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Poem: "Settled" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Settled"
This poem is spillover from the November 2014 Crowdfunding Creative Jam.  It was inspired by a prompt from DW user Dialecticdreamer.  It also fills the "Wild Card: Superpowers" square in my 9-1-14 card for the Genprompt Bingo fest.  This poem has been chosen for general funding based on an audience poll.  It belongs to the Danso & Family thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: general fund, DW user Dialecticdreamer

FULLY FUNDED
320 lines, Buy It Now = $160
Amount donated = $106
Verses posted = 61 of 96

Amount remaining to fund fully = $54
Amount needed to fund next verse = $.50
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $2.50



Settled


Danso woke feeling much better.
The bed was soft and warm,
the house quiet around him.

He could still remember the disaster at
the SPOON base, but dusty and cobwebbed now,
as if it had happened years ago instead of yesterday.

Danso visited the bathroom, got dressed,
and padded into the kitchen.

His mother was there, bent over the stove,
along with Aidan seated at the kitchen table
reading a newspaper made of actual paper.

"Danso! Oh, thank goodness you're all right.
I was so worried," Hannah said, hurrying
to wrap him in a tight embrace.

"Good morning," Aidan said.
"How are you feeling?"

"Better than I expected to," Danso admitted.
Then he remembered how much work
it must have been to take care of him
the night before, and blushed.
"Uh, thanks ... for everything."

"You're welcome," Aidan said.

"We're glad we could help,"
Hannah said as she let go of Danso,
and the shift in position revealed
the time on the kitchen clock.

"It's that late?" Danso said, dismayed.

"Don't worry, I've called you in sick," Hannah said.
"I told your school about the mishap at SPOON.
Noah will get your assignments to you after classes end."

"You blamed my absence on Granny Whammy?"
Danso said, wanting to sink into the floor.

"Why shouldn't I?" Hannah said. "It was her  fault."

For some reason that struck Danso as hilarious,
and he burst into giggles. "I doubt that anyone
would dare call to confirm that one," he said.
Then his stomach growled. "Excuse me."

"Your body is reminding you to replace
all the energy you burned off yesterday,"
Aidan said with a wave of his hand.

"There are still eggs in the skillet.
Want some coffee with them?" Hannah offered.

Most grownups didn't like that Danso
liked coffee and wouldn't let him have any,
but the two of them had talked it out, and
the compromise had been that he
could have half a cup in the morning
as long as it didn't disturb his sleep.

Except that Danso didn't feel like coffee today.
"Can I have chocolate milk with breakfast?"
he asked. "And ... and some of Lakia's
Crazy Sugar Crumbs, if that's okay?"

"He needs the calories," Aidan murmured.

"Yes, of course," Hannah said,
watching Danso closely as she
brought his breakfast to the table
and then took a seat herself.

He hadn't eaten that kind of kiddie cereal
in years, but for some reason now
he was craving it, not just the sugar
but the sheer nostalgia of it.

Even Lakia didn't eat that stuff all the time,
just liked it as a treat when she'd been extra-good.
The last time Danso had eaten any of it was on
his twelfth birthday, but the taste took him right back.

"Could we talk about yesterday's adventure,
or is it too soon for that?" Aidan asked.

"Sure," Danso said. "I'm okay with it.
Whatever you did to me helped a bunch."

"It wasn't so much. Most of the harm was
emotional upset rather than real injury,"
Aidan said. "You would have healed from it
in a few days, even without help."

"I'm still glad for your help," Danso said,
swirling his spoon around the bowl
full of multicolored bits of rice.
"I thought I'd have nightmares for sure."

"You probably will," Aidan said seriously,
"later this week when you start feeling safe again.
Your mind needs a chance to process the events.
Last night you needed the rest more, so I made sure
that you got sleep uninterrupted by worries."

"That's true," Hannah agreed. "If they get
bad enough to wake you up, Danso, or if
you just need to talk with someone,
you can come to me or to Aidan any time."

"Okay," Danso said, because he had
always felt better going to Mama after
he had a bad dream. Then he frowned.
"What really happened? I mean, I've done
all kinds of things with my superpower,
and it never did that to me before."

"Hmm," Aidan said, turning the page
of his newspaper. Danso caught a glimpse
of a headline about supervillain crimes.
The reporters always got on those,
even though ordinary people
committed most of the crimes.
"Hannah, would you mind dropping
the field for a minute so I can check him?"

"Of course," she said. "Mind your control."
The nullification field fluttered away.

Danso could feel Aidan's talent moving
over his own, warm and firm as a hand
sliding along his body, that just made him
want to close his eyes and drift away with it.

He dropped his spoon in the bowl,
splashing himself with milk.

"Sorry, didn't mean to make you fade out
like that," Aidan said sheepishly.

"It's okay. It feels nice," Danso said.

"That's good to know," Hannah said
as she handed him a napkin to dry his shirt.

When Aidan nodded to her,
Hannah restored the nullification field
that she customarily projected. That, too,
felt familiar now -- something Danso
could lean against and trust to hold him.

"Remember what I said last night,
about trying to open a part of your gift
that wasn't ready yet?" Aidan said.

"Yeah," Danso said. The chocolate milk
tasted as good as the cereal.

"Imagine it as -- oh, holding onto a tree limb
and stretching your body to try forcing it
to grow faster," Aidan said. "You would
wear yourself out to no good end,
and you might pull a muscle."

Danso had done that, too, when he was little;
Aidan must have glimpsed the memory of it.
"Thought I'd grown out of that," he muttered.

"It's hard to resist when someone asks you
for help," Aidan said. "You'll learn how to
gauge your abilities against the task,
to decide when to say yes or no."

"Can you teach me that too?" Danso asked.

"I can," Aidan said. "For now, though,
I have to ask you to avoid repeating the things
that you tried to do yesterday, at least until
they've had more time to mature. Pushing yourself
too hard, too soon, could prevent things from
growing in properly. Understand?"

"What things?" Danso asked.
"Looking at someone with my gift?
I do that all the time; it's hard not to."

"Looking is all right, but don't push it if you
can't see through easily," Aidan said.
"Definitely don't try to reach in and
influence someone else's power."

"Even if they're hurt?" Danso said.

"Especially if they're hurt," Aidan replied.
"I know, it's hard, but this is important.
You compared seeing Cassandra to seeing
an automobile accident. Well, you're not wrong;
it's like that in many ways."

Danso pushed his empty bowl away.
"But people help with car crashes, all the time."

"Indeed they do, and paramedics train for years,
learning how to do that safely and effectively,"
Aidan said. "Citizen responders take classes too.
Sometimes random civilians stop by a scene,
people without training -- then they don't know
exactly what to do or not do, which makes it
more likely that things could go wrong."

"So ... SPOON shouldn't have called me?"
Danso asked, turning the idea over in his head.

"They should not have called you, and
they won't be calling you again," Hannah said.
"Piotr and I talked about this last night,
and we agreed on some new safety rules."

"Like what?" Danso asked.

"When you want to look at the SPOON website,
tell me, and I'll go over it with you," she said.
You don't go to any of their facilities, or
talk with any of their staff, unless I'm with you --
or Piotr or Aidan, if I'm unavailable. If anyone
asks you to use your powers, you say no,
and you tell us immediately. After you turn
eighteen, these will become your decisions
to make, but for now I need you to respect mine."

"But ... SPOON's where all the good classes are
for learning superpowers," Danso protested.
"I don't think I could learn everything by myself,
or even with one really good teacher."
He nodded at Aidan.

"That's why I left a little wiggle room in the rules,
with the escort," Hannah said with a sigh. "I'd be happy
to tell them all where to go, but you are likely to need
that kind of education sooner or later. Preferably later.
You can still visit SPOON if necessary, with one of us in tow."

"Granny Whammy didn't mean for me to get hurt,"
Danso said. "She told me that she knew boys in the war
who were younger than me and they did okay."

Hannah sighed. "No doubt that's true,
but they must have lied on their enlistment forms,
and she's forgetting they also had weeks of training
before their deployment -- which you have not."

"Oh," Danso said softly. "Guess that makes sense.
I'll try to remember the new rules. Wait, what about
talking to other soups? If they're not part of SPOON,
or they are but it's not about SPOON business?
I like Groundhog; I'd hate to lose him as a friend."

Hannah made an unhappy sound,
and Aidan put a hand over her wrist.

"Let me explain, please," he murmured,
and she nodded. "Danso, right now
your mother is feeling extra protective,
and frankly so am I. Let's just stick with
an escort for now, and agree to revisit
this conversation in a month, okay?"

Danso didn't particularly want
to get dragged into another mess
at SPOON anyhow. "Okay," he said.

"So that's settled," Hannah said.
heading back to the skillet that
she had moved to an unlit burner.
"Aidan, do you want the rest of
these scrambled eggs?"

"Let Danso have some first," Aidan said.

"Yeah, I could eat an egg or two," Danso said,
surprised to find himself hungry again.

Hannah dished out a serving for him, and
then scraped the remainder onto Aidan's plate.

"Thanks, Mom," said Danso as he dug into
the eggs. They were satisfying in different ways
compared to the Crazy Sugar Crumbs.

The doorbell rang, and Hannah went
to answer it. "Oh, dear," she said.

Aidan hurried out to the living room,
with Danso just a pace behind.

A delivery boy stood on the porch
holding a bunch of balloons --
a pink bunny head, a blue bear,
a yellow flower, and the rest silver mylar
one of which said, "Get Well Soon"
and another, "I'm Sorry." It looked as if
someone had bought out a gift shop.

Hannah held a card in one hand
as she stared out the front window
at Hopscotch standing across the street.

Aidan slipped the card out of her hand
and unfolded it to show the message,
Am I still welcome? Or did you just
boot all your soup friends out of your life?


Danso winced. "Poor Hopscotch.
She was nice that time she took us
to visit my mother's grave."

Hannah shook herself, then retrieved
the note from Aidan and wrote
on the back, You're still welcome,
but today is not a good day.
Meet me for coffee on Saturday?


She handed the note over and said,
"Aidan, tip the boy, please;
I don't have my pocketbook."

Aidan tipped the delivery boy
and took possession of the balloons.
"The kids will love these."

They watched until Hopscotch got the note.
She waved at them, then popped out of view.

"This is not good," Hannah muttered.

"Groundhog had to call two emergency replacements
at the same time," Aidan said. "People will talk.
At least what they're talking about is that
Granny Whammy got a scolding and
you're peeved at soups now."

"I suppose we should count our blessings,"
Hannah said, heading back to the kitchen.

Aidan tied the balloon ribbons to the back
of the rocking chair in the living room, then
followed Hannah, with Danso tagging along behind.

Hannah was opening cupboards and
rummaging through the refrigerator.
"Drat," she said, "we're out of carrots."

"Why do we need carrots?" Danso asked.

Hannah sighed. "I owe Groundhog an apology,
and more than just a verbal one," she said.
I should not have hit him like I did."

Danso's jaw dropped. "You hit him?"

"With my talent, not my hand," Hannah clarified,
"though honestly, that's even worse. Groundhog
loves carrot cake, so I'm going to bake one for him,
the good homemade kind that takes half a day to make.
He won't feel much like going out for a while."

Aidan flapped his hand at her. "Give me the recipe.
I'll send someone with the ingredients."

She gave him the recipe, and Aidan made a call.
"I need you to pick up a bunch of carrots --
I don't know, enough for three cups, grated? --
Fine, two bunches then, and we can just
cook any extras for supper or something ..."

"Can I help bake the cake?" Danso said.
Making things helped quiet his mind.
"Groundhog is a pretty cool guy.
I hope he's not in trouble or anything."

"Yes, of course you can help," Hannah said.
"It will give us something to do together.
Afterwards you can choose a game,
or whatever else you'd like to do."

Aidan wrapped up his phone call
and rejoined the conversation.
"That sounds like a good way
to spend the day," he agreed.

It felt a little selfish, almost childish even,
to have Hannah all to himself for a whole day
without the older kids there until school let out,
but Danso didn't care. It was exactly what
he needed, and he hadn't even had to ask for it
(would never have asked for such a thing)
because she'd just set it up on her own.

"Yeah," Danso said quietly. "It's perfect."

Aidan's vidwatch gave an adorable, sleepy yawn.
He grinned and said, "That's my cue. I need
to go check on Saraphina. I'll come back later."
He left the two of them alone together.

Danso leaned against Hannah,
and she hugged him, kissing his cheek.
It made him feel safe, settled inside,
to have someone in his life who was willing

to give him however much time he needed.

* * *

Notes:

Traumatic memories can cause stress.  Dreams help the mind process what has happened.  Thinking about the context helps too.  Terramagne mindhealers have learned that erasing memories tends to do more harm than good, but muffling them can help the mind recover without being overwhelmed.  Know how to cope with and let go of difficult memories.

Crazy Sugar Crumbs resemble Razzle Dazzle Rice Krispies, a discontinued cereal here.

Regression is a common defense mechanism, especially among traumatized youth in foster care.  There are ways to help children and teens deal with stress.  In this case when Danso's emotional level shifts down instead of up like usual, Hannah simply goes along with what he needs at that moment.

Nightmares often follow an upsetting event.  Understand how to handle bad dreams.  Talking with someone often helps.

When you're not ready yet, you should wait instead of pushing yourself into anything too fast.  There are ways to go at your own pace.  Recognize the signs of pushing yourself too hard.

Being prepared is important for personal safety as well as being a hero.  You might want to stock a survival kit and make preparations for natural disasters.  Rushing into a risky situation without knowing what to do and how to keep yourself safe often ends up adding you to the list of casualties.

Family rules should be developed together so that everyone understands the rules and reasons.  They work better when framed as "we" than as "you." Both internet and facetime safety are important to cover. Developing a responsible teen requires giving them leeway to make their own choices.  In this case, the supervision isn't for Danso, it's actually for SPOON, because Hannah doesn't trust SPOON not to drop him on his head again.

Fighting fair and negotiation are aspects of healthy disagreement, which is a natural part of relationships.  When people are freshly stressed out, it's often a good idea to table any touchy topic which is not urgent, and revisit it later when everyone has had more time to calm down.

See the bunny, bear, flower, Get Well Soon, and I'm Sorry balloons.

It's never fun getting caught between two friends who are fighting.  Know how to stop your friends from fighting, console an upset friend, and make up with a friend after a disagreement.

"No Hitting" is a common household rule. Superpowers require a more sophisticated grasp of ethics, and in particular, most people consider it inappropriate to fight with someone who can't fight back.  That means that for a soup to attack a nary is almost always punching down, and heroes never punch down.  The same applies to attacking another soup in a way they can't counter -- and for Hannah, that's almost everyone, since she can take their powers away.  Smacking Groundhog was understandable  in context, but not justified.

Apologies may include some kind of compensation to make up for the offense. Hannah's carrot cake is particularly well thought-out because it's a delicious comfort food that she knows Groundhog likes, it takes a lot of effort to make, and she knows that stress means he often needs to hide for a few days.  Know how to apologize.

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11 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
thnidu From: thnidu Date: March 16th, 2015 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Eager reader, as usual.

• "You body is reminding you
→ Your body

• "It wasn't so much. Most of harm was
→ Most of the harm

• "Hannah, would you mind dropping
100 the field for a minute so I can check him?"
> Delete the line number
thnidu From: thnidu Date: March 29th, 2015 03:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Still there.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 29th, 2015 03:31 am (UTC) (Link)

Hmm...

Check again, see if the fixes saved this time.
starcat_jewel From: starcat_jewel Date: April 11th, 2015 12:34 am (UTC) (Link)
I like Aidan's explanation. "This is just for right now, and let's talk about it again in a month when people aren't feeling so fraught." That's a good way of handling upsetting situations.

When my partner gets into a depressive spiral, sometimes he wants to do... self-destructive things, not physically, but in the sense of "he starts to recover, realizes what he did, and spirals right back in again". (Generally it expresses as impulsively throwing away or destroying something connected with the issue, which means it's something important to him.) Trying to say "don't do that, you'll regret it later" only make matters worse. But saying, "Don't do that right now, see if you still feel the same tomorrow" is much more successful, and usually heads it off at the pass.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 11th, 2015 12:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> I like Aidan's explanation. "This is just for right now, and let's talk about it again in a month when people aren't feeling so fraught." That's a good way of handling upsetting situations. <<

Sooth. Hannah and Aidan feel extra-protective right now, and while Danso isn't thrilled about the loss of autonomy, he also does NOT want this to happen again. I don't think he's quite realized that they don't trust SPOON with him, rather than not trusting him to make good decisions. Talking it out later might clarify that. Also Groundhog is all kinds of unhappy with what happened, and would be completely on board with keeping Danso out of active duty until he's prepared to deal with such challenges -- which makes Groundhog a lot safer than Granny Whammy or some other SPOON folks. So after people have had time to calm down and think about this, they might tweak the rules.

>> But saying, "Don't do that right now, see if you still feel the same tomorrow" is much more successful, and usually heads it off at the pass. <<

I'm glad to hear it works for your family. Thank you for sharing!
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: April 15th, 2015 12:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
*nods* Dale and I have a rule that I'm not allowed to make major life decisions when tired, hungry, or depressed.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 15th, 2015 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

That's a great rule for anyone who has times when they are not so impaired.

Regrettably I have seen almost no advice on how to make necessary major decisions while impaired, which is troubling because some people have chronic problems that mean they are always in pain, depressed, exhausted, etc. -- or the spans are so long they can't be waited out. "Lie down until the headache goes away" works for headaches lasting less than a day, but not migraines that can last for several weeks. Similar problem with any rationality-hindering stressor that lasts for weeks or months and fucks up everything.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: April 16th, 2015 01:30 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

That's a good point that I hadn't thought of. Here, we often try to lean on less-impaired system members when one of our major runners is down. (Since while it's common for at least one of us to be impaired at any given time, it is HIGHLY unusual for all of us to be taken down at once.) We're at a point where we trust each other enough to realize when we can't make good decisions and pass the responsibility to someone who can.

This also applies to friends if for whatever reason we can't rely on each other. It's definitely not GOOD, but when a decision HAS to be made and we're too incapacitated, it's good to have a trusted friend or emergency contact make it for us.

For more chronic "god I hate everything, living is such a PAIN" periods (like the Homeless Year), we could usually summon enough mindfulness and sanity to still make decisions as a unit. Must suck for singlets though, who can't play shell games with their own suffering.

--Rogan
johnpalmer From: johnpalmer Date: April 17th, 2015 05:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nod. It's a good coping mechanism. It's rare that doing X *has* to happen today, when X is throwing away a gift from a person who caused recent pain, to more harmful things.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: April 16th, 2015 01:32 am (UTC) (Link)
I always love these Danso stories, and am so glad this one got fully sponsored! It's nice seeing conflict being really dealt with in stories, rather than just hooks to hang more drama and escalation on.

--Rogan
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 16th, 2015 03:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> I always love these Danso stories, <<

Yay!

>> and am so glad this one got fully sponsored! <<

Me too. This sets the stage for later developments within his family, with SPOON, with Cassandra, the whole issue of clipping, etc.

>> It's nice seeing conflict being really dealt with in stories, rather than just hooks to hang more drama and escalation on. <<

That is a general preference of mine in writing and reading, but especially with this series, because most superhero stories gloss over the damage in ways that are more implausible than someone picking up a car by the bumper. The fact that folks learn emotional first aid and problem solving skills, and take time to address things like this when they happen, is why Terramagne is not overrun by psychos the way Gotham City is. That's a question that fascinates me. Of course things go wrong, but how do you stop them from chaining up to a city-wrecking incident? How do you stop them from wrecking someone's life in a way that quickly becomes everyone's problem?
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