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An Apocalypse of Ice; chapter 6


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"Anything That I See" - An Apocalypse of Ice chapter 6.

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An Apocalypse of Ice; chapter 6

  1. 1. Previously on An Apocalypse of Ice: The hope of college pervaded the Stark house. Like their parents and their grandfather, Brandon and Mal both chose the Fortune aspiration, and neither one could think of anything worse than growing up without a diploma. But Brandon had just about started packing his bags for La Fiesta Tech when Eowyn came home with the bad news that, instead of getting her final promotion, she had been fired. With both her lifetime want and the career she had devoted herself to out of her reach, Eowyn started throwing parties to intimidate the labor leaders into submission so that they couldn’t take her sons down.The time also came to choose an heir. As the eldest son, Brandon stood to inherit, but he told Eowyn to make Mal her heir instead. Eowyn was skeptical, but Brandon eventually persuaded her that Mal’s kindness meant he would make the best parent out of the three boys.Also, the pictures improved, and there might possibly be a semblance of characterization. The next few slides consist of a brief family history, for the benefit of those who don’t want to observe the ugly of the earlier chapters: <br />
  2. 2. Once upon a time, Sansa Stark escaped from the pages of A Song of Ice and Fire. Over here, she was a Popularity Sim who wanted nothing more than twenty best friends. She looks a little ditzy here, and she was definitely an idealist, but Sansa was not stupid. She knew that her time at La Fiesta Tech was just a reprieve, so she focused on biology almost as much as she focused on her best friends so that she could bring hope back to her home.Sansa also established a rule for the family to follow, in honor of her dead family: Cheaters Never Win. They may get the best of things where she’s from, but not in the new world she built. Here, you always have to take the honorable choice when a chance card comes up, and no one who’s mean enough to cheat at chess may be heir. I think she also intended the family to practice classic primogeniture like they did before. However, the eldest son has never been heir so far, either for lack of a boy or for his refusal to take the heirship.<br />
  3. 3. Sansa wasn’t looking for love at college. She didn’t want to put anyone on a pedestal and find out that he was completely undeserving. But Addison Riley wound up finding her. They talked almost every day, and before long, Sansa realized that she could see herself spending the rest of her life with him. Addison had to be one of the most light-hearted people she knew, and she didn’t want to leave him behind.Of course, she had to go back alone, but Sansa sent for Addison as soon as she possibly could. Although he had dreamed about establishing law and order, he started going on great adventures and eventually brought back a few things to make the family’s life easier: the Jumbok statue and a stash of thinking caps he had discovered.<br />
  4. 4. They had one daughter, Eowyn, who decided that she wanted to be a doctor after going through a brief phase when she wanted a life of crime. But she quickly learned that she couldn’t always get what she wanted. In fact, she never seemed to get it. She fought as hard as she could for a better life, but it never seemed to be enough. After Eowyn got fired from her job as the new dean of La Fiesta Tech, she started attending parties and intimidating the captains of industry into treating their employees better. <br />
  5. 5. Eowyn married drill instructor and fellow fortune sim Kennedy Cox, who came to call on the family frequently and quickly befriended Eowyn. They have three children, not that they ever paid very much attention to them (much to Addison’s chagrin):<br />
  6. 6. Brandon, the eldest son, is an up-and-coming lawyer who is probably going to become infamous for terrorizing his adversaries. Because Eowyn and Kennedy have spent most of their time either focusing on their careers or meditating to preserve food, Brandon wound up raising his brothers. This is more experience parenting than he ever wanted, so he decided to be Mal’s right-hand man, protect the family from any creeps who want to take advantage of Mal’s kindness, and teach his nieces and nephews how to cheat at chess. Brandon can be spotted practicing his charisma for work, giving people gifts, and whining about not being able to buy a car.<br />
  7. 7. Julian is the youngest son and the black sheep, aspiration-wise. Three guesses what he chose; first two don’t count. Don’t believe him when he tells you that he can’t remember how a pawn moves in chess. He can be spotted scouting for teen female walkbys, giving Mal noogies, and gloating about how he isn’t on the verge of aspiration failure.<br />
  8. 8. Finally, Mal is the adorable middle son and newly declared heir. This is largely because he’s the family white sheep. His parents and brothers combined have seven nice points. Mal has ten. He can usually be spotted playing mahjong, receiving noogies from his brothers, and reading about Addison’s adventures. Mal would like to enter into the field of space piracy one day, and he’s eager to learn from his grandpa’s experience.<br />
  9. 9. Back in the present, Lily Azure had just walked by the house, and Mal proudly informed her that he was Eowyn’s heir.“Congratulations!” Lily exclaimed. “How do you feel about it? I guess you’re happy…”“Well, I didn’t expect it,” Mal said. “It was always supposed to be Brandon. But if he doesn’t want it, I’m happy to be heir—and I’m kind of glad he picked me.”<br />
  10. 10. “And even though my mom thinks I’m too nice, that’s why Brandon thinks I’d be good for the job.” he continued. “I don’t know how to be any other way.”When Mal really thought about it, though, he wasn’t sure exactly what being the heir meant. It seemed like the main difference between him and his brothers now was that he’d have to get married and have kids. But everything would mostly be the same besides that, right? His parents wouldn’t be around, but they were almost always meditating anyway. He and his brothers (and his wife—it was strange to think of that) would just try to find jobs and do their best to change things. That was just the way it was, heirship or not. <br />
  11. 11. Well, there was one difference: his mom seemed to be trying to make him meaner now that he was heir.“Okay, Mal. We’ve got to make sure no one will be able to push you over.” Eowyn crossed her arms. “Insult me.”“…Insult you?”Eowyn shook her head. “When your brothers call you names. Like that. We don’t want anyone calling you names when you’re the head of the family.” Mal hesitated. “Um…your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled of elderberries!” Eowyn laughed.<br />
  12. 12. “What? I didn’t mean it,” Mal added quickly. “Julian said that to Brandon the other day and told him that Ivy had said that to him. It was the best I could come up with.”“I know,” Eowyn laughed. “It’s just…of course you didn’t mean it. You really are that nice. How you managed that growing up with us, I’ll never know.”Mal didn’t know, either, but he couldn’t imagine what it would have been like any other way. “I love you, Mom.” <br />
  13. 13. “I love you too, Mal. I hope you know that.”He hadn’t. But he held his tongue as he hugged his mother tightly. It was the polite thing to do. Who knew if he would even see his dad today—he should take advantage of the time he had.<br />
  14. 14. Then came Brandon’s attempts to find Mal a wife.“Ivy, this is my brother, Mal Stark. Mal, meet Ivy Copur.”“Hi,” Mal mumbled from the mahjong table.“I didn’t hear you, Mal. Ivy’s a knowledge sim and a criminal mastermind. Mal’s the heir to our family—isn’t that awesome, Ivy? Because my brother’s awesome. And I can tell you’re awesome too.”<br />
  15. 15. “You know white moves first, Mal?” Ivy asked him.“Yeah!” Mal said, looking down at the pieces again. “I’m not stupid,” he muttered. Sometimes it sure felt like he was, though. It wasn’t like he’d ever get to go to college. He kept coming across words in the cooking and cleaning books that he didn’t understand, and he didn’t understand most of the mechanical books. How could he be the heir to a family that needed someone smarter than him? “Um, what’s it like?” he finally asked. “Being a criminal mastermind.”“Fun,” Ivy said, “but I’m thinking about giving it up. Collecting mob payments just isn’t what it used to be.”“Yeah. We’d appreciate it if you did—give it up, I mean. Not that I’m saying that’s what you should do, just that we don’t like—” Mal shut up and advanced his king’s pawn two squares. He didn’t know what he was saying.<br />
  16. 16. Kenya Kalson was the next woman Brandon introduced him to.“It’s kind of nice that the snow’s melted today,” he said.Kenya laughed. “I guess it is. It’s still just as cold, though.”“So, um…you want to come inside? I wish we had something to warm you up, but maybe we can play a little mahjong or something…”<br />
  17. 17. “This is kind of geeky, but I really want to learn to study,” Mal confided in Jan Tellerman. “It’s kind of stupid. I’ll never go to school again, and it’s not like it’s going to make me skill faster, but my other brothers learned to do it. Why can’t I?”Jan had lost interest at the word “study.” <br />
  18. 18. “My brother is hopeless with women,” Brandon ranted at the mirror. This wasn’t for work, since it looked like he wasn’t supposed to say anything anytime in the near future, but he thought that talking to the mirror could only help him later on when he had to argue cases. “I didn’t know that having ten—well, now nine nice points means that you have to trip over your own tongue every time you meet someone new. If he keeps up like this, I’ll have to be heir. And I do not want to do that.”<br />
  19. 19. “I know! Maybe he’s dragging his heels with me just because I’m his brother. If Mom picks out one of her friends for him and gets her to move into the house, then he’ll have to man up, talk to her, and marry her.” Brandon smiled at his plan for a moment, then shook his head. “If she stops meditating long enough for me to tell her.”<br />
  20. 20. When she meditated, everything disappeared. It was easy for Eowyn to lose herself in the green diamonds that Julian had painted on the wall when he became a teenager. She breathed in and out, letting her eyes trace the paths of the diamonds as they criss-crossed the walls, following those lines down to the green carpet below.“Eowyn?”Then, she would open her eyes and realize that she was floating. Once that realization came, though, she would float down to the ground before long, and everything would come back. The aches in her bones. The chattering of the boys. The weight of every unfulfilled dream she’d ever had.“Hi, Ken,” she said, the sadness still in her voice.<br />
  21. 21. “Do you want to dance?” “Of course I do.” Eowyn smiled, trying to look like nothing was bothering her.<br />
  22. 22. She was going to ask him what was going on. Eowyn had always loved Ken, but neither one of them had ever been that affectionate. But as she heard him ask her to relax her grip on his hand, she knew. As the cheerless towns pass my windowI can see a washed out moon through the fogAnd then a voice inside my head breaks the analogAnd says<br />
  23. 23. Follow me down to the valley belowYou knowMoonlight is bleeding from out of your soul“Does it have to be now?” Eowyn asked.“No,” he told her. “But if it’s not today, it’ll be tomorrow, or the day after. I don’t want to die without telling you I love you.”<br />
  24. 24. I survived against the will of my twisted folkBut in the deafness of my world the silence brokeAnd said, Follow me down to the valley belowMoonlight is bleeding from out of your soul…“Don’t say that word,” Eowyn snapped, holding Kennedy tighter. “You’re not leaving me.”“I wish I wasn’t,” he answered. “I wish things could have been better for us. I wish you’d learned to purify the water and I’d made my contribution to the family fortune. But we didn’t get any of those wishes. I’m sorry.”<br />
  25. 25. “I’ll miss you.” Eowyn tried to smile as she held onto Ken.This cold world is not for youSo rest your head upon meI’ll have strength to carry you<br />
  26. 26. “Now what?”“Now I go outside.”<br />
  27. 27. Somehow, it was still surprising to see that his time was up. But when Death himself was holding up the hourglass and showing that Kennedy had no more life yet, what could he do but follow? He might have been a military man, but he knew that there were some things that you couldn’t fight. <br />
  28. 28. “NO!” Eowyn shouted. “You can’t take him!” But no one seemed to hear her. Her sons were focused on the black, hooded figure in front of them. And her husband…her husband heard nothing at all.“YOU CAN’T TAKE HIM!” she cried, hoping that if she shouted louder, it would make the hooded figure turn that hourglass of his upside down and leave.<br />
  29. 29. But nothing answered.And when Death left, it took Kennedy and left behind three boys and an unmarked grave.<br />
  30. 30. “He’s not gone!” Eowyn insisted, looking at the man with the big glasses she had seen once before in her life. “He’s not…no. No. Please…” You took Kennedy for granted, a voice in her head was telling her. You went off into your own world and thought he’d always be here, and now he’s not.The therapist was mumbling something about how it wasn’t her fault. Eowyn tuned him out. She had to be strong for her boys, at least until she could escape again. It wouldn’t be long, but just until then, she had to keep going, one moment at a time. It was what she had always done. <br />
  31. 31. “We’ve got to hold it together as well as we can,” Brandon was quietly telling his brothers as he tried to take his own advice. “Mom needs us to be tough right now.”“But what are we supposed to do?” Julian asked. <br />
  32. 32. Eowyn didn’t feel as hopeless as she had before when she focused on her sons and thought about all the great things they were going to do. Those boys were a part of her. But the fact was that another part of her had gone with Kennedy, and she wouldn’t get it back. She didn’t think she wanted to stop the tears, at least not right now.<br />
  33. 33. Mal felt as crushed as the rest of his brothers, but he took Brandon’s words to heart as night fell. After all, he was the heir, and he would have to be strong for everyone then. “We’re here for you, Mom,” he said to Eowyn. The words felt like empty nothings, but he hoped they would mean something to her. “All three of us.”“Thank you, Mal,” she said, holding him more tightly than she ever had before.<br />
  34. 34. As it turned out, Kennedy wasn’t gone for long. He seemed especially intent on getting some kind of message through to Julian. <br />
  35. 35. “You’re kind of a ghost magnet, aren’t you?”“Yeah.” Julian surveyed the pieces before him. “It’s scary, Brandon. Sometimes I wonder if they can kill me.”“You should be skilling more instead of carrying on with that Ivy girl.” <br />
  36. 36. “That doesn’t stop them. Grandpa appeared in the middle of the planter last night, wiggling his ears at me.”“Maybe he just wanted to have a little fun with you. Eight playful points. Can’t blame him.”“Can blame you. You’ve only got three and you always want to ‘have a little fun with me.’ And I’ve barely been spending any time with Ivy. I don’t think she even likes me.”<br />
  37. 37. In fact, Julian was skilling just as much as his brothers, but everyone seemed to ignore that and assume he wasn’t trying just because he was Romance. <br />
  38. 38. But it didn’t stop Julian from watching from the window as he was skilling in case Ivy was going to walk by the house, so he could run out and greet her.“Hey, Joule,” Ivy said one of those days, looking at him for a while. Just when Julian had opened his mouth to fill up the silence, she said, “I’m really sorry about your dad,” and patted him on the shoulder.Yeah. She likes me, all right.<br />
  39. 39. The family meeting over that morning’s cereal was actually Brandon’s idea, but he had told Mal to start off the discussion. It was supposed to be a way for him to start taking charge in a low-pressure environment. Julian was hardly low-pressure sometimes, with the ever-present danger of noogies, but Mal wanted to show that he could knock down the thoughts saying he wasn’t good enough to be heir. “We were wondering what you planned to do when you grew up,” Mal said to Julian. “I know Brandon and I talked about being a scientist and a chef, but now that Brandon’s a lawyer—”“Receptionist.” He rolled his eyes.“Well, someone will need to do one of those things,” Mal said before Brandon could interrupt him again. “What do you think, Joule?”<br />
  40. 40. “Well, my lifetime want is to be a Hall of Famer, but being able to move furniture around doesn’t seem like the most important thing right now,” Julian said. “So—why don’t you just tell me what to do already?” “I wasn’t going to tell you what to do,” Mal said. “Brandon and I just thought—”“You mean Brandon thought I wasn’t ambitious enough, and he’s roped you into this because you’re the heir. Guys, just because I don’t give a crap if we have another useless hundred thousand dollars stashed under the beds—really, we don’t even need the mattresses now, there’s so much money under there—doesn’t mean I don’t want to make things better. Two bowls of cereal in the morning are just as unfulfilling for me as they are for you. I’d get up and walk away from this talking-to you’re giving me, but I can’t take the risk that this cereal will go bad and I’ll have to meditate to keep from starving. Because then you’ll yell at me because I wasn’t skilling, and that must mean I wasn’t trying.”<br />
  41. 41. “Julian, that’s not what this is about,” Mal said. “We just wanted to know what you wanted.”“What I want doesn’t matter. I thought we’d all figured that out. I’m not going to be talked to. I’ll build up skills because I’d love to move out one of these days, but I won’t stop seeing Ivy.”“I wasn’t asking you to stop seeing her.”“Good. Even if you did ask, I wouldn’t do it. I deserve something that makes me happy around here, not just work, work, work.” <br />
  42. 42. The house wasn’t empty for long, either. Eowyn invited her friend Chris over when the phone lines opened up and asked her to move in. She knew Chris better than any of the women that Brandon had told her about, and Addison had known her too, so it seemed natural to ask her to join the family. Even though Mal didn’t know her very well, Chris had a lot of nice points and managed to stay optimistic somehow throughout everything, so Eowyn hoped that they would like each other.<br />
  43. 43. That day was also Mal’s birthday. He took advantage of his mom finally being out of her trance to ask her for a favor. Because Mal had come home from school most of the time too bored to even think about homework, Brandon had done his assignments more often than not. That meant that Mal had never learned to study. Even though it didn’t matter anymore, he really wanted to learn to be more disciplined. If he couldn’t go to college, at least he could do this.“<br />
  44. 44. “Good job.”“Thanks.”Eowyn faced her son, knowing the pain he was about to go through. It’s all my fault. She swallowed that response. “It’ll hurt for a while,” she told Mal. No sense in making it seem like the pain would be some little thing when it wasn’t. “But I know you can handle it.”<br />
  45. 45. “Thanks, I guess.” Mal thought about saying something else, but the shakes hit him before he could. <br />
  46. 46. “You stole my pajamas,” Brandon remarked. “I thought Joule was supposed to be my lookalike here—Mal?”He had tried to convince himself it would be fine.<br />
  47. 47. It wasn’t.All of a sudden, Mal couldn’t hold the thoughts back anymore. Uneducated. Worthless. Weak. Who’s going to want to hire you? How are you going to do anything good for this family? Worthless. What kind of heir collapses in a heap in front of his family? Too weak. Too nice. You’re going to bring shame on the family.He wanted to be a baby again and sit in his crib with Grandpa watching over him and telling him stories. Eowyn and Kennedy hadn’t done it. They hadn’t even taught him to walk. They hadn’t thought he was worth anything, and maybe they were right…. <br />
  48. 48. “I wouldn’t call you uneducated,” the Therapist said when Mal told him how he felt. “What do you mean, ‘wouldn’t call me uneducated?’” Mal echoed. “I never went to a day of school after turning eleven, much less had a chance to get a college degree.”“But you didn’t spend your time sitting around the house doing nothing, right?”“Of course not. Brandon had us skilling almost all the time—”“Exactly. And any employer is going to take a look at you and see that you have the skills to succeed. That matters more than a fancy schmancy college degree to a lot of people—you know how to work. Now stop talking to me and start celebrating your birthday.”<br />
  49. 49. Mal looked over to see his father’s ghost sticking his fingers in his ears and making a face at Julian. He could have sworn that it said, “That’ll teach you to choose Romance!” <br />
  50. 50. After getting her things settled, Chris started looking for work. Being a party guest had been fun, but it didn’t make her happy anymore. She’d had some good times with Eowyn, but now she wanted to find a job that meant something. Unfortunately, there was only one job posting in the paper, and she had a feeling Mal would want it more than her.“How are you?” she heard Mal ask.She turned from the newspaper to see him smiling. “Just about settled,” Chris said. “I should ask how you are.”<br />“As good as I can be.” Mal’s smile faded. He wondered how stupid he had looked in front of everyone when he’d had his breakdown and what they’d think of him later on, knowing he had collapsed in a heap on the floor. At least Chris hadn’t been watching. “I was wondering if you wanted to head upstairs and play a little chess or mahjong. I’d like to get to know you a little better.”“Me too,” Chris said. It only made sense, if they were betrothed now. “Okay,” he said. Mal smiled again. It might be expressing his awkwardness, but Chris thought it was one of the most honest smiles she’d ever seen. “And why don’t you change into your pajamas, while you’re at it? You’re one of us now.”“Thanks. Take a look at this paper. I think you need a job more than I do right now.”“You sure?”“Yeah. I’ll take tomorrow’s job.”<br />
  51. 51. “Thanks for letting me take the job,” Mal said. “Sure. Being an emergency medical technician seemed like a good opportunity for someone like you. And I’ve already got a job, even though I’m not going to keep it for much longer.”“Didn’t you like the parties?”“For a while.” But then the disaster had happened, and everything had changed. “I really want to be a scientist, though. I keep thinking that I can invent something to make things better around here.”“That’d be a good thing for us. Brandon wanted to be a scientist for a while. We said we’d be a scientist and a chef, but it looks like that’s not going to happen anymore.”<br />
  52. 52. “Maybe I can handle the science, and Julian might like cooking,” Chris suggested. It sounded like a good idea, but something didn’t seem right about it. “But there still won’t be any schools,” Mal said. “I was hoping that my kids could go to high school and college.”“Our kids, Mal,” she reminded him. “Right.” He was trying to make her feel comfortable, but it wasn’t working. Mal was a sweet guy, and Chris was sure he’d be a good husband. She thought she was happy to be part of the family. But she had always thought that there would be more of a spark with the man she married. Mal didn’t have that thing that made Chris’s heart beat faster. They could still have a good life together, she thought, but Chris wished he had that.<br />
  53. 53. Brandon decided he would like a car of his own when he got back from the firm. Preferably, it would cost more than $4200. It would be all right if it cost more than $2200. When it came down to it, he just wanted a car so that he wouldn’t have to turn up at the law firm in the beater that they sent for him. He was positive that Walder Frey just sent the beater to pick up the low level lawyers as a way of humiliating them. There was that to be said: he was a lawyer now, if a low-level one. The Freys had been impressed enough with Brandon’s work that they had promoted him to a legal biller position.<br />
  54. 54. Mal also came back from work with good news. He had been accepted to medical school and would be starting work as a paramedic that night.“I got a job too,” Chris said.“Really?”“Yeah. Security guard. Guarding what, I don’t know, but it’s a way to get away from the parties and look for something I really want.”“Great!” Mal said. “I think Brandon did some guarding before he found a job at the firm. It’s a good thing to do for now.”<br />
  55. 55. They came back from work at the same time, laughing about the coincidence. “You were really guarding Walder Frey’s house while his mob was meeting?” “Yeah! I guess he’s old enough that he can’t fight off burglars anymore, isn’t he? And he started having convulsions and I had to call over to the hospital, which of course, was you…and you know the rest of it.”“I never knew that things were so tangled out there,” Mal said. “I knew Frey was both the head of the legal system and the head of the mob, but I didn’t know the police force was mixed up in his schemes, too.”“Well, I’m not going to stick around long enough for the police to decide they’re interested in me,” Chris said. “I’m getting a new job tomorrow. We should get to bed.”<br />
  56. 56. “We should,” Mal agreed.“It was great that I got to see you tonight,” Chris said.“Thanks. It was.”<br />
  57. 57. Julian was still too young to have a job or get promoted, but he was definitely happy with his relationship with Ivy.<br />
  58. 58. And Chris finally found some luck looking for work. She still couldn’t find a science lab to hire her, but she sent off an application to a food service agency that shipped daily rations to the local companies. It wasn’t anything glamorous, but maybe if she learned enough about cooking, it would be possible to invent some new dishes beyond instant drinks, cereal, hot dogs, hamburgers, lunch meat sandwiches, and chef salad. <br />
  59. 59. With some time before she started, Chris picked up a cookbook from the shelf and started leafing through it. She resolved to learn as much about cooking as she possibly could. <br />
  60. 60. Mal was still there to talk to most of the time. He had brought one of his fellow nurses home, but dropped his mahjong game when he saw Chris. “How are you doing?” he said.“Well, food service is treating me well, so far, but I don’t seem to have the knack for promotions that you do,” she said. “How do you get promoted so quickly?”He put his hand on his heart. “I think it’s one part getting people to like me and another part my amazing cleaning skills,” he joked. “And I’m pretty sure Mom threatens them with what would happen if they fired me when it’s possible to get a phone call through.” “It wouldn’t surprise me. Want to play chess?”<br />
  61. 61. They played for a few hours, past the time when darkness fell. Mal wasn’t sure what to think. It seemed like Chris liked him, but then Mal would remember that she had been best friends with his grandfather, and he’d wonder why she would possibly want to marry him.“I should go,” Chris said. “I’ll need to get some rest for tomorrow at work so I can see about getting promoted.”“Wait.”Chris turned around. Mal had stepped closer to her. He put his hands on her waist, then lightly kissed her lips. “Good night,” he said. “Sleep well.”“Thanks,” she said. “You too.”<br />
  62. 62. As Chris turned to go upstairs, she looked over her shoulder at Mal and saw him smiling. Chris smiled back. Mal was more attractive than she’d given him credit for, she thought.<br />
  63. 63. “How was work?” Chris asked, putting her book away when she saw Mal walk through the front door.“Great! I got another promotion. I should probably work on my skills—”“Mal, don’t worry about mechanics for a little while,” Chris said. “Do you want to dance with me?”“I’d be happy to.” He picked up the remote and turned on the stereo.<br />
  64. 64. They danced in silence to the radio, Mal looking at Chris’s big gray eyes, glad that his mom and his brothers were staying out of the way for a while so they could have this moment. He hadn’t expected it to happen like this (what had he expected?), but he thought he was falling for Chris.<br />
  65. 65. And you’ll kiss me in your living room, the song said. That seemed like a good time to dip Chris down and give her a kiss.She laughed. “What?” he asked. “Was that the wrong thing to do?”“No.” Chris smiled. “Not at all.” She had realized just how much fun it could be to be with Mal, once he got over his nervousness. The thought of marrying him wasn’t so strange anymore, now that she had gotten to know him better.<br />
  66. 66. From there, it didn’t take very long for Mal to propose.“Chris…I know when you thought about the man you’d eventually marry, you probably didn’t think of me, or anyone like me. But I’ve fallen in love with you, plain and simple.” Mal knelt and found the box that held his grandmother’s rings. “And there’s nothing more to say, except…will you marry me?” <br />
  67. 67. “Of course I’ll marry you, Mal!” Chris wanted to leap into his arms, but she resisted the impulse to do it, knowing that Mal wouldn’t be able to catch her. “I thought you’d never ask!”“I wanted to get to know you better first,” he explained. “It didn’t make sense for me to ask you before I knew I love you.” <br />
  68. 68. Chris took Mal’s hand and paused for a moment, trying to find words for vows and losing them all in Mal’s smile. She smiled back, realizing that she had fallen in love with him too, spark or no spark.“I always told myself things happened for a reason,” she said. “I can’t imagine that there was a reason for the disaster, or for losing my home and my family. But then I met Addison and learned about what he was doing to fix things around here, and I started hoping things could get better again. And now I’m going to have my chance to help with you. I love you, Mal. I promise to love you and be by your side while we’re making this world a better place.”<br />
  69. 69. Mal placed his hand over Chris’s. “Chris Fancey, I promise to… I promise I won’t go into my own world and ignore you. I promise to love you, as best as I can, for as long as I live.” <br />
  70. 70. They made the wedding official with a kiss, and Chris Fancey became part of House Stark. <br />
  71. 71. “Want to see about having a baby?” Mal asked.Chris smiled. “I think that would be fun. Are you going to kiss me, or what?”<br />
  72. 72. If Addison and Sansa could have been there, they would have approved.<br />
  73. 73. Chris fell asleep, but Mal couldn’t. He felt like he had been in a daze this whole time. He had fallen in love with Chris so quickly. All of a sudden, they were married, and Chris was probably going to have a baby. <br />
  74. 74. I’m going to be a father. How was that possibly going to work? He understood the part about Chris getting pregnant and having a baby; he hadn’t slept through that part of medical school. But how was he supposed to be a father, when he’d barely known his own dad?Mal’s wedding vows came back to him: Love you, as best as I can, for as long as I live. If he just loved his children as much as he could, he told himself, things couldn’t go too badly. It didn’t do much to soothe his worries, but Mal knew that if he could do that (and he didn’t see why he couldn’t), it would go a long way.He sat back down on the bed again and stretched, trying to go back to sleep.<br />
  75. 75. “So, how was the woohoo?”“Brandon…” “What? You did get your first woohoo last night, right?”“I don’t want to talk about it.”<br />
  76. 76. “Chris, maybe you’ll tell me how last night was?” Brandon asked again once his sister-in-law had taken a seat at the table, wearing her bra and underwear.“I think you can figure it out for yourself,” Chris said to him, putting her hand on the table so Brandon could see her wedding ring.“Mmhmm,” Brandon said. “Well, I commend you, Mal.”<br />
  77. 77. “Whatever.” Julian got up from the table. “I want to woohoo.”“We know,” Brandon informed him. <br />
  78. 78. “Whoa. Guys? Guys? I’m pregnant!” Chris cheered. She might not be a family Sim, but she was definitely looking forward to this baby. Mal wanted a son to carry on the family line, and Chris hoped for a daughter so that she wouldn’t be the only woman in the house once Eowyn passed on, but she would love her child as much as she could either way.<br />
  79. 79. Eowyn could meditate for days. She kept her job as a professional party guest because she knew it would help her kids in their careers, but once she got back from the parties, she changed into her tracksuit and let everything go. No more disappointment. Not much longer until she could see her parents and Kennedy again. Breathe in, breathe out, exhale and inhale…“Mom?” She opened her eyes. “Hi, Brandon. Is it time for me to go to work?”He hesitated. “No.”<br />
  80. 80. Eowyn floated back to earth. “What is it, then?”Being tactful was not exactly in Brandon’s nature, and his mom probably wouldn’t appreciate it. “We’re worried about you,” he said. “Mal’s been studying medicine, and he thinks you might not have much time left.” <br />
  81. 81. The news didn’t surprise her. Let it happen, Eowyn thought at first. Let it be over.But she pushed that reaction back. Maybe she was ready to go (though who knew if what would come next would be better), but Brandon didn’t want to hear that. He’d come here to talk to his mother, not a bent and broken old woman who just wanted to die. But she didn’t even know how to be a mother. She never had. <br />
  82. 82. “I can’t say I’m surprised,” Eowyn said. “Is there anything else he had to say?”“He wanted to get some medicine for you, but supplies are short, and we all agreed it was best not to steal from the hospital.”“Good. They’d fire him, and we can’t be having that. How’s he doing at the hospital?”“Why don’t you ask him yourself?” Brandon asked. “We want you to stop meditating. There’ll be enough food. We’ve switched to eating at night. Chris makes hamburgers on the grill, and they’re a lot more filling than the cereal we used to eat. Spend the time that you have left with us.”<br />
  83. 83. “Brandon, it’s not that easy,” she started.“Yes, it is,” he said. “We want you to be with us, Mom. You don’t have to be up here. I know you’re hurting, but we want you to live for a little while.”<br />
  84. 84. “All right,” she said, hugging him. It was nice to know he wanted her, even though she had been a failure. “I love you, Brandon.”It had been so long since he’d heard that. But he still answered, “I love you too, Mom.” <br />
  85. 85. Then Eowyn started to tickle him, and Brandon jerked away. “Hey!”“Just because I’m old doesn’t mean I don’t like to play with you a little!” Eowyn told him.<br />
  86. 86. “How about if I play with you a little?” Brandon asked, grabbing one of the pillows off the bed and hitting his mom with it.“Oh, you’re on!”<br />
  87. 87. So Eowyn ate with the family and talked about how they were doing. Julian was getting ready to grow up and assured her that he was still skilling. Mal had become a resident at the hospital and seemed to enjoy his job enough. Chris said that food service wasn’t as fun as parties and that they had reluctantly offered her maternity leave. And Brandon was getting ready for his first case, representing a man who had been run over by a delivery truck.The family seemed to be doing well. At least she could leave them with that.<br />
  88. 88. “Are you sure it’s going to be now?” Chris asked. “I’m going to have the baby soon.”“I think so,” Eowyn said. “I’d probably be no better at being a grandmother than I was at being a mother, anyway. Make sure you keep the boys in line. They’ll probably do fine, but we’ve got to keep an eye on them before they go and do too many stupid things.” She smiled.<br />
  89. 89. “Julian, I know I’ve been hard on you,” Eowyn said. “Work hard and try not to break too many hearts, okay?”“I will.”<br />
  90. 90. One by one, they gathered in the snow to say goodbye. But Mal wouldn’t be able to stay with them.“I’m sorry, Mom,” Mal said, teleporting down as his car drove up. “But I’ve got a night shift at the hospital today. If I don’t go, I’ll probably lose my job once they find out you’re gone.”<br />
  91. 91. “Show everyone at the hospital what you’re made of, okay?” Eowyn said. “I still wish I could be where you are now. You’re living my dream, Mal. You’ll be better at it than I ever was.”<br />
  92. 92. Mal spun into his doctor’s coat, preparing to head off to work. But he heard his mom coughing as she built her snowman. “Mom?” he asked, looking back.“Malcolm Stark!” Eowyn exclaimed. “You have to go!” So he headed for the red car, knowing he wouldn’t see his mother again. <br />
  93. 93. Brandon was still on his way when Death interrupted the family.<br />
  94. 94. Eowyn looked at the hourglass, not surprised. “Take me back,” she said, not seeing her sons crying behind the skeletal figure. “Take me to see my parents and my husband again.”<br />
  95. 95. They buried Eowyn next to the evil snowman she had built.“Goodbye, Mom,” Brandon said through his tears. “You did the best you could...”<br />
  96. 96. “…Joule, what in the world are you doing?” <br />
  97. 97. “Making a snow angel for Mom,” Julian answered, getting up. “She…” He sniffled. “She always liked playing. I don’t think she’d want us to stand around and cry.”<br />
  98. 98. Chris missed her friend, but she didn’t think that snow angels were quite her style. Or any kind of angels, really, considering the kind of snowman Eowyn had built moments before. Snowball fights, on the other hand…“HEY!”<br />
  99. 99. I am a lady in SpainI’ll sing a haunting refrain<br />
  100. 100. I am a lady from MarsAnd I can unscrew the stars<br />
  101. 101. I can be anything that I see<br />
  102. 102. I can be Anything that I Anything that I see<br />
  103. 103. I can do anything I want to<br />
  104. 104. I can do anything I want Anything my heart tells me to do<br />
  105. 105. Tells me to do<br />
  106. 106. Tells me to do…<br />
  107. 107. Music credits: + Eowyn and Kennedy’s last dance: “Lazarus” – Porcupine Tree + Mal and Chris dancing: “Konstantine” – Something Corporate + Eowyn’s fantasy montage: “Lady in Spain” – Ingrid MichaelsonAnd credit to Monty Python for Mal’s insult, of course.I’ve learned since starting this that there really is a Frey Law Firm. My apologies. I don’t mean to reflect badly on that firm. I’m sure they do perfectly good work. I just mean to say that the character Walder Frey seems like exactly the kind of sleazeball who would be running the legal profession in the wake of an Apocalypse. I’ve been rereading A Storm of Swords and I just got to that scene today, so I’ve been making a list of ways for him to die violently. I know there’s no karma in ASOIAF, but a Stark can dream.<br />
  108. 108. Next time on An Apocalypse of Ice: + Cute babies! + More restrictions to break! + How do a prominent lawyer and a prominent doctor manage to live under the same roof? + Joule grows up and chooses a career.I’ll probably put up a fluffy behind-the-scenes of the “Lady in Spain” montage before moving on to the slightly less fluffy Chapter 7 (everything is a little bit fluffy with Mal, even the Apocalypse). Happy Simming!<br />