Hurting Days

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 04:40 pm
bairnsidhe: (Default)

Prompted by [personal profile] readera with the prompts ‘dealing with self harm’ and ‘summer treats’.  I hope you don’t mind I did both in one!


Warnings: Contains mentions of self-harm, discussions of un-ideal childhood safety, a semi-graphic depiction of using visual substitutes for self-harm including fake blood, and brutal violence against ice chips.  Current environment is supportive, but consider your headspace.

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Zita pushed her glasses up her nose and squinted at the semi-sentient shadow that her girlfriend brought into their apartment in lieu of a pet.

"Nimbus, what in the full and actual fuck?" she asked as it twisted and danced across her kitchen counter like a particularly agile cat.  "You know you aren't allowed on the counters, shoo."

Nimbus didn't listen, but bapped her in the face with a tendril of shadow.  She spluttered out a few strong curses in Spanish and reached for the spray bottle of blessed sun-water to administer a teaching spritz, but Nimbus flowed down off the counter and took the form of a large, shadowy dog.  Darkmatter used this ability sometimes to send a message if she didn't feel like going out to smack the hands of the petty crooks edging her turf herself, and Quest liked it marginally better than Zita liked the usual cat-form.  Dividing her opinions like that, Quest versus Zita, superhera versus engineer, tended to give her friends headaches, but it was better than the headache of forgetting who she was and what she was supposed to know.

"What now?" she asked, as Nimbus locked ephemeral jaws on her skirt.  She sighed and let the crazy shadow drag her to the bedroom, where her girlfriend was curled into a ball.  "Dacia?"

"Go 'way," her girlfriend muttered sulkily.

"Nope. no can do,” she sighed.  “You made me promise to help you when you needed it.  What’s going on?”

“It’s a hurting day,” Dacia muttered, her voice still sulky, but holding a tiny note of hope.  “I really want to, but I can’t.  I promised not to.  But the feeling is under my skin and I just want to pry it out and smash it.”

“Oh, mi querido amor, lo siento,” Zita said, sighing into the words.  “Tell me about it, maybe I can find a way to help you beat this without hurting yourself.”

“It’s like this cold, hard feeling in my chest, and cold water in my veins instead of blood.  It’s like a cancer made out of snowmelt and ice.  I want to be warm, like you, but how can I when my own body is trying to convince me I’m an iceberg?  That I’m cold and hard and horrible?  It doesn’t stop, either.  It just gets more manageable, and I’ve only found one thing that helps any, but nobody likes it when I do that!”

“We don’t like it because we’re scared for you,” Zita reminded her.  “Hey, it’s summer, we could go sit outside, see if being in the warm helps you any.”

“It won’t work,” Dacia said flatly, “but we might as well.  It’ll make you feel better to try, I guess.”

“It will make me feel better,” Zita confirmed, and pulled out a pair of shorts made from microfiber material and really intended for sleeping.  “Put these on, the fuzzy might also help.”

***

Dacia got dressed, wearing a longsleeved shirt of dark gray and black cotton washed practically transparent over a purple tank top, not even bothering with the eye makeup or jewelry that made Zita’s aunts tutt at her.  It clashed a bit with the spring green of the shorts, but they didn’t go with anything and she liked them anyhow.  She petted her thighs as Zita pulled her out to their favorite park to sit and watch the neighbor kids play.

“What’s your favorite structure on the playground?” Zita asked, and Dacia curled into her side, not minding the fact that on days this sunny, Nimbus had to stay behind.  She liked cuddles, even if she didn’t like much else.

“I like the pirate’s nest,” she said, pointing to the crow’s nest accessible only by climbing nets and sporting a black flag with a parrot skull.  “It’s a safe place to go when the world is too scary.  It’s good to have that for kids, because they’re so much smaller than the worst of it.”

Zita frowned and Dacia bit her lip.  She hadn’t meant to make Zita sad, it’s just that the world was so much darker than the superhera in her girlfriend wanted to admit.

“I always liked the spray tree,” Zita admitted, pointing to the tall pole with it’s fine cool mist pouring from the outstretched branches of metal piping and fat drops clinging to the wide, flat ‘leaves’ of colored glass.  “It’s good for cooling off on days that it’s too hot and the air-conditioners aren’t working in the apartments.  Also, this park uses potable water, so it’s safe for the kids who don’t have good pipes at home to bring out jugs and fill them.”

“I… didn’t know that,” Dacia said slowly.  “It sounds like you’ve done that.”

“I used to,” Zita admitted.  “I wasn’t always who I am now, and my family has come a long way.  But I remember when heat was dangerous.  A good spray tree can help everyone stay a little safer.”

Dacia shivered in the warm summer air.  “Sounds scary.”

“It was,” Zita said with a smile.  “And then I picked up my cousin Ernesto’s tool kit one day and rewired a handheld fan to one of those little dashboard flowers to make it solar powered.  After that, I went from scared to stubborn, determined to learn how to fix all the things.”

“Your life makes so much more sense now,” Dacia muttered, thinking of her girlfriend's superhera alter ego.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Zita drawled.  “Come on, I want a snow-cone, let’s go get some.”

Dacia followed her girlfriend to the little concession stand and waited for the paper cone of shaved ice and syrup to be passed to her.

“Black cherry, your favorite,” Zita said with pride.  Her memory was sometimes a little spotty, so when she did recall favorites, she got all happy and shiny, like a puppy or a small child who’d been praised.

“Thanks,” Dacia said, trying to keep up the face she used in public.  She didn’t want to start crying here.  Vulnerability was fine in front of Zita, but not in front of random strangers.  “What did you get?”

“Lime and coconut,” Zita reported, licking the toxic-looking neon green ice.  “Could use salt, though.”

“Ew,” Dacia said, wrinkling her nose.  “Salt on ice cream?”

“It’s not ice cream,” Zita insisted.  “It’s just ice.  Salt on ice can be good!”

“You’re a freak,” Dacia said.  “But you’re my freak, so I guess it’s okay.”

“You know you love me,” Zita teased, sticking a lurid green tongue at her.  Dacia laughed in spite of herself, and it felt good, warm like sunlight and rolling down inside her like a drop of fudge sliding over a sundae’s top.  “Oh, you spilled.”

Dacia looked at her hand, where the paper cone had crumpled under the pressure of her fingers and a drop of cold cherry syrup ran from hand to wrist and down, down.  Her eyes tracked it greedily, watching the blood-colored liquid roll across her skin, raising goosebumps behind it.  “Wow”

“Dacia?” Zita asked, shaking her shoulder.  “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just realized that I could use the visual to substitute the reality,” she said vaguely, licking up the streak of red.  “Remind me to go by the magic shop for prop supplies later.”

“I’m glad you found a safe way around that,” Zita said carefully as they passed a group of children playing with a bucket of ice chips, shrieking as they put them down each other’s shirts and batted them along the sidewalks.  A stray ice node of several cubes frozen together sailed past a boy’s hand and toward Zita.  Dacia darted her hand out and snatched it, dropping it when she realized what she’d done.

“Lady, are you okay?” a girl asked.  “I didn’t mean to throw that hard!”

“I’m fine,” Zita said, reaching out to hold Dacia’s hand.  “I think it was just bigger than you thought so it had more force when she caught it.”

“May I play with this one?” Dacia asked softly.  “I really want to see if it’ll smash when I step on it.”

“Yeah!” cheered the boy who’d fumbled the catch.  “Stompy boots, stompy boots!”

The kids cheered again and Dacia slammed her heel down on the clump, snapping free a chip.  The sharp snap echoed into the hard, cold lump in her chest, like an iceberg sheering off.

“That was… really fun,” she said, looking at Zita, who was smiling at her again.  “I’m going to go get more ice at the gas station down the street, I’ll be right back!”

 

Zita licked her sour and sweet ice as Dacia peeled off.  “Get a packet of salt from the food section while you’re there,” she called, “and have fun!”

Dark Matters

Thursday, July 13th, 2017 05:51 pm
bairnsidhe: (Default)
 

Dacia rolled her fingers across the smooth lines of her tool kit and sighed.  She had liked being a supervillain well enough in the beginning.  It had enough risk to keep her feeling alive without her mind wandering back to habits better left alone.  It didn’t hurt that her nemesis was super cute, either.  Sometimes Dacia would drop totally harmless glitter bombs just to watch Quest lunge for them, because the technologically-inclined superhera’s haptic controls did great things for her ass when she dived.

Now though, with all the changes to her life, with the time she almost really died and Quest saved her, and the time she called to confirm a robot battle and wound up spending five hours talking to her nemesis instead of trying to level Downtown with a fifty foot robot, well… Dacia didn’t feel much like supervillainy anymore.

Which wasn’t to say she felt heroic, not at all.

She just didn’t feel like anything.

She felt sad, and lonely.  She wanted to rage and terrorize, and force the darkness in her mind onto the physical plane so that everyone could see it.  But she didn’t want to at the same time.  Or she did want to but didn’t have energy.  It was all just a bit too confusing, and even Nimbus, the dark shadow that protected her was drifting gloomily towards a corner.  Sighing, she flicked the little jingle bell that hung from a repurposed Christmas ornament where she’d framed Quest’s contact info.  The superhera had said to call if things got really bad.  Of course, it was so much effort to pick up the phone.

Doooo iiiiiiit, Nimbus hissed at her.

“Aren’t you supposed to encourage my evil ways?” Dacia asked.  “Befriending a hero never makes a villain more evil.  And unless you forget, she’s my type, too.  Tall, sexy, cute, and straight.”

You’ll never get any villainy done while you’re mopeing, Nimbus snapped.  She’s good for you, and I get better mileage on you when you’re not busy dragging back on me.  I did agree in the compact to help you manage the depression.

“Fair enough.”  Dacia snagged the ornament and her phone.  

“Hello?” the superhera answered.

“Well, well, well, Quest,” she began, before parsing the sound of the word.  “Holy crap, you sound terrible, what happened?”

“Lab explosion, I caught a lungful of dust,” Quest explained.  “Can we reschedule whatever game you wanted to play?  I can try to make it, but I’m just not up to any of the big things I know you like.”

“You stay put,” Dacia said firmly.  “You are in no shape to so much as chase a mugger.  I’m not letting my favorite toys get broken because I don’t pay attention to squeaky wheels.”

She didn’t really mean it like that, but appearances must be kept.

“Thanks, Dac,” Quest sighed.  “I’m going back to bed then.  Please don’t let anyone level the city?”

“I’m not a superhera,” Dacia spluttered.

“Of course not, I’m not worried about villains, you’re the biggest name and you keep the rest in check with your example.  I’m worried about the damn city council.  They keep bugging me about being a sponsored hera and doing official city events.  I can barely do the recap conferences.”

“People suck sometimes,” Dacia said, nodding.

“Sooth,” Quest said into a yawn.  Dacia waited a moment before realizing the hera had fallen asleep on the line.  She hung up and snapped at Nimbus.

“Come on, we have crime to do,” she said.

I thought you told her you weren’t going to plot today, Nimbus said warily.  For a dark shadow, Nimbus cared a great deal about promises.

“I’m not, I’m going to commit an impulse crime and steal chicken and dumpling soup and that rosewater gelato she likes.  Then, I will break into her home, and hold her hostage, maybe tie her up with blankets, and make her watch Legend Dusters with me.”

Well, Nimbus sighed, flowing into place.  That’s different.

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It's worth noting that this takes place before Dacia and Quest become girlfriends.  At this juncture, Dacia doesn't even know Quest's non-hera name.  Quest knows hers because for one, it's a lot safer that direction because Quest isn't given to blackmail or hostages, and two, Nimbus likes her and has partial say in what happens when Dacia is Darkmatter.

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