It had been a trying day for Adaine Abernant.
Considering how Spring Break had been up to this point—and hell, what all of freshman year, all of her life at home had been to this point—that was saying something. Over just the course of a week, Adaine had seen two of her closest friends nearly commit/be killed in an occult sacrifice, driven a van through the sea for days before reaching a smelly, gross pirate city, nearly watched her friends die (again), given herself over to the elven government to save them, faced the death penalty, and been sprung out of prison by her friends and several Arthur Agueforts.
Yet somehow the hardest part wasn’t facing literally nightmarish threats night after night. No, the thing that hurt the most was losing something she only had for a day or two: her new relationship with her sister.
Well, they had had a relationship before, back in Solace. It just was far from a positive or healthy one. What happened in that stupid prison, though, made Adaine think she could finally have someone who understood, directly, what her parents had done. She had thought that they could begin to rebuild, together, and face down the ones who had hurt them. She had thought too highly of Aelwyn, of course. Of course her stupid bitch of a sister would go back to them, bac to how it was, taking Fig’s fucking dad with her.
‘Had any of it been true?’, Adaine questioned as she pored over her mother’s research. ‘Was Aelwyn just using me? She knew Kalina! Was it all just a stupid act, to free herself from father and to serve Kalina? A stupid act that I fell for, because I’m stupid, I wanted her to love me, I’m a fuck-up, Gods, why did they let me into Aguefort, I can’t do thi—’
The presence of a hand on her shoulder thrust her back into reality. Fuck, had Fallinel really tracked her back here? She wouldn’t go back. No. No, not again not again, not again. Instinctively, Adaine felt a spell coming to her fingertips. She would fight this time.
But as the elf turned to face her attacker, Kristen Applebees was all she saw, her eyebrows scrunched up and her eyes full of worry. It was okay. It was safe. They were still in the Hangvan and Adaine was comfy in her spot shotgun. Tracker sat on the hood of the van, laying out the Haven ritual components, Gorgug tinkering with the Hangman’s inanimate form. She was safe. It was fine. She was safe, she was safe. There was no (immediate) danger.
Only then did Adaine realize that her body was so tense, her breathing shallow and rapid. “You okay?” Kristen asked. Her voice was far softer than her normal boisterous self. Even as Adaine felt herself waiver, glancing away, Kristen’s eyes bore into her. Somehow, that felt comforting right now. “I was just grabbing some more stuff for the spell, and, uh, you didn’t seem super okay.”
A part of her brain, some primal instinct, told her to say she was fine. She shouldn’t burden others, like mother and father had told her so many times. She should make herself small, take up as little space as she could, and cause no problems. But the look in Kristen’s eyes—and many, many sessions with Jawbone—broke through those urges.
“I…I miss my sister, Kristen.” Adaine said. Her voice came out weaker than she expected, a croak more appropriate for her familiar. “I know it sounds stupid, but, just—”
“It’s not stupid, Adaine. One sec, I’m gonna swoop over—”
“Wait, Kristen, that’s not such—”
The human clambered over the front console, nearly giving Adaine a shoe to the face in the process. Really, Kristen’s dexterity (or lack thereof) would be comical if it didn’t endanger her so frequently. The process somehow ended up with her upside down in the driver’s seat. “Woooops,” she groaned as she shimmied herself upright. Kristen exhaled, rather confidently for someone who had nearly knocked herself out from climbing in a car.
“‘kay, there. Anyways, as I was saying: not stupid, Adaine. Do y’know how much I miss my brothers? They’ve said some really shitty things to me, since I left, stuff about Tracker or Yes?. I know my parents put in them, but it still sucks. And even through that, I still miss them so much. And I know it’s not the same thing, like, they never tried to kill me or ruin my life but like, I kinda get it. Does…that make sense?”
A sob escaped Adaine’s lips, surprising even herself, a response far more severe than she had planned for. It started off as a small whimper, but the tears began raining down quickly. With more force than was likely necessary, Adaine managed to shove her mother’s research into the glovebox, protecting it from her clearly irrational tantrum. She briefly noticed Kristen making eye contact with Tracker, and it didn’t take Detect Thoughts to see her telling her girlfriend to “gimme a minute.” Gods, Adaine was so selfish! Here she was, forcing the party’s cleric to take time away from an important spell to protect them all without straining Tracker every single night and all because stupid Adaine had once again been duped by the alure of some sort of kindness from a family that would never provide it—
For what felt like the umpteenth time in just the last few minutes, Kristen interrupted, prodding the elf with her bottle of emergency anxiety meds. Adaine opened the bottle shakily, doing her best to calm down enough to facilitate swallowing. In between bursts of panting, she washed down the pills with a harsh swallow. A first step, completed. Her sensations began to come into focus.
The water tasted...gross, for lack of a better word, compared to the treated water of Solace or the magically whatever water of Fallinel. The faded leather-ish material of the seat was just a little warm. More than she’d like, but acceptable. Her jean jacket’s comfortable weight was familiar, and the air from the A/C was a little uncomfortable, gusting against her face. Still, the refreshing cold made it an acceptable tradeoff.
Adaine felt her breathing become slower and deeper and her thoughts becoming more rational as she grounded herself. Kristen seemed to be echoing her breathing as if to lead her through the ordeal, and silently she thanked Jawbone for teaching all of the Bad Kids the same techniques.
“Schanks,” Adaine said through her stuffed nose. Kristen leant over and pulled a tissue out of the elf’s jacket. Clearing her threat and blowing her nose, she tried again. “Thanks.”
“Of course. And you don’t have to,” Kristen paused, in thought, “like, uh, tell me any more—”
An impulse just as strong as the urge to say nothing had been took control. Kristen was home, and a friend who could understand. “For the first time, I really thought her and I had connected,” Adaine said. It felt like it came out as an indecipherable mumble, yet Kristen nodded anyways, understanding written on her face.
“I… you saw her, when we escaped. She was ragged, a spectre. She couldn’t—she couldn’t even remember our conversations. Just, over and over, reaching out to me via message, being surprised I was there, asking me if I could rescue her, telling me where to find our things—the vault. And I—I continued it and I thought we could help each other and she…I don’t even know if it was real now, or if it was all for Kalina, another cruel trick designed to hurt me, hurt Fig, hurt all of us. I... can’t even bring myself to say her name now.”
Her recounting came in rambling outbursts, but Kristen listened the entire time, gently rubbing circles into Adaine’s wrist. Her hands were rough. Maybe from shucking corn at Helio summer camps, maybe from the battles they had faced together. It was comforting all the same, a reminder that even without her blood family, there were those who cared, who understood to some degree. Maybe not one who understood it all, but those who understood pieces, and were willing to empathize with the parts they didn’t know firsthand. Adaine knew she had done so herself, for others, and the other Bad Kids returned the favor.
The two stayed together for a time. Eventually, Kristen was unable to delay any further and had to return to her spell, but with a promise that Adaine could talk to her about this as much as she desired. It would be okay. Adaine had a family, one who hasn't—and wouldn’t—abandon her. Returning to her notes, the elf vowed to protect her new family through any means necessary. Her mother would not destroy this life.
(and, of course, when she met her birth sister once more in the forest of the nightmare ‘king’, things changed again. she discovered aelwyn’s suffering was not an act, and that her sister cared, truly cared, but was suffering in a way both similar and alien to hers. this time, neither sister would abandon the other. this time, they would stay, both members of a family separate from their blood heritage.)