2020-06-26: Whatever Your Heart Tells You

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<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

    The weather over Honeysday is warm and sunny--a pleasant change after the strange storm to the north a couple days ago, and the many, many, many explosions since. No doubt many a villager watched the skies in fear, hoping that whatever was happening over *there* wasn't about to come down *here*. And, thanks to the efforts of many a Drifter, it won't. Rek'gora, the Clysmian of Desperation, is dead. For now. But many Drifters were injured, including one Dean Stark...
    With a creak of both bed and body, Dean stirs, then cracks open his eyelids. His chest, arms, and head are all bandaged up, and probably his legs too, but it's hard to tell because he still has his pants on. He isn't aware that Boudicca healed what she could of his and Ida's wounds, then later took them down the mountain; nor is he aware that he was later moved to Honeysday, where he's otherwise been staying lately with Avril and Rebecca, due to lack of space up in the village. He does look around, consciousness foggy, wondering why he feels like he got hit by a truck.
    'And when that puppet you care so much about has reduced everything you care for to dust, you'll be with me, too. Dean.'
    Oh yeah. That's why.
    Blinking blearily against the light, Dean fumbles a hand for the stand next to the bed. Someone has thoughtfully left a glass of water there. He drinks it down in one go, then bursts out a loud *gasp* and flops back down onto the bed. The glass dangles dangerously from his hand.
    "Ow," he groans.

<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

"Thanks Lucille. Much appreciated that you'd go to the trouble of delivery."

Rebecca takes the tray, balancing it on one hand with five fingers as she takes it from the server in Prim maid attire. "Oh it's no trouble at all. The owner appreciates the hard work your group of Drifters has done with us. She asked me to pass along that she'll send you whatever you need until Dean recovers."

"Please send her our regards."

Rebecca turns around, putting it down on the table. Where there's already two cups of steaming honey tea and some tea snacks.

Now though, there's a covered crock of fried chicken noodle soup with some bowls and silverware. Some biscuits. More tea snacks.

Which is when she hears the gasp. Locking eyes with Avril, she notes the obvious, "Dean's up."

There's worry in her eyes, but she's trying to smile anyway.

Quickly rearranging the tray to take some things off of it. She takes a bowl off the stack, ladles in some soup. Then pours an extra cup of honey tea.

Then bumps the door to Dean's room open.

"Hey Dean. Don't get so excited that you overdo it and pop a stitch but... I've got food."

Then putting it down on the stand, she does her best to keep her smile anyway.

"And if you can't manage food, then there's tea and broth."

Sitting herself down in a wooden chair backwards. She folds her arms over the back of the chair. And stares at him.

She's strangely being nice? When ordinarily she'd be yelling at him.

Perhaps this is simply one of those rare situations where he's too beat up that she's not even considering upbraiding him. The edge of her lip trembles.

"You know... I think this is the most beat up I've ever seen you."

And given how rough and tumble their childhood was, and their adventures after leaving with Avril have been. That's saying a lot. The sight of him like this is enough that she's having to exert a lot of effort to keep it together. Otherwise...

... otherwise she might just cry.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    Avril has a pair of pliers in her hands all the while. Perched on a chair in the corner of the room, she links yet another piece to the slowly growing chain she is crafting. Her expression is neutral, the careful and fragile sort of neutral one might bear when they are forced to wait, particularly in the wake of particularly bad news...

    Busy hands means the mind is preoccupied with something other than the present, something other than a situation about which nothing more can be done.

    And then, from the other room, there is a gasp.

    Avril drops the delicate chain and the pliers both, lifting her head to lock eyes with Rebecca. Wordlessly, she rises to her feet.

    And trails after, when Rebecca leads the way.

    She stands like a statue -- or maybe a ghost -- a short distance from his bed, her hands clasped before her.

    "We... heard some of what had happened, Dean," she murmurs, for this moment not meeting his eyes.



    "I am... I am sorry."

    As foolish as it may be, she cannot help but consider it. Perhaps if she had been present...

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

    If it weren't for how his entire body is just one big sore spot, Dean might have fell back asleep on the spot, which wouldn't have been great news for the glass he's barely holding. It becomes a moot point a moment later when the door opens and in walks Rebecca with a big ol' tray of food and drink. He lifts his head, lights up, starts to sit up, falls back down with an "oof!", finally drops that glass (fortunately, it doesn't break, just rolls in a half-circle into the bedside stand), and then processes what Rebecca says.
    "You're an angel," he says anyway. This time, he's more careful about pushing himself upright. He takes the bowl of soup first and slurps half of it down in one go. Bursting out a steamy breath, he grins in contentment. "That's sooooo good! Oh, geez, I didn't realize 'til just this second, but I'm starving." He promptly annihilates the second half of the bowl.
    It's only when he sets it down and reaches for a biscuit and tea that he notices the way Rebecca's staring at him. It also pings to him that she hasn't yelled at him at all so far. "Wh-what?"
    And then her lip trembles, and she makes that observation.
    "I-it's okay! I made it out in one piece," he says in alarm, raising both hands (one of them now holds a biscuit). "It was really rough going for a while, but we all knew it was going to be dangerous! And it wasn't something we could've just ignored, and..."
    He trails off, arms sinking to the bed. For a moment, he says nothing. Then he takes a bite of the biscuit. It's nice and fluffy. Avril speaks up; he looks over at her. He stops chewing. Then he puts down the biscuit, drinks some tea, and puts the cup down.
    "You've got nothing to be sorry about. Either of you," he says seriously. "We all agreed that Honeysday needed *some* people around to keep an eye on it, and nobody could've guessed that Volsung would've shown up." He rubs the back of his head, winces, puts his hand down. "It's probably better you *weren't* there, Avril. One of the first things he did after he showed up was look around for you." Technically he did this after he saw Dean, but to Dean, it's the same difference. "If you'd been there, maybe he wouldn't have ended up leaving after the Clysmian was gone. So... you don't have to be sorry."
    Maybe *he* should be sorry. Dean does think this. But he can't bring himself to regret what happened, no matter how poorly it went for him, personally.

<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

The moment that Dean declares Rebecca an angel, she jolts, "H-Hey are you feeling feverish?" Because Dean just doesn't say those kind of things about her. Maybe he really is dying!

It's not until the moment that Dean devours that bowl so rapidly that Rebecca can breathe more easily. It would be if he had no appetite that things would be beyond hope. Yet still, it's like there's a subtle glimmer, like she almost might. And that's enough that.

Instead of saying anything at first, she sucks in a breath through her nostrils, then looks over her shoulder at Avril...

... in this they're in accord. It's just that Rebecca doesn't apologize to Dean often. But it doesn't mean she's not sorry.

"Just because it's all rational like that - that we stay here Dean doesn't mean that we're not going to feel bad." Rebecca offers quietly, though one can imagine that statement with any kind of preamble. 'You just don't get it Dean!' Maybe some word choices are changed around, but she's still being real gentle.

All the same, the danger of real tears have passed - which is good, as Rebecca would have beaten herself up over it later if she had. She's not a little girl anymore. And thus she won't cry, even if she feels like it.

Rebecca stiffens though, as Dean mentions Volsung's first priority was still Avril, despite what was going on.

The tips of her fingers touch her forehead, as she just considers it. Lord Volsung, representative of everything she's terrified of.

"Okay. That's a good point." Rebecca concedes, as she drops those fingertips. "Still Dean... I don't think it changes the way I feel at all."

She looks over her shoulder at Avril, perhaps silently wagering that it doesn't change the way she feels.

"We're a team after all."

Rebecca then turns over the thought of Dean fighting Lord Volsung again in her head, "So... that's all that happened then? He showed up, hurt all of you trying to capture that thing, then left?" She then squints at him suspiciously, "He didn't remember you right?"

Rebecca is hoping that for a Veruni as important as Lord Volsung, one human looks the same as any other. Because if he made a point of destroying Dean...

... that'd be really, really bad.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    Dean devours the food more like a hungry teenager and not, say, someone on the edge of death. Just a little bit, the air in the room lifts.
    But only a little bit.

    Because, as Rebecca says--

    "...Yes. Even if that is what we agreed, and even if it was for the best..."

    Her expression is strained, balancing on the delicate point between smiles (for happiness: Dean should be alright) and tears (for regret, for anguish) when she glances over at him, finally.

    Perhaps if she had been there, she might have been able to lead him off. Perhaps she might have been captured. Perhaps the situation would have been better, or worse. She cannot rightly know. Not now.

    "I am well aware of what the pragmatic option had been. What we had agreed upon had been wise. That, I cannot logically refute." She hesitates, then shakes her head. "...Even so... Even so, if I could have been at your side..."

    Even her pragmatic heart cannot stand against her emotional core.

    Even in the face of one such as Volsung.

    "...Yes. Please, tell me what happened, Dean," Avril entreats. She had heard that the goal had been successful, but...


<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

    That Dean has an appetite is certainly a good sign. Aside from it just being his baseline normal, someone with an appetite is getting the nutrients they need to heal up. Between how Ida had shielded him with her own body, and how Boudicca had immediately administered healing to them both, it's not *too* much wonder that Dean managed to wake up so soon after the incident. He'll still need some time to completely recuperate, but he will indeed be all right.
    "I might be a little feverish! Maybe it's the soup," Dean tells Rebecca point-blank, not at all understanding why she's saying that. "Speaking of, could I have seconds, please?" He eats the last of the biscuit and finishes off the tea. "Mmmm! It really is sooo good! I could *really* go for a plate of fried noodles, but..." He laughs a little and clutches his bandaged stomach. "That might be a little rough on even me right now."
    He sobers. "...Yeah, I know. We're more than a team--we're best friends. I don't like being separated from you guys, either." He bows his head. He might not regret how the battle went, and maybe there's no helping how they would have felt given the circumstances, but-- "I'm sorry I made you guys worry. I promise I never wanted to upset either of you..." He looks up. "When I was fighting, part of what got me through it all was thinking about you two."
    Rebecca gives a less-than-accurate summary of events in inquiry; Avril asks what exactly happened; Rebecca follows up with a rather damning question. Dean fidgets, winces, and stops fidgeting. "Uhhhhhhhhhhh......" He scratches his cheek, gaze rising to a corner of the ceiling. "He didn't just remember me, he remembered my name, too?" He just knows Rebecca's going to blow her top over that.
    Still, he manages somehow to look back at them. "We all showed up at the peak of the mountain where the Clysmian was roosting. It was all chained up for some reason. Then Volsung showed up, threw down these--big metal pillar things, that formed some kind of weird cage, and said that it was 'Veruni property.'" Dean makes a face. "Well, I know we can't beat him, but I figure, maybe we can at least distract him long enough for everyone to kill the Clysmian and keep him from getting it. Who knows what he'd do if he left with it, you know? And it wasn't just me! A bunch of us went to go fight him! And we--" or at least he, probably the only person there who actually know who they were dealing with "--weren't trying to *beat* him, just *delay* him.
    "But, uh.
    "He said something about--gosh, what was it..." He scratches his head. "Something about sating his curiosity? And he said some weird stuff to me in particular that I didn't understand, like if I liked living in a comfortable little fiction or something, and then something about a puppet I cared about destroying everything else I cared about--I don't even *know* any puppets!" He shakes his head. "Then he did that same move he used back at the Photosphere, at the end of our fight then--" He nods to Avril; she ought to remember. "--and everything blew up, and actually I don't *really* remember what happened after that, but I *do* know the Clysmian was dead by then, so he must've gone away empty-handed."
    He pauses. He *does* remember Ida rushing to protect him bodily when Gram-zambor came rushing down directly for him. He knows she's tough, but she was already plenty injured at that point. "...No one died, right?" he adds, eyebrows knitting in sudden concern. "Is everyone okay?"

<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

Rebecca's chest feels tight over just seeing Avril's face as she says those words.

Dean though, tells his story. And Rebecca sits there throughout it all, her expression going through a myriad of subtle changes, subtle cues that's hard to tell what she's thinking.

Rebecca just gets this distant look in her eyes when Dean says that he remembered him - and his name. Still, she sits there. Just listening as he relays everything Dean was told and didn't understand. Then she puts her hands together as if praying in front of her mouth, and inhales a breath beside her gloved fingers.

Yep Dean. There it is. It's coming.

Rebecca suddenly drops her hands, and she has this almost eery smile on her expression. Like it's just too forced. "Of course you can have seconds Dean! Let me just go get them. Right now."

Rebecca picks up the tray. Then moves to the next room. Closes the door.

Gently she puts down a tray. Then walks over to the corner, picks up an empty bucket, puts it up to her face.


She then puts the bucket back down, pastes that smile back on like a sticker, refills Dean's bowl. Adds more biscuits. Adds a tea snack. And another cup of tea.

She's gone in back just over thirty seconds. Puts it down in front of him. "Here you go Dean. Eat up." Then lifts up an extra cup of honey tea she loaded on the tray, and hands it to Avril. As if to give her a cup, just whispering, "After hearing that... I thought you might need this."

Rebecca then takes a seat, "Dean." She starts simply, "So I wasn't there... and I didn't hear it myself, but it sounds like he was talking about Avril... and you didn't understand it because you don't see Avril in the same way he does."

Before she notes quietly, "Neither of us do."

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    "It may be best to be careful about how much you eat until you recover," Avril remarks, glancing away from him again. "You are not recovered just yet." He doesn't have any injuries left where eating should cause him great harm, but, still...

    He apologizes. Is that what she wanted from him?

    Avril shakes her head, edging that much closer to tears, perhaps. "No, that is not... I do not mean to blame you, Dean. We agreed upon this course. It is just..."

    Having a heart is a complicated thing. An illogical thing. A wonderful thing.

    "I am... merely happy you are safe." And then, perilously, she lifts a hand to wipe at her eyes. OH NO, TEARS.

    But at least she doesn't seem to be crying buckets.

    But even that complicated mix of sadness and relief must take a firm back seat when...

    ...when Dean says...

    Avril feels as if her veins were suddenly filled with ice water.

    He remembered Dean.

    There is a long, long moment of silence as Avril turns to watch Rebecca as she removes herself from the room and...


    ...comes in a few minutes later, bearing snakes and a completely convincing smile. Like a puzzled dog, Avril cants her head a few degrees to the left. "Is... are you all right, Rebecca?" she asks. Wordlessly, she takes the cup of tea from her friend, though she does not take a sip from it, not right away.

    But there, then, she has the time to digest what she's heard.

    Volsung had tried to claim the Clysmian.



    'A puppet that he cared about'.

    A puppet.
    The thing in the corner of her mind nearly roars, a chorus of sound like the sea.

    A puppet.
    Like Avril.

    There is a crash as the cup of tea slips from Avril's grasp, shattering upon impact on the floor. Avril slowly wraps her arms about herself, her head bowed, as if the room had gained a sudden chill.

    What... am 'I'?

    Not who. But what.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

    It's hard to tell what Rebecca's thinking, and Dean often doesn't understand how she feels regardless. However, when she gets up with that plastered-on smile, marches out with the tray, and comes back half a minute later with more food and still a plastered-on smile and nobody has told him if the others are okay and she hasn't yelled at him at *all*, he can't help but be concerned. "Uhhh, Rebecca, are you okay...?"
    More food is more food, though. Dean promptly picks up the bowl and slurps away, if, thankfully, not quite as voraciously as before. In between mouthfuls, he adds, "Thanks, Rebecca. I really mean it." Not that he doesn't mean it other times, but she's acting kind of weird right now, so... doesn't hurt to reassure her, right?
    Avril tells him not too eat too much while he's recovering. Dean gives her a confused look, but he does put the bowl down, which might infuriate Rebecca a little. He always did listen more, and listen better, when it came to Avril. "A-Avril, don't cry..." he protests, expression stricken, when she wipes at her face. She doesn't actually cry, but he still feels guilty. He doesn't want to upset *them* by feeling guilty, though, so he calms down with a drink of tea and wipes his face on a napkin.
    "There's something else I need to talk to you guys about. A couple of things, actually," he adds. But first, Rebecca explains a thing. Dean's look of confusion doubles. "Wait, what? But Avril's not a puppet," he says. "And she'd never destroy what I care about! We're friends! Right, Avril?" He looks over at Avril.
    "Avril?" he echoes.
    A teacup shatters. Avril folds in on herself.
    "*Avril*!" Without a second thought to his wounds, Dean sweeps the sheets away and reaches out to hold her by the arms. "What's wrong? Are you okay? Speak to us!"

<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

"Why wouldn't I be okay Dean?" Rebecca asks and tries not to let any irritation creep into her voice.

But when she turns to Avril she of course sees the tears. And that causes a sort of mental stumble. Dean could never resist a girl's tears. But that's not...

... that's not...

Why it hurts to look at her right now.

Seeing her with tears in her eyes, she suddenly has such an inadequate answer. Torn between being strong and honest, before tears, she can only be honest. "I'm..." There's just a tiny shake of her head.

It's just... Dean starts talking again. And Rebecca turns back to listen to it. For practical matters. "I wasn't there Dean. I'm just guessing... but guys like him. They just look at people in how they can use them... and Avril... Avril's the..."

Then Dean says Avril's name in a way that asks a question. A teacup shatters. And Rebecca's head whips around to look at her, suddenly her distress truly showing. "Avril? Dean you'll-"

Dean takes her by the arms, and Rebecca freezes.

Dean's got this doesn't he? That's how it should be. In moments like these it's his job to comfort a girl in distress.

Something within her tightens though at the thought of it and she simply decides...


Rebecca positions herself behind Avril on the opposite side of her from Dean, and wraps her arms around her even as Dean holds onto her arms. Just holding her from the opposite direction, and uses this position of leverage to just faintly rock her back and forth protectively.

"It's okay Avril. It's okay." She whispers, squeezing her eyes shut tight so that she won't cry. "And even if it's not... Dean and me are here. We're here no matter what."

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    Who -- what -- is she?

    That is the question that has plagued her for a long time. As long as she remembers nothing, she is 'herself, as she stands'. Once she begins to remember, however...

    ...once she starts to recover who she was...

    What will be left of this Avril?

    She's not foolish. She is not stupid. A person is shaped by their experiences, how they react to them. How she is now is only possible because of her experiences and how she has chosen to react. 'Avril, as she stands now' can only exist -- continue to exist -- as long as she remembers nothing.

    But 'Avril, as she stands now' cannot exist indefinitely. Eventually, the wedge in her heart will break her into pieces. Or, eventually, she will become again Avril the Lolithia.

    Dean rises from his sickbed to take her in his arms. She brooks no resistance to it.

    Nor to Rebecca, joining the both of them in this moment. She leans against both of them, as silent and heavy as a statue.

    "I..." she speaks at last, her voice cracking involuntarily, "I am... am I a person? Or, am I merely a part of a person? I do not... know the answer."

    She had said before, that she was scared. Of losing herself. Of what the future held. She'd resolved to move ahead, regardless.

    But a division is not so easily mended as all that.

    "...I am sorry, I... I'm sorry," she repeats again.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

    "Umm..." Usually Dean takes questions on their face, but for all that Rebecca holds back the irritation in her voice, the question itself has such an obvious answer that he gets the sense she's holding back from biting his head off. Again. M-maybe it's better to drop it...
    Then he can't help but drop it, no more than Avril could help dropping that cup of tea. Rebecca rises with him, pulling Avril close from her side, murmuring reassurances, but Avril... Avril wonders if she is a person, or merely part of a person, and then apologizes, over and over.
    "Avril..." Dean murmurs, blue eyes gentling. Carefully, he pulls both of his best friends closer into a gentle hug. "It's okay. I mean--it's *not* okay, because it's something that really upsets you. But you didn't do anything you need to apologize for. *That* part is okay. Me and Rebecca, we both love you no matter what."
    (and it is testament to Dean's aromantic nature that he can say something like that as easily as one might say "I love you" to one's sibling)
    "So... and I'd do anything to stop you from hurting! But it's okay for you *to* hurt. It can't be easy for you, and all we can do is be here for you. But like Rebecca said, we *will* be here for you--because we're all friends. No matter what. No matter who or what you are."
    Some time passes, perhaps, as they each hold each other. Dean thinks of Avril, and he thinks of Volsung, and he thinks of the battle at the mountain's peak... Now that Rebecca's explained it to him, he thinks he understands what Volsung had been getting at.
    There's another side of Avril--one angry, one powerful, one who will hail judgment upon those who cross her without hesitation or mercy. He's seen it several times before. There's no pretending it--no, *she*, doesn't exist. But Dean has also only seen her come forth when he was threatened. Whatever Volsung believes, whoever and whatever Avril is, Dean is certain she would never hurt him or what and who he cares about.
    At length, he pulls away. He never did get an answer about the others who'd been at yesterday's battle, and that worries him, but... he'll just have faith that everyone did pull through. "...There was something the Clysmian did while we were fighting," he says quietly. "It sent out this--kind of wave of emotional energy. As soon as it hit me--as soon as it hit *all* of us, we all suddenly felt incredibly desperate. Some of us managed to hold out better than others, and we all helped each other out of it--but then Volsung did almost exactly the same thing. Except that feeling he sent out wasn't desperation... it was hate."
    Dean pauses for a moment. He remembers that all too well. He hadn't succumbed to it, but it had been so difficult to fight against, so overpowering, so overwhelming. Until... "Boudicca helped us then. She called up Moor Gault's power and sent it out, and it melted that hate away. Suddenly, I was myself again. I didn't have to struggle against feelings other people were forcing me to feel." He takes a slow, deep breath; then he squares his shoulders. "...That's why I've decided I'm going to say 'yes' to becoming one of Boudicca's Seers. If Volsung has a power like a Clysmian's, I can't afford to refuse strength that can stand up against it. For everyone's sakes."
    He reaches out and gently squeezes one of Avril's hands. "Especially yours," he concludes quietly, eyes on her.

<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.

Rebecca finds herself just holding Avril. It's strange, trying to calm her, but right now she's so silent and heavy that she feels like she's actually she's actually anchoring Dean and her to the moment. Avril says things, that carry a shade of what Avril has said before, and she bites her lip. She doesn't get it. Is she scared of becoming the Ice Queen again? Is she scared the Ice Queen will become a person that isn't her?

Is she frightened that she's someone else?

Rebecca presses her cheek against Avril's shoudlerblades and keeps her eyes shut.

In the silence of the three holding each other it might be that she's searching for the sound of Avril's heart beating.

Amongst all those questions of her identity, all those fears. But maybe that's what's important. She knows there's another side of Avril, she's seen glimpses of it, she's tried to validate it and accept it no matter who tells her she shouldn't or who implies she ought to be afraid of it.

Dean starts to speak, and she just listens. There's a nod of her chin, her cheek brushing Avril's back as she agrees with him. "We do love you." She agrees. "And... whatever the answer is. We started out on this journey to discover it with you. Finding out who you are... figuring it out each and every day. It's a part of growing up, right? Just..."

She hesitates for a moment, as if searching for that sound again.

"If... If that's not good enough to say that who you are is a work in progress. Just... maybe whatever your heart tells you right now... is the answer... for this moment. No matter what it may be at the end of the road."

Then, Dean pulls away beginning to speak, and Rebecca lifts her cheek, keeping her arms loosely supportive around Avril. Rebecca dares to open her eyes, looking into them with a certain amount of worry.

Though as he explains, there's a glimmer of understanding, and acceptance. With a light sigh, she finds a tiny smile on her expression. "That's... a very mature reason Dean. Alright. If becoming a Seer can offer you that kind of strength... then... I won't get in your way."

Pausing for a moment, as she looks at Avril briefly from that angle, "No not just that... I won't oppose it. Your decision. It's got my full support."

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    Rebecca is partway right. Not that she's afraid of becoming the Ice Queen again, precisely, but more that--

    She's afraid that she'll stop existing if that happens. That she'll vanish, without a trace.

    But they both say that they love her -- in spite of who she is, because of who she is -- and against the both of them, she dips her head in the shallowest of nods.

    "I do, too. ...I love the both of you."

    (In precisely the same way...?)

    She shifts against the both of them, as if she were steadying herself on her own two feet in her own way while still being held. "...Thank you," she whispers, and for a time, it's enough to be held.

    Because, as Dean says, they love her no matter what.

    Because, as Rebecca says, they're all of them growing and changing, every day. They're all working to figure out who they are and what their story might be. In this, though the circumstances might be different, she is not alone.

    She is loved. She is a work in progress.

    Once Dean and Rebecca both part from her, perhaps it might be some relief -- some small relief -- that there are no tears in her eyes.

    She looks fragile, like an icicle on a sunny day, but there are no tears. She has straightened, allowed her arms to drop down at her sides.

    And then, Dean is able to finish his story. About the newborn Clysmian and its powers. About how they tried so hard to fight back against it, and Volsung, and how desperate and dangerous the fight became.

    And about Volsung's own strange power, so akin to the Clysmian.

    About how Boudicca saved Dean.

    She listens all the while, her gaze downcast. Whatever she might be thinking now remains a mystery--

    Until she finally speaks.

    "I... agree," she says, soon after Rebecca weighs in. "I know not how he might have come by this power," perhaps, she considers, that was his goal in claiming the second, to add another to his allotment, "but if there is a means by which we can counter it... then we must make use of it." It won't be the last time one of them must tangle with Volsung. No, as long as she still draws breath, that much is inevitable.

    "We are all engaged in such dangerous things, aren't we," she remarks, and at last manages a smile. It might be sad, it might be ephemeral, but it is still an honest smile.

<Pose Tracker> Dean Stark has posed.

    It's not all right. But it's better than it was before, and that's enough.
    Dean smiles warmly at Avril and Rebecca--Avril, because even though she still looks fragile, she does look happier than before, and Rebecca, because she's so smart and well-spoken and supportive (well, she's supportive *right now*, anyway). He nods to each of them when they hear and respond to his decision with regards to becoming a Seer. "Thanks," he says quietly to Rebecca. It's rare for her to call him mature about anything; it really does make him happy to have her full support on this. To Avril, when she remarks on dangerous things and smiles, he laughs a little and nods. Her support is just as valued, if not quite as rare, and as always, she speaks the truth so plainly. And so plainly he replies, "It's all part of the adventure."
    For a moment, though, his smile dims. He'd intended to tell the two of them about the hand he'd extended to Volsung, which had been so violently rebuffed. But... this moment is so fragile, and Volsung had been so angry, and Rebecca and Avril are both still so upset. He'll leave it be for now, he decides. Once he figures out if he should try extending that hand again or not... *then* he'll tell them.
    Nodding to himself, his expression warms up again. For now, he'd rather keep these smiles going.