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miracles, all done over

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There’s gotta be some kind of physics thing behind this, right? Even with the Halo doing its stuff, there must be some natural dynamics at play that would make this totally not some abnormal miraculous phenomenon. It’s like—some equation with her speed and weight, maybe. Ava’s pretty damn fast, now, and she’s only getting faster. Boats float, yeah, but she’s not actually displacing the water, and she’s not floating. Just pattering along (super quickly and not even a little bit clumsily) on top of it. Is it surface tension? She’s got this hazy image of her mom pointing out water skeeters gliding along the surface of the lake they used to visit back in the States. Maybe that was the explanation she gave—pointing out how their legs were built, and how that made them stay above the water. But Ava was, like, four, and doesn’t remember too clearly now. She barely remembers her mom’s voice, either.

Whoops. Better put that back into the Not Right Now Box, slam the lid, turn the key, swallow it. Anyway, that was just a lot of terms without the definitions to go with them. There are huge gaps in her recall—science lessons at St. Michael’s didn’t exactly lend themselves to long-term, useful retention. The curriculum was probably from the seventies and the textbooks were falling apart and more than half of them were in Spanish. And let’s face it. Back then, when it came to the idea of bodies in motion, Ava had exactly one concern: hers wasn’t, and probably never would be again.

But it is now! Hell yeah, is it ever now. Apparently her body’s motion is more than most folks can even capably conceive of, nearly-biblical in its dexterity. So that’s a thing she’s learning to live with. That’s also a thing she’s had to train. And training is what they’ve been doing all morning.

Maybe when everything changes, some things don’t. Already established: Ava wasn’t the greatest student, especially not for the likes of Sister Frances. Well, the same might apply during training with Beatrice. Sometimes. Once or twice a session. Okay, thrice, top limit. In her defense, she works a lot better when she lets her mind wander, as backwards as that sounds (so hey, Beatrice is definitely learning to live with something new, too), even if she actually is really enjoying what she’s supposed to be doing. And they’ve been working sprint-laps today, harnessing and controlling the Halo, which is—weirdly and unfortunately—meditative. Zen all the way up to the ears.

Ava never bought into the concept of a runner’s high until she experienced it for herself. It’s kinda cool, the way her awareness flows into and out of and around her limbs, fingertips to shoetips, how every movement patterns together into full-body efficiency. How the trail gives way under her cushy soles as she manages to fleet-foot around all of the rocks and roots that otherwise spell Broken Ankle, no matter where her mind is. Whether it’s lost somewhere trivial, like tonight’s dinner or that song they heard on the way here, or digging into and picking apart all of the secluded woodland vibes all around. Or, like she is right now—thinking about how Beatrice is waiting for her across the lake, thumbing at her stopwatch, watching her get closer with dark eyes that Ava now knows can sparkle. (They can, and they do. She’s seen it. Sometimes Ava thinks about that too.)

So. As she reaches out and Force-shatters a big ol’ rock to discharge some of the tingling that’s too built-up between her shoulder blades, here’s question one: how’s Ava not supposed to be thinking about Beatrice, after the thinly-veiled challenge she just gave? I want you to try something this time, spoken—followed by an unspoken I wonder if it can even be done. Well, hold onto your proverbial hat, Bea. It can be done, and Ava’s gonna do it.

Which leads to question two: how’s Ava gonna do it if she doesn’t do it with flair? Doesn’t finish it with flair, at least. She deserves that triumphant moment! And when her shoes hit the silty ground at the edge of the lake, it dawns on her. An idea—that heavy line she’s been carrying with her for a while now, vibrating heavy in the back of her throat, just begging to make itself heard. Speaking of miracles, keeping this quiet definitely counts. Particularly keeping it quiet in front of Beatrice. Herculean effort, but now—

I’m gonna say it, Ava thinks, and thinking that is what gets her five absolutely ridiculous and improbable and weightless strides over the water’s surface.

There’s a lurch in her stomach while her body tries to figure out what the hell’s going on and how. Then buoyancy, when it must say, eh, fuck it, we ball. It all comes together in a lightness she barely has to muster up—heat and an almost-audible shring! sound inside of her spine—and then this feels effortless. She’s settled, she’s centered, she’s breathing hard. She’s shadow and light and smoke. She’s actually doing this.

And she knows Beatrice is watching.

She’s learned that her power (or her Weird-Ass Physics or whatever else this is) is the strongest when she actively pulls it from somewhere, instead of just letting it well up and flood over. That gets sloppy. Helps if she attaches her energy to a thought or a mantra—something to focus on, something to run towards. (Hah! Literally!) So she repeats what she’s planning on saying when she reaches the opposite shore over and over, planning it meticulously, a full-crew mental dress rehearsal. No doing the whole Forget How To Speak thing today.

The excitement carries her, all adrenaline and ruthless determination. Just have to keep moving forward, have to keep from slipping under. When she chances a glance at her reflection below, what she sees is wild. Again—Ava’s fast at top speed. And strong. And she’s not used to feeling that way.

The wind whips, or maybe that’s just her. She bares her teeth, narrows her eyes. Distant perspective rockets closer in a blurred tunnel of green, gray, and blue streaks. At its center, her focal point? Beatrice, bare shoulders, hair swept back, looking positively separate from their beginnings. Another thought: Ava’s not the only one who’s changing, and some changes look good in plenty of ways. Some changes you can really feel outside of yourself.

And then she’s almost there, six more bounding steps, three more, one more—

Solid ground. Both feet. Her heels dig in and she catches herself on the backmotion as Beatrice hits the stopwatch with a nod.

Fuck yeah, Ava.

“See? I thought you could do it.” Survey says that’s probably a lie. But Beatrice is smiling softly, and Ava’s too jacked up and out of breath to call her out. “And a record lap time. Forty-nine seconds.”

Even in these insane circumstances, her congratulations come with enthusiasm, sure, but almost zero fanfare. Beatrice is a tough coach. That makes this degree of success so much more satisfying. And she can’t wait to see Lilith’s face when they tell her later how she just ran on—

Oh, yeah. The thing!

Ava hops from foot to foot, legs like jelly, and bites at the tip of her tongue. This is it. Time to say it. Pulse, skyrocket. Jackhammer in her ribs. Man, Beatrice is gonna love this.

“Hey, Bea.” It doesn’t matter that Ava is still wheezing like her lungs will never be normal again. “Better break out the palm branches, because it looks like Jesus just rolled back into town!”

There it is. Phenomenal. Hilarious. Thematically-appropriate. Ten out of ten on the delivery. She grins.

It’s funny how, when she really focuses, Ava can see every microexpression Beatrice makes. Maybe that’s another power. In any case, she goes through a bunch of them in the few heartbeats that follow. And while Ava can’t discern the meaning behind all of them, she catches the last one. A roll of her eyes. There might be a smirk.

Oh, hey. Her eyes are sparkling.

But there’s also a hand. Quick, like certified badass-quick, strong, shoving. Right into Ava’s shoulder, sending her flailing backwards without warning and then there’s—

A lurch. Her body, again like: what the HELL are you DOING, Ava.

And then she’s straight-up drenched.

Well. At least she knows how to swim now. Those were among the first lessons.

(She reaches for the surface and thinks, what if I say—you want me to turn the whole lake into wine?! but considering the unknown limits of the Halo, death by pun-induced-drowning might still be on the menu. Better not press her luck.)