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Jael Carver

Aberrant: 200X - Fireworks

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Marriott Phoenix, Mesa AZ

July 2, 2011, 6:00 p.m.

Jael's Fuck-It Fourth of the July Extravaganza

Jael sighed and collapsed into the chair next to her dad’s chair, giving him a smile. He was in his seat for the night, sitting by the southwest windows. A table had been pulled close to him, filled with Donna-approved foods like vegetables and low-fat meats. Her father was fifty pounds overweight, though he’d lost another thirty from his ordeal and the surgery. White hair was slowly creeping back from his forehead, but he couldn’t be called bald yet. He was dressed in sweat pants and a t-shirt, looking relaxed. Donna Carver looked the opposite; only twenty pounds too heavy. Her hair was still blonde and neatly styled; she wore a casual blouse and pants. The real estate agent still looked like she was on the job, even on a day off.

“Is putting on a party such hard work?” Her father’s tanned, creased face was smiling at her. Jael smiled back, though part of her was uneasy seeing how weak he looked. He was just sitting there but he looked tired to her and pale under his tan.

“It is, like you would know. You just grill; I do all the work for our get-togethers,” Donna Carver said, gently chiding her husband. She’d been doting on him since his attack; getting him whatever he asked for, leaning on him and kissing him more than Jael could remember. Her father was just as sappy, hugging more often and saying ‘I love you’ to his family.

“Grilling’s hard work,” Robert replied, but he was smiling at his wife as she leaned against him.

“Well, I haven’t done much here,” Jael said, “but supervising everyone…” She cracked up a little, giggling. “Alright, I can’t keep pretending that I’m working. Honestly, the help set up the food and seating, Sunshine got the game stations going and Ruth has tested the food. So I’ve got it covered and I can enjoy the party.” She laid her head on her father’s shoulder, feeling content. Why do we almost have to lose to make us appreciate something?

“It’s six, people will be here soon,” Robert said. “You going to greet your guests?”

“Sure, I should,” Jael said, sighing. “Only for a little bit, then I’m going to come back and introduce you to everyone. Even Einherjar will be here and lemme tell ya, that shocked me.” I hope this lady with him keeps herself in check.

Donna made a soft ‘harumph’ noise at Einherjar’s name; she adored Sunshine and had developed a slight attitude toward anyone Jael had previously ‘associated’ with. Jael knew her mother had a massive blind spot regarding the exact nature of her relationship with those men. Oh, Donna knew the truth but Jael’s mother could ignore and repress information she didn’t want to face better than any 1950’s housewife. The nova still wasn’t sure what Robert thought of all of her ‘boyfriends’.

“Any more wrestlers?” her father asked hopefully. He’d really enjoyed meeting Bombshell; Jael had never mentioned it, but Robert was an avid XWF follower.

“We’ll see,” Jael promised. “If I see one, I’ll send them toward you. Unless it’s Crimson Light. He doesn’t get to come in.”

Donna made that noise again, then smiled. “You should go and start meeting people, honey,” she said, shooing her daughter away. “I’m sure they’ll be arriving soon.”

“Alright,” Jael agreed, smiling as she rose. She took a moment to make sure her blue sundress was straight then headed for the hallway between the rooms she’d rented. Her path took her by her sister at the food table, and Jael made another attempt. “Hey, Ruth.” As usual, her sister stared through her, her blue eyes cold as she ignored her sister. The sisters were undeniably similar with straight blonde hair and Nordic features. But Ruth was prettier than Jael had been as a baseline, and the baby-doll tee and stretch jeans emphasized the seventeen-year-old’s softer, less-athletic physique. “Glad you could make it,” Jael muttered under her breath. This was the norm for their relationship, which had never bothered the nova before. Now that Jael was trying to fix things between them, she found her sister’s continued silence to be annoying.

The elevator dinged as she stepped out into the hallway, and Jael was smiling as she stepped into the hallway, eager to see who was her first guest.

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Sean McCline was in a good mood. He’d been on vacation all week, and ending it with a party seemed to be the perfect way to finish. Maybe he’d get laid at the party. That’d be a really nice way to end it. He grinned a little at the thought, slouching against the elevator wall. Glancing down, he made sure his eufiber was appropriate, shaped into worn, comfortable jeans and a t-shirt that clung comfortably to his torso.

The elevator stopped before his floor; when the door opened, a couple of older women got on. “Ladies,” Sean said, nodding at them. They giggled a little, smiling at the handsome young man. “Floor?”

“Top,” one said. She was clutching a handful of flags and her clothes were a mix of red, white and blue. Even her jewelry was composed of flags and the USA theme.

“Same as you!” the other said, her hair as blue as her shirt. At least she had toned the patriotism merchandise to a single shirt, though a flag-draped cross was a little off-putting to a man who had been persecuted as a baby-killer and had received death threats from CoMA.

“Oh, you’re going to Jael’s party?” Sean inquired as the doors slid shut.

“Oh, yes! We go to Donna’s church,” Blue Shirt informed him, her kindly face creased in a smile.

“How nice,” Sean said, fighting to keep the smile in place.

“Are you one of Jael’s nova friends?” USA Woman asked.

“Yes I am,” the young man said, then backtracked, “well, we only know each other online. But yeah, she invited me.”

“Online? Goodness.” Blue Hair leaned a little closer. “Are you famous?”

Sean laughed. “I don’t think so. If you have to ask, I don’t think so, right?”

The doors chose that moment to open mercifully, and Sean extended his hand in a gallant gesture. “Ladies first,” he said and earned some more titters. Following after, he recognized Jael Carver. Ok, she’s hot, he thought, though there was only mild heat behind the thought. He let Wilma and Esther greet the nova, waiting politely until Jael was free from them.

“Sean McCline,” he said, offering his hand to her. “Thanks for the invite.”

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Jael was a little disappointed to see Wilma Simmons and Esther Burnham getting off the elevators. She’d known they were coming and even liked them to a degree; they were sweethearts, if a bit clingy. But having them show up first seemed a drag. Thankfully, there appeared to be someone more her age disembarking right behind them. He was tall with lovely, natural red hair. His eyes hovered between hazel and green and he was working that shirt like a fiend. He was vaguely familiar and Jael struggled to place his name.

“Hello, Jael!” Wilma chirped. “My, you have grown so tall!”

“Same height as last time you saw me,” Jael said easily enough, smiling at the women.

“You look lovely, dear,” Esther told her, nodding. “Is your young man here? Your mother has spoken so highly of him.”

Oh, Sunshine, I am so sorry. “Yeah, he’s around,” Jael said with a smile. “Food’s in there, and so’s Mom. I know she’d love to see you.” The diversion worked; the two tottered off toward the food.

Before Sunshine, Jael might have been sizing someone like Sean up for a ride; today, she was merely smiling at him and taking his hand for a shake. “Oh, hey, I remember you from the OpNet. Glad you could make it,” she said, smiling at him. “I uh, just wanted to say thanks to you.”

The guy frowned a little. “For?”

“You said some nice things to Sunshine,” Jael said softly. “I can’t say more now – rule one – but your comments were appreciated.”

“Just the truth,” he replied, shrugging, but he looked pleased. “I’m gonna check out those games and let you do your thing. Thanks again.”

“No problem,” she said, pointing him to the right rooms. Awesome. This is going to be a great party.

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Across the globe, Ryusei was moving quietly through the house. He'd seen to everything for his siblings while they'd be gone, much as he did when he traveled with Katya. Jin would handle most things, and of course Takashi was old enough to fend for himself.

Once he was satisfied, he made his way onto the back porch, overlooking the vast ponds and gardens on the almost palatial estate that had been part of the family for centuries. He smiled and waited for Katya to finish getting prepared.

Thinking of her made him smile, Saito and Yumiko loved her like a big sister, and now that Sakurako had joined Nipontai she had even less time for them. Though she wasn't there alot, Ryusei almost had to fight for time alone with her as long as they were home, as the two baseline children always seemed acutely aware of their presence.

The buisness with Sunshine was beyond his ability to influnece, all he could really do was offner his quiet support for all involved.

He smiled, knowing this party would be lively, and that with baselines there, it would be intersting.

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Wearing a midnight, snap-front polo T-shirt dress that stopped well short of the knees, Katya strode onto the porch overlooking the extensive grounds, the wedge heels of her sandals a barely discernible whisper. She finished slipping on her silver hoop earrings, then glided up behind Ryusei, her hands going around his chest in a tantalizing caress, her warm lips brushing the back of his neck before she rested her chin on his shoulder.

Katya's Dress

V123041_132.jpg

"I'm ready to go, know, Ryu," she affirmed in her smokey, accented alto, mirth enriching her tone. "Just had to share a few things with Saito and Yumiko - you know how they are." Katya inhaled deeply, her breasts swelling against Ryusei's back, her sensitive nose picking out each and every individual scent permeating the lush gardens. "You?"

Feeling more than seeing Ryusei's nod, Katya reluctantly broke her embrace, a hand sliding down his arm, to entwining her fingers with his. Her free hand made a circular gesture, a portal of emerald and obsidian light swirling open right in front of them.

Two steps, and Katya and Ryusei were stepping into the reserved suite of rooms in the Marriot Phoenix in Mesa Arizona.

"Ah, Jael, it's so nice to see you again," Katya said warmly, giving Jael a rather tactile hug and a kiss on either cheek. "It's been some time." Katya stepped back and looked around as Ryusei took her place.

"Jael." Ryusei didn't break rule one, but she could hear his concern and support in the way he spoke her name.

Katya could hear it too. She had no compunctions about taking more direct, if still subtle, actions on her and Alex's behalf, had been about to, until Jason had politely, but firmly told her not to. She was inclined to proceed anyway, but Jason had been a stubborn man and if anything, was an even more stubborn woman. She wouldn't look kindly on the interference, no matter how well intentioned.

"I'm glad you could make it, you two," Jael said, welcoming them and telling what was where.

"So, Sunshine isn't here yet?" Katya asked, a coy sparkle in her eyes. "And how's Valkyrie going?"

"He's around somewhere, Jase too," she assured, "As for Val-

"Oop!" Katya exclaimed, feeling her smartphone vibrate in her purse. She pulled it out, reading the short text message and glancing at the attached photos, then gave Jael an apologetic, yet impish, grin. "That's the pair of guests I promised to pick. I'll be right back."

Her captivating emerald eyes slid towards Ryusei with a teasing look, running finger running down the length of his back. "I'll probably be right back. He is number two on my List." And number three and was number one...

Katya gave a rich chuckle and spun open another portal half way around the world. The soft, colourless light of pre-dawn filtered through, along with the scent of fertile soil and lush vegetation, as well as many other odors only those with an inhumanly keen olfactory sense would notice. Katya blew Ryusei a kiss, then stepped through her portal...

Into a backyard facing Einherjar's pleasant bungalow. A quick look around revealed it was just one of a number of similar bungalows, on the edge of a tidy, organized compound, the border of the forest coming close. It was quiet here at five 'o clock in the morning, the faint chill of the night already growing muggy.

Katys sashayed up to the backdoor, cocking her head to unabashedly eavesdrop. A dimple on her cheek bloomed as she heard Ein trying to get Morri to get dressed for the party.

"Knock, knock," Katya said in a stage whisper as she rapped rhythmically on the door. "Kitty Kat Shuttle Service ready and raring to go."

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"No." The Morrigan said, crouching atop the bed with her young face set in a mask of mutinous defiance. Einherjar sighed.

"I'm not cut out for this." he muttered, then fixed the girl with a gimlet stare. "Morri, it's a sundress. Girls wear these to parties." The red-eyed girl growled sulkily. Ein started wishing for Totentanz to kick the door down.

"Eyen wear dress?" Morri said, stabbing a finger at him accusingly. Ein was dressed in khaki shorts, sneakers, and an olive-green tee with the words "Relax Ma'am, I'm A Professional" stenciled in gold lettering across the tight-fitting chest. He grinned at her.

"Only when I'm drunk. Come on." he started towards her with the offending garment. Morri watched him approach warily as he held it out. "If you wear this, you'll look pretty." Morri eyed him with lessening suspicion, then shrugged with ill grace and silently agreed to try on the simple white cotton dress, shrugging out of her fatigues with a total lack of self-consciousness.

"Gee, you always tell me I look better without my clothes." Miner said from where she lounged in the corner, watching the hijinx with badly-concealed amusement. She grinned sardonically before fluttering her eyelashes at him. "I'd wear anything for you if you'd throw the 'P' word at me." Ein shot her a look and the woman schooled her expression and stood up abruptly. "And now I'm going to go get breakfast and mind the office."

"Do that. And no starting any wars without me. Tell Tavon I'd like him to get the scout platoons up to speed." Ein told her as he helped Morri. "No, Morri. Keep the undies on. That's right. We've got to be ready for a guerilla war, and that's all about the recon. Also talk to that French arms dealer. We need modern battlefield weaponry, not Two-Oh museum pieces. We're going to need more chopper pilots, too. I'll trust your recommendations."

"One day you're orchestrating cold-blooded coups, the next you're playing dress up with your 'daughter'. And then sometimes you do both at the same time." Miner said over one shoulder as she headed for the front door. "You're the strangest damn man I know, Ein."

"Good." he said, but Miner couldn't tell whether that was addressed to her or Morri. She shook her head as she left. Sitting on the edge of the bed, now wearing the sundress, Morri watched her go as Eyen slipped some open-toed sandals onto her feet.

"Mine-er bitch." The Morrigan declared, the same way she did most days when the pilot had left Eyen's bed to go about her business. Morri disapproved of the pilot, though not in an actively hostile way. The two got on reasonably well most of the time, actually. It was just when Miner had stayed over that Morri tended to get snippy.

"Well, yes she is." Ein said with a laugh. "But she's good at her job." Morri made a grumbling sound that expressed perfectly what she felt about why Eyen kept the woman around, even though she herself couldn't put words to it. Ein smiled at her, causing the girl to adopt a comically sour expression as she tried *not* to smile back.

"No." Morri said, pointing at his smile even as her own started to break out.

"Yes." Eyen said back as he drew a brightly-coloured red and gold headscarf from his pocket. "And this is for you."

"Pres-ent?" The struggle of wills forgotten, Morri snatched the cloth and held it up, examining it, then looking at him inquisitively.

"For your head." he pointed at her short hair, then gently took the square of cloth from her. He put it on himself, then gestured at the keenly attentive Morrigan. "See? Now you try it." He handed it back and watched as she attempted to mimic what she'd just seen. She grumbled and growled a little, but finally got it tied on, albeit lopsidedly and facing somewhat the wrong direction. She looked at him for approval.

"Not bad." he said, nodding as he reached out and adjusted it a little. Then a little more. "Here. That should do it. Come and see." He took her hand and led her to the mirror.

Morri blinked at herself, trying to figure out what it was that was so different. Well, everything. It was still Morri in the reflection, but it was a different Morri at the same time. Something seemed familiar about it, about the Morri in the mi-roar. She wasn't sure how she felt about it, and so she turned and held her hand up for Eyen. He smiled and pressed his palm to hers. "Is Morri okay?"

"Morri okay." she said with an answering smile. She wanted to show how okay she felt right now. It was the most okay she'd ever felt, and somehow with Eyen that was every day since the day he'd let her out of the collar and cage. There'd been not-okay times, and times she'd hurt Eyen when he tried to stop her hurting someone else. But overall every day had been more okay than the last one, and today was the most okay of them all. She felt something welling inside her that she wasn't sure how to express at all, so she simply grabbed Eyen's hand and smiled. "Morri very okay."

"Knock, knock," Katya said in a stage whisper as she rapped rhythmically on the door. "Kitty Kat Shuttle Service ready and raring to go."

Morri looked at the door, then at Eyen, who didn't seem perturbed, so she relaxed a little. Ein grinned and headed to the back door, throwing it open.

"Katya." he rumbled warmly, hugging the lithe Slavic beauty. Katya felt her fingertips (and other bits) tingle as she threw her arms around the broad shoulders in response, savoring the deep core of emotion under the layers of iron self-control with a connoiseur's relish. Then she peeked over Einherjar's shoulder at the red eyes peering suspiciously at this other woman who hugged Eyen.

"Morri, this is Katya, one of my friends. Katya, this is Morri, who I've already mentioned." Ein said easily, making the introductions. He watched Morri carefully, ready to interpose himself if needed. It shouldn't be - she wasn't hostile to women as a rule, but it paid to be careful with the Morrigan.

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The last few weeks had been good and bad for the young feral; she’d been happier than before, but life was far more complex than it had been before. There were Rules, all taught to her through careful, patient encouragement, that she had to follow. And there were a few revelations about her new world which made things particularly hard for her.

The days were always good. Eyen was always around but didn’t require her to stay close, and the girl ranged far afield, practicing hiding and watching humans and animals from secret places. The animals were easy to get along with; Morri understood how they thought. They had their own Rules but unlike Eyen’s, they made sense. It didn’t mean she wouldn’t follow Eyen’s Rules – she just comprehended why the animal’s rules existed.

When she found the hurt bird, it seemed natural to bring it to Eyen. He sent her to Ford, who made annoyed noises but tended to the wing all the same. It made Morri feel good, to find hurt things and get them fixed. Then Eyen went and made Rules about that after she brought home the leopard. She’d gently carried it home as the predator struggled against her greater strength and she didn’t let go until after they had a pen arranged for it but everyone had been upset. So she had to ‘call ahead’ with her radio if she was bringing in another animal. It seemed silly to her but made Eyen happy so she was willing to do it.

It was nights that were hard. Learning that her savior hurt women inside had been particularly difficult. But it was different than with Hatch Ins or the others; these women seemed to line up to be hurt, seeking Eyen out. It was disorienting and terrifying to Morri; she could only believe that these women were sick inside. The only thing that kept her from fleeing was that Eyen never tried to hurt her.

But it left her with a disdain for the women who flocked to his bed, and not just because it meant she couldn’t sleep in her preferred nest under the same bed when he ‘had company’. Morri couldn’t understand why these women enjoyed being hurt and when it was happening, she was filled with a silent dread. Eyen had made her a cave in her room, a double bed that stood one on top of the other so she could hide comfortably under the top one. Eyen put up blankets so that she couldn’t be seen there. But she couldn’t sleep there; the young feral was afraid to be helplessly asleep by herself. So when the women came to be hurt, Morri huddled in her cave and waited out the noises that made her feel sick and sometimes made her eyes leak fluid. When it was silent and she heard them sleeping, only then would Morri slip back into the room and scoot under the bed. There Eyen’s smell drifted down over her and she knew that he was above her if someone came to hurt her. She knew he’d go blue all over and together, they’d stop her attacker. To ask for that pain meant that the women were sick inside, too. They liked the pain and Morri couldn’t understand that.

So when Morri met Kat-Ya, the feral made a few assumptions, many of them partially correct. Mostly, she saw and smelled the rising lust that Kat-Ya had for Eyen and she saw another woman who was sick inside. But this one was pretty and somehow nicer than the others. But Mine-er wasn’t a bitch to Morri because she was by every other standard, she was a bitch because she was sick inside. When Morri had used the word for the woman, everyone had agreed that Miner was and Morri thought she knew what a bitch was. The fact that she didn’t wasn’t stopping her from applying the label to Kat-Ya. “Kat-Ya bitch?” Morri enquired. Eyen’s eyes squeezed shut and Morri knew she’d said something wrong. “Kat-Ya smell bitch,” she tried to explain, looking confused even for Morri.

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Einherjar shook his head slightly, torn between laughing and facepalming like so often when Morri came out with one of her Morri-isms. He looked down at Katya's slightly shocked expression and winked before turning back to Morri.

"No. Katya isn't a bitch." Ein said gently. "Katya is nice."

"Katya smell bitch." Morri repeated insistently. "Sick like Mine-er. Like other womans. Want Eyen hurt." She folded her arms and glowered puzzledly.

"Want Ein hurt?" Einherjar blinked, then looked at Katya, who was smirking. "Hmm. Morri, Eyen doesn't-" He stopped then, fresh understanding blooming in his expression. "Ah." He looked at Katya. "Morri's been abused." he told her gravely. "So she feels that when a man and a woman are together..."

"That the man's hurting the woman." Katya nodded, an understandingly compassionate expression on her face. "It's alright, Morri. Sometimes I am a bitch. But Ein doesn't hurt women like you think."

"Eyen nice." Morri asserted as she unstiffened a little, her puzzlement undiminished. "Eyen not hurt? Women make hurt noises." She looked at Katya expectantly. This woman was nice, and wasn't afraid, and liked Eyen, so maybe could tell Morri why women seemed to be sick around him.

"Oh honey, they're not hurt noises." Katya said with a warm chuckle. "Ein makes us feel good, that's all." The explanation didn't help much, but Morri decided that further questions could wait for now. Eyen had told her about a part-ee, and how Jay-yell was a friend, and that there'd be more people like them there.

"Part-ee?" she said, looking up at Eyen expectantly and raising her hand to him. He pressed hands and nodded.

"Party." he said. "Stay close, Morri." He started out of the house, only to have Morri stop him with a hand on his arm.

"Eyen sword?" she asked, puzzled again. "Eyen axe?" Eyen had said that the part-ee was taking place off the base, so he would be taking his weapons, surely. Her puzzlement grew to nervousness when Eyen shook his head.

"No." he said easily. "There's no need."

"Eyen sword." she insisted, pointing back into the bungalow. "Eyen axe." Ein sighed, then looked at Katya.

"One second." He disappeared into his room, re-emerging a minute later with his sheathed sword in one hand. "I'm sure it'll prove an entertaining talking-point, at least." he said with a grin.

"Of course." Katya said with a sultry smile. "And I'll bet you five bucks that someone at the party says 'My, that's a big one' or something of the sort." Ein laughed, then looked at Morri.

"Okay?" he asked her. Morri nodded, happier now. "Alright, Katya. Work your magic."

Morri's reaction to the warp as it sprang into life was about what Ein expected, a mixture of fascination and fear as she took a step away from the portal and behind him, peering out from round him suspiciously. Ein smiled gently at her, then at Katya before walking towards the swirling green-and-black rift in space. "Come on Morri. It's okay." he told her over his shoulder before stepping into the warp and disappearing from sight.

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Ryusei chuckled. Any other man might actually be intimidated, and definitely annoyed by Katya's ideas about a relationship. For Ryusei though, He was secure in how things were, and in that if he asked, he could do likewise woth a woman or three of his choice.

Besides, he'd met Einherjar before, and while he was surrounded with controversy now, he had been a good and reasonable man. Until he proved himself otherwise to Ryusei himself, he would act no different towards him.

He turned to Jael and smiled. "This is quite a spread, and I have something I would like to talk to you about in private later Jael." The way he smiled was enchanting, though it was to be expected with him.

He nodded once. "It can wait for a quiet moment though."

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"Mmm, you have my interest now," Jael said with a smile. Though the smile might seem inviting, there was little real heat in the smile. Jael sensed that Ryusei wasn't making that kind of offer - and she wasn't sure that she was interested. He was terribly hot. "Just come find me later, ok? For now, go enjoy yourself. I insist." She gave him a final smile.

A couple of moments later, another gate, identical to the first came open, and Jael grinned when Einherjar stepped out. "Ein!" she said happily, her arms opening as he walked toward her. "I'm glad you can make it. Where's your shadow?"

"She's coming as soon as she works up her nerve to try the portal," Einherjar told her, giving her a hug that lifted her off the ground.

Jael grinned. "Katya's portal is a little creepy." She peered at the black and green doorway in nothing. Growing serious, she asked, "How have you been? Aside from taking in strays and coming to parties armed with your sword?"

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Ryusei moved on stopping when he felt the portal open, content to wait for Katya to return before he helped himself to the food. Seeing Ein emerge first didn't suprise him as he made his way back there, ready to greet the Nova Elite, his guest, and Katya upon their return.

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“Eyen!” Morri’s shout sounded like a child being left behind by her parent. Her distress was real and all too childlike. It was painful for Katya to watch someone this old reacting like that. Morri paced a second, ignoring Katya’s soft encouragement. Eyen had disappeared into that thing and Morri realized that she was letting him face whatever that was alone. With a distressed whine, she coalesced her sword from her blood and leapt through the rift.

Einherjar wasn’t entirely surprised to see his young ward come through the warp combat-ready, her bloody sword in hand. She found herself facing Eyen and a blonde woman; Eyen looked at her like he often did. The woman however had empty eyes and silver blades adorning her fingers. Morri understood what this woman’s eyes were saying: I will fight you if you make me.

The man beyond them caught her eyes and Morri tensed, snarling at him. He was a bad man, of this she was sure. “Eyen?” Morri asked, keeping her eyes on the dangerous man. “Eyen okay?”

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Katya's lips curved into a nonplussed grin at the sight of the blood-wrought blade. That's new. What has Ein been teaching the poor girl - she has a long way to go, yet. The urge to lay a sensitive hand on Morri, to read her history written in flesh and bone, arose, conflicting with an instinctive recoil. Even without the penetrating touch, Katya could see the mental trauma beneath the scar tissue of Morri's rough social graces, even if the specifics of the cause was unknown to her.

Katya glanced over a shoulder, briefly considering a bit of snooping around - just out of curiosity, of course - then dismissed it, a sly smile coming to her lips. Sunshine was a most fine project... I think Morri here will need a more feminine touch than what Einherjar can provide. Poor girl, thinking sex - gasp! - is bad.

Katya undid another button on her dress, revealing a bit more of the delectable curve of her breasts, then sashayed through her portal, which snapped close behind her with a muted flash of jade and dark light. The perceptive, young woman rolled her eyes at the taut tension thrumming in the air. Tight as a bowstring, Katya passed over trying to calm Morri down with a touch - she wasn't sure exactly what those crimson blades were, but assumed they were more than sufficient to poke holes in her - she instead glided to the side of focus of her ire.

"Really girls? A catfight in the making already?" Katya mused in rich amusement. "How about we put the pokey things away, just to be fair - not all of brought toys to play with... at least, not the slashing kind." Katya stepped up onto her tip toes and gave Ryusei a kiss, and a squeeze on the ass, before settling on her heels and smiling at the others.

"No need to mark you territory, Morri, we all have our own men here. You have Ein, Jael has Sunshine, and I have Ryusei, one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet," Katya purred persuasively. "He'd cut off his own hand before hurting a woman."

Katya glanced at Einherjar, a question in her emerald eyes, the subtle shift of her shapely shoulders, the light flutter of her fingers on her free hand, the angle of her jaw, conveying her intent as clearly as if she had spoken... To do those who knew what they were looking for. Do you need help with Morri?

She hid her actual concern behind a smooth smile, giving Jael a coy look. "Speaking of men, where is Alex? And our pair of former men come Knockouts and Bombshells, for that matter?"

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Ryusei smiled and enjoyed the Kiss. She was teasing him already, or rather in continuance from his home. The way the red-eyed nova looked at him made him keep his distance. With claws and blades already out, and no knowledge of why this was, he thought that best.

"Not only that, but there's plenty of food over here just sitting, ready to be eaten in fine Fourth of July tradition. We can wait for any others who might show, or we can all sit down and enjoy the fine food provided for us."

He hoped his calm and strong voice would help ease the tension, and normally the alternative of food usually worked to defuse things in the past.

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"Morri." Ein smiled at her and turned towards the girl, murmuring "It's okay." to Jael and the others. He raised a hand towards her. "Ein is okay. These are my friends."

Morri stared around for a moment, then uncoiled, the blood sword falling to the ground in a patter of droplets, which faded in a matter of moments. She stepped forward and pressed her palm to Einherjar's, her glowing red eyes on the bad man, a wary expression on her face.

"This is Jael, who said you could come to the party, and that's Ryusei." Ein said, not missing the hostile expression on his ward's face as she gazed at the Japanese man. "Morri." he said with gentle insistence. She looked at him then, her nervousness palpable. "It's okay." he repeated, clasping her hand in his. "I'm right here."

It was an eerie sight for those that knew Einherjar mainly by reputation, seeing the large man gentle the feral child with words and touches. It perhaps wasn't so jarring for Katya, who'd read the fabric of the man beneath her fingertips and knew as well as any how deep the waters ran beneath the calm surface. Holding firmly to Morri's hand, he smiled wryly at Jael.

"Don't worry about this." he motioned with the hand holding the sword. "Morri feels better if I have it with me."

"Unlike the rest of the world." Jael said with a grin, her eyes serious by contrast as she studied the big elite. "You're expecting trouble?"

"Not especially." he said with a shrug. "If any manifests, though, have Katya open a warp and we'll run, drawing them after us. We're not here to rain on your parade." He gave her a one-armed hug and a kiss on the cheek.

"As to how I've been..." he considered that as they moved over to the buffet Ryu had mentioned. A grin split his bearded features, wickedly echoing the glint in his softly glowing irises as he summed up the last couple of months in one-worded style. "Busy. I'm running my own outfit now, and it's time consuming." He slung the sword over one shoulder casually, as though it were a book-bag rather than 300lbs of archaic, but still terrifying, weaponry. His hands freed up, he loaded a plate of finger-food for Morri and handed it to her as he spoke, hoping that eating would distract his ward from her nervously hostile scrutiny of Ryusei.

"Here, Morri." he handed her the plate, grateful that she'd somewhat mastered the art of eating semi-delicately with her fingers. "Don't make a mess." he told her with a smile. "So, how's your father doing?" he asked Jael as he turned back to her.

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When Morri’s weapon’s disappeared, Jael’s claws went away as well. She straightened from her crouch to smile at Einherjar and Morri. It was as if the moment had never happened. She waved at Katya, recognizing Ryusei’s girlfriend. She felt a pang of regret for letting the handsome Asian get away without at least one fuck, but that was life. She was happy with what she had now – even if she had moments of wondering if she’d made the right choice.

Jael grinned crookedly. “He’s hoping some more XWF super-stars show up,” she said light-heartedly, “and loving all the attention. He kept adding things to the food list, and Mom would have to remind him he couldn’t eat any of it.” She smirked with mock evilness and added, “And Mom is dying to meet you.”

Einherjar looked skeptical, an eyebrow rising high on his face. “Why do I doubt that?” he asked with a smile, fixing his own plate.

“What? Why would I lie?” Jael’s smile wouldn’t melt butter, but she couldn’t quite hide the mischievous sparkle in her eyes. She snatched up a plate and began to load it with Sunshine’s favorites. He was probably either still setting up the systems – those things never worked on the first try, it was like a rule – or he was engrossed in a game. Either way, he’d love to have some food – and she’d love the excuse to hunt him down and steal a kiss.

“Because it amuses you,” the big warrior told her, though his words couldn’t hide his amusement.

Jael giggled, knowing that it was completely true. “So what’s your story, Morri? Oops, sorry about the rhyme. But I’d love to hear how you hooked up with the big guy.” A blank red-eyed stare was her only answer. “Don’t like telling the story? Or don’t want to tell me the story? Because it’s cool. I was just wonderin’.”

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"Okay, this blows." The raven haired Asian beauty known as Ming 'Mixie' Xiao strolled into Contessa's bedroom holding a piece of paper. "Your dad totally left the bonus spending money in the safe."

"So?" Tessa said casually, looking at herself in the mirror while she inspected how yet another shirt looked on her. "You're practically adopted, it's not like you don't know the combination." She turned to the side and looked once again before huffing and pulling it off.

"He changed the combination. He left you one of his little riddles for you. Which don't get me wrong, I think the brain games you two play are great and all, but this is serious pizza money we're talking about. It's a lot to wager on the off chance you'll guess right." Ming looked over the note. "I've changed the combination Pumpkin," She mocked him in a deep manly voice. "I think it's cute he still calls you Pumpkin, ave I told you that recently? If you want Ming's, god I ahte when he calls me Ming, pizza money then you'll first need to figure out why I've left a bushel of apples in the torch of the Statue of Liberty." She looked to Tessa and quirked her brow. "Okay, that's gay. Why would he leave apples at the Statue of Liberty anyway, it makes no sense."

"The combination is 42408." Contessa said almost instantly, pulling her 'die n00b' black tee down over her features. "A bushel of apples is 42 pounds. There are 408 steps to reach the Statue of Liberty's torch. He's slipping, that one was easy."

Ming simply stood and kept her brow raised as high as she could manage. "Uh, yeah. Actually, that was going to be my guess too. I was, uh, still reading though, and you spoke up first. Y'know... good call though."

"How do I look?" Tess bounced a one-eighty and held her arms out wide for Mixie to inspect. Jeans, tee and Converse All-Stars made up her ensemble. "Ta-da!"

"I think Hanna Montana called and wants her wardrobe back." Mixie wandered over to Contessa's closet and began rummaging. "Stay put, I'm going to find you some less appropriate clothes."

The warp portal closed behind them in a blueish shimmer with a mixture of golden sparkles. Contessa's outfit wasn't much different, having simply swapped the jeans for a denim skirt and the All-Stars for simple pair of slip on sneakers. Mixie insisted she 'show some leg' for Sunshine, even if his crazy girlfriend might flay her alive. Mixie was in short denim shorts with a black top that had image of the nova Einherjar that read 'Ein World. Ein Love'. The two were quite a contrast. Contessa was the quintessential 'hot girl next door' with straight blond hair cut perfectly and her fake-up always applied perfectly. Ming was just as lovely, but she sported dark purple streaks in her straight black hair and her make-up was more exotic sweeping up around her eyes.

"This is going to rock." She said to Tessa. "Come on, introduce me to all your nova buddies."

"I don't have nova 'buddies'," she air quoted as the ladies walked to the roof door and headed to the party below them. "I know Alex, but everyone else are just sort of strangers, personable strangers, but strangers nonetheless. Still, they're cool people though."

Casually the ladies entered the party and strolled around for a bit while Contssa pointed some of the novas she recognized to Mixie. "Uh, Mixers..." She tapped her friend on the shoulder. "Uhh... guess who is here?"

"Hm?" Mixie turned around with a face full cheese and crackers. "Gawd, these are good. Free food is my favorite food." She looked to where Tess was pointing and choked slightly before swallowing hard. "No. Way."

"Yep, Einherjar. Wanna meet him?"

Mixie locked up. She'd never actually seen him in person before and now that he was right there her love for him tripled. She was totally fan-girling but sh couldn't help it. Usually the more composed in social situations between the two ladies Contessa observed her friend nearly fall apart and stand there like a deer caught in the head lights of a on coming vehicle. She was at a loss for words and could do nothing but stand there and stare. "Um, uh..." she stammered, a first for the normally shameless woman. "I'm good. I, uh, I'm sure he's busy n' stuff. Maybe later."

"Suit yourself." Contessa shrugged. Einherjar may have been attractive, but the man's mannerisims and attitudes didn't sit right with her so she didn't really find him all that appealing. Then again, she really didn't know him either. "Wanna meet Jael after Einherjar is done?"

"Crazy bitch?" She asked. "Sure. But if she makes a move, I'ma cut her."

"She'd drop you." Contessa giggled as they wandered looking for Jael. "Seriously, though, she's not that bad, give her a chance, kay?"

"Fine. Only because I know Alex is special to you, and she comes as part of the Alex package." Mixie thumbed towards the opposite end of the party. "Cmon, let's go hunt for drinks. Nova have to have some good booze around here..."

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Sean had gotten some food, said hi to people he didn’t know, explained to them that he was kinda a friend of Jael’s, managed to not mention that he was an Elite and had finally disengaged to wander into the games room. There, one of the most recently famous novas was sitting on the floor. Even someone who was as oblivious about current events as Sean was able to identify the nova in the room.

“Hi,” Sean said, smiling and walking over to Alex Andrews’s side. “I’m Sean.”

“Hi, Sean. I’m Sunshine,” Alex said, looking up from his game for a moment. “I’m just… testing the network.” The kid’s grin said that the testing was both unnecessary and way too fun.

“Heh,” Sean grinned. His smile twisted a little as he recognized the game in question: Battlefield: Elites. “Look at that. You’re playing my job.”

“Oh, you’re an Elite?” Alex inquired as Sean sat down cross-legged next to the glowing youth.

“Yep,” Sean said and didn’t elaborate. He didn’t feel like talking about his job.

Alex seemed to understand that; with that same guileless smile, he passed him a controller and asked, “Up for a game?”

“Sure,” Sean laughed, “but I suck at these when I play against a nova. Those enhanced agility skills kick my ass every time.”

“Who do you want to play?” Sunshine asked, restarting his battlefield.

“Gimme… Ausrine.” Sean was already toggling to the appropriate character. At Sunshine’s look he said defensively, “If I’m going to get my ass kicked, I might as well enjoy the show. Ya know what I mean?”

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"Um, no." Sean's heart sank a little as Sunshine gave him a look of wide-eyed curiousity. C'mon, the kid was shacking up with Jael Carver and didn't get... He wasn't seriously... He was. Oh shit. Then Alex grinned ear to ear and Sean realised he'd been had.

"I kid." Alex laughed, the combination of light innocence and knowing in his voice somehow not incongruous. It was as though he understood, and realised that it was all good fun. "I've been guilty of it myself. She's gorgeous." He toggled to his usual favorite, 'Calamity' Calhoun, and traded in his handicap points for going up against a heavier class opponent to buy some extra gear for the fight.

"You play Calamity?" Sean asked, both a little surprised to find the notorious elite responsible for the 'Field of Glass' incident in a game and to find someone like Sunshine playing such a grimly tragic figure.

"Yes." Alex said earnestly, his eyes and tone remarkably grave for a moment, an ageless wisdom mingling with the innocence. "He lost control and did something that haunts him. I like to remind myself that, even in games, there's something to learn. I don't ever want to do something like that."

"Deep, man." Sean said, looking sideways at him for a long moment as the battlefield loaded. The kid wasn't taking a swipe, or indulging in innuendo about Sean's past. He was for real. "Bet you've got some heat-based powers too, then?"

"Yes." Alex nodded, sapphire-blue eyes meeting Sean's as he smiled, the gravity of a few seconds ago passing. "Now get ready for an ass-whupping."

"Bring it." Sean grinned back, and as the ruins of Lahore and it's surroundings sprang to life, complete with local insurgent forces hostile to all players, the two novas began to play seek and destroy.

Click to reveal..
Alex's T-shirt

abd4_day_without_fusion.jpg

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The two ladies casually strolled about the party, waiting for Jael to be free for a meeting, or at least Einherjar to wander off so Mixie didn't pee herself while the hand shakes were taking place. One by one they sampled some of the food, which was awesome because Jael was the 'grocery store cheese and crackers platter' kind of woman and not the fancy type who had to have all sorts of unpronounceable food catered to her guests. Jael was a smart cookie and Mixie quickly learned that booze required an I.D. at this party, and having a nova pal who can detect lies about leaving it in your car was an awesome thing to have. Unless you were Mixie and got caught.

They leaned against the wall, giggling and people watching as the guests meandered about greeting one another while they popped their crackers with cheese and salami bites. They recognized a few faces, but none she had met already.

"So, who's the girl he's with? The one with the eyes." Ming asked.

"No, idea." Tessa popped a loaded cracker in her mouth and chewed, trying to talk while she did so since the question sort of caught her off guard. "She wooks too wung to be one ov hiz girlfwendz."

"Classy." Ming nodded with an approving smile.

Contessa swallowed, trying not to giggle and spit chewed cracker all over Jael's place. "Y'like that? And for my next trick-"

Her laugh was cut short by a handsome surfer type guy, maybe one of Jael's friends, but probably a friend of another guest. He approached the two ladies with a toothy white grin and red dixie cup in his hand. He smiled at Contessa and gave her an idiot frat boy 'sup' nod. "Damn girl, you are smokin'."

"Uh, oh." Mixie shrunk back a bit, to avoid any possible fallout from what was about to happen.

The blond bombshell's lip quivered slightly but she managed to maintain her composure. One thing Contessa could not stand was addled specimens of homo habilis deciding to woo her with the blatantly obvious instead of a simple 'hello, my name is'. She handed her plate of crackers and cheese (and salami) bites to Mixie without even looking in her direction. She stood tall and prepared her first volley. "Smoking?" She asked, nodding sarcastically. "Yeah, I'm smoking. Is that really the best you could come up with? Look, dude, I'd really hate to sound like some snooty stuck up up girl who thinks that because she's attractive she's better than everybody else, but come on, what did you really expect to buy with 'smoking'? I've braved the Tomb of Horrors. I've survived the Keep on the Border Lands, twice." She was even kind enough to hold up the appropriate digits in case his mind worked better with symbols. "I've an 18th level Jedi Guardian in a play by post game who is embroiled so deep into the dark politics of Republic Corruption that your feeble mortal mind would implode if I shared with you just a smidgen of the dark knowledge now in her possession. I've worked out an equation to calculate the drag coefficient on the tassels of my Dervish's magic carpet in Pathfinder. I've braved evils your mind would break in an attempt to understand, so please, don't tell this girl she's smoking, unless she's on fire, kay?"

There was an awkward moment of silence as the guy processed all that. Without a word, or even blinking, he simply did a one eighty and walked off.

Mixie tipped her drink up a bit and shook her head. "You are going to die an old woman with one hundred cats, you know that right?"

"More n' likely." Tessa nodded with her lips pursed together as she sighed. "He was pretty cute though."

"Yeah," Her friend shrugged, assessing the mans butt as he tried to regain his grip on his own reality again. "You're hopeless by the way."

"What?!" Tessa followed off after Mixie. The aisn felt it was necessary to relocate and was silently thanking herslef that she didn't actually know anyone at this party, or this zip code. "He was a complete moro-" She paused and Mix took notice of her sudden silnce and looked her over her shoulder to see what was up. "Someone's playing Call of Duty: Elites. I hear Ausrine's sound bytes. Come on." She waved for Mixie to follow her. "And gimme my crackers back."

"Hell no, these bitches are mine." She laughed at Tess while shoving a meat and cheese cracker sammich in her mouth.

Upon entering the room Contessa nearly succomed to a full blown geek-gasm (which seemed the closest this girl was ever going to get to an actual one) when her eyes attempted to take in the size of the massive screen that was being used for the games. When she caught sight of Call of Duty: Elites playing on it she instantly noticed Sunshine's corona of light as it emanated a soft glow about the room, even in the middle of the day. She watched and calculated every action as it took place on the jumbo screen, standing there quietly with her arms folded, doing every ounce of math in her head.

"Woah," Mixie smiled wide as she entered the room behind Tessa and was also in jumbo screen heaven for a moment. "Now that's how you game." She watched for a moment and smirked. "And Alex ix still tortoising."

"Easily fixed." Tess walked over and leaned in behind Alex, letting his warmth tickle her neck and cheek as she drew in close. "Hey," the warmth of her breath and the scent of her perfume assaulted his senses. "Nice pants. Mind if I test the zipper?"

At that same moment a spray of half eaten crackers were launched across the room by a very startled Mixie...

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Jason and Danielle were sitting on the bed in their hotel room, looking at furnishing and furniture sites on Danielle's laptop. Jason had just taken possession of her new home the day before yesterday, and though between her, Danielle, Jael, Alex, and a brief appearance put in by Katya and Ryusei, they had easily moved all her stuff to the new place, the large house was considerably bigger than her her penthouse. It was bigger than her penthouse apartment and her bungalow in Ottawa put together, in fact.

And blessedly free of encroaching paparazzi. She had been looking around for a true house for a while, but since Jael's trial, it had become a priority. And she was extremely pleased to have found a perfect place. She loved it. It was a little depressing realizing just how much clothing she had picked up though, mostly just from various modeling gigs and fashion shows.

Thus, since the place on Nordic Drive was so large, it now looked comparatively spartan, so she was looking at adding a few pieces of furniture, something stylish, but above all, comfortable (and perhaps fun or neat) to fill up some of the space. With the move done, they had a small BBQ for a house-warming party before heading down to Phoenix for Jael's July 4th (2nd) Party, but hadn't had time to remedy the situation, yet.

On the hand, the OpNet gave her the option to shop pretty much anywhere in the world and Danielle was adding her own input too, at Jason's insistence. As far as she was concerned, it was Danielle's place as much as hers. Earlier in the afternoon, they had spent a few hours checking out a few shops in Phoenix to add some character to their home.

Jason arced her back, stretching, impressive breasts jutting magnificently, then tapped a few keys on the laptop and flipped it closed. Flowing to her feet, she pulled off her top, switching it for another shirt and grinned over at her girlfriend.

"I can't believe I'm spendin' this much time tryin' to pick out furniture," Jason commented wryly, rolling her shoulders with enticing grace to settle her breasts in her shirt and bra. She snorted, slightly embarrassed by how comfortable she actually was, engaging in such a domestic activity with her girlfriend. Before, she'd always been annoyed if shopping took longer than ten minutes. "Guess we should head up to the party before wastin' another hour lookin' at dining room tables and chairs, eh, Dani?"

"I don't think they'll mind, Jay," Danielle said, looking down at herself and plucking at her clothes, debating if they were suitable. A pair of loose jeans and a light, baggy hoody with a maple leaf on the chest, her outfit didn't do a thing to conceal her figure. "Jael was the one who pointed out that you didn't even have a suitable dining room table and her mother gave us that list of places to check out."

Jason smiled at herself, pulling her long, silver hair back into a loose pony-tail and gave herself a once over in the mirror. she was wearing a pair of cross-trainers, a snug pair of cargo shorts that ended less than half way down her luscious thighs and clung to her perfect ass, and a white, fitted, spaghetti top with a maple leaf distorted by the thrust of her breasts, which proudly proclaimed, 'Canadian Girls Kick Ass.' This party might have been for Independence Day, but she and Danielle would adding a bit of Canada too, since they had been here for July first.

"I think Donna just used that as an excuse to get us out of the house so Robert would talk about somethin' else other than the XWF," Jason commented, giving Danielle a playful leer, remembering her short-lived, ill-fated XWF career. Without being overly modest, she well knew asking if she looked good or mentioning that Danielle did would be redundant - with their quantum blessings, they always looked good. It would take extreme effort to look anything but, really.

"Let's head up and have some fun, and make sure Alex isn't pawnin' everyone on the gamestations."

Moments later, the devastatingly lovely couple stepped out of the elevator hand-in-hand, a testament to every teenaged boy's more prurient fantasies. Anyone who wasn't the slightest bit aware of who they were would have been forgiven thinking they were sisters, so similar were their features and build. Then again, who these days didn't know of the spectacularly attractive, transsexuals women from Canada? Not that it stopped any of the speculation from the tabloids.

"Hey guys," Jason said, greeting Jael, her parents, and Katya and Ryusei. She gave the gorgeous blond girl standing next to another girl at the buffet table a little wave, recognizing her as Alex's friend.

"Ein, glad you could make it." She gave the big Elite a nod, a slight shadow coming to her luminous eyes, though her expression was guileless. Her time in the Congo hadn't been... pleasant, and he couldn't but remind her of that. She flashed the red-eyed girl hovering behind him an amiable grin, her voice friendly and mellifluous. "And you must be the guest Ein has told us almost nothing about. I'm Jason and this is Danielle."

Poor Ein, I think he's gonna have his hands full with this one a lot more than I did with Alex, she mused, casting a quick glance at the stacked blond as she saw her perked up at the sound of CoD: Elites and left to investigate the games-room.

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Ryusei had fixed himself a plate and waved with his free hand as Jason and Danielle arrived. "Nice to see you two again as well."

He noted the other novas present, wondering who the young blonde and her friend were before they left towards the sounds of what could only be the video game room.

"A group of novas playing video games, this I have to see." He looked to Katya and smiled. "And you said Sakurako, Kaien and I were weird that night we didn't go to bed because of Dynasty Warriors:Nova 2 coming out..."

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Sean was having fun. He’d enjoyed parts of his life at Windhoek, but he hadn’t had fun there. It was a compound of war, and though he’d had time to play games with people online, the number of people he could sit down and just chill with were zero. Everyone there made war in real life so why play it? Sean could have told them that he played for the tits, but they’d just point at the nearest whorehouse and tell him to get some real tits.

He hadn’t yet, aside from one time because he had to stop being a virgin. He didn’t want meaningless sex – and wouldn’t admit it, but that one time had been far less pleasant than he’d imagined it would be. Something that he didn’t feel he couldn’t tell his fellow Elites was that he wanted a girlfriend. Someone he could relax with, just be friends and have sex with once in a while. Something in his life that wasn’t seeped in the gore of the battlefield. Someone like Contessa, without the bitchy attitude.

Which was why when Contessa draped herself over Sunshine and offered to test-drive his pants, Sean felt – and looked – like he’d been punched in the gut. A hundred old feelings surfaced, just seeing her again. She was just two feet away, looking sexy and radiant and smiling – at another guy. She was ignoring him. Or maybe she hadn’t noticed him. It felt just as shitty, either way.

His controller thumped to the ground; Ausrine went still, though Calamity wasn’t very responsive at the moment, either. Turning away from the blonde couple, Sean rolled to his feet and started for the door, face set in hard lines. His eyes flickered over the chick by the door just as Mixie looked at him. Sean didn’t slow at all as he recognized the girl and saw the shock of recognition in hers. “Hey, Mix,” he said casually, though there was anger in his voice. “We should catch up later.”

He didn’t slow for her reply, blowing past her in a desperate attempt to get away from Contessa and her underling or overlord or whatever Mix was to her. No longer in a party mood, he headed for the door, only to stop when he caught a glimpse of Einherjar in the other room. This was part of the reason he’d come and Sean changed course. He managed to smile, though the perceptive could tell the young man was upset. “Ein! How the hell have you been?” he asked.

Then the blonde girl across the room mouthed, Baby-killer, at him. It was another punch and he had to blink and drop his eyes to the carpet as tears of frustration threatened. He could have handled Tessa or the baby-killer name, not both. Why the fuck were all his old mind-fucks at this goddamned party!? All he needed now was his mom’s bleeding ghost to complete the night.

Click to reveal..
BTW, for those who are in a position to see, it was Ruth who just emotionally slapped Sean. laugh

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The warm, sweet breath tickling his neck made him smile even as it caused delightful tension to run down his spine. Jael sometimes liked to sneak up on him and do similar things, but wait a sec, Jael didn't wear this scent-

Quote:
"Hey," the warmth of her breath and the scent of her perfume assaulted his senses. "Nice pants. Mind if I test the zipper?"

He stiffened in shock, gorgeous deep blue eyes shooting open wide as he realised that it was Tessa who'd said that. A moment later those same peepers turned to looked at the giggling teen, who was torn between laughing so hard she snorted and blushing bright red as she realised that she'd made Alex go crimson under his golden skin. She almost felt guilty for it, but staring into that handsome and totally crush-worthy face, the uppermost thought in Contessa's mind was that he looked really darned cute (not to mention funny) with his mouth half-open and his (dreamy) eyes all large like that.

"Ceej!" his gasp was half-relieved, half still-mortified as he swiftly realised that the beautiful girl had just got him good. He started to laugh then, grabbing chip from the bowl that'd been sitting between him and Sean and throwing it at her. "That was low!" he started to scold-

Only to realise that the other controller had hit the ground and Sean was stalking away. Alex looked round to see the red-headed young man exchange cursory greetings with Mixie, who seemed shocked, before practically running from the room. He looked back at Contessa, his expression chagrined.

"I think that guy knows you." he said mildly with an 'whoops' expression on his face. "He seemed upset."

"Tessa, that was Sean!" Mixie said, her own expression mirroring Alex's. "And, uh, yeah. He looked wicked pissed."

"We should go and talk to him." Alex said firmly, starting to stand. "I can explain that you owed me a prank."

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"Jason, Dani. This is Morri." Einherjar said with a wave of his hand. "Morri, this is Jason and Danielle. They're also friends of mine."

As Morri peered out from half-behind the large warrior at the two blonde goddesses, her expression somewhere between curiousity and feral watchfulness, Ein smiled broadly as he saw Sean approaching.

"Loki." he rumbled in reply, stepping foward and engulfing the younger man's hand in a firm clasp. "How're you doing, Sean?" He flashed a look at the blonde girl, not missing the interchange there or the effect it had on his young friend. "Ignore it." he advised Sean in a soft undertone. "She doesn't know you, so her opinion doesn't carry shit. Let me introduce you to some people worth knowing." Grinning, he turned to Jason, Dani and Morri.

"Ladies, this is Sean, an old friend. Sean, you of course know Bombshell and Knockout, and this young lady is Morri." he gave Sean a cautionary glance, then smiled. "I mentioned her on the OpNet."

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This was usually how it went. Contessa would attempt to do something daring and it would blow up in her face. It was just a joke and the moment she saw Sean she felt the same way he did. A lot of old memories and a heavy heart-ache began to weight heavily in her chest.

It was her turn to look like she'd been punched in the gut. "Sean." She managed to mumble to herself but he was already past Mixie before her words found purchase on her lips. She didn't know what to do.

Quote:
"Tessa, that was Sean!" Mixie said, her own expression mirroring Alex's. "And, uh, yeah. He looked wicked pissed."

"We should go and talk to him." Alex said firmly, starting to stand. "I can explain that you owed me a prank."

"Yeah, I saw, Mix, thanks." She replied with a stressed sigh as her cheeks began to flush with embarrassment. "Oh this is bad, he looked mad."

"Ceej, your thinking to hard. Relax and we'll go talk with him." Sunshine's way of making everything sound so easy calmed her slightly as Mixie took her hand.

"He's right, come on." She tugged her best friends arm a bit to coax into moving along. "Let's go talk to him."

A moment later Contessa tapped Sean on the shoulder. Mixie managed to build enough confidence to follow her despite Einherjar being right there within tasting distance. "Um, I'm sorry to interrupt Mr. Herjar, but can I borrow Sean for just a sec?"

This was about the time things usually went down hill, and this time was no different. All she had to do was simply explain the situation, apologize for any possible offense and they'd all go on laughing about this later. After all, it was just Tessa playing a prank, after all. But oh no, when it came to Sean the demons of Pride took a hold of her and squeezed tightly. Why should she have to apologize for a joke that had nothing to do with him? Why was he such a wuss and had to drop the controller and skip out like some butt-hurt little three year old who just had his blankie taken away. Oh, no. Just, no.

"Would you mind telling me exactly what that was in there?" She fumed like a mother scolding a child. "You haven't spoken to us in years and now we see you while playing a prank on someone you walk out like you'd just been beat up? No 'hello', no 'excuse me', no 'OMG I'm on fire!'"

"Oh, shit..." Mixie buried her hand in her face and shook her head. "Alex, you might wanna..."

"Is walking out the only thing you know how to do?" She went on. Apparently there was a lot more to the Contessa/Sean story than other knew and she seemed to have a few years of catching up with him to do. "When are you going to grow up and get yourself a pair of big girl panties, McCline?"

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"Tessa." Alex managed to sound both stern and sympathetic at the same time as he gently took her arm. He looked at Sean and shook his head. "Sean, it was a prank. Contessa and I are friends, and that's all. She owed me for roflpwning her whilst playing upside down and-"

"You so totally did NOT roflpwn me!" Contessa protested hotly, eyes flashing with nerdrage as her ire was neatly deflected from Sean to Sunshine, who grinned and shot Mixie a wink.

"He totally did, Ceej." Mixie said. As Contessa sputtered and rounded on her friend, Alex stepped closer to Sean, his expression gentle and somehow wiser than anyone a year old should be.

"Contessa missed you." he told the red-haired young man earnestly, his glorious tenor voice low. "More than she'll admit." He smiled then. "She's stubborn."

"Wait, what?!" Contessa turned again, realising that the double-team of Alex and Mixie had just endplayed her. Alex turned to face her, standing between her and Sean for a moment as he locked eyes with the fuming girl.

"Did I tell a lie?" he asked her simply. Contessa opened her mouth, then closed it, then opened it again. But Alex's small warm smile was impossible to argue with. He knew, he didn't judge, and she couldn't call him a liar because he wasn't lying. It'd be like kicking a kitten. Contessa decided that mouth closed was the best option and did so, shaking her head in answer to his question.

"So say 'hi, how are you?'" The golden youth said gently to both Sean and Contessa as he stepped from between them. "It'll be better that way." He looked from Sean to Contessa and smiled. "I'm going to get some snacks so that we can go back in there and hang out after the hellos." He looked round and smiled, stepping away from Sean and Tessa, who were both staring at him, then each other. Sunshine stepped towards Ein and offered his hand, creating a small private space for the two teens as he drew everyone else's focus away from them.

"It's good to see you again." he smiled as they shook hands. "I was barely talking last time we met. And this must be the person you said you were bringing. Hi." he said, giving Morri a little wave.

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“Opnet?” Sean asked Einherjar with a grin. “I didn’t get a chance to read more than the first couple of posts of Jael’s invite. I mean, had DV known I’d come here knowing you were here, they’d have a cow.” His unrepentant smirk told the whole story: Sean had avoided the thread after seeing Einherjar had posted, just so he could tell DV in all innocence that he’d had no idea that the black-listed ex-Elite would be there.

“So no, I didn’t know you were bringing a Morri,” Sean continued, offering the girl a hand. Her impressive snarl had him pulling back before she decided to remove it. “Well, hello anyway…”

A tap on his shoulder had him turning with an easy smile – a smile that disappeared the moment he saw Contessa’s glorious visage. She tore into him immediately, just like the old days, her pretty face made ugly by the hurtful words that tumbled from her mouth. The urge to stop the problem with his fists was a powerful impulse, but Sean wasn’t that pissed. He just itched to stop the problem in the way he’d been taught to solve them: with brute force. There was no way he could apply brute force to Contessa, even if she was talking to him like that in front of other people. He looked up to Einherjar, god damnit, and here she was, tearing Sean a new one in front of him. And he couldn’t hurt her like she’d hurt him.

That didn’t stop him from other attacks.

“I thought I should just give you some privacy while you went after another girl’s guy,” Sean said calmly, though it was clear he was pissed. His smile was a twisted grimace rather than a real smile. Sunshine’s spell of goodwill was shattered as the red-head added, “But since you seem to have crashed and burned with him, hi, how you been?”

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And this was usually how it went. Right abotu the time everything might get resolved one of them had to let fly with a jab or a barb that cut deeper than it should. Sometimes it was sarcasm, other times it was just to see what buttons could be pushed. This time was the latter.

"I wasn't going after anyone. It was a prank, that's all." She shot back. The way her eyes shimmered with that brilliant internal sapphire fire was enough to steal his heart away right there. Contessa was beautiful, but pissed off Contessa was nothing short of gorgeous. The jab wasn't necessary, but hell, he liked the way she pursed her lips when she fumed. It was cute. "And another thing-"

"Sean!" Mixie squeeled and threw her arms around him, totally cutting off Contessa from any further ramblings. She squeezed him as tight as she could, which was much for his nova frame, and grunted. "Oh my god, it's been too long. Love the hair sexy, not to sure about all of..." she waved her finger about his goat-tee. "All of this, but you look great! Gawd I've missed you."

C.J. just folded her arms and glowered at him. Although she never showed it, there was a smile etched clearly on her heart that no verbal jab could have worn away. She was glad to see him, more than glad, she was down right ecstatic to see him alive, well, and doing well for himself. She could tell herself all day, but the moment she wanted to say it out loud all that she managed was: "Whatever. I'm going to help Alex." Her glare caught Sean and she simply mumbled "Jerkface." as she walked past.

Sean and Mixie bumped fists. "Points for the retorts, dude but a little harsh. Go easy on her, dude, she has a cat named Deacon McFluffles for crying out loud." She slugged him in the arm playfully. "You should know better."

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“And Einherjar is my friend,” Sean said softly, letting Mixie see the hurt in his eyes as he said, “It’s different for dudes, Mix. It’s like when she yelled at me at the house, only…”

“Worse,” Mixie finished for him. “I get it.”

“So hi, how have you been?” Sean asked with a little smile. An idea was taking root in his head, and like many men’s ideas, it was a terrible one. But it had certain qualities that appealed greatly to Sean.

“Good,” Mixie said, “thanks for all the gifts.”

“My pleasure,” Sean said, and meant it. “I’m glad you enjoyed them.” He swallowed nervously, opened his mouth and closed it. “Uhh, so how’s Dr. Danae?”

“He’s good and that’s not what you wanted to ask,” Mix said with a grin. “You wanted to ask about Ceej.”

“Nooo… look… I uh, I wanted to ask if you wanted to go out sometime,” Sean blurted before he lost his nerve. “Like without Tessa. A date.” He grinned. “I mean, my vacation is over, but I could get a warp-drop here for an evening, do something together.”

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Guest Ming 'Mixie' Xiao

"Woah, Sean." Mixie looked at him like he'd just grown a third eye. What he asked was that Mixie violate a sacred code of friendship between her and Contessa. Sean was Tessa's crush, and he had been for years. "Sean, Ceej is my best friend, you know as well as I do that she will go ballistic when she finds out." Sean noted that a 'no' hadn't been said yet. "I have to admit, I think it'd be fun, but... Ceej. Wait, when did you start having a thing for me anyway?"

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Morri was getting nervous. There were too many people here, too many of them were powerful like her and Eyen and far too many of them were men. The bad man was still around, touching the green-eyed woman who liked to be hurt by Eyen. She maybe liked to be hurt by the bad man, too, which just solidified how sick she was in Morri’s mind.

The very pretty females who came up hand in hand drew more of Morri’s attention. They were beautiful like a sunset, all soft colors and soothing to the eyes. Morri liked watching them but tried to do so carefully. Males sometimes thought you looking at them meant you were asking to be hurt inside. Females couldn’t make that hurt, but Morri wasn’t sure they were entirely benign either. Sometimes, Miner said something that seemed like it should hurt, or she looked at Morri in a way that made her uneasy. So females had ways to hurt too – Morri just hadn’t found out how.

When the red-headed male had moved toward her, Morri had growled to back him off –and he did. Though she didn’t show the surprise she felt, she was startled by the response. She’d never had a powerful male step back like that. And he hadn’t smelled afraid. Startled but not afraid. Was he like Eyen; a male who wouldn’t hurt?

The glowing man was even more confusing. His general smell was calm and summer-like. In fact, he didn’t smell like a person but like a summer day. It wasn’t like the days she’d found in Africa. His scent triggered unsettling half-memories for her, remembered summer days before she’d been a mute, traumatized girl. Those memories always invoked a deep sense of shame and fear and longing, and Morri bared her teeth instinctively.

She was full of nervous energy and Einherjar felt her press closer to him; in a way, it was heartening that she drew closer to him. The level of trust it showed was a good sign, but a better one would have been her being strong enough to handle this. He smiled down at her and offered and a hand to her. Her palm pressed into his, seeking assurance from their now-customary gesture.

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“It’s not a thing, Mix,” Sean said with a shrug. “You’re cute and funny and I like hanging around you. It’s not a thing… but I think it could be.” The years had changed him; without Contessa around to drive him crazy, Mixie was finally getting to see the confidence that DeVries had instilled in him. “And yeah, so what if Contessa gets upset. She hates me. I’m sure she’d hate you dating me. And if you don’t want to risk your friendship with her, I get it. This is just one of those things that I’ll regret if I don’t take a shot at.

“I mean… one of the things I’ve missed about not being at the Danaes has been not seeing you. You’re a friend of mine, at the least,” Sean said. “So even if you won’t date me, can we hang out some more? Without Contessa? She’s just…” His eyes darted away from her for a moment, but Mixie saw some of the pain Contessa’s careless words had caused him. “She drives me crazy, and not in the good way, ya know?”

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Guest Ming 'Mixie' Xiao

She folded her arms and shook her head slowly. "Wow, you two are a piece of work. Blind as bats. Alright, we'll go out. As friends, because we need to talk, and I mean serious talking because boy, there are things you just don't know. Hear me out and we'll go from there, how's that?"

"For now, ignore C.J., you know how she is, so just ignore it, and let's all please try and have ourselves a good time here, please?"

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Aw, damn, I got the 'friend' word tossed at me. Still notta no. Sean snorted. “Happy to ignore her. I was thinking about leaving, just to avoid her drama-llamas.” He seemed to have forgotten he’d thrown his own llamas into the drama when he’d had a chance to calm things down. At the look Mixie gave him, Sean held up his hands in mock surrender. “Alright, alright… I’ll stay, I’ll ignore Contessa and the blonde kid mouthing insults at me and just talk to Sunshine and Einherjar and all the other people who don’t want to stab me in the face. By the way…”

Sean tucked a hand through her arm and used his superior strength to pull her forward. The girl didn’t have a chance to react before Sean had stopped her – right in front of Einherjar. “Ein, this is my friend Mixie. Mixie… Einherjar.” Grinning, Sean stepped back a step and watched the show.

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Ein hadn't missed a single murmur of the conversation, despite exchanging pleasantries with Sunshine and keeping one eye on Morri. He pressed his palm back against hers soothingly and nodded at the feral girl, making sure in their silent shorthand that Morri knew everything was 'okay'.

As Sunshine smiled once more at the snarling yet timid Morri and moved away, taking the warming glow of his aura with him, Ein listened with amusement as Sean propositioned Contessa's best friend.

"Was I ever that young?" he murmured to the others, lips quirking in wry humor. Katya grinned at him.

"You were never young. You were carved out of ice and stone in the dawn of time." she said with a sultry, impish smile as Ein feigned a hurt look. He was still chuckling as Sean pulled Mixie to a stop right in front of him and introduced her.

"Mixie." he said with a smile, one corner of his lips quirking upwards as he both noticed the 'Ein World, Ein Love' logo emblazoned over the girl's chest as well as recognised the mischief in Sean's expression. He kept his softly-glowing ice-blue eyes on Mixie's, though, offering her a tanned, calloused hand. "Any friend of Sean's, and all that." Cute, and barely legal if at all. Also, looks like someone just tazed her. His brow furrowed above the smiling eyes as Mixie jerked into life and took his hand. "I take it Mixie's short for something?" he asked in a friendly way, trying to set the girl at ease.

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Guest Ming 'Mixie' Xiao

"Yeah." Was all she replied. The gentle grip of his hand was intoxicating. This was a moment she'd dreamed about for as long as she could remember. The woman was right, he was carved from... stuff, and it looked great on him. She suddenly realized that she'd answered his question like a complete tool. She stumbled for a moment to capture her senses before they had completely escaped her. "Ming. Ming Xiao. Ceej thought it up back when we were uh, like six or something and it stuck. The M and I from Ming, and the X from Xiao made 'Mix'. Mix became Mixers, Mixie, and even Mixleplix... aaand I'm babbling."

She managed a look to Sean, still not letting go of Einherjar's hand. "Aaand, you are so dead." She smiled at him through clinched teeth.

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“So what’s going on again?” Jael asked as she cruised into step with Sunshine. Tucking an arm around his waist, she said to Contessa, “Lemme borrow him for a moment, okay?”

Jael didn’t wait for an answer, but unlike Contessa earlier, she did actually step away before asking, “What is this crazy drama doing here? What is going on?”

“It’s complicated, but Sean likes Contessa and Contessa likes him, but she won’t admit it,” Sunshine said, gamely trying to fill his girlfriend in on the news. “And he gets upset and flustered when she gets upset and flustered. They feed one another, keeping them apart.”

“Thank god we got past that horseshit,” Jael said with a smile. Her smile was surprisingly gentle as she added, “and what I was actually asking about was all the stuff the red-head said about her trying to steal someone else’s guy?” Jael was doing a good job of keeping her jealously out of sight, but Sunshine knew his girl. She was keeping it cool but wasn’t happy.

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Sean smirked and leaned close to murmur, "Maybe you should have said yes to the date." Mixie shot him a glower, which Sean ignored as he produced a Sharpie. "How about an autograph, on the shirt?" His smile was still way too wide as he added, "Right on the front?"

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"I think that was his jealousy speaking." Alex replied with a shrug. "Anyone that knows Ceej, knows that she just doesn't sneak up behind guys and-" he looked rueful, unwilling to drop his friend in the crap but also not willing to hide things from his Jael. "Say stuff like 'Nice pants, mind if I test the zipper'." Both of Jael's eyebrows competed to see which could hit the ceiling first as Alex forged onwards into dangerous and possibly International waters.

"I was into the game with Sean, and Tessa wanted to pay me back for the upside-down ownage, which she did, by the way. If Sean hadn't freaked out, he'd have totally stomped me. That's the truth. She wasn't really hitting on me, Jael." Sunshine explained.

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