ysabetwordsmith: (Schrodinger's Heroes)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the August 15, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl and is presented here as the free epic for the fishbowl reaching its $200 goal. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] siliconshaman and [personal profile] we_are_spc (Fallon/Isaiah). It also fills the "enemies become friends" square in my 7-31-17 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest and the "AU: Crossover/Fusion" square in my 4-3-17 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. This poem belongs to the Schrodinger's Heroes project.

WARNING: This poem contains some controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. In this poem, alter!Alex is Harley Quinn, a conflation which may bother some readers. It also features dimensional travel, impaired consent and mental functionality, forceful interventions to address an abusive relationship, vehement objections to well-meaning help, attempted assault, use of a previous name for constructive but nonconsensual purposes, allergies, reference to vigilante activity, reference to Quinn's past abusive relationship, communication failures, confusion, mixed signals, awkward family dynamics, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"If It Doesn't Work ..."


It took twelve days to figure out
which alternate dimension Quinn
had fallen into this time and
how to get him back out.

When the door opened,
Quinn strode through with
a flailing girl over his shoulder
and snapped, "Close it, quick!"

Ash slammed her hand down on
the button and the door winked out.

The girl was surely Quinn's type --
dressed in mismatched leathers, with
one pigtail dyed pink and the other blue --
but usually he preferred his partners willing,
so something else must be going on.

Then she pulled a giant hammer
out of nowhere and tried to hit him.

"Put the hammer down, Alex,"
Quinn said as he took it away from her.

"Stop calling me that!" she screamed,
raking her fingernails down his front.

Buttons flew loose, and Quinn's shirt
flapped open, showing the neat scars
that ran across the width of his chest.

"You're not the only one who ever
changed names," he said quietly,
tying his ruined shirt closed.

"How did you even find
the old one anyway?" she said.
"I erased all those records."

"I know you, Alex," said Quinn.
"I know how you think. I know how
you code. I know you in any dimension."

"Are you sure that's an Alex?"
Bailey said, looking back and forth
between the squalling stranger
and the elegant core!Alex.

"I was sure even before
she pulled a hammer out of
hyperspace and tried to hit me
with it," Quinn said.

"Good point," core!Alex said,
and Ash nodded agreement.

Quinn dragged alter!Alex
over to the sink and pushed
her head under the faucet.

"How do you not know that
you're allergic to artificial colors?"
he said as he washed the chalk
out of her blonde hair. "Haven't
you noticed yourself scratching?"

Alter!Alex sputtered as he
toweled her off. "So?" she said.
"I always itch, so I always scratch."

"I'll go get the first aid kit," Kay said.

That just made alter!Alex freak out
and reach for another hammer.

"Jesus, Alex, how many of those
do you have in there?" Quinn said.
"And why do they keep getting bigger?"

"If it doesn't work ..." core!Alex said.

... try a bigger hammer
hung in the air like smoke.

Schrodinger's Heroes looked
at the two hammers, each of them
taller than alter!Alex herself.

This could not be good.

Kay came back with
the first aid kit in tow.

Quinn clung grimly to
the squirming girl while
Kay slathered cream over
the patches of pink rash.

"Let me go," alter!Alex whined.

"As soon as we're done," Quinn said.
"Settle down, Alex, this will help."

"I never asked for your fucking help!"
she snapped, twisting in his grip.

"All done," Kay said finally,
and let go of alter!Alex.

"You should feel better soon,"
Quinn told her. "It'll be okay."

"It's not okay!" screamed alter!Alex.
"Nothing about this will ever be okay!"
She finally pulled away from him
and stormed out of the room.

"I'm starting to wonder if she's right,"
Quinn said, sitting heavily on the couch.

"Yeah?" said Bailey as he sat down
beside Quinn. "How bad was it over there?"

"Absolutely batshit crazy, and I mean that
in a literal sense," Quinn said. "There is
some vigilante stalking the city dressed up
as a giant bat, beating on people."

"Okay, that's messed up,"
Bailey admitted. "But why did
you pull Alex out of there if she
didn't want to come with you? We
don't usually do that, because reasons."

Quinn sighed. "Do you remember
the really bad leathersex boyfriend that
I had the time I got lost for a few months?"

"Yeah, that was pretty awful," Bailey said.
"That guy was an abusive dick."

"Like that," Quinn said, "only worse."

Bailey shuddered. "Okay,
no wonder you weren't trying
to reason with alter!Alex."

"I did try that at first," Quinn said,
"but yeah, she is no more ready
to listen to reason than I was when
you guys dragged me home."

"Any time, bro," said Bailey.

"You know we would never
leave you in a state like that,"
Ash said, and core!Alex added,
"We'll always come for you,
no matter how long it takes."

"I know," Quinn said. "That's
what keeps me going."

"What are you going to do
with alter!Alex, though?"
Bailey asked, looking at
the door she'd taken.

"Whatever she needs
me to do," Quinn replied.

"You know she may never
forgive you for this," Kay said.

"I know," Quinn said tiredly.
"At least she'll be alive to hate me."
He pushed away from the couch.

"Where are you going?" Kay said.

"After her," Quinn replied.

He found her in the soft room,
curled up in the nest made out of
a featherbed over memory foam and
huddled under an afghan striped with
blue-pink-white like a transgender pride flag.

She was sobbing her heart out.

Quinn picked up a bottle of water
and a box of kleenex, putting
both of them within her reach.
Then he sat down to wait.

It took a long time for alter!Alex
to cry herself out, although Quinn
thought it was probably less time than
it had taken him to calm down after
Schrodinger's Heroes had rescued
him from his abusive boyfriend.

Eventually she took a handful
of kleenex and blew her nose.

She picked up the water bottle,
looked it over, and tested the seal.
Then she cracked it open and
drank half of it in one pull.

"You don't have to babysit me,"
she said. "I can take care of myself."

"I know," Quinn said. "I just wouldn't
want to be alone in a strange dimension,
so I figured you wouldn't like it either."

Alter!Alex sniffled. "Why did you
drag me out of there?" she said.
"I really didn't ask for your help."

"You're family." Quinn kissed
the top of her head. "Family doesn't
have to ask for help in order to get it.

"Oh," she said in a small voice.

Then she leaned against him,
so softly that Quinn could feel
no more than the heat of her body
where it matched the line of his own.

Schrodinger padded over to them.

"You have a kitty?" asked alter!Alex.
"He's real handsome. What's his name?"

"That's Schrodinger," Quinn said.

The black cat sniffed delicately
at alter!Alex's fishnet-clad legs.
Then he hopped into her lap
and began to purr.

Hesitantly she lifted
a hand to pet his head.

Quinn gave a sigh of relief.
Maybe everything would
turn out okay after all.

* * *

Notes:

Harley!Alex looks something like this.

Read about the character of Harley Quinn. She is smarter than most people realize.

Deadnaming is the practice of calling someone by a former name. So why would Quinn, a genderqueer person who knows about this issue, be doing it? Because names have power, and even some transfolk find a prior name useful for some purposes. Quinn is trying to evoke the Alex-ness of his listener, instead of the unhealthy Harley-ness. Given her response, "Alex" probably doesn't have any better associations, and a new name might improve results.

A hyperspace mallet is stored in a pocket dimension called hammerspace. Harley Quinn is often depicted producing a giant mallet out of nowhere to hit people.

Domestic violence causes all kinds of harm. There are ways to help a friend or relative in an abusive relationship, or escape one yourself. This is easier said than done.

Sometimes people may have difficulties in solving their own problems, but they don't realize it and/or don't want to hear about it. There are was to cope with this too, especially if they seem very troubled.

People have a right to say no, though, and you should respect that. They have agency and body autonomy, so they can make their own decisions. If someone is hurting themselves or others, you have some right to intervene, depending on the severity of the situation and your relationship to the person. However, understand that this will quite likely make the person angry, so you need a plan for coping with that. Quinn is gambling on Harley's retroactive consent, that eventually she will agree what he did was reasonable and helpful. If not, then he's at fault for violating her right to make her own decisions, even bad ones.

Domestic violence is notorious for harming the victim's headspace. Quinn understands this because he's been there and his friends had to rescue him. You may find it helpful to explore the spectrum of consent and assisted decision-making for people with (temporarily or permanently) impaired consent. There are short and long resources for helping people make good decisions.

Hints in the poem imply that Quinn spent the last ~12 days trying to talk Harley out of an abusive relationship, but when that failed, he resorted to other tactics. A good pattern for talking about domestic violence includes: Describe what you observe and why you think that might be a problem. Frex, "I've noticed that you seem tired and sad today, and you keep dropping things. That's not like you. Is something wrong?" Practice nonviolent communication. I-Messages and 3-Part Messages can help.

There are tips on how to help people who don't want to be helped. In particular, I advise trying to figure out why they don't want help and then you can address that. Frex, if they have been ignored before, you can listen to them. If they have been hurt by helpiness, you can demonstrate your competence and ask what they would find useful.

Batman is a famous vigilante character. This excellent debate offers arguments as to whether Batman does more harm or more good. Batman's mental health is also questionable at best, and people have suggested many possible disorders. I consider post-traumatic stress, complicated grief, and depression the most convincing.

The soft room was first described in Part 4 of "Two Spirits, One Past." It is a type of quiet room customized for the needs of Schrodinger's Heroes.

The pattern of a transgender pride flag can be used for an afghan. Schrodinger's Heroes have many different afghans in the compound, so even though some of them belong to a particular person -- that's one of Quinn's -- their location at any given moment is pretty random. People carry them around and leave them draped over furniture or in different rooms.

Cat purring has a positive effect on mental and physical health. Also Schrodinger is a living alignment detector, so his acceptance of Harley!Alex implies that she is salvageable

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-22 11:53 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
"You're family." Quinn kissed
the top of her head. "Family doesn't
have to ask for help in order to get it.

This is beautiful, and matches the ending also beautifully. -- It also needs a close-quote.

Looks like you dropped "href=":

Sometimes people may have difficulties in solving their own problems, but they don't realize it and/or don't want to hear about it. There are
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<a goodlifezen.com>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]


Not having read the warnings (I seldom do) , I was entirely unprepared for the image of alter!Alex as Harley Quinn.
Edited Date: 2017-08-22 11:57 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-23 02:39 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Me, on reading Quinn calling alter!Alex/Harley/visitor by her unwanted name: Why the F would he do that? Him, of all people? *gets to notes on evocation via prior names* ... Oh sh!t, Quinn pulled a scorpion maneuver on her! See also a certain episode of Voyager, just before Seven's link to the Collective is severed, and what Chakotay tries in invoking the name and memories of Anika. Similar results, I think; patchy at best, but maybe something.

There are, of course, consent issues here: Not!Alex's impaired consent, Quinn's reactions to and because of same, the assumed? family classification... It almost feels like 'family' is too quickly-made of a designation, alter though this person is. Shades of family, yes, and important, but making that leap that soon... I can't articulate why I'm tripping on that.

Don't throw Seven (or not!Alex) back to the wolves. Also don't violate her further. Respect has to come in somewhere. This seemed a much more straightforward issue when Voyager's crew dealt with it, and Seven objected too, forcefully. Seven also had far less agency at first, and eighteen years of obvious, open brainwashing in play.

I truly don't know what an alternative might be here. Leaving a person in such a horrible situation is right out, but dragging them out of their dimension against their will... smacks of helpiness, paternalism/maternalism - parentalism? or both, even if it isn't. The 'we're hurting you for your own good, and someday you'll realize we're right' sort of thing. Not sure I could stomach forcing a nonconsensual cross-dimensional leap, were I the one making the call. But what third option is there, if reason won't work? Deal with the abuser, maybe, but that's all I can come up with short of getting involved in cross-dimensional events in a large way indeed, and that won't fly either.

Suddenly tempted to prompt you for that very thing. The core team dealing with alter!visitor's (new name Anika? ... just a whim) well, alter!visitor's abuser, I mean.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-08-23 05:11 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Re: family: Yes. Exactly this. It's a one-sided call, a one-sided assertion, and a sudden one at that. Do Quinn and the core team realize just how quickly and unilaterally they're moving on this one, well-meant though it is? In amid all the insistence that they're aiming to help alter!Leena? for her own sake, the one-sided certainty jars.

Preliminary signs are pointing to alter!visitor (Lily? Lexie/Leena sidewise mashup) not hating Quinn, at least. I would absolutely understand distinct wariness of him for a while, though. I'd probably wear it myself.

This is a complicated one for sure, and intense for it. Luckily, we've got an expert of a bard handling it. ... Ouch, all the same.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-23 08:28 am (UTC)
antisocialite_forum: A group of small round pumpkins in a very green pumpkin patch (Pumpkin Patch)
From: [personal profile] antisocialite_forum
Echoing chanter_greenie's concern for the themes, and appreciative for the explanations following.

Also appreciative for coming from a Super-verse that is much more stable and relatively sane than the ones in media here. Poor Harley!Alex. :(

- JWW

seeing double

Date: 2017-08-27 05:39 am (UTC)
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
Like the poem. Enjoying the commentary. The HTML garbage from the still-unfixed markup gives me headaches, though.

Re: seeing double

Date: 2017-08-27 05:53 am (UTC)
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
Yes, *MUCH* better, thank you!

At least the tomatoes only ate your time. Bard-eating tomatoes would be *really* scary! :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-01 04:31 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Awwwww, KITTY! I know Schrodinger is black; is he Bombay? I so got the image of my Destra doing that.... because she would, you know... it's what Bombays *do*. Especially ones that smart. (How empathic is he? Kitteh-normal, or moreso?)

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