Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by Bazmund
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Goodnight


The Chapel with Dr. Cassar






When Dr. Cassar nodded this time, it was different. Much more like an approval. He relaxed a little more, and took a deep breath in, trying to decide on his words in the same way a craftsman would choose a tool.

"Ok. I think it's good that you are being careful to not dehumanise people, that's a good sign, I think. But like I said, I'm not really the best person for that kind of talk." He gave a shrug. "Thank you for sharing that though."

Then he turned to Angie.

"Ah. So you're the amateur miracle worker." He gave a big, broad, honest grin. "I knew there was magic involved when I took a look inside our friend and saw that there was a little garden growing around his injuries. I did have to, uh, fix some things - but the work you did is probably why he survived. It was a good thing you were there."

As Angie explained more about her situation, how she could still feel him bleeding underneath her hands, Cassar kept quiet, and kept looking at her, the concern on his face growing almost-imperceptibly.

"I know exactly what you mean. I've felt this way before too. If you'd like, we can talk about it one on one, later today or another time - but I want to say that even though it feels cold, looking back on things, you did the right thing by moving on from the people you already knew had passed away. Being able to prioritise patients is an incredibly valuable skill that even many practicing doctors can struggle with at times, so you did well reacting the way you did."

After a few more moments silence, Cassar cocked an eyebrow and turned to look at the most silent member of the team - a scarred, combat-worn Moroccan woman, quietly judging the entire party at once.

Which he seemed to take just a tiny bit of an issue with.

"Actually, Audrey, I've been thinking that you might have a lot of really relevant experience to the kind of thing we're talking about right now. I'm sure we would all benefit a lot from hearing about it - is there anything you'd like to talk about, or any thoughts you'd like to share?"
Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Stitches
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"She should not have looked at the wallet." Audrey didn't have to turn to look at Ellen because she'd already been staring at her ever since she described the shooting. "It is not your job to grieve for the man you murdered. If you continue down this path, you will not be able to remember them all and you will lose sight of your own priorities in the process. Just like medicine," her gaze flickered to Cassar briefly, "you made the call and prioritised the lives of dozens over his. He murdered several people for drugs he did not need or even knew what they were for."

Audrey leant in slightly, resting her elbows on her knees. "Every mission we send people into, every shot, every life taken, has a compelling reason behind it. We are not on a... genocidal crusade. More pragmatically, the body count we leave behind runs countercurrent to what we try to achieve. It is our mission to find a place where mages can live peacefully - or make one for ourselves, if the situation calls for it. We have no motive for slaughter save for our own survival. It is a situation we were forced into by the rest of society."

"That being said," Audrey continued, "every shot we do not take carries incalculable risk. The one man that slipped past our bootleggers drew a gun on Angeline and Abigail. Maybe, in another history, he would have ran away. Revoked his addictions, put away his guns and became a good person. Maybe he would have alerted the FOE, or Australia's equivalent, upon seeing Abigail's magic. And maybe Brooks would not have been fast enough and that one man would have taken two more perfectly innocent people."

"I personally do not entertain such risks when I can help it. Many people have many different opinions about that approach." She was looking back at Dr Cassar now, her gaze steady and warm. "Objectively, if Brooks had not stepped in, we would have most likely lost Angeline and her healing abilities and we would have paid for that misstep."

In the space where Dr Cassar should have spoken came Abigail's voice, blurting out from her rickety plastic chair near the back again. "I was right there," she interjected, "and I sure as fuck wasn't gonna let some coked up Aussie kill Angie."

Audrey glanced at Abigail and took in her appearance with the precise sort of scrutiny Ellen was afraid of. "You did not, though. You were not fast enough."

"Where'd all your 'would have's go now, huh?" Abigail sneered. "Not fast enough yet. I aimed for the head. I knew what I was try'na do."

Audrey raised her hand slightly. "I never questioned your intent, I just pointed out your inexperience." She looked away from Abigail and back to the room in general. "We can fix that. But you need to be decisive, and above all, certain. We can no longer afford the materials and manpower to train someone who is not sure if this is the life they want to lead. In a way, it is comforting to know that all of you have had a taste of what being a combattant entails - purely because you can make an informed decision."

And that was it. Audrey's clipped, steady monologue stopped as fast as it started; she leant back again and folded her arms and resumed the same posture as if she'd never spoken at all.
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Bazmund
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Goodnight


The Chapel with Dr. Cassar






Dr. Cassar stared Audrey down as she spoke, a calm, stung, disappointed silence as she went further and further down the proverbial path of violence with her speech. He broke his eye contact only to look around the room and assess the reactions of the others, and his eyes widened in muted, suppressed, quiet shock when Abigail interrupted.

As Audrey's gaze moved to him, Cassar looked right back, lips pursed - and he nodded.

"I can certainly understand the need to be decisive - and better than most, I understand the need to be able to move past the hard decisions without letting them weigh on you inappropriately. But I want to point out, the man who slipped past you and threatened Angeline and Abigail was not the man Ellen shot and killed. You did not miss him because you simply were not being... ruthless enough - so the solution is not to be more ruthless, or to not reflect on your actions."

Cassar paused a moment, looking down to the floor, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together slowly as he thought.

"I couldn't say, you know, if you were right to go looking through that man's wallet." He looked up again at Ellen. "I couldn't tell you. And I don't think you should let what you've done drag you down into a pit forever, from which you could not emerge - but..." he looked back to Audrey, "... that is not what grieving is. Grief is important, it's how our kind, humankind processes loss, and emotional harm. Normally, it is for people we knew - but not always, you know?" He glanced back to Ellen.

"You shot a man, with a gun, more than once. He fell over, and he died. It was not instant. I can tell you for absolute fact, that he was in a huge amount of pain, the kind of pain you would not believe unless you've been shot before too, and that as he lay there dying he was terrified in a way that most people cannot know - in a way that I pray everyone here never knows, ever. This all happened because of your actions. That does not mean you did the wrong thing, and I am certainly not naive enough to believe that our situation," he gestured around the room, "could be resolved without force, or that self-defense does not incur such a cost... but the only people who even know he's dead are in this room. Somebody should grieve, to remember that he was a person, and that he once lived."

He looked back at Audrey, his eyes harder than they were before, his demeanour colder.

"That is how you let go. That is how you move on. And Audrey, I just want to say, you cannot compare this type of decision making to medicine. The work you do is necessary, and I value it, but you cannot pretend that it is anything like mine."

"Of course it's not," Audrey agreed immediately. "Completely different outcomes. It was the only metaphor I could think of at the time."

Cassar kept staring her down as she replied. He took a deep breath in, held it for a moment, and then released all of his discontent with it as he exhaled. A dry, rough, frequently-sanitised hand came up and scratched his beard as he nodded, and the smile came back to his face.

“Ok. Look, I don’t want to take up any more of you guys’ time, you know? I think this has been pretty good, and of course, you all did a really good job getting the medicines back, so thank you again. I’m free to talk about stuff any time anybody wants, work permitting, and I’ll hang around here to pray for a bit as well in case anybody wants to join me - although, you don’t have to pray if you don’t want, and no pressure either way.”
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Bazmund
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Goodnight


The Bunkhouse








It was the certainty of routine that kept Goodnight running. With such a large mass of people to manage, a timetable had to be maintained and stuck to; even if the monotony of the passing days could be a strain to the individual. At 9pm everyone was expected to be at their registered 'bunkhouses', which was a generous title given to the smaller, more niche shells of boutiques and independent stores within the mall. They tended to have more comfortable décor and threadbare carpets that offered a layer of insulation against the cold. In these stores, rows upon rows of sleeping bags were set out and designated to each mage. It was typically considered poor taste to go around messing with what little personal effects people left near their sleeping bags and the bunkhouses were seldom visited during the day. More often than not, one or two bootleggers kept watch by the entrances so the residents and their belongings were safe.

There had been a slight change to the usual set-up that night for the Julien's bunkhouse where the volunteers for the medical supplies mission were sleeping. The first and most prominent; they got an upgrade. As a reward for their exceptional bravery and successful mission, the group were given a reward that didn't come easy unless you were on the staff's good side. Most of the other mages were moved out of their bunkhouse and into other ones leaving them with highly sought after and very rare to find privacy. As the team came out of the communal washrooms ready to settle down for the night there was no bootlegger at the door but rather a plastic lawn chair positioned within eyesight of the entrance and Brooks casually reading a magazine. He was sitting near their sleeping bags without impinging on their personal space and seemed just as unfazed as usual. He barely glanced up at your approach before going back to his reading material.

They had an hour until lights out but the staff tended to relax a little on the rule if the majority of the residents didn't feel like a 10pm bedtime was appropriate. That gave them time to relax, wind down and talk about things outside of the therapy setting.
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Pascal
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Outside the Chapel

(Abigail and Ellen: A Collab between Stitches and Pascal)


Abigail was the first and fastest to leave. She was quick on the mark standing up, and quicker still with her unsteady canter towards the door - using her body weight, meagre as it was, to swing it open as she lurched haphazardly into the corridor outside.

Ellen wasn't surprised by the girl's eagerness to run. She remembered a similar event when she was younger-- confronted with having to talk about her feelings and the events that had transpired made her feel like she had to justify her feelings… and even more, that she was expected to apologize for them. She had felt so betrayed, so bitter, and so utterly alone.

Ellen probably would have stayed behind and chatted for a bit with the people there, had Abi not run off and reminded her of her younger self. "Excuse me, nice meeting you all!" Ellen called out as she hopped up. "Abi, hey, wait up!" Ellen called out, picking up her pace to catch up with Abi. The girl froze and went through a variety of expressions before swinging around to Ellen, picking a wary frown to wear on her face as she approached.

"Hey Abi, I just wanted to apologize for earlier, calling you out like that was rude." Ellen still wanted to say that Abi didn't look good, but she felt like that would be undoing her attempt at an apology, so she waited. "You okay?"

There was a pause. It looked like she was parsing the information and churning through a handful of thoughts all fighting to come out of her mouth at once. She eventually decided upon "it's okay. You didn't know," and after a moment longer, she nodded. "I'm fine."

Ellen sincerely doubted she was fine, but would pressing right now help? "Cool. So what are you up to now?" Ellen asked, continuing to walk alongside the other girl. Besides, it wasn't like she had anything better to do.

"I'm uh," Abigail wiped her face with her healthy hand, "I'm waitin' on those two to get outta the...chapel." There was a slight emphasis on the final word and no small amount of scepticism. "Brooks don't like the fact I ain't sleepin', so he's taking 'decisive action' - whatever that means."

“You aren’t sleeping?” Ellen didn’t know before--how could she have, really? Though, that did explain some of Abi’s current appearance. Lack of sleep could really mess with the body and mind. “I’m sorry to hear that. Is it nightmares or insomnia?” Ellen had a little experience with nightmares, and hell, when she started trying to sleep on boats she got a little experience with insomnia. She used to get horribly seasick every time she tried to sleep on a boat. In the back of her mind, the idea began to form that it was perhaps something more than just a… mundane sleep issue. It couldn’t be so simple as her just feeling unsafe and restless, right?

"It's neither. I can't-...it ain't so simple, I'm endangering everybody if I go to sleep, for reasons I ain't sure I'm allowed to tell you," Abigail rubbed the back of her neck, scuffing her foot on the tiles. Then she seemed to clock on to how she sounded and was hasty to recover. "It ain't cause I'm gonna blow up or nothin', either!" She held her hands up in self defense. "The sleeping bag, that was, it's an isolated incident! I'd even go ahead n' say it was intentional, in a way!"

Ellen wasn't sure if these things were secret because Goodnight wanted them so, or secret because Abigail wanted them so, but she simply shrugged and moved on, chuckling as Abigail brought up some sleeping bag destruction. "Ahh, I see. Well it sucks that you aren't sleeping." She looked back at the chapel. "But I'm glad someone is going to help you out. Is Brooks someone you knew, before?" She asked. They seemed… cut from the same cloth, in a way.

"Nah I never met him," Abigail dismissed the claim with indifference. "He just...he gets it, y'know?" She glanced back at the chapel door. "He gets it in a way I don't think nobody 'cept for folk who lived the way I do would get it."

Ellen blinked. She clearly didn't get it. But she didn't grow up similar to how Abigail did. If they learned nothing else from the "therapy," they learned that. The good thing was that Abigail had a person who she seemed to get along with. Maybe Abigail didn't need someone like her around. "Well, I'll just wait with you for a few if that's alright." She offered.

Abigail glanced up at Ellen with a brief look of bewilderment. She mulled it over for a few moments before the first, genuine smile flashed on her exhausted face. "Sure."

They weren't kept waiting for long. Audrey and Brooks walked briskly from the chapel next, in hushed conversation. Ellen and Abigail caught the tail end of what Audrey was saying ("-pletely reasonable to have them do that. All I'm saying is approach it carefully. After all, it can't go any more wrong than it already did, right?") as she patted Brooks on the shoulder twice and paced right past them without so much as a nod of acknowledgement.

A more alert Abigail might have been suspicious but the kid drawled "what's all this about 'decisive action', huh?" As Brooks approached.

"It means exactly that. You're worried about sleep; I'm acting on it."

"But how?" Abi whinged with impatience.

"I'm going to keep an eye on you while you sleep."

"Hot."

"That way you ain't as likely to get stressed out and paranoid. I'm afraid that means I'm going to be in your personal space, Ellen. Along with the rest of your group." The bootlegger turned his attention to the other woman, clasping one hand by the wrist in front of him as he stared down at her.

Ellen looked at Brooks as he explained he would be in their sleeping quarters. It was the most she had heard him talk, but she wasn't surprised that he chose to talk about Abigail over anything else. "Doesn't matter to me." Ellen replied. "I'm used to sleeping on demand." She didn't much mind the larger communal sleeping area. The sleeping bags were just as comfortable as her beds on the boats had been, and it was honestly just as loud here as there.

"As long as you don't climb into my sleeping bag, we'll be fine." She chuckled. Ellen wasn't the pickiest woman in the world, but she did have a type-- and Brooks wasn't it. She looked over to Abigail, raising her brows. "You good with this plan?" She asked.

"I mean, yeah, but it's not gonna do much to-"

"Good," Brooks interjected as he brought his hands down to his sides and started to move. "I'll see you both this evening." He nodded once and left. Abigail watched him go.

"I sure hope that don't bite me in the ass down the line somehow," the kid mused to herself. She was just as quick to forget about it and grinned up at Ellen. "Let's get in the queue for the washrooms, otherwise we're gonna be stuck waitin' fer hours."
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by duskshine749
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Zephyr stayed seated as the others filed out. Although he wasn’t really religious in the traditional sense he was still pretty spiritual, perhaps even more so since he Awakened. Once the others were gone and Dr. Cassar was the only one left, he sat on the floor and took up his preferred meditating position. Back against the wall, legs slightly bent, and his hands were above his stomach. They weren’t quite touching but they were close, as though he held a small ball between them, bigger than a baseball but smaller than a football. He didn’t vocalize, he simply breathed deeply and allowed his senses to extend. He heard Dr. Cassar praying in a language he didn’t quite recognize, and he wasn’t worldly enough to be able to really guess what language it might be.

Whatever it was, it wasn’t latin. It was guttural and flowed like honey as he spoke, possessed of a rhythm foreign entirely to the English tongue, nonetheless identifiably the Lord’s Prayer.

After a moment, Cassar deviated from the rhythmic utterances of the standard Catholic prayers, and made what seemed like a private, individual prayer alongside it.

Amen.” He crossed himself, and stood from his kneeling position, facing the ‘altar’.

And then sat down, leafing through his bible, waiting.

A moment after Dr. Cassar finished his prayer Zephyr took a final deep breather before standing and brushing himself off. It had been a while since he had meditated properly. Of course his martial arts forms had a meditative quality to them, but nothing was quite like sitting down and doing nothing but breath.

Zephyr noticed Dr. Cassar sitting down, and approached him while he had a minute. “Uh, hey, Doctor. Thanks for hosting this session. It gave me a moment to sit down and think about things. I didn’t really help much during the mission and honestly I’d been feeling kind of bad about it. Getting praise when I just kind of stood around. But I’m realizing everyone has their own hang ups about what happened, so I’m not alone, and that helped, so, thanks.”

That ended a lot more awkwardly than Zephyr had planned, he just kinda started rambling there and figured he should stop himself.

“Oh, of course. It’s no trouble for me, I’m just glad I could be helpful.” Dr. Cassar smiled up at Zephyr, gently closing his bible and tucking it away into his pockets. “I wouldn’t worry about not having had the chance to do something this time, also - you know, impostor syndrome is very common in my field as well. I imagine I would have some difficulty putting myself in your shoes, but I know how you feel, at least in, ah, a general sense.”

Cassar also stood, and brushed himself off - more a gesture than because he had anything on him.

“I noticed that you practice meditation. Can I ask, where did you learn?”
“Oh, you noticed that?” Zephyr was feeling a bit embarrassed though he wasn’t sure why. Probably because he had never really talked with anyone about his beliefs, he didn’t bring it up and religion in general was something people tended to shy away from in conversation.

“I’m all self taught. I was raised Catholic but after a certain point I kind of grew out of it. After a lot of reading I found an eclectic, mostly pagan, spirituality fit me best. The meditation pose is optimized for comfort when I’m not meditating for a specific reason. If I do something like focus on my chakras I adopt the more traditional poses.” It felt nice talking about his beliefs, maybe because he knew Dr. Cassar wouldn’t judge him.

“Speaking of growing up Catholic, I recognize The Lord’s Prayer even when it’s not in English. What language was that? It’s not one I’m familiar with.”

Dr. Cassar nodded along as Zephyr spoke.

“Ah, of course. It is easy to recognise, isn’t it? That was Maltese, my native language. It sounds a lot like Arabic, to the, ah, untrained ear. Can I ask also, how come you grew out of the church?”

“That’s a great question Doctor, and one I’m not sure I have a great answer to.” Zephyr had never really given a great deal of thought as to why he had grown out of Catholicism, it was just something that he had accepted as a thing that happened. “It was probably a lot of things, but I guess the idea of one all powerful being didn’t sit well with me. Also the fact that there’s so many belief systems out there, I couldn’t accept that only one of them could be right.”

Zephyr paused for a moment to try and sort out his thoughts better, but in the end, “I can’t really explain it better than that. At the end of the day it’s just how things turned out.”

“I understand, I think. But you know, remember that a Catholic does not believe that God is only one person - there is the Holy Trinity, right? Three distinct persons, each of them a part of the others, all of them one whole, but separate still. Anyway, I do want you to know - I know I must seem a very religious man, and I am, but I respect your way of doing things too. I know some of my brothers in the faith do not, and I regret that.”

“You’re not wrong about the Holy Trinity. Like I said, I don’t have a great answer, it’s just something that I feel in my soul.” Hearing the Doctor say he accepted his spirituality had felt nice, “thanks Doctor. I would never begrudge someone having different beliefs, nor would I blame you for what others of your faith may believe. At the end of the day, I think we’re all working toward the same goal. Doing the best we can to make the world a better place.” With that Zephyr and the Doctor parted ways, Doctor Cassar couldn’t wax philosophical all day, Zephyr was sure he had work to do, so he left him to it.

Later that night Zephyr found two things had changed with their sleeping arrangements. Firstly, instead of the usual guards, Brooks was sitting across the hall. Zephyr gave him a nod of acknowledgement as he made his way to the space where he slept. The second change was it seemed anyone who had not gone on the supply run had been moved out. It was still a fairly cramped space but it felt downright luxurious compared to how it had been before. “I’ll be sure to work hard the next chance I get to make this upgrade feel worth it,” Zephyr said to himself. He was the first one to get there for the night it seemed.
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Jessikka
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"Hey Angie, how come ladies get changed in the latrines? There's piss on the tiles," Abigail pointed out as she got her allocated speck of toothpaste from one of the faculty members and started brushing her teeth by a tarnished mirror in the ladies' washroom. Behind her, the aforementioned women were both using the cubicles for their intended purpose and flinging clothes to hang on the stall door as they changed. No surprises there; Abigail is one of the handful of people who had no quarrels getting dressed in the bunkhouse. "They got summin' they tryin' to hide?" She asked conspiratorially.

Angeline peered at the occupied cubicles and shrugged nonchalantly “Maybe, it’s their own choice if they feel comfortable changing in front of others or not. For me, I’ve had to do it for my career, so I’m not as fussed, but maybe Jenny down the road doesn’t like people seeing her ti-uh boobs.” Remember… She’s a child… Watch your mouth. Angeline was also brushing her teeth, moving on to swishing around some water from the bottled water to clear out the toothpaste. She poured a little in her palm and rubbed her face with it and also pulled her hair down and rubbed some water into her scalp, scrubbing it. It wasn’t as good or effective as a shower but it made her look considerably more presentable on a day-to-day basis. “Maybe you’ll feel differently someday yourself. It’s not uncommon for women to feel uncomfortable with themselves.” Little did she know Abigail felt very uncomfortable about herself, just not so much the way she looked.

"I used to know a guy, back in one of the trailer parks we'd stop off at, who had a third nipple. Called him Three Tit Terry. 'Cept it wasn't a nipple, it was just a really big skin tag." Abigail nodded solemnly. "He'd let us draw tattoos around it with a Sharpie." She stopped long enough to spit. She didn't really seem to know how to brush her teeth effectively. "I get it's cause fellas might want to go n' jump ya with yer panties down but I'm less concerned about that possibility now I can set folk on fire."

“Well just because you can set people on fire doesn’t mean you should.” She nodded back. “As they said in the chapel we shouldn’t default to violence just because we’re in a tough situation.” Which wasn't really what was said but it was close enough. “Just shout really loud, we’re in such a populated place that I’m sure at least one person will care.” She deftly ignores three tit Terry, there was absolutely nothing she could even conceptually comment on that. Three tit Terry is so far removed from her own life experience that he could basically be a unicorn. “You should brush your tongue, too, you know. Can’t exactly go to a dentist nowadays.” She commented, wisely.

"I should what my what." Abigail looked at Angeline like she just told her to shove her toothbrush in some other orifice - for health benefits, no doubt, but with the same sort of bewilderment someone who hasn't even begun to think about tooth brushing technique would have upon hearing this new stratagem. "Awright...if yer sure…" Abigail mused and went about it in a gun-ho manner, gagging loudly several times and spitting up the saliva pooling in her mouth. By the end of several loud, uncomfortable seconds she looked up at Angeline with betrayal. "That was awful. People do that? Why in the fresh hell would anyone do that?!"

Angeline watched Abigail do everything very wrong, with gusto. “I mean there was no need to be as aggressive, or brush as far back as to make yourself gag, it’s just good to be thorough, especially now, or you’ll be without teeth by the time you’re my age.” she started packing up her things, when it came to dental hygiene she was sure Abigail was lacking considerably but one step at a time. Knowing the girl’s disposition to push back considerably about many things, she thought she’d ensure she keeps advising her, only, very slowly.

Abigail adjusted her technique and then inspected her tongue in the mirror. She quickly grew bored of the sight and put her things away too, hurrying to keep up with Angeline. "That'd be pretty cool. I think I just want one tooth. Maybe it'll grow really long." She scampered after Angeline as they exited the washroom together. "Did you enjoy that group discussion thing they did fer us?" She asked.

Angeline glanced back as Abigail hurried to match step with her, slowing a little for the girl to catch up. “One really long tooth won’t be very useful.. Also I don’t think that’s how teeth work.” As she headed to where they were going to spend the night, which was now a little more private. It felt a little uncomfortable, getting privileges for working for them in the field. She could feel a few eyes following herself and the girl, privileges means imbalance, imbalance could mean trouble in such a tense living situation. She kept her eyes forward as she walked through the abandoned shopping centre. “Did I enjoy it? No, but maybe it’s useful.” She shook out her damp hair, encouraging it to dry. “I mean it’s a very artificial form of opening up, it probably didn’t feel very natural to anyone there. I also fear it may end up causing friction in the group. I mean I’ve had a very different life compared to many people I’ve been grouped with, I don’t really think I can relate to anyone, so I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my story where I could be judged. It’s a double-edged sword, I think.” She drew a long breath, holding it for a second as she thought about the session before letting it out in a sharp puff of air. “What did you think about it?”

Abigail stared at Angeline. "Less than you, apparently," she pointed out. She furrowed her brows as she made a concerted effort to play through the group therapy step by step. "I didn't like it," she decided at last, " 'cause it felt like I was trapped." The tiredness - that unsteady gait, the strange flitting gaze as she looked around, became more prominent as she spoke about heavier topics. At least when she was recounting her time with Three Tit Terry she seemed to briefly forget about her utter sleep deprivation, but now it was starting to seep back in and she got nervous. "Like one of those things where you can leave any time but they're gonna hold it against ya if you do," she added on.

Angeline did not seem surprised by any of Abigails comments, certainly not the first one. It seemed Abigail thought a lot, about very unimportant things in order to not have to think about the important things. Nor was she surprised the girl didn’t enjoy the therapy considering she looked like a bug on the wall about to be squished, all flitty and ready to fly. In fact, she looked like that right now. “I mean they certainly won’t hold it against you but there is, I suppose, a social expectation for you to stay.” she didn’t want to say especially you but that certainly was the case. If anyone in the room had issues they needed to work out, Abigail seemed like one of them. “These things only really work when you want them to work and it didn’t seem like you wanted to be there, so it probably won’t work. It’ll just make you feel poked at and examined.” She shrugged, therapy was always a tough one, sure, some people certainly need it, but in order for it to be at all effective they need to want to change and Abigail seemed a little… Stuck in her ways.

"I think they're doing that to us either way," Abigail sighed. "Since we're useful for 'em now. "Not like I care much 'cause I knew what was comin' but I expected a lil' more uh, I dunno. Something more aggressive."

They rounded the corner and reached the bunkhouse. Brooks only gave a passing glance to Abigail but nodded to Angeline politely. "Home sweet home," Abigail remarked with a little grin.
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Stitches
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As Abigail entered the bunkhouse, she split from Angeline and wandered to her (second hand, replaced and thankfully not-yet melted) sleeping bag. Her personal effects didn't amount to much; it's apparent that she either didn't have time to pack or didn't have anything of note to bring with her. The clothes were hand-me-downs from the VU alongside a few amenities and a little box of feminine products. She didn't often consider the nuances of fashion when she was picking out her clothes but always had a set of 'pyjamas' that amounted to an oversized pink T shirt with 'Towcester City' printed on the front and some tracksuit bottoms.

True to her word, she stripped and got changed right there in the bunkhouse. This was not an unusual occurrence. However, it was apparent that Abigail had no intention of sleeping just yet. She looked exhausted, though - beyond exhausted, so tired that the tiredness plateaued into a constant state of surreal drunkenness. Her sunken eyes, erratic movements and idle scritching at her bandaged hands made her look more wretched than she had been before. Nevertheless, she stretched her gangly arms high into the air and mumbled some half-excuse of "I think I forgot summin' back in the washroom, so I'm just gonna-"

“Not on your life- are you kidding me?”

Abigail paused mid-stride, her foot still in the air. She looked at Brooks who had set aside his magazine enough to match her steely glare. "Fuck d'you mean 'no'?" She asked in a tone that made it apparent that she hadn't often heard that word before - at least, not used in with this amount of severity.

“‘No’ as in ‘No, you idiot, you’re not going out’. No one is.” Brooks leant back into his chair again and opened up his magazine. It looked like he was waiting for the inevitable. Abigail took a second to process it then flapped her arm at the entrance to the store.

"But the other feller let me out all the time!" She cried, outraged. No response was given.

"You can't keep us in here all night, what if I gotta take a leak?!" She continued. Brooks was unflinching. He didn't even look up or respond to her and the lack of response was far more effective than wasting time trying to argue.

"This is tyrannical, You ain't much better than the FOE!" Still nothing. Abigail was losing steam fast - like trying to punch down a brick wall.

"Screw you," she muttered as her final jab at the unaffected bootlegger. Disheartened and trying her best to remain conscious, Abigail trapised a lap around the perimeter of the bunkhouse looking for something to do and, unfortunately, Zephyr just so happened to be in her immediate line of sight at that point. She tottered over. "Is it weird being the only feller in this bunk now?" She asked. "Do you feel all overwhelmed n' shit?"

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Ellen went with Abi to the washroom, but finished up her business and departed before Abigail and Angeline chatted about Three Tit Terry. Like Abigail, she didn’t mind changing in the bunk area, but held off for a bit as she went for a brief walk before curfew.

She was drawn towards the sounds of shouting in a language that wasn’t English. Ellen went over to see and hear the situation better. As she got closer, she found that one was shouting in the French, and the other was speaking German. The German woman wasn’t shouting per-say, but she certainly sounded angry, which seemed to rile up the French woman further.

Ellen looked around briefly, hoping someone would take control of the situation. But the few onlookers seemed confused or unwilling to interject. Ellen sighed, then jumped in between them herself.

“Hey, what is going on?” She asked in English first, then in French when that seemed ineffective. The French woman quickly replied, and while she was telling Ellen what had happened, the German woman was trying to interject with her own tale.

Ellen held up a finger and replied back in rough German. “Please wait one minute!” The woman ceased speaking immediately, clearly surprised that Ellen was able and planning to listen to her side of things next.

What Ellen gathered over the next minute, from each woman, was that they both claimed to have brought the same lotion to the washroom. The German woman said she stepped out and left it in the stall, and turned back shortly thereafter to try to retrieve it. The French woman said it was hers all along, and the German woman was lying.

Obviously, one of them was telling the truth, but Ellen wasn't sure shehad any way to gather which person it was. “You need to calm down. I know having little things from home is nice. But no lotion is worth the stress and anger you are feeling right now.” She said, first to the French woman, and then to the German, though a bit choppier the second time. It came out probably more like, "Be calm. All people want things from home. But lotion is not as important as mad and to be angry."

Ellen asked to see the lotion. She looked over the label of the mostly used-up cream, and her brows furrowed in confusion, and then annoyance. There was some of the typical complicated long names of ingredients that she had expected to see, but then a few others she hadn't. Turning it to the front, she saw the name Kadefungin. Then she pieced together exactly what it was for. She looked up at the French woman. “This isn’t lotion.” Ellen said. She handed it to the German woman and told her to feel better, then turned back to the thief. "And the label was in German."

The thief tried to sputter something about how she had ordered it overseas ages ago, but Ellen stopped listening and the German woman shoved the yeast infection treatment into her bag as she stomped off.

Deciding she had seen enough of other parts of Goodnight, Ellen returned to their bunk area. It was quieter than she expected, and most of the sleeping bags were missing. It seemed it was just going to be the crew from the last mission, tonight. She nodded to Brooks, recalling he was coming specifically to watch over Abigail, then went over to her possessions to get changed.

Unlike some of the others, Ellen actually had a few changes of clothes in the bag she had brought with her. She made a habit out of airing out clothes she wore in the day since they couldn't be washed that often, and re-wore pajamas since all she was doing in them was sleeping. She stripped off the shirt, but left her bra on as she threw the larger t-shirt on top. Then she unhooked and slid down the sleeves of the bra, removing it completely for the night. She put on some yoga pants and looked over the rest of the folks. Abigail was pestering Zephyr about being the only man in the bunk.

Though Zephyr looked surprised by the revelation, Ellen was, and had always been, aware of the lack of men in their little troupe. She pulled her hair out of the ponytail and approached the group, listening to the chit chat.
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Zephyr was mostly trying to ignore Abi's outburst at Brooks not letting her leave the bunk. He didn't see what the big deal was, did she not like sleep or something? Unfortunately he couldn't ignore her when she came up to him as she was doing a lap around the bunkhouse. Her question caught him off guard, was he really the only guy in their group? After a quick mental tally he realized she was right. "Huh, didn't realize I was the only guy. I mean, other than Brooks I guess. But it's not like he stays in here, he's just our guard."

He gave Ellen a small upward nod as she came over before switching his focus back to Abi. "To answer your question though, no, it doesn't feel overwhelming to be the only guy in the bunk. At most it's maybe a bit strange. At the end of the day though we're all just people sharing the situation we're in." Thinking about it a moment longer Zephyr couldn't help but chuckle a bit, "some guys would kill to be in my position. Getting to be around a bunch of girls, perhaps I should be thanking the gods for blessing me with such an opportunity." He was mostly joking of course, not that he didn't see the appeal of some of the girls, it's just that kind of stuff wasn't exactly at the forefront of his mind currently.
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Abigail scritched her head. Maybe she just wasn't old enough or simply not worldly enough to get the concept of one man and a lot of women but she flat out missed the connotations. "Don't much see a benefit to being around a bunch'a ladies," she admitted, " 'cept that they don't smell as bad as fellers do when they don't shower. In truth, this is also the largest amount of women I've been trapped in a room with." She nodded solemnly. "We'll get through this together buddy. You 'n I." It was an odd way to show sympathy but at least Abigail was showing sympathy. Somewhere under the sleep deprivation and general wariness around the group, she was trying to extend a feeble attempt at getting along with people instead of just keeping to herself and running laps around the mall like a pissed off hamster in a wheel.

"By th'way did you just say gods?" Abigail honed in on the phrase with a unnerving intensity. "Plural?" She added on. "As in, more than one?" It was hard to tell which way her demeanor was going to shift when she was this tired. She just watched Zephyr, hawklike and unmoving, until he decided to elaborate.
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Zephyr appreciated Abi's attempt at sympathy. Maybe the group therapy session had done some good for her. The way she questioned if he had said gods made him a bit uncomfortable though, he had a feeling a theological discussion now wouldn't go as well as it had with Doctor Cassar. But he wasn't going to lie about his beliefs. Zephyr didn't bring up his beliefs often because he knew they weren't exactly mainstream, but he also wasn't so ashamed as to lie about them if the subject ever came up.

"Um, ya, I said gods. I believe there are many different deities. I'm just going on a hunch here but I'm guessing you believe in the one Christian God? I grew up Catholic so I'm pretty familiar with Him." The way Abi was looking gave Zephyr a bad feeling, maybe he should have just lied to avoid a fight? He didn't want to deny his beliefs but he also really hated conflict. Hopefully this didn't turn in to a fight about religion, those were the worst.
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"...Wow." Abigail leaned back a little, her lips curling into a smile. "A bona fide, honest-ta-jesus heretic. Ex-catholic and a witch. You must be tryin' to set a new record fer 'fastest one way trip to hell', huh?" Again, it wasn't an overtly malicious and antagonistic approach. Despite making her beliefs ridiculously clear she hadn't spun off on some religious tirade because, unfortunately, she had more important questions on her mind. "So how'd you do it? Y'know. With the goat?"

“They don’t do goats. Think they let the goats do them.” Brooks didn't look up from his magazine.

"But there's a uh, a logistics issue. The size difference, fer one. Was it a lady goat?" Abigail looked down at Zephyr, then back at Brooks for further information. "If a fella has to fornicate with a goat is it always gonna be a man-goat on another man or a lady?"

“No. A man-goat is what comes out after they do it.”

"That's some real satanic shit." Abigail mulled over this new, awful information. "...Even out of the guys?" She looked at Zephyr, horrified. "Where'd it come out of?"

“Alright, quit teasin’ him.”

Abigail glanced over at Brooks and scowled. "Laugh all you want. The government did a pretty fine job of hidin' the real practices of paganism from the rest of America so folk like you don't think it's as dangerous as it is. Youth pastor Jonathan told me they had to make a pact with the devil by givin' themselves to goats just to get his true power." She looked down at Zephyr, a mix of disgust and resignation on her face. "Guess you got what you bargained for, and since I'm also a Godless reject... I'm grateful yer pointin' them cursespells at the folk who are tryin' to kill me."

Another attempt to reach out. A horribly misguided, poorly understood but genuine attempt to be nice. Abigail scratched her spotty cheek and wouldn't meet Zephyr's gaze.
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Ellen cracked a smile at Zephyr’s joke regarding his fortune for being bunked with all of the women, and she was preparing quite a tasteful and appropriate joke in response when Abigail heard something that caught her interest. She asked him about his reference to Gods, one that honestly, Ellen had completely missed the first time through.

What should have been a simple clarification and move on wasn’t, though, because Abigail went on a tirade about him being a heretic and saying he was going to hell. It got worse as the girl began to rant about him screwing goats.

“Che cazzo!” Ellen’s eyes widened and she had to fight the urge to throw a hand over Abi’s mouth and literally drag her away from the situation before she made it any worse. “Abi. NO. Just no!” She threw her hands up between the two, as if she was pulling them away from a physical altercation.

Zephyr probably wanted to speak for himself, but Ellen was not going to let Abi’s remark slide, and Zephyr didn’t seem confrontational enough to get to the root of the issue. “Look, Abi. I know you are just a kid, and you don’t know better. But those things aren’t true, and you aren’t asking in a respectful way. There…” She glanced at Zephyr and at Brooks-- of course the only time he spoke up it would be to back up the goat-fucking accusation. Useless.

“There is a lot to unpack in what you said. But when you are confronted with someone different from you, you don’t throw every stereotype and assumption at them like it is 100% factual. You ask. Respectfully. Like this.” Ellen turned to Zephyr and spoke slowly for the teenager’s benefit. “Wow, Zephyr. It is so interesting to hear that you believe in different deities. I’ve heard a bit about being pagan, but I would love to know more from someone with real experience. Can you tell me a little about how that worship works?”

Ellen then turned back to Abigail. “You need to understand that each individual has an inner truth that guides them. That truth might be different from yours. And you might not even like someone else’s truth. But you can’t steamroll over someone else’s truth with your own. So now it’s your turn. Don’t assume you know his truth. Ask politely.” Ellen gestured for the girl to try again, hoping she wouldn’t have to babysit every time Abigail opened her mouth.
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Angeline returned the polite nod to Brooks, retreating to a corner to get changed. She, too used to getting stuffed into outfits in overcrowded dressing rooms, also didn’t mind getting changed in the open room, she was just sure to turn her back so as to not expose herself too much. Naturally, as she opened her gym bag, her pyjamas were folded neatly on top, she retrieved them, she had two sets it seemed, a warm looking fleecy set for cooler nights and a set of a t-shirt and shorts for warmer evenings, she opted for the warmer one, and tugged on some fluffy socks to boot. It’s not like the heating was working. She then took to quietly brushing her still damp hair, listening quietly to the conversation going on behind her. She loosely braids her hair into two french braids, to protect it while she sleeps.

Angeline turned around just as Ellen was trying to explain to Abigail how to act, she stepped over to the group and tossed her gaze between Ellen and Abigail. “There’s no need to treat her like a child, she’ll never respond well to being talked down to like that.” she pointed out. Abigail was much too stubborn and prideful to take that kind of tone well. She put on a stern gaze and fixed Abigail with it “But Ellen is right, that was rude.” she softens her gaze and turns to Ellen “What kind of things do you support?” may as well make it an open discussion, perhaps Abigail will see the diversity in the group and learn from it. “I, personally, am agnostic. As a budding scientist I don’t see much evidence of a deity, but should there be some undeniable proof, I’m not about to reject it.” She then set her gaze on Abigail, “Like you said, we’re all ‘godless rejects’ here, the least we can do is ‘help thy neighbour’ as it were and support each other through this mess.”

Lastly, as if she were nearly ignoring Zephyr, she finally sets her attention to him, curiosity piqued. “So, if you’re in the belief of many deities, have you got any religious theory for why we’re like this?” She gestures around, “The whole supernatural powers thing? Is there any secret explanation that might be the key to understanding it all? Or… Is that wishful thinking?” Angie added the last bit on, sheepishly. She highly doubted that there was some secret ancient tome foretelling the violet dawn, but it would be interesting if there were.
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Zephyr hadn’t been expecting everyone to be so interested in his faith, although it was for more unusual than what people were probably used to so maybe he shouldn’t have been. Before answering any questions though he let out a laugh at all of Abi’s assumptions about him. He appreciated Ellen trying to set her straight but to Zephyr it was less offensive and more just funny. Remarkably, Abigail managed to keep quiet. She stewed and seethed and scuffed the threadbare carpets and her gaze snapped from Ellen to Angeline as she shrank a little under Zephyr's ceaseless laughter. It was hard to tell whether her bottom lip was trembling or she was clenching her jaw so hard it shook.

He took a breath to compose himself before speaking, “sorry, but Abi, that is probably the funniest thing I’ve ever heard someone say when they find out about my beliefs.” He let out a small cough and took a breath before continuing, also addressing the rest of the group since they all seemed to want to know what being pagan entailed. “First, no goats, I feel like you’re thinking of Satanists. Even then I don’t think they do those types of things with goats. My personal brand of paganism is very much personal. I believe all myths are true in some form. Greek, Egyptian, Norse, you name it.”

He turned a bit more to Angeline to answer her question. “I don’t have a real answer for why this is happening. I have my own personal theory, that the gods have seen our world and want people to have the power to change it. But that’s just what I think, it could really be anything.” Turning his attention back to Abi he said, “does that help you understand a bit more? I’m not gonna try to convert you or say you’re wrong for what you believe. For all we know I’m the one who’s wrong.”

It took Abigail a few seconds to muster up the courage to speak again. All the while, Brooks had neglected his reading material and was watching the encounter. She took a breath, opened her mouth, shut it, took some more time to think and finally asked:

"Whaddya mean all the myths?"

Zephyr paused for a moment trying to figure out exactly how to answer that. “I mean, what it sounds like I guess. Maybe myths is the wrong word, but I believe that the gods of all the pantheons like Zeus, Horus, Thor, Quetzalcoatl. I believe the Christian God exists and that Jesus was his son, I just don’t think that He’s the one and only god. When it comes to things like creation myths I just think that different cultures have different understandings of how the world came to be.” He hoped that was a sufficient explanation, people usually just let him be and figured he just believes lots of weird things.

Unfortunately, he wasn't able to shake Abigail off with such a simple response. She even sat down cross legged next to him. She looked even more tired close up. "So you just pray to all of 'em and hope summin' will stick?" She asked. "Ain't you worried you're gonna piss off God and end up in Hell? Or, I mean, you'll piss off one of em and end up in...Thor Hell, or Zeus Hell?"

Well at least she was asking reasonable questions and was off the goat stuff. “Well I have a patron deity, one I feel more closely connected to that I pray to. That’s Thoth, Egyptian god of writing, magic, and wisdom. I don’t believe that I would piss off the gods with my prayers. Normally if I’m asking for something specific I pray to a god that covers that domain. So if I wanted to travel safely across the sea I might pray to Poseidon or Njord. Also Hell is the same no matter the god, it’s just depicted differently in different texts.”

"...That makes no sense." Abigail rubbed at her face. "Even if I did say they were Gods - which they ain't, cause there's just one - why would they give you free stuff fer seemingly nothing? That sounds pretty satanic t'me. An' what do you think gets us into Hell? Apparently blasphemy n' idoltry ain't bad enough?"

“Well just because you ask for something doesn’t mean you’ll get it. Praying to a sea god for a safe boat ride is just as likely to get me results as someone like you praying to God for the same thing. It’s more about positive thinking than anything. If I’m wrong and there are no gods, then the trip is still likely to do better because I want it to do so.” The question about what gets you into hell was a bit puzzling, Zephyr hadn’t really thought about it. “Well, I guess you go to hell if you were a bad person in life. Did you kick others when they were down? Cheat and deceive others for personal gain? Only ever look out for yourself? Those kinds of things probably aren’t looked fondly upon much more than if you believed in the right god.”

"So…because you don't know, n' because you ain't sure there's only one, yer prayin' to every God you hear about and tryin' to just be a good person n' hope for the best?"

Abigail squirmed uncomfortably. She didn't meet his gaze, she fidgeted with her pyjamas. "But if yer wrong…" she mumbled.

“That’s not exactly it,” Zephyr began, “but it’s close enough. ‘Be a good person and hope for the best’ is probably a nice way to sum up my philosophy on life.” She wasn’t looking at him now, it seemed like she was finding it hard to go on with this. “Look, Abi, religion isn’t about being right or wrong. It’s about finding a way of thinking that speaks to you and helps you get through the day. If you’re right and the Catholic God is the real deal, I always remember Him being rather forgiving.”

"I thought it weren't about nothin' but right and wrong. Then again…" she glanced up at Ellen. "Seems I'm getting a lotta' things wrong these days, aren't I?" She stood up and dusted herself off. "Startin' to figure nobody knows jack and yer all makin' it up as you go along. 'Cept how to use yer...devil powers on command." She wiggled her fingers. She rounded on Ellen mostly but Angeline wasn't beyond a few paranoid glares. "You folk tellin' me it don't feel like summin' that's gonna rip you t'pieces if you don't use it?"
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Ellen thought she had been very--well, perhaps not very, but at least decently-- tactful in speaking with Abigail. She told the kid that she was handling the situation poorly and enlightened her (or at least tried to) in regards to the fact that not everyone believed the same thing as her, and they weren’t inherently any more or less right than her. Abigail didn’t seem to have much of a reaction at all to the words, and Angeline jumped in with her own ‘help’ a few moments later.

Ellen shot a glare at the other woman for saying that she didn’t need to treat the kid... like a kid. The fact that Angeline didn’t seem to think that would ever work for Abigail was a bit ridiculous. How close were they for her to know such a thing? And what was the alternative? Treat Abigail like an adult? She was going to get herself punched.

It was Ellen’s turn to clench her jaw as Angeline stepped forward with what she believed was the better way to handle the situation. Meanwhile, Zephyr just laughed the whole thing off. Really?

Fine, that’s what she got for trying to actually help Abigail broaden her understanding of how to respectfully interact with other people. Apparently it was better to just ignore Abigail when she was deeply offensive and just hope that somehow she stopped doing it?

Ellen didn’t answer Angeline’s question about her beliefs before the woman moved on to her own, which was fine. Ellen didn’t feel much like talking for the moment. As a matter of a fact, she nearly left the conversation entirely--not that she could go far in this bunk space-- when Abigail seemed to address her again. Ellen raised one eyebrow as Abigail suggested that everyone was just making it up as they went. Of course they were.

But then the teenager posed a question that shifted her expression into one of confusion. She replayed the accented words in her head to make sure she understood them before replying. Finally, she pieced together something like “Are you suggesting that you don’t feel physical pain if you refrain from using your magic?”

“Ummm… No, Abigail. I don’t feel any compulsion to use my magic, or any discomfort if I refrain from using it. Maybe that’s a violet-exclusive thing?” She didn’t seem to have any affinity for purple magic, so she couldn’t say for sure. “Other than this...sort of feeling I have that I can call upon my magic if I need it, I don’t feel any different than before. What about you guys?”
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“Hey, Angeline. Can we talk for a minute?” Ellen asked, approaching Angeline after the group conversation died down. They couldn’t outright leave the room, but Ellen gestured towards the unoccupied corner of the room. There was a tiny voice in the back of her mind (which some people often thought of as a conscience) telling her not to poke this bear, and to just move on...but Ellen was fixating on Angeline’s scolding, and she didn’t have her sister there to redirect her attention towards some sort of sport or other distraction.

Angeline perked up at the address. She obviously noticed she was ignored during most of that conversation, not only by Ellen. Already feeling a little uneasy, she sucked in a deep breath, sighed, and nodded her head “Yeah, sure.” she replied breathily before following Ellen over to the little quiet corner. “What’s up?” She asked, though she had a feeling she already knew.

"You may be the oldest of the group, but that doesn't give you the right to scold me for trying to help the kid-- and she IS a kid. If you keep ignoring her bigoted remarks, it's the same as accepting them. Zephyr might not care, but that doesn't make it suddenly endearing or cute." Ellen scoffed. She had a lot more to say, too, but her thoughts were getting a bit jumbled between how Angeline wanted Abi treated and how Angeline treated Ellen.

Angeline drew in a sharp breath and shook her head, “I never thought - or said- it was endearing or cute in the slightest, but you know what also isn’t endearing or cute? Talking down to a - what - fifteen or sixteen year old like they’re some kid that doesn’t know right and wrong? They need guidance not to be talked down on like that. She deserves our respect as well as our help.” She glanced over to where Abigail was standing, a strange expression on her face, almost like pity, but more like she’s battling with her own morals in her head “I mean it’s rude of us to not even include her in this conversation, what about what she wants, or - I mean like how she wants to be talked to?” She let out a long, strained sigh. “I mean, think back to when you were her age, plenty of people I knew that age weren’t even virgins anymore, I don’t think they want to be treated like children at that age, in fact it’s like they want anything but. Besides I’ve tried lecturing her like that and she just gets- “ She cast another glance Abigail's way and dropped her volume significantly “-gets quite defensive… Either she has a lot of pride about herself, or a lot of insecurity about all of us, and I’m leaning towards it being the latter. A bunch of strangers she’s never met, massively different from any people she’s ever been around and she’s stuck with us, further still in life or death situations, and further still, again, while she claims she’s some… Freak of ‘Gods’ design?” Angeline shook her head, she was not even scratching the surface of the kind of demons this girl was wrangling with, and with no support. “I just think it’s more important to make her feel welcomed to a point where she’s comfortable enough to open up to us and learn willingly on her own. It just doesn’t seem that way at the moment.”

Ellen was frustrated. Angeline wanted to act like the all-knowing one. She was apparently all-knowing about Abigail's sexual history, and how she wanted to be treated, and how she was wrestling with being insecure about being around a bunch of strangers. Like they ALL weren't dealing with cultural and linguistic differences when they were stuck in this place. What made Abigail's struggles so fucking special?

"Just because she doesn't want to hear it doesn't mean that she doesn't need to hear it." She started.

"You say she knows right from wrong... which means you think she knows how rude it is to suggest a pagan is fucking goats and is offended by me telling her that?! And at the same time you want to roll out the fucking red carpet every time she acts like a bigot just so maybe down the line she magically realizes that she is being an awful human being. You go ahead and do that. But I am not going to compromise my values because you want to coddle her."

Really, this wasn't even about Abigail. This was about Angeline. Abigail was like someone standing on a dock with a box prepared to paddle out on a dinghy to try to catch crabs. It just wasn’t going to work, and she could get hurt if she kept going. But Angeline’s solution was to sit in a lighthouse and insist that everyone should just let Abigail play by all of the boats and choose for herself what kind of vessel she wanted to take. It wasn’t a solution at all. And it was cowardly to not do more.

Angeline smoothed down her straying hairs, blatantly stressed. “I’m not saying that she doesn’t need to hear it, nor am I saying that she should go about doing what she wants.” She was losing her patience with Ellen jumping to conclusions, drawing in a deep breath. “So please, stop putting words in my mouth. I’m just trying to say that she doesn’t really trust any of us, treating her condescendingly is only going to push her away and shut us out, where she can affirm her own beliefs in her own little echo chamber.” she rubbed her face, frustrations building between the two. “Fine. Do what you want, stick by your ‘values’ and see where that gets you. I wouldn’t be surprised if she pushes you away though, I mean she’s just ‘sticking to her values.” she conceded exasperatedly.

“Putting words in your mouth?! You shut me down before Abigail even had a chance to breathe, let alone tell me for herself what she thought. But that’s beside the point. I don’t appreciate you coming in all high and mighty and talking over me when it feels like… you just...choose not to get involved when things are actually difficult. What about on the mission? You just chose to sit in the van. You didn’t have a single opinion then of how to handle things… but now you get to judge me?! It’s bullshit.”

Angeline was taken aback at first, she thought this was a conversation about Abigail but it seemed that it wasn’t really about Abigail to begin with, Ellen seemed to be upset.. With HER and veiled it as a confrontation about Abigail. She bristled at the accusation “You don’t know a thing about me and yet you feel qualified to judge me for opting to, I don’t know, not murder people?!” She snapped back, emphasising the murder part, even though she knew it would probably sting Ellen. “What do you want me to do, trickle WATER on them? Or heal their wounds? Or I dunno, do a little dance for them at the edge of camp as a nice distraction!” Angeline lost all composure now, what little control she had over her words was snatched away. “You say we’re all dealing with shit but then bitch at me when I show that I’m dealing with shit! At least I know when I don’t bring any value to a situation. Maybe you should learn how to do that too.”

Ellen opened her mouth, but then closed it again. It wasn’t often that she was at a loss for words, but for a few moments, she was. She...and her sister, had spent years trying to bring enough value to their parents that they stayed together. But it wasn’t enough. Ellen knew that she didn’t have value. Not on her own for sure. Tears began to form in her eyes, her mouth quivering as she brought a hand up to cover the shaking.

She didn’t regret the actions she took to get the medical supplies. But she wished that the decision hadn’t been entirely on her--that someone else in the group had...stepped up and helped shoulder some of that burden. But Angeline wouldn’t be that person. She couldn’t carry it. That much was clear. So it would have to be Ellen. All Ellen.

She mumbled something in Italian, but the words came out jumbled and muffled as she turned and stormed off. Ellen couldn’t get far with Brooks blocking the door, but she went as far as she literally could manage in the room, which was feeling more and more like a prison cell, and tried to pull her shit together.
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Stitches
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Goodnight


The ‘Staff Room’




Saturday, 13th of March, 2021 - 3:54 PM






Life in Goodnight was starting to become more familiar and with it, the mages were slowly beginning to settle into their living quarters in the abandoned mall complex. Though it was still a far cry from the lives they left behind, the routine and peacefulness of the mall had allowed its residents to feel less like refugees and more like settlers of the ruins that society forgot. Tensions had started to abate in some places but linger in others. Not everyone got along but everyone knew that they’d all had enough of conflict and fear for the foreseeable future. The time of hoarding over one’s belongings and picking fights over banalities had passed with the realisation that there really was no way to avoid someone forever in Goodnight, no matter how vast it seemed to begin with.

What hadn’t yet shifted from its mouldering halls was the impoverished living conditions. An outbreak of head lice caused mass discomfort to staff and survivors alike, with a lot of clothes and bedding being burnt or disposed of. Despite this, a volunteer-led initiative to sterilise clothes, brushes, combs and the like in boiling water and strong alcohol had brought everyone closer together. Mothers and uncles and stepsons alike from all parts of the world rolled up their sleeves and went to dinner with red raw hands. With a common threat to deal with, the Violet Underground had a goal to pursue.

The problems truly arose when there seemed to be no end to these problems. Food was still scarce, bland and unappetising. Goodnight still didn’t have enough pillows or blankets. Everyone stank and there were no rewards for hard work except the continued survival of everyone involved. A listlessness was starting to creep in; one that dangerously teetered on the brink of depression. People were starting to fear that this might be the norm for as long as they live.

Ever observant to the shifting moods and tendencies of the resident mages, the Bootleggers had formulated a plan to alleviate some of the gloom that had settled in Goodnight. Audrey went to the Bunkhouse as you were getting ready for the day that morning and asked if they could meet at 4PM as the staff had another mission that they wanted to send you and the others out to complete.

This decision had not been made on a whim; in tandem with the daily routine of life in Goodnight came scheduled physical and magical training sessions - the former compulsory over the age of 18, the latter compulsory for all mages. The goal was to ensure that all residents were able to defend themselves - at least to the point of escape - should anything happen to their stronghold. Groups were designated by their bunkhouses and you were made aware of any upcoming training sessions during breakfast that day. Audrey had taken the role of training your group since the meeting with Dr Cassar and her sessions were physically demanding. She focused primarily on heightening one's reaction speed and stamina - as the best resolution to a fight is to not fight at all. As Audrey was hardly one to espouse the benefits of running away, the gruelling physical exercise was also excellent for giving the body enough strength and speed to rush for cover and build muscle for some of the basic unarmed combat manoeuvres she was starting to teach (though they had only one session based on unarmed combat prior to the upcoming meeting). The latter half of each training session was for gun safety and correct gun usage. She trained everyone on how to use a basic 9mm pistol safely, including the correct grip and stance, prior to beginning target practice.

Magical training was much more difficult to define. There was no definite technique to casting spells and a lot of the lessons were introspective and based on prior experiences. Where possible, props and volunteers were on hand to practice with. Unlike other sessions, there was a fifteen minute mandated recovery period to ensure the mages were not overexerting their powers and no lingering effects of spell use would end up hurting them in the long run. With the time, resources and space designated to practice, the mages found themselves becoming more attuned to their most frequently cast spells with a better grip on their control than they had during the Violet Dawn.

All this had culminated in the Bootleggers assigning a new task to your group, one that Audrey had organised based on their results in training.

As you entered the grey, damp mouldering room a large floor plan was spread out across a folding table and held down with empty coffee mugs. There were a few Sharpies of different colours and an A4 lined paper pad with various notes written alongside it. Audrey was in good spirits, mid conversation with Brooks:

"No, look, it says so right here. 'I, Brooks Lockwood-'"

“They get it. It’s where smart people shop.” Brooks was smiling, for once.

"-'Declare that I am a middle class, hotblooded American male over thirty years old who shops efficiently.' That's a lot to put on one card," Audrey smirked at him and passed it back. “Good afternoon everyone. The Violet Underground has another supply run for you. This one just happens to be a little more morally ambiguous.”

Audrey tapped her finger on the map.



“Unfortunately, we do not have the funds available to legally purchase everything we need. The first - and most important - item on the list is good, high quality food, followed by as many tinned or nonperishable foods that we can muster, then medical supplies. We would like to see those three prioritised. The good food is…paramount to the continued operation of our base here.” Audrey didn’t waste any time plunging into the specifics. She was busy staring at the map. She had other things on her mind. “If we do not bring something substantial and of higher quality back to Goodnight, morale will continue to plummet - the suicides will start not long after.”

She looked up at the group. “We are going to have to steal all of these to survive. If anyone has any moral quandaries with that, leave now.”

"With all of that out of the way, we can go through the Intel."

Audrey opened the notepad and read through its contents. "First of all. Most Costco buildings have a surveillance system in place. There will be security cameras in the interior and exterior of the building, but the alarm system is activated manually. This is because there are also security guards and janitors that work after hours. As a result, I recommend a visit during business hours this afternoon to determine the location of these cameras both inside and outside of the building, as well as locating the security office so they can be disabled as soon as possible. The fewer people that see you, the better."

"I'm sure it goes without saying that using your magic should be a last resort, but," Audrey briefly glanced at Abigail, "try to avoid revealing that you're a mage under any circumstance to anyone. The response to a call about a burglary is going to be significantly less impressive than a response to mages performing a burglary. Speaking of police," Audrey sighed, "it's been ridiculously difficult to find a Costco wholesale that isn't a stone's throw from a police station. I know that map says Santa Cruz, but we're sending you to Ohama, Nebraska. If the alarm sounds or anyone calls the cops you have fifteen, twenty minutes to get out. Any altercations with law enforcement should be as nonviolent as possible. Like I've been telling you - prioritise your escape over any sort of fight. If the FOE arrive - which is an incredibly slim but not impossible risk - then it's even more important that you escape rather than try to engage."

Audrey slid the notepad around so the information is better seen by the accumulated mages. "We'd like to see you formulate a plan. Part of becoming a Bootlegger is a thorough risk assessment and agreeing, as a team, on the best course of action prior to a mission. So instead of me rattling off orders and intel to you, I'd rather hear from you what you'd like to know and how you'd like to approach this. I'm willing to answer any questions you have to the best of our ability and try to supply you with what you think you'll need - within reason."

Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Jessikka
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It started just like any other training session; a long run to start off with, then a makeshift obstacle course, some jumping jacks, push-ups...the distance and number changed each session to push everyone to their limits. This brought the group sweating, shaking and panting back to the car park where Audrey was stood waiting for them with a duffle bag at her feet and a row of old cardboard boxes lined up at the far end.

"Welcome back. Line up here for me." Audrey grabbed the duffle bag, her expression impassive. "We're going to start teaching you about gun safety and gun usage." She went down the line, handing over a simple 9mm pistol to Zephyr then hesitating and staring at Abigail before reluctantly passing a gun to her. "The safety is on and they aren't load-ed…" she hesitated only slightly as she sharply pushed Abigail's pistol at the floor after the kid tried to aim it forward - towards Audrey. "...don't point it at anything you don't want to kill," she warned her. Her tone was like ice.

Angie was next in the line, Audrey handed her a gun.

Overall, Ellen had been enjoying the grueling exercises Audrey put them through. She liked being physically active, and the harder she pushed her body, the less time she spent thinking about… things. It was a good distraction. She couldn’t help but still feel tense around Angeline, though. Their last conversation hadn’t exactly been productive. They hadn’t worked through any of the things that were bothering them. Well, maybe Angie felt like things were worked out, but Ellen certainly didn’t. She just knew that the second things got difficult again, Angie would sit there doing nothing and Ellen would have to make the hard decisions.

Thus, when she saw Audrey give Angie a gun, she could no longer hold back the feelings. Well, she probably could have, but she didn’t.

“Don’t bother giving one to her. She won’t use it.” Ellen snapped. She doubted Angie would ever get out of the van long enough to do anything else Audrey was training them to do, like run around obstacles. Maybe Audrey should show Angie how to lock the van door. That might be a better lesson for the ballerina.

Angeline was used to this kind of training, but was certainly rusty as she breathed heavily as the gun was handed to her. Perhaps it was the sheen of sweat and the tiredness from the exercise, but she looked sickly as she held it. She shot Ellen a venomous glare “Very mature of you.” she snapped back, voice dripping with sharp sarcasm. She turned to Audrey “I assume this is supposed to be compulsory.” She asked, though it was obvious from her face she wanted the answer to be ‘no’, she’s heard plenty of lectures around Goodnight about people being unwilling to do things to save their lives. Generally the consensus was, you do it, or die.

"The FOE won't hesitate to shoot you if they see you, so yes. This is compulsory." Audrey stepped back. "Everyone here is expected to know how to use this weapon safely and effectively. You may never need to click the safety off for the rest of your life, but you need to know."

"Maybe you should try bringing some value to this situation." Ellen shot back, throwing Angie's words back in her face. Maybe it was immature and a bit petty to hold the grudge. But wasn't Angie supposed to be the adult, here?

Ellen looked over the safety of the pistol and held the gun's handle with her index finger resting outside of the trigger area, barrel pointed at the ground. Jab accomplished, she turned her attention to the instructor.

“I’ll keep your criticism in mind next time you’re hurt and you need my help.”

Despite the snappy response Angeline was only looking more and more worse off and the gun appeared to be shaking in her grip. Aside from her effort to play it off and check her own gun, after having mimicked Ellen’s actions, her breath was still coming in shallow breaths as she tried her best to calm herself down, her mind racing with vivid memories too ingrained to shake off. She closed her eyes to try and focus on one thing but it wasn’t helping much.

Audrey just turned her head slightly from Ellen to Angeline depending on who was talking. Abigail had started watching too, but she just looked confused and a little annoyed - which, to be fair, was an increasingly common expression for her to take.

Ellen glared at Angeline, though she seriously doubted the woman would withhold her healing skills because of a petty fight. At the end of the day, though, Ellen knew it was best to rely on herself and no one else.

Ellen actively ignored Angeline for a minute, but it grew difficult to pretend she didn't notice that Angeline was having some sort of panic attack just from holding an empty gun. Did… the gun really bother her that much?

Ellen had assumed that Angeline didn't want to use a gun because she felt like it was beneath her. Or like Ellen was barbaric for feeling like it was a tool that could be helpful. But what she saw… wasn't "uppity." She looked like she was going to throw up.

"Are you…. Okay?" Ellen asked, her brows furrowing in confusion.

"Is Angie gonna cry?" Abigail asked.

"What th-... Abigail, shut the fuck up. In fact, give me your gun," Audrey said - softly, and without malice, as her thoughts were elsewhere. Abigail had enough sense to pass the gun back as if it was loaded and Audrey took it from her as she strode back to Angeline's position in the line. "You should also give me your gun," Audrey asked of Angeline, holding her hand out, "and come with me. I'll get you some water. The rest of you - don't shoot anyone. Don't let Abigail shoot anyone either."

"C'mon. I ain't smart, but I'm not a dumbass," Abigail protested.

"Precisely," Audrey responded, her hand still outstretched for Angeline's pistol.

Angeline ignored Ellen’s question, with her eyes locked firmly on the ground in front of her with her brows furrowed, surely all Ellen had to say was more petty jabs and that wasn’t something she had any time for. Wordlessly, she relinquished the gun into Audreys hands. MyAs the heavy weight lifted from her fingers she clenched them into a fist as if to force herself to forget what it felt like, or to focus on anything except the images flashing behind her eyes. She continued to force in ragged breaths, keeping her head bowed out of embarrassment perhaps, and opted to follow Audrey. This is so embarrassing! It was akin to being kicked out of dance class to shame you for poor performance and she could feel people’s eyes on her, undoubtedly either judging, or with questions she didn’t want to answer.

Audrey had the presence of mind to put both pistols into the duffle bag, zip it shut and carry it with her as she briskly walked Angeline away from the others and to a small maintenance shed where one of the rusty, nonfunctional generators for the mall sat. Taking her behind the wall of the shed she put the bag down and reached to squeeze Angeline's hand. Already it was a far cry from her usual demeanor. "Breathe in," she told her, "hold it," she said, "and breathe out," she finished, loosening her grip. "Breathe in," she tightened her grip again, "hold it," still tight, "breathe out." Grip loosened. She stopped talking and breathed with Angeline, tightening and loosening her hold on the woman's hand to guide her out of a budding panic attack.

Angeline’s hand shook beneath Audrey’s hands as she closed her eyes and followed the woman’s instructions, forcing her breathing to steady. Her palms were sweaty and cold and her face pallid. If she were more sound of mind she would question the otherwise brutish seeming woman’s sudden gentleness. Eventually her shaken breaths came out smoother and she eventually opened her eyes and focused on their hands.

"Nope, not down there. Look at me. Thoughts get weird when you're looking at your hands." Audrey was watching her closely. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Angeline lifted her gaze to look at Audrey and she looked a little sheepish “Um - well there’s not much to say…” She mumbled. “Someone got shot in front of me and it didn’t sit right with me.” Although she sounded calmer, tears pricked at her eyes and before she noticed, some droplets rolled down her cheeks. “And I can’t forget his face and he died right in front of me. And- “ She cut off, as her throat tightened on her. “And knowing what I can do now- I feel like I could have- or.. Should have done something about it.”

"Since you seem relatively well adjusted I'm gonna assume it was either the man that was shot during your previous mission, or something that happened during your extraction. I'd understand if you feel that way from your mission - at the time, you probably felt like you were ready, or more ready than you had been when you left your own life behind. The truth of the matter is that the government spends months, years dehumanising recruits for war and even they aren't ready for death." Audrey still held her hand - a small comfort. "But what could you have done, Angeline? You feel the burden more than anyone else because of your powers but do you even know how to use them now? Did you know, at the time, how to stop the killer from pulling the trigger? These things-... sometimes, they just happen. They happen out of nowhere to all sorts of people, and being a mage is the insurmountable task of coming to terms with that. And it will take you a long time to do that, and an even longer time to stop seeing his face."

Audrey crouched just a little so she was eye level with Angeline. "I'm not Dr Cassar. I can't give you the right words to make you feel better. But I acknowledge that what you're going through is something that took me, and many other people in Goodnight, a very long time to tolerate. I know what watching people die feels like." Her gaze was cold and it was unyielding but most of all, it was understanding in a way that perhaps nobody else had managed before. "There truly isn't any way to stop a bullet once it's left the chamber, and to catch a man before he pulls the trigger is like trying to catch a grain of sand on the wind. You could not have done anything. You did not know."

Audrey straightened again. "The fastest and most effective way to stop someone from killing someone else, in open combat, is to kill them first. Why do you think I have been so thoroughly ingraining into you all that initiating the fight is the worst way to protect yourselves when you are out in the field? I am trying my best to give you the skills to avoid combat altogether. But if you can't - and sometimes, you truly can’t -" she lifted the duffle bag slightly, "- then you must know how to use these to end the fight as quickly and as painlessly as you can. Not just for you, but for everyone around you. That is why these lessons are compulsory. It won't make the pain of death or killing any easier, but by God I have picked that pain over the emptiness of losing a friend a thousand times over and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life."

Angeline sighed and looked down again “I know you’re right… But if I can’t forget-... That moment, then how can I bring myself to- '' She grimaced at the idea of using the term ‘shoot’ so she danced around the word, “Do what I have to… I can’t even hold the thing without feeling sick.” she protested. “And-” she sighed deeply,” - I know everyone thinks I’m useless because of it, the people in my group probably feel as if they can't rely on me… I don’t think I can do it though.” Eventually she looked back at Audrey, gathering a sliver of strength to do so “I mean, I can learn how it works if I have to but I don’t think if the moment came to it I could do it…”

"Not everyone out here needs to be able to pull the trigger to make themselves useful. Least of all you, with your powers. You need to be able to do it, yes - but it will not define your worth here." Audrey craned her neck to check the line of people across the parking lot. "There's a lot of people in Goodnight who aren't even Bootleggers. They're cleaning. Cooking. Looking after the sick. When you're out in the field you need to be prepared for death and find ways to stop it, but that isn't only achieved by a gun. It's just the fastest and most effective method."

Angeline looked more defeated than anything “I can learn… I just can’t make promises…” she left the end of that sentence hanging for now, maybe one day she can find it in her to help in that way but for now… No, she cannot bring herself to do it now. “Sorry- I’ve interrupted training for a long time.” Though as she followed Audrey’s gaze back to the line of people, it settled onto Ellen… Now the sick feeling in her stomach writhed around and felt a bit more like anxiety. She didn’t really fancy returning.

"I mean, you both did. Anything to stop the kid from putting a bullet in my knee for a little longer. Can you please go and resolve whatever…disruption you're having with Ellen so I can start to talk about how to use a gun without accidentally injuring yourself and everyone else?" Audrey's sympathy only seemed to stretch so far; she didn't seem too fussed about Angeline's moroseness, simply guiding her back towards the assembled mages.

Angeline trudged towards the group again, following Audrey’s guidance, slotting into the line of people. Resolve..? there was not much Angeline could do to change Ellen’s opinion of her and she loathed the idea of trying. She still didn’t look keen on the guns but at least they weren’t loaded. The thoughts lingered in her mind, maintaining the nervous scowl etched into her face. At the very least she was in a better position to continue.

Audrey motioned to Ellen. "Ellen, with me. I'm not proceeding with the lesson whilst you and Angeline have something between you."

“What? Why do I have to go? I actually want to learn this!” Ellen protested.

Abigail, who had wandered off to sit and watch a line of ants, looked up with exasperation. "Can we please quit fuckin' about n' start shootin' stuff?" She drawled irritably.

"This group of mages is your group of mages. If there's something disrupting the group dynamic, it'll directly affect you - because they'll put everyone else in danger by trying to piss each other off." Audrey was glaring at Abigail but didn't try to hide her disdain for the entire ordeal as her own patience started to run thin. "I'm clever enough not to arm angry women. Especially not starved, tired, sweaty angry women." She turned to look at both Ellen and Angeline. "Either you resolve your differences enough to work together now, or your position as bootleggers is getting reviewed. You've both got ten minutes to smooth out whatever issue this is, then I need to finish the lesson and bring in the next team."

Ellen did not like the threat. Make nice with Angeline or she wouldn’t be able to do their missions? She would go crazy without having something to look forward to. Ellen wasn’t going to let Angeline take this away from her. Maybe she could just convince Angie to quit. That would work… Then again, Angeline was the healer, and given the rest of the people on their team’s...penchant for getting injured. cough Abigail cough. It was probably better to keep her.

Ellen paced around in a bit of a circle as she composed her thoughts. “About Abigail, I’ll drop it and stop trying to give her life advice. She can be your problem, since that’s what you want. Deal?”

“That’s obviously not what I want. I’m just saying she’s old enough to not be talked down to. Everyone is deserving of respect, even those younger than us. The ‘deal’ is you stop talking down to someone who’s in the same predicament as you.” Angeline shook her head disappointedly. How could the girl not see that Abigail deserved to be treated just as well as anyone else. “But if you want to relinquish all responsibility you may feel you have over her to me, then fine.” Angeline rolled her shoulders as the lack of movement or activity started to settle in the realisation of all the work she had just done. She took a moment to rub her neck, feeling the pain in response. “What’s your deal anyways. I thought we were nice and friendly then suddenly after the first mission you hate me all of a sudden. We had some nice conversations in the van on the way there.”

“I wasn’t talking down to her. I was just being straight with her. Tell her the truth and to the point.” Ellen huffed. Maybe she came across rude because she was being blunt and direct. Maybe because English wasn’t her first language and she couldn’t be quite as flowery and soft. Maybe that was another difference in how they all were raised. Maybe Ellen was just used to hearing the truth about things and Angeline was not. And most likely, neither thing was exactly what Abigail was used to in terms of guidance and education.

“I don’t hate you. But I think you preach being respectful when you feel perfectly content treating me like shit and acting like you are better than me. Why? Because you are too good to stoop down to my level and use a gun? Because you are too pure and innocent to help us figure out a plan to get medical supplies to innocent people? Does it help you sleep better at night to know you didn’t choose any of those things?... I don’t get it.”

Ellen could have rambled more, but it was circular. She had made her point-- the same one as nearly a month before, though. She didn’t like how Angie acted judgemental when she hadn’t actually contributed to the plan at all. Angie had replied before that she just didn’t want to murder people. Did she think Ellen actually enjoyed it? Was that what Angie had gotten out of listening to Ellen talk at the session with Dr. Cassar? What was the point in ‘debriefing’ with her ‘team’ when everyone, including the eye doctor, was just going to think she was a heartless killer?

Angeline stared at Ellen incredulously “I don’t know who you’ve been talking to but that’s not me.” She laughed coldly “You say I’ve ‘treated you like shit’ but I’ve barely even ‘treated’ you. We have barely spoken and the only time I’ve been anything but polite was over that Abigail treatment where I felt you were coming across condescending. Maybe you weren’t trying to belittle her but that’s how it sounded so I asked you to stop.” She shook her head “I mean. It’s like you’ve invented an entire relationship with me that I’m not even part of? How many of these claims are based on things I’ve actually said and not just you interpreting how I’m acting? I mean, just how accurate do you think your image of me is going to be when you’re trying to interpret my actions without actually knowing who I am. Do you even know what I did as a job? Or what I was learning at university? You don’t know a damn thing about me and yet you’re making assumptions that I’m - what - too good for you?”

Angeline was right about how they had barely spoken. Ellen had tried. They had talked during the first mission and it had been... decent. Angeline had explained she was a ballerina and unused to these types of situations. Ellen was more than a little annoyed that Angeline didn’t seem to even remember telling her these things, and accused her of not knowing anything about her, but she didn’t interrupt her--which was a pretty big deal for her.

Angeline was getting flustered and red in the face but she soldiered on stubbornly. “Why is it that you immediately assume that I think I’m too good for ‘stooping as low as you’ to use guns, or make plans or whatever, instead of the more obvious choice?” She stared at Ellen, but guessing Ellen would jump to conclusions she decided to spell it out for her instead: “I’m a normal, boring person. I wake up, I work out, I either went to dance practice or I stayed in and did my lectures, I prepared for-.. For DANCE shows! Not fucking- fucking AMBUSHES! I don’t know how to make a plan of attack, I don’t know how to fucking use a gun and even if I did know I can’t bring myself to do it because I-” Angeline’s voice broke and tears erupted suddenly, both from the frustration of the argument and also from the sharp recollection of her extraction “- Because…” her voice quivered and she took many deep breaths “I’m sorry- I need a moment to compose myself..” she managed to force out despite the tightening of her throat and the shallowness of her breaths.

After a few moments she took a deep breath in, though her voice was not as frantic as it was before, it was measured and calm and very calculated, as if any wrong word would send her into a panic. “I watched a man… Maybe even another mage like me… He- he got shot… Right in front of me… On some random morning when I was supposed to be sleeping in my comfy bed and getting ready for my day of university work and dance rehearsals. And I watched his face drain of life. And I felt the blood hit my face from the bullet wound, and I watched it pool into the streets around my hands and knees and I couldn’t do anything about it. It made me sick, I might have even feinted. I can’t even touch the damn things without-” she clenched her eyes shut, feeling the panic rising again, forcing her breathing to slow “Without whatever that was happening back there.” Angeline’s head was hung deeply, shame, either from admitting that she was useless or from the pain of the memory, clouded her eyes. Eventually, she looked up and stared at Ellen “Don’t pretend you know me.”

Ellen knew Angeline didn’t have experience with the gun. She did not know about that woman’s trauma with the weapon. Ellen stood silently as Angeline explained how she watched a man shot and bleed out--she assumed it occured the night they all awoke. Ellen waited a few beats after Angeline spoke, despite her usual desire to jump right on the end of the sentence with her retorts and arguments. Ellen was a cynic, and it was easy to see the worst-case scenario. But Ellen had explained all of that already.

“I... “ Ellen took another breath, forcing herself to slow down. “You’re right. I don’t know you. I’m sorry for...making assumptions.” It hadn’t been the words. It had been the body language, the actions, the lack of...comfort. After the mission, Ellen had desperately wanted to process what she had done, but the others weren’t ready. She filled the air with idle chatter, but it didn’t fill the hole inside of her. At the therapy session, Ellen had poured out intimate details of her life--her childhood, her awakening, and the things she had done on the mission. But she hadn’t really been saying all of those things for herself. She had been saying them to get...approval. And it didn’t happen. So she took it out on Angeline. Why her? Because she was older than Abigail and seemed to have it together. But none of them really had their shit together, did they?

It was big for Ellen to admit she was wrong, and to not retort with why she thought Angeline was at fault for some reason or another. But Angeline wouldn’t give her a sticker for controlling her own emotions for once. Ellen was beginning to understand that, now. She was the one who had to accept her past and her actions--not anyone else.

“About the gun, thing. Knowing how to use one doesn’t mean you have to use one to kill someone. I’m not...an expert. But…I think of it like a tool. You… you are damn strong, especially your legs. I bet a well-placed kick could knock a person out or seriously injure them. Please don’t test my theory, though-” Ellen held up a hand as if to stop her, but let out a chuckle to show she was trying to poke a bit of fun. “But you know how to use your body, how to control your limbs and balance and all… of that ballerina stuff.” Ellen had seen her do yoga. She knew that the woman had crazy good control of her body. “It doesn’t mean you have to use your body for all of those things all of the time. But you know how and you can if you need.”

“To me, a gun is the same. It’s a tool. Knowing how to use it means that if I need to, I can. Maybe for you it means firing a shot into the air to let us know you are in danger, or to scare off someone. Maybe it means firing into an old broken window to redirect someone’s attention when you see that one of us might be in danger. Knowing how to use a gun means if you find a pistol and don’t want bad guys to get it, you can unload it and leave it empty, pocketing the ammunition. It doesn’t mean you have to shoot someone. You still have a choice in what you do with it. But your choices go down a lot if you don’t know how to use it….Does that...make sense?”

Ellen didn’t think Angeline would agree with the mentality. They didn’t seem to agree on much. But if Angeline could think of other ways to use a gun, perhaps she could break the association of a gun and the death she witnessed.

Angeline sighed, both exhausted from the fight and the tension in general, Ellen seemed to back off a bit, trying to lighten the mood, which she was endlessly grateful for as the tight line between them was cut and she could relax her shoulders. She rubbed her face with her hands, feeling the ache in her bones. “I appreciate you being vulnerable enough to apologise. I’m sorry, too, for trying to tell you what to do. If you think you can deal with-” she nodded her head in Abigail’s general direction “Whatever is going on over there then be my guest, but I was just saying I tried that approach and it did not go down well.” she warned good naturedly. Now onto that topic… “As for the guns well, Audrey basically gave me the same lecture… I’m not saying I will refuse to learn how to use one, I mean… I’m at the lesson, even if I’m disrupting basically all of it. I just mean that well, it’ll take me more time to get used to it than you lot and even then I can’t say I’d ever bring myself to do it… Or at least, I can’t make any promises. I can find other ways like you suggested but, like, if it’s me and I’m staring someone down the ‘barrel of the gun’ as they say… What if I see him instead? I don’t think I could do it.” she explained. “I mean I agree with you about as much as I can do.” she re-worded her sentence, trying not to sound like she was arguing with the woman too much.

“You don’t need to make promises. And… if you do find yourself in a position where you might need to use the gun--you’ll decide that when the time comes. No one can tell you whether it was the right or wrong decision but you.” Maybe Ellen was talking more to herself at this point than to Angeline. But at least they weren’t yelling anymore. “So… we good?”

“Yeah, we good.” Angie replied with a sigh of relief.

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