Chapter 35, Part 1: So Long, and Thanks for all the Cupcakes

Notes:

I’M BACK! If you missed all the spoopy Halloween goodness, click here for AU vignettes and here for Character Trick-or-Treat. Otherwise, I don’t GOT NOTHING to say except I AM VERY TIRED and ENJOY.

Von Haunt Estate

Miko

Miko landed on her hands and knees with a thud. Cupcake week—it was worse than she thought.

Smoke and something else burned her nostrils as she glanced around the room. Where were the bodies? Had the Good Order Monks turned everyone into vessels?

Sims waking up with dust in their eyes, power at their finger tips, gods in their mouths

No, no, no, she couldn’t focus on that. This did not have to happen. Somnus only worked with the Good Order Monks because he was covetous. The God of Death had Phobos and Agony and all the rest. Even The Owl chose—

She caught a glimpse of a small hand peeking out from underneath the rubble.

Gods and swords and steel and death.

No. Somnus would not get his army, Miko would make sure of it. Alice might be dead, Penny and Mikel too, but they did not have to stay that way. She could go back! She could fix this!

Gritting her teeth, Miko let her time magic surge forward. It sparked and wavered for a moment before finally ramping up. I must be getting tired, she thought, reaching for the universal mainspring and slipping into the timestream.

Downtown Windenburg

Caleb

Caleb had started seeing his therapist in 1989. Thirty years might seem like a long time, but he had over two centuries worth of trauma to unpack. At first, he thought of it as a place to complain about the things that drove him crazy, namely Vladislaus. Vivian Spencer-Kim Lewis tolerated that for a few years before she began to, not so kindly, disabuse him of that notion. 

So now, here they were, attempting to address something beyond the vampire that Caleb loved and hated in equal measure.

“He keeps acting like he’s changed. Do you know that I found him watching Dignity and Decorum the other day? On television! I installed electricity in Straud Manor in the 30s, and the night he discovered it, I awoke from my dark meditation with a hand missing. Now, Alice comes along and—”

“Have you moved into your apartment yet?” Vivian asked, cutting him off.

“What?” 

“Caleb, we’ve been over this. We are not talking about Vladislaus, we are talking about you.”

Caleb bristled. “Well, of course, I haven’t. I’ve been very busy dealing with Alice and the hunt for The Owl and now, William departing for the Library of Magic. This is the second safe house I’ve had to arrange in less than a month! And the prophecies about the—”

“Okay, we’ll mark that down as ‘in progress.’ What about this new friendship?”

Caleb tried to sound nonchalant. “It’s not a friendship. My job is incredibly busy, the zombie is a protege of sorts.”

“Deacon?”

“Yes.”

“You tried to put some purposeful distance there, by not using his name.”

Caleb frowned. There was, in fact, nothing to put distance between. He and Deacon did not have a friendship.

“Caleb,” Vivian sighed. “I want you to tell me what your life is going to look like.”

“It doesn’t look like anything,”—Why was he so uncomfortable?—”The sheer number of crisis piling on top of each other make it impossible to envision right now and—”

“Despite the crisis,” she interrupted.

Caleb shook his head. “Despite the crisis? I’ve only just now made significant progress in the search for Lilith. Once I’ve located her, she’ll need help.”

He mumbled to himself, “Perhaps therapy? The trauma of her departure will be something we need to work through and—” 

“Have you considered what she’s been doing all these decades? She may be different than you think,” Vivian suggested.

“Doing?” Caleb leapt to his feet, “What has she been doing? She was cast out. Violently and without recourse, and we may not be talking about Vladislaus, but he was the one who did it!”

“I’m going to suggest something,” Vivian said after a long pause, “Your whole identity is wrapped up in dealing with outside problems because it means you don’t have to think about yourself. It might feel nice now, but it’s not sustainable.”

She got up and crossed to her desk. “Mark my words, it will not help you to replace one codependent relationship with another. If you chase your sister, don’t show up planning to fix her.”

“But Vladislaus has—”

“I am a sim, Caleb; if we don’t move on from Vladislaus, I will be dead before you make any progress. Things change. You have to change too.”

She sat down at her computer and began typing notes, which was a clear sign that he’d been dismissed.

    11 comments
  • Dolly Llama
    November 2, 2020

    OH NO, CUPCAKE WEEK IS UPON US

    (Speaking of which, are we talking British or American biscuits?)

    Ordering this from least to most important. First off, can we just stay in the timeline where Deacon is wearing a sarong? That is the main timeline and no amount of clearly conflicting information will convince me otherwise.

    B of all, we finally get to meet the legend herself, Caleb’s therapist. What she had to say about not using Deacon’s name being a form of distancing language… interesting. Veeeeery interesting. (Number 17 if you didn’t notice it already.) And I notice you’re not giving us Neva’s mother’s name either.

    And he’s demonstrating why he needed 30 years of therapy here: during his freakout, there was a point where he diverted the conversation back to William rather than talking about his own stuff. Neatly mirroring Dr. Spencer-Kim-Lewis’s claim that he uses other people’s problems as a distraction to avoid facing his own and using the same tactic she did when she pointed that out, abruptly announcing that they’re talking about someone else now, with what I hope is some sense of irony.

    “Of course Vlad thought this entire thing was about him!” BOY. Are you teaching kids about meiosis in the mid-90s? Because you’re projecting.

    Miko’s captor looks… familiar. I tried going back and seeing what outfit Rory was wearing, but I do guess the outfits change too much for that to be a reliable indicator. They’re wearing similar colors to the person who was onscreen at the time Ben pointed to the TV. I guess it doesn’t make sense for Rory to be the Owl, since Alice already recognized him and Ben would have said something earlier. And there’s nothing guaranteeing that those are the same timeline. Wait. Unless they’re wearing the same thing in every timeline—that would be suspicious. Okay, I have to go back and look at all the colors. ARRRGH I LOVE THIS BREADCRUMB TRAIL OF OUTFITS.

    I guess Caleb could also be Agony rather than Anxiety, with William’s role as mediator between them making some sort of statement about the relationship between fear and anxiety. I think of anxiety as masking fear, mimicking it while diminishing its effectiveness, but can see that possibly happening. Gee willikers, there’s probably so much symbolism right under my nose. It’s like every chapter provides context that totally changes the meaning of all the chapters before it. WHICH IS AWESOME. And I’m guessing the symbolism becomes more overt as time goes on, since everyone’s undergoing some amount of hidden character development by being trapped in a time loop.

    In summary, hmmm. Hmmmmm.

    • feroshgirl
      November 3, 2020

      ::Tries so hard not to point out the exact chapter where Miko’s captor is wearing that outfit already::

      Gah it’s killing me!

      I’ve waited so long for these outfit choices to begin to pay off (also wtf is wrong with me? The devil plays the long game but damn). You’ll get your answer next chapter and oooohhhh you are close.

      You have definitely met The Owl already! But I’ve been sneaky about it (maybe too sneaky?)

      Basically, jumping from one character to another has allowed me to be an unreliable narrator because I’m writing from their perspective with the knowledge they have in their brains. We are not in the heads of the creatures likely to know who The Owl is (Ben, Miko, Morgyn, Jimena) long enough or at the right moments to have them think: this is The Owl of Undoing.

      …Especially Ben. We already know he lies to Alice and has his own agenda. As far as Alice is concerned, he disappears at a random moment…but is it random? Ben knows who The Owl is and that Miko is playing around with time…

      But I digress.

      Caleb 100% does not get that he is literally doing EXACTLY WHAT HIS THERAPIST JUST POINTED OUT OMG DUDE, GET A CLUE. I wish there was a way to make a pun about Caleb’s name and projecting because, goddamn.

      Yes, distancing language! I don’t know if this was in my head from Mike or not, but my own therapist has definitely called me out on this lol. For Caleb, the distancing language is very much about keeping people away. He so desperately wants the emotional block that Vlad had before the witch cursed him (or before she typed in the cheat code to remove “damped emotions”).

      Vlad’s childhood was clearly an abusive nightmare and it says a lot that Josef Straud is named repeatedly but Vlad’s mother is not. This will be illuminated soon…unfortunately.

      Anxiety masks fear ::looks directly into the camera, screams at self to stop talking::

      GAHHHHHHHHHHHH I should not write stories with secrets because I don’t want to keep them. OBVIOUSLY.

      P.S. – Sarong timeline is the same as docs timeline so 100% it is THE ONLY one that matters lololololololol

      • Dolly Llama
        November 3, 2020

        CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

        … CHALLENGE FAILED. I can’t find the outfit 🙁 Nooo! My snide remarks wasted!

        I did forget about my William=Agony suspicion. Let’s just stick with that for now.

        But who else, other than Rory, could have been onscreen in the commercial? The employees? (The person catching Miko isn’t in a UWBS employee uniform, I can tell that much.) Who the f is producing this, even? Their appearance has to be pretty early on, is what I’ve learned. And Dylan, what are you up to WHAT ARE YOU UP TO.

        Guess I’ll just have to wait.

  • theplumbob
    November 6, 2020

    Welcome back! So my first thought at the beginning of the chapter was “when is Miko,” trying to remember if we’ve had cupcake week already or if it’s yet to come. I’m thinking for Christmas this year I may gift myself a reread 😊

    Ok, where to start. Caleb’s therapist. That woman’s patience must be made of steel. I wonder if he’s the biggest challenge of her career “If I get this damn vampire to make any meaningful progress, then I’ll finally retire” kind of thing 😀 I’m surprised she’s still trying after 30 years. Then again, I guess clients like Caleb pay the bills – how many people are lucky enough to have a guaranteed steady source of income for 30 years? 😆

    Ah, that goodbye dinner, wow, all appearances, “good friends and good wine” or whatever they said, even Alice could see it was all for show. Loved the confrontation between Vlad and Caleb there.

    “I am your misery and yet, you would rather endure me than go.” Oof. Chills. Maybe Caleb needed to hear that. I wonder if any of it got through.

    Also, William was very classy throughout the whole thing, but I bet deep down he was like “I can’t wait to get the heck out of here.” I’m looking forward to his library expedition with Morgyn, woop doop.

    Deacon was precious as ever. Everybody should have a friend like him.

    Ok. Miko. Her part makes my head hurt, hah. So… is she destined to fail here, because we are seeing the timeline she describes, where Vlad is in the contest… or is the timeline we’re seeing doomed because she describes it?

    Anywho, it was cool to get to experience Phobos being made, or at least one of the versions of it. And I suppose that’s how Vlad’s wife was ended, at least in that timeline…

    Ok, I can’t shake this thought though – with all the messing with timelines, has Miko considered that some things may always happen, regardless of how many do-overs she tries? You could call it destiny, but from a pragmatic point of view, if you always have the same variables, you only get a finite number of outcomes, right? She can take away or add variables into the mix, to a degree, but there’s only so much she can tweak.

    Also, I doubt if she ever got to a pount where she gets a somewhat acceptable timeline, she might not even notice. She’s so used to giving up on a reality just because of something minor that she may have even missed one with a good outcome because she didn’t want to deal with a hiccup along the way. Because ultimately, there’s always going to be some failings somewhere. (Yes, I realise this train of thought doesn’t really go with the scene in this actual chapter, when arguably things go really tits up for her, that was obviously not a minor fluke, ha. It’s more of an overall realisation about Miko I’ve had so I had to spew it out regardless of it not really being on message with this chapter, ha)

    • feroshgirl
      November 7, 2020

      Oh no!!! WordPress ate my reply. I have to warn you, I am officially white wine drunk and celebrating a Biden/Harris win so I suspect this reply will be…er…coming in hot. I’m just making a list because why not!

      1. Christmas re-read? I AM SO FLATTERED. I keep saying I’m going to do a “catch-up/state of things” post, but I never get around to it. The fact that your question was “when” is Miko means I’ve done my job!

      2. Whew. Honey, let me tell you. We do not pay Vivian Spencer-Kim-Lewis enough to put up with Caleb. First, I continue my goal of making all premades into insane minor characters in this story. Secondly, while a consistent source of income is good, Caleb has not yet embraced that therapy actually involves doing the work.

      Which brings us to:

      3. Goodbye dinner! Yes! William probably has more loyalty to Vlad (I think their friendship is very genuine), but um yeah, he totally deserves a vacation from them. I think that confrontation between Vlad and Caleb was building for a long while, especially once Alice entered the mix. I think Caleb is very lucky to have Deacon and maybe a friendship will help him heal.

      4. Oh man, you are hitting the nail right on the head with Miko. It’s telling that rather than team up with Vlad/Alice, she spends all her time trying to undo it because it doesn’t fit her definition of how things are supposed to go. I mean, what would it be like if Miko was forced to make the most of a situation and not just loop back whenever things got hard? What author would force her to endure such horror (cue evil laughter)?

      Now, not the question of which timeline is doomed, I’d tell you but…well…spoilers.

      • theplumbob
        November 8, 2020

        Yay drunk comments 😆 Definitely something worth celebrating! I’m so happy for you guys in the US, and personally, as someone who libes in the world, relieved, lol.

        Vivian as a therapist makes sense to me. I always wondered how the Spencer-Kim-Lewis family affords that mansion. Now we know, Caleb has funded it with his years of therapy 😆

        Yeah the blowout definitely looked like it was long time in the making. Now let’s see if Caleb can actually use it as a stepping stone.

        Hah, I bet Miko still has plenty in store for her…

      • feroshgirl
        November 9, 2020

        HAHAHAHHAHA! It is now canon that the Spencer-Kim-Lewis family is solely funded by Caleb’s therapy bills. Dang, I wish I wrote that joke hahaha

        Also, yes!!! WE ARE SO RELIEVED! I’ve sobered up and stopped intermittently crying. Now, I’m just full of joy and fluff lol.

  • Yimiki
    March 9, 2021

    For being one of the Fates, Miko has a very odd understanding of Fate. 😅 I wonder what she thinks about the concept of some things just being written in stone. Destiny, fate, whatever you call it – the kind of big, pivotal moment that always stays the same no matter how many times you switch paths. The same end no matter the journey.

    I wonder what end she is even looking for here. For all her efforts, it’s almost as if she has an idea of how the world should be in her head, and everything that isn’t exactly as she envisions is it wrong – even if the timeline is actually going well.

    • feroshgirl
      March 9, 2021

      Well, Miko is technically a thread of Fate, so she’s more like a junior fate. Still, its sort of alarming that after all these centuries she is still so clueless.

      I’m stalling for time because your eagle eye has picked up something really major and I don’t know how to talk without giving away spoilers.

      “It’s almost as if she has an idea of how the world should be in her head, and everything that isn’t exactly as she envisions it is wrong” DING DING DING DING DING. Miko is really going to struggle with this, she pretends like she is doing this for everyone else, to “get it right,” and maybe she even believes it. But the truth is, she’s pretty self-absorbed. These timelines are about her, not saving Alice or The Owl.

      “I wonder what she thinks about the concept of some things just being written in stone.”

      ::looks directly into the camera:: GET OUT OF MY HEAD hahahahahha dang you are spot on and its makes me so happy!

      • Yimiki
        March 10, 2021

        Haha, oops, sorry about that 😂I get told that a lot. I’m not an alien using mind rays on your brain, promise! But yay, my ramblings are not complete gibberish! I’m almost caught up, now. Maybe somewhere next week. 😄

      • feroshgirl
        March 10, 2021

        Seems like something an alien using mind rays would day but okay… 😂😂😂

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