ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the March 7, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] sweet_sparrow. It also fills the "creative solutions to limits" square in my 3-1-17 card for the Disability Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Calliope thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem includes some touchy topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It has emotional upheavals, Vagary's continued stress over Calliope not wanting to do things with him, Calliope's continued stress over his closeness, tornado formation, interrupted therapy session, which triggers Vagary's abandonment issues, unexpected changes in superpowers, Calliope looming over Vagary, emotional suppression during an emergency, an emergency dispatcher doing a shitty job, negotiating with supervillains, stormchasing, exhaustion, crashing with friends at a weather station, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"A Tornado of Thought"


Calliope had noticed a pattern
forming in their therapy sessions.

As soon as Mr. Gallagar asked
how things were going for them,
Vagary would launch himself into
an enthusiastic description of
the classes or support groups
he had been frequenting.

Today it happened to be yoga.

"I love the Santosha Yoga group
that meets upstairs," Vagary burbled.
"Focusing on contentment doesn't actually
solve any problems, but it makes me feel better,
and then it's easier to work on other stuff."

Calliope hadn't realized how much time
he was spending in Stillwater, until he
started gabbling about it in therapy.

"That's good news," said Mr. Gallagar.
"I'm delighted to hear that you find
our personal health programs so useful."

"Yeah, the stuff you offer here
is great," said Vagary.

"You're not as happy with what
you get elsewhere?" Mr. Gallagar said.

"No, it's not that, my regular things are
great too," said Vagary. "When I first got there,
I was ... kind of a wreck, and people picked me up
and put me back together. It helped a lot. It's just
that I've already gone through most of the offerings that
fit my interests there. The ones here are different."

"That makes sense, then; you're building on
previous resources to take advantage of
new opportunities," said Mr. Gallagar.
"What else here has caught your eye?"

"I love the idea of couples yoga;
everyone talks about how cool it is,"
Vagary began. This his face crumpled,
the way it always did when something
inevitably reminded him of their situation.
"But I know that's ... not going to happen."

Calliope felt like she was already
twisting herself into a pretzel,
trying to find some position that
wouldn't hurt both of them.

She turned her gaze toward
the window, where the rain
rattled against the glass.

"I'm afraid that's a bit ambitious
for now," said Mr. Gallagar. "However,
there are other options that can
work in a similar direction."

"Like what?" Calliope wondered.
She was in favor of anything that
would push Vagary away from
the idea of couples yoga, which
frankly gave her the creeps.

"Remember when we talked about
the Power and Control Wheel and
the Equality Wheel?" the counselor said.

Calliope and Vagary both turned to look
at the door, where those two posters
bracketed the Relationship Health Check
that decorated the office door itself.

"Yes," they chorused.

"I'd like to call your attention
to the first section, which is
Using Intimidation in Power
vs. Non-Threatening Behavior
in Equality," said Mr. Gallagar.

Both of them had problems
with that, as Vagary had violated
Calliope's boundaries enough
to make her resent him, and she
had handled him roughly enough
to make him skittish with her.

"Okay, those match," Calliope said,
uncertain what their counselor
meant for them to do about it.

"Each section matches its counterpart
on the opposite wheel," said Mr. Gallagar.
"In order to make your relationship healthier,
and thus hurt each other less, you need
to shift each section from Power to Equality."

"Sounds good to me," Vagary said.
"How do we go about doing that?"

"Well, your inclination for couples yoga
points in the right direction," said Mr. Gallagar.
"Healthy touch can produce strong benefits
in relationships troubled by violence."

"What kind of touch?" Calliope said,
narrowing her eyes. She didn't want
to touch Vagary at all, but some things
would be much worse than others.

Besides, Mr. Gallagar was good at
finding creative solutions to limits.

"Whatever feels pleasant to you,
or at least tolerable -- don't do
anything that makes you uneasy,"
said Mr. Gallagar. "There are plenty of
exercises on healthy touch you could try.
A good starting point would be comparing
your body maps, if you've done those."

Just the conversation made Calliope feel
uncomfortable, like the storm clouds
roiling above them outside.

"Yeah, we can touch hands," said Vagary.
"It helps keep the bond ... not satisfied,
really, but quieter than it was before."

Calliope grudgingly admitted
to herself that this was true.

"That's a useful discovery,"
said Mr. Gallagar. "You might also
explore what parts of your body ache
or need comfort, because people store
emotional pain in different places, which
can later impact physical health."

"Neck and upper back," Calliope confessed,
rolling her shoulders. "They get stiff."

"Hips and ankles for me," said Vagary.
"I'm not as flexible as some guys,
but the yoga sure is helping."

"Excellent," said Mr. Gallagar.
"Begin with simple hand contact,
and look for activities such as games
or dancing that would encourage that in
a natural way. From there, you should
be able to work your way up to touching
other body parts like shoulders and ankles."

"I could go with that," Vagary said.

A tornado of thought swirled around
Calliope, making her shiver at the idea
of touching Vagary or him touching her --

and then suddenly she realized that
it wasn't just the therapy making her
so uncomfortable, it was the weather
and the actual tornado it was brewing.

"Excuse me," Calliope said as she
bounded to her feet. "I have to go.
The storm is starting to spin up
into a tornado. I need to stop it."

"That's alarming," Vagary said.

"How can we help?" Mr. Gallagar said,
automatically glancing at his tablet which
currently had a weather page online. "It's
still a watch, not a warning -- do you want me
to hustle everyone into the shelter already?"

"No, it's not that bad yet; I'm more sensitive
than the weather equipment," Calliope said.
"You might want to send someone to check
on your emergency supplies, though. If I'm
not back in ten minutes, or the alarms sound,
then get everyone to safety quick as you can."

"Okay," Vagary said, his misery spilling over
Calliope. "It's only ... we just got here ..."

"Go on, Calliope, you can use the back garden,"
Mr. Gallagar said, waving her away. "Vagary,
you and I can stay here and turn this
into a private session, if you like."

Calliope ignored them in favor of
heading out the back door to deal
with the mess of weather overhead.

Cold wind pelted her with rain
as she stepped onto the back porch.

The sky was a weird blend of pale green
blotted by dark, ugly clouds overhead --
clouds that swirled ominously as
they began to form a funnel.

Calliope reached up with her hands
to get a grip on the air currents and
begin to disrupt their spiral flow.

Instead, they simply shredded in her hands.

Calliope stared up in amazement at
the tattered remnants of cloud that
had been a nascent tornado.

They didn't re-form, just scudded
along like ordinary rainclouds.

Baffled, she walked back inside
and headed to Mr. Gallagar's office.

"What did you do?" she demanded,
stalking toward Vagary. It had to be
him because nothing else had changed.

"I -- I didn't do anything," he stammered.
"I just started talking about abandonment.
You haven't even been gone five minutes."

"I didn't notice him doing anything,"
said Mr. Gallagar. "If the crisis is past,
perhaps you could sit down. I think that
your stance is making Vagary nervous."

Calliope looked down at Vagary and
noticed that, yes, he was kind of
cringing away from her.

She down sat on the arm of
the loveseat and said, "I dispersed
the tornado. It was ... easy."

"That's different from the way that
it usually feels to you?" Mr. Gallagar said.

"Yes, air is heavy," said Calliope.
"I can manipulate it, but not like that.
It usually takes a lot more effort."

"Um," said Vagary. "It could be the bond.
Enhancement of abilities is a known effect
that can occur with bonding. I just didn't
think it would happen for us, because
our bond is ... kind of a mess."

"So how do we find out whether
that's the cause?" Calliope said.

"Touch me," Vagary said, holding out
his hand to her. "Skin contact tends
to strengthen this kind of connection.
If it is the bond, then we should
be able to feel the difference."

"Okay," Calliope said, reaching out.

As soon as their fingers touched,
the power surged between them.

"Shit!" Calliope said. She pulled
her hand back, trying to shake off
the sharp, electric tingle in it.

"I guess you have your answer,"
Vagary said as he tucked his hands
tightly between his knees.

Calliope took a deep breath,
pushing her emotions down
to deal with later. Right now,
she had more important matters
that demanded her attention.

"Come with me," she invited.
"With that much of a power boost,
I should be able to clear up most
of this squall line before it does
any serious damage."

"You can reach that far?"
Vagary said, tilting his head.

"No, but I can get a teleporter
to take me stormchasing," she said.

"Okay," Vagary said. "I'll come.

"Sorry to skip out, Mr. Gallagar,
but duty calls," Calliope said.

"Go on," the counselor said.
"Saving the day is more urgent,
just remember to make up
this session at a later time."

"Understood," Calliope said,
heading for the door, with
Vagary a step behind her.

"So now what?" he asked.

"Now I call SPOON and
arrange a teleport," she said,
pulling out her phone.

But it wasn't that simple.

"Dispatch, this is Calliope,
and I need a teleport for two
to go stormchasing along
Tornado Alley," she said.

"Who are you with?" Reggie said.
"You hardly ever ride out with
anyone other than Hyperspaceman,
and if it was him, you wouldn't need
a teleporter. Shit, I hope it's not
that supervillain stalker of yours."

Calliope gritted her teeth and wished
that Reggie was as professional as
Stillwater's emergency services.

"As a matter of fact, Vagary is
my assist, and he's been very useful
to me already," she said. "Now
hurry up and get us a ride!"

"I don't know if anyone will want
to lift a supervillain --" Reggie said.

"I do not have time for this,"
Calliope snapped. "Fine, fuck it,
I'll call someone else!" She hung up.

"Problem?" Vagary asked.

"SPOON dispatch in the Heights
is being a dick," Calliope said.
"I'll have to try Easy City."

"I can get us a lift," Vagary said.

"Your 'friends' won't object
to helping a superhera?" she said.

"Not if you're with me," he said.
"They already know who you are
and it's just political differences,
not like you're a whackjob."

"What will it cost me?" Calliope said.

"Standard offer is straight trade,
we do our thing and you do yours,"
Vagary said. "That means we give you
a ride to go stormchasing today, and in
return, you do storm control for us later."

"That's all? Just do what I normally do,
only for you guys?" Calliope asked.

"That's the deal," Vagary said. "We've
got facilities in places that get rough weather.
We'd bring you in by teleport, so you wouldn't
know where, but yeah -- it's just the usual, you
calm the weather down and we're good. I'll even
throw in my company for the boost. Deal?"

Calliope only had to think about it for
a few seconds before compelling need
drove her to say, "Deal. Do it."

Vagary pulled out his phone
and muttered some kind of code
into it, followed by the request.

Then he put his palm over the phone
and said, "You don't get airsick, do you?"

"No, I ride tornados sometimes.
I can handle a little tilt-a-whirl
if your teleporter isn't so smooth,"
Calliope said, shaking her head.

"No problem, he's perfect," Vagary said,
then put his phone back in his pocket.

"Who's perfect?" Calliope asked.
"At least tell me who's my ride."

"Kong Vault is a fantastic teleporter,
especially if you're trying to reach
a moving target; he's got great agility,"
Vagary said. "It just means a dippy ride
sometimes. He can follow your twisters,
if you can point him to the right places."

"Oh, that's useful," Calliope said.

The teleporter who came was short
and muscular, with blond dreadlocks,
clad in a sleek and practical jumpsuit.
"I'm Kong Vault," he said. "Where to?"

Calliope showed him the stormchaser app
on her phone. "I'm following this line of
storms to scuttle tornadoes as they form,
before anyone gets hurt," she explained.
"I need to jump from one hotspot to the next."

"Can do," said Kong Vault. "Hang on."
He wrapped his powerful arms around
them, and then they were off.

The ride was smooth at first, but
it ended with a sharp swerve that
made Calliope gasp as they landed.

"Sorry about the hairpin, but
the tornado decided to take
a swipe at us," Kong Vault said.

"Good call," Calliope said,
looking at the ominous cone that
already reached almost two thirds
of the way to the ground.

She felt Vagary's hand slip into
her own, and suddenly the sky
didn't feel so overwhelming.

Calliope reached up and out with
her power, breaking up the air flow
with quick swipes of her hands.

The funnel cloud dispersed.

Kong Vault's awe shimmered
in her mind, vivid and near.

"That was amazing," he said.
"Where are we headed next?"

Calliope flicked her fingers over
the phone and pointed out
the next vortex to quell.

They spent the whole afternoon
pursuing the storm and unraveling
tornados, catching most of them
before they could touch the ground.

It was so much easier with Vagary in tow.
Calliope knew that she was covering
more than just twice as much territory
as she could typically handle.

The chase spanned three states
and ultimately left them in Nebraska,
too exhausted to do more than
stare at the flimsy drizzle that was
all that remained of the storm.

"I've got one short jump left in me,
and then I'm toast," Kong Vault warned.

"Uh huh," Calliope said, wavering on
her feet. Vagary caught her, and she was
too tired even to growl at him. "I know folks
in the Omaha weather station. They've got
a quiet room; we can all crash in there."

"They won't mind?" Vagary said with
a sloppy wave. "We're, you know ..."

"Today you're stormchasers, and we
just saved three states," Calliope said.
"If they even try to kick you out, I will
throw them out a window myself."

"Got a good one," Kong Vault said,
patting Vagary on the shoulder.

It turned out that the weather crew
had been watching them bust clouds
all afternoon, and when the tired team
came to ground at their station, they were
more than happy to provide support.

In the tender care of her friends,
Calliope devoured an almond Picky Bar,
washed it down with Dr. Pete's Recovery Drink,
and collapsed onto the nearest couch.

Vagary was already snoring on
the next one. From the rustling sounds,
Kong Vault was still working his way
through the offered snacks.

Calliope sighed in relief.
Challenges notwithstanding,
it had actually been a good day,
and she was grateful for the help
that she had received along the way.

On that note, she rolled over and went to sleep.

* * *

Notes:

Reggie Echelberger -- He has ruddy skin, blue eyes, and short strawberry blond hair. He works as a dispatcher at the SPOON base in the Heights. His superpower isn't useful in combat, but he wants to help save the day, so he became a dispatcher to support superheroes in the field. This is somewhat complicated by his tendency to moralize, and he's particularly poor at dealing with supervillains.
Origin: He developed Super-Immunity from the Aegis vaccine base, but nothing else. His superpower basically consists of never calling in sick.
Uniform: On duty, he wears the Heights SPOON uniform of a black shirt and pants with the SPOON logo embroidered in gold on the chest pocket. Off duty, he favors practical men's clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Computer Use, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Following Rules, Good (+2) Multitasking, Good (+2) Sports Fan
Poor (-2) Moralistic
Powers: Average (0) Super-Immunity
Motivation: To be a hero.

Kong Vault (Jenner Debenport) -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and long blond hair in dreadlocks. He is short and muscular. Kong Vault works as a teleporter for Kraken, but he's nearly neutral in personal opinion, with no particular beef against superheroes. However, he's a sucker for seduction attempts, and superheras have gotten to him more than once this way. It hasn't changed either his opinions or his love life.
Origin: Jenner was a young troublemaker until a teacher got him into track & field, where he excelled. Unfortunately for his budding sports career, puberty brought superpowers, and that disqualified him from competition. He promptly returned to making trouble, even worse than ever. A Kraken operative extracted him from Juvenile Hall and offered him an opportunity to use both his athletic and his super abilities. He accepted.
Uniform: On duty, Kong Vault wears a Kraken uniform of dexflan and capery. The jumpsuits are sensibly designed with sleek fit, plenty of pockets and fasteners for equipment. They provide Expert (+4) Camouflage to a designated user, but if worn by anyone else, turn garish neon colors. Off duty, he favors athletic men's wear.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Reliable, Good (+2) Concentration, Good (+2) Courage, Good (+2) Parkour
Poor (-2) Can't Say No to a Pretty Face
Powers: Expert (+4) Teleportation
His cargo capacity and distance are typical for his strength level, but his agility in transit is much better. Kong Vault can easily jump to or from a moving target, which many teleporters cannot, and he is very difficult to trace.
Motivation: To move efficiently through space.

A Kong vault is when the body passes over an obstacle with the legs placed between the arms. Among the most versatile vaults, it's ideal for clearing long, high objects or reaching extra distance.
-- Parkour Terminology

* * *

“A tornado of thought is unleashed after each new insight. This in turn results in an earthquake of assumptions. These are natural disasters that re-shape the spirit.”
Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

In the Tranquility Counseling Center, the little square beside the stairs is the quiet room. The hatch to the storm shelter is in the notch between the quiet room and the stairs. This shelter holds up to 25 people. The partial wall beside the ladder holds the emergency supplies. The storage buckets convert to commodes, so one is customarily placed behind that wall with a curtain for privacy. Here is a look at some other community tornado shelters.

Office 1 is for couples counseling. The Power and Control Wheel hangs to the left of the door. The Relationship Health Check is on the door. The Equality Wheel hangs to the right of door.

The large meeting room upstairs is the multipurpose room, used for the bigger group therapy sessions and classes such as yoga. It has posters on Be Kind To Your Mind with speech bubbles, group rules, the 8 Limbs of Yoga, and a large yogasanas chart.

Behind the Tranquility Counseling Center lies a healing garden in the center of the block they share with several other buildings. It features small patches of lawn broken up by flowerbeds and a rocky stream. Walking paths provide access to several sitting areas.

This is the Omaha Weather Station floor plan. The upper left corner is the quiet room, which provides storm protection when necessary. Lined with acoustic foam, this room offers several couches and foam blocks for employees to relax from a stressful job. It also serves as emergency crash space for people who get stuck at work due to bad weather because they had to stay and report on it.

Santosha is the study of contentment through yoga. Learn how to practice it.

Couples yoga, or partner yoga, features asanas with postures that require two people. It has many benefits, especially for people in therapy for a troubled relationship, because it requires teamwork and makes you more aware of each other. Calliope and Vagary are not ready to work at this level, but the premise is sound, and they can work on easier stuff with an eye toward building up enough experience to make couples yoga safe to consider. Here are some dual poses for beginners.

People question whether an unhealthy relationship can become healthy. Well, that's like asking whether an unhealthy body can become healthy. Some problems are fixable, while others aren't. Problems require work to solve. Some of what Callipe and Vagary face is fixable, and some they'll just have to learn to work around. The fact that they're both willing to work on it is an excellent sign, though. There are steps to take for improving a bad relationship, including some that don't rely primarily on talking about it.

Loving touch can help people reconnect after stressful experiences such as sexual abuse. It also builds intimacy, which should be done slowly to avoid overstraining anyone's boundaries. Browse a list of sensual and nonsexual touches.

Bodyworkers have learned that people often store emotional pain in the body, where it proceeds to cause all kinds of problems. Here is one example of a chart that maps common symptoms and their root causes. If you cannot identify a physical cause for pain, consider digging for an emotional one.

Along the stages of intimacy, hand to hand is typically the first point of physical contact. Touching shoulders or other body parts is more intimate. A good rule of thumb is to start at the outside and move in, provided both people are comfortable with advancing the intimacy.

Tornadoes can form in various ways. Among them are the high generation of a rotating cloud which reaches downward, and the lower generation of a horizontally rotating tube which tilts vertically to connect ground and sky. Know how to prepare for a tornado before and during the storm. Take cover in a storm cellar or other shelter. You can make or buy a tornado survival kit for home or office use. T-American safety regulations require that areas prone to tornados must have storm shelters sufficient to protect their population; small public places such as bus stops often have an in-ground shelter, while larger ones like malls or schools have either a basement or central multi-use area. Homes and businesses are expected to stock appropriately sized disaster kits.

In the early stages, a rotating cloud begins to project downward. Big wide tornadoes are difficult to disrupt or deflect, akin to miniature hurricanes. The little skinny ones can sometimes be disrupted, but are easy to deflect -- any touch will do it, just like touching a spinning top will make it bounce away in a random direction or sometimes topple. However, air is heavy due to atmospheric pressure. Changing any substantial mass of air therefore requires a LOT of energy.

A squall line is an extended length where conditions are right for forming violent weather. They can seed tornadoes across several states, often causing catastrophic damage.

Check out some stormchasing apps. These are fun for armchair meteorologists, but also useful in disaster preparedness.

Dr. Pete's Recovery Drink is a fortified chocolate milk. In Terramagne-America, this sort of thing is widely available, and you can even find it made with clinical-grade chocolate.

Picky Bars are good energy snacks that come in almond and other flavors.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-25 11:24 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Jeebus jumped-up kee-rist in a busted sidecar, that's several NUCLEAR BOMBS worth of power, and those two....

Well...

la la la la la... that shit's classified :D

Let's just say it's FAR easier to stop it before it starts.

....

I lost a friend to a microburst (a twister's second cousin once removed) in Nebraska... that hit kinda close to home.

It also hits close to home on account of they're a team that works really well together but when the fit *isn't* hitting the shan they're really uncomfortable with each other.

*That* shit's classified too, but under laws, not Laws.
Edited Date: 2017-03-25 11:28 pm (UTC)

Re: *laugh*

Date: 2017-03-25 11:36 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
*holds empty gruel bowl up* Please, ma'am, I want some more?

Sign me, Oliver ;)

Re: *laugh*

Date: 2017-03-25 11:55 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
As for hitting close to home in Nebraska... I don't *check* your warnings b/c I trust you to bring me out the other side. Which you did.

If anyone wants to read about the *other* side of my life, here's the story written by our motorcycle gang foodie-group-with-a-motorcycle-problem's prose laureate...

As Jack said elsewhere, Ken's passing was not an object lesson. His life was an *example*. Do what you, uniquely, need to do, until you can't anymore.

Re: *laugh*

From: [personal profile] alatefeline - Date: 2017-03-26 02:21 am (UTC) - Expand

explain, please?

Date: 2017-03-26 07:28 am (UTC)
thnidu: blank white robot/avatar sitting on big red question mark. tinyurl.com/cgkcqcj via Google Images (question mark)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
"Classified" as you use it here, and laws vs. Laws.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-25 11:33 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Reading and thinking.

I enjoyed the stormchasing greatly.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-25 11:36 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
I'll be down here in my tornado-proof bunker, talking you in (and OUT) on radar.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] alatefeline - Date: 2017-03-25 11:40 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-26 01:24 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Could this be a potential avenue of positive interaction for Calliope and Vagary that doesn't step all over Cal's entirely justified squirm factor and also helps Vagary with the belonging thing? That is, nonvillainous dyad weatherwork?

TW in the next paragraph for rape references.

I cannot deny, I entirely empathize with Calliope here, as a demisensual, and just in general. Vagary essentially raped her, the bond is an extension of the same, and now she has to deal with, and make nice with, her rapist on an ongoing basis. If it were me, I'd almost say losing the empathy superpower (if I remember right, and it's a significant part of what's anchoring the bond) would be worth it to break that connection. The forced intimacy thing... as a demisensual, that is still just horrifying. I really want to see the rape factor, and the ongoing rape factor, addressed in those words, because it is what happened, and what's still happening.

Re: Thoughts

From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie - Date: 2017-03-26 03:04 pm (UTC) - Expand

Re: Thoughts

From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie - Date: 2017-03-28 12:30 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Thoughts

From: [personal profile] alatefeline - Date: 2017-03-28 03:06 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Thoughts

From: [personal profile] alatefeline - Date: 2017-03-28 06:17 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Thoughts

From: [personal profile] lone_cat - Date: 2017-03-28 11:54 pm (UTC) - Expand

Re: Thoughts

From: [personal profile] stardreamer - Date: 2017-03-29 05:07 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-26 02:45 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
While I wouldn't use the term rape at this moment (going to reread and think though)... I'm NOT comfortable with the direction that this sub-series takes of pushing for permitting more and more intimacy from Calliope, while she's still not sure she wants ANY.

*warning for discussion of self-inflicted damage by characters, spoilers for another series*

There are two things I would need to feel like they had reached a SAFE point in their relationship.

(I'd also like to see more trans major characters in Polychrome, and more trans women specifically, as I don't like the de facto status of Calliope as a singular focus for representation when she's clearly not intended as a token or a stand-in for issue-checking, but a complex individual.)

One, an acknowledgement that it's OKAY to have limits, and they don't all (or any) *need* to be pushed over time. I think writing them as an explicitly non-sexual pairing is intended to reflect that, but for me, it's not working, as it puts that same pressure to permit intimacy that doesn't feel right onto other aspects of their lives - time spent together, private space, non-sexual touch.

The suggestion that they work to increase what touch Calliope can and will permit over time, without a balancing recommendation that they work to redirect Vagary's urge for more touch from Calliope than she's comfortable with, made my skin crawl, too.

I STILL can't quite put it into words, but there is something about the entire thread that just seems Not Right, but there is enough *there* there that I want to keep exploring over time to try to figure out what will address it, too.

Two, a moment of CHOICE. *Choosing*, not merely accepting, something that has happened can often make the difference between grudging tolerance of something that one would reverse if feasible, and incorportating it into one's self-image and worldview in a positive way.

Their psychic bond may have occurred without choice or intention, but if and when Calliope *chooses* to live with it, then it becomes part of their lives for me and not an ongoing problem that Calliope is putting up with. And for me, that won't arrive because of the benefits to her (increased power, Vagary being less of a pain and more of a help) but because she really, truly thinks through the *costs* of the alternative *while regarding it as a potential alternative* and decides *against* it.

A supervillain or superhero who *lost* an initially *unwanted* partner might help her with this - maybe even Nebuly mourning his cohort, whom he DID NOT want to be forced to get to know, whom he probably tried to protect, and whom he might even resent if he ever succeeded in protecting them at his own expense. Because they wouldn't minimize her anger or try to take away her grief for the free choice she didn't have.

I'm reflecting on the line in Exile's Honor, one of Mercedes Lackey's better novels (in my opinion)...

spoilers...

...where someone explains to a character undergoing a moral crisis because he has been Chosen by a Companion (a horse-shaped sentient being with powerful and unambiguously good spiritual and psychic aspects, but also his own personality and ability to make mistakes), which he grew up believing to be demonic, that this 'unbreakable' lifelong bond CAN be broken, at the cost of significant damage to both of them.

Calliope clearly *could* get out by killing or dying - that's the highest possible cost. It's *likely* that she could either rip loose the bond, or get psychic surgery to remove it, if she wanted to torpedo her life and mental health and superpowers to do so. Looked at one way, those unacceptably high costs make going along with the relationship a forced choice, which is no choice at all.

But looked at another way, if she reaches a place where she is able to contemplate those alternatives calmly, and decide that she WANTS to live with the bond and with Vagary as a part of her life instead, then it changes things.

At that point, as well as feeling better overall, she can be angry at what a mess it's all been without directing it all into resentment of Vagary or the bond. She can really feel her anger, AND she can forgive. Which might unlock something different for Vagary as well.

I think Vagary has already chosen; but he needs to apologize *with understanding* for having tried, over and over, to control Calliope's choice.

Re: Thoughts

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Date: 2017-03-26 04:08 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Now reread all the posted poems in this thread, and circling back to comment here, once I have a chance to digest a bit.

Re: Yay!

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Re: Yay!

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Date: 2017-03-26 07:24 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
What [personal profile] technoshaman said!

• of a horizontally rotating tube
-> horizontal
> Visualize what you're trying to describe. A tornado's rotation is horizontal, because a tube rotates perpendicular to its axis. If I understand this at all, you're talking about a tube that's oriented horizontally, and whose natural rotation is in a vertical plane.

Re: Well...

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Date: 2017-03-28 02:57 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
>> Vagary has actually kept working on this. He's done every bit of study that Calliope has demanded. He's not good at this stuff, so his progress is nowhere near as fast as she'd like, and he's better at memorizing a list of things to do or avoid than at extrapolating proper behavior from a set of principles. But he is learning.

Catch is, Calliope barks at him almost every time he says anything. … It would be interesting to explore more of this, though. I thought about trying to track him down at any of the classes or group therapy sessions, but he's trying so hard to respect boundaries he has trouble even seeing, I'm not sure how much he'd actually say about their relationships. Any other ideas? <<

Working on it.

…from my own experience, sometimes it’s necessary to say and live up to, ‘Whatever you say and however much it bugs me, I will take one minute (and literally watch the clock to make sure I do) before I respond,’ so that the person with a flinch reflex to someone disagreeing with them can manage to spit things out. I think Calliope likely sometimes end up steamrolling Vagary because he doesn’t hold up a STOP sign, and *she* applies the brakes too way late (if at all) without that. Which is a different issue than the problem of disagreeing with him, disliking him or at least a lot of the time she is around him, or being startled by him. Pre-setting the ‘brakes’ might help with that one, but likely not the others. I could see it happening in a joint therapy session, frex.

***

>> Many people do use it that way. However, they are almost always lying about the part where they claim to be trying. For example, if urged toward resources such as books, classes, or therapy then they balk -- because that would be work. They don't really want to change.

Vagary is used to getting ostracized, pushed away, or outright smacked for not being what other people want. Granted, he can be aggravating as hell, but it's not always by choice. Being a supervillain is a choice. Being crap at interpersonal intelligence is not.

He isn't cadging. He's begging. The presentation can be extremely similar in both words and body language. Often the background actions are the only thing distinguishing the two: whether the person really is doing the work, however ineptly, or giving lip service but no genuine effort. <<

Mmmyeah. I think the phrasing will still bug me even when I reread it with this in mind just because of that resemblance, but I *also* know what it’s like to be the one begging for the merest acknowledgement, and I feel bad for Vagary.

>> One of the things that makes Vagary such a sadsack in my mind is that he means to be a supervillain, but he doesn't mean to be a dick, and he doesn't know how to have really good interactions with people. The closest he's come to healthy relations would be with Kraken, but they're used to compensating for people with short social skills. Most people he's been around wouldn't give him any leeway. <<

Yeah. I have mixed feeling on this one, probably because I’ve repeatedly fallen for the lie version of ‘forgive me for my poor social skills’, but I’ve also seen the truthful version play out reasonably well… and I still can’t tell the difference early on.

***

>> I'm glad it worked for you. They're actually good at problem-solving, when they can manage not to rub each other the wrong way for five minutes, or when they have an outside problem to collaborate on.

That reference to level-grinding, by the way, was part of the original prompt for their situation and is why Vagary's progress is tedious with occasional improvements. <<

I’d like to see more of the latter and less of the former; the point has been made. How about some quest grinding as he tries to become more effective at teaming up with Calliope, instead of just achieving the minimum required for mutual tolerance?

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RepeatableQuest

***

Re: Thoughts

From: [personal profile] alatefeline - Date: 2017-03-28 04:33 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-28 02:58 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
>> I think it's because a non-combat situation brings out her compassion and clear thinking. A combat situation gets her temper riled up, which makes it harder for her to think. Aggression isn't necessarily an asset on the field of battle.

Fortunately, Calliope isn't attached to the idea of combat as essential to superheroics. She likes noncombat work just fine. That's not an excuse for her to slack off learning better ways to channel negative emotions, but it is a sign that she might benefit from minimizing combat missions. <<

I think it’s that and more, too. Maybe one piece of it is the way saving the day WITHOUT an enemy subverts conventional hero narratives just as Calliope, a trans female lead character with a complex emotional life and no current love interest, subverts hero, hera, and heroine stereotypes.

***

>> >> I can't quite process my reaction to this one. Definitely pushing and pulling in a lot of different directions. <<

ECR poem! :D

Vagary really should not have been where he was, doing what he was. That's on him. But it's also a clear sign that they can't simply part ways like an ordinary breakup. The bond pulls them toward each other, and has consequences for ignoring it, so they'll have to find ways of getting by.

>> My favorite moment has to be when Calliope takes charge and redirects Vagary towards safer behavior, though. <<

I'm glad that worked for you. Sometimes she realizes that simply telling him "no" won't work very well, because it doesn't give him an idea of what's okay, only what isn't. He can't just stop, he needs a place to go with it.

Come to think of it, much the same is true of Calliope's anger, and I haven't seen Vagary offer alternatives there other than suggesting therapy (a good idea). She needs to learn more ways of disagreeing that don't involve yelling or hitting. <<

Heh. Maybe they need a code word for ‘please stop and freeze just long enough to let me come up with a better plan!’ Um…’hailstone’? ‘Cold snap?’

… I’d like to see more done with the weather theme for the two of them. Given Calliope’s superpowers (and the mention of Jackie Frost), it seems like a great fit to turn to meteorology for some fruitful emotional metaphors and possible plot developments.

***

Re: Thoughts

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Re: Thoughts

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(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-28 03:04 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
***
>> The bond they have is not as picky as it could be. If they can get to where they can tolerate each other's company without being nasty or violent, that's probably enough to keep the bond from hurting them by pulling too tight. <<

Thank goodness.

>> They might very well get by with proximity and no touch, but it would be hard on both of them. <<

I think that’s a point that should be discusses in-series. So far Calliope has only had reason to contemplate what touch she doesn’t want; it might matter if she felt ready to admit that she actually wants to be allowed to gently touch Vagary’s hand or shoulder, and not only hit him.

Maybe if she felt bad for him sometime about something that’s *not* about the two of them, and stopped and asked automatically before shoulder-patting, and was reminded that he was open to a fair amount of gentle touch, she’d be ready to open up about not wanting to have to work so hard at maintaining space between them. Because even when one is not comfortable with touch, actively working at that physical separation while in close proximity is hard work.

>> Having a bond that hurts if not fed at least some proximity also sucks. <<

Yes it does.

>> Losing the chance to choose which partner sucks. <<

Yes, although I hadn’t thought of it quite that way…

I think for me, the loss of the chance to not have what they have - not of who or how to have it - is what’s more sad. Even if one doesn’t *want* to be alone, not having the *choice* to be alone is a loss.

>> I suspect that, since Calliope was the one objecting to the previous arrangement, Mr. Gallagar thought it would be more helpful for her to suggest an alternative she found acceptable than for someone else to propose one. <<

It does make sense. But the fact that the situation as set up can best be resolved by the queer woman doing the work is exactly what bugs me. I think it would help to see Vagary trying and failing to suggest acceptable venues.

>> Ideally, they're trying to make some space for neutral interactions in public places, to reduce the degree to which they feel intruded on. <<

It’s a really good idea.

***

>> The reason for thinking about touch is twofold:

1) It soothes the bond a lot faster and better than proximity alone.

2) It reduces the chance of another brawl or someone tripping while trying to avoid the other, and getting hurt. They don't necessarily have to like each other, or make intimate contact, but if they can be calm with an occasional touch, that'd be safer. But if they push to a point of uncomfortable touching, it'll backfire. <<

They do need to make accidental / casual touch *safe*. But *that* they need to should be stated, chosen, not assumed.

I *also* think they need to discover that *Vagary* will feel better if *he* sets some limits for *Calliope* short of his innermost boundaries. He doesn’t have to give himself away to her; he doesn’t have to hold himself so cheaply he’ll give her anything without consideration, when the time and assistance for the headwork of considering limits is already set aside with their therapy. And then that reduces the unpleasant *pressure* on Calliope to *take* liberties with his time, space, etc, to *be* the aggressor, when he’s no longer offering himself as a doormat quite so hard. Being implicitly cast in the role of the person taking advantage of someone busily playing the martyr sucks, and they’ve actually both done it to each other.

>> But if they push to a point of uncomfortable touching, it'll backfire. <<

Given Calliope’s mixed feelings, reserved nature, and concerns about persistent if ever-changing boundary violations, *any* contact right now that they make with a suggestion from outside or from Vagary *feels* like uncomfortable touching to me as a reader. But having it *not* be uncomfortable seems off, the way creepy sex scenes written as if they are Just Fine seem off. Calliope offering a hand is okay, though. But what will it take for that to change, such that *either* of them offering casual touch seems okay? *ponders*

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-29 06:23 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
After working thru all the extended comments, I'm feeling a bit intimidated. :-) So I'll just note a couple of things that jumped out at me:

1) Discovering that Vagary's presence makes her more effective as a superhera in the weather-control area is likely to be a turning point -- although there will definitely need to be a joint debriefing after they recover from the power drain.

2) The fact that SPOON's dispatcher was such a dick in the teeth of a life-threatening emergency, while Kraken was willing to offer a reasonable deal without hesitation, is likely to be another turning point. That's not going to sit well with her, in either direction, and it may cause her to re-evaluate some of her knee-jerk reflexes.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-30 02:40 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
I'm sorry! I'll stop commenting at such length and ... maybe PM Y instead? Or just let it simmer awhile, that works too. Don't want to *drown* the bard in feedback.

Re: No ...

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