NaBloPoMo Day 17: The Fiction of Relationships


Author’s Note: Edited, revised, and updated on 11-18-2015. That first draft was quite rough. Thank you for wading through this all with me.

I am an avid roleplayer. I have been roleplaying — tabletop and larp — for the past ten years. Nowadays, my gaming is largely restricted to online forum games but that is still fun as it affords me a writing outlet. There is one that I have been in for the past almost-five years: a Hero System-based X-men rpg entitled “Legacy” where the children of superheroes from both the Marvel and DC universes come together at Xavier’s School for the Gifted to learn to manage their abilities, use them wisely, and, yes, become heroes. I play a young “muggle-born” (in other words, her parents aren’t named superheroes) mutant named Elizabeth Martin and I have played her from an in-character age of fourteen to almost seventeen. And, yes, Zoe Saldana is my character model. Over the past few days, I have found myself reading back through the first scenes, the beginnings of her story years ago. There are 32 pages of bookmarked scenes on my account, ones I have participated in as well as others that concerned her or characters to whom she was tightly bound. And one thing that has always struck me about her is her relationships with other characters, friendly and otherwise.

Betsy has perhaps had the most romantic entanglements of any female character in the game, each of them unique in their own situations and ways. Roleplay like this is an incredibly organic form of writing for me, where my character can change, grow, and surprise me based on her interactions with other characters, plot, and situations within the game. I am able to be startled, surprised, horrified, elated by the things that Betsy does and chooses, how she falls and grows. I have been re-reading and, therefore re-living, some of her romantic relationships and I have happened upon some key differences between them that have struck and clarified some things for me as her writer.

Betsy and Julien Boudreaux – Upon her arrival at Xavier’s School for the Gifted, Betsy met a young man of sixteen with a roguish smile and cunning ruby and onyx eyes. Give you two guesses who his father was and the first one doesn’t count. Julien Etienne Boudreaux, son of Remy LeBeau and Belladonna Boudreaux. There was an instant connection between those two characters. Now, Betsy had never dated and had more than a few issues with males, connection, vulnerability, etc., so this was completely foreign to her. But that didn’t stop her from wanting it. She pursued and fought for that relationship with Julien. Even when he hesitated, resisted “gettin’ attached”, she never stopped caring, never left him, really. She defended him, believed in him, and loved him, even when he drew back or stepped away. Eventually, they did find their way back to each other and were happy for a while, until out of character circumstances arose and the character was no longer in play. Julien died as part of a plot and part of Bety’s heart died with him.

Betsy and Julien’s relationship was instinctive, it was natural. They understood each other, recognized something in each other down to their bones. It was kept them coming back together. Each had a natural penchant for sensuality and, yes, even for violence. Some people call that combination “passion”. It was innate and intuitive. 

Julien had a small mind-control power based on his eyes that he couldn’t control. He feared that that was the reason that Betsy liked him and she was determined to prove him wrong, every day if necessary. The following little back and forth is one of those times.

Betsy strokes Julien’s cheek for a second after he explains. “Hmm. I’m having a thought here,” she chuckles at her own Jack Sparrow impersonation. “Don’t move.” She then slips from the bed for a moment, going to her closet by the sound of it and looking for something. Soon, she returns, sitting on the bed on her knees before him and holding something soft, which she brushes against his cheek. It feels like silk. A scarf maybe? Smiling, Betsy closes those still-golden eyes and binds it over them, tying it gently behind her head. Not his. She doesn’t try to limit him.

Reaching down to the bed, she feels for and grasps his hands, placing them on her face, specifically so he can feel her lips move. “OK, you open your eyes now,” she says. She gives him a moment to do so, to see that she’s blindfolded herself.

“Now that I can’t see you, I’ll say it again. I like you, Jules. I have from the first day we met,” she murmurs. “Whatever it is that you’re afraid of, that isn’t what keeps me awake at night, thinking about you. I want to know about you. I want to spend time with you. And I mean it.”

Betsy speaks lowly, honestly, as passionately as a fourteen-year-old can. She takes one of his hands and guides it to her bare shoulder, resting his fingers over her scars again.

“You understand these, you don’t flinch from them,” she murmurs, “I am a silly teenage girl but…yeah. I like you, Julien. ”

He smiles, a legitimate smile for once. He caresses the marks for a moment before moving up and pulling back her makeshift blindfold. His red eyes stare deep into her gold. “Ma chère… you make me very happy to be here, I hope you know tha’. I dunno wha’ I done ta get you, but I ain’ givin’ up so quick.”

Betsy and Jonathon Kent – The big difference between this relationship and her first one with Julien is that this one was built. It was worked on and built, layer on layer, camaraderie upon friendship upon understanding upon care upon pain upon affection, all building up to love. It has been worked on, suffered through, intentionally built brick by brick. It has not been easy for either of them but it is something that they have worked through and still work through and work on together. Betsy’s broken up with Jon on several different occasions, mostly out of fear that she would never be as “good” as him. It took a lot of patience and understanding on his part to help her work through that. They understand each other on a far more philosophical level; they have had to talk and hash their way through everything, including an open relationship (which they both believe would work for them) to a monogamous one.

One of my favorite pieces of writing that explains how they work together is this recent one, taking from a conversation that Betsy and Jon had when returned to a place that held some trauma and pain for them.

Betsy’s hand shifts to his arm, tugging him slightly back to the shore again. “Come here, Jon. Let’s sit, yeah?” she suggests, finding a spot on a big boulder for them to rest on.

She lets silence reign for a bit as she gathers her thoughts and words into her mental basket. She chews on her bottom lip, her nervous tick, but, after a while, those lips part again.

“Jon, I’m sorry. I am…sorry for what happened to you here, for what you gave without knowing it was a lie, for trusting where your trust was won falsely. I am sorry for not being here. I am sorry for coming home so broken. I am sorry for…being the teacup.”

If his look is questioning, she’ll explain. “Remember, in “Hannibal”, when they have the conversation about the teacup? Hannibal tells Will, “Occasionally, I drop a teacup to shatter on the floor on purpose. I’m not satisfied when it doesn’t gather itself up again. Someday, perhaps, that cup will come together.” You weren’t satisfied with me being that shattered teacup on the floor. You helped me gather myself together again, even when you were shattered yourself. And, even when the pieces didn’t fit right and I pushed you away, you still helped me fix them, to get them on their way back into the right place. The teacup will never be the same once it’s been fixed; it will be whole but it will be different. There are ways I am different because of what happened on this ship. Ways that you are different because of what happened.”

She swallows, “When he was giving me lessons in Bushido, Logan taught me something else. It’s a word, a philosophy, really. Kintsugi. As a practice, it means that pottery is repaired by using gold or silver or even platinum to put it back together. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of something, rather than something to disguise or paint over. To wear that breakage and repair proudly, to show where you have shattered and come back together again.” The tone in her voice speaks volumes of just what this word and philosophy have come to mean to the young feral as she looks back over her life.

She reaches for Jon’s hand, weaving strong, slender fingers with his. “That’s us. You and me, Jon.”

“We lost a lot. We lost our childhoods. We lost peace and safety. We lost the people we loved out here. People we loved so…deeply, so abidingly. People, I believe, that you and I would have spent the rest of our lives with if it had been up to us. We lost them. Eva, out here in the dark. Jules, in some swamplit bayou in Louisana. We were shattered, you and I. And…I don’t have the scars to prove it anymore, but we helped each other come back together.”

She smirks with a final whisper, “Though I still think you did most of the work.”
Betsy and Leo Silvercloud – These two personified “friends with benefits” but they were much more than that. Leo was the first person Betsy ever met at Xavier’s, a person who defied all definition and pigeon-holing and seemed entirely happy that way. They became fast friends (how could you not with Leo’s winning personality) and, over time, came to care for each other very much and lean heavily on each other in the hardest of times. They were affectionate, intimate (though not that intimate), and loved each other without condition. Betsy saw herself as responsible for him. When a machine he built malfunctioned (or functioned just the way it was supposed to) and Leo was transported into the Aether, Betsy felt completely adrift and lost, having just lost Julien to the Skrull Invasion.

This was their goodbye:

The night is dark and heavy, scents, real scents filling Betsy’s nose as she lies in her bed. Moonlight spills through the half-open windows as real breeze wafts through her window, bringing with it the scent of the real woods, real air, real spring. She sighs, falling asleep amidst it all. As the breeze brushes over her skin like fingertips, a purr rumbles in Betsy’s chest as she falls asleep.

In that sleep, she feels warmth filling her mind, a sense of beauty and love and awe filling her. That warmth, golden and shimmering, fills her heart and her inner sight. It feels familiar, deliciously familiar and missed and loved.

{{Leo?}}

{{Hey, Bets.}} It is Leo, a shimmering, fluctuating, golden god with blue fire for eyes and an inner flame for a heart. The air disperses and glows around his form and it is hard to tell what is Leo and what is aether. In fact, there is no beginning and end that she can discern. He speaks, yet his lips don’t move. Their minds are connected and hers swirls and tumbles with information that she cannot begin to interpret.

{{Leo? Steampunk? Oh, hun, where have you been?}}

{{Away, beautiful.}}

Worry pulses from Betsy. {[Where? Tell me so I can come get you. I want to take care of you.}}

A sense of immense love washes over her mind. {{Thank you, Bets. But you don’t have to take care of me anymore. I am at Center.}} The love is followed by a sense of…peace.

{{Center? Leo? Where are you, what’s happened? Tell me? Please?}} Panic begins to creep and crawl and grip with cold fingers.

{{Something I built…I didn’t know what it was for. Apparently it was all part of the grandest plan in all existence. Something…happened, and I flashed into aether. But, more than that, I am One with the aether. Everything I knew, I know. Everything I could know, I know. I’ve watched you, I’ve seen how absolutely amazing you have been. I’ve watched your heart break and I want you to know that we are all right. Jules and I. We’re safe and at peace and all right, Bets.}}

Tears spring into Betsy’s eyes and pour from under closed eyelids as sorrow spreads over her mind. {{Jules…? Leo, you aren’t…you can’t be…}}

{{Dead? No, Bets. I’m not dead. I’m at Center. I’m at Peace. I’m at One with all. With Jules. With you. With Starly. With everything and everyone. All I’ve ever wanted. What more could I ask for?}}

{{To be here! That’s what you could ask for! To be here with me! For Jules to be here with us! Why?! Why do I get left behind? Why are you leaving me?}}

Despair bleeds, dark red flickering amongst the golden aetheric shimmer. Leo reaches out a strong and yet incorporeal hand, seeming to gather all her despair into a ball. Drawing it towards him, he presses it to his glowing flame-heart. The despair flashes and sparks, showering the air around them with blue flickers.

{{Not leaving you, Bets. My beautiful, beautiful Betsy. Never leaving you. I’m with you. We are with you, always. Always here.}} Leo presses a hand over his flickering flame-heart, drawing out a glowing tendril and reaching it out towards her own aetheric form. He presses it against her chest. It sears and burns and hurts, aches, cracks, shatters, and draws together once again.

{{We are here. Always here. And we love you, Betsy. We will always love you. I love you.}}

It is then as though she is consumed by golden light – bronze and blue and red, scents of mint and ozone and spice. It fills her every sense, her every touch receptor, sights, hearing, taste, smell. It soaks under her skin, glows in her eyes, fills her throat with heat, sits in her belly, and burns in her heart.

{{Never goodbye, Bets. Never forget. Right here. Always right here.}} Leo’s voice and smell and touch echoes and reverbs through her senses long after Betsy wakes in the moonlit darkness, her pillow wet with tears that flow for hours one end.

She will scratch their names in stone that, years later, she would look upon again and remember and love and weep and laugh and mourn. The two boys who first taught her of love and loyalty and friendship, and that it transcends all.

Betsy and James Harrison – While never an official couple, it would be wrong to say that they didn’t have a relationship. At the time, Betsy was in an open relationship with Jon Kent and found herself very attracted to a young new student named James. He was sharp, charming, witty, and had an edge that she appreciated quite a bit. James, however, was not into the idea of an open relationship so they had agreed that they could be “affectionate but not intimate”, in that wonderful way that teenagers believed they can totally compartmentalize one from the other. Attraction and sexual tension have a way of blending or at least blurring the line between the two at times, though (like a footprint in a blizzard), as you and I well know. James’s player and I let them play it through, figuring this out as they were characters with a good number of similarities but also with differing emotional and mental spaces. It was a great chapter in her story, and I very much enjoyed it. I will admit to player flaw and me flubbing it up because I let my own personal emotions bleed through on a rough day and influence my roleplay. Ultimately, though, it was a vehicle for a great deal of growth and further depth for both characters.

I would characterize their relationship as wistful. What could have been. It was something I think  that they both would have enjoyed and benefited from but, alas.  Now James is in a relationship with another girl at the mansion, he and Betsy have had some knockdown, drag-out conversations-slash-fights, but they still have each other’s backs. And still a few moments here and there.

Graft wraps his arms around the tiny dancer and lifts her up into their embrace until just her toes are touching the roof beneath them. He smiles into her neck and takes a somewhat deep breath, comfortable and safe in the arms of a friend.

Slowly, though, he lowers her back to a flat-footed stance and catches her elbows in his hands. For a second, James holds her for just long enough to say, “This is… this is one of those moments I make the choice to not kiss you.”

He drops his hands to his sides and pushes them into his pockets again, albeit without the same apprehension as before.

Betsy balances on the toes of her boots in James’s embrace, feeling his smile and breath against her skin and his heartbeat against her chest. Then the moments pass and he lowers her back to earth again. Betsy’s mouth twitches in another small smile up at James as he speaks, her fingers drawing through the ends of his hair once more. “Yeah,” she murmurs in agreement before letting her own hands drop and slip into the pockets of her jacket. It’s the truth but that is all it can be.

“We should probably be getting back for class, huh?” she then says after a moment, blinking molten gold eyes at James before turning towards the fire escape again.

These relationships and all the others, romantic and platonic, have helped me to build and develop perhaps my favorite roleplay character of all time. In an rpg, your characters’ growth is only so good as those with whom you play, so I have been enormously blessed by these wonderful writers who have helped my girl grow and mature and learn herself better and better. I am loathe to ever give Betsy up, though I know that it will likely happen some day. But, for now, she’s my girl and I am her writer and we are very happy with this arrangement.

My Name is Elizabeth...
Daisy = cheerfulness.
Dogwood = Love undiminished by adversity.
Mistletoe = I shall surmount any obstacle.
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