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Cold Storage

"Who are you trying to rescue?" Pearl said into the silence after Megan's narrative of her latest investigatory adventures.

"Pardon?" Megan said, braking on her track of wondering about Sator's.

Pearl leaned on the arm of her chair and tapped her chin thoughtfully. "Who are you trying to rescue?" she repeated.

"Well, G, of course," Megan said, frowning.

"How do you feel about G?" Pearl said.

"I..." Megan shut her mouth with a snap and thought for a moment. "I'm angry. And frustrated because I can't be angry at her while she's out of her head."

"Underneath that," Pearl said. "Go deeper."

Megan pursed her lips and considered. "I can't."

"Why not?"

"Because I... I just can't."

Pearl watched her for a moment. "How do you feel about Watson?"

Megan was beginning to feel a little whiplash. "I like her. And she's... intimidating. Because she's older, and because she's smarter than I am."

"What is G's full name?"

Megan tried to remember. Surely it had been on the diploma on the wall. But... no, she'd only looked at the school and the degree, not the name. "I don't know."

"How do you feel about Simon?"

"What?"

"How do you feel about Simon?"

"I... he's my best friend." She paused, then said more quietly, "He's my only friend."

"G's not your friend?"

"No. Yes. I don't know." Megan clenched her hands tightly. "I don't know anything about her. Happy?"

"Why are you trying to... as your... well, you just said Simon was your only friend, so, as your acquaintance Tizemt said... be G's magical person of color?"

Megan could feel her fingernails biting into her palms. "Because she's someone I know who is having something horrible happen to her."

"You would do this for anyone you knew?"

"Yes! No. I don't know."

Pearl leaned forward. "Who are you trying to rescue?"

"Tanya, of course!" Megan shouted. "Tanya! That's who you want me to say, right? My roommate who was cut to pieces by a crazy evil man. There you have it. I'm trying to rescue Tanya."

Pearl was silent, resting her laced fingers in her lap.

Megan fumed, a few tears trickling down her face. That made her angrier. "If I'd been there, I could have saved her, I could have stopped him. If I'd been in spandex, I could have stopped them all, and wouldn't have been as easy to kill as the teammate they killed. I might have been their conscience. Maybe I could have even saved Annette."

Pearl still didn't say anything.

Megan looked around the room, anywhere but at her therapist. "Tanya was my roommate freshman year, you know. We were one of those rare sets that worked out all right, that liked each other. She had this power, something about being able to analyze molecular structures. She was an archaeology major. Joked about calling herself 'Carbon-14'." She scrubbed at her face with the heel of one hand. "I puppydogged after her for a year before I finally got up the guts to ask her out on a date. And she was very... kind... when she told me she was sorry she was straight. And then we didn't talk until most of the way through our sophomore years, and I'd gotten over her enough to date around some, and she'd started dating Boyd in the meantime."

"When did you move in together?" Pearl asked.

"Not till senior year," Megan said. "Her relationship with Boyd was always weird. I didn't like him at all. I met Annette through him -- they were part of the same team. Tanya didn't like Annette, and I didn't like Boyd." She rubbed her fingers through her hair. "It wasn't long after their team had secretly gone villain -- and they'd started to be even more obviously nasty -- that we each talked the other out of our relationships. And then we broke up with them, and then Tanya died."

Pearl studied her face. "Where does the guilt come from?"

Megan felt like she should be scrambling desperately to pull her sheets back up over her ugly mind. "Because I wasn't there," she said. "And because I'd always been anti-Boyd. I hated his guts. He told me once... when Tanya wasn't in the room... that he knew I didn't like him, and that he thought it was all sour grapes, because he got her and I didn't. And... he was at least a little right."

"Did you stop talking to her about Boyd after that?" Pearl said.

"Well... yeah. I did. I didn't want to seem... jealous." Megan exhaled heavily. "I guess that was what he was trying to get me to do, huh?"

"Sounds like it." Pearl rubbed the arm of her chair with her thumb. "What happened after Tanya was killed?"

Megan's shoulders slumped. "There was a lot of questions. Boyd, being the ex, was first on the suspect list. I was second, though I really didn't have the means to cut up bodies with lasers, so I was a distant second. Annette... showed up to comfort me." She felt her mouth twisting in embarrassment, regret, anger. "She said he'd disappeared, gone off the deep end, she was very sorry they hadn't known, she was very sorry..."

"Did you move out of that apartment?" Pearl said.

"Yeah," Megan said, her voice dropping. "I moved in with Annette. Mom... didn't like it, but you know, when Mom says she doesn't like it..."

"You do it anyway?" Pearl said with a little smile.

Megan made a noise of agreement, her gaze fixed on her clenched fists.

"How long?"

"I stayed... almost through graduation. I almost didn't graduate because my grades went into the shitter. But Mom had a little chat with the administration, and they agreed to give me a pass/fail semester at the end." Megan gritted her teeth against the memory, the harrowing expectation of her mother's crushing disappointment, and how startled she'd been to receive, instead, sympathy from her emotional monolith of a parent. "Annette was... she never let me forget that I'd broken up with her. And she managed to convince me... partly... mostly... that Tanya's death was my fault. That the breakup pushed Boyd over the edge, or something."

Pearl said, "That sounds like she was very manipulative."

"Yeah," Megan said. "And what pisses me off now, and embarrasses the hell out of me, was that I believed her. The oldest trick in the misogyny textbook, that victim-blaming shit."

"Sometimes, when one is in a difficult situation," Pearl said carefully, "and when one has had a terrible shock, it's easier to believe the cultural messages than fight them."

"I guess," Megan said, unconvinced. She started mentally going over her memories of those months.

When she'd been silent for a couple of minutes, Pearl said, eyebrows raised, "What's happening in there right now?"

"I guess... I'm just thinking about it for the first time in a... couple of years," Megan said. "It's kind of like... you know that tingly sort of pain you get when you press a sore spot on your gum? It hurts, but it also pushes other neurons in a way that almost feels good?"

"Yes," Pearl said. "That's what thinking about that time is like?"

"Yeah. Except... the 'good' feeling --" she did the airquotes "-- is mostly bad. Self-indulgent. Guilty."

"Why?"

"I think," Megan said slowly, "that maybe I don't like spandex because... my idea of superheroing reminds me too much of how I felt during that time with Annette."

"Which was?"

"Important," Megan said in a low voice. "Like I was the center of someone's world. Which I was, in a terrifying, obsessive way. Like it got me attention -- from Annette, and from my mother, who didn't approve of any of it and was worried about me for the first time in my life. Like I had friends, lots of friends, who liked us as a couple, who we spent all our time with. I had an exciting, people-filled life, and a lot of approval because I was with Annette."

"Do you miss it?"

"Yes," Megan almost snarled. "It was a high. It wasn't real, and that was even better because it was all in my head -- the way sex is better when it's in your head too. It was better than spandex. I didn't have to fight supervillains for it. I just had to dance attendance on Annette, and it all came to me. And there was an edge of danger, too -- what if I missed something she wanted? What if I pissed her off? Would she leave? The drama, Pearl, the drama was everything. It was addictive as hell." She reached for the tissue box and used a handful to mop the trickles that ran down her face. "And I don't ever want it back. Except I do."

Pearl put her head to one side and watched Megan for a moment, then said, gently, "Who are you trying to rescue?"

"Oh," Megan said, surprised, into her tissues. "Myself."

---

Note from the Author:

That was... way harder to write than I expected.

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Date: 2011-04-02 03:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jimssecondbrain.blogspot.com
I can see where it might be hard to write. Getting something like that right could be.

On the other hand, from the reader's end, it felt entirely natural for Megan.

Date: 2011-04-08 12:25 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
I'm glad it felt natural. I had to do a lot of trimming from the original. :)

Date: 2011-04-04 02:57 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
Painful, in the way that only a really good, really necessary therapy session can be.

Date: 2011-04-08 12:25 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Yes, the best ones do seem to make one bleed metaphorically, don't they?

Date: 2011-04-08 02:10 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
To our sorrow, especially cos it really _is_ for the best.

Date: 2012-01-28 06:10 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
That was rough. Makes me want to give Megan all of the hugs.

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