Author Topic: Three Million Empty Words - 02x06: Little Brother  (Read 12870 times)

Offline ApplesApplesApples

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 22: Come and Catch Me
« Reply #125 on: July 25, 2012, 06:36:57 PM »
Episode 22: Come and Catch Me

"Fleet Fingers! Elijah! You have five minutes to show up, or she falls off the balcony!"

Silence fell after he shouted. Several people who were passing below on the street stopped and pointed up, screaming and yelling. Liam licked his dry lips. They wouldn't recognize him from this height. But he still knew he'd come to a point where he couldn't turn back. He couldn't undo this. It terrified him, and he tried desperately to block his father's face from his mind.

He let go of Winter and she started to fall forward. The onlookers screamed. He hardened the air and caught her just in time. Her head rolled forward onto her chest, unsupported.

"Okay, Liam. I'm here," said Fleet Fingers from behind.



Liam turned around.

"Apparently I judged you badly."

"Apparently I judged you just fine," said Liam.

"You got me. You threaten Winter, and I come running." Fleet Fingers took a step forward. Liam braced himself, preparing for whatever trick Fleet might try. "Why are you doing this?"

"So what was your master plan, Fleet? Exchange a dangerous criminal for a mild sentence, get out, and turn over to the other side? Start saving puppies and whatnot? Or would you just have gone back to stealing again?"

Fleet shrugged. "I'm not really cut out to be a hero. I've walked too many dark paths. You're heading there yourself, Liam. Only I'm not cut out to be a villain, either. I don't have the stomach to be like Foxtrot. Do you?"



"I don't know. You're the one that knows what villains are like. You tell me."

In the back of his mind Liam heard the voice of a little girl. "She's here."

"It depends on what you do next. Right now you're looking a lot like Winter. Very close to the edge. It would be a shame. Your father is a good guy, one of the best there is. He'd be disappointed. You were looking promising, too. Foxtrot was very amused at your determination to catch whoever was using those marked bills. How's the cat doing, by the way?"

"You planted Evianna?"



"Danielle's cat got run over; we found one that looked enough like it so that she would recognize a description in the classified section. It was the perfect opportunity to lead you to her and have you chase a dead end. It was a good distraction. Kept you and Rowan occupied, though not your father. Hard to trick him. Liam, why don't you give Winter to me? No matter how bad you think you are, you're not going to let your girlfriend drop to her death."

Liam saw the doubt in Fleet's face when he said this, though.

He considered the situation. He only had to lure Fleet in... he could feel Winter starting to stir, and loosened the hold on her the more she woke up, so that she could gradually support herself, and when she recovered her senses completely she could move around on her own. He had no doubt what she would do.

"So what is your power, anyway? Can you teleport yourself or something, or just move really fast?"

"Neither one."

"You're not going to tell me?"

"I've learned it's a good precaution not to tell anyone exactly what you're capable of."

Just then Liam heard a footstep behind him, and a moment later Winter shoved him in the back.



He stumbled forward and recovered his balance with a bit of help from the stiffening air.

"What are you doing, Liam?" shouted Winter.

He turned around to face her, giving his back to Fleet. "I'm doing what's necessary."

"No. There is no way you could ever excuse this. You're way off on the deep end this time!"



"Maybe so." Liam dropped into a crouch, slapping his hand onto the floor, and felt it shift beneath his palm, undulating and changing. After manipulating air, changing the shape of a solid seemed incredibly easy. The floor stopped moving and Liam got to his feet, turning to verify his work.

A wall had risen up around Fleet, closed in on all sides and the top. The floor had thinned a bit to supply the matter for it, but it could still easily support all the weight it needed to. He waited a moment to make sure Fleet had ended up inside and not slipped out at the last moment. The silence confirmed this. Fleet would have taken advantage of this to take Winter.



"What did you do?" asked Winter.

"He's fine," he said gruffly, irritated by the concern in her voice. "He just can't get out."

Winter shoved him again. He stumbled against the wall; he hadn't expected that. "You're not the hero anymore, Liam! I don't care what explanation you have for what you did, but you're not the hero!"

He faced her, thinking to explain himself, but the words wouldn't come out. He knew she was right. He'd made his choice.

"Say you're sorry! Say there was a reason for this that I'll understand and accept! Say this is all right, just part of the job!"

"It's not all right," he said.



"No, it's not." A tear fell down her cheek, but she brushed it away. "You betrayed me, Liam."

She turned around and ran away, leaving Liam all alone on the cold terrace of the building.



***

Foxtrot entered the mansion quietly. The door swung open for her and the motion sensors all sparked and died just before they picked her up as she passed. She loved the smell of the place. It smelled like money. Not bills or coins, but like what those could buy. The well-kept wood of the wall panels and the bookcases, the polished leather, the dash of expensive air freshener. Soon she would get herself a house just as grand as this one.

She walked into the living room, resisting the urge to gather up all the small treasures she passed--a first-edition eighteenth-century novel in a glass case, a polished silver goblet on the bookshelf, an antique porcelain doll. She needed to get what she came for and leave. She didn't know how long Liam could distract everyone for her, and Fleet especially could be a nuisance.



Now, where was the wooden horse statuette? It wasn't as valuable as some of the other things, so it would probably be out in the open somewhere... there, on the coffee table! She started toward it, but someone stepped around the wooden folding screen toward her. A child... with blue skin, hair and clothes, followed by an almost identical one, differentiated only by the length of their hair.



"She's here," said the blue girl.

"Who are you?" asked Foxtrot, bemused more than anything. These clearly weren't real children who'd had blue paint dropped on them. These were creations, made by someone's power. But who could do that?

"We're here to catch bad guys."

"Really?" She laughed. "And who sent you?"

A low, rough woman's voice she'd heard once before came from behind her, sending a chill down Foxtrot's spine as she remembered the one time someone had beat her, if only temporarily.

"Liam sent us," said Shayala.



Thank you for reading!

Offline Dextra2

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 22: Come and Catch Me
« Reply #126 on: July 26, 2012, 09:51:25 PM »
Darn, a cliffhanger!  :( But I knew Liam isn't the bad!
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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 22: Come and Catch Me
« Reply #127 on: July 27, 2012, 03:50:21 AM »
I can't wait to find out what happens next!
Awesome update. ;D

Offline ApplesApplesApples

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 22: Come and Catch Me
« Reply #128 on: July 28, 2012, 09:18:55 PM »
Darn, a cliffhanger!  :( But I knew Liam isn't the bad!

Sorry about the cliffhanger! :) I'm glad you believed in Liam.

I can't wait to find out what happens next!
Awesome update. ;D

Thank you! ;D

Offline ApplesApplesApples

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 23: Shayala's Goodbye
« Reply #129 on: July 29, 2012, 11:21:47 AM »
Episode 23: Shayala's Goodbye

Earlier that night, after Shayala had spoken to Liam on Paul's request, Shayala moved through the blackness to the point where she could feel the hospital room nearby. Paul was still asleep, she could tell. It saddened her to know she'd never speak to him again.

Liam's plan had seemed far-fetched to her, but it sounded just like something a Galagher would do. Liam didn't know it, but Paul had had his share of far-fetched and ambiguously beneficial plans, especially in his earlier years. Shayala smiled and shook her head while Liam explained his plan, since he couldn't see her.

It wasn't a laughing matter. If something went wrong, it would go horribly wrong. But Shayala couldn't help but feel a bit of déjà vu, remembering how Paul had explained many similar plans to her over the years. Liam would do okay. She felt better about leaving knowing that Paul would have a successor. There would still be someone to save the day. And her? She'd be okay. One last day to save, and then she would fade away forever.

Paul would be mad at Liam for asking her to do this. He had to know it had been her choice. And she had to see him one last time. She just couldn't leave without...

Collecting all of her strength, Shayala pushed through the rubbery blackness and into the material world. She almost laughed aloud at the beauty of solid ground beneath her feet, air around her, the smell of the hospital offset by the sweet smell of a few potted flowers, the sound of nurses and doctors walking by in the corridor beyond the door and the crickets singing outside the window. She loved the material world more than ever in that moment, knowing that soon she would disappear from it forever.

Paul lay in his hospital bed, covered by sheets, and Pat sat on the couch, watching him. At first she didn't seem to notice Shayala's appearance.



"He's asleep," said Pat without looking up.

"I know."

"He should be awake in a few hours. Come back then."

Shayala stepped toward the bed, her heart pounding in her chest and in her temples. She wanted to touch Paul's face one last time, but not with Pat sitting there. "I just came to say goodbye."

Pat stared at her. "What do you mean?"

"I'm leaving. There's something I need to do, and it's going to take me away forever. Please tell Paul, when he wakes up, that it was Liam's idea, but my choice. Don't let him blame Liam."

She looked down at Paul. She would never hear his voice again, never see his eyes looking at her. But she had her memories, and those would be enough. She really was so tired, and it didn't seem like such a bad thing to rest at last. The material world drained her so much every time she visited it.



"Paul's always loved you," said Pat softly.

"He loved me. He loves you now."

She shook her head and smiled sadly. "I can't be fooled. He's my husband, and I've lived with him for thirty years. I know the truth. You were always 'the one' to him. Star-crossed lovers. We have an ordinary, everyday love."

"That's the kind of love that lasts," said Shayala. "The kind that's going to keep you together into your old age. There's no happy ending for us. I'd trade being the one for a happy ending any day."

Pat stood up and walked over to the other side of the bed. "So you're not coming back?" she asked, her eyes on Paul's face.



"There's a small chance I could, years from now. But probably not. Tell Paul..." She hesitated.

"I know what you want me to tell him," said Pat. "I will."

Shayala stepped back from the bed. "I know you don't like to hear these things, but you should explain it to Paul when he wakes up. The criminal we're chasing, Foxtrot, she's too powerful to stop any other way. Jail won't hold her, and we can't defeat her here. I'm going to take her with me into the... the other dimension. Forever. To lock her there will exhaust all of my energy, and I won't be able to make my way back into the material world. Do you understand?"

Pat had that stiff look that she had every time someone mentioned these things to her, but she nodded. "Enough to explain it to him. He'll probably understand."

Shayala felt a tickle on her cheek and wiped the tear away. She hadn't cried in a lifetime. "Goodbye, Paul," she whispered.



The world faded around her. It was time to go to the mansion now. She could feel Foxtrot there already, striding confidently through the darkened rooms toward her objective. The blue children Liam had sent were waiting for her. She sighed even though she didn't hear herself or feel the air rushing into her lungs or out of her mouth, and moved through the darkness even though there was no floor to walk along to the point where she could come out into the mansion.

"We're here to catch bad guys," said the blue girl.

"Really?" Foxtrot laughed. "And who sent you?"

Shayala pushed out into the world, briefly enjoying the solid floor for the last time. "Liam sent us," she said, striding across the room toward Foxtrot.

The blue children closed in on Foxtrot.

"You're a bad person, but you won't hurt anyone anymore," said the blue boy.

Foxtrot tried to shove him away from her, but her hands went through him. She took a step back. Shayala could tell she was frightened, and not used to being frightened.



"Remember that time on the playground, when you fell from the monkey bars?" asked the blue girl. "The air went out of your lungs and you couldn't scream. There was a snake on the ground, and it slid over your arm, but you couldn't move. You were paralyzed with terror."

"How do you know that?" whispered Foxtrot. "Who told you that?" she shouted.

"You've hurt enough people, Michaela," said Shayala.

Foxtrot whipped around to face her, her eyes wide. "You can't beat me." Her voice trembled, though, and they both knew she wasn't sure of what she said.



Shayala reached out and felt Foxtrot's deepest desire, the one thing that would draw her into the other dimension with her. She'd felt the desires of many different people over the years. Fleet Finger's greatest wish had been to go home. Kite's, to see his son again. Vicky, Liam's friend, had wanted to go to the stars. Shayala felt a pang of sadness as she remembered holding that little girl's hand and whispering to her: "We'll go and see them together, Vicky."

But nothing had ever surprised her as much as Foxtrot's greatest wish. Foxtrot wanted, above all, to be safe. She'd gotten her wish when she manifested her powers and realized she could defeat anyone she wanted to, but even then, Foxtrot had never felt safe, because there was always the chance someone could come along who was more powerful than her, who would betray her, or she'd make a mistake...

"You'll be safe, Michaela. No one can hurt you where I'm taking you. No one will ever hurt you again."

Foxtrot stared at Shayala, the fear slowly ebbing from her face. The blue children had given her the time she needed to do this right. Last time she'd taken Foxtrot into the dark dimension she'd just pulled her in briefly by force; she hadn't had time to lure her in and secure her there. This time it would have to last for the rest of Foxtrot's life.

Slowly, Foxtrot reached out her hands to Shayala. "Take me there."


***

The sun had risen, illuminating the terrace where Liam stood, looking out over the city. He'd spent a few minutes in blissful not thinking, just watching the cars pass below and the shops open up along the street. The police would be here soon to arrest Fleet Fingers. It would all be over soon.

"Liam," said the blue girl from behind him.



He didn't turn around. "Is it done?"

"Foxtrot will sleep forever in the dark dimension. Thank Elijah for me. It was useful to know about that time she fell off the monkey bars. It set her off-balance."

"I can hear you, you know. You're welcome," said Fleet from inside his small cell. "You know, Liam, it's getting hot in here. You could install a draft."

"I'm going to leave now," said the blue girl. "You don't need me anymore."

"Thank you for helping me."

The blue girl laughed. "You know I'm part of your imagination, right?"

Liam shrugged, squinting at the far-off horizon, beyond which lay his parent's house, and the grave where Vicky lay buried. "Maybe. Maybe you're more than that. Who knows? Either way..."

"I forgive you," said Vicky.

Liam turned around, but she'd vanished. "I'm sorry," he said softly, even though there was no one to hear him.


***

Michaela lay on her side, arms tucked under her head and legs curled up, a peaceful expression on her face. Shayala watched her for a moment before turning around, reaching for her connection with the material world. Not to go through--she knew that wouldn't work anymore. Just to know if Paul had woken up yet, or how Liam was doing, if the police had arrested Elijah yet. But she couldn't get anything. Even that tenuous connection had vanished, leaving her all alone in the dark.



Well... maybe after a while she'd be able to tell what was going on in the material world. Besides, she had company now. In a few years, Michaela might wake up. Maybe they could talk, or play immaterial chess or something. Shayala chuckled at the thought, even though she couldn't hear her voice. It was a comfort that she had company there now, and something to see other than the immense darkness.

Movement off to her left drew her attention. There were the blue children. They wouldn't stay long, she knew. They would move on from here. But still, it was nice to see Vicky again, and Liam's younger self. The blue children hugged each other tightly.

"I'm never, ever going to leave you, Liam," said Vicky. "Not this time."



"Neither am I," said Liam. "We're going to be together forever, right, Vicky?"

"Come on," said Vicky, pulling away from the hug and smiling. "I'll race you to the river."

They took off into the darkness. Shayala followed them with her eyes for as long as she could see them. Little by little, they faded away. But she could tell Vicky was winning the race, just like she always had in life.

Shayala smiled, but much to her surprise, the smile turned into a yawn. She was tired. Time to sleep, she thought, and curled up on her side, closed her eyes, and drifted off to sleep, the smile still on her face.



Thank you for reading.

Offline alex51299

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 23: Shayala's Goodbye
« Reply #130 on: July 29, 2012, 12:02:58 PM »
This was wonderful, and a little sad. I think this is your best update yet.   ;D
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Offline Dextra2

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 23: Shayala's Goodbye
« Reply #131 on: July 29, 2012, 12:47:12 PM »
Wiat- so the blue boy was Liam?  :o I thought he wasn't blue.
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Offline alex51299

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 23: Shayala's Goodbye
« Reply #132 on: July 29, 2012, 12:48:56 PM »
Wiat- so the blue boy was Liam?  :o I thought he wasn't blue.
If I have this right I think it was a sort of echo of him from when he was a kid with Vicky.
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Offline Sophie98

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 23: Shayala's Goodbye
« Reply #133 on: July 30, 2012, 03:18:54 AM »
If I have this right I think it was a sort of echo of him from when he was a kid with Vicky.

That's what I thought too.

Brilliant, and I think this is probably my favourite chapter. You have such a beautiful writing style. :)
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Offline ApplesApplesApples

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 23: Shayala's Goodbye
« Reply #134 on: July 30, 2012, 08:53:28 AM »
This was wonderful, and a little sad. I think this is your best update yet.   ;D

Thank you. ;D It was probably my favorite, too.

Wiat- so the blue boy was Liam?  :o I thought he wasn't blue.
If I have this right I think it was a sort of echo of him from when he was a kid with Vicky.

Yes, that was my intention. They're blue basically because they're made of air. ;) Liam shaped them subconsciously out of the most widely available material. The blue boy is his image of himself when he was eight years old, when Vicky died. They have the same features because he can't remember what Vicky looked like (that's why he didn't recognize her at first, either), and his image is only there in connection to hers, so they're like different facets of the memory. Anyway. :) I hope that makes sense.

That's what I thought too.

Brilliant, and I think this is probably my favourite chapter. You have such a beautiful writing style. :)

Thank you! That means a lot to me. ;D

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 23: Shayala's Goodbye
« Reply #135 on: July 30, 2012, 10:26:08 AM »
Wow! What a amazing update! I couldn't believe it myself, but I feel a bit sorry for Foxtrot.
Poor Shayala, she sacrificed so much.
I'm very glad Laim isn't bad! :D

Offline Ilessthan3TheSims

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 23: Shayala's Goodbye
« Reply #136 on: July 30, 2012, 06:29:52 PM »
Brilliant episode, Apples. You have such wonderful story-telling skills  :)

Now I just hope Liam can win Winter back, and Paul isn't mad with his son.

Offline ApplesApplesApples

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 23: Shayala's Goodbye
« Reply #137 on: August 01, 2012, 10:28:16 AM »
Wow! What a amazing update! I couldn't believe it myself, but I feel a bit sorry for Foxtrot.
Poor Shayala, she sacrificed so much.
I'm very glad Laim isn't bad! :D

Yeah, I didn't plan that part about Foxtrot. It surprised me, too, that she'd have something to feel sorry for her about. :( I guess no one is black or white. Thank you!

Brilliant episode, Apples. You have such wonderful story-telling skills  :)

Now I just hope Liam can win Winter back, and Paul isn't mad with his son.

Thank you so much! You'll see soon...

Offline ApplesApplesApples

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 24: Who Are We?
« Reply #138 on: August 01, 2012, 02:52:54 PM »
Episode 24: Who Are We?

"I'd like to make a confession," said Elijah as a policeman sat him down in front of John's desk.

"Sure, now that we've caught you," said John. He hated waking up this early, and it put him in a bad mood.

Elijah flashed a grin. "You've seen enough to know I could get away now if I wanted to, right? Liam could have come with me to make sure I didn't get away, but he didn't."



John considered this for a moment. "So you feel sorry now?"

"No. I just feel ready to pay for what I've done. Shall I list my crimes? It's a long list, but it would save you a lot of time if I just admitted to them all."

"Go ahead," said John, sighing. He sensed the man wasn't exaggerating. They were going to be there for a while.

"When I was seventeen I stole a car. The cops caught me and threw me in jail. That's where I met Sean Dawick."

John looked up from his file. "The crime boss?"

Elijah grinned again. "Would you believe he can move things with his mind?"

John sighed again and shook his head. "The world's gone nuts."

"You know, John? I've often thought the same thing." Elijah leaned back and draped his arms over the back of his chair. He looked more comfortable than any criminal John had heard a confession from. But still, he believed him. He didn't think he would run. "So old Dawick recruited me then, and my first job for him was a little country bank. I stole just over eleven hundred dollars. It was a test run, see. That's how Dawick weeds out the promising ones from the rest, and conveniently the rest just go to jail, so he doesn't have to worry about them anymore. Needless to say, I got out of there..."


***

Liam watched the branches swaying above him to a gentle breeze from the sea. He should be packing, but lately he found it hard to gather up enough initiative to do anything. It was warmer every day. Soon it would be really hot, as the city turned late fall and early summer into a pot of boiling water. Fortunately, he wouldn't be here for that. His mother had asked him to go to her house for a few weeks. He even had a bus ticket for the next day. But he couldn't seem to move his butt off the park bench.

He heard someone approaching and turned to see Rowan walking over in her police uniform. "Didn't get a chance to change," she said, wiping sweat off her forehead. At least he was wearing light clothes. "So what are you doing here?"



"Isn't it obvious?" Liam sighed. "I'm moping."

"Yeah, you're getting good at that. Didn't you say you were leaving for your folks' house tomorrow?"

He nodded.

"It'll do you good." She was silent for a few minutes. "How's your dad?"

"Getting better. I talked to him on the phone a few times. He should be going home a few days after I get there."

"The trial was yesterday. Did you hear?"

"Whose trial?"

Rowan rolled her eyes. "Elijah's? Hello?"

"Oh, right."

"Anyway, no surprises there. He gave us good information about several criminals in the area he's worked with, not to mention Foxtrot--although he ran away when she escaped, so that didn't look too good for him. Anyway, between his confession and his information, he got off easy. Ten years. With good behavior, he could get out in a few years on parole. Could be as little as eighteen months. Who knows what'll happen, though. He's landed quite a few others in jail, and they won't be happy. You've got to hand it to him. He ratted out criminals with superpowers, and even the ones who don't have them are pretty scary characters. His special protection won't keep everyone away from him."



"He can take care of himself."

"Yeah, I hope so."

Liam raised his eyebrows at her.

"Once he gets out, he could be a good guy to have on our side."

"Oh, come on. You just have a crush on him."

Rowan glared at him. "I don't have a crush on anyone, Liam. I don't have crushes. That's such a sexist thing to say. Women aren't all flighty, fragile damsels who swoon whenever a bad boy bats his eyelashes at them."

Liam gave a startled laugh. "Okay, okay! I'm sorry. You don't have a crush!"

Rowan's forehead cleared. "It's good to hear you can actually do that. Laugh." Liam turned away. "Look, Liam, I know you feel bad for what you did. Things were looking bad, and you just kept sinking farther and farther. Your dad, Adam..."

"Yeah, not to mention that I took that stolen money."

"What?!"

"I gave it back," said Liam quickly.

"You better have." She frowned at him for a moment, as though trying to decide whether or not he'd told the truth. "Okay. You were in a bad place, you'd lost your father's support, and your idealistic little bubble world was crumbling beneath you."

"I didn't have an idealis--!"

"Liam," said Rowan firmly, "You had an idealistic little bubble world. You thought that good intentions always brought along good consequences, and that if you were a superhero you could do no harm. You thought everything that you couldn't solve yourself would get solved for you. You were on a one-track lane, going at two hundred miles an hour, and you didn't pay attention to what was going on around you. But when you had to make a choice, when Foxtrot was breaking out of your hold, you evaluated your options and made a choice. You accepted that sometimes we have to do unsavory things to fight evil. No one's Superman. Not even you."

"You think I made the right choice?"

Rowan looked out across the park, breathing deeply. "Sometimes we have to decide what's right and what's wrong. Things aren't pre-sorted. Very few choices in the life we have are easy if you stop to think about them. So you define what's important to you, and stick to that. You can't beat yourself up over everything, otherwise you'll never help anyone."



"It's not as easy as it looks, is it?"

"Nope," said Rowan. "Being a superhero is downright hard." She patted his shoulder. "Being a cop isn't a picnic, either. But I'll help you, and your dad will help you. You'll be okay, Liam."

Maybe she was right. He hoped so.


***

The bus was leaving in two hours. Liam hesitated outside Winter's apartment building, wondering if he should go up or not. Finally he decided that, as uncomfortable as it would be for both of them, he owed it to her.

He found the door wide open and peered in cautiously, wondering what was going on. The main room of her apartment had changed radically since he'd seen it last. Most of the furniture was gone, except for the kitchen and two of the easels. The vacated space was full of large cardboard boxes. Winter finished taping up one of the boxes just then.



"You dyed your hair again," he said.

She looked up. "I'm making lots of changes."

"You're moving?"

"Yeah. I'll be rooming with one of my friends for a while. Adam went to jail, but apparently he worked some kind of lawyer magic and suddenly I'm facing all kinds of lawsuits. Money's going to be tight for awhile. People are still buying my paintings, though, and a lot of them who heard about what happened from the papers have sent sympathy letters."

Liam crossed the room to her. She turned to face him defensively, as if she expected him to kidnap her again. His last feeble hopes were dashed then. She could never trust him again, he knew.



"I thought I should explain..."

"I got it, Liam. You needed to do it to catch the bad guys."

"But I..."

"I heard Elijah got convicted." She walked past him to a pile of boxes closer to the door. "And Foxtrot disappeared."

"Yeah, she... yeah. She's gone. She won't bother anyone again." He turned away from her and looked at the large painting that stood unfinished on one of the easels. It looked like snow-covered landscape. "Winter, huh?"



"What? Oh, that."

"You're painting again?"

"Not like I did before Adam came." He heard tape ripping.

"Can I help?"

"Yeah. You can leave."

"I'm sorry, Winter..." He walked up behind her, but stopped. "I know you'll never forgive me, but... you understand, right?"

She sighed. "I understand. You weren't going to let me fall. You just had me there to lure Elijah to you. But you know, Liam, it's usually the bad guys who do stuff like that in the movies."



"Things aren't as simple as they are in the movies."

"Well, either way, I'm tired of all of this. If I never get taken hostage again, either by my boyfriend or by my boyfriend's enemies, I'll be happy." She tore off another piece of tape and laid it across the opening of the box.

That's where we ended up, thought Liam. We're in one of those boxes, the two of us. Gone, packed away, taped off.

"Goodbye, Winter," he said, and walked out the door of her apartment for the last time.


***

The bus left Liam half a mile from his parents' home. He lugged his suitcase there, which reminded him of how long he been neglecting to work out. Without his father prodding him he'd slacked off.

It was dark by the time he arrived. He opened the door with his father's keys and stepped inside. His mother was waiting for him.



"Hey, mom," he said tiredly. He gave her a hug. "You mind if I go to bed? I'm pretty wiped out."

She nodded, but she seemed worried. He wondered if someone had told her about his moping tendencies, or if she just sensed it with her mom radar.

He'd never felt so happy to sleep in his childhood bed. In a way, it made him feel safe again. Like someone was going to take care of everything. But Rowan was right, and he had to let go of that illusion. No one was going to save him from himself.

He spent the next few days distracting himself so that time would go by. He just couldn't motivate himself to do anything proactive. He played chess with his mom--losing stupendously as always--watched TV with Annabelle, who at least spoke a few words to him instead of giving him the silent treatment, and mostly just... he had to admit it. He was moping, and he was pathetic, but he couldn't stop.

Several times he caught his mother spying on him with a concerned look. She probably couldn't wait until his father came home and got his son to shape up.



The third night Liam found he couldn't sleep. He kept waking up every few minutes with a half-dream of Winter falling off the terrace and him laughing manically like a comic book supervillain.

He got dressed and went outside, not sure of where he would go. Something drew his feet along the same path he'd followed last year when he'd visited, and he found himself in front of Vicky's grave once more. He touched the headstone for a moment, then sat down on the cool, dewy grass. The air was warm, though.

He sighed. "Wanna come out and keep me company?" He didn't expect an answer. He hadn't seen the blue children in many weeks, and he knew he probably wouldn't see them again. In a way, it showed he'd made some progress, at least.



"Until my dad came to get me, I was completely comfortable being the guy who went about his own life and didn't get involved in anyone else's. But he convinced me." Liam picked at the grass, watching the shadows shift around him. "I thought I was a hero. But I don't think I am. I think my definition of a hero doesn't fit anyone. We're all just people. Some of us try to help, some don't... my father and I dedicate our lives to saving others, but we aren't white knights. We aren't Superman." Saying the words out loud seemed to leech away all his energy, and he lay back in the grass, staring up at the stars above him. "So who are we, Vicky?" he asked quietly. "Who are we?"


Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Hopefully I can post the last one on Sunday.

Offline Sophie98

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 24: Who Are We?
« Reply #139 on: August 01, 2012, 03:13:56 PM »
Poor Liam and Winter! The hopeless romantic in me wanted Liam to win Winter back, but I guess some things just aren't meant to be. However, this chapter made me realise that  I love Rowan. :)

Oh my gosh, it's almost the last chapter! What will I do without it?!
I guess I could finally get round to reading about the Hogans.

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Offline alex51299

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 24: Who Are We?
« Reply #140 on: August 01, 2012, 03:23:57 PM »
I can't believe the story is going to be over soon, although I kind of want it to end just to see what happens.  ;)
If at first you don't succeed, call it version 1.0.

Offline RaiaDraconis

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 24: Who Are We?
« Reply #141 on: August 01, 2012, 05:23:14 PM »
I just read through this entire story.

I am literally in tears. This is just amazing. The characters are just so...dynamic. Liam's sorrows feel just so real, and I find myself liking Rowan more and more. She has a good head on her shoulders.

You are an amazing writer. Seriously. I cannot wait to read the rest.

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 24: Who Are We?
« Reply #142 on: August 01, 2012, 06:08:40 PM »
I will miss this story when it ended, but I want to find if Liam will be happy.
I hope everything work out for him.

Offline Ilessthan3TheSims

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 24: Who Are We?
« Reply #143 on: August 01, 2012, 07:18:44 PM »
I'll be sorry to see this story end, but, knowing you Apples, you will (hopefully) have another for us soon after!
I can't believe the next episode is last. I love how your stories are real, (ok, superpowers aren't real, that's not what I mean! :P ), how, the happy ending is only there if it's plausible and proper. I do really want everyone in this story to be happy though.
Thank you for sharing your stories with us :)

Offline smartburn

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 24: Who Are We?
« Reply #144 on: August 02, 2012, 02:17:46 AM »
Aw...I don't blame Winter one bit, but obviously I can't blame Liam either. They both did what they needed to do, however painful those choices were.

I am one of the mainly silent but faithful readers, and while I'm excited for the conclusion, I'll be bummed to see this end. Thank you for sharing what dances around in your head with us. :)

Offline ApplesApplesApples

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 24: Who Are We?
« Reply #145 on: August 03, 2012, 04:48:38 PM »
Poor Liam and Winter! The hopeless romantic in me wanted Liam to win Winter back, but I guess some things just aren't meant to be. However, this chapter made me realise that  I love Rowan. :)

I'm a bit of a hopeless romantic, too. ;)

Oh my gosh, it's almost the last chapter! What will I do without it?!
I guess I could finally get round to reading about the Hogans.
I can't believe the story is going to be over soon, although I kind of want it to end just to see what happens.  ;)
I will miss this story when it ended, but I want to find if Liam will be happy.
I hope everything work out for him.

This part of the story will be over, but there's always the possibility of a sequel. ;D

I just read through this entire story.

I am literally in tears. This is just amazing. The characters are just so...dynamic. Liam's sorrows feel just so real, and I find myself liking Rowan more and more. She has a good head on her shoulders.

You are an amazing writer. Seriously. I cannot wait to read the rest.

Rowan does have a good head on her shoulders. She's a voice of reason. :) Thank you so much!

I'll be sorry to see this story end, but, knowing you Apples, you will (hopefully) have another for us soon after!
I can't believe the next episode is last. I love how your stories are real, (ok, superpowers aren't real, that's not what I mean! :P ), how, the happy ending is only there if it's plausible and proper. I do really want everyone in this story to be happy though.
Thank you for sharing your stories with us :)

You're welcome! And thank you. ;D I enjoy a happy ending, but I think in life you don't always get everything you want. But if you try sometimes... you get what you need! Okay, sorry. What I meant was that I think life is bittersweet, and I try my best to convey my vision of life through my stories.

Aw...I don't blame Winter one bit, but obviously I can't blame Liam either. They both did what they needed to do, however painful those choices were.

I am one of the mainly silent but faithful readers, and while I'm excited for the conclusion, I'll be bummed to see this end. Thank you for sharing what dances around in your head with us. :)

You're welcome! Thank you for staying with me. :)

Offline Ilessthan3TheSims

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 24: Who Are We?
« Reply #146 on: August 03, 2012, 05:47:20 PM »

You're welcome! And thank you. ;D I enjoy a happy ending, but I think in life you don't always get everything you want. But if you try sometimes... you get what you need! Okay, sorry. What I meant was that I think life is bittersweet, and I try my best to convey my vision of life through my stories.

I agree :) And thank you for getting that song stuck in my head! :P

Offline ApplesApplesApples

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 24: Who Are We?
« Reply #147 on: August 03, 2012, 07:33:04 PM »
I agree :) And thank you for getting that song stuck in my head! :P

Sorry! That's such an earworm, isn't it. ;D

Offline ApplesApplesApples

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Re: Three Million Empty Words - Ep 24: Who Are We?
« Reply #148 on: August 05, 2012, 03:11:52 PM »
Episode 25: Annabelle's Wisdom

Patricia woke up from a dream about her wedding. In her dream, however, the glimpse out of the corner of her eye of a wisp of smoke, which at the time she'd dismissed as insignificant, had solidified into Shayala, who stood in a wedding dress identical to her own, watching as Paul slipped a ring onto Pat's finger.

"She's here," said Pat.

"Who?" asked Paul.

"Shayala."

Paul shook his head. "She's not here. She's gone. I'm marrying you, Pat. I've forgotten all about her."

Patricia stared at Shayala. Tears dripped down the other woman's face. "I'm sorry," said Pat, and slipped a ring onto Paul's finger.

That's when she woke up in her empty bed. Empty, for the thousandth time.



She stared at Paul's side of the bed for a while, for the first time in her life wondering if she'd done right to marry Paul. She remembered when Paul had told her he would have followed Shayala into that dark dimension even if it meant he could never get out again, if he could only be with her forever.

That had been before they were married. Paul had eventually woken up and realized he couldn't leave a world that so desperately needed his help. Patricia had always known she'd been the replacement, but... had she also been the impediment? Would Paul and Shayala have stayed together, however impossible it had seemed at the moment, if he hadn't married her?

Patricia heard the front door open and close and stood up, hurrying through the darkened hallways into the living room. She could see Liam crossing the lawn and walking off into the darkness. It probably wouldn't be cold, and she didn't want to lose track of him, so she slipped outside in her nightgown.

She followed Liam through the woods a good distance. The sky over the sea was beautiful, and the night was completely peaceful. She remembered once again that these lands were slated to be plotted and sold off, and she brushed the bark of a nearby tree with her fingertips regretfully.

Suddenly she realized where Liam had led her and stopped. She watched him bend over and touch Vicky's headstone.



She wanted to go to him and tell him... she didn't know what she would say, but she felt the need to comfort him somehow. She knew she couldn't anymore, and part of her regretted cutting herself off from her husband's world, which was her son's world now, too. She couldn't help Liam, because she didn't understand his problems, and therefore she couldn't understand him, either. She'd alienated herself from her husband and her son.

Liam sat beside the headstones. He seemed to be speaking to thin air. She hung back, wanting to overhear to see if it gave her some small insight, and at the same time not wanting to intrude. After a few moments he lay back and watched the stars. She followed his gaze upward and sighed.

An owl hooted and Liam sat up with a start, looking around. For a moment Pat thought he'd seen her, but a tree's shadow hid her from view and he seemed to be unaware of her presence, staring out over the sea instead.



"I'm sorry, Liam," whispered Pat, and turned around to go home, feeling distant and cold.

The next morning she was in the kitchen fixing lunch when she heard a car pull up in front. She didn't know how she felt about seeing Paul again, so she continued chopping vegetables at the counter, maybe with a little more vigor than necessary.

A few minutes later the kitchen door opened.

"Pat, I'm home," said Paul.



"Good," said Pat, glancing back. He looked a lot better. "How are you feeling?"

"Like a bucketful of puppies and kittens just got dumped on my head."

"I'm glad to hear it."

Paul sighed and approached her. "I read your letter."

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you in person, but I needed to come back home and take care of Annabelle..."

"Really? I could have sworn it was because you were afraid to see my reaction."

She wiped off her hands and turned to face him. "Your reaction?"

"To hearing that Shayala disappeared forever."

"Why would I be afraid of your reaction?" she asked, rather touchily because he was right.

"Because if I was emotional, you'd naturally feel alienated from me. Shayala was..." He seemed at a loss for words to explain what Shayala had meant to him, and she could tell that it took him a great deal of effort not to show his sorrow for her loss.



"I know."

"But was is the operating word here, all right? We spent a lifetime together, you and I, Pat. We raised three incredible children together. Shayala was just... an infatuation of my youth. We never had real closure, and we had unresolved issues between us, and maybe feelings... just, Pat... I want you to know that I love you, and even though I loved you on our wedding day I've loved you more and more ever since. You're a beautiful, wonderful woman, and I'm so, so grateful for you every day of my life."

Pat closed her eyes to keep the tears back. When she opened them again, Paul looked a little watery. She smiled. "Thank you, Paul."

He kissed her forehead and arranged her hair, which she'd swept carelessly out of her face while working over the counter. "So we're all right?"

"Yes."

"Okay. We'll talk more later, all right? I should go find my wayward son. Any idea where I might find him?"



"I think he must be beside Vicky's grave. He went there last night and hasn't come back."

Paul seemed worried, but only nodded, kissed her cheek, and left. Pat turned back to the counter, smiling still, and continued to chop vegetables. She knew that Paul would ask to make supper that night, and the old contest of who could prepare the best meal would resume. Theo would arrive tomorrow or the day after, and soon the whole family would be together again, if only for a little while. Things would be good.


***

"There you are. Boy, you're a sorry sight, Liam," said his father.

Liam stood in front of Vicky's headstone. He'd slept a little last night, but mostly he'd just wandered around in the area of the woods closest to the graves. He couldn't make himself go back to the house.



"So, that was some adventure you had while I was gone." Liam didn't answer. He heard his father sigh. "Okey-doke. Here we go." He assumed a scholarly, affected tone. "Your actions, while showing that you yet have much to learn, the same as most mortals, demonstrate that you are willing to take risks for the well-being of others, and sacrifice your own happiness and self-trust in order to protect innocents. How am I doing?"

"If you were going for annoying, you're right on track."

"Liam," said his father in his normal voice, "Does it help if I say I'm proud of you?"

"For kidnapping my girlfriend and having an existential crisis that almost cost the lives of the people I was supposed to protect?"

"Aw, shut up. Everyone has problems. You still caught the bad guy in the end. You'll learn from the mistakes you made this time around."

"You know all that stuff you told me, dad, about being a hero and everything? About using our powers to do good? About having a responsibility to others because of what we can do? That was all stupid. It doesn't mean anything. It was a whole bunch of pretty, useless, empty words. Three million empty words."



"You think so?"

"We don't do this because we have to. We do it because we choose to do it."

"And do you choose to do it?"

"I don't know, dad."

His father seemed to consider this for a moment. "You know," he said cheerfully, "I ran across your sister on the way out here. She's pretty upset. You promised to go drop her off at the mall to meet her friends this morning."

He'd made the promise rather halfheartedly, without really thinking about what he was saying, but it came back to him now. Liam slapped himself in the forehead. "I forgot." He started back for the house. His father called something after him, but he didn't hear.

Half an hour later he was helping Annabelle into the passenger's seat of the family's pickup truck. Annabelle kept complaining about being late. He got in behind the wheel and backed hurriedly out of the driveway, starting down the road at a quick pace. They drove in silence for a little while.

"So you spent the night moping at your dead girlfriend's grave?" asked Annabelle.

Liam looked over at her. "She wasn't my girlfriend. We were eight when she died."



"Yeah, well, you would've gone out."

"How do you know?"

"I used my mysterious feminine wiles to discover it. Come on, Liam. It's a classic. Inseparable childhood friends growing up together? One day you would have turned around and realized she'd become this hot chick that you're suddenly in love with and have been all along or whatever."

"Okay," said Liam, laughing in spite of himself. "So you know everything now, is it?"

"I know what's wrong with you."

"Really?"

"I know you had to make a morally ambiguous series of choices in order to stop bad guys, and that you're questioning your goodness and the sense of the world because of it."

"Someone told you."

"Yes. I also know you kidnapped your girlfriend and threatened to drop her off a building in the course of said morally ambiguous series of choices."

"Someone told you."

"Yes. I also know that your girlfriend dumped you as a result of said morally ambiguous dropping-off-the-building threat."

"Someone told you."

"No! Come on, Liam. No one had to tell me that. You do that to a girl and she doesn't dump you? Jeez. Plus, you've got that 'I've just been dumped' expression. I know exactly what you need. That's why I asked you to drive me today. I'm setting you up with one of my friends' older sisters!"

Liam slammed the brakes. "You are not."

Annabelle giggled. "Okay, okay, Mr. Grumpy-pants. I'm not setting you up with anyone. It was just a suggestion." He tried to ruffle her hair but she fended him off. "I spent like an hour doing my hair! You will not touch it."

Liam shook his head and started the car again. "You're one annoying little sister. I never knew you could be like this."

"That's because you were never around." There was a touch of accusation in her voice. "I missed you, you know."



"I'm sorry I didn't see you grow up, kid," said Liam sadly. "That was just one in the long list of dumb things I've done with my life. I should never have stopped talking to our parents after that stupid fight we had. I should never have stopped coming to see you."

"Yes," said Annabelle dramatically. "But you'll make it up to me. This summer, you will be my personal chauffeur."

Liam groaned, but he was actually happy with this suggestion. Annabelle and he hadn't had this long a conversation since she'd been about thirteen years old.

After a few minutes, Annabelle said, "When I started high school things were really bad. In my old school I'd had friends and everyone already knew about my condition. In high school I started getting those scared looks again, the kind I had when I was little, the kind that say, 'Will that happen to me?' Except I was a teenager, so I couldn't deal with it the way I had when I was a kid. The scared looks turned into teasing, and I was miserable. You know what I did?"

"No."

"Of course not, because you weren't there, you big loser. Anyway, what I did was break everything into a series of steps. I had these goals that I had to accomplish one by one. I even made a checklist. I was thinking something like that might be good for you."

"Yeah? And what would the list say?"

"Day one: Smile at least fifteen times, and laugh at least three."

Liam laughed.

"That makes two today. You're doing well. Day two: Make a comparative chart between my qualities and the qualities I think a knight in immaculately shining armor would have, and once and for all accept that I will never be a knight in immaculately shining armor, so that I can stop trying and get on with my life."

"I'm not trying..."

"Day three: Research good options for a career that will support me and also allow me plenty of time to engage in superhero-like activities. Day four: Get a girlfriend. Day five: Buy my wonderful sister Annabelle something pretty to wear to the prom."

"That sounds like a busy schedule."

"Then you'll be more pleased when you get it done."

"You think I should take over from dad, then? You think I've got it in me?"

"No," said Annabelle seriously. "I think no one has it. But everyone can find it, if they try hard enough. And the ability to find it? You have that, Liam. You've always had it. You've always been a hero to me, which is why I was so angry at you for leaving."

"Theo's a better role-model than me."

"Theo would always tell on me when I pulled a prank. You would help me pull it. Besides, I'm not saying I want to be you when I grow up. I just mean that out of all the people in the world, minus the absolute cream of the crop like my friend Yisel's big brother and dad's brother Uncle Dorian, I'm glad to have you as my brother, and if my life were in danger, you'd be the first person I'd call."

Liam grinned. "Not even dad?"

"Dad would scold me for getting into trouble."

"How do you know I wouldn't?"

"You're just cool like that." She shrugged. "Oh, also, you should start thinking up a code name and alias for yourself. Will you let me help?"



"I don't know," said Liam warily. "What were you going to suggest?"

"Let's see... The Bumblebee? Because you always bumble around and mess everything up."

"Um, no, thanks."

"Or... how about Iron Skull? You know, like Iron Man, only..."

"Yeah, I got it."

He watched Annabelle's face, the way it glowed with happiness, which he hadn't seen in a long time. He could never express how grateful he was that she'd decided to forgive him. Her silent rebuffing from the previous visit had weighed on him for a long time. But it was more than that weight she'd lifted from him. He felt light as a feather as he drove down that long, empty road through the countryside, and for the first time he realized that while life would certainly never be easy again, he wouldn't be alone for the ride. He'd have Rowan, his father, his mother, his sister, Theo... and it would be for them that he'd face the future with as much strength and determination as he could.

It was then that Liam finally made the choice his father had given him way back when he'd first come to recruit him. It was then that Liam decided that he would be a hero.


Thank you so much to everyone who read this story and gave me your support! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

This is the end of the first part of Liam's adventures, but the story isn't over. Later today I'll post some funny screenshots of the kind sims who lent me their services to make this story, and then I'll tell you how the story will continue. I have a few surprises I hope you'll enjoy. ;D

Offline JudesSims

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Three Million Empty Words - Ep 25: Annabelle's Wisdom
« Reply #149 on: August 05, 2012, 03:40:30 PM »
Very nice! This is like reading a good novel...except I have to wait for the next chapter! ;)

 

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