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  1. 2 points
    2019 - Monday, Labor Day, early afternoon Normally, Sean’s attitude to musical priorities when he was driving was that ‘Driver selects the music, passenger shuts his cakehole’. But Jason had asked, politely, if he could play something he’d purchased on his smartphone, and so the bluetooth speaker was currently resonating with the primitive harmonies of one of the weird Nordic-folk-rock-electronica bands he was wont to listen to. It wasn’t bad, all things considered, and Sean did find his fingers tapping to the drumbeats and wondering if he should do something similar as atmospherics for his games. “What’d you say they were called?” he asked his friend, who was currently leaned back in his seat, eyes closed and in an attitude of listening as though his whole being was being transported - which, Sean mused, was probable with Jason. “Heilung.” came the softly-spoken reply, and the vibrant-hued young man nodded as he made a mental note. “It’s weird. But okay.” he noted with a wry smirk. “Kinda grows on a person.” The smirk widened as he glanced at the still-in-repose Jase. “Sort of like you.” “I’m an acquired taste.” Jason deadpanned, his eyes still closed. “Many don’t bother, and that is their loss.” Sean laughed softly, watching the road and the distant mountains that, he knew, likely contained Site B. “Assuming it’s all true…” he began. “Would you ever want to go and be with your people? Are you curious how you’d fit in?” “I am curious.” Jason admitted calmly, his green eyes opening and gazing at the road and mountains in a similar fashion. “But they are my species - you, and the others of the Fellowship, you are my people.” Sean drummed his fingers on the wheel in time with the drums in the music. Strip out the vocals, compose something in the same vein, it could work as ambient music for a new event in Regenesis. He’d set up the game to generate the main plotline events in somewhat random areas and order, and then to select a certain number of side events - some of which did tie into the main plotline - from a much larger number to give the game much more replayability, without being to rely on what you learned from a previous playthrough. Extra events just added to the experience. For a good role-playing game, sometimes you had to play to expectations, and sometimes you had to subvert them. He’d gotten some good pointers from Lady Meru about story and plot structure and construction. Some he had known, of course, but her advice had led him to reevaluate some and stop disregarding others. “You don’t know just how grateful I am that I had friends - people - like you and the others in the gaming group the last several years, Jase,” Sean said, trying to keep his voice light rather than saccharine. Sometimes, just seeing his friends had been the only reason he was able to drag his ass to school through all the shit he got. It sucked that so many of them seemed to be moving away lately, just as all the incredible weirdness was building up, even if he couldn’t quite fault them for it. “If you ever need anything, man, seriously, just name it.” Sean looked over quickly at his friend as they were driving through Conrad, the low houses and building somewhat obscuring a clear view of the mountains. “Jase? You have any expectations or hopes about what you might find about or among the Teulu? If you ever go to… wherever they are?” 2015 - April, Afternoon, Shelly Elementary It was an especially pleasant day for mid-April and Phys. Ed. was outside today, the teacher having decided on soccer after a few laps and warm-up exercises. The grass was more green than brown, if not by much, the white lines of the football field badly faded, and nowhere near lush yet. Sean was on the sidelines, sitting in the bleachers, along with Sophia Fingleman sitting next to him, the aluminum benches warm under them from the sun. Him, for his chronic ‘medical’ issues, her, for suffering ‘girl issues’. Sean didn’t know if she was lying, but he didn’t object to her company. He was supposed to be working on an independent study, since he couldn’t participate in the physical aspects of the class. But he’d already finished it, and was just pretending to be working on it, when he was actually working on writing up a D&D setting and campaign, luckily able to pull up PDFs of the books on his smartphone, though barely needing them since he could recall most of it from memory. He’d been surprised that Sophia was interested in RPGs too and she sat close, Sean pleased to show her his notes and a few rough sketches. The nets were set up the width of the field instead of the length, to make it more manageable for the 11 and 12 year olds, and to help pick up the pace with less open ground between the goals. Sean and Sophia only had to dodge two black and white balls that had been kicked wide… by accident or on purpose. Glancing their way from time to time while trying to keep his main focus on the game, Jason marvelled that nobody really seemed to notice the extent of Sean’s changes. Yes, Sean had grown adept at dressing to conceal his figure, but sitting next to Sophia, it seemed particularly obvious to Jason. Sean’s face held the same feminine lines and curves as Sophia, undisguised by his short, bright red hair compared to her long, dark auburn. Despite slim limbs, Sean’s torso looked bulky from his layers. His vivid red hair was already darkening, dampened by rising sweat. There were the occasional rumours and comments about his girlish features, but most of the students just thought he was getting pudgy, or downright fat, influenced by his non-participation in gym class, and maybe diabetes or something. There were a few mentions that if Sean kept blimping out, his moobs would end up growing as big and girlish as Sophia’s boobs. Jason really couldn’t see how the other students could believe that. True, he was aware of what was really going on with Sean, but still, it seemed so obvious, especially if you just paid attention. He’d read up about Change Blindness, and figured their classmates had just grown so used to Sean’s feminine features and the changes were gradual enough, they just couldn’t see it. Engrossed in their dungeons and dragons talk, which had shifted to their favourite fantasy series, Sean and Sophia didn’t notice Courtney coming up behind them after leaving the bathroom. The action on the field had picked up, whipcord slim Jason with the ball, striving towards the goal with silent intensity with a more verbally intense Autumn Keane right on his heels. Courtney glowered at the two redheads as she stalked up behind them with a bully’s stealth, her sneakers barely a whisper on the bleachers. Still slim as a boy, Courtney detested Sophia on sheer principle for blossoming before her and so extravagantly, uddered like a cow trying to draw all the boys with all the milk she had to offer, for all that Sophia didn’t flaunt what she had. But it was the girl-faced pigboy that was really riling Courtney at the moment. She’d overheard a comment that even he probably had bigger boobs than her, and that she wasn’t going to stand. She was going to make sure everyone saw the pork belly the little shit was trying to hide. And like fuck his hair was a nicer shade of red than hers. Suddenly, there was a muffled, yet piercing, furious shriek from the bleachers, and the soccer game staggered to an uncertain halt. Jason whipped around to look, recognize who that shout belonged to, Autumn colliding right into him. Sean was standing up in the bleachers, twisting and writhing violently, Courtney up on the bench a step up behind him. He’d been completely blindsided, and before he knew it, his head and arms were tangled up in his meticulous layers of shirts, Courtney using her leverage and holding on to them so tightly he couldn’t get free. The clips on the elastic bandages binding his chest got caught on his shirt with the force Courtney had yanked it up, and the bandages had practically exploded off his chest from the pressure they had been containing. There was not doubt about what Sean had been hiding now. Sophia’s mouth dropped open in speechless shock at the sight of the slim waist, flaring hips, and overfilled bra of the boy she’d been talking to. A strange boy, to be sure, but still a boy… she thought? Courtney was not so speechless. “No. Fucking. Way! You have tits?! You’re a titboy?!” Sean’s response was undecipherable yet vehement, his struggles so energetic and panicked, that he would have tumbled off the bleachers if Courtney hadn’t had a vice grip on his shirts pulled up over his head and tying up his arms. “Hey, watch where you’re-” Autumn had started to say to the odd boy as both of them staggered and righted themselves from the collision. She’d been enjoying the effort of catching up with him, had been looking forward to tackling and skillfully removing the ball from the silent, aloof Jason’s control, only for him to suddenly lose interest in their epic duel, the ball rolling heedlessly onwards as he stopped dead and turned unerringly towards the disturbance on the stands like a hawk sighting prey. Cade Allister had already picked up the ball from beyond Jason’s lean shape and was heading back up the field. But the Bannon kid didn’t seem to care, and Autumn found herself addressing his back as he instead loped off the field, giving the impression of dismissing her, the game, the ball and everything else from his strange world. Sean, struggling in Courtney’s grip, saw him coming with conflicted feelings. There was a sense of shame that he needed rescuing, relief at being rescued, and a dull cold dread that Jason would… be Jason. Terrifying three boys, roughing up a couple was one thing for a ten year old, even with a couple of deep, savage bites thrown into the equation. For a twelve year old boy to attack a girl with that kind of intense ferocity would likely land Jason an expulsion, regardless of circumstance. Whilst Sean might fantasize about Courtney crying snotty tears and gasping for breath right now, he didn’t really want to see her hurt. Also adding to the emotional conflict was the look in Sophia’s eyes. She was looking at him like he was a freak, drawing away from the conflict rather than trying to intervene, as though she didn’t want to be involved. Sean grit his teeth, determined not to bawl as Courtney kept jeering for a few seconds more before the lean shadow of Sean’s friend fell over the two struggling kids. “Let him go.” Jase said simply, his eyes not wavering from Courtney’s. The words were calm, inflectionless… much as two years ago he’d said ‘Let’s not.’ to Chet and his compatriots. Courtney, though, was intent on her discovery, her blood up from a mixture of outrage and fascination. Present, also, was the sense of her own feminine impunity from attack by boys. Boys didn’t hit girls - the rules punished them far more severely. “Your friend has tits, Bannon. You know about this?” she huffed, trying to keep her grip on the squirming Sean. “He your secret girl-boyfriend?” “Just my friend. Let him go.” Jason repeated, just as calmly with a little more force. “I won’t say it again.” “Oh?” Courtney grinned, reaching around and squeezing one of Sean’s breasts, making him yelp. “Whatcha going to do?” “Courtney Adams!” the voice thundered from behind Jason as Miss Mannheim, one of the Phys. Ed teachers supervising the soccer game, came storming up the bleachers. Jason was the only one that didn’t jump at the welkin-ringing shout, instead smiling very, very faintly as the colour drained from Courtney’s face. “Wait for that.” he answered quietly as the red-faced coach arrived, glowering ferociously. A tall, well built woman, ex-Army and still looking as though she was capable of killing a man with her bare hands - or failing that, her thighs - Beth Mannheim was currently looking like she wanted to warm up by killing Courtney. The red-haired girl quailed and let go of Sean, Jason immediately stepping forward and pulling his friends shirts down to conceal his un-boylike physique. He’d figured that one of the players suddenly leaving the pitch would call attention to the goings-on, and, failing that, he would have taken matters into his own hands - though that would have been a sub-optimal outcome. “Thanks.” Sean panted quietly as Jason picked up his things and handed them to him. Courtney was being dragged off by one powerful hand on her shoulder, Mannheim still fuming audibly. He took several deep breaths, noting the stares from people who’d seen and determined that he would not crack and cry. Not until later. And besides, the sound of Courtney on her way to a detention was certainly something of a balm. “Someone had to step in.” Jason’s tone was cold and his gaze withering as he glanced at Sophia. “It’s what a friend does.” The busty girl shrank a little under the gaze, then straightened up and sneered back sullenly. “Whatever, freak and freakier. You two probably should date - weirdos together.” Sean’s face reddened, with anger rather than shame, and he spat back “He’s my friend, Sophia. You should be so lucky when you get some ‘tard bothering you someday that you have a friend who’ll step in too.” “Though that seems unlikely. Friendship requires a sense of loyalty.” Jason added clinically, then dismissed Sophia from his attention altogether. “You good?” he asked Sean calmly. “Yeah.” Sean said with a small smile and a nod. What the hell if people were staring and Sophia was giving him the freak-look. Times like this were when you found out who was your friend, and who was just a person you hung out with. “Yeah, I think I am.” 2019 - Monday, Labor Day, early afternoon “I don’t hope, Sean.” Jason said matter of factly. “I plan, I set goals, I set myself targets to achieve, but I don’t hope. I deal with things and people as they come at me, not based on how I would like them to be.” “Okay. Okay. Poor choice of words.” Sean grumped, but he smiled slightly. Jason grinned back. “On the upside, I don’t get dejected if my plans don’t work or I don’t hit my goals either.” he shrugged. “I just adjust and move on in less time than it takes to tell it.” “So… Answer my question in a Jase context, then.” Sean challenged. “Based on what I know, I am planning for the eventuality that my species will be hostile to my friends. It’s reasonable to assume that, if we’re careful, we might be able to learn a lot though - they are supposedly technologically superior to humanity. I’m planning for many contingencies - they will want to recruit me, they will want all of us as breeding stock, they will seek to subjugate or capture one or more of us, they might even offer alliances. I’m not expecting any single thing except, perhaps, that it will be interesting.” “Interesting.” Sean huffed quietly. An alien offshoot of humanity, with none of the conscience or moral restraints, smarter and more violent. And Jason was raised human - he’d likely be ‘soft’ compared to a properly raised Teulu. “Interesting.” he said again as the two of them gazed out at the sun-washed hills and pastures they were driving past as they headed back to Shelly. “Yeah. What isn’t, these days?”
  2. 2 points
    2019 - Monday, Labor Day noon, lunch They settled on burgers for lunch, and were seated in the Roadhouse Diner waiting for their orders. Jason had been quiet since Sean’s revelation, and Sean likewise had been chewing over Jason’s. “You know that I’m going to see you get to where you need to go.” Jason stated rather than asked, causing Sean to smile faintly. There were worse allies to have when mounting an assault on a shady secret laboratory site than Jason. “Yeah. I know.” he nodded, sipping at his drink through a straw. “Just… don’t do anything precipitous, okay? We’ve got to deal with the other matter first, like Cassie said.” Jason nodded calmly, and Sean grinned as a thought struck him. “Hey. Maybe if what we find can sort out my problem, perhaps it could restructure your DNA too.” “Why would I want to?” Jason smiled slightly. Sean chuckled. “Yeah. After all, you’re ‘superior’.” he smirked, teasing his friend a little. “Yes. But that has nothing to do with being an alien.” Jason replied with a faint flash of teeth as he grinned. Sean made a rude noise as the server brought their well-stacked burgers over. Sean squirted ketchup over his fries and after the server left to see her other patrons, he looked up at Jason, his eyes twinkling in mirth, defiant of their respective issues. “Y’know, you can’t tell Cass you’re an Alien. She won’t be able to resist the headlines.” “‘They Walk Among Us!’” Jason intoned, hand sweeping to indicate a blazoned headline. “‘Shelly Coronet Exclusive: Genetically-engineered love god walks the earth, by ace reporter Cassandra Allen!’” “‘Love god’?” Sean sniggered around a mouthful of fries. “Dude makes out in the woods and now he’s Casanova. Sheesh.” Jason smiled faintly at him, eyes glinting with good humor. “Got to say, though,” Sean admitted, finishing his mouthful and gesturing towards him. “You seem different ‘cause of it.” He was going to say ‘softer’, but the memory of the counter exchange in Walgreens stifled that word. ‘More relaxed’, maybe? A thought occurred and he leaned forward as much as his bust would allow. “What about Autumn? Does she know about…?” He indicated Jason with a wave of a hand. “Yes.” Jason nodded gravely, eyes going distant for a moment as he then smiled a fraction. “I thought it only fair, considering she’d agreed to date me.” “How did she handle it?” Sean asked, fascinated, then blinked as Jason’s eyes took on the gleam he associated with a smirk from anyone else. Sean rolled his eyes and sighed. “Yes, I know. Phrasing. Now spill.” “Didn’t seem to faze her at all.” Jason said matter-of-factly, shrugging before picking up his burger and taking a bite. “Wow.” Sean blinked, again feeling a surge of envy that Jason had found someone who accepted him peculiarities and all. But stronger than that was a sense of happiness for his friend. “That’s some girl. To think she didn’t like you much last week, huh?” Jason nodded, chewing steadily as he examined Sean with his usual, uncomfortably direct stare. It reminded Sean of how Jason had used to look at everyone when he first came to Shelly, before he’d adopted mannerisms and a mask to try and hide himself. “You will have a chance, too.” Jason said quietly after washing down his mouthful with a gulp of soda. “We will get you fixed, Sean. If the technology exists to correct your DNA, then it can feasibly also help you settle on a gender. You might be able to choose male or female, and live and love accordingly.” He tilted his head a fraction, examining his friend. “It would be good to see, I think. This acceptance, the warmth in the cold places I experience - I’d like you to know what it’s like too.” 2014, October 30th, Bunnee’s “I don’t understand why.” Jason was quietly insistent, the closest he got to expressing real worry, it seemed. He was even frowning slightly, lips in a straight line as he peered at Sean from under the messy fringe of his hair. He was sitting in what had become his customary slouch, bent over a burger which he was eating with both hands, chewing steadily between speaking. “I just don’t wanna.” Sean shrugged, trying not to meet that green stare and instead looking out the window. “Halloween is your birthday. You love Halloween.” Jason wasn’t leaving it alone, doggedly hanging on like a quiet pit bull in a death-grip. “You don’t want to have a birthday?” “I’ll be having a birthday.” Sean forced a smile, looking back at his friend. “I just won’t be trick or treating. I… don’t feel like it this year.” Jason stared hard at him, actually lifting his head from it’s lowered slouch and glaring directly at Sean, who shifted in his seat. Jason’s glare wasn’t hostile, but it was definitely a lot. “No.” he said after a moment. “No?” Sean was confused. “No.” Jason reiterated. “You did not want to go swimming. You have been avoiding going outdoors ever since the summer. You avoid sports and PE class with a note.” He pointed his burger at Sean accusingly. “Something is wrong.” Sean scowled, his appetite gone, and let the rest of his burger fall with a plop, a ketchup speckled french fry jumping from his plate and rolling across the booth table. He glowered out the window and went to cross his arms defensively before hesitating, then balling his hands into fists and thumping them on the table. Sean was silent for a long moment, his jaw tight, but he was tired and angry and scared and hadn’t been able to talk to anybody who wasn’t family. Finally, he turned back to Jason, glanced towards the bathroom, gave his head a minute shake, then nodded at the burger in his friend’s hand. “Fine,” Sean ground out in his high, clear voice. “Finish your burger, and I’ll show you. At the barn.” Jason simply nodded, undeterred by his friend’s evident turmoil and finished his burger and fries with quick, economical bites. Sean just stirred his fries with a fork and took a few desultory bites, before pushing his plate to the side and finishing his soda. The boys finished their meal, leaving cash on the table. Jason counted out exacted change and a precise percentage for a tip, while Sean just slapped down enough bills to cover his share without caring about getting any change back. They waved at Bunnee and Max in passing, and then reclaimed their bikes locked up at the bike rack out front of the diner. The boys pedaled back to Sean’s home, dirt and gravel crunching under their wheels the only sound between them. Sean was still using the same bike he had since he was nine, but Jason had a new one - well, new to him, it was secondhand - he’d gotten for his birthday. At the Cassidy residence, Sean led Jason past the rambling, one story farmhouse to the barn that was being converted into a playroom and den for Sean and his siblings, though so far, only Sean was really making much use of it. Sean hopped off his bike before coming to a full stop and let it fall, the back wheel continuing to spin with a slowing clicking sound. Jason was more fastidious, coming to a complete stop and using the kickstand. The sun was an orange ball, still its own height above the horizon when Sean barged into the barn, Jason following at a more sedate, even-tempered pace. The front half of the barn was one big room, but the rear half still had sections separated by half walls, repurposed stalls, though not all the former stalls had found new purposes yet. Sean closed the blinds on each of the newly installed windows as he stalked past them towards the rearmost left stall. Sean reached up on his tip toes and pulled the string descending from the bare bulb. Harsh white-yellow light flooded the stall, their short shadows shifting at the hanging lightbulb swung gently. Sean took a deep breath, then spun around to face his friend. “What do you see when you look at me?” Sean asked. Jason tilted his head slightly, then gave Sean a cursory once over. Sean had hit his growth spurt early and had been one of the tallest boys in class. But now, he was at best only average in height, and that was changing each year, with the other boys in his grade matching and then surpassing him. He had been slim, but seemed to have put on notable weight in the last year, perhaps from being less active. “I see you, Sean. With your recent lack of physical activity, you are getting fat,” Jason replied with blunt honesty. Sean snorted bitterly. “I’m not fat. Look closer.” Jason did. Sean’s hands and forearms were slim, the fingers delicate, his complexion uniformly pale. His bright red hair was less than an inch long, but didn’t disguise the fineness of his features or the attractiveness of the lines of his face, the large, strange eyes with their long, dark lashes. Jason pictured Sean’s sisters, contrasted them with his friend and noted the resemblance between them was more than familial. Where the voices of the other boys in their class were beginning to warble and crack, Sean’s voice stayed smooth and sweet. More than once, he was asked to join the choir. “You have distinct phenotypically feminine features.” It was an open truth, but few ever actually openly remarked upon it except to be mean or cruel. Jason didn’t mean to be either, he was only stating a fact. Sean blinked. He knew what phenotype meant, because of the doctors, but he was surprised Jason knew it. “It’s sooo much worse than that,” Sean didn’t quite wail, squinting his eyes tightly as he always did to keep them dry and tear free when there was anyone to see. He shrugged out of his baggy, zip-up hoodie, then his loose flannel shirt, then the shirt was wearing under that. With each layer removed, Jason could see his friend getting slimmer and slimmer… mostly. Sean’s jeans hung off hips that were noticeably wider than what appeared to be a notably thin waist. And there was something strange about his chest. When Sean pulled off his tight undershirt, Jason found his chest bound tight with ace bandages, but they didn’t hide the white straps going over Sean’s slender shoulders. Sean was almost gasping as he unwound the bandages, hiccuping in his self-consciousness. It was bad enough showing his parents and the doctors. Laurie had spied on him once, and Teagan had made one teasing comment before getting grounded. But this was his friend, the first time he was showing somebody who didn’t need to know. He tossed the lengths of elastic bandages aside and locked his eyes on a point just over Jason’s shoulder as he let him get a full look. Sean was wearing a plain, white bra, and it wasn’t a training bra, as it was filled out with the unmistakable, if unfamiliar, bulges of breasts. Jason had been intensely aware of the growing and developing physical changes of his fellow classmates, especially the girls. Some girls were developing faster and more dramatically than others. Sophia Fingleman, for example, had been receiving particular attention, lately, from both girls and boys, both good and bad, for being as well endowed as most of the underclassmen, and several of the upperclassmen. Remarkably - and for most other people, disconcertingly and/or disgustingly - Sean had been hiding a figure at least as curvaceous. “I’m turning into a girl!” Sean wasn’t sure what he expected. From any other boy his age, shock. Or snickering. Or disgust. Or a mixture of all three. He held his gaze at that point on the far wall past Jason’s shoulder, not wanting to see his friend’s eyes when- “That seems biologically unlikely.” “Huh?!” Sean blinked and looked at Jason’s face. The green eyes were calmly appraising his body and features, and Jason’s own face, as devoid of youthful softness at the age of twelve as it had been when they first met, was smooth save for a slight furrow of concentration on his brow. Jason’s gaze met his. “I said-” “I heard you.” “Because it is unlikely that you would suddenly turn into a girl.” Jason said with the firm authoritativeness of a boy who knew how development was supposed to go. "Gaah! It's not sudden, it's still happening, day after day. It's not really turning into a girl, just looking like one and having the same hormones and stuff." Sean huffed, a little piqued that Jason had, characteristically, totally ignored the dramatised interpretation and gone right for the crux of the matter. “The doctors say it’s called Chapelle Syndrome, or something. Like, my body is producing girl hormones more than boy ones, but it’s still also producing boy ones.” Jason was staring at him, curiosity in his eyes. “That’s interesting.” “It’s really not!” Sean huffed, trying to cross his arms over his chest and having to opt for folding them under his protuberances. “It sucks, and it’s scary. I don’t want to be a girl, Jason!” “But you’re not. You’re neither, and both.” “I want to be me.” Sean felt tears start up, and tried to ignore them even as he felt their wetness trail down his cheeks. Jason’s head tilted to one side, brow furrowing again as he considered something, then he stepped forward and put a hand on Sean’s shoulder. “You are still Sean. What you look like doesn’t change who you are. Not to me.” he said quietly and firmly. “You are, and always have been my friend. I look at you and that is what I see.” The hug was awkward as it was sudden. Sean was torn between returning the hug and keeping his arms folded across his lower chest and opted for returning the hug, regretting it almost immediately as he felt his breasts press against his friend’s skinny torso. Still, for Jason to offer a hug was a major concession, and so Sean endured it for the brief moment it lasted. “Okay.” he smiled wanly as they parted, Jason stepping back without seeming at all perturbed. “One, never do that again.” he joked, smiling so Jason would be sure to get it. His friend smiled fractionally in return. “Two, you can’t tell anyone.” “Won’t they find out eventually anyway?” Jason asked with his usual coldly brutal logic. “Yeah, maybe. But I’m not ready for that yet.” Sean sighed. “And three… can you help me re-wrap these things? My mom usually does.” “Aren’t they sensitive? Doesn’t that hurt?” Jason inquired calmly. “Yeah. It hurts.” Sean admitted ruefully. “But… It’s better than people knowing. And don’t give me the ‘logically that seems flawed, Captain’ treatment.” he pointed at Jase, doing an impression of Spock. “Kirk didn’t have breasts.” Jason replied, a glint of humor in his eyes as he moved to pick up the bandages. “I won’t tell anyone. But I think this is something you need to accept.” “Yeah. Maybe one day I will.” Sean sighed.
  3. 2 points
    2019 - Monday, Labor Day morning, shopping. “So, that’s the Huawei P30 Pro dual-SIM, earbuds, charge cord, car mount and charger, glass protectors, matte black case, two pay as you go SIM cards and a bluetooth speaker.” Sully said as he packed each item into the bag and then rang it all up on the till. “Which comes to... Five hundred and ninety five dollars. Gotta love Montana’s zero percent sales tax, amirite?” He grinned at the slender form across the counter from him. “Cash or card?” “Cash.” Jason drew a billfold from his pocket, counted out six hundred-dollar bills, and smiled faintly as he slid them over to Sully. “Keep the change.” “Thank you.” Sully grinned again as he deposited the cash in the till, then turned back to the two teens. “I might close up early.” “So where to now?” Sean asked as the two friends hit the street outside. Jason pondered for a brief moment between one step and the next. “Barnes and Noble for sure - I’m looking to find some tapes and books to learn German.” he proposed. “And Walgreens is on the way. I need to stop in there.” “Oh?” Sean gave his friend a sidelong glance. “Something important?” “Yes.” Jason said with his usual unflappable mien, then as Sean shrugged and raised the bottle of water to his lips decided to explain further. “Condoms.” Sean barely managed to turn his head in time to avoid spewing water all over Jason. A hand went to his chest as he coughed, trying to hack up the water that had gone down the wrong way. "Is this... for some... experiment?" Sean wheezed, bountiful chest heaving. "Define 'experiment'." Sean chuffed one more time to clear his throat, then wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his wrist before looking up at his friend. Jason’s expression was inscrutable, barring a bare curve of his lips. "You mean you..." "Hmm?" "Who?!" Sean didn’t seem to notice or care that his gorgeous voice was rising into a girlish, gossipy squeal, anymore than Jason opening the door to the Walgreens for him, distracted by his friend’s revelation. "I'm not sure your surprise is complimentary." "Yeah, okay, it’s not,” Sean admitted as they headed towards the healthcare, taking a deep breath to collect his composure. “But... Who?!" Jason's expression remained almost impassive, the gleam in his jade eyes the only real sign that he took some strange alien amusement in his friend's surprise and curiosity. "It's no huge secret." he said as they ambled in the direction of the right aisle - at least, Jason was ambling: Sean was walking at his normal comfortable pace, not for the first time envying those with longer legs. Jason turned his pale gaze on his friend once more. "Autumn." Sean's vibrant, multi-hued eyes widened, then flicked side to side, reviewing the interactions between Jase and Autumn over the last few days. Yes, Autumn had made an effort to get along with Jase, and he remembered seeing her talk to his dad, but he was still surprised. Jason wasn't exactly a 'playah' and it hardly seemed their relationship could have gotten this far this fast. "How? When?" Sean asked, giving Jason a nonplussed sigh when his taller friend increased his pace just enough that Sean had to hurry his every second or third step. He peeked down one aisle, then the next, giving Jason a nod. "This one." "Friday night, while we were camping. As for 'how'..." He gave Sean an amused look. "The usual way, I imagine." "I didn't mean that." Sean protested, actually drawing a chuckle from his friend before Jason's gaze turned contemplative. "It was just a... realisation. We'd hung out, and cleaned up the campsite, swam together in the creek - oh, and you've got to see the place, Sean. It's peaceful and quite lovely. You might even enjoy the great outdoors for once." Jase grinned slightly at his friend, who made a 'pff' noise and flapped his hand. "Never mind camping. Autumn. How?" "It just happened. We were sitting by the fire, talking about powers and the weird stuff... and then I realised she liked me - as in liked me, liked me. And I realised that I found her attractive too, so thought 'Why not?'" Jason shrugged his lean shoulders. "I went to kiss her and that was that." "Uh-huh." Sean was doubtful. On the other hand, he had witnessed stranger things lately, so who was he to doubt. Sean stuffed his hands in his pockets as Jason picked up a different box and began reading its merits, then compared them with a third brand, studious and unhurried in his selections. Sean could feel his face starting to redden as the occasional shopper glanced at the two teens standing by the contraceptive section, the boy seeming so diligent in making his decision, while the one who looked like a girl appeared to be impatient. Jason of course paid no heed to the attention. Sean started browsing for something to do instead of just standing there. Lube, nope, didn't need to look at that, or at the prophylactics with Jase. Other side of the aisle. Band-aids and ace bandages. Boring. Tampons, aaaand I'm done. Sean folded arms, disgruntled, waiting. Jason continued his analytic study of condoms. Sean wondered why he didn't just do this online and then order them from Amazon like a normal person. Then he noticed something about Jason's selections. "Magnums? Really?" Sean drawled, arching a brow. Jason glanced meaningfully down at the red-head. Down at his particularly prominent protuberances. Sean followed his gaze. A faint, melancholy frown crossed Sean's beautiful, delicate features, as he considered his distended hoodie hiding the view of his feet and his slender shoulders slumped. "Touché." Sean pulled out his phone, flipping around on it, still and silent for a moment as Jason perused his panoply of prophylactics. "Um, did you talk about this with Autumn first? I dunno, don't you think she might find it a bit presumptuous if you surprise her with condoms?" "Our chemistry seems very compatible." Jason's tone was clinical as he considered the merits of ribbed versus studded latex sheaths, then he shot Sean a sidelong smile. "So much so that it was perhaps a good thing that I didn't have any condoms with me that night. Depending on point of view, of course." "Really?" Sean's tone was not disbelieving, exactly. He knew Jase, and knew that lying was not one of Jason's quirks. Or exaggeration either, for that matter. Jason merely nodded. "Without going into explicit detail, yes." His friend wasn't exactly smug, or overly preening, but there was an echo of thoughtful satisfaction in his tone as he looked back at the packet of condoms in his hand. "I asked her to Homecoming, she said yes. I have a girlfriend." This last was said with quiet solemnity, as though it were a revelation of epic proportions for the detached youth. Which, Sean realised, it would be. An outsider of sorts himself, ever since the big reveal of Jason’s psychopathy he’d wondered what it would be like to be so set apart that he could not even feel loneliness at how apart he was, to share only shallow similarities to the emotional bonds and feelings of normal people. No wonder Jason was so savage in defending or avenging those he considered his friends: his sole connection to human existence, people he chose to care for by some criteria known only to himself. No wonder connecting with someone, to be involved romantically with them, and to feel that chemical attraction given and returned was such a milestone. Despite his envy, he appreciated the gravity of his friend’s revelation. “Congratulations, then, man, and good luck.” He chucked Jason on the arm in a bro-move, though it looked a bit incongruous coming from him. “To you. If Autumn said yes, she knows what she’s getting into.” Sean didn’t have to force the smile, but it was bittersweet. He didn’t imagine he’d be going to Homecoming. His friends were beginning to pair off, but he didn’t see anyone who would want to with him with him. It was fine when they went to dances and events as a group, but now, he’d just feel like a fifth wheel. Besides, what would he even wear? That last suit he’d worn he’d been ten, and it obviously wouldn’t fit now, even if he was barely an inch taller, and he couldn’t buy off the rack. Jason seemed satisfied with his selections - a more than sufficient collection, to Sean’s mind - and they headed to checkout. Along the way, Sean indulged in a little impulse buying. A 6-pack of Pepsi, since it was on sale. A jar of Nutella - they were out at home. And a box of double-stuffed Oreos, just because. They got in line behind a blue-haired old lady who was checking her lottery tickets and scratchers, who was complaining at how little she’d won and demanding that the cashier pick better scratchers that she was spending her meagre winnings on. The cashier, a tired looking blonde in her twenties, was polite and smiled, and dutifully agreed she would pick better. Sean and Jason could see the strain on the poor woman’s face restraining herself from rolling her eyes. They weren’t in any particular rush and the old lady seemed more than half way done at least, so Sean perused the candy racks while waiting, adding a bag of skittles to their items on the conveyor belt. When it was their turn, the cashier’s pleasant, patient demeanor began to fade when she got a good look at them, her professional smile shifting into a scowl, and the purchases they were making. She openly scoffed at the neatly stacked boxes of condoms and their size, moving to place them behind her. “Sorry.” Her tight tone was definitely not sorry. “You’re kids.” That she was barely a decade older than them didn’t seem to matter. “I can’t sell these to you.” She leaned in conspiratorially towards Sean, glancing down briefly at his chest before her dark eyes met his, clearly conveying she thought him a slut. “I’m doing you a solid, honey. You’ll be happier keeping your legs together rather than finding out your boy here is lying about how big he is…” The scathing look she shot Jason implied that she’d been fucked over by her high school sweetheart, and presumed every other high school guy was planning to do the same. “... and then just to be polite, you let him get it on, and end up preggers. Nuh-uh, be kids and wait a few more years before fu - messing up your lives.” Uh-oh. Sean glanced at Jason, who had hitherto radiated an air of laid back patience, and inwardly the intersexed young man groaned as he saw the cold eyes become emerald laser beams focused on the woman’s face. “Jase…” Sean started, but his friend had already stepped right up to the counter. “Thank you for the potted history of your own underwhelming existence.” The chilly tone was wind coming right off the Arctic Circle, containing razor sharp ice crystals that flayed at the cheeks and stung the eyes. “Now, to be clear, you are refusing to sell me the condoms I am willing to pay for due to my age, correct.” He didn’t lower his voice, didn’t seem at all self-conscious that other shoppers were starting to queue behind him. “That’s right, Romeo. So go get-” Jason slapped his driver’s license down on the counter, the sound making her start. “I am sixteen, near seventeen. The age of consent in Montana is sixteen. Moreover, anyone of any age can purchase condoms for any reason. There is no law against it.” His tone remained at a slightly projected pitch. “There are laws against discriminating against people based on their age, however. Would you refuse to sell condoms to a sixty year old woman?” His stare pinned the woman’s eyeballs to the back of her skull and stapled her tongue to the roof of her mouth. “Now… Sue.” he said with a glance at her name badge. “You also are implying that I am lying about the size of my penis - not that it is any of your business. I shouldn’t have to drop my pants in order to satisfy your prurience. You are impolite, high-handed, and also displaying a certain level of misandry - the assumption that I am exaggerating being based on the fact I am male.” He placed his hands on the counter. “So now I am going to give you a choice. Keep your parochial small-minded bitter commentary to yourself, do your job and ring me up. Or call your manager down here and we will make it their problem.” Sean flinched in unconscious empathy with the poor woman - even if she had been obnoxious, Jason’s stare and utterly composed, no-fucks-given excoriation was uncomfortable even when one wasn’t standing in the impact zone. It was like watching someone run face-first into a wall on a blooper reel or something - you had to wince, but there was also the urge to laugh. His girlish lips twisted slightly as he restrained a smirk - fortunately the hapless shop girl was staring at Jason as though he’d dropped a rattlesnake on the counter. “Uh… Right.” she said, sullenly dropping her gaze and placing the stacked condom boxes back on the counter. Though she was obviously mortified, she didn’t hesitate or delay in getting everything rung up, wanting the eerie lean youth and his busty trollop out of the place as soon as possible. “Dude.” Sean breathed as they exited the Walgreens and ambled down the sidewalk. “There’s time I wish I was a psychopath. That was awesome.” He started giggling. “‘Thank you for the potted history of your own underwhelming existence’.” Jason glanced down at him, smiling a little and shrugging. “What if I wasn’t?” he asked after they’d passed a few more shopfronts. “A psychopath, I mean.” In answer to Sean’s quizzical look, he briefly - or at least, as briefly as possible - explained what his mother had told him, which yes, also necessitated telling Sean she was in Shelly, and who it was. Sean wasn’t sure which news was more important. “Of course, I plan to make use of the Project’s gene labs and test myself.” Jason finished. “I’m not planning to take everything she says as gospel, but if she’s right and there’s a variance in the DNA…” “... does it really change anything?” Jason’s buxom buddy finished. “For you, I mean. Not that your mother’s back and seemingly genuine about being a part of your life again. That’s awesome, if it’s something you want, something you want to give a chance, sweet.” A nonplussed expression crossed Sean’s face and he shrugged awkwardly, reflecting on just what he had thought about Ms. Forster. Finding out she was his best friend’s mother made those thoughts somewhat uncomfortable, more than her claim she was an interdimensional alien, apparently. “I mean, ‘bout the alien stuff and your own... peculiarities. You might now know there’s something more to you than just a random series of genetic expressions, but you’re still you. You just might have some psychopathic elven aunts and uncles and cousins now.” Jason noticed Sean peering oddly up at him from the corner of his vision, in a way he couldn’t quite decipher. “What?” “Teulu sounds sort of Welsh, to me. I was just wondering if I’ve completely missed your ears being pointed all these years,” Sean teased. “Have you told your dad yet about your mom yet, or where she’s from and what she is yet?” “No. Not yet. He’s trying to recover himself since the events at Marias, and I’m concerned how it might affect him.“ Jason glanced down at his friend anew. “You seem rather more accepting of my potential heritage than I was expecting.” Sean’s shoulders slumped as he looked away. He shoved his hands into his pockets, his bag of purchases hanging about a slim wrist and bouncing against his leg. “You already said you were going to confirm before accepting, so I don’t have to tell you that.. “ Sean took a deep breath, and let it out in a long, slightly shaking sigh. “You guys all hate Dr. Cook, but I just… can’t. I can hate some of the things he’s done, but not him. He did - he has - helped me. I spoke to him after the quarantine, after what he’s told me, I can’t discount the possibility of aliens. That alien conspiracy guy meme is all over this, you see…” The two disparate friends made it back to Sean’s Grand Cherokee by the time Sean was done recounting what Dr. Cook had shared with him. Sean placed his bag in the backseat, closing the door and leaning back against it, arms crossed. “... and it looks Site B is my only chance.” Sean looked up at his friend, his uncanny eyes bright and intent with a self-bitterness he couldn’t quite hide from his friend. “You might come from self-aware brain-washed Bourne-like super soldiers, but at least your DNA isn’t trying to kill you.” 2014, July, Cassidy Residence “Did you want to go swimming?” Jason asked as he tried to resist Harley Quinn’s unrelenting assault with Martian Manhunter. He and Sean were sitting on the edge of his bed, playing Injustice: Gods Among Us. “No,” Sean replied tersely, redoubling the digital ass kicking he was giving his friend. He had more experience with the game, but he didn’t usually abuse his extra familiarity with a game to mercilessly destroy his friends. He wouldn’t throw a game - wanting to win as much as anyone - but rather kept it to a level that would push his opponent, give them time to learn and experiment. But he was having none of it now. “Why?” Jason asked, unperturbed, simply switching to another character for a rematch, while Sean stayed with Harley. “The weather is nice, we could bike to the pool at Johnson Memorial Park.” “I don’t want to! Ugh!” Sean almost threw his controller at the TV when Jason managed to get in a lucky counter and follow it with a combo, putting Harley down in the first round of the match. Sean tossed the controller on the bed. “We’ve played enough, I don’t wanna play anymore.” “Okay.” Jason turned off the Playstation, placing both controllers on top of the console. He’d noticed his friend becoming more moody and surly the last few weeks. “Now, I would like to point out, would be a good time to go swimming.” “I said I don’t wanna,” Sean groused, pulling his knees up to his chest and wrapping his arms around his legs. “I don’t even know how much we’ll do stuff this summer. I’m going to be going out of town, even out of state, a couple of times.” “Oh? Vacation?” Jason felt a vague sense of… something. Sean was just about the only friend he had made at school, and while he was used to entertaining himself, he had become habituated spending time at the Cassidy’s. “No.” Sean’s girlish features contorted into a pout and he glanced away. “I’m… sick, or something, and I’m gonna go see some doctors in Helena, and Chicago, and maybe New York, ‘cuz the doctors here don’t know what’s wrong with me.” “What’s wrong with you?” Jason gave Sean a frank appraisal. “You don’t look or sound sick.” “I don’t know,” Sean said, and for the first time, Jason thought Sean was… not exactly lying to him, but not telling him the truth. “My parents are probably worrying over nothing.” Briskly and without giving Jason a chance to respond, Sean hopped off the bed and began heading out the door. “I’mma gonna get a Pepsi. You want something to drink too?” “Yes.” Jason slid from the bed to his feet with his usual contained grace and followed Sean out of the room without saying anything more, his green eyes on his friend’s back as they went down to the kitchen. Sean had been moody of late, and whilst Jason had read that puberty could make neurotypical people erratic and temperamental, it seemed vastly out of character for Sean to be evasive or curt with him. Perhaps he was re-evaluating his friendship with Jason. Or perhaps it was nothing to do with Jason at all, and he was worried about something else. It would fit the pattern better : doctors, specialists perhaps. For a condition Sean didn’t want to discuss. Unheeding of the lean silent ghost following him, thinking Jason was just waiting on the bed, Sean went through into the kitchen, hearing the sounds of girlish laughter from outside - Teagan and her freshman buddies, playing out in the summer sunshine - a water fight from the sounds of things. He sighed grumpily - Teegs would let him join in, but Sean didn’t want to lose his baggy sweater right now, especially in front of gossipy high school girls. He bent over and peered in the fridge, grabbing a Pepsi for himself and cataloguing what else was in there that Jason might prefer. “We got some ice tea, if you waah-SHIT!” he’d turned his head to call back down the hallway and seen Jase right there, three feet away and regarding him with that serious, figuring-things-out-look he sometimes got in his eyes. “Jase! Man! Don’t do that!” “Do what?” Jason asked, still with his brow lightly furrowed as he examined his friend. “And ice tea is fine.” Sean glowered as he grabbed the jug from the fridge and got a cup down from the cupboard. “Sneak up on people. You coulda given me a heart attack.” “Is that what is wrong? A problem with your heart?” Jason asked calmly as he took the cup and jug and poured himself a drink. Sean blinked as his friend glanced at him, head tilting slightly to one side. “No! It was just a figure of speech, Jase.” Sean huffed, unable to stop himself from smiling a little. “Oh.” Jason nodded, still focusing on Sean as he took a drink from the cup. Lowering it, he went on. “If you want to talk to me about it, you can.” “I know.” Sean said more quietly. “I just don’t want to talk about it… not until I know more about it, or know it’s real, you know?” He watched Jason ponder that for a second, then nod. “When I know I need to talk about it, I’ll definitely tell you.” “Good.” Jason seemed satisfied, and they smiled at each other as the sounds from outside shifted and came closer- “Hey guys!” Teagan Cassidy, athletic body currently wearing a bikini and a soaking wet t-shirt, came bounding into the kitchen closely followed by her friends who, it has to be said because Jase and Sean were present, were all noticeably dressed the same way. Whilst not possessed of Teagan’s degree of athleticism, her friends were all involved in various sporting activities and, especially when soaking wet and bright-eyed from merriment, were distracting to boys on the cusp of adolescence. Even, Sean noted, to Jason. Which was weird. Jason didn’t historically notice girls - not as girls. They were just other kids he shared space with, whom he didn’t treat any differently than boys - almost everyone was held at polite, chilly arms length. While other eleven and twelve year old boys were sniggering and taking their first steps into adolescent courtship, egging each other on to be the first to kiss a girl or go on a date, Jason seemed serenely unconcerned. Sean had put it down to his undiscussed autism. But all of a sudden, as he tried not to stare - or at least, not get caught staring - at some of the bodies to which wet t-shirts were clinging and looked at his friend, he noticed Jason was studying them over the rim of his cup, green eyes as unabashedly intent as a cat watching birds bathing in a fountain. They seemed unaware, chattering excitedly about boys, or a sports meet, or plans for the weekend as they came over, bustling around the fridge and grabbing drinks, and Sean noted with a sense of vicarious embarrassment that Jason was watching them bend over to peer into the fridge, or lean against the counters, studying the curves of their bodies with a gaze that was both remotely appreciative and, though he wouldn’t think this until reviewing the incident later, somewhat intensely predatory for an eleven year old boy. He nudged his friend, and Jason merely switched his gaze from the girls to him as though he’d been disturbed watching television or a sunset, with no embarrassment at all. They went back to ‘Injustice’, drinks in hand, as the kitchen behind them rang with the chatter and laughter of the sophomores.
  4. 2 points
    2019 - Monday, Labor Day morning, on the road “Yeah, that seems good.” Jason mused, taking a swallow of Coke. “Perhaps we can persuade the Aeon people to share that communications tech with us.” He smiled in his usual wry fashion. “At least the stuff they were handing out to Etienne and their other agents - that not-quite-a-phone we found of his.” “I wonder if they work on the same basic principles as the weird radio from the trailer,” Sean added, flicking on the turn signal and shifting lanes with a quick glance in the mirror for the upcoming off ramp to Great Falls. “But what I really want…” There was a lustful burr to the shapely boy’s dulcet voice, “... is some of that holography tech. Gaming night and video games would be so sweet.” As the music changed to a minimalist composition of soft percussion and what sounded like singularly drops of something into some manner of liquid, Sean went off on a tangent about the progress he was making on his video game. Jason let his friend babble on, long familiar with how Sean’s particular brand of genius benefitted from jumping from one topic to another. With greater understanding of his own abilities and how they manipulated software, the coding on FBG (Fallout-But-Good, codename), was taking an exponential leap forward, in efficiency especially. He could get more using less memory, which drastically eased rendering and loading times, and would mitigate crashes and errors - also helped by him not being a lazy coder. “... do away with zoning, and don’t even need to use cinematic cutscenes anymore. I can get it all done using the game engine, just zooming and playing with the camera angles to get the best shots,” Sean explained, sounding almost giddy, as he wove through Great Falls on the familiar route to Sullivan’s Computers & Electronics. Sean had a great deal of respect for what the gaming industry had accomplished, but believed now, imagination and innovation had taken a backseat thanks to the executives and sales folk for the sake of the investors. Games from the biggest publishers were coming out nearly half finished - if that in some cases - and riddled with bugs. He was just one person, he couldn’t write, code, and test as fast as they could, or at least, he shouldn’t have been able too. On the other hand, he didn’t have stakeholders to answer to and publisher executives medling to squeeze every bit of money from the game at the expense of the game and the players. And he now had an insight into the digital world they just didn’t have. He could see a game forming that could be a turning point in the industry, one that could rank in the greatest and most influential game lists for years. One of those games that remained pristine and flawless in nostalgic eyes. “... and picture that in 3D holography, yeah?” Sean finished as he parked in the lot of the small srip mall. “I can,” Jase replied, forming the scene in his mind palace. “Evocative. But do you believe you’ll have the time to work on this with all that is happening with Proteus and Crossroads?” “You still make time for your flowers, Jase. I can make time for this,” Sean countered, his forearms on the steering wheel as he stared out the windshield thoughtfully. “I’m still looking at what comes after Proteus and Crossroads, Cody and Kline and all that stuff. Making video games might be a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a dream that isn’t lost me with everything that’s going on with us. A dream that has actually grown with it instead.” “I get it, Sean.” Jason looked over at his friend with his inscrutable gaze, and enigmatic grin. “Just wanted to know how important it was to you.” Sean rolled his eyes with familiar exasperation, but grinned. Jason had changed since summer, but then again, they’ve all had. Still, Sean was about the most used to him. “You could’ve just said that, man,” Sean groused. “But then, where would have been my fun?” Jason said, the bare curve of his lips deepening faintly, verdigris eyes glinting. The boys exited the Jeep, Jason with economical grace, Sean with more of a hop, due to his modest height. A pair of women, two or three years older than the Shellites leaving a yoga studio gave Jason a casual glance of interest, the blonde giving a shudder when she noticed his eyes. When their attention slid over Sean, who was straightening his hoodie and was once again considering the graphic on it being a little too on point, the blonde scowled, while the snorted a giggle, something sounding like ‘udders’ drifting over to the boys on the air. The hoodie was loose, but not shapeless, and regardless, Sean’s curves were much too pronounced to hide. He didn’t even try anymore. He just shot the girls an arched brow, then led Jason into Sullivan’s. “Hey, Sean!” the pudgy Sulli called in friendly greeting to one of his best customers, and occasional subcontractor for computer builds. “And friend,” Sulli added somewhat more neutrally when he noticed the lanky boy who was clearly accompanying Sean, guessing he wouldn’t have much time to geek out to pop culture and electronics with the intersexed youth. “What can I do you guys for?” “Phone shopping.” Sean told his tech-savvy friend with a grin. “My man Jase here has decided to join the 21st century and leave behind smoke signals and semaphore.” A slight bit of ribbing at Jason’s expense - Sean knew his friend was far from incompetent with technology, circuitry, electronics, computers and the like: he simply didn’t share Sean’s fascination with them to the same degree. Jason merely smiled at the good-natured teasing, his cold eyes crinkling a little at the corners as Sean went on. “I’m his spirit guide on this quest.” “Well, if Sean’s your guide, I’m guessing Android?” Sully smiled at Sean as he got his keys and moved along to the phone display cases. He gave Jase a professional shopkeeper’s appraisal. “What’s your budget look like?” “Money is no obstacle, within reason.” Jason responded calmly as he moved to examine some of the sleek-looking phones. 2013 - March, Weekend, Cassidy Home Sean busied himself with washing the lettuce as a quiet argument went on behind him. Outside, the grill was heating up as the family took advantage of an unseasonably warm early Spring day to properly cook steaks and burgers. Inside the kitchen, things were also heating up. “He bit that boy, and Mr Polanski. They both needed stitches.” Mom said with low, worried severity. “He was defending Sean, Mom.” Teagan said with a dismissive snort. “Mr Polanski lets Chet and his cronies do whatever - either because he’s blind or because he doesn’t care. Jason stepped up, you know what I’m saying?” “Alan’s mother said he still has bruises on his neck and has woken up with nightmares several times.” Carolyn fretted. “You can’t tell me that’s a normal scuffle between boys.” “Good. Alan should keep his hands to himself!” “Teagan Cassidy!” “What?! It’s true, mom. Chet and his friends are little shi- bullies.” Teagan moderated her words, if not her tone. “I don’t care if Sean’s friend gives them all screaming night terrors. Hell, I’ll hug him when I see him.” Sean’s older sister was fiercely protective of her little brother, and it showed. “Heh. He might bite you.” Laurie giggled. “Oh, don’t even joke.” Carolyn said severely. “What if he has serious problems?” “He does, mom.” Sean turned around, facing his sisters and mother, his father at the far end of the kitchen staying out of the discussion. “He’s got no mother, no siblings, his dad is a drunk. He acts like he doesn’t expect any kindness from anyone, but he always sits with me, and talks with me about all sorts of stuff. He’s super smart, just quiet. And he’s not mean at all.” “Tell that to Mr Polanski.” “That was an accident. Jase said he thought it was Chet.” “Oh, so he thought he was biting into a boy’s artery. That makes it so much better.” Carolyn’s tone was heavy with irony as she turned to her husband. “Jack, talk to your children please?” Sean’s dad looked up from the marinade he was mixing, considering his wife, then looking at Sean. “Our son invited his friend to our cookout.” he said in a level tone. “I see nothing wrong with that. Whatever you heard from other moms doesn’t count for much, Carolyn. I trust Teagan and Sean when they say those boys are bullies. Maybe Jason does have issues - but denying him our son’s friendship won’t help with that.” Carolyn let out a small sigh. “I know, I know. I’m just worried about-” “Trust Sean, sweetheart. He knows good eggs from bad.” Jack looked round as the front doorbell rang. “Speaking of…” “I’ve got it.” Sean dried his hands off on a dishtowel and scampered to the door. Opening it he saw Jason on the porch, a plastic container under one arm and with his satchel slung around his narrow shoulders. He gave Sean a tiny smile as the redheaded boy greeted him. “Heya Jase. What’s in the box?” “A gift.” Jason said enigmatically. Sean chuckled and swung the door wider, letting his friend in and leading him to the kitchen. “How’d you get down here? Dad give you a ride?” “My father’s sleeping. I walked.” Jason said as he followed Sean into the large family kitchen, noting the surprise on everyone’s face as his words registered. “You walked?” Carolyn sounded mildly aghast. “That’s..” “Three and a half miles, roughly.” Jason supplied helpfully as he put the blue plastic container on the table at one end. “These are for you, Mrs Cassidy.” “But that’s dangerous!” Carolyn said concernedly. “I’m careful.” Was all Jason replied, with a slight shrug. Teagan came round the table and popped off the lid from the container. “Oh hey, brownies.” “My first batch.” Jason told her with a smile. Teagan shot her mom a meaningful look, then turned and leaned over, giving Jason a hug. Sean saw his stoic friend’s eyes widen a little in surprise, swivelling towards Sean as though seeking answers for this strange behaviour. “Uh. Thanks. But they’re only brownies.” Teagan giggled, giving the skinny boy a slight squeeze, then released him. “No, that was for protecting Sean.” She hesitated, then gave him a kiss on the forehead, making him blink. “That was for the brownies.” “Say, these look good.” Jack peered into the container. Carolyn came forward then, shooing away her husband’s reaching hand. “Off, you. Jason said they were for me. Right, Jason?” she asked him as she put the lid back on the container and moved it to the fridge. “That’s right. And whoever you choose to share them with” he asserted with a faint smile. Carolyn came back over, giving him a slightly awkward one armed hug. “Thank you, sweetie. We’ll share them after dinner.” “If we’ve got any room.” Laurie grinned. Jason glanced around at the various tasks the family were doing, contributing to the meal, and frowned a little in consideration. “Can I help?” he asked. Jack and Carolyn exchanged a glance, and Sean smiled as he saw his mom’s expression. Whatever doubts she had about Jason or his issues, his mom had a huge heart. And it had gone out to his friend. “Sure. Ever grilled before?” Jack asked, getting off the stool he was seated on and bringing over a tray of steaks to set beside the bowl of dry marinade. “I need someone to coat these thoroughly. You up for that?” “I have seen it done.” Jason replied as he clambered up onto the stool and rolled up the sleeves of his sweater.
  5. 2 points
    2019 - Monday, Labor Day morning, on the road. “Something internet-capable, with a camera capable of taking decent imagery and enough memory to be worthwhile. Reasonably up to date and modern. I also want a VPN on there, a good one.” Jase gazed out the window at the road ahead, his manner relaxed as he reeled off his requirements. “And thats just the shop-bought aspect. I will need you to use your skills and gifts, too. I want the thing unbreakable - if anyone so much as tries to bypass the passcode I set, I want the phone to delete all data stored and reset to factory settings. If possible I want the number hidden from trace attempts or call recognition software and hardware. Ideally I want to be able to call a person, or access the internet, and have no-one know it was me that did it unless I want them to.” “That’s a big ask.” Sean frowned a little, mulling over how it could be done. “Any reason?” “I like my privacy. I don’t like the idea of people being able to look over my shoulder whenever someone suitably high up in the FBI or NSA feels like authorising it.” Jason shrugged, smiling a little. “The alternative is buying up a bunch of burners, but that would get inconvenient for everyone else.” Sean’s head bobbed along to the music - acoustic guitar with an underscore of drums - as he considered the ask. A hair-trigger factory reset wasn’t hard - he knew Jase wouldn’t forget his password or anything - but simply slipping up would be on him. And he could suggest several great VPNs, or give Jase access to his own. The rest though… he’d been exploring his capabilities, had had a great deal of experience just last week, and was working through how his powers interacted with both hardware and software. Could he figure out a way to allow a smartphone to interface with any telecomm network invisibly? “You’ll wanna go with an Android, purely for the customization options,” Sean said, reaching back for a bottle of Pepsi, but couldn’t reach while keeping his eyes on the road. He gave his friend a put-upon glance and with a thought, Jase telekinetically retrieved a bottle for him, even unscrewing the cap. Sean nodded his thanks, and took a sip. His screwed the cap back on and plopped the bottle into the cup holder before continuing. “Samsung Galaxy, Pixel, OnePlus all have what you’re looking for. Can even go with Huawei - I can clean out anything the Chinese Government has left behind. The VPN and super buff password/factory-reset protocol, I got ya,” Sean assured Jase with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Hopping onto a network without anyone noticing unless you want them to… that’s going to be trickier. I can do it, but getting a smartphone to do something similar… I’ll have to tinker around some and do some testing, but I’m pretty sure I can figure it out.” He shot Jase a small smirk. “This isn’t just to get out of paying a monthly phone bill, is it?” “Not only that, at any rate,” Jason replied with inscrutable mirth. “Riiiiight…” Sean drawled. “Anyway, you might want a public phone as well as a private one. Actually, I could partition your phone with a hidden way to switch between public and private mode.” He pursed his full lips in a contemplative moue. “Actually actually, I should probably do this for all the Fellowship’s phones. If I can figure out that radio from the trailer, I might even be able to skip the cell grid entirely, when calling each other, anyway.” 2013 - March, Afternoon, Shelly Elementary THWACK! The rubbery, textured, not-quite-pink ball hit Sean in the chest like a cannon ball, knocking him clean off his feet and onto his back. The rest of the class ‘oooohed’ at solid hit. Gasping, trying to catch his breath against the pain, he squinted at the sunlight filtering in through the high windows of the gym, trying to hold back tears, a terminal sign of weakness in any grade-school aged boy. A shadow fell over him. Through his blurring sight, Sean could just make out the stocky form of Chet Walker. “Not so tall now, are you, Cassidy?” Chet growled in a low voice, reclaiming the dodge ball. “Now, let’s hear you squeal like a girl for your boyfriend.” And squeal Sean did, when Chet reached out with a thumb a forefinger to give him a purple nurple. Sean rolled over onto his side, hands going to his chest, almost gagging with how much it hurt. His body covering what he had, Chet backed away, trying to look completely innocent. “What happened?” Mr. Polanski demanded, coming out of the attached office, annoyed at the disruption. He’d been trying to catch up on marking papers while he let the kids destroy themselves at dodge ball. “Dunno, Mr. Polanksi,” Chet said, “Sean just got hit hard by the ball. Knocked the wind out of him.” “Sean, go to the change room and catch your breath. The rest of you, five more minutes, then it’s time to change out of your gym clothes.” Sean glared at Chet through brimming eyes, who returned with a shit-eating grin and feigned throwing the ball at him, making Sean flinch. At Chet and his friends chuckled, Sean hobbled to the change room. In the change room, Sean knuckled the tears from his eyes, then looked at himself in the mirror. Tentatively, he pulled up his shirt, then the one under it, and the one under that. He’d always been on the slender side, but lately, his chest had started to look puffy and swollen and he wondered if he was getting fat. He didn’t need that - looking like a girl and being fat. Now, one nipple, swollen and tight, was dark red, almost verging on purple from the purple nurple Chet had given him. It looked bad, and still throbbed with a dull, blunt pain. Should he go to the nurse? Cautiously, he touched it and hissed in through his teeth, shocked at how the pain suddenly sharpened. “I only got one,” Chet said with adolescent threat. Sean whirled around, not having heard Chet enter the change room. The door banged open behind the stockier boy, as a pair of his friends followed him in. Chet grinned. “Let’s make that purple nurple a matching set.” “Let’s not.” The words were quietly spoken, without a trace of excitement or fear, as Jason’s slim form slipped into the changing rooms behind the three. He’d been on the sidelines, tagged out earlier in the game and watching the other students with his usual detached interest. ‘That creepy kid’, as he was known, was oddly and unfairly not a target for Chet and his ilk, beyond the occasional snickering taunt or rude shoulder-slam which he appeared to absorb with the same cold-eyed attentiveness as he did everything else. In truth, Jase had marked every single taunt, every single shove and minor act of petty cruelty that was usually passed off as ‘boys being boys’. He could cite, chapter and verse, the exact time, date, and circumstances of each and every single one. His neurology was simply not equipped with the kind of emotional processing that normal kids possessed which enabled them to laugh off such treatment, or grumble and cuss about it, then leave it in the past, a necessary component of social cohesion bonding. He’d been waiting for Chet, or one of the others, to try and push things further than they had with him so he could exact stored up revenge for every slight to his dignity, but they never did, perhaps sensing in some rudimentary fashion that there was easier prey. Chet’s assault on Sean, it had occurred to Jason as he’d watched the bully and his cohorts furtively follow the girlish boy to the locker room, could perhaps be a pretext. After all, Sean had invited him round to his house once or twice, and was always friendly and civil when he saw him at school. In an abstract fashion the boy-who-wasn't appreciated such kindness and courtesy. Sean was a ‘friend’, was he not? At least so far as Jason understood such things. And friends defended friends. That was socially acceptable, if not always strictly within the limits of the rules. The rules did not bother Jason overmuch, but he had a nascent urge to camouflage himself socially. Not so much to 'fit in' as to 'blend in'. But he disliked Chet. Disliked the sniggering jackals that walked at his heels. And competing with the urge to disguise his nature was another, older urge. He wasn't exactly sure what to call it, but it was best described as an urge to correct the other boys mistaken apprehension regarding their place on the food chain. Chet and the other two boys, Alan and Finn, turned to look at Jason who was standing very still, watching them in that eerily intense manner he sometimes had. Or rather, watching Chet, his head tilted fractionally to one side as though considering something. “Shove off, Bannon.” Chet blustered, unamused at having his game spoiled. The new kid gave him the creeps - everyone knew his dad ran with that crazy militia and had been jailed for murder or drug-dealing or something. He also didn’t act right, at least so far as Chet’s understanding of the world dictated. Right now, in the prelude to a dominance contest Bannon should be nervous, his voice a little more shrill, perhaps trying to stand a little taller and puff out his chest. Instead he just stood as he always stood, a little bonelessly, slouching slightly, no shifting of his feet or balling of his fists. “Dude’s just going to stand and stare.” Alan sneered, stepping towards Jason. “Fuck off, faggot. Or we’ll give you a swirly once we’re done nurpling your girlfriend.” The only effect this seemed to have was Jason’s stare switching targets, from Chet to Alan. “Ooh, whatcha gonna do?!” The boy stepped forward some more, closing to just out of arms reach, some subconscious instinct perhaps warning him about coming closer. At least until Chet spoke up. “Yeah, let’s swirly the thrift-store reject. Grab him.” At the urging of his leader, Alan failed to heed that dimly-heard instinct and instead stepped forward once more, grabbing Jason’s skinny shoulders. Jase’s fingers twitched once, and his pale eyes gleamed. Right before he exploded into sudden, violent motion, hands coming up and locking around the larger boy’s throat. Alan yelled in surprise as surprisingly strong slender fingers tightened in a death-grip. He tried to pull away, but succeeded only in dragging the slender figure with him as the pair of them, tethered by a pair of scrawny-seeming arms, fell over a bench, landing on the floor. Alan tried to yell for help, but only succeeded in expelling more precious air from his lungs. He flailed punches at Jason’s ribs and stomach, but the leverage was bad and the panicked blows had little force behind them. Chet and Finn yelled and moved to help their friend, Chet trying to prise Jason’s fingers from their hold and Finn looping an arm over and around the skinny boy’s shoulders, trying to pull him away. Sean, still momentarily stunned at the sudden viciousness of the most un-schoolyard of brawls, saw Jason turned his head and bare his teeth, biting as hard as he could into the fleshy part of Finn’s forearm. Finn screamed, a high note of pain, and released his grasp only for Jason to likewise release his hold on Alan’s neck, turn with blood on his lips, and go for Finn’s throat in the same way. Alan sobbed as he sucked in air with hoarse gasps, tears running down his young face as, kneeling beside him, eyes wide with shock, Chet watched the Bannon kid bear Finn backwards by sheer vicious determination, the two of them crashing through the door to the changing rooms and emerging into the gym hall. They staggered through a cluster of girls nearby, who squealed and yelled in surprise as Finn strove to keep those hands from his throat, stumbling over someone’s foot and sprawling on the floor with Bannon atop him. Jason’s face was a mask of intent concentration, as though he were working on a tricky math problem rather than attempting to choke the life out of another child. He brought a knee up into Finn’s stomach, causing the other boy to gasp and his grip on Jase’s wrists to weaken... “That’s enough!” Mr Polanski shoved through the crowd that was gathering, moving past a wide-eyed Autumn Keane and not ungently propelling Cassie Allen out of his way. “Jason, Finn, knock it the hell OFF! Hey, I said- AHH-OW!!” He’d been in the process of yanking Jason bodily off his quarry, and in front of the entire gym class Jase turned under the grasping hand, agile as a young weasel, and to the gasps of horror and surprise of the onlookers sank his teeth deep into Mr Polanski’s wrist.
  6. 1 point
    2019 - Monday, Labor Day morning, around 7 am There had been a mist hanging low over the fields an hour or two earlier, when he’d first sat down on the porch seat with his satchel and a cup of coffee, watching the rising sun and smiling slightly to himself as it turned the sky a vivid red-gold with hints of rose. Now the mist had been burned away, the sky taking on a richer blue as the sun ascended, and the cup was cold and empty at his side. An observer would have not seen the youth move since he’d set the empty mug down, instead resting his hands on his thighs with his gaze turned inwards, so perfectly still he seemed to withdraw from the present. In truth he was meditating on the energies of Radiance, or Shine, feeling the tickle of it from the tall grass in front of the house, the occasional brighter sense of his father asleep upstairs in the house, the rich glow that permeated himself. The weekend had come with revelations, and the slow-moving moments of quiet reflection allowed him to re-examine them all. Including the shimmer from the bracelet around his left wrist where Autumn had fastened it yesterday before his duel with Devin, like a sign of courtly favor from a maiden on the arm of her knight. He'd studied it intently, trying to determine what it was made of but, lacking spectroscopic equipment or similar tools, could do little but guess. It was too light in hue to be copper, too lightweight to be gold or brass. He wondered if perhaps it was some otherworldly alloy - given it's origin that was possible. It would remain, by necessity, a mystery for now. The other bracelets Autumn was safeguarding would be handed out tonight before battle was joined. Perhaps, after the fight against the Tree was done, there would be time for proper study. The sound of an engine - not the growl of his own Charger, but the whisper-like purr of a car made for more modern sensibilities, intruded on his reverie. Jase turned his head, seeing Sean’s Trailhawk rolling up the dirt track to come to a stop in front of the farmhouse, and raised a hand in greeting as he stood, gathering his satchel and loping down from the porch. His friend smiled at him and waved him round to the passenger side, grinning as the door clicked open and the lanky teen slid into the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Some ambient flute and string music Sean was experimenting with for his current design project filled the car unobtrusively, and a bag of snacks and drinks was tucked down just behind and between the front seats. “Jason Bannon, getting a phone!” Sean’s smile was wide as he glanced at the naturally composed features of his friend. Girlish lips twisted in a smirk. “Anyone else, I’d say it has to be a girl behind such a radical move. For you? God knows. Something nefarious, probably.” “Perhaps it is also a girl - or a boy.” Jason replied softly, one corner of his mouth quirking as the edges of his eyes crinkled, though he didn’t look at his friend, instead regarding Trailhawk’s interior curiously as Sean turned the Jeep around and started back down the track. “Many things may be true at the same time, after all.” “Philosophy before eight am. Great.” Sean mock-grumped, side-eying the inscrutable one. “So is it a girl?” “Perhaps I just feel the need to be able to connect.” Jason returned Sean’s gaze with one of his own fathomless stares, though he was still smiling a little. “Secrets and philosophy before eight am.” Sean pouted, though he smiled as well. There seemed something… relaxed about Jase this morning. More so than his usual unflappable calm. Has to be a girl. Or else he’s developed that bio-plague he’s always ‘joking’ about… “Are you going to tell me at all?” “Perhaps.” Jase sighed as he got comfortable in the plush seat, playing with the reclining controls. He glanced sideways at Sean, lips curving in another sly smile. “Nice car, this.” “I like it.” Sean radiated self-satisfaction, possessiveness and delight in having his own vehicle filling the jacked up SUV in a way his modest stature couldn’t. He turned onto I-15 and headed towards Great Falls, his slender fingers drumming on the steering wheel. “And there was never a chance I’d snag the Tesla. ‘Sides, no way this baby is getting stuck in a Montana winter, unlike that roadster or some other cars I can care to think of…” He flashed his friend a quick, teasing grin. If the Grand Cherokee wasn’t as pristine as Jase’s restored classic muscle car, and wasn’t the latest model, it still had decades of motorive advancement on the Charger. Sure, the interior was kind of worn and it could stand to be repainted after Sara had helped him - okay, he had helped her, at little - with the obvious repairs, but it had most of the modern conveniences, like heated seats, and rearview camera - admittedly, after-market - that Sean had wanted. Most of. He hadn’t been looking for something that could off-road like a beast, but now that he had it, he rather enjoyed it, even if he needed the running board to be able to climb inside it. Jase smiled slightly, shrugging one shoulder even as he let his slender fingers play over the upholstery on the inside of the door, making a tactile connection to add to his other sensory impressions. “If my car gets stuck in the snow, I’ll move it.” It was a great day for driving, the sky was clear but the sun wasn’t glaring, and the wind was light or non-existent. After having to beg or deal for rides or cycle around town on the same bike since he was eleven, Sean loved driving, and took whatever opportunity he could to do so, despite having had Little Bigfoot hardly more than a week. “I know I just got her, but I have looked a bit at what it would take to convert her to electric.” The shapely boy glanced over his shoulder, then shifted into the left-hand lane and picked up speed to pass a languorous landboat going ten under the speed limit, the 5.7L Hemi V8 rising from a whisper into a powerful purr. “It’s pricey, especially for the specs I’m looking at, but considering...” Sean snapped his fingers and an actual actinic spark crackled, “... certain considerations, there would be some great advantages. But I’ll have to finish Regenesis or Annwn will need to go viral before I can afford it.” Jason nodded occasionally as his friend spoke, his sly smile widening just a bit. “Her, hmm?” “Pshaw!” Sean scoffed with a roll of expressive, exasperated, exotically hued eyes. “Appearances to the contrary, I ain’t into riding dudes.” He gave the steering wheel a slap. “Little Bigfoot is simply a big girl.” “So, phone?” He arched an angled brow at his friend, changing the subject “You looking for some ancient Nokia flip phone that can barely find the internet and takes a thousand years to type a text, or something more current, like, from the last decade?” 2012 - November, Morning, Shelly Elementary “We have a new student joining us today, children,” Mrs. Durham said in her gentle, infinitely patient voice. “I’d like you all to say hello to Jason Bannon, who has just moved to Shelly with his father.” Next to Helen Durham’s stocky, solid form stood a slight figure with a mop of brown and downcast eyes dressed in well-worn, oversized clothing. Helen was going to place a comforting hand on the new boy’s shoulder, but she could sense the taut tension in the boy and caught the sudden, watchful intensity in his eyes whenever someone invaded his personal space, and so relented. There was a chorus of obliging Hi’s and Hello’s of various enthusiasm, and a few waves. Sean was one of the ones who waved. In the last few months, he’d had a big growth spurt, and now he was one of the tallest kids in grade four. Unfortunately, despite his vivid red hair cut short, he still looked more girlish than boyish, though his parents promised that he’d start filling out soon. Some of the other kids were starting to tease him about it. It didn’t help that most of the other taller kids in his grade were also girls, like Sara Hutchins, who at least could boast being more solidly built than he was. “There’s an open desk next, Sean. Why don’t you take it, Jason? Sean is a smart boy, and he can show you where we are in the lessons for today?” The skinny figure in the oversized clothing cast one glance at the teacher, then moved without a word towards the empty desk. The rest of the fourth grade class regarded him with the curiosity due to all new things as he passed several rows in a head-down slouch. Todd Asper, from the row behind Sean, snickered. “Watch out he doesn’t think you’re a girl and fall in love, Cassidy.” “Todd Asper! Am I going to have to move you up here again to stop you whispering?” Mrs Durham’s voice rose a little. “Eyes on your book, please. The only people who should be talking are Sean and Jason right now. And if your quiz results aren’t better than last week, Mr Asper, you will be moved to the front of the class for the rest of the school year.” Amidst a chorus of ‘oooh’ from the other kids directed at the luckless Todd, the Bannon kid slid into the seat next to Sean’s, setting a worn-looking leather satchel on ground after extracting a dogeared, second-hand copy of the textbook, a couple of pencils and a notebook from it’s recesses. Sean studied the new kid for a moment as he got situated, finding him odd somehow, beyond the oversized army-surplus clothes and the dire need of a haircut or, failing that, a comb. He was skinny, sure, but his features even lacked the residual childish softness of a normal ten or eleven year old’s, seeming severe and drawn by comparison. Even his mouth was severe - a straight line with no expressiveness to it, as if he never smiled or laughed. His ethnicity was likewise enigmatic - sharp cheekbones and narrow eyes, olive skin and dark hair. “Hey. I’m Sean, but I guess you already figured that out.” Sean essayed a greeting as he leaned over, meaning to break the ice with the apparently shy kid. He wasn’t sure if it was the greeting or the movement, but Jason lifted his head from contemplating his desk then, turning and meeting the effeminate boy’s eyes. Sean had been about to offer his hand, but paused. There was nothing shy in the stare currently scrutinising him. Wariness, perhaps. Watchfulness, definitely. But no nervousness, no shyness, no ‘oh hey someone’s being cool to me’ relief. It was strange, an effect heightened by the icy pale green of Jason Bannon’s eyes. They were reflective, giving nothing away except, as the stare continued, mild interest and curiosity. “You have central heterochromia. Oddly vivid colours.” Was perhaps the strangest introduction one fourth grader ever made to another. It was, however, the first words any student in Shelly Elementary had ever heard Jason say. The accent was also hard to place - American but at the same time not - possessing a sharp precision as if every word was considered for a microsecond before being spoken. The angular features tilted slightly, a flicker of something behind the green eyes indicating a remembrance of correct behaviour. “And I’m Jason.” “Pleased to meetcha.” Sean offered his hand, feeling the bony slender fingers grip it, shake once, then release. “And you know what heterochromia is.” He stated rather than asked, regarding Jason in an assessing manner for a moment as the skinny boy shrugged non-committedly. “Well, let’s get you caught up.”
  7. 1 point
    Sean pushed off from leaning against his car, giving Kat an apologetic shrug. "I think this is cooler. Like one of those flameless lighters. More efficient, all the heat without the flame" Sean nodded down the length of the strip mall towards Sulli's Electronics at the end, then shifted to Kat's side so the cigarette smoke wouldn't blow in his face. He glanced casually about as they started walking, making sure nobody was paying undue attention to them. "So, it looks like you can do something like Jase, just in a different way. Instead of making flame directly, you might have to agitate molecules to combust." He pointed at the cig dangling from her lips. "And make flame that way." They reached Sulli's and stood a bit away from the door to let Kat finish her cigarette before heading in. A frown appeared on Kat's features as she asked, "Isn't it what Jason is doing ? If I heard correctly," she puffed, "he uses telekinesis, right ? So he'd be agitating the molecules to heat them up. What I did didn't feel like... telekinesis. One moment, the air was cool, and a moment after, it was hot. It almost felt like I had an energy reservoir and I tapped in it to allow the combustion. Took me a while to figure it out..." She rubbed the back of her head, before adding, "Thinking about it, if I had tried too hard, I might have burnt the cigarette to ash." She drew a last time on her cigarette before stubbing it out against the floor, her eyes scanning her surroundings to stop on a public trash. She got rid of the butt and nodded at her friend, who opened the door of the shop. There was an electric chime as the door opened. Sean waved Kat ahead and followed her in to Sulli's Electronics and Computers with a sense of familiarity. The shop was probably the place he had visited most often outside of Shelly and had that aura of welcoming clutter that the best mom and pop stores held, despite it being neat and tidy. Behind the counter at the back the facing the door was a somewhat short man, only two or three inches taller than Sean, somewhere between stocky and rotund, who had probably crested forty years of age. He looked away from the monitor he was looking and seeing Sean, he smiled, crows feet at the corners of his grey eyes creasing his smooth face. "Oh! Sean, good afternoon," he called out cheerily. "What brings you out today? I wasn't waiting on a build from you to put out on commission was I?" "No, not this time, Sulli," Sean replied, with a relaxed ease Kat noticed was rare from Sean. "But I am looking at putting together a gaming rig." He put a slender hand on Kat's slight shoulder. "This is Kat, a new friend and student at Shelly High. She heard I had a thing for computers and decided she needed a new setup. And you're the best for parts, Sulli, so I brought her here." "Sean's too kind," Sullivan said, offering Kat a boyish grin that belied his age. "I'm just diligent and a little compulsively thorough when looking for suppliers. Pleased to meet you, Kat. What do you need?" After greeting the man back, Kat pursed her lips into something close to a cute pout while she thought about what she exactly wanted. If she picked her components carefully, she might get an even better rig than the one she left in France, and for a better price. "I'm looking for at least 4 GB of video memory, a solid processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a soundcard decent enough for music recording. For that last thing, I really don't know if I can get that integrated to a computer or if it has to be external, but I need it either way." As she spoke she raised a finger for each demand, waving her hand when specifying how important the sound card was to her. "I never really liked how my recordings sounded with a laptop, so I wanna make sure I get something nice." With an amused smirk, Sullivan began taking short notes, then his eyes met with the petite redhead's as he asked : "Do you have any... brand preferences ?" Kat shook her head. "I don't really know better than both of you would," she replied, "I'm open to suggestions." "Well, if you're willing to trust us, I'm sure we can get you everything you'd like, and under budget," Sulli with a smile as he began pulling up his inventory on the computer. "Especially with the employee discount, hmm?" Sean said with a grin, arching a brow. "I suppose if I don't, you'll just coincidentally buy the same components, Sean?" Sulli replied with an exasperated tone, but his pale blue eyes twinkled. Sean nodded. "Fine then. Let's start with what I have on sale and clearance and go from there. It was almost like another language, as Sean and Sullivan debating the merits and specs of various brands of components, versus what Kat needed, and what she wanted. Sean was clearly in his element, but made the effort to explain to the more petite redhead what he was talking about. "You could get a better soundcard, but overall, you'll probably be better of with an external DAC," Sean said. "Especially for recording. You'll also want to invest in a good mic or two - that'll help a lot and save you time in sound editing. And baffling for wherever you end up recording - that'll stop echoes. I learned that the hard way." So in his element, Sean completely shut down a guy who had seen the two attractive redheads and tried to mansplain computer builds before Sullivan could intervene. The guy looked to be in his twenties, some sort of tech-bro. He'd given Kat a look that suggested he thought she was cute, but too young, before turning his attention to Sean, or more often, his chest, as he tried to impress him with his knowledge of video games and computers. It didn't take long before Sean had him retreating out of the store with his tail between his legs. In less than an hour, Kat had all the components for a PC, with better specs than she had asked for, and under the budget she had set for herself, giving her leeway to get a new microphone. The components made a surprisingly compact pack, fitting inside a box easily handled by either Kat or Sean. Thankfully, Sean already had a spare computer case, so Kat didn't need to a new one. "Thanks, Sulli," Sean chimed as Kat paid. "And just so you know, I'll probably have Regenesis done sooner than later. Been making amazing progress lately" Kat put her wallet away, and box of unconstructed computer held protectively in her arms, sidled up to Sean, mouth spread wide in pleasure. "Ready to head back and put your new PC together?"
  8. 1 point
    "Yeah, I've been drawing and painting for ten years. I started with stick figures and then my mom made me take classes, because my stick figures were way too pretty." She snorted, then added, "I can show you when we get back." Sean nodded in agreement, and the conversation went on about Sean's games, the one he had already made, and the one he was currently working on. The two teenagers took back the short conversation they had had in Art the last Thursday from where it stopped, discussing concept arts Kat was currently looking at on her phone, commenting what Sean's new monsters could look like. Later on, the petite redhead discovered, with interest, that Sean actually did all the voices and a large part of the music for his games, and the conversation turned towards editing softwares. "Since you got this... crazy voodoo stuff, do you actually use any editing software ? Or do you crack yer whip n tell the bits where to go ?" She asked with a half-mocking grin. "A little from column A, a little from column B." Sean pursed his lips, head tilted slightly, then amended with his own self-deprecating grin. "Okay, a lot from column B, especially the last few days. I've been working on the game engine for the last two years. Not to brag, but I think it's pretty good and robust, with variable applications. I saw what Unity and Unreal were doing and made my own version. And I've programmed a modified autoencoder and a generative adversarial network to better modulate my voice for different characters. And since my little recording area in the barn isn't the best, I have to do a lot of post production stuff to clean up the music and voice work. But now?" Sean glanced at Kat sidelong, his grin widening as he made a whipcrack motion before his hand went back to the wheel and he shifted lanes in early preparation to get off the Interstate. "The software is still there, I can just exponentially make it do so much more, so much more efficiently. Look at my phone" Kat looked down at the smartphone in her hand. The concept art for something Giger-esque with too many legs faded away to be replaced by a string of black zeroes and ones on a white field. "Assume that is what the coding for any software I use looks like," Sean said. "Now, I can make it do this. Same software, just able to bend it into new shapes." The ones and zeroes, shifted, melted, tightened and writhed into new patterns and shapes. They were still strings of ones and zeroes, but were now being used like a continuous strand of paint to form gorgeous representations of Julia sets, ordered chaos. Kat blinked, just realizing it had taken her a moment to notice that the image on the phone wasn't just black and white, but was a panoply of complementary colour, which added another layer to the complexity of the coding. "It's sorta like that. Has your own psionic awakening helped you with your art? And I would like to see it when we get back." "Uh..." The petite redhead stared amazed at the screen before her eyes. "Can't tell yet. But holy shit, that's cool !" Hearing about a power and seeing it in action was totally different, she mused. "I did learn more about the... non-telepathic stuff. Remember about how I talked about molecular structure ?" Her curvaceous friend nodded, focused on the road. "Well," she went on, "I think it's waaaaaaay more than that. I have a theory, but it's batshit crazy, and needs a little bit of context." The svelte French girl closed her eyes, massaging her temples, then took a deep breath and fumbled in her bag, pulling out her notebook. "First -and I'll keep on using that term until I find a cooler one- I have three Third Eyes. One is telepathy stuff, like... your mind is unique -in several ways -" she added with a chuckle, "and I was able to tell you were in the street before you parked your car, earlier. The second one is weird to describe." She closed her eyes for a moment and turned the one she was talking about on, glancing at her friend. "Like, if I use it right now, you're like... shining, and there's this weird feeling of something all around." She turned it off and went on. "But that's not the most interesting one. The last one, from my conclusions, allows me to see when and where people do stuff related to Shine. If I focus on one of them, I can tell what they're actually doing. And that's how I discovered that I can manipulate energies. Earlier, I litterally bumped my phone off my desk and Magneto-ed it right back to my hand." Kat was getting excited just by talking about it, and she reached for her jacket, pulling out a lighter and a pack of cigarettes, before turning to Sean, doubt in her eyes. "Uh... Can I ? It's your car so... I feel like I should ask." There was the faintest crinkle to Sean's nose. "Would you mind waiting until we get to Great Falls? It's only about another twenty minutes. It's just, y'know...?" She nodded and stuffed lighter and cigarettes back into her jacket, reaching instead for a pack of chestnuts coated in chocolate from her bag, ripping the top open and stuffing a couple of these in her mouth. "These will do for now, then." She said after swallowing her snacks. "Right, so my theory is : this... other power I got is just about breaking the laws of physics, as in, the physics we're taught in high school. That's my wild guess. Hell, I changed how gravity applied to my phone for a moment, a couple days ago I tried to densify air ! That's lit !" Sean chortled at Kat's wondrous enthusiasm, his slim, strong fingers drumming on the steering wheel. "Funny you should mention breaking the laws of physics. Jason and I have been working on a grand unified theory. We suspect our psionic powers operate on an underlaying, er, layer of physical reality as we know it, a subquantum stratum, one that's more... malleable to conscious influence. We aren't breaking physics, I think, so much as being able to trick it." The two redheads leaned to the side as Sean pulled onto the curving off ramp, coming back upright as they entered Great Falls proper. Sean rolled to a stop at a stop sign, then turned right. "At a guess, it seems like like you're able to manipulate fundamental forces and molecules? Atoms, maybe?" His dark brows furrowed, considering what Kat had told and what he knew of how the powers of the rest of the Fellowship functioned. "More generalized compared to specialized like me, where I can only manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum. Broad instead of deep. Hmm." Sean had his car only for a little over a week, yet he drove through Great Falls with a sense of familiarity. He'd been going to Sulli's for years, first for video games, then for computer components, and finally to sell his own PC builds on commission. "I wonder what else you could do. Clara - she's kinda sisters with Lona - has powers sort of like yours. She's able to... kinda buff or debuff how well others can use their own powers. I wonder if you can do that too, Kat." The car parked close enough to the shop Sean had in mind, and they both got out, Kat grabbing her bag and her jacket. She pulled out a cigarette from her pack, tucking it between her lips, then stopped her motion before lighting it up. She looked left and right, then glanced at Sean with a childish grin. "Combustion ?" She had to try, after the talk they had had. She set her lighter back to the pocket where it belonged, then placed her thumb and index finger around the cigarette's tip, much like one would hold a coin to show it. With a bit of focus... There we go. She could feel the air she 'held' between her fingers, the thing she called her powers flooding her brains with molecular structures. The cigarette is the fuel, air is the oxidizer, all I need to do is to give it a little nudge... After a moment of watching Kat staring at her nose like it insulted her, Sean was about to tell her they should probably start walking, but suddenly the tip of the cigarette began glowing red, producing a thin line of smoke. Kat's hand fell to her thigh, then she took a draft. "Hey, you did it !" Sean tried, but the petite redhead seemed disappointed. She picked the cigarette between two delicate fingers, and grunted after a puff. "I was expecting a flame... So much for boasting about it..."
  9. 1 point
    "Hello there !" Kat's soft voice rang through the kitchen. She was all jeans, blouse and booties, her leather jacket under her left arm, and a discreet layer of make-up adorned her smiling features. She waved at Sean before scooting over the fridge, grabbing the orange juice and pouring herself a large glass. "Sorry for taking so long, I only realized it was 2PM when I, uh, heard your car." She rubbed the back of her head, then swallowed a large amount of her OJ. Tess glanced at the petite redhead, curiosity and mild amusement in her eyes. "When should we expect you to come back? This evening ?" She asked, hiding a mischievous grin behind a sip on her coffee. Still ashamed about the evening before, Kat first looked at her feet, then glanced at Sean, asking for help. "Hey there yourself, Kat," Sean replied, raising his mug of coffee in a greeting salute to the svelte French girl. Sean finished his coffee with a couple of quick sips then slipped off the kitchen stool. He reclaimed his plastic bag and tucked it a bit awkwardly under his arm, his turquoise and jade eyes flicking between Kat and her father's girlfriend. He got the sense there was something going on between them, though didn't know enough to even guess at what. "Weeeell, we're only going to Great Falls to pick up a few things. An hour there, an hour at most to shop, and an hour back, we should be back by five, six at the latest," Sean answered Tess, with a slight bit of hesitancy. "A few hours afterwards to put it all together and run a few tests, we should have it done by this evening." His uncanny gaze shifted back to Kat. "Is that alright? If you have something to do with the family this evening, I can put it all together at home and drop it off tomorrow morning, Kat. No probs." Tess shook her head negatively, hmm-ing over her mouthful of coffee. She swallowed and replied, "It's alright. I was teasing the little damsel over here about last evening, when she arrived two hours late for dinner. Take your time, but please Kat, this time, text me when you're on the way back from Great Falls, a'ight ?" The smaller teen rubbed the back of her head. "Yeah, I'll try not to forget this time..." She finished the rest of her OJ, then turned to her curvaceous friend. "Let's go? Laters, Tess!" "If she does, I won't," Sean assured the dark-haired beauty Kat's dad was dating, giving her a small, two fingered wave. "Later." Sean lead Kat outside to his SUV, unlocking the doors with a thought rather than the fob in his hand. He put the plastic bag of parts behind the driver's seat, then climbed up behind the wheel. Kat climbed up into the passenger seat with more athletic grace than Sean had. Sean brought the Grand Cherokee to life, put it onto gear, and carefully manoeuvred out of his parking spot on the side of the street, since someone had decided to park right behind him instead of using practically anywhere on the rest of the block. Starting on the way to Great Falls, he arched an amused brow at his passenger. "Damsel, hmm? What were you doing last night that you were a damsel? in some sort of distress, I presume, and who saved you?" "Ugh..." The petite redhead sighed. "I was having a great time with Courtney, and at one point, I just... lost track of time, I guess..." The delicate pink coloring her cheeks told there was more to it, but she didn't go on the details, except... "Oh, yeah, right. At first, we were talking about telepathy. She made me a deal: she'll share her insights on... stuff, 'cause she was part of the Project, right? So she maybe trained her abilities a different way than you did, et caetera, but in exchange for her help, I'd get her in the group training session, including the one on Sunday... Would that be... possible ?" "Ask Jason," Sean said a touch sharply, turning his attention fully on the road. "I'm doing something else, tomorrow." He hadn't made definite plans, but he suddenly decided what he was doing tomorrow, so it wasn't really a lie. He could even claim it as a personal training session. Despite himself, noticing Kat's soft blush, he couldn't help but wonder what Kat meant by a great time with Courtney, and why'd she lose track of time. "I'm sure Jase will take your reasoning into consideration, and see the logic in allowing Courtney to attend." His lovely tone turned grudging, his lips pursed in something dangerously close to a pout. "If you want, I'll ask Jason myself on your behalf." The French girl took a moment to compose herself, cherry-red lips still haunting her thoughts. "I'd ask him myself, but I don't have his number..." She'd sensed her friend's change of attitude more than she'd noticed it, as her telepathy was more and more becoming a part of herself rather than a tool. She glanced at Sean, wondering. "Is there... something? Between you and Courtney? I mean... she didn't seem to like you much..." Her curiosity was piqued. "If I'm out of bounds, sorry for asking, but if I'm ever to throw a party some day, it could help to know who hates who. I've had my lot of drama back in France," she added, a hint of weariness seeping through her soft tone. Kat saw Sean's hands tighten on the wheel, his abundant chest rise and fall as he took several deep, calming breaths. His silence was telling, as were the pings of emotion Kat couldn't help but catch radiating off him. "It's... It's okay, you're new here, to the dynamics of Shelly High," Sean said coolly. Kat could tell the coldness wasn't meant for her, just the history. "Yes, there is 'something' between me and Courtney. It's because of her everyone at school found out I was growing these!" Sean arched his back, making the very obvious even more obvious. Not like I could've kept them secret for much longer. "She didn't like me much before, she hated me after, and her and her goons just got worse as time went on. And I haven't grown to like her any over that time either." Getting on I-15, and passing the outskirts of Shelly, Sean gave Kat a level glance when he had a moment. "Look, I have no right to say or even suggest who you want to be friends with, Kat. Just be careful with her. Just because she's part of the weird too, doesn't mean you can trust Courtney. She's always been about herself and her own gratification first and foremost. I haven't seen anything to change that." Sean clearly had emotional wounds, and while they were scarring, they were still tender. Sean's mouth tightened into a thin line. "I'll still call Jase for you and make the request on your behalf, if you want, though." The petite redhead glanced at her friend in realization. She would have never guessed. Teens can be utterly cruel. Still, Sean offering to call Jason and ask if Courtney could join the training session meant something. She offered an apologetic smile to the driver. "I'm sorry they gave you hell." She meant it. The car remained devoid of conversation for a minute, then Kat broke the silence. "You could call him now and put him on speakers. How's that sound ?" "Sure, that's fine," Sean said, only having to feign a little bit of the cheeriness, before shifting the pitch of his voice to make a hands-free call. "Call. Jason. Home." <Did you say Call Jason Home?> "Yes." <Calling Jason Home.> As the phone dialed, Sean returned Kat's apologetic smile with a wry grin. "And thanks, but you don't have anything to be sorry for. You weren't there or involved." "Gar," came a gruff voice through the speakers. "Hello, Mr. Bannon. It's Sean. Is Jason there?" "Gar," Jason's father reiterated for his son's strange, feminine friend. "Jason's out." Pause. "He'll be back this evening. Six. Seven." "Thanks, Mis - er, Gar. I'll try back around then." There was a click as Gar hung up, then a softer blip as Sean's smartphone ended the connection. Sean gave Kat a one-armed shrug. "Guess, we'll call back." Wanting to shift the talk about from Courtney and almost anything Courtney adjacent, Sean switched to something Tess had mention. "So, Tess mentioned you paint and draw? I do a bit too, but mostly work digitally and with animation myself. I've made one game and am almost done another."
  10. 1 point
    She was lying on her bed, like a starfish, once again fiddling with telepathy while quietly digesting lunch. She was amazed at how far her perception of minds could extend to. She was currently stretching it to a rough hundred and fifty feet, but felt like she could do double, with some effort. She now made sure to be very delicate with her handling of minds, after Courtney had given her pointers, the day before. She retracted the immense web her mind had become to focus on the neighbor, the one with the oak and the squirrels. He wasn't currently home, but his wife was. Boredom, tranquility, and... was she listening to some music ? That had to be blues. The loud purr of an engine distracted her from her mind analysis, and she reinstalled her spying web, catching the familiar scent of the driver's mind. Sean. Shit, what time is it ? 2PM already ? Sean came to a gentle stop as he parked on the side of the road, then clambered out of the jacked up Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. He loved his vehicle, knicks and scrapes and all, but even he had to admit it was awfully high for someone of his modest height and was eternally grateful for the solid running boards it was equipped with. Kat could hear the knocking on the door and the soft footfalls heading towards it, recognizing the gait as Tess'. Tess opened the door to find a very striking figure standing there, a redhead with an undercut hairstyle and odd eyes, wearing a black t-shirt, faded olive cargo pants and an unzipped blue hoodie with yellow trip with 101 imprinted high on the left, that did nothing to conceal a remarkably curvaceous figure. "Hi, I'm Sean," the teenager said in a rich, sweet melodious voice, switching a heavy plastic bag holding various computer components from one hand to the other. "I'm here to see Kat. I'm helping her build a gaming rig - a computer - for her." "Oh." Tess' eyes widened in astonishment as she realized this was the boy Kat had mentioned. This was far from what she was expecting however. "Oh! Yes, of course, please, come in, Sean. I'm Tess. I'll go let Kat know you're here." The dark-haired woman went up the stairs, gently knocking at the teenager's door. "Honey ? Your friend, Sean, is here." She could hear some fumbling, and opened the door, curious. "Is everything alr-" Kat was standing in front of her wardrobe, wearing nothing but slim blue jeans, and bras. In one hand, she held a white and bronze sailor top, and in the other, a flowered blouse in chocolate tones. Tess chuckled. "The blouse will do fine..." She rolled her eyes and added : "I'll tell him you're getting ready." She was already halfway down the stairs when she heard a yelled "Thank you !", and chuckled once more. "Kat's getting ready upstairs, she shouldn't be long. Would you like anything, a drink maybe ?" She told the young boy once she reached the hall. Tess caught Sean glancing up the stairs, then hid a grin as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other with a hint of boyish impatience with the female 'getting ready' comment. That was the same, at least. "Yeah, sure, I'd like that. Tess," Sean said, still just a tad uncomfortable using an adult's name, even if Tess didn't look that much older than him. "A cup of coffee with too much sugar would be great if it's not too much trouble, but water is fine." "Oh, I can make you some coffee, no problem." With a short gesture inviting him to follow her, she went to the kitchen and proceeded to make some coffee, throwing a quick glance back at her guest. "So, you... share some classes with her ?" She asked, busy with a filter. Sean took a seat at the island, turning on the stool so he was sitting sideways to the island, so he didn't have anything 'personal' pressing into the edge or plopped on the surface. He sat his bag by the base of the stool. "We share Chemistry and Art in the morning," Sean said, trying not to feel slightly self-conscious. Tess was young, not all that much older than him or Kat. He was used to how most adults reacted to him when they knew, their obvious and not so obvious tells about what they really thought about him. Tess was being very polite and gracious that when he caught the occasional slip up and noticed the wondering in her eyes or posture, it was a little jarring. "But I've also been showing Kat around the school, making sure she knows where everything is, knows how things are done, officially and unofficially, and has the little extra bit of paperwork. That kinda stuff." The dark-haired woman turned back towards the teenager, leaving the machine to drop water onto the coffee by itself, and flashed a charming smile to the strangely shaped boy sat by the island. "How nice of you !" Of course, she already knew that, she remembered very well the conversation she had in the car with her boyfriend's daughter. "Oh, speaking of Art, did she tell you she draws and paints in her spare time ? I've seen some of it a couple days ago, and it looks pretty good." She added with an approving nod, before grabbing a mug from a cupboard, and setting it in front of Sean, along with the sugar. "You'll dose it the way you like it, eh ?" "Thank you," Sean said with a smile and nod, dumping in enough sugar that most coffee connoisseurs would call it a felony. Sean took a sip, and smile in satisfaction as the sweetness and heat of the coffee. "I didn't she drew and painted. I draw some and paint miniatures, but most of my artwork is done digitally." "Interesting," Tess murmured, making her self a cup of coffee. "Just art to share, or to sell?" "Sell, sort of. I mean, I'm on several sites. And I have done some concept art. But it's more for my roleplaying games and the video games I've made. I've done one, and am almost done with another." Sean's grin widened in private delight and amusement. "I've made a lot of progress lately."
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