye

"...it really wouldn't be harder, though? Unless you're planning to install a home security system as soon as I leave. Anyway, if I were going to try to hurt people in the house, I'd probably do it from the outside, there are a lot of you and you're taller and stronger than I am, the smart thing would be to, like, seal the windows and doors from the outside and pump in carbon monoxide."

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

 

 

"What?"

Permalink Eye

"It's just... that sort of thing is... uncomfortable to hear."

Permalink Eye

 

"Oh. Sorry."

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Pet pet.

"Can you... understand the concept of at least following the rules so people don't feel afraid or scared?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't understand how it could scare people if they don't know about it. But of course if you want me to I will."

 

 

 

"You aren't scared of me, are you?"

Permalink Eye

"I just don't want you to be impulsive just because you don't understand the rules."

Permalink Eye

 

 

Nod.

Permalink Eye

Squeeze.

Permalink Eye

 

 

 

"...you're not scared of me, right?"

Permalink Eye

 

"I'm concerned."

Permalink Eye

Shrink.

Permalink Eye

"I'm sorry. Are you okay?"

Permalink Eye

 

"I didn't mean to scare you I'm sorry I'll go now."

Permalink Eye

Cling. "Shh." He soothes. "Please, don't worry."

Permalink Eye

"I'm sorry I have done nothing but scare you and make you unhappy and that is not what I wanted to do!"

Permalink Eye

"Shh." Felix soothes. "Don't worry. We will figure it out."

Permalink Eye

Sad trembly hugs. 

Permalink Eye

Snuggly, winged hugs.

Permalink Eye

This is not decreasing the trembling but it is maybe helping with the sadness. 

Permalink Eye

Felix holds tighter and makes more soothing noises.

Permalink Eye

 

 

"I'll do whatever you want," she whispers, "just tell me how to make it better. Please."

Permalink Eye

More soothing noises. "It's okay. You don't have to do anything."

Permalink Eye

Cling. "I have to do something -- I'm not good enough for you, let me at least try..."

Permalink Eye

"You don't-" Felix sighs. "I don't think you need to do anything. But if it helps..."

Permalink Eye

"I just want to be good for you. I mean -- I know I can't. But at least try."

Permalink Eye

"You... you shouldn't be so harsh to yourself. It's not warranted." Pet pet.

Permalink Eye

"You barely know me."

Permalink Eye

"So you know how obvious it is."

Permalink Eye

"I'm a good liar. A good actor."

Permalink Eye

"That does not matter for this sort of thing."

Permalink Eye

"...I don't understand what you mean. You don't know what I might be concealing or what I might deserve."

Permalink Eye

"I don't think people deserve to be harsh on themselves. Period. Even if they are concealing something terrible... they have something to work to improve upon, self-flagellation is not the answer."

Permalink Eye

 

"You're so nice."

Permalink Eye

"I'm unsurprised that you say that." Hug.

Permalink Eye

She's crying on him again.

Permalink Eye

Snuggles.

Permalink Eye

 

 

"You could come home with me, Maman wouldn't mind."

Permalink Eye

Felix blinks. "She wouldn't?"

Permalink Eye

"Not unless it were going to distract me from my studies, and I will definitely be more distracted by not having you around. She'd mind if you were hurting me or if I'd gone off the pill and we were having sex or something like that."

Permalink Eye

"Well, if she doesn't mind random teenagers dropping by her place in the middle of the night."

Permalink Eye

"Nope! She'd think it was cute."

Permalink Eye

Snort. "Alright then. I'm going to leave a message then."

He does that.

Permalink Eye

"...you probably don't want to hitchhike, right."

Permalink Eye

"I can carry you there. I just need to find the passenger harness..."

Permalink Eye

She looks very happy at this prospect.

Permalink Eye

That is kind of adorable. He finds the harness, it's basically the same thing skydiving instructors use when they dive in pairs.

Permalink Eye

She's used rigging harnesses before, to fly on stage; she knows how to check that it's safe.

Permalink Eye

Felix straps her to him once they're outside.

And then they take flight.

Permalink Eye

Flying is nice but Felix carrying her is amazing.

Permalink Eye

It's really great! It's not even chilly because Felix can just warm up the air around them. Cozy.

Permalink Eye

Yes, he is.

Permalink Eye

Soon: Jeanne's residence.

Permalink Eye

Her room has a convenient balcony for landing on.

Permalink Eye

Felix lands with some generous use of wind to hit the target safely. "Had fun?"

Permalink Eye

She makes an extremely affirmative noise that is utterly failing to be words.

Permalink Eye

Aww. Hugs.

Permalink Eye

Such hugs.

Permalink Eye

Very cozy hugs

He actually falls asleep while leaning on her. It's kinda late.

Permalink Eye

...she is not strong enough to carry him inside and definitely not going to wake him up. She will just stand there.

Permalink Eye

After a few seconds. "Uh? Jeanne?"

Permalink Eye

"--sorry. You dropped off for a second."

Permalink Eye

"Really? God, that is embarassing."

Permalink Eye

She looks vaguely distressed at the thought of him being embarrassed. "It's okay, it's late, I woke you, I'm sorry..."

Permalink Eye

"It's okay! Really."

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"...okay."

She opens the door for him.

Permalink Eye

He walks in and looks around.

Permalink Eye

The room is so neat as to look un-lived-in. There's a wardrobe, and a large bed, and a bookshelf, and two adjacent walls which are entirely mirrored, and not much of anything else.

Permalink Eye

"You place is very organized."

Permalink Eye

"...thank you?"

Permalink Eye

"Sorry. I guess you haven't been in it since the police took you in. The two mirrors are so you can watch yourself acting from all angles?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes. It's always organized, my sister's messy, someone has to be the neat one."

Permalink Eye

"I'm middle term between Fenris spartan style and Trevor's cluttering." He sits on the bed.

Permalink Eye

She sits on the floor, stretches out. "The happy medium, hmm?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes. But I'm being unfair. Trevor is disorganized, but he takes care of his stuff. What are you doing?"

Permalink Eye

 

"...lying...down?"

Permalink Eye

"For...?"

Permalink Eye

 

 

 

"........sleeping....?"

Permalink Eye

"But that is the floor."

Permalink Eye

 

"...........yes..."

Permalink Eye

 

"It's not a good place to sleep."

Permalink Eye

"...it's not, like, a bad one ... would you rather I slept in a different room? I can, if you want."

Permalink Eye

"No. This is your room. If anything, I should be the one sleeping on the floor."

Permalink Eye

"--what? No!"

Permalink Eye

He sits on the floor and hugs her.

Permalink Eye

"-- I -- I wasn't trying to say you should be on the floor -- I'm sorry, I don't know..."

Permalink Eye

Soothing noises. "I know. I know. I just, this your house, you shouldn't be uncomfortable."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not, I don't mind, I promise..."

Permalink Eye

"You have a tendency to be... extreme to yourself, that isn't very reassuring."

Permalink Eye

 

 

Yep she's crying again.

Permalink Eye

Well, Felix is back making soothing noises and hugging.

Permalink Eye

"I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm so terrible for you ... I'll be quiet, I won't cry, you can sleep..."

Permalink Eye

More soothing noises. "You're not terrible and you can cry."

Permalink Eye

She'll just do that, then.

Permalink Eye

He will move her into a more comfortable hugging position.

Permalink Eye

She cries a little more quietly, and shivers a little less, and then at some point she falls imperceptibly asleep on his shoulder.

Permalink Eye

And by that point he falls asleep as well.

Permalink Eye

Being on the floor will indeed not prevent her from sleeping well. Especially with Felix there with her.

(She only clings tighter in her sleep.)

Permalink Eye

Cozy...

...in the morning, Felix stirs. "Wha-?"

Permalink Eye

This is nothing like sufficient to wake up his clinging Jeanne.

Permalink Eye

Felix blinks and looks around. He remembers what is going on. Then he carefully moves to the bed with Jeanne.

Permalink Eye

She shifts in her sleep to cuddle closer but otherwise doesn't respond.

Permalink Eye

Good. And cozy.

Zzzzzz.

Permalink Eye

Yep. That.

Permalink Eye

Sadly Felix left his alarm clock in his nightstand.

Permalink Eye

Jeanne has never in her life needed an alarm clock. (Before.)

Permalink Eye

Eventually someone calls Felix's phone.

Permalink Eye

Which cause him to stir again.

Permalink Eye

Still asleep.

Permalink Eye

Felix answer the phone.

"Felix, where are you?" Fenris asks.

"Uh, Jeanne's house."

 

"Why?"

"Uh, she came over last night and didn't have way to get back. So I brought her here and... kept her company here."

"Company?" Fenris asks incredulously. "You kept Jeanne company."

In the background there is the muffled sound of what is obviously Trevor making a mocking comment.

"Yes, tell Trevor to cut it out."

Permalink Eye

She is really kind of impressive amounts of asleep.

Permalink Eye

"Okay, I will try to make it in time for... whatever period." Felix turns off his phone.

"Jeanne?"

Permalink Eye

Sleepy stirring. "Mmmm?"

Permalink Eye

Awww she is so cute like this. "It's morning and I'm late to school."

Permalink Eye

"Mmhmm," she sighs, in the agreeing tone of someone who is too asleep to evaluate what's been said and is just assenting to it automatically.

Permalink Eye

"Jeanne, wake up."

Permalink Eye

-- well now she's awake. And looking moderately panicked.

Permalink Eye

Oh, hugs. "It's okay. I just need to get ready to school."

Permalink Eye

"--oh. Right."

She peels herself off him. (She doesn't look thrilled about doing it.)

Permalink Eye

"Sorry." But then he smiles "When we can see each other again?"

Permalink Eye

"Any time you want," she says instantly.

Permalink Eye

"Okay, I will call you then?"

Permalink Eye

"Call me, show up in my room, anything."

Permalink Eye

Snort. "Sure." A final hug, before leaving.

Permalink Eye

She does not look thrilled about him leaving but she's not going to complain, not when he's smiling like that.

Permalink Eye

Felix keeps smiling reassuringly and leaves. He gets to school way too late, but in time for his second class.

And then he searches for Zahara during lunch.

Permalink Eye

Zahara's eating at a table by herself today. She spots Felix and waves, a little apprehensively.

Permalink Eye

He approaches her. "Hi, so... I spent the night with Jeanne."

Permalink Eye

--she is overcome by a sudden coughing fit.

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Felix facepalms. "Okay, that sounded wrong. I didn't get a lot of sleep last night." Pause. "Not like that!" He bursts out laughing.

Permalink Eye

Helpless giggling. "Do you want to start over, Felix."

Permalink Eye

"Yes. Hi, so last night Jeanne came over and we talked."

Permalink Eye

"She managed words? Good, that's a good sign."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah... not without difficulties though... I felt a bit lost."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. I ... you know this isn't your responsibility, right? You do not have to deal with her. She's, um, not really an easy person."

Permalink Eye

"She is unconventional, but I don't think she means any harm and I don't think it's that difficult? I want to help her."

Permalink Eye

"She doesn't mean any harm, no. Especially not to you. It is, um, definitely that difficult, but I'm not going to tell you that you can't, even if I had the authority to do that, I love her. ... But, um, while she would definitely accept you -- pity-dating her, or something -- I don't think that would be healthy for either of you."

Permalink Eye

"I wasn't considering pity-dating her. I was not even thinking of dating her? Not exactly, at least."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. I didn't think you necessarily were, I just -- wanted to make sure you were thinking things through."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"So. I can try to explain things, if you want -- if there are particular things you feel lost about -- though I can't promise it'll make much more sense."

Permalink Eye

"Some... Last night she was trying to convince me to let her stay and I had objections because I live with Arthur and his uncle - Arthur would be fine with it - and it didn't felt right to let her come over without permission and she was very confused about it."

Permalink Eye

"Ah. Yes, she ... when you say it didn't feel right? She has a lot of trouble with intuitions like that. If you want to try to explain it to her, you need to -- do you watch Star Trek? Imagine that you're explaining it to Spock. People's homes are emotionally charged for them, so there's an implicit social agreement that one doesn't enter a home without the homeowner's permission. Sometimes this permission can also be given implicitly; by inviting you to live with him, he's also given permission for your friends to visit you in his house, because it's understood that that's something you would want and he wouldn't have invited you if he had a problem with that. But that implicit permission isn't extended to circumstances which he wouldn't reasonably expect; people don't usually visit at night, so you would need to ask him explicitly for permission for that."

She sighs. "It's, um, pretty hard for most people. It's okay if you can't pull it off reliably. You're important to her; you can just tell her that there are fuzzy intuitive reasons and you want her to trust you on that, and she will."

Permalink Eye

"It sounds complicated, but that covers most of what left me nervous with the situation."

Permalink Eye

"You can refer her to me, too, if she's not getting something, I've kind of gotten the hang of explaining things to her. ... She, um ... isn't always good at sounding harmless, but she essentially is? 'Don't hurt people' is obvious enough for her to get. 'Don't reassure people in graphic detail about all the ways you won't hurt them' is a little trickier."

Permalink Eye

"It was mostly worried that she didn't get why she shouldn't do it and would do it anyway. I didn't really think she would hurt anyone directly, but Arthur's uncle would be... justified if he didn't want us to live with them anymore."

Permalink Eye

"And that must have been scary for you. I'm sorry. -- I wouldn't put it that way to her, if I were you, if you just say 'please don't' she'll do anything you ask but if you say 'Arthur's uncle wouldn't want us to live with them anymore' she'll go ahead and do it if she thinks she can avoid him finding out. ... And also possibly develop a disproportionate dislike for Arthur's uncle."

Permalink Eye

"I will make a note. Maybe reinforce the fact that Arthur's uncle took four people under the age of 18 into his home. Why would she develop that dislike?"

Permalink Eye

"Because she thinks you're just about the best person in the universe, and so anyone who would throw you out is clearly just about the worst."

Permalink Eye

"Well... that is more than a bit extreme."

Permalink Eye

"My sister doesn't really do moderation."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. I'm worried when she gets... a more realistic picture of me."

Permalink Eye

"I would not expect Jeanne and reality to be having an encounter anytime in the foreseeable future. ... Or, to put it less flippantly -- it's not that she's missing something, it's that she has a bizarre perspective, finding out more about you isn't going to change anything."

Permalink Eye

"Heh, okay then. In general, if I tell her that she not to act on disliking people on my behalf is going to be effective?"

Permalink Eye

"--she will try but that is a broad enough request that she will make herself really miserable trying to follow it. ... You have to understand, 'on your behalf' is about a third of her universe, trying to screen that out would be desperately hard."

Permalink Eye

"I meant that she wouldn't try to do anything harmful towards these people. But noted."

Permalink Eye

"Right -- my point is that it's going to be hard for her to demarcate 'people she dislikes on your behalf' from 'people she dislikes.'"

Permalink Eye

"Ah, fair enough."

Permalink Eye

"Also, you're underestimating how complex her psychology is if you think 'don't do anything harmful to them' is going to get you anywhere."

Permalink Eye

"Okay then."

Permalink Eye

"--not that she can't not hurt people; but she sees more of a -- continuum, between 'choose all actions to optimize this person's life experience' and 'do the worst possible thing to this person at all costs,' and there's not an obvious zero point for her."

Permalink Eye

"That does help visualize things then. It even... fits."

Permalink Eye

"Glad to be helpful."

Permalink Eye

"Do you have more advice?"

Permalink Eye

"...I think I might be better able to give you advice if I had a clearer idea of what you wanted."

Permalink Eye

"Ah..." He thinks. "I want to help Jeanne because I think she needs my help. And as long Maira, my brothers and Arthur are reasonably safe, I'm okay with efforts towards that goal."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. And that's sweet. But -- you said you don't want to date her. Do you want to be her friend? Do you want to help her get over you? Do you want to look out for her? What does the desired relationship look like, here?"

Permalink Eye

"Friendship... maybe with potential of dating? I'm not sure yet how to feel about it. And if she wants to get over me, I will help her. ...Would it help, that a lot of that depends on what can make her happy or an approximation of that?"

Permalink Eye

"....she will not get over you as a normal person would define it. I am pretty sure she could get to the point of being ... okay without you. I am concerned that if you are trying to have a relationship with her, romantic or otherwise, that is purely based on you trying to help her be less sad, rather than on you liking her, it will not end well for anyone."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, the thing is that I liked her just fine when we met and I don't want to try to like her. I want to figure out if I can have a genuine relationship with her. Platonic or otherwise."

Permalink Eye

"Okay! Then that's great. I just ... wanted to make sure that was the goal, if you see what I mean? I think that ... a lot of really nice people end up hurting themselves and other people by getting into relationships where that's not."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "...I'm not immune to that sort of thing, but if it helps Fenris and Trevor would absolutely not stand for that to happen."

Permalink Eye

"Good! That's what siblings are for."

Permalink Eye

"Absolutely!"

Permalink Eye

"And in that case, advice ... when she confuses you, ask her questions. Nice, straightforward, specific questions that she can't weasel out of. 'Do you want,' 'what do you mean by,' 'how do you feel about,' 'why did you.'

Be careful of her -- I want to say 'playing games with word definitions,' but that's not fair, she isn't playing, she really just does define words oddly -- if she says she's 'all right,' she doesn't mean 'all right' the way normal people mean 'all right.'

Watch what you say about her mother. Jeanne adores her mother, she'll be heartbroken over you speaking ill of her.

Hugs are good. Hugs are really, really good. I have never known her to get enough hugs. She is easily the huggiest person I've ever met.

If you can, find a way to go to one of her performances sometime. She's an absolutely brilliant actor, you'll be amazed, it's worth seeing, and she will be so thrilled to show off to you.

It will help a lot if you can be patient with explaining things to her. If she says she's confused, she really is genuinely confused, and probably scared and ashamed about it to boot. Even if it seems obvious to you. She tries, really hard, but some things just aren't obvious to her."

Permalink Eye

Felix nods. Then after a pause he writes these down. "If it helps any. I have been described as the best hugger in the world and I do love hugging." Pauses. "Uh, am I going to have reason to speak ill of her mother?"

Permalink Eye

 

 

 

"It would also make Jeanne very unhappy if I spoke ill of her mother."

Permalink Eye

 

 

"Okay." Felix says like he needs to manually open his lips and produce each sound.

Because presumably, he isn't going to get any more information. Zahara comes off as someone that would do something about things if there was anything to be done.

Permalink Eye

"See, this is why I brought it up, so you could get this reaction out of the way instead of having it in front of Jeanne. ... Her mother loves her back. There's that."

Permalink Eye

"I don't doubt that our grandparents love their children and grandchildren. But avoiding Maira being raised by them is one of my number one priorities."

Permalink Eye

"...is that a significant worry?"

Permalink Eye

"They tried to keep her, deliberately going against our parents' written wishes on the matter."

Permalink Eye

 

"Is that still a significant worry or has the situation been entirely resolved."

Permalink Eye

"Ah, it should be solved because we have been emancipated and we can provide a home for Maira. Our grandparents are still trying to win custody, but it looks unlikely."

Permalink Eye

"You have a good lawyer? I know lawyers."

Permalink Eye

Smile. "We have a lawyer, but it won't hurt to have more recommendations."

Permalink Eye

"I can get you those! Try not to notice how many of them have sons my age, my parents keep trying to introduce me to nice Jewish boys."

Permalink Eye

Giggle. "My sympathies. Skymages parents are even worse at it."

Permalink Eye

"I'd suggest they introduce us to each other and we could have a delightful fake relationship, but somehow I don't think my parents would be satisfied with a gentile boy who's already dating another boy!"

Permalink Eye

"Gosh, maybe you're some kind of mageborn with supernatural intuition."

Permalink Eye

"You've found out my secret! And after I worked so hard to hide it."

Permalink Eye

"Don't worry, my lips are sealed."

Permalink Eye

She laughs, then sighs.

"So, on the topic of Jeanne ... she's probably working herself into a panic right now over your interactions last night."

Permalink Eye

"I see. Do you think that stating my intentions are going to reassure her?"

Permalink Eye

"...I think that's probably very phrasing-dependent; what would you say to her?"

Permalink Eye

"Huh, I didn't have a specific one in mind. What is the problem with 'I want to be friends with you'?"

Permalink Eye

"That will probably be good but when she's worked herself into a panic it's not impossible that she'll think you mean 'I want to, but I can't,' or 'I am making it clear that we are definitely not friends now,' or 'I don't want to date you but I'm too polite to say it outright so I'm saying something about wanting to be friends that I don't really mean.'"

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Is writing a less effective means of communication? I could write her something, addressing all the concerns and conditions I can imagine."

Permalink Eye

"...I think that could work in theory but you are going to have a hard time outdoing her at thinking up bizarre ways to interpret things. I suspect you will have better luck talking to her in person and hugging her and if she starts acting weird asking her what she's upset about."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, so. Talking to her while hugging. Maybe bringing some notes? ...I'm tempted to record the conversation so you can listen to later, but it feels intimate."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, she wouldn't mind. There ... aren't really things she'd mind me knowing? ... That probably goes for you, too, actually, except for things where she'll worry they'll make you hate her."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Recording the conversation for late peer review."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. ... If there's anything nice you can say truthfully to her -- even really obvious things -- it will mean a lot to her. You don't hate her. You think she has a nice smile. Anything."

Permalink Eye

Notes. "I will try to think of nice things to say to her... which include not-hating, which..."

Permalink Eye

Head-tilt.

Permalink Eye

"Not-hating is not usually something I'd classify as nice."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. Well. I did say even obvious things."

Permalink Eye

"I mean, it's such a low standard that I wouldn't mentally put in the category of nice. I don't hate my grandparents and Jeanne is far from reaching that point."

Permalink Eye

"Well, then, I imagine you'll have lots of things at least that nice to say to her."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, the positive side of low standards. Yay."

Permalink Eye

"Take 'em where you can get'em," Zahara advises.

Permalink Eye

"Fair enough. So, I don't hate her, she has a nice smile and performs poetry really well."

Permalink Eye

"Great! Say those things. Repeatedly. It may take a while to get them through her head."

Permalink Eye

"Gosh, maybe I will have even wildly better things to say like 'I enjoyed the last 54 minutes of being in your presence'."

Permalink Eye

"You say that like you're joking, and yet. 'I like being around you' isn't bad at all. Neither is 'I've enjoyed talking to you' or 'you make me happy' or 'this is pleasant and I will want to do more of it in the future.'"

Permalink Eye

"Fair enough."

Permalink Eye

"Don't worry too much. You ... you can't mess up too badly. She's not going to stop ... feeling this way about you."

Permalink Eye

"My worries are not really about what she thinks about me, not directly at least."

Permalink Eye

"I understand. But ... you get as many second chances as you need."

Permalink Eye

"I was afraid that she could suffer emotional harm in the process."

Permalink Eye

"Jeanne is ... kind of an enormous ball of emotional trauma? It's sort of an inherent characteristic of hers. You are not going to make that significant of a difference."

Permalink Eye

 

"I'm going to focus on the positive side of that for now."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, I recommend that approach."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Uh, how much of this I can share with my brothers?"

Permalink Eye

"Assuming they can be reasonably tactful about it, all of this is fine."

Permalink Eye

"...What is reasonably tactful here?"

Permalink Eye

"...refrain from criticizing her mother in front of her? Not react to her doing things by saying 'wow, you really are an enormous ball of emotional trauma'? Not strike up an argument with her about how concerningly low her standards are?"

Permalink Eye

"Ah, okay. I think I'm going to wait a few days to tell Trevor... it's the sort of thing he will be better when the person is not new."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "He's your brother, I'm sure you know how best to handle it."

Permalink Eye

"It's not that he does not care, but I think it's a combination of... caring more when the person is more of a recurring member of his social circle and having formed habits that do not include saying specific things to people. Mind, I'm probably going to wait to tell them both together."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "That seems perfectly understandable. I can imagine going off and saying something rash that I'd later regret, where I wouldn't have if I knew the person it was going to hurt."

Permalink Eye

Nod nod. "I don't think I need days to think of a nice way to word things for them, but it probably won't hurt. Caution might be wise."

Permalink Eye

"Someone in the vicinity should certainly have some!"

Permalink Eye

Giggle. "Luckily growing up with my brothers meant I had to develop a lot of social caution!"

Permalink Eye

"I imagine! -- All right, this has been lovely, but I need to get to class. You have my number if anything else comes up, don't hesitate to use it."

Permalink Eye

"Of course. Thank you for all the help."

Permalink Eye

"My pleasure. You take care, now."

She clears her tray and heads off to class.

Permalink Eye

When is the next time Felix and Jeanne are going to see each other?

Permalink Eye

Well, Jeanne is still suspended, and doesn't seem to have decided to show up to school anyway.

Permalink Eye

Well, Felix can call her, right?

Permalink Eye

He can! She picks up the phone before it has the chance to finish the first ring. "Hello?"

Permalink Eye

"Hi, Jeanne. I wanted to check how are you." Beat. "Also, I wanted to say that I don't hate you."

Permalink Eye

"--I love you," she responds, after a moment, in a tone of stunned adoration.

Permalink Eye

He giggles despite himself. "So, how are you? What are you doing?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, nothing much. Maman is having me use the time I'm not in school to work on some training. How about you?"

Permalink Eye

"Is the training hard? I'm feeling great. Nothing exciting at school."

Permalink Eye

"Of course not, I wasn't there. Challenging but fun!"

Permalink Eye

Giggle. "Zahara said that I should go to one of your performances. When is the next one?"

Permalink Eye

"---ooh. I don't know, when are you next free?"

Permalink Eye

He gives her some available dates.

Permalink Eye

"I shall arrange to have a performance on the first of those!"

Permalink Eye

"Great, what is the play about?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, the tensions between the visual and the verbal, the masculine and the feminine, beauty and truth. You don't speak French, right? We are going to be performing in English and French on alternate nights, I can make sure that's an English night."

Permalink Eye

"Interesting. I only speak English and Tormundic, sadly enough."

Permalink Eye

"Oooh, do you know any poetry in Tormundic?"

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"Huh, I would mangle it if I tried to recite from memory, but I know a book of Tormundic poets."

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"Oooh."

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"It's called Poems for the Household and Hearth" Felix says after a moment thinking. "There is also 'Selected Tormundic Poetry of the 20th Century' and 'When the Sky Collapses, and other poems'. Also, 'Whispers of the earth' and 'A Garland of Verses' come in Tormundic, but I'm not sure about their authorship."

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"Ohh," she sighs, enviously.

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"I'm sure there is even more French poetry that you know about. I bet that half of the poems are not about the weather in one way or another."

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Giggle. "There's a lot, yes."

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He giggles along. "We could get together and talk about poems in languages we don't speak if you want."

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"...really?"

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"Of course!"

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"I -- yes. Yes please. Yes."

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He blinks, which she can't see. "Of course." But he smiles. "You like poetry that much?"

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"Yes!! Also I like you that much! Both of those things!"

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Giggles. "Gosh, how flattering!"

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"Is flattering good? I can be much more flattering than that."

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Chuckle. "Honesty is better and I feel that you being honest is more than enough to fill my daily flattery quota."

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"I can be more flattering than that even if I'm being honest!!"

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"I don't doubt! Well, might doubt the accuracy of your flattery."

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"I wouldn't say I was being honest and then lie to you, I promise."

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"I didn't mean that you would do it on purpose. Only that you could be mistaken."

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"Ohh. Well, I'm not."

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"You're not?"

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"Mistaken! I'm not mistaken about the things I could say."

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"Of course not! You fact-check all of your flattery!"

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"Not for everyone! But for you!"

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"Gosh, that is really flattering."

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"I would do anything you wanted me to! Of course if you want me to be honest I'll be honest!"

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Nervous giggle. "I will try to use that power wisely!"

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"Of course you will. If you weren't the sort of person who would use it wisely I wouldn't do whatever you wanted me to."

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"That sounds like a sensible policy to have."

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"--it's not really a policy? But thank you."

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"Close enough. I suppose. You're welcome."

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"Are you upset with me?"

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"No, no, no." Felix says hastily. "I didn't mean to sound like that."

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"If you were upset with me you could tell me and I would change whatever it was."

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"I am not upset with you. I'm just vaguely concerned that I'm not good enough to leave up to your expectations, that is all."

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"......what?"

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"Uh... what is confusing?"

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"You ... think you might not be ... good enough??"

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"For something of this importance? It's an entirely valid concern. People that are not at least a bit concerned about something like this should be automatically disqualified."

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"You're definitely -- good enough!!!"

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"...Well, thank you? But I do reserve the right to be at least a bit concerned. That is what you do when you are handed something very important."

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"...huh?"

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"What is the confusing part?"

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"I don't understand what you meant by, like, the latter half of that."

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"You're trust me a lot. That is a power that you gave to me. It's something that a lot of people could misuse, but I don't want to misuse it. Because you're a person and deserves that the people you trust to be kind enough to you to use that power wisely."

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"--oh. You can use it however you want, I don't mind."

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"I... just explained why I can't."

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"...but it's not being unkind to me if I don't mind it."

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Felix thinks for a moment. Trying to get down to even the obvious things.

"I think that part of the confusion is that I'm failing to communicate that I think you're important."

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"You're so sweet."

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"I don't think that thinking you're important is very sweet, just... something that a baseline human should think. But thank you. Also, remind me to hug you next time we meet in person."

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"Really??"

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"Of course... wait are you reacting to the part about the hug?"

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"Yeah!"

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Felix laughs despite himself. "Yeah, I did meant that and the other parts as well."

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"You're so good."

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He laughs again. "I had a nagging suspicion that you're going to say something like that."

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"It's true! I wish I were like you, all the ways you are are good ways."

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"Well, I don't recite poems half as well as you do."

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"Oh, that's just practice. Besides, being a good person is more important than reciting poems well."

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"Well, I guess. But they're hardly incompatible and it's a good thing about you."