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Showing content with the highest reputation on 11/25/2021 in all areas

  1. Sean's stomach churned, and it wasn't just hunger after still being in the process of turning his new morning workout into a habit. He stood in a knot with his family, his father's hand a firm pressure on his shoulder, his mother and sister standing on Jack's other side, both in dark dresses with wan faces. His left leg tingled with pins and needles up to his hip, as though it was asleep, and his hands were balled into fists. The sun beat down, hot, remorseless, almost accusatory in the clear blue sky. His slacks, years old, were tight across the hips and under the black button-down he'd borrowed from his dad - the sleeves rolled up several times so they didn't cover his hands - there were trickles of sweat, back and front. Sean's jaw was clenched, eyes squinted to slits in the effort of retaining a stoic expression, but it was obviously a thin façade. With all his issues, plus a father who endured everything with blue-collar aplomb, Sean had learned early not to cry in public, and ingrained as it was, it was still a near thing. He's shed his tears in private. As a boy who looked like a girl, and had only grown more so with puberty, growing more curvaceous than most, he'd suffered. But he hadn't ever suffered much in the way of actual loss. The Cassidys were a small family in Toole County. Now anyway, generations past, there had been many more. Sean had an uncle on his dad's side he'd never met and knew next to nothing about, and his mom had a sister who visited once a year with his two cousins. His mom's parents had passed away before he'd been born and he could barely remember his grandmother on his dad's side. The only funeral he'd gone to was his grandfather's, when he'd been ten. But his grandfather had been going senile for a few years before, and his passing had, in some ways, been a relief. Charlie's death hurt. A link ripped out of the small circle of friends Sean had been surprised and blessed with finding himself with. Charlie had been there when he'd first started DMing RPGs. Always interested in the story and developing his character, Sean could always rely on Charlie to engage with any plot hook he laid out to get things going when the game started to wonder or go completely off-track. With his interest and training in drama, Charlie had helped Sean expand his storyteller's voice, as well as how better to structure the narratives of his games and campaigns, even if it was to go against convention. Now Charlie's life story was cut short. As were all the stories of the lives he might have played on stage or on the screen, all the characters he might have played in their shared games. It wasn't one life, one friend, gone, but the multitude he could have been. With learning about their powers, and the secrets buried in Shelly, an unconscious part of Sean had still seen it as a game, fighting monsters with psionic powers, where bad things could happen, but they weren't ever final. Until they were. Life wasn't a game, but both eventually ended. They had found the Dark, but one of them had lost before they had even fought. It wasn't fair, Coiled through the hurt and loss was a nauseating shameful guilt. Not-Cody could have taken any one of them, and the result likely would have the same - one of the Radiant going dark under terror and violence. Forcing himself to look at it logically, with his lifespan cut dramatically and uncertainly short with an equally uncertain recourse, if one of them had to be sacrificed to the Darkness, it should have been him. But shortened life or not, Sean was relieved, relieved, it hadn't been him. He wouldn't wish it on any of his friends, but he wasn't ready to die yet either. And it felt wrong, it felt perverse, to be standing here, watching Charlie's casket being lowered into the ground and covered with dirt and being grateful he wasn't one the in it. Devin spoke and more guilt piled up on Sean's hunched shoulders. He just couldn't bring himself to. What if he broke down in front of everyone? Charlie certainly deserved it, especially as the embarrassment would be only in Sean's own mind. And even if it wasn't, so what? But what if they saw his guilt, his relief, that he was still alive when Charlie wasn't? No. With the service coming to a close, the Cassidys went to pay their respects to Charlie's parents. Eyes downcast, he murmured a few awkward words of condolence with Charlie's father - Lucius Cole had never been comfortable around his son's intersexed friend. Sean was more at ease with Hannah Fuhrman, who'd always been kind to him when he'd gone over to Charlie's place, to just hang out before gaming or working on something for school. His mouth dry, voice ragged, Sean didn't even hear his parents' or Laurie's words. The Cassidys ambled disconsolately towards the parking lot. Sean took a deep, scratchy breath to collect himself, giving his leg a surreptitious shake every other step, trying to jostle it awake. His mother stepped up beside him, giving her odd son a one-armed hug. "How are you doing, hon?" Carolyn asked sympathetically. "Fine," Sean claimed, then immediately amended, "Not good. It cou-" ld have been me. "I'll be okay. I just need some time, mom." His mother gave him a look like she could read his thoughts. It didn't help that Sean knew there were people who could read thoughts. "It's not wrong that you're still alive, Sean. And it's not wrong to be grateful that you are." She smiled sadly at his sullen frown of disagreement. She nodded towards her Corolla. "You want to come with us? We can come back for your car later, or tomorrow." "No. No, it's okay," Sean assured her, reluctantly stepping out of her embrace, making a small flicking gesture towards the dark green Grand Cherokee parked a ways down the other lane of the lot. "I'll drive myself. I... need a bit of time alone. I'll meet you guys at the reception." Jack and Carolyn watched their son shuffled down the lot towards his vehicle. Laurie watched him too, then her parents. "I'll go with him." Before she'd taken a step after her brother, she was stopped by the outstretched arm of her father. "Give him this, Laurie, time to work things out after the service. We'll catch up at the reception, and if he needs us for more, we'll be there for him at home. He might fight monsters for real - and God knows I wish never expected to say that - but the ones inside are just as dangerous. And in the end, no matter how much support you offer, those ones, you have to fight alone."
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