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Grim

Autumn Brew

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Posted (edited)

((This fic is open to all who want to take part and takes place on Saturday afternoon after the Dance.  It is assumed there was a band meeting and quick briefing on Saturday morning.))

The sounds of steam, the scent of ground beans and the hubbub of voices were all underscored with gentle acoustic strumming from a solitary guitarist on the raised platform that served the Drip as a stage.  It was warm here, an island of pleasant coziness and comfort against the first chill breeze of autumn.  Grim sighed softly in relief as he sat down at a vacant table, setting a large mug of black coffee and a brownie in front of him as he shucked out of his overcoat, a blue duster that seemed a size or two large for his still-slender frame.

Slender but solid, he'd realised when showering after his swim earlier.  As part of his physical therapy to help regain more mobility in his leg, the scion of Odin had been mandated a daily swim by Coach Fingers in addition to hikes, combat training, and a confidence course he had to run once a week.  Fingers was not the coddling sort, and Grim was grateful for it.  He'd berate a student who didn't give 100%, but if you did give your all and still failed, he'd just nod and say "Again."  Or if you were wiped out, he'd simply say "Hit the showers, and do better tomorrow."  Under the regimen of exercise, Grim was not only recovering full use of his leg, he was getting stronger than he'd previously thought possible, though how much of that was his Aesir blood was hard to say.  He still looked like he was made of coathangers, a condition exacerbated by the too-large second-hand clothing he wore, but Grim was enough of a young man to take some pride that he was growing out as well as up.

Now, though, he was just glad to be sitting down with a warm cup of coffee.  Pulling a book borrowed from Mr Syracuse from his bag, he flipped it open and settled in to read, now and then sipping from his mug as his mismatched eyes scanned the pages.  There was a lot to catch up on, not just the year and a half of school he had missed, but the fact that all the legends and myths were, if not wholly true, then at least true enough to kill you if you were ignorant of them.  The school was less of an issue - his mind had always been keen, but the ichor of Odin running through his veins now made schoolwork trivial.  He paused for a moment, eyes not reading the words in front of him as he was lost in thought.  Family.  An odd thought, to have family.  For years that word had been associated with a bitter old man who hated the sight of him.  Now family meant having a sprawling array of larger-than-life, honest to goodness gods expecting great things of him.  It was a step up, in many ways.

Giving a rare, thin smile, Grim took a bite of brownie and went back to his book.

Edited by Grim
to prevent conflict with Doubling Up, Doubling Down the timeline has been changed slightly.

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The to-go cup didn't quite slam down on the table but that was still the impression Grim got as he looked up and Rachel Cooper sat down across from him, her hair pulled back into a severe short pony tail. She was wearing running shorts and matching running shoes, a tank top with of all things a unicorn with the words DEATH METAL underneath it, over a sports bra. Most of it was pink.

Rachel sat back her coffee on the table she folded her arms across her breasts and looked (glared if you want to know the truth) at her newest problem. It was her weekend morning run, five miles into town from her house a coffee break at the Drip then back home. When she got to the coffee shop she saw her new band mate, Grim, sitting inside reading a book. He hadn't noticed her when she came in and picked up her coffee at the counter, usually she sat out on the terrace but she hesitated. The band had met after the dance Friday night where Fisher and Austin had explained what had happened before they were finished,  Mr Syracuse had come up to them with Grimsley Algar in tow and explained that he would be joining them.

Just like that. Just like Grace and Laurie before. Here deal with him see if he fits. We will be watching.

Rachel remembered Grimsley from school at least a little, certainly remembered the death of his grandfather, since her dad had been one of the detectives that had worked the unsolved case. And now here he was one of them, another in a seemingly endless parade of scions, the gods little left overs, assigned to her band. Again.

She took a breath and let it out.

“Seventh grade English, Mrs Foster, 3rd period before lunch. I think that's the only class we ever had together. Only one I remember anyway.” She took a sip of her coffee.

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As the attractive package of pink-wrapped athleticism sat down and glared at him, an eyebrow crooked over a vibrant green eye for a moment before Grim quietly closed the book he was reading and sat back in turn, taking another bite of brownie as he returned her glare with a look of calm appraisal.  His left eye, the glacially-pale, almost colorless orb with the scar over it, was an eerie counterpoint to it's companion as both peered at Rachel from under the tousled mop of dark hair.  She seemed irritated, but not with him as much as just... generally.  He followed up the mouthful of brownie with a gulp of coffee from the mug in his hand, then nodded in response to her statement.

"I remember."  he said quietly.  "There were a couple of other occasions we were in the same space at the same time, but honestly I'm surprised you remember at all.  I didn't really stand out."  A ghost of a smile played around the edges of his mouth, a flicker gone as quickly as it manifested.  There was a presence about Grimsley Algar now, a self-possession rare amongst adolescent young men, even ones who were god-blooded.  He raised his mug to her in acknowledgement, eyes meeting hers in a direct gaze.  "Not like you."

Once he'd had a crush on Rachel, probably like many (both male and female).  Once, he would have stammered and mumbled and tried his hardest to fade into the background to adore her from afar.  Sitting across from her, he realised that although she was still impressive and still beautiful, he wasn't the same boy he'd once been.  What a difference a year and half can make he thought wryly.

Meanwhile, over behind the counter, Darci's brow furrowed slightly as she caught sight of Rachel sitting down to speak to... what was that kid's name?  The one who'd disappeared - Grimsley!  That was it.  Why would the leader of a band of demigods be sitting down and talking to Mr Invisible?  A serious talk, too.  They didn't seem like close buddies or anything.  The barrista's eyes narrowed as she turned back to the espresso machine, deep in thought.

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Rachel held her cup in both hands and sort of moved it around swirling the contents. "Just so you understand, I am not happy with the way Mr Syracuse and Coach Fingers and all the rest of them keep dumping their strays in our band. It's nothing personal really." She takes a drink of coffee and glances at Darci, gives her a nod hello. She lens forward and looks at Grim's mismatched eyes.

"My dad investigated your grandfathers murder. And your...abduction. Are those events going to be a problem for us?"

 

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"Those responsible are dead."  Grim stated coldly, lowering the mug in his hand to set it on the table.  He met her stare unflinchingly, his pale drawn features expressionless, betraying nothing of the pain her words caused.  Like an ant under a magnifying glass, the old warm feelings of a childhood crush burned away.

Even here, he was not welcome.  Even here, in a band of demigods, to a woman related by divine blood, he was a figure of unearned resentment.  His eyes narrowed and he leaned forward, matching her stare as his voice dropped low, taking on a venomous tone.

"And whilst we are in the spirit of fostering understanding, I am equally unhappy about being forced to associate with and take orders from people I know nothing about... and care even less about.  Our elders placed me with you.  I did not ask for it - and you do not want another 'stray'.  So now we know where we stand."  He sat back, picking up his book and opening it again.  "I'll not impose on you further.  Be courteous - and wise - enough to do the same for me."  he finished in an air of dismissal, dropping his gaze to the pages.

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Rachel sits back at the quiet rebuke. "I'll take that as a 'no' then."

She slides her chair back and stands, "And did you actually just say whilst?" She waits to see if he will answer or ignore her. After about fifteen seconds of silence she pushes the chair back in. "Okay. We train at the old Carlton Stables, that and other things. When your finished here you should make your way there but don't go on the grounds unless some of us are there. I drive a Mustang Nadya drives an old Mercury.  We need to see what you can do. Later."

This time she doesn't bother waiting.

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Grim relaxed as the pain and anger - and yes, disappointment - faded from his mind to a dim echo of their former sharpness after Rachel left.  She seemed oblivious to the fact that he wasn't going to be attending any Band meetings, now.  Whether that was because she thought he had no choice, or due to her not understanding his words was not his concern, though neither state of affairs spoke well of her.  Regardless, he wouldn't be showing up like some hopeful to a cheerleader tryout to show 'what he could do'.  He was the son of Odin, not a dog to kick and coax until it performed tricks.

He got himself another mug of coffee and, after a moments thought, a sandwich.  The noon sun was warm through the coffee shop windows, the book was thick and filled with knowledge, and Grim had nothing else to do with his Saturday afternoon except to delay going back to the foster home.

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Darci turned back to the counter, suddenly to break into a glowing smile as Fisher leaned over it. "Hey. What are you doing here?"

"Checking in on my girlfriend." Fisher said, still knowing it was all sinking in for him. Darci, his girlfriend. She smiled and gave him a peck. "Also, coffee and a sandwich. Made with your love." Apparently it was the right thing to say, which earned him another kiss. As he passed over the money, she leaned in.

"You know, Rachel was talking to Grimsley over there."

Fisher nodded, knowing the implied question. "He's going to be hanging around us for a bit. That kind of stuff." She knew what that kind of stuff meant, the demigodly, superheroic stuff. Hard to picture Grimsley like that. But Fisher took his food and drink over to that booth.

"Hi Grim. Can we talk?"

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Slender scarred hands paused in their delicate tracing over ancient futhark script as Grim looked up to see Fisher standing over his table.  For a moment he paused, eyes narrowing in consideration - but Fisher had asked rather than simply imposed, and some ingrained courtesy of his own recognised that fact.  The book closed with a soft 'whump' and the scion of Odin set it aside, sitting back and gesturing to the chair recently vacated by Rachel.

"Go ahead."  he said simply, taking a bite of his somewhat neglected sandwich.  His tone was noncommittal, as was his body language.

Considering the mood he was in regarding his 'fellows' right now, this was practically welcoming.

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Fisher nodded and slid into his seat, taking a sip of the coffee before he cleared his throat. "Since I didn't get a chance to say this before, welcome to the Band. How much did Rachel fill you in on?" Being reminded of what had just transpired made Grim frown, his lips drawn back and the tightness of his flesh around his bones stand out.

A sinking feeling entered Fisher's stomach again. Rachel couldn't have have messed something this simple up, could she? He sighed plaintively, a resigned voice coming out. "What did she say?"

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"She said enough."  Grim meant to leave it at that, some perverse streak of obstinacy leaning him toward letting Fisher twist in the wind and chase his own answers...  But Fisher wasn't Rachel.  That didn't completely alleviate Grim's hostility, but at least it meant Fisher was on the edges of it rather than the target.

"She brought me up to speed on the fact that she doesn't like our elders 'dumping strays' - her words - in your band.  So I let her know that was no problem, and that I won't be imposing on her clique."  He appeared casual, but the iron self-control  with which Grim spoke overlaid a deep well of bitter anger, going back years before his kidnapping and Visitation.  "It's quite amazing how it doesn't matter whether I'm godblooded or not, my relatives want me to be someone else's problem."  His fingers clenched slightly, then relaxed with conscious effort.  He made a flicking motion as if discarding the whole affair, a sardonic smile crooking one corner of his mouth.

"And I actually expected things to be different.  So much for inheriting the wisdom of Odin."

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Fisher let out an exasperated groan, pressing his head against his hands. Rachel was their leader and a good friend, but she did not understand how to avoid the Aesir stereotype. And Grim had thrown out some pretty clear history of issues. Ones which Fisher had some familiarity with. Once again, he had to rectify the situation before it went down in flames.

"Ok, first off, that is not what she meant. Mr. Syracuse and the teachers have a habit of shuffling new Scions through our Band and she's annoyed at them, not you. I don't see the problem - the only other main band is the Donner Party and as per the name they will tear apart and devour you, figuratively anyway."

Grim remained silent and skeptical and Fisher continued. "And yes, utterly stupid and terrible word choice on Rachel's part. That's why I'm second in command, because someone has to do the thinking around here. I promise you, she did not intend to make you feel unwelcome. None of us do."

He really, really, sincerely meant it.

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For a long moment the slender youth's gaze locked with Fisher's, weighing and measuring.  He sighed softly, some of the tension leaving his drawn features as he dropped his gaze to consider the dark swirling of his coffee.

"I believe you mean that." he said softly.  "But words were spoken.  Bad choice of words?  Sure, lets go with that.  But let me add some more context.  First, she  plops down in that seat, glaring at me, and stated what class she remembered me from before my disappearance.  Fine, good, nice ice-breaker.  Point to Rachel.  Then she calls me a dumped stray, which stings a little.  And finally she asks if my kidnapping is going to cause any problems."  He lifted his eyes to meet Fisher's again.  "A brief bit of small talk, then a petulant, careless complaint-slash-insult, followed by an inquisition."

"She has already defined me by resentment and potential problems I will cause her, Fisher.  I believe that you and the others do not want me to feel unwelcome."  Grim shrugged, giving a rare half-smile.  "The fact I'm even discussing this is proof of that.  But the fact remains that the leader of your band has made her position plain.  So fuck her.  I don't have to take that."

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"Please excuse me a minute." Fisher stood up promptly and made his way out, leaving his coffee and sandwich. Once outside, he pulled out his cell phone and called Rachel. Soon, she picked up. "Rachel, it's Fisher. Darci tells me she saw you and Grim talking. Please indulge my curiosity, what did you talk about?" His tone was light and casual, as if he didn't know the details of the conversation afforded to him by Grim.

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Rachel glances at her arm where her phone is riding in it's sleeve, see Fisher's name and slows to a stopped and looks up and down the road before thumbing the answer slid. "What?"

1 hour ago, Fisher Capra said:

"Rachel, it's Fisher. Darci tells me she saw you and Grim talking. Please indulge my curiosity, what did you talk about?" His tone was light and casual, as if he didn't know the details of the conversation afforded to him by Grim.

"I know who it is Fisher I have caller ID just like everyone else. Indulge your curiosity, what are you taking English lessons from him now?

I let him know that I was not happy that Mr Syracuse foisted another of their wayward children on us again without even consulting us or giving us a choice. Which is exactly what I told them not to do if you recall. And then I asked him about his grandfather, because even you should remember that the old man had had his head caved in and then Agar simply vanished. Maybe abducted maybe not.  He was involved in an unsolved murder, and i needed to know if it was going to be an issue."

She sounded testy like she wanted to punch something or someone.

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"For kami's sake, Rachel!" Fisher snapped with exasperation. "If you've got a problem, take it up with Mr. Syracuse, don't take it on Grim. Calling him a stray, really? And bringing up his grandpa's death? You make it sound like you're accusing him of murdering the man. And if you're not, what, the perp coming after him too? We're Scions, it's what happens. Grim has felt unwanted his entire life and now he feels like you regard him as just more unwanted trouble. Now, I don't know why you're in this mood, but I want you exercise self- control, come back and apologize to Grim. One you've thought out. C'mon, Rachel, I know you're better than this."

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Rachel listened as Fisher talked, she closed her eyes and leaned her head back. She felt...violent, it wasn't any sort of definable anger, not really just a desire to hurt, almost a need. Have I always been like this?

"I'm in the middle of my run Fisher, I am going to finish it. I will be at the stables in about thirty minutes. Call the rest of the band have them meet us there in an hour. Band members only. You bring Grimsley. Come early if you want."

She ended the call and clicked play and as the music started continued her run.

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Fisher tried to point out that no, it's important that you go to Grimsley and correct this, but Rachel cut the call. Giving her time to think was one thing, but how was he going to get Grim to agree to come along in the seething mood towards Rachel he was in. I can't work miracles, demigod or not Captain! If she had been still on the line he might have said it with his best Scotty expression.

Instead, he sighed again and sent out a series of texts to Austin, Nadya and Laurie repeating what Rachel asked. Finally, he went back inside, found his seat across from Grim and took a bite of his sandwich. After chewing and swallowing, Fisher evaluated Grim and then decided to take his shot at it. "Well Grim, I have a proposal. We enjoy our coffee and sandwiches, you perhaps educate me about the secrets of runes," Fisher had noticed the book and knew from experience that having someone who cared about your interests was an immensely important thing when you couldn't get that at home, "and then we take a walk down to something I'd like to show you."

Fisher extended a hand. "Deal?"

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When Fisher got up to walk outside, Grim had a pretty good idea what he was doing.  It didn't take divine intellect to work out that the scion of the Kami was used to smoothing over the ruffled waters left in his leader's wake.  If he'd been asked, he'd have told Fisher not to bother - but then, it was Fisher's choice to get involved.  Grim shrugged and went back to his book until the other youth returned with a long-suffering air, then subjected him to an appraisal and spoke. 

Despite himself, the taciturn Odinsson smiled a little.  Fisher was laying on the charm, and plainly not for insincere reasons - he genuinely wanted to smooth things over and welcome Grim to the Band.  Privately, Grim felt that the scion of Izanami had a gift for getting the best out of people.  Hel, he even liked him somewhat.  He closed the book again, his expression neutral as he considered Fisher's outstretched hand, then his face with a gaze that was too sharp by half.

"Bearing in mind I didn't ask you to get involved, Fisher, what did your leader say?" he said with a slight emphasis on the word 'your'.

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Well, Grim was going to raise the obvious, no hiding what Fisher had been planning. Fortunately, the exact plan Fisher had devised enabled him wiggle room for the response. "She's called a Band meeting set in about a hour. By which point I imagine she will be ready and prepared to apologize. My intention is to stop by the Stables early and show you the thing I want you to see. After that, stay or leave, your choice."

Fisher's hand didn't waver nor did his face.

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A foxish grin, razor sharp and swift, flashed across the pale scarred face as Grim shook his head - not in negation, but in amusement.  With a sigh, he took Fisher's hand in a brief shake.  "You get an A for effort, Fisher.  And an A+ for honesty.  Least I can do is come along and see what you want me to see."  The smile disappeared and his usual stoic demeanor returned.  "No promises - I'm not particularly interested in a coaxed apology any more than Cooper is interested in taking in strays.  But who knows - you might be able to hold my attention until the meeting starts."

"And don't expect any profound rune wisdom from me - yet."  he snorted, tapping the book's cover.  "I know the names of them all, and what they look like, and some of what each one represents.  Odin plucked out his eye and hung on the World Tree to learn the lore of the runes, which he then shared.  They can be a tool of divination, or blessing, or cursing.  You can trace a rune in the air for a working, or sing a rune into a poem, or carve it into bone or wood, or even scar it into flesh.  Each has different uses, effects, and layers upon layers of complexity."  He smiled that same quick here-and-then-gone smile.  "I'm a novice, so far.  I used to be interested in all kinds of occult stuff - used to think it was interesting how people made stuff up to explain the world before science.  And now... it's all real, magic is real, runes have power and I'm having to deal with it."

He shrugged, picking up his sandwich and eating in quick hungry bites.

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Fisher wasn't worried about Grim's reservations, they were accounted for. Step one of his master plan of mending was complete. Now on to step two...

At the Stables...

As Fisher had planned they were there ahead of when Rachel was expected to arrive. Good. "Now, as I promised." He put his fingers to the door and pulled it open. Grim heard the barking before he saw the exuberant furball pile in. Fisher caught Wolf and hugged her and petted her. "Hey girl. It's good to see you to." The nemean wolf pup saw Grim and looked at him, interested and tongue panting.

"Wolf, this is Grim. Hopefully he'll be part of the Band and around here too. Grim, meet Wolf."

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Grim was far from easily spooked or rattled, and even less prone to letting others see it.  Even so, the sheer size of the wolf caused him to take a prudent step back as it barrelled into Fisher.  A moment later and he realised this monster was a... pet?  Companion?  He wondered at it's origin - was this Rachel's?  Fed on her eitr?  A moment's thought and he disregarded that - animals or mortals fed on the Aesir blood were notoriously surly towards everyone but their 'donor', whereas Wolf was a candidate for waggiest tail in Salem right now as Fisher scritched behind her ears.

"Hi."  he said to the massive canine, then looked at Fisher.  "Wolf?  Seriously?"

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"We didn't have the energy for creativity." Fisher said, not in the least sheepish whatsoever. "Not that night. Story time."

The memories came back as he explained. "It was several weeks ago. Coach Fingers took Rachel and I up to Savoy Mountain. A nymph he knew had asked for help. Honiahaka, the area's guardian nemean wolf, someone Amber and her sisters raised, had gone crazy in the past few days. Wanted us to investigate. Turned out she had a pup, a pup who we found was kidnapped by a bunch of myrmidons to lure Honiahka out."

Wolf started growled, understanding what Fisher was talking about and remembering. His eyes closed and voice deeply somber "Yeah. Wolf's mom was mortally wounded in the fight. Wolf watched her die. And I saw how Rachel was crying. How she hugged Wolf. And how she fought Mr. Syracuse and Coach Fingers when they suggested sending Wolf elsewhere."

Fisher opened his eyes and locked them with Grim. "You're like Wolf was. Hurt, alone and without family. And while Rachel's mouth may not have been connected to her brain, it certainly wasn't connected to her heart. Because in her heart deep down are the same kind of feelings she has for Wolf, I know it. Give this a little patience, a little faith, and you can have what Wolf has too."

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Grim's jaw clenched as Fisher's last words hit home, both mismatched eyes blazing with pain that was as terrible as it was all too human.  His eyes closed, then reopened, and Fisher could see that shutters were coming down over the display of naked emotion.  When Grim spoke, his voice was too calm by far, though his features seemed even more haggard than usual.

"Touching tale.  Gets me right here in the feels.  So what you're saying is: if I'm a good stray and take her shit, Rachel will grace me with her benevolence and allow me to tag along, because she's a sucker for charity cases."  He dropped his gaze, focusing his minds eye on the rune Jera.  Calm... Harmony... Peace...  It was hard. Fisher's words had opened up wounds, stirred up pain, and Grim regretted opening up to the other youth now.  He felt like his own secret hurt was being used to persuade him, and he hated that.  He hated that he wanted so badly his whole life to have someone give a shit, hated that people only cared because he was god-blooded.  He wanted to cry.

Instead he looked up dry-eyed and met Fisher's gaze.

"Forgive my anger.  Gods be with you, son of Izanami.  I may be without family, but I'm used to that.  I may be hurt, but that pain is old and part of me.  I might be alone, but that's not news either."  He turned and started to walk away.  "To tell the truth, I'm not sure I know how to be any other way.  Take care, Wolf."  He raised a hand without looking back, waving farewell.

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<I'll get there when I can> Nadya had texted Fisher back as she had been changing out of a pale grey business suit. <I'm down in Boston.>

Okay, that was a tiny lie. She had been in Boston. Now, she was standing in a Dunkin' Donuts bathroom, pulling off a strawberry-blond wig and shaking out her sable hair, hints of purple still in it. She peered at herself in the mirror above the sink. Her eyes felt grainy, but her face looked fresh and clean, scrubbed free of the make-up that had made her look older.

Gods, good and bad, I need more coffee. She hadn't slept since the night before the Dance and while her heritage gave astonishing stamina, the lack of sleep was beginning to take a toll.

There was something off about Fisher's text. If Rae-Rae had called a meeting, she'd have texted or called them herself. Fortunately, she was close, she could beat them to the Stables. But there was something she needed to do first.

She stuffed the remnants of her disguise into her nondescript bag, slipped on her short leather jacket, then sauntered out of the bathroom. The lady waiting to go next gave her a startled look - the Nadya who exited hardly looked like the Nadya who had entered. Nadya practically skipped up to the counter.

"Hi! I need a box of fifty donut holes - just jelly, cinnamon, and glazed blueberry. And an extra large coffee, with, like, a ton of sugar, and if you squeeze in extra caffeine, that would be awesome."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

"Oh, suck it up, buttercup," Nadya groused, sliding around from where she had been lurking behind the trunk of an old tree. She ignored Grim's flat, gimlet glare to stuff a blueberry glaze donut in her mouth and wash it down with a big gulp of coffee. "That lone wolf shit plays great on TV, and the edgelords eat it up in the comics, suckling on the pain of their tragic backstory, yet struggling stoically on their own, so they don't have to feel that pain again." Nadya made a fake heaving sound. "In real life, lone wolves die alone, and nobody notices. Or cares."

Nadya tilted the box of donut holes towards Grim in offering, but when he made no move towards it, she just an insouciant shrugged. "No one is saying you haven't been dealt a shitty hand. But the game never ends when there's still a chance at the turn of a friendly card. And dude, you've been given a whole new hand to play."

She gestured at Fisher with her coffee. "You think we're only interested in you because of your godblood? Pfft! You ain't special in that. You think I'd be friends with Fisher otherwise? Or that Rae-Rae would be besties with me? None of our Band hung together before we found out what we were, but yeah, the godblood changed things for us. Forced us to look beyond our differences, gave us the opportunity to see others in a new light. That opportunity is still there, all you - we, too, for that matter - have to reach for it."

Nadya shifted, tucking the box of donut holes under her arm and nodded at the book in Grim's hand. "I don't know what all Rae-Rae said to you, but if you think you have to be a 'good' stray to stick around, don't worry 'bout it. You just have to stand by us, and Rae-Rae will fight for you no matter how 'bad' of a stray you are or how much she grumbles. Or had much shit hits the fan. Hells bells, she's family now, sorta, isn't she? A second cousin or niece or whatever, I didn't read all the viking stuff yet. Don't tell Mr. S. Family can be by blood, and can be by choice - we can be the latter, but Rae-Rae can be both, if you want it, warts and arguments and all."

Grim tilted his head very slightly, viewing Nadya from a different angle.

"'Sides, I seem to remember the Norse gods don't fight Reggae-rockapooloza or whatever alone. We're just at the part when the Avengers are meeting for the first time and fight. Let's skip that part - it's been done sooo many times. I mean, we don't have a pair of hunky Chrises on our team, but when it's time to throw down, we don't let any us stand alone. Oh!"

Nadya juggled her coffee and the box of donut holes as she scrounged around in her satchel. "I found something I thought you'd like when I went down to Boston this morning. Catch!" Something tarnished and metallic flicked in the afternoon light and Grim didn't have to make much of an effort as it landed in his hand. "It's an artifact dug up from some old viking village. 'Spose to be Odin. I thought you'd like it."

"What were you doing in Boston?" Fisher not-quite-demanded.

"Things," Nadya replied blithely. "I'd have picked something up for you too - and the others - but the auction house didn't have anything, er, Japanesey."

Spoiler

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Grim fingered the old, rough, amulet, then glanced back up to Nadya, pale eye and green alike hard and unfathomable. "You think a... trinket will buy me off?" His voice was bland and cool. "A bribe to stay or an apology for your leader's words?"

Nadya looked genuinely hurt, which she quickly tried to hide behind downing the rest of her coffee. "Laurie is the one who's loaded, she can offer the bribes, if that's what you want. And Rae-Rae can make her own damn apologies - I don't even know what she said to you. I was passing by and saw that and thought you'd like it. Stay or go, I'd thought you'd like something of your - oh damn, forgive me for this - something of your 'God' father. Whether you hate him or haven't made up your mind about him or whatever, it's something you can look at, feel, even if he ain't here."

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For a long moment Grim regarded Nadya, his face expressionless as he considered her words, his fingers feeling the rough metal of the amulet in his hand.  Despite his dour nature, he couldn't help but be touched by both Fisher's determined diplomacy and Nadya's own special brand of charm mixed with blunt truth.  And the gift.  He looked down at the effigy of his father, considering.

There was wisdom in Nadya's words - scions of the gods had enough problems that trying to tackle them all alone was likely to be a short journey to Valhalla at best.  And Fisher was also right, much as it stung.  Part of Grim wanted friendship, wanted to be part of something rather than drifting through life like a leaf on a breeze.  He was, despite his introverted nature, still human - at least mostly.  And after all, what were the gods except humans writ larger than life?  He examined the carved face of Odin, noting the one eye, his left hand coming up to trace the scar over his own eye.

"Thank you."  he said, looking up at Fisher and Nadya, a faint smile curving his lips for a moment.  "For the wisdom, for the kindness, and for the gift."  He sighed, slipping the effigy into a pocket of his oversized duster.  "I meant what I said:  I'm not good at... friends. Or family." 

Nadya laughed at that, offering once more the box of donuts.  "Who is? Some are just better at faking it."

Grim took a deep breath, then walked over to Nadya and took a blueberry one, looking into her eyes and giving another minnow-flash smile.

"I'm not doing anything more important right now, I guess."

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Austin was enjoying a restive Saturday at home following the dance, and hadn't really planned anything for the entire day, mostly it was just going to be lazy.   He looked as his phone chirped out a text alert, and snatched it up.  It was from Fisher, of all people, which was pretty odd.  He figured it could be about what happened so he read it, noting that Fisher was relaying that Rachel had called a meeting, and he thought it strange.  They'd met Grimsley earlier this morning too, and he recognized a kid with issues, but he was godblooded like them, so he didn't really have anything negative to say.  The more the merrier in the band was his outlook, simply because more help wasn't a bad thing.   He chose to see it positively, not that he was a stray, or that they were so weak their elders thought they needed help.  Besides, just from the first meeting, he knew Grimsley was far better suited for their band than Donner's.   

Texting back that he'd be there, he got up, took a quick shower and got dressed as normal for a band meeting, Jeans and a plain T-shirt he didn't care about.   It wasn't so much he didn't have better, but with their training, it was best to not wear clothing he cared about too much, as it could and had ended up torn before.  He made his way to the barn to find he wasn't even close to the first, With Fisher, Grimsley, and Nadya already there.   He checked his watch and while he was early, it wasn't so much.  He'd honestly expected Rachel to be here, and honestly it seemed the trio were getting along well enough.  Wolf's ears perked up when she caught his scent, and she came over to greet him.   

Kneeling down, Austin scratched her ears and jaw as he'd found she liked, and smiled.  "Playing nice with everyone today?  That's good to see."  His voice was calm and soothing, and the young Nemean Wolf almost looked like a dog the way she behaved with Austin.     He'd always been good with animals, and At least with wolf this seemed to hold true too.   After a moment he stood and Wolf returned to where she was and the son of Poseidon smiled at his bandmates.    "So, I guess we're waiting for a few others then?   Any Ideas on why she called for the meeting Fisher, did anyone turn up more information about what happened last night?"   He'd not heard any of the previous conversation, there was concern in his voice.  He and Fisher had endured alot more than they bargained for last night, and he definitely wanted to stay abreast of anything regarding it.

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Laurie slumped, gasping and red-faced, onto the bench in the practice studio.  Loose strands of platinum hair clung stubbornly to the rivulets of sweat her face and neck, and the young scion brushed at them absent-mindedly as glanced up at her reflection in the mirrored wall on the opposite side of the room. She'd pushed herself much harder this time, reaching for greater extension and height, and although she had made progress, she knew she could do better. She knew it. Every aching muscle in her body told her so. Her fingertips tapped a staccato rhythm of frustration on the polished edge of the spa-style bamboo seat. She could be better than this. She would be better than this.

Even so, slight improvement was still improvement. She would try harder tomorrow. After violin this afternoon, maybe she'd go to Eric's for a bit, see what he-

The notification gave her only a moment's pause as she opened up her messaging app. Fisher wasn't the sort to contact people frivolously- in fact, she rarely received messages from any of the other members of the band outside of an official capacity or sudden crisis. She understood, of course, why that was the case, and if a tiny part of her felt stung, well... There were some things more important than being liked. Still... hadn't they just had a meeting that morning?

"I'll be there as soon as I can," she replied, lips pursed as her fingers blurred over the haptic keys. "I can't forgo practice, so I hope no one minds a bit of mood music."

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"Young Miss, if I may be so bold," James began tentatively, after several long minutes of silence as the scenery of Salem drifted past the car windows. "I must once again protest these excursions of yours into the wilderness. I've taken the liberty of making a few inquiries, and it would seem that these woods are not part of any sort of regular patrol schedule. If anything should happen to you..."

The older man's voice trailed off into the soft hum of the engine.

"I know, James," the young blonde in the back seat replied, catching her valet's gaze briefly in the rear-view mirror as she smiled. "Thank you." The weight of years, of abiding respect and affection filled those two words with a depth of sincerity no schmaltzy greeting card could ever hope to capture. She knew that he worried, but rather than being annoyed by his eternally polite paternalism, Laurie was more grateful than she could possibly say. As they rounded the final bend in the winding road that led to the abandoned farm, a thought occurred to her. It was a simple thing, really, but perhaps it would make him feel better.

"James... Would you mind waiting for me? With the car, that is. I shouldn't be long, and it's a beautiful day to get a bit of sun and fresh air."

"Of course, Young Miss," came the reply.

Such a simple thing, words, but so important.

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Wolf's ears pricked up, her massive head turning suddenly in the direction of the path leading up to the band's unofficial hideout. A few moments later, a freshly-showered Laurie came into view, the ever-present violin case by her side. Dressed in what might be considered upscale casual attire layered under a lightweight ivory peacoat, she hummed quietly to herself as she approached the group.

"I hadn't expected to see you all again so soon, but, good afternoon," she greeted them with a smile. "I hope none of you will mind if I practice while we wait? I'll try not to be too intrusive," she added, almost apologetically.

 

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As the others showed up, first Austin then Laurie, Grim withdrew slightly.  It wasn't pointed or even particularly noticeable to the newcomers, but the set of his shoulders and the calm stoicism of his expression indicated that the cracks Fisher and Nadya had made in his emotional armor were sealed with the unconscious ease of a young lifetime of hiding ones self.  Waving a small, waist-high greeting the slender young man stepped to one side, casually plucking another donut from the box and sitting himself down on a tree stump nearby.

Austin and Laurie.  Two other people he'd never have crossed paths with outside of lessons before.  Popular, good looking, athletes and Most Likely to Succeed types.  He studied them both with a steady scrutiny as he munched on his snack, his thoughts clear, for once, of feelings of inferiority or bitterness.  Nadya was right - what the Hel did it matter that none of those here would have said more than brief "Hi" to each other in the halls?  They were all divinely gifted, a label that seemed particularly apt for the daughter of Apollo.

"I don't mind if Wolf doesn't."  he said in response to Laurie's query, a touch of wry humor in his tone, if not his expression as he got comfortable, setting his walking stick down beside him and pulling his book out of his bag.  Withdrawing a little, but not ignoring the presence of the others, now and then peering up through the mop of tousled dark hair as one or another spoke or acted, Grim relaxed into study.

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The white mustang pulled past the limo with Laurie's driver sitting in it, Rachel's silvered lenses looking at the old man who looked back without betraying any emotion, and went to the back side to park so their cars wouldn't be visible from the road outside the property. She noted with some annoyance that everyone had beaten her here. Not their fault that she had been held up by her fathers. Again.

She walked up one them her footfalls covered by the exquisite sounds coming from Laurie's violin, only Wolf noticed and she only raised her head from where she lay near Nadya an empty cup of doughnut holes on the ground between them. She noted Grim sitting off by himself his face stuck in a book while Austin and Fisher were standing close by each other talking about something while listening to the music and waiting for her. She stepped around a stack of wooden pallets and into full view and strode into their midst as Laurie drew out the last note of the piece she had been playing.

"Sorry I'm late." Rachel didn't explain the reason for her tardiness but continued. "It's been just about five months now since I met my real father and had this...destiny thrust upon me. All of us have similar tales to mine. We were all just normal kids, then boom suddenly we are the divine children of gods we had only heard about in classrooms or comicbooks. We have had to do a lot of adjusting to do over those months. We have learned a lot. We have had too. Personally almost since day one I have found myself getting angrier and angrier at ...everything. All of this has me wondering if my standing up for those being bullied since i was a little kid in first grade was just my way of being a bully.

None of us were friends. Yes we knew each other, except for Laurie, but friends no. We became friends because of this, Because we faced a bunch of evil assholes who murdered Wolf's mother, because we fought beside one another, would have died for one another saving those kids from that swamp witch. Because we stood against a freaking horde of zombies and saved a classmate from falling to an evil which was consuming her. Things I am proud of. Proud of myself and proud of you.

Proud of things none of us should ever have had to do."

Rachel looks around catching each eye, even Grims who has lain the book in his lap and is watching her with hooded brows. "We are kids, they call us heroes, not because of what we do but because of the training and level of power we posses. They are gods, who for the most part have stood by while people have died, while people have been subjected to magic and demons and worse. While we ourselves have suffered. They use us. Oh look here is a crisis lets send one of the kiddie groups. It is just like those myths we are taught in English class, we are the gods playthings." She looks directly at Grim. "And yes they stick us with strays, because as far as they are concerned that is what you are Grim, a stray. It's what we all were.

But worse than that they didn't give you any choice, didn't give you any preparation just here you go you run along and live and die with these guys. Toodle off now. They knew my feelings on the matter, and right now I am beating myself up because I let them do it to me. make me angry. And i took it out on you. That was wrong. For that I am sorry."

She doesn't step any closer but extends her hand toward Grim. He know she has more to say to him but that she won't say it here in front of everyone, that it is for the two of them alone, that it isn't an apology and it isn't something he will enjoy hearing. Sometimes the wisdom of Odin is a fucking burden.

Spoiler

sorry took so long the day got away from me

 

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For a moment he studied her, his expression unreadable as usual, then he sighed and stood.  He realised that she wasn't coming closer, that she was requiring him to come to her.  A demonstration of authority?  Or a test of his willingness to compromise?  In a moment of clarity he realised that it didn't really matter what Rachel thought it was.  For him to get to his feet and limp over to take her hand was a demonstration of his own good faith - not just to her, but to everyone present.  Leaving his black wood walking stick behind, he limped over and took her hand in a firm clasp that gave the lie to his apparently scrawny appearance under the too-large clothes.

"I'm not the most easy to get along with either."  he said softly, meeting her eyes.  "All I had was my sense of... self sufficiency I guess.  It's how I survived the last eighteen months.  Now I have to adjust, like you and everyone else here.  Not just to being the son of Odin, but to being more than the nothing I felt I was before."

"I'm not good at small talk, or being pleasant.  But I don't think we're strays, cousin.  The gods - our parents - didn't carelessly spread their ichor around.  We might be pieces on their game board, but that doesn't make us inconsequential to them.  Think about it: we are made of human flesh and bone, and they chose to add a spark of their own essence.  Would you view that carelessly, if it was you?  They have to use us, because for them to get involved themselves would cause more problems than it would solve.  And as for us maybe dying..."  He let his hand slip from hers and glanced around the Band, then back at Rachel, meeting her eyes once more as some indefinable emotion leaked from behind his stoic expression.

"Speaking just for myself, here.  I'd rather focus on how I live, and how I die, rather than whether I die.  And I plan to live and die as a son of the Aesir, and as member of your Band, if you'll have me."  A small crack appeared in his eerie self-possession, and Grim shoved his hands into the pockets of his oversized coat, plainly discomforted at his own display of feeling.

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Laurie listened, patiently, as Rachel unloaded her anger and insecurities onto the group, only a near-imperceptible whitening of her knuckles as she gripped the violin bow suggesting she felt anything more than avid interest in the words of Vidar's daughter. It wasn't anger, precisely, but something more akin to frustration, and while a thousand cutting words sprang like daggers to her lips, none of them slipped past. Whatever their de facto leader (or, indeed, any of them) might deserve, it wasn't cruelty. There was plenty of that in the world, already, and Laurie was not so naive as to think that none of those present had contributed. If she was completely honest with herself, one of the most thoughtlessly cruel people she knew was standing right in front of her.

The leaders of the two bands of Scions in Salem were not, she reflected, so very different in their approach to life- only in their understanding of it.

Most of the group were upper middle-class, white suburban teenagers who received cars as birthday presents and whose parents could afford extra-curricular activities, annual vacations, and brand-name clothing; a far cry from being "strays." Laurie was, in that regard, more fortunate than any of them. Still, they were all the children of gods, the real 1%, granted supernatural prowess and abilities in addition to heavy responsibility. Whether any of them should be expected to shoulder that weight or not wasn't the issue- they were. To all appearances, Rachel had reveled in the strength and brutal power her heritage had granted her, so why was she treating it as some unbearable burden now? It didn't quite add up.

To her surprise, the quiet, dark-haired young man Mr. Syracuse had introduced earlier spoke up. It was a pleasant surprise, however: he spoke clearly, with forethought and forthrightness, expressing some of the same sentiments she herself had been considering. Perhaps, she mused, quietly reassessing Grim as he stepped forward, this was a good sign after a long line of bad ones.

"Well," she interjected politely into the awkward moment of silence that ensued after the pair of speeches, grip relaxing slightly on her bow. "I had thought that was something of a given, honestly! I can't imagine anyone having any objections, since all of us are burdened by the same glorious purpose, to paraphrase Mr. Hiddleston." The smile that followed was all white teeth and sincerity, her brilliant cerulean gaze startlingly direct as she leveled it first at Grim, and then at Rachel. "I trust Mr. Syracuse's judgement."

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Rachel keeps eye contact with Grim and nods as the newest member of the band has his say and even starts to give him a little smile when Laurie speaks up. Rachel doesn't turn to face the extremely beautiful girl who is behind her but does look over her shoulder as she listens. Once Laurie, finishes Rachel contemplates her words for a few seconds then nods at Laurie's comments as well, then, giving Grim a pat and squeeze on his shoulder, moves from the center of the group to where Wolf is and sits down on the ground next to her where she starts petting the large puppy.

"I trust his judgment, but not his motives." She takes a deep breath, lets it out."

"I may have conveyed the wrong sentiment with my use of the word stray. I am not a good speaker," she shakes her head and then mumbles, "not really a very good leader either. I didn't mean to disparage anyone. Not Grim, Not you, Laurie, nor anyone else here, but in truth we are all strays, we may have been unwanted, we may have been mistakes, or accidents, and we are definitely all spares. That is just the way I see it. It doesn't change who I am or how I see myself.

But it does change how I see them.”

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Happy that whatever issues had come to a head and probably sparked this meeting were now seemingly resolved, Austin smiled.  "An Avengers reference Laurie.   I would never have guessed."   it was some light teasing, but his smile  told the truth about a lack of malice in it.  "I also happen to trust our Mentor, he has been there to help when we needed, and After all the craziness we've gone through, we are all still here, so clearly something's gone right there."

Rachel's words struck a sour note with him.   "Rachel, your leadership may not have been the best at times, but I don't think any of us could have done any better.  you've not lost anyone, and no one's suffered an injury we couldn't recover from.   You're not some Tyrant who demands obedience, you value all of us, and If I might be presumptious for everyone save our new bandmate, you've eared our trust in you."

He paused for a moment, knowing his next words weren't as positive.  "The truth as you see it, Isn't the same truth that I see.  I don't see us all as strays, though.  If we really were, then we'd not be here together like this.  I especially don't think of us as spares.  Donner's Band does their own thing, and we do ours.   There's nothing saying their activities are any more important in the grand scheme of things than ours, or vice versa. Hell there's probably other bands out there besides us and them.  We're all trying to fight back against the machinations of the Titanspawn and those allied with them.  None of us is unimportant.  I wouldn't call any of us Spares."

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"Really Austin? You, Fisher, Nadya, and I, even Grim, have lived here our entire, or almost our entire lives. And none of us had a clue what was going on right in front of us. But they knew who we were." She shakes her head, Wolf can tell she's getting frustrated.

"We're not spares, not back up for when things go wrong? Then why did they wait on visiting us, until now? Why not when they visited Donner or the other in that gang who lived here. Come on your all smarter than that, smarter than me. I guess i'm just crazy huh."

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"Let's see. Because we were informed when our parents Visited, and how many do we have in common with Donner's group?" Fisher dramatically counted across his fingers. Or dramatically feigned counting. "Oh wait, none of us here. Grace and Aaron did, we know, but their dad is Tezcatlipoca, Mr. Syracuse specifically said is a right bastard. So waiting is perfectly in character for him."

Fisher retained a calm beneath his argument, remaining the patient one in contrast to Rachel. "Our parents were the ones who made the call - not to say I don't have issues with mine - but you can't put the blame on Mr. Syracuse for this. And in the end, we don't know the reasons for when and where they scheduled things. For all we know they had a Godly Skype session and decided that Eric's Band sucked and we would be better. In the end it doesn't matter. We'll make our own reasons. We'll make ourselves important and so awesome Thor will want you to autograph Mjolnir. And we protect Salem. Because it's what we do, it's what you do Rachel. You are our determined leader and we'll follow you."

"Also," Fisher suddenly added, "I think you're subconsciously riled that Marius and the ghost witches are out there and you have to wait without having anything to hit."

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"Oh there is plenty to hit, I am just showing restraint." Rachel rolls up off the ground to her feet brushing the dirt from her shorts. "And it isn't my Subconscious that's riled.

Look, I know that I am headstrong, and blunt, and I don't always think things through. I have always needed the be the one to right the wrongs. And now that need has become I guess my purpose. I mean I know when some one feels guilty about some thing now, just from hearing them talk. I don't know what they are guilty of but I know. And All of this is making me suspicious and seeing conspiracies, second guessing everyone's motive and I do mean everyone.

So That being said I will trust you guys to tell me when and who and what you want me to hit."

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"At every door-way,
ere one enters,
one should spy round,
one should pry round
for uncertain is the witting
that there be no foeman sitting,
within, before one on the floor"

Grim's voice was soft, but carried despite that in an oratorical cadence as he quoted.  Answering the glances that got thrown his way with a faint wry smile, he moved back over to his stump and sat down once more.  Naturally enough, it was Nadya who broke the silence.

"Cryptic much?" she asked with a teasing quirk of her lips.  Grim didn't smile back, at least not with his mouth, but his mismatched eyes glinted good-humouredly as he picked up his blackwood staff and laid it across his lap.  He was surprised to find himself relaxing around the others, even enjoying their company, his defensive sense of inferiority abated by the simple realisation that he wasn't the only one who dealt with such issues. 

"It's from the Hávamál."  Fishing the amulet Nadya had given him out of his pocket, he gazed at it for a moment before looking up at the rest of them.  "Said to be the wisdom of the All-Father.  All sorts of advice for all sorts of situations.  I read it a few days ago.  Still working on interpreting it beyond the surface layers, though."  He fixed his gaze on Rachel.

"Point being, it's wise to be wary of people's motives.  But equally, being convinced of conspiracy will only make sure you see them even when they're not there.  I'm learning...  lately... that it's a good idea to accept the possibility that people don't mean you harm, even if they don't tell you everything.  Sometimes it's not about you at all."  He flicked his glance back at the amulet, then over at Nadya.  "And sometimes, people can just be nice."

He tugged at something under the neckline of his t-shirt and hoodie, pulling out a large tooth suspended on what appeared to be a braided thong that glinted red and gold in the sunlight.  Slender, scarred fingers unfastening the ends, he slipped the amulet onto the braid so that it nestled down next to the tooth, then tucked it back under his clothes.

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Nadya's mobile face split in a wide grin as Grim slipped the amulet on the thong around his neck. There was a slight, questioning tilt to her head as she eyed the thong. It wasn't a common silver or gold or steel chain, or braided leather, but something else. And was that a tooth? The Stone Bitch hadn't had teeth that big. She arched a dark brow at the introverted Scion, but if wanted to say another about the tooth or where he'd been, he'd reveal in his own time.

"Cu plăcere*," Nadya said with a small wave, her smile growing more amused and a bit teasing. "Gotta ask, if you met your old one-eyed dad, does he look more Hopkins or more McShane? Because I think Ian McShane does the better job, just saying, but maybe that's because can swear on Starz, but it's a big no-no in the MCU."

She quickly scarfed down another donut and washed it down with the rest of her coffee, then sauntered over and tossed the box of donuts - oops, donut - on the grew wood of the weather-beaten picnic table. She took a seat, perched on the top, a planted a boot on the bench seat as she crossed her legs.

"About the motives and intentions of our dieting--"

"Diefic," corrected at least three of the others.

"That's what I said, Deific. Our Deific folks, well, I'm with Fisher on this one. Who cares why they're doing whatever they're doing. It might matter to them, but it doesn't have to matter to us, or matter much, anyway. We find our own motivations instead of relying on theirs. And along the way, we have some fun, cuz otherwise, what's point? Oh!"

Nadya bent and began digging around in her satchel. "I got something for you too, Rae-Rae. Didn't see anything Vidar-y, and not even a good copy of Thor's hammer, but it's something. Sorry, guys, vikings are the shit right now in showbiz - did any of you see Gods of Egypt? Shudder - but I swear, I'll find you all something too."

"It isn't stolen, is it?" Rachel commented, more than a hint of resignation in her tone at what she was sure the answer would be.

"Rae-Rae! Technically, you can't steal from a dead guy. Seriously, it's a thing. Ask museums," Nadya protested nonchalantly. "And the collection of artifacts were just dug up out of the ground, weren't even going to museums or anything. Just rich people selling them off to other rich people - Sorry, Laurie - so they can hide them in private collections and show them off to friends. They won't miss one. Or two. Besides, they're insured... Probably. Ah-hah! Here it is."

Spoiler

Ninth-century-silver-valk-006.jpg?width=

 

Nadya leaned over from her seat on the picnic table and held out the worked and worn pendant balanced on her nimble fingers. "It's supposed to be a Valkyrie. I mean, I guess it sorta looks like Tessa Thompson, a little, but whatever. Valkyries were badass battle bitches, right? Well, you're our badass battle bitch, Rae-Rae."

Spoiler

*Cu plăcere* = means 'you're welcome' in Romanian

 

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