Fun fact: I named the Google Drive folder this is in "Crappy High School AU oh yeah give it to me baby" because I'm hilarious.
I was also strong-armed into this by everyone on this post: https://redd.it/67x5iq and not because I have an unhealthy love of crappy high school AU fanfiction. It wasn't my fault it was totally my fault .
Aloy could feel the bass thumping before she heard the growl of the engine, then a laying on of the horn and yelling for Avad. There was a muffled noise of frustration from the other room, and the sounds of Avad’s violin stopped shortly before he stomped through the living room and threw the front door open.
“It’s ten at night!” he called out. “There are noise ordinances! You’re going to get arrested!” Aloy pulled the door open enough to watch, and he waved his bow at her. “And Aloy is studying!”
Erend was too plastered to do anything but laugh and make cawing noises, but Ersa leaned halfway out the driver’s window and dragged her tongue across her lower lip as she looked Avad up and down. “Hey, baby,” she crooned. “Can I come see your room? I’ll let you … play me like an instrument.” That made Erend start air guitaring and making what he apparently thought were guitar noises. Avad jumped like he’d been shocked and ducked his head while mumbling protests. He stood there like a deer in the headlights as Ersa got out of her car and made her way up to him, her pants long and baggy and her top short and tight. “Come on,” she whispered, pressing against him and running her hands over his chest. He managed one garbled protest before she leaned up and licked his ear and he slumped a little, but did manage to grab Aloy’s arm and shove her into Ersa, who grinned brightly at her. “Oh, hi, Aloy. How’s school?”
She was trying to get Avad’s pants undone. Aloy wriggled out from between them. “Uh, fine. I’ll just, uh, get Erend. You two, uhm, have fun.”
Her older brother was protesting but not stopping Ersa from pushing him inside and toward his room. He was babbling something about impropriety and Rost getting home.
“Rost works until at least two. I’ll be done with you by then.”
Aloy didn’t hear the rest, and was glad of it. “Come on, Erend. Bedtime.”
“And Iiiiiiiii … Will rock you like an avalanche! Bow-wow-nyah-nyah-nyowwwwwwww!”
Getting him out of the car wasn’t that big a chore. Getting him to stop his performance long enough to get inside was more difficult. “Hey, why don’t we do karaoke?” she finally asked.
“Yeah!” He stumbled out of her grasp and fell down, having to crawl up the driveway and to the front door.
Aloy followed him and got him onto the couch, where he promptly passed out. How he got away with half the things he got away with, she didn’t know. Avad didn’t party, and Aloy wasn’t popular enough to be invited anywhere. But Erend – Erend did what he wanted, when he wanted, and nobody but Ersa could make him do anything else. She covered him up and made sure he had a bucket to puke in, and his snoring was loud enough that she escaped to her room to finish her homework. That worked for about two seconds before the thumping of Avad’s bed against the wall and his cries of pleasure nixed her plans. The front porch it was, then, as usual. Advanced physics wasn’t that hard, and it was even easier with the Focus that Uncle Ted had given her over Rost’s protests. At some point Ersa left, patting her on the head and dropping a twenty on her holo-tab for having chased her out of the house. Avad would be a wreck in the morning, moping about how he’d taken advantage of Ersa (against all evidence that the situation was the complete opposite) and how he wanted to treat her to the finest things in life, how she needed a gentleman, and about how he found her generally flawless. Aloy pushed her homework aside an hour or so after Ersa was gone but stayed on the porch after making herself a cup of tea. She huddled in the blanket stored under the bench, and went through all the old news articles about her mother that she’d stored in her Focus. The articles made Elisabet out to be some sort of cold robot despite her dedication to saving the environment and bettering people’s lives, but all Aloy remembered of her was warmth and love.
She was still there, brooding, a second hot cup of tea and warmed up, covered leftovers on the table in front of her, when Rost pulled up in their beat-down car. The brakes needed changing, and there was a loose belt somewhere. She’d see what she could do about it over the weekend. Old Man Brin usually had spare parts he’d give her if she listened to a few of his crackpot conspiracy theories, maybe ran an errand or two for him.
Rost pursed his lips as he walked up the driveway, but he was used to her waiting up for him with a cup of tea. He sat beside her with a weary sigh and gladly took the cup, nodding in thanks. A few bites of food later, he picked up her holo-tab to look over her homework, his hand hesitating over the articles of her mother that she’d also pulled up there. He didn’t understand half of her schoolwork, but nodding approvingly anyway and raised a hesitant hand, awkwardly patting the air right above her shoulder before dropping it. A few times he took a breath and opened his mouth to speak, but always closed it again with a droop of his shoulders. He still didn’t know how to talk about Elisabet with her children. His children. He hadn’t expected their grandmothers to give him primary custody of them after Elisabet’s untimely death, but he was the only father any of them except Avad had known, and Granny Teersa had probably blackmailed Grandmother Lansra into allowing it.
“Is Nil still here?” he finally asked.
“He set up a tent in the backyard.”
“He has a week before he has to start paying rent.”
They were silent after that. Once Rost had finished his dinner, he gathered the dishes and stood as he cleared his throat. “… Goodnight, Aloy.”
She stayed outside for a little longer, then shut everything off and headed inside. It took a brief press of her hand to lock the house down. Uncle Ted refused to help with their schooling, house payments, or car – forcing Rost to work terribly long hours to support them – but he’d made sure their house was impossible to break into. His logic about when and how to help care for his sister’s children was impossible to figure out. She listened at Avad’s door to make sure he was asleep and not moaning to himself about his terrible, awful, ungentlemanly treatment of Ersa, then closed her bedroom door and opened the window, leaning against the sill and cupping her chin in her hands as she looked down at Nil’s tent. She was sure he had a home, but he preferred to at least pretend he was a homeless loner.
“Yes?” was the immediate reply as the tent rustled.
“Rost says you can stay one more week before you have to start paying rent.”
“I killed Bran for you.”
“No, you didn’t. He moved away.” She actually wasn’t completely sure about that. She wasn’t sure Nil had never killed someone. She didn’t care to find out one way or the other.
“I did, too. It was wonderful. They’ll never find his body.”
“I’m pretty sure he’s still active on The Network.”
She rolled her eyes. “Ugh, whatever. Goodnight, Nil.”
“Tell Ersa it’s always a pleasure when she comes over.”
He was describing the pleasure of the slice of a knife between flesh and muscle as she closed her window. She couldn’t fall asleep until she heard Rost get up and start moving around. He could have slept another hour, but he insisted on wasting precious sleep to make them all breakfast and leave it to stay warm in the oven. She didn’t sleep long after that, and woke from dreams of her mother’s scent and laughter and warm embrace. Her dreams were almost the only time she felt anything other than empty, felt like she was actually feeling something, doing something other than just going through the motions, her emotions superficial, covering a shaky nothingness in her chest. Avad’s violin floated to her through the wall. It was her cue to get up and get Erend ready for school. Erend claimed to remember their mother, but Aloy privately thought he was making it up just because his older siblings remembered her. She’d given him a stimulant pill against his slurred protests, and they were both ready by the time Varl knocked on the door. He nodded shortly to her when she opened it.
“Good morning, Aloy.”
“Hi, Varl. Come in. Avad’s almost ready. Are you hungry?”
“I ate at home, thank you.” He held up a casserole dish as he walked in. “Mother and I made this for you.”
Aloy took it with a nod and put it in the fridge, where the last casserole was two-thirds gone. “You don’t have to bring us food.”
“I know. Vala would want it.” She wanted to apologize, but he always insisted she didn’t. The accident hadn’t been her fault. Vala had, in fact, acted to save her, and Varl thought apologies diminished his sister’s sacrifice. Instead she prodded Erend into eating. “Is that for Teb?”
There was a bag of worn clothes sitting by her chair. She nodded. “He doesn’t charge to fix them.”
“He’s a good man.”
“Varl, you’re here. Good.” Avad was wringing his hands nervously, then ran them through his hair. It made it stand on end. Aloy’s lips twitched a little and Varl grinned. “I need to talk with you on the way to class.”
“I’m sure you do.” He got a dirty look for his amusement. “Are you ready, Aloy?”
She nodded as Avad cleared the dishes. They loaded Erend into the car, telling him in no short terms that he wasn’t allowed to skip school that day. If he missed much more class, he’d be kicked off the football team. He grudgingly agreed to stay the whole day, but threatened to not like it. He’d gotten out of the car and Aloy was gathering her things when Ersa appeared out of nowhere and leaned in the driver’s window, grabbing a fistful of hair at the back of Avad’s neck and kissing him like her life depended on it. He was gasping for air and almost purple with embarrassment when she let him go.
“I had fun last night, baby. Let’s do it again sometime.”
“Bye, guys.” Aloy wasn’t sure how Avad had convinced himself that he was the one who was accosting Ersa, rather than the other way around, yet there he was, stammering apologies as Varl covered his laughter. Maybe it was because she was a senior in high school and he was a freshman in college – but how her birthday fell meant she was already eighteen, and he himself had just turned nineteen, so their relationship – or whatever it was – wasn’t illegal. Her brother was just … anal. And weird.
“He asked me out again.” Ersa had caught up with her and draped her arm over Aloy’s shoulder.
“Think I should?”
“I don’t care.”
“Sorry for keeping you up last night.”
Ersa squeezed her shoulder. “Hey.” Aloy looked at her out of the corner of her eye. “Are you ok? You don’t seem ok.”
Aloy shrugged. “I’m fine. I’m just … tired.”
“… Yeah. Sure. Look, I was gonna make Avad go camping with me this weekend. Do you wanna come, instead? You could use a break. There are hunting grounds around, too.”
It had as much appeal as anything she vaguely enjoyed doing did. Still, she had responsibilities. “I need to work on the car. I would, but … maybe some other time.”
“I’m not taking no for an answer. I’ll find someone to work on the car – for free. Petra might do it. She likes to show off for Vanasha. Come on, Aloy. Please?”
“Hunting, you say?”
They both jumped as Nil appeared beside them, and Ersa glared at him. “You’re not invited, Nil.”
“I wasn’t asking to be invited, though I’m wounded that I wasn’t your third pick as a hunting companion. But I might drop by. I do always enjoy watching Aloy hunt.”
“You’re a creep,” Ersa snapped.
He grinned. “Guilty as charged. I’ll see you ladies later.” Then he sauntered off, twirling the switchblade he’d more than once gotten suspended for having.
Aloy’s Focus bleeped with an incoming message. She pressed it, and Sona’s holographic bust appeared, the top row of medals just visible across the right side of her chest. “Report to my house for dinner tonight,” was the curt order before the message ended.
“I’ll think about it.”
“I’ll pick you up at seven on Saturday. In the morning. We’ll be hiking a bit, so pack accordingly.” Having delivered Aloy to her first class, Ersa turned and sauntered off.
“Well, come in, Sobeck.” Professor Sylens drew a line with his holo-pointer from her to her seat. “You don’t need an invitation. Put your homework on the board.”
He always used her work as what his expectations for the other students were. Aloy connected her holo-tab with reluctance. “I may have made a few mistakes.”
“Doubtful. As you can all see, advanced physics is simple, really …”
She was teacher’s pet without asking or trying. It was always blamed on the fact that not only had Professor Sylens worked many years for Faro Industries, but that Ted Faro himself was her uncle. It didn’t matter that he was batshit crazy, thought he was literally a god, and that she and her brothers weren’t allowed to be near him unsupervised – not that they particularly wanted to be near the man who had been instrumental in their mother’s death. Aloy was an easy target for bullies no matter how many fights they started and she ended. Their bullying had just gotten more subtle over the years. Rumors that she’d been genetically enhanced and hadn’t just inherited her mother’s genius abounded. She’d heard that she was part machine, as well, rather than having trained in fighting and archery her entire life, thanks to Rost, and later, Varl and Sona. She was sure her uncanny appearance to her mother fueled the rumors that she was a clone. Grandmother Lansra, she was also sure, had helped those rumors along. The woman harbored a deep distrust of her – she despised her for some reason. Lansra was her father’s mother, so maybe that had something to do with it. Aloy didn’t remember her father. Only Avad did, and he never talked about the man.
“Aloy, a moment, please.”
“Yeah, sure.” She stayed at her desk as the rest of the class left and crossed her ankles, idly remembering Grandmother Lansra scolding her for sitting with her knees apart – the mark of a fallen woman, she’d been told. Granny Teersa had promptly launched into a detailed description of how to keep one’s knees together and still fall from grace. How they tolerated living together, Aloy would never know.
Professor Sylens’ Focus glowed the same blue as his implants as he leaned back in his chair and watched her. He finally tilted his head just slightly. “What do you plan to do after high school, Aloy? College?”
No one had ever asked her that – they always assumed she’d go into the same field as her mother. She shrugged. “Probably. Rost wants me to.”
“But what do you want to do?”
“… I don’t know. Something … something good. Something nice.” She frowned down at her desk. “Make the world a better place.” Like her mother.
“That’s very noble of you. But how will you do it?”
She was never sure if he was being sarcastic or not. “I don’t know, sir. Why?”
“Hmm. I … know people. An organization that would be very interested in your talent, however unrefined it currently is.” That was Professor Sylens – king of the backhanded compliments. “I don’t believe a traditional approach to education suits you. This organization would be able to provide a more challenging – and interesting – course of study for you, whichever direction you wanted to take.”
Aloy mostly wanted to sleep, for once, without worrying about her family or dreams of her mother. “I don’t know. I’ll … think about it.”
Professor Sylens stood up with a nod and gestured to the door. “Do let me know if you’re interested. There will be a … shareholder's meeting, of sorts, in a few months. An informal event. I would be more than happy to put you on the guest list.”
“I’ll talk with Rost.”
He put his hand on her shoulder – the first time he’d ever touched her. His eyes were as dark a brown as his skin. “Don’t let other people define who you are, Aloy. You are unique in this world. Don’t forget that.”
Cryptic, and vaguely foreboding. Aloy just nodded and moved on to her next class.
You can also read it at http://archiveofourown.org/works/10750437/chapters/23835429.