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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. The funeral was weird for Cassandra. For one, it was only her...second? Third if you counted the one she'd been practically a baby for way back when. She didn't count it because she had no real memory of it. So second. Why did that make it weird? She wasn't sure, it just felt weird. Everything felt off, like a room where all the furniture had been shifted two inches to the left since the last time you were there. Nothing was quite right. She felt hyperaware of the feeling of her clothes on her, and snippets of whispered conversations kept leaping up out of the buzz at her, like crazy fish trying to escape a net. And yet, when service was about to start her mom had to nudge her elbow to get her attention. Cass was lost in the weeds. She hadn't even KNOWN him. Not really. Why did that make it feel worse, somehow? Maybe because now she never would? Okay, sure, but...were you supposed to grieve for people you hadn't bonded with? Could you grieve for the potential of a friendship? Was what she was feeling grief? Cassie had grieved before, not even that long ago. Her dad, back when she'd thought he was dead. This wasn't like that. That had been a howling abyss in her heart that had expanded like a black hole gobbling stars, threatening to hollow her out. There were still radioactive places in her memories that she couldn't walk for fear of feeling echoes of that time, right after his funeral. This wasn't like that. It was...tighter. More focused. Something in her skin, not deep inside. It made her feel prickly, embarrassed. It was a sour, sullen emotion, stern-faced. Reprimanding. So she knew this one after all. Hello, guilt, my old friend. The service went on, Cass barely hearing it. The moment she identified what the feeling was, it seemed to rear up and whip off its mask. Immediately Cassandra realized why this was happening. When we went to fight the Dark, he was already gone. When we made our plans, talked it through...when we pulled together and got ourselves through it, he was dead. The Dark just creeped in, grabbed him, and took him out. And we barely even noticed. She took a deep, shuddering breath. It got worse. It was my job to see things coming. I was supposed to be the 'eyes.' But I was all tunnel-visioned on the fight. I didn't even TRY using my abilities before it happened. We all just assumed the Dark would wait for us to come attack it. But it's worse for me, because I didn't have to assume. I could have checked us all, every day. It might not have been perfect...the future is kind of hard to work out sometimes...but I could have saved him. At least maybe I could have. And what could she do with this now? Shrug and call it a lesson learned? Is that what Jase would do? Was that what she wanted? What would Devin do? Sink deeper into misanthropy, playing victim and aggressor at the same time; trying to have his social cake and eat it too? Autumn? Cade? She felt her mother lean towards her a little and put an arm around her shoulders, and Cass realized she had tears coming down her eyes. After a moment of hesitation, she let herself slump against her mother's shoulder. It made her feel a little childish, but...she was a little childish, wasn't she? And that had cost one of her friends his life. And it had cost the Fellowship one of their friends. Then she realized her mom was humming something, some old song Cass barely remembered. She sat up a little, and Teresa moved her arm to give her some space. "You doing okay?" she asked softly. Cassandra nodded. "Yeah." She was surprised at how dry her mouth and throat were. "I'm...going to get some water. Then...then lets go. Okay? Ugh, is it too soon? I just don't..." Teresa leaned forward to give her daughter a hug. "It's totally all right. Plenty of people have already left. You've been here for a little while. I didn't want to interrupt you." So Cassie went to the little table at the back of the place, where a few pitchers had been set up with cups nearby. The questions she had were still there, but they didn't have to be answered right away, she thought. All she could do now was try to grow up, so it wouldn't happen again...and when she did, she could remember Charlie and what he meant to her. Just because he was dead didn't mean all of his light had to leave the world.
    2 points
  5. It was hard not to be caught up in the emotional current of the service, to be aware in a very tactile way of the swelling tides of grief and hurt through the squeeze of her father's arm around her shoulder and the gentle pressure of her mother's cool fingers laced through her own. She could feel the sting of tears pricking at her eyes, the taut ache in her throat, the knot coiling in her stomach; all normal physiological responses to seeing Charlie's mother, pale and drawn, teetering on the verge of collapse, and to hearing the sound of quiet sobbing and murmured prayers among the onlookers. Intuitive empathy, her scary-smart boyfriend called it. But these weren't, Autumn knew, her own feelings, generated from some place of deep friendship and rapport with Charlie Cole because that... hadn't really been a thing, had it? She could probably count the number of facts she knew about him on one hand, even after several years of living in the same town: his parents were separated, he did something with the drama club, he had just started dating Sophia, and he was- had been, she corrected with a mental wince- touched by the Dawning Light. Or Radiance, or Shine, or... what-the-fuck-ever. And, really, if it hadn't been for that last part, she and Charlie probably wouldn't have ever really interacted at all. It was weird, and kind of uncomfortable actually thinking about it, but standing there looking at the huge spray of flowers on the lacquered casket as Devin spoke, the redhead didn't feel any overwhelming sorrow, or pain, or any of the things she was absolutely sure she was supposed to be feeling at a funeral. What she felt, instead, was the warmth of the sunlight on her face, and the reassuring presence of her family, Nathan and Jacob included, and, maybe... Maybe a little guilt, for not feeling more? Because as much as it sucked that Charlie was gone, a part of her kept insisting that they were all still here. Tawny and Sophia were still here. They'd survived to bury him, and that was important. And... There had been other families who'd grieved, and wondered, and lost over the years, the names of which were scattered throughout the journals she'd inherited. Was Charlie Cole any different from those others swallowed up by the Dark? The image of a small white shoe, forlorn and forgotten in the corner of a basement, flickered briefly through her mind's eye, and despite the weather, Autumn couldn't help but shiver a little. Dana's grip on her daughter's hand tightened briefly in response, a tactile check-in that the young vitakinetic returned in kind: Are you okay? ... Yeah, I'm fine, went the unspoken exchange, both women watching with red-rimmed eyes as Hannah Fuhrman struggled to keep her composure and Lucius Cole attempted a polite smile, taut as piano wire as he murmured his thanks to someone offering condolences. And there was that twinge of guilt again, because she was fine. They'd never know what happened to their son, and he'd never finish the school production he was working on, and they were- all of them- changed after what had happened... ...And as she and her parents trudged quietly away from the gravesite she caught sight of the Jauntsens in the little parking area, and Gar and Jase heading back, and a few of the others mixed in- probably on their way to the reception, to talk about shared memories and convey regrets. She wasn't sure she wanted to deal with all of that, the awkward conversations and teary reminiscing about someone who had equal space in her memory as an awkwardly artsy guy and a monstrous biological weapon against the Darkness. But all that wasn't really for her benefit, anyway; the sun was shining, and she was alive, and there was always coffee at these things and she was kind of hungry and that was... fine.
    2 points
  6. Cade stood with his family, listening through everything, all the words said to mourn his friend, who'd been taken from them by a malevolent force who'd possessed another child from the town, and forced yet more children to take that child's life to halt the spread of the evil that was growing here. It was so surreal, but Cade knew it to be true, he'd fought the horrors, alongside the fellowship. He'd seen the other world, had seen the horrors there, and had attacked Cody with the intention to take his life. There was a part of them that wouldn't let that go. He listened as Devin spoke, and allowed the ghost of smile to curl his lips. What Devin had said was completely true, and Cade envied the ease with which Devin expressed his feelings, letting go of the facade he wore the rest of the time, and was just honest. It was refreshing, and he made a mental note to thank him for that later. Everyone was there, standing with their families, and he felt a hand on his back small, gentle,almost like it wasn't there. That was his mother's, and he looked down, and she was trying to hold back her tears. Seeing one of her son's friends being lowered into the ground, after learning that this really could have happened to any of the children, that she could have lost her own son, it was very hard for Miyakko. her other hand was wrapped around Haruka's shoulders, and his sister held her mother's hand. He felt a larger hand squeeze his right shoulder, and knew that was his Father. Never one for a public display of affection, Some of the same thoughts were going through Ian's mind. He'd known about his son's activities since the hospital attack, and still, he hadn't stopped him. He could have lost his son, any number of them could have died, and there was nothing he with his training, his skill, could have done to prevent it. He felt the gaze of some in the crowd, knowing they sought answers for how this happened, why he as Sheriff hadn't prevented it. He couldn't have, to hear the kids tell of it. Even they didn't know until it had happened, long after anyone could have saved his life. Cade reached up and squeezed his dad's hand reassuringly, before dropping it to his side. They would keep fighting, keep training, and keep Living. The Fellowship had lost one of their own, and each mourned Charlie in their own way. Outwardly, Cade's face had returned to an imperturbable neutral mask, even if inwardly, he cursed his inability to protect his friend. If anyone bothered to look, they'd see the hint of resolve in his eyes. "Nobody Else." He said softly, so much that Even Ian had only barely heard it. Cade knew he didn't really have powers like the rest of them, but that wasn't going to stop him from doing whatever he could do to stand alongside his friends.
    2 points
  7. He didn't feel nothing. When compared to the emotional, mercurial Jauntsens, to his warmly passionate girlfriend, even to the very humanly logical Sean and Cassandra, it was easy to glance at the unperturbed, grave features of Jason Bannon as he studied all the graveside mourners and assume him to be untouched by this moment. It was not the case, but only those that knew him would understand that he did register the loss of Charlie, that his perfect recall was replaying every moment spent in the other teen's company. Every word, every inflection, every smile and laugh from every gaming session or movie hangout at Sean's house flickered before his mind's eye like a movie reel. He'd never been close to Charlie - never really had the chance to be. Most of their association had been with the mask that Jase had worn for the last eight years between him and the world. He'd spent the most time with Sean, and the other young genius might have perceived more to Bannon just from proximity, whereas Charlie had spent at most a few hours a week in his company. Only after the summer break, when everything had gotten weird, had Charlie ever really interacted with Jase, and despite the chilling, off-putting manner of the lanky teen, Charlie had tried several times to understand. Perhaps he, like Autumn, could have been a bridge to Jase understanding the strangely erratic behaviour of those around him. And now he was gone, murdered, his spirit devoured by a for-real monster. Jason didn't grieve, but he did register the loss, did regret the waste and the weakening of his circle. As when he'd heard the news of Charlie's murder, he acknowledged that he should have checked on his friend when he'd not answered his calls, should have driven over there and knocked on the door the way he'd done when Sean hadn't turned up. Perhaps if he had, Charlie would be alive. Or perhaps not. There was no logical way to know the truth of that; the only truth Jason knew was that he'd left his friend alone with their girlfriend for a weekend, and now they were dead. That was another thing, too. Charlie, next to him, had possessed perhaps the most combat-capable power set, and yet was dead. He must have been taken completely unawares, perhaps frozen for a moment from fear or indecision. The parallel was not lost on the young Teulu. He, too, had almost been killed without even understanding what was happening. And yet he had survived, and Charlie was dead. Luck, perhaps - his assailants had been mortal human beings, Charlie's an undying elder wraith. How would he, Jason, have fared if Cody/Arawn had come to the farmhouse that night, or even upon him and Autumn the prior night in the woods? Pride told him that he would not have died easily... but perhaps that was merely pride, or his instinct to fight speaking, and not logic. He listened as Devin said a few words, head cocked. The male Jauntsen seemed utterly sincere, entirely at odds with his usual flippancy. Why should he not be, though? Devin likely felt as responsible as Jase did for not checking on Charlie, or not doing something sooner - he just lacked Bannon's detachment from the immediacy of grief. A wry internal observer wondered if such words would have been said if the rogue marshal's bullets had placed him in the ground next to Charlie. It was hard to know with the Jauntsens, though he was reasonably certain Devin at least would not have wanted him murdered. Green eyes sought the pale, freckled face of his girlfriend next, standing nearby his father and himself with her own family, the Keanes and the Crockers both having turned up together, the adults likely feeling a mixture of relief that it was not their child in the ground, and - very humanly - guilt for even thinking such a thing. The idea prompted Jason to look at his own father, sober and grave in his dark suit, his eyes fixed on the coffin. Was his dad also experiencing that sensation? Probably. Likely most of the parents were, just like most of the other children would be glad it wasn't them. As the service ended, and the knots of people broke up, Jase gave his father a brief one-armed hug, prompting the burlier older man to respond with a rough bear hug of his own. "You okay?" Gar looked into his son's face, noting again the pale scar of the assassin's bullet. He didn't know why he asked - of course Jason was likely okay. Gar, on the other hand, really wanted a drink. "I'm fine." the lanky youth reassured his dad calmly, frozen jade eyes intent on the older man's face. "Are you?" "Need a drink. Will settle for a coffee though." Gar replied, quirking a smile. Father and son turned, heading away from the grave in step, taking their time and each deep in thought.
    2 points
  8. "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
  9. First Period: Chem Class (Kat and Sean) Hand on the combo-lock, Sean glanced over his shoulder at the accented voice penetrating the cacophony of the halls right before the bell rings. Tinny music came from the earbuds around her neck. "Morning, Kat," Sean replied, trying to smile around a yawn. Strong, slender fingers spun the dial on the lock with habitual ease. There was a soft click, then Sean grunted as he gave the lock several vigorous tugs before it opened. It was the same lock he had used since grade seven. It spun easy, but stuck sometimes. Still stiff from his unaccustomed morning activity, he yanked open the dented, green locker door - his head, Chet's help. "Already got your books? Bell's 'bout to ring for Chem." So saying, Sean reached up for the textbooks lined up neatly on the top shelf. He pulled out the thick chemistry textbook, but suddenly his slim hand seemed to lose all grip strength. The scarlet haired technophile gave a high pitched yelp as the corner of the textbook bounced off his prominent chest. His free hand flailed wildly as he tried to catch it, his other hand occupied with his thermos of coffee. Failing, he raised a knee to catch and slow the textbook's fall and give him another chance to collect it, but instead he ended up kicking it. The textbook slammed against the row of lockers, then slid along the linoleum for a few feet, before bumping into a pair of shoes. Sean sighed, his face almost as red as his hair, giving his hand a betrayed glare as he shifted and stooped to collect his book. "Sorry," he muttered apologetically to the person the shoes belonged to, the , buxom beanpole Kimberly, who gave the more endowed boy a commiserating smirk. Sean straightened up and stuffed the textbook into the satchel on his hip, next to his laptop, and turned back to Kat, nodding down the hall towards Chem class. "Mornings, right?" The petite French girl hid her smile behind her hand. "Mornings." She acknowledged. "I still need to get my books, I'll catch up." Turning around, she bounced off a rather large Senior, squealed, apologised and corrected her trajectory. A couple minutes later, Kat and her Shelly Sherpa entered the classroom, the buxom boy leading her to his desk on the side as she waved at a couple familiar faces. Reaching out for a chair, she settled her textbook on the table and slumped into the chair, empty eyes over surly features. The name Leviathan had come back to her mind, but she still couldn't figure out when she'd heard it. It has to be recent, she thought, wrestling with the morning fog seeping through her thoughts in disorder. If it had been for her, she'd have had a whole gallon of coffee. A voice brought her back to the land of the living, and she turned to Sean. "Wha?" "Ms. Lafferty said page 57," Sean said quietly, sliding her a pair of protective goggles and a set of plastic gloves across the black composite of the desk. He hadn't done the assigned reading yesterday, but he had read the textbook at the beginning of the year and remembered what was written. "It's just litmus paper tests. Not hard. Did this in previous years science classes. Guess we have to wait till later in the semester before we get to do exothermic foam reactions I guess." He nodded towards his thermos of coffee before slipping on the goggles over his eyes. The gloves went on with a snap. "Help yourself to some coffee if you like. I already probably had more than I should." He rolled his slender shoulders, then tilted his head to one side, then the other, trying to work out the tightness, then started setting up the experiment, making sure he kept a proper distance between himself and the various flasks and beakers. There had been... incidents before where he had inadvertently knocked things over. He didn't want a repeat. These solutions weren't particularly dangerous, but why take chances? Last time, fire had been perilous close to being involved. Kat stifled a yawn as she put on her PPE and Sean gave her a curious glance. "Didn't sleep well last night, Kat? The meetings didn't go well, sure, but they were still better than the Blight." "Bad dreams," she replied, shrugging. She opened her book to page 57, giving it a quick read. Nothing new. She realised these second Junior year classes were going to bore her to death. "So we're just dipping paper into acid? That's pretty basic..." She gave him the side-eye. "Get it?" Sean nodded at the mention of bad dreams. They all we certainly entitled to those, not just to due to the last few days, but the last few weeks. He'd had his own, but he tried to keep the inquisitive expression from his face. If Kat wanted to share, she would, if she didn't, she wouldn't. "I do use chemistry puns," Sean admitted wryly. He turned from his review of the worksheet to arch a dark red brow at the slighter redhead. The corner of his lips twitched with the effort of keeping a straight face. "But only periodically." He measured out the next substance in proportions according to the worksheet, gave it several brisk swirls with a glass mixing rod, then slid the flask over to Kat. A whirling tendril still reached halfway to the bottom of the yellow-tinted liquid still whirling in front of the girl. "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate." Kat gave the flask a funny look, wrinkled her nose, and, true to her earlier statement, grabbed a strip of litmus paper to dip it. "That's a mean-o acid." She said, comparing her strip to the scale, and noting the result. "I've been meaning to ask." She bit her lip for a second, and glanced at her friend, wagging another piece of paper in his general direction. "What are you gonna wear for Homecoming?" After a short pause, "...Designer genes?" Sean's pretty face scrunched as he groaned. If his genes were anything, they were defective, not designer. "That is just... just awful, Kat. Are you made of sodium and chloride?" He waggled his brows. "Because I feel a-salt-ed. Huh! Huh? How does that feel?" The petite French girl wrinkled her nose once again, her lips stretched into an irrepressible smile. "That's... hm... humerus. You've got nerve!" Sean blew her a raspberry then leaned over to see what Kat had written. "Horrible, just horrible. I concede to this punishment." Mechanical pencil scritching on paper, he copied the results in his own notebook, chewing on a lower lip. "But for Homecoming, uh, y'know, with everything that's been happening, I hadn't actually given it much thought," Sean admitted. "I know, I know, bad sherpa, but I haven't gone to a dance or anything like Homecoming before. I figure I'm gonna go this weekend, get some dressy pants and coat, and a nice shirt, or something." And hopefully have time to get them tailored to fit, if he even could find something on short notice in Great Falls. Really gotta talk to Devin 'bout this. Sean glanced instinctively around for the exasperating teleporter, though well aware he wasn't in the same class. "Probably in black or dark blue, I guess? Erm, unless you've already got something picked out? And want to match more, but it isn't necessary. This is just Homecoming, not prom." "I never went to a dance either, to be honest." She replied. "I'm thinking I'll wait till Friday before ransacking Great Falls." A coral lock slipped in front of her eyes, and she played with it for a while, leaning on her elbows. Dark blue, huh? she thought. That'd look great with his hair. Mine however... She glared at the lock she was fidgeting with, the color beginning to turn bland, a paler carrot. Emerald? Or a pastel green? Pastels look nice with my blonde. She shrugged. "Okay." Kat said on a light tone. Maybe she'd ask Marissa. Although she couldn't forget the words exchanged at the Jauntsens' the day before, they didn't mean she couldn't make friends with the Evil Queen of Shelly. Sean knew he was already pressing for time to get ready for Homecoming, and hearing his sister and other girls talk in passing through school, it was worse for girls. He considered which of the girls he knew who might be able to help Kat. Lona and Sara were gone, and he hadn't known Clara that much. Autumn, Cassandra? He glanced over to where they were sitting with Jase, giggling. Lilly? No, just like him, there was an obvious choice... "Don't wait too long, like I'm doing," Sean suggested. "Might be slim pickings, this close to Homecoming. Maybe scrounge up a shopping sherpa. Tess, maybe, or... Marissa..." Kat's pale brows rose up at the close echo of her thoughts, and Sean shrugged sheepishly in response. "I mean, if anyone can find you a dress and the right shoes on short notice-" "I know Homecoming is next Friday, Mr. Cassidy," Ms. Lafferty said, her tone dry, as she passed by, checking on the progress of her students. "But please leave the talk of dresses and shoes for after class? Or at least, until you've finished the experiment?" A twinkle the teacher's eyes and a bare curve of her lips eased the teasing reprimand. Sean was a great student, if perhaps occasionally distracted by his phone or class work not always on his laptop when the class didn't take much effort on his part. "Yes, Ms. Lafferty," Sean muttered, ducking his head, focusing intently on his notes as faint colour rose to his pale cheeks. Kat glanced away to conceal her amusement.
    2 points
  10. ( Collab w/ Dave) Lilly stood at her locker, having parted ways with Sean as they each made their way to their lockers to get ready for class. The athletic brunette stood there, looking at the text books leaning against one another in her locker, and for a moment could not remember which she needed to grab. It had been a long night, one which she would not care to remember, and she was certainly tired for the lack of sleep for a few days now. She certainly could have stayed home today, but a small part of her was determined to not let Enterich 'win', as it were, and hide in bed all day. Finally she remembered which books to grab and slipped them into her pack, closing the locker door with a sigh. As the door closed she caught sight of Marissa walking town the hall, strangely alone and... quiet? Subdued? Lilly managed a weary smile and a small, wave to Mari. Lily's brunette counterpart, the evil to Lily's purity, the dark to her light, certainly appeared to care less today than she ever had previously. Still, instead of just passing Lily by in the hall she opted to instead, narrow her eyes and then roll them in either frustration or irritation. Marissa didn't wave back at the sheepish attempt Lily had made to greet her. Instead she walked up to her and simply curled an eyebrow upward in her usual mocking appraisal. Still, she said nothing. Finally, she reached out and grabbed Lily by her arm and pulled her along, cueing her to follow. "Wow." She said lazily. "You look like hell." Lilly blinked in surprise as Marissa pulled on her arm, leading her by it. Be it the lack of sleep, the anxiety, mental fatigue or any other factors of combination of thing, Lilly's usual more friendly and diplomatic speech was nowhere to be found. "No shit. I haven't haven't slept, no real sleep, for days." she replied, her initial indignant tone quickly fading. "My head's still so messed up." "Seeing my sarcasm and raising me sass," the evil brunette almost grinned, but she wasn't in the mood for it, not today. "I like you better without sleep." She led her into one of the female restrooms where a few of their classmates has chosen to get ready for classes in front of the large mirror. There was a pause the two ladies entered, like it must be some manner of prank for Shelly High's star athlete and it's Goddess of Cruelty to be both be blessing their rest room at exactly the same time. After a slight pause to allow them a moment to marvel at the blessing of their presence, Marissa tightened her jaw line and authoritatively demanded. "Vacate plebs." "Now," she demanded a forcefully a moment later and the two watched as lower classmates practically stumbled over one another to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, some letting their faces remain half finished of makeup, and filtered passed them in a hurried line that refused to make any more eye contact than was humanly possible. "You didn't have to be mean to them," Lily added, he voice echoing slightly in the newly emptied school restroom acoustics. She led her over to the mirror and set her bag on the surface by on one of the sinks. "No, I didn't." She admitted. "Nor do you have to look like you just rolled out of bed without sleeping a wink for several night, yet here we are." She produced some concealer, a soft brush and a neutral colored headband and without asking simply began dabbing the dark rings under Lily's eyes. "People are always looking for weaknesses, Lily. No matter how defeated we appear, always look like you're winning." She dabbed away, prepping the concealment of her weariness with a light application. "This might take a second," She said after a few moments of silence. "It's not much but it will help, for today, anyway." "Thanks." Lilly simply sighed in unfiltered sincerity. She was caught off guard by the random act of kindness from Mari, not because she could not be kind though, a Lilly had seen that Marissa could be kind and was kind, her her own way, more often than it seemed the others recognized. In this case it was simply so unexpected. Here she was in the bathroom with Mari doing her makeup to try to help her look better. Some would say it was just Mari protecting her own image by making sure those she was around looked their best, or at least 'good' as it were, and to be be fair, that probably was a small part of it, but in the moment it just felt more like a genuine act kindness shared between the two young women. Lilly glanced at the mirror and then did a double take. "That's.. You're really good." Lilly said as she leaned close to check her seemingly refreshed eyes. "I mean, I shouldn't be surprised. Just look at you, not that you need makeup though." "More than you think," she replied coldly. She still, for all intents and purposes was dealing with her own issues and wasn't much for going into soul-searching with Lily in the freshman bathroom. "From the makeup to the work outs, beauty is not a maintenance-free gift. Like athleticism, neglect it and it neglects you. Still, my brother hasn't been getting much sleep either. He's still randomly jaunting about the house in panicked fits in his sleep trying to escape whatever it was that chased him for hours in that... place. I sympathize, I suppose. It messed him up pretty bad, and Enterich has been in my head too, to a lighter degree, I suppose as most things that make you revile in horror probably turn me on." Lily wasn't sure if that was humor or not, as Marissa's deadpan tone and expression were currently impossible to read. She handed her the brush and slid the hairband to her. "Fix yourself." As Lily began grooming Marissa placed the other items back in her bag. "I know it's just words, Lily, and I won't claim to understand what you went through, that's yours and yours alone to come to terms with, but everyday people are looking for weaknesses. In you. In me. Your problems? Twenty percent don't care, and eighty percent are glad they're yours, so no matter how bad it gets in your head always carry yourself like you're winning." "Get a boyfriend or something," she added suddenly, allowing herself a devilish smirk as personal topics like who Lily was dating she knew would make the prudish athlete flush in all manner of roses. "What about that guy you're going to homecoming with? He might cheer you up. Get you some, girl. Can't say 'happiness' without saying 'penis'. "Will?" Lilly asked as she stopped for a moment and turned from the mirror to Marissa, he cheeks flushed. "He's a decent guy I guess," she said with a shrug, "but there's just nothing there." Lilly turned back to the mirror as as she continued talking, "and besides, there's not exactly a line to date me, not after all rumors and crap that's been spread. I mean, yeah, they cheer me when i bring home a win on the football field, but it's like, I dunno, only because I'm useful to them. at least, that's part of what Enterich said, and to be honest, there's more than a little truth to it." Lilly lowered her hand with the brush and looked at herself in the mirror for a moment, meeting her own gaze before shaking her head, not wanting to dwell on it if she could avoid it. "Anyways," she sighed, "there's only a people I have any interest in, and the girl's bathroom is not the place to be sharing it." "Of course there is some truth to them, Lily," she rest her hip against the counter top, arms folded in constant appraisal of Lilly both physically and mentally. She'd read all of her mother's books on psychology and scarily understood more of how the the mind worked than most young women her age ever should. "If there wasn't then they wouldn't have any power over you." She didn't didn't preach the topic, she knew Lilly was smart enough to understand how her own head worked. She'd trained for the Olympics and more than anyone in Shelly knew the power of self-discipline and the mantra of 'just one more'. Still, like Autumn, a handful of Lilly's were born from Marissa's cruel pranks and selfish desires. "This, however, is high school, Lilly. Popularity and public opinion are mercurial, at best. I suppose a portion of that is my fault." Lilly knew that probably as close to an apology as she was going to get. "I can handle the rumors for you, I can squash the public option and fix your reputation by week's end." "The rest is on you, girlfriend." She was silent for a moment before narrowing her eyes and finally saying. "You know what? My afternoon schedule cleared up. Jacob would rather play twenty questions instead of coming to have a burger with me, so why don't you fill his place. Getting out might do you some good. Talking, even if it's about nothing in particular, might help. We will find Enterich, we will beat him, and we will show him why they name storms after women, but until that time comes we need to eat and talk shit about boys, so burger later?" "Well then he sounds like a dumbass." Lilly said with a faint hint of a smile tugging at the corners of her lips for the first time all morning. "Sure. These last couple of weeks have been..." she said, her voice trailing off a bit as she thought about things, but then shook her head, as if she were tossing them from her mind. "Chillin' with you over burgers and fries sounds great." Lilly looked at herself in the mirror and nodded. "And thanks for this too. What you said, the help, all of it. It really helps. Seriously." "Idiocy is not something this town lack in," she dismissively shrugged. "I'm friends with Jacob's friends and it's obvious he doesn't like me at all. I figured us getting to know each other better might help to clear the air. Oh, well. We miss a hundred percent of the shots we don't take, and he blew his." Lilly finished her hair and slid the band in place to keep her bangs out of her eyes. Marissa drooped the brush back in her bag as her athletic counterpart handed it to her. "I've only told you what you already know, but," she seemed to hesitant to express the next piece of her mind, but after a moment of hesitation she continued on. "You're welcome." She glanced at her phone and slid several messages aside. "We're going to be late." “What are you talking about? Marissa Jauntsen is never late, nor is she early. She arrives precisely when she means to.” Lilly said with a faint smile, looking for any sign of recognition of the quote she played off of from Marissa and then reached down, slung her bag over her shoulder and gave herself one last look over in the mirror with an exhale, as if she were steeling herself to step back out into a battle once more. Lilly wanted to say a little more, but with time being an issue, she set it aside for not. At the moment, there other things she needed to try and focus on to make it through the school day and make up for her prior absence. "Shall we?" Lilly asked as she walked over toward the door to open it for Marissa.
    2 points
  11. 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
  12. El. Ellie herself. Teir fa Thunn. The Blight- a term which, like the Dark, seemed capitalized even in casual speech. Site B. The bracelets, and how they, from Coyote- the Trickster, she reminded herself- ended up with the Blackfeet, and thus her grandfather, and then the Fellowship. Not-Cody. The Huntsman. Gods. The Teulu themselves, and the gunmen. There were so many questions, so many coincidences that just... couldn't be all coincidences, right? But now wasn't the time for that. Now, she was just happy no one else had vanished into the darkness, literally or metaphorically. "Oh, we like pockets," Autumn replied, lifting the cup back to Jase's lips as she watched him watching the otherworldly beauty, studying his expression for some sign of what was going on behind those cool green eyes. He seemed... interested? ...But that was all, and not interested interested as far as she could tell, the curious young woman noted with a twinge of what felt suspiciously like relief. "It's just that most of the companies that make clothes don't like giving them to us. And just women, too. Guys can have all the pockets they want, but we're supposed to carry purses," the redhead grumbled contemptuously. "It's supposed to look nicer, or something, but I don't want to spend extra money for a giant pocket on a strap that's just gonna get caught on literally everything I walk past, and I don't care what it looks like. I want pockets in my jeans, real ones, not those stupid fake ones you can't even fit your whole hand in. I just want to be able to carry my chapstick, my wallet, my knife and my phone. That's it. It's not even complicated, and if you're gonna go to the trouble of stitching on a little half-sized pocket for looks, you might as well give me the whole damn thing. Ugh," she exhaled in frustration, the terminal subvocalization less a linguistic part of the rant and more an instinctual expression of annoyance with the subject. "Anyway," Autumn continued, resolutely ignoring the flicker of amusement in her boyfriend's eyes as they shifted to observe the faint bloom of rose coloring her cheeks. "I don't think my jeans would fit you," she observed, her tone conspicuously less heated as the pocket controversy was abandoned for the moment. "Marissa's might, though. Or we could always hit Goodwill before the meeting, or something, because honestly, I have so, so many questions, but I also don't want to be rude." She paused for a moment, half-consciously tucking a lock of Jason's hair behind his ear as she turned back to him. "Speaking of clothes, I called your dad while you were asleep. He's bringing some for you. Probably something to eat, too. I thought you might be a little hungry." Her eyes caught on the neat, pale line that, oddly, seemed to accentuate the angle of his cheekbone, and the tip of her tongue darted out to moisten suddenly dry lips; if they'd been even a couple of minutes later, mundane issues like wanting a glass of water or something for breakfast wouldn't have even mattered. "I'll hang out until I get that coffee you promised." A faint smile tugged briefly at the corners of Autumn's mouth and she leaned forward, pressing a brief kiss to his temple. "Also..." Straightening, the inquisitive teen set the empty cup on the nearby table, her nose crinkling slightly at the sweet, fruity scent that clung to him. "Why do you smell like a Jolly Rancher?"
    2 points
  13. '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
  14. "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
  15. The antiseptic scent of the hospital was becoming entirely too familiar. As she sat in one of the room's two chairs- this one pulled up alongside the bed where Jase's chest rose and fell beneath the blanket with reassuring regularity- Autumn sighed and tapped the second entry in her contacts list under his name. While Devin and Marissa were busy handling the Fellowship side of things, there was still another call to be made. She wasn't even sure if Gar would be home, but much as she'd preferred to tell Devin about Tawny in person, the sad-eyed father of her new boyfriend might want to hear the news from someone he actually knew. He could be outside working, or on his way to Great Falls to get supplies or parts, or... A sudden chill rippled up her spine as the connection to the land line was made, and the house phone on the other end began to ring. What if they'd gone to Jase's house, too? "Fuck," she muttered, glancing out into the hall where her dad was busy conferring with one of the deputies. Or maybe, just maybe, the sheriff already called, and he's on his way. Just... see if he answers, and then start worrying if he doesn't. The phone rang several times, then several more, and Autumn was just recalling when she'd first called the home of the slender youth currently unconscious beside her, how the phone had rung for what seemed forever as she waited on tenderhooks for him to pick it up... click "Bannon Farm?" The by-now-familiar soft-spoken voice, deep but not particularly resonant, of Jason's father picking up. "Hey, Mr- uh, Gar." Leaning forward slightly in her seat, the redhead couldn't suppress the soft sigh of relief as he answered the call. "It's Autumn." There was a moment's hesitation, even as she watched the flicker of the younger Bannon's eyelashes. "So, first, um. Jase's fine," she began. "But he is here at the medical center. Resting, right now." There was a long moment of silence as the man on the other end collected his thoughts. Finally, the sound of a deep, slightly unsteady intake of breath came over the line. "What happened, Autumn?" "He-" Fuck, how much can I say right now? Swallowing hard, she exhaled and slouched backward again, sliding down in the seat in a passable imitation of pre-party Bannon as she stared up at the acoustic ceiling tiles. "He was attacked on the way to school." Her eyes stung, the pinprick patterns overhead swimming until she squeezed them shut and forced the words as calmly as she could past the tightness in her throat. "They, um. They shot him. Only two of the bullets actually hit. It looks like he fought back, and the two that attacked him are here somewhere, in custody. He's sleeping, now. He's fine," she stressed, her voice wavering slightly with suppressed emotion. "Seriously. He's fine." Another male voice spoke up from the background - Hank, Autumn realised as she recognised the harsher, gruffer growl of the Bannon's friend. "Jase was shot. Autumn's with him, and says he's fine." Gar replied to the unheard question, then returned to speaking with his son's girlfriend. "Okay, we're on our way down." Though he sounded stoic, Autumn could detect the note of concern in the older Bannon's voice. "Do either of you need anything?" "Ummm," she blinked, focusing on the question as she sat upright again, unable to really get comfortable surrounded by the smell of cleaning chemicals and gleaming tile and the general atmosphere of sterility. "He's gonna want clean clothes, I think. Something comfortable." She paused for a moment longer, considering. "Some kind of breakfast, maybe? And... Coffee. Please. And-" She swallowed again, and exhaled. "And I'm sorry to worry you. I just thought it might be better if you heard it from somebody you knew. ...You know?" "I do." Gar's voice was steadying now, losing its earlier tremor. "If you say he's fine, then I'm not too worried." The vote of confidence was heartfelt. "We'll grab some things and be down right away. And Autumn...? Thank you." "Yeah," The smile in her voice was audible across the distance of the phone connection. "I'll see you guys when you get here." She tapped the red icon on the screen, ending the call with a near-inaudible click. "Hey," she murmured, resting her cheek against the edge of the thin hospital mattress, her gaze tracing the shape of his profile silhouetted against the morning light filtering through the blinds. "If you can hear me in there, your dad and Hank are on their way, so just... Just rest, okay?" Shifting her weight to nudge the chair a little closer, the redhead folded her arms across her chest, wishing idly she'd had her hoodie as her own eyes drifted shut.
    2 points
  16. Laurie padded silently downstairs on fuzzy bunny slippered feet, summoned by the smell of banana chaffles, bacon, and coffee after her morning shower. She'd slept fitfully, her eyes still felt a bit grainy, but feeling anxious and wired, she'd gotten up early to get ready for school and morning football practice. She might just be the kicker, but the coached still insisted for fairness sake. She wasn't even sure she could bring herself to go to school today after last night. She might have gotten up early, but not as early as her brother it seemed. She found him puttering stiffly around the kitchen, nibbling on a quarter of bacon-laden, three-cheese banana chaffle grilled cheese, and sipping from a big mug of coffee. Judging by how much was left in the pot, it was far from his first. His eyes were sunken and ringed by dark bags. Collecting her own life saving mug of hot brown morning potion, Laurie glanced around the kitchen. Sean must've made enough food to feed at least half again as many as lived in the house. The waffle-maker dinged and Sean fished out the pair of perfectly browned chaffles, adding them to the stack kept warm in the oven, along with the other half of the grilled cheese and a pan of bacon. She cocked her head, then looked down. She could hear the soft whir and thump of the dryer in the basement. Sean had done at least one load of laundry. He'd been busy. Laurie sat down at the kitchen table, inhaling the rich nectar of life before savoring her first sip of coffee in the morning. There were place settings already set out for her and their parents. Sean's plate held a few crumbs and dabs of cheese from the other quarter of chaffle grilled cheese he'd eaten, along with a sliced apple and sectioned orange. "You sleep at all?" she asked, her voice low in the house, more from habit than necessity. When she'd gone to take her shower, she'd heard mom and dad still talking. She was pretty sure they hadn't gone to sleep at all. "Some," Sean said, and Laurie took it to mean barely. He took the other half of the grilled cheese he'd made out of the oven, showing it to his sister balanced on a spatula and arching a questioning brow. He slid it onto her plate, scrunching up his nose as she began drowning it in maple syrup. Syrup on waffles, sure, but on a grilled cheese? Ugh, especially when he already put a bit in the batter. And she ate it with a knife and fork! "Philistine. You want another? Or just more chaffles? Eggs?" "'Nosher pwease!" Laurie said around a mouthful, point at her plate with her knife. "We've got two-a-day practice." Sean nodded, finished off his quarter of grilled cheese, took another sip of coffee, then fished out two more chaffles, buttered them, then started on preparing his sister a full banana chaffle grilled cheese sandwich. Grating some more sharp cheddar, monterey jack, and provolone, trying to lose himself in the mundane activity, as he'd been since the wee hours of the morning. He glanced over at his phone sitting on the counter. 26 sales for ReGenesis, mostly European. He hadn't thought about localizing the game yet. Honestly, he hadn't expected to be done before graduation, really. It would take some research, but afterwords, tasking a semi-autonomous program, he should be able to get it done. For some languages anyway. Could talk to Jase about-- "Mom talked to dad and me," Laurie commented. Sean grunted. He knuckled his back, stretching. He'd gotten off lighter than most of his friends, and Autumn's help notwithstanding, he was still sore, if not at bad as before his scant bit of troubled sleep. He really did need to get in better shape. Some at least, last night proved that. All he'd really done was run, fall down, and dive out of the way. Jase's teasing/not-teasing aside, he wasn't fat - except where most girls wouldn't mind some extra, curvy padding. What he was, was lacking muscle tone and even meager athleticism. Teagan had tried a few years ago, but she'd been a bitch about it, pushing him hard and he'd resisted through sheer contrariness. Jase or Cade wouldn't judge him if he asked for help, Jase would even approved in his understated way, but what worked for them wouldn't really work for him and seeing the disparity would just make him feel disheartened. And his pride wouldn't let him ask his younger sister for help, despite her getting taller, and more athletic as she practiced for the football team. YouTube maybe, or there might be someone else he could ask for help... "I'm really sorry 'bout Charlie, Sean." "I don't want to talk about it," Sean muttered. He reclaimed his sister's plate, flipping the grilled cheese onto it, then slid the plate towards her as he sat down across from her at the kitchen table. He stared blankly down at his mug of coffee, spinning it in his hands as Laurie profaned the chaffle sandwich with syrup. If Charlie wasn't his best friend, he'd still be a good one. A player in his games since the beginning. His loss hurt. That they hadn't been able to do anything to stop it before it was too late hurt even more. But what hurt the most was the shame he felt that he wasn't the one who'd been killed, been torn to pieces, the sense of relief he was still alive. Which seemed perverse, since he was the one who's life was ticking away faster than anyone else's. Into the leaden silence, Carolyn and Jack joined their children. Sean went to get up, to make his parents breakfast, but his father clapped him on a slender shoulder, gently, but firmly, forcing him back into his seat. "Stay seated, Sean. Finish your breakfast. You've done enough, we'll take care of the rest." Carolyn went to the coffee pot, pouring a cup for her husband and for herself, then started brewing a new pot. Jack took over breakfast duties, murmuring with his wife, starting to cook some eggs for the both of them as Carolyn started putting things away and cleaning dishes. Despite seeming having not slept at all, only a bit of redness about their eyes, the elder Cassidys appeared to be less affected by lack of sleep than their children. Over her mug of coffee, Carolyn watched her children. Laurie shoveled food in her mouth the way Teagan had when she'd had one of her bigger growth spurts and had really started working out, staring at her brother almost angrily. Sean looked sullen and resigned, absently eating apple and orange slices, glancing from his near empty plate to his phone and back. "I think you two should stay home today," Carolyn suggested. "Missing one day so early in the year, and considering yesterday and Cha - and what happened, I'm sure everyone will understand." "No!" the siblings said in sharp unison. Laurie hadn't been sure at first, but as soon as her mother suggested it, it was the last thing she wanted to do. "Coach has us on two-a-day practice this week and I'm not going to let them say the girl can't keep up!" "I... just need something... normal," Sean said over his sister. He gave a bark of bitter laughter. "Whatever 'normal' means now. If I stay home, I'm just going to seethe and wallow and think too much 'bout last night. I don't need - want - that." Their mother gave them a wan smile. "If that's what you want, kids. But if you change your mind, give me a call, and I'll authorize you guys leaving early." She wasn't under any delusions that both of them had never skipped a class before, but she wanted to cover her bases. And if it let her know where her kids were, all the better. After last night, she and Jack had really considered insisting on Sean and Laurie having tracking apps on their phones, but it was a battle they knew they wouldn't win. With what Sean could do, and even before his... abilities, they couldn't have gotten away with it anyway. "We won't," Sean and Laurie claimed again in unusual synchronicity. Carolyn sighed. Jack grunted. Talk about the kitchen turned to feigned normalcy, asking about football practice, the launch of Sean's new game - Carolyn had helped her son set up the business for his indy game studio Intersectional Interactive when he had developed Annwn - and what they wanted for supper. The meeting tonight and anything smacking of it was studiously, if obviously, avoided. Sean took his load of laundry from the dryer and brought it back to The Barn, shrugging into his freshly cleaned hoodie with the tree on it, tucking the loaner from Autumn under his arm. Laurie got her gym back and practice uniform and the siblings met up at Sean's SUV, who them drove them to school. A bit of the feigned normalcy turned real as Laurie reached for the radio, her other hand slapping Sean's away when he went to stop her. He sat back, flashing her a taunting smirk, as with a thought, he simply took control. His car, his rules, but it never stopped Laurie from trying to claim dominion over the radio. She huffed and folded her arms as Sean synched his phone to the SUV, listening to a playthrough of his game that was already streaming on Twitch. The Twitch Streamer... wasn't good, even Sean admitted that despite earnestly wanting to hear the early reactions to his game. It didn't help that the Streamer had a really thick accent, Scandinavian, Swedish maybe? 29 units sold. Laurie bolted out of the Grand Cherokee almost before it came to a complete stop, running for the field to join Cade and the rest of the football team, her gymbag bouncing on her shoulder. Sean followed more slowly, watching and listening to the Twitch Stream, hoping a more talented Streamer would start streaming ReGenesis in the next few days. Not wanting to go inside yet, Sean took a seat at the far end of the bleachers at the top, letting the fading chill of morning wash over him. Shelly High might be surprisingly well funded for a small rural town in Montana, but it still had shit coffee. Sean took a pull from the thermos he'd brought from home. Another day. Still alive.
    2 points
  17. "Mr. Keane," Marissa approached Ian, Autumn's father. On his phone he was trying to remain as calm as possible as he directed the dispatch to their location. She saw that he was on the phone, but any situation demanded it's fair share of multitasking, this was it. He leaned the phone from her ear to signify that he was splitting his attention. "Do you have any blankets in your car? Maybe something you didn't unpack from the picnic last night?" He noted how calm she was, practically unphased by the sight, having missed the conversation between her and her brother moments before, but she was unnaturally composed, like an oracle wading through the fruits of her own warnings. Devin leaned in lowering his heat to pop into Autumn's field of vision. "Hey," he prodded her for attention. "You're doing great, Granola. He's going to be fine," his words were a soothing mixture of positive reinforcement and distraction in the hopes of calming her down. "Okay? If we can stop his bleeding, his body can do the rest. You got this, girl. Focus on what you have to do, not what's happening around you, it's what's always worked for me. We got this." He continued to press on the wound, not too hard as to not force the bullet through the tissue further, but enough to make sure the flow of blood was halted. "Plus, I have my shirt off, so that means I have to charge you by the minute for this lovely scene you are being allowed to behold, so... y'know, there's incentive." "Sure." Autumn said calmly, her lips brandishing the slightest hint of a smile. Still she seemed like she was blind, her focused on nothing but Jason's body, unblinking yet still seeing the whole of the scene around her. "Put it on my account for next time you do something stupid and you're the one down here bleeding." "That all I gotta do to get you to feel me up?" He replied in typical Devin-level sarcasm. "Pfft." "You're, uh, Marissa, right?" Ian asked her while tucking his phone in his jacket and popping the hatch with his key fob. "I think we have a few back here, might have dog hair on them, they're mostly used for the keeping them from shedding on the seats when we-" "They'll do." She said without looking in his direction. She scooped up the blankets and carried them over to the Marshals. Ian followed, not sure how he could help but willing to accept instruction. "You don't seem particularly phased by any of this." He looked at the two bodies. "Um, h-how can I help?" "Mr. Keane, between secret societies lead by demons, talking saber-toothed tigers, adopting a three thousand calorie a day diet, Autumn's hair regiment, and an interdimensional pus demon that lived in Viscera World," she cocked her head and offered him an unimpressed look. "I've seen my fair share of nightmare fuel. This? This is just another Tuesday in Shelly." She handed him a blanket and nodded towards Marshal Marshall. "Cover them up, keep them warm. Jason will need one too with the amount of blood he's lost." "You two seem to know a lot about this stuff," Ian pointed out while trying to cover the Marshal. She mingled a scoff with a chuckle as tried to cover Dale without tampering with her injuries too much. She silently cursed as the thought of knowing she couldn't do anything for them, shock was not something that was easy to treat on an unconscious patient and she'd done what she could. "Twenty-one day First Aid class. My mom made my brother and I attend when we were... eleven, I think?" She turned to her brother, "Hey was it eleven we took that course?" "Yeah," he nodded, speaking up so she could hear him. "It was right before Christmas and right before we turned twelve in February." "Riiiight," she nodded in recollection. "Some big role involving a hospital drama... our characters wouldn't have been involved with any of the hospital stuff, just the kids of one of the characters who was a doctor. Didn't stop mom though... three weeks of first aid classes, as research. Which reminds me, my CPR card is expired." "Em!" Devin shouted for his sister, looking away from Jason to address her. "Call Annette, or text her. Let her know what's happened. Maybe she can help." "On it!" she yelled back, winking at Ian for the punctuation of their conversation while she slid her phone out of her back pocket to begin scrolling for Annette's number. She pressed the button on her phone and waited there with a third and final puffed up blanket coiled under her arm. "Hi... Ms. Giles? Marissa." She confidently introduced herself on the SeanTech Jailbroke phone she was carrying. "Jason's been shot. I don't know! He probably just stoically glared at them until they just lost their shit and took aim, Lord knows I've wanted to strangle him a few times myself. No, no, Autumn is here, she's a freakin' rockstar. She's all over it, but we have two others in shock and I can't treat them and Autumn can't really leave Jason and... we're a bit in over our heads here." Her voice almost showed signs of breaking at those last few words, thinking of Jason and seeing how he was hurt badly was almost enough make her humanity rise the surface. Still, she remained composed, the quality that kept her reputation as Shelly's Ice Queen secured and pressed on. It was difficult for the next words to pass her lips, and she hated saying them, but she couldn't see any other option. "Ms. Giles, we need help."
    2 points
  18. The trio of gleaming black vehicles- Jase's Charger, Marissa's Mercedes, and Devin's Ducati- were a strange, incongruous sight next to the unassuming sedan and the one that looked, at first glance, like some kind of law-enforcement thing. But Autumn didn't waste time trying to figure out which branch it might belong to, because as soon as her dad's SUV approached the impromptu parking area, she clicked off the seatbelt, flung open the passenger door despite her father's shout of protest and the sudden, jarring application of the brakes. She saw- -Marissa, standing over someone (?) near the side of the road. -Devin, shirtless and kneeling next to the driver's side of the predatory beast Jason was going to have to let her drive when her grades went up... Because that was the deal, right? -Combat boots. ...He wore those everywhere, which was kind of crazy considering how quietly he moved around, but they were super practical. It was one of those little quirks she appreciated about him, the fact that he didn't really care about all the superfluous stuff. -Long, slender fingers, relaxed in a graceful curve where his hand lay on the ground. ...The same fingers that felt so warm twined in hers, that faint current of something running between them. -Bright white towels stained red. So very, very red. Vivid as the roses he cultivated in the barn, fragrant blooms with velvet petals and dark thorns, their sanguine hue blooming here, instead, on the thick cloth pressed to Jason's chest, wound tight around his head. And then father and Range Rover and school were forgotten. She could feel the shift, the tactile crunch of the gravel underfoot as she sprinted across the road heedless of traffic, the sting of the rocks through her well-worn jeans as she hit her knees next to Devin. Even without seeing the wounds, the second she touched the unconscious telekinetic she could feel them, raw and brutal and life-stealing. The injury to his skull was the worst, the most immediately dangerous, but there was a fucking bullet in his chest, a weird alien otherness to the lump of metal she could only really feel by the shape of the pain around it. "All right, so... the one is fortunately-" Fortunately?! Jesus fuck, Autumn, how is anything about this fortunate?!- " just buried in the muscle between his ribs. Didn't hit his heart, or lungs, or..." Oh, Jesus. Oh, god, oh fuck. "Fuck," she swore. "Fuck, fuck, fuck. Um..." Okay. Okay okay okay. Think, Autumn. Focus. Running a trembling hand back over her hair, the ashen-faced redhead frantically tried to process what to do first, but her thoughts were racing too fast to keep hold of for longer than a moment. There was a vague sense that other people were also hurt nearby- one of them badly- but if those were the gunmen he'd mentioned in his text, well. Fuck them. They can wait. "Okay." Exhaling, she took hold of the makeshift terrycloth turban wound around Jason's brow. "Skull first. Right. Um, Devin." She glanced at the blood-smeared gymnast on her right, his handsome features a mask of concentration. "Keep pressure on his chest for me right now, please and thank you. I'm gonna need your help with that in a minute." She drew in another deep breath, gingerly peeling back the saturated towel as a quiet, choked sound escaped her throat at the sight beneath. No. No, no, no nonono. Fucking- You know, just no. Just fucking no. "We are definitely gonna need to talk about this whole head trauma thing," Autumn muttered shakily, her fingers slipping around the bloody line of her boyfriend's jaw. The fact that he'd survived at all was almost incomprehensible, as was the reason he'd been attacked in the first place, but they could deal with that later. Extending her senses, she let the faint icy ripples of his Shine intersect and resonate with her own, providing clarity as the young vitakinetic traced the jagged edges of the fracture with her power and painstakingly rejoined each fragment of splintered bone. She could feel the tiny flickers at the core of his cells, their vital energy responding to hers as she coaxed shrieking nerves and ruptured blood vessels together, weaving the visceral fabric of his flesh and life back into a coherent whole. As Ian watched, circling around his daughter to take in the horror of the scene before him, he saw her clear blue eyes go distant, darkening slightly with the expansion of her pupils. It was almost, he thought, like she was seeing something he couldn't, something beyond the frighteningly still form of the young man he'd just shared coffee with at the kitchen table the night before. He'd seen what Jason Bannon could do then, but this... This was someone's life, not manipulating kinetic energy, or however the boy had described it. That's not how the world worked. "I'm calling an ambulance," he announced tersely, grabbing the cell phone from his pocket and raking a fingertip over the screen. "This is-" "Crazy?" Devin supplied helpfully, leaning forward to keep his weight on the bullet wound. "Yep. And it's probably going to get a whole lot crazier. 911's not a bad idea, though." Jerking his head in the direction of his sister and the two Marshals, the athletic teen glanced briefly up at the elder Keane. "Those guys're gonna need it." Blinking, the older man looked from his daughter over to where Shelly's dressed-down beauty queen was grumbling at the two prone figures. "Shit," he sighed, and pressed the button to dial.
    2 points
  19. Cassandra awoke to the sound of silence. Not dragging herself up and out of dreams full of disturbing images, clawing her way to wakefulness. No, she was simply awake, with all the abruptness of being dunked in cold water. For a minute she lay still, trying to chase the fleeing shadows that she'd been immersed in. Trying to...climb a mountain under a funnel cloud, avoiding the sight of some terrible presence above? She jumpscared when her alarm suddenly went off, blaring that it was time to WAKE UP NOW PLEASE THANK YOU. She had to get up and cross her room to the dresser to turn it off...an arrangement Cassie had set up by choice so she couldn't just slap snooze. By the time peace was restored, whatever fragments of dream that had clung to her consciousness were well and truly gone. And then Bacon, having heard the alarm, was tapping his paws on her door and making that weird little huffy growly noise he did...not quite barking, but letting her know that HE knew it was time to get up. So Cass let it go and stalked out to grab a quick shower, giving her dog a quick cuddle along the way. A knock on the bathroom door came as Cassie was still playing with the temperature mix of the water though. Her mom called in, "Cass? How're you feeling today?" "I'm okay," she called back, grimacing as the water turned a little cold. Better a little hot than a little cold...oh ow, but not that hot, Jesus... Teresa replied a second later, "I'm just... If you need a day off or something, to rest...you can do that is all I'm saying. It'd be okay." That brought Cassandra up short, and she looked at the door, legitimately wondering if her mother had been replaced by some kind of simulacra. What the... "It's...I'm really okay, mom," she called again over the sound of the water hitting the shower floor. "I'm actually looking forward to things going back to normal, you know?" Another pause, then, "Okay, hon. I have to head in a little early today, but I left some breakfast out for you. Eat it. I'm serious. And if anything happens, if you change your mind and need to come home, you can call me up and I'll fix things with the office. All right?" Good enough. The water wasn't perfect, but it would be good enough. Cassie stepped under the spray and gasped as it felt like it was going to burn her for a second...then seemed to cool off a little as her body got used to it. "Mom," she laughed, "I said back to normal. Shouldn't you be asking if I got my homework done?" "Maybe there's a new normal," Teresa said. "Be good, hon, I love you." "Love you too," Cass answered automatically. She fished the dwindling bar of soap out of its little divot and wrapped a washcloth around it. Her mom's concern was touching, and even welcome, but it felt weird too. Like a tug of war when the other team all just let go right as you were about to give a big yank...and instead just went flying back onto your butt. A few minutes later and she was hurrying out to the kitchen, a little behind schedule. Her hair was still wet and lank against her head because there wasn't time to properly dry it. Breakfast was...well shit. Eggs, and a couple of strips of bacon? Bacon himself was sitting just at the kitchen's island where the plate was, looking very tense and alert. Cassie tossed him a strip, and he snapped it out of the air and happily munched on it, wagging his tail fiercely. The eggs she more or less just swallowed whole since they were fried and soft and she had no time for niceties. Probably no time to bike either...the bus again today, it seemed... It wasn't until Cassandra was on the bus that she realized she'd forgotten to stuff her little binder of folders into her backpack. Hopefully she wouldn't need those notes today. Looking out the bus window it felt plausible that she wouldn't. It was sunny, and comfortable, and for the first time in a long time she felt like...nothing was hanging over her head. No huge disaster, no looming shadow. Ding dong, the witch was dead, and now Oz and its population of little teenage people could just get on with whatever the hell they did all day. The presence or lack of notes was a tiny thing next to that. She closed her eyes contentedly and just let the freedom to not worry sink in...then stuck her earbuds in and queued up a playlist for the rest of the trip to school.
    2 points
  20. "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
  21. "That's a good reason to be happy, yeah," the redhead replied slowly, unsure if this actually, genuinely qualified as not being in bitch mode. Maybe rather than an on/off switch, bitchiness was more like a volume knob; they were just so used to Marissa being on the higher end of the scale that when she did ease up a bit, a level of awfulness that would barely be tolerated from anyone else felt like a welcome shift toward humanity with her. "Y'know, Marissa," she began, "she was probably just freaked out and worried, so maybe that wasn't really nece-" Dark brown eyes framed in long black lashes blinked back at her, uncomprehending, and Autumn sighed. Baby steps. "Never mind. Anyway, so..." 'So,' what, Autumn? Where are you planning on going with this? Are you gonna talk about her crazy mom? About her overdose? About whether or not Cody could've been saved? About whether you think she's going to end up like him? Taking a sip of day-old coffee, Autumn made a face. If dealing with Jason Bannon, she decided, was like a perpetual obstacle course that tested resolve and mental agility, interacting with Marissa was like trying to navigate a hedge maze littered with land mines, pit traps, and ninja assassins that really just tested your fortitude and sanity. No... She said she's in a good mood, so... Maybe something she enjoys? Possibly? "So, listen." The soles of her boots squeaked very softly on the gleaming floor as Autumn shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "Everything's kind of crazy right now, and I don't know what to ask or talk about first, but as far as all of-" she lifted her free hand, comparatively clean owing to the gloves she'd worn, to indicate the girls and their general surroundings- "this is concerned, everybody's probably gonna need time to process. And unless you want me to go tell your mom how old she looks, or something- which I will totally do, because it's not like your parents can ground me for telling them they suck- all I can do for you there is just, listen, I guess. Which is also fine, but this is probably not the best place for that conversation, y'know? So." She took another long drink of the bitter, caffeinated liquid and, shuddering, poured in another packet of creamer, swirling the cup around to mix it. After another experimental sip, she nodded and continued. "I was wondering if you'd be willing to help me with something. Nothing weird!" she added hastily, blue eyes widening. "Just... So, I have this dress, for Homecoming, and I really like it, and my mom bought me some shoes to go with it. And, you know, they're great and all, but, um. I-" "She bought you heels, didn't she?" the canny brunette interjected, eyeing her bestie shrewdly. It was the only logical reason someone like Autumn would've mentioned shoes, since her entire footwear collection seemed to consist of hiking boots and old Converse sneakers. Talk about a stereotype... Marissa wouldn't be the least bit surprised if she shuffled around the house in those stoner sandals, Birkenflops, or whatever they were called. "Yeah. And-" The red-haired young vitakinetic could feel the blood rushing to her cheeks- her own this time, thankfully- as her face grew warmer under Mari's scrutiny. "And you've never worn them a day in your life, have you?" "Obviously," her dark eyes seemed to say. "I mean, kind of?" Autumn hedged. "Not these specific ones, which are..." She glanced down at Marissa's ruined hiking heels. "Well, for me they're kind of on the tall side. But I don't wanna break an ankle or anything at the dance, and you wear them all day, so I thought maybe you'd help me out? Y'know, teach me your secrets, or something? And that would give us chances to talk about the other stuff, too."
    2 points
  22. Marissa shrugged, cup already in hand as she surveyed her options for second rate coffee. One of the nurses, for some reason just couldn't keep her eyes off them as they browsed. "It is what it is," she said glumly, holding her blanket to cover herself as she decided. "And thank you. You know, for saying you're my friend. I'm horrible at it, I know, but aside from my brother I've never really had real connections with people, sooo..." "It's like, look at my mom, right? Tell me I'm not like her, you totally can't right? I know I'm horrible and changing isn't as easy as simply saying it, it's like... cardio for inner peace: you're intentions are to change, but no one ahs time for an hour on the karma bike five or more days a week, it's stressful and tiring and we all have better things to do. Full disclosure, I didn't join up with you guys to save the world or make friends, I saw Cody... or, rather what he'd become, by 'saw' I mean in the word-of-mouth sense." She filled her cup with the magic brain-zoom fluid and couldn't help but notice the nurse still staring at them, a hefty, angry looking woman that looked like she should be instructing German boot-camp not helping with the wellbeing of people. "His choices, his hate, his avarice... those made him into that thing and all I could think was: we have no idea how he got that way. Was he offered a deal and took it or was his name added to the dotted line slowly and methodically over time as he consciously allowed himself to be cruel and depraved and... Autumn, a part of me wonders how many letters of my name I'm up to on the dotted line... I don't want to end up like that." "So... I escape. Party a little bit, meet up with guys in Great Falls. Sometimes I just do it at home and once I did it too hard and now everyone knows," she sighed and chortled morosely. "Because my mom is hell bent on making sure she ruins anyone's life who is having a better time, prettier, or just plain enjoying themselves because she's fucking miserable. I still haven't told her my card got punched, of my god she is going to lose her mind." Finally she rolled her eyes and sighed and looked to old nurse and confronted her. "What?" The nurses didn't say anything and just averted her eyes for a moment, going back to some paperwork on a clipboard. Marissa whispered. "Christ, some people." She sipped her coffee, smiling at her 'bestie'. "This is nice." she laughed. "Talking. Maybe it's the endorphins and adrenaline wearing off, but-," the blood soaked teen again noticed the nurse glaring and Marissa pursed her lips and glared back. "Yes, lady, that right, take it in. We're soaked in blood and covered in bandages the same way unfulfillment and poor life decisions cling to you like a cloud of misspent youth and lifetime of regret." Cup to her lips Autumn's eyes couldn't get much wider as they darted back forth while her friend made a scene. "So go deliver your towels or bedpans or whatever they trust you to handle Kronk, and don't worry about what's going on over here." Annoyed, but defeated, the nurse simply shook her head and walked off. With a scoff, the Queen of Mean sipped her coffee again. "I swear, people are so rude. Anyway, like I was saying, maybe it's those wearing off, but it feels good to just not be in bitch mode, y'know? Despite my mom, I'm pretty relaxed right now. Happy to be alive, I guess."
    2 points
  23. Cassandra's mom was a bit late to the party, and her manner of entry showed it. Almost running, checking each room number frantically. Even passing the spot that Marissa and Autumn were seated, she barely seemed to register them there...then stopped looked back. Recognition lit up, from the picnic. The redhead Cassie had been talking to. "You're..." Teresa paused in mid-phrase and shook her head, skipping to the important part. "Is she all right?" Autumn nodded, but before she had even started trying to put an answer to words, Marissa stepped in smoothly. "She's fine, Mrs Allen. We all are." Teresa nodded at that distractedly, then sagged a little and put a hand to her forehead. "She said that on the phone, I just...it would be just like her to play it down. I...thanks. Both of you. Not just for now but, you know. Then. Keeping her safe." This time it was Autumn that spoke first. "She kept us safe," she corrected. Her voice wasn't as loud and clear as Marissa's, but she said it firmly. "She was the one who knew what to do, and told us how to do it." Cassie's mom absorbed that, and had to blink away tears that weren't quite shed. There were so many words to say that she couldn't say anything. In the end Teresa just gestured at the door and said, "That's...I'm glad you were there for each other. I just have to..." The two girls said their goodbyes and Teresa continued down the hall until finding and letting herself into the room. Immediately there was tension in the air. Too many people, too little space. For a second Teresa just froze, unsure how to fit into this...then Cassandra leaned out and waved at her. Here was something she could understand instinctively! They stood off to one side a bit, as much as the room allowed, just hugging. When her mother started fussing at the bandage around her arm, Cassie sighed and explained it was just some kind of rash or irritation. She spared Teresa the detailed recounting, for the time being. One nightmare at a time. After a few minutes of that, Cassandra's mom turned to look at the other parents and said, "Hi everyone. I'm Teresa Allen, Cassandra's mother. I'm a librarian at the main branch. This is all...I still don't know what to make of any of it, but I think we have a lot to be proud of right now." Her arm rested around Cassandra's shoulder, and squeezed her.
    2 points
  24. "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
  25. Mr. Jauntsen nodded and offered Autumn a smirk she immediately identified as a hereditary trait. "Please, call me Carl." Marissa scoffed and wiped under her eyes, smearing her makeup even more as she got her bestie as far from her father as she could. "C'mon, coffee sounds great. I need out of here." She'd never quite heard Marissa's voice so low and devoid of its imperious tone. Even at her kindest Marissa always seemed to carry herself as the person in charge, yet now she sounded morose, shattered even, like a woman who'd retired her feelings hours ago and just stopped caring. Her hair was knotted together with sticky, dried blood and some of it had been wiped away from her face, her makeup had smeared and washed down her cheeks in blackened streaks that mingled with the patches of dried crimson and rust-brown. Combined with the shredded leather of her outfit she looked like she could be the front woman for a metal band. She certainly had some height on her bestie, especially with her heels on, echoing in the passageway as the two ladies searched for a coffee station. They warranted a few looks from others as they made their way. The hospital wasn't unfamiliar with the occasional traumatizing injury, but it wasn't everyday a wild-haired ginger girl scout covered in blood was paired in the halls with a raven-haired prostitute, also covered in blood, were seen wandering the halls on a quest for magic bean water. Finally, Marissa broke the silence between the two with a sigh. "So, you've met my family, now. See where I get it from? Ugh," she huffed and rolled her eyes. "My mom is such a bitch. My brother and I are so fucking useless in their eyes, I mean, why even have kids if you're not going to give a shit about them?" Autumn wasn't quite sure if she was address the redhead, or just speaking to hear her own thoughts.
    2 points
  26. 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
  27. Autumn Keane Interview, Magazine Article. (PDF format) https://drive.google.com/file/d/1f3Vg8RXEfKSEOYe6txw1V31ovPhb5xOt/view?usp=sharing
    2 points
  28. [Intro music plays] JH: Welcome back, everyone, to the next of our E! exclusive cast interviews! I am Julia Hernandez, and this afternoon, we managed to get a hold of the latest addition to Weirder Stuff's main cast. She comes from France, she's adorable, some of the fans even started calling her the [airquote] Pocket Powerhouse [airquote]. Let me introduce you to Catherine 'Kat' Barras! KB: [from offstage] Is this when I'm supposed to go on stage and say hi- oh. OH! Mic's on... Here we go! [as she arrives on stage, dressed in skinny jeans, a pink Paul Smith shirt and a pair of black knee-high boots] Hi everyone! [looks at the cameras and raises a hand to her chest] Boy! I'm barely starting to get used to these! [giggles] Hi Julia! How are you doing? JH: [chuckles] I'm doing great, thank you! How about you? KB: [sits down and winces comically] I'm nervous. I've never done these before! Thanks for having me, by the way. I'm a big fan, I've watched the show from the start and, oh, that epic battle in the last episode, would never, ever, have seen it coming! [laughs] JH: [laughs] Right! I have been told your first appearance on screen is in Weider Stuff. Is that your first role? KB: Yes. At first, I had an internship with the team, pulled some strings back in France so I could get my free trip to the States, and one day they told me to put the coffee down, dragged me to the makeup artist and stuffed a script into my hands. Aaaaand, it worked. I didn't really see myself as an actor, but, not to throw flowers at myself or anything, [grins] I apparently do a decent job. My first scene never made it to the screen, but it is probably what convinced the producers to offer me a contract. JH: Really? What happened in that scene? KB: [zips lips and winks] Can't say, I kind of forgot everything about it. Wait for the deleted scenes to be leaked or something. JH: [smiles] Fine, I'll have to be patient then. You never really saw yourself as an actor, you say, but what exactly did you see yourself as, before [motions vaguely] Weirder Stuff happened? KB: Originally, I wanted to be a comedian. I did work on some jokes back in France, and exhibitionned myself to immense crowds of, like, fourty people? To be honest, acting for a screen really feels different. The good - or bad - part, I never know, of a live crowd, is that I get to see the people's reactions and work with them. Right now, when I'm on stage, I never know if the fans will like what I do until the episode is out and people start lighting up gasoline all over social media. It's kind of scary. [pauses] But totally worth it, don't get me wrong! It's like really wanting for some ice-cream, not knowing if you'll get some, and finally getting ice-cream. An exciting... sort of... scary. JH: An interesting comparison, to say the least. KB: [nods] I really like ice-cream. JH: [chuckles] Speaking of gasoline on social media, your character is the only openly bisexual character on show, and is starting to grow as an icon in some circles, how are you feeling about that? KB: Oh, that's one tricky question. [ponders] I've never really got into these kinds of conversation. All I can say is that the character is almost a tailor-made fit for me - I can't thank the writers enough for that, they're doing a great job - and, if you're saying I'm inspiring people through the way I act Kat, the teenage girl, well, I'm flattered. Really. And yes, I'm bisexual. [mimics crowd ovation] Go crazy, Internet. JH: Another sensitive topic about your character is ADHD. In the show, Kat suffers from undiagnosed ADHD and it's been made quite apparent on screen. How important is this part of the character to you? KB: Oh, very. My Dad has ADHD - my real Dad, not Josh, who is adorable by the way. Such a nice guy. So yeah, I grew up with one, and sort of spreading awareness about it is important to me. There's a lot of people out there with some minor Attention Deficits, who don't know they have these and don't know how to deal with it, and I know it can be real hard for some. My Dad only got diagnosed when I was thirteen. That's seven years ago! And understanding what it was, and ways to live through, or with it, actually helped him and improved his, our life! At first, Kat wasn't supposed to have ADHD, and the subject came up during a chat with the writers, and they loved the idea! JH: It really hits home to you. KB: It does! [blows kiss at the camera] Love you, Dad! JH: [nods] Alright, onto the less serious, but as important part. Kat and Courtney, Kat and Sean, Kat and Jase question mark, what's happening? The fans deserve to know! KB: [winces] I don't knoooooow what's happening either. Okay, okay, okay. We can talk about what has already happened. Uh, last first, Kat and Jase, nothing is happening so far, right? All we've seen is a strange girl in a strange town getting red-cheeked whenever she makes eye-contact with the local predator. Maybe she has a crush on him, maybe she hasn't. I'm... not... saying nothing will happen at all, they're teens, but... Gah! Nothing is written in stone for teens. Now, Kat and Sean, Kat and Courtney, well, she obviously likes both, spends a lot of time with Sean but would? like to spend some more with Courtney - and we all saw why, but Courtney and Sean sort of hate each other, so there is this sort of love-hate triangle? I don't really know how to describe that. But yeah, definitely a relationship I'm happy to explore because it is so interesting to develop. Sean and Courtney are amazing actors and I'm really glad to be there with them. JH: What about the rest of the teens? KB: Oh, everyone's been so nice to me since I arrived. Sometimes I feel like I'm the lost puppy of the crew... which would not be that far from the truth, to be fair. They always pick me up when I'm feeling down. These guys know how to relax after a few thousands of takes. I love every single one of them as equally as the others, only some more equally than others. [chuckles] Recently there's been this running joke about squirrels... JH: Does it have anything to do with Cade's little friends? KB. Yes! They're so cute! It's part of my routine now, they're the firsts I visit every morning. And every now and then, between takes, Devin or Autumn stalks up to me and yells "SQUIRREL!" [laughs] while pointing at the ceiling, and every single time, they make me look. [shakes her head] JH: [laughs] It does sound like they adopted you! Well, I believe we're running out of time, fan questions will have to wait for next round. Thank you for being here, Kat, it's been very nice to finally meet you! KB: [a wide grin full of dimples] Yes! It's been very fun, sign me up for round two! [waves to the cameras] Bye bye! JH: This was our E! exclusive cast interview for Weirder Stuff, with Catherine Barras. Thank you for watching, and see you next week! [Screen blurs, outro music plays as they both continue their conversation while heading offstage]
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  29. [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]
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  30. [Intro music plays] JH: Welcome back, everyone! I’m your host, Julia Hernandez, here with another exclusive. Today we’ve managed to wrangle two more stars of “Weirder Stuff” into the studio: one of whom is famous, or perhaps infamous, for his reluctance to speak publicly, and the other for… Well, for exactly the opposite. It’s my pleasure to introduce the elusive Mr. Jason Bannon, and the effervescent Miss Autumn Keane. Welcome, welcome! Thank you both for joining me today! Autumn: Thanks, Julia. [grins as she settles into her chair and glances at her co-star.] Yeah, he’s my chaperone today, so no spoilers this time. [noticeable pause, followed by a wider grin.] Probably. Jason: [dry tone and a smile] I think the studio has too much faith in my abilities. JH: [laughs] How did they manage to twist your arm to get you into a live interview, Jason? Jason: [deadpan] There was some begging and crying. Kripke actually offered his first-born son if I would come on just to stop Autumn talking about next Season. Autumn: His first-born? Oh, that’s gonna be awkward at the holidays, isn’t it? [laughs, leaning back in her chair] I mean, after last time, he did threaten to have someone follow me around with tranquilizer darts, so this is definitely better for me. JH: Tranquilizer darts?! Autumn: I mean, I’m sure he was kidding! [waves her hands placatingly, still grinning] It’s fine. Probably fine. More than likely totally fine. I’d like to think I’ve learned my lesson after the Jauntsen reveal, anyway. That was… [grimaces slightly] When I’m really excited about something, it’s easy to just get caught up in the moment, y’know? And during the Q&A stream someone asked about my character’s relationship with Marissa, and… [hesitates for a moment] And I think I was just so psyched to talk about how I think the relationship between my character and the Twins might develop, it just didn’t occur to me that the big Blight battle hadn’t aired yet, and people wouldn’t already know they’d survived the fight. Sooo… Yeah. Team Holland strikes again. [grins sheepishly] JH: Rumor has it that Tom actually got in touch with you recently. What was that about? Autumn: Oh! [claps her hands together excitedly and leans forward] Oh, yeah, because of the joke, right? And honestly, it was perfect. So, we’ve had this sort of running joke on set about making t-shirts for the cast, different hashtags and all that, and so he sent me one that just said #TeamHolland on it. It was awesome, totally brilliant. [laughs] Now when I start to say too much on-set they’ll just tell me to go put my shirt on, like it’s a cone of shame or something. Totally deserved, of course, don’t get me wrong. It’s just really hard not to want to share all the crazy stuff we’ve been doing. JH: I can only imagine! [smiles] Now, obviously you’re not the only one who’s guilty of letting slip a spoiler or two about the show during what has turned out to be a wild first season. Has that made things difficult for the cast at all, or changed the atmosphere on-set? Autumn: Hmm. [tilts her head thoughtfully, considering] That’s a tricky one. Can I pass for a sec, and come back to that? JH: Oh absolutely. We can move right onto the big story and, let’s be frank, the reason I’m so stoked to have you both here in the hot seat. Most of us have seen that InstaSnap post… you know the one. So the big questions on everyone’s lips are “How long have you two been an item off-screen?” and “Who else in the cast and crew knew?” Was it a surprise to everyone else when social media went berserk, or was it just one of the best kept on-set secrets ever? Autumn: [laughs, shaking her head] I take it back, I take it back! I change my mind! Oh, god. [covers her face for a moment, shoulders shaking with laughter] Okay, okay. [composes herself, exhales] Right. So… To answer your last two questions first, “Yes.” At least, it was a secret, sort of, and everyone was also surprised. We just… I mean, we didn’t really talk about it, and it didn’t change much of anything at work, you know? Granted, in some cases, I think it might’ve helped the scene. [glances at Jason from the corner of her eye, grinning mischievously] But, yeah. The producers knew, but it wasn’t something we really shared with the cast. We’d talked about it, but there were concerns it might affect the group dynamic, or how the audience viewed certain interactions. The story in WS is always changing, and we didn’t want viewers to feel that a particular pairing was “locked in,” or that the outcome of an event is predetermined, if that makes sense. Jason: That was very important to both of us. [nodding] One of the marvellous aspects of Weirder Stuff as a story is the very organic nature of the script, especially when it comes to the interpersonal stuff. A lot of that is down to the actors and the writers working really closely together. For instance, the initial concept of Devin and Jason is that they would immediately be best friends with enough differences to keep the dynamic interesting. But when we were going over the lines together, Devin proposed that rather than them just naturally falling that way, they should be these two guys who were different, and worked really well together when things came down to crunch time, but had this huge gap of personal understanding between them that would take ages to bridge. Autumn and Jase becoming a “thing” in the show was very much another one of those “Hey, writers, what if we…?” moments. [grins teasingly sideways at Autumn] Which sort of ties into the “how long” question, doesn’t it? Autumn: It does, yeah. [cuts her eyes at him with a crooked smile] So… When Autumn and Jason went camping after he showed her the greenhouse, that whole thing was just supposed to be between friends. New friends, at that, who are just beginning to work out how to relate to each other. Maybe some teasing or banter, even a little bit of the tension from the talk they had at the Bannon farm, but nothing concrete. It was just supposed to be a bit of a bonding moment for the characters, and a chance for the audience to learn more about them by seeing how they interacted with their environment and each other. To give them a little insight. JH: Well, it certainly seems to have been, as you said, a “bonding” experience. So it wasn’t scripted? Autumn: Mmm, not at all, believe it or not! As Jason said just a moment ago, one of the most engaging and exciting parts of the show, from a professional perspective, is how dynamic and fluid the show can be. Devin’s famous for ad-libbing, for example, and loads of times it winds up working really well. So there’s a sense that we have a lot of input into how things go, a lot of creative agency and freedom within the context of the script we’re given. People get together all the time to run lines, especially since there’s not much time between being handed an episode and that episode being filmed- sometimes only a day or two. Jason and I were working on the, um. The campfire scene. JH: Oh, trust me, I know the one. How could I forget? Autumn: Right, that one. [laughs] Well, we were talking through the part where he sort of leans in, which was this really great moment of tension that was meant to be defused by a joke, and then everything would settle back into the camaraderie they were establishing. And I thought about the talk they’d had, and the little flirtations, and Autumn’s impulsiveness, so I said, “Wait. What if, instead of cracking a joke and backing down, what if she leans into that moment and just kisses him?” So… [shrugs a little, cheeks going pink as she smiles] So we gave it a shot to see how it felt in the scene. Jason: It was a convincing demonstration. [smiles a little as Autumn goes a touch more pink and elbows him] So it was sort of a realisation for us both, that moment. That the chemistry we’d developed between the characters was itself reflective of our chemistry as people. So yeah, we were definitely attracted to each other, so we kept it on the down-low after that evening because, well as we said we didn’t want to straitjacket the show’s writers. If they didn’t like the idea of Jase and Autumn, we didn’t want to make it awkward if they paired the characters up with other characters. Separating the professional from the personal is kind of important to us both in that regard. So we approached the writers with the kiss idea, and they loved it. I honestly expected they’d have it stop at a kiss then make it this awkward will-they-won’t-they for a few episodes or more, but they decided that didn’t really fit either character. The campfire scene became totally different, and they re-worked some subplot ideas to incorporate the new romance, which was more than we expected. Autumn: Mhmm. [nods enthusiastically] Even though it meant revising so much of what had been scripted, they jumped right in and ended up creating what felt like a more authentic, more dramatic story than just a friendly camping trip. It was pretty amazing. JH: And so you kept it low-key until… Jason: The selfie heard around the world. Yes. Autumn: Sooo, going back to your earlier question, about spoilers and changing things on-set. [grins wryly] Can real-life have spoilers? Is that a thing? JH: [laughs] In your case… Autumn: Right?! [laughs brightly] We’ve all got our talents, I suppose, even unconventional ones. In all seriousness, though, that selfie really was completely an accident. I mean, I didn’t take it accidentally, I just didn’t think anyone would be able to tell who was in the background. I woefully underestimated the curiosity and dedication of the show’s fans, I think, which is totally fair. If I saw a shadowy photo of what might be a really good-looking guy, with gorgeous green eyes, draped in a sheet, I might wonder who he was, too. Actually, hang on. I have seen a couple of photos like that. [grins impishly, nose crinkling slightly] There are definitely some advantages to having gotten everything out in the open, but dealing with the aftermath of that one post was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. What would the studio, and the producers, and the cast, and my family, and everyone else think? Would I be out of a job? Would the viewers resent me, or him, or both of us? Jason and I had just really started dating kind of seriously not long before that, too, and I was really worried about how he’d react. He’s a much more private person than I am, and on top of that, it might have seriously affected his career. I mean, it’s easy to laugh now, but things could’ve gone totally sideways on a number of levels. JH: Were there any negative repercussions to the revelation? Autumn: Hmm. [frowns slightly, settling back into her chair again] On my end, I would say some, yeah, but nothing out of the ordinary. Mum was pretty hurt that I hadn’t said anything to her, and kind of jokingly annoyed that I hadn’t made a pass at Cade instead. She thinks he’s just adorable. [smiles faintly] She hasn’t had a chance to meet Jason yet, so, yeah… Back to your question though. Some fans were understandably pretty upset, because it’s easy, I think, to conflate the actor with the character in a show like WS, where we all use our own names and so much attention is devoted to authenticity. Realistically, though, even if it’s not how I’d have liked people to find out, it could’ve gone a lot worse. I’m happy with the way things have worked out so far. JH: And how about for you, Jason? Jason: Well, other than Autumn’s mom being disappointed I wasn’t Cade… [he grins] No, seriously, I didn’t mind overmuch once the surprise wore off. I’m happy in my work and I’m happy in my personal life, and my mom thinks Autumn is an absolute darling. Like Autumn said, there was some pushback from fans - but honestly, we’ve had a lot more positive feedback than negative, at least so far. I understand people are talking all the time on social media and there’s whole Readit threads debating how the Autumn/Jase relationship will pan out, with factions forming around their pet theories. And some buzz about how we’ll pan out, too. JH: There is indeed. How do you see it panning out? Jason: [smiling faintly] It’s not just up to me. Suffice to say that I am right where I want to be for the foreseeable future. Autumn: [rests her fingertips briefly on his forearm, the touch lingering for a moment as she smiles] JH: Aww. Okay then, on to some other questions since we’ve embarrassed the two of you enough. These ones from Chirper and Readit. Autumn: Ohboy… JH: The Ethical Drinker - interesting handle that - wants to know: “As a fine lass from a place like Aussieland, with several years experience, do you have a drink of choice? Same for the American lad, if he’s allowed to drink yet.” Sadly, I’m not even going to attempt the Scots accent the question was delivered in. I’d just embarrass myself and offend the Scottish. Autumn? What’s your favourite drink? Autumn: “Aussieland.” [swings her feet, laughing] Oh, that’s perfect! And, good question. Hmm. Actually, I’m not really sure I have one, to be honest. It depends what we’re doing, you know? And it’s different here than back home, the whole culture around drinking is just- it’s kind of confusing. Like, Christmas is gonna be weird as because obviously it’s cold and no one’s gonna be sitting on the deck getting day drunk on white wine and soaking up the sun. So, hm. Maybe a vodka cran or something when the girls go out, or a glass of beer with dinner, but… Yeah. I wish I had a more specific answer, but I’m still finding things I like. [smiles and shrugs a little] Ask me again in a few years and I might be able to say, yes, one hundred percent a… I dunno, a Lagavulin 16 or something, but for now I’m not really that heavily invested in it. I like my liver. [smiles more broadly] What about you, Jase? Jason: “If he’s allowed to drink?” I’ve been legal for a couple of years. Well, at least I look youthful. [chuckles] It depends a lot on whether I’m working, and what the character would drink if anything. I think this is the first character I’ve played who actually drinks at all on-camera, come to think of it. Jase likes to sample tastes and smells, and by preference goes for a decent rum or good bourbon, something fragrant. As for me… hmm… similar, I suppose? I don’t drink a whole lot, but I like a nice beer with some meals, or a glass of good wine. And a good bourbon or scotch from time to time. Like the lady said - get back to me in a few years when I’ve had time to develop serious preferences. [smiles at Autumn, then the presenter] JH: Fair enough! Next question is for Autumn: FR33B1RD wants to know “What was the biggest adjustment, working in Montana, compared to Down Under?” Autumn: Oh, another good one. Well, this one’s easy. The biggest adjustment is that you’re all backwards. Or upside down. Or… both, possibly. [she squints a little, tilting her head, then breaks into a broad grin] Obviously the landscape’s massively different in the mountains of Montana than on the coast of West Oz, the climate’s different, and you’ve all got this weird accent, but I think the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make was something I mentioned earlier. The seasons are totally inverted, right? It’s kind of surreal to be talking about snow in November, and I won’t lie, it messes with my head a little. Like, I’ll ring the family back home, and we’re all making holiday plans, but those plans look completely different. That being said, there’s a lot of similarities, too. Small towns are more or less the same wherever you go, I think, and just like at home, there’s plenty of opportunity to get out and do things, enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air and challenge yourself. And while I’ll maintain that my hometown has the best, nicest people anywhere in the world, I’ve gotta admit Shelby’s giving them a run for their money. JH: I can imagine that would be disorienting, yes! How about another one? Let’s see… Oh! This one touches on something of a minor controversy about WS. CapnScarlet posted, "Are you a natural redhead? Asking for a friend." Autumn: I- [blinks, then laughs and grins at Jason] Not a word. Although you have been really talkative today, so maybe I shouldn’t discourage you...? Jason: [mimes zipping and locking his lips with a smile] Autumn: [shifts slightly in her chair, still smiling] Yeah, yeah I am. The hair and makeup folks do tweak it a bit, so it’s very slightly brighter and reads better on camera, but, yes. I am a natural redhead. It’s actually one of the things that got me jobs when I was a kid, doing ads for sunscreens and so on, since we soulless and freckly types do tend to be more sensitive to the burning light of the day-star. JH: That’s certainly been a hot topic on the Readit forums. There seems to be an… Well, let’s call it an unusually high number of redheads on the show. Do you know if that’s intentional? Autumn: You know, I think- [hesitates, glancing at Jason before sighing] Sorry, I’m not allowed to speculate in public anymore. I have the t-shirt. [grins apologetically] JH: Aha, that’s true! Well, let’s hope there will be an answer to that question in a future episode, then! Or not, as the case may be. Just one last question, then, and it’s… Well, maybe you’ll know what it means? Autumn: Ohboy. [chuckles] Let’s hear it, then. JH: A user called Jaunt asks, "When is Sir Popenloque going to get that 250 gold you owe him?" Autumn: When is…? Oh, my gosh. [laughs] All right, Devin Jauntsen, you are banned from Readit. [shakes her head, grinning] Wow. So, I think when you had Marissa on, Julia, she mentioned a Dungeons and Dragons game we played to learn some background for Sean’s campaign in the show. “Sir Popenloque'' is the name of Devin’s character in the game, and my character borrowed some money from him for totally legitimate, above-board reasons that had nothing at all to do with paying off gambling debts. Jason: And a huge bar tab. Autumn: ...And that. [grins at her co-star] JH: Speaking of Sean’s game, we haven’t seen much of it so far. Do you think it’ll make a reappearance, or have recent events and changes in casting made it obsolete? Autumn: [bounces in her seat, glancing briefly up at the lights overhead] Aaagghh, so that's- I wish I could tell you! I really do! There’s so, so much that- ugh, just… [rests her hands on her head] It’s gonna be amazing. Minds will be blown! Hearts will be broken! Secrets will be revealed! The whole cast and crew have fallen in love with this crazy ride we’re on, so keep watching, and keep conspiring and gossiping and speculating, because I promise, the writers and producers do pay attention, and we’re so grateful that our fans love this as much as we do. JH: I feel like we could just keep talking about this all day! I’ve said it before, but I’m a fan myself, so this has been absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, as much as I would love to keep the two of you here, I think that’s all the time we have. Autumn, Jason, thank you so much for joining me today, and for giving me some of your time, and I hope you’ll come back to visit me again soon! Autumn: Absolutely! Thanks very much for having us, Julia. Jason: It’s been a pleasure. [The three continue to chat with varying degrees of animation as the outro music plays, and the shot fades to black.]
    2 points
  31. "Devin's ability re-writes conventional understanding of spatial physics." Jason said quietly from nearby. The lean, angular genius was sitting on the edge of an examination bed, his cool green eyes on Carl as he spoke. "In fact, as far as I can tell it's also unique to him. We all tap into a theoretical sub-quantum strata of energy, but Devin is the only one that travels down into and through that layer. Or can send or retrieve objects and people through it." "Sub-quantum strata, huh?" Carl's expression was of a man who didn't quite understand the words being used, but understood their import. He glanced from Jase to Devin, who shrugged slightly. "That's our working theory." Jase nodded. "A layer of reality where time, space, and thought are as tangible and subject to manipulation as matter and energy are on our layer, connecting everything that exists together. We-" he indicated the Fellowship "-are all connected to it, and through it, and draw on it to do what we can do." He paused. "That's as far as I've gotten with the theory. I've not really had the time or the equipment to test the particulars, so it's only a hypothetical right now. But the concept is solid, and also provides the Grand Unifying Force that conventional physics is missing." "Right." Carl blinked several times, nodding slowly. Not a stupid man by any measure, his areas of expertise were finance and people rather than hard sciences, but he was a man of the world and had seen enough Discovery Channel specials to at least grasp the basics. He turned back to his progeny, smiling a little bemusedly, his expression clearly asking 'is this guy real?' "Don't engage him, dad." Marissa said from the comfort of Devin's hug. "Give him an inch and he'll ruin string cheese, cancel Christmas, and spoil all the Harry Potter books in one go." "Dumbledore dies." Jase deadpanned to the snickering of several of the other teens as Marissa affected a horrified gasp of betrayal and hurt. Smiling very faintly, the shaggy-haired youth leaned back and watched the room. People's parents were filtering into the room now that the docs were letting them, and the people-watching opportunity was too great to pass up. This was a new situation, after all. He'd never seen Misti act in any other way than the pleasant, smiling substitute teacher and part-time administrator, and to see the Twins actually cowed as she raged at them was... unusual. It didn't fit right, in his self-admittedly slight understanding of human behaviour. Misti was being completely unreasonable and domineering, though Carl's explanation that she was under stress and frightened certainly explained that. Was the Twins reaction simply one of ingrained filial duty? A result of being too tired to openly fight right now? It couldn't be genuine fear, surely: after what he had seen Devin and Marissa both endure and face down, an angry middle aged woman hardly measured up. He considered that. If Gar became angry at him, or sought to punish him for some perceived misdeed that was in fact not a misdeed, how would he react? Would he endure the punishment out of respect? Would he tolerate unfairly placed and emotionally driven restrictions on his comings and goings, or for Gar to take away his car? Probably not, he surmised. Not if he hadn't committed some genuine transgression against previously understood rules. For example, Gar was strict about smoking in the house. If Jason smoked inside and had been caught, he would accept that Gar had a place to punish him. He reflected then that his father placed very few restrictions or expectations on him, compared to the parents of his fellows. Keep clean, tidy your things away, don't smoke in the house, don't get into trouble at school. Other than that, as Misti had implied in the car, Jason had been more or less allowed to grow wild. At least some of that was Gar's sense of depression and alcoholism, but even so Jason had always been a low-maintenance child. Largely self-sufficient - show him how to do something and he would do it for himself without complaint or hesitation. It was never necessary to check he had tidied his room, or cleaned up after eating. If he'd needed anything like clothes or food in the refrigerator he would say so. He never needed comfort or reassurance or encouragement. He briefly wondered if that bothered his father at all. Autumn's dad, earlier, obviously trying to protect his daughter, had seemed desperate to be relevant, to matter in the scheme of things in a practical sense. Her mother had perhaps been quicker to accept the situation, but still had felt that urge from what Jase had observed. Did his father also need to be needed? He filed that away. He was coming to understand that the emotional needs of those he cared about were important, and his father was certainly one of those. Compare and contrast Gar to Misti, who demanded perfection in all manner of particulars, who put her children through grueling exercise and performance routines, set standards of personal appearance and comportment, for whom it seemed little was good enough. And the results... Devin, ever-defiant to a fault, who rebelled simply for the act of rebellion itself. And Marissa, outwardly strong, yet at times fragile and had suffered an overdose according to what he'd overheard. There was no judgement in Jase's thoughts regarding the Jauntsen twins. They were products of their environment, much as he was. He did understand a little more why Devin had spoken well of Gar, last Thursday at the farm. After the hectic demanding enforced perfection of the Jauntsen household, the laid-back still waters of the Bannon Farm must have seemed a sanctuary. And then, somewhere between the extremes, there were the others. Autumn's mom, Sean's family, warmly nurturing and yes, also with certain levels of rules and expectations. Involved in their children's lives to a level that Jason, used as he was to self-direction, might have found stifling, yet they seemed happy and loving even when irate with their kids. He wondered how the other's parents would behave. So he sat back and watched, his cool calm gaze assessing what was going on from his dirt and soot-smudged features.
    2 points
  32. Jase was soberly regarding the ruins of his sole remaining rolled cigarette as she approached, his pale jade eyes flicking to Autumn as he gave her a slight smile before he let out a soft sigh and held up the blood-soaked, crumpled ruin. "It was in the outer pocket of my combat pants." he stated matter-of-factly, indicating the leg Autumn had recently tended to. "Ahh, well." The roll-up went up in a small puff of incineration, fragrant smoke rising for an instant in the air before being whisked away by the breeze. He turned to her, still favouring the damaged leg a little, and smiled once more. "Everyone alright?" "Mostly. I'll be happier when Sophia and Tawny get checked out. I'm not a proper doctor or anything." Autumn admitted, looking up into the green pools of his gaze. "How's Dana doing?" he asked quietly, his eyes still on her face in that intent way he had. Autumn ignored the prickling at the corners of her eyes and smiled at him. "She's fine. Said to remind you that you said you'd bring me home." she said in a tone that contained a hint of their usual playful banter. He nodded somberly. "That I did. Once we get everyone to the med center and checked out, I'll do just that." he replied, glancing at the other teens for a moment before looking back into her eyes. Autumn remembered why she'd approached him, then, shaking off the spell of his nearness. "Oh, hey. You've got a survival blanket, right? Tawny has mine, and Sophia is going to need one-" she had barely gotten the words out before a zip in the side of Jason's go-bag was opened and the slim packet containing the thermal blanket emerged, floating to hang in the air in front of her. She grabbed it, flashing him a grin that was less subdued, her freckled nose crinkling adorably. "You're awesome." Stepping closer for a moment, the redhead kissed her boyfriend's cheek and turned, hurrying back over to her recumbent patient. Jason watched her for a moment, observing her tugging the thermal blanket from it's wrapping and kneeling down to fold it around Sophia, before he turned away. His leg hurt, his head ached from power strain. The weariness of the post-adrenaline crash was on him and he slowly sank down to sit in the long grass, looking out over Shelly as he tugged his phone from another pocket of his backpack. The number was dialed. "Dad. It's me." He watched the distant lights, noting the scarcity of moving ones denoting cars as he spoke. "We won." A pause, then. "Just tired, mostly. Some scrapes, a cut on my leg that is already healing thanks to Autumn." His nose wrinkled a little. "And I stink of unmentionable stuff." There was another pause, Jase's eyes distant as he listened. "We're all fine. We kind of came out in the middle of nowhere outside town, but Carl and Misti Jauntsen are coming to pick us up and take us to the med center. No, you don't need to come down there." He pictured the chaos that would likely be taking place soon, parents and cops trying to figure out what was going on whilst medics tried to do their jobs. He shrugged off his go-bag and leaned back in the grass, looking up at the peaceful-seeming stars overhead, part of his mind cataloguing the constellations he could see. "It's going to be a circus - people yelling and getting excited. As soon as I can, I'll be home." Yet another pause, and he reflected on the question this time. "It could have gone a lot worse. We all did well. And no, the Tree isn't going to be a problem in Shelly any more. Not saying there's no Darkness left, but it's rudderless. Cleanup can wait a little." He smiled just a fraction, then. "I will, yes. I love you too. See you soon." Hanging up and letting the phone sit on his chest, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath of the still-warm evening air, folding his hands behind his head as he relaxed. It was a lovely evening, after all.
    2 points
  33. Sean was not a foot-racer... and nothing the rest of the Fellowship witnessed disabused them of that. Thanks to his physique and simple biomechanics, Sean didn't run like most teenaged boys. Sprinting for his life, hands on his chest to restrain any extraneous motion despite the high-quality, high-impact sportsbra he was wearing, most would say he ran like a 'girl'... except the girls of the Fellowship were generally an athletic lot, running and jogging regularly. Hell, Autumn has Sophia over her shoulders like a pro. Even Marissa had her yoga and gynmastics training to fallback on. Spry he might have been, no one would call Sean graceful, at least in regards to running. What he was, was motivated. And at least a little lucky. Screaming wordlessly, pale face tinged green with terror and the indignity that he could very well die like the eye-candy before the starting credits even rolled, his mind locked on the adage that the fastest way between two points was a straight line. He ran flat out for the hillock, feet swinging a bit wildly due to his new hiking shoes and inexperience, making no effort to avoid or navigate any obstacles. He splashed through puddles of steaming or coagulating blood, not a one deeper than an inch. He'd written this encounter before, the party having to escape an unending horde of Giger-esque and Cthulhoid monstrosities from the Far Realm. He never, ever, expected he - they - would be in a situation anything even remotely similar. LARPing, but for real, suuuuucked! Jase pulled further and further ahead despite Sean's best effort, a note of frustrating added to his frightened howl. Logically, Sean could understand the harsh equations that went through Jase's head. Slowing down to keep in step with Sean risked two lives instead of one, two of the Fellowship who were best equipped to slow down the horde and give Devin the time he needed to get the rest of the Fellowship out of here. Sean totally understood, agreed with the reasoning... and couldn't help feeling a bit of bitterness that Jase didn't even look back to see how he was doing, let alone hang back to help him. "Oh lawd, he comin'!" Devin said, unable - or rather, unwilling - to stop the comment while trying to focus his will to breach the barrier between this realm and theirs. Beyond nearly all expectations, especially his own, Sean made it to the hillock with the others without tripping or falling in a tangle of flailing limbs under a wave of claws, tentacles, and less terrestrial protrusions. Heaving and huffing, shuddering with the aftermath of his run, looking like he'd spent a day in a slaughterhouse that had never heard of OSHA, but alive. He'd lost all track of time since they had entered the Blight, they could have been there for seconds, minutes, or even hours as far as he could tell. "Oh, fuck! Fuckity hell shit!" Sean heaved in panic and relief, scrambling up the hillock. "I think I'm having a heart attack! This has to be what a heart attack feels like!" "Faaaat!" replied a chorus of voices. Sean glared at his friends, turquoise and jade eyes wide enough to show white all aroudn, and snorted. "I'm not fat! I'm just unathletic!" "Faaaat!" A hint of humour in the midst of horror, there were a few chuckles. "Fuck the lot of you! I'm supposed to be tech support!" Despite his hoarse, harsh rebuttal, the corners of his mouth twitched up. Sean hunched his shoulders and pulled his hands down, at though hiding under an invisible blanket, and his beads of light swirled around them, then spread out in sheets of red, blue, and green, to form a dome of burning radiance over the hillock and the Fellowship. "Get us the hell out of here!"
    2 points
  34. 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
  35. "Kat, I know it sucks, but I'm gonna need you to get up, now," Autumn called urgently over the din as she glanced over her shoulder at the petite powerhouse. She looked miserable, but not injured in any way the vitakinetic could readily define- not hurt, but hurting. It'd be fine. Probably. "C'mon," she urged again as the tiny French girl groaned and stirred. "We gotta go." Sophia, on the other hand, hadn't yet recovered, and wouldn't be walking out on her own. The curvy brunette's vital signs were more or less stable, and thank all the unnamed gods she actually looked human again thanks to Cassie's intervention, but none of that would matter in a few moments if they didn't get out of there now. The nightmarish masses were closing fast, and even if she couldn't see them, she could feel their wrongness, the mockery of life they represented- that this whole place represented. Despite the shimmering heat of the air all around, the grimy freckle-faced girl shivered. "Cassie, in the front pocket of my backpack there's a solar blanket folded up. Can you grab that for Tawny, please?" She needed to focus. Her companions needed her to focus. It was fine to be afraid. Totally fine. Completely normal. She just... had to keep going forward. As a trembling Autumn arranged Sophia's slack limbs on the ground, Cassandra nodded and rushed over, kneeling down to tug a rectangle of lightweight silver material free of the zippered compartment before darting over to meet Cade as he ascended the hill. At least some of the poor girl's modesty should be preserved, the redhead decided, even if the weirdly emotionless athlete didn't seem to mind, and it would help maintain her body heat until they could get somewhere safe. Not so for the girl before her, since she wasn't being carried like a catatonic bride over some horror-movie threshold. It'd be fine. Grimacing, the redhead set to work hoisting Sophia onto her shoulders. It had been a long time since she'd practiced a fireman's carry, and never in a situation where it actually mattered, never in a place where everything was burning or rotting or screaming or some godsfuckingawful combination of the three, and there was nothing graceful or elegant or smooth about it. She was limp, naked, and slippery with foulness, and although a lifetime of physical activity meant Autumn was theoretically capable of lifting her, it wasn't exactly easy. Autumn's hair was in her face, her heart in her throat, and her stomach somewhere just south of that but rising rapidly as the smell of the girl suddenly caught her full-force, mingling disgust with pity with the adrenaline that drove her heels firmly into the not-soil and the rest of her upward. With one arm hooked around Sophia's right thigh and grasping her right wrist, the blue-eyed teen stood there uncertainly for a moment, gingerly adjusting the unconscious girl's weight and testing her footing. "Sean!" she yelled, leaning forward cautiously as she pitched her voice to carry. "Jase! Let's go!"
    2 points
  36. That's nothing. T'is but a drop. See? Nothing to be scared of. Just a tiny drop of blood in the crimson ocean I'm sitting in. Now that's a- "Wha-" She mentally sighed and stood back up, slowly making her way to the Throne through the surreal plains of bones, her eyes wide open. The Tree agitated itself, and the world seemed to buzz like a feverish anthill around her, her brains lighting every red alarm they could find and urging her to speed up. She frowned and followed the order. [Hey, it's Kat.] The petite French girl poked at Autumn. In truth, she couldn't go much faster, her tentative show of strength a minute ago having left her mildly exhausted. [Yup. Talking in your head. What'd you need me for? Oh, and try to think your answer.] "Ohgod! How do-?" [Ohgod! How do-? Uh, okay, this is fucking weird. Um, hi? Also, we, uh, can't damage the skull. Cassie had a vision that showed her the plow you rebuilt at the Bannon farm. I think you have to do whatever the opposite of that is, maybe? Probably.] [I got you.] Great. There she stood, staring at the grinning skull. She climbed the small hillock of bones on which the Throne was set, her Shine brushing against the grisly figure staring back at her. Goosebumps. Her head visibly recoiled, the 'stench' of the skull unmistakeable to her. The opposite of what I did to the plow, uh? Guess I'll just turn it into dust. Despite what her other senses told her, the skull was but plain old bone. Since what happened at the Bannons' farm, there was no use in wondering if she could do it. She took a deep breath and tapped once more into that reservoir of hers, sharpening her focus as the tip of a spear. At first sight, nothing happened. But the skull seemed to grow smaller, second by second, as specks of dust started coming off. Then she fell to her knees, her hands meeting the bones, and a bright flash of pain piercing her brains. Plick. Plock. Her hazed eyes watched the droplets of blood falling from her nose, their impact on the ground echoing into her ears in a strange, disconnected way. But she couldn't stop. Not now, when her friends needed her. It was working. She was turning the skull into dust. But it was too slow. It demanded too much. Suddenly, she wasn't alone anymore. A familiar, ice-cold presence stood by her the same way it had but a day ago. It wasn't there, but it was there. Her mind accepted it, leaned on that sturdy wall, and it gave her the edge she needed. Ignoring the dancing stars in front of her eyes, she closed them, and the skull decayed, falling to pieces from either side of the Throne's back, crumbling till there was nothing left but thin, pale powder. She rested her rear on her heels, face down, moaning plaintively. "Uuuuuuugh, I don't feel so good..." It felt as if her heart itself was beating inside her own skull. Not the greatest feeling of all. Somewhere, inside, a distant wailing echoed, as if vibrating through her bones - and outside, much like Kat on the ground, the branches of the Tree curled slowly, its receding tendrils thrashing around in a fit of rage.
    2 points
  37. The bruises from Devin's attacks were stinging fly bites, made all the more galling by the fact that Cody could. Not. SWAT. HIM. The transformed teen flailed at his tormentor with curses drooling from his lipless mouth, until a sudden presentiment - or perhaps, the yammering of the older, more experienced voice of Araun - brought him up short, eyes widening as the fire-wreathed figure nearby took another step forward. Bannon's eyes were blazing slits of green flame, his lips pulled back from his teeth in a rictus grin of pain and effort as blood oozed from his nose in twin streams. And as the air about Cody suddenly warmed, steam rising from the pool of rot he stood astride, both troubled sociopathic teen and elder consciousness finally realised they they had been played. By Devin, by Coyote, by their own hubris and pride, by treating these young shards of Radiance as prey to play with and devour rather than true threats to be neutralised. The two Devins that had distracted him both shot Jason a thumbs-up as they vanished, grim smiles on their lips. The fiery tornado formed above the cloud of swarming creatures, a swirl of destructive flame that leapt downwards, incinerating the foul mockeries of insect life before smiting down full upon Cody with punishing force, driving him into a crouch as the pool and the layers of bone and soil vaporised in the blast. Those in the glade felt the heat of it from across it's breadth, as though a furnace door had opened in their faces. Cody screamed, the wail of pain rising above the roar of the firestorm as claws of sentient flame sought him out and ripped at his body, tearing the last shreds of vitality from him. The scream cut off. Dimly, very dimly through the blaze, the spindly figure could be seen to rear up and waver before falling apart into ashes which were whisked up into the funnel of the firenado. Though only Autumn could sense the life - miserable and corrupted as it was - end, all present felt a lessening in the oppressive corruption around them. The buzzing, greasy sensation was still there, but it's avatar was no more. And the Tree felt it. The ground rumbled, the black nightmarish trunk of the thing which looked like a tree but was not writhing against the sullen red sky. Those nearest the Throne felt it first, a malevolence, centered on the skull, emanating and growing in strength. Cody was dead, but something that had possessed and empowered him was very much present, seeming to glare at them through empty sockets. Behind the Throne, root-like tendrils erupted from the ground, slowly tearing themselves free from the gory earth, and the buzz of Corruption which had faded with Cody's death began to grow once more. Cassie saw what would happen now, saw it as clearly as if it were written in stone. The spirit in the skull was unleashing the Tree against them. It would devour them all - their powers would not stand against it. And then it would break free into the 'real' world, bringing the Blight into downtown Shelly, turning Shelly into the Blight. Which would grow, unstoppable, turning everything living into monstrosities who would prey on each other, until the world was a Blight. The Tree could not be defeated. Not while the skull existed. And nothing could damage the skull. Not fire, not impact. Nothing could damage it... but it could be unmade. Unraveled. She saw a flash then, a memory of a tractor plough at the Bannon farm, old and broken, being made whole again...
    2 points
  38. All Cassandra could think on seeing Sophia was no. It was bad enough the Dark had taken Cody. Bad enough that they'd had to learn their abilities, understand what was happening. They hadn't been able to help Cody. They couldn't let Sophia suffer the same fate. Not this time. She opened her inner eyes, and immediately regretted it. This was the seat of the Dark's power, and it was beating down on her like...no, not a drum. More like a heartbeat, as experienced by someone currently inside the heart. Muscular contractions, compression from all sides. Constantly trying to snuff them out, crush them, consume them... It was held back by waves of Radiance that pulsed out from the Fellowship, creating a sort of bulwark against it. Cass could clearly see then how the bracelets took that Radiance in and seemed to refract it, or reflect it, amplifying it and using it to connect one to another. Unlike the normal world, there was no 'ambient' Radiance here. No sparks of life in the earth or air. Sophia did have Radiance in her...the same dim light that most things had. Hers was further muted by a patchwork web of cloying Darkness though, knotting unnaturally through her body. Even as Cassandra watched, it quivered and extended a gelatinous pseudopod, extending a little further into Sophia. This process would continue, she realized. It was an infection. Cassie experimented, mentally concentrating on her Radiance. It shaped itself to her will, rising up and flaring outwards in armlike structures. Yes. This could work...but there was a problem. The Dark was already entwined with the light of Sophia, clinging tightly. If she blasted it out, ripped it from Sophia...even if she had the strength to do that, what would happen to her? Cassandra's Sight could perceive the many layers of Sophia's person, but she didn't understand it or how not to hurt it. She needed help. "Autumn," Cassandra said, and reached out a hand. Wordlessly, the redhead took it in her own, and their perceptions shivered together. With unthinking coordination, Cassie marshaled her Radiance and hurled it at Sophia. The streams of energy split and split again, becoming a billion fractal arms that could reach between molecules by the time they reached the other girl. To the naked eye, the effect was palpable. The world itself seemed to recoil from Cassandra. A sudden wind stirred, blowing away from her...sending cinders and ash up in plumes from the dry bones at her feet. The roiling black clouds in the sky bent up as if a glass dome had just been pressed into them, and flowed outward. From the center of that dish, a beam of Light speared out. It was impossible to say if it came up from the ground, or down from on high...but it was centered not on Cassandra, but on Sophia. Sophia screamed. Not the inhuman howl she'd let out before, but something far worse. It was two voices, overlaid...a warbling, almost electronic shriek with a teenage girl's agonized scream under it. She writhed in place, and seemed to try to double over, bunch her legs...perhaps spring away. Cassandra said "No!" aloud, and reached out her hand. The wind intensified, and Sophia halted in place, bent unnaturally as if pierced by an invisible stake. She clutched at herself and wailed, thrashing but unable to escape. And she was burning...a thick black smoke starting to curl off of her. "Cass what are you DOING?!" shouted Devin. "I can FIX her, Devin!" she replied in kind. A halo of visible Radiance encompassed her now, and spread down her arm to race up and around Autumn as well. Her face was focused, concentrating entirely on Sophia and the dread battle that raged within her. Devin shook his head, sickened at the tortured cries. "You're killing her!" Cassie shook her head. "It's working," she replied. "Look." A second glance told a new story. The 'smoke' wasn't smoke. Sophia wasn't on fire. The Dark was leaching out of her like a thick black dust or ash...wrenched from her body and cast back into the fetid air. Tears started trailing from the corners of Cassandra's eyes. "Just a little bit more, Sophie...just hang in there for a second longer." Radiance speared her, touching every particle of her body with fingers of fire. The pollution that had been forcibly injected...a torture of hours and hours...was now being ripped from her, all the pain compressed into a tiny fraction of the time. Only Autumn's mind, guiding Cassandra's power, saved Sophia from being physically ruptured...caught between the opposing forces that raged throughout her. Sophia's screaming turned hoarse...turned to anguished sobbing. The 'smoke' trailing from her thinned finally, and guttered out. The spear of Light, and the wind died away...the bowl in the clouds started to smooth out. And Sophia, with a final shuddering gasp, opened her eyes. For that moment the Fellowship could see that they were clear. Her teeth and fingers normal. Then Sophia collapsed onto the bones, mercifully unconscious. "Oh my god," Cassie whispered. "Oh my god, Sophie, I didn't know...I'm so sorry..." Autumn squeezed her hand and shook her head. She had some tears leaking from her eyes as well, but her face had a harder edge. "You had to do it," she told Cassandra softly. "It hurt now, but...it would have been worse." Autumn nodded at Cody then, mutely making the point. Cassie looked that way and shook her head at what she saw. "There's almost nothing of Cody left now," she said. "I...I can't do that to him. It's had him too long. It would kill him, even with your help." Autumn frowned at that, and her chin set in a subtly defiant expression. She wasn't quite as ready to give up on Cody, it seemed.
    2 points
  39. Unlike her friends, the petite French girl didn't have much to say. No, between the ghastly spectacle the Dark had made of this place and the rancid, putrefacted corruption insidiously poking at her shield, Kat was pretty alarmed. Although it only had taken the monstrous imitation of the boy Cody once used to be, rushing at them, to shake her stupefaction off, she didn't know what to do. Rather, her brains were too busy assimilating the overload of information thrown at her. Her hands were empty. The two girls holding them had run off towards the Throne. The limp, naked shape of Sophia was in trouble, as Kat noticed. Her shield couldn't be extended any further and the girl was out of reach, corruption clawing at her minute by minute. How long has she been in there? Bright flashes of light, followed by a detonation, brought her attention back to the closest of their problems. What am I gonna do? She took a few steps towards the Throne, towards Sophia, watching as the soft outline of her Shine wrapped itself again around the five distant shapes of her friends. Good enough. She sighed, and focused her senses on Devin's mind. [Devin! Tawny and Sophia, especially Sophia, are in bad shape. We need Autumn to see what she can do. I moved to get them under my shield, but this place... the air... I don't know! Something is not doing them any good.] Understatement of the century. Good job, Kat. [Oh, by the way, it's Kat.] She was short on breath. In fact, she was short on time, and turned towards the towering, menacing monster screaming its discontent. The swiftness at which it had moved from the throne, to there, was absurd. She realized that if she could kill one thing, it would be its speed. True, Kat didn't like manipulating matter, but it would probably be the most efficient way to do it. Her Shine quickly scanned the ground on which Cody was standing. Bones. Rotten flesh. Blood. The knot in her throat tightened. Great. She took a laborious breath and began tapping into that reserve, that chest filled with wonders, hidden deep inside of her. Her field of vision narrowed, blood loud in her temples as Cody's feet began sinking into the ground, bones turned liquid mixing in with the flesh and blood. Kat fell to her knees, hardly coping with the mental strain. Holy shit. You can't stop there, girl. Bones can be used as cement, right? Heat it. Just heat it. She reached once more for her reserve of Shine and extended her hand, propelling a steady stream of blazing heat towards Cody's feet. Sunk ankle deep into a mixture of nightmare, the odd mortar turned solid around them. A victorious grin stretched the girl's lips. Speed killed. Weary, she wiped the blood off her nostrils and sniffed. Blood?
    2 points
  40. His sister was buying him time. He knew that. As the monster that had been Cody was assaulted from all sides by the teenagers, every part of him wanted to join in the fray and vent all his anger on the creature that had killed his friend and stolen Tawny from him. Tawny. They were doing their part and Marissa had bought him the time he needed to do something that only he could do. He didn’t always have to be on the front line to be a hero. Everyone had a part to play, from Cassie and Autumn to Devin, who now needed to make sure those who were taken were safe and kept from further harm. Taggart wouldn’t have believed it. These kids whose minds were on everything from sex to video games to food and Homecoming, but never on the now, were doing it. They were working as a team. One cohesive unit to form a beacon of light in the roiling darkness of shattered hope and despair. “Keep the pressure on!” He shouted. He turned to dash towards the throne, to where Cassie and Autumn had run. In mid stride he disappeared and reappeared at Sophia’s side, where he knelt. He looked up to Tawny, being pulled in towards the giant tree by its animated limbs. “C’mon,” he mumbled to himself. “Please work… please…” he reached out his senses and felt the noetic connection between himself and Tawny. It was faint, but there, the darkness and corruption of the mangled branches working to dim his connection and ability to pull it’s prize away from it. He pulled with his mind, breeching the boundaries of space and the distances between two or more things… and the Dark was there. A part of all things and all places, even in the pockets of the in between, and it refused to relinquish it’s hold on the lovely blonde. He reached up, he didn’t need to, but the somatic gesture helped his focus. Purplish energy illuminated the veins along his arms, his hands and forearms seemed to glow from within, as he pulled with everything he had to tear his best friend from the grip of the menacing avatar. And then, she fell into his arms, appearing in an instant to collapse against him, and he swiftly clutched her tightly and breathed heavily with relief and weariness. He lay her against the side of the throne. “Tee!” He yelled, sliding blood-soaked strands of hair off of her already crimson smeared features. “Tee! C’mon, girl… c’mon… be okay… Tee! C'mon you two. Sophie, Tawny... one of you wake up for me, c'mon girls, this is not how I pictured my first threesome going.” Tawny was in his arms and his temper was already abating slightly. She was cold to the touch, but still possessed a blush in her cheeks. It scared to consider for a moment if the creature had siphoned her Shine from her, leaving her powerless against it. "Dee-j?" She managed to rasp, opening her eyes just barely. He couldn't help her, not here. Not now, but she was alive and to him that was all that mattered. Devin managed a faint smile as some measure of hope was restored in his the grim palace of his mind. "It's me, Tee. We came for you. We're all here for you. I'm here for you."
    2 points
  41. "Yes." Jason's voice was quiet, almost unheard beneath the furor of the corrupted glade as the straight-backed youth stepped swiftly but surely to one side of Sean's laser walls. As Not-Cody snarled his pain and flinched away from the orbiting bead of stinging red light, baring it's teeth in pained menace, Jason's pale emerald stare rested on the creature that had once been Cody and once been a god, and now was neither, as he lifted his arms away from his sides almost as though about to bestow a benediction. His voice was still soft as the firefly motes of copper and gold in the depths of his gaze danced. "Burn." His words had been soft, unnoticed. What came next was neither. Brilliant gold so bright as to be almost white, the aura of his power surged into being around his lean form in a pillar of flame, casting every object in the glade into sharp relief, the shadows themselves flinching back as searing pinions of fire leapt from his arms, reaching out and forward in a sweeping crackling wave of destruction. Shallow pools of rotted blood flash-boiled into the air, the surface layers of bone were reduced to ash as the purifying, terrifying tsunami descended on the howling beast that was their target. The rags of Cody's clothing and hair disappeared into smoke and ash, his flesh charring and blackening awfully in the wake of the attack, which as it receded left the creature of the Dark thrashing at his burning arm, screaming in pain and fear and rage as he cowered from the blazing figure that was staring at him implacably. Cody's mind was chaotic. He wanted to put the fires out, he wanted to punish Cassidy and Bannon and the Jauntsens. But the rage was tinged with fear now. He had been hurt, not once but twice, and badly. A beast at bay, he snarled at them all, a note of confusion now in his defiance. This was not how it was supposed to go! They were supposed to be the afraid ones! Dimly he could hear the older, wiser voice, but it's words seemed unimportant, distant as he glared with smoldering red sunken eyes at his tormentors.
    2 points
  42. “No!” Marissa managed to squeal out as the giant beast launched towards her brother. Her hands cupped over her mouth as he teleported away and then a second time. He was safe, but her heart had sunk into the very pit of her stomach at the thought of her brother being harmed. She felt she needed to do something, but what? Autumn and Cassie took off for the skull, but she could see the hesitation in Not-Cody as hie eyes panned from a desire to defend the skull and it’s rage for killing Devin… Dumbest plan ever. She chastised herself, internally, but didn’t have any time to think up something better. Whether it was fear or courage that breathed life into her voice she wasn’t sure, but the Queen of Mean raised her voice at the Not-Cody-Beast. “Hey!” She shouted at Cody, trying to stand tall and unafraid against the creature. “Don’t you blame my brother for your stupidity you… shriveled little whining incel. No one ever made you do a damn thing. You were pathetic and broken loooong before my brother and I ever got near you.” She tossed in a stern point of her finger and a goose neck for added punctuation. “But oooooh, no…” she chastised. “Poor little Cody. You’re a fucking sociopath, Cody. From the things you said to the way you treated people… you wanna be mad at someone? Be mad at me!” Marissa’s thumbs declared that she should now be the center of attention as her words seemed empower her to take a few sloshing steps in the festering cysts that passed as the firmament in this bizarre place. “Do you know why Katie Shelton didn’t go out with you? Because I told her not to. I warned her you were a fucking creepster. And after she turned you down, we laughed at how you just brooded in the corner like a mewling little simp.” She scoffed at him and folded her arms while delivering the most unimpressed look anyone had seen. “Courtney told us, Cody. We all know. What? Did you think getting a bigger dick in your head would make up for the lack of personality in your pants?” The great beast’s chest heaved as his eyes left Devin and ignored the runners altogether. His rotting lips, or what remained, locked tight in a grimace as his brow furrowed, illuminated by the dull red of his soulless eyes. Like a mighty silverback he threw his arms up and slammed them into the soft ground as he bellowed with rage, splashing liquid and questionable-kibble bits. He faced the gorgeous brunette, whose perfect beauty and rumors of her promiscuity had left his imagination to wander on more than one sleepless occasion, roared loud enough to match lions on the savannahs of Africa. His claws sunk deep into the decay and malaise and his muscles tensed. Autumn and Cassie would have the time they needed, Devin was planning something, and the others too… maybe everything would be okay, she thought, until a flash in her mind spun a tale of all the horrible things she’d ever done to the others and it occurred to her that she wouldn’t blame them if they used the opening, she’d given them to go after the skull, like sensible people should. Yeah… Dumbest plan ever.
    2 points
  43. Cassandra erupted into a startled shriek as Cody leapt in to attack, moving with inhuman speed and ferocity. For a heartbeat everything she'd learned and seen quivered on the edge of extinction under a tsunami of panic that would send her scrambling blindly away. But this was Devin, and these were her friends, and somehow the idea of leaving them was even worse than the idea of facing Cody in this garden of terrors. Her eyes locked on the Throne, and she remembered. "Guys, the skull on the throne! We need to destroy it!" A flicker of memory from one of the Might-Have-Beens compelled her to add, "Jase, he's tough but he's not fireproof! Burn him!" Then she lit out...running, yes, but with purpose rather than panic. Running not away, but towards the mound of bones with the Throne atop it like a leering gargoyle. The footing was bad, especially since she had to avoid Cody, but she managed to keep her feet from sinking between the bones and slowing down or tripping. Cody gave out another guttural howl but Cassie couldn't look back. She had to believe her friends would keep him busy, or else she had no chance...
    2 points
  44. "We don't really need to discuss what's happening next, do we? Charlie's dead, Tawny and Sophia are taken. Let's go get the girls back and Not-Cody's head on a fuckin' stick." Finding out about Tawny and Sophia was a one-two punch right after the haymaker of the news about Charlie had landed. Cassandra was reeling too much to think straight. Half of her wanted to just run on foot to the old Town Hall and punch through the gateway with her fist. Another third wanted to run and hide and cry, and another third...which was too much but that's how it felt...wanted to go to Walmart and stock up on guns and knives and then head to the farm to plot and plan and...and she needed a camera...but mostly she just needed her friends... Cassie felt fingers lace with her own and when she looked down and then up to see whose, she was already holding hands with Marissa. “Ride with me?” the beautiful socialite asked with an expression that Cassie could only describe as pleading. “If I drive alone, I might lose my nerve.” The admission left Marissa vulnerable and Cassie’s particular gift saw how truly scared she was. Hell, how scared they all were, as they stood upon the threshold of Death’s doorstep. The twins had even gone so far as to try and clear their consciences like prison inmates before a lethal injection, in the hopes that if there was some higher power and a Hell to follow that perhaps bit of last minute honesty and selflessly sacrificing for Sophia and Tawny might save their souls. It was strange notion, but honestly, at this point in their lives, what really qualified as strange? As jarring as it was, seeing Marissa of all people openly asking for help bumped Cassie's spinning head back into something resembling order. She wasn't alone. She had more friends, and they were counting on her. It was time to get her shit together. Her fingers tightened around Marissa's, and she nodded. "Yeah. Thanks." They went to Marissa's car and got in without further comment. As they started to pull out, Cass said, "Hang on, I wanna pick something up from mom's car. I brought some stuff." That earned her a quizzical look from Mari, but it was an easy stop to make. Cassandra popped out and opened the trunk with her fob. Inside was a brown paper grocery bag that she'd assembled on Jase's advice to make a 'go bag.' Inside was some camping gear she'd scavenged from the garage, along with the pads she'd used when learning to skateboard. It wasn't much as 'armor' went, but she figured it was better than absolutely nothing. She hauled the sack back to Marissa's car and set it on the floor between her feet as she got back into the passenger's seat. Mari gave her a raised eyebrow, then shrugged and set off again. They went in silence, neither knowing what to say...and perhaps feeling that there was nothing left TO say. Everyone knew what the stakes were now. The Dark had left no room for questions or discussion. Now there was only the fight.
    2 points
  45. "Cade and Sean have their cars, Marissa has hers, I have mine, and Devin has his bike." Jason spoke up quietly from where he was sitting on the picnic table, a lit cigarette idly dangling from the corner of his mouth, smooth fragrant tobacco smoke a hint in the evening air as he watched everyone in that calm, intent way he had. He turned his gaze on Autumn, shrugging. "We might as well just head to the Old Town Hall in convoy - it isn't far - and it means we can take the bags with us without causing much comment." As he spoke, he slid from the table and hefted a strap of his own go-bag onto one shoulder, glancing around at the others, glacial eyes studying them all. It was hard for those unfamiliar with him to say what thoughts moved behind that inscrutable, somehow ageless stare. But those more attuned to the differences and variations in Jason Bannon's moods could see in the depths of the green pools of his gaze a gleam that denoted banked embers of rage, a terrible eagerness merely awaiting oxygen... And something to burn. "Is everyone ready?" he asked, moving to Autumn's side as she released and stepped back from her embrace with her friend. = = = = = = Tawny didn't remember much of how she got here. There had been the sensation of being seized, and then a terrible wrenching, sickening sensation like... like falling backwards into water and feeling it go up your nose, but a thousand times worse. She guessed she must have sort of passed out, because then there was just dimly-remembered sensations of being carried like a sack of potatoes over a large, bony shoulder through a bitingly cold, foul-smelling darkness filled with chittering, whispering things. It was the muttering that brought her back to herself: a voice both familiar and not talking - no, arguing in a hoarse, glottal tone with someone or something that could not be heard. The pretty blonde girl blinked, taking stock of the slick wet sensation under her hands and bare legs. Going by touch alone, it felt like she was in an inch or so of water, interspersed with lumpy, uncomfortable protrusions. From beyond her closed eyelids came a reddish, dull glow. "You promised. You said I could have them. All the girls I wanted!" There was a yearning, gnawing wheedling sense to the voice. But Tawny recognised it despite the inhuman undertones. God save her, she recognised the voice: Cody. "This one too! She is Devin's! I want her, just like I want all that is his!" The muttering rose to a shriek on that last sentence, then fell away into murmurs again. "Jauntsens, and Bannon, and all of them. I will take what is theirs. Like they took from me. Make them small, make them afraid." Tawny sat up and opened her eyes, and fought the simultaneous urge to close them again and retch. She was sitting in blood. Thick, cold and viscous, it oozed around her, staining her sneakers and hands, seeping into her shorts. She'd been laying in the foul stuff, clotted and rotting, with lumps of bone and... well, best not to look to closely. She bit back the scream that threatened to tear itself from her throat and forced her gaze upwards. The landscape was bones, bones and blood, with a red sky that pulsed with dull light. Almost directly ahead of her was a throne built of aged, yellow bones, fitted together like puzzle pieces, held together by God-knew-what, and topped by a giant skull, the antlers of which spread above the throne like a grisly sun-shade. And on the throne was... Cody. Only not Cody. She'd heard the story from Devin and the others. Heard that he'd been changed. But it was one thing to hear and another to see, and all Tawny could do was experience a wave of mingled terror and great pity as she looked upon what Cody had become. Sure, he was always creepy - only Devin's aegis had protected her from the boy's attentions - but this? Surely nobody deserved this. She forced her eyes away from the muttering, arguing figure, unwilling to call it's attention to herself, and looked around. Behind her was the Tree. It was, if anything more horrible than anything else she'd ever seen. So black it appeared to leach light from it's surroundings, the Tree gave the appearance of motion, of hideous slithering life. Whether it was her Shine, or some other instinct, Tawny knew that whereas Cody was a perversion of God's plan, the Tree was from outside that Plan altogether. It was wholly unnatural, a hellish mockery of a growing thing. Under her horrified, fascinated gaze, two of it's 'roots' slowly withdrew themselves from the fetid morass of blood and worse around it's base with a sickening sound, waving gently in the air from side to side, as if scenting fresh prey. Then it was reaching for her, the black tendrils slowly undulating through the air, groping blindly, hungrily. Finally, Tawny was unable to hold back her scream.
    2 points
  46. A number of responses sprang immediately to the forefront of Autumn's mind as she slid the elastic bands back onto her wrist, some more charitable than others: a somewhat skeptical observation that both the twins seemed determined to clear their consciences along with a grudging appreciation for the same, despite the timing; a (slightly) sarcastic expression of gratitude that Marissa was giving her permission to be happy, and a genuine one at the notion that one of America's Most Wicked would actually apologize, as well as some incoherent internal screaming at the pernicious princess's persistent inability to be sincere for ten whole seconds. "Marissa." The redhead's voice was uncharacteristically thoughtful as she tugged intently at the front of her long-sleeved shirt, lining up the buttons before beginning to fasten them. Maybe this really would be the last conversation they had, and while there were so, so many things Autumn wanted to say, none of them seemed necessary, or relevant, or helpful at all in this situation. "EmJay. We are friends. You said so yourself, and, honestly, it's not like you gave me much choice," she added with a wry, one-sided grin, her nose crinkling slightly as warm blue eyes fixed on the beautiful socialite's deep brown ones. "Besides. Apparently fighting is a thing friends do, so... Progress." She shrugged, the smile fading by degrees as her pale, bronze-flecked fingers combed through the tangled mess that was her hair after a very busy day. "It'll be fine. And the sooner we get this over with, the sooner we can figure out what happens next, yeah?" As Marissa nodded, forcing a smile, the red-haired teen reconsidered; even if a part of her grumped cynically that the apology was really too little, too late, it had obviously been difficult for Mari to even offer it in the first place. Maybe it was sincere, and maybe it wasn't, and maybe the glamorous girl herself couldn't tell the difference. Does that matter, though? Really? She was obviously having a hard time with a seriously fucked-up situation, and they were friends, and there were rules, sacred and inviolate. "Yeah," Autumn reaffirmed as she gave up trying to un-snarl the riot of copper curls that stubbornly refused to be tamed, reaching out instead to pull the dark-haired diva into a brief, fierce hug- abandoning one lost cause for another. "Speaking of what happens next," she called over Marissa's shoulder, leaning up a little to compensate for the brunette's ridiculous shoes, "who's driving?"
    2 points
  47. “Hey.” Autumn leaned over a little, positioning herself in Devin’s field of vision. He seemed like a different person, with the knowledge of Tawny’s abduction hanging over his head- there were no snarky quips, no crass jokes, no obnoxiously flirty comments. It seemed like a bit of a mixed blessing, though, because while she didn’t have the urge to strangle him on sight, she also knew he had to be having a hard time. Had to. He was a jerk, but a human one, at least. “Listen, my family’s on their way back to the house. Would you take me to pick up my stuff real quick? I don’t, um, really wanna run into them and do the whole goodbye thing again, so…” She shrugged, a barely perceptible movement of her shoulders. “Yeah,” he said almost unconsciously, the response fast enough that she wondered if he even heard her. His mind was clearly on other things while the others were milling around and it was obvious at this point he was only looking for ways to keep his hands and his mind occupied. “Sure.” He motioned for her to step forward and she did so, assuming that he was going to hold her hand or put his arm around her, as it allegedly made the travel more stable and accurate (although anything would’ve been an improvement after the trip to the prison). As she moved closer to him he slid his arm around her waist and she felt a sudden, sharp blow to her gut, as though someone had wrapped a rope around her midsection and the other end to a truck that just sped off at light speed. It was awful, and she wondered if Devin felt that every time; he never seemed to be bothered by it. And then, just as suddenly, it was over, and they were in the foyer of the Keane family home. He let her go with no quips or jokes, not even a smile or eye contact. As she raced up the stairs to retrieve what she came for he followed after her slowly. “At least yours said ‘goodbye’.” His words caught up with her as Autumn all but slid into the bathroom at the top of the landing, and she paused as she let the warm water from the faucet soak a washcloth she’d pulled from the towel rack. Had his parents actually not cared? Or did they not know? Frowning, the grubby redhead grimaced at her reflection and swiped the grime from her face with one hand, rummaging in one of the cabinet drawers for hair ties with the other. She didn’t know much about the Jauntsen parents, except what the twins had mentioned, but considering the way Devin and Marissa had turned out… Ugh. She grabbed a couple of spare ponytail holders in case the other girls needed one, shut off the water, and ran back out. “One sec!” She held up a finger as she darted past him, through an open door to the right. “And no peeking!” “No peeking at what?” he asked, glancing around at the photos on the walls, the familial touches that differentiated a house from a home. “Is that your room? The Keane sanctum?” “Yes, it’s my room, and I’m changing,” Autumn called back, then, an on impulse added, “The sanctum’s in the basement.” Grabbing the clothes she’d worn on her adventure with Cassie from the chair, she was momentarily grateful for her own laziness in putting them away; sometimes not being a neat-freak had its advantages. They still smelled faintly of fabric softener, she realized, and the light, clean scent of whatever it was the Bannons used for detergent. She kicked off her sneakers, aiming in the general direction of the closet and, with a surreptitious glance at the door to make sure Devin wasn’t looking- because Devin- shucked her cut-off shorts and quickly yanked on the infinitely more practical trousers. “Boots, boots…” she muttered, scanning the floor. “Must be downstairs. Okay. Ummm.” Think, Autumn. “Right. Okay.” She pulled on the long-sleeved shirt over the one she was wearing without bothering to button it up and, after a moment’s consideration, grabbed her faded red hoodie from the back of the desk chair. For luck. “Backpack’s in the garage. So, um, did your parents really not say goodbye?” She was just fastening her belt as she walked back out to the landing in her sock feet, and glanced curiously at the unusually somber comedian. “Eh, dropped the powers thing on them, so they know now. Side of the chair,” he said, drawing her attention to where a pair of teenager-sized boots were. One looked like it might’ve been carried off by a dog judging by how it was further away from the other, which was just lying forlornly on its side. “Teleported in front of them, and my mom only saw dollar signs. Probably already on the phone with Hollywood trying to get us a movie deal. My dad, he didn’t believe it but he couldn’t deny it. More or less just…” he grumbled. “I don’t know. He seemed parenty, but after years of them sucking at it, I don’t even know what to think, you know?” He fell silent for a moment, then dismissed the thought. “I don’t know. My mind’s not right,” he shrugged. “Maybe I’m just taking it out on them, I guess.” “Maybe,” the redhead agreed, standing up from the sofa where she’d been sitting, and settling her heels into the weathered hiking boots with a quick stomp of her feet. “Or maybe they’re just kind of assholes and don’t know what to think, either. I mean, honestly,” she shrugged a little, knotting the arms of her hoodie around her waist. “You and your sister… Okay, how do I put this?” Jerking her head toward the kitchen, she motioned for him to follow her as she headed past the dog bowls, and then paused, chewing thoughtfully at her lower lip. The four of them were probably napping under the deck by now. “You haven’t exactly been great, you know? And, yeah, I know I’ve said this before, but if I’ve had to deal with you guys for the last three years, you can deal with me complaining for a while.” With a sigh, Autumn grabbed a container of treats from the counter and dropped two each in Lexi’s, Dakota’s, Briggs’s, and Zee’s food dishes. It’ll at least be something nice when they come back in, she decided, closing the lid and replacing the jar. “I guess what I mean is, you two still suck, but you suck less than you used to. And…” Tilting her head, she stared at the ceramic cookie jar, drumming her fingertips on the counter. “And you’ll probably suck a little less tomorrow. So, maybe your parents are the same? I dunno. Anyway, let me grab this stuff and we can go,” she added, heading toward the garage door. “I know we’re kinda in a hurry.” “Hey, wait,” she felt his hand tighten around her arm, stopping her. Devin was a joker, sure, but he was never really a handsy guy with his antics, he generally kept them to himself. When she turned to face him he met her eyes. “Real quick, look… um, I know I deserve it, and everything you said was spot on for the most part, I just want you to know Autumn, seriously… that I’m sorry. I’ve got a lot of work to do before I earn your trust and respect, I get that, but all jokes aside, I’m trying. I want to be your friend, I want to find some way to close that chapter on our past and maybe write some better ones, you know? With me being a better and more likable guy and you… I don’t know,” he chuckled. ”You’re pretty great, so I guess you just don’t have to do anything but be you.” He watched a faint pink flush spreading beneath the freckled skin of her cheeks as one eyebrow arched skeptically upward. “But,” he nodded, looking grimly serious. “If you can’t forgive, I understand. Please know though that until this craziness is done, whether you love me or hate me, care for me or are careless, miss me or think me invisible… I’ll be there for you. For all of you. I mean it. Don’t hesitate to call me.” He took a deep breath and tried to compose himself a bit. Perhaps he’d felt like he had said too much. He cleared his throat and motioned past her, signaling he wasn’t going to hold her up any more. “Considering what we’re about to do, I uh, didn’t want to die without you knowing how sorry I was. For everything.” Autumn’s wide blue eyes were serious as they studied Devin’s expression, and she was quiet for a moment, simultaneously waiting for the punchline and considering what he’d said. It didn’t seem like he was kidding, but this was also Devin, and he had a tendency to spring his signature brand of snark when you were least expecting it. When he let the words just hang there between them, awkwardly, instead of trying to twist them into a joke, she nodded. “Yeah. You’re right. You are trying. I’ll give you that much.” The corner of her mouth twitched upward slightly, a crooked half-grin on her freckled features. “I can’t promise I’m not gonna give you shit about it, though, or get pissed off, because even if I am pretty great, I’m not perfect yet. So.” With a decisive huff, she turned back toward the door and grabbed his arm, leading him through it along with her. “We take care of all this, survive the night, and go from there. Not a closed chapter, necessarily, but…” Releasing him as they entered the garage, the red-haired vitakinetic glanced back at the former bully over her shoulder and grabbed a sturdy-looking backpack from a shelving unit along with the crowbar that had lain next to it. “Maybe a new page, at least. Deal?” "Fair enough,” he said and then she saw it. That signature smirk of his that told her he was still in there, somewhere, under all the turbulent currents crashing against the rocks of his mind- and she was pretty sure there were actual rocks in his head. “C’mon, let’s get back, and um… thanks.” He slid his arm around her and this time he looked at her for a moment before they left. “You know, if you uh, take a deep breath before, it doesn’t jerk as much. It’s the vacuum pulling the breath from your lungs. It’s an instant, so it doesn’t get all of it. I don’t even notice it anymore.” She drew in a deep breath experimentally and felt the pull as reality shifted, but he was right: only a portion of that breath got drawn from her lungs and she hardly felt a thing this time. Before she could blink they were back with the others and he let her go wordlessly. As his arm slid away from her waist he just walked off, his eyes still empty and his head still full while his heart remained heavy. Watching him go with a pensive expression, Autumn let the pry bar slip through her fingers until it rested on the ground, braced against her thigh. A new page... Yeah. That could work. She slipped a handful of elastic bands from beneath the bracelet on her wrist and held them up. "If anybody needs a hair-tie, speak now or forever hold your peace."
    2 points
  48. Devin nodded, space warping as he disappeared in a muted flash of rippling purple light. They walked on in silence for a short few minutes. Somewhere, inside the jade and crystalline halls of his mind, Jason had been and still was processing the loss of someone who, whilst not a close friend, was nevertheless part of his circle. Someone he'd talked to, who'd talked to him, who he had shared games and snacks and dangerous situations with. A sense of loss, of sudden and wrongful absence was there, but there was little of what would recognisably be called 'sorrow' to a human mind. More keenly was felt the sense of personal failure. He should have checked up on Charlie when the other teen hadn't answered his phone or come to training, that chilly observer told him. Perhaps it would have done no good, but he had been lax regardless. Memories of Charlie flickered across his mental screen: the raid on the Crossroads facility, the time Charlie had tried to reach out to him last Monday... And now Tawny: kind, friendly, peripherally also now a part of his circle. Yes, he felt similarly to Devin. Rage roared and crackled in its chains in his soul, a fire similar to that which had flared to life when Liam had attacked Lona. Someone - something - had killed one and taken another of his people. And would pay in screams. But he was learning, also. His anger was not blinding him completely to what was happening in front of him. He'd noted the flush of anger and the widened eyes of disbelief on the cinnamon-freckled face he spent so much time studying these days. He had spent time in learning to people, analysing context and expressions, and Autumn was an easy subject for such studies. Warmly and openly emotional, every flicker of the flame of her personality could be read in her face. Was now the time to address it? Rationally, it seemed better than letting such feelings fester, and it was not as if there was anything else to do whilst guiding Jacob to safety. "You were not wrong." he said quietly, glancing at Autumn past the youth between them. "I just cannot take the chance that our enemy is waiting for another one of us to be alone and distracted." A pause, then. "Least of all you." Three long, cleansing breaths. Three counts of four on each measured inhalation as she concentrated on the lingering scent of spice-laden smoke from dozens of grills and the bright, sharp fragrance of conifers in the warm afternoon air, followed by a slow, deliberate exhalation. It was fine. Everything was fine. They were just going to take Jacob back, still looking for all the world like he'd just been smashed in the head and thrown against a tree, because he had, somehow convince her family she needed to stay behind instead of going with them where it was safe, and then go plan an assault on a psychotic murderous monster that used to be one of their classmates, try to rescue another classmate before he ate her face, find a way back home, and not die or lose their freaking minds in the middle of all that. It was fine. Everything was fine. Autumn was... Okay, maybe "fine" wasn't the right word for it, she admitted to herself, cutting her eyes past Jacob to where the Effing Boyfriend was helping him take one step at a time. "Cool." She turned her attention back to the field, to the shapes of people and food trucks and cars ahead. "So, I wasn't wrong, but you guys decided to just do what you wanted anyway?" A part of her felt guilty for being upset at something so stupidly trivial, especially when there was so much else to be angry and worried and sad about- but she couldn't pretend not to be, either. "Further planning is superfluous." If Jason was relaxing his vigilance at all now that they were close to 'home', he didn't show it as he resumed scanning the woods. "We have as much of a plan as we can formulate. Get to the location, cross over, take out whatever we find. The key tactical move right now is to minimise any damage we can suffer until we can strike as one. That means pairing up, not leaving anyone exposed, and meeting in one spot before we go after the enemy." His manner was calm, matter-of-fact. "Devin can rally everyone. You were not wrong, but you were not right either." "The only reason I did not address it before is because it meant more standing around rather than acting, and Devin needed to be doing something to keep him focused. That's why I'm discussing it now." He paused for a moment, glancing over at Autumn once more. "It was not my intention to be rude or thoughtless, or imply that your opinion has no weight with me." "You're right." And, she had to admit, he was. Mostly. It was a completely, totally, frustratingly reasonable argument, much like Jason himself. "Devin does need to be doing something. And Devin also could use somebody who isn't freaking out about losing his best friend to a monster to help him do that. He basically just admitted if this Ellie, or whatever, hadn't taken back the bracelet, he'd have done exactly what we assumed and run off like an idiot. He listens to you," she added quietly, her free hand tugging at the end of what had once been a passable braid draped over her shoulder. "So, yeah. You're right, but you're also wrong. Because even if you don't see a need for planning, people can't read your mind, Jase." She was quiet for a moment as they walked, and then conceded with the ghost of a grin, "Not that they would. Or at least not more than once, probably." Sobering again, the redhead continued. "But, still. Ten bucks says everybody's freaking out right now and nobody knows what's going on, and they're all gonna be talking over each other. I think you should've gone with him, and even if you didn't mean to seem like my opinion doesn't matter, it did." Frowning, she glanced back up at Jacob, checking his eyes before focusing on the pale green ones just beyond. "They're more important." "So we are both right, and both wrong." If Jason was ruffled by her statement it didn't show. But he did nod, slowly, his gaze thoughtful for a second as it once more rested on her earnest features. "When there is no clearly logically superior answer, I will come down on the side of protecting those dearest to me." There was another moment's silence as they saw the Keane / Crocker enclave come into view, and the composed youth's lips twitched in a faint smile. "And next time, I will make it plainer that I am not simply dismissing your concerns. That was clumsy and rude, and I apologise for it." "Oh. Well, okay then," was all she said for a few seconds, her expression somewhat mollified as she gazed at the familiar figures ahead: the slim auburn-haired form of her mother, the tall warden in his faded green cap, and her father, perpetually business casual. The sheer act of walking, of moving, had, on its own, dissipated some of the immediacy of her frustration, and he'd apologized, and he'd said he'd handle it differently in the future. If there was a checklist for defusing arguments, she could see him methodically marking off each box as he went... But it worked, she admitted grudgingly. He'd been like this when they'd gone camping, too, though, when she'd gotten embarrassed and upset. Totally reasonable. Totally logical. Totally, and utterly, and- "You're completely impossible," she sighed, admitting defeat. "You know that?" "Yes." he admitted, tone taking on a slight warmth that matched the hint of dimple in his cheeks and the look he gave her as they covered the last of the distance. "I know. You're sort of neat yourself." "'Impossible' isn't a compliment." Autumn replied tartly, fighting the urge to smile again. Damn him, was he distracting her? "I suppose it depends on who I hear it from." Jase responded mildly, but there was no more time for byplay as the adults ahead took notice of the approaching trio and reacted, Dana reaching them moments ahead of Ian and Nathan as they clustered around. "Oh my god!" the pretty vet exclaimed, the color draining from her face as she took in the sight of the boy who'd grown up alongside her own child, his hair and featured dark with drying blood. "Autumn, what-?" Nathan swore under his breath and slipped one arm around his son as the younger redhead stepped aside, her hand leaving a faint smudge on the back of Jay's shirt. "Help me get him to the table where he can sit down." The warden glanced at Jason, eyeing the leanness of the young man supporting Jacob, and nodded toward the denuded picnic table, now stripped of cloth and snacks and drinks. They'd been busy, and had apparently taken the teens' advice about packing up to heart. "He's okay." Autumn murmured to her mother. "He just needs to get cleaned up and get some rest." Dana stared at her for a moment, at the wild disarray of her hair, the remnants of leaf litter and dirt on her legs and her clothes, and the deep reddish-brown stains on her shirt and hands. "I'm serious," she added. "He's got a little bit of a concussion, 'cause I wasn't sure how to deal with that and we were in a hurry, but the big stuff is handled already." She hesitated for a moment, glancing at the wide blue eyes of her father, and then back at her mom. "Like the grass." "Like the grass?" echoed Ian, looking from daughter to wife with a confused expression. The news of another teen's death, and now Jacob, and through it all the vague sensation, strengthening all the time, that his family were keeping something from him, was taking it's toll on the man's patience. "Why is he covered in blood? Why are you covered in blood?! What do you mean 'the big stuff is handled'? Jacob needs a hospital-" "Ian." Dana put a hand on his arm, exerting an effort to keep her own voice calm, especially since the angry husband's voice was raising in volume. "Please. There's a talk we need to have." Meanwhile, Nathan and Jase got Jacob to the table and lowered him to the bench, the keenly observant warden not failing to notice that he barely had to do any of the lifting. As he checked his son's eyes and the wound on his scalp, he looked at the silent, lean shape who stood a little apart, his own attention on the family unit nearby. "What happened?" he asked, and the pale emerald gaze moved back to him. "He was attacked and the girl he was with was taken." Jason's voice was low and quiet. "Autumn got him out of danger with her gifts, we brought him back." He paused, that cold stare assessing the older man. "From what Autumn has said, you know some of what is going on. Our enemy is moving against us. That is why he was attacked and Charlie is gone." "We can have it now," Autumn cut in, hoping she sounded calmer than she felt. "He's covered in blood because he was attacked while he and Tawny were out walking," she explained as succinctly as she could, trying to call to mind the cool, clear focus she felt when Jase's Shine brushed against her own. She avoided entirely the issue of that walk being in the woods, and how exactly she and Jason had found him. Here we go, I guess. "This-" she took in a deep, steadying breath and plucked nervously at her shirt, wincing as, for the first time, she considered what she might actually look like, "is Jay's, not mine, and he doesn't need a hospital because I took care of him." Ian stared at her as though she were speaking some other language than English, something he hadn't studied in college. Was he angry? Hurt? Confused? Yeah, probably, she reasoned, a pang of guilt twisting in her chest. But it was better to just take the Band-Aid off all at once, now that they'd started, rather than try to peel it off a little at a time. ...Did they even have time? Ha. "There's gonna be a lot of bruising over the next few days," she continued, glancing anxiously at her mother, and then back at her dad. Back at the face that had been conspicuous in its absence over the last couple of years, but which also belonged to someone who- she knew- loved her unconditionally despite all that. "And he's probably going to have the worst headache of his life when he finally does get some rest, because he does still have a concussion. But the cut on his head, the swelling and bleeding on his brain, and some of the minor stuff from getting thrown around are all taken care of." Over at the picnic table, Nathan was struggling with questions of his own. Sure he, like Dana had presumed that Jason would be one of the 'special' teens Autumn had hinted at. And he knew there was an enemy, a Darkness over Shelly. But the answers he possessed simply led to more questions, and the silent youth standing there regarding the Keane's once more was not forthcoming with further answers. "So what now? What are you all going to do?" he asked, sitting down beside Jacob and keeping his boy upright, helping him to rest back against the table's edge. Jason looked back at him again, and Nathan was struck again by the composure: that weirdly quiet confidence that belonged on a much older man. "Same plan as before. Only we're moving it up." the youth with ancient eyes responded. "We rescue who we can, avenge who we must, and put the threat down. Or we die trying." "Taken care of how, exactly?" Ian asked warily, studying the freckled features of his dishevelled daughter. Reading people was part of his job, gave him insight into what his clients were thinking and how best to take advantage of that; Autumn was nervous, but she wasn't lying. He'd often teased her about her terrible poker face, but depite the sense of growing unease and his own frustration, a part of him was grateful for at least that one constant. "Because he looks like he's been dragged backwards out of hell and you look like you were the one doing the pulling." "Um." It wasn't exactly an eloquent start, but with her father staring at her like she'd just put a soccer ball through the living room window, it was the best she had. "Okay." Resting her hands atop her head, Autumn fixed her eyes on the realtor and held them there, the rubber soles of her worn sneakers flexing slightly as she shifted her weight from one side to the other. "So, there's a super long story, but basically, I can affect living things. Hurt them, heal them, make them stronger or weaker, things like that. That's how I helped Jay." The wary expression on her father's face fell away, replaced by a mask of utter disbelief. "You're telling me you have magic healing powers." "Kind of?" the restless young woman hedged, her shoulders and elbows twitching upward in something like a shrug. "I mean, at least it's useful, right?" "Right." Ian nodded, turning to regard Dana speculatively. "This is your father's fault," he stated flatly, as his wife's warm, honey-colored eyes widened in outrage. Jason stepped away from where he'd been speaking to Nathan as he registered the shift in tones and body language. The colour leaching from Dana's warm complexion and the way her eyes widened was an indicator that Ian's comment, hardly delivered at a discreet volume, was about to trigger at the very least a blazing argument. In the chilly calculus of Jason's mind not only was this likely to slow things down, but it would also layer additional anxiety and stress onto Autumn at a time when she could not afford distractions. A quick glance around showed that the Keane-Crocker enclave was remote enough that a demonstration would not attract attention, especially now that the word was spreading about Charlie. People were packing up, the festival atmosphere shattered, the Carousel coming to a halt as parents collected their children with hugs, guiltily grateful that they had not suffered the same loss as Lucius and Hannah. Dana's eyes were going from wide with shocked outrage to narrowing in simmering anger. Ian had the look of a man who knew he had spoken in haste and poorly, but didn't know if it could be unsaid and still uncertain as to whether it should be. And Autumn was looking stricken from her father to her mother as Dana brought her hand up in a sharp, blurring half-circle. The slap did not land. Nor did it impact a bruisingly solid force. Rather, something in the air between the two adults stole away the kinetic momentum of the blow and stopped it in mid-air, a few inches from Ian's face. Startled, Autumn's father stepped back a pace as all three Keanes looked at the motionless open hand. "Excuse me." The tone was calm, but carried the faintest of edges as Jason stepped into the circle, not quite between Autumn's parents, standing across from his girlfriend. He held out a hand, palm up, and motes of light coalesced there seconds before a flame sprang up from his palm, dancing golden and orange. He looked at Ian as Dana's hand dropped to her side. "Autumn is telling the truth. And you need to listen." he said into the silence. The girl in question sighed, a heavy sound that faded into a soft groan. Of course, it would be too much to expect that this conversation would go as smoothly the second time around, and they were already running behind. "So, I guess that's one person I don't have to ask permission to talk about," she quipped nervously, her father's face going from angry to ashen in a matter of moments as Dana reached out tentatively toward the flickering flame held captive in Jason's hand. "It's actually warm," she murmured in astonishment, staring at the unblemished skin of his palm. "How?" "The same way I do it," Autumn interjected quietly, hazarding a smile. "It's all energy, sort of, just... He uses it differently. So. Yes, Dad, there are plenty of myths and legends, but a lot of them, especially the ones Grandpa believed, were based on true stories. This is part of the truth they were based on." "Fine," he muttered irritably, passing a hand over his face with a weary sigh. This was not how he'd pictured the day going when they'd started that morning. He'd expected to have to work to get back in his family's good graces, but dealing with whatever insanity this was defied all reason. "Fine. We'll talk about it at home. Let's just finish packing up, and you can tell me all about how this is completely normal and not at all crazy." When Autumn didn't move, but glanced instead at her fire-conjuring boyfriend, a sense of apprehension crept up Ian Keane's spine. "Autumn?" His daughter's eyes widened slightly, brightened as though suddenly wet, and she shook her head. "I'm not going." "Autumn," he repeated firmly. "We don't have time for this." "I know!" Her voice shook, hands slipping from the top of her head as she stared up at the open expanse of blue sky above, its brilliance mocking the grim horrors of the day. "I know we don't have time. Tawny's missing, Charlie's dead, and Jacob was nearly killed. I can't go home with you. Not until we fix this." "Wait." Dana shook her head, turning away from the inscrutable young man to regard her daughter with a frown. "No, no. Wait just a minute, young lady. You said this was happening later." Ian opened his mouth to protest, to demand a clarification, but the pretty vet lifted a hand in warning. "What happened to later, Autumn?" The expressive young redhead looked over at Nathan, at the friend she'd only just found again and almost lost, and swallowed past the lump in her throat. "Jacob and Tawny happened." "And Charlie happened." Jason closed his hand, snuffing the flame out as he moved to stand by Autumn's side, slender fingers reaching down and taking her hand gently. "There is an enemy, an entity. Malevolent, old, and hungry. Normal weapons cannot harm it, normal people cannot face it. Together, though, we can destroy it. And we need to. And we cannot put it off any longer, because now we know it's actively after us, and not content to wait anymore." "This is... it's..." Dana and Ian said almost in unison, then glanced at each other before looking back at their teary-eyed daughter and the outwardly calm youth beside her. "This is a lot." Jason said quietly, almost sympathetically. "We thought Autumn would have time to explain it to you more gently. But we are out of time. The rest of us are gathering and getting ready." "The house is safe. As safe as it can be made, anyway. When you get home..." She hesitated, her fingers tightening reflexively on Jason's. Why was it so hard to say, when everything was already decided? "Are you kidding me?" Autumn blinked at her father as he stepped forward. "Ancient evils that can't be hurt by conventional weapons are killing high school kids and you expect me to just, one, buy the whole story, and two, let my daughter walk into that? No. And even if, if you're both telling the truth, that's all the more reason for her to come with us." He reached out, plainly intending to grasp Autumn's arm and tug her to his side and away from the quiet-voiced interloper, a possessive and protective gesture as old as fatherhood. And now it was Ian Keane's turn to contact that strange immobility, his face contorting with effort and frustration as his hand would not move forward anymore, no matter how he pushed. "That is up to Autumn to decide, not anybody else." Jason's words were as simply spoken as when last uttered, but now took on an edge that overlaid the unadorned conviction of before. "Ian." Dana's hand trembled as it slid over his arm, drawing it back. He stared first at the strange, too-composed youth, then at his wife, who shook her head. "She's coming home. Just... not right now. Not with us. All right?" Her voice, for all that it wavered, was underscored by resolve as unyielding as the earth underfoot. "Jason," she addressed her daughter's boyfriend with an air of quiet resignation, her chin held high. "You can drop her off later." There was a sense that the slender, dignified woman was not so much granting permission, but issuing a decree. He inclined his head slowly - almost respectfully - to Dana, and Autumn felt his fingers squeeze her hand in reassurance as he glanced at her. "Are you ready?" he asked her softly. "Almost." Her eyes burned, and Autumn rubbed at them with the back of her arm as she pulled away. Without ceremony or preamble, she jogged over to the picnic table and threw an arm around Jacob's shoulders, heedless of dirt and blood alike as she pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. Nathan didn't wait his turn, but instead swept the athletic young redhead up in a bear hug, lifting her feet off the ground until she squeaked in protest and he finally set her down again. There were no emotional farewells, no promises; nothing else needed to be said between them. As she walked back toward her parents, however, all the words she wanted to say caught in her throat, the sounds snarled together in a knot that emerged only as a strangled cry. This might be the last time she'd see them, and somehow she couldn't even say goodbye. It wasn't fair. None of this was fair. With a soft murmur, Dana caught the girl up in her arms, resting her chin atop Autumn's copper curls as the sunlight coaxed sparks of red and gold from their hair. They stood like that for a few moments, until Ian pulled his daughter into a hug and she hiccuped, tears streaming down her cheeks. Finally, she shook her head and took a step back, her whole body shaking with silent sobs. "I gotta go," she managed, trying to keep her voice from breaking. "Love you. See you guys at home." Ian looked at his little girl with fresh eyes, as though suddenly realising that, in his absence, she'd become a young woman. The burden she was carrying was heavy, but she was carrying it, he recognised. And... she wasn't alone. He eyed the enigmatic youth, who returned his gaze with an unruffled, glacial look of his own. Ian cleared his throat. "Look..." he started to say, but normal fatherly injunctions and finger wagging seemed... pointless in the face of everything he'd experienced in the last few minutes. "Jase... just please... take care of her?" The frost that had limned the other's stare thawed slightly, and he nodded much as he had to Dana. "We'll take care of each other." he replied, his implication clear that he trusted Autumn at his side as much as she him. Autumn stepped to his side and the two of them turned and headed away, Dana looping her arm around Ian's and hugging it slightly as the two parents watched. = = = = = = = = Devin had been keeping busy, Jase and Autumn saw as they approached the Bannon table some minutes later. A number of bags and backpacks were leaning against the benches as the rest of the Fellowship stood around, talking in low tones. Evidently, the teleporter had collaborated with the others present to get such equipment as they had readily available to the place where it was needed. Even Jase's go-bag was there: in response to his questioning look, Devin shrugged. "Hey, I saw where you keep it." he said by way of explanation. Jason nodded, looking around at the others present. They were all there - all of them that remained, at least. Quietly and efficiently, still a little red-eyed from her earlier tears, Autumn handed a bracelet to Devin and to Kat, both of whom clasped them into place. "Alright. We're all here." Devin said, studying the goldlike gleam of his bracelet before shaking his sleeve over it and looking at the others. "We don't really need to discuss what's happening next, do we? Charlie's dead, Tawny and Sophia are taken. Let's go get the girls back and Not-Cody's head on a fuckin' stick."
    2 points
  49. "Okay," Devin walked with Cade and Marissa through the crowds of people and he couldn't help but have that uneasy feeling of 'I know something you don't know' as he passed by the oblivious families trying to enjoy what little of summer they had left. Charlie filled his thoughts as they moved, his stride determined, his mind elsewhere. The talks they'd had, the small frame of time in which they had to build memories and now... that was it. There would be no more opportunities for the two to build a friendship. There would be nothing else from Charles Cole and all that kept flashing through the young teleporter's mind was Charlie sitting at the breakfast table in the morning at school, laughing and smiling and... his phone spoke up with the voice of Queen Elenore from the movie Brave scolding the young, fiery haired Princess Merida, 'Don’t just play with your haggis!' she cried out, alerting Devin that it was Autumn, the Fellowship's own fiery haired princess trying to get a hold of him. "You know where to go, right? Don’t waste time getting there." He told the other two as he fished his phone out of his pocket. "What about you?" Marissa asked. She was unconsciously holding Cade's hand tightly, finding some measure of solace, warmth and protection with the two men she trusted would take care of her. She was no fighter, and outwardly appeared to be holding together. Inside, the Queen of Mean's emotional and mental stability was a winner take all game of Jenga and the tower was wobbling more and more with each new strange they got word of. "Devin, we've already lost someone, don't go playing hero." "I'm not," his smile did nothing to reassure her. "Hermes gotta do, what Hermes do, right? Texts or no, I'm the fastest. I can help make sure we're all safe and message traffic is getting relayed. You'll be safe with Cade," Devin glanced to the six-foot-four tower of muscle and Cade knew that look silently told him that he was trusting his sister’s lover with his world. She wasn't just his sister, but his twin sister. Losing her would be like losing half of his soul. It was a twin thing. "If he's crazy enough to sleep with you, he's crazy enough to punch a dragon for you. I'll meet up with you guys soon, okay?" She mustered a smirk at his bad joke and punched him in the arm playfully. "Okay, jerk. Love you." "Love you too, sis." He disappeared into the crowd as Cade tugged Marissa's hand gently to spur her back into motion. Stoically Cade moved through the people and towards where his Jeep was parked. "How can you be so calm?" Marissa asked the Terminator she was not dating, just sleeping with because they didn't want to put a label on it. "I'm not. I'm afraid, angry, and unfortunately for whatever squares off against us, determined. I will mourn when there is time. I will laugh at the memories, offer a moment of silence for the fallen, and if need be, cry tears that refuse to be kept in any longer. For now, though, Marissa, none of those things will help us or bring Charlie back, so I will place our enemy in my sights, and I will slowly squeeze the trigger of my fury until whatever took Charlie away from us is no more." “I’m so turned on right now,” she said out of nowhere. “Just thought you should know. So, you know… the faster we get this shit done...” ---===[@]===--- "Devin!" He'd barely made it thirty paces, his phone in hand, before he heard someone cry out to him. It was so cool being so... well, cool. He turned his head, looking towards camp Cassidy as his parents packed up for the day. Families were starting to take notice and their expressions read that something seemed 'off' about the direction the day was going. He ran over to the lovely redhead, the youngest of the Cassidy sisters, Laurie. "Hey, been awhile," he greeted her, and she tried to force a smile at his never-ending sense of humor in even the most trying of times. He'd just been over here talking to her just a couple hours prior. "Sean, is he-" "Yeah, yeah... he ran off to wherever it is you guys are supposed to go, I'm um, doing what I can, I guess." she thumbed back to her parents and the camp. "So, is it, uh... is it happening? He told me about Charlie... and Sophie." "Something is happening, but whatever it is, we're going to stop it." It wasn't intentional but he delivered the phrase with the confidence of a superhero. "Charlie, yeah... he's gone. Sophie? We don't know a hundred percent yet, but if she's alive, we'll find her." Neither teen noticed the Cassidy parents approaching from behind Laurie. Perhaps it was the chaos encircling their thoughts or the momentary meeting of their eyes that tore their attention away from anything going on in the world around them. It was Jack, Sean's father, clearing his throat as they approached that brought the two teens out of their silent reverie and back into reality. "Devin," Jack's voice was a firm, but fair greeting. Neither of the Cassidy parents approved of Devin spending time around their children, not after what he'd done to them for the last three years. The stories of his torture and abuse of the Cassidy siblings were cause for more than one argument in the household about going to the school and reporting him. Carolyn offered him a false smile forced through tightened lips. "Mom, dad," she looked to Devin, pleading with him silently and he offered her a slight nod of approval. "It's okay. Devin's one of them, like Sean." When they both sighed and offered a roll of the eyes in a silent curse to the heavens, Jack shook his head. "No, no..." she pleaded with them to understand. "He's okay. He's changed. Really, he's trying to be better and... that's saying a lot coming from me since I was seriously considering setting his motorcycle on fire a few weeks ago." Devin offered her a WTF glare with hurt in his eyes. "Don’t glare at me. You were a total jerk and had it coming." "Uh huh, still going to do it?" He jokingly asked her. "Might settle for slashing the tires," she said honestly. His joking expression faded fast as that was not the answer he was expecting. She shrugged innocently. "What? I've a lot of pent-up anger towards you." He barely noticed her playful grin as Jack spoke up. "Then, you'll be with my boy tonight?" His fatherly gaze settled on Devin, indicating that the time for jokes was done. "All of you. You'll see him safe?" "Sean," Carolyn's worry was evident in her voice. "Isn't a fighter." "You'd be surprised." Devin said honestly. He shifted back into Devin mode before someone noticed him being too serious. "Mr. Cassidy, Mrs. Cassidy... I'm not going to lie. What we are about to do is dangerous, but I'm sure he's already told you that we're the only ones who can do this. So, I know I'm a horrible influence on your kids, but we’re going to take Sean out tonight and we are probably going to be out way past curfew. There's going to be violence, possibly experimental recreational drug use and most likely, pre-marital sex, you know how us teens and our parties go, and we're gonna misbehave and make all kinds of noise until the job done,” his tone suddenly took the air of unsurpassed confidence. “But we are coming home." Jack stared for a long moment at Devin, unmoved by Devin's humor and unable to let go of three years of torture and abuse that he'd put his kids through. This was his life, his son's life, and if parenting had taught him anything it was that children never stopped surprising him. He offered Devin his hand, which the teenage boy accepted and was quickly locked in the tight, powerful grip of a man who worked hard for a living. Compassionately he spoke as a father, leaving the past in the past, for now. "You bring my son home, you hear me?" It was the most serious he'd sounded in a long time as Devin stood tall, like the man he was growing into and nodded his confirmation. "Yes, sir." "You guys, be careful, okay?" Laurie forced a worried smile as Jack let her friend(?) go. "We will." He turned to leave as Jack and Carolyn stood with their daughter, thankful that there were others more responsible than Devin Jauntsen looking after their son. "Devin, wait," like man leaving to go to war, Devin turned to look back to Laurie. She was already near him, running the distance between them as she called out. Her lips pressed to his cheek gently. It was nothing more than a simple kiss, but it carried with it a weight that said someone would miss him if he didn't come home. Her emerald eyes seemed to capture all that remained of summer's defiant surrender to winter's cold, shimmering with warmth. "For luck." He nodded. "For luck." ---===[@]===--- The air weft briefly, turning a violet hue, before Devin appeared with a vacuous 'bamf' standing not far from where Autumn was. With all that was going on, his sudden appearance startled her, and she jumped, offering him an icy glare. "Fuck, Devin!" "Sorry!" He apologized, matching Autumn's tone and volume. "It's not like I can knock!" He noticed Jason assisting Jacob and immediately he felt he understood why they'd called him. "Shit, Jacob..." he said quietly. "He okay? You need me to get him somewhere, hospital, maybe?" "No, no." With a quick shake of her head the red-haired teen declined the teleporter's offer to play ambulance and tucked her phone back into her pocket. "It looks worse than it is, I promise. We're taking him back to my parents' table so they can get him home and keep an eye on him." Glancing surreptitiously in her childhood friend's direction to see if he'd noticed Devin's abrupt appearance (and hoping he was still too out of it to care), Autumn tugged idly at the hem of her t-shirt. "Thanks, though," she added, as an afterthought. "Yeah, sure, no problem." Since everything seemed handled, he half shrugged and gave them a look. He seemed anxious and, in a hurry, like he wanted to get everyone to 'The Table' and start getting revenge for Charlie. "So... what's up then?" Jase kept them all moving as he supported the half-conscious, mumbling Jacob, eyes pausing their wary scrutiny of the surroundings long enough to look at Devin. "We texted you because Jacob was with Tawny." he said quietly, green gaze holding Devin's stare. "No sign of any violence other than to Jacob. It's likely she's been taken." He didn't say by whom. They all (except Jacob) knew who had taken the girl. He went on into the momentary silence. "We need to act together. That's why we're talking face to face." "And also," Autumn interjected quickly, her fingers twisting in the cotton fabric. "I really wanted to tell you in person. I know she's your friend, and that's not something you should have to read in a text." Devin about faced, cutting onto Jason's path and pressing his hand against Jason's chest to stop any further movement. "Woah, woah... the hell you mean 'likely been taken'? By whom?" If it weren't Charlie that had his guts in a knot a sudden sheen of dread washed over his face. Not her. Oh god, not her... not Tee... Not-Cody didn't seem a likely answer to him. It was broad daylight on a cloudless summer day... the idea of a monster or creature of the dark didn't seem likely to be able to get away with sneaking through this crowd of barbecuers and happy families. "The hell's going on? Who has Tawny?" He looked to the delirious Jacob and they noticed one of his hands tighten up into a white knuckled fist. Neither could be sure if he planned on using it, or if it was just the stress of the moment getting to him. "Jacob! Who has her!? Where is she!?" "I dunno... threw me..." Jacob blearily focused - or rather, tried to - on Devin. "Dev'n? Wh'n y' get here?" "He was hurled headfirst into a tree." Jason explained, shifting slightly so he was between Devin and the insensible Jacob. "Devin? Look at me." There was a note in Jason's voice, an edge of some undefined urgency usually lacking. "Tawny Shines, so we know who's taken her. We know where they are. We are going to get her back. Right after we hand Jacob off. Okay?" "Jesus fucking-" Autumn swore quietly but intensely, stepping in to get her shoulder under Jacob's arm as his balance wavered. "I just got him put back together, could you please not jump down his throat? It's not his fucking fault, Devin. Just-" God, what was with this freaking day?! "Uggghhh," she fumed aloud, an angry flush rising in her cheeks as she tried to keep her voice down. "Look, we thought you needed to know, and since you can fill everyone in faster than we can get back to Gar's table, this is where we're at right now." Jason saw it. That gleam in eyes that spoke to pure rage mingled with the myriad 'what ifs' now running through it. Jason had saw that look in Devin's eyes before, that moment right before he lashed out at Chet weeks ago. He knew Devin, like all beings of reason, had demons of his own, and although they remained quiet were never silenced. Calm as he may have seemed everyday they were always there waiting patiently for a reason to wake, take a long over due breath, and crawl back into his thoughts. In this moment, they were on a party line. He paced like he was consumed by the Dark Side and ready to rampage on anything and everyone. Any attempts he made to look like he was calm didn't fool either of his companions. The air around him warped and distorted, his eyes seemed to shimmer with streams violet and golden energy. His emotional state was quickly approaching 9000. "Whatever this thing is... or was... it's dead. If it hurt her, I swear..." he stopped there, obviously not sure how to follow up that threat. "And I'll help." Jason told him, letting the details of whatever dire vengeance Devin could not or would not articulate be left for future determination. He watched his unlikely friend, observing some manner of kinship in the rage on display, however diffuse it was. "We need to work together, though. All of us. Like Autumn said, best thing you can do right now is go get the others up to speed." He exchanged a look with the redhead. "I think we need to move right after we drop Jacob off. Grab bracelets for those that don't have them and get going." "Yeah. I don't know what I'm gonna tell my dad, but I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get to it." She glanced at the other two members of the so-called Fellowship, then back up at Jay. "Listen, if you guys want to go back, I can take care of him and catch up with you once I'm done with my family. It'll be faster, and you two can get everyone on the same page and moving forward." Jason shook his head almost immediately. "No. You'll get Jacob back faster with my help, and we are not leaving any one of us alone and vulnerable right now." "Jase. It's fine. Jacob is my priority, not everyone else's. Making sure people know what's up and coming up with a plan is more important. You're good at that," she stated firmly, then glanced back at the seething teleporter. "And you two are kind of in charge, I guess. So let's get it done." "She's right." Devin said. He was without quips or humor, not even a smile dared to wander to his lips. "Jason, go with Autumn. Cade's with Marissa. Pair up, handle Jacob, meet me at the table. I'll relay the news." "Devin, where's your bracelet?" Autumn asked absently as she noticed he wasn't wearing his. "Ellie has it." Devin took a deep breath. "Good thing too, or we wouldn't be having this conversation. Best if you keep my replacement for now, you can be my good judgement... because I'm almost out." Jason nodded in agreement and coaxed Jacob, not ungently, into motion again. "Let's get going, then. Let the others know what's going on, Devin." Wide blue eyes blinked incredulously at the pair as they either pretended she either hadn't spoken at all, or that she'd said something entirely different- she wasn't sure which. There was no mistaking the expression on her flushed features, though, which translated her thoughts as clearly as if they'd been written across her freckled forehead: What. The actual. Fuck? Jacob groaned softly, and the redhead sighed, her hand on his back. Right. Bigger problems. "I'm right here," she murmured as they started walking again, carefully picking a path out of the trees. "We're gonna head back to the table, okay? C'mon."
    2 points
  50. The Keane Residence, 0830. -ish. It was the smell of coffee, rather than the sound of the dogs or the brilliant sunlight pouring through her window, that roused Autumn from her dreams. Blinking against the light, she groaned and dragged a pillow over her face. She’d just been sitting in front of a campfire with Jason, in a tiny ring of orange glowing amidst the deep blue-black nothingness of the woods at night, and he was smiling that little half-smile of his over the rim of his mug. What had he just said? She frowned, trying to remember the sound of the syllables, the shape of his mouth, the exact cadence of his speech, but it was already fading. Ugh. Why was it that when people talked to you in dreams, it made sense, but afterwards it just dissolved into gibberish? Or maybe it was nonsense to start with, and because you were dreaming you just got to decide what it meant. Or maybe… She sighed, flinging the pillow and the blankets off as she peered up at the sunlit ceiling overhead, the faint outline of pale green stars just visible here and there in the wash of brilliant white. Maybe she’d just dreamed in Russian, or something. Crazier things have happened, right? Like finding a radio that changes dimensions. Like seeing actual monsters. Like rescuing cats from a secret prison, or discovering that aliens are real, or that you and other people at your school have super-powers. Or, you know. Like dating someone who actually speaks Russian. She smiled sleepily at that, shifting around a little on the striped sheets. Or like… She blinked again as something else occurred to her. Going to sleep on the couch and waking up in your own room? As she sat upright, the redhead’s sleep-fogged brain struggled to piece together the series of events that had somehow led to this particular outcome. She swung her feet over the edge of the bed, letting them dangle there for a moment as she stared blankly at the haphazard arrangement of clothes on the chair nearby. They’d been watching Braveheart, she was pretty sure, and she didn’t remember coming upstairs, but… here she was. So, how…? Almost fully awake now, she could just make out the drone of conversation from downstairs. Voices. Her mom’s, and a deeper, more masculine one- Suddenly everything clicked into place. “Dad!” she yelled, bounding out of bed and down the stairs, accompanied by a chorus of excited canine voices as the dogs rushed to meet her. “Morning guys,” she greeted them in passing, idly reaching down to pet whichever happened to be closest on her way to the kitchen. “...definitely your daughter,” he was just saying as Autumn rounded the corner and, with an excited whoop, launched herself at the father she hadn’t seen in what seemed like months. “Ooofff, hey, careful. Coffee,” Ian chided her with a grin and a one-armed hug, absorbing the impact of her energetic embrace as he held the half-full mug up and away to avoid the fallout. With a bemused shrug, Dana took it adroitly from his hand and set it on the island, watching as her typically not-a-morning-person offspring squeezed the breath from him before she’d even said hello. “Hey, sweetheart,” he greeted her, returning the hug with both arms this time and planting a kiss atop the dishevelled red-gold curls she hadn’t yet bothered to comb. “How’s my little firecracker doing this morning, hmm?” “‘m good,” came the pleased reply as they swayed back and forth like that for a few moments. She didn’t even protest the childish nickname, cringey as it was, since he was the only one who’d ever used it anyway. ...Well, and even apart from that, it was a little reminder that even in Billings or Bozeman or Missoula or Helena, he was still her dad. He still remembered. Note to self: do not let him call me that in front of anyone today. The grin in her mind refused to remain hidden there, irrepressibly curving the corners of Autumn’s mouth upward as she squeezed him tightly. He was home. Finally. “Missed you.” “I know. I missed you, too.” “What time did you get in?” she asked, grabbing an oversized mug and glancing back in Ian’s direction as she poured herself a “cup” of coffee. “Eh, a little later than I intended,” her father admitted sheepishly, exchanging a look with Dana over Autumn’s head as he reclaimed his own mug from the counter. “You two were already out.” He smiled, reaching out to tousle her hair fondly as she grinned and ducked away with a grumble of half-hearted protest. “So I thought we’d head out a little early today, find a good spot to set up and just spend the day together. The three of us.” “Cool. Yeah, that sounds good.” The girl’s nose crinkled slightly as she smiled, stirring sugar and cream into her drink. “It does,” the older Keane woman agreed. “Maybe she’ll even introduce you to her boyfriend.” “Boyfriend?” Ian blinked, pale blue eyes wide as he looked from his daughter to his wife. “You mean, not…?” Dana shook her head: No. She didn’t mean Jacob. Not anymore, at least. Comprehension dawned, and he nodded, taking a quick sip from his mug. “That’s right. I remember now. Your mother did say something about a… camping trip, I think?” He glanced at his daughter for confirmation, and she rewarded him with a smile and a quick nod, her amber-speckled features going faintly pink. “Mhmm, and he came over for dinner after that.” she replied cautiously, checking from the corner of her eye to see if her mom planned to explain why, exactly, he’d been invited to stay. The auburn-haired vet caught the none-too-subtle glance, and smirked. ‘He did,” Dana added breezily. “And he was a great help, too. Very hands-on.” Warm hazel eyes danced with mischief as she arched an eyebrow at her daughter, whose rosy cheeks flushed to a deeper scarlet at the memory. Amused, she turned to check the breakfast quiche in the oven then, leaving her concerns about the swiftness of their developing relationship for another conversation. It was still early in the day, after all, and Ian ought to have the chance to meet Jason for himself before more serious parental discussions were had. “Oh? Good to hear,” he replied distractedly, glancing at his watch. It wasn’t quite nine yet, but Warden Crocker had already called to let them know what he and Jacob were bringing for the day-long picnic- he also suspected it was to find out if he’d actually made it back to Shelly this time. It was hard to fault him for that, the tall real estate broker reflected with a pang of guilt that rendered the mouthful of black brew he swallowed slightly bitter on his tongue. “So, is this new guy a junior, too, this year?” “Yeah, we have Chemistry together.” There was a moment of what definitely felt like an awkward silence in the kitchen, and Autumn’s eyes widened. “The class, I mean,” she clarified quickly, groaning inwardly at her father’s expression and wishing fervently that she could crawl inside her coffee mug. “Well, and, uh, Study Hall.” “Chemistry,” her father reiterated flatly, warily glancing from her to Dana as the latter stifled a laugh and resolutely switched off the oven, refusing to return the look she could feel being burned into her back. “Well that’s… That’s great, sweetie. Just great.” ------------- Later that morning. “They’ll be fine,” the pretty vet reassured her husband, smiling as she scratched under Zee’s chin. The Keanes had been loading up the Jeep for a little while now, packing it with enough coolers and bags to feed and entertain the trio for at least a week, but it wasn’t intended solely for them: sandwiches and cold salads for lunch, ribs and thick pork chops to grill later, sodas and iced tea and a couple of six packs of summery IPAs and traditional lagers. “They’ve got plenty of water out, and lots of shade if it does turn warm this afternoon. We’re not going to be gone all day,” she reminded him, watching as their energetic daughter hefted the last bag of ice into a plastic storage container and snapped the lid shut. “How do you think they manage when I’m at work and Autumn’s at school?” She paused for a moment and, tentatively, rested her hand on his. “It’ll be fine.” “Fine, or fine?” Autumn interjected with a grin, going up on her tiptoes to give both parents a kiss on the cheek. Dana rolled her eyes at that, smiling, and shook her head. “I’m gonna do one last door check and grab my phone. Anything you guys want me to get while I’m in there?” Her father patted his pockets, frowning a little, then shrugged and offered her an easy smile. “No, no, I think I’ve got everything.” His gaze moved over her shoulder, catching his wife’s eye as the paternal expression softened slightly. “Everything I need, anyway.” He didn’t miss Autumn’s requisite grimace of teenaged disgust at the thought of parental romance, or the softly-murmured “Gross,” under her breath as she turned and jogged back up to the house with the dogs at her heels. He shrugged again, a sort of uncomfortable one-shouldered gesture Dana immediately recognized as one her child had adopted. “Parents,” he opined laconically, opening the passenger door for his bride. “Totally,” she replied, deadpan, and climbed inside. “So, this new guy,” Ian began cautiously, leaning against the side of the SUV. “You’ve met him. Is he… I mean, what’s he like? Jacob’s a good kid. Good guy, I guess.” He corrected himself, realizing that a seventeen-year-old wasn’t much of a kid anymore. Not really. “I thought they got along really well. I mean, hell, they grew up together, and then-” With a sigh, he gestured vaguely, helplessly, toward the house. “‘And then’, yeah,” Dana replied thoughtfully, nodding as she followed his reflection in the side mirror. There was no need to elaborate further on that particular point; Owen’s passing had hit a few people pretty hard, his granddaughter especially. Until recently, seeing Autumn taking interest in other people and going out again, she hadn’t realized exactly how hard the girl had taken it- or even how hard she’d taken it herself. And then last night… Well, the air felt a little clearer, didn’t it? “I kind of half-expected them to get married right out of high school, to be honest. And I like Jacob, I really do, and maybe they’ll work things out and find each other again later. I’m just…” She sighed, thinking back on the weird charge in the atmosphere when her daughter and the Bannon boy had been in the kitchen, the pair so intent on each other that at times she’d almost wondered if she’d even really been present there in the room. It wasn’t exactly reassuring, but the very nature of that intensity, and their youth, all but dictated that it couldn’t last long. The brightest flames burned quickest, after all. “I’m just glad,” she finally allowed, “that I don’t have to worry about that for her anymore.” “Mmmm.” The reply was noncommittal, Ian watching the house as his wife watched him. “Jason Bannon, you said?” “I did. As for what he’s like?” She paused, her expression pensive; there really wasn’t a satisfying answer to that. “He’s… Well, it’s hard to say.” Dana smiled as her husband glanced at the mirror, meeting her eyes through the reflective glass. “I guess you’ll just have to see for yourself.” Oddly, it was easier talking about her daughter’s shiny new relationship than it was to discuss her own nearly twenty-year-old one, and the two fell quiet after a moment, listening to the small but beloved pack of fosters they’d taken in huffing and whining and yelping softly as they gamboled about in the front yard. Autumn’s father opened his mouth as a thought occurred to him, something he felt he ought to have said already, when the girl herself came bounding down the porch steps, pausing to distribute head scratches and belly rubs aplenty before heading over to the car. “‘Kay, all set.” Clambering into the crowded back seat, she checked her phone out of habit and tucked it in the pocket of her hoodie as Ian closed the door. She’d obviously fixed her hair a little, added a few hints of makeup, but otherwise hadn't fussed too much over her appearance; maybe this boyfriend thing wasn't such a big deal. Nothing to worry about, he reassured himself. “So,” he tried again, getting situated himself and glancing at his pink-cheeked offspring in the rearview mirror. “This Jason guy. How’d you guys meet? What’s he like?” Dana snorted softly under her breath and turned, watching the house disappear behind them. True to form, if Ian wanted something, he’d try all avenues available to get it. It made him a great realtor, but an annoying partner sometimes. Shrugging, the restless redhead peered conspicuously out the window, ignoring the warmth creeping up the sides of her face. How was she supposed to describe him to her dad, of all people, when Jason Effing Bannon was still a mystery to her? Maybe always would be. Huh. “I mean, he’s kind of-” She paused, pursing her lips as the trees whizzed past. “Different. But he should be there today. I hope. So, I guess you can meet him and see for yourself?” With an exasperated sigh, Ian returned his gaze briefly to his wife- who was also staring out the window- and turned out onto the highway. “What is this, a conspiracy?” “Nope. It’s a mutiny,” Dana quipped, cutting her eyes at him. “While the captain’s away, the crew will play, or something like that.” Muffled laughter from the back seat answered her, but her husband’s expression was less amused. Even if Autumn hadn’t caught the edge hidden in her mother’s joke, he had, and it stung. Moreso because it was true, and he had no right to deny it. “Ahh, that must be why the rum’s gone, then,” he replied with a taut smile, and a levity he didn’t quite feel. Labor Day, indeed: he was apparently going to have to work his ass off to get this right.
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