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Ash ([personal profile] ashmusing) wrote2011-07-17 02:09 pm
Entry tags:

FIC: safety net in a chaotic world

TITLE: safety net in a chaotic world
FANDOM: Avatar
CHARACTERS: Trudy Chacon, OFC
RATING: M
WORDS: 2756
WARNINGS: Deals with aftermath of sexual assault.
A/N: Written for the “A Picture is Worth 1000 Words: A Multifandom Comment Fic Meme”, hosted by igrockspock on livejournal. Title comes from the Carol Saline quote, 'Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other'
SUMMARY: There are a number of people for whom Trudy would get on a train in the middle of the night for; her younger sister is at the top of that list. But getting on that train also means that something is wrong.

safety net in a chaotic world


By the time that Trudy made it to the right stop, it was four in the morning. She'd been in other train stations at this time of day(/night/however you want to call it), but in uniform, with a rifle and several grenades, with her squad. This time she was alone except for the scattering of other passengers as she went from train to train (shift-workers, prostitutes, medics, and other peoples of the night), unarmed except for the knife strapped to her shin underneath her jeans and the other strapped to her lower arm underneath her jacket (she had licences for them, but even if she didn't, you were an idiot to walk around unarmed at this time). And instead of being on a patrol, or clearing out the place, she was on her way to her sister.

At four in the morning.

After Frankie, working part-time as a call-girl while she studied, had called her from a police station.

Given prostitution had been legal for over a hundred years, the possibilities as to why Frankie would be calling from there weren't at all nice. So if Trudy would have been scanning her surrounds anyway, with senses and instincts honed by her two-year stint in the Marine infantry, that call had made her more on edge than normal. She tried not to show it. She kept her breathing even, her hands still, and once she got off at the right stop, she took the escalator steps two at a time.

A later text from Frankie had said that she was on the second floor above ground, at the window end of that part of the arcade. Look for the yellow tulips, Frankie had written, because apparently even now she couldn't bear to use abbreviations.

Trudy saw the cops before the tulips. A group of five, sitting at two tables pushed together in front of the only café that was still open. Not cops doing anything much, Trudy noticed with a sharp relief, just drinking coffee and eating something that could be breakfast, could be dinner, could just be a bite of something because it's four in the freaking morning and their shift was over, part-way through, just starting, whatever. Beyond them, sitting front of a closed kiosk with vases of synthetic yellow tulips behind the mesh, was Frankie. Head bowed, shoulders hunched, cradling a cup of something. Probably coffee. Aside from Frankie, the cops, and the two people at the café, the place was pretty much deserted.

“Hey Frankie-Bell,” Trudy said once she was close enough, and Frankie looked up. Her eyes were reddened, as was the skin on her neck, as if someone had tried to strangle her. Someone – the same someone? a different one? – had also made sure that Frankie's jaw was going to have a real beauty of a bruise.

Trudy,” Frankie breathed with a brilliant grin, barely remembering to leave her cup on the table as she sprung to her feet and lunged towards her. Trudy was in just enough shock – who the fuck hurt my little sister, someone had their hands around her throat, what the fuck, I need to kill that son of a bitch – that there was a moment to delay from being hugged to hugging back. “Hi,” Frankie was saying, husky voice chipper, perky, let's fake being fine because I'm utterly fine. “Sorry about the time of night, I just, um, needed to call someone, and my roomie has an exam tomorrow, I mean today, and-”

“You explained, it's fine. I got insomnia anyway.” Both of which was true, but even if Trudy hadn't already been awake, she would have rolled out of bed and ran when called. Particularly when Frankie had sounded like she had, pissed off and terrified all at once.

Now, she just sounded manic, and Trudy really wasn't looking forward to when the high of...well, adrenaline and caffeine, probably, wore off.

“Good! I mean, not about the insomnia, is that a post-tour thing? That's gotta suck. And, uh, yeah, I'm...really...sorry, but you're here, did you have any trouble, because it's only after I called that I realised you had come up from Camp Pendleton and I felt like such a spoilt bitch, but I really didn't know who else to call. And, and, I really, really need to pee, because I've had nothing to do except drink coffee, you know, I mean, it's not like any bookstores are open and I really don't want to read in public at the moment anyway because then I can't watch what's going on, and I can't listen to music, because then I can't hear, and like I said, I just, um, really, really need to go, so do you mind, uh, I really don't want to go alone, so please?”

“...That...that's fine,” Trudy said, actually blinking as English and Spanish got all jumbled up, sometimes even in the same sentence. Trudy could understand her perfectly, but the bilingual nature of her sister's babble just added to the onslaught. “I get not wanting to be alone at this time of ni-”

“Oh, thank you, you're the best,” Frankie said, and then let go of Trudy with the same furious energy with which she'd grabbed her, and started walking very quickly towards the direct of the ladies' toilets.

“...that wasn't caffeinated coffee you were drinkin', was it?” Trudy asked, calmly, once she'd gathered her wits and walked after her. At least, she hoped she sounded calm, because she was fighting an urge to strangle Frankie herself.

“I forgot to ask for decaf to start with! Oops, I know, but decaf is like a sin against coffee and they make the best,” Frankie said, and dashed into the nearest stall. Trudy, unsure of what to do, just slid her hands into her jacket pockets and waited.

And thought.

And waited.

And, when the silence stretched on for far too long, said, “Frankie?”

And then again, “Frankie?”

And then again, “Frank, c'mon, you okay?”

“...no,” came the far too soft reply, but at least it was followed by the rustling of clothes and, finally, Frankie unlocking the stall-door to come out and wash her hands. She'd buttoned her suit jacket, pulled her back into a ponytail again, did a number of things to straighten herself up and regain some sense of self-control. But her fitted, stylish jacket was missing several buttons, and when she pulled her sleeves back to wash her hands, there were bruises starting to form on her right wrist. Frankie was four inches taller than Trudy, with an hourglass figure that contrasted sharply with Trudy's own more compact body, but right now, Frankie seemed very small, and very young.

“Frank?” Trudy asked quietly, not sure if she should reach out or not.

“I was having such a good night,” Frankie said, eyes still far too bright. “Really nice, easy clients. One guy didn't even want sex, just to sit there and talk to a pretty girl. Fine by me, one of the easiest grands I ever made. Over a grand, actually, because he tipped really well. I mean, I know that's all inflation, and like a hundred years ago that would have been like three hundred bucks, which is really weird when you think about it, because the value we put on money seems kinda arbitrary, but still. That guy was such a sweetheart.” She gave up fighting with the motion sensor on the tap, and just moved to put her hands under the drier. Trudy didn't even bother trying to speak over the noise.

Once the noise died, though, the silence was fair game to be broken.

“But then you got a bad one?” Trudy asked, tilting her head slightly.

Frankie nodded, slowly, keeping her eyes on her large handbag as she rummaged about in it. “Yeah,” she said, softly, before walking over to the wall-length mirror to reapply her lip-gloss. Reapply her lip-gloss, run her fingertips over her immaculately curved eyebrows as it to smooth them, shake out her long dark hair to pull it back into a high ponytail. Half the time when she did things like that, Frankie – who already had a kind of Old Hollywood glamour to her – made Trudy feel plain, awkward, self-consciously androgynous. The other half of the time, Trudy – who was well aware that she was fairly attractive in her own right – simply didn't care. Waste of time, not her thing, all of that. Now...now it was like Frankie's attempt to button up her jacket, just another attempt to put her normal defences back on. It worked as well as the jacket with the missing buttons, too.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Trudy asked.

“I-” Frankie began. “I-Uh, I don't, um. I got him blacklisted. I was so pissed off. Hotel security held him until the cops showed up, but even if the charges don't stick, he sure as hell ain't gonna find another call-girl easily. My manager's a darling, she was so pissed off, too. And she gave me the week off without me asking. Actually, I protested that,” she admitted, and then looked startled as Trudy suddenly snorted with amusement.

“Yeah, you're a Chacon, Frances.”

Frankie tossed her head up, looking for a moment entirely like her normal self. “Damn straight I am.” Then she frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Just...well, I've been ordered to sit down, shut up, let the medics fuss over me a few times,” Trudy said, deciding to skip the gory details.

“Figures. I. Um. You know those couches in front of the window, mind if we go there? I think breaking down in the damn ladies' would be pretty pathetic.”

“You don't want to go home?” Trudy asked, biting back the urge to argue with her over the use of 'pathetic'. 'Understandable' would be more like it – Frankie was a civilian, not trained to deal with people actually trying to hurt her. But then again, the pair of them did have their pride, so maybe she shouldn't be too surprised.

“No.” Then, after a moment too long, Frankie added, “Zenobia would be still asleep, and she's got a catch-up exam, and I really don't want to mess that up for her. She'd be awake around six, though.”

Given that wasn't even two hours from now, Trudy decided not to point that out. If Frankie didn't want to go home for whatever reason, she wasn't going to push her. Not yet, anyway.

“Sure, couch is fine by me.”

When they walk back out into the arcade, Trudy was half expecting Frankie to take her hand, like she was a little girl again. Not that she could have really articulated why she felt that, but she did. As they passed the cops at their table, one of them turned his head to look at them.

“You okay there, Marisol?”

“Oh, I'm fine,” Frankie said with bright, glamorous smile. “Got my big sister to look after me now. So you can all go and actually do some work,” she added, which made the cops laugh.

“'Marisol'?” Trudy asked once they were clear of the tables, pitching her voice low.

“Alter-ego. Hooker name,” Frankie explained with a careless wave of her hand. “Can't actually use my real name.”

“Right. Obviously.”

“It'd feel weird. And I do actually want to have a decent career once I graduate.”

“No, no, that....makes sense,” Trudy said, bemused. “I just never really thought about it. Then again, I didn't think that the cops would actual-” She stopped herself.

“Actually care?” Frankie finished, tone cool as she glanced over at her sister, arching her eyebrows.

“Yeah. That.”

Frankie shrugged, and then collapsed on a couch. Down a few steps from the main area, the viewing area with the couches just in front of the huge windows felt secluded. Still, the couch they chose was side on to the window, their backs to a wall not empty space. “Just another working girl. And I'm doing it to clear my damn student debt, not to support a boyfriend or a drug-habit. And they'd been after the guy for a while on various other charges. I mean, I had a few scornful kinda looks at the station? But mostly it's...it's.” Her voice faltered and Trudy sat next to her, putting herself between her sister and the rest of the arcade. Frankie's hands twisted in her lap for a moment, and then she moved sideways, fitting her head onto Trudy's shoulder like they used to when they were kids. And like when they were kids, Trudy wrapped her arms around her.

“I thought he was gonna kill me, Trudy,” Frankie said softly. “I swear to God, I actually thought he was gonna kill me. I had a weird vibe when I walked in, when he handed me the money, but then he...he just....and it all happened so fast, I just, I fucking froze, or something. You know, one minute taking the envelope from the guy, the next he's got me shoved up against the wall. And like, the others have had sessions with him before, and he was fine, so I don't know if he was high on something or just always a psycho and today he just decided to snap, or what...”

Without quite meaning to, Trudy tightened her arms around Frankie. Frankie herself just stayed there, clinging to her, shoulders starting to shake.

“But you got out,” Trudy said.

“Yeah. Thank God for the invention of martial arts, you know? But only once I stopped being frozen like an idiot-”

“Hey,” Trudy said, voice sharp enough that Frankie stopped. “Don't think that.”

You wouldn't have frozen.”

“Have before. Not under the exact same circumstances,” she clarified as Frankie lifted her head to stare at her. “But, frozen when someone's attacking me? Yeah. I've done it. Then my sergeant screamed at me, and I started moving again. Adrenaline hits your system, a lotta folk just freeze.” Trudy decided to leave out the bit where she had killed the other solider unless the subject came up.

“Still feel like a damn idiot.”

“A damn idiot who survived, then.”

“Yeah,” Frankie said softly, blankly. “And you know, I kinda kicked his ass once I got myself fighting back. Knocked him out. Then I just grabbed my bag and ran.” Then, after a moment, she said, “I keep, um, going over it. What if I hadn't have frozen, what if I killed him-”

“I'm glad you didn't.”

“Why?”

Now it was Trudy's turn to hesitate. “Because...that messes you up, too. Killing people.”

“You've killed people,” Frankie said, her head back on Trudy's shoulder.

“Yeah. I have.”

“Would you kill him?”

“If it came to it, yeah.” She had killed people she's never met before in her life, people who didn't have anything personally against her. Even people who hadn't actively been trying to kill her. And, mostly, she was okay with that. It was her job. To kill a man who had hurt her little sister, who put his hands around her throat and tore at her clothes? Oh, yes, Trudy could do that and not even blink. But because she was also thinking far more rationally than Frankie, she was glad that she probably wouldn't have to.

“Okay. Trudy?”

“Yeah?”

“If I go home, it's real. Everything's actually real, and happened.” Trudy waited, unsure of what to say. Or, hell, even what to do. She knew how to deal with trauma in a warzone – dealing with it here, she had no idea what the script was. Fortunately, Frankie continued. “I don't...wanna go home just yet. Could you just...stay here? With me?”

“For a little bit, sure. But I really think you need to go home soon, Frank.”

“I know. I just...you know, I kinda want to see the sun come up. It's stupid and corny, but...yeah. I want to see the sun. Then I'll go home. You mind staying?”

“Nope,” Trudy said, resting her head against her sister's. “I don't mind at all.”