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  1. “Hmm.” The musing sound was drawn out and thoughtful, which was one clue it could be dissembling. From what Autumn had seen, Jase didn’t usually take long to figure out what he wanted to do next - most of his focus was on ‘how’ rather than ‘what’. Her suspicions were further roused when he smiled at her before likewise laying back in the water. Here it came. Here came the one-liner laden with innuendo. “Pretty much anything, hmm?” or something similar. But he said nothing, just lazily sculling with his arms to keep himself in place as he floated looking up at the sky, narrowed eyes slits of emerald fire as they caught the late afternoon sunlight. Autumn tried to relax too, laying her head back in the water and feeling it flow past, but her mind kept poking at that ‘hmm’ like a tongue at a loose tooth. Finally she raised her head and all-but glowered across at her silently floating companion. “That’s it? ‘Hmm’? ‘Hmm’ what?” she demanded, feeling her lips twitch in a smile as she saw his mouth curve in a slight grin. Damn it. Damn him. Goddamn Jason Effing Bannon and his impossibleness. “Just ‘hmm’.” he said casually, raising his head to peer at her, his expression composed but for the faint crooked smile and his gaze full of mirth. “Why, was I supposed to say something else?” “‘Hmm’ is not an answer to the question.” Autumn returned somewhat indignantly, though she was pretty certain her own urge to laugh was showing as Jase straightened somewhat in the water, cocking his head to one side and regarding her with that faint smile that was smug and not at all charming. Teasing jerk. Reacting more than thinking, she brought one hand around in a sweep, splashing water at his face. That, at least, caught him by surprise. His eyes widened for a moment as he registered the movement, and he managed to half-turn aside so he didn’t get the brunt of it in the face, but it was still sufficient to make him blink, then turn back to regard Autumn for a long moment. Then, theatrically, he lifted a hand and slowly wiped his face, flicking the water aside before dipping his hand into the water and sweeping it towards her. The retaliatory splash was an obvious response, and Autumn turned away, laughing - only to catch a second deluge right in the face from an invisible hand that made her sputter. “Oh, now it’s on!” she announced, sweeping both arms forward and causing Jase to cover his face with his hands as sun-brightened sprays of water cast rainbows in the late afternoon light. Grinning he responded in kind, long arms scooping wave after wave at the giggling redhead. The naval warfare continued like that for some minutes, the two combatants wading back and forth in the creek as they hurled water and banter at each other in roughly equal volumes. “TK is cheating! Lame-ass!” Autumn yelled as she ducked and weathered a veritable tsunami from all sides. “Not my fault you didn’t know who you were messing with, scrub.” Jason replied coolly, only to end up spitting water as a cunning underhand shot from his opponent caught him square in the face. “Hah!” Autumn crowed - right as she felt a pair of impossibly strong hands grab her around the waist and lift her into the air before tossing her with a shriek into the deeper part of the creek. Surfacing with a roar of challenge that would do a tigress proud, she surged through the water and tackled the smirking jerkface who’d ducked her, hooking her arms around his shoulders and dragging him under even as she felt his arms loop around her to pull her with him. It wasn’t at all a calculated risk, because there was no calculation involved. Even at play, Autumn was competitive by nature, and when his arms went around her- either as a reflex on his part, or as an intentional decision to pull her along- it signalled a response to the challenge. The moment she felt Jase’s arms tighten, felt the shift in energy and the torque of his waist, they hit the water, already rolling. All sound evaporated, save for the surging of the water and the rapid, joyous pounding of her heartbeat in her ears. Vision disappeared in an instantaneous explosion of frothy white, and there was no equilibrium, no sense of up or down- just the sensation of the current all around, and the texture of his skin, taut over sinew and bone, beneath her hands. He had height on her, and reach as well, but there was no distance to be had between them, which rendered it temporarily meaningless. As he turned, using Autumn’s own forward momentum to roll her toward the creek bed, she mirrored the movement, arcing her upper body and twisting to continue the spin and deny him positioning. To her surprise, Jase did the same, the adamant grip of his arms around her waist compelling her to keep turning or be “pinned,” and pushed down to the bottom. At some point, the elastic band in her braid finally worked loose, and for several moments she could see nothing but the bright, coppery mass of her own hair. For what seemed like ages, the two young competitors feinted, rolled, and vied for any edge they could find: when Jase used the benefit of his greater height to simply stand up, Autumn hooked her foot behind his knee and pulled him off-balance. Pressing her advantage, she tried to use her body-weight to flip him, wrapping her legs around his midsection and throwing herself backwards; it wasn’t until he relaxed slightly, allowing her to pitch him forward that she realized she’d erred. Refusing to be caught so easily, the redhead unlocked her legs and kicked off the loose rock with one foot, her entire body contracting and uncoiling in a smooth, tight spiral as her fingertips slid from the hard expanse of her adversary’s back to his shoulders. With a measure of finality, she pressed him gently back against the rounded stones, just a few feet beneath the shimmering, sunlit surface of the stream. Her moment of triumph was short-lived, however. She had just enough time to catch the telltale curve of Jase’s lips as the water around them began to clear, and then- the impossibly delicate, almost feathery sensation of fingertips gliding, dancing up over her ribs. To her credit, she managed to weather the decidedly unsportsmanlike assault for almost a full 10 seconds before pushing off his chest with both palms and kicking upwards, a column of white bubbles following her rapid ascent. “Ugh, you suck so hard!” she laughed, choking and spluttering at no one in particular. Pulling her hair back over her shoulder as she tried to get her bearings, Autumn staggered back in the general direction of the shore. He surfaced behind her already laughing as his head emerged, even though the combination of water and his normally-shaggy hair were obscuring his sight he didn’t seem to have many problems navigating shorewards as he wiped his face clear. “Victory is mine.” he announced calmly, his eyes gleaming as brightly as the beads of water on his skin as he waded into the shallows. Autumn, having already procured her towel, considered diving for Jase’s and tossing it in the creek, but settled for giving him a narrow stare as she wrapped her own around herself. “You lost.” she informed him with a smirk. “You quit first.” came the inexorably calm reply. “You cheated!” “Cheating implies the breaching of an agreed-upon set of rules.” Jase held his hand out, his towel flying from the ground to his grasp. He grinned at her as he began to towel himself off vigorously. “There was no such agreement.” “Ugh. You suck.” Autumn reiterated, flicking water from her fingers at him. “Everyone knows tickling is cheating.” “You mean it is conventionally accepted that tickling is unfair.” Jase shrugged his bony shoulders, flashing another grin at her, then began towelling his hair dry. “Conventional is just another word for lacking in initiative.” He paused mid-towelling, considering something, then smiled at her, tossing the towel back towards his clothing. “For instance…” There was a faint shimmer in the air around him, a heat-haze that rose from his skin in the sunlight, causing his damp hair to rise slightly in the thermal updraft. Focused on Autumn, his eyes grew brighter still, the pale green shifting to a more amber hue as a cloud of steam rose from his skin moments before he appeared to burst into flame. Autumn made a short sound of surprise and took a half-step back. Wreathed in flickering gold, red and orange, Jase was untouched by the flame as, mercifully so, were his swim-shorts. The heat of his fire was a tangible thing, even from a couple of meters away Autumn could feel it on her skin. “This makes drying off easier.” he said conversationally, his eyes deep slivers of brightness as he smiled at Autumn through his aura of fire. “For you, too.” This was light-years away from the first time she'd seen his pyrokinetic abilities, when he'd burned away everything except the blood on his skin. The entire experience had been terrifying, and yet here she was: no monsters, no blood, no terror- just a sense of awe as she watched the fire lick unhurriedly over his skin, enfolding him like the arms of a jealous lover. He could see the brilliant flames reflected gold and scarlet against the sea in her eyes, and the half-step back became a tentative step forward, the heat reddening her cheeks as she approached. "Um, how far away, exactly, do I need to stand?" “A few feet is likely best, though I won’t burn you unless I want to - the fire is very much under my control, so long as I am under control, I’ve found.” Jason said from within the flickering dance of flames. “The cryokinetic side of my abilities operates on the same principles. The level of fine control possible takes some getting used to - I practice a lot.” he admitted with a small grin. “For instance, I can superheat areas of my aura to the point that it, theoretically, should vaporise incoming bullets, but I can also pick up a cold can of Coke without disturbing its temperature unduly.” She took another step forward, lifting one hand and turning her palm toward the burning aura that surrounded him, a tangible illustration of the otherwise invisible barrier between Jase and the rest of the world. The closer she got, the more uncomfortable it became, a sensation just on the edge of pain but not quite crossing the threshold into injury. It slowly evaporated the droplets of water that lingered on her skin, and as individual strands of her hair dried, they drifted lazily in the waves of heat that rippled around his body. “How do you practice something like that, out of curiosity?” she wondered aloud, not daring to approach further for fear her hair really would combust. “I haven’t had much luck, honestly, although the day everyone was at the Farm did help, and Tuesday was... let’s call it educational. Outside of that, though, it’s surprisingly difficult to convince people to let you experiment on them, when you’re not even sure what the result is supposed to be.” She grinned up at him through the shimmering wall of light and heat, trying (as ever) to gauge his expression; it was hard to see his eyes from where she was standing. “Although, I guess it’s probably easier when it’s something you can do by yourself.” Her fingers curled slightly, just at the limits of her tolerance, as if resting against a pane of glass behind which he was standing. I am Fire. The words sprang unbidden from memory, and she smiled, just a little, at the thought. Yeah. Yeah, you are. “I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, or if it goes both ways, but I get this odd feeling of….” she paused, eyes narrowing slightly as she searched for the right words. “Connection, maybe? Just by touching a person, I can almost feel them the same way I do my own body, like we’re sharing the same skin. I never realized how much you can tell about someone from just physical contact, and how they respond to it.” Shrugging, she traced the “surface” of his aura with her fingers, eyelids fluttering briefly at that knife-edge sensation as the nerves beneath her skin wavered on whether or not she was about to be burned. “Maybe I’m like Lona,” Autumn mused, an uncharacteristically thoughtful expression on her freckled features, “but backwards.” Remembering what had happened with the fight in the hallway gave her a moment’s pause as she considered what that might imply. “Other than a general awareness of the Shine, everyone seems to experience the subquantum differently. I can feel, as though touching it, every physical object around me out to about ninety feet. I can detect their motion relative to my own, their temperature, and so on. You possess similar sensory abilities to both Charlie and Avalon - you can sense living creatures as I sense objects, like with the snake, and you can read a person’s state of health, so it seems you have both of their gifts, perhaps not to the same extent and with personal differences, rather than sharing their focus.” Jase slowly let his fiery aura die out, the last flickers of flame seeming to dance into his eyes as they returned to their normal pale icy green hue. He pulled on his pants, hopping from one leg to the other in a reasonable display of balance before fastening them. “Huh.” Autumn stared at him for a moment, feeling delightfully warm and dry now as she pulled on her jeans. “You’ve thought about this a whole hell of a lot.” “I study other people’s gifts, and study my own, and each area of study increases my knowledge of the other, even when the gifts of others are outside the psionic arena. Like Cade or Marissa, who have a differing version of the Shine that makes them peak-human, or beyond, in their areas of focus.” Jase grinned slightly at her as he pulled on his boots, leaving them unlaced for now as he got to his feet. “The whole link to the theorised subquantum strata is fascinating.” “Okay.” Autumn narrowed her eyes. “You and Sean were babbling excitedly about that - I remember that word coming up once or twice while I was trying not to freak out about being there at your farm.” She smiled a little, remembering how geeky Jase had seemed in that moment, his normal reserve having been dropped in the excitement. “And you’ve mentioned it a couple times since. Care to give me the grade school version while we get everything set up?” “It’s pretty straightforward stuff, at least on the surface ‘what you need to know level’.” Jase smiled back at her. “I think you can even manage without crayon drawings.” “Ass.” Autumn snickered, flipping him the bird. “C’mon, let’s get to work.”
    4 points
  2. The moment he stepped away, the terse whispering began. “Okay, when you said ‘Jason Bannon’ that is not what I was picturing.” “What are you talking about?” “I’m talking about that.” “Mom! Gross!” “No, I’m just saying!” “No, you are not just saying, because I am not having this conversation with you.” “Just- did he start working out, or something?” “Okay, seriously? Are we doing this right now?” “Autumn, all I’m saying is he just looks different, and I was wondering what changed, that’s all.” “Fine. Fine. What’s different, hm? Haircut maybe? He got a little taller? Not as skinny?” “Yes, probably, but he’s just more-” “Mom, I swear, if you say my friend is hot, we aren’t speaking until I graduate from college.” “No, no! ...But does that mean you think he is?” “Oh, look, mom!” Autumn called out pointedly, meeting her mother’s gaze with all the mortified fury the teen could muster. “All parked. Guess we should probably get going now. Loveyoubye.” She gave Dana a quick, perfunctory kiss on the cheek and tried not to be too obvious in her haste to depart. As she double-checked the tie-downs on their gear for at least the third time, the young redhead felt, more than heard, her mother coming up behind her. “Hey,” Dana murmured, pulling her into a fierce hug and catching her sole progeny off-guard. “I do love you, you know. Just be careful, okay?” “Mkay,” came the muffled reply, as her daughter returned the familial embrace in earnest. “Love you, too. Talk to you tomorrow.” “Talk to you tomorrow,” the older woman repeated with a faint smile as she headed back up the gravel path toward the house. Exhaling slowly, Autumn fished the key out of her pocket. She couldn’t really blame her mom for worrying; it had been ages since she’d had a friend over, and she’d been dating the last guy she’d gone camping with. This was different, though. This was Jase, who was her friend, who also happened to have really, abysmally bad taste in women, and who also was only coming because she had asked him, rather than the other way around. She swung her leg over the seat as Jase returned, shifting forward over the gas tank to give him room to sit behind her. “It’s gonna be awkward and maybe a little rough, but only for about 5 or 10 minutes, so just hold on tight and try not to fall off.” By the time the words had left her lips, and it registered what she’d just said, it was too late to take them back. Oh, for fuck’s sake… She did her best to ignore the warmth that flooded her face as Jase got comfortable, and felt fairly confident in her efforts to remain composed- Until he leaned forward slightly and ‘reassured’ her, his voice just audible over the idle rumble of the engine: “I’ll be sure to get a good grip.” “Yes” she replied, grimacing as she put the ATV into gear and they started rolling toward the road at a modest pace. “Please do.” The redhead raised one hand, waving goodbye to her mother as they reached the asphalt, and then turned to head further away from Shelly proper. As the forecast had predicted, it was a gorgeous afternoon, sunny and clear, and warm enough that Autumn’s beloved red hoodie was only tied around her waist. About half a mile from the house, she opened up the engine a little, speeding up gradually at first out of consideration for her taller passenger, but eventually settling into fourth gear, grinning into the wind as the scenery zipped past. “The turn-off isn’t far,” she called back, nodding somewhere into the distance and then shaking her head to get the hair out of her eyes as it came loose from her ponytail. They passed a gravel drive, barred by a wide metal utility gate, and then, a moment later: “Hold on.” Downshifting, she turned left and off the road, onto a path so overgrown and littered with leaves and the detritus of fallen limbs that it could hardly be considered more than a very sketchy trail. For several minutes, she slowly maneuvered them over buried roots, through copses of spindly evergreens, and around all-but-invisible washes and dry streambeds obscured by underbrush and dried pine needles. It would definitely have been easier to traverse the distance on foot- if they were backpacking. Maybe next time, she considered, wincing as the ATV jostled again. If there is one. And then, they crossed the threshold from tall, shadowy pines to an open sunlit space, cleared of trees, right in the bend of a slow-moving creek. As she brought the four-wheeler to a stop, the freckled teen suddenly felt unaccountably nervous, as though she’d just invited Jase up to her room while her parents weren’t home. Which, she hadn’t, obviously but it felt more… personal, than she’d expected, and she realized she wanted him to like it here. That thought gave her a moment’s pause; was it because she’d enjoyed the garden so much, because he was proving to be weirdly good company, or because the place was important to her? All three, maybe? “Whew,” she sighed, cutting the engine and turning to check on him. “Oh, hey. You didn’t fall off.” Banishing awkward self-analysis with a playful grin, Autumn hopped off and tucked the key back into her pocket. “C’mon. I’m gonna walk around, see what needs doing, and then we can unpack. You can come with, if you want, or just poke around on your own.” Raking her hands back through her hair as she walked, the energetic redhead pulled the elastic band out and held it between her teeth, quickly plaiting the windblown curls into a haphazard braid and re-securing the ends. After she’d made it a few steps toward the middle of the sunny camp site, she paused to stretch and take a quick visual inventory. The roughly circular clearing was littered with a thick carpet of pine needles over packed earth, courtesy of the few stately trees that had been allowed to remain, with the occasional scrubby clump of grass peeking out from below. There was a decent-sized fire pit near the center, though the depression was filled with a couple seasons’ worth of leaf litter and rotten wood, and roughly half a cord of logs lay in disarray near the trees between which they’d been stacked. Beyond the edge of the camp, the hard earth underfoot gave way to smooth stones along the shoreline; piles of driftwood had accumulated all along the edge of the clear, cool water, and with it whatever man-made trash had drifted downstream to be snagged there. It’s nice to be back, she reflected, but, man, this is gonna be a lot of work. Still… Glancing back in Jase’s direction, she caught herself smiling again. Least I don’t have to do it by myself. This is Autumn’s garden. That was the thought that went through Jase’s head as he glanced around the clearing, swinging down off the ATV with his usual deliberate grace. This site was special to the red-haired girl he’d decided to call ‘friend’, a place of importance. His pale gaze swept the surroundings as he moved, at first following Autumn, then meandering from her walkabout and finding himself on the pebbled beach of the creek, staring at the littered bank. He tilted his head up to feel the sunlight on his face, closing his eyes and reaching outwards. A faint pressure, different from the breeze currently playing in the pines, went around the clearing as he allowed his sense of touch to experience everything here. A few leaves curlicued up into the air from the detritus in the firepit, then dropped suddenly; a rustling touch brushed past Autumn’s hair; a light sprinkling of pine needles rained down from a couple of the trees. Jase smiled, his eyes still closed, and breathed deeply. This was different from the garden as Autumn was different from himself, he perceived. This was a natural place adapted by Man - Autumn’s family, possibly generations of them. The garden was nature curated, cared for, controlled - as it would have to be to have such a rich variety of plants from varying climes in close proximity. But the import of the place was the same - there was a fragment of Autumn’s identity in this clearing. He turned and moved up the bank from the creek, back towards the central area. “It’s beautiful.” he said in a tone that was almost dispassionate, but contained a trace of warmth recognisable to Autumn. “Peaceful, too. It suits you.” He tilted his head to one side, smiling at her. “Where would you like me to start? And are you averse to a little TK making the work lighter now and then?” he inquired with a faint grin. She laughed then, unreservedly, more than a little surprise mingling with the delight in her eyes. “You know, you’re probably the first and only person in my entire life to use the word ‘peaceful’ when describing me, so, thanks for that, I think. And, no,” the bemused redhead grinned, shaking her head, “I don’t mind. Whatever gets the job done is fine, so if that’s easier for you, I say go for it.” As the giggles faded, a smile lingered in their wake, and she took another look around. “I’m going to start with the firepit, I think, so we can get the fire started and let it burn down enough to cook by the time we’re hungry…” Drumming her fingers thoughtfully against her legs, Autumn glanced down toward the creek. “Mind starting down there? If you’re in the mood to flex your mind-muscles, that would be a good place to do it. Some of that driftwood is just old trees, y’know? Besides, it’s better to go wading now, before it cools down later.” She grinned over at him, and added, holding up three fingers at chest-level in the classic Girl Scouts salute, “I promise not to push you in.” There was a long, quiet moment then, as her eyes traced the treeline on the opposite side of the creek. “ And… yeah.” Her expression softened slightly, and a part of her wondered what her grandfather would have thought of Jase, of her bringing him here. “It is beautiful. Thanks.” The afternoon sun was warm on her face, and all around were the sounds of birds, of the wind through the trees, of the water rushing over stones… It seemed unbelievable, somehow, that she’d stopped coming, when so many of the best, most wonderful memories she’d ever made were right here. “Be right back.” She’d have plenty of time to think and talk when they were finished. For now, there was plenty to do in the last few hours of daylight. Autumn headed back toward the gear they’d stowed on the ATV and returned with a small collapsible shovel and a large canvas bag- the latter of which she tossed to Jase. “That’s for your basic trash, plastic and stuff, although I’m pretty sure you’re about 12 steps ahead of me there.” With a wry, self-deprecating grin, she unfolded the shovel and locked the pins into place. “Anyway… Thanks for helping. Let me know if you need anything, and I guess we can meet back up when we’re done and work on something else.” Autumn didn’t have much to say after that, none of the typical chatter- it just wasn’t necessary. She did hum, though, mostly fragments of old songs that were only played on classic rock radio, as she shoveled sodden, compacted ash and leaves and dragged crumbling bits of ancient firewood out from the mess. Ugh. Grimacing, she tossed the rotten, lichen-encrusted plant matter into the underbrush at the edge of the clearing and kept going. She hadn’t thought it would get this bad so quickly- or, maybe she just hadn’t thought. Either way, this mess was her responsibility, and although she really was grateful for the help, and for the company, the increasingly grubby teen had to admit that she felt a little guilty for conscripting Jason… Something-Something Bannon to help her deal with it. But… Glancing in the direction of the stream as she crouched next to the re-emerging bowl of hardened earth, she smiled to herself- he didn’t really seem to mind too much, so maybe it was fine. The visible trash had been first - sodden plastic wrappings, beer cans caught in the deadwood, waxed cartons used for juice or milk - they had all come whizzing obediently out of the water and into the refuse sack, crumpling, folding or otherwise compacting as they travelled. Then Jase had set the canvas bag left open to one side and focused on the driftwood. Smaller branches first, some still adorned with leaves, were tugged free of the tangle and laid in a neat pile at one end of the beach in the sunlight, then would come the larger bits- small pieces of dead timber from larger trees carried downriver, and more than a couple of broken-off trunks. There was a steady meditative style to the way he worked: quick and yet with an air of unhurried thoroughness, and he smiled to himself as he heard Autumn humming as she tended to her own task. This was a memory he would often revisit later: this simple little scene he would forever associate with companionship. The music of the brook and the woman, even if some of her humming was charmingly off-key as she occasionally huffed, tossing moldy old firewood into the brush. The birdsong distant beyond the babble of the creek. The sunlight throwing glints from the water and fire from Autumn’s hair, and how her waist had felt under his hands as he held on against the pitching of the ATV. He reflected with some amusement on the reactions of and the interplay between both Keane women. He also wondered, without sorrow or bitterness, about how it would feel to have that maternal connection: someone who would worry about simple little things no matter how old or competent their child became. His mind flashed back to the concern shown him by his mother; the way she had touched his face and studied it as though trying to find the boy she had run away from inside the man standing there. He theorised that Dana explained a lot about Autumn - her undemanding warmth of personality, her restlessness and need to test herself which was very similar to his own, yet possessed of a different tone and texture. She’d laughed when he’d called her ‘peaceful’, but she was. Not passive, not static, but contained and self-sufficient. A creek, always full of restless motion, yet restful to observe. He imagined that the same rich emotional depth she had shown when speaking of her grandfather, or when cradling him, or when she flamed bright crimson at his teasing, or even when she had charged into a fight with two seniors twice her size were (like the blushes) traits she had inherited from her mother. He compared that rich emotional texture to his own superficially binary state - remote, cold detachment or searing instinct - with little in the way of middle ground. With a groaning creak, the first tree-trunk lifted clear of the creek, a rain of water pattering down on the pebbles as Jase caused it to float up and away from the bank, closely followed by a second, then a third solid piece of timber. The tangle was more or less destroyed now, his TK grasping and bagging a couple of overlooked bits of trash, then conscientiously flipping some more small branches out of the moving water before they could be carried away. He nodded, satisfied at the clear banks of the creek, then sat down and removed his boots and socks, rolling up the bottom of the legs of his combat pants, before wading into the water. He probed around carefully on the stony creek-bed with both his feet and his Shine, now and then grabbing sharper rocks and tossing them to the far bank and occasionally locating and removing a broken piece of glass or metal which lay submerged. The water was warm enough for wading, or even for swimming still, not that the cold bothered him anymore than heat did these days. He wondered about that - the Shine and how it manifested so differently in so many people. With him, it seemed to make human concerns even more remote - removing any physical insufficiency, making frailty against the elements irrelevant, granting the ability to seal himself from harm or to deliver it with but a flicker of will. He paused his chain of thought, realising he’d used the term ‘human concerns’. Perhaps ‘physical concerns’ would be better, if exactitude was what he sought. He pulled a buried piece of planking with a couple of protruding nails up from the creek bed, floating it to the driftwood pile on the shore. Musing to himself he took his time with the work, wading back and forth thigh-deep in the water until, finally satisfied that the creek bed was clear, he turned to see how Autumn was getting on.
    4 points
  3. ... I became a published author. And I owe thanks to you guys. I knew I was a 'decent' writer but I wasn't too sure of my talent when I first came here. Years of praise and ego-polishing made me confident enough to believe that people wanted to read what I was writing. So I wrote, and contacted a small publisher and found out she loved what I wrote. May she be the first of many. In addition to inflating my head, you have taught me about stories - what makes them interesting and what makes them great. I have laughed and cried and been inspired by everyone here. Thank you guys. You're all awesome, and I won't forget you when I'm as famous as Anne Rice. (Let's hope I don't go through the weird Catholic phase!) Dawn
    4 points
  4. Tawny tried to wipe away some of the blood on Devin's cheek, but she only smeared into a redish-black blob. She chuckled, as best she could, trying to find something in all the craziness that felt normal. "Sorry." "It's okay," he shook his head dismissively as he gave her a warm smile. "You went through Hell to save me," her eyes seemed to study him, seeing something in him she'd not seen before. Perhaps it was the man she always had faith was hiding under his immaturity or something else, but he seemed different, more intense and, she hated to admit it, sexy. This version of Devin was outside the boundaries of anything she'd experienced with him before, the warrior, the hero... the good guy. None of those things she'd ever really attributed to him before, she'd just known he was capable of it in the good heart of his. "In a heartbeat." Devin's tone was far more romantic than he intended it to be, but his eyes were locked on hers as she studied him, biting her lips as struggled to wrestle with her thoughts. Marissa tapped Cade and nodded in Devin and Tawny's direction as their world bled away and they only saw each other. Before they knew it the area had grown quiet and the Fellowship were looking on in anticipation. Would this be the night, after all the heroics and fighting that Devin finally wised up and just settled down with the woman who obviously loved him. Pulled by their unconscious wills their lips drew closer and closer. 'He's going to kiss me' Tawny thought as only a half an inch remained between them and the Disney ending Tawny had always dreamt of. Kiss? He's going kiss me. Jacob! She pulled away suddenly, startled by the last memory she had before waking up in that hell. "Oh my god, Jacob! Hewaswithmeanditcameoutofnowhere-" "Jacob is fine," Autumn's hand on the blonde's shoulder calmed her down. "He'll have a headache tomorrow, but he'll be fine." Tawny pressed her hands to her heart and sighed with relief. "Oh, thank God." "Whelp," Devin grunted as he struggled to stand. That moment was shot to shit, so no point in sitting there like a puckered up idiot. It would figure. About to finally get some romantic time for uber heroics and she's thinking of someone else. Par the course when it came to his luck, he supposed. "I think it's time we call the parental units to come a reclaim their misbegotten progeny." He looked to Sophia and offered her a comforting, warm smile. "And maybe get her to the medical center." Sophia wearily looked up to Devin. "Sorry I tried to kill you." She groaned. "Sokay," she shrugged. "You're not the first to want to, or try." The Fellowdivas all quickly mumbled and shown their agreement on the fact that she would also not be the last. Despite the hell she'd been through, she managed a very tight but faint smile. "Hey, mom?" Marissa, like Jason, was limping pretty bad and her. Her voice was combination of adrenaline-excited spotted by patches of extreme pain that made her wince. Her outfit was shredded, at this point it barley protected her modesty and how the spaghetti straps of her halter top were still in one piece was a small miracle to be examined at a later date. Her legs and arms seemed covered in claw marks, along with her abs and back which were also littered with puncture wounds from teeth. The diva had never looked so rough and still her unique gifts of desire made her rock the whole look like she was some Valkyrie bad-ass who'd just survived Ragnarok. Nonetheless, she was in bad shape and it was hard to tell how much of the blood she was drenched in was actually hers. "Yep, saved the town and stuff," she nodded to the mother she couldn't see. "Not doing this with you right now." She slowly tried to sit down, wincing and sucking her teeth as her knee refused to bend. She decided to stand instead of persuading any of her wounds to open further. "We need a ride, and bring a lot of towels, but only the ones you don't want anymore, like those nasty green Ralph Lauren ones that Grandma sent us for Christmas? Hmm? Oh, because we're all covered in blood." Marissa glared at her phone, then placed it back next to her ear. "Mom?" The barrage of curses and yelling that could be heard as Misti gave Marissa an earful was epic in and of itself as her crimson-coated daughter held the phone away form her ear for a moment as she vented. She sighed and tried again after the yelling abated. "Done? Yes, mom, blood. Some of it is, yes. I don't know who all else's blood it might be, they're all dead, Not-Cody didn't exactly keep detailed files of his meals. I'll explain later. No. No. Yes, he's fine... for his definition of it, anyway." Devin gave her a middle finger and a smile for which she returned the smile. "Yes, mom, I know the Sheriff has called a lock down. He's with us, he's in the know. Yes, we know Sophia is missing. Well, was missing. We have her here with us. Yes, with us." Marissa inhaled and sighed loudly. "Mom! Would you and Dad just come get us? Christ! Fine. I'm all kinds of amped up on adrenaline and excitement. If you don't come get us I'm going home with Cade and we are going to get so nasty tha-" Marissa smiled and pressed the button her phone to end the call. "They'll be here in ten." "Y-you're not looking so good, Emjay." Devin approached his sister, sliding an arm around her to assist with her balance. "Everything hurts is all, I'm okay." Her smile did little to comfort him but still she tried to relax and wait for their ride to arrive. She looked to Autumn and grinned. "I get the sarcasm now, yeah. Next hellscape, wedge heels, totally. Although I think I took something eye out though..."
    3 points
  5. Cassie nodded and took Kat's offered hand. "Just a second. Lets go into this eyes open." And, paradoxically, she shut her eyes. The world shattered. Or, more accurately, it unraveled. From a single 'plane' representing the reality around her, Cassandra instead saw ribbons, each one somehow still the world, but also different. Here, Autumn had a different shirt on. There, Kat hadn't extended her hand. The ribbons twined together into cable-like structures, and then there were many more of those. The differences were more pronounced between different 'cables.' Autumn had black hair. Sean was a regular guy, with no obvious genetic conditions. Charlie was with them. It was worse than Wikipedia and TV Tropes combined. Cass felt herself pulled to woolgather, to peruse the endless pages of Might-Have-Been until she died of dehydration. But no. Not those worlds. These. Clustered around her own, so close they could be tasted, touched, imagined. So close that the occupants of those Might-Have-Beens were almost shadowy figures in her own. They appeared in the realm of the Dark. ... before them the Horned Throne... ... ...a gutteral howl from above... ... ...a scream, maybe Autumn, maybe Cassie herself... ...the roots!... Cody, encysted in something black and noisome, roaring as the Fellowship choked on fumes of despair... Cassandra wasn't Devin; she could not step between the Might-Have-Beens...but she could see them, and in them could see how events here changed events there. Decisions still mattered, will was still a thing. Outcomes still followed from causes, and if you wanted a particular outcome, you had to provide the appropriate causes. You weren't stuck in one timeline, Cass could see. You chose your timeline, at least in the context of human existence. You step here, the trap goes off; you step there, it does not. Whether you know the outcome of your choice in advance or not, it's still your choice where to put your foot. And though many things waiting for you were not chosen by you, and not every possible outcome was in your power to bring about..being able to see what lay ahead was as profound a power as there could be. How had she ever been so blind before? Her eyes opened, and for those who could see, Radiance danced behind her pupils like sunlight on rippling water. "We can do this, guys. It won't be easy, but we can. When I yell at someone to do something, you gotta do it, even if it doesn't seem like it makes sense. Okay?" She offered her hand to Autumn then, and when the redhead took it, the three of them passed out of the light and into the Dark...but brought the light with them as well.
    3 points
  6. Marissa had slithered off with her bag, a large, gaudy leather backpack that prominently displayed 'GUCCI' in brass letters. As Autumn changed at her house with Devin and Jason and Cade organized equipment, they barely noticed her missing. She was walking out from behind some tall bushes, sheathed head to toe in all black with her signature black 'hiking heels', and as always, she looked like a million bucks. Autumn and Devin reappeared but a moment later, as Marissa's bag hit the table cueing Cade and Jason to stop for a moment and take in her day to night transformation. She'd went from jeans and a halter top with bright red lips, looking like all kinds of all American dream girl to a faux-leather clad Valkyrie whose lips were about to go back to their trademark maroon if her wiping her lips with the makeup cloth seemed to have a say in the matter. "If anybody needs a hair-tie, speak now or forever hold your peace." Autumn declared while offering up a handful of them. She took a moment to shift and sift through numerous things in her pack, which seemed to be more small pouches of makeup (sorted by color scheme and style), a phone charger (totes mandatory), an emergency battery for her phone (just in case), the clothes she wore to the Carousel... and that seemed about it. "Here!" Leaving her bag, she walked over to Autumn, hand out expectantly as it seemed hair ties was the one important thing she forgot. She groaned in relief. "You are a life saver. Two head bands, but not a single hair tie, god, what was I thinking?" "Four-inch heels, Marissa." Autumn nodded, her lips a thin line withholding to the urge to laugh or choke her 'bestie' out on the spot. "Very practical for trotting around a Hellscape." "Right?! And they totally go so well with this outfit, plus I got them at a steal. Normally they're like, five hundred and seventy, but I totally managed to get them for four hundred and seventy. I was so stoked that they got here just in time for the showdown. It's like absolute bad-assery at a premium." It had dawned on them that the boots she was wearing were not the original pair she'd worn a week or so prior. No. Marissa not only had one pair, but saw it necessary to buy a second pair for the sole purpose of having a new set of boots to battle The Dark in. No flashlight, no food, no water... but hey, she had a new pair of heels to show off to Not-Cody. Devin just shook his head, a smile across his lips, as if to say: 'this is my everyday folks'. "Autumn?" Her tone shifted to something more serious and Autumn could see how Marissa's gaze shifted to her brother who just silently nodded at her. She was getting used to understanding their silent communication as the twins had a way of quietly planning and then confirming those plans with simple glances or gestures to one another. “So um, look I know we fight, like, a lot and I totally forgive you for that, but I wanted you to know… uh, that’s what I like about you. You’re not a ‘yes girl’. You have opinions and you call me on my shit of which I know there is a lot. You have a good heart and a good soul, which I’m not oblivious to the fact that I have neither. We sort of compliment the other and it’s really cool. You have a big heart and soul and I got, well, everything else.” Her hands traced down her own frame obviously signifying that Marissa was blessed with beauty, money, the perfect body, and Autumn at least got a decent personality. It was strange hearing Marissa stammer in a search for words as she spoke. She was always so composed and knew exactly what to say to press someone’s buttons. Now, however, she seemed to to just be playing it by ear… actually speaking from her black, shriveled, ice-encrusted void she called a heart. “When I saw you with Jason earlier,” Autumn visibly tensed, preparing for another bitch bout with Marissa but her bestie shook her head in an attempt to calm her down. “No, no… I’m not looking to start anything, really. Hear me out. I’m trying to say that you looked really happy, and you deserve that. Life isn’t always fair, and none of us asked for this, but I want you to know that behind all my overly critical appraisals, bitter comments and bitchy attitude… I uh… I am thankful and grateful that you are my best friend and that you found some small sliver of happiness.” Her eyes were adopting the sheen of emotion overload. “My, um, only friend, actually.” “So, look… stop listening to me. If he makes you happy, then please be happy. You deserve that much, right? It’s seriously in short supply in this fucked up town and we could all use a bit it, right? I can’t go back in time and make all those things I said and did to you go away, Autumn, but… I’m s-…” she paused, literally unable to say she was sorry. She took a deep breath, composed herself and carried on. “I am sorry. I was wrong and despite all that I did… I… I would like for us to be friends. If, you know, we live through this.”
    3 points
  7. He'd wandered away from the main field, going into the woods that bordered the rest area and, finding a secluded tree to lean against, had fished a rollup from a case in his pocket and put it between his lips. A barest flicker of his will, the end glowed, and he drew a deep drag on the fragrant home-grown leaf inside with a sigh of contentment. It occurred to him that this was his first smoke of the day, and then he realised he'd not had a cigarette since... Saturday, maybe? After leaving Autumn's place. That was good for a faint smile as he looked up through the sun-spackled leaves of the tree, watching them shift and rustle in the breeze. Birdsong came in sporadic snatches from around him, and he exhaled, wreathing the pleasant smoke around his head, letting the problems and cares of the world fade away for a few as he thought of coppery strands of hair curling around his fingers... "Hey, Bannon!" The lanky young man sighed, opening his eyes at the bovine hollering. It seemed there was never a quiet moment, today... Though that wasn't exactly true, was it? Not long ago, he'd been relaxed with his head on Autumn's lap, her fingernails sending thrills of relaxation and pleasure down his spine as she'd idly caressed his scalp. It was a good memory, that one. The scent of her, warm from the sun and exertion, and the feel of her other hand under his on his chest, and the sensation of her eyes studying his face. There had been a calm in that moment which surpassed the simple pleasure of working in his garden, or learning some new esoterica from a book, accompanied by a thrum of her energy, her presence. That connection... that connection which baffled him, so similar in broad strokes to the sense of connection he'd once felt with Marissa, but so much more... "Bannon?! I know you're here, dude." Several sets of footsteps, heading this way through the treeline. A reach out with his senses told him there were four people. At least one was... "Here, Chet." he stepped around the tree, hands in his pockets, rollup hanging from the corner of his lips as he regarded the senior and his company. Two football players: Kieran and Todd, the latter of whom looked a little uneasy as the cold, calm glittering Jase's gaze passed over him. And Tammy Keller - his ex-customer ever since she and two confederates had tried to discuss business at school. As they approached him, he assessed them as a group. All of them had reasons to hold a grudge against him. Chet and Todd for the events at the county fair, Kieran for his girlfriend hitting on Jason at the first game of the season, and of course Tammy. Calmly, Jase decided that if their purpose was to attack him today then that would not be permitted. There was too much going on for him to worry about risking injury at the hands of primates, Dark-driven or not. He didn't say anything else, just waited. "Got any to share?" Chet pointed at the rollup, his manner somewhat high-handed, as though it was not really a request. "It's not weed. Just tobacco." Jase said. "I've got two more of them on me... and they're mine, Chet. I'm a businessman, not a tobacco charity." "Cute. I'm sure you give freebies to your friends." "I might. But we are not friends." Jason's tone was casually matter-of-fact. "You are, at best, customers. Except her." He nodded at Tammy, who scowled. "She's cut off." "She's with me now." Todd spoke up, putting an arm around Tammy's shoulders. "My condolences to you both." Jase's eyebrow twitched upward as a gleam of something sardonic and cold showed in his gaze, the closest he came to a smirk. He took a drag from the cigarette as Todd colored and stepped forward, to be stopped by a hand from Chet. The big senior turned back to Jase and stepped closer, still out of arms reach though. He can be taught, ladies and gentlemen, Jason thought sarcastically. "Okay, fine. We get it, you're a tough guy now that you're friends with the Jauntsens." Chet grinned. "Here's the thing, though. They're losing their throne, fanboy. Devin's lost his edge, and Marissa is just spinning around on her six-inch heels pissing off everyone. She even told me she doesn't care about being on top of the pecking order anymore." He pointed a beefy finger at Jason's face. "So your protection is for shit, kid." Blowing twin plumes of smoke from his nostrils, Jase looked at the finger, then at Chet, who lowered it and went on. "So here's the deal: I want what they got. Free weed, free Addys. You did that for Marissa before you were friends, which is why the Twins mostly kept you off limits. Tribute to the throne, y'know? Or else things will get bad, without them sheltering you." For a moment Bannon looked at Chet, then the others, blinking once as he took in their resolute features, then he smiled, his lips pulling back from his teeth in a grin that was roughly one-third amusement and two-thirds sheer menace. Then he gave a soft, low laugh. "You monkeys are adorable." he chuckled. "No, seriously, hear me out. You are like retarded cavemen who see the sun and think it's the eye of a monster peering at them. You hear thunder and think it's giant sky-beasts fighting. You think fire is a flower from the gods. You have no idea what you're really perceiving, because you lack the imagination or wit to look beyond the obvious." He drew another puff of smoke, the end of his cigarette glowing briefly as he laughed again. "You're actual imbeciles." "Is that so?" Kieran demanded, but he didn't move forward. The sight of Bannon actually laughing was... unsettling. It wasn't a happy sound, or even ironically happy. It was full of eerie menace. It was just wrong sounding. Bannon just nodded, then fixed his gaze on Chet as his laughter faded away like the rustle of dry leaves over gravestones. "The Twins ruled because they have a quality you do not, Chet. I doubt even they were fully aware of it, but they had the instincts that make a competent ruler. Sure, they bullied and pushed people around, but they also intuitively knew who they could push and how far. They regulated what went on, stopped matters from getting out of hand. Stopped people like you from getting in over your head." Now he stepped forward, hands still in his pockets. Chet had a couple of inches and probably thirty pounds at least on the lean youth, but that didn't even seem to give Jason a pause as he stopped inches away from the large senior, his gaze as sharp as emerald razors. "Get this through your head, Chet. The Jauntsens never protected me. They were protecting you. I'm glad they're not playing the pathetic game of high school grab-ass any more. Good for them, shows they're growing up." He blew smoke in Chet's face. "So yes, you're right. A new order will arise, surely. But here's the message I have for wannabes..." His gaze was coldly serpentine, his voice dropping to a hiss of warning. "You want weed, you buy it. Otherwise you leave me alone, you stay out of my business. You leave Sean alone, and stay out of his business. You leave anyone I sit with in class or the cafeteria alone, and stay out of their business. Including the Jauntsens. No shoulder-slams. No locker pranks. No keying of cars. No malicious gossip. Nothing. Play your little game in the kiddie pool with all the other piss-stinking toddlers and leave the grownups alone. Or I will take a personal interest in your misery. And you'll only realise just how badly you fucked up when it's already too late. Just like at the fair." Chet didn't move. He was aware of the others behind him. He was aware that, if he struck Bannon now, the others would join in. They would beat the kid down, surely. There were three guys - and Tammy - against him. And then... And then what, really? He looked into Bannon's eyes and saw nothing of fear or care there. His gaze flicked down to where Bannon's hands were still in his pockets. What if he had a knife? What if he recovered from his beat-down, and then one night the sharp edge of something would come to rest on his, Chet's throat this time. And Cody had disappeared after the fair... He swallowed. Had Jason killed Cody? God knew there was enough trackless wilderness in Montana that a body could be dumped anywhere... Oh god...And the rumor was that Bannon had criminal contacts in the big cities, too. Cartel, some said. Just the school rumormill, but looking into that hard, cold green stare, Chet wasn't so sure. What he was sure of was that he desperately wanted to pee. He'd started out the day with big plans, and some bravado. This year was going to be the year of the Chet, for sure. And now he'd run straight into both Marissa's vitriolic lack of concern, and Bannon's predatory menace. And suddenly he just wanted to be away from here, drinking beer with his buddies in the sunshine, not face to face with someone who didn't seem quite sane or human, who seemed to radiate cold like an incarnation of Death. "Feel free to go away now." Jase said quietly. "It's a pleasant day. Go and enjoy it. Elsewhere." "Right." Chet mumbled, stepping away. "Right... C'mon, guys." "Chet?" Kieran looked askance at the larger senior, then at Todd, who found himself aware of a full bladder all of a sudden and also just wanted to be away. Tammy repressed a shiver - the air was suddenly cold, and huddled closer to her new boyfriend as they drifted away from the lean figure who watched them go, sunlight glittering in the green slits of his eyes. Now and then, one or another of them glanced back, noting he was still watching them... until suddenly they looked and he was gone. Back behind the tree he'd been relaxing against, Jase leaned back against the bark and enjoyed his smoke. He wondered if the pretenders to the throne would take his warning to heart. Probably? He'd seen fear and uncertainty in their eyes, but then they were exceptionally stupid. He drew in a puff and exhaled with a sigh, looking up at the pattern of sunlight through the leaves overhead. Time, and Darwin, would tell. For now, though, there was the comforting fragrance of good tobacco, and the warmth of the summer's end, and the memory of soft fingers playing with his hair...
    3 points
  8. The training field was mostly quiet in the post-midday heat. Marissa was sunning next to the cooler, enjoying the cool feel of the grass under her hands and the warm sun above as she regained her strength. Cade and Cassie had been practicing attunement off to one side with Tawny and Courtney, the Senior girl having tentatively linked the four of them into a telepathic network so they could attempt 'tuning-in' at a distance. The fact that it also made spoken words unnecessary added to the silence as the sub-quantum ether buzzed with excited conversation. Autumn and Jason were over in the shade of the barn, doing gross new-teen-couple things like kissing, talking in murmurs, and looking into each others eyes. The silence did not persist as Kat and Devin reappeared - whoops of hungry exuberance and exuberant hunger greeted the teleporter's best impression of the famed Spartan king as the rest of the teens converged like hungry hormonal piranhas. "Back, back you savages!" Devin evaded the grasping hands and held the pizzas away from the hungry horde at some risk to his own life and limb. "Sit yo' asses down and let's eat on the grass like civilised people." With laughter and good-natured ribbing, the nine of them settled down to sit companionably in a loose circle. Pizza was passed around, fresh bottles of water were chilled and dished out, and there were a few moments of relative quiet as pizza was ingested - in Marissa's case inhaled - in almost reverent silence. "Fuck." Autumn looked up from the slice she'd bitten into, mouth still full. "This is shome goof pie." "Right?" Devin nodded assuredly. "First thing I do wherever I go - learn where the locals rate the food and then try it out." He took a big bite, stuffing his cheeks full, and smiled beatifically. Jason was eating hungrily, but also had a contemplative look on his face with each bite, as though his sensitive palate was assessing the components of the pizza, attempting to determine the secret of the sauce. If he was successful, he didn't share his findings, merely nodded approvingly as he tore into the crust, then licked his fingers clean. "This is cool." Tawny broke the silence from where she was sat happily between Devin and Kat, looking around the curious assemblage. "I got to say, I was nervous as H-E-double hockey sticks coming here today. Terrified, really." "You should be." Marissa glowered from over her half-gone pizza, a tigress at the kill glaring warningly at those who strayed near. "You stole my top." "Borrowed." Tawny corrected blithely. "And you haven't worn it in months." "Still my top." Marissa snorted, managing to eat a ferocious pace and still appear somewhat elegant. "And really? 'H-E-double hockey sticks'? Are you trying to win 'Fluffiest Puppy, 2019'?" "Anyway," Tawny went on, smiling angelically at the others. "I'm glad I came." "Phrasing." Devin and Jason said at the same time, then air-fist-bumped each other as the blonde country girl blushed and mock-scowled at them both while the others snickered. "I'm serious." she said when the mirth had died down. "Thanks, guys." She nudged the still-smirking Devin. "I'm just glad y'all don't wear spandex like Deej joked about." "You're welcome." Sitting by Marissa, Cade smiled at her. "And no, we're not the Avengers or the X-Men." "More like the Mystery Men." Cassandra laughed, and the amusement spread around the group. "It's true!" The fetching blonde reporter insisted, pointing at Jason. "He's frightfully mysterious and can cut guns in half with his mind. Probably anyway." She pointed at Cade. "Give this man a cutlery set and a turban, and he can be the Blue Rajah." The merriment increased as she moved her finger to Marissa. "She's protected by the power of hairspray." Marissa tried to scowl, but a giggle escaped around the mouthful of pizza she currently had. "Devin's totally that hero dude - whatshisname - the one in the tight suit with all the sponsors and endorsements." Cass went on, grinning. "Captain Amazing" Kat was laughing around her second piece of pizza, having tucked the first away almost as fast as Cade, who was literally twice her size. Cassie nodded and offered a highfive, which the diminutive redhead took. "Sean did 'Allstar' the Project's surveillance last week." Jason suggested with a gleam in his eye. "We even have the same theme music." "Oh no. No no no." Marissa shook her head, but it was too late. Cassandra was already singing. "Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me / I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed." she sang in a surprisingly clear, sweet voice, her smile widening as another, slightly lower pitch joined in from next to Jase. "She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb / In the shape of an "L" on her forehead." Jason looked bemusedly sideways as Autumn came in on the next lines, causing the freckled-face girl to grin, her nose crinkling, and nudge him with her shoulder. And like pebbles starting a landslide Devin, then Tawny, and Kat picked up the verse. It wasn't word perfect in some cases, but it was sung with amusement and enthusiasm. "Well, the years start coming and they don't stop coming Fed to the rules and I hit the ground running Didn't make sense not to live for fun Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb..." Always restless, Autumn was the first to get to her feet, bumping Jason with her leg and tugging him up to dance. Cassie and Kat were next, the French girl with a slice of pizza still in hand as they bobbed and swayed to the tune. Devin, laughing, pulled Tawny up against her protestations and danced goofily with her. "So much to do, so much to see So what's wrong with taking the backstreets? You'll never know if you don't go You'll never shine if you don't glow." Jason wasn't singing, but he was at least 'dancing' - which mostly consisted of swaying in time with Autumn while he studied this curious behaviour with the eye of a charmed anthropologist watching an adorable local custom. Cade was now singing as they hit the chorus... and then Courtney joined in, unable to resist the infectious good humor that was sweeping over the group. "Hey now, you're an all star Get your game on, go play Hey now, you're a rock star Get the show on, get paid And all that glitters is gold Only shooting stars break the mo-o-old!" Whoops of laughter accompanied the last line as the teens broke off the song, snickering like happy fools as they sat back down. Red-faced, Autumn draped herself over Jase's shoulders and planted a kiss on his cheek, snickering a little more at the look of good-natured, patient bemusement he still wore. Marissa, having now finished her pizza and taken advantage of the singalong to grab a slice of one of the other boxes, looked at them all and shook her head slowly. "You all suck." she announced as though reading Holy Writ from stone tablets. But they all saw her smile give the lie to her words.
    3 points
  9. As he watched Autumn chase Cassandra across the field, red-faced and swearing vengeance for the catcalling as she tried to empty her water bottle over the laughing blonde's head, Jason reflected on Devin's words. He wasn't surprised that Devin was capable of subtlety and insight - indeed, he'd seen glimpses of the teleporter's social acuity before - what had the lean young man thoughtful was the generosity and selflessness with which that insight had been applied. He remained still as the others drifted away and just watched them all, Cade chatting with Kat over at the restored plough as the proud French girl looked over her work, Devin laughing at Tawny as the blonde farmgirl jumped on his back and tried to wrestle him to the ground, Cassie and Autumn having an impromptu water battle without honor or humanity, Marissa looking wan and somber over by the cooler... He almost went and spoke to her, but remembered her venomous denunciation of him under the medical center and concluded that his company would probably be less-than-welcome. So he watched them all, now and then sipping from his bottle. His friends, most of them indulging in horseplay, a fact that made him smile as he remembered the water fight in the creek with Autumn. He didn't feel so apart from them as he had in times past, even though with the revelations of the previous week he should feel even more set apart. Granola can help, Devin had said. And he was right to a large extent. Autumn's warmth and straightforwardness made her ideal as a friend - and as a girlfriend - for the naturally detached young Teulu. But Devin also helped. Cassie also helped. Even watching Cade or the odd, squirrelly Kat provided insights in 'peopling'. "Penny for your thoughts?" Courtney had gotten her water bottle and came to stand next to him, watching the others with him for a moment before glancing sideways and up at the angular planes of his face. "You have a penny?" Jason returned with a raised eyebrow, though he didn't look away from the heartwarming sight of Cassie and Autumn laying on their backs out of breath and laughing like children. "I felt what you felt when she kissed you, you know." Courtney's voice was soft, almost wistful. "I felt...uh.. IT. I wish I hadn't, a little. It made me feel cheap. No one has ever felt that when they've kissed me. No one ever will." She blinked, her dark brown eyes moist, then realised he'd turned his head to look at her, his face as expressionless as always when he spoke to her. "I won't say anything." she told him, raising a hand in a peace gesture. "I... just wanted to tell you that it... It's pretty breathtaking. That's all." For a moment more he stared at her, then something almost imperceptible softened around the edges of his cold eyes. "Never say never." he told her quietly, his gaze still on hers. "You likely have finer qualities than you have exhibited to date. You can try to be more than your impulses, just as I do. It does not come easily, though." "No." she agreed, looking away from that stare and watching Devin twist out of Tawny's death-grip and dart away. "It sure doesn't. What's the point, though? Why fight what you are?" "I don't. I harness it, rather than let it harness me. As to the point..." he finished his water with a long pull. "You felt it. Would you say that is worth the effort?" The glamorous redhead's silence spoke volumes. "You are one of us now - at least until you fuck it up." Jason said quietly. "If you want to leash your demons, I will try to help you forge the leash. Think on it." Without waiting for her to nod, or say anything, he walked off to get a fresh bottle of water.
    3 points
  10. Devin broke away from his games with Courtney, who refused to chase him anymore given she hadn't dressed for athleticism. He approached his sister and opened up the cooler, amused at the little things that irritated the hell out of her, like having to walk to the barn for water. He didn't mind so much, like Jason chilling his own drinks, Devin distance wasn't really factor for the teleporter so he'd just bring the drinks to him. "You okay?" he asked his sister as he collected a couple more waters. She nodded in the affirmative but didn't offer much, if anything, in the way of an explanation, just a few short words to keep his mind at ease and after displaying his concern he disappeared in a violet blur. He tossed Kat a water. "Nice work, New Girl," he winked at her. "Quite the bag of tricks hidden up there." He pointed to her forehead and left her to her business. It was collectively, the most words Devin had said to her since she'd started hanging out with the Fellowship. She knew his reputation as Shelly High's bully on a redemption path to try and grow up a bit. He didn't seem so bad, a bit intense sometimes, but not so bad. "Did you know?" Jason asked, as Devin approached imbalanced companion. His words were meant for just Devin and his low inquiry carried no more concern or urgency as any phrase that passed his lips. "Of all the things to help my dad save some money, Devin, the plough?" The teleporter grinned, then shrugged. "She doesn't talk much. When she does she doesn't seem to have listened to what's said or understand simple slang or twists in vernacular. She stares off into space a lot, lost in her own thoughts, where things make more sense to her. Classic ADHD, Jase. I wasn't a hundred percent sure, but I took a shot in the dark. Gave her a puzzle, gave her something that was broken, run down and complex and... well, just let her mind work at its own speed. Explanation would have only gone so far with her, she needs to do things and be engaged on her own terms." He hit Jase in the chest with the back of his hand. "Leadership stuff, dude. Gotta understand your people. Can't manipulate an entire school for years without understanding how teenagers function." "That's mildly disturbing," Jase added, as the corner of his mouth inclined slightly. "You can read all the medical journals, dude, understand what all those fancy afflictions are and what they do and mean, but sometimes the path to the cure lies in bedside manner, bro. Empathy." Devin shrugged. "It's not so much what people say-" "-it's what the don't say." The lanky psychopath finished. "Bingo." Devin tipped his water back and then twisted the cap back on after a large swig. "We'll work on it. If you're gonna step up with me, like we discussed, we gotta get you peopling. Granola can help." His gaze set on something off in the distance, away from their conversation. He raised his hand and pitched his empty water bottle off and up into an arch. It swiftly 'bamf'd out of existence only to reappear and bounce off Tawny's back. She spun about to look who threw it and there was Devin making faces at her as she took off in a full sprint towards him to take him down. "Gotta go. You and me, fifteen minutes, sparing match." Devin bolted away as Tawny passed Jason as a blur of golden hair and the scent of fruity shampoo.
    3 points
  11. Jason's response was a raised eyebrow - Autumn's text on 'Bannon Expressions for Dummies' would have categorised it as the equivalent of a 'hmm'. He looked from the petite exchange student to Devin, who shrugged. "New girl stepping up. Awright." the teleporter raised his bottle of water in a salute. "Let's see what you got." "Very well, then." Jason stepped aside to give Kat a clear view of the plough, then stepped with silent grace behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders. "My Shine will make it easier for you to affect machines or physical objects." he explained as Kat peered over her shoulder up at him, trying to repress a shiver of... well, it wasn't fear that was for certain. This close, she could smell the faint scent of rich tobacco and even fainter cologne, and though his touch was light on her shoulders her skin under his hands felt suddenly unaccountably warm. And then... His Shine poured into her, a powerful bright light focused through the prism of his will. It was clarity, crystalline clarity, and it's effect on the normally-chaotic mind of the young woman was electrifying. Courtney had calmed her with an active brush of her power - Jase's essence tuning to hers threw everything into sharp, clear focus as though her ADHD was never a thing. She was aware of his hands on her shoulders, his presence behind her, and the grass underfoot, and the plough in front of her... and none of it was overwhelming or distracting, everything processing normally as though Jason was grounding the scattered electricity of her thoughts. She bit her lip, taking a deep breath and blowing it out. Focus. It was hard, more complicated than anything she had tried with her gifts before. The rusty hunk of metal had many moving parts, and some were missing - rusted away, presumably. As Kat squinted at the machinery, she felt a faint pain in her head which she associated with the stretching of a muscle unused to such activity. Abruptly, she could see what needed to be done. The rust is oxidised metal. That can be de-oxidised. As the teens watched, the rusty splotches on the plough began to fade, shrinking as they transmuted back into shining sturdy metal. I need to find replacements for the internal mechanisms here and here... Fresh blades there and there... The towing bar is enough metal. And easy to replace. Yeah... The metal of the towing bar used to attach the plough to a tractor shrank, warped, ran like liquid before reforming into gleaming steel plough blades. Rivulets of liquid metal ran along and seeped inside the machine, taking shape under Kat's concentration. "Holy shit." Courtney laughed as, before everyone's eyes, the ravages of time were apparently reversed, as though Kat were winding back a clock. Tawny's eyes were wide, Cade was blinking as he looked from the plough to where Kat stood, Jason's hands on her shoulders, then back at the plough. Where once had stood something fit for the scrap-heap now sat a showroom-new eight-channel rotary plough - minus the towing bar, but still. "Impressive." Jason said quietly from behind Kat as she relaxed, sagging back against him for a moment. The effort had been greater than anything she had yet attempted, her head hurt a little, but despite that and her tiredness she was elated. It felt good to just lean back and take in what she had accomplished. A bona fide miracle. She grinned... and then recalled who she was leaning against. Oh. Yeah. Clearing her throat, she craned her head up and round to look up at him. He didn't look annoyed, which was a plus, but the feel of her back against his torso was enough to make the small French import blush a little as she straightened up. Jason's hands left her shoulders as she turned around, resisting the urge to step away - or closer. He gave her a small nod - of approval, or thanks, or some combination of the two? She wasn't too sure. "If I had some more metal to work with, I could reconstruct the tow bar too." she said, looking up at his eyes. "I'll take you up on that." he replied with a small grin that brought an answering smile to her lips. Suddenly greatly daring, she locked eyes with him and tried to 'speak' to him. She could 'feel' his mind's presence, just not what was going on in it, after all. So she spoke 'at' him rather than trying to connect. "I heard you deal weed. Can we talk about that later? And other stuff too, of course. But... yeah." His eyes narrowed a little, but he was still smiling as he nodded a silent response. "Cool" Kat said with a bright, slightly flirtatious grin, apparently answering his previous statement as, still feeling a little flushed, she stepped away and took a long drink of water. Whew.
    3 points
  12. The Keane Household. Thursday Evening. “So… I saw Nathan Crocker today, when I went to the bank.” Autumn, tucked comfortably into a corner of the sofa with two of their fosters- a two-year-old rust sable Shepherd named Dakota, and Lexi, an older female Pit with creamy white fur and tawny ears- glanced up from her phone at her mother’s non sequitur. Their two families had been friends for ages, since before either Autumn or Jacob were born… probably since before Dana herself was born. Just seeing the good-looking FWP Warden or his equally attractive son around town wasn’t unusual, in itself; Nathan himself had just paid her an unsettling visit the day before. No, what was strange was the way her mother had said it, as if she were leading up to something. “Oookaay?” the younger redhead replied, her tone a combination of acknowledgement and inquiry as she peered up at her mother. “That’s cool, I guess?” With a sigh, Dana leaned bodily against the doorway to the kitchen, regarding the young woman strangers often mistook for her younger sister. She could see so much of herself in her daughter- more than just the physical resemblance- but comparing what she remembered of her own teen years to what she could see of Autumn’s… Where was the sulking? Where was the grumbling about being stuck in the house, the restless flouncing about and complaining that she wanted to hang out with her friends? When she herself had been grounded as a teenager, she’d never missed an opportunity to bemoan the injustice of her exile, which in hindsight had probably not done her any favors. Autumn, though, was handling it with a surprising level of maturity; she didn’t seem so much indifferent as resigned, even straightening the garage without complaint. “It was ‘cool,’ yeah,” she replied finally, just as her daughter was about to go back to watching videos on TikTok. “He asked how we were doing since the hospital, I told him we were fine… We talked about Jacob a little bit-” The teen’s expectant expression soured almost instantly, the corner of her mouth turning down on one side in a look her mother knew Autumn had inherited from her grandfather. “-and he said he didn’t think you guys had any classes together this semester, is that right?” “Nah, we don’t,” came the flat, disinterested response. “Okaay. Well,” Dana hedged, “he also mentioned that Homecoming’s in a few weeks, and Jacob hadn’t said anything about having a date yet, so-” “I’m going by myself, it’s fine,” Autumn interrupted matter-of-factly. It wasn’t exactly the end of the world as far as she was concerned, not being invited to a dance by her ex, especially when things between them were super awkward. “That way I can eat all the snacks I want, dance to the songs I like, leave when I get bored, and nobody can complain.” Leaning her head against the back of the couch, she grinned a little at the older version of herself to soften the edge of her words. “Priorities, right?” The elder Keane blinked, a little taken aback by her daughter’s resolve, and her honesty. She was such a kid sometimes, and sometimes… With a twinge of regret, Dana smiled back. “Yeah. Priorities… Speaking of which!” She paused, marshalling her thoughts. "Autumn, I've been thinking about Tuesday - specifically about what I did and said on Tuesday. You understand that I was upset, right? And not really about the fight, so much, though it gives me the chills to think you might have been hurt: you were doing what you thought was right." Nodding, Autumn glanced down at the phone resting on her thigh as her smile faded, tilting it from side to side without really paying attention to the images on the screen. "Yeah... I mean, you were right though. I did get lucky, and it was probably kind of a dumb thing to do." "I was right in what I said with my Mom Hindsight at work, maybe." Dana smiled slightly at her daughter. "But... and this is not an endorsement as a mother, you understand... you were right in what you did. You helped a friend who was being assaulted with no thought to yourself. If I wasn't your mom, I'd have been cheering you on." She sighed. "I might have even done the same thing at your age. Maybe. So..." She took a breath. "Tonight is officially the last night you're grounded." She raised a hand forestallingly. "But you better not scare me like that again in the near future, Autumn Rae, or so help me..." That got her attention- not only the invocation of her middle name, which meant that her mother was being Really Serious right now, but that she was letting her off the hook early. "Wait," the younger redhead straightened, leaning forward as inquisitive blue eyes studied Dana's face with undisguised curiosity. "Seriously? So I don't have to stay home this weekend?" "No." Dana smiled at the sudden interest piqued in Autumn's gaze. "No, it's the last weekend of summer. I'm not such a monster I'd keep you indoors just because I got a scare." "Ugghhhhh," Autumn was up and off the couch before her mother could react, arms flung tight around Dana's ribs as the suddenly animated girl all but tackled her in a hug. "You're the best. Seriously. Literally the best. I thought you were gonna be mad at me until I was 40." "Ooof" Dana laughed, hugging her daughter tightly in turn. "My not-so-little girl. Ease up on my ribs, huh?" She kissed Autumn's forehead and rested her cheek against it. "You're growing up. I can't be mad at you for being you, or I'd never stop. Besides, who you are is pretty special to me, too." she said more soberly, stroking the red curls of her daughter's hair on the back of her head before withdrawing a little, smiling wryly. "So, what wild hijinks are you going to get up to, now that you're free?" "Wild hijinks?" she repeated dubiously, grinning in spite of herself. Oh my god, that was such a... mom thing to say. "I don't know, I was thinking maybe 'shenanigans,' instead," Autumn teased, eyes laughing as she twisted out of the way to avoid her mother's indignant swat, flinging herself back down on the couch to the surprise and dismay of the dogs who were watching with avid interest. "Seriously, no plans for anything crazy. No wild parties, or anything like that." "Well, good." Dana said with a fond smile. "Because your dad's coming back for Labor Day and I don't want to explain to him why you're in the sheriff's jail for some shenanigans gone awry." Assessing Autumn with a critical eye as she nodded her understanding, she paused for a moment. “Did you start doing something different to your hair?” “Oh, yeah,” came the somewhat distant reply; the mother-daughter bonding moment having passed, the younger of the two was back to scrolling through videos on her phone with one hand and idly petting a pair of drowsy dogs with the other as they settled back down. “Marissa showed me some stuff.” “Marissa…?” “Jauntsen. Remember, I spent the night there last Sunday?” “Wait, wait… That Marissa? The one who-” Dana spluttered incredulously. “Yeah. It’s fine now. Well,” Autumn amended, “mostly. She’s still kind of a bitch.” “Autumn Rae!” “Well,” she shrugged, somewhat chastened. “She is.” Almost as an afterthought, and without looking up from what she was doing, the young redhead added, “Oh, and if it’s cool with you, I was gonna head up to the campsite this weekend and get it cleaned up. It’s been a while, and I wanted to show it to a friend, see if they could help me a little. That okay?” “Autumn, you know I don’t care if you go up there, as long as I know where you are. You’ve been doing it since you were a little girl. I trust you.” She hesitated- It didn’t seem like she and Jacob were talking, but surely Marissa Jauntsen wasn’t the one going with her. That whole family was awful, and she doubted they’d do anything as unglamorous as camping. “But, you don’t normally take anyone with you. Who’s the friend?” “Mmm?” Autumn blinked, distracted, then looked up at her mother with wide, guileless eyes. “Oh. Jason Bannon.” There was a long, uncomfortable moment of silence in the living room, as Dr. Dana Keane reflected that perhaps she’d been a trifle hasty in lifting her daughter’s punishment early. “Oh,” was all she could say. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Friday Afternoon. Autumn had checked the weather a dozen times over the past few days, and according to the forecast, Labor Day weekend was supposed to be gorgeous, with clear skies during both the daylight and evening hours. It was perfect for camping- warm enough to splash around in the creek during the day if she wanted, and cool enough in the evening to sit by the fire. She had everything she needed: hammock, tent, blanket, pillow, insect repellent and first-aid kit, firestarter, sandals, dice, cards, towel, clothes, toiletries, hatchet, camp shovel, pocketknife, and a large, padlocked cooler… plus gas for the ATV. Except for the four-wheeler- a concession for whatever gear her guest might bring- it was exactly the same list she checked off every other time she’d gone. “Listen, just… Call me, okay? I’m just down the road.” “Mom,” Autumn sighed in exasperation as she organized everything in the front yard, taking stock of what she needed to tie down and where. “I know what you’re thinking, and seriously, it’s not like that. Look, he’s just helping me get everything cleaned up. He’s literally just a friend, okay? Not the future father of your grandchildren.” “Autumn!” The pretty vet’s face went as red as her daughter’s hair as she stormed down the steps from the porch. Laughing, Autumn ran to the other side of the four-wheeler to avoid the onslaught. “Mom, seriously, I’m kidding, I’m kidding!” she protested, still grinning as she fended off her mother’s swatting. “I’ll call you, I promise! If you wanna hang out for a little while, he’s probably getting his own stuff, and then he’s gotta come here first, y’know. Then you can yell at him, too.” Seeing the smile on her daughter’s lips, her enthusiasm for going back to a place that held so many memories of her grandfather, Dana relented, her embarrassed indignation fizzling away with the dim recollection of a child’s laughter. “Maybe I will,” she countered, smacking Autumn’s hip playfully with the back of her hand. After a moment, she added, more soberly, “I just… worry, you know?” I am too young for grandchildren, her expression read as she peered at her daughter. “Yeah,” the younger girl agreed quietly, sliding one arm around her mom’s waist for a quick hug. “I know.” “Now, c’mon. I’ll help you get everything strapped on before he gets here.” ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Dana Keane had a mental image of Jason Bannon that was based on the previous six years of the young recluse’s life, an impression shared by most adults in Shelly: shifty-eyed, perpetual boneless slouch, shady connections, spoke rarely and even then in a sullen murmur without meeting one’s eye - the sort of kid you worried about sending your child to the same school as. Whilst the dramatic changes in Jase over the summer had been noticed around school, word spread a little slower to the wider community not directly connected to the Shelly education system. So Dana was not really all that worried about Autumn potentially fooling around with such a boy - indeed, she was more worried that her daughter was hanging around ‘questionable’ persons: Marissa Jauntsen? Jason Bannon? And there had been that fight at school - also involving Jason Bannon - was her daughter falling in with a bad crowd? So when the soft growl of a muscle car caused both Keane ladies to look up from adjusting the load on the ATV, it was with a mixture of trepidation (Autumn) and puzzlement (Dana). To Autumn’s relief, Bannon didn’t bring the Charger roaring up the track, revving the engine in a cringey display of machismo - but then, she mused, she probably shouldn’t expect that sort of thing from him anyway. The low grumble of the V8 ceased as it drew up to one side of the track and came to a stop, and Jase got out. And Dana Keane felt a prickle of maternal unease. He was dressed as per normal in clothes a size too large - Army surplus combat pants and boots, with a plain white t-shirt under a grey hoodie. As the two women approached, he gave them a nod of acknowledgement and a faint smile as he hefted a large pack and a rolled up tent from the trunk of his car, then stepped forward to meet them. He seemed taller than Autumn’s mother remembered - or was that due to the fact he was standing upright? - and his previously hooded, shifty gaze was direct - unsettling in its calm appraisal of whatever or whoever it rested on. His dark hair was long enough to brush the lobes of his ears, and while it looked shaggy, it was a far cry from the ‘dragged through a hedge’ look he’d worn before, framing the brilliant pale green of his eyes in the outdoor-tan of his face. It looked as though in the space of the summer he’d grown from ‘teenaged boy’ to ‘young man’. Not that he didn’t wear it well - he wore it possibly too well for Dana’s comfort. “Just a friend?” Dana murmured out of the corner of her mouth. Autumn made a ‘shush’ noise out of the corner of her own as they came up to him. “Hey.” Jase said by way of greeting, giving Autumn a smile that reached his cold eyes, causing them to crinkle at the edges, then turning his attention to Dana. “You didn’t tell me your sister would be here.” he said with a faint accusatory air as his eyes flickered back to Autumn. Though his poker face was as good as ever, she could read the mischievous gleam of humor in his gaze as he continued, deadpan. “I’d have dressed up more, got a haircut, y’know?” Autumn groaned in disbelief, Dana blinked in surprise, and both women, almost in unison, turned the same shade of crimson. Ugh, the former sighed inwardly. Seriously? “Yeah, yeah,” the younger of the two grumbled, shaking her head. “We try to keep her hidden here, but tales of her beauty still spread far and wide across the land, and so on, and so forth, Mom- Jase, Jase, Dr. Dana Keane.” She paused, glaring daggers at him even as the corners of her lips twitched in suppressed laughter. “My mother,” she reiterated unnecessarily, pointedly leaning forward as if to warn off a rapacious predator from an appealing target. “Just Dana, will be fine,” the elder of the Keane ladies suggested, her hazel eyes simultaneously appraising and amused as she stepped forward. He was not at all what she’d expected, thus far, although it wasn’t entirely reassuring. Autumn got into a fight protecting this boy. “It’s nice to meet you. Autumn said you two were planning on heading up to the property to do a little clean-up and camp overnight.” She gave him a quick once-over, then smiled, extending her hand in greeting- a gesture the tall, strangely compelling young man was quick to reciprocate. As they shook hands, Dana took the opportunity (as all parents must) to embarrass her only child and get more information about the green-eyed interloper. “Do you do much camping, Jase? Or, do you prefer Jason? And, what about your girlfriend, mm? Does she mind that you’re going out into the woods alone with my daughter?” While Autumn went several shades of red and resisted the urge to step on her mom’s foot - hard - Jason didn’t even blink, holding Dana’s gaze with his own through the brief handshake. Even as she subjected him to a mixture of wary maternal and feminine scrutiny, the attractive veterinarian felt the weight of being studied in turn, a sensation her daughter was already uncomfortably familiar with when dealing with the Effing One. His manner wasn’t one of ease such as Jacob might have displayed, born from a lifetime of familiarity. It was utterly centered, composed, displaying no cues of either nervousness or eagerness to please, rather a distant watchful intensity that reminded the veterinarian of a half-wild creature deciding whether she was a friend or a threat. “Jase is fine, amongst friends.” he said with a touch of warmth, giving her a small nod as he let his fingers slide from hers. “I try to go camping at least a couple times a year, so when Autumn told me she knew a pretty spot she’d like to show me I said okay. And... I don’t have a girlfriend.” His lips twitched in a slight smile as Dana’s speculative gaze turned briefly to Autumn, who was currently experiencing the fervent red-faced feeling of wishing the earth would open up and swallow either her, her mom or Jase. Then he threw his blushing friend a lifeline. “Will the car be okay where I parked it?” he asked Dana, indicating the Charger. “I can move it if it’s in the way at all.” “So long as your dad doesn’t mind you leaving his vintage machine out in the elements overnight.” Dana replied, then indicated the two-car garage Autumn had just finished organizing the day before. “But why don’t you park it up in there?” “Mighty kind.” Jason smiled at that, both in response to the kindness and out of mild amusement. “The car is all mine, though. Spent the summer rebuilding her.” He added with a tiny note of pride in his tone as he set down his camping gear. “I’ll get her parked up if you’ll give me a moment.”
    3 points
  13. "Well, we've been in classes together and so on since I moved to Shelly." Jason replied calmly, dextrous fingers and sharp knife making swift work of the tomatoes. "Aware of each other, without really talking." Dana nodded, setting the olive oil on the counter. Jason tilted his head to one side. "Do you have any balsamic vinegar?" he asked casually, causing Dana to think a moment before nodding and retrieving that bottle from the cupboard too as her guest started in on the onions. Dana checked the oven temperature and lightly oiled the potatoes before setting them on a tray. "But we started talking last Friday." Jason went on. "Autumn bumped her head on a door - it swung back into her face, to be exact, and one of my friends noticed the tumble. She grabbed me, because I have a certain level of medical knowledge, and we went to check on Autumn." He glanced up at her, giving a faint smile. "She was fine other than a bruise. Fine enough that she was giving me a hard stare for walking into the girls bathroom and caring more that she didn't have a concussion. I got her some ice for the bruise, then we invited her to sit down with us." The corners of his eyes crinkled slightly as he started arranging neat slices of tomato and even thinner sliced onion in the dish. "Not the best of starts. I really got the impression she thought we were oddballs and that I was up to no good." "I probably would have assumed the same thing if someone I barely knew followed me into the women's restroom," Dana replied a trifle archly, narrowly suppressing a smile. That did sound like Autumn, all right, or at least her propensity for mishaps. "So," she continued, adding a little coarse salt and pepper to the potatoes as she leaned over to examine Jason's handiwork. "You started talking on Friday, last week." With a little hm and a nod of approval at his progress, she turned back to her own preparations. "And, from the sound of it, not necessarily under ideal circumstances. Thank you for looking after her, by the way." Hazel eyes flickered once more in his direction, considering his profile as he worked. There was something unusual about Jason Bannon, though she couldn't quite put her finger on it. He seemed too... mature, really. He didn't give off the impression of being a drug-running miscreant now that she was talking to him in person, but he didn't quite seem like a teenager, either- didn't conduct himself like one, or move with that awkward semi-conscious lack of spatial awareness most of them had, didn't use the same slang terminology. "So how did you two end up getting close enough since then for her to invite you up to the creek?" He made a soft sound of amusement - a proto-chuckle of sorts. "Well, she hung out with a bunch of us at my home on Sunday, and left without her hoodie. On Monday evening she came to get it back, and then stayed to talk." Satisfied with his arrangement of the layers of tomato and onion, he inquired after a bowl and whisk and began mixing some olive oil and balsamic in the bowl, before slowly whisking them together. "I... I was having a bad day. Personal issues. Autumn was able to get me to talk about them - indeed, she was the only one who cared to talk to me about them." He paused, eyes going distant as he recalled the night - her warm hug, the conversation in the kitchen, the teasing and laughter. "I think..." he said slowly. "I think Autumn is the only person who really, really tried - and tries - to understand me." The words were matter-of-factly spoken, but seemed to come from a place of vast distance, or so it seemed to Dana. There was no self-pity there, or sorrow, but there was a sense of alienation, of a young life lived in apart-ness. He looked up from grinding some salt and pepper into the bowl, his gaze direct as he regarded Dana. "Autumn made an impact on me. I think that's when we became friends." He dropped his gaze and considered the bowl of dressing, then raised it to his face and gave it a sniff, pondering for a second before adding a touch more pepper. "And the rest is her defending me at school, then inviting me camping. And... I suddenly realised - we both did, I think - what was there." He chuckled again. "Perhaps it didn't exist until that moment, like Schrödinger's Cat. Until we opened the box and looked." He shrugged his lean shoulders. "I'm not really an expert on this sort of thing. Autumn is the first girl that ever kissed me." Leaning back against the counter, arms folded across her chest, Dana Keane listened quietly as Jason related the very brief series of events that had led, more or less, to finding the pair of them on the front porch. It was gratifying, in a sense, to hear someone- a stranger to herself- praise her daughter's character, as if in confirmation that she'd been raised well by people who loved her. And yet, that same maternal inclination, some completely mundane and yet unfathomable instinct, told her that this polite, well-spoken young man might have no idea what that felt like. The thought didn't lessen her worry for her daughter, necessarily, but his account did reinforce Autumn's insistence that they really had just been friends. ...Which, given the rapid escalation of their relationship, was more than enough to justify a measure of concern. A responsible 16 year-old was still a 16 year-old, after all, with all the dubious judgement that entailed. "Really?" she asked when he'd finished, one auburn brow raised skeptically as a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. Her keen hazel eyes appraised his height, the faintly Mediterranean cast of his features, the pale green gaze Autumn had remarked on more than once. "I find that hard to believe. You're a nice-looking young man. Surely my daughter isn't the first one to think so." "I never claimed that." A fin of humour flashed in the depths of his eyes, echoed in another of those small but genuine smiles as he glanced back at Dana, meeting her gaze once more without any of the discomfort that should be present in a teenage boy talking about such a subject with an older woman. No blush, no self-deprecating aww-shucks shrug. It was both impressive and somewhat disturbing. "I've known there've been girls that took interest in me, at least according to sources other than my own perceptions. I've not had a lot of luck following up on that, though." Giving the dressing a final whisk, he artfully drizzled it over the dish of layered tomato and onion. "Like I said - Autumn's the first who actually kissed me. And honestly, the fact that it was her meant more than the fact it was a kiss." He picked up the dish and moved over to the refrigerator, opening the door and selected a spot on the shelf on which to place the salad. Closing the door, he turned and faced Dana from across the kitchen, the corners of his eyes crinkling in a micro-smile. "You worry for Autumn." he stated calmly, arms hanging at his sides with a relaxed poise that had nothing of the defensive or bashful about it. "It's good: seeing that love you hold, the way you care. I won't hurt her, Dana. I'm not careless with my friendship... or other feelings." "Can you really guarantee me that?" she replied, head tilted slightly in an attitude of intent curiosity. It was a largely rhetorical question, born of the older woman's objection to what she saw as his naïve optimism. Although Jason Bannon had the manner of an adult, the bearing of someone considerably more mature than his actual age would seem to indicate, he was, she reflected, still a boy, after all. "That you won't hurt her." Dana shook her head slowly as if in answer to her own question, but remained leaning comfortably against the counter. "No," she continued, not unkindly, but with the certainty of one accustomed to promises and the fickleness of both circumstance and human nature. "You can tell me that you'll try not to. You can reassure me that you won't do it intentionally." Her eyebrows drew together in a little frown, an expression of thoughtfulness her daughter unconsciously adopted when considering a problem. "But, eventually, you will. Even if you're not careless. Even if you don't mean to." She was quiet for a moment, glancing past Jason and toward the doorway where Autumn had vanished to go upstairs. "I do worry," Dana agreed, moving to gather up the utensils to be washed and glancing up at her daughter's strange new companion. "She's my child, my little girl, the hardest and the best thing that's ever happened to me. And I know that, even though she'll be my baby as long as she lives, she won't be a baby nearly that long. So, I'd rather you didn't tell me something unrealistic, like the fact that you won't hurt her. Tell me how you'll handle it when you do." He focused on the question, on her words, and his brow furrowed in concentration as he gave the matter his full attention. As Dana kept one eye on him, he paced a few short steps, hands going into the pockets of his sweat pants, then turned and paced back. Then he went motionless, as if all extraneous energy had been turned off and the actual Being of Jason Bannon was elsewhere, eyes staring unseeingly at the counter-top in front of him. He didn't even seem to breathe. And then motion and animus returned, and his head came up, eyes glancing towards Dana once more. "I think..." he said slowly, as if analysing his thoughts as they were verbalised. "That people often hurt each other. Even those close to them, though that seems to be mostly selfishness, mistake or carelessness. I can eliminate carelessness as a cause for Autumn's pain. I can do my utmost to limit selfishness as a cause. But I will make mistakes." He frowned. "You're right. It is not so much a question of whether I will hurt Autumn - probability indicates that even with the best of intentions, I could upset her." He turned to face Dana, nodding as the analysis reached its conclusion. "I think that if I hurt Autumn I would handle it by assessing how, by discussing it with her, and by not repeating the mistake." Dana stared at him for a long moment, warm hazel eyes nearly as wide as her daughter's as she struggled with the conflicting urges to simultaneously laugh and weep. Both teens had said they'd met at school, but she was half-convinced her intrepid daughter had unearthed this increasingly odd boy from a government research lab. ...Something with extraterrestrials or artificial intelligence, maybe, like the television shows the girls at the office watched. The more he spoke, the less he seemed like the slouching thug from the rumors, but that wasn't necessarily reason not to be concerned. "That is an answer," she allowed with a sigh, her expression a strange commingling of resignation and amusement. "Although at least now I know for sure you were serious about never having had a girlfriend before. Speaking of which." Reaching up into one of the cabinets overhead, the svelte redhead pulled down a coffee filter and busied herself measuring grounds from an airtight canister on the counter. "Autumn mentioned you had a few," she paused, the corner of her mouth curving into a wry half-smile. "Quirks. So what should I know about you, Jason Bannon?" "Quirks." He smiled faintly. "I suppose I do." He relaxed, leaning back against the counter on his butt and hands, a lean symmetrical form in repose. "It's always a little odd, to describe yourself to someone else, isn't it?" Dana shot him a warm smile as she heard the wry humor in his tone. "Hmm. Things you should know..." Jason mused, his eyes on his girlfriend's mom as she set the coffee machine up. "I have an acute sense of smell and taste - which is one reason I like to cook and garden - specifically flowers, but I dabble with other growing things as well, like a vegetable and herb patch I've started at home. I tend to be - as you likely noticed - analytical. A lot of nuanced human interaction goes over my head." he admitted with a shrug. "I don't lie." "Really?" Dana raised a brow as she started the coffee to drip and turned to regard him skeptically. He just nodded, a faint smile at the corners of his lips. "Really. Outright lies offend me. I'm perfectly capable of evasion, concealment, half-truths, misdirection and letting someone jump to the wrong conclusion, though." he said with a small grin. "But the thought of categorically stating an untruth revolts me." He shrugged again. "It's just the way I'm made, I suppose. If I say a thing is so, then to the best of my knowledge it is." "Huh. Good to know." Dana wasn't sure she believed it, but other than a wry amusement at how she was reacting, he didn't seem to be playing with her. "Anything else?" "I speak six languages not including English and plan to learn more, because I like languages." he stated with another of his expressive, lean shrugs. "I have perfect recall of every moment of my life, every experience, sight, sound, smell and touch - both good and bad. I've never taken a proper intelligence test, but I imagine I would score fairly high, based on my speed of information absorption and comprehension." He considered. "I think that covers things you should know." "For a narrow definition of 'should,' I suspect," his girlfriend's mother observed dryly, having missed neither the emphasis of the term by repetition nor Jason's candid assessment of truth-telling. "But for now, since this is the first time we're talking, and Autumn will probably shower as quickly as she can to limit my opportunities to either ask something embarrassing or tell you something embarrassing, I'll take it." He seemed sincere enough despite the incredible claims he was making, or at least confident enough in what he was saying that it passed for sincerity, and yet if he was telling the truth it made his involvement with her daughter seem all the more unusual. Neither their interests nor abilities seemed to intersect, she mused, removing a pair of mugs from the rack as the coffee burbled in the machine. And yet, at least one shared interest seemed patently obvious, she remembered, still feeling more than a little voyeuristic at having seen them interacting in the doorway. "I am curious, though." Glancing briefly at the lean, green-eyed youth as she passed, Dana pulled a small container of heavy cream from the refrigerator. "All of that sounds fascinating, and while I'm firmly and unwaveringly convinced that my daughter is essentially perfect... because she's mine," the pretty veterinarian added good-naturedly. "The two of you don't seem to have much in common. Where's the connection?" "I think we have more in common than some might suspect." Jason replied calmly, smiling a little at her. "As I said before, we bonded over a single long conversation, and I find her to be curious, brave and warm. She's restless rather than studious, but she seeks understanding. We both enjoy hiking, camping and outdoor activities, finding the same peace and sense of pitting ourselves against the elements in the pastime." He smiled a little wider at a memory. "Last night-" "Am I going to want to hear this?" Dana said half-seriously. Jason grinned then, actually grinned - a flash of humor that transformed his composed features for a moment, making him seem his age, before fading to a smile with the mirth still dancing in his jade gaze. "I'm not that forthcoming." he remarked somewhat impishly. "No. We were talking, and I mentioned something about quantum theory in passing, and she recalled myself and Sean talking about it on Sunday last week, so she asked what it was all about. So I explained about the current search for the Grand Unifying Theory, the gaps and holes in it, and some theories about what might fill those gaps." He shrugged. "She listened, she asked questions, she was curious. She's not narrow-minded, interested only in what her immediate experiences provide. And nor am I. There's a commonality that goes beyond mere learning." His smile softened, just a fraction of warmth touching the cool shade of his eyes. "I find her amazing." "Do you," Dana observed/inquired quietly, honey-colored eyes narrowing speculatively at the subtle shift in Jason's expression. Autumn and Jacob had grown up together, were fond of each other, had been thick as thieves before the break-up and the rift that grew between them- but the word "amazing" had never entered the conversation. Now, in the span of a few minutes, both her daughter and this strange, moderately unnerving newcomer had each used that specific term- totally independently- to describe the other. It was simultaneously sweet and unsettling, the thought that the tall, spare young man who'd put such a light in her daughter's eyes might himself possess a bit of that same spark... especially when it had flared into existence so suddenly. "How do you take your coffee?" she continued conversationally, considering the way he'd described Autumn, the tone and the phrasing he'd employed. Had he really only known her for a week? Could he actually have drawn such conclusions on the basis of… What had he called it? ...A single long conversation? Most teenage boys, she reflected ruefully, would have used rather different words to describe the athletic young woman. ...Then again, Jason Bannon was evidently not 'most teenage boys.' "In a mug, usually. If I'm really jonesing, I just snort the grounds." Jason said casually as he crouched down and fussed over Lexi, who had come up and was sat at his feet looking up imploringly for attention. Dana noticed how intent and deliberate he was, the long slender fingers gently scritching behind the pit's ears, then down the sides of her neck as Lexi panted happily even as the slender veterinarian let out a snort and a musical chuckle at Jason's comment. He glanced up from the dog and smiled, head tilting to one side and eyebrow raised in wry humor, and a few things clicked into place for Dana as to why Autumn was so into the youth - other than the obvious. He was intent on whatever was before him, utterly present in each moment, took emotional topics seriously rather than deflecting with jokes or embarrassment, and yet was possessed of a curious dry understated humor. His eyes were glacial and icy on first meeting, but as he opened up they took on a richer, warmer expression which was only rarely echoed in his features. When he looked at a person he really looked, and they either felt an uncomfortable sense of being stared at by a wolf... Or they felt like they were the focus of his entire universe. Whoa. "Black and plain is perfect." Jason said as Dana stared at him in that moment, causing the normally self-possessed woman to start slightly and then nod, turning away and letting out a breath. She still wasn't entirely happy with the speed at which Autumn and this young man had evidently fallen into each other - but she understood it a little - okay, a lot better. And this is when he's sixteen and on his first girlfriend. Saints preserve all good women when he 'grows up'. As she poured the coffee, she heard the sound of footfalls on the stairs as Autumn tried to walk - rather than run - back down and prevent the maternal inquisition from squeezing too many uncomfortable facts from her boyfriend. "Apparently, there was a study that said someone who drinks their coffee black is more likely to be a psychopath," Dana teased as the sound of bare feet on hardwood reached her ears, skipping down the last couple of steps to the accompaniment of clawed canine paws clicking on the bright maple floor. She was just handing Jason his mug as Autumn rounded the corner with her Shepherd escort, the young woman's damp red-gold curls loose around her shoulders and her fair skin still faintly pink from the heat of the shower. Nothing was said about the faint purplish smudge at the juncture of the girl's throat and shoulder, just visible over the neckline of her shirt; her mother merely sighed, peering sharply at her daughter's new boyfriend over the rim of her cup as she took a drink. It could be worse, she reminded herself, trying not to think of the rising teen pregnancy rate and finding precious little reassurance in the way Autumn's gaze was drawn by some unerring feminine instinct to her boyfriend's face. "We've got a little while, yet, before dinner," she stated pointedly, glancing at the timer on the oven. "You guys are welcome to watch some television in the living room, or we can play cards..." Her voice trailed off, and a gleam of mischief sparkled in the depths of her hazel eyes. "Ooorrrr, I can bring down your old photo album! You know, Jason, we've got the most adorable pictures of Autumn from when she-" "Mom, come on, not cool!" Autumn protested vehemently, sweeping past both of them to grab a mug from the rack. She'd changed into a pair of dark green running shorts and a slightly oversized t-shirt, which Dana would normally consider a perfectly modest outfit to wear around an interested teenage boy; a quick glance at Jason and the direction of his gaze, however, left her with the unsettling feeling that it might not matter what she wore. "Since you're our guest, Jason, do you have a preference?" her mother inquired, putting the cream away as Autumn finished up. He had indeed been studying Autumn's shape, barely hinted at under the t-shirt but then more clearly outlined by the running shorts and the smooth musculature of her legs as she leaned to grab the mug from the rack. As Dana spoke to him, however the heat faded from his gaze as it shifted back to the older woman, replaced with a faint smile that touched the corners of his eyes. "The photos sound intriguing-" "Ugh!" Autumn glared at him over her shoulder, the pink in her features now nothing to do with the shower. "No. No way. Not unless you bring yours to the table too." she added with a crinkle of her nose as she smiled, imagining a small, grave faced ragamuffin with too-large eyes. Then the redhead blinked, turning back to her coffee as she remembered that she had, as a matter of fact, seen a young Jason - merely ten years old and newly arrived in Shelly - trying to get his hands around a boy's throat with a coldly intent expression in his eyes... and then turn and sink his teeth bone-deep into a teacher's wrist when he'd been pulled off. Before that, he'd been the quiet, shy new kid, and even though afterwards he never so much as got into a scuffle, the memory had stayed with Autumn if only subconsciously, to be pulled up only by the innocent random thought of imagining him as a child. Perhaps it had even contributed to her dislike of him, which seemed likely. Odd, how a fleeting moment of shock and fear could only be undone years later by a seeming random tide of Fate causing the two of them to enter each other's orbits. It did make her wonder, though - had he ever truly been a child, as human beings understood the term? "That seems fair." Jason smiled a little wider at the loose collection of reddish curls as they tumbled down Autumn's back, glinting with pinpoints of golden fire in the light. He wanted to bury his face there, to inhale the scent of her: wanted it so badly it felt like the most gnawing of hungers. "I choose TV, then." Dana hmmed quietly as though in disappointment. "Ah, well. Come by sometime when she's not home and I'll show you," the older redhead smirked, patting Jase lightly on the shoulder as she passed, coffee mug in hand. Although she wasn't entirely comfortable leaving the two young paramours alone for more than a few minutes, she did at least trust her daughter enough to make good choices. ...Or, failing that, not catastrophic ones. Autumn dropped the spoon she'd used to stir her coffee into the sink, nose crinkling as she made a face at her mother's back. "Keep it up, Autumn Rae" the pretty vet called over her shoulder as she headed into the other room. "One day it'll freeze like that." Abashed, the animated young woman took a sip of her coffee, the rose of her cheeks deepening further. Then, with the petulance of a girl half her age, quickly stuck her tongue out and gave a good-humored huff. "I've never figured out how she does that," she grinned, extending her hand. "C'mon. If you don't sit with me you'll have to fight the dogs for a place. They're spoiled." ---------------------------------------------------------------------- The TV chattered and blared as the hero fought the villain, who was extruding a whip of living fire from his hand, the movements of both combatants choreographed to heighten the drama and tension and sense of mortal peril the protagonist was facing. Flips, kicks, somersaults and shouts filled the screen with noise and action. As shows went, Wu Assassins was pretty good, both teens had agreed as they’d settled in to watch some thirty minutes earlier. It was a shame, then, that currently the artistry and action on the screen was being ignored. It was Jason’s fault- at least, that was Autumn’s stance on the matter. He’d put an arm comfortably around her shoulders as they’d nestled together, and then idly toyed with the curls of her glory of red-gold hair, running his slender fingers through it gently to stroke her neck and shoulder, causing tingles of warmth to race through her nerves. So strongly did Autumn feel that it was her boyfriend’s fault that she, in fact, felt the need to tell him between kisses. “It’s your fault.” she murmured softly, her arms resting around his neck, lips grazing his ear before her teeth lightly nibbled at the lobe, gratified to feel his reaction in the sharp intake of breath as well as in another, more tangible fashion. “Nope.” his reply was likewise a murmur as he kissed the curve of Autumn’s neck where it met her shoulder. His hands were loosely tangled in her fall of red hair, the scent of which he breathed in. “You’re the one that moved. And now we’re missing the show.” Autumn grinned as she withdrew a little to look into his eyes. True enough, she had moved first, swinging a bare leg over him and straddling his thighs so she could properly give him her attention - and he could give her his. “You want to watch the show?” she asked with an arch of her brow. “Don’t put words in my mouth.” His eyes were heated, dark with passion even as he smiled slightly. “I was merely observing we were- mmph.” he finished softly as Autumn pressed her body and mouth to his, arms tightening around his neck as though to prevent even the remote possibility he would try to get away - which, to be honest, was so remote as to not be worth considering. “Oh, for heaven’s sake!” Dana wasn’t sure whether to laugh or scowl as she stepped into the lounge and saw the pair of them. At least he didn’t have his hands on her butt this time. Progress! The slender, pretty veterinarian thought wryly. Autumn made a sound that was half gasp, half giggle as she slid off her beau, trying to look contrite and failing miserably. She seemed lively, and happy, and it was good to see. Dana took a breath, counted to ten, then spoke again. “Okay. New rule, you two. None of-” she made a gesture indicating the pair of them and their misbehaviour “-that in the lounge, porch, dining room, kitchen or indeed anywhere in this house except the bedroom when I’m home. I’m not going to try and stop teenagers being teenagers, but I don’t want to walk into my own lounge and see it. Am I clear?” “Yes, mom.” Autumn nodded, somewhat soberly. Jason turned his gaze to Dana and nodded assent, or at least understanding, gravely. “Good! Now, dinner is a few minutes away, so both of you can come and help set the table.” She was unable to resist cracking a smirk, raising an eyebrow at them. “Take a moment to, ah, compose yourselves, and for God’s sake wash your hands first.”
    3 points
  14. Not a dragon, then, the thought sprang up unbidden, and a part of her was oddly disappointed in the inability of the universe to make what obviously would have been the superior choice. Although he'd responded in the same near-clinical fashion she was accustomed to, attributing no more emotional weight to any of the words than if he'd been reading from a grocery list, a few of them caught her attention anyway: hominid; designed; deliberately evolved. Sure, the rest sounded like a rough description of the inscrutable young man whose hands she was currently holding, but... "Okay, so..." Autumn's eyes narrowed slightly in concentration as she worked to process exactly what all of them, in combination, actually meant. "A close relative of humans, selectively bred to be... what...? Warriors, or something?" "Yes. Apparently, long ago two highly advanced beings wanted warriors with traits similar to human psychopaths, but capable of teamwork and in-group loyalty, faster maturation and capable of more rapid reproduction. According to the history I've been given they took some humans and changed them on the genetic level. I am, if this is true, genetically further away from Homo Sapiens than the Neanderthal Man." He regarded her with a faint twitch of wry amusement at the corner of his mouth. "Apparently still compatible, though." "Mmm," Autumn nodded, lips pursed and intent enough on the rest of what he'd said that- for once- she missed the innuendo entirely. He'd answered her next question before she'd asked it: Why? and also implied that even he wasn't entirely sure if he believed what Ms. Forster had told him during her visit. ...Which, in all honesty, was probably the only real response someone could have to that kind of bombshell, followed immediately by a demand for proof- something she herself had been considering since entering her grandfather’s study on Thursday. It wouldn't be hard to find out if he really was genetically different- there were tests for that- but that wasn't the biggest issue here. Jason Fucking Bannon didn't need her, of all people, to point that out, so for a moment the redhead put aside all the other questions his answer raised. "I'm a little bit- okay," she amended, a slightly abashed grin curving her lips, "a lot curious, but before I ask you a dozen less important questions about the hows and whys..." The earnest young woman took a step toward him, squeezing his hands gently as she peered up into his eyes. "How do you feel about what she told you?" "I won't lie- Heh." He chuckled, a short breath of quiet amusement. "Can't, really. Turns out that's another change hardwired into us. Anyway." He sighed, intently examining her face and expression, analysing her tone and, most of all, feeling the reassuring squeeze of her hands, a tactile cue that carried more weight to his perceptions than any other. "It is a lot to process." he said more quietly. "I had built a foundation of myself as different, but human. Now... I'm not human. But it doesn't tangibly change anything about my life." he went on, frowning a tiny amount. "It's momentous, but doesn't have much practical impact on what is going on in my life... or who I care about. Whether I'm called Jason Bannon, or Jason out of Catheen of the Ddraig by Gareth Bannon, I still feel the same. I'm still me." "Still a fixed star," she agreed, turning one of his hands over as she lifted it, pressing a quick kiss to his palm and tugging him onward before letting his fingers slide from hers as she walked. The woman who was his mother- or had been at one time- could have been lying. She could be trying to manipulate him for some reason- why come back now, after disappearing for years? And even if it was true... and she couldn't rule out the possibility, not with all the other varieties of crazy she'd seen and heard recently... how did it fit in with everything else? What were these people like, the other half of Jase's family? "So," she glanced back over her shoulder at him, then returned her attention to picking a path over the growing number of half-buried stones among the leaf litter underfoot. "Out of curiosity, why tell me?" "I trust you. I plan to tell everyone, eventually, but I wanted you to be one of the first to know because I value your perspective and your kindness." he watched her pick the path and followed close behind, his eyes now and then lingering on the movements of Autumn's hips, or the tumble of her hair down her back, or the way she placed her feet, that curious mixture of the carnal and the purely aesthetic sensibilities informing his perceptions. "And, given you agreed to date me... It seemed fair. I would have mentioned it last night - almost did, in fact - but there were other things happening and I'm just selfish enough I didn't want them to stop." He concluded without any sense of shame in his tone. "It was one reason I was pretty insistent about the condom thing - despite really, really not wanting to stop. Because if it's true, and if my mother wasn't just spinning a line, my people have... let's call them 'highly dominant genes'." Autumn didn't have to turn around for Jase to gauge her reaction; even as she felt the blood rising in her cheeks, a slow suffusion of bright pink crept up the back of her neck, clearly visible beneath the sway of her long, copper-red ponytail. "Oh," she replied quietly, swallowing hard as she remembered the "other things" that were happening at the time. "I mean, I'm glad you told me. Not just because of that," his girlfriend added quickly, "but it is, um, good to know. Assuming she wasn't lying, though, I am really curious what else she told you about them- about you, too, I guess." "Mentally we mature faster than humans. Physically too, only not quite as noticeably. At least for the males." He found it helped to analyse what he'd been told, speaking it aloud for another's benefit. "Female Teulu - that's what they call themselves - mature very fast. Usually at childbearing age around ten years old, and they will look sixteen to eighteen or so. Four sets of ovaries, and it's very common for female Teulu to give birth to twins. They're also fertile longer - menopause takes place no earlier than fifty years of age." He ducked a low, thin branch, meeting her eyes as she looked back to check on him. "Longer lived, too. Barring accidents, Teulu can live in good health past one hundred years." He frowned a touch, eyes tightening as he considered something. "Some have very, very limited Shine. And they live in a clan-based system with each clan competing with others for members and resources. Very social Darwinist, very pragmatic. Violence is common even within clans, though such violence is governed by a code of behaviour that places the good of the clan first. The aggression and dominance hardwired into us means that a leader must be smart, strong and ruthless as well as good for the clan as a whole. They don't seem to prize kindness, or gentleness, or mercy. Cunning, intelligence, strength, pragmatic ruthlessness, physical attractiveness and fertility are the virtues they hold highest. My mother..." he paused again. "She claims she's a throwback to their more human ancestors, at least mentally. She can feel fear, and remorse. It's why she ran away from them, and from me." "Fuck," the otherwise wholesome redhead swore softly, pausing as she turned back to regard Jason with a mixture of awe and curiosity. "You weren't kidding when you said that was a lot to process. Holy shit. I mean, I guess it makes sense, if you're creating a race or species or whatever that are designed to kill each other, they'd need to be able to reach adulthood and reproduce quickly, or they'll just wipe each other out in a generation or so. I wonder how many actually make it to a hundred, though, if they're always at war." As his longer strides made up the distance between them, she smiled in spite of herself, a hint of rose lingering beneath the pale amber of her freckles. "If those are the virtues they admire, then, these... Teulu," Autumn repeated the unfamiliar word as best she could. "I guess you're a good example, hm?" "Perhaps." he allowed, the corners of his eyes crinkling a little as a playful smile quirked at the corner of his mouth. Coming abreast of where she waited, he too stopped, turning towards her and stepping closer with a commingling of playful humor and warm hunger in his emerald gaze. "I appreciate some of the human qualities I've experienced." he said frankly as he reached up and gently traced the outline of her cheek with a fingertip as his other hand slid over her waist above her hip. "Though I'm flattered you think I'm a good example of physical attractiveness." "Must be the pheromones," Autumn teased, though even as she spoke the words there was a familiar tension in her abdomen, a half-conscious urge described in the slight upward tilt of her chin toward him. Her eyes lingered, briefly, on the faint curve of his lips as he smiled, her fingers trailing lightly down his sides, and then she sighed, the exhalation a little shaky as she fought the urge to press herself closer. "I do, though," she admitted, a fresh wave of crimson staining her features. "Enough that if I'm not careful, you'll be the only climbing I get done today." Her blushing admission, her touch, the way her face turned up towards his and, most of all, the reflection in her clear blue eyes of the same hunger he felt, were almost - almost - a match to dry tinder. Or more precisely, fresh firewood placed across well-banked embers. He leaned close, watching the way her eyes flickered to his mouth then back up. The clean scent of her hair, warm with exertion and the sun, was itself a test of his control. "Can I assume you're okay with this news, then? Assuming it's all true, I mean." he asked her softly. A touch of deviltry glinted in his eye as he teased, "It's still not too late to run." Leaning up on her tiptoes, she pressed a slow, deliberate kiss to the corner of his mouth, her lips lingering there for a moment before she drew back to regard him a little more seriously. "Assuming it's true, it doesn't change anything about you as a person. Just what I know about you. And since I like knowing more about you..." Her voice trailed off and she shrugged, smiling. "The running might be fun sometime, though." The clear blue of her eyes deepened, the note of playful challenge stirring shadows there as she gazed up at him. There was a sense that she was walking along a precipice, taunting a force with the inevitability of gravity, but it was almost impossible to resist going right up to the very edge. "If you don't mind losing, that is." His own gaze was equal parts answering challenge, mirth and desire as he gently touched his forehead to hers, looking deep into Autumn's eyes as she felt rather than heard his chuckle. "I'm sure that whether I win or lose, it will be fun." he murmured. "For both of us." He still felt the tingling from the press of her lips and, unable to resist, he answered the kiss she'd given him with a fleeting, urgent one of his own, letting the furnace door of his amoral Want for this girl to open, just for a searing white-hot second, before slamming it shut once more. Taking a breath to steady himself, Jason slowly straightened up. "I really wouldn't mind being the only climbing you do today, but I only have so much control over this urge. It's very new, and very raw, and not at all gentle." He smiled faintly at her. "It's like a flicker of warmth when you're near, while we talk, but when we touch it flares up like a wildfire." Nodding in mute understanding, Autumn took a half-step back, her fingertips catching fleetingly at the fabric of Jase's shirt. The heat his kiss had sparked in her core smouldered, glowing embers threatening to flare into sudden, scorching life even as she stood there. That this brief contact alone was enough to ignite her nerve endings so acutely, so intensely, and so consistently was both thrilling and dangerous; just as the day before, kissing the green-eyed devil before her made it extraordinarily difficult to think of anything but kissing him. It certainly wasn't helped by the fact that he was so adept at describing how he felt, what he wanted... With a little, involuntary shiver, she licked suddenly dry lips and exhaled. "I think..." Focus, Autumn. "I think, probably, that 'to be continued' is gonna need to be continued pretty soon. And that I also need a drink, and to not touch you for a few minutes, although that is not what I want to do. So... Yeah. I can empathize. A little, maybe." Wordlessly, he offered her a bottle of water from his pack, the outside of the bottle taking on a sheen of condensation as it's temperature went down from warm-ambient to fresh-from-the fridge. As she took it with a smile and nod of thanks, he drew out one for himself, likewise cooling it and taking a long drink. Without words, and definitely without touching, but with more than a few lingering glances at one another, the pair continued on their way. Privately, and with his usual wry humor even when it came to internal analysis, Jason mused that it wasn't just his pheromones that seemed to be 'just fine'. He knew it wasn't just naked instinct that drove him - he'd never felt such an impulse towards abandon with anyone else in his admittedly short life. There was something about Autumn: no single aspect of her, but rather that combination of facets which together evoked this response. Strong, yet undeniably feminine. Kind, yet tough when need arose. Curious, open, and brave. Or perhaps, his wry internal observer mused, he was overthinking it. Analysis had its place, but perhaps his attraction for her and hers for him could not be so simply rendered into a chemical formula. What he did know was that the other complexities and concerns of his life were not on his mind as he followed his girlfriend towards their destination. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Saturday Afternoon. They were weary, dirty and dusty from the climb, but carrying a sense of quiet elation for having made it to the lookout point Autumn had described and, sharing some trail bars, jerky and water, sitting with their feet dangling over the edge and just gazing out over Shelly. At some point during their rest-break, Autumn’s hand had found Jason’s - or perhaps his hand found hers - and the contented, quiet joy of the moment took on a more tangible texture and feel as they sat together. Eventually they had stood, stretched, then followed the path from the top of the cliff around and down and back to the campsite, balancing over a makeshift log bridge across the creek further down, then picking their way along another game trail. Autumn, used to such hikes and with that tireless energy that was one of her signature traits, noted that Jason, whilst obviously feeling the exertion, neither complained nor insisted on taking extraneous rest breaks, instead keeping the steady pace she set. Striking camp, they packed everything away, setting the site to rights and policing their trash before tying the bundles and packs to the ATV for the return journey. It was a weird contrast to yesterday for the redheaded girl - whereas before she had been acutely aware of Jason Effing Bannon murmuring that he would be sure to get a good grip and trying not to let her face catch fire as a result, this time she felt a thrilling, tightening sensation in her abdomen as his hands slid around her waist and he leaned against her back. For Jase, too, the trip and the manner of it took on differing context, his tactile awareness of Autumn’s body against his and the scent of her hair now shaded with carnal and emotional overtones that transformed a simple, pragmatic hanging on so as not to fall off into something almost sensual. Somehow, Autumn managed to get them back to the Keane home without either crashing the ATV or stopping along the way; a testament to her willpower, certainly. Bringing the four-wheeler to a stop under the lean-to shelter, the two teens dismounted and unpacked the bundles. Shouldering his own pack, Jase helped Autumn with the rest of the supplies, carrying the storage chest up to the porch and setting it down as she did likewise with the cooler. From inside came the sound of excited dogs, and Autumn sighed, stretching her back as she set down her burden and turned to the lean figure standing nearby. “Thanks.” she told him, nose crinkling as she smiled warmly and stepped closer. “For the help with the campsite. And… for a great time.” she added with a blush suffusing her freckled face as she looked up at him. “I really had fun.” “So did I.” he observed quietly, regarding her with a slight smile, his pale green eyes vivid against the dark of his hair and the tan of his features. “You made it so. We definitely have to do this again.” “Yeah.” she nodded, feeling tongue-tied as he, too, stepped closer to her. Almost of their own accord, her hands came up to drape over his shoulders, then slide to the back of his neck, feeling the trailing edges of his shaggy hair. A dim warning light blinked unheeded in the back of her head - informed by the fact her mom’s car was there in the drive and that meant she was probably around somewhere. But more important was the curve of her boyfriend’s mouth, and the feel of his body against hers as they each stepped into each other, lips meeting as the circuit completed and fire surged along their nerves. His hands slid around her and down to her jeans-clad backside, their firm pressure causing her to inhale sharply in the kiss and then press even closer against him, eyes closing as her hands tightened in his hair, unwilling to even give him the opportunity to draw back. Somewhere outside the throb of their heartbeats in their ears, both teens were aware of a door opening but ascribed no special meaning to it - until the sound of a female throat being cleared intruded on their pink haze. “Well! Hello there!” Dana Keane’s tone was bright, almost cheery as she was confronted with her daughter locked in what seemed an incredibly un-platonic clinch with Jason Bannon. “I was just coming to see if you kids needed any help with the camping gear. It looks like you have things well in hand, though!” she commented, eyes flicking down to where Jase’s hands currently were.
    3 points
  15. Sunrise did, indeed, come early. As the cloak of Night dissolved, her stygian velvet transmuted into the diaphanous lavender silks of Dawn, she extended golden fingers across the sky, reaching across rocky hillsides and pine forests toward a small clearing alongside a rushing stream and finding only a solitary young man preparing for the day ahead. Like the sun itself, he’d awakened easily and without fanfare, transitioning smoothly from sleep to full awareness without any of the attendant sluggishness or confusion typical of others his age. Stepping out into the early morning light, Jason Bannon rose from the low opening of his tent into a luxuriant, full-body stretch as he scanned the clearing, noting the lack of disturbance from nocturnal visitors as well as the reassuring crackle of the slow-burning fire nearby. As always, the temperature had dropped just after daybreak, but he was largely indifferent to such things, his bare feet silent on the cool earth and sparse grass as he padded across the clearing to gaze out across the water. There was no sign of activity from the neighboring tent, he noticed with some amusement as he passed, which meant he had some time yet to enjoy the simple pleasure of being alone in nature, free from the restrictions or demands of social convention. As the sun rose over the horizon, the rangy youth closed his eyes, savoring the suggestion of warmth on his face as a cool breeze wound across the hills, the sound of the stream in his ears and the crisp, clear air filling his lungs as he drew in a deep breath. The word that sprang to mind was “idyllic,” with all its connotation of transience and picturesque, natural simplicity. It was a simultaneously restful and invigorating experience, very different in tone from the trips he’d taken with Hank and his father and one he wouldn’t mind repeating on his own. A solo outing would be a good opportunity to explore and evaluate his skills, and Autumn had stated the previous day that he was welcome here. Though he surmised that she’d intended her words to mean he had permission to use the campsite even if she wasn’t present, it was usually more expedient to simply ask; perhaps he would do so, later. For now, there were matters of hygiene and biology which required his attention. Despite the absence of modern amenities, Jase had quickly determined that there was little real impediment to carrying out his normal routine. The wide-mouthed kettle Autumn had set aside the night before, ostensibly to make coffee when they woke, made a perfectly serviceable vessel for dipping into the brisk current of the creek; in applying a trivial measure of his pyrokinetic gift to heat the water contained therein, it occurred to him that he could probably be quite comfortable living this way if it ever became necessary to do so. The rote tasks of washing up, brushing his teeth, and shaving took on a subtly different character in the open air, surrounded by the morning chorus of birds, insects, and other creatures- there was no idle conversation, no unwelcome distraction, nothing extraneous or unnecessary. It was, as he had noted before, peaceful, for all the vibrancy and activity the place contained. He disposed of the soapy water some distance away from the stream itself, and refilled the container again to rinse the residue from his skin. The tranquil solitude, a welcome respite from the events of the week, lasted until the final vestiges of lilac and gold had all but faded from the sky. As he was pulling on his boots, a series of muffled curses and the agitated rustling of blankets from within Autumn’s tent ended with the bleary-eyed redhead stumbling into the clearing and emphatically asserting, despite all evidence to the contrary, “I’m awake, I’m awake.” Absently hitching up the waist of her pajama pants with one hand, she blinked at the tall young man who already looked as if he’d been up for hours. “Oh. Hey,” the semi-conscious girl murmured, smiling faintly as she raked her fingers through the disheveled curls that seemed almost to possess a will of their own. “Morning. Um…” There was a brief pause as she stretched and blinked again, and then gave talking one more try. “I’ll get coffee started, because I’m gonna need it, and then I’m… mm… gonna go get cleaned up.” She glanced over at the creek, considering- the water had been cool enough to be bracing, but not so much that it was uncomfortable. “Then breakfast. Sound good?” she inquired, turning blue eyes still clouded by sleep in his direction. It was curious, the wry internal observer that was (almost) always active noted, the myriad ways in which the emergence of Autumn from her tent affected him. Though he’d known she’d been in there, and indeed imagined her asleep with her glory of red-gold hair strewn around her face, the sight of her brought a faint smile to his lips - a smile of mild amusement at her dishevelled manner as well as a smile of simple pleasure at her presence. Also present was the faint surge in his blood at the sight of her as perfectly remembered kisses and caresses - indelibly associated with her presence - played out in the full-sensory theatre of his mind’s eye, accompanied by a distracting hunger for more of her that showed briefly in the gleam of the youth’s eyes. Autumn, still wrestling her brain into a full semblance of wakefulness though she was, nevertheless did not miss that look or its import, any more than a deer would mistake the gleam in the eye of a stalking lynx. Unlike the doe, however, she neither froze nor ran, but smiled with rose once more tinting her cheeks as the predator in question stood, stamping his feet down into his boots to settle them, then walked over to her. Jason leaned down, hands sliding with assured possessivity over her waist and hips and drawing her in for a quick kiss. “Sounds very good.” he murmured with a slight grin tugging at one edge of his mouth as he breathed in the scent of her, still warm from sleep. “Kettle’s filled up and ready to go. Want me to do anything while you’re getting washed up?” I have some ideas... “Mmhmm,” Autumn hummed almost immediately, still smiling up at him as she hooked her fingers through his belt loops, pulling him closer and leaning up on her tiptoes to steal back the kiss he’d taken. “We already agreed to wait, though, and I can’t think of anything else.” Her eyes widened as they met his, their clear blue depths even brighter against the deepening scarlet of her cheeks. “I mean, I can’t think of anything else for you to do,” she clarified, unable to suppress a slightly abashed grin. “Although- there’s eggs and cheese and stuff in the ice chest, and a skillet in the storage…” Her voice trailed off as she paused; this close, the fresh scent of Jase’s soap, or cologne, or aftershave, or whatever it was he’d used was nigh-intoxicating, sending delightful tingles cascading down her spine as her gaze trailed down to his chest. “...the storage, um…” Tucking an errant strand of hair behind her ear and exhaling, she tried again. Use your words, Autumn. “Sorry,” she admitted distractedly, trying to resist the urge to just press her face into his shirt and instead looking upward, focusing on the subtle quirk at the corner of his mouth. “You just- you smell really nice. But, yeah, anyway, storage container,” the flustered redhead finally managed. “If you’re hungry now, and don’t want to wait for me to finish.” “I’ll make you some breakfast too, while you’re getting cleaned up.” he stated in a low tone, plainly enjoying the effect he was having on her as he bent down and grazed his lips along her cheek to her ear, breathing in deeply, obviously enjoying the warm scent of her in turn before murmuring “We did agree to wait, but there’s plenty else I can think of to do…” in a tone that contained hunger and playful desire in equal measure that caused her abdomen to flutter and liquify. “Like hiking.” he finished as he straightened up once more, his expression deadpan except for the gleam in his eyes. “For instance.” Now that she was well and truly awake, Autumn could feel what seemed like every drop of blood in her body sweeping up into her face as a torrent of conflicting emotions- desire, disbelief, embarrassment, and mirth- all roiled through her simultaneously. He had to be messing with her... Had to be. It was hard to decide whether she wanted to kiss him, laugh, or call him a jerk- or maybe a combination of those. What was easy to work out was that she couldn’t just let such an obvious provocation go unanswered. “Hiking,” she repeated intently, slowly letting out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. This motherfucker. “Y’know, you are so right.” For all that she was blushing furiously, a faint smile slowly drew the corners of her mouth upward as she straightened visibly, releasing her hold on the waistband of his trousers. “Good call. I’ll get the coffee started, then.” Humming quietly as she turned and headed over to the firepit, Autumn swept up her designated fire-poking stick and repositioned two of the still-smoldering logs so that they were parallel to each other, not quite touching. Plunking the heavy kettle straight down on top of them, she busied herself with grabbing a couple of well-worn enamelled steel mugs, measuring the coffee out, and adding the aromatic grounds straight to the rapidly-warming water. “Just give that a little bit to really start boiling, like a serious, rolling boil, and then maybe…” The energetic redhead disappeared briefly inside her tent, reappearing a moment later with her towel. “Four minutes? Five? Depends on how strong you want it,” she added. “Pull it off the fire, give it another minute or two, pour a little cold water around the rim. Boom. Done. I should be out by then, but just in case.” She smiled over at him, her nose crinkling slightly as she turned and headed toward the creek. This. Mother. Fucker. So her completely, totally impossible boyfriend would never be flustered, Autumn reflected. So she’d never see him embarrassed, or probably anything less than composed. At least, she decided, he could still be “distracted.” “Be right back,” she called over her shoulder, the grin audible in her voice. “I don’t wanna make us late for hiking.” Without any further discussion or warning, his impulsive red-haired companion stripped off her t-shirt, tossing it aside as she walked away. A few steps later her blue-striped pajama bottoms followed, and then- nothing, because there was nothing else to remove. Just like that she walked down to the shoreline and draped her towel over a low-hanging branch, her bare skin bright as polished ivory in the morning sunlight, before wading into the bracing current of the stream and diving beneath the surface. It was exactly as cool as she’d remembered- refreshing, but not unpleasant. And, with luck, sufficient to put out the flames burning in her cheeks. He watched astonished at first, then with comprehension of the game as his girlfriend had shed her clothes and walked, naked as the woodland sprite he’d previously compared her to, away from him. On an impulse he followed silently at a short distance, watching her pick her way barefooted down to the creek, and as his eyes ran down her form Jason forever emblazoned the image of Autumn like that: a pale ivory flame crowned with elfin gold, the lithe strength of her limbs offset by the feminine curves of her body against waters lit by the risen sun, on his memory. He watched her dive into the water and turned, smiling, as he headed back to the fire. The temptation was strong to stay, to remove his own clothing and dive in after her, but he understood this game, enjoyed the exciting effect he had on her and she on him. A quote came to mind: “Hunger is good discipline.” He was hungry for her, as she was for him, and the playfulness felt right as they gently ran fingers over each other's nerve-endings to tease now and then. So he set about assuaging the other corporeal hunger, checking the storage container and finding various breakfast foodstuffs and the skillet. He kept an eye on the coffee pot as he fried bacon, now and then cocking an ear to hear the distant sounds of Autumn splashing in the creek. Tearing the sizzling bacon into pieces with his telekinesis, he set about preparing the other ingredients, humming quietly to himself as he worked. It was a simple pleasure, to work with his hands, but a profound one. He’d always enjoyed that tactile sense of connection to the world, a reminder that he was part of it and could enact upon it, whether that was turning raw ingredients into meals or restoring and rebuilding a classic muscle car. Perhaps that was as much the foundation of his particular manifestation of Shine as any other aspect of his character. When Autumn came padding up from the creek, barefoot and with a towel around her torso, she was greeted with the smells of coffee and cooking breakfast as Jason glanced up from his work. Green eyes glittered as he regarded her with a brief, intense gaze that did as much to shake off the lingering chill of the water as the campfire before he smiled softly and turned back to keep stirring the contents of the skillet. The flame-haired girl glanced around, noting that her t-shirt and pajama bottoms had been set neatly just inside the flap of her tent, before smiling to herself as she stepped in behind her crouching boyfriend and carefully folded her arms around his shoulders, making sure she didn’t interfere with what he was doing or push him into the fire as she leaned against him a little. Kissing his neck, she stayed like that for a moment or two longer, enjoying the warmth and scent of him, before disengaging and moving over to her tent to get dressed. She emerged a few minutes later, drying hair left loose, and smiled broadly as Jase set down a plate of scrambled eggs, mixed with bacon, tomato and cheese, piled neatly on her plate next to a couple of fire-toasted slices of bread. The coffee-kettle had been shifted off the logs, set on one of the broad, flat stones around the campfire and cold water added. “Mmm. I could get used to the service.” Autumn shot him a grin as she sat down, reaching for the enamelled mugs and preparing two cups of coffee. “Black, right? You know they say that’s a sure sign of a psychopath.” she teased, wrinkling her nose at him as she smiled. “I know. Sucks to be so stereotypical.” Jason deadpanned. “They do say that those who take their coffee black are more likely to be psychopaths… and that those who order a quad-shot, non-fat vanilla soy, extra foam with whipped cream and a caramel drizzle are most likely to be their victims.” “Hey, what’ve you got against whipped cream and caramel drizzle?” Autumn asked, laughter bubbling in her voice as she handed him his mug before taking her own and adding a little sugar. “That’s not coffee, that’s a dessert. There’s better uses for them than to put them on coffee.” he retorted, the edges of his eyes crinkling in amusement, sipping his drink before setting it aside and picking up his own plate of food. They ate in companionable quiet for a few minutes, enjoying the peaceful morning, the birdsong and sound of the creek, now and then catching one another’s eye and smiling. The horrors and dramas of the last week, the normal travails of teen life, and parents, and school, seemed very far away right now to both of them. Autumn, chewing thoughtfully, was mulling over how at-ease she felt around a young man whom, by every conventional wisdom, she should be steering a wide berth around. Who had gone, in the course of a week, from a boogeyman to a friend to someone she’d walk into danger for… and now to a boyfriend who made her blood sing with every kiss. Jason’s thoughts were more or less along similar lines, his constant self-analysis finding that the inclusion of this new facet of life was satisfying, pleasing - all the more so because there was no deception involved. Autumn knew who he was, what he could do and, he felt, understood him well enough that she knew she had little to fear. He could be himself - and she still liked him, was still attracted to him. He resolved that she should also know what he was, and probably soon. Last night just hadn’t seemed like the best time to bring up… well, aliens. Breakfast done, they cleaned up, put the fire out - a task made easier by the presence of someone who could just look at a fire and extinguish it - and after packing a few essentials and climbing gear, set out on their hike. They moved through the woods to start, following an old game trail Autumn had walked many times before. The last of summer’s warmth was still there in the kiss of the sun through the branches and leaves overhead, striking glints of light from Autumn’s hair and Jason’s eyes as they walked together side by side. Now and then Jason would stop and examine a particular flowering plant, or a fungus growing on a rotted log with brief casual interest before resuming, and at other times Autumn would stop and wordlessly point at a porcupine curled in the crook of a branch of a tree, or smile and nudge Jason to draw his gaze to a woodpecker clinging to the bark, drilling industriously for its food. Other times they spoke quietly - Jason’s enquiries prompting Autumn to talk about the Girl Scout activities she’d taken part in and the lessons her grandfather had imparted - a childhood learning to hunt, fish and shoot. “What, never?” Autumn sounded surprised, which she was as she glanced at Jason after his admission. “No.” he shrugged matter of factly. “Odd, I know. My father has guns, Hank has guns, and I’ve been to plenty of militia gatherings where I was surrounded by guns. But I’ve never handled one, or hunted.” “Never wanted to?” She asked, blue eyes studying him as they walked together. “I have, yes.” he nodded. “Hank always talked about once I was in Junior year teaching me to hunt and shoot… And I guess now that I’m getting training from him, guns will be part of that when he thinks I’m ready.” “Ready?” Autumn frowned. Most teen boys in rural Montana at least had some experience with hunting rifles. Jason’s face was calm as he shrugged once more, a surprisingly eloquent gesture on his lean frame. “I guess he’s treating me as a special case due to my - let's call it ‘lack of compunctions’. He’s teaching me discipline as much as combat skills. Restraint - to find the middle gears between doing nothing and going too far.” Glittering jade eyes turned to regard her as he smiled a little. “Mostly so far it consists of him painfully humiliating me to see if I can hold off from turning him into a frisbee.” “Yeah, but you held off from doing anything to those guys at school.” Autumn reminded him, her expression earnest. “And they weren’t just giving you a few bumps and bruises.” “True.” Jason replied. “But that was more to avoid being outed as having powers than because I genuinely didn’t want to hurt them.” “Doesn’t matter why you held back.” The redhead smiled at him. “Same with Dr. Cook - sure, you frightened the bejeezus out of him… and everyone else present… but you didn’t actually do anything other than manhandle him a bit.” She reached out and took his hand in hers without breaking stride, giving it a slight squeeze and smiling again as she felt his slender fingers return the clasp. “There’s worse people than you.” “Don’t let that get out.” came the dry reply, but Jason’s eyes crinkled slightly at the corners as he spoke. “It’ll ruin my image.” Remembering the conversation from the previous night, Autumn glanced at him from the corner of her eye as she tried valiantly to maintain a neutral, conversational tone. "Which image is that?" she asked impishly, sidestepping the crumbling remnants of a thick tree branch. "The unpleasant acerbic dickhead?" "Amongst other things." Jason replied with a faint, sharp grin that flashed long enough for her to notice then faded back into his habitual wry quarter-smile. He was quiet for a few minutes more, eyes glinting as they scanned the morning-lit woods, then said quietly "You remember I said my mother came to visit me." There was a brief hesitation, less a pause in her forward motion than a flicker, an eyeblink, as her pale fingers twitched where they entwined with his. She did remember, and remembered, too, how oddly cautious he'd sounded over the phone. "Yeah," his red-haired companion nodded. That he’d mentioned it at all suggested it was important, especially if he was bringing it up again. "Honestly, I wondered about that after you hung up. You said you thought maybe you understood her better... How did that go?" "It was civil." Looking up at the intricate patterns of the sunlight through the leaves and branches above he seemed pensive, and his thumb smoothed lightly over the backs of her fingers almost as though he were grounding himself in the Now rather than retreating from it. "She apologised, and explained herself. And, if she was telling the truth, she revealed something I am still coming to terms with." His eyes slid to regard her calmly and he drew them both to a stop, turning to face Autumn. "Can I confide in you? It's something that might be awkward, maybe? I'm not sure." His gaze studied her face, and the glimmer of the sun in her eyes and hair, as though storing them and this moment against what might come. She drew in a long breath, exhaling slowly as she focused on what Jason was actually saying, the almost imperceptible note of uncertainty in his voice, rather than the still-unfamiliar sensation of being so intently observed. This was the woman who'd abandoned him, left a small boy and his distraught father behind and simply disappeared once she knew what he was. What apology could inspire this kind of shift in his attitude? That's not the kind of betrayal you just move past, she considered, curiosity etching faint lines between her brows. Taking his other hand in hers, Autumn nodded again, meeting his gaze with a tiny smile. "I'm kind of a pro at awkward. And, besides, like I told you before. It's part of the rules that, as your friend, I have to listen if something's on your mind." His eyes met hers in that habitual, direct stare she associated with him, even though the context changed in small, profound ways when set against the events of yesterday, last night, and their currently intertwined fingers. "Well. It turns out I might not be a psychopath." He paused a heartbeat, then went on "In fact, if she was truthful, I'm not even human. Nor is she." Blinking up at him as morning sunlight filtered down through the canopy, catching the bronze in his hair alight and sparking the pale green of his eyes into captive emerald flame, Autumn had the sudden, mad thought that she could readily believe it. She searched his face for the telltale crinkling at the corners of Jase's eyes, the subtle twitch of his mouth that suggested he was teasing, but found no sign of either. "Oh," she replied. It would've been easy to make light of that seriousness, deflect some of the discomfort by joking that, really, it wasn't that surprising a revelation under the circumstances... But he wasn't being flippant, and regardless of how completely insane it sounded, she didn't think he'd just make it up, either. "So..." The blue-eyed young woman hesitated, unsure what the appropriate response to something like that was. "Um, so if you're not human, what are you?" His head tilted slightly, in that way that betokened some element of surprise or curiousity about a person's behaviour. She hadn't drawn back. She hadn't laughed, or scoffed as Devin had. It struck him again how resilient Autumn was - that stoic doggedness to see a thing through, then process it afterwards rather than freak out in the moment and try to combine said processing with the business at hand, a trait of some of his peers that frankly baffled him. “Apparently an offshoot hominid race designed and deliberately evolved for fearlessness, heightened intelligence and aggression, pragmatism, and similar traits that further survival and propagation." he said in answer to her question.
    3 points
  16. He’d sat up and watched as she moved around the clearing, noting how her bright hair and pale skin loaned the lithe girl a sylvan quality, as though the banality of the everyday could not cling to her, not here - not in her garden. He felt this moment embed itself prominently in his memories - her quiet laugh, the way the fire’s light played over the curves and lines of her body as she bent and swayed, moving around the camp and picking up their clothing: a wood-nymph gathering scattered flowers left in the wake of a tempest. He wondered how this moment, this experience would change him, or her for that matter. Would this excitement, this playful hunger that yet stirred and lingered in them both carry through into other aspects of their lives? Or would it only be the magic of this place? He hoped it was the former. He found it hard to envision himself not wanting, in a quiet moment, to pull Autumn into a shadowed corner and kiss her until both their nerves were lit up as though a time-lapse photograph of a city’s streets at night, seen from above, streaks of white and crimson light rendering individual sensation meaningless in the patterns of desire. She came back to sit next to him, proffering the bottle and glancing at him when he didn’t immediately take it, and was struck by the intent, predatory way he had, she realised, been watching her ever since she’d stood up. He was motionless, unaffectedly naked as he sat, one knee bent with an arm resting on it, half-turned towards her with his manhood resting quietly against his thigh, yet his gaze was sharp, unselfconscious and, in its own way, as naked as the rest of him. Naked enough to make her own mouth feel dry and for parts low down in her torso to catch and tighten as he reached out and took the bottle finally, with a nod. “Thank you.” he murmured, taking a long drink as she busied herself sorting their clothes, then handing her the bottle in turn. She traded him the towel, which he patted himself with as he watched her drink, admiring the sweep of her throat and the scattering of freckles across her breastbone, the way her firm, high breasts were capped with pale rose. He remembered the scent and taste of her skin, the way his tongue on her flesh had made her gasp as he looked at her, and when Autumn lowered the bottle and glanced back at him her sudden renewed blush and her downward glance made him realise his cock had stirred once more. “You better get these on first.” she said, an answering hunger springing up in her own expression as she thrust his combat pants at him. “And fast.” He smiled, taking the garment and slowly standing. “If I must.” he replied, lazily stretching in a way that Autumn was pretty sure was calculated. At least partly so, she decided, feeling her fingers twitch with the urge to reach out and touch- “You must.” She pulled on her t-shirt, leaving the bikini top aside for now, and was simultaneously relieved and disappointed when, by the time she’d gotten the shirt on and her hair extricated from it, the baggy Army surplus pants had been pulled on and fastened, Jase drawing the belt into place. That was better, she decided. At least for now. Half-naked was better than all-naked, when it came to boyfriends who were dangerous in all sorts of ways, not least of which to her self-control. Jase settled back down beside her, pulling on his own shirt over his head and relaxing, leaning back on his hands and watching the fire leap and flicker, its light playing over his features, immobile as they were in repose. His thoughts danced and leapt as much as the flames, trying to make sense of everything he had experienced. One thing was easy to make sense of - he now knew what it was to be desired, to have that desire communicated through touch and word and caress. And more properly he knew what it was to desire in a real, tangible way. No distant fantasy, or idealised construct of desire. No ethereal dream born of inexperienced longing and a vivid imagination. It was revelatory, and breathtaking, all the more so because there had been a point where he had chosen to give his control to someone else, to set aside the chains that were also his armor and simply experience the moment in a series of sensations and, yes, emotions. If he had not been without fear, would he even have been capable of that level of surrender? That was an interesting paradox, indeed. “Penny for your thoughts?” Autumn nudged up against him, her hand sliding up his back to tickle the shaggy hair at the nape of his neck. He turned slightly, looping an arm over and around her, drawing her close as they sat together, his green eyes regarding her still faintly-rosy features. “Mmm. I was congratulating myself.” he told her, a faint spark of mischief in his eyes. “I have excellent taste in girlfriends.” “Oh, do you, now? That... is a bold statement,” she countered with a grin, unable to resist the sudden urge to lean up for a kiss- a teasing, too-brief caress of her lips on his- before she settled companionably against his side again, still smiling as her arm slid down to his waist. “Got any evidence to back up that claim?” It hadn’t even been a few hours yet, after all, and although there was the definite sense he was teasing her (at least a little) she was also pleased enough at the suggestion that she wasn’t inclined to argue the point- instead just leaning against him as she watched the frenetic movement of the orange flames burning low, her fingertips absently straying under the hem of Jase’s t-shirt to drift over his skin as he sat quietly next to her. He smiled at the warm press of her lips, studying the glimmer of her hair in the dancing light of the fire. This closeness, this intimate contact was addictive, as though the emotional warmth of the girl snugged against his side was sunlight on the icy slopes of his mind. He wondered if that was how it was for normal people: if the shimmering heat of others were something that only existed in their presence, and without it all was cold. Probably not, or at least not to the same extent. Some warmth would linger between contact, between times spent in the presence of a lover. For him, though, there was only the memory of the connection without the comforting sense of its presence. "More of a feeling. Though admittedly the statistical sample is small at present, I think the bar has been set pretty high." He nuzzled his lips and nose against her coppery hair, breathing her in for a moment. "You make me feel warm in the cold places." The ticklish sensation of his breath in her hair elicited a grin, her nose crinkling slightly as she squirmed in response. There was that honesty again, the unfiltered opinion of someone who had no idea what it meant to be self-conscious, or how deeply affecting that level of forthrightness could be; gods help her if he ever figured it out, since she’d probably give everyone within ten feet heat stroke. “I mean, you make me feel warm in all the places, so I guess that’s fair?” she admitted with a laugh, unthinking- -And immediately went still as her brain caught up to the words she’d just uttered. Oh. Oh, god. I said that out loud, didn’t I? Hazarding a quick peek up at his face, Autumn groaned inwardly as Jason blinked slowly, starting to smile. "I do, hmm?" She could only nod, her hands coming up to cover her rapidly reddening face as a muffled sound of agreement escaped from between her fingers. It was true, of course, in more ways than one, but how was she supposed to tell him that without sounding like a crazy person? How could she possibly explain what she didn’t fully grasp the limits of herself? The simple glow of pleasure, of uncomplicated and earnest delight she took in his companionship. The tangible, reassuring warmth generated by his actual, physical presence next to her. The very real, but less obviously tactile heat that smouldered even now at the very core of her being, kindled into hungry flame and stoked by proximity alone. ...And something else, a whisper of feeling that wasn’t quite any of those things, but which- nameless and formless- subtly comprised them all, and more besides. The implicit acknowledgement of that “something else” in her response was somehow more jarring than the fact that it existed- as if it had been perfectly natural, and not at all crazy to be so intensely attracted to someone so quickly. The mortified girl looked away from the boy beside her, unable or unwilling to meet his eyes in that instant, certain somehow that the penetrating quality of his gaze would lay bare her thoughts. In accordance with her nature, she instead took refuge in activity, casting about for something productive to do and finding few options remaining after their earlier efforts at cleaning up. “So, I’m gonna, um... Yeah. I’ll go grab some more wood,” she managed haltingly, her cheeks blazing scarlet in the firelight. “Be right back.” What am I doing?! Autumn asked herself, sighing as she got to her feet and set about the simple, blessedly uncomplicated task of making sure the fire would last the night. Why do I feel like this? I mean, we barely know each other but it feels... right. Like, scary-right. It took a few moments of searching to find a couple of logs of reasonable size and condition to keep the fire going, which, thankfully, gave the cooler evening breeze an opportunity to steal some of the heat from her face, and gave Autumn herself a chance to find a way to change the subject. “So, um, any ideas on what you’d like to do in the morning? Maybe a hike or something after breakfast?” she tentatively called over her shoulder, trying not to imagine Jase watching her with that not-quite-a-smirk that was somehow worse than an actual one. There was a brief pause before she added, more defiantly, “And for the record, Hmmm is still not an acceptable answer.” “A hike sounds good.” Jason said calmly, leaning back on his hands and watching his red-faced girlfriend recover her composure somewhat, his pale eyes watchful, studying her. He didn’t quite understand why she’d been embarrassed - to him, such unfiltered truth spoken straight from her heart seemed the height of charming, but he had observed people enough to know that they often felt vulnerable revealing themselves so nakedly. There was still that aspect of separateness, though. For him, vulnerability was a pragmatic, physical, tangible thing. To confide in the wrong person was to risk ostracisation, even institutionalisation: to complicate his life unnecessarily. Autumn’s embarrassment could not come from that practical consideration, surely? He wasn’t going to hurt her, or cast her aside for having genuine warm feeling for him- Was that it, perhaps? Did she think that by entrusting such feelings to him, by allowing herself to experience them, that she risked harm - emotional or otherwise? She wouldn’t be the first girl he knew to believe that - Marissa for instance, who had settled on Cade as a boyfriend because she needed to feel safe and in control. Emotionally safe and in control, as if by following her natural feelings she left herself vulnerable. Autumn obviously felt similarly - though she wasn’t preventing herself from following her desires, it still made her feel vulnerable to voice them. “Cool. We can take some climbing gear - if the weather holds there’s a nice rock face to go up where you can get a view over Shelly.” Autumn came back with a couple of suitably dry chunks of firewood in hand, setting one on the fire and the other next to it for later. As the flames licked up, she settled back down next to Jase, who shifted a little to face her, his manner serious as he reached out and took her hands in his, looking into her eyes. “Thank you.” he said quietly. “For letting me know how I make you feel. I can see it made you uncomfortable - and I’m curious why.” His pale jade eyes searched her ocean-tinted ones, searched her face for answers. “Is it me? Do I make you feel uncomfortable voicing such things?” he asked without nervousness or accusation, his head tilting slightly. “Because if you’re worried about what I think about it - I find it totally charming that you speak your mind and heart so fearlessly. And while I might find your blushes amusing, I don’t find your feelings for me funny at all.” His voice was quiet as his lips curved in a smile. “They’re… something I treasure.” "No!" Autumn replied quickly, vehemently, gazing up at him through wide eyes bright with firelight and emotion. "No, it doesn't- I mean, you don't make me uncomfortable. It’s not you. It's..." She pressed her lips together, holding her breath for a long moment before exhaling slowly to settle her nerves. Her voice was a little softer when she began again, the slow interweaving of her fingers through his lending her words the intimacy of a confession. "Honestly, the fact that you do say things like that makes me really happy. Because I feel like you're not just doing it to please me, or because you think you're supposed to, you know? People just say things all the time and don't mean them, either because they think that's what the other person wants to hear, or because it's…” Autumn shook her head, frowning slightly. “I don't know, convenient. Look, I just... I realized there were several different ways to take what I said, and that all of them were true, and I didn't want you to think I was weird or something since we were barely on speaking terms a week ago, and now all of a sudden I don't want to stop kissing you, and it’s kind of a lot, and I’m not totally sure what to do with that." Her eyes moved over his face, hope and nervousness and not a little fear churning in rough currents in their depths as the torrent of thoughts and words slowed, and finally stilled. "Did any of that make sense?" For a moment he was silent, his face expressionless in repose as his eyes took her in. In contact as they were, it was easy for her to feel his energy, to again get the experience of standing on a frozen lake with something massive, alien and primordial moving deep below her feet. Only… It wasn’t so unknowable, now. She’d felt the outlines of it, felt the cold waters grow warm as it drew nearer to the surface, felt the crust of ice displaced by its heated presence when they kissed. Familiarity helped allay terror, but there was still the healthy fear - not of what he would do, but that she wasn’t sure where the limits of what he was capable of doing lay. His code defined that, of course… But she wasn’t even sure of the details of that. What she was sure of was that he was unaffected, honest - if not always forthcoming - and was into her in a way she’d not experienced before, with no reservations or uncertainty about what he wanted. For Jason, it was a moment filled with analysis. He caught the warm waves of restless emotionality in Autumn’s Shine, felt them lapping against him as she spoke. He dimly wished, in that moment, that he could feel something more nuanced than physical desire, or intellectual regard for a person’s qualities. Some sense of natural justice told him Autumn deserved that rich warm complexity in turn… But then, she had also said that he was making her happy. That was strangely pleasing, perhaps because it was so unusual. His father had said he was proud of him before. Sean had said he liked him, or he made him laugh. No-one had ever said ‘You make me happy’ to him before. For that matter, he wasn’t even sure what happiness really was. Like sadness, it was largely outside his experience - the closest he came was contentment, or satisfaction, or mirth - but in his reading and studying of the human condition he had come across descriptions of the emotion. This warm sensation tickling the edges of his consciousness, making him feel at peace when he looked into Autumn’s eyes - the aforementioned warmth in the cold places… Happiness? Or perhaps as close as he could manage to come to it… But some of that wasn’t entirely true, was it. He had felt more than physical sensation under her touch, and now as he looked into her eyes. He wasn’t sure what it was, but ‘warm in the cold places’ was as accurate as any descriptor he could conjure. He considered, without fear of the prospect, that he would miss Autumn if she disappeared, or didn’t want to see him anymore, and the thought was a curious one that he turned over and over in his head. The intensity of sensation she had evoked was a reflection of the intensity of feeling she had stirred, he realised with a sudden cool rush of wonder. Perhaps, were he capable of fear, he would relate to her nervousness. Because it was a lot, this thing that flared and coiled between them. Finally he lifted her hands to his lips and kissed each of them gently, his eyes on hers. “It makes sense, now. Thank you for explaining it.” he said quietly, leaning forward and gently planting a kiss at the corner of her mouth, letting it linger there a moment before pulling back. “I’m not really the best judge of whether someone is weird or not, but I certainly don’t think this - what is between us - is a bad thing. It feels very natural. And-” he smiled a little, one corner of his mouth quirking upwards. “- I’m glad I’m not the only one that wants to spend all their time kissing the other.” He was feeling that urge right now, and gently pushed it to one side, though not without a small struggle as his eyes strayed to her lips for a second, his aesthetic sensibilities remarking how red they seemed after all the kissing they had already endured, and how delightful the curve of them was. “It’s dangerously distracting, this feeling. Especially when we should probably be getting some rest before we go for that hike tomorrow.” he remarked, making no move to let go of her hands or to stand up. “Mmhmm,” Autumn agreed without particular enthusiasm; tomorrow was the last thing on her mind, with the lingering sensation of his kiss and the rich gold-green of his eyes occupying her thoughts in a way that made the phrase ‘dangerously distracting’ seem somehow inadequate. “We probably should.” I mean, yeah, she conceded, he’s right. I don’t even know what time it is, and we should probably get an early start if we’re gonna go out far enough for climbing in the morning. It was likely getting late, and sunrise would come early, but… But he’d listened. But he’d called her ‘beautiful.’ But they were in front of a warm fire, under an open sky filled with more stars than the beaches and deserts had grains of sand, in a place she loved. “But I’m not really tired,” she added quietly, shifting closer on the blanket as she took Jason’s hands- still clasped in her own- and slowly draped his arms around her waist. “And… I’m not ready for it to be tomorrow just yet.” The admission was accompanied by a smile as she tilted her face up toward him, bright lashes framing the wide, clear eyes that met his with a mixture of anticipation and desire. His ardent girlfriend was struck again, in such dangerously close proximity, by the sense that she could almost willingly drown in the primordial flames contained there, the heat of which even now warmed her face and wound languidly through her veins. That wouldn’t be so terrible, would it, to be consumed in emerald fire, dissolved utterly by brilliant copper sparks? Even if Jase did tease her, or enjoy making her blush, he was also careful to give serious consideration to her questions, and even if he couldn’t really understand her feelings in an intuitive sense, he apparently appreciated that she expressed them. He was interested, intent and engaged in a way that Jacob hadn’t been, in a way that made her stomach tense and her mouth go dry with just a look; that alone was almost worth the immolation of Self, wasn’t it? She could feel the faint whisper of his breath this close, smell the lingering echoes of the vaguely herbal scent that rose from his fire-warmed skin and reminded her, distantly, of that glorious garden he tended so carefully. Untangling her fingers from his, Autumn’s hands slid up her lover’s arms and into his hair, weaving gently through its shaggy length as she tried to fix an image of this moment in her mind: the way the firelight rendered his features into those of some ageless bronze sculpture from antiquity, the glimmer of his eyes, and the faint curvature of his mouth, which she admired with an interest that was in no way academic. “So,” she added a moment later, still smiling through the rush of warmth suffusing her skin as she met his gaze once more. “Can I have you for a little while longer?” It was an earnest plea, mingled with playfulness and the warm energy that would forever be synonymous with ‘Autumn’ in his mind. Jason examined her soberly, letting his gaze roam her freckled features, not for the first time noting the fetching hue of deepening rose tinting her skin as he did so. Once more, he was struck by how direct and yet tender her expression of desire was - the way she told it in the depths of her sea-shaded eyes, the upward tilt of her face towards him, the warm sweetness of her breath and how she shifted her body just so to fit more perfectly within his arms, which tightened a little around her waist as he drew her closer. “I think” he said softly, not smiling as he gazed into her eyes. “That you will always have a part of me. Like a room in a house where you can step into it and know that it belongs to another.” “Well,” Autumn replied, her fingers absently moving through the tousled strands of Jase’s hair as she returned the gaze with a faint, soft smile, eyes wide and wondering as they met his. “If there is a room like that, I hope you’ll help me fill it up with lots of fun, interesting things, so it’s never empty or dark.” It was true, too. Jason was too open, too intently sincere for her to seek to deflect the unfamiliar emotions his words engendered with flippancy. She found that she couldn’t do that: not at this moment, not to him. The answer to that was a kiss which deepened and lengthened, their mouths slightly opening against each other’s. Not as urgent and needy as before, each taking their time, but echoes of the passion of earlier were there like glowing embers, lending a searing intense quality to even this tender moment despite the pair being mindful not to fan those embers back to full roaring flame. The kiss broke, Jason leaning his forehead against Autumn’s much as he had less than a week and more than a lifetime ago after she’d hugged him. How different things seemed right now, though. This closeness meant something, did it not? His awareness of her, the way her scent tickled his nervous system, the way her warmth permeated him… It gave a richness to everything, from the firelight to the sounds of the night creatures. He’d meant what he said, of course. He knew that, if by the tides of existence he and Autumn were to part ways, he would register the lack of her in his life. He would measure future lovers by the experience that was her - from her simple emotional honesty to her warmth, loyalty and courage to the way her kisses made his blood leap like the tides under the moon. It was so unlike the fascination he’d felt for Marissa that he wondered if the feelings were even akin. “I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then? But sucked on country pleasures, childishly? Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den? ’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be. If ever any beauty I did see, Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.” The words were softly spoken, unhurried in their cadence, the murmur of Jason’s voice as he recited the verse hypnotic as it blended with the fire’s crackle and the distant whirring of crickets. Autumn’s eyes were wide, and liquid with emotions he still wasn’t confident of fathoming, but the smile curving her lips was more reassuring. “John Donne. ‘The Good-Morrow’” Jason said by way of explanation. Autumn let her fingertips glide down from his hair to his cheeks, then clasped her hands behind his neck and kissed him briefly. “Is there more of it?” she breathed, smiling as he nodded and, turning her head to one side, nestled closer, her red curls against his chin, her ear to his chest, feeling as much as hearing his voice as he continued. “And now good-morrow to our waking souls, Which watch not one another out of fear; For love, all love of other sights controls, And makes one little room an everywhere. Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone, Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown, Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.” “My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears, And true plain hearts do in the faces rest; Where can we find two better hemispheres, Without sharp north, without declining west? Whatever dies, was not mixed equally; If our two loves be one, or, thou and I Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.” Her face hot with her blushes, Autumn was nonetheless grinning as Jason finished. Her fingers lightly grasping the hair at the back of his head, she tilted her face up once more and pulled his face down to hers for a sound kiss which deepened and lengthened, sighing her contentment and desire into his mouth as the two of them lay back together on the blanket. The sparks from the fire whirling up into the velvet of the night sky, the sounds of the creek and the chorus of night birds, all went unheeded as the pair focused all attention on each other. And though their clothing stayed on, neither of them slept for quite a while as they lay together, entwined and murmuring to one another between kisses, until well into the night.
    3 points
  17. And, just like that, with no more than a look and the brush of his lips against her hand, Autumn forgot how to breathe all over again, her lower abdomen tightening with the force of her reaction in an aftershock, an echo of the cataclysmic pleasure she’d just endured. It lasted only for a moment, but she had a vague sense that it wouldn’t be the last time he would evoke such a reaction from her with such seemingly inconsequential acts. ...God, I am so, so not surviving until Homecoming, she mused, uncertain in that moment whether she would even be lucky enough to survive the night. As his doomed companion watched the tiny, fractional changes at the corners of Jase’s eyes, the near-imperceptible movement of his lashes, the subtle curve of his mouth, she was again struck by the need to break through that composed veneer, to see beneath the surface, to find out if he felt- or could feel- that same sense of connection that had made the whole experience feel so much more real, more intense, more… everything, really, than just a make-out session in the woods. What did this mean to him, though? Was it just an intellectual exercise for him, or maybe just carnal sensation, the sating of physical appetite? She was keenly aware of her need for this to be meaningful to him, too, to reach within the armor of the impenetrable, impossible boy, to touch his essential Self as he had touched hers. Her natural curiosity once more winning out over trepidation, the clear blue of Autumn’s gaze swept slowly over his face in a phantom caress as the backs of her fingers trailed from her lover’s cheek to follow the curve of his throat. It was an unhurried, languorous pursuit, tracing meandering arcs- now with her fingertips, now the blunt edge of her nails- that swirled down over his collarbone and along his ribs, the broad spirals drifting gradually lower and her smile widening incrementally with each sharp inhalation or flutter of his eyelids. Not so impervious after all, she realized, with a growing sense of triumph and her own power - she was doing this, coaxing reactions from his body that, for all Jason’s icy control, he could not suppress. The undisguised delight she felt at every reaction, however miniscule, was evident in the rapt intensity of her expression, the suffusion of warm color beneath her skin; whatever hint of pleasure she perceived in his responses was reflected in her features as she gazed up at him. She could practically feel the heat radiating from his bare torso, could almost chart the currents of his desire in the rise and fall of his chest as the shallow, rapid pace of his breathing mirrored her own, but it was the undeniable proof of Jase’s arousal, insistent and unyielding against her hip, that caused a tremor deep in her core which vibrated, ever so slightly, in the caress of her hand on the smooth skin of his stomach. Resisting the urge to glance down was an exercise in resolve, one she overcame only by the narrowest of margins, and only then by reminding herself that she had definitely already seen him naked, and this was totally no big deal. ...Okay, she admitted as her focus wavered momentarily to the feeling of his body pressed against her, maybe not entirely accurate, but still! Inhaling to steady her nerves and realign her thoughts, Autumn concentrated instead on the play of the firelight over his face, the warm texture of his skin, the faint vibration beneath the curious brush of her fingertips- more teasing than tentative as they roved inexorably toward the fly of his trousers. Intent on her features as she watched him, Jason could see himself reflected in the wide, ocean-dark pools of her eyes, could almost have tracked the movement of her hand by the changes in her expression alone. The rich color of her cheeks deepened by degrees, and he felt the gentle tug as she gingerly unfastened the button her questing fingers encountered, heard clearly the hitch in her breath and the soft sigh of her exhalation over the sound of each individual metal tooth parting as she drew the zipper downward. Jason’s heart had sped up a little throughout their intimacy thus far, maintaining a pulse that felt like a steady drum in his chest even as the delicious drawn-out tension of her slowly-moving fingers caused his breath to quicken and catch very slightly. Their eyes locked on one another, Jason felt a thrill he’d rarely experienced, a sensation he classified as a reaction to… not danger, exactly, but vulnerability. To Autumn, in this moment, he was vulnerable - not in the sense of physical harm, but in the sense that she could sway his reactions, dictate the pace of his heart and the quickness of his breath, strum his nerves as he had played on her own mere moments ago. And yet at the same time, looking into the depths of her naked soul - or so it seemed - she was utterly vulnerable to him as well. The sigh that contained a hint of expectant need, the way her teeth indented her lower lip and the red suffusing her features deepened even as she was the actor, rather than the acted-upon… Or was she? Was it that clear-cut? Jason doubted it. This was all so new to him that he wasn’t precisely sure where his sense of himself ended and his sense of Autumn began. Still lingering was the unfamiliar sense of savage possessive tenderness that had surged as she had tensed, arched and cried out in his arms. He had been acting upon her, for certain, and yet in her vulnerable surrender to his touch she had also acted upon him. This then, he realised with a flash of insight, was what it meant to connect, to be connected to another person, at least as closely as he could approximate the condition, and the realisation caused his eyes to widen and his breathing to stop altogether for a moment as he gazed down into the wells of emotional warmth that were Autumn’s eyes. “Are you okay?” she murmured softly, her hand stilling its tugging on his zipper as she caught the sudden change in the texture of his reactions. She could feel him there past the fabric and the metal of the fly, a tantalising solidity, and yet she paused, her other hand gently stroking the hair over his ears, her touch gentle and warm in a way that was not merely physical. That warmth- her warmth. The vibrancy that had drawn him to her. It entered him through that connection, radiant as the campfire that illuminated both the entwined lovers, and it warmed him in places that were habitually cold. Her touch, whether as a function of her Shine or simply the more mundane but no less wondrous alchemical properties of tender female contact, carried the same warm properties as her gaze. The moment of shock passed, but the warmth did not, and he smiled in answer to the question, the hungry flame coming back into his eyes redoubled. “I was just thinking… no, feeling that I am very okay.” he told the pretty redhead as he lowered his lips to hers. The kiss was a brush, at first, then a slightly firmer press as he let his own fire well up from inside, his mouth opening against hers, feeling hers open against his, their tongues gently teasing each other as he set aside the last of his tightly-held reserve, allowed the vulnerability of his own need and desire to manifest, his breath catching as he felt that utterly amoral and primitive urge set his mind ablaze. The last vestiges of his icy analysis melting away, Jason was left aware only of the feel of her in his arms, her skin on his skin, the contrast of soft breast and hard nipple pressed to his chest, Autumn’s hand pressing insistently against him through the material of trousers that were an irritating barrier. A faint growl in the back of his throat carried into the kiss as the hand that had been stroking the glorious tumble of Autumn’s hair slid around to the nape of her neck, slender fingers weaving into the base of her hair there and tightening into a gentle fist, anchoring her so he could possessively, even roughly claim her mouth with his, his heartbeat rising to a thunder in his ears. For the briefest of moments- the fleeting instant in which a match-head, being struck, might not yet be consumed by the flame- she was acutely aware of the specific word Jase had chosen, “feeling,” the way the odd gravity of his tone warped the other words around it by proximity alone. Aware that he’d said it earlier, as well. Aware that even if it wasn’t a singular, unprecedented expression, it clearly wasn’t one he’d used often. Aware that he… was about to kiss her, that she was already tilting her head to meet the hungry press of his lips with her own as the flame caught, and awareness of anything beyond him vanished in a dizzying swirl of sparks that shimmered behind her eyelids and over the surface of her skin. The soft rumble in his throat that sent a tremor through the core of her being, the surprising strength of his fingers woven tightly through her hair, the taste of his mouth on hers, the faint roar of her blood- or was it his?- that drowned out the crackle of the campfire and the murmur of the river: all of her attention was focused on what he was doing and how it made her feel, on how he responded, and the sense of near-tangible energy, the power inherent in that exchange. Still… Not enough. Impatiently, the redhead in his arms fumbled with the suddenly complicated workings of his pants, her fingers uncharacteristically clumsy with haste and want; with a low moan of frustration against his lips, she managed to slide her free hand between the press of their bodies to pull the fly taut while the other finally succeeded in getting the zipper down. There was no hesitation, no real consideration save the desire to touch him, and so she did, her fingertips gliding over him through the thin fabric of the trunks he wore. The muscles of his abdomen tightened as Autumn reveled in the heat, the thickness of him beneath her palm before sliding upward, under the waistband of the swim shorts, and inside. Leaning over her, Jason exhaled sharply at the sensation of cool, slender fingers encircling heated flesh, his rough kiss deepening to a bruising crush that ignited her blood into searing, liquid gold even as she arched against him in a wordless, desperate plea for more. “Off,” she gasped, drawing a ragged breath against his jaw and pulling ineffectually at his belt loops. With a muffled curse pressed against her throat, he shifted his weight onto one forearm above her, shucking both trousers and trunks and kicking the irksome garments aside, not at all concerned about whether they ended up in the fire, the lake, or a few feet away- only that they were gone. Her pale arms linked around the wiry youth’s neck as she rose to meet him, then rolled toward the fire, pressing his back firmly into the blanket; arranging herself over him, the flame-haired young woman paused to catch her breath, drawing back for a moment to take in the tall, spare form of her lover limned in flickering golden light. It was an arresting sight, and she leaned in to brush her lips fleetingly over his before shifting downward, her hair and the warm softness of her breasts skimming over his torso as she devoured with lips and tongue the course her eyes had set moments before. Autumn shifted to one side as the curve of her jaw grazed the hollow beneath his hip bone, her breath hot and slightly uneven as her mouth moved hungrily against his body, palms sliding down the lean expanse of his stomach to the tops of his thighs. The heat radiating from Jase’s skin felt almost cool against the flaming scarlet of her cheek, warmed not by any external source but by the dizzying, near-euphoric effect of his proximity alone; she marveled at that for a moment, nipping gently at the subtle demarcation between sun-bronzed flesh and the slightly fairer hue of his natural complexion before smiling and pressing an apologetic kiss to the faint mark she’d left. Without the relentless assault his earlier explorations had made on her senses, the ardent young woman focused anew on the sensory impressions conveyed through the sudden tension of muscle under her fingertips, the clean, appealingly male scent of his skin, and the oh-so faint taste of salt it left on her lips. It was a far cry from the nigh-incomprehensible chaos of before, rendered inchoate by raw need and the scorching delights of his touch- rather than a crashing wave of sensation, it was the slow rush of an incoming tide, waves of shared pleasure surging against the shore of her consciousness. As she tucked her hair behind one ear, Autumn rested her cheek against his hip, considering the tangible proof of his arousal with a combination of uncertainty and unvarnished desire. It wasn’t an issue of interest or even motivation, but of mathematics, a complex subject that had always daunted her in school but which now presented- in the form of her new boyfriend- both a frustrating dilemma and an irresistible challenge. Tilting her chin to glance up at Jason’s face, she caught a glimpse of his eyes, dark and intent on her features, and felt her stomach tighten deliciously in response. I’ll make it work, she decided quickly, catching her lower lip between her teeth as a frisson of excitement rippled through her at his expression. The feathery caress of her fingertips along the heated length of his manhood, inquisitive and exploratory as his own movements had been before, yielded a sudden, involuntary twitch that elicited a gasp of surprise and delight from the animated young woman; impishly, she repeated the gesture, stifling a grin as the novelty of his reaction briefly outweighed all other concerns. Relenting as she felt him begin to stir beneath her, his Titian-haired lover raised her head, rising as the playful delicacy of her touch resolved into a yielding grasp that almost encircled him completely. She inhaled, lowering her head to trail a series of soft, slow kisses along the underside of his shaft in what felt like microscopic increments, keeping her gaze fixed on his as her lips moved slowly upward. With a quiet hum of appreciation, the lively redhead swiped the flat of her tongue over the head, parting kiss-reddened lips to breathe a whisper of cool air across his sensitized skin. “You know… It’s not too late to run,” she murmured, regarding him with a glimmer of devilry in her lust-darkened eyes and pausing as if to offer him the opportunity. His eyelids fluttered half-closed at the contact of her warm wet tongue on his aching flesh, a sharp intake of breath followed by a drawn-out exhalation as his mischievous lover teased his nerves. At her words, his own heated gaze focused on hers and he smiled. "I prefer chasing to fleeing." His smile became a faint crooked grin. "Like you." Autumn hmmed again in satisfaction, the corners of her mouth curving upward as she pushed her hair back from her face and over her bare, cinnamon-flecked shoulders. Pale fingers once again encircled the base of his shaft, more firmly this time, giving him a gentle squeeze as she dipped her head and anointed him almost reverently with slow, deliberate strokes of her tongue. Eager as his companion was to return some fraction of the white-hot pleasure Jase had seared into her body, she reminded herself that after the torment he’d put her through, it was worth taking her time to see how far his mask of composure could slip; potentially making him squirm a little in exchange for the ruthless teasing he’d given her was just a bonus. The sudden thought of his voice, hoarse and breathless and desperate as it formed the word “please” sent a shiver of tiny sparks racing down her spine, rekindling the liquid heat in her belly. He could feel the shape of her smile for a brief moment as the warm, soft circle of her lips descended with excruciating slowness, drawing him carefully into the slick heat of her mouth. He’d propped himself on his elbows as Autumn had sunk lower, watching her raptly, and now his breath hissed at her teasing exploratory touches, and as her hand wrapped around him he felt his head fall back as though all of his tension, all of his capacity for tension, were concentrated in the pale fingers of the lover he’d not expected to discover. The touch of her lips followed, causing the warm rigidity in Autumn’s hand to jump slightly as a low murmur of surprised pleasure issued from Jason’s throat. With an effort of will, he kept his head raised, his fingers balling into fists as he watched her lovingly run her tongue along him, over and over, tasting every inch of him as though he were the finest of treats. His heart was a drum in his ears again as he watched her, noting how she never took her eyes from his, holding him mesmerised with her own hunger. She had given him the option to run again, teasingly, but both of them knew he would not - perhaps could not - any more that she would or could. Just like Autumn, it was not in Jason’s nature to run from danger… and the connection of mutual desire, of evoked emotions and the sheer hunger each awoke in the other was indeed a danger: fogging the mind, reducing judgement to ashes. The loss of Self, the inability to tell where he ended and she began - this, then, was the most delightful and thrilling of dangers. What would he do, to protect one who inspired such feelings and sensations? What would he not do, to keep her by him and prolong this firelit moment for as long as the stars burned? He saw himself reflected in her eyes, in her expression as she looked upon him, and for once he did not feel like an outsider - beyond the pane of glass that separated him from others. She did not perceive him as the necessary evil, the useful monster that, when all was over and settled, others would distance themselves from. She desired him, she felt for him, she wanted him... and she was unafraid. She saw the fire in his eyes, and wanted to dance in it. As her mouth slid over him he took a hissing breath, eyes fluttering shut and then opening almost as swiftly, keeping his gaze on hers as she slowly, so slowly slipped her tongue around the head of his cock inside the warm wetness of her mouth. Humming softly, Autumn bobbed her head a little, pulling back off him with a soft ‘pop’ of suction and kissed the side of his shaft once more, her eyes never leaving his, a lioness over her kill. His breath was coming harder now as he watched her smile, then take him between her lips once more, hmming in delight as he filled her mouth, tongue flickering around the girth of the welcome invader. She saw his jaw clench, heard the soft gasps her mouth was coaxing from him, his lean frame tensing as his pleasure climbed… and with another soft ‘pop’ she withdrew, stroking him gently with her hand. “Shit.” Jason swore, the word emerging as more of a groan that caused the red-head to smile wickedly at him, the amber of her freckles offsetting the pale rose of her face as she placed another delicate kiss on the prize in her hand. “Sorry, should I stop?” she asked, a hint of throaty chuckle in her voice as she watched his pale green gaze flash with a mixture of frustration and amusement. She nuzzled her lips against the tender skin of his manhood, peering around it at the expression on Jason’s face with a wide-eyed, ingenuous look in her eyes. Not giving him a chance to speak, she slowly licked up along the full length of him, flicking the tip of her wet tongue at the head and feeling a delicious tight zinging of pleasure in her core as he groaned, a deep, urgent sound of his need. It occurred to her that she had been his first making-out, the first girl he had pleasured, the first who had pleasured him… He’d never before experienced what she was doing to his nerve-endings, and with the realisation came a warm uncoiling rush of fresh arousal mixed with tenderness. She watched him war between maintaining his aloof control and declaring what he wanted, putting himself in her hands. “I’d… prefer you continue.” he husked, evidently deciding on the latter. Autumn smiled, kissing the swollen head once more as she tried, more from fascination than for any other reason, to get her fingers to meet around the base of his shaft once more, causing another soft groan to emit from her lover at the gentle pressure. He sucked in a breath as he discerned her playful intent, and faced with a choice of either withdrawing or pursuing the delightful pleasure to its end, he decided. “Autumn… please.” he murmured in a voice hoarse with need from a throat as taut as the lean lines of his body and the tremoring solidity of him in her palm, his eyes on hers. There were entire sections of libraries and bookstores devoted to the language of romance, to printed exaltations of love dating back to the advent of the written word itself, prose and poetry alike articulating in line after line, page after page, humanity’s most ardent erotic expressions. And yet two words, just two, from the young man she so desperately desired managed to convey more sincere urgency and impassioned need than any she could imagine being put to paper. She’d meant to tease him a little in playful retribution, to test the limits of his composure and his capacity to feel something; now, having achieved all that, Autumn realized with a sudden shock the gravity of what he had just done. He hadn’t simply abandoned his control, casting it aside in a moment of euphoric madness- she doubted whether he was even capable of such a thing. He’d handed it to her, to her, earnestly and in full trust, in two words. There was a startling purity in the raw need manifest in his gaze, a longing for something as-yet unquantifiable to him that she would have considered desperate were he anyone but himself. Show me, it demanded, a silent appeal for an answer to the question of what all of this meant, what it could mean; her smile widened slightly in response, the mischief in her eyes softening into something even she couldn’t readily define as she glanced up at him through the bright copper fringe of her lashes. “Well,” the lithe redhead replied carefully, weighing his request before adding, “you did say please,” punctuating each word with a soft press of her lips to the rigid length fairly vibrating within her encircling fingers. It didn’t matter that none of this had been planned or even considered before, the span of an hour or a week being equally meaningless when time was measured solely by the exultant percussion of her heart- it was happening now, and whatever came after would be… whatever it was. In this moment, there was only the faint taste of salt, the irregular rasp of his breath, and the flickering radiance spreading through her veins as that voiceless urge once more whispered through the haze of her thoughts: More. Power and control, lust and affection: these weren’t merely abstract concepts, but the currency exchanged between lovers, given freely and returned with interest. ...And, oh, Autumn had interest aplenty. With a quiet hum of pleasure she lavished a slow, hungry kiss over the head of his cock, ardent lips and adoring tongue caressing the swollen flesh with unreserved delight. Her attentiveness was almost worshipful in its intensity, as if through soft sighs and the heat of her needy mouth this sensual rite of connection and desire could somehow convey what she lacked the words to say otherwise. The unfiltered immediacy of his reactions- the gasps, the shivers, the tensing of his lean frame beneath her- only encouraged reciprocity, sending delicate frissons of pleasure racing along her own nerves even as she strove to heighten his. She was doing this to him. He wanted her to do this to him. He wanted her. Like called to like, his hunger provoking her own in slow, sultry waves that rippled across the glowing, molten pool rising inside her, carrying its heat outward in a rush of bright rose beneath the ivory of her skin. Her lips and hands worked in tandem, rising and falling over him in smooth, fluid motions and alternating between slow, gently twisting strokes that engulfed him in warmth and gentle friction and shorter, quicker ones that allowed her to focus on the delicate, hypersensitive nerve endings and drive him closer to the limits of sensation. The intent young woman could sense, rather than hear the change in Jase’s breathing as her fingers undulated in waves, a rhythmic counterpoint to the languid sweep of her tongue around the dense, heated length of him filling her mouth; squeezing her thighs together to assuage the dull ache building there, Autumn glanced up to meet his gaze once more. It briefly occurred to him that something fundamental had shifted in Autumn in the moments following his implicit placing of himself - for want of a better phrase - in her hands. His rudimentary understanding of her, which the sense of connection deepened and strengthened, perceived rather than sensed the softening of her mischievousness into something unquantifiable and outside of his experience. Even in his urgent need, his nerves electrified by the caress of the girl kneeling between his legs, his mind started to chase this new observed phenomenon, to decipher its meaning - and then her lips slid down over the head of his cock once more and he was left with a choice - to shut out all sensation and focus entirely on the abstraction of analysing the look in his lover’s eyes, or to live in the moment, to experience that which he had placed himself in her hands to experience. He chose the latter, and thought whirled away from him as the world became raw sensory stimuli, hotwiring his mind and body without the intercession of higher cognitive processes. Abstraction, always his companion, was gone now. That wry observer-mind who catalogued, analysed and filed every experience was nowhere to be found. Everything was white-hot sensation that entered Jason’s mind unfiltered, pulses of pleasure building within his body in tightening waves that moved in time with the stroke of her hands, the bobbing of her head - slow at first, the tingling brush of her hair on his thighs and hips a counterpoint as she swirled her tongue around the tip of him within her mouth, but then quickening gradually as Autumn’s own desire to bring him pleasure loaned urgency to her movements, coaxing gasps from his mouth and causing his belly to tighten and hips to twitch under her caress. Now and then she would take him as deep as she could into her mouth and hold him there, testing herself against him, the sensation of her throat working around the tip of his manhood causing him to groan - a deep guttural sound devoid of anything but yearning - before slowly sliding the tight suction of her lips back up to the head of his cock and resuming once more the steadily increasing rhythm of mouth, tongue and hands that could have only one design, one purpose. One culmination. His breath began coming in pants now, shortening perceptibly as a warm tightness began to grow in his loins, and though his eyelids fluttered shut now and then he always opened them again as though fascinated at the sight of the hungry-eyed redhead pleasuring him. As she glanced up towards him with his swollen head between her lips and their eyes met once more it seemed as though a spark jumped - from her blue eyes to his green and thence to his groin and then back up his spine in a series of lightning-strikes, exploding in his brain. It was so different from his past solitary pleasuring of himself - so mechanical and matter-of-fact by comparison - that he could not even process that his climax was on him at first. Jase’s teeth clenched, his body tensing almost painfully as his head fell back and a weak thought occurred to him, some dimly-remembered reading of advice on such matters that he should warn her, that it was polite to warn her, and he opened his mouth to do so but all he could do was call out her name with such a deep reverberating groan that she felt it as much as heard it and then his cock twitched powerfully in her hands and in her mouth as he came. There was a sense that some spring had been over-tightened and had now snapped and released its energy, propelled him over the precipice of the senses Autumn had lifted him to, and now he was moving through space, weightless, formless, a heated cloud of glowing vapor where once he had been a cold, distant star. Jase shuddered through the crest of his pleasure, every sinew on his body standing out as his shaft pulsed, over and over so it seemed to him, the sensations blurring together with the rhythmic feel of Autumn’s swallowing, his tortured gasps mingling with her delighted humming as she drank him down, her eyes on his pleasure-slackened features as he groaned again, looking unseeing up at the stars and the sparks from the campfire, momentarily mindless and aware only of the white-hot, drawn out jangling of his nerves, the gentle suction of her mouth, and the tender brush of her hands as they left his cock and lightly grasped his hips as much to embrace him as hold him steady. Eventually the pleasure subsided, the magnesium-flare of raw sensation cooling down somewhat, and as consciousness returned Jason blinked, realisation of Self coming back to him. He raised his head once more and looked down along his body at Autumn. “Holy shit.” he said, not with particular heat or emphasis but in a more hushed, faintly reverent tone such as one might use when looking up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling for the first time, or watching a particularly beautiful sunrise. The latter being an apt descriptor, in his mind, for the girl who had in a short space of time engaged his interest, kindled his friendship, earned his trust, sparked his desire, and quite literally blown his mind. His composure was largely returned, though his breath was still a little labored and his eyes still dark with desire as he regarded her, his cock still possessing some rigidity but quiescent now as she let it slip from her lips with a smile. “In case you missed it last time I said it - you’re beautiful.” he told her soberly. Impossibly, she felt her cheeks grow warmer at the unanticipated compliment, as if all the heat in her abdomen had suddenly rushed upwards, the deepening hue of her complexion visible even in the amber glow of the firelight. She was reasonably sure that wasn’t supposed to happen when you were already blushing, but some rules just didn’t seem to apply when Jason Whatever-His-Middle-Name-Was Bannon was involved. He had this knack for casually setting her on fire with some off-hand comment or pointed glance and just sort of observing the ensuing level of conflagration, and even worse, she couldn’t even be sure if it was intentional or not- sometimes it seemed deliberate, and sometimes incidental. Either way, she should have started building up an immunity or tolerance of some kind by now, but oh, no. While her body could theoretically ignore drugs and booze completely, things that could actually kill her, of course there was no superpower to resist being red-faced and just feeling like she was going to die. It was infuriating and impossible, and so was he, and the absolute worst part was that she kind of enjoyed it. Maybe. A little. ...Okay, okay. More than a little. Damn it, Autumn swore silently, trying unsuccessfully to ignore what felt like clouds of tiny golden stars zinging pleasantly along her nerves as she peered up at him, her face aflame. At Bannon the Impenetrable, with all the potential challenges and surprises that entailed. At her boyfriend. Shifting her knees to the outside of his thighs, the spirited redhead slid up the length of Jason's lean frame, smiling down into his eyes as the heavy curtain of her tousled red-gold hair spilled all around them. “I’m glad you think so,” she replied quietly, resting her forehead against his as she tried to match his breathing, savoring the warmth and solidity of his chest rising and falling against her own. “So, can I assume you’re okay, then?” she murmured, the fingers of one hand carefully threading through the dark hair over his ear. His pale eyes, warmed by the firelight catching their wide, dark centers, met her gaze. There was in that stare a pensive searching, questioning quality as he studied both her and the sensations she had sparked- and continued to spark- in his psyche. He brought a hand up, brushing his fingertips over her face - feather-lightly, as though tracing her features through glass - before gently cupping her cheek in his palm, feeling her warmth as he lifted his head and pressed his lips to hers in mute answer. As her eyelids drifted shut, Autumn’s awareness of the world shrank, leaving only the gentle pressure of his kiss and the slow, rhythmic tide of their breathing. Of the fact that her hand slid from Jase’s hair to cradle the back of his head, or that as she melted almost bodily against him she made a tiny sound of surprised delight in the back of her throat, the warm-hued young woman was completely unaware. Instead, she could pinpoint the incandescent awakening of every nerve ending he touched, a sensation she prolonged with the delicate brush of her mouth against his, with the tiny, fleeting movements of her reddened lips wherein a thousand flickering sparks of pleasure flared to life and scattered again as his kiss ignited them anew. It was indulgence, not urgency that whetted her appetite; even as his analytic mind worked to process and categorize the experience, her brilliant lover got the sense that she would happily continue in this leisurely vein until the sun rose over them. And yet… Without any notion of how much time had passed, she did finally withdraw with a soft sigh, nuzzling her cheek against his jaw as she opened her eyes. “To be continued,” she reminded herself aloud before smiling and pressing a kiss into the hollow just beneath his ear, her voice dropping to a near-whisper. “Hopefully soon, hm?” Autumn rose, then, gently releasing his head and- slightly unsteadily- getting to her feet. It felt like she’d spent the day hiking through the backcountry, her legs still a little shaky as the muscles protested the sudden shift back to verticality, and as she stretched to restore circulation and equilibrium the red-haired teen quickly scanned the campsite: her shirt and bikini top were almost on opposite sides, with Jase’s pants and shirt similarly scattered and in disarray. The sound of her quiet laugh drifted across the clearing as she shook her head, grinning, and set about retrieving their clothes, pausing to grab his towel and one of the open bottles of water on her way back to the blanket. “Here,” she smiled, handing over the bottle as she sank down next to him, sitting cross-legged and sorting through the clothes in her lap. “Thought you might be thirsty.”
    3 points
  18. Naked torso time seemed a great idea, and Autumn sat up astride him as she, too, started to peel off the t-shirt that was the only thing keeping her skin from touching his - an unbearable barrier that would not be tolerated any longer. For a moment Jase watched as the pale skin of her stomach and ribs came into view, then an impulse seized him as Autumn’s arms raised, hands going behind her head to tug the shirt off - and he sat up with a smooth coiling of his stomach muscles and reached out, catching her hands behind her head as the t-shirt covered her eyes, just her nose and lips free beneath the edge of the material. The girl made a small sound of protest, but she smiled then, her arms tensing a little as though in playful struggle against his grasp. Jason let her feel his smile on her lips for a moment, then withdrew his kiss, eliciting another small sound of protest. Even in his inexperience, it was not in his nature to be passive for longer than necessary, and the sweet torments of Autumn’s touches, nibbles and kisses needed repaying, so it seemed. He drew back a little, studying her nakedness with a possessive, hungry gaze that the fair-skinned captive in his arms could practically feel like sunlight on her flesh. One hand still pinning her wrists, long fingers encircling them, he brought his other hand down to trace a fingertip along her jaw, across her lower lip - teasingly moving it as she sought to catch it in her mouth - then down the line of her throat. She had freckles down below her collarbone, a dusting of bronze in the firelight against the cream of her skin - currently flushed as her face was. He let the tips of his fingers play over the markings, teasing touches that made her shift a little in his lap. “What are you doing?” she murmured, smiling as she arched her body into his touch, trying to get more contact and catching her bottom lip between her teeth as her breath hitched, stifling a whimper. “Admiring you.” Jason replied matter-of-factly, sweeping his exploring hand down across her breastbone. Dipping his head, he kissed the base of her throat, then her jawline, then her lips briefly - too briefly - before once more trailing flame down the line of her throat. Another impulse seized him and he rolled slowly, chuckling as Autumn gave out a little yelp as she found herself laying back on the blanket now. The firelight played over her body, deepening the colours and lending flickering shadows to her contours, and the aesthete in Bannon’s soul marvelled for a moment, pondering the nature of beauty and how very subjective it was, how very enslaved to circumstance and company such things could be. “You’re beautiful.” he stated, smiling as he started to kiss her collarbone, lips finding each freckle and paying homage to it as they made their warm path down over her body, his tongue now and then flicking against her heated skin, his teeth gently nibbling, his whole attention focused on tasting her as she squirmed under his attention. Whatever his lack of experience may have suggested, there was nothing clumsy or boyish in the way he touched her, nothing shy or furtive in the leisurely exploration he was making of her body. She wasn't exactly virginal, and in her curiosity had found a lot of things on the internet she’d either gamely tried or secretly wanted to- but this was as far beyond the scope of Autumn’s expectations as Jason himself. A tingle of warmth rippled through her at the unexpected compliment, manifesting in a delicate wash of pale pink spreading just beneath the surface of her exposed skin; his particular brand of unabashed, unaffected sincerity was every bit as seductive as the insistent pressure of his hand on her wrists overhead. It was the newness of the sensations- the thrill of trading the ability to see what Jase was doing for the exquisitely heightened experience of the feeling itself, of sacrificing awareness for anticipation- that kept Autumn’s natural impatience narrowly in check. Even so, the contrast of hot breath and cool night air as his mouth moved over her skin was enough to test the limits of her willpower in a way that drew her taut as a bowstring beneath him, the space beneath her ribs hollowing slightly as her spine curved in a wordless arc of delight. Oh. My FUCKing. GOD! the still-rational part of her mind all but shrieked at the combination of teeth and tongue on sensitive flesh, though the high, plaintive note that escaped her lips wasn’t nearly so coherent. She couldn’t tell which was louder: the erratic, halting rush of her breathing, or the mad cadence of the blood pounding in her ears, but neither could drown out the voiceless, searing imperative of desire. More. The muscles along Autumn’s spine flexed as her hips rolled down against the blanket, pressing her chest upward in a half-conscious attempt to gain closer, more direct contact than the teasing kisses with which Jase was intently mapping the topography of her form in scorching lines. She wasn’t alone in her urgency. Whatever volcanic fires roiled in Jason’s soul seethed and roared in their chains, his arousal causing them to leap and dash themselves clumsily against his glacial self control to get at the girl - this treasure in his arms - who had taught him with words, each breath, each brush of her own lips on him, each caress of her fingers on his skin what connection truly was, what it could be. His own breath quickened at her cries, birdlike and pure despite the carnal demands they heralded, and his hot breath bathed her skin in rose as her blood too, so it seemed, surged upwards to meet him. He removed the slender hand pinning her wrists, yet a stronger grasp maintained Autumn’s helpless posture as his mind, powerful beyond the constraints of his young body, kept her in gentle imprisonment. Both hands were now free to touch her, to wreak havoc with her nerves as delicate fingertips tapped and traced a hidden pattern across her freckled shoulders and collarbone, a cipher for lovers punctuated by warm kisses as his touch moved lower, playing over the gentle swells of her breasts that the young woman’s body offered up with every rolling arc of her body. And now he focused there, taking his time with each caress, his eyes moving from the soft mounds to Autumn’s half-hidden face with the intentness of a musician regarding the conductor. Softly, very softly he trailed flame along her nerves: now with a warm brush of a palm, now with the pads of his fingertips as they traced the soft pink of her areolae. As she made soft, but steadily louder sounds of need and protest, he smiled a little and lowered his head, capturing one stiff little bud tenderly between his lips, kissing at first, then lightly scraping with his teeth to draw music from her before ‘soothing’ the tormented flesh with a gentle laving of his tongue. She tasted sweet, clean and female, a scent he was not unfamiliar with by itself but with richness added from the warm arousal that suffused the air from her pores. As his mouth paid languorous homage to her breasts, the green-eyed devil lightly raked his nails down across Autumn’s ribs and stomach, feeling the taut ivory of her skin quiver and warm further under his touch. Mischief seized him, along with a desire for further connection, and with a slight tug of his power the makeshift blindfold was lifted from the redhead’s eyes so she could look down and see the blazing emerald of his gaze on hers as he tormented her. Smiling as his fingertips teased along and just within the waistline of her jeans, Jason nuzzled his lips against her softness then switched his attentions to her other breast, flicking the tip of his tongue across her nipple before drawing it into his warm mouth. There was a moment’s disorientation as the collar of her t-shirt was tugged upward and away, and at first Autumn saw only a few orange sparks drifting like fireflies up into the vast expanse of dark sky above. Those trackless depths were scattered all throughout with the faint pinpricks of countless distant suns: glimmers of dying scarlet, coruscating points of sapphire, flecks of glittering, crystalline white, and- she glanced down, the scope of her vision shrinking- virescent gold, twin stars captured in corporeal form and rendered incandescent in the glow of the firelight. It was enough to make her breath catch as the alien, incomprehensible heat of Jase’s gaze slowly reduced any lingering reservations to ash. Had anyone actually touched her before? Maybe it was some shared resonance, some echo of their nascent gifts, that this, this must be the quintessence of contact, every atom set aglow by the merest brush of his fingertips. Unable to look away, to escape the dizzying sensory feedback of both seeing and being seen, Autumn’s wrists flexed against the invisible restraint, fingernails biting into her palms as she shivered at the intensity of the hunger in those pale green eyes. The languid, worshipful caress of Jason’s tongue drew a ragged gasp from her lips; it seemed unfair, somehow, that he could be so careful, so composed, when she could feel herself burning like a torch, dissolving from the inside out until all that remained was need, raw and desperate. More, it demanded again, and God, I want you, and she had no way of knowing if the sounds she made were words at all, or just formless, tortured cries in response to the all-encompassing warmth of his lips, his tongue encircling the aching bud of her nipple. As her fists knotted restlessly in the cotton fabric of her t-shirt, Autumn shifted beneath him, rearranging the tangle of their legs until she managed to get one of Jason’s knees between her thighs. Unable to touch him any other way, the captive redhead arched against him, twisting her hips in an urgent bid for friction, pressure- anything to get her body closer to his. What is the opposite of a sadist? Jase wondered with that always-present, wry analytical corner of his mind not currently occupied with sensual appetite for Autumn’s flesh under his touch, under his kiss. He was being pitiless, merciless in the sensation he was inflicting, but it was pleasure not pain, and to see Autumn’s flushed features transported in ecstacy, to know that it was he that was causing the alternately throaty and birdlike cries of wanton need was deeply, profoundly satisfying as well as arousing, the sensation burning like fine liquor in his belly and spreading through his body. He pressed his knee back against the arching pressure of her lithe body, fancying he could feel the heat there as the athletic girl ground against him, her moans lengthening and deepening as she rocked her hips back and forth. He trailed his lips in swift, light kisses back up her body from her breasts, arranging himself as he moved so that his knee remained in place for the hungry need of his lover whilst he caressed her flushed features with one hand before freeing her tumble of hair from the t-shirt that still shrouded it, red-gold waves spilling out across the blanket like the ransom of kings. The other remained lower down, fingertips dipping inside the waistline of her jeans and drawing small designs on the soft, tender skin of her abdomen. Her eyes were dark pools, wide as they looked up at him with raw emotion, portals to her depths which he studied, head tilting slightly as he regarded her, trailing his long fingers through her hair. Autumn flexed her hands against his telekinetic grasp again, wanting to reach out to him, grab his head and pull him to her. She moaned, a low keening sound of protest, as he dropped a delicate kiss on her lips and pulled back with a smile before she could respond. However cool and focused he seemed the detachment was skin deep, the near-delirious girl could tell with a feminine instinct that was as unerring as it was primal. Jason’s eyes blazed, his own features were darkened with the stain of desire. Almost intuitively, Autumn knew that if she could but touch him, she could scratch through that veneer of control and set loose what was inside. She arched her body, pressing her breasts to the warm smoothness of his torso and letting out a moan, a wordless command / plea that was emotion given form. Jason felt that demand and responded to it, pressing his lips to hers more firmly than before as, with a wordless relaxation of his will, he released Autumn’s bound wrists. The kiss Jase gave her, deep and sure, was a gift- one she returned fiercely and without hesitation the moment she was freed. All the energy that had been bound up with the restriction of Autumn’s movements uncoiled in a rush, her body rising up to meet him in a wave of hunger and warm flesh as she reached up with one hand, pale fingers tangling in his thick, dark hair to pull him close. There was no plea in the crush of her lips on his, no mute supplication in the claim her tongue laid to his own, and precious little consideration given to the need for air. There was only want, pure and unfettered, and the feverish pursuit of its fulfillment. Whoever she’d been moments before, who she might be in the moments that followed, if a future beyond this could even be conceived of- these were trivial, transient concerns that her mundane Self would have to address later. The burning brilliance surging through her- crimson as her own blood, golden as living flame- demanded tribute. It stretched through Autumn’s fingertips, through the fervent press of her mouth against his, through the friction of bare skin and the contrast of soft curves against taut muscle and bone, until she could feel the rush of Jason’s breath in her lungs, the hot pulse of his life in her veins… And, still, it wasn’t enough. Not by half. The near-mathematical symmetry of the lean muscle along Jase’s spine as her free hand snaked downward and around his side, nails grazing his hip beneath the swim trunks he wore. The tightening of his fingers in her hair, triggering an answering tension in the smooth skin he’d traced with arcane symbols of desire. The faint taste of salt on his shoulder as Autumn dipped her head, white teeth marking the tanned flesh there without playfulness or trepidation. The sound of her own voice, hoarse and hungry as her hips moved against him, breathing his name against his throat. It was almost overwhelming, the rush of awareness, and the needy redhead drank the heady mix of impressions in, exulting in the echoes of sensation she could feel returned to her. It was more than simply erotic or pleasurable; it was power, to savor the resonance of that vital spark in him thrumming in her own body. Could he sense it, too? some distant part of her mind wondered. Could he feel the heat beneath her skin, the faint tremor of anticipation in her fingertips as they plucked at the button keeping the too-loose combat pants around his waist? Maybe not, what remained of Autumn decided, leaning up to capture Jase’s lips in another bruising kiss. But she was going to make sure he felt something. All was Her, his focus narrowing as he felt his self-possession evaporate, his sense of Self a guttering defiant flame in a hurricane, now and then nearly being blown out altogether in the tumult of sensation, of connection. The scent of Autumn’s skin and hair, the taste of her tongue pushing insistently against his own and the feel - oh the feel! - of her body pressed to his as her fingers explored his skin. The wry observer was silent now, sheltering somewhere inside that guttering flame as everything became fire and hunger, caution and prudence drawn forth from his lean body as if with his breath from one of Autumn’s yearning kisses, to be scattered like the embers of the fire that whirled overhead as the two teens lay tangled in each others arms. Jase was hyper-aware of her fingers toying with the fastening of his pants, of the hungry heat of her body, of the so very perfect way in which their bodies seemed to flow together. Autumn’s murmur of his name against his neck seared his blood, set it to boiling as he ran his thumb over the embossed top button of her jeans before, with a nimble flick, he unfastened it. Autumn drew in a breath, feeling it, practically hearing the soft fabric sound as deceptively slender fingers dipped inside her jeans to stroke over the soft cloth of her bikini. She whined deep in her throat as a garment which, not long ago, she’d been concerned might be provocative now seemed to be a blighted impedance. His fingertips swirled down over her covered mound, and Jason could feel the warmth and humidity there, turning his hand to press it to her aching body, pressing against her through the cloth as his fingers stroked. His frustration mirrored hers, though. He wanted more than this, more of her and so, true to his essential nature he took it, slipping his touch back up, then down inside the swimsuit bottoms. He felt Autumn go still, one hand tightening in his hair, the other resting against his taut stomach, and he gazed into her eyes as she lifted them to regard him, her lips - rouged from kissing - opening in an ‘oh’ of soft anticipation. His fingers caressed her mound, gently tugging at the soft down he felt before straying lower still, seeking out her warmth. Even as his mind supplied the theory, his fingers and palm carried out the practical experiment, cupping the heated wetness, stroking the sensitive tips of his fingers over the folds he discovered. He softly kissed her panting mouth, nuzzled his cheek along her jawline, trailed his lips to her earlobe and, once there, whispered her name as an invocation while his hand learned, slowly, to play the oldest notes of pleasure on his lover’s body. The convergence of sensations had been almost dizzying, an exhilarating confluence of the real- the tactile experience of Jason’s skin, the steady drum of his heartbeat and the scent of something vaguely herbal in his tousled hair- with other, less tangible impressions of his essential vitality, bright as a bonfire in her arms and just as dangerous. With so much to delight in, the dull, sweet ache winding through her belly and the soft whimpers he coaxed from her lips were almost secondary considerations; until she felt deft fingers slipping with startling ease between the slick folds of her sex, Autumn had no concrete notion of exactly how eagerly her body had anticipated his touch. Her eyes widened up at him as the realization struck, desire and disbelief vying for supremacy in their depths, and she was dimly aware that if it were physically possible, she’d be blushing down to her toes beneath the wave of renewed heat washing over her. Instead, her shoulders pressed into the ground, hips arching up to demand yet more of his questing fingertips. Not enough. She trembled, panting, heedless of anything but how much she wanted him in that moment and how little of him she could actually have. There was no slow, measured climb toward some transcendent peak, despite the curious, exploratory quality of his caresses, but rather a rapid ascent only hastened by the invocation of her name: two syllables without any supernatural quality of their own, transmuted into a fey charm by the urgent whisper of a lover. The comely redhead shivered bodily at the warmth of Jase’s breath on her ear, her head dropping back onto the blanket as everything within her stretched toward the feeling of liquid tension building between her thighs, reaching feverishly toward the threshold of its release. Autumn’s fingers slid from his hair, wandering aimlessly across angular shoulder blades as the totality of her existence focused on the exquisite tease of his thumb brushing, almost incidentally, against the tender bud of her clit. With a near-frantic moan, she slid her free hand down over his, no longer satisfied with simply letting him dictate the pace of his own discovery. “Lesson can wait,” Autumn gasped, guiding him into the patterns she desperately craved. “I ca- han’t!” Her voice broke in a sharp, tremulous cry as one of those dextrous, sensitive fingers probed at her entrance before slipping inside, triggering the sudden contraction of her abdomen and a torrent of incoherent pleas to unnamed gods. All rational thought vanished, dissolving like hot ashes on the wind as her hips rolled faster, a frenetic rhythm that matched the insistent pressure of her palm on the back of his hand. She was already so close, breath coming in ragged gasps underscored by a soft, pleading whine, when she felt Jase shift slightly, followed by the brush of his cheek against the high curve of her breast. “Oh-” Autumn began breathlessly, heavy lids opening slightly in confusion. Then- “Ohhhh, FUCK!” as the tip of his tongue circled her nipple and he captured it between his lips. The ache, the heat inside her swelled, searing crimson and gold against the inside of her skin, and for a brief, terrifying moment the delirious teen thought she might actually be dying, torn shrieking from the world on a surging wave of incandescent lust. One hand clutched blindly, wildly at Jason’s wrist as her body tensed, muscles flexing beneath the rose-flushed ivory of her skin, while the other seized a fistful of the blanket behind him. Her eyes were wide, unseeing, as her spine arched, driving her bucking hips harder against his fingers; as the world went black around the edges, a high, keening wail escaped her lips, carrying the echo of his name through the night. It was revelatory: every part of the experience was sounding depths in his soul that even the acutely self-aware young man had not previously fathomed. Autumn’s body rose and tautened, her voice rising high, carrying his name in a wild paean of ecstasy under his touch while her feverishly clutching left hand latched onto his wrist in a futile attempt to anchor herself against the tempest coursing through her nerves. Jason felt in that grip the bruising strength of her rapture, his refined sense of touch reading the spasms of her wetness seeking to draw his fingers deeper, and as he watched her lovely features transported with pleasure the detached genius felt something within him stir, something possessive yet gentle that responded to the bold young woman who had reached out to and, if he was honest, into him. His other arm encircled her shoulders, cradling Autumn gently as she cried out and trembled against him, surging through the riptide of her delight, and Jason absorbed the simple fact of her being inside his awareness with a shock that resonated in the halls of his mind. It was startling, and discomfiting to think that just a week ago, he’d thought in his innocence such a thing could only be within the reach of one girl. But this intimacy was far beyond anything he had pictured. Such was the tumult of his own desires that he had no ready answer to why that was, and so he set the question aside and focused on the delirium of the Now, slowly moving his fingers inside his flame-haired vision, feeling her slippery wetness on his hand and grazing the pad of his thumb around her clit in unconscious time with the quiver of her inner walls. Autumn’s hands released the blanket and his wrist, coming up to cling to his shoulders and back as she raised her face to his, her warm breath and insistent, greedy tongue seeming to carry her soul into the kiss before she broke off to whimper loudly, her voice rhythmically rising in pitch, taking on an almost panicked note. Her thoughts were as leaves in a gale, the astonished realisation that it was happening again all she could grasp from the fleeting shreds of consciousness before her body was set ablaze once more. Already sensitised nerves sang as she felt her lower abdomen become a molten pool from which ripples spread out through her form, growing in intensity and becoming a series of moving walls of searing flame, each more heated than the last, each tearing a more loudly piercing melodious cry from her breathless throat. The series of cataclysms lasted forever and a moment, and left her twitching, gasping, a sheen of perspiration coating the rose stain of desire that flooded her face, throat and bosom. Autumn’s nails clutched at the skin of Jase’s back and shoulder, scoring his skin with red despite their pragmatically short length, before she managed to find purchase on her consciousness and bring one hand down to still the motions of his fingers inside her joyously spasming folds. “No... more...” she managed, though part of her did want more, wanted to see if there was an end to this soaring pleasure, wanted to burn up into motes, molten fragments like a meteorite breaking up from entering the atmosphere so fast. That need to be so consumed was intense – to be burned up by the flame of her lover, to forever cease to exist as Autumn and exist solely as a collection of white-hot motes of pleasure, yearning for his touch. It was terrifying and exhilarating. He was terrifying and exhilarating, even now as he acquiesced, gently slipping his fingers from her heated, needy sex, glancing down at the way her honey made his fingers glisten before his green eyes travelled again along the length of her euphoria-saturated form to meet her gaze again. His eyes burned still with his own lust, and there was an uncompromisingly possessive quality to Jason’s stare as he examined her, from the tumbling halo of firelit red and gold that framed her flushed face, to the dilated centers of her blue eyes, to her panting lips. Though his smile was oddly tender, even as it was still quintessentially Jason Effing Bannon: an expression equal parts satisfaction and amusement. “Told you.” He said matter-of-factly as he brought his hand closer to his face, eyes considering the slickness coating it before he, with seeming great attention to the process and equal enjoyment, licked the sweet evidence of her delight from his fingers as though it were a fairground treat. She watched with lust-dazed fascination as his agile tongue cleaned the digits that had brought her such pleasure, then his gaze turned back to her and smiled slightly, the corners of his eyes crinkling as he repeated what he’d said earlier. “Sort of loud. Noisy, even.” Autumn blinked up at him, her brain still reeling as it worked to assemble scattered, fragmented impulses and impressions into language and the basic structure of coherent thought- a process complicated somewhat by the sight of Jason adroitly licking the taste of her from his fingers. Not only was the display an extremely provocative reminder of the meal they’d just shared earlier, it suggested a number of other shared activities at which he might be equally adept, vivid images of which came to mind far more readily than the words she needed to describe them. Tilting her head and shifting a little closer to him, the sated redhead admired, wonderingly, the way the low flames nearby cast his features into sharp relief, warm bronze highlights contrasted with the near-black contours, and lent their glow to the hungry, wicked sparks of mischief in his eyes. It was enough to make her breath catch in her throat, kindling an answering flush of residual heat in her own expression as she considered his. “Sorry, was it?” she finally managed, still a little breathless but not at all apologetic as she reached up with a slightly giddy smile, her fingertips delicately following that line of demarcation between light and shadow that made him seem somehow otherworldly, unknowable. “I’ll try to be quieter next time.” "No need." The fire in the depths of his eyes was undimmed as he turned his head fractionally, kissing her fingers, his gaze not leaving her face. "Not on my account, anyway."
    3 points
  19. Oh my god. He’s even weaponized honesty, Autumn realized with some incredulity, unable to keep her gaze from dropping to the slight curve of his mouth as he smiled, and reflexively catching her bottom lip between her teeth. “Yeah,” she agreed with a small, answering smile of her own, not yet daring to meet Jase’s eyes again. They were too green, too intense- how had she ever thought them cold, when they could smoulder like banked coals, or blaze as searingly bright as any bonfire? “I really… really like kissing you, too,” the redhead admitted… And I also really, really like the way you move when I touch you, and the way your skin tastes, and how your breath feels against my ear- It wasn’t like she’d never been attracted to someone before, never felt the giddy, heady rush of chemicals that signalled desire and the urge to act on it. It wasn’t the first time Autumn had ever wanted to spend hours kissing someone, to explore them with her eyes and hands and lips until she found all the places that made them gasp for air or twitch convulsively at her touch. She just didn’t remember feeling it with such a heightened sense of urgency, as if every glance or grin Jason Bannon aimed in her direction might end with her just pouncing on him in a less fatal version of a NatGeo mauling on the Serengeti. Even now, just sitting there with a water bottle in her hand, condensation dripping onto the blanket- We’re having a conversation. Time, place. Behave, Autumn. He’s behaving, see? We’re both behaving, she admonished herself, taking a hasty swallow of cold water and wishing in vain it might take some of the heat from her cheeks, as well. ...And you don’t want him to think you’re some kind of… sex-crazed maniac, or something. Do you? I mean- NO, Autumn. The answer is NO. You do not. ...Ugh. Okay, fine, I guess. Beyond the physical attraction, which was evident and undeniable, there was definitely… something, mixed in with all the teasing, the taunts, the uncertainty, the playful challenges and serious conversations. Maybe it was just that he had no expectations, no specific idea of what or who she was supposed to be and thus no inclination to try to fit her to that mold. Maybe it was that he’d done a good job so far of keeping her on her toes- she’d felt scared, frustrated, amazed, entertained and amused, delighted, desired- but not once had she felt anything close to bored. Or, she considered, aware suddenly of the strange, intangible pressure of Jase’s attention, maybe it was the implication that this might only last until Marissa got her shit straightened out, so there was no good reason not to just see what happened in the meantime. Fuck it. Why not? “All right, Bannon the Magnificent. The Amazing,” she added with a slow smile, acknowledging the exuberance of her earlier exclamation. “Let’s go to Homecoming, then.” She had the satisfaction of seeing his eyes gleam, the edges crinkling in an understated smile even as he remained otherwise outwardly composed. “Alright. But we’re going to have to set some ground rules.” he deadpanned, taking a drink of water. “Ground rules?” Autumn raised a brow, not missing the glitter of amusement in her [boyfriend’s] eyes and working to keep her own smile under control as she noted him shifting a little closer, turning so he was sat alongside rather than facing her. “Very important ones.” Jase nodded soberly. “I have a reputation as an unpleasant acerbic dickhead to maintain so, and this is important, no PDA.” “No PDA.” Autumn nodded slowly, as if mulling it over as she shuffled on her backside a little closer, her right hip and his left hip almost touching. She ran a hand up his back over the shirt, feeling the lean tautness underneath, and gently brushed her fingers through the ends of his shaggy hair at the nape of his neck, noting how he took a slightly deeper breath as she did so. “Right. Why?” “Because it’s distracting.” Jase was doing a good job of maintaining his impassive expression, though there was a twitch of humor at the corner of his lips as he turned his face towards hers. “Mmhmm. So I really shouldn’t be doing this, then.” Autumn stated rather than asked as she brought her other hand up and wove her fingers into his hair over his ear. Jason leaned closer to her, his arm sliding around her waist as his lips drew close to hers. “Definitely not. This is an excellent example of what not to do.” he said with mock-sternness moments before his lips curved in a smile. Autumn was flushed, and lovely, and right there inches away, her own mouth curving in an amused grin, the scent of her warm and enticing this close. “Good, I’m glad I know what not to do.” she said, slowly letting her hands slide from his hair and moving as though to disengage - only to be pulled gently back in and kissed, his lips sparking a rush of heat through her body that consumed the playfulness like jet fuel. It wasn’t that he was a practiced kisser, though he learned fast, a corner of her brain mused as the rest dissolved into a pink and crimson haze. It was that he kissed, and touched, with a hundred percent of himself in the gestures - the kiss was hungry, but patient, as he savored each tiny movement of her body, each sigh of response. He was mapping her, playfully experimenting to find just the right pressure of lips and tongue and teeth to make her gasp. Jason felt hands lock into his hair again, the almost painful tug at his scalp serving as a delightful counterpoint to the warm, sweet softness of Autumn’s mouth. His arm around her waist drew her closer yet, pressing her body to him as the two teens turned more towards each other. His free hand found itself gliding over the outside of Autumn’s thigh, feeling her warmth through the jeans before coming to rest on her hip, his touch gently teasing above her waistband, sensitive fingers exploring the smooth skin under the edge of her t-shirt. Finally the kiss broke, both of them breathing hard, both of their features at least somewhat flushed as they leaned their foreheads together, gazing into each other’s eyes. “So…” Autumn’s voice was husky as she studied the green pools of fire she wanted to plunge into and be consumed by. “Any other rules?” “There were some.” Jase’s voice was likewise low and a little taut with contained desire, his lips twitching in a smile. “But you distracted me before I could formulate them, and now I’ve forgotten.” “Oh.” The redhead was not at all contrite, smiling back at him. “I made you forget something? It couldn’t have been that important then.” “Utterly trivial.” Jase agreed, breathing deeply as he let his gaze play over her reddened lips, her adorable freckles and finally the blue waters of her gaze, deep and warm. “First rule was pretty stupid too.” “Hmm,” came the quiet, somewhat serious reply, as though Autumn were considering whether to agree with him. For someone who hadn’t liked the idea of being touched by other people, Jason’s responsiveness to simple physical contact was a little surprising, she mused, her smile softening a little at the almost imperceptible movement of his eyelids, his dark lashes fluttering slightly at the sensation of her hands moving through his hair. ...Then again, maybe it was the quality of the contact itself, the context, the nature of the connection it imparted. Fascinated by his reaction, she kept her eyes on his- relishing the warmth and heat there, the flash of citrine and emerald somewhere deep below the surface- and exhaled slowly, her breath trembling with the effort of remaining focused. “Not stupid,” the young woman murmured, her voice low and soft as her fingertips threaded themselves delicately through Jase’s shaggy, fire-bronzed mane, tracing the near-perfect symmetry of the outer curve of his ears and the sides of his throat. “Maybe just… not my favorite.” She wanted to kiss him again; it would only require a token gesture, little more than a tilt of her head. Their lips were practically touching already, she realized abruptly, as her hands drifted down to his chest and she felt the sudden intake of his breath inches from her mouth. “I’m sure we can figure something out, keep you from ruining your reputation,” she continued, all but transfixed by the way his eyes changed even as she watched. “Stupid.” he reaffirmed, feeling drunk off her breath on his lips. This closeness was dizzying - not merely the proximity but the intimacy inseparable from this most simple and primal of wants. He raised a hand to gently caress her cheek with the backs of his fingers as he drew in a breath that tremored, just a little. He was very aware of her hands on his chest, which in turn felt his heart thump like a bass drum against the taut skin and sinew of his frame. It wasn’t nervousness - couldn’t be nervousness. Rather he felt so alive that he would burst, as though his lean body was too narrow a channel to contain the surging passion that stirred and uncoiled. In his eyes, the copper flecks became fireflies, catching the light of the fire as well as flaring with some inner furnace. She kissed him then, leaning in against her hands on his chest and pressing her lips to his for a long, languorous moment, delighting in the way his breath caught yet again - that she was doing this to him, even as her own nerves sang and blazed with the sweetness of his return kisses and the feel of his warm palm on her cheek. Eventually their lips parted once more, and she smiled up at his face close to hers. “You sure you’ve not done this before?” she asked with a teasing arch of her brow, red-faced but smiling feeling his hand resting on her ass. Jase shook his head, his gaze intent on her face. “You are the first person I’ve made out with.” Jase replied, and she studied the subtle not-quite vibration in his manner, tension such as a steel hawser might be under on a suspension bridge. “Hey… Are you okay?” she asked, looking into his eyes, reassured somewhat by the way they regarded her that he wasn’t having second thoughts. He seemed very serious, as though struggling with something. “It’s… a lot.” he allowed with a small smile. “I feel like my whole Being is pulled as tight as a bowstring. I feel a little out of control and crazy” He breathed deeply, letting the breath out in a soft sigh. “I hope that’s normal.” Given his enthusiasm, the intensity with which he’d reciprocated every kiss, every touch and shared breath, it had been easy for her to forget how confusing and overwhelming it could be- even for someone with a more conventional way of interacting with the world. The warm pink of her cheeks deepened as she remembered exactly how strong those desires had felt earlier, and a part of her wondered what it was like for him. Did he actually analyze everything as it happened, or just sort of… go with it? He’d mentioned needing to keep everything carefully controlled, not to let his… what did he call them?- proto-emotions, his urges, override his reason, so how did that work in a situation like this? She couldn’t begin to even guess, although it might be interesting to ask later, when they weren’t so… Distracted. “Very normal,” she nodded, taking his hand in hers and pressing it gently against her chest, marveling inwardly at the length of his fingers curving over her collarbone. At the very least, if she couldn’t write a thesis on the subject of mutual desire and surging hormones, she could demonstrate the principle. “See?” He could feel the pounding of Autumn’s heart through her shirt, the staccato rhythm quickening just before she leaned forward and brushed her lips across his. It was more caress than kiss, and yet that fleeting whisper of contact was enough to send a shower of sparks flaring behind her eyes and a rush of warmth across the surface of her skin. “It is a lot, yeah. Even for me,” the blushing redhead admitted quietly, lowering her forehead to Jase’s shoulder, “like earlier. I just...” She shrugged a little, her free hand sliding down to his side, exhaling against the hollow of his throat. “I couldn’t think about anything else, you know? Or maybe I shouldn’t call it ‘thinking,’ exactly. It’s, um… Mmmm,” she hummed, a quiet little murmur of pleasure at the subtle, clean scent of his skin, his hair as she breathed. “Totally, completely normal.” Hey. Focus. Not a sex maniac, remember? She grimaced a little in protest at the intrusive thought, leaning back in an attempt to extricate herself from the seductive combination of sensual impressions enveloping her- the slightly ticklish feel of Jase’s fingers on her waist, the faint smell of the soap he used mingled with something intrinsic to his own chemistry, the heat of his body pressed against hers. For a long moment, the only sounds were the occasional snap of the campfire and the distant drone of insects in the trees, and Autumn drew in a slow, deliberate breath, giving herself a count of four to steady the racing of her heartbeat against his palm… and then another. “If it’s too weird,” she managed throatily, glancing up at him through the pale red-gold of her lashes, “or too much, or too fast, or… too anything- now, or next time, or whenever- would you tell me?” Swallowing both the urge to go further and the attendant nervousness of naked honesty, she added, “Because… There are a lot of things I would really, really like to do with you, and none of them are less intense than this.” “Same.” he murmured, his voice low, almost throaty. He blinked, then smiled a little self-deprecatingly. “Let me try that with words: I feel the same. The key word being ‘feel’. It’s- no, you’re kind of… amazing?” he finished with a tiny grin. “Seriously.” Autumn stared up at him for a moment, feeling like her face would never cool down. Was this her fate, to go through... however long she dated Jason Effing Bannon... the shade of a tomato and with the urge to grin like an idiot? And was it bad that she didn’t mind that at all? She leaned forward and rested her forehead against his collarbone, nuzzling her face against him as her arms wrapped closely around him. Turning her head to press against his chest, hearing the drum of his heart and acutely aware of his hand on her breastbone, seeming to sear her even through the cotton of her t-shirt. He ran his other hand up her spine to the nape of her neck, softly running his fingers through her glory of red-gold waves, a touch that was as gentle as it was sensual. “I will always tell you if something is too much.” he promised soberly. “And count on you to do likewise. Because this is an all-new type of hunger for me to explore, and I have an active imagination as well as a small library of works on sensuality stored in my mind.” His lips curved in a mischievous smile as they dipped to brush against her ear, his voice keeping to a low murmur.. “I’m curious how far down you blush. I want to hear you whimper my name more. I want to taste your skin and spend whole days learning how best to drive you out of your mind through touch. I want to devour you.” His teeth gently nibbled at her earlobe as his voice dropped even lower to a whisper. “Metaphorically speaking, of course. It’s not too late to run.” Fucking hell, where did he learn that? had been the initial, shocked reaction to the tickle of Jase’s breath against her ear, a line of white heat arcing down her spine in galvanic response; either he was dramatically understating the scope of the “small library” in his head, or he was a terrifyingly, devastatingly, thrillingly quick study. Never had anyone ever sent actual shivers racing through her body with words alone, but something about his tone combined with the inescapably direct way he gave voice to his desires… He meant it, Autumn realized, breath catching in her throat even as she tilted her head, heightening the exquisite rasp of his teeth grazing her skin. It wasn’t flirting, or some kind of posturing in an attempt to sound sexy or daring. He genuinely wanted to do those things and- this was the part that melted her insides into so much molten, liquid flame- he wanted to do them to her. And, ohhhhh, did she want him to. Turning to face the one being she knew to be more dangerous than mundane wolves, or nightmarish hellbeasts, or even ageless dragons, Jason Bannon’s girlfriend had shifted her position slightly, settling one knee on either side of his hips as he murmured against her ear- “It’s not too late to run.” -and paused. Autumn didn’t so much stiffen in his arms as straighten intently, the muscles in her torso elongating slightly with the slow, deliberate change in her posture. She hadn’t pulled away; he could feel the soft press of her breasts against him, the tension in her thighs as they brought her upright to meet his gaze. The turbulent blue-grey of her eyes, alternately shadowed and illuminated by the flickering gold of the firelight, met Jason’s with a glimmer of recognition as she leaned back, the corners of her mouth describing a faint curve. The young woman pressed almost bodily against him wasn’t glancing coyly in his direction, deflecting the taunt with laughter, or trying to pin him with a half-hearted glare: her gaze was direct, open, and in that moment, wholly unafraid. “You’re absolutely right,” she agreed, watching his eyes on her face with a sense of growing anticipation that carried over into the phantom smile playing about her lips. “Did you want a head start?” The pause was tiny, microbial in scale as lambent green eyes, dancing with firelight both reflected and internal, regarded her from a face that was almost statue-like in its immobility. Beyond the playfulness and honesty, beyond his desire for Autumn and the pleasure he took in her company, there was a depth in Bannon’s soul which she’d brushed against before - hence his interest in the lively redhead - but now she had sounded most thoroughly. A creature alien to fear, he did find it interesting to study in others, and those he approved of the most were those who had the strength of desire - be it for knowledge, or other things - to overcome it. Autumn was steadfast in her efforts to confront her fear, boldly stepped into the dark to see what might be there and to learn of it. How many teens- hell, how many adults did he know capable of that so consistently? She didn’t care that it scared her, or made her uncomfortable - or more correctly she would never let that alone stop her. “I get the impression I’d not make it very far.” Autumn’s boyfriend replied, playfulness mingling with the hungry fire in his gaze, though his features were composed - save for the flush of his own arousal darkening his already-tan face. That wasn’t the only clue to his arousal, either, a fact Autumn was pleasantly, nay searingly aware of in her current situation. “Mmm, probably not.” Autumn shifted a little and not with the aim of getting comfortable, thrilling at the sudden darkness of his gaze as his pupils dilated and the way he tried to hide the sucked-in breath. Her hands on his chest felt his pulse jump and she grinned, leaning forward and pressing against him. “You’d just tire yourself out, and that would be a shame.” She leaned closer and nipped at his chin. “For both of us.” “Unless I cheated.” he agreed with an offhand air, leaning back on his hands to support her weight against him, even as he trailed invisible fingertips over her scalp and down her spine under the shirt before smoothly caressing around her waist and up over her ribs, grazing the material of the bathing top she still wore. It was her turn to gasp now, the pressure teasingly brief and causing her to catch her bottom lip between her teeth as it ended, her gaze half-lidded on his. “But that would be a shame too, when there are far more fun things I can direct my energies towards.” He brought his hands up then, sliding them around Autumn’s waist as he rolled back to lay with her atop him as their lips came together once more. He was acutely aware of her body, the mixture of strength of her arms as they hooked around his neck and the soft pressure of her breasts against him, the scent of her flaming fall of hair surrounding their faces, the taste of her tongue on his. His hands glided up where his telekinetic ‘hands’ had gone before, warm fingertips grazing the bikini top, then slipping underneath the bottom edge, his touch exploratory yet unhesitating as he caressed the soft white skin he found there, delighting in the texture as well as in the soft sounds she made into their kiss. Slowly, he ceded more control over his conscienceless, amoral Want for this girl, letting that core of fire out of its icy chains to spill over into every heated press of his lips that claimed Autumn’s before tracing the line of her jaw. There was something to be said for the virtue of patience. ...Something. Probably. By someone else, at some other time- an old, dead Greek maybe- but not by Autumn Keane, and certainly not when the warm, deft fingers of someone she desperately wanted to be naked with in the firelight were moving over her skin. “It’s not cheating if I let you do it,” she murmured against Jase’s mouth with a grin, and then promptly shivered, her breath a sharp hiss drawn through even white teeth as the pads of his questing thumbs brushed across the points of her nipples. As a cascade of bright, hot sparks erupted within her at his touch, her hips rocked against him in an involuntary spasm, eliciting another quick breath at the feel of his body between her thighs. The tip of her tongue sought his, and then, restlessly, the angle of his jaw, the base of his earlobe; reaching back with one hand, the impatient redhead tugged at the knots securing her bikini top, unceremoniously pulling it through the collar of her shirt and tossing it nearby. Beneath the relentless exploration of Jason’s hands, her pale skin was aflame, his fingertips leaving searing trails in their wake that melted through her veins to pool, molten and liquid, in the center of her being. Everything was warmth and need- heat coursing through her every nerve, light burning behind her eyelids, the hunger to consume and be consumed in turn almost all-encompassing in the forefront of Autumn’s mind. There was no way to touch him enough, to be satisfied with the slightly salty taste of his skin on her tongue, or the quiet rumble of his voice against her ear when her teeth followed the same line across his shoulder in a series of tiny nips and breathless kisses. She braced herself over him on one forearm, the thick tumble of her hair around them catching the light of the fire, and tugged the hem of his shirt upward with her free hand, her gaze drifting from his eyes to the play of firelight over his skin. There was nothing soft about Jason Bannon, no excess or superfluity in the lean, spare muscle and sinew of his form, and yet Autumn’s fingers practically twitched with the desire to trace the sculpted lines of his torso, roving from his chest downward in a slow, inexorable descent of light, feathery strokes and the teasing rasp of her nails across his stomach. Her touch felt cool to his fevered skin, even whilst trailing greater heat in its wake, awakening nerves across his taut skin and causing his body to tense and his breathing to become more laboured. He felt her nipples against his palms, a sharp contrast to the softness of her high, firm breasts which his fingertips caressed with deliberation, learning which areas drew the deepest moans or loudest whimpers of passion from the living flame that undulated over him. A caress over her ribs that would have tickled a less-heated Autumn into giggles drew forth a plea-like invocation of his name cut off and muffled as she buried her open mouth against his shoulder, teeth scraping the skin there as her hips rolled against him in an almost bruising jerk and her fingertips dug into his stomach for purchase. She drew up and stared down at him, kiss-bruised lips slightly open and desire-drenched features suffuse with rose, and he smiled as he squirmed a little, lifting his shirt up and off over his head without much difficulty before returning his hands to her waist, caressing the skin there.
    3 points
  20. The second time he said her name, the words themselves barely managing to pierce the heady fog of desire clouding her thoughts, it finally registered that Jase was actually saying something of import. “Fuck,” she swore with quiet intensity, stiffening slightly in his arms as she struggled to focus on something, anything other than the heat of his body and the feel of his hands anchoring her to him. As much as Autumn wanted to rail against his appeal to sanity, to protest that she didn’t care and it was fine, she did and it wasn’t. That was the reality of the situation. Of fucking course he didn’t have condoms. Why would he? She’d invited him out to go camping, for crying out loud, which was exactly why she hadn’t brought any, either. Suddenly acutely aware of the fact that she’d maybe almost just had sex with Jason Bannon, that she had definitely wanted to, and that she actually had just totally been all over him- that she was still all over him- the redhead squeezed her eyes shut, burying her face against his shoulder. “Yeah,” she murmured, quiet resignation in the soft, slightly raspy reply as she caught her breath. “Me, either.” Where scorching need retreated, the cold, unfamiliar sting of self-consciousness crept in, and yet Autumn found herself clinging to him still, wrapping her arms tightly around his chest and selfishly committing every nuance of Jason’s physical presence to memory as best she could. Whatever happened next, this moment, this feeling at least, was hers. “C’mon,” she sighed when she couldn’t stand it any longer, lifting her head and gently tapping his side in a bid to be set down. “Dinner should be almost done. I’ll grab napkins.” She hadn’t actually died earlier; she sort of wished she could now. He caught her eye, easy enough as he was still holding her off the ground and their eyes were roughly level, and she realised he was studying her expression with a calm concern in his gaze, almost clinical if it weren’t for the residual warmth still there. “Hey.” he said softly. “This isn’t ‘not happening’, it’s just ‘to be continued’.” He examined her face a little more, eyes lingering on her kiss-reddened lips and flushed cheeks, then smiled slightly as he met her eyes again. “That is,” he said more quietly, “if you want it to.” Autumn blinked, startled at his suggestion, then licked her lips, nodding as the high color in her cheeks deepened further. "Yeah," she replied so quietly it was scarcely more than a whisper. "Yeah, I really do." His smile widened a little, and he gently kissed her lips as he lowered her to the ground, her legs reluctantly releasing his waist so her feet could touch down. The pretty redhead made a soft little sound, her arms tightening around his chest as though to hold herself up for a moment before she finally relaxed her grip and, smiling now, slowly stepped away on legs that felt more than a little shaky. Jason kept his hands on her waist for a moment longer, his gaze somewhere between warm and unreadable as he watched her take a couple of coltish steps towards the fire before her equilibrium returned. “Good.” Jase said as he moved to join her by the fire, calling a bottle of water to his hand and cooling it with a thought, condensation forming on the sides of the plastic before her eyes as he unscrewed the lid and went to take a sip, then paused, considering for a moment before offering it to her. She gratefully took a drink and passed the bottle back with a smile, took a moment to tie her hair back for safety, then crouched to check the foil packages. “Because,” the emerald-eyed monster said as he sat beside her, watching what she was doing keenly. He grinned, studying her profile and the curve of her hips in her jeans. “I think we’ll need to be further away from your house. Sound carries, especially at night. And though I’m no expert, I’m thinking it’ll be sort of loud. Noisy, even.” She should be immune to this stuff by now, Autumn reflected as she felt a heat in her face that had nothing to do with the fire. For heaven’s sakes, she wasn’t a virginal choirgirl. She’d just been climbing him like a stepladder, had felt his body reacting to hers as much as hers reacting to his. And yet with a line that from any other boy would have been met with an eye-roll and a ‘sure, buddy’ snort he could set fire to her skin. Hell, he could do that with a look. “Make yourself useful and fish these parcels out of the coals.” she said over her shoulder at him, trying to narrow her eyes sternly and having the effect ruined by the mirthful sparkle in their depths. “If you insist.” Jase smiled, then gestured in unnecessary theatricality, the two packages gliding from the coals and coming to rest on the ring of stones around the edge of the firepit. Shifting position to kneel beside Autumn as she turned to grab napkins, he deftly brushed errant embers from the parcels and then carefully opened them. Fragrant steam billowed forth, and both teens heard each other’s stomachs growl as the scent of herbs, butter and garlic mixed with the smell of cooked meat and vegetables. “Damn.” Jase nodded approval. “Smells good. Worth remembering this trick.” Taking another sniff appreciatively, he settled back and watched Autumn, taking another drink of water. “It is,” she agreed pleasantly. “I have a fork if you want it, by the way. If you let it cool a little, the pieces are also big enough to just eat with your fingers.” Glancing back at him again, Autumn grinned. “That’s how we did it at Girl Scout Camp. Bunch of eight-year-old girls sitting around a fire, singing songs and stuffing our faces like savages. Good times. Oh,” she added, as if an afterthought, then leaned over Jase’s shoulder where he sat near the fire. “And you did bring up a good point. About the sound, I mean.” When he turned to regard her with the arched brow that- in her mind- was rapidly becoming emblematic of the detached, analytical young genius, a very un-Girl-Scout-like smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “So I guess I’ll just have to think of a good way to keep you quiet,” the mischievous young redhead murmured as a fresh wave of crimson stained her cheeks, and then kissed him again- briefly, but in earnest. It was the same as before- from that single point of contact a spark flared into life, spreading liquid heat through her veins that had nothing whatsoever to do with the nearby fire. Having succumbed to the temptation to kiss him once already, the impulse to do it again was almost irresistible- but, then again, she hadn’t really tried to resist it in the first place, had she? ...And, truthfully, she wasn’t entirely sure she would be able to stop kissing him if she got started again, especially not when he was looking at her that way. Reluctantly, Autumn managed to tear herself away and headed to the cooler to grab something very, very cold to drink. Is this okay? she wondered, grimacing a little as she rummaged in the ice for another bottle of water. Unpleasant as the chill felt, the frigid water was bracing, clearing away some of the residual endorphins. She hadn’t just almost kissed Jason Bannon this time, the mere thought of which had kept her up most of the night a week prior. Autumn couldn’t help but feel a twinge of uncertainty over the lingering sensation of physical need: she didn’t exactly have a great number of friends, and this definitely complicated things. The last guy she’d been involved with had also started as a friend, and tacking “with benefits” on, and the sort of weird presumption that they were then dating, had kind of… ended badly, and she wasn’t interested in a repeat performance of that particular show. Jase was Jase, though, not Jacob, the blue-eyed young woman reminded herself. Pulling a full bottle from the cooler, she twisted the cap off and nudged the lid closed with her elbow, turning back to find him watching her again. In spite of herself, she smiled a little, swiping the fork she’d mentioned from a small collection of tools nearby and heading back to the blanket to wait for their dinner to cool. Whether it was actually a bad idea or not… it was nice having him there, she decided. Maybe not peaceful exactly, but interesting. Challenging. Fun. They ate in relative silence for awhile, Jase using the fork at first but then setting it aside and copying Autumn, plucking morsels from the parcel with his fingers and popping them into his mouth with relish. He ate with evident enjoyment, taking his time to enjoy the meal as he sat facing his… girlfriend? Was that right? Did the term fit? Or perhaps that was something formally acknowledged, rather than implied. How strange it felt, rolling the term around the crystalline halls of his mind. A friend who happened to be a girl was nothing new. Lilly, Avalon, even Clara and Marissa fell into that category. Of all of them Autumn was the one who’d most sought to comprehend him: though the others had certainly made efforts, ranging from sincere to token, to understand facets of him, or why he did a specific thing, Autumn was the one who’d sat down and wanted to try and understand as much as possible. The act of observation changes both the observer and the observed - a standard principle of physics, and perhaps it was no different here. Thermodynamics of trust and desire, he mused, chewing a tender piece of sirloin. In order to observe me, she had to let herself be observed in turn, and that act of observing her fear caused me to wish to lessen it… Why? Trust given by a friend should be treasured, that is the code. And how do we treasure trust? - we extend it in turn. “You’re staring at me.” Autumn said as she finished taking a drink, smiling warmly at him. “I’m watching you.” He replied calmly, the corners of his eyes crinkling a little. And he was - the entire time he’d been working on analysing his responses he’d been storing every little detail of her, and this moment. “Does it bother you?” “No. Yes.” she laughed a little, her cheeks rosing again. “I do wonder what you see, though.” "Something unexpected, but welcome. Alchemy of sorts. In just a week, suspicion and fear on your part and detachment on mine have transmuted into friendship, trust..." he smiled at her, his eyes taking on that faint hungry quality that warmed their coldness. "Desire." An answering warmth rose in her cheeks and she nodded, glancing down at the food in her hands with a grin of pleasure at the memory. "Unexpected, definitely. Not that I minded, I guess. I mean, obviously." The red-haired girl laughed at that, hazarding a look at her companion through the fringe of her lashes. "But, yeah. I have to admit, I'm having more fun than I thought I would." The firelight flickered across his lean, high cheek-boned face and reflected in his eyes as he nodded soberly, the faint smile still playing around the corners of his mouth as he regarded the rose tinting her freckled ivory features. "It is fun. You're fun - and not just to tease, but to talk with - and to kiss. And to think I was on the verge of swearing off physical relations altogether not long ago." he added with a wry quirk of one corner of his lips. "Swearing them off?" Autumn blinked incredulously at him as she leaned forward, eyes wide and faintly luminous in the warm glow of the nearby flames. "Without even knowing what it was like, without even experiencing..." She shook her head, her free hand gesturing expansively at the world outside the faint ring of firelight. "Any of it? Why?" "Pique, perhaps." His smile widened a little at her reaction, head tilting to one side as he considered. "Monday was a bad day before you showed up. Bear in mind I was also on the verge of leaving Shelly after scorching a big ‘fuck you’ into the sports field: my mood was... poor." He finished with a slight understatement. Sitting here, that state of mind, that cold anger and disdain and the sense of being just done with it all, seemed very far away. In fact, as he studied Autumn's shining blue eyes, he was aware of a flicker of warmth that was unusual, something he took at first to be the embers of the recent flare of desire - but possessed of a different quality. "Anyway, I’d find abstinence pretty tough now. Thanks to you, I get what all the shouting is about" "...before you showed up." The idea that she had helped- that despite being utterly terrified of the brooding and dangerous young man and totally out of her depth, she had somehow still made an awful day a little better- was every bit as warming, as gratifying as the glimmer of interest in his pale green eyes. Before Monday, if he had disappeared, she would've been more worried about reprisals or delayed vengeance than why he'd gone, or whether he was all right. Now, though, things were... different. She grinned around a mouthful of steak as he grew quiet again, meeting his gaze with an expression that was equal parts mischief and promise, and shook her head once more- slowly, deliberately. "No. Not yet, you don't. That was just a kiss." He didn’t blush, merely blinked once, then cocked his head slightly to one side and smiled at her, raising an eyebrow. The redhead pursed her lips, considering. “You don’t get flustered, do you? I am never going to see you blush, or be lost for words.” “Embarrassment isn’t something I feel. I do experience a pause as my train of thought gets derailed, but there’s no real flustering there. I blink, adapt, and that’s it.” Jase tilted the foil packet at one end, draining the juices from the meat and vegetables into his mouth, then licked his fingers clean. “You blinked just now. So… I derailed your train of thought.” Autumn smiled widely, trying not to focus on his tongue cleaning his fingers. “I’m claiming that as a win.” “I blinked earlier too, when you said my pheromones were fine and again when you called me amazing.” Jason corrected evenly. Autumn went red as she recalled, looking down at her meal abashedly. “Well… Yes. You are.” She said, glancing at him through her lashes. “And they are.” “So it seems.” he nodded, folding the foil into a square, then wiping his hands dry on a napkin, his eyes never leaving her features. “Soooo, that’s three blinks, which I am claiming as blushes, for me.” Autumn pronounced, lifting her chin in triumph. “Versus twenty-three for me.” The Effing One returned. “Including full blushes, times lost for words, and those delightful little blushes where just your cheeks go rosy.” “Doesn’t matter.” Autumn tossed her head, smiling even as another of the aforementioned little blushes stained her skin. “I’m a redhead, a girl, and with a normal brain. You are Bannon, Greatest and Chiefest of Calamities. A blink from you is worth… twenty blushes. At least.” He rubbed his chin as though considering that, his eyes narrowing, then nodded. “I suppose, seeing as it’s the price of being amazing.” he said with a faint sigh, as though conceding a defeat. Autumn giggled around a mouthful of food, nodding in agreement, and he smiled at her. A sudden notion struck him and, evaluating it in a split second, he saw no reason not to go with it. “So, assuming you haven’t gotten tired of my amazing self by then, would you go to the Homecoming Dance with me? As my girlfriend, I mean." he clarified. “That…” she began slowly, the expression on her freckled features a curious mixture of surprise and confusion. “Out of all the questions I would ever have expected you to ask me, that one wasn’t on the list.” “Really?” Jason seemed mildly curious about that, his head tilting slightly to one side as he regarded her. “I suppose it was presumptive of me. It came to me while we were eating - we get along well, we are different enough to be interesting to one another, I enjoy talking with you a surprising amount…” “Surprising, huh?” Autumn narrowed her eyes at him as she finished her own meal, wiping her hands on a napkin as she set the folded foil in the trash bag. “Surprising, how?” What, had he expected to be bored? “I don’t usually enjoy talking to most people this much.” he said with a small smile. “It’s something I do, because it’s necessary as part of the interaction. But with you it’s entertaining - and not just because you blush like a sunset. You’re lively, emotionally honest and open, enthusiastic about life. You have an active mind: you’re curious and not content with just banal explanations - in that we’re very alike. I think you’ve a lot of very attractive qualities.” His smile widened slightly, his gaze studying her features intently with a heat in its depths that caused Autumn’s stomach to tighten. “And our chemistry seems to be… compatible.” Autumn had been trying resolutely not to blush under that scrutiny and his words, though she’d felt the heat rising in her face regardless as her blue eyes studied his features in turn. When he mentioned their chemistry, the blush burst its dam and coloured her cheeks deep rose, though she didn’t look away. Yes, she wanted him. Her lips remembered that last kiss just before they ate - her body remembered that kiss, short and sweet as it had been. And judging by the way he looked at her, with an intent unveiled hunger in his eyes as they met hers that - her feminine intuition screamed - had nothing to do with his stomach, he felt that too. The look wasn’t affected, she realised. It was raw desire without conscience, shame or hesitation, and the force of it was making her breath catch. “Okay.” she managed. “But I thought you didn’t date.” She had to deflect his attention a little, deflect that gaze that heated her like he was setting her on fire - metaphorically and in the best way possible. “I didn’t.” Jase shrugged, his smoulder relenting a little as he took a drink of water. “I was wearing a mask, hiding myself and keeping everyone at arm's length. Dating would have been counterproductive.” “That’s one reason.” Autumn said with a faint air of triumph. “Hmm?” “Don’t ‘hmm’ me, Bannon the Impenetrable. Three reasons - don’t think I’ve not been paying attention. You always have three reasons.” Her gaze met his challengingly, and she was gratified to see a flash of white teeth as he grinned. “Very well - I also didn’t feel the need for physical connection before.” he allowed, smiling at her with a good-natured gleam in his eyes. “It just seemed… irrelevant before the summer. I didn’t like people touching me, and whilst I liked looking at pretty girls, it was more aesthetic than carnal.” “Late bloomer.” Autumn teased, smiling. Jase nodded, shrugging a shoulder as he smiled back. “Hopefully worth the wait.” he said slyly. “And the third reason was Marissa.” “Right.” Autumn blinked, feeling a dash of cold water to the brain at the mention of that name. “Don’t you love her, or something?” Jason sighed at that, a pensive look entering his eyes as he looked up, watching sparks from the fire rising into the air. “I do - I’ve been drawn to her for a long time. But I’m not going to hang around pining for her - I’m not even sure she’s a wise choice for me. She has made it plain she will never seek to understand me beyond the limits of her own fear. Perhaps that will change - but that is entirely up to her. Any further discussion will come from her initiation.” “So… You’ve moved on?” Autumn blinked. “Yes. I plan to live and enjoy the experience, like I said in my kitchen on Monday. While the matter of Marissa’s true feelings works itself out, one way or the other.” “One way or the other?” “Yes. Either she likes me in truth, but she’s playing a game or doesn’t know her own mind, in which case she’s going to need to grow up and elevate her thinking a little. Or it will come to light she has no special attraction to me or can never accept me - in which case I shall treat the whole matter as a learning experience.” “Wow. I mean, yeah that makes perfect logical sense, but still…” Autumn peered at her stoic friend. “And you don’t feel sad, or angry, or anything?” Jason said nothing, just shook his head with his eyes on hers. The redhead sat back slightly, considering him with slightly narrowed eyes. Bannon. Dating Bannon. Jase as a boyfriend - not just a friend with bennies, but a for-real, dating… “What does being a boyfriend or girlfriend mean to you?” she asked earnestly, leaning forward again. He looked thoughtful. “Someone who is a good friend, who you are also attracted to and want to make space in your life for.” he answered in a measured tone. “I see a lot of high school couples who don’t really seem to be friends at all - they just ‘date’ which, from overheard conversation, seems to be only hanging out together to fumble in each other’s clothes. Not that I don’t see the attraction, but what I picture is something less… casual? As I said, we seem to get along really well. I like you, and I trust you. And you’ve said similar to me.” He smiled faintly. “And I really, really like kissing you. I just want to see where all that goes, if it could lead anywhere, rather than assuming it means nothing.”
    3 points
  21. He’d blinked as she announced his pheromones were ‘fine’, though a smile curved his lips as he watched her pace, gesture and speak, her exuberance as warming as the campfire. She obviously felt the same way as he did about his gifts, and the display of enthusiastic and active imagination was… reassuring. He wasn’t alone in how he felt about these things, he mused with a smile. He got to his feet, stretching muscles still a little taut from the horseplay in the creek earlier, just as Autumn finished her passionate statement. “What you can do, how natural it is for you, that’s- it’s amazing. You’re amazing, you know?” He blinked again, pausing mid-stretch to gaze at Autumn. He’d never really heard such sentiment from others before. There’d been implied praise, respect or admiration once or twice - more often had been the sensation that his nature daunted others, scared them. But never such unreserved warm sentiment, boldly expressed. He studied her as she stood, hands still resting on her loosely tied back red-gold tumble of hair, frozen for a moment as she realised he’d turned that laser-focused attention to her and replayed the last few moments in her head, her blue eyes widening as a faint blush spread across her pale features, suffusing the skin under the freckles with rose. “Um… For a cheater, that is.” she managed without much conviction as he straightened up, still regarding her expressionlessly, a corner of his mouth quirking as she tried to look everywhere but at him and failed. “So… My pheromones are fine?” he asked, the smile growing a little as he remembered what Hank had said, only a few days ago: I say she looked interested. Not 'tongue-hanging out' interested, but probably wouldn't say no to a movie and burger. “Oh god… shut up!” Autumn groaned, her hands coming down from her head and covering her face. Of course he’d focus on that to tease her. “I didn’t mean- I meant- Ugh!” “It’s okay.” Jason’s voice came from closer to her, and she lowered her hands hastily to see him standing nearby, within arm’s reach, studying her with an expression in his eyes that was equal parts warmth and interest, his gaze depthless. He’d moved as always with that neat, silent grace that was as mildly disturbing as it was impressive. “I like you too, you know.” Which was true. She wasn’t Marissa, but the comparison was as between a rose and an orchid - you couldn’t judge one by the merits of the other. He’d loved Mari, but she was unavailable, by her own insistence and choice. Marissa’s loyalty and feelings shifted like a leaf in the gale of her own volatile fears and insecurities, devoid of objective logic - she was perhaps only truly loyal to her brother. Autumn might not have been as objectively beautiful, regal or captivating, but she had energetic vitality and warmth, a charisma of her own that was all her own. And she was honest, brave and constant - weighing instinctive fear against reason and balancing the two. As he considered her as a person, so too did he consider her physically. She was healthy, attractive - with that fiery red hair and deep blue eyes, with pink lips the same shade as her blushing cheeks... and, he realised as he applied his rudimentary people skills to her manner, she was attracted to him. He’d never admit it to Hank, but privately he marvelled that his friend had possibly been right. Which was strange, since Autumn was one of the most well-adjusted of his circle of friends and associates. She knew him like few others did, understood him like few others had bothered to try to do… and she still was attracted to him. How interesting. “When I do learn to fly properly, you are invited to be the first passenger.” he added with a smile, taking a step closer and reaching up to tug a stray strand of her hair back from her face, his fingers gentle and warm on her cheek as he took yet another step closer, looking down into her eyes. There was no wicked mirth in his gaze now, no teasing crookedness to the warmth of his smile. He seemed very intent on her, as though approaching a skittish young horse, his eyes studying her lips, her features, her eyes. “I promise, I won’t let you fall.” Oh, god, was all she could think. I’m dead, aren’t I? Autumn was beginning to lose count of the number of times Jason Bannon had killed her, stopping her heart with embarrassment and shock, or stilling the breath in her lungs with fear and anxiety… But this was an altogether new kind of death, and had she possessed his clarity of remembrance, it was one she’d gladly have re-lived over and over again- sweet and sharp and hot as it spread through her veins, drowning her endlessly in the fathomless green of his eyes. It was fundamentally unfair, the effect just a look could inspire without any special effort on his part at all. First, they were friends, which meant that, all teasing and joking aside, there were rules that couldn’t be broken...There were rules, weren’t there? Boundaries that couldn’t be uncrossed? She felt sure that there were, which made the slow, inexorable progress of dying this time more agonizing than all the others. Second, by his own admission, he had never dated. He had confessed, without reticence or rancor, that he loved Marissa- in the present-tense, not past. He’d spoken at some length about his difficulty understanding people, how they related to one another, how to read them, so there was no doubt in the mind of his new friend… He didn’t know. He had absolutely no clue what he was doing to her right now; how could he, when he’d never experienced it? He couldn’t possibly be aware how devastating those eyes were at close range, couldn’t have intentionally weaponized the curve of his lips when he smiled- couldn’t conceivably have calculated the precise angle at which to tilt his head, the timbre of his laugh, the exact pressure of his fingertips, or the faint scent of his shampoo, lingering even after the creek- “I know,” she managed from beyond the grave, only dimly recognizing the voice as her own. It was hard to concentrate on forming words when the rest of her brain was distracted with thoughts of what else her mouth should be doing instead. “You didn’t before, remember? I trust you.” And… she did. For all his strangeness, his distance, his inability to relate, for all the unease he could generate in herself and others, all the wrongs he’d done and that had been done to him… Autumn realized that she actually believed it. Trust was a big part of friendship, right? The silence that followed couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but if time were measured instead by the rapid pounding of her heart against her ribs- loud enough in her ears to be heard from town- it would have taken roughly a year of her life. “See?” she asked finally, raking a hand back through her hair with a quiet, self-deprecating laugh. “No pheromone problem. They’re totally fine. So just, um- the flying thing. You promised, so, call me or something when it happens, okay?” He was aware of the elevation of his own heartbeat, a slight variance brought about by proximity and the wide, deep pools of Autumn’s eyes as they met his own. She was all warm shades - the faint tan of her freckles, the copper of her hair, the blood-tinged skin of her cheeks, all limned in flickering firelight, and Jason, with his new awareness of his nature, was conscious that within himself lay a deep hunger for that warmth, a want that was as aesthetic as it was biological, as carnal as it was cerebral. It was a powerful instinct, on par with his violent ones and just as merciless. He felt a faint ironic amusement that his mother hadn’t warned him about this one. There was no reason not to, that was the trouble - or rather, the answer. She obviously was attracted to him, didn’t have a boyfriend (that he knew or cared about). However he viewed Marissa, she had made it plain repeatedly that she could not, at least currently, comfortably grant him the kind of open emotional honesty, devoid of game-playing, that the young woman currently blushing before him could. And he did like Autumn personally - she was exuberant, curious, asked questions even when she was afraid of the answers. And he remembered when she’d held him, the feel of her fingers in his hair, just to take away the pain he’d not even realised he was experiencing, driving back the cold. He remembered how it had felt to realise that she had charged in to help defend him. “I’ll do that.” he murmured, aware that he was likely once more risking rejection, risking a friendship, but nevertheless his fingers on her cheek became a warm palm-caress as he dipped his head towards hers. He remembered Devin’s advice - or the essence of it: to let her choose, and so he moved his face slowly towards hers, giving Autumn plenty of time to halt the process- He didn’t have to move very far as she leaned forward to meet him, the fingers of both hands tracing the sharp line of Jase’s jaw and threading through his dark hair. She’d been taught never to look away from dangerous creatures, but it didn’t really matter at this point, did it? She was already dead, and there was no need to think about trivial things like consequences. As her lower lip brushed against his, Autumn hmmmed quietly, a soft sound of pleasure in the back of her throat, and pulled him closer. It was as if the heat from the fire crackling nearby had been transferred into her skin, burning bright and hot but without pain, and when she pressed her lips to his- gently, but insistently- it was with every ounce of warmth she possessed. Again she kissed him, deeply and without haste, drinking in the feel and the scent of him in her arms- a leisurely, unhurried pursuit that nevertheless left her short of breath and trembling slightly with its intensity. Jason’s first ever kiss had been calculated, a deliberate measure to shock Clara into some kind of emotional reaction as much as curiousity about the sensation. His second - Marissa - had been an act of impulse, pushing past what he saw as mixed signals to try and coax truth through action rather than words. This, though, was utterly different. Autumn’s warm passion was, in its way, equal to his own. She had closed the distance between their lips, her own hunger forming the circuit that now lit up his nerve-endings. It was unlike anything he had experienced before. It was, in fact, his first true kiss, no purpose or motive other than the kiss itself. His hands slid down and around Autumn’s waist as she leaned up and into him, her t-shirt riding up a little allowing his slender fingers to glide over warm skin as he returned her kisses, absorbing lessons in each tiny movement of her lips and the sparkler-flares of sensation it set off down his spine before responding in kind, moving his lips against hers in motions that were at first tentative, yet as she hmmed and pressed against him grew bolder. His head span slowly, his normal sense of detachment, that separation from everyone dissipating like frost in sunlight as his mouth opened in response to hers and the overwhelming sense of connection, of feeling desire and of being desired, filled his veins with molten gold. Autumn’s fingers tightened instinctively in his hair, all rational thought and reservation transmuted into so much ash. First the tip of her tongue, then the edge of her teeth caught at Jase’s bottom lip, savoring the taste of his mouth as though the kiss were merely a precursor, the aperitif before hunger consumed them both. With a quiet whimper against his lips- not of protest, but frustration- her fingers skimmed down his back, tracing the length of his spine before sliding under the hem of his shirt and up again. They explored the taut, warm texture of his skin, the feeling of lean muscle shifting underneath, and though her attempts to press the length of her body any closer to his were hindered by physical limitation and the laws of consensual reality, the ardent young woman’s earnest efforts persisted. The sound of their breath and his own heartbeat was deafening to him, his entire world narrowing to focus on the girl shifting in his arms. Her touch on his skin made his breath catch as she pulled him against her, and on impulse he gave back the sensation, his hands sliding around to the curve of Autumn’s back and then upwards, feeling the strength there as the muscles of her waist and back tightened and relaxed in time with her movement and breathing. There was a sincere hunger in her kiss and in her embrace that resounded within him, found an answering need, his tongue gently teasing against the tip of hers in response. A response that might as well have been a spark to gunpowder, the kiss deepening so that they were practically breathing for each other now as Jason’s felt the roaring furnace of his core unfold, melting away the edges of his reason. With a faint grunt of effort, he slipped his hands down, over and under the taut curve of her ass and hoisted Autumn up so that her face was level with his own, if not slightly higher. On instinct, her strong legs went around his waist and she clung to him in turn as their lips and tongues danced, each lost in the taste of the other. A thought occurred to him and he acted on it, supporting her weight with a touch of his telekinetic gift to allow his hands to roam up her back once more, one hand coming up to tug away the hair-tie and allow her Titian locks to fall around her flushed features. A muffled squeak of surprise and delight escaped Autumn’s lips as Jase lifted her off the ground, and he felt, rather than saw, her smile against his mouth. It was so tantalizingly close to being enough, almost- but not quite. As the weight of her hair, all loose, tousled waves of red and gold fell around them, she leaned back slightly, and the eyes that regarded him with naked desire were dark as storms over the ocean. She swallowed hard, her fingertips moving, feather-light, down the sides of his face, over his well-kissed mouth, and across his shoulders. Exhaling, she dipped her head to his cheek, breath warm against his skin, as first her lips, then her teeth grazed his earlobe. More, some voiceless urge demanded, and she was only too willing to comply, trailing heated kisses down the side of his throat and gasping as her hips shifted against his abdomen, squeezing his waist with her thighs. Every inch of her, every atom, felt incandescent, aflame with a blazing need his touch seemed only to stoke; she wanted, needed him to know it, but the only word she could conjure in the chaotic surge of sensations was his name, murmured like a plea against his shoulder. The exertion of will, of self-control, was second nature to Jason. As he had previously explained to the girl currently moving against him in a most distracting way, there was no conscience or natural hesitation to his thought process, so presence of mind was as necessary to his liberty and survival as it was to the general good of people around him. He buried his face in the juncture of Autumn’s neck and shoulder, lips kissing the warm skin they found there as his hands gently yet urgently explored the athletic young woman’s back before going lower to her butt, clasping her tightly to him as he sought to anchor himself. He took a deep breath, which hindered his efforts at self control more than helped since all he could breathe in was Autumn, warm desire rising from her skin along with her body heat and the faint perfume of her deodorant. Her heart thudded against his past the thin barrier of their clothing and the warm softness of her breasts, and as she murmured his name the fire in his core roared up, flaring around the icy fastness of his thoughts. He had never wanted anything or anyone like he wanted her right now, to shuck the annoying clothes, to feel her warmth as close as two people could get. The blanket was right there, the fire was warm enough to take the faint chill from the air. They could… He could... ...Not fuck this up. Autumn trusted him, a thought which his mind seized onto, an anchor-point. He had no condoms - had not expected to need them and, in typical inexperienced fashion, didn’t carry an emergency couple in his wallet ‘just in case’. And his friend (whom he was very attracted to and desperately wanted in the worst way) probably didn’t have any either. She might not care now, judging by the whimpers of physical need and the way she was softly biting at his shoulder through the cloth of his t-shirt, but it was still not a good decision for her to take. It would have been a poor decision even if he had been a human man - with his ‘aggressively dominant genes’ (to coin his mother’s phrase), there were unknown quantities at play, and he needed more information before making a mistake. “Autumn.” His voice was so hoarse from lust that her name came out as a sort of growl at first, then he coughed and tried again, his cheek nuzzling against her hair. “Autumn. I don’t have any protection with me.” God she smelled good, and that rolling thing her hips were doing, her backside flexing under his hands… He didn’t want to let her go, but didn’t want this to go beyond their control right now either.
    3 points
  22. And they did. As they got the campsite fit for purpose, Jase laid out the current theory of quantum forces as the underpinnings of all creation, including the massive gap in the theory as it stood right now. He then went on to explain how the existence of a subquantum layer of reality filled in that gap, providing a unifying force tying everything together. Then, with a few short examples from his observations of various members of the Fellowship’s gifts, he demonstrated how the psionic level of reality and the subquantum layer had to be one and the same, and that it was a layer where the normal rules of time, space and physics were malleable and subject to the will of the psionically gifted. Indeed, it could be considered the level of reality that consciousness and willpower existed on. The realm of the soul, for want of a better word. By the time the exploration into the foundations of all reality was over, Jase was sitting by a crackling fire that had been laid in the pit Autumn had cleaned out as the flame-haired girl paced around the campsite. The contrast between them was notable - one a picture of stillness between one considered, purpose-laden movement and the next, the other constantly shifting in restless tandem with the activity of her mind as it took everything in. The afternoon had progressed into early evening, though there was still plenty of light from the sun as it dipped towards the horizon. “So.” Jase leaned back on his elbows, raising a brow at Autumn as the firelight danced on his composed features. “I won’t ask if you have any questions, because I know I still do and I’m pretty sure you’re not that easily satisfied either. But does the explanation help, at least?” Something about the act of just moving around made it easier for her to focus. While the rest of her had been arranging firewood to promote airflow, setting up her tent, and stretching the brand-new hammock she’d gotten at the start of school between the usual trees, her brain found itself free to concentrate on what Jase was- with an impressive degree of patience, and without crayons- trying to explain. He understood the subject matter well enough to be able to convey it simply, without condescension, and without seeming bored. If anything, assuming that her study of Jase Expressions for Noobs was accurate, he actually seemed pleased to be sharing information. He could also just be humoring her- she was still in the early days of her anthropological observations after all, so it was difficult to tell. “It does help,” Autumn agreed slowly, still processing Jase’s elementary unpacking of what was, essentially, a theory of everything. “It gives me a place to start, anyway. And, yeah,” she grinned, tossing a twig into the fire, “I have questions. There are always questions, every time we talk about something. Well,” she amended, the smile audible in her voice as she headed over to the cooler. “About something serious, anyway. And then you answer them, and then I have more. It’s like I’m in class, but actually paying attention.” A cold water bottle appeared in front of his eyes as the red-haired girl walked up behind him, nudging him gently with her knee. “Thought you might be thirsty after the lesson, Professor Bannon.” As he cracked open the seal on his drink, she carried hers over to the striped wool blanket spread near the fire and finally settled down. “‘Professor,’ is it now?” her companion inquired as he took a long drink of water, the bottle going slightly cloudy with the formation of tiny ice crystals within to adjust the temperature. “Mhmm. You can’t be a high school science teacher.” Cutting her eyes at him as she tilted her head just slightly, the redhead took a sip from her own bottle and added with a smirk, “You’re not old, bald, ugly, overweight, or divorced, and you haven’t given up on life yet. Sorry,” she shrugged, as if there was nothing she could do. “You don’t meet the job requirements. Go teach some hot college girls first, get involved in a couple of scandals, come back when you’ve had your midlife crisis.” “Well, I admit the thought of fooling around scandalously with college girls has its appeal.” Jase smiled slightly, causing Autumn to experience a pang of anxiety on behalf of her college-aged sisterhood. “Older women, and all. Experienced hands on my tiller.” Autumn turned bright red even as she snorted around a mouthful of water, thankful not to have another choking coughing episode like the one in his kitchen this time. It was the way he delivered the cheesy double-entendre utterly deadpan, with just a hint of a pause before the word ‘tiller’. She didn’t dare look at him, knowing that he’d be wearing an expression of mildly amused interest in her plight that would cause her to lose her shit entirely. Instead she took a deep breath, finished her drink, took another deep breath, then unable to help herself she glanced sideways. He was watching her with the exact expression she had expected, only as he noticed her look at him he raised a solitary eyebrow archly, then winked. “You-” she wagged a finger in a passable imitation of her mother scolding her. “-are totally…” “Utterly.” he said with an air of agreement, nodding as he scooched over to sit on her blanket. “Couldn’t agree more. Though I think I’ll pass on having a midlife crisis. They seem tedious.” “You don’t ever stop and re-evaluate everything in your life and who you are?” Autumn glanced at him again, smiling a little. “I constantly re-evaluate everything in my life, especially lately. As to who I am, that doesn’t change” Jason stated somewhat somberly as he stared into the fire. “That’s why having a friend who understands that is important.” he added with a sideways smile. “Mmmm,” she nodded, taking another drink as she weighed his words quietly, rolling them over in her mind as the fire crackled and snapped softly in the amber glow of the fading daylight. “I can see that. Sort of the idea that who a person is, at their core, can’t really be changed in any fundamental way. Especially so for you, maybe,” Autumn allowed, leaning over for a moment to bump his shoulder with her own. “I don’t know that I necessarily agree completely, but your boots are too big for me to walk very far in.” Smiling, she gave a small shrug. “I mean, I know that I’d like to think that what I feel as ‘Autumn,’ in my head, is a fixed point. That I could use that to navigate through life, knowing as long as I kept it in sight, I’d be fine.” She paused, wondering (not for the first time) if it was Jase’s presence, or something in the atmosphere that made her feel oddly pensive. “Other times, I think about whether that’s really true, or just what I want to think is true, you know? Honestly, I wonder if the ‘Autumn’ I think I am isn’t something I can chart a course by, but just a compass needle that points somewhere else.” She frowned at that, her eyebrows knitting together in consternation. “Physically, we’re different people all the time. New skin, new bones, new blood, all of it. And, I know that other things about me change, too. Have changed, even just in little ways.” With a quick sweep of her hand, she gestured toward Jase himself in acknowledgement of their nascent friendship. “Maybe even in ways I haven’t noticed yet, because I’m too busy actually doing it. Like, not knowing you’re getting taller until your clothes don’t fit anymore.” There was a moment of quiet as Autumn took another drink, and then offered him a slightly abashed smile. “So, not that you asked, but that’s what I think.” Then, a moment later, “Professor.” He smiled a little at the adornment, shaking his head, but his mood was reflective as he considered her words. It was certainly true that one adapted to changing situations. It was also true that the core of a person, at least himself, was not all that malleable. He wondered if that was due to the malleability being a function of intuitive socialisation - one adapted to fit the circumstances, up to and including the infamous Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages could experience something very like love towards their captors and vice versa. Did his knowledge that he was not human, that he was of a different species entirely, change who he was? Or merely how he perceived that who. “I think both are true.” he said eventually, after a comfortable silence in which both teens were considering. In response to Autumn’s glance his way, he half turned towards her, his gaze assessing. “You - Autumn - are the point of reference: the star if you will, that you steer by, and you are also the compass needle. For you, each acts on the other. Most of the time, the needle points to where you already know you should be as dictated by the position of your central star. And sometimes it points to a place you haven’t considered, and the solid point of reference shifts, but remains Autumn.” He smiled at her, the expression reaching his firelit eyes. “For me, perhaps it’s the same. I don’t know. I still feel the same as I did before the summer, the party, the powers. I have elected to drop my mask, so I appear changed to others, but I don’t know if I’ve changed inside. I fought a hellbeast, then went and ate pizza, cheered Lilly on at the game, brutalised Liam all in the same evening, and I feel no different as a result of those things. It’s like the central star that is me doesn’t shift, even as new facets of it come to light and everything I do is in relation to it.” He turned his gaze to the fire again, its light shining off his shaggy dark hair. “Right now I feel different, though. Less cold, more warm. Peaceful.” He glanced at her, meeting her eyes. “That’s your doing, I think. And thank you for that.” That gave her a moment’s pause, the conversation suddenly veering off in a direction she would never have expected… Which, to be fair, wasn’t unusual on its own, but both the openness of his admission and the fact that he was directing it at her left her momentarily at a total loss for words. “I mean, you’re welcome, but… I don’t think I’ve done anything you would need to thank me for. Seriously.” Sliding a couple inches closer, she nudged his shoulder again. “Apologize for, maybe, for being a dirty cheat-” Autumn caught herself, pursing her lips. “For… taking unfair advantage of the unwritten nature of a rule,” she corrected, unable to resist glowering up at him in mock fury, her eyes fairly aglow with humor. “But, not thank me. You’re right, though, you do seem a little different. It could just be this place, you know? It is peaceful, here, and it just kind of melts into you, every part of you, into your bones. Something in the air, or the water, I don’t know.” Smiling, she looked beyond the fire to the stream, where the encroaching twilight gazed down at its reflection in the slow-moving current. “It’s probably my favorite place in the world. I’m glad you like it- hopefully, everyone else will like it, too.” Taking another long sip of water, she thought about that for a moment, the idea of bringing so many people- people like her, who were also very unlike her- here. Would they appreciate it? Would they be respectful? She’d been to plenty of overnight parties where that wasn’t the case, and she knew she would be taking a risk, inviting the others… But, it was something new, something she hadn’t tried before, and- she didn’t have to look over at her companion to know he was there, a feeling of warmth and vitality suggesting his presence- thus far, she seemed to be having pretty good luck with new things. She’d been prepared for the sleepover at Marissa’s to blow up in her face, and fully expected to get the Cora treatment when she’d gone to pick up her hoodie, hadn’t she? Maybe this would be the same. With a crinkle of plastic, she drained the last swallow of water from her bottle and fished the cap out of her pocket before glancing over at him and smiling encouragingly. He didn’t seem to mind the quiet, not filling the silences with pointless conversation- which was a fortunate thing this far out from Shelly itself. “Are you hungry yet?” she asked, getting to her feet and screwing the bottle cap back on, eyeing the fire speculatively. “It’s almost burned down enough to cook, so whenever you’re ready it should be fine. If not, I brought cards and stuff, in case we got bored.” “I’m always hungry.” Jase looked up at her with a sharp grin that put Autumn in mind of a fox when someone said the word ‘chicken’. “I don’t think I’ve ever cooked on an open fire before - not counting marshmallows and Smores - but I’ve read about it. Dad and Hank usually set up a portable gas grill.” He watched with interest as Autumn, shooting him a smile, extracted two fair-sized foil parcels from the small cold-bag and brought them back to the fireside. “Cubed sirloin with veggies and red potatoes.” she said in answer to his curious glance. “We bury them like so...” Autumn knelt down, handing him one of the packets and picking up a stick, poking a depression in the glowing coals toward the edge of the fire before depositing her foil package carefully, then pulling the coals over. She turned to see Jase imitating her almost exactly… except that the lean youth was using his bare hands to scoop red-hot embers aside, then carefully pat them back into place over the parcel before dusting his hands off. Autumn's first, instinctive reaction was a momentary flicker of panic: bare skin, live coals. Oh, shit! She took a half step toward her friend, then hesitated. He was- fine? Startled, she watched Jase for several seconds, wide-eyed, and took a few deep breaths to slow the rapid surge in her heartbeat. It was strange, she marveled, to see how seamlessly he'd integrated his own powers into his life, as if they were simply part of who he was intrinsically, rather than just something he could do. He seemed perfectly at ease, like he'd done this a thousand times before. For all she knew, maybe he had. At the same time, it was a stark reminder of how inarguably strange Jason Bannon was, something she'd conveniently pushed to the back of her mind while they'd played in the stream and gotten the camp site in order. He was a person, sure, but also more than that. Different. Chewing her lower lip thoughtfully, she shook her head. It's fine, the redhead reminded herself, as something else occurred to her. "Cheater," she grumbled under her breath, viciously jabbing her newly-designated poking stick into the coals. “Oh, there are rules for that too?” Jase responded with a hint of a smile. Autumn stuck her tongue out at him, then smiled as she sat back, regarding him with a mixture of friendly good humor, curiousity, and a tinge of exasperation. “Just trying to figure out how you do that.” she said, squinting a little at him over her smile. “Thermokinetic diffusion?” “No. I mean - do it so easily. Like it’s not even a special effort. No big ‘ta-da’.” Autumn’s freckle-speckled nose screwed up slightly. “It still kind of freaks me out, this ‘Shine’ thing.” “I’m not unique there. Devin thinks nothing of teleporting to Athens for pizza or Bangkok for Thai food, or even teleporting his dresser to him to change clothes.” Jase shuffled around to face her as he spoke. “Charlie shifted his head into a reasonable copy of a female newsreader’s and scared the country girl glow out of Tawny’s cheeks.” He smirked as he remembered that. “I wonder if Devin got around to fully explaining to her what the hell is going on yet? Anyway, that was the first casual use of his powers I’ve ever seen Charlie make, so there’s hope there - though his timing and the company present could have been better.” He rolled his eyes, then pondered, his gaze on her features. “Most of the others seem to be getting more relaxed about it, but I don’t think they put a lot of thought into how their powers could be used. For instance you share Charlie’s gift to an extent, which means you might be able to physically adapt to extreme heat enough that you, too, could pick up a red hot coal.” He shrugged. “I’m pretty sure that Sean spends a lot of time reading people’s texts and emails as they go whizzing through the air. At least, I would if I were him. Same with Sara’s telepathy - I’d be constantly skimming people’s moods and surface thoughts, hoping to understand them better.” “Cheating.” Autumn grinned at him, poking his arm with a finger. “Working imaginatively to overcome a limitation.” Jase responded, grinning back at her. “If I had yours and Charlie’s gift, I’d grow gills and go swimming. Or experiment with altering my own pheromones. Or anything, really. The key is first, establish How my powers work. Then ask the question ‘what else can I do?’ Let the imagination soar, and don’t be afraid.” He paused, considering that. “Easy for me to say, perhaps. But doesn’t make it untrue.” Something in her eyes had lit up when he started talking about what he would do with other people’s powers; although she’d made a valiant and concerted effort to keep still and listen quietly, when he finally grew quiet, all the energy she’d been holding came out in a rush. “Okay, okay, but!” Hopping up to her feet suddenly, Autumn took a few steps to get her thoughts in order, then turned to face him again. “First, trust me. Your pheromones are fine. No problem there.” Her cheeks flushed slightly in the firelight as she gestured expansively in his general direction, but she grinned anyway. “Also, what if you don’t need to be able to grow gills to do that? Like, what if you just used one of your force-fields to make a bubble around yourself? I mean, you can breathe inside them, right? And then, if you can’t swim because you’re not touching the water, just… Airplane yourself.” She paused for a second, her expression suddenly serious. “Please tell me you’ve tried that, because if not, I don’t know that we can be friends. Not the underwater part, I mean, but flying.” "I have tried." Jase admitted with a small smile. "I can do it, but at the moment it causes the kind of headache I associate with psionic strain. Like lifting too much with your arms can cause them to hurt." “Seriously?!” the restive redhead all but crowed, bouncing on the balls of her feet as she laughed. “That’s so freakin’ cool, though! I mean, yeah, you could probably do all kinds of crazy stuff with Sean’s abilities, or Sara’s, or whatever, but you’re learning to fly. When you figure out how all this works together, how to do it without hurting yourself, you could go anywhere, see anything, and nothing could hurt you. Like…” Resting her hands on top of her head, she paused, reflecting long enough to breathe amid the torrent of words and thoughts. “Devin can go anywhere, which is awesome, but can he survive there? Under the ocean, or, or in a volcano, or… hell, in space. I can’t even imagine having that kind of freedom,” she breathed, though her expression of rapt fascination rather suggested otherwise. “What you can do, how natural it is for you, that’s- it’s amazing. You’re amazing, you know?”
    3 points
  23. It had taken longer than she’d initially hoped, but- covered in gritty ash, sand, and tiny flecks of bark that she brushed from her jeans as she stood to survey her work- Autumn had finally completed the Great Firepit Excavation of 2019. “Yaayyy,” she cheered softly, shimmying in a little personal dance of celebration, “we have a hole in the ground! Yaaayyy!” Cleared of debris, the roughly circular depression in the ground was a little over a foot deep, and perhaps three feet wide, ringed by large stones claimed in previous years from the depths of the creek. She exhaled, still smiling and flushed from both exertion and a sense of personal accomplishment; it was such a small thing, a tiny, but necessary step toward getting the campsite back in order, but, still, it was progress. Now we just need to clear the ground, and figure out what to do with the snake when we sort through the wood, get the fire st- Uh. It was like a song playing in the background, the kind of thing that went unnoticed because she was busy doing homework or helping in the kitchen, and before she realized it- she’d be singing along, and couldn’t remember when she’d started, which verse she’d picked up on. It just sort of happened, the sound gently insinuating itself into her mind until, finally, the rest of her brain caught up. There was a snake coiled watchfully among the well-seasoned firewood. Jase was a few feet from shore, standing in the creek. A pair of rabbits… birds overhead… mice, spiders- oh, god, so many spiders! Blinking, she glanced in the direction she felt her companion would be, and- although he wasn’t stationary- he was exactly where she’d expected. In the week or so since she’d discovered that she was different, like some of the others at Shelly High, Autumn had more or less tried not to think about it too much- mostly because of all the awful things that had come along with it, like hellbeasts and getting punched in the face. This wasn’t frightening at all, though. A little hard to process, but not inherently creepy- just a different sort of kinesthetic sense, like being aware of her own body moving through space. It wasn’t at all what she’d seen before, when everyone was practicing at the Farm. That was so specific, so unique to the person, to see the energy they radiated and how it moved through their bodies. This was so much… Bigger, maybe? Almost overwhelming, until she found that by concentrating on one thing- Jason, for example- she could make the rest sort of fade out, while whatever she focused on became clearer, sharper and more alive in her mind’s eye. Holy shit, this is wild! Okay, okay... Um… Let’s see… How far out does this work? “So, hey,” she called, unable to wipe the smile off her face as she paced carefully around the clearing, hands out at her sides. “I think I’m banned from playing hide-and-seek. Like, forever.” Grinning like a child with a new favorite toy, she walked the perimeter of the campsite, trying to work out at exactly what point the odd feeling of life faded into an indistinct haze. Maybe… 100 feet, or so? Autumn guessed, and then laughed to herself, a little excited and a little incredulous at the same time. As the sensation of the snake at the edge of her awareness disappeared, the redhead paused, and retraced her steps until it reappeared. Cool. Yeah, I think that’s right. And, hey. At least it’s useful. It occurred to her, then, that this was what she’d experienced in the hospital, when she and Cassie had gone downstairs and the worlds had flipped again, or overlapped, or… Whatever. “Okay,” she murmured, kneeling a few feet from the pair of trees where the stack of firewood had toppled into a shadowy pile perfect for any number of insects and small animals to make their home. “So… who are you, exactly? Are you friendly, or are you bitey?” Autumn had been taught to demonstrate a healthy respect for all creatures, even those not normally considered dangerous, so she weighed her options carefully. Out of the 10 species of snake native to the region, only one was technically venomous, and most of the others were sufficiently shy or docile enough to be safely relocated, but a 1-in-10 chance was still a chance. The last thing- well, one of the last things- she wanted on this trip was to get bitten by a rattlesnake and have to endure Jase’s teasing about needing the venom sucked out. And, as if on cue… He’d moved so quietly, somehow padding up behind her without disturbing any of the dried needles or foliage, that if she hadn’t felt him draw nearer she’d never have known he was there. The thought was a little disturbing, but equally impressive; it occurred to her that he might be a good hunting partner as well, when the elk and mule deer seasons opened in a few weeks, and she made a mental note to ask him about it. Maybe he was right, and just “doing activities” together would help banish the lingering uneasiness she still felt around him. “Hey.” She glanced up over her shoulder at his approach, giving the tall, wiry youth a quick smile. “We have a visitor. I’m trying to decide if they can hang out with us, or if they’re gonna be one of those annoying, grumpy neighbors. And I think…” Her voice trailed off, eyes losing focus with the shift from one type of vision to another. The shape of the head was the most important part, and since she had no idea if there was a way to work out more details, it was probably enough. “Yeah, I think we’re good. ...Probably. Just to be safe, though, would you mind doing the telekinesis-thing, and move those two logs right there? I know you’ve already used it a lot, so if not, I can just grab a stick or something to nudge them and get her to come out.” "It’s no strain or problem." he smiled slightly, nodding toward the two logs she'd indicated which obediently lifted, very slowly, away from the ground. “No matter how many times I see that, it’s still hard to believe. Although, honestly, if I could touch things at a distance, feel them without having to actually disturb them, I dunno. It’s kinda cool,” she admitted, getting to her feet in case the snake was startled enough to be aggressive. “Ohhh, look at you,” the redhead all but whispered in admiration. She didn’t share Cade’s gift with animals, but that didn’t stop her from striking up a one-sided conversation anyway. “Aren’t you beautiful?” she breathed, smiling. “Hope you don’t mind, we’re just gonna do some renovations to your house, here, but you’re welcome to stay if you want. If not, that’s cool. We’re kind of on the big and noisy side, huh? Might make it hard to get dinner tonight.” Cautiously, carefully, the pair re-stacked the fallen logs, keeping a watchful eye on the pretty little garter snake that was also watching them. By the time they were done, she of the gilded stripes had retreated into a narrow gap between two of the largest logs on the bottom, where neither party was likely to annoy the other. “Nice job,” Autumn smiled approvingly at Jase’s share of the work. “We can use those last few to get the fire started. I’m gonna go put this away and get cleaned up a little before we unpack the rest. Cool?” Scooping up the camp shovel she’d abandoned by the firepit earlier, she banged it a couple of times against the bottom of her boot before folding it up again and returning it to the ATV. She paused for a moment, debating the relative merits of rinsing her face and hands with some of the bottled water she’d brought, versus just going over to the creek… and it occurred to her, mid-consideration, that the only reason she was even thinking about it was because she wasn’t alone. Okay, no. That’s... It shouldn’t matter. Why should it be any different just because someone else is here? Don’t make it weird, Autumn. Rolling her eyes at her own self-consciousness, the animated young woman rummaged around in her pack until she managed to extricate a towel and headed down toward the water’s edge. The Goddamn Bannon did good work, she had to admit. The bank was clear, and all the driftwood and branches that had blocked access to the water had been relocated into a relatively neat pile further down the rocky shore. It was beautiful: the sound of the stream, the heat of the afternoon, and the fresh, clean smell of sun-warmed pine on the breeze. Aaaaand, her, covered in ash, dirt, and sweat. Grinning as she untied the much-beloved hoodie from around her waist and draped it over a nearby branch, Autumn couldn’t help but laugh, imagining the picture that would make if some nature photographer happened by. Next, the hiking boots and socks came off, and were carefully set aside, farther from the water’s reach, followed- after a moment’s hesitation- by her t-shirt, and then her jeans. She’d worn the two-piece swimsuit underneath, purchased over the summer, for entirely practical reasons, and this was a very practical sort of situation. ...And yet, it was still a little odd taking off her clothes with someone who wasn’t a relative less than 100 feet away, but- hadn’t she also told Marissa that the reason she enjoyed coming out here so much was the freedom? Autumn considered that for a moment as she shook the loose dirt from her clothes and set them aside. Superficially, the purpose of the trip was to clean up the camp site, but the whole idea was to get to know her new friend better, and for him to become more familiar with her, as well. How was he going to do that if she did things differently just because he was there? Eh, she decided with a surreptitious glance back toward the clearing. He’s seen boobs before, and I’m not naked enough that Instagram would ban the photos, so fuck it, I guess. The water was satisfyingly cool as she entered, but not at all cold, and when she’d waded far enough that it eddied around her pale thighs, she bent down, quickly splashing the dirt from her face and scrubbing it off her forearms. It would have taken twice as long if she’d tried to be more careful, used water from one of the jugs or something. It would also have been a lot less fun. Once she was satisfied that all the freckles she could see were actually part of her skin, she took a long, deep breath, bent her knees, and let herself sink down to the bottom. He’d watched as she gently spoke to the garter snake, his eyes studying her profile intently as she restacked the logs, leaving space for the small reptile to find a safe, comfortable nook. Then he’d given her some privacy as she went to clean up, turning instead to sort out his camping arrangements. His low, sloping Backpacker was technically a two-man tent, but only if they were horizontal - perhaps a single person could sit upright in the thing. It was minimalist: lightweight and waterproof, good for temperate weather during Spring, Summer or Fall, and packed up into a neat, small roll-bag that could be clipped onto the Army surplus pack he’d come with. He unpacked it, eyeing the ground for a good spot and telekinetically ensuring it was free of rocks and sharp, pokey sticks, then set the tent up with an ease born of equal parts practice, perfect memory and having as many extra hands as he needed, noting with some satisfaction that the whole process had taken him maybe eight minutes, and when it was done he was a safe distance from the firepit with the flap of his tent facing towards it. He stashed his pack in the tent, setting aside a flashlight and a roll of toilet paper just inside the flap, then his head tilted as he heard the sounds of splashing from the creek. Smiling to himself, he grabbed a towel from his pack and, straightening, ambled in the direction of the creek and the sound of watery relaxation. So it was that when Autumn surfaced from the sunlit water with a small whoop of enjoyment, the first thing she saw as she scooped her length of soaking red hair from her eyes was Jase, who regarded her with a small grin, then dropped his towel on the pebbles and began to peel off his t-shirt. “You’d better be wearing trunks.” Autumn said warningly as Jason’s lean torso came into view. He was not muscular, but what muscle he had was defined, taut over bones that seemed too large for the sparse flesh currently adorning them. As she had noted before, he was utterly unselfconscious, chuckling as he started to unfasten his belt, the sound of his amusement causing her to be grateful that the water was just cool enough to take the edge off her blush. “If I wanted to heat the water to boiling point, I could do it more efficiently than by causing you to blush so hard your hair combusts.” he retorted, dropping trou to reveal that yes, he was wearing trunks and no, they weren’t indecently tight Speedos, rather being a loose set of swimming shorts that came down to mid thigh. Without further ado he waded out into the creek and performed a shallow dive, surfacing after a few moments with a wide grin of pleasure, then turning to Autumn, his green eyes shining. “Thank you for this.” he said soberly, despite his smiling gaze. He’s impossible, she realized suddenly, her infuriated denial of the possibility of her hair combusting because of something he said dying on her lips. Or perhaps she only remembered it suddenly, as if she’d somehow forgotten: there was no good way to “handle” Jason Bannon, because everything about him resisted being handled. ...And, if she was completely honest, confronted by the proximity of someone she'd almost kissed a week prior, when he was fully-clothed and not dripping wet… her hair spontaneously catching fire was the least of her worries. “Honestly? You’re welcome,” she replied after a moment’s thought, the corners of her eyes crinkling slightly as she smiled, ignoring the sudden influx of warmth into her cheeks. “And, I don’t mean like... The courtesy thing, where somebody says ‘thanks,’ and you say ‘you’re welcome,’ because that’s what you’re supposed to do, and all that. I mean…” Hesitating, her clear, pale eyes flicked over Jase’s shoulder to the camp site up the shore, and then back to his face. “You’re welcome. Here, I mean. This has always kind of been my place, but I, um. I don’t mind sharing it. With a friend.” The taste of the word was still unfamiliar, and she was pretty sure she couldn’t be more out of her depth with someone if she swallowed stones and sank to the bottom of the sea, but… Was there any better reason to try something, than that it was hard? In her eyes, every time Jase opened his mouth, or looked at someone, he shifted the goalpost a little bit, daring them to go after it, watching to see if they would. It was awkward, and sometimes intensely uncomfortable- case in point, she reflected, resisting the almost physical urge to duck underwater again beneath the weight of that burning green gaze- but also incredibly exciting… a game where people had to figure out the rules in the midst of playing. Maybe she would never really understand him. Maybe she couldn’t. Maybe there was no way to “win,” given how completely, impossibly, impossible Jase was, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t still a lot of fun to try. She tipped her head back into the current with an indulgent sigh, letting the current tug at her hair as she watched a bird wheel slowly across the enormous, otherwise unbroken expanse of blue overhead. “So, friend, now that you’re out here, what do you feel like doing? I still want to get everything unpacked before it gets dark, and get a fire going, but I’m open to suggestions. Staying out here is a completely valid option, by the way. Or a nap. Or a long walk. Pretty much anything.”
    3 points
  24. "Four," she said firmly. "As one of those five was my brother, and the safety of my family is paramount in the accord of this business arrangement. He will remain occluded from the prying eyes of whomever is holding your leash." "In exchange, however," her dark eyes met his and she offered him an apologetic smile. "I was planning on stopping by The Project later this week, while I am there I will do my utmost to collect as much as I can on the other, less special, freaks and find out what their glitches are. I was hoping to get access to Dr. Cook's notes, since it seems like the Nerd Herd might be asked to take over their training. That, and my brother is dying for Annette Gile's phone number. I promised him I would take a shot at it for him." She stood up and straightened her skirt and settled the chain that was her purse strap over her shoulder. "Now, you can argue the part about my brother for your masters, but I'm just going to stick my guns and you can make your phone call. If my world is not crashing down around me by then, I will see you Sunday, Mr. Enterich. We both know you have my number, so please, feel free to call or text since it is a burner phone and won't do me any good if I go the authorities. Honestly now, Mr. Enterich, we can't have a proper relationship without trust, can we? Just lay your enemies before me and walk away, walk away, walk away." She concluded with an audible air kiss in his direction accented with a farewell smile. "Lieutikon?" He asked, moderately familiar with the phrasing, just not their arrangement. "Breaking Benjamin." She replied over the cubicle walls as she made her alluring walk to the exit. "Good stuff. Look them up." ---===[]===--- Several minutes later she'd abandoned school and her black Mercedes' tired were crunching on the gravel that led up to the 'The Bridge'. The same bridge Sara wanted blow up several weeks prior when everyone's lives started tumbling down hill. She'd argued against it, but now? No she just wanted to see everything burn. She wanted to blow something up. Set the place on fire, something to just let the growing guilt and shame and fear that was welling up inside of her loose upon the world so she didn't have to carry it with her anymore. She wasn't sure anymore if this was her father's fault or hers and she wasn't sure if it mattered. "Fuck!" She slammed her hand on the steering wheel and the word was repeated an innumerable amount of times until had served the sole purpose of conjuring forth the tears she so desperately needed to cry. Lazily her hand still tried to strike the wheel as she buried her head against it and just sobbed until she lost track of the time. Within ten minutes she was pacing in front of the car, tapping a sharpened nail against her teeth talking to herself about how none if it was her fault and after a few quick sell outs of her frie- the Nerd Herd she'd have enough money to slip away one night and never see them again. Really, it was only a matter of time before one of them stabbed her in the back, right? That's what people did. She was simply preemptively getting them before they got her. Fair is fair, right? With arms crossed tightly like she was cold despite the beautiful summer day she continued to pace, trying to justify her actions under the thick pangs of a new feeling she didn't recall ever having until today. Guilt? Remorse? She paused as the tears still streamed down her face and having long ago ruined her makeup. Se looked a mess as she complained. "Shit." She fumed, snorting in her running nose in a most ladylike manner. "I am feeling. Fuuuck!" She tantrumed with stomping feet as she screamed at the clouds. "Okay, no," she worked on composing herself and went back to pacing. "Stop. Get a grip. If they know it's all over, and you and your family are dead or worse, poor. Marissa Beatrix Jauntsen, hide your crazy and get your shit together. Think. None of them are mind readers so none of them can see that you're lying to them. This isn't your fault. They came to you, right? If you don't do this, they'll hurt your family. These guys were all born poor and retarded, so they don't mind being poor and retarded. You can't be poor. How would you survive without brand names or... or... unprocessed foods from obscenely high priced organic markets? They're your friends, they love you!" She chuckled at the sheer silliness of that statement. "Of course they love you, look at you! You are amazing, and beautiful and rich. You give them something to aspire to. You bring rays of ambitious sunlight into their otherwise dreary, pathetic, meaningless lives. Everything is going to be just fine!" She said with a forced smile as she opened her arms to the world and the invisible audience she'd been justifying herself to. The gravel and sun and clouds offered nothing in reply that comforted her in the slightest. She immediately began massaging the bridge of her nose. "I am a dead woman. Who am I kidding? They are going strap me to a table and devour my still living body like a zombie buffet, using my tears as sweetener. They will probably throw me to Jason when they are finished so he can finally sleep with my corpse." She shook her head in disgust. "We would not even bother reapplying my makeup either, I would look like a nightmare." She shuttered at the thought of her corpse being violated without properly being made up. The thought seemed more nauseating than having her corpse violated. "Okay," she paced again, rubbing the bridge of her nose like she, and her twin brother, did when they were overly stressed or irritated. "If you go to them they are going to freak-the-fuck out and it will be a shit show. If you sell them out, then you have ruined," she twirled her unoccupied hand to assist her searching for the right words. "Whatever this is you have with the Nerd Herd. They could be hurt, their families could be hurt. If you do not sell them out, then it is all on me and my family. Shit, this is complicated." A thought suddenly sprang to her mind. She couldn't do this alone. She was devious, evil, manipulative and willing to cross lines the others wouldn't for the sake of their precious moral compasses, well, save for Jason, but she needed someone who could do more than be a robot. No. Times like this called for a special sort of cruelty. A rare blend of malice, deviousness and lack of compunction that would compliment her own two parts spice in this sweet mixture of malice. She smiled wide and dashed back into her car. The tires spun and kicked rocks behind her as she sped off back towards school. ---===[]===--- Within the hour Marissa was once again talking, walking, and looking like a million dollars as the after lunch classes were letting out and the halls were filed a torrent of poor people. She knew who she was looking for and she swung the door open to the study hall room she smiled wide in glee as her eyes locked onto her target. "Courtney!" She declared exuberantly as she eyed the crimson lipped nymphomaniac setting her bag down by an empty seat and collecting her books and phone from it. Marissa approached her. "I am so happy to see you I could kiss you." "Okay!" Courtney smiled with a shrug and gleefully closed her eyes while lightly puckering her lips as Marissa walked right past her. When the moment, and Marissa, passed she opened her eyes slightly and looked to the left, then right, and let out a depressed sigh. "Tease." she said with a near Harley Quinn masque to her demeanor. "We are fucked." Marissa began. "So fucked." "Well, not all of us," Courtney mused as she fired off her volley of insults with catty precision. "You have all that going for you and you still can't get a guy to sleep with you." "Okay," Marissa's lips pursed into a forced smile. She nodded, absorbing the insult. "First: fuck you, bitch. Second: this goes past us and our problems. This is... secret identity stuff, and it involves you. We do not have time to tear each other's throats out. Courtney, listen..." Marissa told her everything, the meeting, Mr. Enterich, the US Marshals, everything except what her father had done to earn the ire of this secret organization, which she really didn't know to begin with, only that whatever it was it had ruined their family. "Wow," Courtney paced about taking it all in. "Have you been crying?" "Yes!" Marissa fumed as it seemed like the redhead hadn't heard a word she'd said. "Yes, I have been crying because this shit is deep, Court. I can not go to the Project because then the other guys will hurt my family. I can not save my family though without selling out you and the Nerd Herd and I will not let my friends get hurt!" She clamped her hand over her mouth. She'd crossed the line and broken her own personal code. It slipped, but the word was said and could not be unsaid. Courtney, for once, had nothing to say. She knew the code. No attachments. Everyone was a tool to be used and discarded. Succeed no matter the cost. Marissa had inspired her from petty bully who'd pick on Sean to a glamorous socialite who had popularity and the entire school kissing her feet. "We're... friends?" Courtney managed to ask quietly. "I thought..." "Times change, I guess?" The Queen of Shelly fought back yet more tear glistening over her eyes. "I am... I am tired Courtney. I just want to be me and not what the world expects me to be. I want to sit around and eat pizza with Autumn, insult Jason, write stories for Sean to read and inspire his games, argue conspiracy theories with Cassandra. I want to go fishing with my boyfriend. I even miss our mean girl shopping trips to the mall. I'm a nerd, Courtney, and my nerds need me. Now, how can we make this whole messed up secret agent thing work to our advantage without letting everyone know and possibly killing my family? No one poisons apples and terrorizes kingdoms like we do. Evil is in our blood. We can't let these guys beat us." Courtney extended her arms and motioned for Marissa to come to her. "Hug first. Solutions forthcoming. Then we rain destruction."
    3 points
  25. "Yeah," Devin said, already in motion and looking a might bit concerned. "Let's get you spun the fuck up. Certainly sounds like we have time for that as the walls a melting away all Silent Hill up in this bitch." "Devin, get us out of here," Marissa turned to face her brother as she reflexively gripped Cade's hand. "No can do." He replied to his gorgeous sibling. "The Dark emanates raw dimensional interference. It doesn't belong here, and the closer it is, the more my targeting goes all wonky. I can manage small jaunts, but if I try anything farther, it'll rip my guts apart like before." Kat had no idea what the hell he was talking about. "Damnit," she cursed. She looked to everyone else and squeezed Cade's hand. "We need to go." She looked up to her boyfriend and rest her free had on his chest. "You are on Jase duty. He's injured and you are the biggest thing we have right now. Stay with him. The rest of us will look out for each other, and..." she took a concerned breath as she looked at him. She gripped his shirt and pulled his 6'4" self down to meet her 5'8" gaze. For a few moments the hospital faded as her lips pressed against his and her palm cupped his cheek to hold him in place she motivated her soldier. She pulled away and opened her eyes. "Be careful. I mean it." "Cathrine, my brother, Devin, new French girl, now let's get the hell out of here." She urged them. "On it," Devin, with no regard for Kat's presence, jaunted from where he stood in the room to the doorway leading out into the hallway. For the first time all of them, for the briefest of moments were able to see the two apertures in the same place at the same time, the shimmering purple distortions left by his jaunts pulsed and shimmered briefly like oil on water giving off all the various hues of purple from lavender to periwinkle before fading away. "Shit," Charlie muttered. "Sophia. She's in the waiting room!" "Dude, seriosuly?" Devin looked stunned and defeated at once. "Okay, look, I'll go get her, you stay with the girls and help Cade lead everyone out. I'll catch up." "But-" Charlie attempted to protest. After all, he'd brought her here and he felt like she was his obligation to protect. "I get it, bro," Devin smirked a friendly smirk, not his usual sarcastic snigger. "But who's faster? Keep my sister safe, and I'll make sure Sophia is fine. You got this." He raised up his fist and Charlie bumped it. "Head away from the screams of terror, text me locales, I'll find you." He dashed off towards the waiting room. Marissa jogged to the door, the heels of her boots clacking on the tiles. She took up position where he brother just darted from. "Running in those might not be the best idea," Cade offered up to her as he was helping Jason with the last few moments of his preparation to vacate the Hospital of Horrors. "Baby, me running in heels is the least of our concerns right now." Marissa replied to her boyfriend right as she looked at Kat. "So, please don't allow what happens in the next several moments of excruciating madness and horrific terror to put too dark of a mar on your opinion of our little town, it truly is a quaint place to live."
    3 points
  26. Cade’s trick, despite the humorous comparisons, was impressive and, in addition, served to break up some of the tension caused by fresh discussion of Jason’s... unique outlook on things. People took a break for a soda and, in Jase’s case, a smoke before continuing. The breakthrough of the psionic teens ability to ‘tune in’ to each other’s Shine through touch proved important, not least of which for being able to assess whether someone had ‘Psi-Shine’ or the ‘Hero-Shine’, as Jason labelled Lilly and Cade’s gift. “With you two, it’s as though you are becoming idealised human beings – figures from story and myth. They are not usually outside the scope of human experience – great strength, speed and so on are still ‘human’ traits, which makes the Hero relatable. The Hero’s actions have massive ramifications, for good or ill.” He explained. “Heroine.” Lilly grinned, though she liked the term. “So our ability to ‘choose’ realities is us being able to steer the story.” “For good, or ill.” Jason repeated. “King Arthur was a Hero. He became king, established order and enlightenment, and then was brought low by his own failing and the failing of another Hero he trusted, Lancelot du Lac. The result was a dark age following the golden.” He smiled slightly. “A cautionary tale for all of us.” He tossed the butt of his rollup into the firepit and glanced around. “We know Sara is telepathic, so she’s definitely psionic. If you’re willing to sit down with me, Autumn, we can get you placed in the right weight class.” Autumn looked doubtfully at the Effing Bannon. He was clothed, at least. And a psychopath, a word that conjured all sorts of nightmares – and yet... He’d looked after them, in the woods. He’d stood and fought a monster (something she’d wished she’d done at the time). And although he was odd and had a way of smiling that made her tense up, he hadn’t ever threatened her. Finally, he seemed to know what he was doing. “Right.” She said slowly, watching as he moved to sit on a clear patch of grass, gesturing to her to sit opposite him. “Is this going to hurt?” she asked as she sat down, shuffling closer with some reluctance, eying the hands he held out to her in invitation. He smiled slightly, but it wasn’t amusement at her expense this time. Well, mostly. It was even, in the right light, reassuring. “Not a bit.” = = = = = Autumn had psionic Shine. Jase could feel it within her through their link, a similar vitality to that shared by Lona and Charlie. Power over life, over cellular matter. It was a rich cascade of sensation and vibrancy that made him feel stronger just by proximity to it. It had taken maybe five minutes of careful coaching, but finally he felt the field of her Shine interacting with his own as she relaxed, her sea-hued eyes on his icy green ones. She was warm and emotional, like Cassie, but restless where Cass was focused, her energy pacing back and forth waiting to be unleashed. He marvelled at the simple, yet profound insight this link could provide. For Autumn, it was an odd experience. Intimate, yet not too invasive – There were no thoughts exchanged, nor could she read his emotions like she might have imagined. Instead she was aware of Bannon’s energy – his Shine- and how his psyche reflected upon it. He was control, focus and crystalline icy clarity over a simmering, banked furnace that waited and wanted to be called upon. Like Cassie earlier, she noted he didn’t feel twisted or evil, just odd. Alien. A matter of his intelligence, or his ‘condition’, or both? Oddly, she found his focus to be stabilising, taking on a fraction of his calm fearlessness for herself while they were linked. “You feel it?” she heard him ask as she swam in the cool green of his eyes. She nodded. “Now focus on your own Shine. Be aware of it. You feel somewhat like Lona. She can heal, has an awareness of life around her and it’s relative health. Focus on the Shine, feel it.” He said calmly. Autumn focused, drawing on the calm clarity of Bannon’s energy to still her own restlessness. She felt the pale glow of the Shine... and then under it something else. The redhead’s eyes widened as she realised she could feel the life-force in her own body and, with only minor concentration, that of those around her, being able to focus on each in turn. Charlie there had a couple of minor bruises, Cassie ached a little as if from intense exercise, Lona fairly glowed with good health – as did she herself, she realised. Lilly and Cade likewise were pictures of health, whereas Bannon... “You’re hurt.” She said, blinking as she regarded him with this new sense. She had spotted the faint purple bruise on his jaw earlier, but now she could feel all the bruises under his baggy shirt and pants. He was in painful discomfort. “What the hell happened to you?” “Training this morning.” He said calmly as if that explained everything. “Don’t heal me, please. I’m learning to work through it. It’s a self-discipline exercise.” “Jesus, Jase.” Lona said as she, too focused on his vital aura, alerted by the conversation. “You could have said-“ “I know.” He interrupted with that same calm tone, smiling a little at his friend. “But it’s part of my personal training, Avalon. My choice.” “But-“ “Do I have any broken bones? Or internal injuries?” he asked rhetorically. “They’re just bruises. Bruises fade.” He met her eyes. “When the day’s training is over, I’ll ask you or Autumn to heal me so I don’t turn up to school bruised.” He said quietly. “Fair?” Lona didn’t like it, that much was obvious, but she nodded silent assent. “Thank you.” He said softly, then turned back to Autumn. “Alright, now we’ve gotten your feet wet, let’s get up and see what you –and we all - can really do.” = = = = = Sean had a pretty good handle on following and controlling the flow of electrons that gushed like blood within the wires and microchips of electrical devices. He demonstrated again by making his pair of drones dance in the air in an intricate ballet. But doing so had spurred him on to consider how else he might manipulate electromagnetic energy. He could change how it reacted inside devices, could he do it to all the other such energy about them. When he focused, he could see all the threads and fireflies of visible and invisible light, various frequencies of radio waves, and more.... "Hold on guys, I'm gonna try something, don't freak out," Sean warned them, as he inhaled and reached out with his mind, grasping all the strands of visible light and... twisted them, turning them into sourceless radio waves. The practice area was plunged into utter darkness, pitch black to all but his eyes, which could still perceive in the ultraviolet and infrared spectrum. It made his friends look very odd to his perception and took a while to get too. He could still perceive the threads of visible light he had twisted, see them starting to unravel into their true forms, but slowly. "I turned the visible light into harmless radio waves. I think, unless I did something, it'll stay like this for a few hours. But I think that'll make practicing harder than is has to be." Sean twisted the strands again, changing the frequency of the ambient photons, and as he did so, the darkness faded away, a bubble of light encompassing the clearing shifting through the hues of a rainbow. Sean grinned, everything tinted faintly green. "Pretty sure I can put on a decent light show." The light shifted to a pale indigo and Sean cocked his head to the side, considering. He could twist strands of electromagnetic energy, but could he combine them? He tried, holding his hands about a foot apart, fingers waggling as through playing with a cat's cradle. The purplish-blue light seemed to be pulled between his fingers, growing brighter, harder. The entire area seemed to grow slightly dimmer as he twisted the threads of light together in an ever tighter rope, the light shifting to blue then green... Sean felt it just a moment before it happened, eyes going wide and lips peeling back in excited panic, as he felt the tightly bound braid of light snap together. "Look away! Look away!" Sean shouted, as a searing, razor thin line of blinding green light blazed into being, forming between his hands to a point just pass one of the abandoned pieces of farming equipment, severing it in half, the edges glowing orange and the acrid scent of burnt steel in the air. The unexpected intensity of his personal laser made his stumble back and land on his plush behind. A trickle of blood trickled down Sean's nose, staining his upper lip as he tried to brush is away while he climbed back to his feet. He had pushed himself hard with that, too hard. "Um, oops? I didn't think it would be that big." “Phrasing.” Jason said dryly as he offered a hand and helped Sean up. The others snickered, tension released as laughter. = = = = = Perhaps the biggest discovery was that when Sara linked multiple psionicists in a mental network of sorts, they could tune into each other’s Shine (provided the other allowed it) and perform the same boosts as though they were touching. “This implies that the subquantum layer is one point in space – or rather than space doesn’t exist there. Cassie can see and sense over massive distances. Devin can teleport to Greece for pizza.” Jason mused. “They don’t literally project their senses or body through space, they dive down into the subquantum, then back up again where they want to be.” He snapped his fingers as a thought occurred to him. “Cassie. You said at Bunnee’s the other night that you saw what had happened in the past, with the bear and the tree?” he looked at her intently. The pretty blonde nodded, curious why he was bringing it up. “Time as well.” He said with a firm definite tone. “Time doesn’t exist down there, which makes sense because space doesn’t. So you send your senses down to the subquantum, then bring them up not just where you want, but also when. Within reason, I suppose. I wonder if Devin could teleport through time...?” “Oh, come on.” Sean looked askance at his friend. “Time travel now?” “Why not? We’re all travelling through time anyway. I can walk across the field in ten minutes. Devin can teleport across it in an eyeblink. Time and space are linked – if he can dodge one, then there’d have to be some kind of special law that stops him dodging the other.” Jase looked thoughtful for a moment, then shrugged. “It would go towards explaining the smilodon and other weirdness. Something to consider.” That set aside for now, people got back to learning the extent of their gifts and how they interacted with one another. Jase’s emphasis seemed to be on the physical – objects became easier to affect, sense or manipulate when he was assisting in a link. Lona and Autumn, by contrast, had an affinity with living organisms that made affecting those more easy when they were part of a link. In addition when the pair of them linked their Shine grew stronger, something Jase and Sean theorised to be the sympathetic wavelength of their Shine reinforcing each other. Charlie (who still was not at all drunk – the test had been a success) seemed to make tasks more effortless when he was lending assistance, whereas Clara and Cora brought the effect of massively increasing the Shine of whomever they linked with. Cassie extended the reach of a person’s powers, allowing Lona to heal Charlie’s bruises from his training with Lilly from a dozen feet away, rather than having to touch him. Sean seemed to be an extender of a different sort – rather than extending the range of a power, he extended the time it could be maintained. They all learned together, sometimes serious and sometimes playing as the afternoon wore on. The Shine seemed to replenish itself swiftly enough, provided one didn’t completely exhaust it. Some discovered power they didn’t realise they had, such as Cassie exhibiting some small psychokinetic ability – a defensive reaction to slow incoming attacks similar to that possessed by Jason. Or Clara realising she could work with the subquantum to produce and manipulate energy in a manner similar to Cora. = = = = = Sometimes linked by Sara, sometimes touching hands the psionic Fellowship members played, practiced and learned. And the ‘heroic’ ones too. Lilly and Cade were both highly athletic, somehow increased by their own brand of Shine. The two put this to the test, racing each other in sprints from one end of the field to the others at speeds that the other teens couldn’t get close to. Cade displayed uncanny aim with throwing or projectile weapons, though Lilly seemed able to drive an arrow through slim steel plating with the force of her draw. Cade’s empathy with wild creatures was perhaps not as flashy as some abilities being displayed, but nonetheless was unusual, to say the least. Arguably somewhat more impressive was Lilly’s straight right. Focusing on how she’d kicked the burning monster through a tree, she set up a roughly man-sized log and, pausing to wrap her hands, began to tentatively jab at it. After the first few impacts she stopped, unwrapped her hands, then began once more to box at the log. Her fists slammed home with more force, the bark splintering but leaving her hands unmarked, something that Sean, currently taking a rest nearby, remarked on. “Go on, Captain America.” The feminine boy grinned as he took a swig of water. “Stop tickling it.” Lilly smirked at him, but furrowed her brow as she turned back to the log. Okay. Let’s do this. The psionic teens paused in their practice as the sound of hammers splintering wood filled the air. Lilly unleashed a flurry of blows into the solid log as though it were a hanging bag, focusing her will through each contact, imagining the fishasaurus in front of her. The bark where she had been hitting the log was all gone now, her fists having started to deform and crack the solid pine underneath when, with a final explosive impact, the log flew twenty feet into the already abused farm machinery that people had been using for arrow and (impromptu) laser practice. There was a horrendous crash, then the log fell forwards with a thud. There was a pause, then Jason gave his strangely happy laugh. “Whoa.” Charlie breathed. He went over to inspect the fallen log, noting the cracked and dented condition it was in. “You pounded the shit out of it.” “Really went to town on that wood, huh?” Cora said with a giggle, her cheeks reddening as the others stared at her. “Phras- No. No, it’s too easy.” Cade deadpanned, causing another round of snickering and laughter. = = = = = The sun was getting lower, the sky darker as the teens called a halt more by common consensus than anything else. A flicker of Jase’s power caused the bonfire to bloom into life as people settled down on or leaning against the logs around it as sparks crackled and flew like fireflies in the purpling sky. “Right. Deal’s a deal. Let me heal you.” Lona said, laying a hand on Jason’s shoulder. He sighed as the aches and pains he’d suffered through vanished, first with a weird pulling sensation and then were gone, replaced with a sense of wellbeing. He smiled up at her from where he sat. “Thank you.” He said softly, then turned to look at the fire. He was content, in this moment. Tomorrow was a new week of school, and fresh problems, and old stale ones too. He wondered if the Fellowship’s experience today had bonded them at all. He didn’t feel it but then, he wouldn’t. He thought perhaps people were working better together, having an improved awareness and appreciation for one another. But he was outside that, and for a moment briefly regretted not knowing what it was like. Perhaps something like the link through the Shine, he mused, only not requiring touch or Sara’s power to access. He’d been very careful when in the mental network to guard his thoughts, which was easy enough – nothing went out over the network that the individual didn’t want to. He was aware, though, that his mind was likely not like any of the others, even the more cerebral teens like Clara and Sean. He was isolated, and yet did not register it as a pang or negative feeling. “Hey.” Autumn said from her spot by the fire, regarding him with a little more warmth than she had at the start of the afternoon. “Earth to Bannon. I’ve got a question for you.” “It’s already laundered and back at the house.” Jase replied without missing a beat, causing her to blush. “Not that.” She scowled as some of the others snickered. “You can lift a lot with your telekinesis, right?” “Right.” Jason tilted his head, curious. “And you don’t slip – like, you don’t lose your grip suddenly.” She pressed, clearly working up to something. “Not unless Clara makes me by damping my power.” He replied steadily. “Right. So, I want an airplane.” She said, her attitude somewhere between challenge and request. “An airplane.” He replied levelly. “Yep. Fly me.” Autumn got to her feet and regarded him. “C’mon. Up, up and away. I want to fly.” She was gratified to actually see him blink, taken aback for the first time she could remember. “You want me to fly you around?” he asked in a careful tone. “What, you don’t want to?” Autumn put her hands on her hips and stared at him. “C’mon, Bannon. I loaned you my hoodie-“ “I’m fine with it.” He said. “I’m just surprised you asked.” “So that’s a yes?” Autumn smiled wide. “It won’t be very fast.” He warned, but an answering smile was playing around his lips. “Running speed, tops.” “I don’t care. I’ve been freaked out, chased by monsters, visited the effing underworld and seen us all do some weird and wonderful shit these last few days.” Autumn said defiantly. “So I want to flyyyyyyyy-“ Her words turned into an excited yelp as she suddenly rose into the air and began to drift about ten feet above the ground. Some of the Fellowship laughed, others whooped or yelled encouragement as Autumn circled the fire at a safe distance, Jason’s invisible grasp on her a gentle impersonal pressure. She wasn’t motionless as she flew – Autumn found she could move her arms and legs and did so, alternating between the classic Superman flying pose and the arms outstretched like a bird pose as she banked, rose, dove and whirled, a grin on her face. She never went too high, nor did she dive too fast. He didn’t pretend to drop her or do anything to scare her, rather he just watched from where he sat, a smile on his face and his eyes reflecting the firelight. The sun was above the horizon still, it’s rays turning everything red-gold and causing her hair to flame crimson as the girl spun and danced in the air, finding that Goddamn Jason Effing Bannon was responding to her arm and leg movements and steering the way she wanted, rather than flopping her around like a rag doll. She made as if to dive and, obediently, the force lifting her made her dive in a swoop above Charlie’s head. She whooped as Bannon put her through a slow loop, then another, before he brought her gently back to touch down just outside the circle of log seating. “How was that?” Jason asked the Fellowship’s newest member, his gaze on hers.
    3 points
  27. "She's right," Devin thumbed to Clara while addressing Lilly. "Hate to admit it, but Clara is right. It's about priorities. The Dark is a priority." He leaned in to Lilly to make himself clear. "You. Are not. Don't wanna eat? Don't. More for me. Wanna bust my balls over shit I said a couple days ago? Couple days ago I wasn't ass deep in Upsidedown Thunder with a vagina tongue trying to eat my dick. So save it. I'm not interested and I don't care. I'm not taking it back. We're not cool. I'm not cool with any of you right now. So suck it up buttercup. I do know though, that all of us? As messed up and hateful and spiteful and neurotic as we are... were brought together for a reason. We Shine and there is beast called The Dark coming our way. Do we need to get Cade's sister in here to do that math for us, or can you figure it out?" He stood and looked at all of them. "I don't have to like you to have your back when the sun sets. I don't have to like you to help you protect those you love. I don't have to like you to stand with you as a bastion of light between our world and a world of misery, despair and fear. I may hate this town, but it's still my town. I may not like you, but your still my people. So if that bastard wants Shelly? I say we get our asses in gear, stop with the bullshit, have another slice of pizza and do what angst ridden teenagers who all need to get over themselves do best..." he leaned onto table, resting on his arms as he looked around to all them. His face curled into a grin. "...let's go get our misbehave on."
    3 points
  28. If you are excited for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim make sure you check out the site themes.
    3 points
  29. "I will keep it in mind." he replied, with a nod of his head to further accentuate his acceptance of her words, though his eyes never left her face. "Though I can't make any promises about going too far when making amends." he added, a gleam of humor flashing a fin in the calm pools of his gaze. The smile spread from his eyes then, to a slight curve of his lips once more as he studied the vibrant copper-tressed girl on the branch, taking in how the golden sparks of light shone on the freckled ivory of her skin, highlighting the deeper rose of her lips and the darkness of her eyes in the half-light. "So..." he began, the word a slow, low murmur. "I was wondering if you'd like to come down here and make out under the fireflies for awhile." And there it was again, that completely unfiltered, unashamed interest that'd make somebody a fortune if they could ever figure out how to bottle and sell it to lonely people. Pheromones, she remembered distantly, dizzily, as she gazed down into the depthless, ageless green-gold eyes glittering up at her, except that this time there was no crackling campfire to blame for the rush of heat blooming bright beneath her skin. She'd never really thought of herself as fickle, before, but what other excuse was there for going from spitting mad to being ready to literally fall into his arms in a few minutes' time? Well, other-Autumn reminded her with scrupulous, nigh-unassailable logic. He did apologize. Mhmm. Aaand, he meant it, or he wouldn't have- -wouldn't have said it, right. Thanks. "Think you can concentrate enough to keep from burning the whole tree down?" she heard herself say, feeling her own lips curve in a mischievous, answering grin as her attention shifted from the brilliant gold-flecked lambency of her boyfriend's gaze to the shape of his mouth. The smile on that mouth was barely a hint at the edges, but the gleam of mirth in the Effing BF's eyes deepened as he paused for a moment, as if in consideration. Of course, he knew that the firefly effect was contained - none of the sparks could transfer heat: even if he lost concentration or passed out, they would simply fade away after a time. But he understood the mischief, the playfulness in Autumn's question, and so responded in kind. "Only one way for you to find out for sure." he answered, lips twitching in his own version of an answering grin, his tone teasing. "You're so right," she replied, a sudden impish gleam brightening the twilight seas of her eyes in the dim light; she might've forgiven him, but there was something to be said for occasionally, metaphorically, playing with fire. "So, let's see..." Autumn murmured, the slow to-and-fro swing of her feet more deliberate as she swayed a little from side to side, hmming to herself. "We... ask the question first, which we've done. We can't really do much background research to see what kind of results other people have gotten, since there's no real precedent, but we need to come up with a hypothesis. We could just establish what stimuli are likely to make you lose concentration, though, along with the temperature of these lights, and compare that to the amount of heat needed to burn green wood..." Tilting her head in a passable Bannon imitation, she regarded the lean young man whose kisses alone, in her mind, could spark a wildfire. "Or, if science isn't really your thing, we could go hiking instead?" "I was thinking of a more practical experiment. A field trial, if you will." Jase riposted, and then Autumn could feel herself being lifted carefully, but firmly off the branch and down into his arms with such smoothness she barely had time to laugh before she became aware of his arms around her, and his lean body against hers, and his lips right there coming down to meet hers in a firm, possessive kiss. For a few moments longer, the giggles continued as their lips met, and then her own arms came up and around his neck as the giggles became sighs. He was kissing her with barely restrained and poorly concealed passion, his mouth moving slowly against hers as his hands slid down her back to her hips. His teeth grazed her lower lip, drawing a small gasp from her before he broke the kiss, his eyes meeting hers from a mere few inches away. "Still want to go hiking?" he asked, his voice hoarse with the edge of desire as they stood in the waist-high grass under the spreading branches of the apple tree, the golden fireflies winking and flickering overhead. "Mhmm," came the almost immediate response, a drowsy, languid hum as Autumn rocked forward onto her toes, the fingers of one hand toying idly with a lock of dark hair at the nape of Jason's neck. "I even wore the t-shirt." The clean, quintessentially Jase scent she'd come to associate with him surrounded her, and, breathing it in, she leaned closer, unable to resist the temptation it posed. Definitely need to find a way to market this, she mused, if only to make a detergent she could wash her sheets in. And that thought led to another- that there might be more effective ways to make her bedsheets smell like this- and the liquid warmth rushing through her veins glowed with renewed heat. The tip of her nose brushed his; from this close, amid the shifting embers of the miniature galaxies spinning slowly above them in the darkness, his eyes were primeval forests rather than crystalline pools, their depths unexplored and only hinted at in stray firefly-flashes of sunlit gold. It would be easy to get lost there, she knew, just as surely as it would be possible to drown in the remote, icy waters within which that unknowable, ancient awareness swam. Whether warm and lush or glacial and unforgiving, there were no illusions in Jason Bannon's eyes, even considering all the enchantment and wonder he could summon up, and that he had done so for her. That meant something, didn't it? Maybe, yeah. It even alleviated that sense of unfairness a little because even though his thoughts were completely beyond her, his feelings, at least, were easier to understand. "Later, though," she murmured after a moment, her breath a tremulous whisper against his lips. Her palms slid down over his shoulders, his forearms, to clasp his hands in her own and, taking a step back she gently pulled him down with her into the tall, fragrant grass. Citrus and juniper mingled with the warm underlying scent of her skin and hair and the grass and earth beneath them as Jason willingly accepted Autumn's unspoken, yet insistent plea to join her in her makeshift bower. Their hands parted, his sliding up to her shoulder, trailing the backs of his curled fingers up the sides of her neck to gently bury themselves in her Titian mane of hair as they kissed again, and then again, each kiss a fresh spark that blazed as brightly in their young bodies as the faux-fireflies did overhead, and with far more incendiary a result. Autumn’s hands slid under his arms and around him, pulling him close, pressing her body to his and his to hers as though trying to eliminate all wasted space between them, even hooking one leg over his as she gave out a soft whimper at the intensity of liquid desire his kisses evoked. There was a sense of comfortable rightness, however urgent the floods of hormones were that cascaded through the two of them. This love-play was a curious mixture of languor and passion, as though they each, after the trials of the day, craved the close delights of intimacy more than the raw pleasure of carnality. That said, Autumn did not protest at the feel of Jason's hand slipping under her shirt and his fingers gently caressing her flesh, nor did he balk at the way her hips moved with slow deliberateness against the rigidity in the front of his jeans. But there was an unhurried, exploratory joy in these caresses and touches, for all the flashes of lightning they caused to tingle up and down the spines of the entangled teenagers. It was a voice calling their names that brought them, slowly, back to the realm of earthly, mundane things from their rapture in each other. Autumn uttered a soft groan as she recognised her mom's voice, coming closer as it called out again "Autumn? Jase?" "To be continued?" Jase murmured huskily, studying her kiss-reddened lips and desire-drowsy eyes. "Definitely," she breathed, gazing up into the shadows of his features, illuminated now and then by the dim, dreamlike glow of the winking fireflies. It was almost too perfect to be real, with the warmth of their entwined limbs chasing away the faint chill on the evening breeze, and the soft choruses of birds and insects in the distance, and the red-haired girl squirmed slightly in her boyfriend's embrace as she reached toward him, adding one more layer of sensation to the memory she was working to build. The dark, tousled strands of his hair slid through her fingers as Autumn pulled him close one last time, hurriedly pressing her lips to his in a brief, fierce kiss before scrambling up to her feet, brushing bits of broken vegetation from her jeans. "Over here, Mom!" Holding one arm aloft as she called out, Autumn reached down with the other, offering Jason a hand up as much to touch him again- to feel the texture of his skin and the strong, certain hum of his life beneath- as to help him stand. "So I can see." Dana's expression, clearly visible to her daughter as she approached within the illumination of the spread-out cloud of glowing motes, showed more clearly than her tone that she knew exactly what they had been up to. Amusement, exasperation and concern warred on the pretty veterinarian's features as she studied the pair of them, particularly their flushed faces and the strands of grass in their hair. "It's getting close to leaving time, especially as you have school tomorrow, so I left your dad and Gar chatting on the front porch while I came looking for you." she added with a wry quirk of her lips. "I think he's seen enough of you two canoodling for one week - possibly for the year." As she spoke, she glanced at the slowly swirling field of golden stars overhead, just within arm's reach, and despite the maternal pseudo-disapproval in her voice couldn't quite keep the wonder out of her gaze. Shaking her head slowly, she looked back at the two teens, noting that they were still holding hands. Huffing quietly, she shook her head again, plainly incapable of even-ing right now. "Let's get going, Autumn Rae. You'll see Jason again tomorrow." she not-quite commanded, gesturing for the two of them to follow her. Getting caught making out by her mom seemed a little less mortifying this time, thankfully, than when she'd found them on the porch. Or the living room. Or at the Labor Day picnic. A little. And though she could still feel the hot prickle of embarrassment creeping up the sides of her throat and over her cheeks, at least Dana hadn't actually seen anything- especially not where the young Teulu genius's hands had been. Or hers, for that matter, she realized, trying with some success not to grin in the midst of maternal scrutiny. Giving Jason's hand a quick squeeze before reluctantly letting her fingers slip free, Autumn sighed, a full-body exhalation that was as much movement as sound. "I know, I know," she grumbled in answer, falling in a few steps behind Dana and rolling the elastic band off her wrist, looping her unruly mane into a loose half-ponytail as they left the fairy-tale scene behind. And then, overcome by a sudden sense of deja-vu, she stopped, reached back, and grabbed his hand again. We thought the same thing last night, was the unspoken worry that wove her pale, freckled fingers once more through his longer, still faintly tanned ones. "Think you can bring coffee? To share, I mean. At breakfast. Since this morning got..." She swallowed uncertainly, then glanced up at Jase, her eyes tracing the faint line etched into his skin- near-invisible in the pale moonlight, but graven indelibly in her awareness of him. "Y'know," she finished lamely, grimacing a little. "Busy?" Jase asked rhetorically, quietly, his own expression sober as he nodded, his fingers gently tightening around Autumn's. He'd never really considered his mortality before - in that, it could be said, he was similar to most human teenage males. And though the remembrance of that experience of nearly dying did not fill him with fear, he keenly recalled the blackness he'd fallen into, the cusp of oblivion that would have ended all further experience, all existence of 'Jason Bannon'. And, too, would have precluded kissing his girlfriend under a field of fireflies, or sharing coffee with her in the morning. "I'll bring coffee for us both." he assured her as they made their way across the field with Dana, the older redhead pretending she wasn't listening in. Behind them, the fireflies winked out, slowly, returning their surroundings to their normal moonlit mystery. "And I'll see you at breakfast after my run." Autumn smiled at him as they ambled, still hand in hand, around the side of the farmhouse in Dana's wake to where Ian and Gar were waiting. Both older men's eyes immediately picked up on the held hands, but neither teen appeared to care as they stepped up onto the porch. "Thanks for having us over, Gar." Ian turned to the stockier form of Jase's dad, offering a hand, his tone warmer than it had been earlier that night. "No problem." The elder Bannon smiled back as he took the proffered hand, then gently shook Dana's in turn. "We'll have to do it again - only perhaps with more barbecuing and less earth-shattering revelation." "Oooh, barbecue would be awesome," Autumn enthused, releasing Jase's hand as, without preamble, she stepped forward and hugged his father, choosing artless action over just standing there uncomfortably while everyone sort of looked at each other. "This weekend, maybe? And thanks for the coffee," she murmured gratefully, smiling as the momentarily baffled man quickly recovered and looped an arm around his son's earnest young girlfriend in response. "Was nice to see you again, even if the meeting sucked. Have a good night, Mr Ba- Gar," the younger redhead amended, grinning somewhat abashedly as she withdrew. "And," she added, thrusting her hands into the pockets of her jeans to stop herself from reaching out again and slipping her arms around the tall, spare form of the young man who stood by, quietly watching the farewells. "'Night, Jase. See you in the morning." "Come on, you," Ian sighed, draping an arm affectionately around his daughter's shoulders and tugging her firmly away. "We still have plenty left to talk about and I'm sure the Bannons might want to get to bed sometime soon. Goodnight, Gar, Jason, and thanks again." "Goodnight," Dana echoed, smiling faintly as she drew Jase into another of her quick, nigh-unavoidable hugs as the young Teulu went still for a brief moment, blinking in- Autumn’s Bannonology study suggested- what passed for surprise. "And I haven't forgotten what you said when I asked about hurting Autumn," she assured him quietly, regarding the strange, inhuman young man with a sober, searching gaze before offering both men a brief wave and following after her family. "Bye!" Autumn's voice rang out one last time in the night, a pale arm flashing up as she turned back, briefly, before clambering up into the Jeep and vanishing from sight. "Nice people." Gar commented to his son as the two of them stood on the porch, watching as the Jeep reversed, turned, and headed off slowly down the track towards the road. Jase, characteristically silent, offered no disagreement as he gazed after the vehicle's tail lights, storing in his mind the face that had smiled out of the rear window at him before the Jeep had disappeared into the night. The Keanes were nice people, that was undeniable. As with the Cassidys, he found himself liking them, even in the face of Ian's suspicion, concern and paternal protectiveness which, he noted, didn't stop the man from being civil, even friendly at times. Gar gently clapped his son on the shoulder and turned to go indoors, leaving the lean young psychokinetic out on the porch, listening to the distant sounds of the Jeep and the occasional night bird call. He stayed there for some minutes more, alone with his thoughts, before turning and heading inside.
    2 points
  30. Around 1630, Marias Medical Center. She wasn't sure how much time had passed. She hovered for awhile in that iridescent scarlet and gold expanse, tugged both towards and, more powerfully, away from the far distant edge of All Things... or something like that, she mused, then realised that there was a consciousness with which to muse, and that with that realisation noise and sensation came back to her. "...hrist almighty - she's..." Dale's voice, fading in and out, sounding like Autumn's ears were underwater. "...pecial, yes." Etienne's voice, coming from closer by. "...at's wrong... do that?" "I don't know." Someone had picked her up and sat her in the chair once more, Autumn realised as sight returned, blurry at first but then sharpening. Hands were on her shoulders, steadying her, and Etienne's worried face filled her vision. It wasn't the worst thing to wake up to - provided you didn't know the handsome spy's history. Beyond his shoulder she could see Dale, staring at and flexing her healed hands inside the clear plastic protective sheaths. "I think she's coming out of it." Etienne sounded relieved, standing up but keeping a hand on Autumn's shoulder in case she slumped over again. Dale's eyes were wide with both wonder and shock as she glanced from her hands to Autumn. "What are you people?" she asked wonderingly, fearfully. "Tired." Autumn murmured. "And also no longer any of your concern." Etienne added firmly. There was a sound of footsteps as two men in orderly scrubs - but with shoulders and a manner that suggested otherwise - came into view and began unhooking various monitors from Dale. "You're going to join your friend. After which..." he shrugged. "About the only thing I can predict is that you'll not go to a regular prison, nor be executed. We certainly can't have you running around knowing what you know." Dale opened her mouth to protest, but shut it again, her face paling somewhat as her situation sank in. The orderlies, finished with the unhooking and preparation, made ready to wheel her away. Etienne's hand was still on Autumn's shoulder as he leaned down and spoke to her. "Are you okay, Ms Keane? Do you need anything?" "Water, please," she husked, nodding carefully as her equilibrium slowly returned. Jesus, I hope I never have to do that again. Did it work, at least? "Just. Something to drink, yeah." The attractive twenty-something agent glanced at one of the orderlies, who likewise nodded and excused himself while the others adjusted the casters on the bed. It was hard to tell through the clear protective cases, but... it did look like there was movement. That was a good sign. Even her thoughts felt lethargic as she sat there; the tickle of sweat-sticky hair glued to her neck pricked annoyingly at her awareness, but she couldn't quite rouse herself to do anything about it, and so she just stared straight ahead at the woman in front of her. She'd need physical therapy, for sure, although that was way better than the alternative. What would it be like to have new hands? she wondered. Are they a different color, now, since they have brand new skin? Does she have, like, those really thin, sharp fingernails like babies, or normal grown-up ones? Are her fingerprints the same as they used to be? Or... Does she even have fingerprints at all, now? Maybe she'd ask later, at the Not-A-PTA-Meeting meeting. Leaning back in the hard plastic chair, Autumn let her head rest against the wall behind her as she watched the hospital staff go about their work. She licked her lips, wondering how far the nearest drinking fountain was. "Hey. Uh. Miss Dale." The dazed marshal turned her head, exhausted and uncertain of her future. "Don't know if this'll make you feel better or worse, but you didn't kill him. I'm not saying you're forgiven for trying, or that you didn't earn every bit of this. But at least you're not an actual murderer." "He's still alive?" Dale's attention was taken away from her new hands at that, her head jerking as she looked at Autumn in shock for a moment before understanding dawned. "Guess you did that, too." she sighed, nodding acceptance of the situation, her expression neutral. "Not sure whether I feel better or worse either, kid." she murmured, her mouth quirking wryly. "On the one hand - I'm still a murderer. On the other, at least there's not a teenage body on my tally." She sighed again, her eyes on Autumn as the orderlies wheeled her bed out. "Thanks, anyway." she said by way of farewell. Etienne reappeared next to the exhausted redhead then, holding out a bottle of water and a candy bar. "You look beat." he told Autumn quietly as she accepted the offered items with a wan smile of thanks. There wasn't much to say to that, so instead she swallowed a couple of mouthfuls from the bottle then tore open the candy wrapper and ate in silence. It likely wasn't enough - she could feel through her heightened awareness of her body that she'd need something more substantial, and soon. But it'd do for now. Perhaps Jase would swing past McDonalds or something on the way to the meeting at the Jauntsens, the thought of which was good for a mental Ugh! This day was stretching out too much. Just get through the day, Autumn promised herself. Get through the crazy, and then go up to her treehouse and watch the stars and light up a joint. Maybe invite Jase over to share it with. Yeah. Cuddling and a smoke - she could go for that right now. After food, anyway. Autumn chewed the last bite of caramel and peanuts quickly as the awkwardness of sitting in an empty ICU room with a gigolo-spy-turned-maybe-good-guy outgrew her diminished tolerance. It would've been easier if they'd sent someone else, someone she either knew better, or not at all. As it was, her passing familiarity with Etienne meant that it felt wrong not to make some attempt at conversation, but didn't actually leave her much to talk about except how gross she thought his relationship with Clara had been. But Clara was gone, and Canada might as well be another planet. A thought flickered through her mind for just an instant, then, as she set the water bottle on the floor: that there had been other members of the nascent Fellowship, like Clara, who might have to cope with something like this on their own. But... She couldn't do anything about it, could she? She could do something about, Sophia though. About Dale. About the treehouse that needed finishing and questioning potential accomplices to a murder attempt, and about Homecoming and learning to skateboard and driving Jase's car. She licked a smear of melted chocolate from her thumb before slipping the phone from her pocket and tapping out a quick text. [Hey. Business is all done. You still available?] "So, is this a probationary thing for you, or did they give you a job, or what?" the spent high-schooler asked finally, crumpling the empty wrapper in her free hand with a muffled crackle of plastic. Glancing up at her observer, she balanced the edge of the phone case on her thigh, see-sawing it back and forth out of habit until even that felt like too much effort. "Probationary." He gave her a wry shrug. "In view of my attempted change of heart which landed me in Site C, Ms. Giles is giving me a chance to be useful." She nodded, and it occurred to her that his last comment to the marshal applied to him, as well. "Mm. I guess that makes sense." And it did. ...And then nothing. She had nothing else to say. It felt weird to talk about what had just happened, especially knowing he was there to keep an eye on her, and it felt weird to say nothing at all. There was another minute or so of uncomfortable silence before her phone vibrated softly and Autumn flipped it over with an audible sigh of relief. In keeping with Jase's usual level of efficiency, he'd used the minimum number of words to reply- //"On my way"// -but it might as well have been a sonnet. Oh, thank god. A slow smile warmed the soft sea-blue of Autumn's eyes as she re-read the text. If Jase had been there in person, she'd have kissed him. Difficult conversations notwithstanding- because they were going to happen, and hopefully sooner rather than later- she probably would kiss him anyway, when she saw him again. Her thumbs moved quickly over the screen, accompanied by the faint crinkle of the candy wrapper. [You = the actual best. I'll be outside by the main entrance.] "Okay," she announced, leaning down to grab the cap of the water bottle. "My ride's on the way, so... Yeah." Exhaling, the redhead slowly, cautiously got to her feet, making sure she was steady before hazarding a step forward. "Good luck with the, um. You know. The job and everything." "Such as it is." Etienne smiled self-deprecatingly as he accompanied her from the room. Autumn half-worried that he was going to walk her all the way out, but the Project agent turned down a different side corridor with a discreet farewell wave. With a sigh of relief, the fire-haired teen navigated her way out of the Marias Medical Maze a lot more easily than she'd plumbed its secrets. She'd saved lives, altered lives, taken lives, and all in one day, she reflected as stared thoughtfully just ahead of her shoes. Saved Jase, arguably saved the marshals from Jase, and saved Sophia, in a way. She had altered the course of Dale's life. She had excised the horror that had been growing inside Sophia. None of those things would have been probable, if not possible, without her. Had she left things better than they would otherwise have been? It was hard to see how she hadn't, even if there might still have been more ideal outcomes than these. She emerged into bright sunshine and blinked her wide blue eyes as she looked about her, moving to sit on a stone bench to one side of the main entrance. Checking her texts caused her to smile at Jason's reply and shoot off a response of her own. Idly shuffling her feet on the paving, lost in thought, she didn't register the sullen grumble of the Charger until she heard a door opening not too far from her and heard a voice call to her. "I got a text: Someone wanted to look hot riding shotgun?" Snapping her head up, she met the pale green eyes and faint smile from the Black Beast's driver through the open passenger-side door. "Only until I learn to drive it," Autumn retorted, grinning despite the bright flush slowly blooming in her cheeks as she swept the half-full bottle of water from the bench and rose. It was good to see him, she realized. Not just in a casual, hey-there's-someone-I-know way, but in a way that made that little almost-smile (the kind of thing she'd never have noticed if she didn't know how to look for it) totally worth dealing with everything else that was going on. How to Speak Bannon was still a work in progress, sure, but not everything demanded an immediate explanation; sometimes there were more effective ways of communicating than just talking. Settling into the passenger seat a moment later, she tugged the door closed and, instead of going through the motions of putting on the safety belt, turned. "Hey," she murmured, still smiling as she shifted to face her perplexing and dangerous and utterly impossible boyfriend. Before any further greetings or replies or banter could be exchanged, the lithe redhead's arms slid over Jason's shoulders, her fingers gliding through the dark hair at the back of his head. Leaning over the gear shift she pressed her lips to his in a slow, searching kiss, hmmming with delight at the brush of his palm across her cheek. Whatever this feeling was, this whiskey-sweet warmth he could spark with nothing more than a touch- "pheromones," or simple chemistry, or something less quantifiable- it was hard to deny how incredibly addictive it was becoming. "Missed you." The words were a whisper, if that, a half-conscious exhalation just before her teeth grazed his lower lip, followed by a teasing flick of her tongue. She was aware, somewhere in the back of her mind, that they were in the front of his car, in front of a busy hospital, but that mattered less than the fact that he was right there, his breath on her skin, and the steady rhythm of his heart against her chest. Missed you, she'd said. Rather, she'd breathed those words into him as their lips met, as though the exhalation had carried the words unbidden from within her. She'd missed him - not some abstraction of him, not some fanciful imagining of him. Him. And Jase was profoundly rocked by the realisation that he, too, had missed her for the scant few hours they'd been apart, in defiance of common logic and reason, knowing that he'd see her again soon: he'd still missed her. And even as the Mandelbrot of his experience with Autumn opened and unfurled yet another vista for Jason Bannon to consider, there was the caress of her tongue on his lip, and the feel of her heated cheek under his palm, and the sweetness of her lips just millimetres from his own... Kissing her wasn't so much a conscious action as it was an act as natural and necessary as drawing breath. Their lips met, her hands tightening in his hair as the gentle exploratory brush of lips became a deeper, more passionate give and take. He was aware of the pleased 'Mmm' from her, the scent of her warm hair, and the way she pressed her body against his without fear or self-consciousness. How long the kiss lasted was hard to say, but it broke eventually, the two of them leaning together, foreheads touching as they searched each other's desire-darkened eyes. "I wish we didn't have anything to do for a few hours." Autumn confessed, her fingers playing delightfully with the strands of his hair over his ear. "So do I." Jase replied honestly. "Yet we do." With a sigh that was as heartfelt as it was shared, the two parted a little, Autumn strapping herself in as Jase put the Charger in gear. "To be continued." he said with a sideways smile at her. "Yeah." Autumn smiled back despite feeling somewhat grumpy that, yet again, there was something (allegedly) more important going on than the chemistry, the pheromones, the fwoosh. There shouldn't be, damn it. "How did it go?" Jason asked as he carefully pulled the Charger out of the parking lot. Glancing at her, he clarified. "If you want to discuss it, that is." That drew another sigh from her lips, one decidedly less rapturous than the last. Leaning back against the headrest, Autumn relaxed into the dull rumble of the engine, the faint thrum of movement that hummed through the car and into her bones. She really, really didn't feel like going to either of these meetings, especially not with the seductive growl of the Charger urging her to just close her eyes for a few moments, but maybe it'd go quickly. It was the best she could hope for at this point, since drama seemed destined to destroy every chance they had to relax. "It went okay. Better than I thought it would, but also not at all the way I thought it would," she admitted, one corner of her mouth curving upward in a rueful half-smile as they pulled out onto the road. "Checked on Sophia. She's..." The drowsy girl considered, for a moment, what he might consider relevant. "Recovering. Physically, she's fine, but she remembers too much, I think, to ever go back to the way she was. She went through a lot." Her voice trailed off, wide eyes reflecting the distant blue of the sky as she remembered the way the brunette's hand had shaken during her recounting of that hellish nightmare. "Dale," she began again, quickly changing the subject, "is a whole other thing. So, I may have... sort of... let her think you were dead," Autumn admitted grudgingly, a guilty flush suffusing her features. "And she told me about Enterich, too, stuff Cassie didn’t know: that he's apparently really influential, plays people like a game of chess, manipulates them and uses things they’ve done against them later. He’s also connected to Crossroads somehow, and some local developers who worked on the prison, and apparently he brought in Marissa after he got a call about the break-in there last week. So he could also have something to do with that Dr. Klein guy who was running the experiments there, maybe, since he was the one who had Etienne when we went to get him. I don’t know, it just seems like a weird coincidence.” She took a deep breath, carefully weighing how much more to tell the inscrutable genius sitting next to her. If he still had feelings for Marissa- and it was hard to imagine that he didn’t- the idea that she could potentially be a traitor would have to be even harder for him to deal with than it was for the rest of them. Maybe not bringing up the fact that she got paid a hundred fucking grand to give Enterich a file that resulted in the attempt on his life was the better option for now. She could always mention it later, if it seemed relevant, right? No point making things any worse, and besides, there was always the chance that her first new friend in ages would have a really great, totally rational explanation for everything. “Anyway, she said he told them- the marshals- you were telekinetic, but not about the other things you can do. And there’s something else about the situation with Dale that I want to throw on the table, next time you and I get to sit down and talk for a while, but not today. Honestly, today I just want to go to these stupid meetings with you, and drag you off somewhere to get high AF and be irresponsible for a couple of hours." Huffing softly in frustration, Autumn reached up to tuck a rogue curl behind her ear. "Anyway, the marshal's doing okay, probably. I gave her her hands back." There was a note of quiet pride in her tone, a hint of awe in the little smile that bowed her lips. "Like real, brand-new, working hands. I did that." He’d listened silently as she’d relayed the fruits of her talk with Dale, his expression neutral, his manner relaxed as he drove the car. Her admission that she’d let the renegade marshal believe him dead elicited a small nod - an acknowledgement, a sign of approval, or both: it was hard to tell. Otherwise, the only reactions were a slight narrowing of the eyes, an air of focus as she told him about Enterich. When she finished, he was silent for a moment or two before speaking. “So if he brought in Marissa - and possibly paid her off with whatever was in the duffel - that could also mean he has something on her.” Jason said softly. “And used that to pull her in. The payoff… the payoff was simply to ensnare her further, perhaps. Carrot and stick. A connection to Crossroads - it makes sense that he would start to target us. Obviously he - and those he’s working for - want the team that tore apart their facility neutralised. Probably before we can go after Site B.” He tapped the edges of the steering wheel absently, then glanced at the girl in the passenger seat. Jase thought for a few moments, his eyes following the road as he mulled over the other import of Autumn's words. First and foremost, of course, was the fact that she could grow limbs back from pretty much stumps "That’s something we should probably address once we’ve discovered the depths of Marissa’s involvement. For now, I admit, I’m more intrigued by the fact that you regrew limbs. That's impressive." he said, glancing her way. "It's an incredibly complex biological machine - bone, tendon, muscle and nerves, not to mention the skin. Being able to repair it is something, but being able to regrow parts is amazing." He pondered her other statement - that she wanted to throw something about Dale onto the table next time they continued their Conversation. That implied something about her reaction to what he'd done to the woman who'd tried to kill him. He worked that around in his head some as they drove: plainly, she wasn't outright rejecting him over that - more likely, she simply wanted to understand his logic. Which was simple enough - he wanted to punish Dale and terrify Marshall, to cut loose and cause pain to those who'd dared to hurt him. His sparing of Dale at the last minute was as much due to his wavering consciousness as it was to a change of heart - he didn't have the resources to wait until she'd slowly burned to death whilst Marshall watched. Which took his thoughts down another line. Was he a sadist for taking satisfaction in the terror and pain of his enemies? Probably, at least by some people's definitions. It wasn't a sexual pleasure, or an obsession with the causing of pain. He didn't enjoy the suffering of those who had done him no harm and actively sought to prevent or avenge the suffering of friends. So: a sadist? Or was it simply his instinct being satisfied - enemies should suffer and know fear, should be dominated, or else die. He filed that away into another part of his mind for continued examination. "I wonder - did your Shine seem to know what needed to be done, to rebuild such delicate machines?" he asked Autumn, a note of curiousity in his voice. "How did you observe the experience of healing her?" "Hmmm." She rolled that around in her mind as they drove, trying to piece together a description that both matched her experience and was semi-coherent when she strung the words together. "You know how they say people who've lost a hand- or a leg, or whatever- sometimes still feel it? Like, it's still attached somehow. ‘Phantom limb,’ I think it's called. Well, in a way, maybe it is still there." Turning to watch Jase's profile for a moment, Autumn tipped the water bottle back and forth in her hand, the contents softly sloshing while she thought. What was the word he used for their powers? The scientific term. "Or... More like, the body has a memory of it being there, remembers where it was and how it was shaped, how all those pieces fit together. Sort of like a-” Noetic? Was it noetic? That sounds right. “A noetic blueprint, or something. I could see that, with Dale," she explained, unconsciously flexing her fingers in imitation of that phantasmal framework. "I didn't need to really guess or try to figure it out on my own, because her pattern was already there. I just needed to follow it. It was..." Her smile broadened a little as she returned her attention to the road ahead. "It was incredible. Totally draining, but also worth it just to know that I could do it, you know?" And just as quickly as she'd turned away, she was shifting in the seat to look at him again, her eyes intent. "Okay, so, I was thinking about this, and I didn't get to ask her before they hauled her off to the basement, or wherever. So I wanna hear what you think, and then we can bug Annette or somebody to find out. She's got new hands, right? Do you think she has the same fingerprints? Does she need to learn to use them again, through physical therapy and practice? Or are they just copies of the hands and arms she had before, with the same manual dexterity and skin texture and everything? Because it wasn't all just lumps of scar tissue, right? But it's driving me crazy that I don't know if they're really new, or just duplicates of what she already had, because those are really different things." "If you are working from an existing template - that blueprint you mentioned - then her fingerprints should in theory be exactly the same - minus any callouses or scars that she had there." Jason answered after a few seconds to think. "Our DNA carries the blueprints for all inherent details of our bodies - which is what it sounds like you were accessing to rebuild her hands. Individual DNA will determine a person's fingerprint from that template." He steered the car past some lights and turned onto the road leading to the Jauntsen house, idly musing on the fact that he'd only last week first visited the place as he turned his mind back to her question. "So I'd say that the hands are both new, because they lack the wear of her life to date, and also duplicates, because they are using the same template as before. Fresh duplicates, perhaps should be the label. As for the other questions..." He pondered. "They won't be any stronger or more dexterous than the template allows, though again, any weakness or lack of mobility from wounds or tendon damage would be reset. Learning to use them again... I doubt she even had time to adjust to the fact she lost them." He glanced at Autumn, his cold green eyes glinting gold in the reflecting sunlight from outside the car. "I would think any rehabilitation would be swift - they are her hands, after all. If there's any adjustment period needed at all." "More interestingly even than that - could you enhance someone's natural template? We know you can regrow tissue. You can boost a person's natural healing - probably a manipulation of blood cells to increase clotting and repair. You can even repair damage to the brain." He glanced her way again, his words calling her attention to the faint line of the scar against the darker skin of his cheek. "So... can you enhance other biological functions? Can you make someone stronger, or taller, or alter that blueprint you mentioned?" "I... think so," she replied carefully. "I remember getting the feeling when I helped you after the fight that I could probably have pushed a little farther, not just healed you but made improvements. I did it to Devin, just a little, when we went into the prison. Made him a little bit tougher. It’s something we’d have to test, for sure." Autumn thought about the other part, whether she could make more dramatic changes, as she watched the power lines roll by through the driver's side window behind him- Oh, damn it, I totally forgot to ask about food! "Crap, I'm sorry, I got carried away talking- is there any way you could hit a drive thru before we go? This meeting is not gonna go well if I walk in hangry, and I'm absolutely starving. Etienne gave me a candy bar earlier but-" She paused, backtracking mentally for a moment. Context, Autumn. "Sorry. I guess they've got him working there now, since they can't just let him walk out knowing about all this. They had him babysitting me while I was with Dale. Anyway, yes. Food, please? When I said it was a draining experience, it really was. I feel like I haven't eaten all day." "Sure." Jase thought for a second, then turned right instead of left at the next junction. A few more turns put the Charger in the drive-thru lane of a McDonalds. Burgers, fries, and a few sundries were swiftly ordered and paid for and then the teens were back on the road again, Autumn already working her way through a double cheeseburger with occasional happy hmm-ing sounds as her boyfriend steered the gleaming black car back into traffic and helped himself to fries. "I think we could probably do some experiments with plants again - see if you can change the color of a rose or alter the growth parameters of an orchid, for instance." Jase suggested, glancing at the copper-haired girl beside him. Autumn, her mouth full, simply nodded, blue eyes communicating her own curiosity about her capabilities. "Sorry... mmf." she said, swallowing. "Yeah. That's a good idea." "If you can alter the genetics of plants, that just by itself has huge potential." Jase went on. "Disease-resistant crops. New pharmaceutical properties engineered into existing plants." His eyes were on the road, narrowing as he considered the possibilities. "Even plants that can grow in hostile, toxic environments, turning the toxicity harmless, for example. Just as a possibility: imagine a strain of grass that uses radiation as part of its photosynthesis and renders it harmless. You could potentially reclaim poisoned land like Chernobyl." His lips twitched in a rare smile as he looked at her. "By the way, that would officially make you more amazing than me." And just like that, she went from thinking about future explorations of the limits and scope of her abilities to the here-and-now immediacy of being teased by her boyfriend. Stifling a snort of laughter, Autumn covered her mouth with the back of her hand as she shook her head. It took the Titian-tressed girl a moment to finish chewing and swallowing before she could elaborate on that mute denial, even as her face reddened slightly beneath his gaze. "Hm-mm. That would make what I do more amazing, maybe." Taking a sip from the large cup of soda they were sharing, she pretended to give the matter serious consideration- more serious, even, than the possibility of restoring the environment from catastrophe- with a dramatically furrowed brow and pursed lips. "Amazing is something that you are, after all, not something you do," she intoned, the corners of her mouth twitching as she looked down at the remainder of her sandwich, the trees out the window, the drink between her knees, anywhere but directly at him, and tried desperately not to grin. "It's just part of you, you know? Genetic, maybe. Like being tall, or having really gorgeous eyes or giving really good hugs. You can't help it. It's how you were born." She shrugged, casting him a sidelong glance as the smile that threatened to surface on her lips sparkled instead in her eyes. "Amazing and impossible." "Ugh." Jase pantomimed rolling those aforementioned gorgeous eyes, glancing at her with that shimmering witchfire of humour in the jade depths as he plucked the drink from between her legs and took a sip before dramatically proclaiming, "Fine, you win this round." Autumn giggled, the laughter welling up from her stomach, thankful this time that he hadn't waited for her to take a bite of her sandwich. Of all the things, Jason Bannon mimicking a sixteen year old girl - namely her - pouting was just the right combination of surreal and observation comedy. "You said it wrong." she told him fondly, reaching over and trailing her fingers through the ends of his hair where they brushed his collar. She wondered idly if he'd ever cut it, or how long he'd grow it. Then she snatched the drink cup back and grinned, her cheeks reddening under the bronze dusting of freckles, as she took a sip. "I did?" "Yep. You said 'ugh'. It's 'ugh'." she informed the Impossible One, trying not to look into the glitter of his gaze as she studied his cheekbones, his nose, his lips... "More a sound of disgust than a word. Good work on the 'fine' though." she added airily, with the manner of an old hand imparting wisdom and encouragement. She took a bite of her sandwich, conscious that the iridescence of his gaze was on her now, and determined to finish her meal rather than get lost in his stare again. Plenty of time for that later, she told herself, aware of a nagging twinge of something in her chest at the word 'later'. Very faint, just an echo of the pang she'd felt this morning when she'd seen him lying on the road, covered in his blood... But he was fine, now. Just fine. "I'll bear that in mind." he said in a grave manner belied by the twitch of his lips as he went back to driving, now and then reaching for a handful of fries. Too soon, it seemed, they pulled into the driveway leading up to the Jauntsen house. "Looks like at least one of them is here." Jase noted as he took in Sean’s vehicle. His tone was back to being neutral, Autumn realised, glancing at him once more and seeing the warm humour and flirtation of just a few moments ago gone, locked behind an air of calculated wariness. "Mhmm." She watched him for a moment longer, wondering not for the first time at the abruptness of his changing mood. Or was it maybe closer to a mindset than a mood? A switch in his head he could turn off and on at will. Of course it would be totally normal for him, if so, but... what a weird concept it was for his average sixteen-year-old girlfriend with her average human brain. Was it unique to him, to Jason Effing Bannon, a conscious part of his efforts to interact with the people around him, or was it part of his genetic makeup, engraved into his DNA as a survival mechanism by whomever (or whatever) designed his species? Like so many other things she wanted to ask him, though, it would have to wait. For now, at least. There were a few questions she felt pretty sure she could get away with, though, prolonging the moments of calm before the storm, and as they got out of the car, gazing at the sizeable home across the immaculate lawn, Autumn came up alongside him. "Hey, are you really okay?" she inquired, peering up at him and squinting slightly at the brightness of the sky above his head. "No trouble breathing, or fuzzy memories, or anything like that?" He turned to face her at the question, and as the cold emerald of gaze met her cerulean blue eyes once more the frost melted from his manner and, at least for a fleeting moment, his gaze was warm - and warming. The scar along his cheek, so stark and forbidding when his eyes were cold and his face was blank, seemed more rakish as his lips twitched and the corners of his eyes crinkled in a smile. "No." he said after a moment of reflection, his eyes still on hers. "I feel fine. I even remember fading in and out of consciousness, Devin talking to me before you got there, keeping me alive." He glanced at the house at that, his gaze more reflective than wary in that moment, then back at Autumn. "I am... reluctant to confront the possibility I have an enemy in that house." he said very softly, in the manner of one admitting a failing. "I do not enjoy the consideration of what that will mean. Of what that will require of me." Autumn's eyes widened slightly as the shock of his response set in. It wasn't so much that he'd confessed to having reservations about the potential outcome of the meeting, or even that he'd thought about the possible consequences, the actions he'd take to survive if things went completely sideways. After the events of the day, events which nearly fucking killed him, that level of pragmatic mental preparation was absolutely to be expected- especially from Jase. But this reluctance to admit someone he trusted might want to hurt him was definitely not. At least, not given what she knew of him so far; even knowing how those pale eyes could smoulder with a primal inner fire, or that when he really smiled there was a hint of dimple in his cheeks, it was impossible to ignore his acerbic wit and frosty, incisive intellect. He seemed so damned clinical most of the time, so matter-of-fact about things like killing the marshals, it was hard to imagine him having second thoughts. And yet, the very fact that it was such an unusual demonstration of vulnerability from someone who could hardly be called "vulnerable" tugged wrenchingly at the expressive young woman's heartstrings. There was that twinge, again, that faint ache in her chest that demanded movement, demanded that she do something. Almost before she realized it Autumn was stepping forward, slipping her arms around Jason's waist until the full length of her body was pressed against his, her ear against the muted drum of his heart. She hugged him tightly, fiercely, her fingers curling into fists in the back of his shirt, and as she did the athletic redhead felt the echo of that contact through her Shine, that soft, crystalline hum just beyond the threshold of hearing as her awareness resonated in some intangible way with his own. "What can I say that'd help right now?" she asked quietly, closing her eyes at the feeling of his lean arms encircling her. "Because I really want to, but I have no idea how to do it." He held Autumn close, feeling that vibrancy, that warm scarlet and gold that was her Shine as it wrapped around him much as the feel and scent of her hair enfolded his senses as he rested his cheek against the top of her head. And as he did so, Jase considered his own actions. A week ago, he'd have walked into the meeting without expressing any misgivings to anyone. He'd have still experienced them, but would not have shared what was going on behind the mask of his expression. A week ago, though, he hadn't been close to someone the way he was close to the lithe redhead pressing herself against him, holding him close with fierce gentleness. So much had changed in such a short time, it seemed. "You're doing it." he murmured, his lips moving against an errant curl of copper hair. "You've been doing it, ever since you cycled up to my home to ask for your hoodie back. Even if we weren't dating, even if you didn't light a fire in my blood, there's still no-one I'd rather walk in there with." He looked down into her wide blue eyes as she lifted her head from his chest and stared up at him, his own expression grave as he lowered his face to hers, stopping barely half an inch from her mouth. "Thank you." he whispered, his breath warm on her cheek before he brushed his lips firmly against hers in a lingering kiss. Coming from anyone else- or in most other circumstances- Jason’s somber, semi-dramatic declaration and the formality of its delivery would have demanded some sort of light-hearted, teasing response. In this case, however, Autumn just couldn’t bring herself to laugh, even if only to lighten the mood: in part because the portion of her brain normally responsible for coherent thought was largely focused on the warmth of his kiss and the faint scent of tobacco from his shirt, and in part because if the last week of talking to the detached genius had shown her anything, it was that in that moment he was utterly serious. And that was… a lot to think about on a day when there was already a lot to think about. “Same,” she replied with a sigh, reluctantly pulling away and wondering, briefly, what it said about her that she hadn’t run for the hills yet. “And, anytime. Seriously. You don’t have to thank me for doing something I want to do, though.” Smoothing the wrinkles she’d created on Jase’s shirt, Autumn released him with a quick, uncertain smile, then reached up and tugged the elastic band from her hair, freckled fingers weaving the uncooperative mane into a more manageable braid as they moved side-by-side up the pristine walkway. “You guys are lucky,” Devin announced with a smirk as he waved them inside, opening the door to greet them. “I was this close to turning the sprinklers on. Come on in.” The house was just as Insta-worthy as she remembered from the last time she was here, a week and forever ago. Only then it’d been as someone hoping to make a friend, and now… Taking a deep breath, the redhead steeled herself as she followed the more gregarious Jauntsen twin into the dining room where the others were gathering. Now she was just hoping not to lose one. “Hey,” she offered in greeting, her lips thinning out into a smile. “Sorry I’m late. I had a couple of things to take care of.”
    2 points
  31. 'Ellie.' This is the girl Devin was talking about. There was no essential physical resemblance to Jason Bannon; something about the willowy blonde's upright bearing, however, the intent quality of her gaze, and the slightly formal, concise manner of her speech suggested some level of kinship belied by their superficial differences. Were these things somehow common to all the Teulu? Some weird facet of being (if what Jase had said was true) designed and engineered for certain traits and behaviors? If so, she reflected, wide eyes narrowing thoughtfully as she considered the beautiful stranger, that'd be pretty incredible. At least as incredible as Marissa resting her hand on Jason's shoulder- a fact Autumn noted and set aside for later. Her tolerance for repeated crises was already being tested, and there was no point deliberately courting another one today. "It's good to meet you, too, Ellie," she replied in answer to the newcomer's general greeting, the redhead's polite 'meeting a new person' smile growing a little as Jase's fingers brushed hers around the cup of water. ...And then it widened further, an impish light gleaming in the thalassic depths of her eyes as she added, "Especially since Devin was so excited talking about you and how awesome you were. I'm Autumn, by the way."
    2 points
  32. "Good luck." The corners of Jason's eyes crinkled slightly at his friend before he turned his gaze on Marissa, his air one of understated contemplation, like he was trying to understand something. Her raspberry lip balm and scented body lotion tickled his keen sense of smell, and the press of her lips on his forehead and the following caress had been warm, completely at odds with her flippant bitchy attitude after the kiss. He couldn't decipher her, he really couldn't. Devin he could understand: the patterns of behaviour were all contiguous with one another. Marissa, though... She spoke like she hated him, but wanted him to talk to her at the Labor Day picnic, and had sought him out at the training session the day before that. She didn't date, and had rebuffed his (admittedly) clumsy and pushy overture... but then she was on Cade's arm the next day. She scolded him for getting hurt like it was attention-seeking behaviour, right after a sign of physical affection. Devin, the young Teulu mused, might be right when he said that Marissa liked him, but didn't know how to approach that. Or Devin might be right when it came to a shorter, more pithy phrase he'd used once or twice: 'Bitches be cray'. Or Devin might be right on both counts. "Where are the two who tried to kill me?" he said after the few moments that had passed while he cogitated on the confusing brunette. "Chick with the crispy claws is somewhere in the ICU." Devin said, watching Jason warily. "I heard the paramedics say she was in shock. The dude you knocked out, though... I dunno where he is. The sheriff drove off with him- Whoa, slow your roll!" he admonished as Jase began to sit up. Marissa laid a hand on Jason's shoulder and pushed him back down with surprising, though gentle, strength. "Dude! After yesterday I just about burst something pulling that bullet out of you. Now Granola's juju might have put you out of danger, but there's plenty of time to rest before you go and commit a war crime or two." "ID said he was a U.S marshal." Jase tried to sit up again, but Marissa's palm on his shoulder was enough to foil his efforts. "He might be able to pull some strings and get-" "He won't." said a calm voice from the doorway. All three teens looked to see a tall blonde girl, who appeared to be roughly their age and was dressed in a simple sundress and sandals, enter the room with a straight-backed casual grace Her sparkling grey eyes regarded the three of them, moving from face to face before settling on the youth in the bed. Her full lips quirked and her eyes narrowed as she considered him, then she looked directly at Devin. "Annette says the would-be killer is in her custody. She will be getting answers from him." she told the teleporter, pointing down at the floor with one finger as she approached him, her gaze traveling down his exposed torso under the blanket before lifting once more to study his face as she came to stand before him. "I am glad to see you are well, Devin." she said softly, a faint smile curving her lips. "Uh, hello?" Marissa said from where she stood by the bed. Autumn, coming back into the room with a jug and a glass for Jase, paused at the door for a second as she took in the scene. Marissa lifted her hand from Jase's shoulder as her bestie returned and stepped away, gesturing to Autumn to go ahead. "Don't mind me, AyRae. Jase was about to go and look to start round two with the assassins - I was just making sure he didn't pop a stitch or whatever. Now..." she said as Autumn, somewhat nonplussed, nevertheless moved to perch on the edge of Jason's bed and pour him some water. "Who the hell is this?" she demanded, looking from her brother to the tall, graceful blonde who was looking at Devin like he was a steak on the grill. "I am called Ellie." The blonde replied, half-turning away from Devin to study Marissa with a discomfortingly direct stare. "And you are Devin's twin, Marissa. It is an honor to meet you." She glanced then at the boy in the bed and the redhead holding the cup so he could drink from it. "It is an honor to meet all of you." she added, returning her gaze to Marissa.
    2 points
  33. "Dunno... why dey sho'... me." Jase's voice was slurring, his pronunciation sloppy - a worrying contrast to his usual precise, crystal clear diction. The light behind his eyes, usually fiercely bright and intense, guttered like a match flame in a high wind as his half-lidded gaze tried to focus on Devin. "Jus'... walk up an'... drew gun. N'er see 'em... before." "You just got one of them faces, Jaybee." Devin said chattily, trying to keep the mind behind the dimming eyes engaged as he wrapped a terrycloth turban around Jason's head, staunching as much of the bleeding as he could. The pain made Jason draw in breath in a hiss, momentarily jolting his thoughts into focus. "ID says... marshals." Jase tried to tap the wallet on his lap, but his hand wasn't obeying instructions, instead just twitching and flopping. "Used cop light. Pulled me over." His voice started weakening further, his eyelids slipping lower. "Be... careful." "I will. Yeah. Being careful is top of my list." Devin replied almost manically. "Right after 'living long and prospering', so you don't need to tell me to do that." He busied himself ripping up another section of towel to put as a compress over the chest wound, then realised there'd been no answer to his repartee. He swore and looked up. "Jaybee?" Jason's eyes slipped shut, as the sound of a Range Rover drew nearer...
    2 points
  34. "Mmm." Autumn nodded, glancing up at the taller girl who, lacking anything else to do as they paused in the hallway, fidgeted with the ruddied blanket around her leather-clad shoulders. She'd figured that getting up and moving around might make both of them feel better, and looking for coffee gave that movement purpose; Marissa was visibly not okay, and after what her mom had said, loudly and in front of everyone, the red-haired teen wasn't surprised. Both of the girls looked like extras in some low-budget horror film, but whereas Autumn was as animated as ever, driven by some nigh-inexhaustible energy, the svelte brunette just seemed...tired. Over it. Done. It was bad enough they could've died, or worse, and even if what Mr. "Call me Carl" Jauntsen had said was true, and Misti was just upset, that was still no excuse for acting like- Well, she admitted to herself with a twinge of guilt. Like Marissa. So I guess, yeah. I do see where she gets it from. The admission didn't make Mari's own awfulness any easier to deal with, but at least she could understand a little better, which... helped. That was the idea, right? Learning to understand someone or something, so you could co-exist? And the twins could've bailed on everyone when things went from terrifying to oh-god-we're-all-gonna-die, or just have not shown up at all, but... they didn't. "So... Are they always like that?" she wondered aloud, peering up at her friend long enough to see the question register before inclining her head toward a lounge area near the nurse's station. Marissa huffed, a tiny measure of her usual hauteur resurfacing as they continued on their quest for caffeine. "Only on days that end in 'y.' It used to be a lot better, before we moved here. Mom was still impossible, but she and dad were," she offered her bestie a suggestive look. "You know, on the regular. Since we moved here they've hated each other. He drinks all the time, and she's so fucking high I'm surprised she knew which pair of her twins to address. Devin and I were pretty much left to do as we pleased... and here we are. Super powered and popular hanging out with the nerds because hell is empty and all the devils are here." "Yep," the Girl Scout agreed companionably. "All two of them. But at least one of them's my friend, so... I guess that's something?" Autumn's features scrunched up slightly in what might have been a sincere attempt at a grin, the effect of which was ruined somewhat by the flecks of dried rust-red that covered her cheeks in a grim parody of natural freckles. "Seriously, though," she added, her gaze zeroing in on a table replete with bio-degradable cups and a pair of coffee carafes. "That must've been rough. I mean, I know we talked about your parents a little bit when I came over, but..." The redhead's voice trailed off as she directed another of those earnest almost-smiles at the nurse on duty at the desk, determinedly ignoring the older woman's wide-eyed stare and expression of vague horror.
    2 points
  35. Autumn took a long drink from the plastic cup of water in her hand and watched the interaction between the Jauntsens and their parents, the heels of her hiking boots thudding dully against the metal base of the exam table as she swung her feet. She felt... Not tired, she decided, and not hurt. Restless, maybe? With everyone milling around, the room felt too small by half, and she found herself glancing, now and then, at the observation window in the door. What's going on out there? she wondered, finishing the last of her water. How are the girls doing? Are they gonna try to hold us for questioning, or make us come give statements, or what? It wasn't a pleasant thought, but the Project had managed to keep them all day before, so the redhead wasn't putting it past them this time. Fucking hell. She scowled, the paper cover on the table crinkling as she leaned over to drop the empty cup in the waste bin nearby. She wanted a shower to wash away the smell of death and worse, to just sit under the water and cry until it was physically impossible to cry anymore. Then she wanted a second shower, just to make sure no tangible remnant of that other place lingered on her skin. She wanted clean clothes. She wanted to be at home, wrapped up in her own blanket, in her own treehouse, smoking a well-packed pipe and pretending for a few hours that the world hadn't gone insane in the last couple of weeks and taken her along for the ride. It hadn't even bothered asking if she'd wanted to go, but the world was presumptuous that way. She watched as Misti cunted off in a telenovela huff, as Marissa shrank miserably into her brother's embrace, as Cade said nothing to his girlfriend at all and then cowered like a child in front of his stepmother, as Jason demonstrated for another incredulous adult that either their kids were crazy, or they were crazy themselves. "Okay," she sighed aloud, shifting her weight forward and shrugging the blanket from her shoulders as she slid off the edge of the examination table. "Devin, I'm borrowing your sister for a sec. C'mon, Marissa. I need to find some coffee." The elder twin regarded her wearily, warily over his sister's trembling shoulder, but after a moment Devin nodded and gently nudged the distraught brunette in her alleged bestie's direction. Autumn slid an arm around the blanket-shrouded beauty, guiding her toward the door. As they passed Carl, she paused for just a moment. You know what, fuck it. After today, I honestly don't even care. "And Mr. Jauntsen? Maybe next time apologize for what happened, instead of just saying you wished we hadn't seen it."
    2 points
  36. [Intro music plays] Julia Hernandez: Hey there, everyone! I'm Julia Hernandez and this is another episode of Beyond Weirder Stuff. Tonight, we have one of the more experienced actors among the young and talented cast visiting us, Sean Cassidy. [gestures off stage] Sean Cassidy: [sashays on stage in a pair of Christian Louboutin platform sandals and a revealing, asymmetric Alexander Vauthier dress.] Thank you, Julia for having me on the show. [waves to the audience and blows them a kiss, before sitting down and crossing her legs] But experienced? You wound me. [holds a hand to her chest, then laughs] I'm only twenty-six. JH: And by Hollywood standards, you have aged so gracefully [both laugh]. I must say, we haven't seen Sean dressed anything like this on Weirder Stuff. You look absolutely stunning. SC: Not yet [smirks]. Thanks. It's nice to glam up after a day of shooting, especially when your wardrobe on set is usually jeans and hoodies. JH: Not yet? Are you hinting at something? SC: [winks at camera] Not a thing. I don't have Autumn's shirt. But who knows? Marissa could end up a very bad, or a certain manner of good, influence on certain members of the Fellowship. If you want to find out, stay tuned for season two. JH: With the spectacular success of season one, I don't think anyone on the show has to worry about losing any viewers to a sophomore season slump. But speaking of success, your way onto Weirder Stuff was hardly a straight line. SC: You can say that again. [sighs and rolls eyes] JH: You way onto Weirder-- [Sean laughs, Julia grins], but seriously, the character you are playing isn't who you were expecting to play, was it? How did you get involved with Weirder Stuff. SC: You can thank Eric [Kripke] for that. I had done a three episode arc on Supernatural, and in apology for killing me off in a spectacularly gory fashion – Thanks Eric, I didn't get enough of that on Living Dead Girls three-through-six [waves at camera] – when development started at on WS, he sent me a synopsis of the show and the script for the pilot. JH: And what did you think of it? SC: [purses her lips] I was... dubious at best. [shakes her head, then waves a dismissive hand] No, I thought Eric had lost his damn mind. It was preposterous. Ludicrous, even. I could handle ludicrous - I'd been in the film adaptation of Lollipop Chainsaw - but Weirder Stuff felt like it was trying to be too many things at once. They tried to make Lollipop Chainsaw into a series, but the pilot didn't get picked up - which was too bad, it was a lot of fun. But looking at WS, all I could see was it going down the same way, a pilot never seen, buried forever and forgotten. JH: [leans forward, reaching a hand towards Sean] I for one, would love to see that pilot for a Lollipop Chainsaw series. It might not have done well in theaters, it did turn into a bit of the cult classic. Unapologetic, ridiculous fun you don't see often anymore. SC: [smiles wryly] If you bring the wine, I'll see what I can do. Private viewing only. [rolls wrist] Rights and all that. JH: I'm going to hold you to that. Back to WS, clearly, you changed your mind about it. How did that go about? SC: Persistence [holds up a restraining]. Not mine, Eric's. He talked a big game, and I'll admit, his enthusiasm was infectious. Eventually. More convincing, it was going to be on HBO and the budget was... impressive. That was part of the problem with Lollipop Chainsaw, the budget, and it got smaller when Jim [James Gunn] left for Marvel. Jim gave me the part of Bereet, at least, so i stayed my hand at burning him in effigy. Eric swore he wasn't going anywhere. [shrugs a bare shoulder] He convinced me. And it was better than dying again in Living Dead Girls seven. They wanted the zombies to be the heroes this time! [shudders]. JH: Now, now, who knows, they might make it work. [Sean mock glares] Alright, probably not. Now, you agreed to audition for the show. What part did you audition for? SC: First? It was Marissa's. It went... [hesitates, chews on an underlip, waggles a hand] okay. Could have been better, but, not naming any names, the guy Joss [Whedon] and Eric paired me up with? No chemistry. Anti-chemistry. Christensen, Portman in Star Wars level of chemistry. JH: Ouch. A subject still touchy to many Star Wars fan. SC: Devin is the big Star Wars fan. As an actress, those scenes just hurt. The writing didn't help. The writing on WS, however does. Anyway, after Marissa and Devin locked down their audition, I tried out for Courtney. That went better, and Courtney and I where neck and neck for the part. Ultimately, she got it - not going to lie, I was bitter for a while. I thought the typecasting would give me the edge, but... [shrugs] Joss suggested Max, but such a bit part was a considerable let down when I thought I was going to be a regular on what might be the next HBO smash hit. JH: And then you were offered the role of the intersexed computer genius... which didn't come without controversy. SC: [snorts in exasperation] Largely contrived controversy. It wasn't like the crew didn't try to cast someone who had... more in common with the character, say. But genderfluid, intersexed, and transgendered, aren't interchangeable, and two of the three are in very short supply in the industry, and the other is still a niche category. There was one transgendered actress who tried for the part. Young and lovely, but it was her first audition for a lead role and, well, it was very evident. JH: That's too bad. Everyone has to start somewhere. SC: They do, but not in a starring role when you've practically just started. She just needs more experience, and I hope the rejection doesn't discourage her. I know exactly how she feels. You need a tough skin in this industry. Anyway, after her, then put out feelers to more established actors. Ruby Rose was a bit older than they were looking for, but she'd been in movies and was asking too much. While in negotiations, she ended up signing on to play Batwoman. Hope that goes well for her. Lachlan Watson is killing it on Sabrina. Brigette Lundy-Paine was still signed to Atypical. Bex Taylor-Klause passed for other projects they were working on. JH: So, it wasn't that they didn't try and be respectful of the LGTBQIA community - SC: - as they were getting to desperate to cast someone and get the production rolling. Eric saw a short film I was in, based of a short story called Changeling, and thought I could pull the part off. There's still pushback about a straight, cisgender woman playing the part, but my social media accounts aren't total dumpster fires anymore, and I've being given a chance with the role, if cautiously and skeptically. JH: Sean has been an unusual and unconventional delight on the show. How do you prepare for the role, and do you share anything in common with the character you are portraying? SC: For the role? I've attended a fair number of genre conventions, and I assembled quirks and mannerisms I noticed that were common among the attendees. And of course, the writers helped immensely. Also, some deep dives on certain Readit threads and spoken with individuals in the community. I've learned a lot. Especially when to shut my mouth. [mouth firms into a tight line, fingers drum on the arm of the sofa for a ten count] As for what I have in common with the character? Very little in truth. All the math and computer stuff? I memorize that and try to regurgitate it with authority. I'm handy with my phone and filters, for InstaSnap and Chirper, but that's about it. [Julia opens her mouth to object] Yes, okay, as others have mentioned on the show, I've - we've gotten into RPGs. They didn't mention how much alcohol helped at the start. And yes, I've studied the rules and have far more books than I ever expected I would. I don't want to get busted not knowing the answer to a technical question at ComiCon. I saw that episode of the Simpsons, and it totally happens. I'll admit, I might have gotten into it earlier if I'd known Joe Manganiello was a big D&D nerd when I was on True Blood. [whispers conspiratorily] Don't tell the others, but while I know the rules, I barely use them. The game has helped me a great deal with my improvisational skills, though. I prefer being prepared on set, and any improvisation to be organized improvisation. Devin, and Cassandra to a lesser extent, love ad-libbing or just trying to make their co-stars crack. [frowns with mock menace] I made a good target. And the more I protested, the better one I made. Trying to herd the others like cats during a table-top session helped immensely with making myself less of a target for their antics. JH: Less of a target? SC: Just less, yes, and better with going along with it. I still don't like it when they spring surprises on me, though [waggles a finger]. And now, more often, they'll talk with me before the scene, to warn me what they have in mind. [smiles wryly] But not always. Seriously though, it has been great on set. Mostly. There's bound to be ruffled feathers when you are around the same people for so much time each day. JH: That seems to be the general consensus with the rest of the cast. [smiles, holds up a tablet] Do you have time for some questions from Chirper and Readit? SC: If I said no, how angry do you think they would be? [Laughs, beckons with her fingers] Fire away. JH: Lemongeddon asks, 'Where we you born, and where have you lived?' SC: [arches a brow] Didn't I answer this on my AMA? Okay, while I grew up in one of the less nice suburbs of Toronto, I was actually born in Puerto Rico. Dual-Citizenship for the win. I might have been the whitest girl on the island, but I'm fluent in Spanish - my French is barely passable though. We moved when I was five. Six? When I got serious about acting, I moved to Vancouver, then LA. I'll admit, the general silence of Shelby freaked me out at first, but it's growing on me. I'm considering buying a getaway here. JH: That's a recurring sentiment among the cast, I've found. SC: Spend an extended time here, and you'll see why. Might be missing some amenities, but the views are to die for, and it hasn't been inundated by tourists and celebrities like Jackson Hole, jacking up prices and ruining the place for the locals. JH: I'll keep that in mind, next time I feel the need to get back to nature, but not too close. Next, from 80085, 'As anyone can see from your InstaSnap and SuperFans, you love fashion and dressing up. What do you miss most, dressing so differently on WS?' Oof, that's a good one. SC: [instantly, kicking up a foot] Heels, no contest. I might be envious of what Marissa and Courtney get to wear - even if half of it wouldn't work for me - but it's heels I miss. On all these cops show and doctor shows, most of the women are still wearing heels and it makes absolutely no sense, but I totally get it. Add to that, I don't know what they feed the people in Montana, but seems there isn't a short extra in sight, and even the regular cast skews taller than average. I was inordinately happy to have Kat join the cast. Yes, definitely heels are what I miss most. JH: I feel you girl. They'll have to pry my Manolo Blahnik's from my cold, dead hands. Hmm, this one could be interesting, but ugh on the name. IckySpyder asks, 'What's a talent or skill nobody would expect you have?' SC: Hmm. I'm, or at least believe I am, a pretty decent baker. Which Sean on the show shares with me, not the other way around. But I shared that on my AMA, which lead to a long tangent on r/Baking. Let me think, something less known... [sighs in apparent defeat] This isn't going to help with making not look like the old lady on set, but I love knitting and quilting. JH: Really? That... It's certainly unexpected. There's nothing on your InstaSnap about it. SC: It's a hobby I picked up early when I started acting. Sometimes, there's a lot of waiting, especially as an extra, and when you are in costume and make-up, often, you can't go anywhere, so I took it up to pass the time. Thought I'd get frustrated with it, ended up really liking it, something just for me, that I shared with at my whim. Usually made things for cast members that I like, gifting them at the wrap parties. [pauses] I may have made a mistake though. JH: How so? Dish the deets! SC: Well, Devin was being, well, Devin between takes. I threatened to stab him with one of my needles and when the stick didn't work, I offered the carrot. He wanted a hat like Jayne's. From Firefly? So I made him one. And he loved it. I promise you, you'll see it on the blooper reel. I'm pretty sure he hasn't managed to sneak it on camera- JH: [looking at her tablet] I'm being told you can see it in Devin's room in episode four. SC: [shrugs helplessly] There you have it. The problem is, now the rest of the cast are making requests, and seeing who can come up with the silliest or most outrageous one I'm willing to do. I'd tell you what Jason asked for, but there would be a lot of bleeping. Okay, maybe not, it was highly technical and descriptive, but it should be bleeped. JH: That is wickedly adorable! Can I make a request too? SC: I'm not starting an Etsy shop here! [folds her arms gruffly, but grins]. We'll talk after. JH: Oh, yes, we will! CapnScarlet is wondering, 'Are you a natural red' -hey! [turns to look off stage] Who curated these? We already had this question last week... Seriously? It got through? Well... [turns back to Sean] Do you mind...? SC: Not at all. If you've seen anything I've been in CapnScarlet, it would be a good guess I wasn't a natural redhead. I haven't been my natural hair colour in years, and last time my hair was red, I was fifteen I think, and it was candy apple red. My natural hair colour is super blond, practically white, but I've been dying it since I was twelve. I've had practically every colour of hair there is at one point or another, but I usually went with brown or black professionally, unless the part demanded otherwise. Autumn and Courtney have been wonderful with teaching me #redlife. JH: Do you know why there are so many redheads on Weirder Stuff? SC: I have theories, but who knows? I think it was just a fluke with casting at first. And then maybe an inside joke about how red hair is a mutation - see, I can remember some of the sciency stuff - and either pairing it with Sean's genetic issues, or as a subtle reference to a genetic component in determining who has Shine. Not that red hair equates to having Shine, just that there's a genetic component to it. But that's a wild guess. JH: A mystery for season two perhaps. I think we have time left for a pair of questions. This one is from FuMaKi, and ouch! 'You've died an awful lot on screen, some wonder if you're gunning for Sean Bean's record. After Charlie, are you worried you're next on the chopping block?' SC: [shakes her head in disappointment] You have got to know I'm not going to touch the latter with a ten-foot. As for the former, it's wasn't my intention, it just sort of... happened. I don't know the exact number - ask the internet. Okay, that's not true, I do know the number, I'm just making you work for it a little, but if I have to keep dying on screen to have a career as long and respected as Sean Bean's, I'd count it a fair trade. JH: Sean Bean has it in his contracts now that he doesn't die, so you have a great chance to catch up. SC: I know. He mentioned it on the set of Game of Thrones. We didn't have any scenes together, it was just in passing at the catering table - OMG, they ate well. I went for the part of Margeary, I got brothel whore - oops, can I say whore? - brothel worker number whatever, if the part had a name, I don't remember it. Two episodes and [runs a finger across her neck]. The trick he said was to get to a point where you can negotiate not getting killed into your contract. JH: And your contract... SC: Is sealed by an NDA. [smiles] JH: Just wanted to have you say it. Our last question, by way of m00nm00se99, is 'If you had the chance to do something over again, what would it be?' SC: Hmm, jokes about Chronokinesis aside, I can't say I'd change anything. Some regrets and mistakes, sure, but they are part of me, made me the person I am. If I changed them, I'd be a different person. That's a bit of a cop out, so I'll talk about a pair of the biggest turning points in my life, if that's okay? JH: Of course, Sean. We're all ears. SC: The first was marrying Bob [Ogden, prolific and prominent produce, Sean Cassidy's ex-husband]. I was too young, it was his second marriage. It was a glorious disaster. We were much better as friends, friends with benefits even, than as husband and wife. They say looks don't matter, but it's a lie. We both thought we could advance our careers as a couple... [sighs] It helped, some, but it also turned us into worse people, bound by a contract rather than a real relationship. Our divorce was acrimonious, so we couldn't even go back to being friends. [smiles sadly] I had the better lawyers though, and both of us wanted it done, so it ended quick rather than getting dragged out. Hopefully, we both learned something during out time together. He got back with his first wife, last I heard. I truly hope he's happier now. I hardly even dream of committing felonies on him anymore. The second turning point, though it came before the first, was [raises her shoulders] the boobs. Nothing against cosmetic surgery at all. I just happened to be impatient. Here's the thing - I moved to LA when I was eighteen. Think about any actor or actress you've seen and know, with just a bit of effort, you can find a prettier version on the street or in the coffee shops and restaurants of LA or Hollywood, they just didn't get the break or the talent to make it. I naively thought I had the talent, given the time and chance, to be the next Streep, or Blanchett or Weaver, Scarlett Johansson, whathaveyou. I just needed an edge to open the door. So I went with the most obvious and easiest to acquire. Joke was on me though, I was a late bloomer, so I ended up doubling up on the most common super power. Thing was, doors did open. Practically by the time I recovered from surgery, I had my first movie role. Okay, it was Pirahna 3DD, and yes, I died in it, but it opened other doors for me. Maybe not the doors I wanted, but doors all the same. JH: How did you envision your career trajectory going? Meryl Streep? SC: [laughs unabashedly] I'm not Meryl Streep. I was thinking more like Christina Hendricks - absolutely love her in Mad Men - along with the accolades and blockbusters of, say, Charlize Theron. Instead, I ended up a more genre driven version of Sophia Vergara. On the other hand, she's made bank of what feels like twenty seasons of Modern Family, doesn't look a day older than when she started, and she married Manganiello, so what do I know? But the doors I've gone through have lead me here to Weirder Stuff, and I don't regret that at all. JH: That's about all the time we have for tonight, folks. Thank you, Sean, for such a lively and forthcoming time. If I had my way, we'd go into the next time slot whenever we had someone from Weirder Stuff on the show. SC: It's been fun and refreshing. I'd love to be back after you've done the rounds of the cast. JH: You can count on it! Maybe I can talk them into a double long episode of Beyond Weirder Stuff with the entire Fellowship. But this is all for tonight. See you all next week, when we have Eric Kripke and Joss Whedon on the show. [Outro music begins to play, Sean gets her phone from her clutch and moves over beside Julia, they talk as Sean swipes through pics, then throw back their heads in laughter as the screen fades to black]
    2 points
  37. Jason knew what was happening to him. Teulu did not have a flight reflex: they lacked the capacity for fear, and in it's place was a redoubled inclination to fight, to kill. Abstractly, the wryly logical portion of his mind, that dry observer that catalogued all with merciless self-awareness, informed him of all of this. But it was one thing to know what was happening, and another to feel it in a way that was immediate and near-overpowering. His veins sang, the music primal and intoxicating as the adrenaline of combat worked it's euphoric magic on his alien neurochemistry. The fire burning in his soul right now was similar to the flame kindled in the kiss of the copper-tressed girl behind him in temperature, it's edge was as savagely joyous, yet the focus and purpose of the flame was entirely different. Almost without his noting it, Jase's lips peeled back from his teeth in a soundless laugh. His enemies were in front of him. It didn't matter to him that they were hideous mockeries of twisted life. It didn't matter to him that they might overwhelm him. There was only the pure, wild amoral joy of combat. He was Flame and Destruction incarnate right now, the roar of the power he was channeling loud in his ears and mind. He was... Putting his friends at risk. He fought down the killing laughter that had been threatening to bubble up from his throat and ring across the blighted battlefield as he glanced back to reaffirm what his kinetic awareness of his surroundings already told him. Almost everyone was clustered together, Autumn looking at him, Sophia's limp form draped across her shoulders. Still wreathed in flame, he glanced over at Sean, who was wide-eyed at the approach of the horde, already taking his first steps towards the others. Time to run. He turned and ran fleet-footed, a lean wraith limned in flames seeming to skim above the grisly soil of the glade, so lightly did his feet touch down. He hurdled a small pool, wove around a larger one, and arrived at the base of the hillock upon which the throne rested. Skidding to a stop, he gave everyone a quick, searching glance before turning to watch his oldest friend's progress with something akin to concern. Sean was many fine things, but a foot-racer was not one of them.
    2 points
  38. One moment she was yelling taunts at Cody and right after the great beast was shot, pummeled, burned lazed and was screaming infernal curses at the crimson sky while the Tree wailed and thrashed on the horizon. She looked at the group of teens, weapons at the ready with nimbuses of power swirling about them. “Holy shit…” was all she could muster under a stuck breath. Gathering her wits, finally, she ran to meet with her brother(s), pausing to look at the Devin holding Tawny. Her finger waved between the both of them. “I-I'm not even going to ask what this is…” “You got her?” Devin-Holding-Sophia asked Autumn. When she assured him with a nod, he faded away, or rather slowed down and almost seemed to ‘vibrate’ out of existence. “Good,” Devin replied to Marissa. “Because I couldn’t even begin to explain it.” She knelt beside Tawny, wiping some blood off the young blonde’s cheek but all it really did was smear it more. While her brother was holding her so tight, the worry in his eyes, she pondered the volumes of books she could fill with the hidden dialogue behind his eyes and prayed that one day she would find that sort of love. The kind where her someone would look at her the way her brother looked at Tawny. “Mother fucker.” She heard Autumn say. The redhead’s eyes were locked on the distant horizon, where the Meadow of Malaise met the Ivory Forest of Bone. “Not good. So un-fucking-good.” Although Marissa couldn’t detect them the way Autumn or Sean could, once she knew where to look her eyes could faintly make out the charging army of unmentionables. “Ohmygod.” Her heart sank. One Not-Cody was one thing, but there was no way they could battle an army the size of what was storming across the fields. “GUYS! We need to go!” She pointed long enough to direct everyone’s attention to the charging monsters. “Devin!” she knelt again, looking at her brother intently. “You need to do the thing, with the thing and we all 'boop'. You know... the thing! You need to get us the fuck out of here,” she reached for Tawny, to take care of the blonde so Devin could work his magic. “I got her!” He snapped at her, tightening his grip. Guilt kept him from letting her go as his eyes pleaded for a thousand, wordless apologies. Shelly’s Queen tightened her lips and clasped her brother’s cheeks, turning his head to face her and letting their eyes meet. “This is not your fault Devin. She’ll be fine, but we need to go. You need to let her go and open a portal.” There was no violet shimmer behind her words, only the harsh truth. “It’s my fault. You wanted to stop, I didn’t and I pushed and pushed and maybe all of this isn’t our doing, but yeah… we helped. I helped. If I had just listened to you...” “Now help me make it right, Deej,” tears slid down her cheeks. She leaned in, pressing her forehead to her brothers. “I’ve never had friends, we’ve never had friends, we've always jsut been each other's Ride or Die,” she looked to Tawny, and pulled back, meeting her brother’s eyes again. “But she’s my friend too, so let’s get her home. Let’s get everyone home, I don’t want to lose anymore friends Devin.” She forced a smile and a laugh. “We just got them… we haven’t run them through their paces yet.” They both chuckled a bit. Shifting Tawny’s weight towards his sister, Devin stood as she cradled the unconscious blonde. “Watch after her, I’ll see what I can do.” Marissa struggled. Between the slick blood, her not being very strong to begin with and having never really trying to cradle an unconscious teen in her lap, she huffed and grunted with her loose, slick grip, trying to get Tawny to hold firmly in place but instead it looked like an awkward in scene from Weekend at Bernie's. “Ohm’god,” she grunted, trying to hold the knot of arms and torso still. “I don’t know what he sees in you… you are so fat. Come on sister, don’t do this to me…” “Cade!” she finally yelled as the uncontrollable blob that was Tawny slid through the muck and malaise while Marissa clumsily chased after her. “Baby! Get her, please!” It appeared that Death would arrive with a half-smile in its face.
    2 points
  39. He'd felt it too - that casual yet profound intimacy as she proffered then handed him the mug, the way her eyes met his as he felt her fingers under his for a moment - imbuing the everyday courtesy of simply getting someone a drink with a deeper, arcane meaning that rang like a silver chime in some recently-opened chamber of his mind. It didn't seem congruous, didn't seem rational or logical as a reaction to simple stimuli. It was, after all, just a mug of coffee. But as he analysed the sensations and yes, feelings evoked, he realised that the catalytic agent was Autumn herself. Alchemy, he mused with a faint inward smile as his head lowered slightly in response to the fire-haired girl's body beginning to lengthen up towards him like a flower toward the sun - and then Cassandra's irrepressible chirpy tones intruded and chased the bluebirds away, and Jason glanced towards her as Autumn dropped her gaze to her coffee and pretended she hadn't been about to do... well, whatever it was. "No comment." The green-eyed devil stated calmly before taking a sip of coffee, an impressively stony deadpan that, had Cassie not become somewhat skilled at spotting the glimmers of humor in her strange friend's glacial gaze, could have been construed as a genuine refusal to discuss the topic. "My sources are impeccable." Cass grinned, throwing a wink at Autumn, who nodded around taking a sip of her own coffee. "Eyewitness accounts, plus a first hand report that it was..." she snapped her fingers as though trying to remember, then looked at Autumn. "The coolest thing ever." Autumn said with mock-gravity, nodding. She smiled slightly at her partner in pluck, then glanced up at Jason. "Sounds like fake news." Jason's eyes crinkled at the corners. "Who are these alleged sources?" "Well... her." Cassie pointed at Autumn. "And I witnessed it." "Allegedly." Autumn put in. "Well, damn." Jase shrugged, lips twitching now. "Curses. And drat." "Soooo... Once you've had your coffee..?" Cassie began. "...perhaps you could offer rides?" Autumn grinned as she and the blonde reporter, in unison, put on their most appealing faces and chorused "Pleeease?" Jason just looked from one earnest entreating face to the other, took a swallow of coffee, and then nodded. "Yay!" The ensuing victory dance attracted the attention of the others, who expressed amused bafflement in varying degrees, necessitating a brief explanation from the two girls. "Airplanes?" Tawny blinked, then her mouth made a pretty 'O' of surprised realisation. "You mean whizzing people around with telekinesis?" She looked intrigued and doubtful. "I dunno, isn't that dangerous?" "Most fun things are dangerous." Cassie grinned. "Skateboarding..." "...rock-climbing..." Autumn put in. "...sneaking into the gym locker for a quickie with an assistant coach..." Courtney nodded, then smiled wickedly at the looks she got. Chuckles ran round the room, even Tawny laughing through her disapproving blush. "Seriously, though." she went on after the moment passed. "I'd be worried to give someone an airplane in case I lost concentration or something." "You'll get past that." Jase said with authoritative reassurance. "This is early days for you, and you've made strides rather than steps." He gave the sweet-faced girl a slight smile. "The key is to keep challenging yourself, improving that confidence and focus." "It'd be good practice." Autumn's nose crinkled as she smiled broadly at Tawny. "If you want to try airplaning someone, I volunteer. It's seriously awesome." "Maybe." Tawny's intrigue was definite. "I think I'd need to experience it first, though." she said slyly. "I'm sold." Courtney's carmine lips curved in a grin. "Fly me!" "Me first." Cassie mock-scowled at all and sundry. "I brought it up, you all can take a ticket." Laughs and good-natured bantering followed as those interested in the Effing Bannon Fairground Ride jockeyed for marching order and those not looked on with amusement. Meanwhile Jason watched from over his coffee, an island of stillness in the motion, quick keen gaze noting, studying and analysing the vibrant expressiveness of his friends.
    2 points
  40. Pressing her heels into the floor, Autumn got to her feet with a quiet huff of effort and stretched, luxuriating in the elongation of idle limbs and arching up onto her toes as she reached skyward. Her fingertips lingered on the coarse fabric encasing the spine of the slim volume as she, relaxing, slid it carefully back into place; it would have to stay here with the others, for now, until she could figure out what to do with them. The contents of the remaining envelope, still unopened on the desk blotter, were to be read with her mother- “together,” the other letter had specified, along with something about instructions to be followed. Maybe it held the yellowed deed to the lost mine they’d imagined, or the combination to the secret shelter beneath the memorial, or something even stranger... Or maybe it was just a practical list of what Owen had wanted saved and sold, along with a mundane explanation for why he’d kept the Dark and the cancer a secret- something he’d never given them when he was alive. Maybe something he couldn’t have given them, then. Would she have believed him, though, if he’d tried? Before Friday, if someone had told her what she now knew about Shelly, about their family history and the Crockers’ as well, would it have mattered- even if that someone had been her grandfather? She mulled that over, making another circuit around the office. Hm. No, probably not; they wouldn’t have had proof. Before Jason Freaking Bannon and Clara Wright had cornered her in the girls’ bathroom, scared the hell out of her, and casually dismantled what she’d thought she’d known about reality, she would’ve probably laughed it off, wouldn’t she? Maybe assumed they were teasing her or had taken some of the local stories a little too seriously. According to what Nathan had suggested, that had more or less been her mom’s reaction at her age, and it was a perfectly rational response to irrational claims; after all, if something could be asserted without evidence, it could just as easily be dismissed in the same way. Now that she knew the truth, of course, there was no going back to the Autumn of an hour ago, or the day before, or last week. ...And the more she learned, the more she realized how very little she’d actually known. The better she could see the road that lay behind her, the less she recognized the one that now stretched under her feet, vanishing over the horizon as it wound toward… what? It was unsettling, in a way. Disorienting. Like the unexpected shift of a compass needle, the slow creep of fog across a well-worn path, the alien arrangement of stars in a once-familiar sky. Even if she hadn’t been totally sure where she was going, hadn’t even really made plans for what to do after graduation yet, life had always seemed reassuringly straightforward. Not easy, but at least generally comprehensible. Now she couldn’t even say with certainty that reality itself was real. But, honestly, so what? This was the universe she lived in, now. It was terrifying and it was strange, even exhilarating in some ways, but her grandfather and generations of Kavanaghs had lived in it, too, hadn’t they? And they’d done it without the benefit of nascent powers, or allies who shared them. It hadn’t been in her grandfather’s nature to turn away from the things that made him uncomfortable or afraid, and she’d like to believe it wasn’t in hers, either. Besides- She closed the cabinet doors, reminded of the brief conversation she’d had with Gar Bannon at the hospital. The only thing that had changed, really, was her understanding of the world. Not the world itself. Knowing that these monsters were out there didn’t change the fact that they’d been there before, that all of this had already happened, over and over again. Still, it had to mean something, right? That she, out of all her ancestors with all their stories chronicled on the bookshelf over there, had the ‘Dawning Light.’ The journals and the bracelets and the Blackfeet, the roots of a family tree grown so deep into Shelly’s soil that they were almost one and the same- even her mother, who was brilliant and beautiful and could’ve had a career and a life and a family anywhere else, ended up coming home, as if it couldn’t have happened any other way. Even if it was something the Man in Black had engineered or designed somehow, and even if she had no idea what she was doing or could do in all of this, it still felt… right, somehow, that it should be her? Appropriate? Hmmm. No, not exactly. More… Her gaze fell on a faded map, framed and hanging on the wall, pensive blue eyes tracing the flow of rivers which branched off into tributaries and smaller streams but always found their way to the ocean, in the end. More… Inevitable. Huh. At least as inevitable as the fact that she was going to read that second letter, the impetuous teen decided after a few moments of contemplation, not bothering to take a seat this time as deft fingers withdrew the crisp handwritten missive from its envelope. The first one hadn’t said that it needed to be read exclusively together with her mother, after all, and something in it might be useful, and she was already here anyway, and surely Grandpa wouldn’t mind. Right? Right. Of course. Why would he? “To my darling Dana and my dearest Autumn.” Even softly murmured in the quiet of the hidden study, even though it was the second she’d read and even in her own voice, the words stretched back across the days and months until she could almost hear him, warmth and love and a little humor resonating under the habitual gruffness. Suddenly the chair looked a lot more appealing, its smooth wooden arms welcoming as she sank back down into the comforting solidity of its embrace. “If everything has gone right, you have been brought this letter by the person who opened my den door. Dana, I know it’d likely have been you that went to clean out the house, and I’m sorry none of the keys worked. That was a little medicine from my friend Laughing Joe, whom you likely don’t remember too fondly. Suffice to say that no-one normal could have opened the door. Only someone blessed by the Dawning Light.” Hmm. Her eyes drifted upward unconsciously, unfocused. That was going to be tricky to explain, wasn’t it? Either she’d need to lie and say that someone else had given her the letters, and then keep lying to build up the rest of the story about who they were and where they’d gone- stupidly complicated and awkward and definitely not her preferred option- or admit that she’d been the one to get them. Which… On reflection, that might not be so bad, maybe? If her mom didn’t believe in any of this craziness, and it absolutely was craziness, then a rational explanation for the key just coincidentally working could be found. Perhaps something had settled or shifted, the change of temperature or humidity or something like that finally being just right. Her mom would find a way to make events fit her view of the world. If she did believe, though, what would that mean? After the fight on Tuesday, Dana had been freaked out enough to tell her dad, and the two of them had actually grounded her. Which was also craziness in that it was pretty much unprecedented, even if it hadn’t changed much in a practical sense (apart from, maybe, not being able to follow through on her plans to show Jason the campsite over the weekend). What would her reaction to finding out about the Dark and the Fellowship be, if she thought it was all true? She’d probably send me off to that convent in Eastern Europe she’s been threatening to call up for the last couple of years. “I know, I know. ‘That old tale again.’ I can hear your sharp tongue scolding me, daughter mine. Set aside my silly obsession with local legends and just accept this - I love you with all my heart, you and Autumn both.” Unexpectedly, her voice faltered, cracking at the sound of her own name. No. No, no. Not yet. Drawing in a lungful of the faintly fragrant air, she steadied herself, delaying the inevitable for a few moments longer. “And from that love, and from where I now watch over you, I’m asking you to do a thing for me.” “You are both Kavanagh women by blood. I want one or, better yet both of you to take the talisman bundle the person who delivers this letter brings you and, pricking your fingers, dab some of your blood on it.” Autumn blinked, grimacing a little as she glanced up at the odd assortment of beads, feathers, and claws. “Stop wrinkling your noses, girls.” The unerring prediction caught her by surprise, and she made a choked, startled sound that would, under any other circumstances, have been actual laughter. “This is my last request, penned by my hand, and I will be scowling at you if you refuse it. Once that’s done, hang the bundle high up in your home, out of the way over a door or a window on the inside. Any door, any window, doesn’t matter. And then you can forget about it until you move house, in which case do it again especially, and I mean this, if you still live within Toole County.” Sunday, she told herself. Sunday, after we go to the Reservation. I'll talk to her then. “Do this not because you believe as I believe, but out of love and respect for my wishes. For I love you both and want nothing more than to rest easy knowing my family are safe as I can make them.” The rest, she couldn’t bring herself to say aloud: With More Love Than My Heart Can Hold Pa / Grandpa Owen It was strange, the power those lines penned in blue ink held. The words themselves were oddly formal, proper, even in the one addressed to family, as if he were being very conscious of getting them exactly right. To anyone else who might’ve found them, they would’ve meant nothing- a set of requests and instructions from one stranger to another, with all the emotional content of a dictionary entry or shopping list. To the young girl who’d stepped through the doorway into that little room and simultaneously onto a road winding toward invisible horizons both ahead and behind, they were the sure stroke of a surgeon’s scalpel and the balm after. As she replaced the letter with trembling fingers, the dam against which her emotions had been building suddenly broke, washing away all thought of history, legend, and her place in the world in the swift and onrushing tide of bitter tears and great, wrenching sobs. Later that evening, with the room locked again, Autumn trudged back upstairs through the house that was and wasn't hers to put the borrowed tools away; the ride home was quiet as only time spent enveloped in noise could be, wind and engine and thoughts insulating her as she drove, feeling utterly drained. Later still, after the conversation with her mother about the fight on Tuesday, and after replacing the keys on the hook next to the phone downstairs and rummaging through her closet, her nightstands, and finally her desk, Autumn managed to unearth a blank notebook patterned with white and yellow flowers. It didn’t look at all like the ones on the shelf in the other house, of course, but that was fine; it was hers, after all, not theirs, although she, too, was writing for someone she might never meet. “It all started with a door,” she began, and then paused, thinking of the numerous literal and metaphorical thresholds crossed since the week before, and the multitude she’d not yet encountered. That they, she corrected herself mentally, hadn’t yet encountered. With a faint, slightly crooked smile, she lowered the pen once more to the page. “But, I guess it always does. Doesn’t it?”
    2 points
  41. Jase's impromptu winter attracted Cassandra's attention, and she laughed at the spectacle of the lopsided snowball 'fight' that ensued. It stirred a corner of her head that wondered idly about how each of the Fellowship had a unique specialty. There were talents they shared between them, but no one seemed to have a real depth of strength in the same talents. That seemed...not random, didn't it? Mulling that over, Cassie strolled over to where Jase had settled down to brood, no longer paying attention to the others for a few minutes. "Hey," she said. "Mind if I sit here for a second?" "Not at all." The lean youth said without opening his eyes, gesturing at the grass with one hand before returning it to his knee. As usual, he displayed no sign that anything had been interrupted or that she was, in some way, intruding. Instead his eyes opened as the pretty blonde settled across from him, studying her for a long moment without speaking further, his attitude one of patient expectation. "Sorry if I'm breaking into your 'you time,'" Cassandra said, studying Jaseon right back. "You have my permission to tell me to get lost, not that I think you really need it." She smiled. "Your snowball fight got me thinking a few things, and one of them is that I want some practice working with powers. Lilly's got me started learning about punching and stuff...but I'll eat my bra if the Dark doesn't have some kind of ability like we do. It's...too similar, you know? Opposite, but similar." "A corruption of ours, perhaps." Jason said calmly, his gaze attentive. "The opposite of Radiance, as Coyote called it. Or maybe both are universal cosmic constants, eternally at odds from the beginning, like matter and anti-matter." His lips twitched in a slight smile. "And if I truly wanted to be alone, I would go elsewhere. You are always free to speak to me, Cassandra." She nodded in response. "So, once you've had a chance to rest, would you help me out with powers? I figure it might be easier with you because your powers are really noticible. With Devin he'd be jumping around too much, and most of the rest of us there's not much you can see with your eyes." "Of course." Jason nodded. "I can do some basic exercises without requiring much juice." He considered for a heartbeat. "How about this - I try to telekinetically shove you off-balance, and you attempt to counter me with your own powers-" he paused for a moment. "Out of curiousity, how would you counter that?" Cassie poked the inside of her cheek out with her tongue, then said, "I can see Shine when I try. And there was a couple of times when I sort of...without really thinking about it...used my Shine to sort of push or cut someone else's. Like when Courtney tried to read my mind before. I haven't really had a chance to try to do it on purpose yet though." "Interesting." Twin pale chips of green ice narrowed fractionally at her words. "So something like Clara's ability to cancel out powers. She was able to make me lose my telekinetic grip on things in her vicinity last time we trained. Good - I was concerned that her departure would rob us of that valuable talent." He was silent for a moment longer, considering. "Then yes, TK is the way to go. At least until we get a relative measure of your strength." Cassandra felt an invisible 'hand' firmly grasp her shoulder. "I will attempt to push, and you will try to make my grip ineffective. The worst that will happen is you get pushed over. Are you ready?" She took in and let out a breath, and nodded. "Okay." Then she closed her eyes to help focus on other, subtler senses. It took a second, but she remembered the chaos at the Medical Center, and how she'd managed to see both the Shine of her friends and the swirling Dark of the other creatures, heedless of walls and obstacles. And then there was Jase...unrecognizable compared to how he looked as a creature of flesh and blood. He was a river of light, covered in twisting tributaries that together twined and wove something roughly the size and shape of a person, but only roughly. As alien as it looked, Cass could tell immediately it was Jase. The 'hand' on her shoulder was essentially just an extrusion of that shining light, stretching from him to her. WIth a frown, she pushed at it...and saw her own Shine extend out from her shoulder, between herself and his own...and the sensation of pressure vanished. "Good." Jason said as he felt the grip brushed aside as though it were cobwebs. "Now I'm going to try sudden shoves. No warning but your own senses. These don't tax me at all, so we can keep this up as long as you like. Deflect or weaken as many as you can." Cassie nodded, and for the next five minutes a silent, invisible duel played out between the two teens. Jason was strong with his gift, with focus that came from living with it and using it as an extension of himself much as Devin did. Despite that, Cassie was able to weaken many of the shoves so they merely made her sway, and others dissipated into fog much as the first had. One or two, however, got through before she could adequately focus, with enough force that if felt like Cade or Lilly was playfully shoving her over to sprawl on the grass. "Okay," Cass grunted as she picked herself up off the ground for the third time. "Okay. I am gonna need a lot more practice at this." She shook her hands out...a little pointlessly, since they weren't needed for this, but it still felt right. Despite being purely mental, Cass found it hard to untangle her powers from her sense of her body. "And," she added, "I'm kind of wondering just how far out I can push my Shine like this. What I kind of wish was that we had a little Dark to practice with though, you know? What if it's different in some really important way?" "For the second question - the only answer will be trial by fire." Jason said with glacial calm. "Until we establish your ability against the Dark, then we cannot hinge any tactics on it." His head tilted very slightly. "You will be with us anyway, to guide us across the threshold. Once there, do what you can. You cannot be asked more than that." "As to the first question..." Three water bottles rose from the growing discard pile and began circling the seated pair at a range of roughly thirty meters. "Try to block what I am doing. Protect the empty bottles, make me lose my grip on them. If they are out of range, then I shall bring them in. If they are within your range, we shall extend. Sound good?" She nodded and lowered her head in concentration. Pushing the Shine out was easy at first, but rapidly became harder the farther it went. Even so, after a few tries she managed to get the distance she could make the bottles drop at extend to a good ten feet or so. With more effort Jase could feel the extra effort he had to exert further out still... By the time Cassandra finally waved a white flag out of just being tired, she'd been able to force Jase's mental fingers from them at over a hundred feet away, or so they estimated. Cass then asked, "Could you send one of those bottles my way?" She fanned herself and wiped her forehead. "This is thirsty work. I think I'm kind of...doing it wrong. Each time I try I've been pushing out again, but I think it's easier if I just push, and hold." Jason nodded, a fresh bottle rising from the cooler and arcing through the air to hover within easy arms reach of the girl. "You're doing well. And yes, establishing a constant zone of control would likely be easier, if you can." The water in the bottle cooled, beads of condensation forming and running down the sides even as Cass reached for it. "Have a drink and a rest, then we can try that." She unscrewed the cap and eagerly guzzled a few gulps, then splashed her face with it. "Ugh, between this and Lilly's workout, I'm gonna be a wreck by the time I get home," Cassie observed with a wry chuckle. "You ever wonder, like...how many powers we can have? I can see things at a distance, and back in time. Now I can mess with other people's powers too. What's next? How can we even tell?" "Our powers seem to be outgrowths of our personalities, drives, core passions." Jase's eyes tightened a little in contemplation. "I've theorised a lot around that, based on the evidence. Autumn has powers over life, suiting her vital nature and restlessness. Devin's core drive is freedom, and so his power reflects the ultimate ability to avoid confinement. You seek answers, the truth at the heart of things, and so your powers provide you with insights into the present, past, and maybe the future, as well as into the fundamental forces we all tap into. And so on, and so on." He smiled then, an impish glint of wry humor in his gaze. "But what's really going to bake your noodle is... Does our Radiance reflect our personalities, or were our personalities shaped by the Radiance within us?" "I was going to say, that felt backwards to me," Cassandra agreed, nodding. "Starting from the conclusion, and making shit up that justifies it. I'm not saying what you came up with is wrong, but...like everyone wants freedom, you know? And what about your powers? What secret mental need do they fill?" "Does everyone want freedom?" Jason asked rhetorically. "Really? How many rules and strictures and codes of behaviour do people bind themselves in willingly? How many religious cults have there been to take the onus for moral thought? How often do you hear someone say they could not help it, or had no choice? True freedom is scary to many." "Ehhh, I dunno. I don't think it's the freedom that's scary. I think it's not trusting other people with freedom," Cassie opined. "All the rules and strictures and codes are things we sign onto partly because that's just how we grew up...but it's also because we expect everyone else to abide by them too. Like everyone agreeing to follow the rules of a game. Only, you know, higher stakes." "It doesn't mean we aren't interested in our own freedom." "I think many don't understand what freedom really is. They tend to ignore the fact it also entails responsibility." Jason shrugged. "But then, I have a unique perspective. I choose to be bound by fetters that are, to me, no more substantial than a puff of silk. I do so not because I have no choice, but because I so choose. And if I chose differently, nothing would stop me. I can be killed, but I cannot be bound indefinitely against my will. I will never accept such bonds and, like Fenrir of Norse myth, would eventually escape them... or die trying." "And that brings us to your other question. My expression of Shine - it is an outgrowth of my core as well. Fire for passion, ice for control, force for Will. These define me." "We all have a choice, dude. Granted, most of us can't just ignore what other people think because they can't hurt us," Cassie admits, "But we have choice. There's just clearly bad choices that will result in us dying alone, and clearly better choices that will result in us dying...later. And hopefully not alone." She shrugs. "But anyway. It's as good a theory as anything else at this point. I guess if we want real science done, we have to go crawling back to Aeon, and that's not really appealing for some reason." "Its a new frontier of science, so there'll be a lot of theorising." Jason nodded. "And some of it the conventional scientists of Aeon's project would be less than helpful with - we need their resources, not their brain trust... at least for the most part. It would be better for us to formulate a working theory ourselves without being talked down to. So far, the theory of the subquantum strata myself and Sean are cooking up seems to hold. So far." he added with a brief wry smile. "And yes, you're right that trusting those who funded Cook's little eugenics project is not appealing. It may, however, be necessary. At least to a degree. If they claim they want to help us, then we should allow them - cautiously - to attempt to do so. Trust can be built from there." His matter-of-fact demeanour unchanging, he went on "Do you feel up to attempting that zone of control yet?" Cassandra nodded. "Cooperation may be necessary. Trust...we'll see. Yeah though, lets get back to it." She got back to her feet and tossed her head around a bit. Then, she tried pushing her 'shine' out in all directions, as far as she could...and just holding it. Filling that area with it. "This...isn't so bad," she said after a second. "There's this push at first...but then it gets easier to hold it. See what happens when you try to float stuff." Jason nodded, and attempted to pick up the first of the empty bottles from the grass. It trembled slightly, rolling as his 'grasp' slipped and faded, but otherwise did not move. Focusing more intently, he reached out and tried again. This time the bottle rose into the air, but he could feel the grasp was tenuous, weaker. Nodding, he floated the bottle towards them. "It's harder." he said with a smile. "I have to concentrate a lot harder to do something that should be reflexively easy." Even as he said it, the distortion of Cassandra's zone of control caused his grip on the bottle to falter and the empty container fell to the grass. "Interesting. It's affecting my kinetic perceptions a little, too. Like trying to see through fog. If your power can affect the source used by the Dark in the same way, we might have a real advantage." "Especially if I can tune it in," she agreed, frowning in concentration. "So it affects the Dark, but not us. But that'll also make me a big target..." "We will have to take steps to defend you, then." Jason nodded slowly as he considered. "There's something I want to try, if you're willing? It should work, and if so will be painless." Cassandra eyed Jase warily. "Something you want to try...that's painless. Explain while I get ready to run.." That was good for a smile that reached the pale eyes, the corners crinkling a little. "I can protect myself with a forcefield that turns aside and dampens energy of all kinds, including kinetic. I can also create shapes, tools and structures out of pure force that are mobile and usable. Theoretically, I should be able to extend my personal shield to others on an individual basis." "Oh!" Cassandra thought, then said, "Try it on me, and I'll leave my shine on. Lets see if we can get them to work together." "Alright. Tune your field of control away from Shine, focus on the anti-Shine you've sensed and felt before." Jason advised, picking up his half-full bottle of water from next to him as he focused on Cassandra. As the reporter nodded in the affirmative, Jason smiled... and hurled the bottle at her chest... ...where it stopped dead on impact, all of it's momentum bled away harmlessly before it fell to the ground at the blonde's feet. "It seems to work." Jason said calmly, that gleam of mischief back in his eyes. Cassie put a hand up to her chest over her heart and rubbed her shirt there, as if verifying the lack of bruising. She grinned and shook her head. "Man, not complaining that I have magic super powers, but I gotta say, it mighta been nice if my unconscious mind gave me something a little more kickass than 'mega-voyuerism.'" She looked at her fingers as she held them up and wiggled them. "Though I guess if I can hold back powers, that's not bad. Unless the Dark starts hiring normal assassins and sending them after me." "That is what Lilly's training is for." Jason said quietly. "It's why I train with Hank, and study widely on a variety of subjects, and run to keep fit. The powers should not be a crutch, but one arrow of many in your quiver. For me, that is just an evolution of my prior attitude - to be competent in as many disciplines as I could. For others... Who can say?" He smiled a little at her. "Like it or not, we are all warriors now. Not all front-line, but our attitude has to be one of preparation." She sighs. "Yeah, but it takes years to get good at something like martial arts, you know? And between this Enterich guy, and Crossroads...we have more than just the Dark to worry about. As if it wasn't enough." "True. And Site B." Jason nodded, the faint pressure of the forcefield around Cass dropping away. "And even after that, we're not necessarily done. Who knows what fresh challenges come after?" "The other aliens," Cassandra agreed. "If Coyote was telling the truth about them. The ones who didn't want people developing powers." The teen reporter folded her arms over her stomach, unconsciously protecting her underbelly. "What do you think we should do? I mean...after the Dark, after Crossroards and Site B. Try to blend in with everyone? Go public with powers? Something in between?" "Whatever we choose will present difficulty. Go public, and people will attempt to lay claim to us, to vilify or glorify us, to make us heroes or villains... or heroes then villains, much as they do all their idols. Try to blend in, and we shackle ourselves by trying to avoid standing out. Something in between? What would that look like? Secret identities? Masks and spandex?" He gave a lopsided smile. "Whatever we choose, it will be interesting." "That's not really an answer," points out Cass. "But okay. I just can't help but think there's a lot going on that people need to know about. Things that would...totally transform our understanding of the world, and ourselves, and the universe." She shrugs. "It feels selfish to keep it to ourselves." Then Cassandra glanced at Jase again and asked, "So...okay change of subject. Autumn. How's that going?" He was silent for a moment, considering her as the lopsided smile faded and left his habitual stoic composed mien, then "Do you really want to know?" The question was quietly, but genuinely asked. Cassandra smiled. "I always want to know." "It is a series of revelations." Jason said simply, without any sign of discomfort or embarrassment. "From the moment she talked with me, expressed genuine interest in me, then hugged me last Monday, as a friend taking away pain, to the camping trip and the fun we had together, to the first kiss, to that night and so on through to today." His eyes never left Cassie's as he spoke calmly. "Her touch makes my blood warm, her kisses linger even when she is not here. I find myself laying awake thinking on her laugh, her smile, the way she feels when she puts her arms around me. It is an effort for me not to be distracted by her." He smiled then, very slightly. "You asked." She nods, not seeming put out at all. "I mean...here though." Cass stepped forward and put her hand on Jase's heart. "It wasn't that long ago you were telling everyone you're a psychopath. How do you feel about her?" "It may be possible I was wrong about the psychopathy." Jason shrugged a little. "Certainly, no psychopath should be capable of feeling as I feel. Loyalty to you as friends, love for my father, and for Autumn..." he sighed softly, glancing down at Cassie's hand on his heart, then back at her eyes. "I am young, whatever else I am. I do not wish to speak the word that comes to mind, in case it's utterance causes her to retreat from me. She is, after all, also young. Let us just say I feel very strongly towards her." Cassandra's eyes stayed glued to Jase's for a second, inhaling his expression, his posture and movements, the shifting of his eyes...then she nodded. "Okay. Good. If you want to talk...I mean, to someone other than her...you can talk to me." She took her hand back. "Thank you." he inclined his head, not smiling. "And likewise. You are her friend, and mine." "Right." Looking around again, Cassandra chewed her bottom lip for a second, then said to Jase. "Okay. I think that's enough for me, for now. I'll let you rest up. Thanks for helping me out. I feel better about going with you guys." Jason nodded, settling back down to his sitting position. "I'm glad you are our Eyes." he said simply, before closing his. Cassie nods, then heads out to see who else she can pester...
    2 points
  42. 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 points
  43. 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.
    2 points
  44. She said something, but was looking at her phone, distracting herself with that instead of talking to him. He leaned in asking "What?" with a slight grin since she seemed to be being deliberately evasive. She mumbled it again while swiping through a playlist, only to get a 'Huh?' from her 'boyfriend'. "You! Okay? Geez." Cade was witness to the one the very few moments when Marissa's titanic composure was broken and she nothing like a twenty-five year old making power moves to secure a financial future and everything like the mildly embarrassed sixteen year old young woman she really who just said some considerate to the guy she sort of liked. "See? How hard was that?" He laughed. She sighed and rolled of to face him. Her cheeks just a bit flushed with the moment still. "I have not had a day to myself in so long, and I could not have imagined it going any better with anyone other than you, okay? There, I said it. Happy?" "Only if you are," he smiled warmly. Her eyes narrowed and she smiled a mischievous smile. She cooed, "Now you are learning." She kissed him once and rested her head on his chest. Why did she feel so okay with this? Why did just lying in the sun, relaxing and taking her time to enjoy the kissing feel so right? She could hear the rhythmic thumping of her heart and wondered of the cold, dead thing in the center of her chest sounded the same. Her mind was at war with itself as she half listened to what Cade was saying. By the way, I'm so wrapped up in my own guilt over selling you and everyone out to the bad guys, that I figured you deserved a girlfriend before my actions end you up a lab table getting cut to pieces to figure out your powers work. Blowjob? She was pretty sure a side of oral gratification was not going to make up for betraying him or the others so as Cade talked she thought about all the possibilities and ways it would all blow up in her face while she kissed his chest and traced her tongue along the outline of his nipple. "You are incredibly distracting," he laughed shirking his chest away from her mouth because it tickled. She returned from her thoughts and realized what she'd been doing just offered him a salacious grin. "Sorry. You know what?" She slapped her palm flat on his broad chest. "Let us get out here and get some burgers, I am famished already. On me." She pushed off of him and stood up. She spun about towards the Jeep to get her shirt and skirt and Cade didn't took a moment to admire the view, especially where her bikini bottoms had climbed up her bottom as they made out. With a swipe of her fingers everything was back the way it was supposed to be and she stepped into her skirt and pulled her shirt back over her body. It was getting dark and Cade collected his things as the sky turned shades of purple in the distance. The weather was still great, but the sun was going down earlier and earlier every night. As Marissa waited she stood looking at the water while finished rigging everything to leave until after several long minutes she could hear him approaching. "Hey," was all he said and she tilted her head to look back at him. His phone flashed and he snapped an image of her to remember the trip by. "I'm wondering which one is more beautiful." "Me or the sunset?" She asked softly, hardly able to break here eyes away from it. "Sunset? I was thinking you or your smile." He kissed her shoulder. "As if I could notice anything but you." She rolled her eyes and walked away, "Oh my god that was cheesy." "What?" He followed her, taking the left side and parting her company to get into the Jeep. "That was pretty good. Come on, give me some credit!" "Nooope!" She laughed as she hopped in the passenger side. "Just for that I am taking Haruka mini-skirt shopping." She held her finger and thumb to her lip and rubbed them together. Cade looked at her strangely. "What are you doing?" he asked shaking his head in the hopes of rattling loose a clue. "I am twisting my handlebar mustache, because corrupting your sister is evil." His date replied in a tone that suggested it should have been obvious. Cade rolled his and started the Jeep. "You are such a nerd." As the brake lights lit up the darkening clearing and the Jeep drove off into the Summer evening the wailing of his girlfriend demanding he take that back, echoed among the trees.
    2 points
  45. The spiced and savoury scent of baking stuffed peppers and stuffed mushrooms wafted into the living room. Sean's pale face was shaded into mixing hues of red, green, and yellow as orbs of condensed, deadly photons hovered about his head. Like Ioun Stones, now that Sean considered with a wan grin. His parents hadn't noticed he'd been manipulating the images from his laptop to the TV without an interface or had just thought it some big of technological trickery. So he had made some other, more flamboyant demonstration. His mom had gasped and his dad's eyes had widened in surprise, but they hadn't really believed. His dad still didn't, trying to figure out how he'd done what he had. His mom seemed to have reluctantly come around after he had asked her to trust him and tuned up the efficiency of the electrical impulses in her brain. She believed, but it didn't make her happy. "So, you're psychic? What does that mean, exactly?" Carolyn asked her son with tense interest. "Does is have something to do with this 'Dark' you mentioned?" "Psionic," Sean absently corrected. "Pardon?" Carolyn said, while her husband folded his arms and glowered, trying not to humour his son and wife, though doubt was seeping in. "Psionic, not psychic, it's a minor distinction, but one I'm keeping," Sean explained. "And it means I, and others like me have a means to manipulate or influence specific underpinnings of reality, in certain ways." "Harrumph!' Jack Cassidy groused. "Hey! I didn't say we were breaking the natural laws of the universe, it just looks that way," Sean protested. "Actually, I think we're actually still bound by them. It's just... we're able to read the super fine print and have access to, um, clauses and sub-articles, others don't." The slim, curvaceous boy nodded towards the kitchen. "Supper smells ready. Can we continue this over food?" ~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~ "So, who else is psy - excuse me, who else is psionic?" Carolyn queried casually, blowing gently on a forkful of red pepper, rice, and sausage to cool it. "All your friends who were quarantined with you at Marias, I suppose?" Sean stiffened, then swallowed down the stuffed mushroom he had in his mouth with a hard gulp. "I'd... rather not say, mom. I'm telling you what I can, because shit has gotten serious and I think you'll be safer if you know what's going on. But I don't know everything others may have said to their parents or what they want others to know 'bout them." He took a sip of water then worried at a lip, before nodding to himself. "He's been over a lot over the years, and I don't think he'll mind much, but Jase is psychokinetic." "Which is... he can move things with his mind?" Jack ventured, giving his head a small shake that he was even indulging this fantasy. "Handy, that." "Among other things. Fly, for one. He can move, slow, or speed up atoms, I think," Sean expounded. He saw the looks on his parents' faces." I can shock things and shoot them with lasers. He can freeze them or set them on fire." Sean took several quick bites of his own stuffed pepper, then cocked his head to the side in thought. "Wasn't quite as weird as Jase revealing that he is a psychopath." "What? Don't say such a thing, Sean," his mother scolded him. "Jase is a perfectly nice and polite boy, despite having such a hard life." Sean ran his fingers down his face from hairline to chin in frustration. This should have been another conversation. "Okay, about psychopathy..." ~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~ "Aliens, now? Government conspiracies and black ops agencies and secret bases under the hospital and prison? And Dr. Cook is all part of it?" Sean's father didn't quite bellow, pacing agitatedly through the living room, and running a hand through his thinning hair. "Sean, this sounds like one of the games you and your friends play." "It does," Sean admittedly, perching on the arm of the recliner to stay out of his dad's way. "I mean, I'm living it, and I wouldn't believe it is I hadn't seen it for myself, heard it from Dr. Cook himself. But it's real." He nodded at the TV, where he had shown them some - specifically edited - scenes he had captured from the Crossroads escapade and the events at Marias. "I wouldn't take any jobs at the prison, hospital, or on base, if I were you. Y'know, just in case." Jack gave his son a disgruntled look. He contracting business was a small one, so he didn't get many contracts from that group, and not big ones, and while he would miss the income, if what he son said was true, he had no intention on bidding for those contracts, let alone work for them. "I find it hard to believe Dr. Cook was part of this, has done all you say he has, hun," Sean mother said once again, with a sad shake of her hair, twisting a curl of pale, strawberry blond hair in an old habit that only cropped up when she was stressed. "He seemed so nice, and did so much good for you." "He did," Sean agreed with a sad, resigned grin. "But I think the good he was doing for me was really for him, to assuage all the guilt he felt for the bad he'd done, what lengths he's gone through in the pursuit of discovery." Site B... "He has helped me, but it doesn't make up for everything else he's done." "... Does this psionic ability, or did Dr. Cook, have anything to do with... well, with, you, Sean?" Carolyn's voice was gentle, but she couldn't help but ask, her blue eyes bright with unshed tears. "No, that's all me." And it's gonna kill me. Sean's grin turned brittle and tight, hurt to see the pain in his mother's eyes, the guilt that she hoped his awkward, unconventional development was due to another's influence and not something she'd done, even if was only contributing to his messed up genetics. ~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~+~~ Sean sat on the porch swing under the covered veranda, rocking slightly. The old quilt his grandmother had stitched that usually rested on the swing, he pulled about his shoulders against a cool night breeze as he watched the stars, as he gave his parents some privacy to discuss what he had disgorged upon them. Turing, his grey cat, prowled out from under the swing and leapt up onto his lap. Green-yellow eyes regarded him impassively, head tilted slightly as he chirruped questioningly, then Turing began to purr as Sean absently pet him, brushing his cheeks and stroking him under the chin. There was supposedly a crashed alien spacecraft at Site B. Was there another, others, up there watching Earth? There was a soft footfall on the hardwood planking of the veranda and Sean recognized as his mother's gait, but didn't turn to look. Wordlessly, she joined him on the porch swing. Carolyn wanted to put her arms about her middle child, but Sean had grown reticent with being touched as he'd grown into his teens, so she contented herself with just bumping his shoulder with her own. "You know, when you said you had something to talk about with us, Sean, neither I nor your father even suspected it was something like this," she said, a bit of exhausted humour leavening her tone. "Yeah?" "Mmm-hmm. We thought you were going to tell us you were planning on a more... drastic, or surgical option to deal with condition, one way or another." Sean slowly craned his neck to look at his mother. She looked back, brows raised, expression patient and concerned, and judgement-free. There was the barest curve to one side of her mouth, bemused at her own jump to conclusion and being so blindsided by what Sean had actually told her. Sean laughed. It started as fitful, stifled giggles, then grew into full blown, full bellied guffaws. He laughed so far his cheeks hurt and it started to hurt to breathe. "All this stuff is happening," Sean hiccuped, trying to regain his breath. "And while I still don't care much for how most people who know treat me, or the comments they make, I'm actually starting to be okay with how I am. I can even see maybe liking it, someday." And it might kill me.
    2 points
  46. Oh, for fuck's sake. Really?! I haven't even made it to Chemistry yet. It had been a while since Jacob Crocker was on Autumn's "favorite people" list, and running into him twice in as many days was more frustrating than anything else, a subtle reminder that apparently the universe wasn't uncaring, because it obviously hated her; second day of classes had really set the tone at Shelly High. Just like in the hall the day before, there was that little twinge of something when she saw him, that friction between the part of her that missed talking to him every day and hanging out, and the part that never wanted to see his stupid face again. She and Jay weren't dating anymore, so, yeah, things being awkward was sort of expected- at least for a while- but that's not where it ended. He hadn't just been her boyfriend, he'd been her best friend since they were in diapers. Their families had cookouts together. Camping trips. Holiday dinners. They were practically family... Or, at least, they had been. Now it was all kinds of fucked up, and where normally she'd probably still be able to hang out with a guy she'd dated, this was different. Complicated. "How much later?" the redhead sighed, wondering when she'd get to have just like... a day again, where nothing crazy happened, and she could maybe have a milkshake and a smoke and a nap out on the deck. Super powers and government conspiracies and nightmare hellbeasts and talking cats kept things interesting, sure- but in that 'May you live in interesting times' curse kind of way. Regular old interesting would be nice sometimes, too. Maybe whatever Nathan wanted was this second kind. Maybe he just wanted to talk to her about volunteer stuff, or her mom being worried about yesterday- something like that. Probably that, she decided, gnawing thoughtfully on her lower lip. He'd always been "Uncle Nathan," and sometimes he took that responsibility kind of seriously. "This afternoon he said, maybe an hour or so after school's out?" The young man's handsome features scrunched slightly as he dropped his hands again, thrusting them into his pockets. "I don't think it's about your mom or anything, if that's what you're wondering." Well, fuck, she swore inwardly. "It kinda was, yeah." No, it's fine. It's fine. Maybe... Maybe it's about Labor Day, or hunting on his property this year, or something. It could be something good, right? "That's cool, I wanted to thank him for dropping my bike off yesterday, anyway." "Yeah, um." Jacob looked a little uncomfortable at that, his broad shoulders twitching upward in a quick shrug.. "That was me. Dana called while she was waiting for them to let you out, so... Yeah." Well. Fuck. "Oh," was all she could muster for a long, awkward moment, eyes dropping to the toes of his brown leather boots. Then, "Well, um. Thanks, then, I guess." The redhead could feel him looking at her, as if Jason Frigging Bannon's laser-focused dissection had somehow sensitized her to the stares of other people, and finally she relented, glancing questioningly back up at her former friend. She didn't know what she'd expected to see, but it wasn't... that. He looked worried, Autumn realized with a start. But why? Something tightened uncomfortably in her chest, and she could hear the sound of her own voice telling the guidance counselor just a few minutes before: Everybody deserves a chance, right? "Hey, listen," she began tentatively. "Um... About yesterday-" "It's cool," he shrugged again, more emphatically this time as his expression changed, took on the shape of the casual half-smile he wore when dealing with people he didn't know. "Like I said. I get it. I'll let my dad know it's cool to drop by your place after school." Shouldering the backpack that had been sitting on the chair beside him, he nodded toward the counter behind her. "See ya around." "Autumn Keane?" a polite female voice interjected, and Autumn turned to see the smiling face of one of the administrative assistants at the desk. "I have your pass for being late to first period here, just give that to your teacher when you get there, all right?" She slid a small form over the counter- Felicity Kyleson's cheerfully looping signature clearly visible across the bottom- as one of the other ladies spoke up. "Jacob Crocker, if you'll come right over here, I'll get you signed in." "Yeah. See ya around," the red-haired young woman echoed, nodding. She tucked the note in the front pocket of her hoodie, spared one last glance at Jacob's back, and headed out of the office. Maybe it's something good, Autumn repeated to herself on her way to Ms. Lafferty's class, trying to shake that pang of... whatever it was. It would be a nice change of pace.
    2 points
  47. "Oh hell." "Oh god," the red-faced redhead groaned along with him, in almost perfect unison. It couldn't have just been cleaning supplies, or a Wet Floor sign or something lying over her. Oh, no, no. That would be too easy. It had to be Cade Allister's hand, contoured perfectly to the curve of her ass while she lay sprawled over him, because that's just how this day was gonna go. Obviously. She'd overslept, been called out by her ex, gotten punched in the face by a Dark-possessed senior, flipped into Nightmare World and back again, and had now achieved the distinction of being bitch-slapped by physics on the way to rescue someone she didn't even like; getting accidentally groped by her friend's boyfriend was just the icing on the cake. To his credit, after that initial squeeze the sports prodigy jerked his hand away with the alacrity of a child who'd just touched a hot stove, but by that point Autumn had already started trying to disengage from the uncomfortably compromising position in earnest. Cursing under her breath, the girl whose freckles had been completely obscured by the bright scarlet of her blush tensed, bracing her palms on the floor and hauling herself across the athlete's prone form with a grunt of effort. She tried not to think about the fact that not only was there was a guy underneath her, it was Cade, or that at some point in her life she might not have minded being pressed quite so close to the even-tempered young man, or that Marissa was likely to hear about how she'd been "all over" her boytoy during the rescue mission- a probable death-sentence, even if it was obviously intended as a joke. Cans of air freshener, jostled loose as the debris shifted and toppled forward where she'd been lying, bounced haphazardly across the floor, accompanied by boxes of disposable nitrile gloves and commercial rolls of trash bags. "Not a word," she breathed, rolling over to stare up at the ceiling with an anguished expression as she waited in vain for the floor to swallow her. "And no," she grumbled when no merciful oblivion seemed forthcoming, tilting her head back to glance at Bannon, for all that he was currently upside-down. "Just my pride."
    2 points
  48. Cassandra hadn't been especially close, having headed to another class entirely. It was impossible to miss how the 'flow' of students was warped though. People started gravitating towards something out of sight. Cass didn't know what exactly was up, but she'd seen this behavior before. Somewhere there was a spectacle, and awareness of it was rippling outward from its point of origin through the kids. She broke into a run, following the whispers and rumors and other kids being drawn. On hearing the sound of fighting she began sprinting. Cassie burst through the ring around the fight just in time to hear Curtis' scream. For a second she didn't know how to process what she was seeing. Jason over by the lockers, looking beat up. Autumn on the floor like she'd been crawling. Another couple of guys, big ones, sprawled out on the ground. One holding... jesus... Cassandra wrenched her eyes away from his leg to the other one. He looked hurt too, but he was getting to his feet, murder in his eyes. Waves beat against her head, like wind, like a storm. From between the slats of the shutters she saw pain, blinding bright, coming from everyone.The two boys she didn't know the names of had something else, something worse. Cassie struggled to make sense of it, but the image that locked in was one of those documentaries she'd seen about the aftermath of a big oil spill, with volunteers cleaning animals up. That's what they looked like then, in her mind's eyes. Like they were hopelessly gunked up with sticky gobs of oil, somehow both thick and black yet somehow iridescent as well. Tangled, engulfed, choking to death. The Dark. Curtis was clearly out of the fight, physically. No matter how much control the Dark had, it couldn't use him if he was broken that badly. She advanced on Mark, not sure what to do. The iridescent sheen around him, she realized, wasn't the Dark. It was befouled BY the Dark...and as Cassandra watched the colors dance and writhe, she grasped the meaning. It was a little like the graphic equalizer on her dad's old stereo system. The lights flickered and danced with the music. This was for his mind though, for his thoughts and emotions. She could 'see' them playing out in the patterns of color. The Dark was...infecting them. Forcing them towards unthinking rage, violence, resentment...far beyond what a person would normally feel. Without understanding what she was doing, Cassandra 'reached out' with her own Shine towards Mark as she said aloud, "That's enough. You're hurt. You have to stop now." As she said the words, Cass tugged on the 'colors' around him, trying to pull calm, acceptance, dawning realization of what he'd done...out from under the oil-slick of the Dark. Immediately though the sludge seemed to realize something was wrong. It slithered and constricted. Cassandra frowned and dug deeper, looking for a place in Mark's mind that the Dark hadn't sunk into. A place that was still his own. Abruptly the Dark seemed to twist around and flare up, stretch out...angling back at Cassandra herself. She flinched back instinctively, but the light of her Shine seemed to stop it in midair before it could quite touch her. Perhaps, she thought shakily, because it had been aimed at Mark before. Maybe she was just lucky. Either way, the distraction gave her the opening she needed. "Listen to me," she said urgently to Mark as he swayed slightly, struggling with his conflicted emotions. "You have to stop. Ambulances are coming. Police are coming. You're hurt." His colors changed, bubbling up from under the Dark. He didn't throw it off entirely, but with Cassandra's help his natural instincts for self-preservation were able to push the artificial fury aside. "Holy shit," Mark breathed, seeing Curtis and his condition. "Holy shit...what..." Cassandra snapped her fingers, getting his attention. "You want to be here with the cops get here?" He shook his head, suddenly terrified, unaware of the puppeteer's fingers on his heartstrings. "Get out of here. Hurry." Cass watched him turn tail and flee, pushing through the crowd and nearly stumbling in his haste. Then she said, "Are you two okay?" As she asked she was already getting her phone out to call 9-1-1.
    2 points
  49. For all the dangers and freakishness of the situation, Fisher was calm. Relatively so, with superhuman intellect and focus running down the situation. In front of them, a potential repeat of the Nekyia situation when the Band first got into the heroing business. The creatures on the other end had held off once they'd noticed Fisher and his heritage. They couldn't rely on that this time. Step One, stop Todd and get him away. Austin, Fisher thought approvingly, was already on that. That left the issue of containment. The wisps seemed to be confined by the pentagram, but that thing wouldn't likely stop whatever eldritch evil was coming through from stepping out. What would an anime/manga protagonist do in this situation? It was hardly a silly question. The many great series carried their rivers of Japanese tales and lore, homages in their way to the Amatsukami, of whom he was a Scion. Obviously, he couldn't pull a Naruto and just create some fuinjustu masterwork to seal it back up. But there were other ways, a more traditional option now that he thought about it. Fisher drew Comb Tooth and jabbed it forward, turning the pen into a naginata, and catching some of the flying paper. It came down into Fisher's outstretched hand, cut into strips. And Comb Tooth retracted back into a pen. Was the pen mightier than the sword? Thankfully, Fisher could have it both ways. In swift flickers, Fisher drew the kanji. "Izanagi, father of the gods. He who brought Chikaeshi-no-okami. Bind death away from life here!" The stone from which his own pendant was made, Fisher remembered. With a toss, defying the laws of physics, the strip of paper which Fisher had inscribed his step-father's name sailed as if a rigid solid object and met the doors to the lab, slamming them shut and sticking as if glued firmly. "Amaterasu, heavenly queen and sun! Restrain this twisted light with your own!" Another inscribed strip found its way to one point of the pentagram. "Susanoo, slayer of Orochi! Drive these monsters back!" "Tsukuyomi, moon lord! I plead for your support!" Two, third points covered. "The Seven Fortunes! Give this your blessing!" Four. And of course finally, "Izanami, mom. You owe me." The last one came into place. Ofuda. The various talismans, amulets and other charms issued by Shinto shrines. Often they had the names of the shrines too with the kami, but Fisher Capra was a Scion of the Amatsukami and the writing was done by a genuine Relic. He WAS his own spiritual holiness for this. And he would make their bindings real. Five to cover the pentagram, one on the doors to bar the room just to be safe. And their words glowed, a pure white compared to the sickly green cracks. White lines connecting the circle...
    2 points
  50. The location was exotic, but such was that of a restaurant of the first class, serving the best clientele in the midst of a dinosaur preserve. Jaime proudly removed the lids of his dishes for this exemplary pair of distinguished guests with a flourish. Outside, through a window you could see a pack of raptors scurrying a swift pace. "For sir: creme of deep-sea vault lamprey, pulled, diced and poached in blood." That was some of his best work ever, with completely non-vegetarian items. True, such plants were his greatest specialty, but skill demanding being able to put out highest worth meals no matter what the kitchen was stocked with. The coppery tang was enticing and strong. Jaime inhaled it in dramatically. Then, blinked. He realized that the patrons were blank-faced, literally. He also realized that the blood was in fact, coming from him biting down on his lower lip hard. Then he woke up, in the midst of a silent cryotube, strange animalian sounds erupting in the atmosphere of a mangled ship - and Jaime realized he really was bleeding from his lower lip. And more cuts from shards about his arms too. Shocked, he worked to free himself from the damaged cocoon - and happened to be unhappily reminded about some interesting tales about dreams and the unconscious spun to him from a fellow alumni at the University (a psychology major). Carl Jung, I hate you. Once extricated, Jaime began dabbing with his shirt sleeves at the various bleeding spots, trying to damp them down while he started to look around. It was not good - something had clearly gone wrong. Jaime quickly paced his way down the hallways, looking for the crew. A strange warble came from behind him. Jaime turned to see a trio of turquoise birds flap around the bend - then, before he could study them with interest - screeched. And charged. Already discomfited, Jaime ran. Unfortunately, they seemed set on attacking him. Jaime burst over a metal catwalk, but had to stop himself at the last minute to avoid smashing himself into the solid door. Jaime banged on it desperately but only felt the sting in his knuckles. Another warble. Almost unconsciously, Jaime grabbed at the nearest thing: a piece of metal piping, and swung blindly. The first bird pulled back, and its companions swooped in. Thus began the square dance of Jaime Lowery and his avian partners - if by dance, one meant Jaime desperately jabbing or swiping the pipe at any bird to come in close - whose fellows would swoop in turn while the others retreated. Jaime really was doing this out of desperation - bit by bit the rhythm became more against him and his limited energy. "I! WILL! SEE! ALL OF YOU! ROASTED! ON! A! SPIT!" The scream was more for his sake of holding out than any promise.
    2 points
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