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 Brown paper packages, tied up with string, for Defiance
Skeezix
 Posted: Dec 14 2014, 04:18 PM
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It was a simple concept. Create something that sent a message without using written language or needing translation. The care package, maybe it'd been dreamed up by Midwesterners, or possibly some homebody mother during a war. Fill a box with many useful little things. Best if executed simply.

Defiance hadn't spoken a word to Skeezix since the incident in Tintown, and quite frankly her round-eared friend didn't blame her. Maybe there was some blame to be spread around somewhere, but that wasn't really the point. What was done, was done and you couldn't swim up the river of time to kick your past self in the cunt for doing something stupid. Even if you really wanted to, betrayal be damned.

The thing of it was, she still worried a LOT about Defiance. Sure, the young trueblood hadn't stopped selling her candles or working at Silver's Scones and Sundries. That was proof enough that there was life yet, sure. Just not many indicators of the quality of life. Blondie was someone who shunned getting good things, which Skeezix suspected was due to the fact that he erroneously believed he wasn't worth any of them. They both needed some reasons to smile.

Last week's pesto experiments had been something of a success, resulting in two dozen out of the 42 original jars sealing and setting properly. Two jars, one of regular pesto and the other of her own catnip pesto recipe, were wrapped in plain brown paper and tucked into a cooking pot with three pairs of colorful novelty socks for extra padding. Just in case. A box of elbow macaroni from the markets was placed on the jars before a colander was set on top. All of that got wrapped up in brown paper and tied off with string before one more paper-wrapped block was taped to the top. A jar of the regular pesto traded at Neverwhere Books got her two copies of some fantasy novels. Written in Russian, for Blondie.

Everything was left with a note on at the counter of Hal's teashop, addressed to Defiance. With her original mission accomplished, Skeezix stayed only just long enough to check on the progress of the herb gardens that she'd sold to Hal before high-tailing it back to the Ferret. No need for awkwardness here.

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Defiance
 Posted: Jan 19 2015, 09:43 PM
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Getting to Hal's in the morning was less of a certain proposition these days, in part because of her long commute and in part because for the first time in a long time, Defiance actually had a home to be leaving. There was a dog there, and a Cineáltas, both of which required a certain amount of greeting and leave-taking if Defiance were to keep this odd arrangement from eventually souring like all the others.

None of this, however, meant she was unhappy to reach Silver's Scones and Sundries. At work there were tiny penguins and Hal's usual geniality and frequent excuses to think of customers instead of herself. These were small mercies but precious ones, for after all, there was no way to predict when they too would eventually unravel. The past was unpleasant to think of, and the future too uncertain, so Defiance did her best not to consider anything but her next indicated task.

Consequently, she had already changed out of her walking shoes and into her work shoes when she checked the counter to see if Hal had left out any of his interesting culinary experiments. What she found instead was a pair of paper-wrapped parcels. The first mystery was how they'd managed to sit for more than a heartbeat before being torn open by a curious Hal, but that was solved quickly enough.

They were not addressed to him.

A list of names whipped through Defiance's mind: Valor, Thorn, Nnaelthag, Justice, Airget, Marigold, Ari, Skeezix, Constance. Guiltily, she added Blondie, though she suspected he would not give her gifts so publicly; on this counter anybody might see it and find out what he'd done.

After so long without contact, though, how would anyone from her family reach her here? They would have sent any correspondence to Birch Street, and Defiance doubted it would then reach her without at least the passive approval of Thorn Leaf-and-Tree. It did not seem likely either, though... maybe.

It had been a while. Maybe Valor at least had been missing her, and Thorn would understand that, wouldn't he? Thorn had family of his own. Even if he still felt poorly toward Defiance, he had to know that she would never have kept anything so precious from him no matter how upset she was. Such things had to matter even to him, didn't they? Thorn would not have stayed to talk, though, or allowed his courier to do so. Far better to leave some deniability as to how the correspondence had gotten to her. That would allow him to save face. Given his position, Defiance suspected that sort of thing to be a frequent and pressing concern. Obviously if her suspicions were founded and the Bloods had deigned to relay these parcels, she would keep their secret. Given time for enough such tiny gestures, perhaps things could even be all right between them again.

There were worse apologies, and even if a letter from Valor were not one, Defiance would be willing to accept it as such. Not from Valor, obviously, who had done nothing wrong but go a little mad for a while, but from the Bloods.

Having thus steeled herself to respond sensibly and generously to an uninvited incursion into her life by her old gang, Defiance took the note and opened it.

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Skeezix
 Posted: Jan 20 2015, 01:29 PM
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It wasn't from Thorn. Or from Valor either, for that matter. The hand-written script on the note was definitely human, neat and blocky in blue ballpoint ink on the same sort of paper that had wrapped both packages.

QUOTE
Defiance,

I'm sorry. It was a choice between betraying you or betraying Blondie that you named your brother and I put off making that choice. The big package is for you, the smaller one is for him and the dog.

Please take good care of yourself. The world is brighter for having you in it.

Skeezix


Blondie's package was smaller, but smelled more like the cookies the writer of the letter may have been known for. Similarly, it had it's own note, but that was addressed to him.

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Defiance
 Posted: Jan 20 2015, 08:58 PM
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Defiance bit down on her first reaction to the realization that Valor had not written to her after all. She did not know what that reaction was or would be but she did know that she couldn't have it and so she wouldn't. She just wouldn't. She bit down and swallowed it back. Nobody needed it.

There was only one person who would apologize to her, and not in person.

Looked as though Blondie would get his way. Defiance and Skeezix appeared to be interacting again. Wouldn't he be pleased?

But she was sorry. Skeezix was sorry. She was sorry and she had not deliberately and consciously decided that Blondie deserved to die and Defiance deserved to lose him. She'd just been a coward. Defiance wanted to be angrier about that than she was. She herself was, after all, frequently a coward. It just came of being tiny and stupid, but perhaps people who weren't as tiny and stupid could still have their moments from time to time. Maybe that was why Valor still had not written. He was hurting, and would for a while. Defiance would wait.

She splayed her hand out over the note, blocking the words for a moment. This wasn't about Valor. This was not about any of them. They would write or they wouldn't. But they would. Defiance just needed to wait, because waiting was the only thing she could do. She had no choice but to do it, so she might as well wait willingly or at least graciously. She'd wait.

This was from Skeezix, who was sorry. When had Skeezix realized what Cineáltas meant, who he was? Had Defiance made everything worse by not hiding it well enough? If Skeezix hadn't known...

Defiance tipped her hand up on its edge to read that second sentence again. Maybe if Skeezix hadn't known how important he was, her choice would have been easier. If Defiance had hidden it better, if she'd been more careful, if she hadn't been such a stupid little girl about everything, maybe things would never have gotten so bad as they had done. Here, then, was the flaw in the human way.

Maybe her own way was best after all.

What had Skeezix sent her? She could not even begin to ask why because she knew why. Skeezix had because Skeezix did. It was her way. Whatever it was, Defiance didn't want it. She just wanted everybody back and to her knowledge nobody had ever wrapped such a thing up in paper. Whatever this was, she didn't want it. It wasn't enough.

The elf girl clenched her hand into a fist and pressed it over her mouth until she could feel her teeth behind her lips against her knuckles and her thumb. Something sneaky and cold pooled briefly in the inner corners of her eyes and she whirled to walk away before she had to find out what it might have been. From the safety of her own table she crossed her arms and stared accusingly at the offending piece of paper.

World was brighter, was it? Only literally.

She tightened her arms until her ribs ached. She couldn't just leave it there. Hal would read it. He would see and he would not be able to help but read it and then Defiance would have done it again, left everything out for everyone to see and ruined everything. She hurried back and snatched the letter up, folding it again and again and again until she could not make it any smaller and her fingertips hurt from trying. This she slipped up into the sleeve of her sweater where the folded corners jabbed and scraped her skin. It was going to do that all day. Fine. It would serve her right.

With a fierce little scowl she picked at the edges of the paper to unfold her package without tearing anything. Maybe Skeezix could use it again. She could not imagine herself giving the paper back but this was not a city friendly to waste.

Jars. Socks. The jars were green inside, and with a box of desiccated pasta Defiance could imagine what it was. She put the jars down and rolled the weave of the socks between her fingers as a distraction. Were they in a-- yes, they were in a cooking pot. Of course they were. Skeezix had given her everything but hot water, which Defiance could of course supply on her own even out at the edge of the NeverNever.

Here were all these things, then. Here they were. The waiting was done and things were happening again. Now she would have to take these objects home, carrying them in, and she would have to explain them, and quite probably leave while Blondie opened whatever was in his. Except if she left... he might throw them away, might he not? Defiance did not want any of this but that didn't mean Blondie could throw his away. He just... he just couldn't.

Defiance thought perhaps she needed to go home. Perhaps she needed to go now.

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Skeezix
 Posted: Jan 23 2015, 01:43 AM
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The door to the shop opened up with a jangle of bells to admit someone inside, though they didn't seem to have buying tea or scones on their mind. It was for the best, given that they were wheeling in some cardboard boxes of varying sizes in on a dolly.

"Deliveries for Scones and Sundry." A very bored and somewhat distracted courier, human and male-looking announced, picking up their clipboard. "I have three boxes here for a Hal Silver and one for a Defiance...someone wanna sign for em?"

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Defiance
 Posted: Jan 23 2015, 01:55 AM
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Defiance stared at the boxes like they were emitting the audible hissing proof of being filled with angry venomous serpents.

Today was trouble. She ought not have started it. Skipping to tomorrow would have been much wiser because in all likelihood tomorrow this would all be over and she'd have found a way to restore normal business. It was too late now, though. They were here: these boxes.

She stood very still and watched the boxes as they sat only slightly more immobile than she herself was. They did not move. They did not do anything more suspicious than have entirely mysterious contents sent to her by persons unknown, which of course was more than suspicious enough for a lifetime of days.

And yet there were expectations.

"Yes," she said, her eyes on the deliveries. "I am Defiance, and I will take temporary custody of these items."

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Skeezix
 Posted: Jan 23 2015, 02:01 AM
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"Great," The man said, though his name seemed to be August by the tag on his beat-up corduroy shirt, as he passed her the clipboard. The more time he spent in here, the less time he'd have to get the other 98 varieties of weird deliveries done before lunch. "Sign by the X please."

While she did that, the boxes were unceremoniously slid off the metal dolly and into the walkway near one of the chairs in the main area. Not his place, not his problem. The smallest one on top, barely a foot across and long, six inches deep was visibly marked with cheerful colorful marker drawings on the wrapper, though none of them made any sense. Really made it stand out compared to the plain boxes below it really.

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Defiance
 Posted: Jan 23 2015, 02:10 AM
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Defiance watched to make sure the delivery person did not abscond with any merchandise or commit any acts of grave vandalism on their way out, and immediately refocused on this strange pile of oddments which had been left at the place of work she shared with Hal Silver.

She turned her head to the side while keeping her gaze fixed on the illuminated package atop its plainer siblings. They did not look any different through the corner of her eye, which was no comfort. That just meant she had not discerned what was wrong with them yet. The corners of her eyes tightened as her focus intensified. She stared down at her name on that smaller parcel. Strange things were not supposed to happen to her. She worked and she finished working and she slept and then she got up and she worked. This sort of nonsense was one hundred percent Hal Silver's choice of lifestyle.

If she did not open this one now, though, he'd think she was scared of it. Obviously he would be considerate about it but he would think it and she would be able to see him thinking it. She'd see it on his face, written all over in human expression, that little Defiance was a coward who didn't like to open the mail because sometimes deliveries caused her to experience undignified and embarrassing levels of emotional turbulence. Then... well then he might see them. The feelings. He'd see.

She could not let him see.

Snatching up the package, she carried it back to the counter where she'd opened her mail from Skeezix. If today was to be filled with horrors, at least she could try to contain the litter.

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Skeezix
 Posted: Jan 23 2015, 02:21 AM
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Perhaps the only horrors were the decorations upon the box that had been addressed to her. Certainly it had been decorated liberally, but the quality of the drawings were somewhat...less than primitive. One could make out a few smiling faces and figures scribbled on the sides, but likely little else. Aside ofcourse, from it being definitely listing Defiance as the recipient in the neat script of the mailing label, which was addressed to the shop in human script. It'd had hailed from some place called Spangdahlem AFB, Germany, by someone named Stella.

There was little wrapping, save for the dense tape which held the box tightly shut. Once the tape was carefully cut away, the top flaps of the over-stuffed box sprang open to reveal glittered packing paper and several slim packets of stickers. Some glittery even in what little light the trueblood was allowing to be shed on the contents, and a few rainbow colored animals. Much like the ones that Marigold bore on his prosthetic leg! More lay inside, as the paper was peeled away to reveal tightly packed plastic packets of pastel-colored jewelery; candy necklaces and lollipop rings. A few carefully wrapped and packed bottles of iridescent glitter nail polish lay tucked in amid some foil-wrapped objects labelled as kinder eggs.

What madness WAS this?

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Defiance
 Posted: Jan 23 2015, 02:35 AM
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Sparkles. Glitter everywhere, glitter and color.

The nail polish was rather nice, and the stickers were... well, they were charming in their way. Defiance withdrew the paper and smoothed it out on the countertop, carefully folding it for storage and potential re-use, and she considered how she could possibly have ended up with someone else's mail when it had been so clearly and correctly addressed to her.

Bordertown was a strange place.

Even so.

What sort of egg was unusually kind, anyway? Kinder egg. Did they hatch less violently? The foil felt smooth when her palm curled around it, and elsewhere on the label were words that gave greater context. Chocolate. Recommended only for children of a certain age, which Defiance had naturally cleared many years ago. Chocolate and a toy. How this was kinder than an egg which contained a gestating bird was perplexing, but human value judgments were often obscure.

These were child things. Pretty things, but child things.

Who was Stella, and what was Germany?

"Oh," she said. Penguins. Defiance set those stickers aside. Cineáltas would like them.

"Hal," she called up the stairs. "You have deliveries and I have a great many questions."

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Hal Silver
 Posted: Jan 26 2015, 10:12 PM
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Deliveries and questions. Many questions. That was a reasonable way to start the day. Defiance's tone of voice indicated genuine curiosity; clearly, she had encountered some problem that could only be resolved by consulting the nearest friendly source of exposition.

Hal Silver was fond of exposition.

"Hmmm?"

The shopkeep slash amateur magician slash ex-doctor slash collector of curiosities descended from his living quarters above the store to meet Defiance.

"What...oh, are those for me?" Hal finished polishing his glasses on the sleeve of his shirt and maneuvered around Defiance toward the front counter, which was now home to three boxes. He quickly checked the mailing labels and smiled. "Yes, excellent. I'm sure this is going to be a good decision, assuming I can continue..."

Hal paused, realizing that he'd come downstairs at Defiances's beckoning and had gotten completely distracted by the arrival of his mail. Oops. Not the most polite thing to do.

"Sorry, you wanted to ask me something?" A great many questions.

"Do I need to make tea first?"
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Defiance
 Posted: Jan 26 2015, 10:30 PM
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Every now and then, despite being certain that Hal understood her existence as a separate independent person, he simply maneuvered around her like she was furniture because she happened to be between him and some emergency like an unknown object. It was his way. He was distractible, but the variability of his focus was one of his odd little charms. His attention was like a little bird, flitting from thing to thing to thing before disappearing and then returning to slam into a window.

Hal was Hal, even more human than most humans.

"Perhaps that would be wise. I know you prefer to have a series of questions be punctuated by tea."

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Hal Silver
 Posted: Jan 26 2015, 10:41 PM
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Hal, for all his flightiness, had the good fortune and the necessary intellect to understand the concept of transparent-yet-solid objects, which meant that he had only ever really run into a window once in his life. And it could hardly be said that it was his fault, given the circumstances.

It was also true that he felt that nothing punctuated a good question, or an even better answer, like pausing to take a drink of some suitable beverage. The optimal beverage for either looking sage or being comforting was tea. Flavor and variety was something that depended largely on personal preference and the season.

"Yeah, you know how I operate. Opening the shop can wait. Tea is required." He could always brew up an extra-large pot and have Defiance chill the leftovers for later serving. Some people still enjoyed cold tea even in the dead of winter. Lemongrass-mint tea, then. Hal offered a full kettle to Defiance. "It'll probably be quicker if you heat this up. What'd you want to ask me about?"
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Defiance
 Posted: Jan 26 2015, 10:51 PM
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Defiance knew how he operated. She had made a verbal assessment of his preferences and he'd explicitly confirmed them. Defiance was not bad at this human coexistence thing, even if the details occasionally eluded her.

She cupped her palms beneath the kettle and turned to set it on the range top. Heating the water to scalding temperatures while Hal still had it in hand was not a good way to begin any rational conversation.

"Firstly, I would like to know what Germany is. Is it a geographical designation?"

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Hal Silver
 Posted: Jan 26 2015, 10:59 PM
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"The answer to your question is yes," replied Hal, raising an eyebrow. "Specifically, it's a country in the World." Was he going to have to explain what a country was? Did the have "countries" in the Realm? He would never know how Realm geopolitics worked, because if Defiance started trying to explain it she would end up telling him something completely absurd about how elves lived in flying castles. Or terrariums. Or that land ownership was illegal. Or that they simply called every place "The Realm" and nobody thought that was confusing because there were a hundred different ways of varying inflection and pronounciation to make it perfectly clear exactly where you were talking about.

Hot water met tea leaves, well on the way to creating a delicious end result that was more than the sum of its parts, and Hal pulled down some mugs from a cabinet.

"You're going to have to explain why you want to know about Germany."
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