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TEEN: You were only waiting for this moment to be free (oneshot)

Torchic W. Pip

Bravo Echo Tango Alpha
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A Facadeverse fic

None of this is my fault. It’s okay to cut toxic family out of my life. I will grow stronger.

Winona goes through some messy family drama. Wallace is there to help.

This oneshot was inspired by a review from @bluesidra on In the echo of the ocean/In the hunting of the wind and lots of realizations about toxic family. This oneshot didn't fix all of my problems, not do I expect it to, but at least it helped me process them.

That being said, any form of critique is welcome.

This fic focuses on abusive/toxic family and the repercussions of cutting them out. There's also some "mistaken for assault/rape/other nasty stuff", verbal and physical abuse, mentions of bigotry, and brief mentions of suicide.


It was supposed to be a normal dinner. A normal dinner for Winona to spend time with her family. Her parents and her sibling Bugsy lived in Johto, and her step sister Theresa lived in Alola. They didn't often have opportunities like this to be together. It was supposed to be a nice dinner.

But then it wasn't. It was a breaking point. It was a terrible storm that left her picking up the pieces long into the night. She could still feel her mother slamming the door in her faces. She could still hear Theresa's threats. Where was she supposed to go when her own family hated her?

Well, there was one place.

Perhaps it was cliché for Winona to be running to her significant other for family help, but she and Wallace leaned on each other for support, and they had been since they started dating. In their first years of dating, Wallace had been the one needing the most emotional support, but tonight, it was Winona's turn to need support.

Aurora flew down and landed on Mizoúgoro Plaza, Sootopolis City. Winona stepped off of her and, unable to speak a word of thanks, instead hugged her tightly. She eventually pulled away and returned Aurora to her Pokéball.

The words her mother and Theresa—especially Theresasaid to her stung like poisonous thorns, but it was the words she retaliated with that hurt the most. Why had Winona said those things? Why had Winona said those things?!?!

Her mental wounds from the "why" were infected with the "what": What would her father think of the things she said to her mother? What would Rina say to Bugsy and Anabel about the fight? What would Theresa say—or do—to her own daughter? Kahili was often used as Theresa's verbal punching bag, but after tonight...

Winona rubbed the tears out of her eyes. No. She had to be strong. She couldn't show weakness. Besides, she didn't want to cry herself to the point of dehydration.

She walked up a flight of stairs with shaky steps. She looked up at all of the whitewashed buildings to try to distract her mind from the anxiety spinning through her like a hurricane. Only a few of the houses still had lights on inside. Up the steps was a small, two story house. Night shrouded over the house and the city as a whole, but there was amber light coming from a window on the second floor.

Good. he was awake.

She rang the doorbell. As she waited for a response, she traced her fingers on the grooves carved into the brass. She looked up at the number plate: “90” hand painted in ultramarine on white wood, with a Milotic wrapping around the border.

After some time, the door opened.

“Winona?” Wallace was dressed in his usual shirt and pants, so he didn't seem to be getting ready for bed yet. “What are you doing here?” His eyes widened as his smile fell. “Darling, have you been crying?”

Winona collapsed on Wallace, letting tears overtake her again. He closed his eyes as he wrapped his arms around her and gently rubbed her back.

-

Winona lay on the loveseat in the parlor, a navy, velvet blanket wrapped around her. The fireplace was aglow. Winona, being from Fortree City, wasn’t used to fireplaces, but the warmth of the fire, the crackling of the embers, the glow of the flames… it was like a hug full of love and comfort. Maybe Flannery had been on to something with being a Fire type trainer.

Wallace walked back into the parlor with a tray of tea and porcelain cups. He placed them on the coffee table in front of the sofa.

“Are you feeling any better?” he asked as he sat next to Winona.

“I think so.” Winona sniffled quietly.

Wallace wrapped his arms around her. “That’s good to hear.” His voice was soothing; Winona related it to the autumn rain. Not a thunderstorm; the kind of autumn rain that one could read a book or take a nap to.

“What kind of tea is it?” Winona asked.

“Lavender mint rose. A custom blend I got just for you.”

At that, Winona chuckled. Wallace smiled and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.

"Only the best for my wonderful lady.” Wallace's smile faded. “But you're not here for tea, are you? Something happened."

Winona shook her head. Yes, something had happened, but she couldn't speak ill about her mother and sister. They were her family. Sure, Wallace knew very well that Rina and Theresa didn't like him: from Rina's distrust of him and remarks that he was probably a drug dealer or criminal, to Theresa's racist and enbyphobic remarks towards him both in his face and behind his back, to both of them trying their hardest to convince Winona to break up with him.

"Nothing happened," Winona finally replied.

Wallace thought to himself for a second, probably trying to figure out what was bothering Winona. Then his eyes lit up with a familiar glow: the glow of joyous realization.

"You're pregnant, aren't you?" Gasping with joy, he took Winona's hands and kissed her—several times, over and over. "Oh Winona, that's wonderful. We're going to be parents."

Winona couldn’t keep herself from smiling a little. For just a second, she could imagine that she was pregnant, that she and Wallace were going to have a child together. It didn't matter that they weren't married yet; they could be happy together, and Winona needed to be happy. So what if her mother wouldn’t approve of her being a mother before being a wife.

Right. Her mother.

The fantasy quickly faded. Winona wasn't pregnant. She wasn't a happy parent-to-be with Wallace. She wasn't happy. “I wish I was instead of…”

The glow in Wallace's faded.

“Did someone hurt you?” he asked.

"Well..." Winona gulped. “Sort of.”

Wallace immediately stood up, his expression and posture taking on a tranquil stoicism. His eyes lit up with a familiar, far less common, much more terrifying glow.

Wallace had a strict moral code, and among his personal commandments was one: thou shall not kill, unless someone has killed or grievously harmed his loved ones. Several things counted as grievous harm: the obvious permanent physical damage, driving someone to suicide, rape...

Wait.

"Wallace, it's not what you—"

“MACBETH!”

Winona flinched at the sharp, sudden rise in Wallace's voice. A few seconds later, his Tentacruel slunk into the room. Macbeth's eyes had a bloodthirsty glare, but it was the vengeance in Wallace's eyes that was much more potent. Wallace panted, and Winona's imagination made his teeth sharp as a Mawile's fangs.

“They'll pay, Winona,” he growled. "They'll pay for taking advantage of you with storms and poison. I'll tear them apart with my own hands if I must! Who hurt you?"

“Wallace, please! I don’t want you—”

“WHO HURT YOU?!” Wallace froze at the volume of his own voice. With a deep breath, he continued in a calmer tone and more prominent hand gestures: “Winona, none of this was your fault. Do not blame yourself for the evils of the perpetrator—”

Winona shook her head. “I promise it's not like that...”

Wallace paced back and forth across the parlor, biting his fingers to try to calm himself down. It wasn't working very well, seeing as he kept pacing faster. “I just need to know what happened and who did—”

“I’m the one who went to my mom’s house!”

Winona fell back into sobs. Harsh, uncontrollable sobs. There was silence otherwise for a minute or so. Wallace was still confused, but well... it didn't seem anything like that had happened. Something bad had happened, though, and whoever was responsible would still face hell—metaphorical, not literal.

"Winona..." Wallace's voice was a little softer.

“I’m the one who started the argument with my mom and Theresa!" Winona choked. "I'm the one who said they were ruining my life! I’m the one who said I hated them! I’m the one who said I never wanted to see them again! And I... I shouldn't have. They don't like you, they don't trust me, but they're family. I shouldn't have said such horrible things to them." She hiccuped and tried in vain to rub away the tears, but more came to replace them. “I kept trying to call them after dinner to say that I was sorry. My mom never responded, but the last thing Theresa said was ‘I hope you and that bird of yours die in a whorehouse’.”

Wallace’s anger dulled, but it didn’t disappear. More than anything, it had found a clear target: Winona's mother and sister. He nodded to Macbeth, who left the parlor. There wouldn't be murder and bloodshed, but there would be battling. Later.

After Macbeth left the two alone, Wallace walked back over to Winona and knelt in front of her.

“I can’t cut them out of my life," Winona whimpered. "They’re family. I can’t cut them out of my life. And what about my father? What about Bugsy? What about Kahili? If I cut out my mom and Theresa, what will happen to them? Why did I have to be such an awful person? Why didn’t I just listen? Why did I have to lash out? Why did I have to be such an awful daughter and sister?”

Wallace put his hand on Winona’s.

"And they know where I live! I'm the Gym Leader of Fortree City! I can't uproot my life! I can't—"

“Asteri mou." Wallace's voice was back to its tranquil, rainlike nature, and he was using his Sootopolitan Greek pet name for her. He often wrote her poetry and love letters in Greek, but that pet name for her was reserved only for special occasions. His voice became even softer when he spoke again: "Repeat after me: ‘None of this is my fault.’”

“‘None of this is…" Winona swallowed. "...None of this is my fault.’”

Wallace nodded. “‘It’s okay to cut toxic family out of my life.’”

“‘It’s okay to cut toxic family out of my life.’”

“‘I will grow stronger.’”

“‘I will grow stronger.’”

Wallace smiled. "There we go. We've got a start."

He got back onto the loveseat and hugged Winona again.

"Winona," he sighed, "I can't guarantee that this won't be hard, nor can I guarantee that this won't be messy. It will likely be both of those things."

"I know, I should stop crying—"

"No. Whatever you're feeling right now—relief, grief, retrospection—it's all perfectly fine to be feeling those things. Family has never been an easy thing, and it probably never will be. That's especially true for family like yours." Wallace sighed. "In a perfect world, every person grows up in a healthy, supportive family that gives them unconditional love. They don't have to second guess their memory because of the things their parents say. They don't feel worthless because of a sibling's comments. They don't feel like a burden. But... this isn't a perfect world.

"The best you can do is... surround yourself with those who do give you dignity and respect, those who do make you feel loved and valued. And if that doesn't include everyone or anyone you're related to by blood... that's okay."

He kissed Winona's cheek, letting his lips linger close to her ear.

"Take it one step at a time, and take care of yourself along the way. It's a long road ahead of you, but I promise it's worth it." He smiled. "And I'll do everything I can to accompany you every step of the way."

Winona finally reciprocated Wallace's hug.

"And maybe we can take in Bugsy and Kahili." Wallace added.

"What about Anabel?"

"She and Lucy can live with us if they want. And maybe Steven can too... We'll be one, big, happy family."

"A family? But what about—"

"Winona, there's an old Sootopolitan saying: 'Water is just as strong as blood'. When the family you were born into doesn't provide for our needs, we can find others who will. In your case, some of those people will be related to you: your siblings, Kahili, your father"—he chuckled a little—"Maybe me eventually. Others will be friends: the Gym Leaders, the Elite Four, Falkner, that one Gym Leader from Unova... Skyla, I believe was her name."

Wallace kissed the top of Winona. He looked down to see if she was doing better. She had stopped crying, so she seemed to be getting a bit better.

"Can I start by staying here until I figure out if I should move to a different house in Fortree City or Hoenn or whatever?" Winona asked.

"Of course. I would love to have you." Wallace chuckled a little. "It will be great practice for when we're married."

Winona nodded. Although she was starting to think about more pleasant things, she was still frowning.

"I have work tomorrow. What if my mom or Theresa come by?"

"You're the strongest Gym Leader I know. I'm sure you'll defend the fortress with ease. But if you need any help... well, I'll travel oceans and seas to fight by your side."

Winona nuzzled into the folds of Wallace's shirt. She was probably going to get tears and mucus on Wallace's clothes, and bodily fluids usually grossed Wallace out, but right now, he didn't care. His beloved was okay, and that's all that mattered.

She fell asleep not in tears, but with a smile. Things weren’t totally okay yet, but they were at least a little okay.

Wallace also dozed off with a smile.
 

InfiniteBakuphoon

battered, but not broken, bakuphoon
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Hello again, @more than a torchic; it’s indeed Bakuphoon here with yet another selection from your library chosen for the February reviewing challenge (although this one has barely even had a chance to keep the bookshelf warm, haha, since you published it just yesterday). Please forgive me if this review is a bit more ramble-like than usual; today hasn’t been a terribly great day for me and the weekday routine awaits me tomorrow (ugh); neither have been great for my mood. Also, a lot of the subject matter here hits a bit different for me for many good reasons, so that’s a factor as well.

With that said, let’s begin… with a confession. (Relevant to the story, I promise!)

For what we’ll just call a non-trivial portion of my life, I’ve been living in the company of relatives who I have a very contentious relationship with. I won’t say whether or not they’re cousins, aunts and uncles, step-parents, or even my biological parents, but I will say that they’re people who are very, very close to me. While they all have the capacity for love in the right circumstances and have done many good things for me in my life, they also happen to have serious flaws as human beings that affect their ability to understand or respect anything outside of their small little world: one fraught with misconceptions, reductive simplifications of complex, nuanced concepts, and a flat-out lack of knowledge about a great many important things that you’d expect grown adults to know about. They have little to no concept of principles, instead seemingly being driven entirely by their feelings or whims are at any given moment, making them unpredictable, unreliable, and extremely exhausting to keep up with. And then they have a dangerous tendency to complain whenever the more well-adjusted people around them aren’t immediately and unquestionably accepting of their behavior, often to the point of reacting violently and disproportionately in turn (not physically violent and disproportionately, though… usually). As you might ascertain from the above, they painfully lack in irony or empathy for anything that doesn’t fit their small little world, with a typical response to another person’s pain (mine included) being “what reason do you have to be upset?” or something similarly dismissive regardless of context, all while often bemoaning how people are supposedly insensitive to their pain. As you might also ascertain from that, things racism, sexism, and homophobia inevitably rear their ugly heads from them every so often, more so in the form of tiny, casual bursts of obnoxious ignorance, assumptions, and simplifications rather than grand declarations of contempt (which, no, didn’t make things any better). But above all, they are so obnoxiously arrogant in their flawed ways — and react with such painful fragility at any attempts to point out or correct their foolishness with plenty of self-serving excuses and rationalizations to counter it all with — that there’s pretty much zero chance than they will ever change. Dealing with them is like dealing with children, rather than the other way around as you’d expect in a more well-adjusted household, and it’s indeed a wonder how I was ever able to deal with that for all of my life (I credit Bulbagarden nowadays, along with my own lack of confidence leading me to question myself more often than not; without those things, I might’ve ended up just as ignorant and miserable as they are). I happily left them for my own apartment the first chance I got, transitioning into speaking to them as little as I could with the ultimate goal of cutting them off completely, and my emotional and mental health was vastly better for it. But then speaking of mental health, that sadly went down the drain in dramatic fashion in the middle of last year, crippling me to the point where I could no longer take care of myself, forcing me back into my relatives’ orbit for the sake of survival (ugh). But I think I’ve made my point now after all of that: “family” does not always equal family, if you know what I mean, and sometimes they can be not only be simply flawed — as all human beings are to some extent — but literally toxic and dangerous to be around, if not physically, then most certainly emotionally and mentally.

Another confession: as part of treatment for said mental illness that has been keeping me down for so long, I’ve been attending therapy to help me deal with that as well as general anxiety stuff. Many topics have been discussed, but two have stuck with me the most so far: boundaries and the concept of one’s “inner circle”. Now, with the former, that was pretty profound for me because it much validated everything that I felt how my relatives treated my opinions, my values, and how I carried myself as an individual. The short version of it all was that I had every right to say “no” about anything to anyone for any reason, and that I wasn’t “wrong” for doing so. Needless to say, hearing that from professional therapists felt incredibly validating, especially because deep down, that’s pretty much what I already believed; I just had “permission” to actually live out that philosophy now.

Regarding the latter… what their lesson boiled down to was an abstraction of the concept of trust, one where, if you’re at the center of the universe and every person you’ve ever known in your life — from your parents to that person you accidentally bumped into on the street yesterday and forgot about since — revolves around you in their own separate orbits, who would you allow to be closest to you in the resultant “inner circle”, and who would be farthest away? Like there are eight planets, there were eight circle of “orbit”, and the first, innermost circle consists of people who you have absolute trust in, or basically who you’d confide with them anything, and by that they meant literally anything: your deepest, darkest secrets; your greatest fears and insecurities; where you buried the bodies… anything. Meanwhile, the second circle above that consists of people who you are generally comfortable with most of your feelings and secrets with, but not literally everything; most people, including your parents, your best friends, your doctor, or a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner that you’ve known for a long time would be here. The third circle would have people who you’d be comfortable with talking to about random stuff, but not anything particularly deep; “regular” friends, distant relatives, and co-workers who you somewhat like or trust would be here. And then skipping over to the eighth and final circle, you have your place for those who are basically either your enemies or those who are irredeemably toxic or destructive to your physical, emotional, and mental well-being, intentionally or not; the way given to approach such people is basically: “avoid with extreme prejudice”.

The point of all of that? Well, when asked to place everyone that we ever remember meeting — from our parents and best friends to the guy who gave us our last Starbucks — in each circle, I found that I couldn’t place a single person in my innermost circle. In other words, I basically only fully trusted myself. OK, I thought, that’s not too far-fetched; certainly there’s no one who you trust literally everything with. But then something weird and rather sad happened afterwards: no one ended up in my second-most circle either… or in other words, I really didn’t trust anyone, at all.

So, what do you do when you don’t even feel like you can even trust your own flesh and blood with your most important feelings and fears, or that not even your own flesh and blood truly respects your sovereignty or individuality as a human being? How does it feel when it requires the validation of someone outside of the traditional “people that you trust” in order for you to even begin to feel like there’s people in the world who can hear you, understand you, or at least give you an absolute minimum of respect?

Well, one solution that I’ve been entertaining for a while is to abandon the idea that one’s ”flesh and blood” has to necessarily be one’s true family, and that maybe a truer definition of “family” is simply anyone or any group of people who are there for one another, and where everyone is respected equally as both part of a unit as as individuals, flesh and blood or not. There’s a name for that somewhat radical re-imagining of such a universal human concept, of course: “found family”. Which you would know all about, of course, because this very fic is definitely all about “found family”, and with that we finally come full circle with why this story hit me so differently, and so weirdly at almost the exact time that I needed a story like that…

Now, with most “found family” stories that I’m familiar with, they involve someone cutting off or running away from their “birth family” altogether, never looking back as they‘re “taken in” by strangers who — through a long period of connection and relationship-building — grow into acquaintances, and then to friends, and then possibly to something… more; not necessarily “romantic” more (although that’s certainly possible!), but certainly “more” as in a deeper-than-usual emotional connection of some sort. That said, the situation of our protagonist Winona isn’t quite as dramatic as that, as it’s quickly established that in contrast to Winona’s very shaky and problematic relationship with her mother and stepsister — one where the give-and-take ratio between them and their grown, independent relative is clearly skewed in a toxic, highly biased direction — she already has something that could be called “family” to turn to: her lover Wallace. He isn’t a substitute for either by any means — which is obviously impossible given the very different type of relationship there — but if we use our new, radical re-definition of “family”, we can say that he fills their role in his own way as someone who makes the effort to show love and respect to Winona and who clearly succeeds at that more often than not, neither of which Winona’s mother and stepsister can reasonably claim.

Yet another confession: I’m a big fan of hurt/comfort-type stories, including “regular” stories that use it as a major theme. I also have an affinity for themes and narratives that are kind of connected to that, including: characters seeking forgiveness for misdeeds that they’re now ashamed of and want to make amends for; characters. It’s not necessarily either the hurt and comfort itself that appeals to me — although fluff and survival of horrific circumstances is certainly engaging and even cathartic to read about — but rather how the two interact and inform each other, especially if said dance is an accurate reflection of real-life emotional struggle, trauma, and (hopefully!) recovery. For me, then, the best ending to a hurt/comfort story is a happy ending hard earned: one that has its characters in a better place yet also fully acknowledges the struggle in getting there, including the acknowledgement that said struggle will likely never completely end, even with all of the fluff in the world to heal scars and ease hearts. The best ending also acknowledges that you have to express your feelings about your struggles and traumatic experiences — and often, you also have to learn how to express them — before you can get to that better place permanently as opposed it being merely a temporary reprieve. Or basically: fluff is for healing, not hiding!

Now, the good thing about this particular instance of hurt/comfort is that it indeed doesn’t shy away from the limits of fluff in resolving one’s unpleasant circumstances. Because although Winona and Wallace’s night together was sweet, the cold reality of things is that nothing that happened there will stop the inevitable drama and chaos that will ensue once Winona eventually does what she knows needs to be done, and that the only thing that has changed is that “doing what needs to be done” is slightly easier for her to do now. Which is great, of course! But it’s not everything wrapped up with a bow, either; it’s only the beginning. And only the beginning of something with an uncertain ending, at that; one that’s not even guaranteed to be a happy ending. That‘s all the entire point of the fic, of course, as you telegraph it constantly throughout both explicitly and by showing us the ways that her mother and stepsister do business on a “good day” (the implications of a “bad day” being obvious).
 
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