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  1. “Hmm.” The musing sound was drawn out and thoughtful, which was one clue it could be dissembling. From what Autumn had seen, Jase didn’t usually take long to figure out what he wanted to do next - most of his focus was on ‘how’ rather than ‘what’. Her suspicions were further roused when he smiled at her before likewise laying back in the water. Here it came. Here came the one-liner laden with innuendo. “Pretty much anything, hmm?” or something similar. But he said nothing, just lazily sculling with his arms to keep himself in place as he floated looking up at the sky, narrowed eyes slits of emerald fire as they caught the late afternoon sunlight. Autumn tried to relax too, laying her head back in the water and feeling it flow past, but her mind kept poking at that ‘hmm’ like a tongue at a loose tooth. Finally she raised her head and all-but glowered across at her silently floating companion. “That’s it? ‘Hmm’? ‘Hmm’ what?” she demanded, feeling her lips twitch in a smile as she saw his mouth curve in a slight grin. Damn it. Damn him. Goddamn Jason Effing Bannon and his impossibleness. “Just ‘hmm’.” he said casually, raising his head to peer at her, his expression composed but for the faint crooked smile and his gaze full of mirth. “Why, was I supposed to say something else?” “‘Hmm’ is not an answer to the question.” Autumn returned somewhat indignantly, though she was pretty certain her own urge to laugh was showing as Jase straightened somewhat in the water, cocking his head to one side and regarding her with that faint smile that was smug and not at all charming. Teasing jerk. Reacting more than thinking, she brought one hand around in a sweep, splashing water at his face. That, at least, caught him by surprise. His eyes widened for a moment as he registered the movement, and he managed to half-turn aside so he didn’t get the brunt of it in the face, but it was still sufficient to make him blink, then turn back to regard Autumn for a long moment. Then, theatrically, he lifted a hand and slowly wiped his face, flicking the water aside before dipping his hand into the water and sweeping it towards her. The retaliatory splash was an obvious response, and Autumn turned away, laughing - only to catch a second deluge right in the face from an invisible hand that made her sputter. “Oh, now it’s on!” she announced, sweeping both arms forward and causing Jase to cover his face with his hands as sun-brightened sprays of water cast rainbows in the late afternoon light. Grinning he responded in kind, long arms scooping wave after wave at the giggling redhead. The naval warfare continued like that for some minutes, the two combatants wading back and forth in the creek as they hurled water and banter at each other in roughly equal volumes. “TK is cheating! Lame-ass!” Autumn yelled as she ducked and weathered a veritable tsunami from all sides. “Not my fault you didn’t know who you were messing with, scrub.” Jason replied coolly, only to end up spitting water as a cunning underhand shot from his opponent caught him square in the face. “Hah!” Autumn crowed - right as she felt a pair of impossibly strong hands grab her around the waist and lift her into the air before tossing her with a shriek into the deeper part of the creek. Surfacing with a roar of challenge that would do a tigress proud, she surged through the water and tackled the smirking jerkface who’d ducked her, hooking her arms around his shoulders and dragging him under even as she felt his arms loop around her to pull her with him. It wasn’t at all a calculated risk, because there was no calculation involved. Even at play, Autumn was competitive by nature, and when his arms went around her- either as a reflex on his part, or as an intentional decision to pull her along- it signalled a response to the challenge. The moment she felt Jase’s arms tighten, felt the shift in energy and the torque of his waist, they hit the water, already rolling. All sound evaporated, save for the surging of the water and the rapid, joyous pounding of her heartbeat in her ears. Vision disappeared in an instantaneous explosion of frothy white, and there was no equilibrium, no sense of up or down- just the sensation of the current all around, and the texture of his skin, taut over sinew and bone, beneath her hands. He had height on her, and reach as well, but there was no distance to be had between them, which rendered it temporarily meaningless. As he turned, using Autumn’s own forward momentum to roll her toward the creek bed, she mirrored the movement, arcing her upper body and twisting to continue the spin and deny him positioning. To her surprise, Jase did the same, the adamant grip of his arms around her waist compelling her to keep turning or be “pinned,” and pushed down to the bottom. At some point, the elastic band in her braid finally worked loose, and for several moments she could see nothing but the bright, coppery mass of her own hair. For what seemed like ages, the two young competitors feinted, rolled, and vied for any edge they could find: when Jase used the benefit of his greater height to simply stand up, Autumn hooked her foot behind his knee and pulled him off-balance. Pressing her advantage, she tried to use her body-weight to flip him, wrapping her legs around his midsection and throwing herself backwards; it wasn’t until he relaxed slightly, allowing her to pitch him forward that she realized she’d erred. Refusing to be caught so easily, the redhead unlocked her legs and kicked off the loose rock with one foot, her entire body contracting and uncoiling in a smooth, tight spiral as her fingertips slid from the hard expanse of her adversary’s back to his shoulders. With a measure of finality, she pressed him gently back against the rounded stones, just a few feet beneath the shimmering, sunlit surface of the stream. Her moment of triumph was short-lived, however. She had just enough time to catch the telltale curve of Jase’s lips as the water around them began to clear, and then- the impossibly delicate, almost feathery sensation of fingertips gliding, dancing up over her ribs. To her credit, she managed to weather the decidedly unsportsmanlike assault for almost a full 10 seconds before pushing off his chest with both palms and kicking upwards, a column of white bubbles following her rapid ascent. “Ugh, you suck so hard!” she laughed, choking and spluttering at no one in particular. Pulling her hair back over her shoulder as she tried to get her bearings, Autumn staggered back in the general direction of the shore. He surfaced behind her already laughing as his head emerged, even though the combination of water and his normally-shaggy hair were obscuring his sight he didn’t seem to have many problems navigating shorewards as he wiped his face clear. “Victory is mine.” he announced calmly, his eyes gleaming as brightly as the beads of water on his skin as he waded into the shallows. Autumn, having already procured her towel, considered diving for Jase’s and tossing it in the creek, but settled for giving him a narrow stare as she wrapped her own around herself. “You lost.” she informed him with a smirk. “You quit first.” came the inexorably calm reply. “You cheated!” “Cheating implies the breaching of an agreed-upon set of rules.” Jase held his hand out, his towel flying from the ground to his grasp. He grinned at her as he began to towel himself off vigorously. “There was no such agreement.” “Ugh. You suck.” Autumn reiterated, flicking water from her fingers at him. “Everyone knows tickling is cheating.” “You mean it is conventionally accepted that tickling is unfair.” Jase shrugged his bony shoulders, flashing another grin at her, then began towelling his hair dry. “Conventional is just another word for lacking in initiative.” He paused mid-towelling, considering something, then smiled at her, tossing the towel back towards his clothing. “For instance…” There was a faint shimmer in the air around him, a heat-haze that rose from his skin in the sunlight, causing his damp hair to rise slightly in the thermal updraft. Focused on Autumn, his eyes grew brighter still, the pale green shifting to a more amber hue as a cloud of steam rose from his skin moments before he appeared to burst into flame. Autumn made a short sound of surprise and took a half-step back. Wreathed in flickering gold, red and orange, Jase was untouched by the flame as, mercifully so, were his swim-shorts. The heat of his fire was a tangible thing, even from a couple of meters away Autumn could feel it on her skin. “This makes drying off easier.” he said conversationally, his eyes deep slivers of brightness as he smiled at Autumn through his aura of fire. “For you, too.” This was light-years away from the first time she'd seen his pyrokinetic abilities, when he'd burned away everything except the blood on his skin. The entire experience had been terrifying, and yet here she was: no monsters, no blood, no terror- just a sense of awe as she watched the fire lick unhurriedly over his skin, enfolding him like the arms of a jealous lover. He could see the brilliant flames reflected gold and scarlet against the sea in her eyes, and the half-step back became a tentative step forward, the heat reddening her cheeks as she approached. "Um, how far away, exactly, do I need to stand?" “A few feet is likely best, though I won’t burn you unless I want to - the fire is very much under my control, so long as I am under control, I’ve found.” Jason said from within the flickering dance of flames. “The cryokinetic side of my abilities operates on the same principles. The level of fine control possible takes some getting used to - I practice a lot.” he admitted with a small grin. “For instance, I can superheat areas of my aura to the point that it, theoretically, should vaporise incoming bullets, but I can also pick up a cold can of Coke without disturbing its temperature unduly.” She took another step forward, lifting one hand and turning her palm toward the burning aura that surrounded him, a tangible illustration of the otherwise invisible barrier between Jase and the rest of the world. The closer she got, the more uncomfortable it became, a sensation just on the edge of pain but not quite crossing the threshold into injury. It slowly evaporated the droplets of water that lingered on her skin, and as individual strands of her hair dried, they drifted lazily in the waves of heat that rippled around his body. “How do you practice something like that, out of curiosity?” she wondered aloud, not daring to approach further for fear her hair really would combust. “I haven’t had much luck, honestly, although the day everyone was at the Farm did help, and Tuesday was... let’s call it educational. Outside of that, though, it’s surprisingly difficult to convince people to let you experiment on them, when you’re not even sure what the result is supposed to be.” She grinned up at him through the shimmering wall of light and heat, trying (as ever) to gauge his expression; it was hard to see his eyes from where she was standing. “Although, I guess it’s probably easier when it’s something you can do by yourself.” Her fingers curled slightly, just at the limits of her tolerance, as if resting against a pane of glass behind which he was standing. I am Fire. The words sprang unbidden from memory, and she smiled, just a little, at the thought. Yeah. Yeah, you are. “I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, or if it goes both ways, but I get this odd feeling of….” she paused, eyes narrowing slightly as she searched for the right words. “Connection, maybe? Just by touching a person, I can almost feel them the same way I do my own body, like we’re sharing the same skin. I never realized how much you can tell about someone from just physical contact, and how they respond to it.” Shrugging, she traced the “surface” of his aura with her fingers, eyelids fluttering briefly at that knife-edge sensation as the nerves beneath her skin wavered on whether or not she was about to be burned. “Maybe I’m like Lona,” Autumn mused, an uncharacteristically thoughtful expression on her freckled features, “but backwards.” Remembering what had happened with the fight in the hallway gave her a moment’s pause as she considered what that might imply. “Other than a general awareness of the Shine, everyone seems to experience the subquantum differently. I can feel, as though touching it, every physical object around me out to about ninety feet. I can detect their motion relative to my own, their temperature, and so on. You possess similar sensory abilities to both Charlie and Avalon - you can sense living creatures as I sense objects, like with the snake, and you can read a person’s state of health, so it seems you have both of their gifts, perhaps not to the same extent and with personal differences, rather than sharing their focus.” Jase slowly let his fiery aura die out, the last flickers of flame seeming to dance into his eyes as they returned to their normal pale icy green hue. He pulled on his pants, hopping from one leg to the other in a reasonable display of balance before fastening them. “Huh.” Autumn stared at him for a moment, feeling delightfully warm and dry now as she pulled on her jeans. “You’ve thought about this a whole hell of a lot.” “I study other people’s gifts, and study my own, and each area of study increases my knowledge of the other, even when the gifts of others are outside the psionic arena. Like Cade or Marissa, who have a differing version of the Shine that makes them peak-human, or beyond, in their areas of focus.” Jase grinned slightly at her as he pulled on his boots, leaving them unlaced for now as he got to his feet. “The whole link to the theorised subquantum strata is fascinating.” “Okay.” Autumn narrowed her eyes. “You and Sean were babbling excitedly about that - I remember that word coming up once or twice while I was trying not to freak out about being there at your farm.” She smiled a little, remembering how geeky Jase had seemed in that moment, his normal reserve having been dropped in the excitement. “And you’ve mentioned it a couple times since. Care to give me the grade school version while we get everything set up?” “It’s pretty straightforward stuff, at least on the surface ‘what you need to know level’.” Jase smiled back at her. “I think you can even manage without crayon drawings.” “Ass.” Autumn snickered, flipping him the bird. “C’mon, let’s get to work.”
    4 points
  2. The moment he stepped away, the terse whispering began. “Okay, when you said ‘Jason Bannon’ that is not what I was picturing.” “What are you talking about?” “I’m talking about that.” “Mom! Gross!” “No, I’m just saying!” “No, you are not just saying, because I am not having this conversation with you.” “Just- did he start working out, or something?” “Okay, seriously? Are we doing this right now?” “Autumn, all I’m saying is he just looks different, and I was wondering what changed, that’s all.” “Fine. Fine. What’s different, hm? Haircut maybe? He got a little taller? Not as skinny?” “Yes, probably, but he’s just more-” “Mom, I swear, if you say my friend is hot, we aren’t speaking until I graduate from college.” “No, no! ...But does that mean you think he is?” “Oh, look, mom!” Autumn called out pointedly, meeting her mother’s gaze with all the mortified fury the teen could muster. “All parked. Guess we should probably get going now. Loveyoubye.” She gave Dana a quick, perfunctory kiss on the cheek and tried not to be too obvious in her haste to depart. As she double-checked the tie-downs on their gear for at least the third time, the young redhead felt, more than heard, her mother coming up behind her. “Hey,” Dana murmured, pulling her into a fierce hug and catching her sole progeny off-guard. “I do love you, you know. Just be careful, okay?” “Mkay,” came the muffled reply, as her daughter returned the familial embrace in earnest. “Love you, too. Talk to you tomorrow.” “Talk to you tomorrow,” the older woman repeated with a faint smile as she headed back up the gravel path toward the house. Exhaling slowly, Autumn fished the key out of her pocket. She couldn’t really blame her mom for worrying; it had been ages since she’d had a friend over, and she’d been dating the last guy she’d gone camping with. This was different, though. This was Jase, who was her friend, who also happened to have really, abysmally bad taste in women, and who also was only coming because she had asked him, rather than the other way around. She swung her leg over the seat as Jase returned, shifting forward over the gas tank to give him room to sit behind her. “It’s gonna be awkward and maybe a little rough, but only for about 5 or 10 minutes, so just hold on tight and try not to fall off.” By the time the words had left her lips, and it registered what she’d just said, it was too late to take them back. Oh, for fuck’s sake… She did her best to ignore the warmth that flooded her face as Jase got comfortable, and felt fairly confident in her efforts to remain composed- Until he leaned forward slightly and ‘reassured’ her, his voice just audible over the idle rumble of the engine: “I’ll be sure to get a good grip.” “Yes” she replied, grimacing as she put the ATV into gear and they started rolling toward the road at a modest pace. “Please do.” The redhead raised one hand, waving goodbye to her mother as they reached the asphalt, and then turned to head further away from Shelly proper. As the forecast had predicted, it was a gorgeous afternoon, sunny and clear, and warm enough that Autumn’s beloved red hoodie was only tied around her waist. About half a mile from the house, she opened up the engine a little, speeding up gradually at first out of consideration for her taller passenger, but eventually settling into fourth gear, grinning into the wind as the scenery zipped past. “The turn-off isn’t far,” she called back, nodding somewhere into the distance and then shaking her head to get the hair out of her eyes as it came loose from her ponytail. They passed a gravel drive, barred by a wide metal utility gate, and then, a moment later: “Hold on.” Downshifting, she turned left and off the road, onto a path so overgrown and littered with leaves and the detritus of fallen limbs that it could hardly be considered more than a very sketchy trail. For several minutes, she slowly maneuvered them over buried roots, through copses of spindly evergreens, and around all-but-invisible washes and dry streambeds obscured by underbrush and dried pine needles. It would definitely have been easier to traverse the distance on foot- if they were backpacking. Maybe next time, she considered, wincing as the ATV jostled again. If there is one. And then, they crossed the threshold from tall, shadowy pines to an open sunlit space, cleared of trees, right in the bend of a slow-moving creek. As she brought the four-wheeler to a stop, the freckled teen suddenly felt unaccountably nervous, as though she’d just invited Jase up to her room while her parents weren’t home. Which, she hadn’t, obviously but it felt more… personal, than she’d expected, and she realized she wanted him to like it here. That thought gave her a moment’s pause; was it because she’d enjoyed the garden so much, because he was proving to be weirdly good company, or because the place was important to her? All three, maybe? “Whew,” she sighed, cutting the engine and turning to check on him. “Oh, hey. You didn’t fall off.” Banishing awkward self-analysis with a playful grin, Autumn hopped off and tucked the key back into her pocket. “C’mon. I’m gonna walk around, see what needs doing, and then we can unpack. You can come with, if you want, or just poke around on your own.” Raking her hands back through her hair as she walked, the energetic redhead pulled the elastic band out and held it between her teeth, quickly plaiting the windblown curls into a haphazard braid and re-securing the ends. After she’d made it a few steps toward the middle of the sunny camp site, she paused to stretch and take a quick visual inventory. The roughly circular clearing was littered with a thick carpet of pine needles over packed earth, courtesy of the few stately trees that had been allowed to remain, with the occasional scrubby clump of grass peeking out from below. There was a decent-sized fire pit near the center, though the depression was filled with a couple seasons’ worth of leaf litter and rotten wood, and roughly half a cord of logs lay in disarray near the trees between which they’d been stacked. Beyond the edge of the camp, the hard earth underfoot gave way to smooth stones along the shoreline; piles of driftwood had accumulated all along the edge of the clear, cool water, and with it whatever man-made trash had drifted downstream to be snagged there. It’s nice to be back, she reflected, but, man, this is gonna be a lot of work. Still… Glancing back in Jase’s direction, she caught herself smiling again. Least I don’t have to do it by myself. This is Autumn’s garden. That was the thought that went through Jase’s head as he glanced around the clearing, swinging down off the ATV with his usual deliberate grace. This site was special to the red-haired girl he’d decided to call ‘friend’, a place of importance. His pale gaze swept the surroundings as he moved, at first following Autumn, then meandering from her walkabout and finding himself on the pebbled beach of the creek, staring at the littered bank. He tilted his head up to feel the sunlight on his face, closing his eyes and reaching outwards. A faint pressure, different from the breeze currently playing in the pines, went around the clearing as he allowed his sense of touch to experience everything here. A few leaves curlicued up into the air from the detritus in the firepit, then dropped suddenly; a rustling touch brushed past Autumn’s hair; a light sprinkling of pine needles rained down from a couple of the trees. Jase smiled, his eyes still closed, and breathed deeply. This was different from the garden as Autumn was different from himself, he perceived. This was a natural place adapted by Man - Autumn’s family, possibly generations of them. The garden was nature curated, cared for, controlled - as it would have to be to have such a rich variety of plants from varying climes in close proximity. But the import of the place was the same - there was a fragment of Autumn’s identity in this clearing. He turned and moved up the bank from the creek, back towards the central area. “It’s beautiful.” he said in a tone that was almost dispassionate, but contained a trace of warmth recognisable to Autumn. “Peaceful, too. It suits you.” He tilted his head to one side, smiling at her. “Where would you like me to start? And are you averse to a little TK making the work lighter now and then?” he inquired with a faint grin. She laughed then, unreservedly, more than a little surprise mingling with the delight in her eyes. “You know, you’re probably the first and only person in my entire life to use the word ‘peaceful’ when describing me, so, thanks for that, I think. And, no,” the bemused redhead grinned, shaking her head, “I don’t mind. Whatever gets the job done is fine, so if that’s easier for you, I say go for it.” As the giggles faded, a smile lingered in their wake, and she took another look around. “I’m going to start with the firepit, I think, so we can get the fire started and let it burn down enough to cook by the time we’re hungry…” Drumming her fingers thoughtfully against her legs, Autumn glanced down toward the creek. “Mind starting down there? If you’re in the mood to flex your mind-muscles, that would be a good place to do it. Some of that driftwood is just old trees, y’know? Besides, it’s better to go wading now, before it cools down later.” She grinned over at him, and added, holding up three fingers at chest-level in the classic Girl Scouts salute, “I promise not to push you in.” There was a long, quiet moment then, as her eyes traced the treeline on the opposite side of the creek. “ And… yeah.” Her expression softened slightly, and a part of her wondered what her grandfather would have thought of Jase, of her bringing him here. “It is beautiful. Thanks.” The afternoon sun was warm on her face, and all around were the sounds of birds, of the wind through the trees, of the water rushing over stones… It seemed unbelievable, somehow, that she’d stopped coming, when so many of the best, most wonderful memories she’d ever made were right here. “Be right back.” She’d have plenty of time to think and talk when they were finished. For now, there was plenty to do in the last few hours of daylight. Autumn headed back toward the gear they’d stowed on the ATV and returned with a small collapsible shovel and a large canvas bag- the latter of which she tossed to Jase. “That’s for your basic trash, plastic and stuff, although I’m pretty sure you’re about 12 steps ahead of me there.” With a wry, self-deprecating grin, she unfolded the shovel and locked the pins into place. “Anyway… Thanks for helping. Let me know if you need anything, and I guess we can meet back up when we’re done and work on something else.” Autumn didn’t have much to say after that, none of the typical chatter- it just wasn’t necessary. She did hum, though, mostly fragments of old songs that were only played on classic rock radio, as she shoveled sodden, compacted ash and leaves and dragged crumbling bits of ancient firewood out from the mess. Ugh. Grimacing, she tossed the rotten, lichen-encrusted plant matter into the underbrush at the edge of the clearing and kept going. She hadn’t thought it would get this bad so quickly- or, maybe she just hadn’t thought. Either way, this mess was her responsibility, and although she really was grateful for the help, and for the company, the increasingly grubby teen had to admit that she felt a little guilty for conscripting Jason… Something-Something Bannon to help her deal with it. But… Glancing in the direction of the stream as she crouched next to the re-emerging bowl of hardened earth, she smiled to herself- he didn’t really seem to mind too much, so maybe it was fine. The visible trash had been first - sodden plastic wrappings, beer cans caught in the deadwood, waxed cartons used for juice or milk - they had all come whizzing obediently out of the water and into the refuse sack, crumpling, folding or otherwise compacting as they travelled. Then Jase had set the canvas bag left open to one side and focused on the driftwood. Smaller branches first, some still adorned with leaves, were tugged free of the tangle and laid in a neat pile at one end of the beach in the sunlight, then would come the larger bits- small pieces of dead timber from larger trees carried downriver, and more than a couple of broken-off trunks. There was a steady meditative style to the way he worked: quick and yet with an air of unhurried thoroughness, and he smiled to himself as he heard Autumn humming as she tended to her own task. This was a memory he would often revisit later: this simple little scene he would forever associate with companionship. The music of the brook and the woman, even if some of her humming was charmingly off-key as she occasionally huffed, tossing moldy old firewood into the brush. The birdsong distant beyond the babble of the creek. The sunlight throwing glints from the water and fire from Autumn’s hair, and how her waist had felt under his hands as he held on against the pitching of the ATV. He reflected with some amusement on the reactions of and the interplay between both Keane women. He also wondered, without sorrow or bitterness, about how it would feel to have that maternal connection: someone who would worry about simple little things no matter how old or competent their child became. His mind flashed back to the concern shown him by his mother; the way she had touched his face and studied it as though trying to find the boy she had run away from inside the man standing there. He theorised that Dana explained a lot about Autumn - her undemanding warmth of personality, her restlessness and need to test herself which was very similar to his own, yet possessed of a different tone and texture. She’d laughed when he’d called her ‘peaceful’, but she was. Not passive, not static, but contained and self-sufficient. A creek, always full of restless motion, yet restful to observe. He imagined that the same rich emotional depth she had shown when speaking of her grandfather, or when cradling him, or when she flamed bright crimson at his teasing, or even when she had charged into a fight with two seniors twice her size were (like the blushes) traits she had inherited from her mother. He compared that rich emotional texture to his own superficially binary state - remote, cold detachment or searing instinct - with little in the way of middle ground. With a groaning creak, the first tree-trunk lifted clear of the creek, a rain of water pattering down on the pebbles as Jase caused it to float up and away from the bank, closely followed by a second, then a third solid piece of timber. The tangle was more or less destroyed now, his TK grasping and bagging a couple of overlooked bits of trash, then conscientiously flipping some more small branches out of the moving water before they could be carried away. He nodded, satisfied at the clear banks of the creek, then sat down and removed his boots and socks, rolling up the bottom of the legs of his combat pants, before wading into the water. He probed around carefully on the stony creek-bed with both his feet and his Shine, now and then grabbing sharper rocks and tossing them to the far bank and occasionally locating and removing a broken piece of glass or metal which lay submerged. The water was warm enough for wading, or even for swimming still, not that the cold bothered him anymore than heat did these days. He wondered about that - the Shine and how it manifested so differently in so many people. With him, it seemed to make human concerns even more remote - removing any physical insufficiency, making frailty against the elements irrelevant, granting the ability to seal himself from harm or to deliver it with but a flicker of will. He paused his chain of thought, realising he’d used the term ‘human concerns’. Perhaps ‘physical concerns’ would be better, if exactitude was what he sought. He pulled a buried piece of planking with a couple of protruding nails up from the creek bed, floating it to the driftwood pile on the shore. Musing to himself he took his time with the work, wading back and forth thigh-deep in the water until, finally satisfied that the creek bed was clear, he turned to see how Autumn was getting on.
    4 points
  3. ... I became a published author. And I owe thanks to you guys. I knew I was a 'decent' writer but I wasn't too sure of my talent when I first came here. Years of praise and ego-polishing made me confident enough to believe that people wanted to read what I was writing. So I wrote, and contacted a small publisher and found out she loved what I wrote. May she be the first of many. In addition to inflating my head, you have taught me about stories - what makes them interesting and what makes them great. I have laughed and cried and been inspired by everyone here. Thank you guys. You're all awesome, and I won't forget you when I'm as famous as Anne Rice. (Let's hope I don't go through the weird Catholic phase!) Dawn
    4 points
  4. Tawny tried to wipe away some of the blood on Devin's cheek, but she only smeared into a redish-black blob. She chuckled, as best she could, trying to find something in all the craziness that felt normal. "Sorry." "It's okay," he shook his head dismissively as he gave her a warm smile. "You went through Hell to save me," her eyes seemed to study him, seeing something in him she'd not seen before. Perhaps it was the man she always had faith was hiding under his immaturity or something else, but he seemed different, more intense and, she hated to admit it, sexy. This version of Devin was outside the boundaries of anything she'd experienced with him before, the warrior, the hero... the good guy. None of those things she'd ever really attributed to him before, she'd just known he was capable of it in the good heart of his. "In a heartbeat." Devin's tone was far more romantic than he intended it to be, but his eyes were locked on hers as she studied him, biting her lips as struggled to wrestle with her thoughts. Marissa tapped Cade and nodded in Devin and Tawny's direction as their world bled away and they only saw each other. Before they knew it the area had grown quiet and the Fellowship were looking on in anticipation. Would this be the night, after all the heroics and fighting that Devin finally wised up and just settled down with the woman who obviously loved him. Pulled by their unconscious wills their lips drew closer and closer. 'He's going to kiss me' Tawny thought as only a half an inch remained between them and the Disney ending Tawny had always dreamt of. Kiss? He's going kiss me. Jacob! She pulled away suddenly, startled by the last memory she had before waking up in that hell. "Oh my god, Jacob! Hewaswithmeanditcameoutofnowhere-" "Jacob is fine," Autumn's hand on the blonde's shoulder calmed her down. "He'll have a headache tomorrow, but he'll be fine." Tawny pressed her hands to her heart and sighed with relief. "Oh, thank God." "Whelp," Devin grunted as he struggled to stand. That moment was shot to shit, so no point in sitting there like a puckered up idiot. It would figure. About to finally get some romantic time for uber heroics and she's thinking of someone else. Par the course when it came to his luck, he supposed. "I think it's time we call the parental units to come a reclaim their misbegotten progeny." He looked to Sophia and offered her a comforting, warm smile. "And maybe get her to the medical center." Sophia wearily looked up to Devin. "Sorry I tried to kill you." She groaned. "Sokay," she shrugged. "You're not the first to want to, or try." The Fellowdivas all quickly mumbled and shown their agreement on the fact that she would also not be the last. Despite the hell she'd been through, she managed a very tight but faint smile. "Hey, mom?" Marissa, like Jason, was limping pretty bad and her. Her voice was combination of adrenaline-excited spotted by patches of extreme pain that made her wince. Her outfit was shredded, at this point it barley protected her modesty and how the spaghetti straps of her halter top were still in one piece was a small miracle to be examined at a later date. Her legs and arms seemed covered in claw marks, along with her abs and back which were also littered with puncture wounds from teeth. The diva had never looked so rough and still her unique gifts of desire made her rock the whole look like she was some Valkyrie bad-ass who'd just survived Ragnarok. Nonetheless, she was in bad shape and it was hard to tell how much of the blood she was drenched in was actually hers. "Yep, saved the town and stuff," she nodded to the mother she couldn't see. "Not doing this with you right now." She slowly tried to sit down, wincing and sucking her teeth as her knee refused to bend. She decided to stand instead of persuading any of her wounds to open further. "We need a ride, and bring a lot of towels, but only the ones you don't want anymore, like those nasty green Ralph Lauren ones that Grandma sent us for Christmas? Hmm? Oh, because we're all covered in blood." Marissa glared at her phone, then placed it back next to her ear. "Mom?" The barrage of curses and yelling that could be heard as Misti gave Marissa an earful was epic in and of itself as her crimson-coated daughter held the phone away form her ear for a moment as she vented. She sighed and tried again after the yelling abated. "Done? Yes, mom, blood. Some of it is, yes. I don't know who all else's blood it might be, they're all dead, Not-Cody didn't exactly keep detailed files of his meals. I'll explain later. No. No. Yes, he's fine... for his definition of it, anyway." Devin gave her a middle finger and a smile for which she returned the smile. "Yes, mom, I know the Sheriff has called a lock down. He's with us, he's in the know. Yes, we know Sophia is missing. Well, was missing. We have her here with us. Yes, with us." Marissa inhaled and sighed loudly. "Mom! Would you and Dad just come get us? Christ! Fine. I'm all kinds of amped up on adrenaline and excitement. If you don't come get us I'm going home with Cade and we are going to get so nasty tha-" Marissa smiled and pressed the button her phone to end the call. "They'll be here in ten." "Y-you're not looking so good, Emjay." Devin approached his sister, sliding an arm around her to assist with her balance. "Everything hurts is all, I'm okay." Her smile did little to comfort him but still she tried to relax and wait for their ride to arrive. She looked to Autumn and grinned. "I get the sarcasm now, yeah. Next hellscape, wedge heels, totally. Although I think I took something eye out though..."
    3 points
  5. Cassie nodded and took Kat's offered hand. "Just a second. Lets go into this eyes open." And, paradoxically, she shut her eyes. The world shattered. Or, more accurately, it unraveled. From a single 'plane' representing the reality around her, Cassandra instead saw ribbons, each one somehow still the world, but also different. Here, Autumn had a different shirt on. There, Kat hadn't extended her hand. The ribbons twined together into cable-like structures, and then there were many more of those. The differences were more pronounced between different 'cables.' Autumn had black hair. Sean was a regular guy, with no obvious genetic conditions. Charlie was with them. It was worse than Wikipedia and TV Tropes combined. Cass felt herself pulled to woolgather, to peruse the endless pages of Might-Have-Been until she died of dehydration. But no. Not those worlds. These. Clustered around her own, so close they could be tasted, touched, imagined. So close that the occupants of those Might-Have-Beens were almost shadowy figures in her own. They appeared in the realm of the Dark. ... before them the Horned Throne... ... ...a gutteral howl from above... ... ...a scream, maybe Autumn, maybe Cassie herself... ...the roots!... Cody, encysted in something black and noisome, roaring as the Fellowship choked on fumes of despair... Cassandra wasn't Devin; she could not step between the Might-Have-Beens...but she could see them, and in them could see how events here changed events there. Decisions still mattered, will was still a thing. Outcomes still followed from causes, and if you wanted a particular outcome, you had to provide the appropriate causes. You weren't stuck in one timeline, Cass could see. You chose your timeline, at least in the context of human existence. You step here, the trap goes off; you step there, it does not. Whether you know the outcome of your choice in advance or not, it's still your choice where to put your foot. And though many things waiting for you were not chosen by you, and not every possible outcome was in your power to bring about..being able to see what lay ahead was as profound a power as there could be. How had she ever been so blind before? Her eyes opened, and for those who could see, Radiance danced behind her pupils like sunlight on rippling water. "We can do this, guys. It won't be easy, but we can. When I yell at someone to do something, you gotta do it, even if it doesn't seem like it makes sense. Okay?" She offered her hand to Autumn then, and when the redhead took it, the three of them passed out of the light and into the Dark...but brought the light with them as well.
    3 points
  6. Marissa had slithered off with her bag, a large, gaudy leather backpack that prominently displayed 'GUCCI' in brass letters. As Autumn changed at her house with Devin and Jason and Cade organized equipment, they barely noticed her missing. She was walking out from behind some tall bushes, sheathed head to toe in all black with her signature black 'hiking heels', and as always, she looked like a million bucks. Autumn and Devin reappeared but a moment later, as Marissa's bag hit the table cueing Cade and Jason to stop for a moment and take in her day to night transformation. She'd went from jeans and a halter top with bright red lips, looking like all kinds of all American dream girl to a faux-leather clad Valkyrie whose lips were about to go back to their trademark maroon if her wiping her lips with the makeup cloth seemed to have a say in the matter. "If anybody needs a hair-tie, speak now or forever hold your peace." Autumn declared while offering up a handful of them. She took a moment to shift and sift through numerous things in her pack, which seemed to be more small pouches of makeup (sorted by color scheme and style), a phone charger (totes mandatory), an emergency battery for her phone (just in case), the clothes she wore to the Carousel... and that seemed about it. "Here!" Leaving her bag, she walked over to Autumn, hand out expectantly as it seemed hair ties was the one important thing she forgot. She groaned in relief. "You are a life saver. Two head bands, but not a single hair tie, god, what was I thinking?" "Four-inch heels, Marissa." Autumn nodded, her lips a thin line withholding to the urge to laugh or choke her 'bestie' out on the spot. "Very practical for trotting around a Hellscape." "Right?! And they totally go so well with this outfit, plus I got them at a steal. Normally they're like, five hundred and seventy, but I totally managed to get them for four hundred and seventy. I was so stoked that they got here just in time for the showdown. It's like absolute bad-assery at a premium." It had dawned on them that the boots she was wearing were not the original pair she'd worn a week or so prior. No. Marissa not only had one pair, but saw it necessary to buy a second pair for the sole purpose of having a new set of boots to battle The Dark in. No flashlight, no food, no water... but hey, she had a new pair of heels to show off to Not-Cody. Devin just shook his head, a smile across his lips, as if to say: 'this is my everyday folks'. "Autumn?" Her tone shifted to something more serious and Autumn could see how Marissa's gaze shifted to her brother who just silently nodded at her. She was getting used to understanding their silent communication as the twins had a way of quietly planning and then confirming those plans with simple glances or gestures to one another. “So um, look I know we fight, like, a lot and I totally forgive you for that, but I wanted you to know… uh, that’s what I like about you. You’re not a ‘yes girl’. You have opinions and you call me on my shit of which I know there is a lot. You have a good heart and a good soul, which I’m not oblivious to the fact that I have neither. We sort of compliment the other and it’s really cool. You have a big heart and soul and I got, well, everything else.” Her hands traced down her own frame obviously signifying that Marissa was blessed with beauty, money, the perfect body, and Autumn at least got a decent personality. It was strange hearing Marissa stammer in a search for words as she spoke. She was always so composed and knew exactly what to say to press someone’s buttons. Now, however, she seemed to to just be playing it by ear… actually speaking from her black, shriveled, ice-encrusted void she called a heart. “When I saw you with Jason earlier,” Autumn visibly tensed, preparing for another bitch bout with Marissa but her bestie shook her head in an attempt to calm her down. “No, no… I’m not looking to start anything, really. Hear me out. I’m trying to say that you looked really happy, and you deserve that. Life isn’t always fair, and none of us asked for this, but I want you to know that behind all my overly critical appraisals, bitter comments and bitchy attitude… I uh… I am thankful and grateful that you are my best friend and that you found some small sliver of happiness.” Her eyes were adopting the sheen of emotion overload. “My, um, only friend, actually.” “So, look… stop listening to me. If he makes you happy, then please be happy. You deserve that much, right? It’s seriously in short supply in this fucked up town and we could all use a bit it, right? I can’t go back in time and make all those things I said and did to you go away, Autumn, but… I’m s-…” she paused, literally unable to say she was sorry. She took a deep breath, composed herself and carried on. “I am sorry. I was wrong and despite all that I did… I… I would like for us to be friends. If, you know, we live through this.”
    3 points
  7. He'd wandered away from the main field, going into the woods that bordered the rest area and, finding a secluded tree to lean against, had fished a rollup from a case in his pocket and put it between his lips. A barest flicker of his will, the end glowed, and he drew a deep drag on the fragrant home-grown leaf inside with a sigh of contentment. It occurred to him that this was his first smoke of the day, and then he realised he'd not had a cigarette since... Saturday, maybe? After leaving Autumn's place. That was good for a faint smile as he looked up through the sun-spackled leaves of the tree, watching them shift and rustle in the breeze. Birdsong came in sporadic snatches from around him, and he exhaled, wreathing the pleasant smoke around his head, letting the problems and cares of the world fade away for a few as he thought of coppery strands of hair curling around his fingers... "Hey, Bannon!" The lanky young man sighed, opening his eyes at the bovine hollering. It seemed there was never a quiet moment, today... Though that wasn't exactly true, was it? Not long ago, he'd been relaxed with his head on Autumn's lap, her fingernails sending thrills of relaxation and pleasure down his spine as she'd idly caressed his scalp. It was a good memory, that one. The scent of her, warm from the sun and exertion, and the feel of her other hand under his on his chest, and the sensation of her eyes studying his face. There had been a calm in that moment which surpassed the simple pleasure of working in his garden, or learning some new esoterica from a book, accompanied by a thrum of her energy, her presence. That connection... that connection which baffled him, so similar in broad strokes to the sense of connection he'd once felt with Marissa, but so much more... "Bannon?! I know you're here, dude." Several sets of footsteps, heading this way through the treeline. A reach out with his senses told him there were four people. At least one was... "Here, Chet." he stepped around the tree, hands in his pockets, rollup hanging from the corner of his lips as he regarded the senior and his company. Two football players: Kieran and Todd, the latter of whom looked a little uneasy as the cold, calm glittering Jase's gaze passed over him. And Tammy Keller - his ex-customer ever since she and two confederates had tried to discuss business at school. As they approached him, he assessed them as a group. All of them had reasons to hold a grudge against him. Chet and Todd for the events at the county fair, Kieran for his girlfriend hitting on Jason at the first game of the season, and of course Tammy. Calmly, Jase decided that if their purpose was to attack him today then that would not be permitted. There was too much going on for him to worry about risking injury at the hands of primates, Dark-driven or not. He didn't say anything else, just waited. "Got any to share?" Chet pointed at the rollup, his manner somewhat high-handed, as though it was not really a request. "It's not weed. Just tobacco." Jase said. "I've got two more of them on me... and they're mine, Chet. I'm a businessman, not a tobacco charity." "Cute. I'm sure you give freebies to your friends." "I might. But we are not friends." Jason's tone was casually matter-of-fact. "You are, at best, customers. Except her." He nodded at Tammy, who scowled. "She's cut off." "She's with me now." Todd spoke up, putting an arm around Tammy's shoulders. "My condolences to you both." Jase's eyebrow twitched upward as a gleam of something sardonic and cold showed in his gaze, the closest he came to a smirk. He took a drag from the cigarette as Todd colored and stepped forward, to be stopped by a hand from Chet. The big senior turned back to Jase and stepped closer, still out of arms reach though. He can be taught, ladies and gentlemen, Jason thought sarcastically. "Okay, fine. We get it, you're a tough guy now that you're friends with the Jauntsens." Chet grinned. "Here's the thing, though. They're losing their throne, fanboy. Devin's lost his edge, and Marissa is just spinning around on her six-inch heels pissing off everyone. She even told me she doesn't care about being on top of the pecking order anymore." He pointed a beefy finger at Jason's face. "So your protection is for shit, kid." Blowing twin plumes of smoke from his nostrils, Jase looked at the finger, then at Chet, who lowered it and went on. "So here's the deal: I want what they got. Free weed, free Addys. You did that for Marissa before you were friends, which is why the Twins mostly kept you off limits. Tribute to the throne, y'know? Or else things will get bad, without them sheltering you." For a moment Bannon looked at Chet, then the others, blinking once as he took in their resolute features, then he smiled, his lips pulling back from his teeth in a grin that was roughly one-third amusement and two-thirds sheer menace. Then he gave a soft, low laugh. "You monkeys are adorable." he chuckled. "No, seriously, hear me out. You are like retarded cavemen who see the sun and think it's the eye of a monster peering at them. You hear thunder and think it's giant sky-beasts fighting. You think fire is a flower from the gods. You have no idea what you're really perceiving, because you lack the imagination or wit to look beyond the obvious." He drew another puff of smoke, the end of his cigarette glowing briefly as he laughed again. "You're actual imbeciles." "Is that so?" Kieran demanded, but he didn't move forward. The sight of Bannon actually laughing was... unsettling. It wasn't a happy sound, or even ironically happy. It was full of eerie menace. It was just wrong sounding. Bannon just nodded, then fixed his gaze on Chet as his laughter faded away like the rustle of dry leaves over gravestones. "The Twins ruled because they have a quality you do not, Chet. I doubt even they were fully aware of it, but they had the instincts that make a competent ruler. Sure, they bullied and pushed people around, but they also intuitively knew who they could push and how far. They regulated what went on, stopped matters from getting out of hand. Stopped people like you from getting in over your head." Now he stepped forward, hands still in his pockets. Chet had a couple of inches and probably thirty pounds at least on the lean youth, but that didn't even seem to give Jason a pause as he stopped inches away from the large senior, his gaze as sharp as emerald razors. "Get this through your head, Chet. The Jauntsens never protected me. They were protecting you. I'm glad they're not playing the pathetic game of high school grab-ass any more. Good for them, shows they're growing up." He blew smoke in Chet's face. "So yes, you're right. A new order will arise, surely. But here's the message I have for wannabes..." His gaze was coldly serpentine, his voice dropping to a hiss of warning. "You want weed, you buy it. Otherwise you leave me alone, you stay out of my business. You leave Sean alone, and stay out of his business. You leave anyone I sit with in class or the cafeteria alone, and stay out of their business. Including the Jauntsens. No shoulder-slams. No locker pranks. No keying of cars. No malicious gossip. Nothing. Play your little game in the kiddie pool with all the other piss-stinking toddlers and leave the grownups alone. Or I will take a personal interest in your misery. And you'll only realise just how badly you fucked up when it's already too late. Just like at the fair." Chet didn't move. He was aware of the others behind him. He was aware that, if he struck Bannon now, the others would join in. They would beat the kid down, surely. There were three guys - and Tammy - against him. And then... And then what, really? He looked into Bannon's eyes and saw nothing of fear or care there. His gaze flicked down to where Bannon's hands were still in his pockets. What if he had a knife? What if he recovered from his beat-down, and then one night the sharp edge of something would come to rest on his, Chet's throat this time. And Cody had disappeared after the fair... He swallowed. Had Jason killed Cody? God knew there was enough trackless wilderness in Montana that a body could be dumped anywhere... Oh god...And the rumor was that Bannon had criminal contacts in the big cities, too. Cartel, some said. Just the school rumormill, but looking into that hard, cold green stare, Chet wasn't so sure. What he was sure of was that he desperately wanted to pee. He'd started out the day with big plans, and some bravado. This year was going to be the year of the Chet, for sure. And now he'd run straight into both Marissa's vitriolic lack of concern, and Bannon's predatory menace. And suddenly he just wanted to be away from here, drinking beer with his buddies in the sunshine, not face to face with someone who didn't seem quite sane or human, who seemed to radiate cold like an incarnation of Death. "Feel free to go away now." Jase said quietly. "It's a pleasant day. Go and enjoy it. Elsewhere." "Right." Chet mumbled, stepping away. "Right... C'mon, guys." "Chet?" Kieran looked askance at the larger senior, then at Todd, who found himself aware of a full bladder all of a sudden and also just wanted to be away. Tammy repressed a shiver - the air was suddenly cold, and huddled closer to her new boyfriend as they drifted away from the lean figure who watched them go, sunlight glittering in the green slits of his eyes. Now and then, one or another of them glanced back, noting he was still watching them... until suddenly they looked and he was gone. Back behind the tree he'd been relaxing against, Jase leaned back against the bark and enjoyed his smoke. He wondered if the pretenders to the throne would take his warning to heart. Probably? He'd seen fear and uncertainty in their eyes, but then they were exceptionally stupid. He drew in a puff and exhaled with a sigh, looking up at the pattern of sunlight through the leaves overhead. Time, and Darwin, would tell. For now, though, there was the comforting fragrance of good tobacco, and the warmth of the summer's end, and the memory of soft fingers playing with his hair...
    3 points
  8. The training field was mostly quiet in the post-midday heat. Marissa was sunning next to the cooler, enjoying the cool feel of the grass under her hands and the warm sun above as she regained her strength. Cade and Cassie had been practicing attunement off to one side with Tawny and Courtney, the Senior girl having tentatively linked the four of them into a telepathic network so they could attempt 'tuning-in' at a distance. The fact that it also made spoken words unnecessary added to the silence as the sub-quantum ether buzzed with excited conversation. Autumn and Jason were over in the shade of the barn, doing gross new-teen-couple things like kissing, talking in murmurs, and looking into each others eyes. The silence did not persist as Kat and Devin reappeared - whoops of hungry exuberance and exuberant hunger greeted the teleporter's best impression of the famed Spartan king as the rest of the teens converged like hungry hormonal piranhas. "Back, back you savages!" Devin evaded the grasping hands and held the pizzas away from the hungry horde at some risk to his own life and limb. "Sit yo' asses down and let's eat on the grass like civilised people." With laughter and good-natured ribbing, the nine of them settled down to sit companionably in a loose circle. Pizza was passed around, fresh bottles of water were chilled and dished out, and there were a few moments of relative quiet as pizza was ingested - in Marissa's case inhaled - in almost reverent silence. "Fuck." Autumn looked up from the slice she'd bitten into, mouth still full. "This is shome goof pie." "Right?" Devin nodded assuredly. "First thing I do wherever I go - learn where the locals rate the food and then try it out." He took a big bite, stuffing his cheeks full, and smiled beatifically. Jason was eating hungrily, but also had a contemplative look on his face with each bite, as though his sensitive palate was assessing the components of the pizza, attempting to determine the secret of the sauce. If he was successful, he didn't share his findings, merely nodded approvingly as he tore into the crust, then licked his fingers clean. "This is cool." Tawny broke the silence from where she was sat happily between Devin and Kat, looking around the curious assemblage. "I got to say, I was nervous as H-E-double hockey sticks coming here today. Terrified, really." "You should be." Marissa glowered from over her half-gone pizza, a tigress at the kill glaring warningly at those who strayed near. "You stole my top." "Borrowed." Tawny corrected blithely. "And you haven't worn it in months." "Still my top." Marissa snorted, managing to eat a ferocious pace and still appear somewhat elegant. "And really? 'H-E-double hockey sticks'? Are you trying to win 'Fluffiest Puppy, 2019'?" "Anyway," Tawny went on, smiling angelically at the others. "I'm glad I came." "Phrasing." Devin and Jason said at the same time, then air-fist-bumped each other as the blonde country girl blushed and mock-scowled at them both while the others snickered. "I'm serious." she said when the mirth had died down. "Thanks, guys." She nudged the still-smirking Devin. "I'm just glad y'all don't wear spandex like Deej joked about." "You're welcome." Sitting by Marissa, Cade smiled at her. "And no, we're not the Avengers or the X-Men." "More like the Mystery Men." Cassandra laughed, and the amusement spread around the group. "It's true!" The fetching blonde reporter insisted, pointing at Jason. "He's frightfully mysterious and can cut guns in half with his mind. Probably anyway." She pointed at Cade. "Give this man a cutlery set and a turban, and he can be the Blue Rajah." The merriment increased as she moved her finger to Marissa. "She's protected by the power of hairspray." Marissa tried to scowl, but a giggle escaped around the mouthful of pizza she currently had. "Devin's totally that hero dude - whatshisname - the one in the tight suit with all the sponsors and endorsements." Cass went on, grinning. "Captain Amazing" Kat was laughing around her second piece of pizza, having tucked the first away almost as fast as Cade, who was literally twice her size. Cassie nodded and offered a highfive, which the diminutive redhead took. "Sean did 'Allstar' the Project's surveillance last week." Jason suggested with a gleam in his eye. "We even have the same theme music." "Oh no. No no no." Marissa shook her head, but it was too late. Cassandra was already singing. "Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me / I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed." she sang in a surprisingly clear, sweet voice, her smile widening as another, slightly lower pitch joined in from next to Jase. "She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb / In the shape of an "L" on her forehead." Jason looked bemusedly sideways as Autumn came in on the next lines, causing the freckled-face girl to grin, her nose crinkling, and nudge him with her shoulder. And like pebbles starting a landslide Devin, then Tawny, and Kat picked up the verse. It wasn't word perfect in some cases, but it was sung with amusement and enthusiasm. "Well, the years start coming and they don't stop coming Fed to the rules and I hit the ground running Didn't make sense not to live for fun Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb..." Always restless, Autumn was the first to get to her feet, bumping Jason with her leg and tugging him up to dance. Cassie and Kat were next, the French girl with a slice of pizza still in hand as they bobbed and swayed to the tune. Devin, laughing, pulled Tawny up against her protestations and danced goofily with her. "So much to do, so much to see So what's wrong with taking the backstreets? You'll never know if you don't go You'll never shine if you don't glow." Jason wasn't singing, but he was at least 'dancing' - which mostly consisted of swaying in time with Autumn while he studied this curious behaviour with the eye of a charmed anthropologist watching an adorable local custom. Cade was now singing as they hit the chorus... and then Courtney joined in, unable to resist the infectious good humor that was sweeping over the group. "Hey now, you're an all star Get your game on, go play Hey now, you're a rock star Get the show on, get paid And all that glitters is gold Only shooting stars break the mo-o-old!" Whoops of laughter accompanied the last line as the teens broke off the song, snickering like happy fools as they sat back down. Red-faced, Autumn draped herself over Jase's shoulders and planted a kiss on his cheek, snickering a little more at the look of good-natured, patient bemusement he still wore. Marissa, having now finished her pizza and taken advantage of the singalong to grab a slice of one of the other boxes, looked at them all and shook her head slowly. "You all suck." she announced as though reading Holy Writ from stone tablets. But they all saw her smile give the lie to her words.
    3 points
  9. As he watched Autumn chase Cassandra across the field, red-faced and swearing vengeance for the catcalling as she tried to empty her water bottle over the laughing blonde's head, Jason reflected on Devin's words. He wasn't surprised that Devin was capable of subtlety and insight - indeed, he'd seen glimpses of the teleporter's social acuity before - what had the lean young man thoughtful was the generosity and selflessness with which that insight had been applied. He remained still as the others drifted away and just watched them all, Cade chatting with Kat over at the restored plough as the proud French girl looked over her work, Devin laughing at Tawny as the blonde farmgirl jumped on his back and tried to wrestle him to the ground, Cassie and Autumn having an impromptu water battle without honor or humanity, Marissa looking wan and somber over by the cooler... He almost went and spoke to her, but remembered her venomous denunciation of him under the medical center and concluded that his company would probably be less-than-welcome. So he watched them all, now and then sipping from his bottle. His friends, most of them indulging in horseplay, a fact that made him smile as he remembered the water fight in the creek with Autumn. He didn't feel so apart from them as he had in times past, even though with the revelations of the previous week he should feel even more set apart. Granola can help, Devin had said. And he was right to a large extent. Autumn's warmth and straightforwardness made her ideal as a friend - and as a girlfriend - for the naturally detached young Teulu. But Devin also helped. Cassie also helped. Even watching Cade or the odd, squirrelly Kat provided insights in 'peopling'. "Penny for your thoughts?" Courtney had gotten her water bottle and came to stand next to him, watching the others with him for a moment before glancing sideways and up at the angular planes of his face. "You have a penny?" Jason returned with a raised eyebrow, though he didn't look away from the heartwarming sight of Cassie and Autumn laying on their backs out of breath and laughing like children. "I felt what you felt when she kissed you, you know." Courtney's voice was soft, almost wistful. "I felt...uh.. IT. I wish I hadn't, a little. It made me feel cheap. No one has ever felt that when they've kissed me. No one ever will." She blinked, her dark brown eyes moist, then realised he'd turned his head to look at her, his face as expressionless as always when he spoke to her. "I won't say anything." she told him, raising a hand in a peace gesture. "I... just wanted to tell you that it... It's pretty breathtaking. That's all." For a moment more he stared at her, then something almost imperceptible softened around the edges of his cold eyes. "Never say never." he told her quietly, his gaze still on hers. "You likely have finer qualities than you have exhibited to date. You can try to be more than your impulses, just as I do. It does not come easily, though." "No." she agreed, looking away from that stare and watching Devin twist out of Tawny's death-grip and dart away. "It sure doesn't. What's the point, though? Why fight what you are?" "I don't. I harness it, rather than let it harness me. As to the point..." he finished his water with a long pull. "You felt it. Would you say that is worth the effort?" The glamorous redhead's silence spoke volumes. "You are one of us now - at least until you fuck it up." Jason said quietly. "If you want to leash your demons, I will try to help you forge the leash. Think on it." Without waiting for her to nod, or say anything, he walked off to get a fresh bottle of water.
    3 points
  10. Devin broke away from his games with Courtney, who refused to chase him anymore given she hadn't dressed for athleticism. He approached his sister and opened up the cooler, amused at the little things that irritated the hell out of her, like having to walk to the barn for water. He didn't mind so much, like Jason chilling his own drinks, Devin distance wasn't really factor for the teleporter so he'd just bring the drinks to him. "You okay?" he asked his sister as he collected a couple more waters. She nodded in the affirmative but didn't offer much, if anything, in the way of an explanation, just a few short words to keep his mind at ease and after displaying his concern he disappeared in a violet blur. He tossed Kat a water. "Nice work, New Girl," he winked at her. "Quite the bag of tricks hidden up there." He pointed to her forehead and left her to her business. It was collectively, the most words Devin had said to her since she'd started hanging out with the Fellowship. She knew his reputation as Shelly High's bully on a redemption path to try and grow up a bit. He didn't seem so bad, a bit intense sometimes, but not so bad. "Did you know?" Jason asked, as Devin approached imbalanced companion. His words were meant for just Devin and his low inquiry carried no more concern or urgency as any phrase that passed his lips. "Of all the things to help my dad save some money, Devin, the plough?" The teleporter grinned, then shrugged. "She doesn't talk much. When she does she doesn't seem to have listened to what's said or understand simple slang or twists in vernacular. She stares off into space a lot, lost in her own thoughts, where things make more sense to her. Classic ADHD, Jase. I wasn't a hundred percent sure, but I took a shot in the dark. Gave her a puzzle, gave her something that was broken, run down and complex and... well, just let her mind work at its own speed. Explanation would have only gone so far with her, she needs to do things and be engaged on her own terms." He hit Jase in the chest with the back of his hand. "Leadership stuff, dude. Gotta understand your people. Can't manipulate an entire school for years without understanding how teenagers function." "That's mildly disturbing," Jase added, as the corner of his mouth inclined slightly. "You can read all the medical journals, dude, understand what all those fancy afflictions are and what they do and mean, but sometimes the path to the cure lies in bedside manner, bro. Empathy." Devin shrugged. "It's not so much what people say-" "-it's what the don't say." The lanky psychopath finished. "Bingo." Devin tipped his water back and then twisted the cap back on after a large swig. "We'll work on it. If you're gonna step up with me, like we discussed, we gotta get you peopling. Granola can help." His gaze set on something off in the distance, away from their conversation. He raised his hand and pitched his empty water bottle off and up into an arch. It swiftly 'bamf'd out of existence only to reappear and bounce off Tawny's back. She spun about to look who threw it and there was Devin making faces at her as she took off in a full sprint towards him to take him down. "Gotta go. You and me, fifteen minutes, sparing match." Devin bolted away as Tawny passed Jason as a blur of golden hair and the scent of fruity shampoo.
    3 points
  11. Jason's response was a raised eyebrow - Autumn's text on 'Bannon Expressions for Dummies' would have categorised it as the equivalent of a 'hmm'. He looked from the petite exchange student to Devin, who shrugged. "New girl stepping up. Awright." the teleporter raised his bottle of water in a salute. "Let's see what you got." "Very well, then." Jason stepped aside to give Kat a clear view of the plough, then stepped with silent grace behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders. "My Shine will make it easier for you to affect machines or physical objects." he explained as Kat peered over her shoulder up at him, trying to repress a shiver of... well, it wasn't fear that was for certain. This close, she could smell the faint scent of rich tobacco and even fainter cologne, and though his touch was light on her shoulders her skin under his hands felt suddenly unaccountably warm. And then... His Shine poured into her, a powerful bright light focused through the prism of his will. It was clarity, crystalline clarity, and it's effect on the normally-chaotic mind of the young woman was electrifying. Courtney had calmed her with an active brush of her power - Jase's essence tuning to hers threw everything into sharp, clear focus as though her ADHD was never a thing. She was aware of his hands on her shoulders, his presence behind her, and the grass underfoot, and the plough in front of her... and none of it was overwhelming or distracting, everything processing normally as though Jason was grounding the scattered electricity of her thoughts. She bit her lip, taking a deep breath and blowing it out. Focus. It was hard, more complicated than anything she had tried with her gifts before. The rusty hunk of metal had many moving parts, and some were missing - rusted away, presumably. As Kat squinted at the machinery, she felt a faint pain in her head which she associated with the stretching of a muscle unused to such activity. Abruptly, she could see what needed to be done. The rust is oxidised metal. That can be de-oxidised. As the teens watched, the rusty splotches on the plough began to fade, shrinking as they transmuted back into shining sturdy metal. I need to find replacements for the internal mechanisms here and here... Fresh blades there and there... The towing bar is enough metal. And easy to replace. Yeah... The metal of the towing bar used to attach the plough to a tractor shrank, warped, ran like liquid before reforming into gleaming steel plough blades. Rivulets of liquid metal ran along and seeped inside the machine, taking shape under Kat's concentration. "Holy shit." Courtney laughed as, before everyone's eyes, the ravages of time were apparently reversed, as though Kat were winding back a clock. Tawny's eyes were wide, Cade was blinking as he looked from the plough to where Kat stood, Jason's hands on her shoulders, then back at the plough. Where once had stood something fit for the scrap-heap now sat a showroom-new eight-channel rotary plough - minus the towing bar, but still. "Impressive." Jason said quietly from behind Kat as she relaxed, sagging back against him for a moment. The effort had been greater than anything she had yet attempted, her head hurt a little, but despite that and her tiredness she was elated. It felt good to just lean back and take in what she had accomplished. A bona fide miracle. She grinned... and then recalled who she was leaning against. Oh. Yeah. Clearing her throat, she craned her head up and round to look up at him. He didn't look annoyed, which was a plus, but the feel of her back against his torso was enough to make the small French import blush a little as she straightened up. Jason's hands left her shoulders as she turned around, resisting the urge to step away - or closer. He gave her a small nod - of approval, or thanks, or some combination of the two? She wasn't too sure. "If I had some more metal to work with, I could reconstruct the tow bar too." she said, looking up at his eyes. "I'll take you up on that." he replied with a small grin that brought an answering smile to her lips. Suddenly greatly daring, she locked eyes with him and tried to 'speak' to him. She could 'feel' his mind's presence, just not what was going on in it, after all. So she spoke 'at' him rather than trying to connect. "I heard you deal weed. Can we talk about that later? And other stuff too, of course. But... yeah." His eyes narrowed a little, but he was still smiling as he nodded a silent response. "Cool" Kat said with a bright, slightly flirtatious grin, apparently answering his previous statement as, still feeling a little flushed, she stepped away and took a long drink of water. Whew.
    3 points
  12. The Keane Household. Thursday Evening. “So… I saw Nathan Crocker today, when I went to the bank.” Autumn, tucked comfortably into a corner of the sofa with two of their fosters- a two-year-old rust sable Shepherd named Dakota, and Lexi, an older female Pit with creamy white fur and tawny ears- glanced up from her phone at her mother’s non sequitur. Their two families had been friends for ages, since before either Autumn or Jacob were born… probably since before Dana herself was born. Just seeing the good-looking FWP Warden or his equally attractive son around town wasn’t unusual, in itself; Nathan himself had just paid her an unsettling visit the day before. No, what was strange was the way her mother had said it, as if she were leading up to something. “Oookaay?” the younger redhead replied, her tone a combination of acknowledgement and inquiry as she peered up at her mother. “That’s cool, I guess?” With a sigh, Dana leaned bodily against the doorway to the kitchen, regarding the young woman strangers often mistook for her younger sister. She could see so much of herself in her daughter- more than just the physical resemblance- but comparing what she remembered of her own teen years to what she could see of Autumn’s… Where was the sulking? Where was the grumbling about being stuck in the house, the restless flouncing about and complaining that she wanted to hang out with her friends? When she herself had been grounded as a teenager, she’d never missed an opportunity to bemoan the injustice of her exile, which in hindsight had probably not done her any favors. Autumn, though, was handling it with a surprising level of maturity; she didn’t seem so much indifferent as resigned, even straightening the garage without complaint. “It was ‘cool,’ yeah,” she replied finally, just as her daughter was about to go back to watching videos on TikTok. “He asked how we were doing since the hospital, I told him we were fine… We talked about Jacob a little bit-” The teen’s expectant expression soured almost instantly, the corner of her mouth turning down on one side in a look her mother knew Autumn had inherited from her grandfather. “-and he said he didn’t think you guys had any classes together this semester, is that right?” “Nah, we don’t,” came the flat, disinterested response. “Okaay. Well,” Dana hedged, “he also mentioned that Homecoming’s in a few weeks, and Jacob hadn’t said anything about having a date yet, so-” “I’m going by myself, it’s fine,” Autumn interrupted matter-of-factly. It wasn’t exactly the end of the world as far as she was concerned, not being invited to a dance by her ex, especially when things between them were super awkward. “That way I can eat all the snacks I want, dance to the songs I like, leave when I get bored, and nobody can complain.” Leaning her head against the back of the couch, she grinned a little at the older version of herself to soften the edge of her words. “Priorities, right?” The elder Keane blinked, a little taken aback by her daughter’s resolve, and her honesty. She was such a kid sometimes, and sometimes… With a twinge of regret, Dana smiled back. “Yeah. Priorities… Speaking of which!” She paused, marshalling her thoughts. "Autumn, I've been thinking about Tuesday - specifically about what I did and said on Tuesday. You understand that I was upset, right? And not really about the fight, so much, though it gives me the chills to think you might have been hurt: you were doing what you thought was right." Nodding, Autumn glanced down at the phone resting on her thigh as her smile faded, tilting it from side to side without really paying attention to the images on the screen. "Yeah... I mean, you were right though. I did get lucky, and it was probably kind of a dumb thing to do." "I was right in what I said with my Mom Hindsight at work, maybe." Dana smiled slightly at her daughter. "But... and this is not an endorsement as a mother, you understand... you were right in what you did. You helped a friend who was being assaulted with no thought to yourself. If I wasn't your mom, I'd have been cheering you on." She sighed. "I might have even done the same thing at your age. Maybe. So..." She took a breath. "Tonight is officially the last night you're grounded." She raised a hand forestallingly. "But you better not scare me like that again in the near future, Autumn Rae, or so help me..." That got her attention- not only the invocation of her middle name, which meant that her mother was being Really Serious right now, but that she was letting her off the hook early. "Wait," the younger redhead straightened, leaning forward as inquisitive blue eyes studied Dana's face with undisguised curiosity. "Seriously? So I don't have to stay home this weekend?" "No." Dana smiled at the sudden interest piqued in Autumn's gaze. "No, it's the last weekend of summer. I'm not such a monster I'd keep you indoors just because I got a scare." "Ugghhhhh," Autumn was up and off the couch before her mother could react, arms flung tight around Dana's ribs as the suddenly animated girl all but tackled her in a hug. "You're the best. Seriously. Literally the best. I thought you were gonna be mad at me until I was 40." "Ooof" Dana laughed, hugging her daughter tightly in turn. "My not-so-little girl. Ease up on my ribs, huh?" She kissed Autumn's forehead and rested her cheek against it. "You're growing up. I can't be mad at you for being you, or I'd never stop. Besides, who you are is pretty special to me, too." she said more soberly, stroking the red curls of her daughter's hair on the back of her head before withdrawing a little, smiling wryly. "So, what wild hijinks are you going to get up to, now that you're free?" "Wild hijinks?" she repeated dubiously, grinning in spite of herself. Oh my god, that was such a... mom thing to say. "I don't know, I was thinking maybe 'shenanigans,' instead," Autumn teased, eyes laughing as she twisted out of the way to avoid her mother's indignant swat, flinging herself back down on the couch to the surprise and dismay of the dogs who were watching with avid interest. "Seriously, no plans for anything crazy. No wild parties, or anything like that." "Well, good." Dana said with a fond smile. "Because your dad's coming back for Labor Day and I don't want to explain to him why you're in the sheriff's jail for some shenanigans gone awry." Assessing Autumn with a critical eye as she nodded her understanding, she paused for a moment. “Did you start doing something different to your hair?” “Oh, yeah,” came the somewhat distant reply; the mother-daughter bonding moment having passed, the younger of the two was back to scrolling through videos on her phone with one hand and idly petting a pair of drowsy dogs with the other as they settled back down. “Marissa showed me some stuff.” “Marissa…?” “Jauntsen. Remember, I spent the night there last Sunday?” “Wait, wait… That Marissa? The one who-” Dana spluttered incredulously. “Yeah. It’s fine now. Well,” Autumn amended, “mostly. She’s still kind of a bitch.” “Autumn Rae!” “Well,” she shrugged, somewhat chastened. “She is.” Almost as an afterthought, and without looking up from what she was doing, the young redhead added, “Oh, and if it’s cool with you, I was gonna head up to the campsite this weekend and get it cleaned up. It’s been a while, and I wanted to show it to a friend, see if they could help me a little. That okay?” “Autumn, you know I don’t care if you go up there, as long as I know where you are. You’ve been doing it since you were a little girl. I trust you.” She hesitated- It didn’t seem like she and Jacob were talking, but surely Marissa Jauntsen wasn’t the one going with her. That whole family was awful, and she doubted they’d do anything as unglamorous as camping. “But, you don’t normally take anyone with you. Who’s the friend?” “Mmm?” Autumn blinked, distracted, then looked up at her mother with wide, guileless eyes. “Oh. Jason Bannon.” There was a long, uncomfortable moment of silence in the living room, as Dr. Dana Keane reflected that perhaps she’d been a trifle hasty in lifting her daughter’s punishment early. “Oh,” was all she could say. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Friday Afternoon. Autumn had checked the weather a dozen times over the past few days, and according to the forecast, Labor Day weekend was supposed to be gorgeous, with clear skies during both the daylight and evening hours. It was perfect for camping- warm enough to splash around in the creek during the day if she wanted, and cool enough in the evening to sit by the fire. She had everything she needed: hammock, tent, blanket, pillow, insect repellent and first-aid kit, firestarter, sandals, dice, cards, towel, clothes, toiletries, hatchet, camp shovel, pocketknife, and a large, padlocked cooler… plus gas for the ATV. Except for the four-wheeler- a concession for whatever gear her guest might bring- it was exactly the same list she checked off every other time she’d gone. “Listen, just… Call me, okay? I’m just down the road.” “Mom,” Autumn sighed in exasperation as she organized everything in the front yard, taking stock of what she needed to tie down and where. “I know what you’re thinking, and seriously, it’s not like that. Look, he’s just helping me get everything cleaned up. He’s literally just a friend, okay? Not the future father of your grandchildren.” “Autumn!” The pretty vet’s face went as red as her daughter’s hair as she stormed down the steps from the porch. Laughing, Autumn ran to the other side of the four-wheeler to avoid the onslaught. “Mom, seriously, I’m kidding, I’m kidding!” she protested, still grinning as she fended off her mother’s swatting. “I’ll call you, I promise! If you wanna hang out for a little while, he’s probably getting his own stuff, and then he’s gotta come here first, y’know. Then you can yell at him, too.” Seeing the smile on her daughter’s lips, her enthusiasm for going back to a place that held so many memories of her grandfather, Dana relented, her embarrassed indignation fizzling away with the dim recollection of a child’s laughter. “Maybe I will,” she countered, smacking Autumn’s hip playfully with the back of her hand. After a moment, she added, more soberly, “I just… worry, you know?” I am too young for grandchildren, her expression read as she peered at her daughter. “Yeah,” the younger girl agreed quietly, sliding one arm around her mom’s waist for a quick hug. “I know.” “Now, c’mon. I’ll help you get everything strapped on before he gets here.” ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Dana Keane had a mental image of Jason Bannon that was based on the previous six years of the young recluse’s life, an impression shared by most adults in Shelly: shifty-eyed, perpetual boneless slouch, shady connections, spoke rarely and even then in a sullen murmur without meeting one’s eye - the sort of kid you worried about sending your child to the same school as. Whilst the dramatic changes in Jase over the summer had been noticed around school, word spread a little slower to the wider community not directly connected to the Shelly education system. So Dana was not really all that worried about Autumn potentially fooling around with such a boy - indeed, she was more worried that her daughter was hanging around ‘questionable’ persons: Marissa Jauntsen? Jason Bannon? And there had been that fight at school - also involving Jason Bannon - was her daughter falling in with a bad crowd? So when the soft growl of a muscle car caused both Keane ladies to look up from adjusting the load on the ATV, it was with a mixture of trepidation (Autumn) and puzzlement (Dana). To Autumn’s relief, Bannon didn’t bring the Charger roaring up the track, revving the engine in a cringey display of machismo - but then, she mused, she probably shouldn’t expect that sort of thing from him anyway. The low grumble of the V8 ceased as it drew up to one side of the track and came to a stop, and Jase got out. And Dana Keane felt a prickle of maternal unease. He was dressed as per normal in clothes a size too large - Army surplus combat pants and boots, with a plain white t-shirt under a grey hoodie. As the two women approached, he gave them a nod of acknowledgement and a faint smile as he hefted a large pack and a rolled up tent from the trunk of his car, then stepped forward to meet them. He seemed taller than Autumn’s mother remembered - or was that due to the fact he was standing upright? - and his previously hooded, shifty gaze was direct - unsettling in its calm appraisal of whatever or whoever it rested on. His dark hair was long enough to brush the lobes of his ears, and while it looked shaggy, it was a far cry from the ‘dragged through a hedge’ look he’d worn before, framing the brilliant pale green of his eyes in the outdoor-tan of his face. It looked as though in the space of the summer he’d grown from ‘teenaged boy’ to ‘young man’. Not that he didn’t wear it well - he wore it possibly too well for Dana’s comfort. “Just a friend?” Dana murmured out of the corner of her mouth. Autumn made a ‘shush’ noise out of the corner of her own as they came up to him. “Hey.” Jase said by way of greeting, giving Autumn a smile that reached his cold eyes, causing them to crinkle at the edges, then turning his attention to Dana. “You didn’t tell me your sister would be here.” he said with a faint accusatory air as his eyes flickered back to Autumn. Though his poker face was as good as ever, she could read the mischievous gleam of humor in his gaze as he continued, deadpan. “I’d have dressed up more, got a haircut, y’know?” Autumn groaned in disbelief, Dana blinked in surprise, and both women, almost in unison, turned the same shade of crimson. Ugh, the former sighed inwardly. Seriously? “Yeah, yeah,” the younger of the two grumbled, shaking her head. “We try to keep her hidden here, but tales of her beauty still spread far and wide across the land, and so on, and so forth, Mom- Jase, Jase, Dr. Dana Keane.” She paused, glaring daggers at him even as the corners of her lips twitched in suppressed laughter. “My mother,” she reiterated unnecessarily, pointedly leaning forward as if to warn off a rapacious predator from an appealing target. “Just Dana, will be fine,” the elder of the Keane ladies suggested, her hazel eyes simultaneously appraising and amused as she stepped forward. He was not at all what she’d expected, thus far, although it wasn’t entirely reassuring. Autumn got into a fight protecting this boy. “It’s nice to meet you. Autumn said you two were planning on heading up to the property to do a little clean-up and camp overnight.” She gave him a quick once-over, then smiled, extending her hand in greeting- a gesture the tall, strangely compelling young man was quick to reciprocate. As they shook hands, Dana took the opportunity (as all parents must) to embarrass her only child and get more information about the green-eyed interloper. “Do you do much camping, Jase? Or, do you prefer Jason? And, what about your girlfriend, mm? Does she mind that you’re going out into the woods alone with my daughter?” While Autumn went several shades of red and resisted the urge to step on her mom’s foot - hard - Jason didn’t even blink, holding Dana’s gaze with his own through the brief handshake. Even as she subjected him to a mixture of wary maternal and feminine scrutiny, the attractive veterinarian felt the weight of being studied in turn, a sensation her daughter was already uncomfortably familiar with when dealing with the Effing One. His manner wasn’t one of ease such as Jacob might have displayed, born from a lifetime of familiarity. It was utterly centered, composed, displaying no cues of either nervousness or eagerness to please, rather a distant watchful intensity that reminded the veterinarian of a half-wild creature deciding whether she was a friend or a threat. “Jase is fine, amongst friends.” he said with a touch of warmth, giving her a small nod as he let his fingers slide from hers. “I try to go camping at least a couple times a year, so when Autumn told me she knew a pretty spot she’d like to show me I said okay. And... I don’t have a girlfriend.” His lips twitched in a slight smile as Dana’s speculative gaze turned briefly to Autumn, who was currently experiencing the fervent red-faced feeling of wishing the earth would open up and swallow either her, her mom or Jase. Then he threw his blushing friend a lifeline. “Will the car be okay where I parked it?” he asked Dana, indicating the Charger. “I can move it if it’s in the way at all.” “So long as your dad doesn’t mind you leaving his vintage machine out in the elements overnight.” Dana replied, then indicated the two-car garage Autumn had just finished organizing the day before. “But why don’t you park it up in there?” “Mighty kind.” Jason smiled at that, both in response to the kindness and out of mild amusement. “The car is all mine, though. Spent the summer rebuilding her.” He added with a tiny note of pride in his tone as he set down his camping gear. “I’ll get her parked up if you’ll give me a moment.”
    3 points
  13. "Well, we've been in classes together and so on since I moved to Shelly." Jason replied calmly, dextrous fingers and sharp knife making swift work of the tomatoes. "Aware of each other, without really talking." Dana nodded, setting the olive oil on the counter. Jason tilted his head to one side. "Do you have any balsamic vinegar?" he asked casually, causing Dana to think a moment before nodding and retrieving that bottle from the cupboard too as her guest started in on the onions. Dana checked the oven temperature and lightly oiled the potatoes before setting them on a tray. "But we started talking last Friday." Jason went on. "Autumn bumped her head on a door - it swung back into her face, to be exact, and one of my friends noticed the tumble. She grabbed me, because I have a certain level of medical knowledge, and we went to check on Autumn." He glanced up at her, giving a faint smile. "She was fine other than a bruise. Fine enough that she was giving me a hard stare for walking into the girls bathroom and caring more that she didn't have a concussion. I got her some ice for the bruise, then we invited her to sit down with us." The corners of his eyes crinkled slightly as he started arranging neat slices of tomato and even thinner sliced onion in the dish. "Not the best of starts. I really got the impression she thought we were oddballs and that I was up to no good." "I probably would have assumed the same thing if someone I barely knew followed me into the women's restroom," Dana replied a trifle archly, narrowly suppressing a smile. That did sound like Autumn, all right, or at least her propensity for mishaps. "So," she continued, adding a little coarse salt and pepper to the potatoes as she leaned over to examine Jason's handiwork. "You started talking on Friday, last week." With a little hm and a nod of approval at his progress, she turned back to her own preparations. "And, from the sound of it, not necessarily under ideal circumstances. Thank you for looking after her, by the way." Hazel eyes flickered once more in his direction, considering his profile as he worked. There was something unusual about Jason Bannon, though she couldn't quite put her finger on it. He seemed too... mature, really. He didn't give off the impression of being a drug-running miscreant now that she was talking to him in person, but he didn't quite seem like a teenager, either- didn't conduct himself like one, or move with that awkward semi-conscious lack of spatial awareness most of them had, didn't use the same slang terminology. "So how did you two end up getting close enough since then for her to invite you up to the creek?" He made a soft sound of amusement - a proto-chuckle of sorts. "Well, she hung out with a bunch of us at my home on Sunday, and left without her hoodie. On Monday evening she came to get it back, and then stayed to talk." Satisfied with his arrangement of the layers of tomato and onion, he inquired after a bowl and whisk and began mixing some olive oil and balsamic in the bowl, before slowly whisking them together. "I... I was having a bad day. Personal issues. Autumn was able to get me to talk about them - indeed, she was the only one who cared to talk to me about them." He paused, eyes going distant as he recalled the night - her warm hug, the conversation in the kitchen, the teasing and laughter. "I think..." he said slowly. "I think Autumn is the only person who really, really tried - and tries - to understand me." The words were matter-of-factly spoken, but seemed to come from a place of vast distance, or so it seemed to Dana. There was no self-pity there, or sorrow, but there was a sense of alienation, of a young life lived in apart-ness. He looked up from grinding some salt and pepper into the bowl, his gaze direct as he regarded Dana. "Autumn made an impact on me. I think that's when we became friends." He dropped his gaze and considered the bowl of dressing, then raised it to his face and gave it a sniff, pondering for a second before adding a touch more pepper. "And the rest is her defending me at school, then inviting me camping. And... I suddenly realised - we both did, I think - what was there." He chuckled again. "Perhaps it didn't exist until that moment, like Schrödinger's Cat. Until we opened the box and looked." He shrugged his lean shoulders. "I'm not really an expert on this sort of thing. Autumn is the first girl that ever kissed me." Leaning back against the counter, arms folded across her chest, Dana Keane listened quietly as Jason related the very brief series of events that had led, more or less, to finding the pair of them on the front porch. It was gratifying, in a sense, to hear someone- a stranger to herself- praise her daughter's character, as if in confirmation that she'd been raised well by people who loved her. And yet, that same maternal inclination, some completely mundane and yet unfathomable instinct, told her that this polite, well-spoken young man might have no idea what that felt like. The thought didn't lessen her worry for her daughter, necessarily, but his account did reinforce Autumn's insistence that they really had just been friends. ...Which, given the rapid escalation of their relationship, was more than enough to justify a measure of concern. A responsible 16 year-old was still a 16 year-old, after all, with all the dubious judgement that entailed. "Really?" she asked when he'd finished, one auburn brow raised skeptically as a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. Her keen hazel eyes appraised his height, the faintly Mediterranean cast of his features, the pale green gaze Autumn had remarked on more than once. "I find that hard to believe. You're a nice-looking young man. Surely my daughter isn't the first one to think so." "I never claimed that." A fin of humour flashed in the depths of his eyes, echoed in another of those small but genuine smiles as he glanced back at Dana, meeting her gaze once more without any of the discomfort that should be present in a teenage boy talking about such a subject with an older woman. No blush, no self-deprecating aww-shucks shrug. It was both impressive and somewhat disturbing. "I've known there've been girls that took interest in me, at least according to sources other than my own perceptions. I've not had a lot of luck following up on that, though." Giving the dressing a final whisk, he artfully drizzled it over the dish of layered tomato and onion. "Like I said - Autumn's the first who actually kissed me. And honestly, the fact that it was her meant more than the fact it was a kiss." He picked up the dish and moved over to the refrigerator, opening the door and selected a spot on the shelf on which to place the salad. Closing the door, he turned and faced Dana from across the kitchen, the corners of his eyes crinkling in a micro-smile. "You worry for Autumn." he stated calmly, arms hanging at his sides with a relaxed poise that had nothing of the defensive or bashful about it. "It's good: seeing that love you hold, the way you care. I won't hurt her, Dana. I'm not careless with my friendship... or other feelings." "Can you really guarantee me that?" she replied, head tilted slightly in an attitude of intent curiosity. It was a largely rhetorical question, born of the older woman's objection to what she saw as his naïve optimism. Although Jason Bannon had the manner of an adult, the bearing of someone considerably more mature than his actual age would seem to indicate, he was, she reflected, still a boy, after all. "That you won't hurt her." Dana shook her head slowly as if in answer to her own question, but remained leaning comfortably against the counter. "No," she continued, not unkindly, but with the certainty of one accustomed to promises and the fickleness of both circumstance and human nature. "You can tell me that you'll try not to. You can reassure me that you won't do it intentionally." Her eyebrows drew together in a little frown, an expression of thoughtfulness her daughter unconsciously adopted when considering a problem. "But, eventually, you will. Even if you're not careless. Even if you don't mean to." She was quiet for a moment, glancing past Jason and toward the doorway where Autumn had vanished to go upstairs. "I do worry," Dana agreed, moving to gather up the utensils to be washed and glancing up at her daughter's strange new companion. "She's my child, my little girl, the hardest and the best thing that's ever happened to me. And I know that, even though she'll be my baby as long as she lives, she won't be a baby nearly that long. So, I'd rather you didn't tell me something unrealistic, like the fact that you won't hurt her. Tell me how you'll handle it when you do." He focused on the question, on her words, and his brow furrowed in concentration as he gave the matter his full attention. As Dana kept one eye on him, he paced a few short steps, hands going into the pockets of his sweat pants, then turned and paced back. Then he went motionless, as if all extraneous energy had been turned off and the actual Being of Jason Bannon was elsewhere, eyes staring unseeingly at the counter-top in front of him. He didn't even seem to breathe. And then motion and animus returned, and his head came up, eyes glancing towards Dana once more. "I think..." he said slowly, as if analysing his thoughts as they were verbalised. "That people often hurt each other. Even those close to them, though that seems to be mostly selfishness, mistake or carelessness. I can eliminate carelessness as a cause for Autumn's pain. I can do my utmost to limit selfishness as a cause. But I will make mistakes." He frowned. "You're right. It is not so much a question of whether I will hurt Autumn - probability indicates that even with the best of intentions, I could upset her." He turned to face Dana, nodding as the analysis reached its conclusion. "I think that if I hurt Autumn I would handle it by assessing how, by discussing it with her, and by not repeating the mistake." Dana stared at him for a long moment, warm hazel eyes nearly as wide as her daughter's as she struggled with the conflicting urges to simultaneously laugh and weep. Both teens had said they'd met at school, but she was half-convinced her intrepid daughter had unearthed this increasingly odd boy from a government research lab. ...Something with extraterrestrials or artificial intelligence, maybe, like the television shows the girls at the office watched. The more he spoke, the less he seemed like the slouching thug from the rumors, but that wasn't necessarily reason not to be concerned. "That is an answer," she allowed with a sigh, her expression a strange commingling of resignation and amusement. "Although at least now I know for sure you were serious about never having had a girlfriend before. Speaking of which." Reaching up into one of the cabinets overhead, the svelte redhead pulled down a coffee filter and busied herself measuring grounds from an airtight canister on the counter. "Autumn mentioned you had a few," she paused, the corner of her mouth curving into a wry half-smile. "Quirks. So what should I know about you, Jason Bannon?" "Quirks." He smiled faintly. "I suppose I do." He relaxed, leaning back against the counter on his butt and hands, a lean symmetrical form in repose. "It's always a little odd, to describe yourself to someone else, isn't it?" Dana shot him a warm smile as she heard the wry humor in his tone. "Hmm. Things you should know..." Jason mused, his eyes on his girlfriend's mom as she set the coffee machine up. "I have an acute sense of smell and taste - which is one reason I like to cook and garden - specifically flowers, but I dabble with other growing things as well, like a vegetable and herb patch I've started at home. I tend to be - as you likely noticed - analytical. A lot of nuanced human interaction goes over my head." he admitted with a shrug. "I don't lie." "Really?" Dana raised a brow as she started the coffee to drip and turned to regard him skeptically. He just nodded, a faint smile at the corners of his lips. "Really. Outright lies offend me. I'm perfectly capable of evasion, concealment, half-truths, misdirection and letting someone jump to the wrong conclusion, though." he said with a small grin. "But the thought of categorically stating an untruth revolts me." He shrugged again. "It's just the way I'm made, I suppose. If I say a thing is so, then to the best of my knowledge it is." "Huh. Good to know." Dana wasn't sure she believed it, but other than a wry amusement at how she was reacting, he didn't seem to be playing with her. "Anything else?" "I speak six languages not including English and plan to learn more, because I like languages." he stated with another of his expressive, lean shrugs. "I have perfect recall of every moment of my life, every experience, sight, sound, smell and touch - both good and bad. I've never taken a proper intelligence test, but I imagine I would score fairly high, based on my speed of information absorption and comprehension." He considered. "I think that covers things you should know." "For a narrow definition of 'should,' I suspect," his girlfriend's mother observed dryly, having missed neither the emphasis of the term by repetition nor Jason's candid assessment of truth-telling. "But for now, since this is the first time we're talking, and Autumn will probably shower as quickly as she can to limit my opportunities to either ask something embarrassing or tell you something embarrassing, I'll take it." He seemed sincere enough despite the incredible claims he was making, or at least confident enough in what he was saying that it passed for sincerity, and yet if he was telling the truth it made his involvement with her daughter seem all the more unusual. Neither their interests nor abilities seemed to intersect, she mused, removing a pair of mugs from the rack as the coffee burbled in the machine. And yet, at least one shared interest seemed patently obvious, she remembered, still feeling more than a little voyeuristic at having seen them interacting in the doorway. "I am curious, though." Glancing briefly at the lean, green-eyed youth as she passed, Dana pulled a small container of heavy cream from the refrigerator. "All of that sounds fascinating, and while I'm firmly and unwaveringly convinced that my daughter is essentially perfect... because she's mine," the pretty veterinarian added good-naturedly. "The two of you don't seem to have much in common. Where's the connection?" "I think we have more in common than some might suspect." Jason replied calmly, smiling a little at her. "As I said before, we bonded over a single long conversation, and I find her to be curious, brave and warm. She's restless rather than studious, but she seeks understanding. We both enjoy hiking, camping and outdoor activities, finding the same peace and sense of pitting ourselves against the elements in the pastime." He smiled a little wider at a memory. "Last night-" "Am I going to want to hear this?" Dana said half-seriously. Jason grinned then, actually grinned - a flash of humor that transformed his composed features for a moment, making him seem his age, before fading to a smile with the mirth still dancing in his jade gaze. "I'm not that forthcoming." he remarked somewhat impishly. "No. We were talking, and I mentioned something about quantum theory in passing, and she recalled myself and Sean talking about it on Sunday last week, so she asked what it was all about. So I explained about the current search for the Grand Unifying Theory, the gaps and holes in it, and some theories about what might fill those gaps." He shrugged. "She listened, she asked questions, she was curious. She's not narrow-minded, interested only in what her immediate experiences provide. And nor am I. There's a commonality that goes beyond mere learning." His smile softened, just a fraction of warmth touching the cool shade of his eyes. "I find her amazing." "Do you," Dana observed/inquired quietly, honey-colored eyes narrowing speculatively at the subtle shift in Jason's expression. Autumn and Jacob had grown up together, were fond of each other, had been thick as thieves before the break-up and the rift that grew between them- but the word "amazing" had never entered the conversation. Now, in the span of a few minutes, both her daughter and this strange, moderately unnerving newcomer had each used that specific term- totally independently- to describe the other. It was simultaneously sweet and unsettling, the thought that the tall, spare young man who'd put such a light in her daughter's eyes might himself possess a bit of that same spark... especially when it had flared into existence so suddenly. "How do you take your coffee?" she continued conversationally, considering the way he'd described Autumn, the tone and the phrasing he'd employed. Had he really only known her for a week? Could he actually have drawn such conclusions on the basis of… What had he called it? ...A single long conversation? Most teenage boys, she reflected ruefully, would have used rather different words to describe the athletic young woman. ...Then again, Jason Bannon was evidently not 'most teenage boys.' "In a mug, usually. If I'm really jonesing, I just snort the grounds." Jason said casually as he crouched down and fussed over Lexi, who had come up and was sat at his feet looking up imploringly for attention. Dana noticed how intent and deliberate he was, the long slender fingers gently scritching behind the pit's ears, then down the sides of her neck as Lexi panted happily even as the slender veterinarian let out a snort and a musical chuckle at Jason's comment. He glanced up from the dog and smiled, head tilting to one side and eyebrow raised in wry humor, and a few things clicked into place for Dana as to why Autumn was so into the youth - other than the obvious. He was intent on whatever was before him, utterly present in each moment, took emotional topics seriously rather than deflecting with jokes or embarrassment, and yet was possessed of a curious dry understated humor. His eyes were glacial and icy on first meeting, but as he opened up they took on a richer, warmer expression which was only rarely echoed in his features. When he looked at a person he really looked, and they either felt an uncomfortable sense of being stared at by a wolf... Or they felt like they were the focus of his entire universe. Whoa. "Black and plain is perfect." Jason said as Dana stared at him in that moment, causing the normally self-possessed woman to start slightly and then nod, turning away and letting out a breath. She still wasn't entirely happy with the speed at which Autumn and this young man had evidently fallen into each other - but she understood it a little - okay, a lot better. And this is when he's sixteen and on his first girlfriend. Saints preserve all good women when he 'grows up'. As she poured the coffee, she heard the sound of footfalls on the stairs as Autumn tried to walk - rather than run - back down and prevent the maternal inquisition from squeezing too many uncomfortable facts from her boyfriend. "Apparently, there was a study that said someone who drinks their coffee black is more likely to be a psychopath," Dana teased as the sound of bare feet on hardwood reached her ears, skipping down the last couple of steps to the accompaniment of clawed canine paws clicking on the bright maple floor. She was just handing Jason his mug as Autumn rounded the corner with her Shepherd escort, the young woman's damp red-gold curls loose around her shoulders and her fair skin still faintly pink from the heat of the shower. Nothing was said about the faint purplish smudge at the juncture of the girl's throat and shoulder, just visible over the neckline of her shirt; her mother merely sighed, peering sharply at her daughter's new boyfriend over the rim of her cup as she took a drink. It could be worse, she reminded herself, trying not to think of the rising teen pregnancy rate and finding precious little reassurance in the way Autumn's gaze was drawn by some unerring feminine instinct to her boyfriend's face. "We've got a little while, yet, before dinner," she stated pointedly, glancing at the timer on the oven. "You guys are welcome to watch some television in the living room, or we can play cards..." Her voice trailed off, and a gleam of mischief sparkled in the depths of her hazel eyes. "Ooorrrr, I can bring down your old photo album! You know, Jason, we've got the most adorable pictures of Autumn from when she-" "Mom, come on, not cool!" Autumn protested vehemently, sweeping past both of them to grab a mug from the rack. She'd changed into a pair of dark green running shorts and a slightly oversized t-shirt, which Dana would normally consider a perfectly modest outfit to wear around an interested teenage boy; a quick glance at Jason and the direction of his gaze, however, left her with the unsettling feeling that it might not matter what she wore. "Since you're our guest, Jason, do you have a preference?" her mother inquired, putting the cream away as Autumn finished up. He had indeed been studying Autumn's shape, barely hinted at under the t-shirt but then more clearly outlined by the running shorts and the smooth musculature of her legs as she leaned to grab the mug from the rack. As Dana spoke to him, however the heat faded from his gaze as it shifted back to the older woman, replaced with a faint smile that touched the corners of his eyes. "The photos sound intriguing-" "Ugh!" Autumn glared at him over her shoulder, the pink in her features now nothing to do with the shower. "No. No way. Not unless you bring yours to the table too." she added with a crinkle of her nose as she smiled, imagining a small, grave faced ragamuffin with too-large eyes. Then the redhead blinked, turning back to her coffee as she remembered that she had, as a matter of fact, seen a young Jason - merely ten years old and newly arrived in Shelly - trying to get his hands around a boy's throat with a coldly intent expression in his eyes... and then turn and sink his teeth bone-deep into a teacher's wrist when he'd been pulled off. Before that, he'd been the quiet, shy new kid, and even though afterwards he never so much as got into a scuffle, the memory had stayed with Autumn if only subconsciously, to be pulled up only by the innocent random thought of imagining him as a child. Perhaps it had even contributed to her dislike of him, which seemed likely. Odd, how a fleeting moment of shock and fear could only be undone years later by a seeming random tide of Fate causing the two of them to enter each other's orbits. It did make her wonder, though - had he ever truly been a child, as human beings understood the term? "That seems fair." Jason smiled a little wider at the loose collection of reddish curls as they tumbled down Autumn's back, glinting with pinpoints of golden fire in the light. He wanted to bury his face there, to inhale the scent of her: wanted it so badly it felt like the most gnawing of hungers. "I choose TV, then." Dana hmmed quietly as though in disappointment. "Ah, well. Come by sometime when she's not home and I'll show you," the older redhead smirked, patting Jase lightly on the shoulder as she passed, coffee mug in hand. Although she wasn't entirely comfortable leaving the two young paramours alone for more than a few minutes, she did at least trust her daughter enough to make good choices. ...Or, failing that, not catastrophic ones. Autumn dropped the spoon she'd used to stir her coffee into the sink, nose crinkling as she made a face at her mother's back. "Keep it up, Autumn Rae" the pretty vet called over her shoulder as she headed into the other room. "One day it'll freeze like that." Abashed, the animated young woman took a sip of her coffee, the rose of her cheeks deepening further. Then, with the petulance of a girl half her age, quickly stuck her tongue out and gave a good-humored huff. "I've never figured out how she does that," she grinned, extending her hand. "C'mon. If you don't sit with me you'll have to fight the dogs for a place. They're spoiled." ---------------------------------------------------------------------- The TV chattered and blared as the hero fought the villain, who was extruding a whip of living fire from his hand, the movements of both combatants choreographed to heighten the drama and tension and sense of mortal peril the protagonist was facing. Flips, kicks, somersaults and shouts filled the screen with noise and action. As shows went, Wu Assassins was pretty good, both teens had agreed as they’d settled in to watch some thirty minutes earlier. It was a shame, then, that currently the artistry and action on the screen was being ignored. It was Jason’s fault- at least, that was Autumn’s stance on the matter. He’d put an arm comfortably around her shoulders as they’d nestled together, and then idly toyed with the curls of her glory of red-gold hair, running his slender fingers through it gently to stroke her neck and shoulder, causing tingles of warmth to race through her nerves. So strongly did Autumn feel that it was her boyfriend’s fault that she, in fact, felt the need to tell him between kisses. “It’s your fault.” she murmured softly, her arms resting around his neck, lips grazing his ear before her teeth lightly nibbled at the lobe, gratified to feel his reaction in the sharp intake of breath as well as in another, more tangible fashion. “Nope.” his reply was likewise a murmur as he kissed the curve of Autumn’s neck where it met her shoulder. His hands were loosely tangled in her fall of red hair, the scent of which he breathed in. “You’re the one that moved. And now we’re missing the show.” Autumn grinned as she withdrew a little to look into his eyes. True enough, she had moved first, swinging a bare leg over him and straddling his thighs so she could properly give him her attention - and he could give her his. “You want to watch the show?” she asked with an arch of her brow. “Don’t put words in my mouth.” His eyes were heated, dark with passion even as he smiled slightly. “I was merely observing we were- mmph.” he finished softly as Autumn pressed her body and mouth to his, arms tightening around his neck as though to prevent even the remote possibility he would try to get away - which, to be honest, was so remote as to not be worth considering. “Oh, for heaven’s sake!” Dana wasn’t sure whether to laugh or scowl as she stepped into the lounge and saw the pair of them. At least he didn’t have his hands on her butt this time. Progress! The slender, pretty veterinarian thought wryly. Autumn made a sound that was half gasp, half giggle as she slid off her beau, trying to look contrite and failing miserably. She seemed lively, and happy, and it was good to see. Dana took a breath, counted to ten, then spoke again. “Okay. New rule, you two. None of-” she made a gesture indicating the pair of them and their misbehaviour “-that in the lounge, porch, dining room, kitchen or indeed anywhere in this house except the bedroom when I’m home. I’m not going to try and stop teenagers being teenagers, but I don’t want to walk into my own lounge and see it. Am I clear?” “Yes, mom.” Autumn nodded, somewhat soberly. Jason turned his gaze to Dana and nodded assent, or at least understanding, gravely. “Good! Now, dinner is a few minutes away, so both of you can come and help set the table.” She was unable to resist cracking a smirk, raising an eyebrow at them. “Take a moment to, ah, compose yourselves, and for God’s sake wash your hands first.”
    3 points
  14. Not a dragon, then, the thought sprang up unbidden, and a part of her was oddly disappointed in the inability of the universe to make what obviously would have been the superior choice. Although he'd responded in the same near-clinical fashion she was accustomed to, attributing no more emotional weight to any of the words than if he'd been reading from a grocery list, a few of them caught her attention anyway: hominid; designed; deliberately evolved. Sure, the rest sounded like a rough description of the inscrutable young man whose hands she was currently holding, but... "Okay, so..." Autumn's eyes narrowed slightly in concentration as she worked to process exactly what all of them, in combination, actually meant. "A close relative of humans, selectively bred to be... what...? Warriors, or something?" "Yes. Apparently, long ago two highly advanced beings wanted warriors with traits similar to human psychopaths, but capable of teamwork and in-group loyalty, faster maturation and capable of more rapid reproduction. According to the history I've been given they took some humans and changed them on the genetic level. I am, if this is true, genetically further away from Homo Sapiens than the Neanderthal Man." He regarded her with a faint twitch of wry amusement at the corner of his mouth. "Apparently still compatible, though." "Mmm," Autumn nodded, lips pursed and intent enough on the rest of what he'd said that- for once- she missed the innuendo entirely. He'd answered her next question before she'd asked it: Why? and also implied that even he wasn't entirely sure if he believed what Ms. Forster had told him during her visit. ...Which, in all honesty, was probably the only real response someone could have to that kind of bombshell, followed immediately by a demand for proof- something she herself had been considering since entering her grandfather’s study on Thursday. It wouldn't be hard to find out if he really was genetically different- there were tests for that- but that wasn't the biggest issue here. Jason Fucking Bannon didn't need her, of all people, to point that out, so for a moment the redhead put aside all the other questions his answer raised. "I'm a little bit- okay," she amended, a slightly abashed grin curving her lips, "a lot curious, but before I ask you a dozen less important questions about the hows and whys..." The earnest young woman took a step toward him, squeezing his hands gently as she peered up into his eyes. "How do you feel about what she told you?" "I won't lie- Heh." He chuckled, a short breath of quiet amusement. "Can't, really. Turns out that's another change hardwired into us. Anyway." He sighed, intently examining her face and expression, analysing her tone and, most of all, feeling the reassuring squeeze of her hands, a tactile cue that carried more weight to his perceptions than any other. "It is a lot to process." he said more quietly. "I had built a foundation of myself as different, but human. Now... I'm not human. But it doesn't tangibly change anything about my life." he went on, frowning a tiny amount. "It's momentous, but doesn't have much practical impact on what is going on in my life... or who I care about. Whether I'm called Jason Bannon, or Jason out of Catheen of the Ddraig by Gareth Bannon, I still feel the same. I'm still me." "Still a fixed star," she agreed, turning one of his hands over as she lifted it, pressing a quick kiss to his palm and tugging him onward before letting his fingers slide from hers as she walked. The woman who was his mother- or had been at one time- could have been lying. She could be trying to manipulate him for some reason- why come back now, after disappearing for years? And even if it was true... and she couldn't rule out the possibility, not with all the other varieties of crazy she'd seen and heard recently... how did it fit in with everything else? What were these people like, the other half of Jase's family? "So," she glanced back over her shoulder at him, then returned her attention to picking a path over the growing number of half-buried stones among the leaf litter underfoot. "Out of curiosity, why tell me?" "I trust you. I plan to tell everyone, eventually, but I wanted you to be one of the first to know because I value your perspective and your kindness." he watched her pick the path and followed close behind, his eyes now and then lingering on the movements of Autumn's hips, or the tumble of her hair down her back, or the way she placed her feet, that curious mixture of the carnal and the purely aesthetic sensibilities informing his perceptions. "And, given you agreed to date me... It seemed fair. I would have mentioned it last night - almost did, in fact - but there were other things happening and I'm just selfish enough I didn't want them to stop." He concluded without any sense of shame in his tone. "It was one reason I was pretty insistent about the condom thing - despite really, really not wanting to stop. Because if it's true, and if my mother wasn't just spinning a line, my people have... let's call them 'highly dominant genes'." Autumn didn't have to turn around for Jase to gauge her reaction; even as she felt the blood rising in her cheeks, a slow suffusion of bright pink crept up the back of her neck, clearly visible beneath the sway of her long, copper-red ponytail. "Oh," she replied quietly, swallowing hard as she remembered the "other things" that were happening at the time. "I mean, I'm glad you told me. Not just because of that," his girlfriend added quickly, "but it is, um, good to know. Assuming she wasn't lying, though, I am really curious what else she told you about them- about you, too, I guess." "Mentally we mature faster than humans. Physically too, only not quite as noticeably. At least for the males." He found it helped to analyse what he'd been told, speaking it aloud for another's benefit. "Female Teulu - that's what they call themselves - mature very fast. Usually at childbearing age around ten years old, and they will look sixteen to eighteen or so. Four sets of ovaries, and it's very common for female Teulu to give birth to twins. They're also fertile longer - menopause takes place no earlier than fifty years of age." He ducked a low, thin branch, meeting her eyes as she looked back to check on him. "Longer lived, too. Barring accidents, Teulu can live in good health past one hundred years." He frowned a touch, eyes tightening as he considered something. "Some have very, very limited Shine. And they live in a clan-based system with each clan competing with others for members and resources. Very social Darwinist, very pragmatic. Violence is common even within clans, though such violence is governed by a code of behaviour that places the good of the clan first. The aggression and dominance hardwired into us means that a leader must be smart, strong and ruthless as well as good for the clan as a whole. They don't seem to prize kindness, or gentleness, or mercy. Cunning, intelligence, strength, pragmatic ruthlessness, physical attractiveness and fertility are the virtues they hold highest. My mother..." he paused again. "She claims she's a throwback to their more human ancestors, at least mentally. She can feel fear, and remorse. It's why she ran away from them, and from me." "Fuck," the otherwise wholesome redhead swore softly, pausing as she turned back to regard Jason with a mixture of awe and curiosity. "You weren't kidding when you said that was a lot to process. Holy shit. I mean, I guess it makes sense, if you're creating a race or species or whatever that are designed to kill each other, they'd need to be able to reach adulthood and reproduce quickly, or they'll just wipe each other out in a generation or so. I wonder how many actually make it to a hundred, though, if they're always at war." As his longer strides made up the distance between them, she smiled in spite of herself, a hint of rose lingering beneath the pale amber of her freckles. "If those are the virtues they admire, then, these... Teulu," Autumn repeated the unfamiliar word as best she could. "I guess you're a good example, hm?" "Perhaps." he allowed, the corners of his eyes crinkling a little as a playful smile quirked at the corner of his mouth. Coming abreast of where she waited, he too stopped, turning towards her and stepping closer with a commingling of playful humor and warm hunger in his emerald gaze. "I appreciate some of the human qualities I've experienced." he said frankly as he reached up and gently traced the outline of her cheek with a fingertip as his other hand slid over her waist above her hip. "Though I'm flattered you think I'm a good example of physical attractiveness." "Must be the pheromones," Autumn teased, though even as she spoke the words there was a familiar tension in her abdomen, a half-conscious urge described in the slight upward tilt of her chin toward him. Her eyes lingered, briefly, on the faint curve of his lips as he smiled, her fingers trailing lightly down his sides, and then she sighed, the exhalation a little shaky as she fought the urge to press herself closer. "I do, though," she admitted, a fresh wave of crimson staining her features. "Enough that if I'm not careful, you'll be the only climbing I get done today." Her blushing admission, her touch, the way her face turned up towards his and, most of all, the reflection in her clear blue eyes of the same hunger he felt, were almost - almost - a match to dry tinder. Or more precisely, fresh firewood placed across well-banked embers. He leaned close, watching the way her eyes flickered to his mouth then back up. The clean scent of her hair, warm with exertion and the sun, was itself a test of his control. "Can I assume you're okay with this news, then? Assuming it's all true, I mean." he asked her softly. A touch of deviltry glinted in his eye as he teased, "It's still not too late to run." Leaning up on her tiptoes, she pressed a slow, deliberate kiss to the corner of his mouth, her lips lingering there for a moment before she drew back to regard him a little more seriously. "Assuming it's true, it doesn't change anything about you as a person. Just what I know about you. And since I like knowing more about you..." Her voice trailed off and she shrugged, smiling. "The running might be fun sometime, though." The clear blue of her eyes deepened, the note of playful challenge stirring shadows there as she gazed up at him. There was a sense that she was walking along a precipice, taunting a force with the inevitability of gravity, but it was almost impossible to resist going right up to the very edge. "If you don't mind losing, that is." His own gaze was equal parts answering challenge, mirth and desire as he gently touched his forehead to hers, looking deep into Autumn's eyes as she felt rather than heard his chuckle. "I'm sure that whether I win or lose, it will be fun." he murmured. "For both of us." He still felt the tingling from the press of her lips and, unable to resist, he answered the kiss she'd given him with a fleeting, urgent one of his own, letting the furnace door of his amoral Want for this girl to open, just for a searing white-hot second, before slamming it shut once more. Taking a breath to steady himself, Jason slowly straightened up. "I really wouldn't mind being the only climbing you do today, but I only have so much control over this urge. It's very new, and very raw, and not at all gentle." He smiled faintly at her. "It's like a flicker of warmth when you're near, while we talk, but when we touch it flares up like a wildfire." Nodding in mute understanding, Autumn took a half-step back, her fingertips catching fleetingly at the fabric of Jase's shirt. The heat his kiss had sparked in her core smouldered, glowing embers threatening to flare into sudden, scorching life even as she stood there. That this brief contact alone was enough to ignite her nerve endings so acutely, so intensely, and so consistently was both thrilling and dangerous; just as the day before, kissing the green-eyed devil before her made it extraordinarily difficult to think of anything but kissing him. It certainly wasn't helped by the fact that he was so adept at describing how he felt, what he wanted... With a little, involuntary shiver, she licked suddenly dry lips and exhaled. "I think..." Focus, Autumn. "I think, probably, that 'to be continued' is gonna need to be continued pretty soon. And that I also need a drink, and to not touch you for a few minutes, although that is not what I want to do. So... Yeah. I can empathize. A little, maybe." Wordlessly, he offered her a bottle of water from his pack, the outside of the bottle taking on a sheen of condensation as it's temperature went down from warm-ambient to fresh-from-the fridge. As she took it with a smile and nod of thanks, he drew out one for himself, likewise cooling it and taking a long drink. Without words, and definitely without touching, but with more than a few lingering glances at one another, the pair continued on their way. Privately, and with his usual wry humor even when it came to internal analysis, Jason mused that it wasn't just his pheromones that seemed to be 'just fine'. He knew it wasn't just naked instinct that drove him - he'd never felt such an impulse towards abandon with anyone else in his admittedly short life. There was something about Autumn: no single aspect of her, but rather that combination of facets which together evoked this response. Strong, yet undeniably feminine. Kind, yet tough when need arose. Curious, open, and brave. Or perhaps, his wry internal observer mused, he was overthinking it. Analysis had its place, but perhaps his attraction for her and hers for him could not be so simply rendered into a chemical formula. What he did know was that the other complexities and concerns of his life were not on his mind as he followed his girlfriend towards their destination. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Saturday Afternoon. They were weary, dirty and dusty from the climb, but carrying a sense of quiet elation for having made it to the lookout point Autumn had described and, sharing some trail bars, jerky and water, sitting with their feet dangling over the edge and just gazing out over Shelly. At some point during their rest-break, Autumn’s hand had found Jason’s - or perhaps his hand found hers - and the contented, quiet joy of the moment took on a more tangible texture and feel as they sat together. Eventually they had stood, stretched, then followed the path from the top of the cliff around and down and back to the campsite, balancing over a makeshift log bridge across the creek further down, then picking their way along another game trail. Autumn, used to such hikes and with that tireless energy that was one of her signature traits, noted that Jason, whilst obviously feeling the exertion, neither complained nor insisted on taking extraneous rest breaks, instead keeping the steady pace she set. Striking camp, they packed everything away, setting the site to rights and policing their trash before tying the bundles and packs to the ATV for the return journey. It was a weird contrast to yesterday for the redheaded girl - whereas before she had been acutely aware of Jason Effing Bannon murmuring that he would be sure to get a good grip and trying not to let her face catch fire as a result, this time she felt a thrilling, tightening sensation in her abdomen as his hands slid around her waist and he leaned against her back. For Jase, too, the trip and the manner of it took on differing context, his tactile awareness of Autumn’s body against his and the scent of her hair now shaded with carnal and emotional overtones that transformed a simple, pragmatic hanging on so as not to fall off into something almost sensual. Somehow, Autumn managed to get them back to the Keane home without either crashing the ATV or stopping along the way; a testament to her willpower, certainly. Bringing the four-wheeler to a stop under the lean-to shelter, the two teens dismounted and unpacked the bundles. Shouldering his own pack, Jase helped Autumn with the rest of the supplies, carrying the storage chest up to the porch and setting it down as she did likewise with the cooler. From inside came the sound of excited dogs, and Autumn sighed, stretching her back as she set down her burden and turned to the lean figure standing nearby. “Thanks.” she told him, nose crinkling as she smiled warmly and stepped closer. “For the help with the campsite. And… for a great time.” she added with a blush suffusing her freckled face as she looked up at him. “I really had fun.” “So did I.” he observed quietly, regarding her with a slight smile, his pale green eyes vivid against the dark of his hair and the tan of his features. “You made it so. We definitely have to do this again.” “Yeah.” she nodded, feeling tongue-tied as he, too, stepped closer to her. Almost of their own accord, her hands came up to drape over his shoulders, then slide to the back of his neck, feeling the trailing edges of his shaggy hair. A dim warning light blinked unheeded in the back of her head - informed by the fact her mom’s car was there in the drive and that meant she was probably around somewhere. But more important was the curve of her boyfriend’s mouth, and the feel of his body against hers as they each stepped into each other, lips meeting as the circuit completed and fire surged along their nerves. His hands slid around her and down to her jeans-clad backside, their firm pressure causing her to inhale sharply in the kiss and then press even closer against him, eyes closing as her hands tightened in his hair, unwilling to even give him the opportunity to draw back. Somewhere outside the throb of their heartbeats in their ears, both teens were aware of a door opening but ascribed no special meaning to it - until the sound of a female throat being cleared intruded on their pink haze. “Well! Hello there!” Dana Keane’s tone was bright, almost cheery as she was confronted with her daughter locked in what seemed an incredibly un-platonic clinch with Jason Bannon. “I was just coming to see if you kids needed any help with the camping gear. It looks like you have things well in hand, though!” she commented, eyes flicking down to where Jase’s hands currently were.
    3 points
  15. Sunrise did, indeed, come early. As the cloak of Night dissolved, her stygian velvet transmuted into the diaphanous lavender silks of Dawn, she extended golden fingers across the sky, reaching across rocky hillsides and pine forests toward a small clearing alongside a rushing stream and finding only a solitary young man preparing for the day ahead. Like the sun itself, he’d awakened easily and without fanfare, transitioning smoothly from sleep to full awareness without any of the attendant sluggishness or confusion typical of others his age. Stepping out into the early morning light, Jason Bannon rose from the low opening of his tent into a luxuriant, full-body stretch as he scanned the clearing, noting the lack of disturbance from nocturnal visitors as well as the reassuring crackle of the slow-burning fire nearby. As always, the temperature had dropped just after daybreak, but he was largely indifferent to such things, his bare feet silent on the cool earth and sparse grass as he padded across the clearing to gaze out across the water. There was no sign of activity from the neighboring tent, he noticed with some amusement as he passed, which meant he had some time yet to enjoy the simple pleasure of being alone in nature, free from the restrictions or demands of social convention. As the sun rose over the horizon, the rangy youth closed his eyes, savoring the suggestion of warmth on his face as a cool breeze wound across the hills, the sound of the stream in his ears and the crisp, clear air filling his lungs as he drew in a deep breath. The word that sprang to mind was “idyllic,” with all its connotation of transience and picturesque, natural simplicity. It was a simultaneously restful and invigorating experience, very different in tone from the trips he’d taken with Hank and his father and one he wouldn’t mind repeating on his own. A solo outing would be a good opportunity to explore and evaluate his skills, and Autumn had stated the previous day that he was welcome here. Though he surmised that she’d intended her words to mean he had permission to use the campsite even if she wasn’t present, it was usually more expedient to simply ask; perhaps he would do so, later. For now, there were matters of hygiene and biology which required his attention. Despite the absence of modern amenities, Jase had quickly determined that there was little real impediment to carrying out his normal routine. The wide-mouthed kettle Autumn had set aside the night before, ostensibly to make coffee when they woke, made a perfectly serviceable vessel for dipping into the brisk current of the creek; in applying a trivial measure of his pyrokinetic gift to heat the water contained therein, it occurred to him that he could probably be quite comfortable living this way if it ever became necessary to do so. The rote tasks of washing up, brushing his teeth, and shaving took on a subtly different character in the open air, surrounded by the morning chorus of birds, insects, and other creatures- there was no idle conversation, no unwelcome distraction, nothing extraneous or unnecessary. It was, as he had noted before, peaceful, for all the vibrancy and activity the place contained. He disposed of the soapy water some distance away from the stream itself, and refilled the container again to rinse the residue from his skin. The tranquil solitude, a welcome respite from the events of the week, lasted until the final vestiges of lilac and gold had all but faded from the sky. As he was pulling on his boots, a series of muffled curses and the agitated rustling of blankets from within Autumn’s tent ended with the bleary-eyed redhead stumbling into the clearing and emphatically asserting, despite all evidence to the contrary, “I’m awake, I’m awake.” Absently hitching up the waist of her pajama pants with one hand, she blinked at the tall young man who already looked as if he’d been up for hours. “Oh. Hey,” the semi-conscious girl murmured, smiling faintly as she raked her fingers through the disheveled curls that seemed almost to possess a will of their own. “Morning. Um…” There was a brief pause as she stretched and blinked again, and then gave talking one more try. “I’ll get coffee started, because I’m gonna need it, and then I’m… mm… gonna go get cleaned up.” She glanced over at the creek, considering- the water had been cool enough to be bracing, but not so much that it was uncomfortable. “Then breakfast. Sound good?” she inquired, turning blue eyes still clouded by sleep in his direction. It was curious, the wry internal observer that was (almost) always active noted, the myriad ways in which the emergence of Autumn from her tent affected him. Though he’d known she’d been in there, and indeed imagined her asleep with her glory of red-gold hair strewn around her face, the sight of her brought a faint smile to his lips - a smile of mild amusement at her dishevelled manner as well as a smile of simple pleasure at her presence. Also present was the faint surge in his blood at the sight of her as perfectly remembered kisses and caresses - indelibly associated with her presence - played out in the full-sensory theatre of his mind’s eye, accompanied by a distracting hunger for more of her that showed briefly in the gleam of the youth’s eyes. Autumn, still wrestling her brain into a full semblance of wakefulness though she was, nevertheless did not miss that look or its import, any more than a deer would mistake the gleam in the eye of a stalking lynx. Unlike the doe, however, she neither froze nor ran, but smiled with rose once more tinting her cheeks as the predator in question stood, stamping his feet down into his boots to settle them, then walked over to her. Jason leaned down, hands sliding with assured possessivity over her waist and hips and drawing her in for a quick kiss. “Sounds very good.” he murmured with a slight grin tugging at one edge of his mouth as he breathed in the scent of her, still warm from sleep. “Kettle’s filled up and ready to go. Want me to do anything while you’re getting washed up?” I have some ideas... “Mmhmm,” Autumn hummed almost immediately, still smiling up at him as she hooked her fingers through his belt loops, pulling him closer and leaning up on her tiptoes to steal back the kiss he’d taken. “We already agreed to wait, though, and I can’t think of anything else.” Her eyes widened as they met his, their clear blue depths even brighter against the deepening scarlet of her cheeks. “I mean, I can’t think of anything else for you to do,” she clarified, unable to suppress a slightly abashed grin. “Although- there’s eggs and cheese and stuff in the ice chest, and a skillet in the storage…” Her voice trailed off as she paused; this close, the fresh scent of Jase’s soap, or cologne, or aftershave, or whatever it was he’d used was nigh-intoxicating, sending delightful tingles cascading down her spine as her gaze trailed down to his chest. “...the storage, um…” Tucking an errant strand of hair behind her ear and exhaling, she tried again. Use your words, Autumn. “Sorry,” she admitted distractedly, trying to resist the urge to just press her face into his shirt and instead looking upward, focusing on the subtle quirk at the corner of his mouth. “You just- you smell really nice. But, yeah, anyway, storage container,” the flustered redhead finally managed. “If you’re hungry now, and don’t want to wait for me to finish.” “I’ll make you some breakfast too, while you’re getting cleaned up.” he stated in a low tone, plainly enjoying the effect he was having on her as he bent down and grazed his lips along her cheek to her ear, breathing in deeply, obviously enjoying the warm scent of her in turn before murmuring “We did agree to wait, but there’s plenty else I can think of to do…” in a tone that contained hunger and playful desire in equal measure that caused her abdomen to flutter and liquify. “Like hiking.” he finished as he straightened up once more, his expression deadpan except for the gleam in his eyes. “For instance.” Now that she was well and truly awake, Autumn could feel what seemed like every drop of blood in her body sweeping up into her face as a torrent of conflicting emotions- desire, disbelief, embarrassment, and mirth- all roiled through her simultaneously. He had to be messing with her... Had to be. It was hard to decide whether she wanted to kiss him, laugh, or call him a jerk- or maybe a combination of those. What was easy to work out was that she couldn’t just let such an obvious provocation go unanswered. “Hiking,” she repeated intently, slowly letting out the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. This motherfucker. “Y’know, you are so right.” For all that she was blushing furiously, a faint smile slowly drew the corners of her mouth upward as she straightened visibly, releasing her hold on the waistband of his trousers. “Good call. I’ll get the coffee started, then.” Humming quietly as she turned and headed over to the firepit, Autumn swept up her designated fire-poking stick and repositioned two of the still-smoldering logs so that they were parallel to each other, not quite touching. Plunking the heavy kettle straight down on top of them, she busied herself with grabbing a couple of well-worn enamelled steel mugs, measuring the coffee out, and adding the aromatic grounds straight to the rapidly-warming water. “Just give that a little bit to really start boiling, like a serious, rolling boil, and then maybe…” The energetic redhead disappeared briefly inside her tent, reappearing a moment later with her towel. “Four minutes? Five? Depends on how strong you want it,” she added. “Pull it off the fire, give it another minute or two, pour a little cold water around the rim. Boom. Done. I should be out by then, but just in case.” She smiled over at him, her nose crinkling slightly as she turned and headed toward the creek. This. Mother. Fucker. So her completely, totally impossible boyfriend would never be flustered, Autumn reflected. So she’d never see him embarrassed, or probably anything less than composed. At least, she decided, he could still be “distracted.” “Be right back,” she called over her shoulder, the grin audible in her voice. “I don’t wanna make us late for hiking.” Without any further discussion or warning, his impulsive red-haired companion stripped off her t-shirt, tossing it aside as she walked away. A few steps later her blue-striped pajama bottoms followed, and then- nothing, because there was nothing else to remove. Just like that she walked down to the shoreline and draped her towel over a low-hanging branch, her bare skin bright as polished ivory in the morning sunlight, before wading into the bracing current of the stream and diving beneath the surface. It was exactly as cool as she’d remembered- refreshing, but not unpleasant. And, with luck, sufficient to put out the flames burning in her cheeks. He watched astonished at first, then with comprehension of the game as his girlfriend had shed her clothes and walked, naked as the woodland sprite he’d previously compared her to, away from him. On an impulse he followed silently at a short distance, watching her pick her way barefooted down to the creek, and as his eyes ran down her form Jason forever emblazoned the image of Autumn like that: a pale ivory flame crowned with elfin gold, the lithe strength of her limbs offset by the feminine curves of her body against waters lit by the risen sun, on his memory. He watched her dive into the water and turned, smiling, as he headed back to the fire. The temptation was strong to stay, to remove his own clothing and dive in after her, but he understood this game, enjoyed the exciting effect he had on her and she on him. A quote came to mind: “Hunger is good discipline.” He was hungry for her, as she was for him, and the playfulness felt right as they gently ran fingers over each other's nerve-endings to tease now and then. So he set about assuaging the other corporeal hunger, checking the storage container and finding various breakfast foodstuffs and the skillet. He kept an eye on the coffee pot as he fried bacon, now and then cocking an ear to hear the distant sounds of Autumn splashing in the creek. Tearing the sizzling bacon into pieces with his telekinesis, he set about preparing the other ingredients, humming quietly to himself as he worked. It was a simple pleasure, to work with his hands, but a profound one. He’d always enjoyed that tactile sense of connection to the world, a reminder that he was part of it and could enact upon it, whether that was turning raw ingredients into meals or restoring and rebuilding a classic muscle car. Perhaps that was as much the foundation of his particular manifestation of Shine as any other aspect of his character. When Autumn came padding up from the creek, barefoot and with a towel around her torso, she was greeted with the smells of coffee and cooking breakfast as Jason glanced up from his work. Green eyes glittered as he regarded her with a brief, intense gaze that did as much to shake off the lingering chill of the water as the campfire before he smiled softly and turned back to keep stirring the contents of the skillet. The flame-haired girl glanced around, noting that her t-shirt and pajama bottoms had been set neatly just inside the flap of her tent, before smiling to herself as she stepped in behind her crouching boyfriend and carefully folded her arms around his shoulders, making sure she didn’t interfere with what he was doing or push him into the fire as she leaned against him a little. Kissing his neck, she stayed like that for a moment or two longer, enjoying the warmth and scent of him, before disengaging and moving over to her tent to get dressed. She emerged a few minutes later, drying hair left loose, and smiled broadly as Jase set down a plate of scrambled eggs, mixed with bacon, tomato and cheese, piled neatly on her plate next to a couple of fire-toasted slices of bread. The coffee-kettle had been shifted off the logs, set on one of the broad, flat stones around the campfire and cold water added. “Mmm. I could get used to the service.” Autumn shot him a grin as she sat down, reaching for the enamelled mugs and preparing two cups of coffee. “Black, right? You know they say that’s a sure sign of a psychopath.” she teased, wrinkling her nose at him as she smiled. “I know. Sucks to be so stereotypical.” Jason deadpanned. “They do say that those who take their coffee black are more likely to be psychopaths… and that those who order a quad-shot, non-fat vanilla soy, extra foam with whipped cream and a caramel drizzle are most likely to be their victims.” “Hey, what’ve you got against whipped cream and caramel drizzle?” Autumn asked, laughter bubbling in her voice as she handed him his mug before taking her own and adding a little sugar. “That’s not coffee, that’s a dessert. There’s better uses for them than to put them on coffee.” he retorted, the edges of his eyes crinkling in amusement, sipping his drink before setting it aside and picking up his own plate of food. They ate in companionable quiet for a few minutes, enjoying the peaceful morning, the birdsong and sound of the creek, now and then catching one another’s eye and smiling. The horrors and dramas of the last week, the normal travails of teen life, and parents, and school, seemed very far away right now to both of them. Autumn, chewing thoughtfully, was mulling over how at-ease she felt around a young man whom, by every conventional wisdom, she should be steering a wide berth around. Who had gone, in the course of a week, from a boogeyman to a friend to someone she’d walk into danger for… and now to a boyfriend who made her blood sing with every kiss. Jason’s thoughts were more or less along similar lines, his constant self-analysis finding that the inclusion of this new facet of life was satisfying, pleasing - all the more so because there was no deception involved. Autumn knew who he was, what he could do and, he felt, understood him well enough that she knew she had little to fear. He could be himself - and she still liked him, was still attracted to him. He resolved that she should also know what he was, and probably soon. Last night just hadn’t seemed like the best time to bring up… well, aliens. Breakfast done, they cleaned up, put the fire out - a task made easier by the presence of someone who could just look at a fire and extinguish it - and after packing a few essentials and climbing gear, set out on their hike. They moved through the woods to start, following an old game trail Autumn had walked many times before. The last of summer’s warmth was still there in the kiss of the sun through the branches and leaves overhead, striking glints of light from Autumn’s hair and Jason’s eyes as they walked together side by side. Now and then Jason would stop and examine a particular flowering plant, or a fungus growing on a rotted log with brief casual interest before resuming, and at other times Autumn would stop and wordlessly point at a porcupine curled in the crook of a branch of a tree, or smile and nudge Jason to draw his gaze to a woodpecker clinging to the bark, drilling industriously for its food. Other times they spoke quietly - Jason’s enquiries prompting Autumn to talk about the Girl Scout activities she’d taken part in and the lessons her grandfather had imparted - a childhood learning to hunt, fish and shoot. “What, never?” Autumn sounded surprised, which she was as she glanced at Jason after his admission. “No.” he shrugged matter of factly. “Odd, I know. My father has guns, Hank has guns, and I’ve been to plenty of militia gatherings where I was surrounded by guns. But I’ve never handled one, or hunted.” “Never wanted to?” She asked, blue eyes studying him as they walked together. “I have, yes.” he nodded. “Hank always talked about once I was in Junior year teaching me to hunt and shoot… And I guess now that I’m getting training from him, guns will be part of that when he thinks I’m ready.” “Ready?” Autumn frowned. Most teen boys in rural Montana at least had some experience with hunting rifles. Jason’s face was calm as he shrugged once more, a surprisingly eloquent gesture on his lean frame. “I guess he’s treating me as a special case due to my - let's call it ‘lack of compunctions’. He’s teaching me discipline as much as combat skills. Restraint - to find the middle gears between doing nothing and going too far.” Glittering jade eyes turned to regard her as he smiled a little. “Mostly so far it consists of him painfully humiliating me to see if I can hold off from turning him into a frisbee.” “Yeah, but you held off from doing anything to those guys at school.” Autumn reminded him, her expression earnest. “And they weren’t just giving you a few bumps and bruises.” “True.” Jason replied. “But that was more to avoid being outed as having powers than because I genuinely didn’t want to hurt them.” “Doesn’t matter why you held back.” The redhead smiled at him. “Same with Dr. Cook - sure, you frightened the bejeezus out of him… and everyone else present… but you didn’t actually do anything other than manhandle him a bit.” She reached out and took his hand in hers without breaking stride, giving it a slight squeeze and smiling again as she felt his slender fingers return the clasp. “There’s worse people than you.” “Don’t let that get out.” came the dry reply, but Jason’s eyes crinkled slightly at the corners as he spoke. “It’ll ruin my image.” Remembering the conversation from the previous night, Autumn glanced at him from the corner of her eye as she tried valiantly to maintain a neutral, conversational tone. "Which image is that?" she asked impishly, sidestepping the crumbling remnants of a thick tree branch. "The unpleasant acerbic dickhead?" "Amongst other things." Jason replied with a faint, sharp grin that flashed long enough for her to notice then faded back into his habitual wry quarter-smile. He was quiet for a few minutes more, eyes glinting as they scanned the morning-lit woods, then said quietly "You remember I said my mother came to visit me." There was a brief hesitation, less a pause in her forward motion than a flicker, an eyeblink, as her pale fingers twitched where they entwined with his. She did remember, and remembered, too, how oddly cautious he'd sounded over the phone. "Yeah," his red-haired companion nodded. That he’d mentioned it at all suggested it was important, especially if he was bringing it up again. "Honestly, I wondered about that after you hung up. You said you thought maybe you understood her better... How did that go?" "It was civil." Looking up at the intricate patterns of the sunlight through the leaves and branches above he seemed pensive, and his thumb smoothed lightly over the backs of her fingers almost as though he were grounding himself in the Now rather than retreating from it. "She apologised, and explained herself. And, if she was telling the truth, she revealed something I am still coming to terms with." His eyes slid to regard her calmly and he drew them both to a stop, turning to face Autumn. "Can I confide in you? It's something that might be awkward, maybe? I'm not sure." His gaze studied her face, and the glimmer of the sun in her eyes and hair, as though storing them and this moment against what might come. She drew in a long breath, exhaling slowly as she focused on what Jason was actually saying, the almost imperceptible note of uncertainty in his voice, rather than the still-unfamiliar sensation of being so intently observed. This was the woman who'd abandoned him, left a small boy and his distraught father behind and simply disappeared once she knew what he was. What apology could inspire this kind of shift in his attitude? That's not the kind of betrayal you just move past, she considered, curiosity etching faint lines between her brows. Taking his other hand in hers, Autumn nodded again, meeting his gaze with a tiny smile. "I'm kind of a pro at awkward. And, besides, like I told you before. It's part of the rules that, as your friend, I have to listen if something's on your mind." His eyes met hers in that habitual, direct stare she associated with him, even though the context changed in small, profound ways when set against the events of yesterday, last night, and their currently intertwined fingers. "Well. It turns out I might not be a psychopath." He paused a heartbeat, then went on "In fact, if she was truthful, I'm not even human. Nor is she." Blinking up at him as morning sunlight filtered down through the canopy, catching the bronze in his hair alight and sparking the pale green of his eyes into captive emerald flame, Autumn had the sudden, mad thought that she could readily believe it. She searched his face for the telltale crinkling at the corners of Jase's eyes, the subtle twitch of his mouth that suggested he was teasing, but found no sign of either. "Oh," she replied. It would've been easy to make light of that seriousness, deflect some of the discomfort by joking that, really, it wasn't that surprising a revelation under the circumstances... But he wasn't being flippant, and regardless of how completely insane it sounded, she didn't think he'd just make it up, either. "So..." The blue-eyed young woman hesitated, unsure what the appropriate response to something like that was. "Um, so if you're not human, what are you?" His head tilted slightly, in that way that betokened some element of surprise or curiousity about a person's behaviour. She hadn't drawn back. She hadn't laughed, or scoffed as Devin had. It struck him again how resilient Autumn was - that stoic doggedness to see a thing through, then process it afterwards rather than freak out in the moment and try to combine said processing with the business at hand, a trait of some of his peers that frankly baffled him. “Apparently an offshoot hominid race designed and deliberately evolved for fearlessness, heightened intelligence and aggression, pragmatism, and similar traits that further survival and propagation." he said in answer to her question.
    3 points
  16. He’d sat up and watched as she moved around the clearing, noting how her bright hair and pale skin loaned the lithe girl a sylvan quality, as though the banality of the everyday could not cling to her, not here - not in her garden. He felt this moment embed itself prominently in his memories - her quiet laugh, the way the fire’s light played over the curves and lines of her body as she bent and swayed, moving around the camp and picking up their clothing: a wood-nymph gathering scattered flowers left in the wake of a tempest. He wondered how this moment, this experience would change him, or her for that matter. Would this excitement, this playful hunger that yet stirred and lingered in them both carry through into other aspects of their lives? Or would it only be the magic of this place? He hoped it was the former. He found it hard to envision himself not wanting, in a quiet moment, to pull Autumn into a shadowed corner and kiss her until both their nerves were lit up as though a time-lapse photograph of a city’s streets at night, seen from above, streaks of white and crimson light rendering individual sensation meaningless in the patterns of desire. She came back to sit next to him, proffering the bottle and glancing at him when he didn’t immediately take it, and was struck by the intent, predatory way he had, she realised, been watching her ever since she’d stood up. He was motionless, unaffectedly naked as he sat, one knee bent with an arm resting on it, half-turned towards her with his manhood resting quietly against his thigh, yet his gaze was sharp, unselfconscious and, in its own way, as naked as the rest of him. Naked enough to make her own mouth feel dry and for parts low down in her torso to catch and tighten as he reached out and took the bottle finally, with a nod. “Thank you.” he murmured, taking a long drink as she busied herself sorting their clothes, then handing her the bottle in turn. She traded him the towel, which he patted himself with as he watched her drink, admiring the sweep of her throat and the scattering of freckles across her breastbone, the way her firm, high breasts were capped with pale rose. He remembered the scent and taste of her skin, the way his tongue on her flesh had made her gasp as he looked at her, and when Autumn lowered the bottle and glanced back at him her sudden renewed blush and her downward glance made him realise his cock had stirred once more. “You better get these on first.” she said, an answering hunger springing up in her own expression as she thrust his combat pants at him. “And fast.” He smiled, taking the garment and slowly standing. “If I must.” he replied, lazily stretching in a way that Autumn was pretty sure was calculated. At least partly so, she decided, feeling her fingers twitch with the urge to reach out and touch- “You must.” She pulled on her t-shirt, leaving the bikini top aside for now, and was simultaneously relieved and disappointed when, by the time she’d gotten the shirt on and her hair extricated from it, the baggy Army surplus pants had been pulled on and fastened, Jase drawing the belt into place. That was better, she decided. At least for now. Half-naked was better than all-naked, when it came to boyfriends who were dangerous in all sorts of ways, not least of which to her self-control. Jase settled back down beside her, pulling on his own shirt over his head and relaxing, leaning back on his hands and watching the fire leap and flicker, its light playing over his features, immobile as they were in repose. His thoughts danced and leapt as much as the flames, trying to make sense of everything he had experienced. One thing was easy to make sense of - he now knew what it was to be desired, to have that desire communicated through touch and word and caress. And more properly he knew what it was to desire in a real, tangible way. No distant fantasy, or idealised construct of desire. No ethereal dream born of inexperienced longing and a vivid imagination. It was revelatory, and breathtaking, all the more so because there had been a point where he had chosen to give his control to someone else, to set aside the chains that were also his armor and simply experience the moment in a series of sensations and, yes, emotions. If he had not been without fear, would he even have been capable of that level of surrender? That was an interesting paradox, indeed. “Penny for your thoughts?” Autumn nudged up against him, her hand sliding up his back to tickle the shaggy hair at the nape of his neck. He turned slightly, looping an arm over and around her, drawing her close as they sat together, his green eyes regarding her still faintly-rosy features. “Mmm. I was congratulating myself.” he told her, a faint spark of mischief in his eyes. “I have excellent taste in girlfriends.” “Oh, do you, now? That... is a bold statement,” she countered with a grin, unable to resist the sudden urge to lean up for a kiss- a teasing, too-brief caress of her lips on his- before she settled companionably against his side again, still smiling as her arm slid down to his waist. “Got any evidence to back up that claim?” It hadn’t even been a few hours yet, after all, and although there was the definite sense he was teasing her (at least a little) she was also pleased enough at the suggestion that she wasn’t inclined to argue the point- instead just leaning against him as she watched the frenetic movement of the orange flames burning low, her fingertips absently straying under the hem of Jase’s t-shirt to drift over his skin as he sat quietly next to her. He smiled at the warm press of her lips, studying the glimmer of her hair in the dancing light of the fire. This closeness, this intimate contact was addictive, as though the emotional warmth of the girl snugged against his side was sunlight on the icy slopes of his mind. He wondered if that was how it was for normal people: if the shimmering heat of others were something that only existed in their presence, and without it all was cold. Probably not, or at least not to the same extent. Some warmth would linger between contact, between times spent in the presence of a lover. For him, though, there was only the memory of the connection without the comforting sense of its presence. "More of a feeling. Though admittedly the statistical sample is small at present, I think the bar has been set pretty high." He nuzzled his lips and nose against her coppery hair, breathing her in for a moment. "You make me feel warm in the cold places." The ticklish sensation of his breath in her hair elicited a grin, her nose crinkling slightly as she squirmed in response. There was that honesty again, the unfiltered opinion of someone who had no idea what it meant to be self-conscious, or how deeply affecting that level of forthrightness could be; gods help her if he ever figured it out, since she’d probably give everyone within ten feet heat stroke. “I mean, you make me feel warm in all the places, so I guess that’s fair?” she admitted with a laugh, unthinking- -And immediately went still as her brain caught up to the words she’d just uttered. Oh. Oh, god. I said that out loud, didn’t I? Hazarding a quick peek up at his face, Autumn groaned inwardly as Jason blinked slowly, starting to smile. "I do, hmm?" She could only nod, her hands coming up to cover her rapidly reddening face as a muffled sound of agreement escaped from between her fingers. It was true, of course, in more ways than one, but how was she supposed to tell him that without sounding like a crazy person? How could she possibly explain what she didn’t fully grasp the limits of herself? The simple glow of pleasure, of uncomplicated and earnest delight she took in his companionship. The tangible, reassuring warmth generated by his actual, physical presence next to her. The very real, but less obviously tactile heat that smouldered even now at the very core of her being, kindled into hungry flame and stoked by proximity alone. ...And something else, a whisper of feeling that wasn’t quite any of those things, but which- nameless and formless- subtly comprised them all, and more besides. The implicit acknowledgement of that “something else” in her response was somehow more jarring than the fact that it existed- as if it had been perfectly natural, and not at all crazy to be so intensely attracted to someone so quickly. The mortified girl looked away from the boy beside her, unable or unwilling to meet his eyes in that instant, certain somehow that the penetrating quality of his gaze would lay bare her thoughts. In accordance with her nature, she instead took refuge in activity, casting about for something productive to do and finding few options remaining after their earlier efforts at cleaning up. “So, I’m gonna, um... Yeah. I’ll go grab some more wood,” she managed haltingly, her cheeks blazing scarlet in the firelight. “Be right back.” What am I doing?! Autumn asked herself, sighing as she got to her feet and set about the simple, blessedly uncomplicated task of making sure the fire would last the night. Why do I feel like this? I mean, we barely know each other but it feels... right. Like, scary-right. It took a few moments of searching to find a couple of logs of reasonable size and condition to keep the fire going, which, thankfully, gave the cooler evening breeze an opportunity to steal some of the heat from her face, and gave Autumn herself a chance to find a way to change the subject. “So, um, any ideas on what you’d like to do in the morning? Maybe a hike or something after breakfast?” she tentatively called over her shoulder, trying not to imagine Jase watching her with that not-quite-a-smirk that was somehow worse than an actual one. There was a brief pause before she added, more defiantly, “And for the record, Hmmm is still not an acceptable answer.” “A hike sounds good.” Jason said calmly, leaning back on his hands and watching his red-faced girlfriend recover her composure somewhat, his pale eyes watchful, studying her. He didn’t quite understand why she’d been embarrassed - to him, such unfiltered truth spoken straight from her heart seemed the height of charming, but he had observed people enough to know that they often felt vulnerable revealing themselves so nakedly. There was still that aspect of separateness, though. For him, vulnerability was a pragmatic, physical, tangible thing. To confide in the wrong person was to risk ostracisation, even institutionalisation: to complicate his life unnecessarily. Autumn’s embarrassment could not come from that practical consideration, surely? He wasn’t going to hurt her, or cast her aside for having genuine warm feeling for him- Was that it, perhaps? Did she think that by entrusting such feelings to him, by allowing herself to experience them, that she risked harm - emotional or otherwise? She wouldn’t be the first girl he knew to believe that - Marissa for instance, who had settled on Cade as a boyfriend because she needed to feel safe and in control. Emotionally safe and in control, as if by following her natural feelings she left herself vulnerable. Autumn obviously felt similarly - though she wasn’t preventing herself from following her desires, it still made her feel vulnerable to voice them. “Cool. We can take some climbing gear - if the weather holds there’s a nice rock face to go up where you can get a view over Shelly.” Autumn came back with a couple of suitably dry chunks of firewood in hand, setting one on the fire and the other next to it for later. As the flames licked up, she settled back down next to Jase, who shifted a little to face her, his manner serious as he reached out and took her hands in his, looking into her eyes. “Thank you.” he said quietly. “For letting me know how I make you feel. I can see it made you uncomfortable - and I’m curious why.” His pale jade eyes searched her ocean-tinted ones, searched her face for answers. “Is it me? Do I make you feel uncomfortable voicing such things?” he asked without nervousness or accusation, his head tilting slightly. “Because if you’re worried about what I think about it - I find it totally charming that you speak your mind and heart so fearlessly. And while I might find your blushes amusing, I don’t find your feelings for me funny at all.” His voice was quiet as his lips curved in a smile. “They’re… something I treasure.” "No!" Autumn replied quickly, vehemently, gazing up at him through wide eyes bright with firelight and emotion. "No, it doesn't- I mean, you don't make me uncomfortable. It’s not you. It's..." She pressed her lips together, holding her breath for a long moment before exhaling slowly to settle her nerves. Her voice was a little softer when she began again, the slow interweaving of her fingers through his lending her words the intimacy of a confession. "Honestly, the fact that you do say things like that makes me really happy. Because I feel like you're not just doing it to please me, or because you think you're supposed to, you know? People just say things all the time and don't mean them, either because they think that's what the other person wants to hear, or because it's…” Autumn shook her head, frowning slightly. “I don't know, convenient. Look, I just... I realized there were several different ways to take what I said, and that all of them were true, and I didn't want you to think I was weird or something since we were barely on speaking terms a week ago, and now all of a sudden I don't want to stop kissing you, and it’s kind of a lot, and I’m not totally sure what to do with that." Her eyes moved over his face, hope and nervousness and not a little fear churning in rough currents in their depths as the torrent of thoughts and words slowed, and finally stilled. "Did any of that make sense?" For a moment he was silent, his face expressionless in repose as his eyes took her in. In contact as they were, it was easy for her to feel his energy, to again get the experience of standing on a frozen lake with something massive, alien and primordial moving deep below her feet. Only… It wasn’t so unknowable, now. She’d felt the outlines of it, felt the cold waters grow warm as it drew nearer to the surface, felt the crust of ice displaced by its heated presence when they kissed. Familiarity helped allay terror, but there was still the healthy fear - not of what he would do, but that she wasn’t sure where the limits of what he was capable of doing lay. His code defined that, of course… But she wasn’t even sure of the details of that. What she was sure of was that he was unaffected, honest - if not always forthcoming - and was into her in a way she’d not experienced before, with no reservations or uncertainty about what he wanted. For Jason, it was a moment filled with analysis. He caught the warm waves of restless emotionality in Autumn’s Shine, felt them lapping against him as she spoke. He dimly wished, in that moment, that he could feel something more nuanced than physical desire, or intellectual regard for a person’s qualities. Some sense of natural justice told him Autumn deserved that rich warm complexity in turn… But then, she had also said that he was making her happy. That was strangely pleasing, perhaps because it was so unusual. His father had said he was proud of him before. Sean had said he liked him, or he made him laugh. No-one had ever said ‘You make me happy’ to him before. For that matter, he wasn’t even sure what happiness really was. Like sadness, it was largely outside his experience - the closest he came was contentment, or satisfaction, or mirth - but in his reading and studying of the human condition he had come across descriptions of the emotion. This warm sensation tickling the edges of his consciousness, making him feel at peace when he looked into Autumn’s eyes - the aforementioned warmth in the cold places… Happiness? Or perhaps as close as he could manage to come to it… But some of that wasn’t entirely true, was it. He had felt more than physical sensation under her touch, and now as he looked into her eyes. He wasn’t sure what it was, but ‘warm in the cold places’ was as accurate as any descriptor he could conjure. He considered, without fear of the prospect, that he would miss Autumn if she disappeared, or didn’t want to see him anymore, and the thought was a curious one that he turned over and over in his head. The intensity of sensation she had evoked was a reflection of the intensity of feeling she had stirred, he realised with a sudden cool rush of wonder. Perhaps, were he capable of fear, he would relate to her nervousness. Because it was a lot, this thing that flared and coiled between them. Finally he lifted her hands to his lips and kissed each of them gently, his eyes on hers. “It makes sense, now. Thank you for explaining it.” he said quietly, leaning forward and gently planting a kiss at the corner of her mouth, letting it linger there a moment before pulling back. “I’m not really the best judge of whether someone is weird or not, but I certainly don’t think this - what is between us - is a bad thing. It feels very natural. And-” he smiled a little, one corner of his mouth quirking upwards. “- I’m glad I’m not the only one that wants to spend all their time kissing the other.” He was feeling that urge right now, and gently pushed it to one side, though not without a small struggle as his eyes strayed to her lips for a second, his aesthetic sensibilities remarking how red they seemed after all the kissing they had already endured, and how delightful the curve of them was. “It’s dangerously distracting, this feeling. Especially when we should probably be getting some rest before we go for that hike tomorrow.” he remarked, making no move to let go of her hands or to stand up. “Mmhmm,” Autumn agreed without particular enthusiasm; tomorrow was the last thing on her mind, with the lingering sensation of his kiss and the rich gold-green of his eyes occupying her thoughts in a way that made the phrase ‘dangerously distracting’ seem somehow inadequate. “We probably should.” I mean, yeah, she conceded, he’s right. I don’t even know what time it is, and we should probably get an early start if we’re gonna go out far enough for climbing in the morning. It was likely getting late, and sunrise would come early, but… But he’d listened. But he’d called her ‘beautiful.’ But they were in front of a warm fire, under an open sky filled with more stars than the beaches and deserts had grains of sand, in a place she loved. “But I’m not really tired,” she added quietly, shifting closer on the blanket as she took Jason’s hands- still clasped in her own- and slowly draped his arms around her waist. “And… I’m not ready for it to be tomorrow just yet.” The admission was accompanied by a smile as she tilted her face up toward him, bright lashes framing the wide, clear eyes that met his with a mixture of anticipation and desire. His ardent girlfriend was struck again, in such dangerously close proximity, by the sense that she could almost willingly drown in the primordial flames contained there, the heat of which even now warmed her face and wound languidly through her veins. That wouldn’t be so terrible, would it, to be consumed in emerald fire, dissolved utterly by brilliant copper sparks? Even if Jase did tease her, or enjoy making her blush, he was also careful to give serious consideration to her questions, and even if he couldn’t really understand her feelings in an intuitive sense, he apparently appreciated that she expressed them. He was interested, intent and engaged in a way that Jacob hadn’t been, in a way that made her stomach tense and her mouth go dry with just a look; that alone was almost worth the immolation of Self, wasn’t it? She could feel the faint whisper of his breath this close, smell the lingering echoes of the vaguely herbal scent that rose from his fire-warmed skin and reminded her, distantly, of that glorious garden he tended so carefully. Untangling her fingers from his, Autumn’s hands slid up her lover’s arms and into his hair, weaving gently through its shaggy length as she tried to fix an image of this moment in her mind: the way the firelight rendered his features into those of some ageless bronze sculpture from antiquity, the glimmer of his eyes, and the faint curvature of his mouth, which she admired with an interest that was in no way academic. “So,” she added a moment later, still smiling through the rush of warmth suffusing her skin as she met his gaze once more. “Can I have you for a little while longer?” It was an earnest plea, mingled with playfulness and the warm energy that would forever be synonymous with ‘Autumn’ in his mind. Jason examined her soberly, letting his gaze roam her freckled features, not for the first time noting the fetching hue of deepening rose tinting her skin as he did so. Once more, he was struck by how direct and yet tender her expression of desire was - the way she told it in the depths of her sea-shaded eyes, the upward tilt of her face towards him, the warm sweetness of her breath and how she shifted her body just so to fit more perfectly within his arms, which tightened a little around her waist as he drew her closer. “I think” he said softly, not smiling as he gazed into her eyes. “That you will always have a part of me. Like a room in a house where you can step into it and know that it belongs to another.” “Well,” Autumn replied, her fingers absently moving through the tousled strands of Jase’s hair as she returned the gaze with a faint, soft smile, eyes wide and wondering as they met his. “If there is a room like that, I hope you’ll help me fill it up with lots of fun, interesting things, so it’s never empty or dark.” It was true, too. Jason was too open, too intently sincere for her to seek to deflect the unfamiliar emotions his words engendered with flippancy. She found that she couldn’t do that: not at this moment, not to him. The answer to that was a kiss which deepened and lengthened, their mouths slightly opening against each other’s. Not as urgent and needy as before, each taking their time, but echoes of the passion of earlier were there like glowing embers, lending a searing intense quality to even this tender moment despite the pair being mindful not to fan those embers back to full roaring flame. The kiss broke, Jason leaning his forehead against Autumn’s much as he had less than a week and more than a lifetime ago after she’d hugged him. How different things seemed right now, though. This closeness meant something, did it not? His awareness of her, the way her scent tickled his nervous system, the way her warmth permeated him… It gave a richness to everything, from the firelight to the sounds of the night creatures. He’d meant what he said, of course. He knew that, if by the tides of existence he and Autumn were to part ways, he would register the lack of her in his life. He would measure future lovers by the experience that was her - from her simple emotional honesty to her warmth, loyalty and courage to the way her kisses made his blood leap like the tides under the moon. It was so unlike the fascination he’d felt for Marissa that he wondered if the feelings were even akin. “I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then? But sucked on country pleasures, childishly? Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den? ’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be. If ever any beauty I did see, Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.” The words were softly spoken, unhurried in their cadence, the murmur of Jason’s voice as he recited the verse hypnotic as it blended with the fire’s crackle and the distant whirring of crickets. Autumn’s eyes were wide, and liquid with emotions he still wasn’t confident of fathoming, but the smile curving her lips was more reassuring. “John Donne. ‘The Good-Morrow’” Jason said by way of explanation. Autumn let her fingertips glide down from his hair to his cheeks, then clasped her hands behind his neck and kissed him briefly. “Is there more of it?” she breathed, smiling as he nodded and, turning her head to one side, nestled closer, her red curls against his chin, her ear to his chest, feeling as much as hearing his voice as he continued. “And now good-morrow to our waking souls, Which watch not one another out of fear; For love, all love of other sights controls, And makes one little room an everywhere. Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone, Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown, Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.” “My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears, And true plain hearts do in the faces rest; Where can we find two better hemispheres, Without sharp north, without declining west? Whatever dies, was not mixed equally; If our two loves be one, or, thou and I Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.” Her face hot with her blushes, Autumn was nonetheless grinning as Jason finished. Her fingers lightly grasping the hair at the back of his head, she tilted her face up once more and pulled his face down to hers for a sound kiss which deepened and lengthened, sighing her contentment and desire into his mouth as the two of them lay back together on the blanket. The sparks from the fire whirling up into the velvet of the night sky, the sounds of the creek and the chorus of night birds, all went unheeded as the pair focused all attention on each other. And though their clothing stayed on, neither of them slept for quite a while as they lay together, entwined and murmuring to one another between kisses, until well into the night.
    3 points
  17. And, just like that, with no more than a look and the brush of his lips against her hand, Autumn forgot how to breathe all over again, her lower abdomen tightening with the force of her reaction in an aftershock, an echo of the cataclysmic pleasure she’d just endured. It lasted only for a moment, but she had a vague sense that it wouldn’t be the last time he would evoke such a reaction from her with such seemingly inconsequential acts. ...God, I am so, so not surviving until Homecoming, she mused, uncertain in that moment whether she would even be lucky enough to survive the night. As his doomed companion watched the tiny, fractional changes at the corners of Jase’s eyes, the near-imperceptible movement of his lashes, the subtle curve of his mouth, she was again struck by the need to break through that composed veneer, to see beneath the surface, to find out if he felt- or could feel- that same sense of connection that had made the whole experience feel so much more real, more intense, more… everything, really, than just a make-out session in the woods. What did this mean to him, though? Was it just an intellectual exercise for him, or maybe just carnal sensation, the sating of physical appetite? She was keenly aware of her need for this to be meaningful to him, too, to reach within the armor of the impenetrable, impossible boy, to touch his essential Self as he had touched hers. Her natural curiosity once more winning out over trepidation, the clear blue of Autumn’s gaze swept slowly over his face in a phantom caress as the backs of her fingers trailed from her lover’s cheek to follow the curve of his throat. It was an unhurried, languorous pursuit, tracing meandering arcs- now with her fingertips, now the blunt edge of her nails- that swirled down over his collarbone and along his ribs, the broad spirals drifting gradually lower and her smile widening incrementally with each sharp inhalation or flutter of his eyelids. Not so impervious after all, she realized, with a growing sense of triumph and her own power - she was doing this, coaxing reactions from his body that, for all Jason’s icy control, he could not suppress. The undisguised delight she felt at every reaction, however miniscule, was evident in the rapt intensity of her expression, the suffusion of warm color beneath her skin; whatever hint of pleasure she perceived in his responses was reflected in her features as she gazed up at him. She could practically feel the heat radiating from his bare torso, could almost chart the currents of his desire in the rise and fall of his chest as the shallow, rapid pace of his breathing mirrored her own, but it was the undeniable proof of Jase’s arousal, insistent and unyielding against her hip, that caused a tremor deep in her core which vibrated, ever so slightly, in the caress of her hand on the smooth skin of his stomach. Resisting the urge to glance down was an exercise in resolve, one she overcame only by the narrowest of margins, and only then by reminding herself that she had definitely already seen him naked, and this was totally no big deal. ...Okay, she admitted as her focus wavered momentarily to the feeling of his body pressed against her, maybe not entirely accurate, but still! Inhaling to steady her nerves and realign her thoughts, Autumn concentrated instead on the play of the firelight over his face, the warm texture of his skin, the faint vibration beneath the curious brush of her fingertips- more teasing than tentative as they roved inexorably toward the fly of his trousers. Intent on her features as she watched him, Jason could see himself reflected in the wide, ocean-dark pools of her eyes, could almost have tracked the movement of her hand by the changes in her expression alone. The rich color of her cheeks deepened by degrees, and he felt the gentle tug as she gingerly unfastened the button her questing fingers encountered, heard clearly the hitch in her breath and the soft sigh of her exhalation over the sound of each individual metal tooth parting as she drew the zipper downward. Jason’s heart had sped up a little throughout their intimacy thus far, maintaining a pulse that felt like a steady drum in his chest even as the delicious drawn-out tension of her slowly-moving fingers caused his breath to quicken and catch very slightly. Their eyes locked on one another, Jason felt a thrill he’d rarely experienced, a sensation he classified as a reaction to… not danger, exactly, but vulnerability. To Autumn, in this moment, he was vulnerable - not in the sense of physical harm, but in the sense that she could sway his reactions, dictate the pace of his heart and the quickness of his breath, strum his nerves as he had played on her own mere moments ago. And yet at the same time, looking into the depths of her naked soul - or so it seemed - she was utterly vulnerable to him as well. The sigh that contained a hint of expectant need, the way her teeth indented her lower lip and the red suffusing her features deepened even as she was the actor, rather than the acted-upon… Or was she? Was it that clear-cut? Jason doubted it. This was all so new to him that he wasn’t precisely sure where his sense of himself ended and his sense of Autumn began. Still lingering was the unfamiliar sense of savage possessive tenderness that had surged as she had tensed, arched and cried out in his arms. He had been acting upon her, for certain, and yet in her vulnerable surrender to his touch she had also acted upon him. This then, he realised with a flash of insight, was what it meant to connect, to be connected to another person, at least as closely as he could approximate the condition, and the realisation caused his eyes to widen and his breathing to stop altogether for a moment as he gazed down into the wells of emotional warmth that were Autumn’s eyes. “Are you okay?” she murmured softly, her hand stilling its tugging on his zipper as she caught the sudden change in the texture of his reactions. She could feel him there past the fabric and the metal of the fly, a tantalising solidity, and yet she paused, her other hand gently stroking the hair over his ears, her touch gentle and warm in a way that was not merely physical. That warmth- her warmth. The vibrancy that had drawn him to her. It entered him through that connection, radiant as the campfire that illuminated both the entwined lovers, and it warmed him in places that were habitually cold. Her touch, whether as a function of her Shine or simply the more mundane but no less wondrous alchemical properties of tender female contact, carried the same warm properties as her gaze. The moment of shock passed, but the warmth did not, and he smiled in answer to the question, the hungry flame coming back into his eyes redoubled. “I was just thinking… no, feeling that I am very okay.” he told the pretty redhead as he lowered his lips to hers. The kiss was a brush, at first, then a slightly firmer press as he let his own fire well up from inside, his mouth opening against hers, feeling hers open against his, their tongues gently teasing each other as he set aside the last of his tightly-held reserve, allowed the vulnerability of his own need and desire to manifest, his breath catching as he felt that utterly amoral and primitive urge set his mind ablaze. The last vestiges of his icy analysis melting away, Jason was left aware only of the feel of her in his arms, her skin on his skin, the contrast of soft breast and hard nipple pressed to his chest, Autumn’s hand pressing insistently against him through the material of trousers that were an irritating barrier. A faint growl in the back of his throat carried into the kiss as the hand that had been stroking the glorious tumble of Autumn’s hair slid around to the nape of her neck, slender fingers weaving into the base of her hair there and tightening into a gentle fist, anchoring her so he could possessively, even roughly claim her mouth with his, his heartbeat rising to a thunder in his ears. For the briefest of moments- the fleeting instant in which a match-head, being struck, might not yet be consumed by the flame- she was acutely aware of the specific word Jase had chosen, “feeling,” the way the odd gravity of his tone warped the other words around it by proximity alone. Aware that he’d said it earlier, as well. Aware that even if it wasn’t a singular, unprecedented expression, it clearly wasn’t one he’d used often. Aware that he… was about to kiss her, that she was already tilting her head to meet the hungry press of his lips with her own as the flame caught, and awareness of anything beyond him vanished in a dizzying swirl of sparks that shimmered behind her eyelids and over the surface of her skin. The soft rumble in his throat that sent a tremor through the core of her being, the surprising strength of his fingers woven tightly through her hair, the taste of his mouth on hers, the faint roar of her blood- or was it his?- that drowned out the crackle of the campfire and the murmur of the river: all of her attention was focused on what he was doing and how it made her feel, on how he responded, and the sense of near-tangible energy, the power inherent in that exchange. Still… Not enough. Impatiently, the redhead in his arms fumbled with the suddenly complicated workings of his pants, her fingers uncharacteristically clumsy with haste and want; with a low moan of frustration against his lips, she managed to slide her free hand between the press of their bodies to pull the fly taut while the other finally succeeded in getting the zipper down. There was no hesitation, no real consideration save the desire to touch him, and so she did, her fingertips gliding over him through the thin fabric of the trunks he wore. The muscles of his abdomen tightened as Autumn reveled in the heat, the thickness of him beneath her palm before sliding upward, under the waistband of the swim shorts, and inside. Leaning over her, Jason exhaled sharply at the sensation of cool, slender fingers encircling heated flesh, his rough kiss deepening to a bruising crush that ignited her blood into searing, liquid gold even as she arched against him in a wordless, desperate plea for more. “Off,” she gasped, drawing a ragged breath against his jaw and pulling ineffectually at his belt loops. With a muffled curse pressed against her throat, he shifted his weight onto one forearm above her, shucking both trousers and trunks and kicking the irksome garments aside, not at all concerned about whether they ended up in the fire, the lake, or a few feet away- only that they were gone. Her pale arms linked around the wiry youth’s neck as she rose to meet him, then rolled toward the fire, pressing his back firmly into the blanket; arranging herself over him, the flame-haired young woman paused to catch her breath, drawing back for a moment to take in the tall, spare form of her lover limned in flickering golden light. It was an arresting sight, and she leaned in to brush her lips fleetingly over his before shifting downward, her hair and the warm softness of her breasts skimming over his torso as she devoured with lips and tongue the course her eyes had set moments before. Autumn shifted to one side as the curve of her jaw grazed the hollow beneath his hip bone, her breath hot and slightly uneven as her mouth moved hungrily against his body, palms sliding down the lean expanse of his stomach to the tops of his thighs. The heat radiating from Jase’s skin felt almost cool against the flaming scarlet of her cheek, warmed not by any external source but by the dizzying, near-euphoric effect of his proximity alone; she marveled at that for a moment, nipping gently at the subtle demarcation between sun-bronzed flesh and the slightly fairer hue of his natural complexion before smiling and pressing an apologetic kiss to the faint mark she’d left. Without the relentless assault his earlier explorations had made on her senses, the ardent young woman focused anew on the sensory impressions conveyed through the sudden tension of muscle under her fingertips, the clean, appealingly male scent of his skin, and the oh-so faint taste of salt it left on her lips. It was a far cry from the nigh-incomprehensible chaos of before, rendered inchoate by raw need and the scorching delights of his touch- rather than a crashing wave of sensation, it was the slow rush of an incoming tide, waves of shared pleasure surging against the shore of her consciousness. As she tucked her hair behind one ear, Autumn rested her cheek against his hip, considering the tangible proof of his arousal with a combination of uncertainty and unvarnished desire. It wasn’t an issue of interest or even motivation, but of mathematics, a complex subject that had always daunted her in school but which now presented- in the form of her new boyfriend- both a frustrating dilemma and an irresistible challenge. Tilting her chin to glance up at Jason’s face, she caught a glimpse of his eyes, dark and intent on her features, and felt her stomach tighten deliciously in response. I’ll make it work, she decided quickly, catching her lower lip between her teeth as a frisson of excitement rippled through her at his expression. The feathery caress of her fingertips along the heated length of his manhood, inquisitive and exploratory as his own movements had been before, yielded a sudden, involuntary twitch that elicited a gasp of surprise and delight from the animated young woman; impishly, she repeated the gesture, stifling a grin as the novelty of his reaction briefly outweighed all other concerns. Relenting as she felt him begin to stir beneath her, his Titian-haired lover raised her head, rising as the playful delicacy of her touch resolved into a yielding grasp that almost encircled him completely. She inhaled, lowering her head to trail a series of soft, slow kisses along the underside of his shaft in what felt like microscopic increments, keeping her gaze fixed on his as her lips moved slowly upward. With a quiet hum of appreciation, the lively redhead swiped the flat of her tongue over the head, parting kiss-reddened lips to breathe a whisper of cool air across his sensitized skin. “You know… It’s not too late to run,” she murmured, regarding him with a glimmer of devilry in her lust-darkened eyes and pausing as if to offer him the opportunity. His eyelids fluttered half-closed at the contact of her warm wet tongue on his aching flesh, a sharp intake of breath followed by a drawn-out exhalation as his mischievous lover teased his nerves. At her words, his own heated gaze focused on hers and he smiled. "I prefer chasing to fleeing." His smile became a faint crooked grin. "Like you." Autumn hmmed again in satisfaction, the corners of her mouth curving upward as she pushed her hair back from her face and over her bare, cinnamon-flecked shoulders. Pale fingers once again encircled the base of his shaft, more firmly this time, giving him a gentle squeeze as she dipped her head and anointed him almost reverently with slow, deliberate strokes of her tongue. Eager as his companion was to return some fraction of the white-hot pleasure Jase had seared into her body, she reminded herself that after the torment he’d put her through, it was worth taking her time to see how far his mask of composure could slip; potentially making him squirm a little in exchange for the ruthless teasing he’d given her was just a bonus. The sudden thought of his voice, hoarse and breathless and desperate as it formed the word “please” sent a shiver of tiny sparks racing down her spine, rekindling the liquid heat in her belly. He could feel the shape of her smile for a brief moment as the warm, soft circle of her lips descended with excruciating slowness, drawing him carefully into the slick heat of her mouth. He’d propped himself on his elbows as Autumn had sunk lower, watching her raptly, and now his breath hissed at her teasing exploratory touches, and as her hand wrapped around him he felt his head fall back as though all of his tension, all of his capacity for tension, were concentrated in the pale fingers of the lover he’d not expected to discover. The touch of her lips followed, causing the warm rigidity in Autumn’s hand to jump slightly as a low murmur of surprised pleasure issued from Jason’s throat. With an effort of will, he kept his head raised, his fingers balling into fists as he watched her lovingly run her tongue along him, over and over, tasting every inch of him as though he were the finest of treats. His heart was a drum in his ears again as he watched her, noting how she never took her eyes from his, holding him mesmerised with her own hunger. She had given him the option to run again, teasingly, but both of them knew he would not - perhaps could not - any more that she would or could. Just like Autumn, it was not in Jason’s nature to run from danger… and the connection of mutual desire, of evoked emotions and the sheer hunger each awoke in the other was indeed a danger: fogging the mind, reducing judgement to ashes. The loss of Self, the inability to tell where he ended and she began - this, then, was the most delightful and thrilling of dangers. What would he do, to protect one who inspired such feelings and sensations? What would he not do, to keep her by him and prolong this firelit moment for as long as the stars burned? He saw himself reflected in her eyes, in her expression as she looked upon him, and for once he did not feel like an outsider - beyond the pane of glass that separated him from others. She did not perceive him as the necessary evil, the useful monster that, when all was over and settled, others would distance themselves from. She desired him, she felt for him, she wanted him... and she was unafraid. She saw the fire in his eyes, and wanted to dance in it. As her mouth slid over him he took a hissing breath, eyes fluttering shut and then opening almost as swiftly, keeping his gaze on hers as she slowly, so slowly slipped her tongue around the head of his cock inside the warm wetness of her mouth. Humming softly, Autumn bobbed her head a little, pulling back off him with a soft ‘pop’ of suction and kissed the side of his shaft once more, her eyes never leaving his, a lioness over her kill. His breath was coming harder now as he watched her smile, then take him between her lips once more, hmming in delight as he filled her mouth, tongue flickering around the girth of the welcome invader. She saw his jaw clench, heard the soft gasps her mouth was coaxing from him, his lean frame tensing as his pleasure climbed… and with another soft ‘pop’ she withdrew, stroking him gently with her hand. “Shit.” Jason swore, the word emerging as more of a groan that caused the red-head to smile wickedly at him, the amber of her freckles offsetting the pale rose of her face as she placed another delicate kiss on the prize in her hand. “Sorry, should I stop?” she asked, a hint of throaty chuckle in her voice as she watched his pale green gaze flash with a mixture of frustration and amusement. She nuzzled her lips against the tender skin of his manhood, peering around it at the expression on Jason’s face with a wide-eyed, ingenuous look in her eyes. Not giving him a chance to speak, she slowly licked up along the full length of him, flicking the tip of her wet tongue at the head and feeling a delicious tight zinging of pleasure in her core as he groaned, a deep, urgent sound of his need. It occurred to her that she had been his first making-out, the first girl he had pleasured, the first who had pleasured him… He’d never before experienced what she was doing to his nerve-endings, and with the realisation came a warm uncoiling rush of fresh arousal mixed with tenderness. She watched him war between maintaining his aloof control and declaring what he wanted, putting himself in her hands. “I’d… prefer you continue.” he husked, evidently deciding on the latter. Autumn smiled, kissing the swollen head once more as she tried, more from fascination than for any other reason, to get her fingers to meet around the base of his shaft once more, causing another soft groan to emit from her lover at the gentle pressure. He sucked in a breath as he discerned her playful intent, and faced with a choice of either withdrawing or pursuing the delightful pleasure to its end, he decided. “Autumn… please.” he murmured in a voice hoarse with need from a throat as taut as the lean lines of his body and the tremoring solidity of him in her palm, his eyes on hers. There were entire sections of libraries and bookstores devoted to the language of romance, to printed exaltations of love dating back to the advent of the written word itself, prose and poetry alike articulating in line after line, page after page, humanity’s most ardent erotic expressions. And yet two words, just two, from the young man she so desperately desired managed to convey more sincere urgency and impassioned need than any she could imagine being put to paper. She’d meant to tease him a little in playful retribution, to test the limits of his composure and his capacity to feel something; now, having achieved all that, Autumn realized with a sudden shock the gravity of what he had just done. He hadn’t simply abandoned his control, casting it aside in a moment of euphoric madness- she doubted whether he was even capable of such a thing. He’d handed it to her, to her, earnestly and in full trust, in two words. There was a startling purity in the raw need manifest in his gaze, a longing for something as-yet unquantifiable to him that she would have considered desperate were he anyone but himself. Show me, it demanded, a silent appeal for an answer to the question of what all of this meant, what it could mean; her smile widened slightly in response, the mischief in her eyes softening into something even she couldn’t readily define as she glanced up at him through the bright copper fringe of her lashes. “Well,” the lithe redhead replied carefully, weighing his request before adding, “you did say please,” punctuating each word with a soft press of her lips to the rigid length fairly vibrating within her encircling fingers. It didn’t matter that none of this had been planned or even considered before, the span of an hour or a week being equally meaningless when time was measured solely by the exultant percussion of her heart- it was happening now, and whatever came after would be… whatever it was. In this moment, there was only the faint taste of salt, the irregular rasp of his breath, and the flickering radiance spreading through her veins as that voiceless urge once more whispered through the haze of her thoughts: More. Power and control, lust and affection: these weren’t merely abstract concepts, but the currency exchanged between lovers, given freely and returned with interest. ...And, oh, Autumn had interest aplenty. With a quiet hum of pleasure she lavished a slow, hungry kiss over the head of his cock, ardent lips and adoring tongue caressing the swollen flesh with unreserved delight. Her attentiveness was almost worshipful in its intensity, as if through soft sighs and the heat of her needy mouth this sensual rite of connection and desire could somehow convey what she lacked the words to say otherwise. The unfiltered immediacy of his reactions- the gasps, the shivers, the tensing of his lean frame beneath her- only encouraged reciprocity, sending delicate frissons of pleasure racing along her own nerves even as she strove to heighten his. She was doing this to him. He wanted her to do this to him. He wanted her. Like called to like, his hunger provoking her own in slow, sultry waves that rippled across the glowing, molten pool rising inside her, carrying its heat outward in a rush of bright rose beneath the ivory of her skin. Her lips and hands worked in tandem, rising and falling over him in smooth, fluid motions and alternating between slow, gently twisting strokes that engulfed him in warmth and gentle friction and shorter, quicker ones that allowed her to focus on the delicate, hypersensitive nerve endings and drive him closer to the limits of sensation. The intent young woman could sense, rather than hear the change in Jase’s breathing as her fingers undulated in waves, a rhythmic counterpoint to the languid sweep of her tongue around the dense, heated length of him filling her mouth; squeezing her thighs together to assuage the dull ache building there, Autumn glanced up to meet his gaze once more. It briefly occurred to him that something fundamental had shifted in Autumn in the moments following his implicit placing of himself - for want of a better phrase - in her hands. His rudimentary understanding of her, which the sense of connection deepened and strengthened, perceived rather than sensed the softening of her mischievousness into something unquantifiable and outside of his experience. Even in his urgent need, his nerves electrified by the caress of the girl kneeling between his legs, his mind started to chase this new observed phenomenon, to decipher its meaning - and then her lips slid down over the head of his cock once more and he was left with a choice - to shut out all sensation and focus entirely on the abstraction of analysing the look in his lover’s eyes, or to live in the moment, to experience that which he had placed himself in her hands to experience. He chose the latter, and thought whirled away from him as the world became raw sensory stimuli, hotwiring his mind and body without the intercession of higher cognitive processes. Abstraction, always his companion, was gone now. That wry observer-mind who catalogued, analysed and filed every experience was nowhere to be found. Everything was white-hot sensation that entered Jason’s mind unfiltered, pulses of pleasure building within his body in tightening waves that moved in time with the stroke of her hands, the bobbing of her head - slow at first, the tingling brush of her hair on his thighs and hips a counterpoint as she swirled her tongue around the tip of him within her mouth, but then quickening gradually as Autumn’s own desire to bring him pleasure loaned urgency to her movements, coaxing gasps from his mouth and causing his belly to tighten and hips to twitch under her caress. Now and then she would take him as deep as she could into her mouth and hold him there, testing herself against him, the sensation of her throat working around the tip of his manhood causing him to groan - a deep guttural sound devoid of anything but yearning - before slowly sliding the tight suction of her lips back up to the head of his cock and resuming once more the steadily increasing rhythm of mouth, tongue and hands that could have only one design, one purpose. One culmination. His breath began coming in pants now, shortening perceptibly as a warm tightness began to grow in his loins, and though his eyelids fluttered shut now and then he always opened them again as though fascinated at the sight of the hungry-eyed redhead pleasuring him. As she glanced up towards him with his swollen head between her lips and their eyes met once more it seemed as though a spark jumped - from her blue eyes to his green and thence to his groin and then back up his spine in a series of lightning-strikes, exploding in his brain. It was so different from his past solitary pleasuring of himself - so mechanical and matter-of-fact by comparison - that he could not even process that his climax was on him at first. Jase’s teeth clenched, his body tensing almost painfully as his head fell back and a weak thought occurred to him, some dimly-remembered reading of advice on such matters that he should warn her, that it was polite to warn her, and he opened his mouth to do so but all he could do was call out her name with such a deep reverberating groan that she felt it as much as heard it and then his cock twitched powerfully in her hands and in her mouth as he came. There was a sense that some spring had been over-tightened and had now snapped and released its energy, propelled him over the precipice of the senses Autumn had lifted him to, and now he was moving through space, weightless, formless, a heated cloud of glowing vapor where once he had been a cold, distant star. Jase shuddered through the crest of his pleasure, every sinew on his body standing out as his shaft pulsed, over and over so it seemed to him, the sensations blurring together with the rhythmic feel of Autumn’s swallowing, his tortured gasps mingling with her delighted humming as she drank him down, her eyes on his pleasure-slackened features as he groaned again, looking unseeing up at the stars and the sparks from the campfire, momentarily mindless and aware only of the white-hot, drawn out jangling of his nerves, the gentle suction of her mouth, and the tender brush of her hands as they left his cock and lightly grasped his hips as much to embrace him as hold him steady. Eventually the pleasure subsided, the magnesium-flare of raw sensation cooling down somewhat, and as consciousness returned Jason blinked, realisation of Self coming back to him. He raised his head once more and looked down along his body at Autumn. “Holy shit.” he said, not with particular heat or emphasis but in a more hushed, faintly reverent tone such as one might use when looking up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling for the first time, or watching a particularly beautiful sunrise. The latter being an apt descriptor, in his mind, for the girl who had in a short space of time engaged his interest, kindled his friendship, earned his trust, sparked his desire, and quite literally blown his mind. His composure was largely returned, though his breath was still a little labored and his eyes still dark with desire as he regarded her, his cock still possessing some rigidity but quiescent now as she let it slip from her lips with a smile. “In case you missed it last time I said it - you’re beautiful.” he told her soberly. Impossibly, she felt her cheeks grow warmer at the unanticipated compliment, as if all the heat in her abdomen had suddenly rushed upwards, the deepening hue of her complexion visible even in the amber glow of the firelight. She was reasonably sure that wasn’t supposed to happen when you were already blushing, but some rules just didn’t seem to apply when Jason Whatever-His-Middle-Name-Was Bannon was involved. He had this knack for casually setting her on fire with some off-hand comment or pointed glance and just sort of observing the ensuing level of conflagration, and even worse, she couldn’t even be sure if it was intentional or not- sometimes it seemed deliberate, and sometimes incidental. Either way, she should have started building up an immunity or tolerance of some kind by now, but oh, no. While her body could theoretically ignore drugs and booze completely, things that could actually kill her, of course there was no superpower to resist being red-faced and just feeling like she was going to die. It was infuriating and impossible, and so was he, and the absolute worst part was that she kind of enjoyed it. Maybe. A little. ...Okay, okay. More than a little. Damn it, Autumn swore silently, trying unsuccessfully to ignore what felt like clouds of tiny golden stars zinging pleasantly along her nerves as she peered up at him, her face aflame. At Bannon the Impenetrable, with all the potential challenges and surprises that entailed. At her boyfriend. Shifting her knees to the outside of his thighs, the spirited redhead slid up the length of Jason's lean frame, smiling down into his eyes as the heavy curtain of her tousled red-gold hair spilled all around them. “I’m glad you think so,” she replied quietly, resting her forehead against his as she tried to match his breathing, savoring the warmth and solidity of his chest rising and falling against her own. “So, can I assume you’re okay, then?” she murmured, the fingers of one hand carefully threading through the dark hair over his ear. His pale eyes, warmed by the firelight catching their wide, dark centers, met her gaze. There was in that stare a pensive searching, questioning quality as he studied both her and the sensations she had sparked- and continued to spark- in his psyche. He brought a hand up, brushing his fingertips over her face - feather-lightly, as though tracing her features through glass - before gently cupping her cheek in his palm, feeling her warmth as he lifted his head and pressed his lips to hers in mute answer. As her eyelids drifted shut, Autumn’s awareness of the world shrank, leaving only the gentle pressure of his kiss and the slow, rhythmic tide of their breathing. Of the fact that her hand slid from Jase’s hair to cradle the back of his head, or that as she melted almost bodily against him she made a tiny sound of surprised delight in the back of her throat, the warm-hued young woman was completely unaware. Instead, she could pinpoint the incandescent awakening of every nerve ending he touched, a sensation she prolonged with the delicate brush of her mouth against his, with the tiny, fleeting movements of her reddened lips wherein a thousand flickering sparks of pleasure flared to life and scattered again as his kiss ignited them anew. It was indulgence, not urgency that whetted her appetite; even as his analytic mind worked to process and categorize the experience, her brilliant lover got the sense that she would happily continue in this leisurely vein until the sun rose over them. And yet… Without any notion of how much time had passed, she did finally withdraw with a soft sigh, nuzzling her cheek against his jaw as she opened her eyes. “To be continued,” she reminded herself aloud before smiling and pressing a kiss into the hollow just beneath his ear, her voice dropping to a near-whisper. “Hopefully soon, hm?” Autumn rose, then, gently releasing his head and- slightly unsteadily- getting to her feet. It felt like she’d spent the day hiking through the backcountry, her legs still a little shaky as the muscles protested the sudden shift back to verticality, and as she stretched to restore circulation and equilibrium the red-haired teen quickly scanned the campsite: her shirt and bikini top were almost on opposite sides, with Jase’s pants and shirt similarly scattered and in disarray. The sound of her quiet laugh drifted across the clearing as she shook her head, grinning, and set about retrieving their clothes, pausing to grab his towel and one of the open bottles of water on her way back to the blanket. “Here,” she smiled, handing over the bottle as she sank down next to him, sitting cross-legged and sorting through the clothes in her lap. “Thought you might be thirsty.”
    3 points
  18. Naked torso time seemed a great idea, and Autumn sat up astride him as she, too, started to peel off the t-shirt that was the only thing keeping her skin from touching his - an unbearable barrier that would not be tolerated any longer. For a moment Jase watched as the pale skin of her stomach and ribs came into view, then an impulse seized him as Autumn’s arms raised, hands going behind her head to tug the shirt off - and he sat up with a smooth coiling of his stomach muscles and reached out, catching her hands behind her head as the t-shirt covered her eyes, just her nose and lips free beneath the edge of the material. The girl made a small sound of protest, but she smiled then, her arms tensing a little as though in playful struggle against his grasp. Jason let her feel his smile on her lips for a moment, then withdrew his kiss, eliciting another small sound of protest. Even in his inexperience, it was not in his nature to be passive for longer than necessary, and the sweet torments of Autumn’s touches, nibbles and kisses needed repaying, so it seemed. He drew back a little, studying her nakedness with a possessive, hungry gaze that the fair-skinned captive in his arms could practically feel like sunlight on her flesh. One hand still pinning her wrists, long fingers encircling them, he brought his other hand down to trace a fingertip along her jaw, across her lower lip - teasingly moving it as she sought to catch it in her mouth - then down the line of her throat. She had freckles down below her collarbone, a dusting of bronze in the firelight against the cream of her skin - currently flushed as her face was. He let the tips of his fingers play over the markings, teasing touches that made her shift a little in his lap. “What are you doing?” she murmured, smiling as she arched her body into his touch, trying to get more contact and catching her bottom lip between her teeth as her breath hitched, stifling a whimper. “Admiring you.” Jason replied matter-of-factly, sweeping his exploring hand down across her breastbone. Dipping his head, he kissed the base of her throat, then her jawline, then her lips briefly - too briefly - before once more trailing flame down the line of her throat. Another impulse seized him and he rolled slowly, chuckling as Autumn gave out a little yelp as she found herself laying back on the blanket now. The firelight played over her body, deepening the colours and lending flickering shadows to her contours, and the aesthete in Bannon’s soul marvelled for a moment, pondering the nature of beauty and how very subjective it was, how very enslaved to circumstance and company such things could be. “You’re beautiful.” he stated, smiling as he started to kiss her collarbone, lips finding each freckle and paying homage to it as they made their warm path down over her body, his tongue now and then flicking against her heated skin, his teeth gently nibbling, his whole attention focused on tasting her as she squirmed under his attention. Whatever his lack of experience may have suggested, there was nothing clumsy or boyish in the way he touched her, nothing shy or furtive in the leisurely exploration he was making of her body. She wasn't exactly virginal, and in her curiosity had found a lot of things on the internet she’d either gamely tried or secretly wanted to- but this was as far beyond the scope of Autumn’s expectations as Jason himself. A tingle of warmth rippled through her at the unexpected compliment, manifesting in a delicate wash of pale pink spreading just beneath the surface of her exposed skin; his particular brand of unabashed, unaffected sincerity was every bit as seductive as the insistent pressure of his hand on her wrists overhead. It was the newness of the sensations- the thrill of trading the ability to see what Jase was doing for the exquisitely heightened experience of the feeling itself, of sacrificing awareness for anticipation- that kept Autumn’s natural impatience narrowly in check. Even so, the contrast of hot breath and cool night air as his mouth moved over her skin was enough to test the limits of her willpower in a way that drew her taut as a bowstring beneath him, the space beneath her ribs hollowing slightly as her spine curved in a wordless arc of delight. Oh. My FUCKing. GOD! the still-rational part of her mind all but shrieked at the combination of teeth and tongue on sensitive flesh, though the high, plaintive note that escaped her lips wasn’t nearly so coherent. She couldn’t tell which was louder: the erratic, halting rush of her breathing, or the mad cadence of the blood pounding in her ears, but neither could drown out the voiceless, searing imperative of desire. More. The muscles along Autumn’s spine flexed as her hips rolled down against the blanket, pressing her chest upward in a half-conscious attempt to gain closer, more direct contact than the teasing kisses with which Jase was intently mapping the topography of her form in scorching lines. She wasn’t alone in her urgency. Whatever volcanic fires roiled in Jason’s soul seethed and roared in their chains, his arousal causing them to leap and dash themselves clumsily against his glacial self control to get at the girl - this treasure in his arms - who had taught him with words, each breath, each brush of her own lips on him, each caress of her fingers on his skin what connection truly was, what it could be. His own breath quickened at her cries, birdlike and pure despite the carnal demands they heralded, and his hot breath bathed her skin in rose as her blood too, so it seemed, surged upwards to meet him. He removed the slender hand pinning her wrists, yet a stronger grasp maintained Autumn’s helpless posture as his mind, powerful beyond the constraints of his young body, kept her in gentle imprisonment. Both hands were now free to touch her, to wreak havoc with her nerves as delicate fingertips tapped and traced a hidden pattern across her freckled shoulders and collarbone, a cipher for lovers punctuated by warm kisses as his touch moved lower, playing over the gentle swells of her breasts that the young woman’s body offered up with every rolling arc of her body. And now he focused there, taking his time with each caress, his eyes moving from the soft mounds to Autumn’s half-hidden face with the intentness of a musician regarding the conductor. Softly, very softly he trailed flame along her nerves: now with a warm brush of a palm, now with the pads of his fingertips as they traced the soft pink of her areolae. As she made soft, but steadily louder sounds of need and protest, he smiled a little and lowered his head, capturing one stiff little bud tenderly between his lips, kissing at first, then lightly scraping with his teeth to draw music from her before ‘soothing’ the tormented flesh with a gentle laving of his tongue. She tasted sweet, clean and female, a scent he was not unfamiliar with by itself but with richness added from the warm arousal that suffused the air from her pores. As his mouth paid languorous homage to her breasts, the green-eyed devil lightly raked his nails down across Autumn’s ribs and stomach, feeling the taut ivory of her skin quiver and warm further under his touch. Mischief seized him, along with a desire for further connection, and with a slight tug of his power the makeshift blindfold was lifted from the redhead’s eyes so she could look down and see the blazing emerald of his gaze on hers as he tormented her. Smiling as his fingertips teased along and just within the waistline of her jeans, Jason nuzzled his lips against her softness then switched his attentions to her other breast, flicking the tip of his tongue across her nipple before drawing it into his warm mouth. There was a moment’s disorientation as the collar of her t-shirt was tugged upward and away, and at first Autumn saw only a few orange sparks drifting like fireflies up into the vast expanse of dark sky above. Those trackless depths were scattered all throughout with the faint pinpricks of countless distant suns: glimmers of dying scarlet, coruscating points of sapphire, flecks of glittering, crystalline white, and- she glanced down, the scope of her vision shrinking- virescent gold, twin stars captured in corporeal form and rendered incandescent in the glow of the firelight. It was enough to make her breath catch as the alien, incomprehensible heat of Jase’s gaze slowly reduced any lingering reservations to ash. Had anyone actually touched her before? Maybe it was some shared resonance, some echo of their nascent gifts, that this, this must be the quintessence of contact, every atom set aglow by the merest brush of his fingertips. Unable to look away, to escape the dizzying sensory feedback of both seeing and being seen, Autumn’s wrists flexed against the invisible restraint, fingernails biting into her palms as she shivered at the intensity of the hunger in those pale green eyes. The languid, worshipful caress of Jason’s tongue drew a ragged gasp from her lips; it seemed unfair, somehow, that he could be so careful, so composed, when she could feel herself burning like a torch, dissolving from the inside out until all that remained was need, raw and desperate. More, it demanded again, and God, I want you, and she had no way of knowing if the sounds she made were words at all, or just formless, tortured cries in response to the all-encompassing warmth of his lips, his tongue encircling the aching bud of her nipple. As her fists knotted restlessly in the cotton fabric of her t-shirt, Autumn shifted beneath him, rearranging the tangle of their legs until she managed to get one of Jason’s knees between her thighs. Unable to touch him any other way, the captive redhead arched against him, twisting her hips in an urgent bid for friction, pressure- anything to get her body closer to his. What is the opposite of a sadist? Jase wondered with that always-present, wry analytical corner of his mind not currently occupied with sensual appetite for Autumn’s flesh under his touch, under his kiss. He was being pitiless, merciless in the sensation he was inflicting, but it was pleasure not pain, and to see Autumn’s flushed features transported in ecstacy, to know that it was he that was causing the alternately throaty and birdlike cries of wanton need was deeply, profoundly satisfying as well as arousing, the sensation burning like fine liquor in his belly and spreading through his body. He pressed his knee back against the arching pressure of her lithe body, fancying he could feel the heat there as the athletic girl ground against him, her moans lengthening and deepening as she rocked her hips back and forth. He trailed his lips in swift, light kisses back up her body from her breasts, arranging himself as he moved so that his knee remained in place for the hungry need of his lover whilst he caressed her flushed features with one hand before freeing her tumble of hair from the t-shirt that still shrouded it, red-gold waves spilling out across the blanket like the ransom of kings. The other remained lower down, fingertips dipping inside the waistline of her jeans and drawing small designs on the soft, tender skin of her abdomen. Her eyes were dark pools, wide as they looked up at him with raw emotion, portals to her depths which he studied, head tilting slightly as he regarded her, trailing his long fingers through her hair. Autumn flexed her hands against his telekinetic grasp again, wanting to reach out to him, grab his head and pull him to her. She moaned, a low keening sound of protest, as he dropped a delicate kiss on her lips and pulled back with a smile before she could respond. However cool and focused he seemed the detachment was skin deep, the near-delirious girl could tell with a feminine instinct that was as unerring as it was primal. Jason’s eyes blazed, his own features were darkened with the stain of desire. Almost intuitively, Autumn knew that if she could but touch him, she could scratch through that veneer of control and set loose what was inside. She arched her body, pressing her breasts to the warm smoothness of his torso and letting out a moan, a wordless command / plea that was emotion given form. Jason felt that demand and responded to it, pressing his lips to hers more firmly than before as, with a wordless relaxation of his will, he released Autumn’s bound wrists. The kiss Jase gave her, deep and sure, was a gift- one she returned fiercely and without hesitation the moment she was freed. All the energy that had been bound up with the restriction of Autumn’s movements uncoiled in a rush, her body rising up to meet him in a wave of hunger and warm flesh as she reached up with one hand, pale fingers tangling in his thick, dark hair to pull him close. There was no plea in the crush of her lips on his, no mute supplication in the claim her tongue laid to his own, and precious little consideration given to the need for air. There was only want, pure and unfettered, and the feverish pursuit of its fulfillment. Whoever she’d been moments before, who she might be in the moments that followed, if a future beyond this could even be conceived of- these were trivial, transient concerns that her mundane Self would have to address later. The burning brilliance surging through her- crimson as her own blood, golden as living flame- demanded tribute. It stretched through Autumn’s fingertips, through the fervent press of her mouth against his, through the friction of bare skin and the contrast of soft curves against taut muscle and bone, until she could feel the rush of Jason’s breath in her lungs, the hot pulse of his life in her veins… And, still, it wasn’t enough. Not by half. The near-mathematical symmetry of the lean muscle along Jase’s spine as her free hand snaked downward and around his side, nails grazing his hip beneath the swim trunks he wore. The tightening of his fingers in her hair, triggering an answering tension in the smooth skin he’d traced with arcane symbols of desire. The faint taste of salt on his shoulder as Autumn dipped her head, white teeth marking the tanned flesh there without playfulness or trepidation. The sound of her own voice, hoarse and hungry as her hips moved against him, breathing his name against his throat. It was almost overwhelming, the rush of awareness, and the needy redhead drank the heady mix of impressions in, exulting in the echoes of sensation she could feel returned to her. It was more than simply erotic or pleasurable; it was power, to savor the resonance of that vital spark in him thrumming in her own body. Could he sense it, too? some distant part of her mind wondered. Could he feel the heat beneath her skin, the faint tremor of anticipation in her fingertips as they plucked at the button keeping the too-loose combat pants around his waist? Maybe not, what remained of Autumn decided, leaning up to capture Jase’s lips in another bruising kiss. But she was going to make sure he felt something. All was Her, his focus narrowing as he felt his self-possession evaporate, his sense of Self a guttering defiant flame in a hurricane, now and then nearly being blown out altogether in the tumult of sensation, of connection. The scent of Autumn’s skin and hair, the taste of her tongue pushing insistently against his own and the feel - oh the feel! - of her body pressed to his as her fingers explored his skin. The wry observer was silent now, sheltering somewhere inside that guttering flame as everything became fire and hunger, caution and prudence drawn forth from his lean body as if with his breath from one of Autumn’s yearning kisses, to be scattered like the embers of the fire that whirled overhead as the two teens lay tangled in each others arms. Jase was hyper-aware of her fingers toying with the fastening of his pants, of the hungry heat of her body, of the so very perfect way in which their bodies seemed to flow together. Autumn’s murmur of his name against his neck seared his blood, set it to boiling as he ran his thumb over the embossed top button of her jeans before, with a nimble flick, he unfastened it. Autumn drew in a breath, feeling it, practically hearing the soft fabric sound as deceptively slender fingers dipped inside her jeans to stroke over the soft cloth of her bikini. She whined deep in her throat as a garment which, not long ago, she’d been concerned might be provocative now seemed to be a blighted impedance. His fingertips swirled down over her covered mound, and Jason could feel the warmth and humidity there, turning his hand to press it to her aching body, pressing against her through the cloth as his fingers stroked. His frustration mirrored hers, though. He wanted more than this, more of her and so, true to his essential nature he took it, slipping his touch back up, then down inside the swimsuit bottoms. He felt Autumn go still, one hand tightening in his hair, the other resting against his taut stomach, and he gazed into her eyes as she lifted them to regard him, her lips - rouged from kissing - opening in an ‘oh’ of soft anticipation. His fingers caressed her mound, gently tugging at the soft down he felt before straying lower still, seeking out her warmth. Even as his mind supplied the theory, his fingers and palm carried out the practical experiment, cupping the heated wetness, stroking the sensitive tips of his fingers over the folds he discovered. He softly kissed her panting mouth, nuzzled his cheek along her jawline, trailed his lips to her earlobe and, once there, whispered her name as an invocation while his hand learned, slowly, to play the oldest notes of pleasure on his lover’s body. The convergence of sensations had been almost dizzying, an exhilarating confluence of the real- the tactile experience of Jason’s skin, the steady drum of his heartbeat and the scent of something vaguely herbal in his tousled hair- with other, less tangible impressions of his essential vitality, bright as a bonfire in her arms and just as dangerous. With so much to delight in, the dull, sweet ache winding through her belly and the soft whimpers he coaxed from her lips were almost secondary considerations; until she felt deft fingers slipping with startling ease between the slick folds of her sex, Autumn had no concrete notion of exactly how eagerly her body had anticipated his touch. Her eyes widened up at him as the realization struck, desire and disbelief vying for supremacy in their depths, and she was dimly aware that if it were physically possible, she’d be blushing down to her toes beneath the wave of renewed heat washing over her. Instead, her shoulders pressed into the ground, hips arching up to demand yet more of his questing fingertips. Not enough. She trembled, panting, heedless of anything but how much she wanted him in that moment and how little of him she could actually have. There was no slow, measured climb toward some transcendent peak, despite the curious, exploratory quality of his caresses, but rather a rapid ascent only hastened by the invocation of her name: two syllables without any supernatural quality of their own, transmuted into a fey charm by the urgent whisper of a lover. The comely redhead shivered bodily at the warmth of Jase’s breath on her ear, her head dropping back onto the blanket as everything within her stretched toward the feeling of liquid tension building between her thighs, reaching feverishly toward the threshold of its release. Autumn’s fingers slid from his hair, wandering aimlessly across angular shoulder blades as the totality of her existence focused on the exquisite tease of his thumb brushing, almost incidentally, against the tender bud of her clit. With a near-frantic moan, she slid her free hand down over his, no longer satisfied with simply letting him dictate the pace of his own discovery. “Lesson can wait,” Autumn gasped, guiding him into the patterns she desperately craved. “I ca- han’t!” Her voice broke in a sharp, tremulous cry as one of those dextrous, sensitive fingers probed at her entrance before slipping inside, triggering the sudden contraction of her abdomen and a torrent of incoherent pleas to unnamed gods. All rational thought vanished, dissolving like hot ashes on the wind as her hips rolled faster, a frenetic rhythm that matched the insistent pressure of her palm on the back of his hand. She was already so close, breath coming in ragged gasps underscored by a soft, pleading whine, when she felt Jase shift slightly, followed by the brush of his cheek against the high curve of her breast. “Oh-” Autumn began breathlessly, heavy lids opening slightly in confusion. Then- “Ohhhh, FUCK!” as the tip of his tongue circled her nipple and he captured it between his lips. The ache, the heat inside her swelled, searing crimson and gold against the inside of her skin, and for a brief, terrifying moment the delirious teen thought she might actually be dying, torn shrieking from the world on a surging wave of incandescent lust. One hand clutched blindly, wildly at Jason’s wrist as her body tensed, muscles flexing beneath the rose-flushed ivory of her skin, while the other seized a fistful of the blanket behind him. Her eyes were wide, unseeing, as her spine arched, driving her bucking hips harder against his fingers; as the world went black around the edges, a high, keening wail escaped her lips, carrying the echo of his name through the night. It was revelatory: every part of the experience was sounding depths in his soul that even the acutely self-aware young man had not previously fathomed. Autumn’s body rose and tautened, her voice rising high, carrying his name in a wild paean of ecstasy under his touch while her feverishly clutching left hand latched onto his wrist in a futile attempt to anchor herself against the tempest coursing through her nerves. Jason felt in that grip the bruising strength of her rapture, his refined sense of touch reading the spasms of her wetness seeking to draw his fingers deeper, and as he watched her lovely features transported with pleasure the detached genius felt something within him stir, something possessive yet gentle that responded to the bold young woman who had reached out to and, if he was honest, into him. His other arm encircled her shoulders, cradling Autumn gently as she cried out and trembled against him, surging through the riptide of her delight, and Jason absorbed the simple fact of her being inside his awareness with a shock that resonated in the halls of his mind. It was startling, and discomfiting to think that just a week ago, he’d thought in his innocence such a thing could only be within the reach of one girl. But this intimacy was far beyond anything he had pictured. Such was the tumult of his own desires that he had no ready answer to why that was, and so he set the question aside and focused on the delirium of the Now, slowly moving his fingers inside his flame-haired vision, feeling her slippery wetness on his hand and grazing the pad of his thumb around her clit in unconscious time with the quiver of her inner walls. Autumn’s hands released the blanket and his wrist, coming up to cling to his shoulders and back as she raised her face to his, her warm breath and insistent, greedy tongue seeming to carry her soul into the kiss before she broke off to whimper loudly, her voice rhythmically rising in pitch, taking on an almost panicked note. Her thoughts were as leaves in a gale, the astonished realisation that it was happening again all she could grasp from the fleeting shreds of consciousness before her body was set ablaze once more. Already sensitised nerves sang as she felt her lower abdomen become a molten pool from which ripples spread out through her form, growing in intensity and becoming a series of moving walls of searing flame, each more heated than the last, each tearing a more loudly piercing melodious cry from her breathless throat. The series of cataclysms lasted forever and a moment, and left her twitching, gasping, a sheen of perspiration coating the rose stain of desire that flooded her face, throat and bosom. Autumn’s nails clutched at the skin of Jase’s back and shoulder, scoring his skin with red despite their pragmatically short length, before she managed to find purchase on her consciousness and bring one hand down to still the motions of his fingers inside her joyously spasming folds. “No... more...” she managed, though part of her did want more, wanted to see if there was an end to this soaring pleasure, wanted to burn up into motes, molten fragments like a meteorite breaking up from entering the atmosphere so fast. That need to be so consumed was intense – to be burned up by the flame of her lover, to forever cease to exist as Autumn and exist solely as a collection of white-hot motes of pleasure, yearning for his touch. It was terrifying and exhilarating. He was terrifying and exhilarating, even now as he acquiesced, gently slipping his fingers from her heated, needy sex, glancing down at the way her honey made his fingers glisten before his green eyes travelled again along the length of her euphoria-saturated form to meet her gaze again. His eyes burned still with his own lust, and there was an uncompromisingly possessive quality to Jason’s stare as he examined her, from the tumbling halo of firelit red and gold that framed her flushed face, to the dilated centers of her blue eyes, to her panting lips. Though his smile was oddly tender, even as it was still quintessentially Jason Effing Bannon: an expression equal parts satisfaction and amusement. “Told you.” He said matter-of-factly as he brought his hand closer to his face, eyes considering the slickness coating it before he, with seeming great attention to the process and equal enjoyment, licked the sweet evidence of her delight from his fingers as though it were a fairground treat. She watched with lust-dazed fascination as his agile tongue cleaned the digits that had brought her such pleasure, then his gaze turned back to her and smiled slightly, the corners of his eyes crinkling as he repeated what he’d said earlier. “Sort of loud. Noisy, even.” Autumn blinked up at him, her brain still reeling as it worked to assemble scattered, fragmented impulses and impressions into language and the basic structure of coherent thought- a process complicated somewhat by the sight of Jason adroitly licking the taste of her from his fingers. Not only was the display an extremely provocative reminder of the meal they’d just shared earlier, it suggested a number of other shared activities at which he might be equally adept, vivid images of which came to mind far more readily than the words she needed to describe them. Tilting her head and shifting a little closer to him, the sated redhead admired, wonderingly, the way the low flames nearby cast his features into sharp relief, warm bronze highlights contrasted with the near-black contours, and lent their glow to the hungry, wicked sparks of mischief in his eyes. It was enough to make her breath catch in her throat, kindling an answering flush of residual heat in her own expression as she considered his. “Sorry, was it?” she finally managed, still a little breathless but not at all apologetic as she reached up with a slightly giddy smile, her fingertips delicately following that line of demarcation between light and shadow that made him seem somehow otherworldly, unknowable. “I’ll try to be quieter next time.” "No need." The fire in the depths of his eyes was undimmed as he turned his head fractionally, kissing her fingers, his gaze not leaving her face. "Not on my account, anyway."
    3 points
  19. Oh my god. He’s even weaponized honesty, Autumn realized with some incredulity, unable to keep her gaze from dropping to the slight curve of his mouth as he smiled, and reflexively catching her bottom lip between her teeth. “Yeah,” she agreed with a small, answering smile of her own, not yet daring to meet Jase’s eyes again. They were too green, too intense- how had she ever thought them cold, when they could smoulder like banked coals, or blaze as searingly bright as any bonfire? “I really… really like kissing you, too,” the redhead admitted… And I also really, really like the way you move when I touch you, and the way your skin tastes, and how your breath feels against my ear- It wasn’t like she’d never been attracted to someone before, never felt the giddy, heady rush of chemicals that signalled desire and the urge to act on it. It wasn’t the first time Autumn had ever wanted to spend hours kissing someone, to explore them with her eyes and hands and lips until she found all the places that made them gasp for air or twitch convulsively at her touch. She just didn’t remember feeling it with such a heightened sense of urgency, as if every glance or grin Jason Bannon aimed in her direction might end with her just pouncing on him in a less fatal version of a NatGeo mauling on the Serengeti. Even now, just sitting there with a water bottle in her hand, condensation dripping onto the blanket- We’re having a conversation. Time, place. Behave, Autumn. He’s behaving, see? We’re both behaving, she admonished herself, taking a hasty swallow of cold water and wishing in vain it might take some of the heat from her cheeks, as well. ...And you don’t want him to think you’re some kind of… sex-crazed maniac, or something. Do you? I mean- NO, Autumn. The answer is NO. You do not. ...Ugh. Okay, fine, I guess. Beyond the physical attraction, which was evident and undeniable, there was definitely… something, mixed in with all the teasing, the taunts, the uncertainty, the playful challenges and serious conversations. Maybe it was just that he had no expectations, no specific idea of what or who she was supposed to be and thus no inclination to try to fit her to that mold. Maybe it was that he’d done a good job so far of keeping her on her toes- she’d felt scared, frustrated, amazed, entertained and amused, delighted, desired- but not once had she felt anything close to bored. Or, she considered, aware suddenly of the strange, intangible pressure of Jase’s attention, maybe it was the implication that this might only last until Marissa got her shit straightened out, so there was no good reason not to just see what happened in the meantime. Fuck it. Why not? “All right, Bannon the Magnificent. The Amazing,” she added with a slow smile, acknowledging the exuberance of her earlier exclamation. “Let’s go to Homecoming, then.” She had the satisfaction of seeing his eyes gleam, the edges crinkling in an understated smile even as he remained otherwise outwardly composed. “Alright. But we’re going to have to set some ground rules.” he deadpanned, taking a drink of water. “Ground rules?” Autumn raised a brow, not missing the glitter of amusement in her [boyfriend’s] eyes and working to keep her own smile under control as she noted him shifting a little closer, turning so he was sat alongside rather than facing her. “Very important ones.” Jase nodded soberly. “I have a reputation as an unpleasant acerbic dickhead to maintain so, and this is important, no PDA.” “No PDA.” Autumn nodded slowly, as if mulling it over as she shuffled on her backside a little closer, her right hip and his left hip almost touching. She ran a hand up his back over the shirt, feeling the lean tautness underneath, and gently brushed her fingers through the ends of his shaggy hair at the nape of his neck, noting how he took a slightly deeper breath as she did so. “Right. Why?” “Because it’s distracting.” Jase was doing a good job of maintaining his impassive expression, though there was a twitch of humor at the corner of his lips as he turned his face towards hers. “Mmhmm. So I really shouldn’t be doing this, then.” Autumn stated rather than asked as she brought her other hand up and wove her fingers into his hair over his ear. Jason leaned closer to her, his arm sliding around her waist as his lips drew close to hers. “Definitely not. This is an excellent example of what not to do.” he said with mock-sternness moments before his lips curved in a smile. Autumn was flushed, and lovely, and right there inches away, her own mouth curving in an amused grin, the scent of her warm and enticing this close. “Good, I’m glad I know what not to do.” she said, slowly letting her hands slide from his hair and moving as though to disengage - only to be pulled gently back in and kissed, his lips sparking a rush of heat through her body that consumed the playfulness like jet fuel. It wasn’t that he was a practiced kisser, though he learned fast, a corner of her brain mused as the rest dissolved into a pink and crimson haze. It was that he kissed, and touched, with a hundred percent of himself in the gestures - the kiss was hungry, but patient, as he savored each tiny movement of her body, each sigh of response. He was mapping her, playfully experimenting to find just the right pressure of lips and tongue and teeth to make her gasp. Jason felt hands lock into his hair again, the almost painful tug at his scalp serving as a delightful counterpoint to the warm, sweet softness of Autumn’s mouth. His arm around her waist drew her closer yet, pressing her body to him as the two teens turned more towards each other. His free hand found itself gliding over the outside of Autumn’s thigh, feeling her warmth through the jeans before coming to rest on her hip, his touch gently teasing above her waistband, sensitive fingers exploring the smooth skin under the edge of her t-shirt. Finally the kiss broke, both of them breathing hard, both of their features at least somewhat flushed as they leaned their foreheads together, gazing into each other’s eyes. “So…” Autumn’s voice was husky as she studied the green pools of fire she wanted to plunge into and be consumed by. “Any other rules?” “There were some.” Jase’s voice was likewise low and a little taut with contained desire, his lips twitching in a smile. “But you distracted me before I could formulate them, and now I’ve forgotten.” “Oh.” The redhead was not at all contrite, smiling back at him. “I made you forget something? It couldn’t have been that important then.” “Utterly trivial.” Jase agreed, breathing deeply as he let his gaze play over her reddened lips, her adorable freckles and finally the blue waters of her gaze, deep and warm. “First rule was pretty stupid too.” “Hmm,” came the quiet, somewhat serious reply, as though Autumn were considering whether to agree with him. For someone who hadn’t liked the idea of being touched by other people, Jason’s responsiveness to simple physical contact was a little surprising, she mused, her smile softening a little at the almost imperceptible movement of his eyelids, his dark lashes fluttering slightly at the sensation of her hands moving through his hair. ...Then again, maybe it was the quality of the contact itself, the context, the nature of the connection it imparted. Fascinated by his reaction, she kept her eyes on his- relishing the warmth and heat there, the flash of citrine and emerald somewhere deep below the surface- and exhaled slowly, her breath trembling with the effort of remaining focused. “Not stupid,” the young woman murmured, her voice low and soft as her fingertips threaded themselves delicately through Jase’s shaggy, fire-bronzed mane, tracing the near-perfect symmetry of the outer curve of his ears and the sides of his throat. “Maybe just… not my favorite.” She wanted to kiss him again; it would only require a token gesture, little more than a tilt of her head. Their lips were practically touching already, she realized abruptly, as her hands drifted down to his chest and she felt the sudden intake of his breath inches from her mouth. “I’m sure we can figure something out, keep you from ruining your reputation,” she continued, all but transfixed by the way his eyes changed even as she watched. “Stupid.” he reaffirmed, feeling drunk off her breath on his lips. This closeness was dizzying - not merely the proximity but the intimacy inseparable from this most simple and primal of wants. He raised a hand to gently caress her cheek with the backs of his fingers as he drew in a breath that tremored, just a little. He was very aware of her hands on his chest, which in turn felt his heart thump like a bass drum against the taut skin and sinew of his frame. It wasn’t nervousness - couldn’t be nervousness. Rather he felt so alive that he would burst, as though his lean body was too narrow a channel to contain the surging passion that stirred and uncoiled. In his eyes, the copper flecks became fireflies, catching the light of the fire as well as flaring with some inner furnace. She kissed him then, leaning in against her hands on his chest and pressing her lips to his for a long, languorous moment, delighting in the way his breath caught yet again - that she was doing this to him, even as her own nerves sang and blazed with the sweetness of his return kisses and the feel of his warm palm on her cheek. Eventually their lips parted once more, and she smiled up at his face close to hers. “You sure you’ve not done this before?” she asked with a teasing arch of her brow, red-faced but smiling feeling his hand resting on her ass. Jase shook his head, his gaze intent on her face. “You are the first person I’ve made out with.” Jase replied, and she studied the subtle not-quite vibration in his manner, tension such as a steel hawser might be under on a suspension bridge. “Hey… Are you okay?” she asked, looking into his eyes, reassured somewhat by the way they regarded her that he wasn’t having second thoughts. He seemed very serious, as though struggling with something. “It’s… a lot.” he allowed with a small smile. “I feel like my whole Being is pulled as tight as a bowstring. I feel a little out of control and crazy” He breathed deeply, letting the breath out in a soft sigh. “I hope that’s normal.” Given his enthusiasm, the intensity with which he’d reciprocated every kiss, every touch and shared breath, it had been easy for her to forget how confusing and overwhelming it could be- even for someone with a more conventional way of interacting with the world. The warm pink of her cheeks deepened as she remembered exactly how strong those desires had felt earlier, and a part of her wondered what it was like for him. Did he actually analyze everything as it happened, or just sort of… go with it? He’d mentioned needing to keep everything carefully controlled, not to let his… what did he call them?- proto-emotions, his urges, override his reason, so how did that work in a situation like this? She couldn’t begin to even guess, although it might be interesting to ask later, when they weren’t so… Distracted. “Very normal,” she nodded, taking his hand in hers and pressing it gently against her chest, marveling inwardly at the length of his fingers curving over her collarbone. At the very least, if she couldn’t write a thesis on the subject of mutual desire and surging hormones, she could demonstrate the principle. “See?” He could feel the pounding of Autumn’s heart through her shirt, the staccato rhythm quickening just before she leaned forward and brushed her lips across his. It was more caress than kiss, and yet that fleeting whisper of contact was enough to send a shower of sparks flaring behind her eyes and a rush of warmth across the surface of her skin. “It is a lot, yeah. Even for me,” the blushing redhead admitted quietly, lowering her forehead to Jase’s shoulder, “like earlier. I just...” She shrugged a little, her free hand sliding down to his side, exhaling against the hollow of his throat. “I couldn’t think about anything else, you know? Or maybe I shouldn’t call it ‘thinking,’ exactly. It’s, um… Mmmm,” she hummed, a quiet little murmur of pleasure at the subtle, clean scent of his skin, his hair as she breathed. “Totally, completely normal.” Hey. Focus. Not a sex maniac, remember? She grimaced a little in protest at the intrusive thought, leaning back in an attempt to extricate herself from the seductive combination of sensual impressions enveloping her- the slightly ticklish feel of Jase’s fingers on her waist, the faint smell of the soap he used mingled with something intrinsic to his own chemistry, the heat of his body pressed against hers. For a long moment, the only sounds were the occasional snap of the campfire and the distant drone of insects in the trees, and Autumn drew in a slow, deliberate breath, giving herself a count of four to steady the racing of her heartbeat against his palm… and then another. “If it’s too weird,” she managed throatily, glancing up at him through the pale red-gold of her lashes, “or too much, or too fast, or… too anything- now, or next time, or whenever- would you tell me?” Swallowing both the urge to go further and the attendant nervousness of naked honesty, she added, “Because… There are a lot of things I would really, really like to do with you, and none of them are less intense than this.” “Same.” he murmured, his voice low, almost throaty. He blinked, then smiled a little self-deprecatingly. “Let me try that with words: I feel the same. The key word being ‘feel’. It’s- no, you’re kind of… amazing?” he finished with a tiny grin. “Seriously.” Autumn stared up at him for a moment, feeling like her face would never cool down. Was this her fate, to go through... however long she dated Jason Effing Bannon... the shade of a tomato and with the urge to grin like an idiot? And was it bad that she didn’t mind that at all? She leaned forward and rested her forehead against his collarbone, nuzzling her face against him as her arms wrapped closely around him. Turning her head to press against his chest, hearing the drum of his heart and acutely aware of his hand on her breastbone, seeming to sear her even through the cotton of her t-shirt. He ran his other hand up her spine to the nape of her neck, softly running his fingers through her glory of red-gold waves, a touch that was as gentle as it was sensual. “I will always tell you if something is too much.” he promised soberly. “And count on you to do likewise. Because this is an all-new type of hunger for me to explore, and I have an active imagination as well as a small library of works on sensuality stored in my mind.” His lips curved in a mischievous smile as they dipped to brush against her ear, his voice keeping to a low murmur.. “I’m curious how far down you blush. I want to hear you whimper my name more. I want to taste your skin and spend whole days learning how best to drive you out of your mind through touch. I want to devour you.” His teeth gently nibbled at her earlobe as his voice dropped even lower to a whisper. “Metaphorically speaking, of course. It’s not too late to run.” Fucking hell, where did he learn that? had been the initial, shocked reaction to the tickle of Jase’s breath against her ear, a line of white heat arcing down her spine in galvanic response; either he was dramatically understating the scope of the “small library” in his head, or he was a terrifyingly, devastatingly, thrillingly quick study. Never had anyone ever sent actual shivers racing through her body with words alone, but something about his tone combined with the inescapably direct way he gave voice to his desires… He meant it, Autumn realized, breath catching in her throat even as she tilted her head, heightening the exquisite rasp of his teeth grazing her skin. It wasn’t flirting, or some kind of posturing in an attempt to sound sexy or daring. He genuinely wanted to do those things and- this was the part that melted her insides into so much molten, liquid flame- he wanted to do them to her. And, ohhhhh, did she want him to. Turning to face the one being she knew to be more dangerous than mundane wolves, or nightmarish hellbeasts, or even ageless dragons, Jason Bannon’s girlfriend had shifted her position slightly, settling one knee on either side of his hips as he murmured against her ear- “It’s not too late to run.” -and paused. Autumn didn’t so much stiffen in his arms as straighten intently, the muscles in her torso elongating slightly with the slow, deliberate change in her posture. She hadn’t pulled away; he could feel the soft press of her breasts against him, the tension in her thighs as they brought her upright to meet his gaze. The turbulent blue-grey of her eyes, alternately shadowed and illuminated by the flickering gold of the firelight, met Jason’s with a glimmer of recognition as she leaned back, the corners of her mouth describing a faint curve. The young woman pressed almost bodily against him wasn’t glancing coyly in his direction, deflecting the taunt with laughter, or trying to pin him with a half-hearted glare: her gaze was direct, open, and in that moment, wholly unafraid. “You’re absolutely right,” she agreed, watching his eyes on her face with a sense of growing anticipation that carried over into the phantom smile playing about her lips. “Did you want a head start?” The pause was tiny, microbial in scale as lambent green eyes, dancing with firelight both reflected and internal, regarded her from a face that was almost statue-like in its immobility. Beyond the playfulness and honesty, beyond his desire for Autumn and the pleasure he took in her company, there was a depth in Bannon’s soul which she’d brushed against before - hence his interest in the lively redhead - but now she had sounded most thoroughly. A creature alien to fear, he did find it interesting to study in others, and those he approved of the most were those who had the strength of desire - be it for knowledge, or other things - to overcome it. Autumn was steadfast in her efforts to confront her fear, boldly stepped into the dark to see what might be there and to learn of it. How many teens- hell, how many adults did he know capable of that so consistently? She didn’t care that it scared her, or made her uncomfortable - or more correctly she would never let that alone stop her. “I get the impression I’d not make it very far.” Autumn’s boyfriend replied, playfulness mingling with the hungry fire in his gaze, though his features were composed - save for the flush of his own arousal darkening his already-tan face. That wasn’t the only clue to his arousal, either, a fact Autumn was pleasantly, nay searingly aware of in her current situation. “Mmm, probably not.” Autumn shifted a little and not with the aim of getting comfortable, thrilling at the sudden darkness of his gaze as his pupils dilated and the way he tried to hide the sucked-in breath. Her hands on his chest felt his pulse jump and she grinned, leaning forward and pressing against him. “You’d just tire yourself out, and that would be a shame.” She leaned closer and nipped at his chin. “For both of us.” “Unless I cheated.” he agreed with an offhand air, leaning back on his hands to support her weight against him, even as he trailed invisible fingertips over her scalp and down her spine under the shirt before smoothly caressing around her waist and up over her ribs, grazing the material of the bathing top she still wore. It was her turn to gasp now, the pressure teasingly brief and causing her to catch her bottom lip between her teeth as it ended, her gaze half-lidded on his. “But that would be a shame too, when there are far more fun things I can direct my energies towards.” He brought his hands up then, sliding them around Autumn’s waist as he rolled back to lay with her atop him as their lips came together once more. He was acutely aware of her body, the mixture of strength of her arms as they hooked around his neck and the soft pressure of her breasts against him, the scent of her flaming fall of hair surrounding their faces, the taste of her tongue on his. His hands glided up where his telekinetic ‘hands’ had gone before, warm fingertips grazing the bikini top, then slipping underneath the bottom edge, his touch exploratory yet unhesitating as he caressed the soft white skin he found there, delighting in the texture as well as in the soft sounds she made into their kiss. Slowly, he ceded more control over his conscienceless, amoral Want for this girl, letting that core of fire out of its icy chains to spill over into every heated press of his lips that claimed Autumn’s before tracing the line of her jaw. There was something to be said for the virtue of patience. ...Something. Probably. By someone else, at some other time- an old, dead Greek maybe- but not by Autumn Keane, and certainly not when the warm, deft fingers of someone she desperately wanted to be naked with in the firelight were moving over her skin. “It’s not cheating if I let you do it,” she murmured against Jase’s mouth with a grin, and then promptly shivered, her breath a sharp hiss drawn through even white teeth as the pads of his questing thumbs brushed across the points of her nipples. As a cascade of bright, hot sparks erupted within her at his touch, her hips rocked against him in an involuntary spasm, eliciting another quick breath at the feel of his body between her thighs. The tip of her tongue sought his, and then, restlessly, the angle of his jaw, the base of his earlobe; reaching back with one hand, the impatient redhead tugged at the knots securing her bikini top, unceremoniously pulling it through the collar of her shirt and tossing it nearby. Beneath the relentless exploration of Jason’s hands, her pale skin was aflame, his fingertips leaving searing trails in their wake that melted through her veins to pool, molten and liquid, in the center of her being. Everything was warmth and need- heat coursing through her every nerve, light burning behind her eyelids, the hunger to consume and be consumed in turn almost all-encompassing in the forefront of Autumn’s mind. There was no way to touch him enough, to be satisfied with the slightly salty taste of his skin on her tongue, or the quiet rumble of his voice against her ear when her teeth followed the same line across his shoulder in a series of tiny nips and breathless kisses. She braced herself over him on one forearm, the thick tumble of her hair around them catching the light of the fire, and tugged the hem of his shirt upward with her free hand, her gaze drifting from his eyes to the play of firelight over his skin. There was nothing soft about Jason Bannon, no excess or superfluity in the lean, spare muscle and sinew of his form, and yet Autumn’s fingers practically twitched with the desire to trace the sculpted lines of his torso, roving from his chest downward in a slow, inexorable descent of light, feathery strokes and the teasing rasp of her nails across his stomach. Her touch felt cool to his fevered skin, even whilst trailing greater heat in its wake, awakening nerves across his taut skin and causing his body to tense and his breathing to become more laboured. He felt her nipples against his palms, a sharp contrast to the softness of her high, firm breasts which his fingertips caressed with deliberation, learning which areas drew the deepest moans or loudest whimpers of passion from the living flame that undulated over him. A caress over her ribs that would have tickled a less-heated Autumn into giggles drew forth a plea-like invocation of his name cut off and muffled as she buried her open mouth against his shoulder, teeth scraping the skin there as her hips rolled against him in an almost bruising jerk and her fingertips dug into his stomach for purchase. She drew up and stared down at him, kiss-bruised lips slightly open and desire-drenched features suffuse with rose, and he smiled as he squirmed a little, lifting his shirt up and off over his head without much difficulty before returning his hands to her waist, caressing the skin there.
    3 points
  20. The second time he said her name, the words themselves barely managing to pierce the heady fog of desire clouding her thoughts, it finally registered that Jase was actually saying something of import. “Fuck,” she swore with quiet intensity, stiffening slightly in his arms as she struggled to focus on something, anything other than the heat of his body and the feel of his hands anchoring her to him. As much as Autumn wanted to rail against his appeal to sanity, to protest that she didn’t care and it was fine, she did and it wasn’t. That was the reality of the situation. Of fucking course he didn’t have condoms. Why would he? She’d invited him out to go camping, for crying out loud, which was exactly why she hadn’t brought any, either. Suddenly acutely aware of the fact that she’d maybe almost just had sex with Jason Bannon, that she had definitely wanted to, and that she actually had just totally been all over him- that she was still all over him- the redhead squeezed her eyes shut, burying her face against his shoulder. “Yeah,” she murmured, quiet resignation in the soft, slightly raspy reply as she caught her breath. “Me, either.” Where scorching need retreated, the cold, unfamiliar sting of self-consciousness crept in, and yet Autumn found herself clinging to him still, wrapping her arms tightly around his chest and selfishly committing every nuance of Jason’s physical presence to memory as best she could. Whatever happened next, this moment, this feeling at least, was hers. “C’mon,” she sighed when she couldn’t stand it any longer, lifting her head and gently tapping his side in a bid to be set down. “Dinner should be almost done. I’ll grab napkins.” She hadn’t actually died earlier; she sort of wished she could now. He caught her eye, easy enough as he was still holding her off the ground and their eyes were roughly level, and she realised he was studying her expression with a calm concern in his gaze, almost clinical if it weren’t for the residual warmth still there. “Hey.” he said softly. “This isn’t ‘not happening’, it’s just ‘to be continued’.” He examined her face a little more, eyes lingering on her kiss-reddened lips and flushed cheeks, then smiled slightly as he met her eyes again. “That is,” he said more quietly, “if you want it to.” Autumn blinked, startled at his suggestion, then licked her lips, nodding as the high color in her cheeks deepened further. "Yeah," she replied so quietly it was scarcely more than a whisper. "Yeah, I really do." His smile widened a little, and he gently kissed her lips as he lowered her to the ground, her legs reluctantly releasing his waist so her feet could touch down. The pretty redhead made a soft little sound, her arms tightening around his chest as though to hold herself up for a moment before she finally relaxed her grip and, smiling now, slowly stepped away on legs that felt more than a little shaky. Jason kept his hands on her waist for a moment longer, his gaze somewhere between warm and unreadable as he watched her take a couple of coltish steps towards the fire before her equilibrium returned. “Good.” Jase said as he moved to join her by the fire, calling a bottle of water to his hand and cooling it with a thought, condensation forming on the sides of the plastic before her eyes as he unscrewed the lid and went to take a sip, then paused, considering for a moment before offering it to her. She gratefully took a drink and passed the bottle back with a smile, took a moment to tie her hair back for safety, then crouched to check the foil packages. “Because,” the emerald-eyed monster said as he sat beside her, watching what she was doing keenly. He grinned, studying her profile and the curve of her hips in her jeans. “I think we’ll need to be further away from your house. Sound carries, especially at night. And though I’m no expert, I’m thinking it’ll be sort of loud. Noisy, even.” She should be immune to this stuff by now, Autumn reflected as she felt a heat in her face that had nothing to do with the fire. For heaven’s sakes, she wasn’t a virginal choirgirl. She’d just been climbing him like a stepladder, had felt his body reacting to hers as much as hers reacting to his. And yet with a line that from any other boy would have been met with an eye-roll and a ‘sure, buddy’ snort he could set fire to her skin. Hell, he could do that with a look. “Make yourself useful and fish these parcels out of the coals.” she said over her shoulder at him, trying to narrow her eyes sternly and having the effect ruined by the mirthful sparkle in their depths. “If you insist.” Jase smiled, then gestured in unnecessary theatricality, the two packages gliding from the coals and coming to rest on the ring of stones around the edge of the firepit. Shifting position to kneel beside Autumn as she turned to grab napkins, he deftly brushed errant embers from the parcels and then carefully opened them. Fragrant steam billowed forth, and both teens heard each other’s stomachs growl as the scent of herbs, butter and garlic mixed with the smell of cooked meat and vegetables. “Damn.” Jase nodded approval. “Smells good. Worth remembering this trick.” Taking another sniff appreciatively, he settled back and watched Autumn, taking another drink of water. “It is,” she agreed pleasantly. “I have a fork if you want it, by the way. If you let it cool a little, the pieces are also big enough to just eat with your fingers.” Glancing back at him again, Autumn grinned. “That’s how we did it at Girl Scout Camp. Bunch of eight-year-old girls sitting around a fire, singing songs and stuffing our faces like savages. Good times. Oh,” she added, as if an afterthought, then leaned over Jase’s shoulder where he sat near the fire. “And you did bring up a good point. About the sound, I mean.” When he turned to regard her with the arched brow that- in her mind- was rapidly becoming emblematic of the detached, analytical young genius, a very un-Girl-Scout-like smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “So I guess I’ll just have to think of a good way to keep you quiet,” the mischievous young redhead murmured as a fresh wave of crimson stained her cheeks, and then kissed him again- briefly, but in earnest. It was the same as before- from that single point of contact a spark flared into life, spreading liquid heat through her veins that had nothing whatsoever to do with the nearby fire. Having succumbed to the temptation to kiss him once already, the impulse to do it again was almost irresistible- but, then again, she hadn’t really tried to resist it in the first place, had she? ...And, truthfully, she wasn’t entirely sure she would be able to stop kissing him if she got started again, especially not when he was looking at her that way. Reluctantly, Autumn managed to tear herself away and headed to the cooler to grab something very, very cold to drink. Is this okay? she wondered, grimacing a little as she rummaged in the ice for another bottle of water. Unpleasant as the chill felt, the frigid water was bracing, clearing away some of the residual endorphins. She hadn’t just almost kissed Jason Bannon this time, the mere thought of which had kept her up most of the night a week prior. Autumn couldn’t help but feel a twinge of uncertainty over the lingering sensation of physical need: she didn’t exactly have a great number of friends, and this definitely complicated things. The last guy she’d been involved with had also started as a friend, and tacking “with benefits” on, and the sort of weird presumption that they were then dating, had kind of… ended badly, and she wasn’t interested in a repeat performance of that particular show. Jase was Jase, though, not Jacob, the blue-eyed young woman reminded herself. Pulling a full bottle from the cooler, she twisted the cap off and nudged the lid closed with her elbow, turning back to find him watching her again. In spite of herself, she smiled a little, swiping the fork she’d mentioned from a small collection of tools nearby and heading back to the blanket to wait for their dinner to cool. Whether it was actually a bad idea or not… it was nice having him there, she decided. Maybe not peaceful exactly, but interesting. Challenging. Fun. They ate in relative silence for awhile, Jase using the fork at first but then setting it aside and copying Autumn, plucking morsels from the parcel with his fingers and popping them into his mouth with relish. He ate with evident enjoyment, taking his time to enjoy the meal as he sat facing his… girlfriend? Was that right? Did the term fit? Or perhaps that was something formally acknowledged, rather than implied. How strange it felt, rolling the term around the crystalline halls of his mind. A friend who happened to be a girl was nothing new. Lilly, Avalon, even Clara and Marissa fell into that category. Of all of them Autumn was the one who’d most sought to comprehend him: though the others had certainly made efforts, ranging from sincere to token, to understand facets of him, or why he did a specific thing, Autumn was the one who’d sat down and wanted to try and understand as much as possible. The act of observation changes both the observer and the observed - a standard principle of physics, and perhaps it was no different here. Thermodynamics of trust and desire, he mused, chewing a tender piece of sirloin. In order to observe me, she had to let herself be observed in turn, and that act of observing her fear caused me to wish to lessen it… Why? Trust given by a friend should be treasured, that is the code. And how do we treasure trust? - we extend it in turn. “You’re staring at me.” Autumn said as she finished taking a drink, smiling warmly at him. “I’m watching you.” He replied calmly, the corners of his eyes crinkling a little. And he was - the entire time he’d been working on analysing his responses he’d been storing every little detail of her, and this moment. “Does it bother you?” “No. Yes.” she laughed a little, her cheeks rosing again. “I do wonder what you see, though.” "Something unexpected, but welcome. Alchemy of sorts. In just a week, suspicion and fear on your part and detachment on mine have transmuted into friendship, trust..." he smiled at her, his eyes taking on that faint hungry quality that warmed their coldness. "Desire." An answering warmth rose in her cheeks and she nodded, glancing down at the food in her hands with a grin of pleasure at the memory. "Unexpected, definitely. Not that I minded, I guess. I mean, obviously." The red-haired girl laughed at that, hazarding a look at her companion through the fringe of her lashes. "But, yeah. I have to admit, I'm having more fun than I thought I would." The firelight flickered across his lean, high cheek-boned face and reflected in his eyes as he nodded soberly, the faint smile still playing around the corners of his mouth as he regarded the rose tinting her freckled ivory features. "It is fun. You're fun - and not just to tease, but to talk with - and to kiss. And to think I was on the verge of swearing off physical relations altogether not long ago." he added with a wry quirk of one corner of his lips. "Swearing them off?" Autumn blinked incredulously at him as she leaned forward, eyes wide and faintly luminous in the warm glow of the nearby flames. "Without even knowing what it was like, without even experiencing..." She shook her head, her free hand gesturing expansively at the world outside the faint ring of firelight. "Any of it? Why?" "Pique, perhaps." His smile widened a little at her reaction, head tilting to one side as he considered. "Monday was a bad day before you showed up. Bear in mind I was also on the verge of leaving Shelly after scorching a big ‘fuck you’ into the sports field: my mood was... poor." He finished with a slight understatement. Sitting here, that state of mind, that cold anger and disdain and the sense of being just done with it all, seemed very far away. In fact, as he studied Autumn's shining blue eyes, he was aware of a flicker of warmth that was unusual, something he took at first to be the embers of the recent flare of desire - but possessed of a different quality. "Anyway, I’d find abstinence pretty tough now. Thanks to you, I get what all the shouting is about" "...before you showed up." The idea that she had helped- that despite being utterly terrified of the brooding and dangerous young man and totally out of her depth, she had somehow still made an awful day a little better- was every bit as warming, as gratifying as the glimmer of interest in his pale green eyes. Before Monday, if he had disappeared, she would've been more worried about reprisals or delayed vengeance than why he'd gone, or whether he was all right. Now, though, things were... different. She grinned around a mouthful of steak as he grew quiet again, meeting his gaze with an expression that was equal parts mischief and promise, and shook her head once more- slowly, deliberately. "No. Not yet, you don't. That was just a kiss." He didn’t blush, merely blinked once, then cocked his head slightly to one side and smiled at her, raising an eyebrow. The redhead pursed her lips, considering. “You don’t get flustered, do you? I am never going to see you blush, or be lost for words.” “Embarrassment isn’t something I feel. I do experience a pause as my train of thought gets derailed, but there’s no real flustering there. I blink, adapt, and that’s it.” Jase tilted the foil packet at one end, draining the juices from the meat and vegetables into his mouth, then licked his fingers clean. “You blinked just now. So… I derailed your train of thought.” Autumn smiled widely, trying not to focus on his tongue cleaning his fingers. “I’m claiming that as a win.” “I blinked earlier too, when you said my pheromones were fine and again when you called me amazing.” Jason corrected evenly. Autumn went red as she recalled, looking down at her meal abashedly. “Well… Yes. You are.” She said, glancing at him through her lashes. “And they are.” “So it seems.” he nodded, folding the foil into a square, then wiping his hands dry on a napkin, his eyes never leaving her features. “Soooo, that’s three blinks, which I am claiming as blushes, for me.” Autumn pronounced, lifting her chin in triumph. “Versus twenty-three for me.” The Effing One returned. “Including full blushes, times lost for words, and those delightful little blushes where just your cheeks go rosy.” “Doesn’t matter.” Autumn tossed her head, smiling even as another of the aforementioned little blushes stained her skin. “I’m a redhead, a girl, and with a normal brain. You are Bannon, Greatest and Chiefest of Calamities. A blink from you is worth… twenty blushes. At least.” He rubbed his chin as though considering that, his eyes narrowing, then nodded. “I suppose, seeing as it’s the price of being amazing.” he said with a faint sigh, as though conceding a defeat. Autumn giggled around a mouthful of food, nodding in agreement, and he smiled at her. A sudden notion struck him and, evaluating it in a split second, he saw no reason not to go with it. “So, assuming you haven’t gotten tired of my amazing self by then, would you go to the Homecoming Dance with me? As my girlfriend, I mean." he clarified. “That…” she began slowly, the expression on her freckled features a curious mixture of surprise and confusion. “Out of all the questions I would ever have expected you to ask me, that one wasn’t on the list.” “Really?” Jason seemed mildly curious about that, his head tilting slightly to one side as he regarded her. “I suppose it was presumptive of me. It came to me while we were eating - we get along well, we are different enough to be interesting to one another, I enjoy talking with you a surprising amount…” “Surprising, huh?” Autumn narrowed her eyes at him as she finished her own meal, wiping her hands on a napkin as she set the folded foil in the trash bag. “Surprising, how?” What, had he expected to be bored? “I don’t usually enjoy talking to most people this much.” he said with a small smile. “It’s something I do, because it’s necessary as part of the interaction. But with you it’s entertaining - and not just because you blush like a sunset. You’re lively, emotionally honest and open, enthusiastic about life. You have an active mind: you’re curious and not content with just banal explanations - in that we’re very alike. I think you’ve a lot of very attractive qualities.” His smile widened slightly, his gaze studying her features intently with a heat in its depths that caused Autumn’s stomach to tighten. “And our chemistry seems to be… compatible.” Autumn had been trying resolutely not to blush under that scrutiny and his words, though she’d felt the heat rising in her face regardless as her blue eyes studied his features in turn. When he mentioned their chemistry, the blush burst its dam and coloured her cheeks deep rose, though she didn’t look away. Yes, she wanted him. Her lips remembered that last kiss just before they ate - her body remembered that kiss, short and sweet as it had been. And judging by the way he looked at her, with an intent unveiled hunger in his eyes as they met hers that - her feminine intuition screamed - had nothing to do with his stomach, he felt that too. The look wasn’t affected, she realised. It was raw desire without conscience, shame or hesitation, and the force of it was making her breath catch. “Okay.” she managed. “But I thought you didn’t date.” She had to deflect his attention a little, deflect that gaze that heated her like he was setting her on fire - metaphorically and in the best way possible. “I didn’t.” Jase shrugged, his smoulder relenting a little as he took a drink of water. “I was wearing a mask, hiding myself and keeping everyone at arm's length. Dating would have been counterproductive.” “That’s one reason.” Autumn said with a faint air of triumph. “Hmm?” “Don’t ‘hmm’ me, Bannon the Impenetrable. Three reasons - don’t think I’ve not been paying attention. You always have three reasons.” Her gaze met his challengingly, and she was gratified to see a flash of white teeth as he grinned. “Very well - I also didn’t feel the need for physical connection before.” he allowed, smiling at her with a good-natured gleam in his eyes. “It just seemed… irrelevant before the summer. I didn’t like people touching me, and whilst I liked looking at pretty girls, it was more aesthetic than carnal.” “Late bloomer.” Autumn teased, smiling. Jase nodded, shrugging a shoulder as he smiled back. “Hopefully worth the wait.” he said slyly. “And the third reason was Marissa.” “Right.” Autumn blinked, feeling a dash of cold water to the brain at the mention of that name. “Don’t you love her, or something?” Jason sighed at that, a pensive look entering his eyes as he looked up, watching sparks from the fire rising into the air. “I do - I’ve been drawn to her for a long time. But I’m not going to hang around pining for her - I’m not even sure she’s a wise choice for me. She has made it plain she will never seek to understand me beyond the limits of her own fear. Perhaps that will change - but that is entirely up to her. Any further discussion will come from her initiation.” “So… You’ve moved on?” Autumn blinked. “Yes. I plan to live and enjoy the experience, like I said in my kitchen on Monday. While the matter of Marissa’s true feelings works itself out, one way or the other.” “One way or the other?” “Yes. Either she likes me in truth, but she’s playing a game or doesn’t know her own mind, in which case she’s going to need to grow up and elevate her thinking a little. Or it will come to light she has no special attraction to me or can never accept me - in which case I shall treat the whole matter as a learning experience.” “Wow. I mean, yeah that makes perfect logical sense, but still…” Autumn peered at her stoic friend. “And you don’t feel sad, or angry, or anything?” Jason said nothing, just shook his head with his eyes on hers. The redhead sat back slightly, considering him with slightly narrowed eyes. Bannon. Dating Bannon. Jase as a boyfriend - not just a friend with bennies, but a for-real, dating… “What does being a boyfriend or girlfriend mean to you?” she asked earnestly, leaning forward again. He looked thoughtful. “Someone who is a good friend, who you are also attracted to and want to make space in your life for.” he answered in a measured tone. “I see a lot of high school couples who don’t really seem to be friends at all - they just ‘date’ which, from overheard conversation, seems to be only hanging out together to fumble in each other’s clothes. Not that I don’t see the attraction, but what I picture is something less… casual? As I said, we seem to get along really well. I like you, and I trust you. And you’ve said similar to me.” He smiled faintly. “And I really, really like kissing you. I just want to see where all that goes, if it could lead anywhere, rather than assuming it means nothing.”
    3 points
  21. He’d blinked as she announced his pheromones were ‘fine’, though a smile curved his lips as he watched her pace, gesture and speak, her exuberance as warming as the campfire. She obviously felt the same way as he did about his gifts, and the display of enthusiastic and active imagination was… reassuring. He wasn’t alone in how he felt about these things, he mused with a smile. He got to his feet, stretching muscles still a little taut from the horseplay in the creek earlier, just as Autumn finished her passionate statement. “What you can do, how natural it is for you, that’s- it’s amazing. You’re amazing, you know?” He blinked again, pausing mid-stretch to gaze at Autumn. He’d never really heard such sentiment from others before. There’d been implied praise, respect or admiration once or twice - more often had been the sensation that his nature daunted others, scared them. But never such unreserved warm sentiment, boldly expressed. He studied her as she stood, hands still resting on her loosely tied back red-gold tumble of hair, frozen for a moment as she realised he’d turned that laser-focused attention to her and replayed the last few moments in her head, her blue eyes widening as a faint blush spread across her pale features, suffusing the skin under the freckles with rose. “Um… For a cheater, that is.” she managed without much conviction as he straightened up, still regarding her expressionlessly, a corner of his mouth quirking as she tried to look everywhere but at him and failed. “So… My pheromones are fine?” he asked, the smile growing a little as he remembered what Hank had said, only a few days ago: I say she looked interested. Not 'tongue-hanging out' interested, but probably wouldn't say no to a movie and burger. “Oh god… shut up!” Autumn groaned, her hands coming down from her head and covering her face. Of course he’d focus on that to tease her. “I didn’t mean- I meant- Ugh!” “It’s okay.” Jason’s voice came from closer to her, and she lowered her hands hastily to see him standing nearby, within arm’s reach, studying her with an expression in his eyes that was equal parts warmth and interest, his gaze depthless. He’d moved as always with that neat, silent grace that was as mildly disturbing as it was impressive. “I like you too, you know.” Which was true. She wasn’t Marissa, but the comparison was as between a rose and an orchid - you couldn’t judge one by the merits of the other. He’d loved Mari, but she was unavailable, by her own insistence and choice. Marissa’s loyalty and feelings shifted like a leaf in the gale of her own volatile fears and insecurities, devoid of objective logic - she was perhaps only truly loyal to her brother. Autumn might not have been as objectively beautiful, regal or captivating, but she had energetic vitality and warmth, a charisma of her own that was all her own. And she was honest, brave and constant - weighing instinctive fear against reason and balancing the two. As he considered her as a person, so too did he consider her physically. She was healthy, attractive - with that fiery red hair and deep blue eyes, with pink lips the same shade as her blushing cheeks... and, he realised as he applied his rudimentary people skills to her manner, she was attracted to him. He’d never admit it to Hank, but privately he marvelled that his friend had possibly been right. Which was strange, since Autumn was one of the most well-adjusted of his circle of friends and associates. She knew him like few others did, understood him like few others had bothered to try to do… and she still was attracted to him. How interesting. “When I do learn to fly properly, you are invited to be the first passenger.” he added with a smile, taking a step closer and reaching up to tug a stray strand of her hair back from her face, his fingers gentle and warm on her cheek as he took yet another step closer, looking down into her eyes. There was no wicked mirth in his gaze now, no teasing crookedness to the warmth of his smile. He seemed very intent on her, as though approaching a skittish young horse, his eyes studying her lips, her features, her eyes. “I promise, I won’t let you fall.” Oh, god, was all she could think. I’m dead, aren’t I? Autumn was beginning to lose count of the number of times Jason Bannon had killed her, stopping her heart with embarrassment and shock, or stilling the breath in her lungs with fear and anxiety… But this was an altogether new kind of death, and had she possessed his clarity of remembrance, it was one she’d gladly have re-lived over and over again- sweet and sharp and hot as it spread through her veins, drowning her endlessly in the fathomless green of his eyes. It was fundamentally unfair, the effect just a look could inspire without any special effort on his part at all. First, they were friends, which meant that, all teasing and joking aside, there were rules that couldn’t be broken...There were rules, weren’t there? Boundaries that couldn’t be uncrossed? She felt sure that there were, which made the slow, inexorable progress of dying this time more agonizing than all the others. Second, by his own admission, he had never dated. He had confessed, without reticence or rancor, that he loved Marissa- in the present-tense, not past. He’d spoken at some length about his difficulty understanding people, how they related to one another, how to read them, so there was no doubt in the mind of his new friend… He didn’t know. He had absolutely no clue what he was doing to her right now; how could he, when he’d never experienced it? He couldn’t possibly be aware how devastating those eyes were at close range, couldn’t have intentionally weaponized the curve of his lips when he smiled- couldn’t conceivably have calculated the precise angle at which to tilt his head, the timbre of his laugh, the exact pressure of his fingertips, or the faint scent of his shampoo, lingering even after the creek- “I know,” she managed from beyond the grave, only dimly recognizing the voice as her own. It was hard to concentrate on forming words when the rest of her brain was distracted with thoughts of what else her mouth should be doing instead. “You didn’t before, remember? I trust you.” And… she did. For all his strangeness, his distance, his inability to relate, for all the unease he could generate in herself and others, all the wrongs he’d done and that had been done to him… Autumn realized that she actually believed it. Trust was a big part of friendship, right? The silence that followed couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but if time were measured instead by the rapid pounding of her heart against her ribs- loud enough in her ears to be heard from town- it would have taken roughly a year of her life. “See?” she asked finally, raking a hand back through her hair with a quiet, self-deprecating laugh. “No pheromone problem. They’re totally fine. So just, um- the flying thing. You promised, so, call me or something when it happens, okay?” He was aware of the elevation of his own heartbeat, a slight variance brought about by proximity and the wide, deep pools of Autumn’s eyes as they met his own. She was all warm shades - the faint tan of her freckles, the copper of her hair, the blood-tinged skin of her cheeks, all limned in flickering firelight, and Jason, with his new awareness of his nature, was conscious that within himself lay a deep hunger for that warmth, a want that was as aesthetic as it was biological, as carnal as it was cerebral. It was a powerful instinct, on par with his violent ones and just as merciless. He felt a faint ironic amusement that his mother hadn’t warned him about this one. There was no reason not to, that was the trouble - or rather, the answer. She obviously was attracted to him, didn’t have a boyfriend (that he knew or cared about). However he viewed Marissa, she had made it plain repeatedly that she could not, at least currently, comfortably grant him the kind of open emotional honesty, devoid of game-playing, that the young woman currently blushing before him could. And he did like Autumn personally - she was exuberant, curious, asked questions even when she was afraid of the answers. And he remembered when she’d held him, the feel of her fingers in his hair, just to take away the pain he’d not even realised he was experiencing, driving back the cold. He remembered how it had felt to realise that she had charged in to help defend him. “I’ll do that.” he murmured, aware that he was likely once more risking rejection, risking a friendship, but nevertheless his fingers on her cheek became a warm palm-caress as he dipped his head towards hers. He remembered Devin’s advice - or the essence of it: to let her choose, and so he moved his face slowly towards hers, giving Autumn plenty of time to halt the process- He didn’t have to move very far as she leaned forward to meet him, the fingers of both hands tracing the sharp line of Jase’s jaw and threading through his dark hair. She’d been taught never to look away from dangerous creatures, but it didn’t really matter at this point, did it? She was already dead, and there was no need to think about trivial things like consequences. As her lower lip brushed against his, Autumn hmmmed quietly, a soft sound of pleasure in the back of her throat, and pulled him closer. It was as if the heat from the fire crackling nearby had been transferred into her skin, burning bright and hot but without pain, and when she pressed her lips to his- gently, but insistently- it was with every ounce of warmth she possessed. Again she kissed him, deeply and without haste, drinking in the feel and the scent of him in her arms- a leisurely, unhurried pursuit that nevertheless left her short of breath and trembling slightly with its intensity. Jason’s first ever kiss had been calculated, a deliberate measure to shock Clara into some kind of emotional reaction as much as curiousity about the sensation. His second - Marissa - had been an act of impulse, pushing past what he saw as mixed signals to try and coax truth through action rather than words. This, though, was utterly different. Autumn’s warm passion was, in its way, equal to his own. She had closed the distance between their lips, her own hunger forming the circuit that now lit up his nerve-endings. It was unlike anything he had experienced before. It was, in fact, his first true kiss, no purpose or motive other than the kiss itself. His hands slid down and around Autumn’s waist as she leaned up and into him, her t-shirt riding up a little allowing his slender fingers to glide over warm skin as he returned her kisses, absorbing lessons in each tiny movement of her lips and the sparkler-flares of sensation it set off down his spine before responding in kind, moving his lips against hers in motions that were at first tentative, yet as she hmmed and pressed against him grew bolder. His head span slowly, his normal sense of detachment, that separation from everyone dissipating like frost in sunlight as his mouth opened in response to hers and the overwhelming sense of connection, of feeling desire and of being desired, filled his veins with molten gold. Autumn’s fingers tightened instinctively in his hair, all rational thought and reservation transmuted into so much ash. First the tip of her tongue, then the edge of her teeth caught at Jase’s bottom lip, savoring the taste of his mouth as though the kiss were merely a precursor, the aperitif before hunger consumed them both. With a quiet whimper against his lips- not of protest, but frustration- her fingers skimmed down his back, tracing the length of his spine before sliding under the hem of his shirt and up again. They explored the taut, warm texture of his skin, the feeling of lean muscle shifting underneath, and though her attempts to press the length of her body any closer to his were hindered by physical limitation and the laws of consensual reality, the ardent young woman’s earnest efforts persisted. The sound of their breath and his own heartbeat was deafening to him, his entire world narrowing to focus on the girl shifting in his arms. Her touch on his skin made his breath catch as she pulled him against her, and on impulse he gave back the sensation, his hands sliding around to the curve of Autumn’s back and then upwards, feeling the strength there as the muscles of her waist and back tightened and relaxed in time with her movement and breathing. There was a sincere hunger in her kiss and in her embrace that resounded within him, found an answering need, his tongue gently teasing against the tip of hers in response. A response that might as well have been a spark to gunpowder, the kiss deepening so that they were practically breathing for each other now as Jason’s felt the roaring furnace of his core unfold, melting away the edges of his reason. With a faint grunt of effort, he slipped his hands down, over and under the taut curve of her ass and hoisted Autumn up so that her face was level with his own, if not slightly higher. On instinct, her strong legs went around his waist and she clung to him in turn as their lips and tongues danced, each lost in the taste of the other. A thought occurred to him and he acted on it, supporting her weight with a touch of his telekinetic gift to allow his hands to roam up her back once more, one hand coming up to tug away the hair-tie and allow her Titian locks to fall around her flushed features. A muffled squeak of surprise and delight escaped Autumn’s lips as Jase lifted her off the ground, and he felt, rather than saw, her smile against his mouth. It was so tantalizingly close to being enough, almost- but not quite. As the weight of her hair, all loose, tousled waves of red and gold fell around them, she leaned back slightly, and the eyes that regarded him with naked desire were dark as storms over the ocean. She swallowed hard, her fingertips moving, feather-light, down the sides of his face, over his well-kissed mouth, and across his shoulders. Exhaling, she dipped her head to his cheek, breath warm against his skin, as first her lips, then her teeth grazed his earlobe. More, some voiceless urge demanded, and she was only too willing to comply, trailing heated kisses down the side of his throat and gasping as her hips shifted against his abdomen, squeezing his waist with her thighs. Every inch of her, every atom, felt incandescent, aflame with a blazing need his touch seemed only to stoke; she wanted, needed him to know it, but the only word she could conjure in the chaotic surge of sensations was his name, murmured like a plea against his shoulder. The exertion of will, of self-control, was second nature to Jason. As he had previously explained to the girl currently moving against him in a most distracting way, there was no conscience or natural hesitation to his thought process, so presence of mind was as necessary to his liberty and survival as it was to the general good of people around him. He buried his face in the juncture of Autumn’s neck and shoulder, lips kissing the warm skin they found there as his hands gently yet urgently explored the athletic young woman’s back before going lower to her butt, clasping her tightly to him as he sought to anchor himself. He took a deep breath, which hindered his efforts at self control more than helped since all he could breathe in was Autumn, warm desire rising from her skin along with her body heat and the faint perfume of her deodorant. Her heart thudded against his past the thin barrier of their clothing and the warm softness of her breasts, and as she murmured his name the fire in his core roared up, flaring around the icy fastness of his thoughts. He had never wanted anything or anyone like he wanted her right now, to shuck the annoying clothes, to feel her warmth as close as two people could get. The blanket was right there, the fire was warm enough to take the faint chill from the air. They could… He could... ...Not fuck this up. Autumn trusted him, a thought which his mind seized onto, an anchor-point. He had no condoms - had not expected to need them and, in typical inexperienced fashion, didn’t carry an emergency couple in his wallet ‘just in case’. And his friend (whom he was very attracted to and desperately wanted in the worst way) probably didn’t have any either. She might not care now, judging by the whimpers of physical need and the way she was softly biting at his shoulder through the cloth of his t-shirt, but it was still not a good decision for her to take. It would have been a poor decision even if he had been a human man - with his ‘aggressively dominant genes’ (to coin his mother’s phrase), there were unknown quantities at play, and he needed more information before making a mistake. “Autumn.” His voice was so hoarse from lust that her name came out as a sort of growl at first, then he coughed and tried again, his cheek nuzzling against her hair. “Autumn. I don’t have any protection with me.” God she smelled good, and that rolling thing her hips were doing, her backside flexing under his hands… He didn’t want to let her go, but didn’t want this to go beyond their control right now either.
    3 points
  22. And they did. As they got the campsite fit for purpose, Jase laid out the current theory of quantum forces as the underpinnings of all creation, including the massive gap in the theory as it stood right now. He then went on to explain how the existence of a subquantum layer of reality filled in that gap, providing a unifying force tying everything together. Then, with a few short examples from his observations of various members of the Fellowship’s gifts, he demonstrated how the psionic level of reality and the subquantum layer had to be one and the same, and that it was a layer where the normal rules of time, space and physics were malleable and subject to the will of the psionically gifted. Indeed, it could be considered the level of reality that consciousness and willpower existed on. The realm of the soul, for want of a better word. By the time the exploration into the foundations of all reality was over, Jase was sitting by a crackling fire that had been laid in the pit Autumn had cleaned out as the flame-haired girl paced around the campsite. The contrast between them was notable - one a picture of stillness between one considered, purpose-laden movement and the next, the other constantly shifting in restless tandem with the activity of her mind as it took everything in. The afternoon had progressed into early evening, though there was still plenty of light from the sun as it dipped towards the horizon. “So.” Jase leaned back on his elbows, raising a brow at Autumn as the firelight danced on his composed features. “I won’t ask if you have any questions, because I know I still do and I’m pretty sure you’re not that easily satisfied either. But does the explanation help, at least?” Something about the act of just moving around made it easier for her to focus. While the rest of her had been arranging firewood to promote airflow, setting up her tent, and stretching the brand-new hammock she’d gotten at the start of school between the usual trees, her brain found itself free to concentrate on what Jase was- with an impressive degree of patience, and without crayons- trying to explain. He understood the subject matter well enough to be able to convey it simply, without condescension, and without seeming bored. If anything, assuming that her study of Jase Expressions for Noobs was accurate, he actually seemed pleased to be sharing information. He could also just be humoring her- she was still in the early days of her anthropological observations after all, so it was difficult to tell. “It does help,” Autumn agreed slowly, still processing Jase’s elementary unpacking of what was, essentially, a theory of everything. “It gives me a place to start, anyway. And, yeah,” she grinned, tossing a twig into the fire, “I have questions. There are always questions, every time we talk about something. Well,” she amended, the smile audible in her voice as she headed over to the cooler. “About something serious, anyway. And then you answer them, and then I have more. It’s like I’m in class, but actually paying attention.” A cold water bottle appeared in front of his eyes as the red-haired girl walked up behind him, nudging him gently with her knee. “Thought you might be thirsty after the lesson, Professor Bannon.” As he cracked open the seal on his drink, she carried hers over to the striped wool blanket spread near the fire and finally settled down. “‘Professor,’ is it now?” her companion inquired as he took a long drink of water, the bottle going slightly cloudy with the formation of tiny ice crystals within to adjust the temperature. “Mhmm. You can’t be a high school science teacher.” Cutting her eyes at him as she tilted her head just slightly, the redhead took a sip from her own bottle and added with a smirk, “You’re not old, bald, ugly, overweight, or divorced, and you haven’t given up on life yet. Sorry,” she shrugged, as if there was nothing she could do. “You don’t meet the job requirements. Go teach some hot college girls first, get involved in a couple of scandals, come back when you’ve had your midlife crisis.” “Well, I admit the thought of fooling around scandalously with college girls has its appeal.” Jase smiled slightly, causing Autumn to experience a pang of anxiety on behalf of her college-aged sisterhood. “Older women, and all. Experienced hands on my tiller.” Autumn turned bright red even as she snorted around a mouthful of water, thankful not to have another choking coughing episode like the one in his kitchen this time. It was the way he delivered the cheesy double-entendre utterly deadpan, with just a hint of a pause before the word ‘tiller’. She didn’t dare look at him, knowing that he’d be wearing an expression of mildly amused interest in her plight that would cause her to lose her shit entirely. Instead she took a deep breath, finished her drink, took another deep breath, then unable to help herself she glanced sideways. He was watching her with the exact expression she had expected, only as he noticed her look at him he raised a solitary eyebrow archly, then winked. “You-” she wagged a finger in a passable imitation of her mother scolding her. “-are totally…” “Utterly.” he said with an air of agreement, nodding as he scooched over to sit on her blanket. “Couldn’t agree more. Though I think I’ll pass on having a midlife crisis. They seem tedious.” “You don’t ever stop and re-evaluate everything in your life and who you are?” Autumn glanced at him again, smiling a little. “I constantly re-evaluate everything in my life, especially lately. As to who I am, that doesn’t change” Jason stated somewhat somberly as he stared into the fire. “That’s why having a friend who understands that is important.” he added with a sideways smile. “Mmmm,” she nodded, taking another drink as she weighed his words quietly, rolling them over in her mind as the fire crackled and snapped softly in the amber glow of the fading daylight. “I can see that. Sort of the idea that who a person is, at their core, can’t really be changed in any fundamental way. Especially so for you, maybe,” Autumn allowed, leaning over for a moment to bump his shoulder with her own. “I don’t know that I necessarily agree completely, but your boots are too big for me to walk very far in.” Smiling, she gave a small shrug. “I mean, I know that I’d like to think that what I feel as ‘Autumn,’ in my head, is a fixed point. That I could use that to navigate through life, knowing as long as I kept it in sight, I’d be fine.” She paused, wondering (not for the first time) if it was Jase’s presence, or something in the atmosphere that made her feel oddly pensive. “Other times, I think about whether that’s really true, or just what I want to think is true, you know? Honestly, I wonder if the ‘Autumn’ I think I am isn’t something I can chart a course by, but just a compass needle that points somewhere else.” She frowned at that, her eyebrows knitting together in consternation. “Physically, we’re different people all the time. New skin, new bones, new blood, all of it. And, I know that other things about me change, too. Have changed, even just in little ways.” With a quick sweep of her hand, she gestured toward Jase himself in acknowledgement of their nascent friendship. “Maybe even in ways I haven’t noticed yet, because I’m too busy actually doing it. Like, not knowing you’re getting taller until your clothes don’t fit anymore.” There was a moment of quiet as Autumn took another drink, and then offered him a slightly abashed smile. “So, not that you asked, but that’s what I think.” Then, a moment later, “Professor.” He smiled a little at the adornment, shaking his head, but his mood was reflective as he considered her words. It was certainly true that one adapted to changing situations. It was also true that the core of a person, at least himself, was not all that malleable. He wondered if that was due to the malleability being a function of intuitive socialisation - one adapted to fit the circumstances, up to and including the infamous Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages could experience something very like love towards their captors and vice versa. Did his knowledge that he was not human, that he was of a different species entirely, change who he was? Or merely how he perceived that who. “I think both are true.” he said eventually, after a comfortable silence in which both teens were considering. In response to Autumn’s glance his way, he half turned towards her, his gaze assessing. “You - Autumn - are the point of reference: the star if you will, that you steer by, and you are also the compass needle. For you, each acts on the other. Most of the time, the needle points to where you already know you should be as dictated by the position of your central star. And sometimes it points to a place you haven’t considered, and the solid point of reference shifts, but remains Autumn.” He smiled at her, the expression reaching his firelit eyes. “For me, perhaps it’s the same. I don’t know. I still feel the same as I did before the summer, the party, the powers. I have elected to drop my mask, so I appear changed to others, but I don’t know if I’ve changed inside. I fought a hellbeast, then went and ate pizza, cheered Lilly on at the game, brutalised Liam all in the same evening, and I feel no different as a result of those things. It’s like the central star that is me doesn’t shift, even as new facets of it come to light and everything I do is in relation to it.” He turned his gaze to the fire again, its light shining off his shaggy dark hair. “Right now I feel different, though. Less cold, more warm. Peaceful.” He glanced at her, meeting her eyes. “That’s your doing, I think. And thank you for that.” That gave her a moment’s pause, the conversation suddenly veering off in a direction she would never have expected… Which, to be fair, wasn’t unusual on its own, but both the openness of his admission and the fact that he was directing it at her left her momentarily at a total loss for words. “I mean, you’re welcome, but… I don’t think I’ve done anything you would need to thank me for. Seriously.” Sliding a couple inches closer, she nudged his shoulder again. “Apologize for, maybe, for being a dirty cheat-” Autumn caught herself, pursing her lips. “For… taking unfair advantage of the unwritten nature of a rule,” she corrected, unable to resist glowering up at him in mock fury, her eyes fairly aglow with humor. “But, not thank me. You’re right, though, you do seem a little different. It could just be this place, you know? It is peaceful, here, and it just kind of melts into you, every part of you, into your bones. Something in the air, or the water, I don’t know.” Smiling, she looked beyond the fire to the stream, where the encroaching twilight gazed down at its reflection in the slow-moving current. “It’s probably my favorite place in the world. I’m glad you like it- hopefully, everyone else will like it, too.” Taking another long sip of water, she thought about that for a moment, the idea of bringing so many people- people like her, who were also very unlike her- here. Would they appreciate it? Would they be respectful? She’d been to plenty of overnight parties where that wasn’t the case, and she knew she would be taking a risk, inviting the others… But, it was something new, something she hadn’t tried before, and- she didn’t have to look over at her companion to know he was there, a feeling of warmth and vitality suggesting his presence- thus far, she seemed to be having pretty good luck with new things. She’d been prepared for the sleepover at Marissa’s to blow up in her face, and fully expected to get the Cora treatment when she’d gone to pick up her hoodie, hadn’t she? Maybe this would be the same. With a crinkle of plastic, she drained the last swallow of water from her bottle and fished the cap out of her pocket before glancing over at him and smiling encouragingly. He didn’t seem to mind the quiet, not filling the silences with pointless conversation- which was a fortunate thing this far out from Shelly itself. “Are you hungry yet?” she asked, getting to her feet and screwing the bottle cap back on, eyeing the fire speculatively. “It’s almost burned down enough to cook, so whenever you’re ready it should be fine. If not, I brought cards and stuff, in case we got bored.” “I’m always hungry.” Jase looked up at her with a sharp grin that put Autumn in mind of a fox when someone said the word ‘chicken’. “I don’t think I’ve ever cooked on an open fire before - not counting marshmallows and Smores - but I’ve read about it. Dad and Hank usually set up a portable gas grill.” He watched with interest as Autumn, shooting him a smile, extracted two fair-sized foil parcels from the small cold-bag and brought them back to the fireside. “Cubed sirloin with veggies and red potatoes.” she said in answer to his curious glance. “We bury them like so...” Autumn knelt down, handing him one of the packets and picking up a stick, poking a depression in the glowing coals toward the edge of the fire before depositing her foil package carefully, then pulling the coals over. She turned to see Jase imitating her almost exactly… except that the lean youth was using his bare hands to scoop red-hot embers aside, then carefully pat them back into place over the parcel before dusting his hands off. Autumn's first, instinctive reaction was a momentary flicker of panic: bare skin, live coals. Oh, shit! She took a half step toward her friend, then hesitated. He was- fine? Startled, she watched Jase for several seconds, wide-eyed, and took a few deep breaths to slow the rapid surge in her heartbeat. It was strange, she marveled, to see how seamlessly he'd integrated his own powers into his life, as if they were simply part of who he was intrinsically, rather than just something he could do. He seemed perfectly at ease, like he'd done this a thousand times before. For all she knew, maybe he had. At the same time, it was a stark reminder of how inarguably strange Jason Bannon was, something she'd conveniently pushed to the back of her mind while they'd played in the stream and gotten the camp site in order. He was a person, sure, but also more than that. Different. Chewing her lower lip thoughtfully, she shook her head. It's fine, the redhead reminded herself, as something else occurred to her. "Cheater," she grumbled under her breath, viciously jabbing her newly-designated poking stick into the coals. “Oh, there are rules for that too?” Jase responded with a hint of a smile. Autumn stuck her tongue out at him, then smiled as she sat back, regarding him with a mixture of friendly good humor, curiousity, and a tinge of exasperation. “Just trying to figure out how you do that.” she said, squinting a little at him over her smile. “Thermokinetic diffusion?” “No. I mean - do it so easily. Like it’s not even a special effort. No big ‘ta-da’.” Autumn’s freckle-speckled nose screwed up slightly. “It still kind of freaks me out, this ‘Shine’ thing.” “I’m not unique there. Devin thinks nothing of teleporting to Athens for pizza or Bangkok for Thai food, or even teleporting his dresser to him to change clothes.” Jase shuffled around to face her as he spoke. “Charlie shifted his head into a reasonable copy of a female newsreader’s and scared the country girl glow out of Tawny’s cheeks.” He smirked as he remembered that. “I wonder if Devin got around to fully explaining to her what the hell is going on yet? Anyway, that was the first casual use of his powers I’ve ever seen Charlie make, so there’s hope there - though his timing and the company present could have been better.” He rolled his eyes, then pondered, his gaze on her features. “Most of the others seem to be getting more relaxed about it, but I don’t think they put a lot of thought into how their powers could be used. For instance you share Charlie’s gift to an extent, which means you might be able to physically adapt to extreme heat enough that you, too, could pick up a red hot coal.” He shrugged. “I’m pretty sure that Sean spends a lot of time reading people’s texts and emails as they go whizzing through the air. At least, I would if I were him. Same with Sara’s telepathy - I’d be constantly skimming people’s moods and surface thoughts, hoping to understand them better.” “Cheating.” Autumn grinned at him, poking his arm with a finger. “Working imaginatively to overcome a limitation.” Jase responded, grinning back at her. “If I had yours and Charlie’s gift, I’d grow gills and go swimming. Or experiment with altering my own pheromones. Or anything, really. The key is first, establish How my powers work. Then ask the question ‘what else can I do?’ Let the imagination soar, and don’t be afraid.” He paused, considering that. “Easy for me to say, perhaps. But doesn’t make it untrue.” Something in her eyes had lit up when he started talking about what he would do with other people’s powers; although she’d made a valiant and concerted effort to keep still and listen quietly, when he finally grew quiet, all the energy she’d been holding came out in a rush. “Okay, okay, but!” Hopping up to her feet suddenly, Autumn took a few steps to get her thoughts in order, then turned to face him again. “First, trust me. Your pheromones are fine. No problem there.” Her cheeks flushed slightly in the firelight as she gestured expansively in his general direction, but she grinned anyway. “Also, what if you don’t need to be able to grow gills to do that? Like, what if you just used one of your force-fields to make a bubble around yourself? I mean, you can breathe inside them, right? And then, if you can’t swim because you’re not touching the water, just… Airplane yourself.” She paused for a second, her expression suddenly serious. “Please tell me you’ve tried that, because if not, I don’t know that we can be friends. Not the underwater part, I mean, but flying.” "I have tried." Jase admitted with a small smile. "I can do it, but at the moment it causes the kind of headache I associate with psionic strain. Like lifting too much with your arms can cause them to hurt." “Seriously?!” the restive redhead all but crowed, bouncing on the balls of her feet as she laughed. “That’s so freakin’ cool, though! I mean, yeah, you could probably do all kinds of crazy stuff with Sean’s abilities, or Sara’s, or whatever, but you’re learning to fly. When you figure out how all this works together, how to do it without hurting yourself, you could go anywhere, see anything, and nothing could hurt you. Like…” Resting her hands on top of her head, she paused, reflecting long enough to breathe amid the torrent of words and thoughts. “Devin can go anywhere, which is awesome, but can he survive there? Under the ocean, or, or in a volcano, or… hell, in space. I can’t even imagine having that kind of freedom,” she breathed, though her expression of rapt fascination rather suggested otherwise. “What you can do, how natural it is for you, that’s- it’s amazing. You’re amazing, you know?”
    3 points
  23. It had taken longer than she’d initially hoped, but- covered in gritty ash, sand, and tiny flecks of bark that she brushed from her jeans as she stood to survey her work- Autumn had finally completed the Great Firepit Excavation of 2019. “Yaayyy,” she cheered softly, shimmying in a little personal dance of celebration, “we have a hole in the ground! Yaaayyy!” Cleared of debris, the roughly circular depression in the ground was a little over a foot deep, and perhaps three feet wide, ringed by large stones claimed in previous years from the depths of the creek. She exhaled, still smiling and flushed from both exertion and a sense of personal accomplishment; it was such a small thing, a tiny, but necessary step toward getting the campsite back in order, but, still, it was progress. Now we just need to clear the ground, and figure out what to do with the snake when we sort through the wood, get the fire st- Uh. It was like a song playing in the background, the kind of thing that went unnoticed because she was busy doing homework or helping in the kitchen, and before she realized it- she’d be singing along, and couldn’t remember when she’d started, which verse she’d picked up on. It just sort of happened, the sound gently insinuating itself into her mind until, finally, the rest of her brain caught up. There was a snake coiled watchfully among the well-seasoned firewood. Jase was a few feet from shore, standing in the creek. A pair of rabbits… birds overhead… mice, spiders- oh, god, so many spiders! Blinking, she glanced in the direction she felt her companion would be, and- although he wasn’t stationary- he was exactly where she’d expected. In the week or so since she’d discovered that she was different, like some of the others at Shelly High, Autumn had more or less tried not to think about it too much- mostly because of all the awful things that had come along with it, like hellbeasts and getting punched in the face. This wasn’t frightening at all, though. A little hard to process, but not inherently creepy- just a different sort of kinesthetic sense, like being aware of her own body moving through space. It wasn’t at all what she’d seen before, when everyone was practicing at the Farm. That was so specific, so unique to the person, to see the energy they radiated and how it moved through their bodies. This was so much… Bigger, maybe? Almost overwhelming, until she found that by concentrating on one thing- Jason, for example- she could make the rest sort of fade out, while whatever she focused on became clearer, sharper and more alive in her mind’s eye. Holy shit, this is wild! Okay, okay... Um… Let’s see… How far out does this work? “So, hey,” she called, unable to wipe the smile off her face as she paced carefully around the clearing, hands out at her sides. “I think I’m banned from playing hide-and-seek. Like, forever.” Grinning like a child with a new favorite toy, she walked the perimeter of the campsite, trying to work out at exactly what point the odd feeling of life faded into an indistinct haze. Maybe… 100 feet, or so? Autumn guessed, and then laughed to herself, a little excited and a little incredulous at the same time. As the sensation of the snake at the edge of her awareness disappeared, the redhead paused, and retraced her steps until it reappeared. Cool. Yeah, I think that’s right. And, hey. At least it’s useful. It occurred to her, then, that this was what she’d experienced in the hospital, when she and Cassie had gone downstairs and the worlds had flipped again, or overlapped, or… Whatever. “Okay,” she murmured, kneeling a few feet from the pair of trees where the stack of firewood had toppled into a shadowy pile perfect for any number of insects and small animals to make their home. “So… who are you, exactly? Are you friendly, or are you bitey?” Autumn had been taught to demonstrate a healthy respect for all creatures, even those not normally considered dangerous, so she weighed her options carefully. Out of the 10 species of snake native to the region, only one was technically venomous, and most of the others were sufficiently shy or docile enough to be safely relocated, but a 1-in-10 chance was still a chance. The last thing- well, one of the last things- she wanted on this trip was to get bitten by a rattlesnake and have to endure Jase’s teasing about needing the venom sucked out. And, as if on cue… He’d moved so quietly, somehow padding up behind her without disturbing any of the dried needles or foliage, that if she hadn’t felt him draw nearer she’d never have known he was there. The thought was a little disturbing, but equally impressive; it occurred to her that he might be a good hunting partner as well, when the elk and mule deer seasons opened in a few weeks, and she made a mental note to ask him about it. Maybe he was right, and just “doing activities” together would help banish the lingering uneasiness she still felt around him. “Hey.” She glanced up over her shoulder at his approach, giving the tall, wiry youth a quick smile. “We have a visitor. I’m trying to decide if they can hang out with us, or if they’re gonna be one of those annoying, grumpy neighbors. And I think…” Her voice trailed off, eyes losing focus with the shift from one type of vision to another. The shape of the head was the most important part, and since she had no idea if there was a way to work out more details, it was probably enough. “Yeah, I think we’re good. ...Probably. Just to be safe, though, would you mind doing the telekinesis-thing, and move those two logs right there? I know you’ve already used it a lot, so if not, I can just grab a stick or something to nudge them and get her to come out.” "It’s no strain or problem." he smiled slightly, nodding toward the two logs she'd indicated which obediently lifted, very slowly, away from the ground. “No matter how many times I see that, it’s still hard to believe. Although, honestly, if I could touch things at a distance, feel them without having to actually disturb them, I dunno. It’s kinda cool,” she admitted, getting to her feet in case the snake was startled enough to be aggressive. “Ohhh, look at you,” the redhead all but whispered in admiration. She didn’t share Cade’s gift with animals, but that didn’t stop her from striking up a one-sided conversation anyway. “Aren’t you beautiful?” she breathed, smiling. “Hope you don’t mind, we’re just gonna do some renovations to your house, here, but you’re welcome to stay if you want. If not, that’s cool. We’re kind of on the big and noisy side, huh? Might make it hard to get dinner tonight.” Cautiously, carefully, the pair re-stacked the fallen logs, keeping a watchful eye on the pretty little garter snake that was also watching them. By the time they were done, she of the gilded stripes had retreated into a narrow gap between two of the largest logs on the bottom, where neither party was likely to annoy the other. “Nice job,” Autumn smiled approvingly at Jase’s share of the work. “We can use those last few to get the fire started. I’m gonna go put this away and get cleaned up a little before we unpack the rest. Cool?” Scooping up the camp shovel she’d abandoned by the firepit earlier, she banged it a couple of times against the bottom of her boot before folding it up again and returning it to the ATV. She paused for a moment, debating the relative merits of rinsing her face and hands with some of the bottled water she’d brought, versus just going over to the creek… and it occurred to her, mid-consideration, that the only reason she was even thinking about it was because she wasn’t alone. Okay, no. That’s... It shouldn’t matter. Why should it be any different just because someone else is here? Don’t make it weird, Autumn. Rolling her eyes at her own self-consciousness, the animated young woman rummaged around in her pack until she managed to extricate a towel and headed down toward the water’s edge. The Goddamn Bannon did good work, she had to admit. The bank was clear, and all the driftwood and branches that had blocked access to the water had been relocated into a relatively neat pile further down the rocky shore. It was beautiful: the sound of the stream, the heat of the afternoon, and the fresh, clean smell of sun-warmed pine on the breeze. Aaaaand, her, covered in ash, dirt, and sweat. Grinning as she untied the much-beloved hoodie from around her waist and draped it over a nearby branch, Autumn couldn’t help but laugh, imagining the picture that would make if some nature photographer happened by. Next, the hiking boots and socks came off, and were carefully set aside, farther from the water’s reach, followed- after a moment’s hesitation- by her t-shirt, and then her jeans. She’d worn the two-piece swimsuit underneath, purchased over the summer, for entirely practical reasons, and this was a very practical sort of situation. ...And yet, it was still a little odd taking off her clothes with someone who wasn’t a relative less than 100 feet away, but- hadn’t she also told Marissa that the reason she enjoyed coming out here so much was the freedom? Autumn considered that for a moment as she shook the loose dirt from her clothes and set them aside. Superficially, the purpose of the trip was to clean up the camp site, but the whole idea was to get to know her new friend better, and for him to become more familiar with her, as well. How was he going to do that if she did things differently just because he was there? Eh, she decided with a surreptitious glance back toward the clearing. He’s seen boobs before, and I’m not naked enough that Instagram would ban the photos, so fuck it, I guess. The water was satisfyingly cool as she entered, but not at all cold, and when she’d waded far enough that it eddied around her pale thighs, she bent down, quickly splashing the dirt from her face and scrubbing it off her forearms. It would have taken twice as long if she’d tried to be more careful, used water from one of the jugs or something. It would also have been a lot less fun. Once she was satisfied that all the freckles she could see were actually part of her skin, she took a long, deep breath, bent her knees, and let herself sink down to the bottom. He’d watched as she gently spoke to the garter snake, his eyes studying her profile intently as she restacked the logs, leaving space for the small reptile to find a safe, comfortable nook. Then he’d given her some privacy as she went to clean up, turning instead to sort out his camping arrangements. His low, sloping Backpacker was technically a two-man tent, but only if they were horizontal - perhaps a single person could sit upright in the thing. It was minimalist: lightweight and waterproof, good for temperate weather during Spring, Summer or Fall, and packed up into a neat, small roll-bag that could be clipped onto the Army surplus pack he’d come with. He unpacked it, eyeing the ground for a good spot and telekinetically ensuring it was free of rocks and sharp, pokey sticks, then set the tent up with an ease born of equal parts practice, perfect memory and having as many extra hands as he needed, noting with some satisfaction that the whole process had taken him maybe eight minutes, and when it was done he was a safe distance from the firepit with the flap of his tent facing towards it. He stashed his pack in the tent, setting aside a flashlight and a roll of toilet paper just inside the flap, then his head tilted as he heard the sounds of splashing from the creek. Smiling to himself, he grabbed a towel from his pack and, straightening, ambled in the direction of the creek and the sound of watery relaxation. So it was that when Autumn surfaced from the sunlit water with a small whoop of enjoyment, the first thing she saw as she scooped her length of soaking red hair from her eyes was Jase, who regarded her with a small grin, then dropped his towel on the pebbles and began to peel off his t-shirt. “You’d better be wearing trunks.” Autumn said warningly as Jason’s lean torso came into view. He was not muscular, but what muscle he had was defined, taut over bones that seemed too large for the sparse flesh currently adorning them. As she had noted before, he was utterly unselfconscious, chuckling as he started to unfasten his belt, the sound of his amusement causing her to be grateful that the water was just cool enough to take the edge off her blush. “If I wanted to heat the water to boiling point, I could do it more efficiently than by causing you to blush so hard your hair combusts.” he retorted, dropping trou to reveal that yes, he was wearing trunks and no, they weren’t indecently tight Speedos, rather being a loose set of swimming shorts that came down to mid thigh. Without further ado he waded out into the creek and performed a shallow dive, surfacing after a few moments with a wide grin of pleasure, then turning to Autumn, his green eyes shining. “Thank you for this.” he said soberly, despite his smiling gaze. He’s impossible, she realized suddenly, her infuriated denial of the possibility of her hair combusting because of something he said dying on her lips. Or perhaps she only remembered it suddenly, as if she’d somehow forgotten: there was no good way to “handle” Jason Bannon, because everything about him resisted being handled. ...And, if she was completely honest, confronted by the proximity of someone she'd almost kissed a week prior, when he was fully-clothed and not dripping wet… her hair spontaneously catching fire was the least of her worries. “Honestly? You’re welcome,” she replied after a moment’s thought, the corners of her eyes crinkling slightly as she smiled, ignoring the sudden influx of warmth into her cheeks. “And, I don’t mean like... The courtesy thing, where somebody says ‘thanks,’ and you say ‘you’re welcome,’ because that’s what you’re supposed to do, and all that. I mean…” Hesitating, her clear, pale eyes flicked over Jase’s shoulder to the camp site up the shore, and then back to his face. “You’re welcome. Here, I mean. This has always kind of been my place, but I, um. I don’t mind sharing it. With a friend.” The taste of the word was still unfamiliar, and she was pretty sure she couldn’t be more out of her depth with someone if she swallowed stones and sank to the bottom of the sea, but… Was there any better reason to try something, than that it was hard? In her eyes, every time Jase opened his mouth, or looked at someone, he shifted the goalpost a little bit, daring them to go after it, watching to see if they would. It was awkward, and sometimes intensely uncomfortable- case in point, she reflected, resisting the almost physical urge to duck underwater again beneath the weight of that burning green gaze- but also incredibly exciting… a game where people had to figure out the rules in the midst of playing. Maybe she would never really understand him. Maybe she couldn’t. Maybe there was no way to “win,” given how completely, impossibly, impossible Jase was, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t still a lot of fun to try. She tipped her head back into the current with an indulgent sigh, letting the current tug at her hair as she watched a bird wheel slowly across the enormous, otherwise unbroken expanse of blue overhead. “So, friend, now that you’re out here, what do you feel like doing? I still want to get everything unpacked before it gets dark, and get a fire going, but I’m open to suggestions. Staying out here is a completely valid option, by the way. Or a nap. Or a long walk. Pretty much anything.”
    3 points
  24. "Four," she said firmly. "As one of those five was my brother, and the safety of my family is paramount in the accord of this business arrangement. He will remain occluded from the prying eyes of whomever is holding your leash." "In exchange, however," her dark eyes met his and she offered him an apologetic smile. "I was planning on stopping by The Project later this week, while I am there I will do my utmost to collect as much as I can on the other, less special, freaks and find out what their glitches are. I was hoping to get access to Dr. Cook's notes, since it seems like the Nerd Herd might be asked to take over their training. That, and my brother is dying for Annette Gile's phone number. I promised him I would take a shot at it for him." She stood up and straightened her skirt and settled the chain that was her purse strap over her shoulder. "Now, you can argue the part about my brother for your masters, but I'm just going to stick my guns and you can make your phone call. If my world is not crashing down around me by then, I will see you Sunday, Mr. Enterich. We both know you have my number, so please, feel free to call or text since it is a burner phone and won't do me any good if I go the authorities. Honestly now, Mr. Enterich, we can't have a proper relationship without trust, can we? Just lay your enemies before me and walk away, walk away, walk away." She concluded with an audible air kiss in his direction accented with a farewell smile. "Lieutikon?" He asked, moderately familiar with the phrasing, just not their arrangement. "Breaking Benjamin." She replied over the cubicle walls as she made her alluring walk to the exit. "Good stuff. Look them up." ---===[]===--- Several minutes later she'd abandoned school and her black Mercedes' tired were crunching on the gravel that led up to the 'The Bridge'. The same bridge Sara wanted blow up several weeks prior when everyone's lives started tumbling down hill. She'd argued against it, but now? No she just wanted to see everything burn. She wanted to blow something up. Set the place on fire, something to just let the growing guilt and shame and fear that was welling up inside of her loose upon the world so she didn't have to carry it with her anymore. She wasn't sure anymore if this was her father's fault or hers and she wasn't sure if it mattered. "Fuck!" She slammed her hand on the steering wheel and the word was repeated an innumerable amount of times until had served the sole purpose of conjuring forth the tears she so desperately needed to cry. Lazily her hand still tried to strike the wheel as she buried her head against it and just sobbed until she lost track of the time. Within ten minutes she was pacing in front of the car, tapping a sharpened nail against her teeth talking to herself about how none if it was her fault and after a few quick sell outs of her frie- the Nerd Herd she'd have enough money to slip away one night and never see them again. Really, it was only a matter of time before one of them stabbed her in the back, right? That's what people did. She was simply preemptively getting them before they got her. Fair is fair, right? With arms crossed tightly like she was cold despite the beautiful summer day she continued to pace, trying to justify her actions under the thick pangs of a new feeling she didn't recall ever having until today. Guilt? Remorse? She paused as the tears still streamed down her face and having long ago ruined her makeup. Se looked a mess as she complained. "Shit." She fumed, snorting in her running nose in a most ladylike manner. "I am feeling. Fuuuck!" She tantrumed with stomping feet as she screamed at the clouds. "Okay, no," she worked on composing herself and went back to pacing. "Stop. Get a grip. If they know it's all over, and you and your family are dead or worse, poor. Marissa Beatrix Jauntsen, hide your crazy and get your shit together. Think. None of them are mind readers so none of them can see that you're lying to them. This isn't your fault. They came to you, right? If you don't do this, they'll hurt your family. These guys were all born poor and retarded, so they don't mind being poor and retarded. You can't be poor. How would you survive without brand names or... or... unprocessed foods from obscenely high priced organic markets? They're your friends, they love you!" She chuckled at the sheer silliness of that statement. "Of course they love you, look at you! You are amazing, and beautiful and rich. You give them something to aspire to. You bring rays of ambitious sunlight into their otherwise dreary, pathetic, meaningless lives. Everything is going to be just fine!" She said with a forced smile as she opened her arms to the world and the invisible audience she'd been justifying herself to. The gravel and sun and clouds offered nothing in reply that comforted her in the slightest. She immediately began massaging the bridge of her nose. "I am a dead woman. Who am I kidding? They are going strap me to a table and devour my still living body like a zombie buffet, using my tears as sweetener. They will probably throw me to Jason when they are finished so he can finally sleep with my corpse." She shook her head in disgust. "We would not even bother reapplying my makeup either, I would look like a nightmare." She shuttered at the thought of her corpse being violated without properly being made up. The thought seemed more nauseating than having her corpse violated. "Okay," she paced again, rubbing the bridge of her nose like she, and her twin brother, did when they were overly stressed or irritated. "If you go to them they are going to freak-the-fuck out and it will be a shit show. If you sell them out, then you have ruined," she twirled her unoccupied hand to assist her searching for the right words. "Whatever this is you have with the Nerd Herd. They could be hurt, their families could be hurt. If you do not sell them out, then it is all on me and my family. Shit, this is complicated." A thought suddenly sprang to her mind. She couldn't do this alone. She was devious, evil, manipulative and willing to cross lines the others wouldn't for the sake of their precious moral compasses, well, save for Jason, but she needed someone who could do more than be a robot. No. Times like this called for a special sort of cruelty. A rare blend of malice, deviousness and lack of compunction that would compliment her own two parts spice in this sweet mixture of malice. She smiled wide and dashed back into her car. The tires spun and kicked rocks behind her as she sped off back towards school. ---===[]===--- Within the hour Marissa was once again talking, walking, and looking like a million dollars as the after lunch classes were letting out and the halls were filed a torrent of poor people. She knew who she was looking for and she swung the door open to the study hall room she smiled wide in glee as her eyes locked onto her target. "Courtney!" She declared exuberantly as she eyed the crimson lipped nymphomaniac setting her bag down by an empty seat and collecting her books and phone from it. Marissa approached her. "I am so happy to see you I could kiss you." "Okay!" Courtney smiled with a shrug and gleefully closed her eyes while lightly puckering her lips as Marissa walked right past her. When the moment, and Marissa, passed she opened her eyes slightly and looked to the left, then right, and let out a depressed sigh. "Tease." she said with a near Harley Quinn masque to her demeanor. "We are fucked." Marissa began. "So fucked." "Well, not all of us," Courtney mused as she fired off her volley of insults with catty precision. "You have all that going for you and you still can't get a guy to sleep with you." "Okay," Marissa's lips pursed into a forced smile. She nodded, absorbing the insult. "First: fuck you, bitch. Second: this goes past us and our problems. This is... secret identity stuff, and it involves you. We do not have time to tear each other's throats out. Courtney, listen..." Marissa told her everything, the meeting, Mr. Enterich, the US Marshals, everything except what her father had done to earn the ire of this secret organization, which she really didn't know to begin with, only that whatever it was it had ruined their family. "Wow," Courtney paced about taking it all in. "Have you been crying?" "Yes!" Marissa fumed as it seemed like the redhead hadn't heard a word she'd said. "Yes, I have been crying because this shit is deep, Court. I can not go to the Project because then the other guys will hurt my family. I can not save my family though without selling out you and the Nerd Herd and I will not let my friends get hurt!" She clamped her hand over her mouth. She'd crossed the line and broken her own personal code. It slipped, but the word was said and could not be unsaid. Courtney, for once, had nothing to say. She knew the code. No attachments. Everyone was a tool to be used and discarded. Succeed no matter the cost. Marissa had inspired her from petty bully who'd pick on Sean to a glamorous socialite who had popularity and the entire school kissing her feet. "We're... friends?" Courtney managed to ask quietly. "I thought..." "Times change, I guess?" The Queen of Shelly fought back yet more tear glistening over her eyes. "I am... I am tired Courtney. I just want to be me and not what the world expects me to be. I want to sit around and eat pizza with Autumn, insult Jason, write stories for Sean to read and inspire his games, argue conspiracy theories with Cassandra. I want to go fishing with my boyfriend. I even miss our mean girl shopping trips to the mall. I'm a nerd, Courtney, and my nerds need me. Now, how can we make this whole messed up secret agent thing work to our advantage without letting everyone know and possibly killing my family? No one poisons apples and terrorizes kingdoms like we do. Evil is in our blood. We can't let these guys beat us." Courtney extended her arms and motioned for Marissa to come to her. "Hug first. Solutions forthcoming. Then we rain destruction."
    3 points
  25. "Yeah," Devin said, already in motion and looking a might bit concerned. "Let's get you spun the fuck up. Certainly sounds like we have time for that as the walls a melting away all Silent Hill up in this bitch." "Devin, get us out of here," Marissa turned to face her brother as she reflexively gripped Cade's hand. "No can do." He replied to his gorgeous sibling. "The Dark emanates raw dimensional interference. It doesn't belong here, and the closer it is, the more my targeting goes all wonky. I can manage small jaunts, but if I try anything farther, it'll rip my guts apart like before." Kat had no idea what the hell he was talking about. "Damnit," she cursed. She looked to everyone else and squeezed Cade's hand. "We need to go." She looked up to her boyfriend and rest her free had on his chest. "You are on Jase duty. He's injured and you are the biggest thing we have right now. Stay with him. The rest of us will look out for each other, and..." she took a concerned breath as she looked at him. She gripped his shirt and pulled his 6'4" self down to meet her 5'8" gaze. For a few moments the hospital faded as her lips pressed against his and her palm cupped his cheek to hold him in place she motivated her soldier. She pulled away and opened her eyes. "Be careful. I mean it." "Cathrine, my brother, Devin, new French girl, now let's get the hell out of here." She urged them. "On it," Devin, with no regard for Kat's presence, jaunted from where he stood in the room to the doorway leading out into the hallway. For the first time all of them, for the briefest of moments were able to see the two apertures in the same place at the same time, the shimmering purple distortions left by his jaunts pulsed and shimmered briefly like oil on water giving off all the various hues of purple from lavender to periwinkle before fading away. "Shit," Charlie muttered. "Sophia. She's in the waiting room!" "Dude, seriosuly?" Devin looked stunned and defeated at once. "Okay, look, I'll go get her, you stay with the girls and help Cade lead everyone out. I'll catch up." "But-" Charlie attempted to protest. After all, he'd brought her here and he felt like she was his obligation to protect. "I get it, bro," Devin smirked a friendly smirk, not his usual sarcastic snigger. "But who's faster? Keep my sister safe, and I'll make sure Sophia is fine. You got this." He raised up his fist and Charlie bumped it. "Head away from the screams of terror, text me locales, I'll find you." He dashed off towards the waiting room. Marissa jogged to the door, the heels of her boots clacking on the tiles. She took up position where he brother just darted from. "Running in those might not be the best idea," Cade offered up to her as he was helping Jason with the last few moments of his preparation to vacate the Hospital of Horrors. "Baby, me running in heels is the least of our concerns right now." Marissa replied to her boyfriend right as she looked at Kat. "So, please don't allow what happens in the next several moments of excruciating madness and horrific terror to put too dark of a mar on your opinion of our little town, it truly is a quaint place to live."
    3 points
  26. Cade’s trick, despite the humorous comparisons, was impressive and, in addition, served to break up some of the tension caused by fresh discussion of Jason’s... unique outlook on things. People took a break for a soda and, in Jase’s case, a smoke before continuing. The breakthrough of the psionic teens ability to ‘tune in’ to each other’s Shine through touch proved important, not least of which for being able to assess whether someone had ‘Psi-Shine’ or the ‘Hero-Shine’, as Jason labelled Lilly and Cade’s gift. “With you two, it’s as though you are becoming idealised human beings – figures from story and myth. They are not usually outside the scope of human experience – great strength, speed and so on are still ‘human’ traits, which makes the Hero relatable. The Hero’s actions have massive ramifications, for good or ill.” He explained. “Heroine.” Lilly grinned, though she liked the term. “So our ability to ‘choose’ realities is us being able to steer the story.” “For good, or ill.” Jason repeated. “King Arthur was a Hero. He became king, established order and enlightenment, and then was brought low by his own failing and the failing of another Hero he trusted, Lancelot du Lac. The result was a dark age following the golden.” He smiled slightly. “A cautionary tale for all of us.” He tossed the butt of his rollup into the firepit and glanced around. “We know Sara is telepathic, so she’s definitely psionic. If you’re willing to sit down with me, Autumn, we can get you placed in the right weight class.” Autumn looked doubtfully at the Effing Bannon. He was clothed, at least. And a psychopath, a word that conjured all sorts of nightmares – and yet... He’d looked after them, in the woods. He’d stood and fought a monster (something she’d wished she’d done at the time). And although he was odd and had a way of smiling that made her tense up, he hadn’t ever threatened her. Finally, he seemed to know what he was doing. “Right.” She said slowly, watching as he moved to sit on a clear patch of grass, gesturing to her to sit opposite him. “Is this going to hurt?” she asked as she sat down, shuffling closer with some reluctance, eying the hands he held out to her in invitation. He smiled slightly, but it wasn’t amusement at her expense this time. Well, mostly. It was even, in the right light, reassuring. “Not a bit.” = = = = = Autumn had psionic Shine. Jase could feel it within her through their link, a similar vitality to that shared by Lona and Charlie. Power over life, over cellular matter. It was a rich cascade of sensation and vibrancy that made him feel stronger just by proximity to it. It had taken maybe five minutes of careful coaching, but finally he felt the field of her Shine interacting with his own as she relaxed, her sea-hued eyes on his icy green ones. She was warm and emotional, like Cassie, but restless where Cass was focused, her energy pacing back and forth waiting to be unleashed. He marvelled at the simple, yet profound insight this link could provide. For Autumn, it was an odd experience. Intimate, yet not too invasive – There were no thoughts exchanged, nor could she read his emotions like she might have imagined. Instead she was aware of Bannon’s energy – his Shine- and how his psyche reflected upon it. He was control, focus and crystalline icy clarity over a simmering, banked furnace that waited and wanted to be called upon. Like Cassie earlier, she noted he didn’t feel twisted or evil, just odd. Alien. A matter of his intelligence, or his ‘condition’, or both? Oddly, she found his focus to be stabilising, taking on a fraction of his calm fearlessness for herself while they were linked. “You feel it?” she heard him ask as she swam in the cool green of his eyes. She nodded. “Now focus on your own Shine. Be aware of it. You feel somewhat like Lona. She can heal, has an awareness of life around her and it’s relative health. Focus on the Shine, feel it.” He said calmly. Autumn focused, drawing on the calm clarity of Bannon’s energy to still her own restlessness. She felt the pale glow of the Shine... and then under it something else. The redhead’s eyes widened as she realised she could feel the life-force in her own body and, with only minor concentration, that of those around her, being able to focus on each in turn. Charlie there had a couple of minor bruises, Cassie ached a little as if from intense exercise, Lona fairly glowed with good health – as did she herself, she realised. Lilly and Cade likewise were pictures of health, whereas Bannon... “You’re hurt.” She said, blinking as she regarded him with this new sense. She had spotted the faint purple bruise on his jaw earlier, but now she could feel all the bruises under his baggy shirt and pants. He was in painful discomfort. “What the hell happened to you?” “Training this morning.” He said calmly as if that explained everything. “Don’t heal me, please. I’m learning to work through it. It’s a self-discipline exercise.” “Jesus, Jase.” Lona said as she, too focused on his vital aura, alerted by the conversation. “You could have said-“ “I know.” He interrupted with that same calm tone, smiling a little at his friend. “But it’s part of my personal training, Avalon. My choice.” “But-“ “Do I have any broken bones? Or internal injuries?” he asked rhetorically. “They’re just bruises. Bruises fade.” He met her eyes. “When the day’s training is over, I’ll ask you or Autumn to heal me so I don’t turn up to school bruised.” He said quietly. “Fair?” Lona didn’t like it, that much was obvious, but she nodded silent assent. “Thank you.” He said softly, then turned back to Autumn. “Alright, now we’ve gotten your feet wet, let’s get up and see what you –and we all - can really do.” = = = = = Sean had a pretty good handle on following and controlling the flow of electrons that gushed like blood within the wires and microchips of electrical devices. He demonstrated again by making his pair of drones dance in the air in an intricate ballet. But doing so had spurred him on to consider how else he might manipulate electromagnetic energy. He could change how it reacted inside devices, could he do it to all the other such energy about them. When he focused, he could see all the threads and fireflies of visible and invisible light, various frequencies of radio waves, and more.... "Hold on guys, I'm gonna try something, don't freak out," Sean warned them, as he inhaled and reached out with his mind, grasping all the strands of visible light and... twisted them, turning them into sourceless radio waves. The practice area was plunged into utter darkness, pitch black to all but his eyes, which could still perceive in the ultraviolet and infrared spectrum. It made his friends look very odd to his perception and took a while to get too. He could still perceive the threads of visible light he had twisted, see them starting to unravel into their true forms, but slowly. "I turned the visible light into harmless radio waves. I think, unless I did something, it'll stay like this for a few hours. But I think that'll make practicing harder than is has to be." Sean twisted the strands again, changing the frequency of the ambient photons, and as he did so, the darkness faded away, a bubble of light encompassing the clearing shifting through the hues of a rainbow. Sean grinned, everything tinted faintly green. "Pretty sure I can put on a decent light show." The light shifted to a pale indigo and Sean cocked his head to the side, considering. He could twist strands of electromagnetic energy, but could he combine them? He tried, holding his hands about a foot apart, fingers waggling as through playing with a cat's cradle. The purplish-blue light seemed to be pulled between his fingers, growing brighter, harder. The entire area seemed to grow slightly dimmer as he twisted the threads of light together in an ever tighter rope, the light shifting to blue then green... Sean felt it just a moment before it happened, eyes going wide and lips peeling back in excited panic, as he felt the tightly bound braid of light snap together. "Look away! Look away!" Sean shouted, as a searing, razor thin line of blinding green light blazed into being, forming between his hands to a point just pass one of the abandoned pieces of farming equipment, severing it in half, the edges glowing orange and the acrid scent of burnt steel in the air. The unexpected intensity of his personal laser made his stumble back and land on his plush behind. A trickle of blood trickled down Sean's nose, staining his upper lip as he tried to brush is away while he climbed back to his feet. He had pushed himself hard with that, too hard. "Um, oops? I didn't think it would be that big." “Phrasing.” Jason said dryly as he offered a hand and helped Sean up. The others snickered, tension released as laughter. = = = = = Perhaps the biggest discovery was that when Sara linked multiple psionicists in a mental network of sorts, they could tune into each other’s Shine (provided the other allowed it) and perform the same boosts as though they were touching. “This implies that the subquantum layer is one point in space – or rather than space doesn’t exist there. Cassie can see and sense over massive distances. Devin can teleport to Greece for pizza.” Jason mused. “They don’t literally project their senses or body through space, they dive down into the subquantum, then back up again where they want to be.” He snapped his fingers as a thought occurred to him. “Cassie. You said at Bunnee’s the other night that you saw what had happened in the past, with the bear and the tree?” he looked at her intently. The pretty blonde nodded, curious why he was bringing it up. “Time as well.” He said with a firm definite tone. “Time doesn’t exist down there, which makes sense because space doesn’t. So you send your senses down to the subquantum, then bring them up not just where you want, but also when. Within reason, I suppose. I wonder if Devin could teleport through time...?” “Oh, come on.” Sean looked askance at his friend. “Time travel now?” “Why not? We’re all travelling through time anyway. I can walk across the field in ten minutes. Devin can teleport across it in an eyeblink. Time and space are linked – if he can dodge one, then there’d have to be some kind of special law that stops him dodging the other.” Jase looked thoughtful for a moment, then shrugged. “It would go towards explaining the smilodon and other weirdness. Something to consider.” That set aside for now, people got back to learning the extent of their gifts and how they interacted with one another. Jase’s emphasis seemed to be on the physical – objects became easier to affect, sense or manipulate when he was assisting in a link. Lona and Autumn, by contrast, had an affinity with living organisms that made affecting those more easy when they were part of a link. In addition when the pair of them linked their Shine grew stronger, something Jase and Sean theorised to be the sympathetic wavelength of their Shine reinforcing each other. Charlie (who still was not at all drunk – the test had been a success) seemed to make tasks more effortless when he was lending assistance, whereas Clara and Cora brought the effect of massively increasing the Shine of whomever they linked with. Cassie extended the reach of a person’s powers, allowing Lona to heal Charlie’s bruises from his training with Lilly from a dozen feet away, rather than having to touch him. Sean seemed to be an extender of a different sort – rather than extending the range of a power, he extended the time it could be maintained. They all learned together, sometimes serious and sometimes playing as the afternoon wore on. The Shine seemed to replenish itself swiftly enough, provided one didn’t completely exhaust it. Some discovered power they didn’t realise they had, such as Cassie exhibiting some small psychokinetic ability – a defensive reaction to slow incoming attacks similar to that possessed by Jason. Or Clara realising she could work with the subquantum to produce and manipulate energy in a manner similar to Cora. = = = = = Sometimes linked by Sara, sometimes touching hands the psionic Fellowship members played, practiced and learned. And the ‘heroic’ ones too. Lilly and Cade were both highly athletic, somehow increased by their own brand of Shine. The two put this to the test, racing each other in sprints from one end of the field to the others at speeds that the other teens couldn’t get close to. Cade displayed uncanny aim with throwing or projectile weapons, though Lilly seemed able to drive an arrow through slim steel plating with the force of her draw. Cade’s empathy with wild creatures was perhaps not as flashy as some abilities being displayed, but nonetheless was unusual, to say the least. Arguably somewhat more impressive was Lilly’s straight right. Focusing on how she’d kicked the burning monster through a tree, she set up a roughly man-sized log and, pausing to wrap her hands, began to tentatively jab at it. After the first few impacts she stopped, unwrapped her hands, then began once more to box at the log. Her fists slammed home with more force, the bark splintering but leaving her hands unmarked, something that Sean, currently taking a rest nearby, remarked on. “Go on, Captain America.” The feminine boy grinned as he took a swig of water. “Stop tickling it.” Lilly smirked at him, but furrowed her brow as she turned back to the log. Okay. Let’s do this. The psionic teens paused in their practice as the sound of hammers splintering wood filled the air. Lilly unleashed a flurry of blows into the solid log as though it were a hanging bag, focusing her will through each contact, imagining the fishasaurus in front of her. The bark where she had been hitting the log was all gone now, her fists having started to deform and crack the solid pine underneath when, with a final explosive impact, the log flew twenty feet into the already abused farm machinery that people had been using for arrow and (impromptu) laser practice. There was a horrendous crash, then the log fell forwards with a thud. There was a pause, then Jason gave his strangely happy laugh. “Whoa.” Charlie breathed. He went over to inspect the fallen log, noting the cracked and dented condition it was in. “You pounded the shit out of it.” “Really went to town on that wood, huh?” Cora said with a giggle, her cheeks reddening as the others stared at her. “Phras- No. No, it’s too easy.” Cade deadpanned, causing another round of snickering and laughter. = = = = = The sun was getting lower, the sky darker as the teens called a halt more by common consensus than anything else. A flicker of Jase’s power caused the bonfire to bloom into life as people settled down on or leaning against the logs around it as sparks crackled and flew like fireflies in the purpling sky. “Right. Deal’s a deal. Let me heal you.” Lona said, laying a hand on Jason’s shoulder. He sighed as the aches and pains he’d suffered through vanished, first with a weird pulling sensation and then were gone, replaced with a sense of wellbeing. He smiled up at her from where he sat. “Thank you.” He said softly, then turned to look at the fire. He was content, in this moment. Tomorrow was a new week of school, and fresh problems, and old stale ones too. He wondered if the Fellowship’s experience today had bonded them at all. He didn’t feel it but then, he wouldn’t. He thought perhaps people were working better together, having an improved awareness and appreciation for one another. But he was outside that, and for a moment briefly regretted not knowing what it was like. Perhaps something like the link through the Shine, he mused, only not requiring touch or Sara’s power to access. He’d been very careful when in the mental network to guard his thoughts, which was easy enough – nothing went out over the network that the individual didn’t want to. He was aware, though, that his mind was likely not like any of the others, even the more cerebral teens like Clara and Sean. He was isolated, and yet did not register it as a pang or negative feeling. “Hey.” Autumn said from her spot by the fire, regarding him with a little more warmth than she had at the start of the afternoon. “Earth to Bannon. I’ve got a question for you.” “It’s already laundered and back at the house.” Jase replied without missing a beat, causing her to blush. “Not that.” She scowled as some of the others snickered. “You can lift a lot with your telekinesis, right?” “Right.” Jason tilted his head, curious. “And you don’t slip – like, you don’t lose your grip suddenly.” She pressed, clearly working up to something. “Not unless Clara makes me by damping my power.” He replied steadily. “Right. So, I want an airplane.” She said, her attitude somewhere between challenge and request. “An airplane.” He replied levelly. “Yep. Fly me.” Autumn got to her feet and regarded him. “C’mon. Up, up and away. I want to fly.” She was gratified to actually see him blink, taken aback for the first time she could remember. “You want me to fly you around?” he asked in a careful tone. “What, you don’t want to?” Autumn put her hands on her hips and stared at him. “C’mon, Bannon. I loaned you my hoodie-“ “I’m fine with it.” He said. “I’m just surprised you asked.” “So that’s a yes?” Autumn smiled wide. “It won’t be very fast.” He warned, but an answering smile was playing around his lips. “Running speed, tops.” “I don’t care. I’ve been freaked out, chased by monsters, visited the effing underworld and seen us all do some weird and wonderful shit these last few days.” Autumn said defiantly. “So I want to flyyyyyyyy-“ Her words turned into an excited yelp as she suddenly rose into the air and began to drift about ten feet above the ground. Some of the Fellowship laughed, others whooped or yelled encouragement as Autumn circled the fire at a safe distance, Jason’s invisible grasp on her a gentle impersonal pressure. She wasn’t motionless as she flew – Autumn found she could move her arms and legs and did so, alternating between the classic Superman flying pose and the arms outstretched like a bird pose as she banked, rose, dove and whirled, a grin on her face. She never went too high, nor did she dive too fast. He didn’t pretend to drop her or do anything to scare her, rather he just watched from where he sat, a smile on his face and his eyes reflecting the firelight. The sun was above the horizon still, it’s rays turning everything red-gold and causing her hair to flame crimson as the girl spun and danced in the air, finding that Goddamn Jason Effing Bannon was responding to her arm and leg movements and steering the way she wanted, rather than flopping her around like a rag doll. She made as if to dive and, obediently, the force lifting her made her dive in a swoop above Charlie’s head. She whooped as Bannon put her through a slow loop, then another, before he brought her gently back to touch down just outside the circle of log seating. “How was that?” Jason asked the Fellowship’s newest member, his gaze on hers.
    3 points
  27. "She's right," Devin thumbed to Clara while addressing Lilly. "Hate to admit it, but Clara is right. It's about priorities. The Dark is a priority." He leaned in to Lilly to make himself clear. "You. Are not. Don't wanna eat? Don't. More for me. Wanna bust my balls over shit I said a couple days ago? Couple days ago I wasn't ass deep in Upsidedown Thunder with a vagina tongue trying to eat my dick. So save it. I'm not interested and I don't care. I'm not taking it back. We're not cool. I'm not cool with any of you right now. So suck it up buttercup. I do know though, that all of us? As messed up and hateful and spiteful and neurotic as we are... were brought together for a reason. We Shine and there is beast called The Dark coming our way. Do we need to get Cade's sister in here to do that math for us, or can you figure it out?" He stood and looked at all of them. "I don't have to like you to have your back when the sun sets. I don't have to like you to help you protect those you love. I don't have to like you to stand with you as a bastion of light between our world and a world of misery, despair and fear. I may hate this town, but it's still my town. I may not like you, but your still my people. So if that bastard wants Shelly? I say we get our asses in gear, stop with the bullshit, have another slice of pizza and do what angst ridden teenagers who all need to get over themselves do best..." he leaned onto table, resting on his arms as he looked around to all them. His face curled into a grin. "...let's go get our misbehave on."
    3 points
  28. If you are excited for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim make sure you check out the site themes.
    3 points
  29. 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
  30. 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
  31. 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
  32. Shit!Fuck!Shit!Fuck!Shit!Fuck! The sweet and fetid miasma of blood and decay surrounded Sean, cloying, clinging to him. He tried breathing through his mouth, and that was worse, the taste far more putrid than the smell. A hand went to his throat as he felt his gorge rose., even as terror raced up his spine at the sight of Not-Cody. He was more monstrous than Sean imagined, more something from a Monster Manual than from reality, so fast, those arms so long it seemed he could reach halfway across the clearing. And the electrical impulses flowing through him? They were chaotic, conflicting, like trying to watch a 3D movie without the glasses, making him even more nauseous. The synapses in Tawny and Sophia worried him. He'd never seen someone in a coma. Is that what it looked like, felt like, he thought, or was Sophia in the precipice of death? Was the corruption infesting Not-Cody inside the girls now, too, starting to multiply and grow? It took an instant for Sean's thoughts to come unstuck, and in even that small moment, Not-Cody had taken several swipes at Devin, Cassie and Autumn were racing for the throne and the crown surmounting it, and Marissa... Bloody Marissa who always had to be the center of attention was trying to be the center of attention even now and Not-Cody was going to tear her face off. At least she was their bitch, this time. "Whattheshit?!" Sean muttered as he shuffled to the side, trying to spread out the Fellowship so Not-Cody and whatever was inside him couldn't reach them all at once. He crossed over a scabby crust and his foot broke through, almost-black blood, thick, chunky, and warm, flowing over and then into his shoe. It was like stepping into a puddle of hot mucussy snot, and he almost stumbled as well as lost his shoe pulling his foot out it. "Watch out, guys!" Sean shouted, breathing in short gasps, as he waved his left hand, and the blue and green marbles of light zipped forward, leaving after-images in his sight. The tiny spheres of photons flew pass on either side of Marissa then exploded into a pair of vertical planes of transparent light, fifteen feet to a side, meeting at 120 degree angle just in front of the glamorous girl who came on a jaunt through the Abyss in a pair of 'hiking' heels. If Not-Cody wanted Marissa, he'd either have to burn or take a detour. "You aren't getting her today, bastard, or any of us!" He waved his other hand, two fingers pointing towards the twisted Cernunnos Cody had become, his left hand on the ground to catching him from falling over. The red marble flashed forward, elongated into a spear of fiery light, piercing the luminous green wall without resistance. Not-Cody raised a hand and the lance of scarlet incandescence went through it as easily as the wall, boring an inch wide hole straight through it, the great, taloned paw scorched black from a miniature solar flare. Not-Cody flinched back, fanged maw opening wide in something between a squeal and a snarl as he baleful gaze was shared between Sean and Marissa. The ruby beam of light contracted once more into a tight, bright marble, orbiting the great beast, threatening him with more solar pain. "Burn, motherfucker, burn!" Sean shouted. He heard some of things he had said about Laurie, even before his horrible chrysalis. Sean might have sounded more threatening if he hadn't sounded so breathless with terror.
    2 points
  33. "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
  34. "...and that about covers the basics." Devin said as he and his impromptu 'date', Ellie, walked through all the various picnic settings of the other families who had gathered for the Carousel. She'd locked arms with him, keeping close and doing her utmost to absorb all the knowledge Devin was spilling her way. A crash course in 2019 teenage etiquette seemed far more complicated than her first training regiment. And she thought the Teulu had rules... "...what if violence is directed upon me without provocation on my part? Surely I'm permitted-" The dazzling blonde looked at him, her eyes narrowing in curiosity. "No." Devin chuckled. "You are not home, you are on Earth. We don't, or at least, the well adjusted don't just mete out death as a solution to our problems." "How has your species advanced this far?" She shook her head in confusion as she looked around at all the families laughing and playing away their day, oblivious to the fact that an alien from another realm walked among them. "It's like you have nothing to contribute to the other realms besides breeding stock." "Baby Yoda." Devin retorted with swiftly. "That's us. We invented Baby Yoda. Oh, and peanut butter, and French kissing. Pretty sure America invented too." "I'm not very familiar with your culture, but even I know that French things are the product of a place called 'France'." The athletic blonde squeezed his arm in warning that she knew he was trying to put one over on the tourist. "French-Americans." Devin shrugged. "Prolly immigrants, searching for a new life and really like licking the powdered sugar of their toast... and BAM, French toast, French kissing. A total two'fer." "The act you portray of the Fool, Devin, it does not fool me," she said calmly. Like Jase her eyes were never just still. They moved and scanned every person, every object, she was perceiving possible threats from all sides and assessing their surroundings with a trained, heightened awareness. "You are a god, as you put it. Yet you walk among insects. I do not understand you, but I will." "There's nothing wring with these people, they're good and you know, Xena, Warrior Teulu, a little love might do you some good." He fist bumped someone from school as they walked past another group of teenagers their age. They didn't take notice of the stares the the others teens were giving them as Ellie moved among them with fresh eyes drinking in her blonde hair, athletic frame and cheek bones that would give Marissa a run for her money. She didn't know it, but Ellie was swiftly becoming the talk among the male students and in less than the half hour since her arrival people were wondering where she'd transferred from. Small towns. Got to love them. "Not everything is a war you know, Ellie. You're safe here, more or less." "It's when you feel the safest," she said softly. "That you're not." "There you are!" Misti and Carl caught sight of their son as the couple were passing by the Fingleman's picnic area. Devin groaned an rolled his eyes as his mother waved him over. "Of course you know our son, Devin." Swiftly he was snatched up and with her arm around her son she presented him like a display. "I believe he has a few classes with your daughter." The nail digging into the back of his collar told him that was his cue. "Uh, yeah! Mr. and Mrs. Finger-uh ba-uh, man. Fingleman. Sophie's awesome. We get on great." He turned on his 'bullshit' smile as he rolled his shoulders, hinting for his mom to back off. "Well, have you heard from her recently? She hasn't answered her phone today." Mr. Fingleman asked. "Hmm? Oh, uh...," Charlie an Sophie, to Devin's knowledge, were consummating their new found relationship with lots of sex. Like, tons of it. Now, the last thing one did was rat out their homies, so Devin being Devin who was so smart and so slick, he thought up a lie and he thought it up quick. "Honestly, you probably won't answer it for awhile. See, her and Charlie are big time theatre nerds and ol' Chuck got his hands on a preemo rendition of Les Misérables. The whole thing performed live, Charles was going gaga over it. Last I heard they were making a day of checking it out, singing all the songs and taking a lot of notes. He trying to push it as a venue for this years school production. I wouldn't doubt if they had it cranked to eleven and were singing along. It's what los- lovers do. Of theatre. Lovers of theatre. We're all meeting up in a bit, if she's still ghosting you by then, I'll personally see to it she checks in." "We'd appreciate it," Mrs. Fingleman replied with a mother's concerned smile. The one that said she was worried still but she was glad her daughter such good friends. Neither of the Finglemans notice Carl, Devin's father, standing off to one side and slowly moving his finger through the universal hand sign for intercourse. Devin nodded swiftly, yet conspicuously. His father pursed his lips and made the 'I knew it' face. "Who's your friend, Devin?" Carl asked, intentionally putting his son on the spot again. He was overcome with a certain measure of pride that his son was in the company of such a beautiful young lady. Devin turned hi head to where Ellie was patiently waiting and observing the conversation. "Oh! Sorry, uh, everyone this is Ellie. She's um, new to Shelly. I'm showing her around." "New?" Misti narrowed her eyes in suspicion as she'd not heard of any new families moving to Shelly. "Where did you move from? I'd love to meet your parents." "I did not 'move' here," she said calmly. "I ventured through the Void and through a wayfarers portal I found myself here, where I was to begin my search for your son. Teir fa Thunn is where I call home, I seek to return there and Devin has agreed to assist me in getting back there." Had he the presence of mind to do so Devin may have bothered to count the number of blinks in the awkward silence to tally up just how screwed he might be. He didn't mind so much that it was his parents, but the Fingleman's were right there...
    2 points
  35. Into The Eye Of The Monster Article from ‘Empire’ magazine. an interview with Jason Bannon, By Roger Jurgen: ‘Weirder Stuff’, in the beginning attacked by its critics for being “yet another teen supernatural drama”, has beaten the odds and risen above the competition - and how! The direction, writing and most of all the young actors who comprise the show’s central cast have, in the first season, shown the critics that they were wrong to dismiss the strong pool of talent that the show’s producers assembled. It boldly tackles issues from sexual assault to teen drug use to the simple difficulties of coming of age, set against a backdrop of a world that is just like ours - only a lot weirder. I recently got to sit down and interview the show’s resident bad boy, at least on-screen. Genius, high-functioning psychopath - the character of Jase Bannon is the wild card of the Fellowship. Potential anti-hero or fledgling monster, one thing the fans can’t do is not discuss him. The actor who plays him is similarly a subject of much discussion. Described in the past as ‘enormously talented’ and ‘a prodigy’, he has made his mark playing roles that test both actor and viewer psychologically, making us ask moral and ethical questions about ourselves and the world around us and, on several occasions, giving us a good scare. It is a blustery Montana day when I am driven up to the near-iconic ‘Bannon House, an actual farmhouse standing at the summit of a gentle hill that overlooks the surrounding area. Picked for it’s isolated appearance, it radiates - not loneliness, but apartness - an air of self-containment that asks nothing and takes courage to approach, much as does the fictional character that lives within. Much as does the actor himself. Jason Bannon, in person, is perhaps not as daunting as his fictional namesake, and for obvious reasons, but as a method actor (he lives in the Bannon house even when not filming, and rumor has it he is thinking of buying the place) I am struck by the pale gaze that measures me unwaveringly, giving me his full attention without any sign of either friendliness or hostility. His handshake is as one might expect from the character too - brief, polite but unlingering: a clasp, two shakes and then done, as if lifted directly from a book on ‘How to Greet People’. I find myself moving very deliberately and choosing my words with care, my awareness of the character coloring my interpretation of the actor’s expressions and words. I have to remind myself that ‘Jase Bannon’, the telekinetic who can crush a car with his mind, is not real. We sip coffee in the lounge of the farmhouse, the shelves piled with books which, my host assures me, he does read in his spare time though not, he admits, with the speed or voraciousness of his character. As he admits this he smiles, a touch of warmth enters his expression and I get the sense that, at least in part, his mask is being set aside for me, as a professional courtesy. I find I am now able to relax, that the monster is not actually in the room. By common consent, we use the name ‘Jase’ when speaking about the character, to avoid confusion. Roger: Now, you’re the cast member that’s most private, but what fans do know about you is that you don’t break character so long as you are in a given role. And yet you’re giving an interview? Jason: Yes. Roger: How does that work, exactly? Jason: Well, obviously I am not a super-powered alien genius. Nor am I an actual psychopath. What I do is maintain the- framework, let us call it. Jase’s speech patterns, his way of perceiving the world, how he thinks and reacts. It is an entire persona, carefully constructed over readings, rehearsals, and many many discussions about the character with the writers, the director, and even my co-stars. I don’t retreat into my memory palace between takes, or go and tend my flower garden - because those are things Jase can do that I cannot. Likewise, I’m not hard-wired to be fearless and find violence easy - but Jase is. When wearing his persona, I can immerse myself in that without feeling the need to act on it. I try to interact with the world through that filter. Roger: You’ve a history of playing roles which some would describe as simultaneously troubled and troubling, both on stage and film. Was that what drew you to accept this role? Jason: Definitely a large part of it. I find the character to be simultaneously complex and yet simple. He’s not insane, or a compulsive personality, or irrational. Every action he takes has at least three, and usually more reasons for him to do it. He rarely if ever acts without thinking, but his pattern of thought is… well, alien. That forms the basis for a large part of his personal conflicts with others. Roger: Such as Devin. Some describe the ‘frenemy’ relationship between your character and that of Devin to be similar to that of Professor Xavier and Magneto. Friends who nevertheless cannot agree on certain central positions, who will clash over those. What do you think? Jason: Devin has a strong moral base underlying his exterior. He’s the Hero, in the classic sense. Flawed, certainly, but he knows he can and should be better. Jase is the anti-hero - he’s on the good guys side, but he isn’t moral and doesn’t have a conscience as we understand it. Devin, in stepping up to lead, has had to point out to Jase that he needs to think through the consequences of his actions on the emotional wellbeing of the others, not just their physical safety. Their contrast is an interesting one to play out. In the future, they might become like Professor X and Magneto - or they could be like Kirk and Spock. They’re teens, at a crossroads, and it could go either way. Roger: Do you get along off-screen? Jason: Yeah, we do. He’s a lot of fun - serious about working on the show, unafraid to goof around a bit between takes. Him and Cassie are always trying to get me to crack. Especially Cassie. I think she takes it as a personal challenge. Roger: Do you ever goof around? Play pranks back? Jason: (smiling) I don’t not goof around. I feel I have to maintain character to a degree, though. I believe that acting always betrays truth - Jase is supposed to be somewhat aloof, unreachable in an everyday sense. He has a sense of humor, but it is wry and understated and not-quite human. And the others are never sure where the line is with him - they can be pretty sure he won’t hurt them, but they don’t know what does and doesn’t offend him or get under his skin. I try to keep the chemistry similar to how the Fellowship are with me on-screen. Roger: Chemistry, yes. Jase has been described as somewhat of a dark horse romantic character. You have never played a role with a romantic side before - was that a challenge? Jason: It was at first, for sure. (chuckling) I initially questioned the veracity of someone so cold and detached even being able to express passion. The writers took me through their process, describing the subtle but defined differences between a regular psychopath and what Jase is. It took me a long time to balance his inner landscape, to get the persona correct. I think the results speak for themselves, though. Roger: They do, yes. Apparently you’re trending on all manner of social media platforms and the character has made several top ten lists in young adult media. Jason: I didn’t know. Jase doesn’t usually haunt social media, so nor do I. Roger: You sound surprised. Jason: I am! Devin is the Kirk character. (He laughs.) Hmm. But it actually makes a certain amount of sense. The character provokes emotions - there are well-documented links between the thrill of fear, a sense of danger, and fascination. Who hasn’t wondered what it would be like to pet the tiger when it isn’t acting in a threatening manner? Even when it seems at peace it’s still a tiger. Still deadly. It just has no reason to harm you right now. Roger: So is that how you see Jase? A tiger? Jason: (nodding) Sort of, yes. A big cat in a human suit, an apex predator by wiring, smarter than pretty much everyone around him and with a boundless capacity for violence. Morals or social pressures have limited sway on him, especially if they come from outside his chosen circle. Hmm, perhaps a lion would be a better description. More in-group oriented. He ‘cares’ - in his way - about those he chooses as friends. Roger: ‘Boundless capacity for violence’? Jason: Capacity, not necessarily inclination. The human psyche has a limit to how much stress, violence and fear it can endure. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ the limit gets reached, it’s a matter of ‘when’. Psychopaths - and by extension Teulu: as a fictional near-human race designed for war - do not have that limit. This is why you will find psychopaths doing well in high-stress, high-danger fields. Special operations soldiers, firefighters, police officers, surgeons, and of course career criminals… The stress and trauma of their job doesn’t touch them and they are able to perform as they need to. I chose to do a lot of reading on the phenomena when I undertook this role: it’s a fascinating field of study. Anyway, back to your original question - I think it is that sense of contained danger that gives Jase his allure. I can’t take all the credit for that. The writing team do an absolutely brilliant job for all the characters - it’s like putting on a suit that is perfectly tailored. And of course, the cast all have excellent chemistry with each other. We fall very naturally into the roles of misfit friends. Roger: And, of course, chemistry is Jase’s special area of knowledge. Now there’s been some romantic subplots between your character and a couple of the ladies on the show. Where do you see that heading? Jason: No spoilers, but I can say keep watching. There’s bound to be twists and turns, and nothing is certain - even the cast and writers aren’t sure where things are going sometimes. When you’re working with talented writers and actors there’s a lot of improvisation and inspiration, especially when they’re heavily engaged and interested. So many times you’ll get Devin improvising some banter - he’s really good at that - and the director will just be like ‘Hey, that’s good, I’ll allow it’. And the personal chemistry between the cast will influence things too - sometimes the writers like to work with that to give the work more ‘punch’. Roger: So your chemistry with Marissa and Autumn in the show - is that similar to off-screen? Jason: No comment. (he laughs) Seriously, they are both great actresses: enormously talented and each brings a great deal of vibrant life to their part. In person they’re lovely people - not at all diva-like and very down to earth. Marissa is a sweetheart, and Autumn is passionate - very much present in every moment, whether on or off-screen. She’s perfect for her role, really. I do have to give kudos to Marissa though: she is very unlike her character in some key ways, and watching her go all ‘Evil Queen’ when the cameras are rolling is inspiring. Roger: And your other co-stars? How do you get along with them? Jason: We get along well. Or at least, I like to think so. They’re all very good to work with - good work ethic, minimal drama and screaming even on bad days. And as people, they’re pretty chill and fun. Like our characters, we are very different people thrown together to be part of something greater, so the dynamic works very well. Roger: What’s next for Jase, do you think? Jason: Jase is like every member of the Fellowship - potentiality. The only way to find out what comes next is to travel along the road. Roger: And for yourself? Jason: (He smiles) Same answer.
    2 points
  36. The bike pulled up to Bunnee's burgers after a rather mild, ten minute or so, cruise through Shelly from the Bannon Farm. A death grip wasn't required by Cassie as her driver traveled smooth and slow down the streets instead of his usual speed demon manner. She assumed it was because he was in the crowded areas of Shelly now, and while the Sheriff might know about them, he wasn't above issuing tickets to the lot of them for being idiots. They walked in together, garnering a few looks from their peers who were here already (because Bunnee always had the high school crowd in here in some form or fashion). In the eyes of high schoolers a couple of friends couldn't just go eat a meal by themselves with out them obviously being on a date of some sort and they could both feel the judgmental eyes of their classmates silently calling them out on their business. Those who actually cared anyway. They say anywhere as Maxine instructed them while blowing past like a busty wind on the busy Sunday evening. The evening church rush was happening and their peers were in their Sunday best. They slid into a free both as the Heath twins passed them on their way out. They pretty blondes both said 'hi' at the two and they exchanged greetings. Cassie couldn't help but notice how they flushed when Devin politely replied in his own flirtatious way. H really couldn't help him self, it seemed. “Well, you two are not the pair I expected seeing in here,” Max smiled wryly. Being in on all the high school gossip she almost more familiar with the lives of the students of Shelly High than the students themselves. “When did this start?” She smirked while asking playfully. “Relax, Max,” Devin held out a hand to slow her roll. “It's just hanging out. Purely sexual.” Cassie's glare could have froze the waters she brought them solid. She was used to his humor, but, dude. “Oh, right.” Max nodded in sagely understanding. “I totally get it.” She touched Cassie's shoulder and nodded. “I get it sweetie. We ladies need to set our standards early in life, and we can't set that high bar without first realizing where the low bar is hovering at.” Her side eye to Devin screamed there was ointment in the back to treat the burn. Devin just half laughed and nodded his head, soaking it up. Max was good, she was an ace at dealing with him. “Two sodas and an order of chili-cheese fries and you're totally off my Christmas list.” “Oh,” she pouted. “Darn. She took their drink orders and sped off to the kitchen to do her thing. The two were left alone finally and Devin looked at his pseudo-date and didn't quite know how to kick this whole thing off. “Sooo...” Smooth, Devin. Real smooth. Cassandra let him hang for a second, just for the 'purely sexual' before offering him a hand. She arched an eyebrow and prompted, "So?" Then after a sip of soda reminded him, "Maybe start with Homecoming?" "Okay," he agreed. "So, where to begin? In case you hadn't heard my sister is pretty much kidnapping all of you for preparations at our place before the dance. I'm tasked with somehow making Cade and Jase presentable. If you don't have a dress yet, talk to her, she's in a 'formal affair frenzy', like a shark sniffing blood in the water. We won't be taking my bike, so no worries there, I'll have my car that night, so we don't mess up all effort we put into making ourselves pretty for for the ball. Seriously, if I ended up with mud on my slacks, I'd throw a fit." He shrugged. "So, yeah, that's my side if it all, whatchu got?" Cassie laughed a little. "A notepad, fortunately," she quipped. "Okay, so I should probably give Marissa a call then, since I do have a dress, but not one she's going to be happy with. And...hmm." Cass paused for a second, assessing Devin. "I'm trying to decide if you meeting my mom in advance will be a net positive or not... You've never set foot in the library, have you?" "Sure I have." He chuckled. "Ladies are totally into smart guys and all that. Whenever we have some big study assignment I always make it a point to hang out there after school at least twice in the first week it's been assigned. Some girl always needs some help studying." He grinned wide. "Totally down to meet your mom, though. Met Autumn's for the first time today, she totally loved me." He opened his arms wide like it should be a no-brainer that Cassie's mother would obviously fall immediately in love with the rich, spoiled walking white stereotype of entitlement. "Coooooool," sighed Cassandra, already imagining Devin being Devin in front of her mom. That would go down one of two ways...either 'what are you doing, Cass?' or 'are you doing this just to hurt me, Cass?' And it was so exciting waiting to see which one she'd go with. But you didn't get far telling Devin not to be Devin. One way or the other, she'd just have to deal. Cassie reached out to nab some fries out of the greasy little cardboard cradle they arrived at the table in. "That wasn't so painful," she remarked. "Even if it means a shopping trip with Marissa. Now all we have to do is...survive. Best Homecoming ever." "Didn't know if you'd still be hungry after the pizza, figured something munch on couldn't hurt though." He smiled, stealing some of the fries too. "That's it?" He looked at her skeptically. "No list of rules for friendship dating? Hands off the butt, hands off you, ghost arm only in all pictures? No? That was easy." He chewed his fries and washed them down with a sip of his soda, which she noticed had no ice in it. "So, out of curiosity... why'd you agree to go out with me for Homecoming?" "Dude," she admonished with a grin, "If I gave you rules, it would just be a checklist for shit to do to get to me. As for why?" Cassie stirred her coke with her straw for a second, watching the foam burble up between the chunks of crushed ice. "First, you're funny sometimes. I think we could have fun. But also because ever since this crazy shit started, you've let the whole 'naughty manchild' thing slip a few times. The guy I think I saw when that happens is one I'd like to meet." She looked up at Devin again and lifted an eyebrow. "Can you set us up?" "Wow, that was," his posture visibly changed as he sat up and rested his arms on the table, suddenly more invested in the conversation. She'd been interviewing people for years and, while certainly not a professional, she'd learned enough to know when she'd gotten someone's attention. "Surprisingly direct. I'm used to people dancing around answers with reddened cheeks and that annoyingly playful 'I don't know' reply." "Blondie, look, the... 'manchild', as you put it," his grin told her he found it amusing. "It's my way of dealing with all this 'shit'." He air quoted. "I don't mean anything by it, I j-" he paused and looked around the place at all the other people. "I just need to not be so serious all the time. One, I would be even more unbearable than I am as the manchild, and two, it would be far less entertaining. You have to admit." He smiled wide. "Buuut," he dragged out with a slight protest in his tone. "If serious Devin is what the lady wants, I think I can swing it. Might even waive the hourly rates, I dunno." Cassandra grinned. "I know, and truth is that I like it when you're funny too. We all gotta have some way to deal with everything. And us...I mean, everyone thinks they have it rough, but lets face it. We're going to war against..." Abruptly she stopped and looked around to make sure no one was paying them attention. "...alien magic monsters, so I think we owe each other some benefit of the doubt. So yeah. You don't have to stop being you. Just sometimes, when it's safe, be the rest of you. You know?" She took another fry and tapped it against her bottom lip, then ate it. "My turn now. Why did you ask me?" "Ugh," he rolled his eyes and flopped back in his seat. "I forgot this game goes both ways." Cassie smirked evilly at the bit of torture. "Come on, fair is fair." The fry she was pinching swiftly met its fate while she eagerly awaited for him to man up. He returned and rummaged about for a good, chili and cheese drenched fry to give him courage. Fine, but, no jokes." She raised her eyes brows in a silent promise as she sipped her drink. "Well, I'm shallow, so... if I didn't think you were, at the very least, an eight, I wouldn't have bothered." She was pretty sure that his way of telling her she was pretty. "Devin, the Heaths are like.... sevens, tops." Cassie protested. "And you flirt with them all the time." "True, but together they're a fourteen." He pointed out, proud with his math. She didn't have the heart to inform him that it wasn't quite how it worked. He seemed to sober up some from his fooling around. "...and aside from you being hot... that's it." He shrugged. "That's all I know about you, Cass. I... we..., hell, Cassie, we, all of us, fight and bitch and moan and yet here we are, at the end of it all, ready to die for people who will never even know what we did, together. And there's the old us, now there's the new us's, with unlikely friends and super powers... I guess I want to know more about Cassandra..." he paused, looking at her, his eyes wide as he struggled for the right word... "Allen." She nodded in that wow sort of way. "...Allen," he snapped his fingers. "Right, that was where I was going with that." His smile did to conceal that he'd even remotely remembered her last name. "We're all gonna make it through this, but... I don't us to do it as strangers. Y'know?" "Hmm," Cassie watched him for a moment, rolling the words around in her head. In the end, she decided, his reasoning wasn't that far from her own. They were just sort of...investigating each other. Scraping a layer under the surface. "Okay. You don't have to wait for Homecoming for that. Here we are...at least until the fries are gone. What do you want to know? AMA. Open book." She took another fry then and popped it into her mouth. "Oh," Devin chuckled. "Ohohohoho, alright, let's do this. Let's see... what are your top three turn-ons? Who has the nicer butt? Dana or Autumn? What are you most self-conscious about? What do most people think is true about you, but isn’t?" He kept counting them off in his fingers like they were preloaded in his mind like some spin the bottle, Truth or Dare Championship Belt holder. "What is the most childish thing you still do? What is something we, your friends, would never expect that you do?" "Those are the warm ups," he smiled but she noticed it faded fast and his expression went a little more serious in its presentation. "...and I know you have issues, with home and Crossroads... so, you know, don't worry. We'll bring him home... I'm trying not to ask the stupid obvious stuff. It's not like our lives are anything close to normal." "Okay wow," Cassandra laughed. "You've been giving this some thought. Let's see." She started ticking off fingers. "A good scalp massage, skinny dipping and victory. Autumn, definitely. I'm self-conscious about my hair...it sticks out too much when it's short, but it's super hard to style when it's long, which is why I ponytail it or just let it floof most of the time, but that feels lazy?" Cass shrugged. "People think I'm voyeuristic but it's really just business for me. Not that I get paid or anything, but that's how I approach it. I still love stupid-ass Saturday morning cartoons, and..." The last question forced her to think a little more. "I volunteer at the Sagebrush when I can." At Devin's blank look, she added, "It's the food pantry in town. Lately..." Cass sighed. "...haven't had that kind of time lately." "Why?" He asked out of curiosity. "Not that's a bad thing or anything, I'm just curious. What makes you volunteer there? Was it sort of a 'hey seems fun' kinda gig or did something draw you there? Oh, and I'm totally with you there on the Saturday morning cartoons." "So...my freshman year, I wanted to do something 'hard hitting' you know?" Cassie said, making air quotes. "And I was fixated on the prison, so I wanted to get like a word on the street kind of thing. But...here I am, comfortably middle class white girl, what the fuck do I know about word on the street? So I asked mom, and she suggested the Sagebrush. I didn't even know, at the time, Shelley had a food pantry." Cass paused to finish off her soda, slurping the last bit up the straw before popping the plastic top off to munch on a little ice before picking the narrative up again. "So it was scary at first, but I started talking to some, and...their stories were really kind of gut-punches. And I left feeling like absolute shit, because I'd thought they were scary. So after the article I wrote did not make it in the paper..." Cassandra grinned and shook her head. "...because it was kind of shit...I went back. I felt like I owed them something, because when I first saw them, I didn't see people. And then after that it was just...kind of affirming. The guys that run it are super nice, and really grateful for any help they get." "Wow, I uh, huh," he nodded his head. "I didn't know either. I mean, I knew we had quite a bit of families around here that we help out around the Holidays with the boxes at the school." The look on his face was akin to something resembling a realization. "I just never really considered where all those boxes go. I guess, like you said, I never really considered that there are people receiving them." There was a long pause in their conversation as Max slipped by and offered to refill her drink. "Okay, you're depressing me..." he leaned in and tacked off a few more. "Last ones, and then... I guess it's your turn. Fair is fair. What is something that people think you would never be into, but you are? What is the silliest thing you have an emotional attachment to? What is the most embarrassing thing your parents have caught you doing? Why did you break up with your last boyfriend or girlfriend?" She saw the play there, asking about an ex while disguising it as part of the game. Devin might have thought he was slick, but the wasn't. Cassie was onto him, easily. "Hoo, okay." Cassandra exhaled, clearing the palette. "Lets see. Something people think I'm not into...that's kind of like that other question, but all right. I am hopelessly addicted to jigsaw puzzles. You know how most kids have, like, band posters or movie posters or whatever? I have puzzles that I've finished. And that's also the next answer. I got a three thousand piece puzzle when I was twelve, and I fucking knocked it out of the park, did it in like three days, working on it hours every day. My parents got it laminated, and framed, and I'm going to take it with me everywhere I go until I die." She fished around for what remained of the fries, getting a few chunks from the bottom of the carton. "Embarrassing...that would either be the time Dylan and me did 'breakfast in our undies' when Mom was out of the house...only she wasn't out of the house yet and walked right into us...or the time dad smelled pot on my breath and we went through an entire decade's worth of 'war on drug' slogans for the next two hours." She gave Devin a lazy smile then, arriving at the 'ex' question. "What makes you so sure I broke up with him...or her?" Cass asked teasingly. "Maybe he or she dumped me." "Maybe," he shrugged. "Either way, whomever they were, how'd it go down? I'm curious, the people have a right to know, Cassandra..." he paused and finally snapped his fingers. "Allen. Ha." "I just have never seen you with anyone, granted I never paid much attention to you, even when I was knocking your school books out of your hand while you were fiddling with your phone..." he chuckled. "Man, you made that so easy. You were always on that thing." He shook his head in fond reminiscence. "So? Who were they? How'd the whole last relationship go down? Mine's easy... unlikely pair, met, laughed, spent an afternoon making love, then she got grounded and moved away a week later. Which I suppose is a win because at least I didn't turn her gay... which is what my sister was betting on." "Are you sure?" Cassandra asked. "Did you keep in touch after you left?" She poured some of the melted ice water in her cup into her mouth and swished it a bit before swallowing. "Well, as you might have gleaned, my boyfriend's name was Dylan. We were together a couple of years. He and his friends are into skating, alternative music and slacking off...and when I met him all three of those things were things I was kind of into. I started hanging out with them, and we just started going out." She shrugged. "Nothing complicated, and that was the appeal. The whole thing was very chill, very laid back. But my situation changed. I wasn't happy just fucking around, watching the world go by anymore...and he was. So yeah, I broke up with him." "See? I knew you dumped him." He said with confidence. "Me being picky isn't necessarily good news for you," Cassandra reminded him with a grin. "Pfft," he chuckled. "I'm sure you told him what was up. all he had to do was grow up a little, be willing to be flexible in order to keep you happy. And he didn't want to do that after a couple of years? Fault lies with him, Blondie, not you're wanting to mature and grow. Had it been a few months, or something? Okay, I could see it. Two people need to be flexible for a relationship to be successful. Fixed thoughts and patterns of behavior can have a negative impact on a relationship leading to fixed patterns of behavior. Being able to break that cycle is called psychological flexibility." All she could do is just glare at him. "Sorry, my mom was a behavioral therapist before we moved here." He shrugged. "EmJay and me have had every blurb of psych-speak hammered into our heads. It's how we manipulated a whole school for several years. Bad idea in retrospect, but totally fun along the way. My point is you wanted to mature and grow, which at our age is not an unlikely want. We need to discover the whole 'who we are' thing. Your being picky wouldn't necessarily apply to me unless...," his eyes flared wide and leaned in, silently, but in feigned shock asked her: "Blondie, are you trying to get in my pants?" "I can neither confirm nor deny those allegations," Cassandra replied cagily. "For what it's worth, my dad is a psychologist too, so...yeah. That much I get." She tapped her chin as she looked at Devin. "I guess that makes it my turn." "Fair is fair," he smiled. "Just make sure you're ready to know the answer before you ask, I do have little shame after all." As Max walked past he raised a single digit and pointed to the dwindling chili cheese fries. Although hard at it, she nodded to him and went on about her duties. "You know, my sister might have some ways to help you out with your hair too. She's lazier than she lets on, and still looks like a million bucks everyday. Hit her up, she'll probably tell you how she does it." "That might almost be worth the ladling of contempt I'd get for it," replies Cassie. "Okay. Let's see." What did she really want to know about Devin? As fun as it might be just to ask questions to get under his skin, that wasn't the first priority. How deep did the 'jerk side' of him run? "If you could change one thing you've done in the past up until now, what would you change...how would you change it, and why?" she fished. That got him. His smile seemed to fade as swiftly as the witty quips sprang to his lips on any other occasion. She could tell that he was legit taken off guard by the question. Cassie half expected a dodge... but he began, with very little preparation, like he knew exactly what it was he was going to say. "I know that Marissa is easy to dislike. She's hateful and hurtful and... she used to not always be like that. We used to be like you guys, albeit richer and better dressed, but we were just... ordinary kids, y'know?" They way he looked into her eyes while he sorted through his memories seemed to indicate she'd found the serious side of the teleporter she'd been looking for. "We were the zero's among the elite. We weren't as super rich as the richest kids, so we were the poor kids who got picked on. Mom was always trying to get us some commercial and get us into acting on Disney or Nick but it never happened. We're pretty sure it was her they didn't like, not us." He sighed and shook his head at the memory of some of the antics his mother pulled at auditions but didn't dwell on them. "Anyway, it didn't bother me as much as it did her. It really hurt her her self-esteem and... I don't know, I'm her brother... I was supposed to be there for her." "When we got here, it was her idea to dominate Shelly. All we really did was become the monsters we hated so much. Now? She's so distant from people, doesn't really seem to in touch with how people feel or even care for that matter. She's so self absorbed that," he trailed off and rubbed his face with his palms, an obvious sign that he was bothered by saying these things out loud. Perhaps because it reminded him that it was real. "I don't know... if I hadn't agreed and put my foot down or made some effort to pull her out of this stupid prank sooner instead of letting it go on for so long, she might still be the EmJay I used to know. One you guys would wouldn't even recognize. That's on me, I guess." "Stupid prank," Cassandra repeated, sorting through the story in her head. "You mean the 'dominate Shelly' prank?" She sat back for a second, then said, "I know I don't really know you two, so...I should probably keep my mouth shut, but I'm me. So...this sounds like something you wish you could change that Marissa did. And you're maybe blaming yourself, but it's still her mistake. I mean..." she offered Devin what she hoped was a comforting smile. "...I don't think even you could stop Marissa from doing something she really set her heart on." "Normally I'd agree, even when it came to my sister, a topic I'm usually pretty bull headed on... but I went along with it. She didn't beg me or need to convince me, I went along with it Cassie and let me tell you, I had a blast doing it. I wish I could say I was sorry for all of it, but I'm not. It was a fun ride. Do I regret it? Yeah. In retrospect it was phenomenally dumb idea, but... I'm only realizing that now." He shrugged with one shoulder while reaching for his drink. "We're both hateful and spiteful, I'm just more a more 'in-the-moment' guy. Let me get it out of my system, I'm good. EmJay likes the long game. I part of me thinks I should have recognized it sooner and pulled her back. I don't really blame myself for what she's doing, or has done, or... will probably do," he smirked with a roll of his eyes. "I'm her brother, y'know? It's not so much as just wanting my sister to be safe and happy... and stable." He let out a deep, audible sigh. "But, yeah... that's my big goof. Knowing better and still being dumbass anyway." "Most kids our age are dumbasses," corrected Cassandra. "You've gone further than just that." She let that hang, then nodded. "But yeah, that was...more complicated than I expected it to be. Which isn't a bad thing. Again, I get the feeling you've thought about this stuff before, which...is good." She took another bite of crunchy ice and went on, "All right, now...think about your first crush. What about her did you notice the most? Why was she your crush." Then with a grin she added, "Or he." "She," he said with a smile. "Ugh, god...," he groaned. "Can we go back to complicated brotherly issues? Those are easier." "Nope," she teased. "You're horrible," the teleporter joked as she laughed a bit. "Okay, fine... but this goes no further. Her name was Hannah. She was year older than me and her parents were rich as hell, like Arab oil rich. I'm pretty sure bled gold and kept her room warm by paying bums wearing suits made of hundred dollar bills to light themselves on fire." They both laughed at his extreme example. "If you've never been out to Malibu or the surrounding area... it's nuts out that way. Crazy rich people, doing crazy things with money." "Brunette, she was... incredibly well developed," he smirked. "But that's not why I liked her. To be honest... there wasn't just one thing, which completely baffled me. I honestly didn't know why I was attracted to her, but, I was. That not knowing just made me want to know more. So, I joined gymnastics... because, yeah, you guessed it, she was in gymnastics too. Turns out I was really good at it and she wasn't, or maybe she just hated it... anyway, the more I tried to get to know her she more she treated me like crap and the more I let her because I really liked her." "It was awhile before Marissa pointed out I was friend-zoned, so I made my move and asked her out to a school dance." Dismissively the young man rolled his eyes and shrugged. "Not only did she reject me, she rejected me hard. Had all of her friends laughing at me, calling me out at school, basically making my life hell until it was no longer funny and they moved on to other torments. God I hate that girl so much." he chuckled, but she could tell it wasn't a half-hearted laugh... she'd really hurt him and he hated her for it. "She was my lesson on how to won everything I do so people can't make fun of me for it. Laugh at everything and be proud of the things I do. Forget what people think or say, y'know?" Cassandra nodded sympathetically. "I can totally understand it, yeah. I'm still curious about what you saw in her though. You might not have understood it then, but you've picked that part of your life over a hundred times. I bet you have some insight now that you didn't then, yeah?" "A thousand times, per year, since," agreed with her. Once again his eyes wandered off into that little pocket of reminiscence everyone possessed, where they kept the moments of their life couldn't, for whatever reason, let go of. "How can I say this and not come off like some creeper? So... I'd never crushed on anyone before her. She was gorgeous, sure, but everything about her attracted me to her... her voice, the smell of her hair," he looked to Cassie, holding up his hand to pause the action. "It was gymnastics. to paired up to help each other out so yes, her hair was whipped in my face on several occasions. I wasn't, like, creeping in while she slept and stealing locks of it or anything." He passively shrugged and offered one of his charming, witty grins. "The security at her house was way to tight." "It was her smile, her voice, I don't know, Cassie, before I knew it I was willing to join gymnastics just to meet her and felt like the luckiest man alive when we were paired off together to practice. Looking back honestly... I don't know what specifically it was and seeing how it all turned out, I must have looked pretty pathetic to everyone on the outside looking in." He sipped his coke and shook his head, looking for the words a bit more. "Sometimes there's just love. You don't know what it is, or why it happens, but there you are... joining gymnastics and letting someone take advantage of you for just the smallest chance that maybe, just maybe they'll be yours. Jason doesn't really understand how lucky he is, sometimes, not feeling things the way we do." "Aww..." Cassandra smiled, charmed despite herself. "I don't know, man. It sucks when it goes wrong, but...he's also missing out on the high of it. Seems like he's been like...trimmed. Clipped. Pieces of the human experience just carved off, and he'll never know what he missed. And you and me...we'll never be able to really explain what he missed." She shrugs. "But that's who he is." Then Cass jabbed a finger at Devin again. "...and we're not here to talk about him. You're still on the hot seat, mister." She folded her arms and smirked. "Okay then, I think just one more. We're almost outta fries and we'll need our sleep. Think back on a time when you felt completely at peace with...yourself, with the world. A moment when everything bad just melted away, and you were happy without effort. Now...what were you doing during that moment?" "Oh, Jesus... remind me never to spin the bottle with you. You're brutal." He laughed. "That one is easy though. Every since we," he looked around and leaned in all super spy-like and lowered his voice. "Our abilities. I've been skydiving a lot. I looked up that this Joe Kittinger guy held the record for something like a hundred thousand foot skydive. So, I went for it. First, it was incredibly cold, did not know that, so I bailed out early. Tried again with proper attire, and it blew my mind. Imagine three minutes of your life where you just let go and ride the wind straight down. For all the wind rushing through my ears it was amazingly quiet." "I fall for about two-thirty, which gives me plenty of time to negotiate a landing, but to just disappear from my room and be falling for two minutes over the lights and sounds of Hong Kong or New York, or... one of those phosphorescent algae tides that sometimes happen in the ocean, it makes the world seem so massive so, I don't know, massive. Me and my problems don't seem so big anymore in those two minutes. I see all the people we're helping, the lives we're saving and... I guess I realize that despite, the total shit I've been, I'm actually someone's hero, somewhere... even if they'll never know it. Nothing quite puts at peace like knowing I'm not as hopeless as I thought I was." His expression snapped back to the now and cleared his throat in the middle of another smile as he gesture towards her with his hand. "Wanna go sometime? Totally safe. We'll start low to the ground, thirty second freefall of the reservation. It'll definitely do wonders for your hair. "Hmm...I could kind of do that too, just seeing things at a distance," Cassandra muses. "But I think you're right. It wouldn't be the same if you didn't feel yourself falling. Yeah, that'd be really cool" She holds up a finger. "Not tonight though. Too much pizza in me. And now, soda and fries. Uhf." Cassie rubs her cheek ruefully. "I'm going to need a better workout." And with that she deftly grabbed the last fry and ate it. "Okay. I liked this. Thanks, Devin." "Anytime," he said as he stood up. "I had fun too, and whenever you're ready for the drop, let me know. Like I said we'll start low." He dropped a twenty on the table even though two drinks and fries couldn't have been more than ten bucks at the small diner, and followed Cassie out to give her a ride home. Perhaps it was their conversation or what awaited them tomorrow, but neither were in a real hurry for the evening to end and it showed in Devin's careful, rather slow (for him) cruise back to Cassandra's house. The purr of the engine was low and almost silent down eave avenue as the young man barely gave it what it needed to maintain the speed limit but, no matter how hard they tried, time moved ever onward and eventually the sleek, black motorcycle came to a slow stop outside Cassandra's home. He walked her to her steps and tried his best to make any of this seem like it had some weird date vibe to it. It didn't have that vibe did it? No, it couldn't have, because they weren't dating. "Well, I'll uh, see you tomorrow, I hope? Carousel? Before we all go off and..." Awkward silence was the order of the evening when it came to tomorrow. "Well, you know. Thanks for hanging out. I didn't realize Cassandra Allen was such a complex person. I might have to investigate further." He nodded with curiosity on par with mad scientists the world over. "Definitely," Cassandra said in reply. Her cheeks reddened as she realized that could be taken a couple of ways, "I mean, about seeing you tomorrow." She nodded...then admitted, "And also the other thing, except, you know, about you." Ugh...and she was wanting to make a living using words? "Okay! So...thanks. Seeya." Cassie fished her keys out of her pocket and gave Devin an awkward wave. A gesture felt appropriate but, like...what? Handshake was formal and impersonal and cringe. Hug felt...too the opposite. Shit, end on a joke! "Drive safe," she said, and managed a grin. He laughed at her safe driving comment, walking back a few steps as he winked at her. "No promises, Blondie." He turned to walk back to his bike. She breathed a sigh of relief as he didn't go for a hug or a handshake... just smiles and witty banter. After all, they were still friends and... he still had Lona issues he was dealing with, that much was obvious. He spun about around half-way to his bike and was stepping back again. "Oh, hey, if you want to, text me if you have Homecoming concerns or feel like going a few more rounds of questions or... you know... if you just can't sleep. Worst that'll happen is I don't respond because I'm already sleeping." It was close to 'I'd like to talk to you again' as guys who were not sure about their relationship status got to saying 'we don't have to be face to face to flirt shamelessly'. Since no one in the Fellowship was really getting a lot of sleep lately anyways, except Jason who was usually sound asleep stuffed full of hiker gibblets, his offer didn't seem like an unreasonable one. His bike roared to life and hushed to a purr before he revved it up and was on his way down the street. Her lips curled in a grin and she shook her head as the dark street lit up in a sudden, Back to the Future purple flash once he was out of sight.
    2 points
  37. Those who had wanted to had freshened up, had a coffee or a soda, and as the afternoon came to an end people started to go their separate ways without much ceremony. Tawny, with a cheery wave and a smile, cycled off down the dirt road first. Cade was next, slinging his equipment duffel into the back of his Jeep before driving off. Lilly was next, pausing long enough to offer Cass a lift only for the blonde to demur, stating with a smile that she had a ride coming. And sure enough, as Courtney's cherry-red convertible drove away with Kat in the passenger seat, a purplish ripple in the air and the purr of Devin's bike announced the teleporter's return, and Cassandra grinned as she hopped aboard the bike's pillion seat and donned the helmet. That done, she waved to Autumn and Jason as Devin gave them a jaunty salute, and the dust of the road was once more and finally disturbed as the Ducatti left. "So." Autumn said, leaning back on the porch rail and smiling at the Effing Boyfriend. "I can't help but notice I didn't get an airplane." she bantered, feeling a little breathless suddenly as he stepped closer, her face tilting up to regard him as she forced her hands to stay on the porch rail with an effort of will, given that they'd rather be doing other things right about now. "That's true." Jason nodded, angular features expressionless. "I was thinking we could do something else." he murmured as his hands slid around her waist, jade-hued eyes meeting hers. “Mhmm.” For a moment, it was the only reply she could make- language was, after all, governed by slightly more evolved parts of Autumn’s brain than the ones currently in operation. Pheromones, the rational part of her brain insisted through the delicious haze of warmth clouding her thoughts. With the railing pressed against her back and the heat radiated by Jason’s long, lean form so tantalizingly close, it was something of a miracle she managed even that much. She was dimly aware that they were completely alone. That his bare arms were on either side of her, implicitly preventing her escape even if she’d thought to make one. That he hadn’t yet changed clothes, and it would require only the slightest effort to- Releasing the porch railing, Autumn mirrored Jase’s movement. Pale fingertips dipped below the waistband of his sweatpants, the wide, clear blue pools of her eyes darkening as her hands skimmed around his hips and pulled him another half-step forward. He'd been intending to bedevil her a little, make her blush, steal a kiss, then bring up what he actually had in mind. To be playful, perhaps mischievous as he had been on Saturday morning when he'd inflamed her a little then dropped the word 'hiking' into the conversation. All of which went flying out of the window as Jase felt warm fingertips on his bare flesh, the lithe, athletic young woman running her hands tantalisingly over the skin of his hips and pulling him insistently against her. And just like that, like a circuit was completed and electrical current flowed between them, passing from his touch through her and then into him, and that primal savage part of him, looser in it's chains than before as a result of his careful balance between control and passion during the practice fight with Devin, lunged. He pulled Autumn against him in turn, arms going tighter around her waist as his lips met hers with almost bruising force, a sound like a hoarse echo of a growl in his throat as he drank deeply from her willingly open mouth, grazing his teeth against her lower lip before entangling his tongue with hers. All he could feel, smell and hear was Autumn: the warm solidity of her body, the scent of woods and grass and natural feminine perfume, the gasps as she eagerly returned his kiss, and in that contraction of his world to her he lost all sense of everything else. There was an undeniable hunger in that reciprocation, in the greedy melding of lips and teeth and tongue that kindled the flickering spark in her abdomen to bright, insatiable flame. The quiet gasps she made against his mouth turned to soft moans as the spirited redhead tried, in vain, to get closer, to press the length of her body any more fully against his; if it wasn’t for their clothes, she could, but to untie the hoodie from her waist, to tug off their shirts, to cast off shoes and pants and all the other annoying trappings of civilized society would take time away from kissing him, from the taste of him. Neither situation- being unable to feel the glorious friction of skin on skin, or breaking even the little contact she was getting in order to strip down- seemed tolerable to her fevered mind. “More,” she breathed in a low plea against his lips, one hand sliding up his spine beneath the white cotton of Jason's shirt, as the other drifted farther southward. With a little maneuvering, Autumn wriggled her way up onto the railing, shifting until her knees were on either side of his narrow hips. It wasn’t quite what Devin had suggested when he’d interrupted them in the loft, but she was in no way interested in pausing to go look for a table now. The only thing that did have her attention, in that moment, was the sweet, fierce delirium of desire that burned beneath her skin- burned, consumed, and yet left neither agony nor ash in its wake, but something as-yet formless, nameless, and wholly unconcerned with anything but the feeling of him in her arms Jason was aware that his control had reached it's limits. His need was painful, pressed against her through flimsy layers of interloping cloth as his hands slid under her hoodie and the t-shirt she wore beneath it, fingertips stroking the warmth he found there. It was frustrating, being so close and yet how discordant that awareness of never being close enough was. It would be easy, his reason supplied, to remove the pesky obstacles. He could cocoon himself and Autumn in his Shine and then just burn everything unimportant away, letting it all char and fall away and leave only pale ivory skin dusted with copper pressed against him and then- and then they could- they could fit just right together. In the depths of his half-lidded, passion-dark gaze fireflies began to swirl... "Christ!" Gar said as he rounded the corner of the house with his kit bag and camping gear, back from the militia camp-out, only to be confronted with a scene best described as 'bordering on not family friendly'. Coughing and with hazel eyes wide, he half-turned away. "Uh... so... I'm home." he announced to no-one in particular. Distracted as she was by Jason’s kisses, his touch, the texture of his skin beneath her fingertips, by the tangible proof of her lover’s mutual want, the insistent pressure she could just feel through her jeans, Autumn hadn’t heard the arrival of any vehicles- nor indeed anything at all over the mad rush of blood pounding in her ears and the quiet whimpers of need that caught in the back of her throat. So when Gar’s shocked exclamation interrupted the relative peace of the afternoon it caught her utterly and completely off-guard. Jesus fuck! The startled curse was muffled by Jase’s mouth on hers- or hers on his, the two being so intertwined it would’ve been almost impossible to determine- and it was only the reflexive tightening of her thighs around his waist and her hands on his back that prevented her from falling backwards off the railing. All at once, the heat that had been building in her core surged to the surface of her skin, staining with crimson the sun-warmed cheeks that had moments before been rosy with desire. Oh, god. Oh, my fucking, god, Autumn. With a mortified, despairing groan, she buried her face against her boyfriend’s shoulder, as if in doing so she could somehow escape the awkward. “Hi, Gar,” she muttered almost inaudibly, pleading in vain for some merciful deity to just incinerate her on the spot. "Dad." Jason's voice held a taut husk as he fought back down the consuming urge, his hands still holding Autumn to him, aware of her arms and legs having tightened even further around his lean form as he glanced at his father, breathing hard and eyes alight with a feral flame for a long moment... and then returning to his normal outward composure as control reasserted itself. "So I guess you didn't hear the pickup." he noted, glancing quickly to ensure both teens were decent before actually turning back to face them with an uncomfortable smile. "You guys have a good training day?" "Productive." Jason nodded, his breathing coming a little easier as his heart slowed and blood settled from the searing heat that had been running through his veins. He still cradled Autumn, one hand gently stroking the ends of her hair absently as he spoke. "The old plough is fixed - though needs a tow linkage bar. The far north field is a bit waterlogged but should be fine. And we learned a lot from each other." "Good. Good." Gar smiled a little less awkwardly. "I was gonna get some dinner going - Autumn, you want to stay for a bit?" It hadn’t been all that long since Devin had brought back pizza, but the prospect of finding out more about the laconic young man and his dad firsthand- and of getting a free dinner on top of that- was enough to make up her mind. Still red-faced, she nodded against Jason’s chest, and then, realizing that wasn’t really an answer, tried again. Turning her head so that her cheek was pressed against her companion’s breastbone, her flame-crowned head tucked beneath his chin, Autumn hazarded a smile at Gar. “Um, for a little bit, yeah, thank you. I could eat.” The gear the older man was carrying caught her eye, and for a moment she wondered what he and his friends got up to on their outings. It also struck her as a little bit strange, an interesting coincidence that both Jase and his father had gone camping on the same weekend. She inhaled, an involuntary shiver running hot and cold through her body as she breathed in Jason’s scent, and swallowed hard. Down, girl. “And, if you want, I’m happy to help out. I mean, I don’t know how to cook Provencal anything, but I’ll do what I can.” Gar chuckled slightly. "Oh, it's my turn to cook, so it won't be anything fancy or experimental. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes with some green stuff on the side. Come on through to the kitchen and I'll put you to work." he smiled good-naturedly at the girl before disappearing through the front door, leaving the pair alone again, though they could hear him opening closets and doors inside as he stowed his gear. "I'm going to take a shower. A cold one." Jason murmured, his lips moving against Autumn's coppery curls, taking a breath and letting it out again slowly. She could feel the warmth of his exhalation on her scalp as he lifted her down from the porch rail, then gently kissed her upturned lips, his eyes closing for a moment as he did so, then smiled slightly and led her inside. They parted ways at the foot of the stairs, Jason letting his fingers slip from hers as he stepped away, his eyes still on her, before turning and taking the steps up two at a time. As he disappeared round the corner of the stairwell, Gar stuck his head out of the kitchen doorway. "I'm betting you know your way around a potato peeler." he waggled the implement between thumb and forefinger at her. "Mind starting with that?" "Yeah," she replied distractedly, watching Jason quickly mount the stairs. She’d been in that shower herself, and it was hard not to imagine him there now beneath the spray, with that clean, faintly herbal scented lather on his- No. No, no, no. “No.” Autumn shook her head, echoing her own silent admonition to herself as she tore her eyes away from the staircase, a renewed wave of scarlet suffusing her skin. “No, I mean, I don’t mind. Sorry. I wasn’t thinking.” She followed Gar into the kitchen, humming under her breath as she busied herself physically by scrubbing the potatoes he brought, and mentally by trying to think of how she was going to broach the subject of the letter and the talisman to her mom. Jason's dad seemed to be handling the crazy well enough; he didn't look quite as tired as he had the first time she'd met him, more alert and interested, and a little of the sadness in his warm hazel eyes had dissipated. In theory, having at least grown up with Owen's seemingly outlandish stories, Dana might be completely fine after an initial freakout. Or she could ship me off somewhere, the redhead sighed internally, glancing over to where the elder Bannon was prepping the chicken. "Hey, Gar?" She frowned a little as she dug out a bruised spot from the pale white flesh, still swaying slightly on her feet at the music playing in the background of her thoughts. "Can I be nosy for a minute? Jason's dad glanced over at her as he mixed the seasoned breading together, a curious expression on his face. He was perhaps a shade shorter and a lot broader of shoulder than Jason, his eyes more of a muddy hazel than vivid green, and his face was animated, warm and human compared to his son's remote outward mien. But there were similarities too, such as the quick intelligence, undulled by drink now, that gleamed in his eyes as he regarded his son's girlfriend. "Sure." he said after a moment, smiling. "What's on your mind, Autumn?" The expressive redhead took a deep breath, holding onto it for a moment as she decided how to start, and then exhaling in a sudden rush. "So, I've been kind of wondering." Tilting her head, she returned the smile he'd directed at her, nose crinkling slightly as the expression turned rueful. "I didn't really get a chance to ask last night, because, you know. Existential terror and all that." Still smiling, Autumn shrugged at that, a sort of nonverbal punctuation easily interpreted even by those not familiar with her. "But... How are you taking all this?" She gestured broadly with peeler in hand, indicating more than just the kitchen and the dinner preparations. "Since the hospital, I mean. Not Jason and me." The smile changed, broadened, and she could feel her cheeks growing warmer by degrees as she glanced quickly back down at the few potatoes that remained and picked one up. "I feel like I'm gonna have to tell my mom, you know? And I know you two are different people, but you kind of remind me of her, a little, and I was wondering how you've been handling the sort of... I don't know. The nightmare stuff, and having us all out here. Because it's crazy, right? And, I guess..." Autumn swallowed, shrugged again as she blinked back the sting that warned of imminent tears. "I guess I don't want to make her worry any more than she needs to." Gar nodded slowly as he started coating the chicken pieces, his expression contemplative as the fiery-haired girl spoke and for a long moment afterwards. The silence stretched out a little, and when Jason's dad did speak it was with slow deliberation. "Honestly? I've been scared almost witless." he confessed in a quiet voice. "Nothing new there - I was always scared about being a lousy dad, or that Jason was autistic. Finding out about him just gave me something concrete to be afraid of rather something from inside my own imagination." He sighed, brushing some crumbs of breading from his fingers over the bowl before grabbing another piece of chicken. "Monsters, conspiracies, ancient aliens stuff, psionic powers, and him being... different... they all worry me." "But he's Jase, you know? I can't stop him doing what he's doing. I'm not even sure that morally I should try. For all that he's only sixt-" The older man's voice wavered a little, but he continued to speak as he prepped the meal. "-sixteen, he's not a child. So if I can't stop him, all I can do is make sure he's not distracted by me, that I'm a help rather than a hindrance. And once I realised that, it got easier." He smiled over at Autumn, his eyes a little moist but with tears unshed. "And he has you, and the others - some of them, at least." Gar snorted slightly. "You guys aren't going off alone to fight monsters. You've got him, and he's got you." He shrugged. "It's a challenge, but I can't help if I'm panicking and trying to wrap him in cotton wool." Autumn was quiet for a few moments, finishing up the last of the potatoes and disposing of the peels as she mulled over his answer. It was the same earnestness he'd showed a week ago when she'd turned up looking for his son, hoping to retrieve the faded red hoodie that was even now tied around her waist- so very unlike Jase in terms of being openly emotional, but also very like him for being unapologetic about it, for listening, for taking her question seriously. Most adults wouldn't admit to being afraid of anything, or what they were really afraid of, least of all to a "kid." She was reminded again of that initial impression she'd gotten, the fact that she liked the slightly awkward, very human father of her now-boyfriend. He's a good dad. There was never a doubt in her mind, in any of the situations in which she'd seen Gar Bannon, that he dearly loved his strange, brilliant son, and that Jase would probably have been a very different person otherwise. Not someone she'd ever call a friend, at the very least, and definitely not someone she'd date, or get caught kissing on two separate front porches on consecutive days. Probably, he'd have ended up being exactly the way the twins described him, if not worse. "I think," she began slowly, beginning to cut the denuded tubers into manageable chunks as she considered her words, finally electing to follow on from something he'd just said. "Speaking as a friend, that we're pretty lucky, you know? We're lucky to have him, and also lucky he has you. He's-" She paused, the blade of the paring knife hovering for a brief instant over the half-deconstructed potato she was working on. He's what? 'Different?' The man knows that. "Kind of amazing, honestly," the animated girl admitted quietly, unable to suppress the smile that spread slowly across her features. "And, thanks. I want to be honest with my mom, and she's kind of used to me doing everything on my own, so... maybe if it's not just me, it'll be easier." "Honesty definitely would be my first pick - but she's your mom. Ultimately, you know best whether you think she can handle it." Gar smiled a little at her. "I have to say, though, getting thrown in the deep end the way I was is not the best way to get introduced to the weirdness but it definitely cut through a lot of BS about what is possible. I saw what Jason can do, what all of you can do. As demonstrations go, it was effective." "Tell me about it." Autumn smiled, her nose crinkling slightly as she peered over at him. "My introduction was Jason holding a door shut on me, then pulling ice cubes out of tap water like a stage magician pulling ping pong balls from his ear." Gar looked at her askance, then snorted with laughter, Autumn's own merriment mingling with his as the two relaxed a little. "I think your mom will be okay. She seems a sensible woman - so she'll naturally assume you're insane and then that she's insane. But she'll get past it." Gar said as their chuckling faded. "I did." "Yeah." Autumn said thoughtfully, setting the knife down and dumping the chopped potatoes into the pot of water before turning and feeling her heart jump up into her throat as she noticed Jason standing in the doorway to the kitchen, leaning against the doorpost and watching her. "Shit! Sorry... sorry..." she apologised, feeling her face redden a little. Typically, he'd not made a sound as he'd come downstairs. Gar looked around at her outburst, then spotted his son and nodded. "Yeah. He does that. Been doing it since as long as I could remember." he confided in Autumn. "Hank likes to joke that if you can't hear anything, it means Jason's standing behind you staring at the inside of your skull." "I have to find some ways to entertain myself." Jase said quietly, with a faint smile. "And sneaking up on Hank was a great way to learn how to cuss." "Mhmm, unlike the rest of us who had to learn it from cranky old men and the internet," Autumn replied with a grin, staunchly refusing to acknowledge the flush of warmth that always surfaced whenever she realized Jase was observing her. She'd asked him about it when they'd gone camping- what he saw when looking at her so intently- but it couldn't be the same answer all the time, and surely there was nothing all that fascinating about mashed potatoes. Was there? She was tempted to ask again, but reminded herself that if he answered, he'd do it honestly, and that... might not be something Gar Bannon especially needed to hear. Or maybe even that she needed to hear. With Jason, it was hard to say. And, in fairness, it wasn't that she minded, really; it could be a little bit unnerving, that level of attentiveness, but also sort of flattering, maybe? Mostly, she was just curious, though that was true about a lot of things where he was concerned. "Have you guys been friends very long?" she asked instead, glancing first at the older man and then the younger with inquisitive blue eyes warmed by the presence of good company. She had a vague idea that Jase spent time with Hank, training, and that Gar himself was somehow associated with the militia. Neither thought was especially reassuring, but the rational part of her stubbornly maintained that she liked both the Bannon men, and for whatever reason, they both seemed to like Hank Graskle, so... Perhaps her judgement of him was as unjustified as it had been of the two in front of her now. As with everything else, there was really only one way to know for sure, and that started with asking. "Also, if there's anything besides potatoes you need help with, my hands are free." "Looks like dinner's under control for now. As for Hank... Since about a year after we came to Shelly, though I met him six months in when I hooked up with the Sons." Gar revealed as he set the pot to cooking and started warming up the oil pan. "We got along, but he's a private person, so it was a while before we were actually friends." He gave Autumn a knowing look, tinged with a little defensiveness. "Folks round here don't approve of him much, but he's a good guy, and for all that people like to snicker about 'militia crazies', Hank ethos is one of self-sufficiency and being prepared for the worst days rather than counting on the good ones to last forever. The Sons aren't right-wing uber-Christian neo-fascists or whatever. We're just a support network for each other: folks who feel that the system increasingly grinds up individual rights in pursuit of the greater good, and that sooner or later it will likely collapse, so let's get ready for it rather than panic about it. Actual revolutionary types get given the bums rush." "Mostly it's just a bunch of vets, men - and some women - sitting around discussing the best way to grow potatoes and keep livestock over sharing beers." Jason put in as he moved towards the coffee pot, preparing three mugs of coffee: black for himself, a dash of cream for Gar, and cream and sugar for Autumn. Gar's mug floated to set down next to the man as Jason stepped close to Autumn, offering her the coffee in much the same fashion as she had offered one to him earlier, sharing a smile with her as their eyes met. "Plus some paramilitary style training - which is what has most people nervous I would imagine." "I was in a bad way when I came here." Gar nodded, speaking quietly. "I felt like I'd been screwed over by the system, and was talking to all sorts of wackjob conspiracy theorists trying to get a sense of control of my life back. On the whole, I'm lucky I fell in with Hank. He helped get my head straight - sorta. I still crawled into a bottle for a few years, but at least I wasn't full-on nuts." He cleared his throat, smiling a little. "Anyway. That's the tale of the Bannons and Hank." Autumn nodded, smiling back as she leaned her hip against the counter and took a sip of coffee, rolling the taste of it around on her tongue even as she turned Gar's words over in her head. It was a lot to take in, especially when she really hadn't expected him to be quite that open and forthcoming about everything. Probably has something to do with Hank being his best friend, she reflected. People tended to be protective of the things that were important to them, and Jason's dad was much easier to read than The Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities. "Sorry. I didn't really mean for that to be a- a judgy kind of question. I just don't know much about him, and I've seen him a couple of times now, so..." She took another drink from her mug and rolled it thoughtfully between her palms, absently watching the creamy whorls of ivory and brown intermingle fluidly. "He does make me nervous." Glancing up at the elder Bannon, she managed an awkward smile at the admission. "But, you don't. And Jase doesn't." She paused for a beat, tilting her head back to peer at the tall, enigmatic young man behind her with a glimmer of laughter in the shifting blue-grey-green of her eyes. "Not always, at least. Unless he's trying to, and then it's pretty much guaranteed." Straightening, she added, "So, I feel pretty okay, I guess, taking your word for it until I find out for myself." "Which is all that can be reasonably asked." Gar nodded as he loaded the basket up with a few pieces of chicken and lowered it into the oil pan, watching the surface for a few minutes as it seethed and roiled. Turning then, and picking up his own mug, he smiled briefly at her and took a drink. The kitchen was silent for a little while, then, but it was a comfortable sort of silence; Gar keeping one eye on the stove as he reflected and sipped coffee, and Jason leaning against the counter next to Autumn, close enough she could feel his hip brushing hers, himself content not to speak. Autumn reflected on the way both men, young and old, seemed comfortable with silence and stillness, differing in quality though the feel of it was from each. Gar was the stillness of a forest glade - there was motion there, leaves and fronds stirred in the breeze, a sense of things happening out of sight but none of them particularly ominous. Whereas Jason was, of course, the frozen primordial lake: nothing appeared to disturb the stillness at all, and then you walked out on the ice and realised that you could see beneath it... and then something down there where the water was warmer stirred and looked back at you. "How are you handling all this?" Gar said into the quiet after a short while, glancing at Autumn curiously. "I mean, training to use your gift, being expected to fight monsters and timeless evils, not to mention Aeon and Branch 9 and Crossroads." He smiled wryly at her. "How does a nice sensible girl like you deal with this madness?" "You're assuming I'm nice and sensible." She grinned, a flash of fey humor in the wide, sea-colored eyes that sparkled at him over the rim of her mug as she took another drink. It was a fair question: she'd just asked him more or less the same thing, and he'd mentioned a week prior that he hadn't really been able to hold a conversation with his son's friends, so it stood to reason he'd be curious how the people Jase would be fighting alongside might be coping. Turning the mug in her hands, absently savoring the warmth of it in her fingers, Autumn considered that. A few of the teens- Jason included- had mentioned or alluded to the fact that all of them might not be coming home. What that meant to her, personally, was a very different thing than what it might mean to someone else. Especially when that someone else was a father who was, even indirectly, trusting her with his child's life. Oh. Well, fuck. Why hadn't that occurred to her before? Autumn wondered at that. Was it just because she wasn't a parent, and didn't think like one? Or because really having to think about other people in general still felt awkward and uncomfortable, like a new pair of boots that hadn't yet been broken in? Hmm. Aware that Gar was still waiting for an answer, still patiently sort-of smiling as the gears in her head turned (probably audibly), she nodded, acknowledging the question more seriously. "It is madness, yeah, like you said," she began quietly, studying the half-full mug in her hands. "Scary in a very real, nightmares-come-to-life kind of way. Which, mostly is fine. Fear can be useful, you know? Healthy. In most people," she amended, gently nudging Jason's hip with her own. "But sometimes there's no running away from what you're afraid of. Sometimes you have to walk toward it, I think. The worst that happens is what would've happened anyway, but you're on your feet and facing it, if that makes sense.” She smiled again, slightly. “That’s kind of what my grandfather tried to teach me. The difference in just being afraid of something, kind of letting instinct take over, and consciously respecting it. So, I guess, to answer your question, I just…” She paused, lower lip caught momentarily between her teeth. “I just do. Do the thing now, freak out afterward. Sort of like last night. Maybe I cry, or get sick, or go sit in my treehouse and smoke a little. Or a lot,” the redhead admitted with another little grin, “depending. But I also feel like maybe it’s easier for me, because it isn’t just me anymore. I do have a couple of friends now, which sounds kind of sad when I say it out loud, and I found out my family, my mom’s side I mean, has been dealing with this since before Shelly was a thing. So.” She was quiet for a moment, then hazarded a glance up from the swirling mixture of cream and caffeine. “Does that help? "Having a couple of friends isn't sad." Gar grinned at her. "Means you're discerning. Quality over quantity, right?" They shared a smile, then Gar took out the cooked chicken and put on a fresh batch to fry as he pondered. "It does help, though. Sounds like you're dealing with it right in my opinion. It's still sorta hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that Jase here-" he indicated the Effing One with a wry smile, "-finds having a girlfriend more of a thing worthy of talking about than fighting evil beasties." "He does, hmm?" Autumn glanced at Jason, feeling her cheeks pinken again as she realised his eyes were on her, had probably been on her the entire time. He wasn't moon-eyed or anything, just... studying her. Intently. He's learning me, like I'm a language. she realised then, with a small smile, thinking about her 'Bannonology notes for dummies'. He was interested in her in pretty much the same way she found him fascinating - or at least, it seemed that way. "Oh yeah. Can't shut up about you." Gar's wink let Autumn know he was teasing. Jason's gaze flickered to his father, curiously, then he too realised that Gar was kidding around and smiled a little as he took a drink from his coffee. Dinner was comfortable and uneventful. Much as when Devin had come round a few days earlier, talk of Dark, powers and weird stuff was by common consensus not brought up. Gar ate ravenously, and the teens only slightly less so despite having had pizza not so long ago. They discussed the upcoming hunting season, school and sports and the plans for the Carousel festival tomorrow - turned out Gar and Hank would likely be there, grilling and chilling with other Shellyites. Jason made mention of the fact he'd be in Great Falls most of the morning with Sean, but should be back before the afternoon wore on too late, and Autumn tried not to think about what he'd said about buying condoms, because that way lay fiery-faced spontaneous combustion. Finally, with the meal over, Gar went to rest whilst the teens quickly cleaned up. "Once we're done here, I'll get you home." Jase said quietly as he scrubbed and rinsed a plate. He glanced sideways at Autumn, a faint smile playing around his eyes and lips. "We could go by road... or air. Which would you prefer?" Ohmygod! Ohmygodhohmygodohmygod! Pleeeeease don’t let him be kidding! The response was near-instantaneous, her decision requiring only slightly longer than it took for his words to register. "Seriously?!" Realizing just a moment too late how loud her startled exclamation was, she clapped the dish-towel over her mouth, wide-eyed. Even through the layers of cloth, Autumn’s girlish squeals of excitement were unmistakable as she bounced on the balls of her feet, with only the fact that Jason’s dad was trying to relax keeping her from actually jumping up and down right there in the kitchen. He’d told her on the camping trip that if he ever learned to fly properly, she could be his first passenger; and a flush totally unrelated to the anticipation of Jase making good on his word stole across her cheeks at the memory of the look in his eyes there in the firelight, what he’d said after, and whether the way he’d said it had meant anything… But the last, at least, was something for Future Autumn to worry about. Current Autumn needed a completely different kind of confirmation. The clear blue eyes that studied his features fairly shone with anticipation, searching his expression for some hint of teasing not betrayed by the Effing Boyfriend’s neutral tone. “Seriously?” She tried again, softer this time but no less urgently, dish-towel still clutched just under her chin in the event she needed to muffle another shriek. There was a pleading note in her voice as she leaned closer, and a suggestion of hopeful optimism. “You’re not just messing with me, are you?” His smile widened a little, which could be deliberate mannerism on his part, but the warmer hue to his gaze was unmistakeable. "I promised." he said simply, as though that explained everything, then paused, his head tilting slightly. "And even if I hadn't, I'd still offer. It's a nice evening." Another pause, his eyes almost luminous as they rested on hers. "And there's no-one I'd rather fly with." It was nothing short of miraculous that Jase managed to hold on to the plate- although certainly his ability to rapidly process visual information, in concert with the multitude of expressions he'd observed in the last few days, must have helped- as Autumn threw her arms around him in a fiercely exuberant embrace. Pressing her face against his chest to stifle the cheers of unadulterated joy, the energetic redhead thanked all the gods that hadn't incinerated her thus far for ignoring her pleas. He let go of the plate, which drifted onto the drying rack, because there were better uses for his hands, weren't there? Such as holding the copper-tressed elfin creature who was currently excitedly cheering directly to his heart as he felt her energy surge and roil and enfold him as much as her arms were tightly clasping him to her. It was a good feeling, this feeling. Warming without being consuming, a tenderness to it that was almost selfless - her happiness being a tangible state he could feel, or so it seemed - and important to him. He smiled slightly, resting his cheek against the top of her head as one arm enfolded her and the other gently stroked her hair whilst he reflected on that warmth which, he was pretty sure, he would always associate with copper curls, eyes like the sea, and a crinkle-nosed smile illuminating a freckled face. "You'll have to hold on tight, of course." he said with a faint teasing tone, his eyes closing as he breathed in the warm scent of her and felt her hair against his cheek. "Mm, are you kidding me?" Autumn grinned broadly and unreservedly, the change in her expression a tactile sensation through the fabric of his shirt as she hugged him with renewed enthusiasm. "You'd have to pry me off with a crowbar. Believe me, I don't plan on letting go." She could feel the sure, steady drum of his heart against her temple, and, breathing in the somehow green fragrance of his soap with the suggestion of his own scent just beneath, the lively young woman felt improbably, unequivocally happy. It was a feeling totally incongruous with the unsettling knowledge that in roughly 24 hours they'd be facing the stuff of nightmares, and yet the present and undeniable reality was this. Just, This, whatever it was, or meant- or didn't. And This was, really and truly, fine. Drawing back a little, she lifted her head and pressed a brief, but warm kiss against the side of Jason's throat, brushing her lips in a feathery caress over his pulse, and finally released him. "Come on. Let's finish all the boring stuff so you can take me home. I mean, I'm not in a hurry to be there," she conceded with a laugh, "but now I can't wait to go." They fell to with a vengeance, finishing up the dishes and wiping everything down. Between Autumn's enthusiasm and Jase's meticulous efficiency and second pair of hands, they likely set a record or two - not that they were actively counting the seconds anyway. There was rather an underlying sense of simple pleasure in each other's company that thrummed under the busyness, expressed in glances and smiles and the occasional soft-spoken exchange. Finally they were done, and Autumn waited by the back door, practically bouncing on the balls of her feet as Jase slipped upstairs to check on his father before returning, as noiselessly as he'd left. "Sleeping." he noted in answer to Autumn's expectant look, then opened the door and, taking her hand, led her outside. "Okay, how're we doing this- eep!" Autumn's question was cut off in a squeak as Jase turned, folded an arm around her waist and another behind her knees, and lifted her with his own arms as though she were a toddler rather than a healthy athletic one-forty. Almost on reflex, she threw her arms around his neck and shoulders, blue eyes wide with surprise as she stared at his face. Jason wasn't a ninety pound weakling, but still - to lift her in a bridal carry without even a soft grunt of effort was not something she would expect from anyone less built than Cade. "A new trick." he explained, his eyes gleaming iridescently with amusement at her shock. "I'm kinetically amplifying what my own muscles are capable of. Comfortable?" Even as she sought for words, she was aware that the two of them were rising into the air, Jason slowly turning in place as they ascended so she could look out over the panoramic view. They were ascending deceptively smoothly, before she knew it they were three times the height of the farmhouse and still climbing, the sun beginning to set in the western mountains and the lights starting to come on in nearby Shelly. “Yeah. Yeah, I am.” Autumn’s soft reply reflected something of the childlike wonder shining in her eyes as the earth fell away beneath them. There was a strange sense of unreality as they rose above the Bannon homestead without engines, instruments, or anything at all between them and the sky, or the ground, or the rest of the wide world around them- no artificial barriers, just… Potential. Possibility. The higher they climbed, the more dreamlike the whole experience seemed as her perspective shifted and the physical limitations of the world she lived in expanded. The farm. The roads she biked down. The fields and the woods and the surrounding homes, the hard line of the horizon interrupted by the distant swells of hill and mountain. It all shrank as the first few stars appeared faintly overhead, glittering flecks of prismatic color in a broadening expanse of soft violet. A week ago, she’d never have imagined this moment, the indescribable upwelling of delight and exhilaration and, oddly, peace engendered by the experience. No matter what happens tomorrow, she realized, I had this today. A sudden surge of vertigo played havoc with her vision as the bright-eyed redhead peered up at the infinite vault above and then downward, and then quickly buried her face against Jase’s shoulder as the world spun dizzily, disjointed from the slow turns he was making. She made a quiet sound that mingled groaning and laughter, her arms tightening a little around him until her psionic energies automatically compensated for the disruption of equilibrium. “You’re really- this is really happening,” the girl in his arms breathed rapturously, admiring as she gazed up at him the shape of his features in the twilight, the brilliance of his eyes, and then the seemingly endless scope of the late summer evening as it descended around them. "It is." His return gaze was no less intent than hers, taking in the shine of her eyes and the way the dying sun struck sparks of fire from her hair and loaned her ivory skin a glow that was outshone by the radiant joy in her expression. Her arms around his neck, her lips forming his name as she exhaled caused yet again that sounding, that chime deep within him that hinted, for an instant, at a deeper mystery than he could fathom. She was light and warmth and life and happiness - and holding her close, seeing that reflection of himself as she saw him bathed in that same warm emotion enriched him immeasurably. 'Granola can help', Devin had said, and he was right. Through Autumn, he connected with that human ephemera of warm happiness where before there had only been cool contentment or satisfaction. Through her, Jason understood a form of joy. "You are a series of revelations to me." he said softly, feeling that need to say more, to let her know how special she truly was. Instead he kissed her, a brief, sweet kiss that broke too soon for either of them, then smiled as he angled them towards the Keane home at roughly five hundred feet up, feeling her arms tighten and hearing her whoop of excitement whipped away by the wind of their passing. He kept their speed a steady forty miles per hour, both for comfort and because he did not want the trip to end too soon; travelling as as the crow flew meaning that the meandering of roads had little bearing on their course. And then Autumn was not just rising, but flying. Well, technically, Jase was the one doing all the work, and she was mostly just trying not to squirm so much that he dropped her, but still- flying. The closest she’d ever gotten to this feeling on her own was riding her bike, racing down a hill so fast she couldn’t keep her feet on the pedals and praying no one pulled out onto the road in front of her. Even then, though, she’d still been tethered to the earth, rooted by gravity to that mechanical assemblage of wheels and chain links and gears. Here it was just her, and the wind, and the warm reassurance of Jason’s arms as she laughed, pointed at places she recognized and wondered aloud what people would think if someone saw them, and tried in vain to keep the uncooperative red-gold curls out of her eyes so that she could see, damn it. Suspended between earth and sky, the restless teen again had that same mad, fleeting notion she’d gotten on the drive to Browning, that they could just keep going- that a part of her wanted to keep going, despite her family, despite the obligations and boring, mundane matters that demanded otherwise. How much broader the landscape looked from this height, and how very small Shelly, Montana seemed by contrast! Maybe if they got through this, she’d be able to see for herself what lay beyond the horizon, the edge of the world she knew. She could hope, anyway, and she did. Crazier things had happened, after all. Like this- because, honestly, dating Jason Bannon (much less feeling any type of way about him at all besides terrified) was kind of crazy, and she knew it. She was also at least a few hundred feet in the air, watching flat land slowly give rise to the hills and woods where she'd grown up, so... Eh. Crazy was kind of relative, really. "This is perfect, you know?" She leaned forward with a grin, her lips almost against his ear as she spoke over the sound of the air rushing past. "I'm gonna want to do this all the time now!" She felt, rather than heard, him chuckle as they began to descend and slow down, his eyes crinkling at the edges betokening good humor. He had followed her pointing finger, occasionally varying his course to bring them nearer to landmarks she'd pointed out, enjoying the the feel of her arm around his neck as she excitedly squirmed to look in every direction at once. He didn't think the chances of them being spotted were high - they were five hundred feet up and most of those capable of spotting them would be in Shelly, looking into the setting sun. Twilight and dawn were the times when the human eye was least adapted to dealing with the light and it was hardest to sort the real from the fantastical, which was probably why they were used as metaphors and devices in poems and tales. He spotted the Keane house, and near it the woods threaded with the bright ribbon of the creek where he had taken a chance and gambled a friendship for something more, and won. Perhaps they had both gambled, the thought occurred to him. Autumn was taking a chance, from her perspective. A calculated one, maybe... But then again, maybe not. For all his rationalisation of why he liked Autumn, why he was attracted to her, he realised that to be simply analysis after the fact. He was drawn instinctually to her bravery, emotional warmth and femininity, much as he was to Marissa's imperious manner, wit and beauty. There were many reasons why an attraction existed, for certain, but they were less important than the draw itself. And whereas one had rejected him, feared him, the other found him... amazing. Noting the car parked outside the Keane garage, he gently set them down a couple of dozen meters down the track that led off the property, then carefully lowered Autumn so she could stand. "We can do this again, for certain." he smiled at her, taking her hand in his and walking her towards her home. "I was wondering if you'd like to go on an actual date, also. Say... this coming Friday evening? Great Falls? Dinner and a movie?" His smile turned mischievous. "First class air ticket?" The worst thing about moments you never wanted to end, Autumn realized, was that they always did, eventually. Maybe that made them more special, though? After all, if you always got everything you wanted, you wouldn't appreciate any of it as much, would you? You might even start to resent it, or take it for granted that just because you wanted something, you were entitled to have it, or that it would always be there. The best thing, she decided, was that sometimes, with certain people, you had a lot of those moments, which was kind of the best of both worlds. Sure, the moments still ended, but you were almost guaranteed to discover new ones whenever they were around. Jase, she was finding, was apparently one of those people. They'd landed, of course. They were back on good old terra firma and walking toward her house; she could feel the rocks beneath the soles of her sneakers, their irregular shapes uncomfortable enough to remind her she was awake. Why, then, feeling his fingers intertwined with hers as he asked her out on a for-real date, could she almost swear her feet hadn't yet touched the ground? I guess he really was serious about the 'less casual' thing. The thought was immediately followed by the sensation of warmth spreading through her veins- gradual and pleasant, easy, rather than the quick rush of heat the intense young genius normally provoked with either his teasing or his kisses in roughly equal measures. "Friday, hmm?" She tried- and failed- not to sound too eager, her instinctive enthusiasm for the idea evident in the slightly higher pitch of her voice, in the reflexive tightening of her hand in his, and the suggestion of a bounce in her step as they headed up the drive. Dinner and a movie was a date date. Going to Great Falls meant it would be late when she got home, so her mom... and maybe her dad, if he stayed all week... might already be in bed. That flush of warmth grew warmer at the implications of being alone, after dark, unsupervised with Jason, especially if he was really serious about flying there. It had only taken a few minutes to get from his home to hers, and already she wanted to drag him up to the half-finished tree house and prolong the evening with fewer clothes involved. "I'd like that, yeah," she smiled up at him, her eyes reflecting the deepening hue of the sky. And yet... Would they be here, on Friday? She ran her thumb across his, memorizing the shape of his features, the almost luminous green of his eyes in the half-light. Of course he's not human. Just look at those cheekbones. Fuck. Maybe asking her out now was his way of expressing hope that they would be around then, defying the metaphorical darkness and the very real Dark by affirming his intent to live. "I'll ask my mom about it after tomorrow. You know, once we've had a chance to-" Exhaling, the earnest redhead shrugged a little, her smile fading slightly as the lengthening shadows stretched around them. "To work out the details. It's a weekend, but I'm sure she'll still wanna talk to you about it, you know? Especially if my dad's home." "Of course." Jase replied, still smiling slightly in the gathering dusk as the lights from the Keane home danced in the pools of his gaze and glinted on Autumn's hair. "If I know Dana, she will likely question me closely." His eyes glittered with laughter at the expression on his girlfriend's face. "I shall be circumspect in what I say." "Oh god..." Autumn had a sudden mental image of Jason calmly stating his intention to have mutually-enjoyable naked sexy fun-times with her, and the subsequent clanging of a convent bell somewhere in Europe. "Please, don't get me locked away in a convent." "If I do, I promise to come and break you out again." Jason's tone was matter-of-fact, and despite the traces of humour in his expression Autumn could readily imagine ancient, iron-bound oaken doors being ripped bodily from their hinges as the Devil himself stalked through a priory, sending nuns fleeing before him like a flock of birds before a hungry cat as he searched... for her. And there was another warm rush right there, the realisation that the Chiefest and Greatest of Catastrophes was not only impossible and impenetrable, but implacable. He would come for her, she realised as she glanced at his profile. Because she was his, because he cared, because he had promised... pick whichever reason you liked. They had reached the bottom of the steps leading up to her porch, and already both teens could hear the barking of the dogs start up inside. Jason glanced at the front door, then turned to Autumn, giving her a brief, too-fleeting kiss on the lips. "I'll see you tomorrow at the Carousel." he murmured... And then was gone, rising up into the dusk in a rush that further tousled Autumn's wild copper curls as, a second later, the door opened to show her mom, peering out at whatever had the dogs roused and spotting her. "Welcome home." Dana looked a little askance at her daughter, who'd been staring upwards when she opened the door and looked properly windblown as though she'd been riding her bike without a hair tie. "Everything okay, sweetheart?" “Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.” Autumn smiled, quickly mounting the steps as she tucked her hair behind her ears. “Just a long day, and I think I ate my weight in fried chicken. Apparently Jason’s dad’s a really good cook, too,” she added, closing the door as the two Keane women went inside, the dogs milling around their ankles in an excited bid for attention. “I wonder if that’s where he learned it from? Huh.” Dana paused just inside the door, a slight frown drawing her auburn brows together as she regarded her rosy-cheeked offspring dubiously. “I thought you four were headed out to the reservation this morning?” “Yeaaahhh, and then afterward we all went and ran around at his place, the farm on the other side of town.” Shit, I totally forgot to say anything. Fucking hell, Autumn. “Sorry, I know I should’ve called, but I kind of… didn’t think about it.” She grimaced, thrusting her hands into the front pockets of her jeans and rocking back slightly onto her heels. “Mhmm. I didn’t think about a lot of things when your father and I were dating, either.” Dana plucked an errant blade of grass from her blushing daughter’s hair, twirling it bemusedly between her thumb and forefinger. “Mom, no, no,” Autumn protested, withdrawing her hands to wave them as if warding off some invisible assailant. “It wasn’t like that, I promise.” Beat. “Also, gross.” Her mother’s amusement was evident in the slow ascent of a single eyebrow and the twitch of her lips. “It’s only ‘gross’ because we’re your parents.” “Well, yeah. That’s exactly why.” The younger redhead’s expression- brow furrowed, the corners of her mouth turned down as she shook her head- was the perfect non-verbal representation of the ‘ugh’ that found its way into so many of her conversations. Did all parents feel compelled to casually remind their kids that they had, at some point in the ridiculously ancient past, made out? Or even… Blegh. No. No no no no no. Suppressing a shudder at the horror of such imaginings, the energetic young Girl Scout knelt down, rubbing furry canine sides and scratching behind ears in an age-old ritual to restore wholesomeness and peace of mind. “All right, well. Speaking of your father, he called a little while ago and said he’s on his way in. He should be here around eleven, midnight at the latest. He also told me not to let you stay up this time.” Dana grinned, gently tousling her daughter’s already-disheveled mane even as she scrutinized the tell-tale signs of sunburn on her fair skin. “But you and I both know that’s not going to work, so how about this. Since you were late, and since you didn’t text me, you can go take the dogs for a run and make sure they’re fed. Then go get cleaned up and changed, because you look like you’ve been playing in a field all day. Don’t wrinkle your nose at me, young lady,” she laughed, as Autumn did just that, rising to her feet as the dogs settled down around them. “I didn’t tell you to roll around in the grass, did I? Once you’ve had a shower, put some aloe vera gel on that pretty face of yours, and after that we’ll do popcorn and AMC on the couch until your dad gets here. Deal?” As punishments went, playing with the dogs was pretty light, so she didn’t think her mom was actually mad. She’d been honest, after all, and it had also been a while since they’d just hung out and watched old movies together. It was an easy decision to begin with, made easier by the sobering thought that they might not get another chance to do it. Which… they were going to have to talk about, and soon, but not until she brought the letter and the talisman home, at least. “Deal.” “Did Jason not feel like saying hello?” Dana glanced meaningfully toward the front door, and then back at the restless girl he’d returned home. “Oh. Yeah, he kind of flew off in a hurry.” Do not leave it there, Autumn. Do. Not. Trying unsuccessfully not to grin at her own bad joke, she quickly added, “He should be at the Carousel sometime tomorrow, though. His dad, too. I think you’d like him. Gareth Bannon, I mean. He reminds me of you, actually.” She paused, considering her general impression of the man thus far. “Super smart, but down-to-earth, too, you know?“ Dana did not know, and in fact had a very different impression of the elder Bannon based on things she’d heard; as she watched her daughter re-braid her hair, pale fingers deftly weaving the windblown strands into a much tidier plait, it was hard not to be swayed by the girl’s conviction. She was sixteen, after all, and so for at least a little while, she knew everything. “Mhmm,” the thoughtful veterinarian hummed noncommittally. She’d heard a lot about Jason as well, prior to the weekend, and while he did seem a little different he was also polite, and surprisingly respectful of her and, more importantly, of Autumn. While not thoroughly convinced, she had to concede that it was at least possible some of her concerns were unfounded. With a smile, she smoothed back a few of the stray curls stubbornly refusing to lay flat at her daughter’s temples. “Well, maybe we’ll go say hello. It’d be nice to see who’s looking after my girl when she’s over there, hmm? Now go on, or we’ll still be standing here when your dad gets home.” With a delighted grin, the vibrant young woman seized her mother in a brief but fierce hug. “Thanks, mom. We’ll be back in a little bit. C’mon, guys!” As if they’d been waiting for a signal, all four dogs jumped up and dashed for the door, bounding excitedly back and forth until their two-legged companion led them out to play in the purple twilight.
    2 points
  38. So, of course, after dragging the entire cooler over from the barn by herself Jason felt it was certainly a good enough idea to make use of the convenience. It would figure that he was to lazy to do it on his own, but then again, why should he? He was Jason Bannon and everyone was just part of his grand experiment in becoming a real person one day. Be that as it may, Marissa had been sitting long enough. After her conversation with Lilly, which wasn't bad as far a socializing with the Nerd Herd went, she decided to it was time to at least get serious and attempt to unfuck some of the bad karma she'd levied on herself over the course of this weekend. Amazingly enough, she didn't have a scrunchie but she didn't really care at this point. With a simple shake of her head her dark brown hair she gently primped it with her nails as she approached the gangling serial killer in training. Sill, regardless of her personal feeling on the matter she didn't want to see him dead because of Enterich's thunder-wood getting so hard that he just had to kill something because 'he was the boss'. She wouldn't mind him being broken and mangled in the same way he left Liam but she sure the Fellowship would claim that it was somehow not right than some monster would treat their poor Jason that way, completely missing the point of the irony... and that was no fun. “Last stop on the apology tour?” She asked him as she approached. Ever-spectacular in her appearance, the alluring Diva really only had that as her ice breaker since already being this close to him made her skin crawl. “So, food for thought, since your the thinker and self-proclaimed genius,” she looked down the cooler he didn't consider for his guests. “Obviously.” Her hair usually appeared black, but in the brightness of the afternoon sun it's dark brown hue shimmered here and there in the sun as she continued. “Right as we get this whole Enterich name seemingly plucked from a vision and Cody's location practically handed to us for a face-off, lo and behold, the return of Lilly. Now, were this just high school drama, Jason your ashes would already scattered, your lands burned and your fields salted, but this is not high school. I've had a bad feeling for some time now, a pang in my gut. Something, and I don't know what, just doesn't feel right. I was talking about it with my brother, so, I figured it only proper to discuss it with you too.” “My point is, be careful.” Her voice was sincere and caring enough but she could fake emotion ranges the same way Cade faked being interested in what Cosmo said about his and Marissa's compatibility. “This is just a bit too convenient, at least from my perspective. We know Shades aren't always violent and we have no proof that none of us are immune to Dark influence. I mean, what Olympic try out? She's trained her whole life and no one even knows what Olympic event she was going for... and what Olympic hopeful risks injury by playing high school sports and goes to a public school? Now, all of a sudden, in our darkest hour enter the Lilly. Might be paranoia, might not. Just food for thought.” "Interesting point of view." Jason fixed her with a stare as, head tilted slightly, he considered her words, filing away the 'high school drama, ashes, burning and salting' for later review alongside Devin's earlier statement that Marissa was unhappy about him and Autumn.. also comparing with the tone of sincere care in her voice as she warned him. Another contradiction. He wasn't sure why the rancor, or why Marissa would even care who he dated: it ceased to be her business when she turned him down. But then, she was right - whatever 'logic' led her to being mad at him was less important than the Dark and its agents. "You propose Lilly was lying about the tryouts - that should be easy to determine. Competitors are registered and their events logged somewhere. Olympic hopefuls are not too low-profile for a half-decent web search." "As for Enterich being seemingly plucked from a vision..." he went on calmly. "I have no reason to disbelieve Cassandra. If she says she saw something, then until I have good logical reason to believe otherwise I shall go with that fact. Her vision might have been fooled - but to what end? To divert us from tackling Cody? We go after him tomorrow evening anyway. This Enterich, whoever he is, is secondary to that." He took another drink of water from his recently-appropriated bottle, pale green eyes on her still. "I will take your words into consideration, though." he admitted as he lowered the bottle once more. "If something does not feel right to you, then I will treat that with the same gravity as I treat Cassandra's visions." "Sure, because Sean's never faked a document in his life, go ahead, look that up, I'm sure it's legit." She rolled her eyes. "I'm not doubting Cassie, nor Lilly. I just, I don't know. My worry-dar is off the charts and right now no one seems to really want to listen to reason." She paused and sighed. "Okay, maybe I am doubting everyone... but this world we're a part of now is insane and everyday I'm just waiting for people to just peel their faces off like this whole city is one messed up Scooby-Doo episode. I just can't even, most days. I don't have powers, all I can do is worry, so I worry. A lot. Not that anyone listens, but hey, whateves." "Anyways, just stay alert," she offered in a tone that almost seemed like she cared. "Devin's going to patrol the city tonight, make sure nothing is out of the ordinary... whatever the hell that means in this town. He'll text if there's a problem, I asked him to include you in that as well since you seem to have some sort of bromance going." "Thank you." He nodded slightly. "And... for what it may be worth, I don't dismiss your intuition, Marissa. You claim to have no powers - but you do Shine. Perhaps your worry-dar is part of it. Or maybe you just have good instincts." He gave her a faint smile, the edges of his eyes crinkling slightly. "If you have a concern, I will listen to it." He paused, his smile turning a little wry and lopsided. "I might not act on it, but I will listen. And I'll stay alert." She shifted her posture slightly, a bit relieved that Jason had agreed to remain alert, but that seemed the extent of tells the her composure was willing to gift. "Well, that's it." She said tersely. "Have fun or whatever you do and enjoy the new girlfriend. If things get weird tonight you'll know." Her arms went out from her sides and fell against her scarlet sheathed hips like a girl with nothing left to say. "If you need me for anything, Devin can let me know." With that said she began walking away. For a moment, he considered asking how she and Cade were doing, perhaps trying to converse with her as the friends they had been, a week and a lifetime ago. He weighed the apparent rancor she held against the apparent sincere care she had for his life and limb - a confusing set of equations, the math not adding up. She was a study in contradictions, and he was not sure whether she liked him or disliked him. He wasn't even sure she knew. "Marissa." he called softly, watching as she looked over one finely-shaped shoulder at him. His emerald gaze was expressive for a moment, a question flashing a fin in their depths before the waters stilled once more. "Thanks again." was all he said, his manner sober.
    2 points
  39. It had at least been civil, as she'd hoped. Or, mostly so. Although with even that dismally low expectation only narrowly satisfied, it seemed overly optimistic even by her standards to consider that any kind of real victory. No punches had been thrown and no property damaged this time, and, really, there wasn't much more to say, was there? And, despite Adrianna's somewhat justifiable disdain, it had at least been productive... If, the flaxen-haired muse acknowledged with a pointed glance in Fisher's direction, not exactly a net positive. The temptation to tell the child of Izanami exactly what she thought of him in that moment, much as she’d done to Nadya following her thoughtless and irresponsible attempt to dupe Marius, was a strong one indeed. Grim, however, had already directed ire aplenty at the tongue-tied genius, and to add her own would be pointlessly cruel. Immediately gratifying, perhaps, but cruel nonetheless, and to no purpose. “Archimedes,” Laurel began instead, her voice low and resonant as a plucked guitar string as it fairly vibrated with suppressed emotion. “Works for Zeus. Maybe you’re not familiar with Greek myth, but my grandfather isn’t exactly known for his patience and forbearance. This failure, once it gets back to him…” She inhaled, struggling to steady the trembling of her hands in her lap and, failing that, rose from her seat. “I’m sure you’ve heard the story of Prometheus, at least?” Retrieving her violin case, she glanced at the lanky form of the aptly-named Aesir as he departed. “I think Archie would appreciate hearing the news from you, first,” the summery blonde added, and then, more quietly as she considered his stricken expression: “You can do better, Fisher. I hope that you do.” To the others there was nothing to be said, but as she turned to the chocolate-skinned newcomer, Laurie flashed the young woman a decidedly warmer, almost sympathetic smile. “I’m so sorry! We haven’t been introduced, and here I am running off, but things do seem to be happening quickly, don’t they? I’m Laurel, Laurel Brightman. Laurie, if you prefer. I hope you’ll excuse me, but I have a Grim to catch.” With a brief scan of the crowd and a quick, one-handed wave she was off and moving through the coffee shop, a focused ray of sunlight pursuing a stark shadow. “Grim?” she called out over the cacophony of voices, clinking silverware and mugs, and music. It wasn’t exactly difficult to catch up with him, for which Laurie was enormously grateful- at least until the obvious reason he hadn’t gotten farther suddenly occurred to her, at which point she felt unaccountably like apologizing for the mental oversight. “Grim?” she tried again as she came up alongside him on his way out the door. “If you have a moment?”
    2 points
  40. "God damn it." Devin fumed. As he stood Marissa did as well, gesturing with her hand for him to sit back down. She looked at everyone and sighed. "I got it. This one's on me. I should fix it." The look her brother (and possibly a few others) gave her was skepticism mingled with a pinch of confusion. Marissa never felt herself accountable for her own actions, let alone was willing to make amends for them. "She's right. All I'll do is go home and pick my school outfits for next week while you're all off getting killed. I'll go talk to her." The soft thumping of her heels on the wooden floor grew softer and softer and softer as she descended the stairs to look for Cassie. She wasn't hard to spot among Dexter Bannon's murder menagerie of convenient plant-based poisons and sedatives. Yeah, he was a totally normal, one hundred percent date-able, non-shady sort of guy. Sneaking was next to impossible in Marissa's choice of everyday footwear and at her approach Cassandra had already rolls her eyes and prepared herself for round two. "Cassie?" Marissa said softly, like she didn't want to disturb her after the tapping of her hiking heels had announced her presence ten paces back. "Let me guess, you're sore and cranky?" Cassie huffed. "No, no, well, yes," she amended with a diplomatic finger raised in point of order to the ceiling. "But, no. You are right. I don't belong here. I don't have powers, I can't fight or protect anything, I just sort of... tear down walls and burn bridges. I'm scared, Cassandra. Just like you I show up to these and it's just a reminder that we're ticking down a clock to someone not making it home. I honestly don't even know why I'm here because it scares the hell out of me every time we do one of these things." She closed the distance between herself and the frustrated blonde. "Thank you," she said calmly. Cassandra wasn't expecting that and simply looked at her with a perplexed look. "For doing everything you can to keep my brother safe. I didn't quite do the math until you pointed it out up there-" "-and you blew up on me for no reason at all?" Cassie glared with an expression that demanded an apology. "We're getting off topic, focus." Marissa smiled her diva, do-no-wrong smile. "Like everyone, you are doing your damnedest with a situation that was, quite literally, dropped in our laps. My brother is all I have," Cassie detected a strange pause akin to a lump in one's throat. "...besides you guys. I get bitchy when I'm worried. Forgives?"
    2 points
  41. "That little boy got torn apart, Marissa!" Cassandra said loudly, angrily. She fixed Marissa with eyes that were reddened with tears, but by no means despairing. "The tree crushed him, and tore him up, and sucked him in, and that's on Enterich. Cooper's gone, but Enterich's still here, and it's on him." She shook her head. "Not to mention, if Crossroads is capable of all that shit you're saying, if they're listening to our phones, watching our computers...and if Enterich really is part of it...then we need to know. Not just assume! Because he's working WITH the Dark. He's working FOR the Dark. And everything they find out about us, all the spying they're doing...all of that is getting passed straight on to whatever Cody's turned into. They even probably know by now that we're coming, and they're going to want to turn our ambush into a trap." "We have to stop that from happening, or we'll just feed the tree even more. We have to know what Enterich knows about us, and we have to find out what he knows about the Dark, or we're walking into our worst nightmare. All we have to do is find him. Once we do that, we act. Fast...efficient. I can spot him, Devin can take Jase there, and before anyone knows what's happened he's under our control." Cassandra wiped her eyes again and scowled. "I'm not just letting him walk away from this."
    2 points
  42. "I get that a lot. Well, if you two aren't going to test the table, I'mma go get everyone up here." Devin's smirk was Cheshire Cat-like, all the more so since he disappeared in a ripple of purplish light mid-grin. Autumn let out a sigh, looking up at Jason's (mostly) inscrutable expression. Was he amused? Annoyed? Uncaring? About the only thing that wasn't in doubt was the way his eyes seemed to contain a flare of white heat when he met her gaze. That was anything but cool, remote or inscrutable. She shifted her hips a little, biting her lower lip to contain a faint moan as she felt the other unmistakable signal, and with reluctance unclasped her legs from around his waist and allowed herself to slide down to her tip-toes once more. Jason smiled, very faintly, and gently kissed her, watching her face light up in a smile at him despite the rose of her cheeks, before letting his hands slide from her body and stepping back. Downstairs, the impromptu interview between Shelly High's tyrant queen and plucky tenacious reporter was cut short as Cade arrived, and Marissa was just greeting him with a smile and a kiss on the cheek when Devin appeared with a sound of displaced air and a flash of dim light. "Folks, time to hustle-hustle. All standin' around here like the world's not going to end?" He shook his head. "Upstairs, guys. Before Shelly's latest power couple set fire to the table. And I prob'ly ain't being figurative there." He pantomimed fanning himself. "So unless Cassie wants to do some HBO style exposition while naked parts are thrashing around on-camera, we better move it." With that, he popped out of existence once more, reappearing by the large open loft window where he sat on the sill, grinning at the composed Jason and the still-struggling-for-composure Autumn. "They're on their way up. You plannin' on a floor show?" "Not currently." Jason replied mildly even as Autumn suffered a renewed attack of the Red Death and turned to grab water from the small fridge, grumbling something under her breath as she pressed the cool bottle to her face, then unscrewed the cap and took a drink. If Jase was embarrassed, assuming it was hypothetically possible, he wouldn't show it, right? So Autumn shouldn't either. Right. Be Like Jase. It needed to be a t-shirt or a mug or something. "Devin? Guys?! Hello!" The sound of a girl's voice rose above the clumping and shuffling of the Fellowship - most of them anyway - ascending the wooden stairs, and interrupted Devin's casual examination of a dulled practice knife that had been on a bench near the exercise area. Flipping it back onto the bench, the teleporter glanced out of the window and saw a familiar tumble of honey blonde hair. Pushing her bike towards the barn, Tawny waved up as she caught sight of him. "I just saw Cade walk in as I was heading up the drive." she called, smiling despite her nervousness. "Can I-?" "Sure thing, Tee." Devin called down. "Just leave your bike there and walk on through. Stairs are at the end." He started to turn back from the window, then a thought occurred and the handsome young man stuck his head out again. "Tee!" "What?" Tawny had just leaned her bike against the side of the barn and was about to enter. She paused, looking up. "Be careful what you touch." Devin said. Mystified, Tawny nodded anyway and went to open the door again, then Devin called out. "Tee!" "What?" A little frown now as she looked up at him with her hand on the door handle. "Glad you made it." Devin said sincerely, smiling at her. Tawny's return smile was dazzling, and she started to open the door. "Tawny!" Devin called, a tone of urgency in his voice now. "What?!" Tawny repressed the urge to giggle and /or scowl. "Hurry it up, will ya. We ain't got all year." Devin held the deadpan expression for a moment, then smirked. "Butthead!" Tawny shook her head, smiling, and then entered the barn. When she emerged from the top of the stairs, Devin's friend's eyes were saucer-wide. Devin snickered slightly, then offered her a bottle of water. "We know." "There's..." "Yup." "...and they're all..." "Yup" Several voices now chorused with varying degrees of amusement. "But how?" Tawny looked at Jason, who was sitting motionlessly at the table, slouched comfortably into a chair, his eyes shifting to Tawny as she addressed him. "Patience." he answered simply. And his lips quirked in a faint smile that was partly pleased and partly amused. "I am glad you like it." The eerily composed youth told Devin's friend with a polite nod of his head as the smile faded. "I'm sure you will be able to take a longer look around later, but for now we have more urgent things to cover and we need to bring you and Courtney up to speed as well as cover some new ground." He glanced at Autumn and Cassandra. "Starting with the reconnoiter last night, I think. Either of you wish to take the floor?"
    2 points
  43. "Oh hell." "Oh god," the red-faced redhead groaned along with him, in almost perfect unison. It couldn't have just been cleaning supplies, or a Wet Floor sign or something lying over her. Oh, no, no. That would be too easy. It had to be Cade Allister's hand, contoured perfectly to the curve of her ass while she lay sprawled over him, because that's just how this day was gonna go. Obviously. She'd overslept, been called out by her ex, gotten punched in the face by a Dark-possessed senior, flipped into Nightmare World and back again, and had now achieved the distinction of being bitch-slapped by physics on the way to rescue someone she didn't even like; getting accidentally groped by her friend's boyfriend was just the icing on the cake. To his credit, after that initial squeeze the sports prodigy jerked his hand away with the alacrity of a child who'd just touched a hot stove, but by that point Autumn had already started trying to disengage from the uncomfortably compromising position in earnest. Cursing under her breath, the girl whose freckles had been completely obscured by the bright scarlet of her blush tensed, bracing her palms on the floor and hauling herself across the athlete's prone form with a grunt of effort. She tried not to think about the fact that not only was there was a guy underneath her, it was Cade, or that at some point in her life she might not have minded being pressed quite so close to the even-tempered young man, or that Marissa was likely to hear about how she'd been "all over" her boytoy during the rescue mission- a probable death-sentence, even if it was obviously intended as a joke. Cans of air freshener, jostled loose as the debris shifted and toppled forward where she'd been lying, bounced haphazardly across the floor, accompanied by boxes of disposable nitrile gloves and commercial rolls of trash bags. "Not a word," she breathed, rolling over to stare up at the ceiling with an anguished expression as she waited in vain for the floor to swallow her. "And no," she grumbled when no merciful oblivion seemed forthcoming, tilting her head back to glance at Bannon, for all that he was currently upside-down. "Just my pride."
    2 points
  44. 2 points
  45. 2 points
  46. The Damsel and the Dragon, Pt. 1. The road to the Bannon farm was long, and even longer by bicycle. Longer still, when you weren’t entirely sure it was a good idea to be going there. Even the unrelenting flatness of Shelly and its immediate vicinity couldn’t alleviate the feeling of foreboding creeping lazily up Autumn’s spine; if anything, being able to see her destination long before actually reaching it only made the situation worse. It felt different, somehow- 24 hours ago, she’d made this same trip, down the same dirt road, headed to exactly the same place, and it had been... basically fine. 24 hours ago, though, she wasn’t alone. Now, under the vastness of the fading afternoon sky, Autumn was more keenly aware of her isolation than at any other time in all her wide and varied wanderings. It was a feeling she only rarely experienced, and so she’d never bothered to fit a name to it. The one people usually used, though, was “dread.” Most average people avoided trouble whenever possible, and the redhead with her weathered bike and faded jeans considered herself a pretty average kind of person, generally. ...Ignoring the powers things, obviously, because that probably was not something most average people had to consider. Right now, though, Autumn wasn’t avoiding trouble. She was resolutely pedaling into its lair, armed only with her wits and protected solely by bravado, just like the heroes in the storybooks. Naturally, not being a hero in a storybook, this meant she was doomed. That much she knew, of course. Jason Bannon- sans epithets- was dangerous. Nothing that had transpired over the weekend had changed, in any meaningful way, the opinion consolidated over the last several years. What was bothering her, though, nudging her forward even as her thighs and calf muscles burned in protest, was the suggestion that he might not be the kind of “dangerous” she’d come to expect. He was a criminal, definitely- he’d also taken on nightmare beasts in a hellish otherworld, fighting alongside Devin Jauntsen, of all people. He’d risked his life, without hesitation, when he could easily have bailed and left them to the mercy of fate. Devin, too, and Marissa- had she been wrong about all of them all this time, or had something changed? Besides, she reflected, steering with one hand as she fidgeted with the fraying denim at her knee- it was hard to reconcile brooding, slouchy, murder-stare Bannon with the guy who’d whooshed her around like an airplane. Like… maybe both existed, but he switched between them, or one was a cover for the other one, or- Ugh! Why did it have to be so damned complicated?! He’d always intimidated her, frightened her even, but if the last couple of days had confirmed that he was dangerous, they’d also hinted at something else. Bravery. Loyalty. Self-sacrifice. Honesty. Okay. Several “somethings.” Whether any of that was real or not, though, or whether she was just choosing to view it a certain way… She needed to find out for herself. It was with that in mind that Autumn Keane, resigned to fiery death or verbal excoriation, coasted to a stop in front of the weathered farmhouse. She licked her lips, planted her kickstand in the gravel that crunched underfoot, and walked with no small degree of trepidation up to the front door. The floorboards creaking softly and the chickens gossipping nearby overlaid the eerie stillness of the late afternoon with comforting reminders of life, and, squaring her shoulders, she knocked on the front door. Footsteps then, inside, heavy and sure as they approached the door where she waited like a prisoner awaiting a verdict. The door swung inward, and, startled, Autumn reflexively stepped back. Staring at her from the doorway, his features furrowed into a wary frown, was- -not Jason Bannon, but a much older, wearier approximation of him. As she fumbled for words, the older man’s expression relaxed by degrees. “Oh,” he said, by way of greeting. Then, speculatively: “You’re a friend of Jase’s?” “Yeah,” she replied automatically, then paused. “Sort of,” the redhead admitted. “I guess… I’m not really sure?” It wasn’t a question, but it was framed as such, although there was no good answer. Her shrug, and the slightly abashed smile that followed, elicited a flicker of a smile in response, one very like his son’s. He nodded, then glanced surreptitiously at the driveway over her shoulder. “Um. He’s not here right now.” Another awkward pause. “You can wait, if you want?” “Oh.” Was that okay? Just to… wait? To sit on the Effing One’s front porch, waiting for him to get home? Normally, she’d just text someone if she needed to meet up with them- y’know, like a normal person existing in the 21st century- but that didn’t really apply here. “I mean, if you don’t mind.” He shook his head, and the bickering of the hens intruded once more into the uncomfortable silence. Hands shoved firmly in her jeans pockets, Autumn rocked onto her heels and flailed internally for words, for anything to say to alleviate the weirdness. Hell, she could probably just ask his dad for the damned hoodie, but… Somehow, that seemed like cheating. No, if she was going to do this, she was going to deal with Jason Goddamn Bannon directly. “...Want some coffee?” “Sure. I’d love some,” replied the relieved young woman, anxiety melting into gratitude. “I’m Autumn, by the way, sir. Autumn Keane. Nice to meet you.” “Nice to meet you too, Autumn. Call me Gar.” Bannon Senior - Gar - was a touch taller than his boy, and definitely broader, his dark hair cropped short almost military fashion, though not so short the faint speckling of grey could not be made out. The most marked difference, though, was the warmth of the man’s manner - at least now that the ice had been broken. His hazel eyes were as expressive as they were intelligent, his smile readily reaching them as he offered Autumn a handshake, then gestured for her to take a seat on the bench to the left of the door. “Seat yourself there, Autumn. I’ll fetch you out a cup.” he narrowed his eyes consideringly, then said “You look like a cream and sugar girl, am I right?” “Guilty.” Autumn smiled as she took a seat. She’d been expecting- well, she wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting, but this friendly, faintly sad-eyed man with a gentle handshake had not been it. Shelly was a small town, and Gar Bannon was gossiped about as a drunk loser who worked as a janitor at the prison because he was an ex-jailbird himself and no-one else would hire him. And hung out with militia crazies like Hank Graskle. Once more Autumn found herself between two contradictions - what she thought she knew warring with what she had directly experienced. Mr Bannon disappeared inside and she was alone, gazing out over the fallow fields of the farm. Hard to believe she’d been here just yesterday, watching other kids her age dent steel with their fists, heal bruises with a touch, incinerate logs with a thought… And she’d touched the Shine, too. Felt it under her hands as they’d rested on Jason’s, felt the shape of his… what? Spirit? Soul? What had he seen or felt of her? And why did that matter? Ugh. It was so much easier before he’d walked into the girls bathroom, checked her for a concussion, then calmly demonstrated the impossible. Before then he’d just been the solitary kid everyone watched to see if he was keeping something lethal in his locker for later in the day when he finally snapped. A creak of a door announced the return of Bannon Senior holding two mugs. He offered one to Autumn, then sat down further down the bench seat and, without particular ceremony, added a generous slosh of the contents of a hip flask to his own coffee before taking a sip. They sat in silence for a long moment or two, looking out at transition of afternoon to evening. Autumn tried the coffee and was pleasantly surprised, sea-hued eyes widening. “Yeah. Jase picks the coffee.” Gar said, cradling his own mug between his hands as he smiled, glancing at her for a moment before looking back over the fields. “Me, I just care that it’s hot and caffeinated, but he won’t have that. Not that I’m complaining, mind.” Autumn just nodded, taking another sip. Gar seemed to have the air of a man with something on his mind - she could feel it the way she could feel the air change before a storm. “You and Jase been friends long?” Gar asked, still looking off over the fields. Autumn shook her head, then felt she should speak. “No. Not long.” she answered truthfully, then further honesty compelling more from her. “I don’t really know him all that well.” She saw Gar nod slowly. “Yeah.” the older man said, nodding a little more. “Yeah. Not sure anyone does.” he added, more to himself than her. He blinked then, and looked at Autumn. “You’re the first friend of his I’ve talked to, you know that? I mean, I met the Cassidy kid once briefly. Those Jauntsens once or twice. But never got a chance to speak with ‘em.” Autumn wasn’t sure what to say to that, so stared down at her coffee, pondering for a moment or two before looking up at him again. “He seems a very private sort of guy.” she ventured, and saw Gar nod agreement. “Yeah. Sometimes I worry. But he seems alright, right? I mean, he’s got some friends.” Gar gave her a hopeful smile. “I’m not going to ask you to snitch or anything, but he seems alright?” What was anyone supposed to say to that? “Your son is a psychopath with telekinetic powers and criminal tendencies who’s so smart it’s scary all by itself. He’s currently part of an effort to fight demons from a place kinda like hell, and there’s a rogue government conspiracy we know nothing about running around too.” “Yeah.” Autumn said, feeling a little coil of shame inside her. “He seems fine.” “Good.” Gar seemed relieved, then looked around and down the driveway. Following his gaze, Autumn saw a low black car making it’s way towards the farmhouse, raising a little dust on the track. “That’s him now.” Gar stood, moving to the porch rail and giving a lazy wave as the gleaming Charger growled past, heading for the vehicle shed. “I’ll head inside - got to get ready for work anyways.” The elder Bannon said, smiling once more at her. “Nice to meet you, Autumn.” “You too, Gar.” she smiled back, relieved that the initial awkwardness was past, even as the earlier dread came back as soon as Jason’s dad disappeared inside. She waited as the crunch of footsteps on gravel came closer and gave way to footsteps on wood, then glanced over to see Jason Bannon’s tall, lean shape come up the steps and stop dead as he saw her. “Of course.” Jase said in a tone that was not quite a sigh. He looked weary, his hair lank with sweat which had also soaked through his t-shirt. There was no fatigue in the sharp pale green ice of his gaze, though, which studied Autumn with that calm, intense scrutiny as though she were a puzzle to figure out. “Here for your hoodie?” “You said during study hall-” “Yes, yes I did.” Jason didn’t unclench, because he hadn’t been clenched to begin with, but there was a definite sense of tension dissipating. He had sat with Autumn during study hall, ostensibly helping her with Chem but actually filling her in on the weirdness of Devin’s morning and warning her about the ‘Shades’, as people were calling them. “So, let’s try again. Here on Earth we say ‘Hey, Autumn. Nice evening. What’s up?’” Her mouth formed the words before her brain could interfere, because most of her brain would in no way countenance tweaking the nose of Effing Jason Goddamn Bannon. She didn’t look away - you don’t look away from dangerous creatures. She didn’t quite meet his eyes either. Rather she focused her gaze on his mouth and tried not to curl up or flee. Jase’s expression didn’t change for a long, looooong moment. Then his lips twitched into a slow smile, lopsided and wryly good-humoured. “Hey Autumn, nice evening. What’s up?” he asked. With a cool sense of relief, Autumn realised she’d not been incinerated and smiled back, meeting his eyes. “Oh, y’know. Came to visit, pick up my hoodie, have a cup of coffee.” she bantered. The flat, unwelcoming stare he’d initially worn had given way to something with a glint of humor in it, at least. “Indeed.” Jase ran a hand through his hair and made a face. “Give me a few minutes? Your hoodie is upstairs, but I stink.” “Sure.” Autumn leaned back and sipped her coffee as Jason disappeared inside. She heard him and his father greeting each other, low male voices that then stopped. A little more than five minutes later, Jase stepped back outside, hair wet from the shower but with a fresh t-shirt and a pair of faded green combat pants on. He also had a mug of coffee in one hand and Autumn’s beloved red hoodie in the other, which he offered to her as he sat down on the bench. “Thanks for the loan.” he said, his expression politely neutral but with a gleam in his eye that was mischievous. “It’s been well-washed.” “Ugh.” That little subvocalization, one not uncommon in the limited chronicle of their interactions, carried with it a world of potential meaning and implication. Sometimes, it was an exclamation of agreement or commiseration, a non-verbal version of, “Yes. Same. I feel that.” Elongated, it was, “I’m so embarrassed, I could literally die.” Further back in her throat, toward the bottom of her vocal range, it suggested disgust or strong disapproval: “Gross.” If carried on a sharp exhalation, closer to a huff, it signified frustration, but with the inclusion of a dramatic eye-roll, it implied a lighter, more humorous context, as in, “Fine. Whatever. I guess.” This one required a long, preceding inhalation, and was drawn out, and got the obvious heavenward glance. She had carefully avoided thinking about the reason she’d let him borrow the faded red jacket in the first place, so of course he would have to bring it up. ...Without actually bringing it up, because that was Fucking Bannon’s fucking style: he let you feel awkward and uncomfortable all on your own, rather than gracelessly thrusting awkwardness upon you. To distract herself from the feeling of tingling warmth rising up the sides of her face, Autumn spent a few moments working out how to get the hoodie on, one arm at a time, without having to put the coffee down. The whole process took a good couple of minutes, during which the warm mug switched hands more than once in an unnecessarily complicated bit of interpretive dance. With a final undulation of her shoulders, she triumphed over the completely pointless task she’d set for herself, allowing a quick shimmy of celebration as she wrapped both hands around the mug and took another long sip. ...Well, mostly it was a triumph. Getting the hoodie back on was just something to fill the time, an impulse, a “let’s see if I can do this.” The actual task was focusing on something long enough to forget about the fact that she had seen the guy next to her stark naked, bloody, and wreathed in fucking fire, and that loaning him her jacket had been more for the benefit of onlookers than for him. “Thanks for that,” she said finally, glancing over at him as the toes of her sneakers skimmed the wooden floor. “Washing it, I mean.” It smelled different, she realized as she breathed- primarily because they used a different brand of detergent, sure, but also not, as if its handling by a guy had fundamentally altered it in some unquantifiable way. “I’m not sure what eau de hellbeast smells like, but I definitely did not wanna wear it around.” Beat. Then, smirking at her coffee rather than looking at him directly: “Not that I’m calling you a hellbeast.” Leaning against the back of the bench, Autumn looked out over the uncultivated fields again. She wondered what they’d look like in another six years when the saplings and wild grass had matured, obscuring the fence line and, possibly, the view of the house itself. It was a sad, sobering vision, and a strangely lonely one. She swung her feet, shoes scuffing again at the floorboards; was it the place that was making her feel so weirdly pensive, or the company? “Hey, listen,” she began again, shifting one knee up onto the bench as she turned to face the devil directly. Her expression was uncharacteristically serious, resolve in the clear, wide eyes that seemed more grey as the daylight began to wane. “I know this is a weird thing for me to say, and I’m sorry about that, and if you’re not cool with it, I totally get it… So, I’m just gonna say it.” He was either going to laugh her off the farm, turn her into charcoal and then sweep up the dust, or dissect her with his eyes again and say something cryptic. “I want to hang out. Chill. Not, like, Netflix and chill! Just, y’know, get to know you better.” His eyes did do the dissecting thing again. That was uncomfortable, to say the least. But a faint awareness came to Autumn that he was trying to read her, rather than make her squirm. After a moment he sat back, resting the back of his head against the wall of the farmhouse as he turned his gaze into the gathering twilight. He was silent for a moment, his face and eyes as hard to read as ever. “Why?” he asked with simple directness, the question coming from a place of such isolation that it matched the remote desolate nature of the farm perfectly. “I don’t want to seem mean or callous, but what possible benefit to you could there be?” “Why does anyone hang out with anyone?” Autumn asked, still turned towards him and watching his profile. “Why do you hang out with people?” “At first, I was trying to blend in. To be normal, or at least not too abnormal.” He smiled wryly at that. “And then, when I started coming out from behind my mask, it took the nature of an experiment.” He took a sip of his coffee before continuing. “I’m not sure the experiment has been a success.” “Why?” The red-haired girl pressed. “I mean, you seem to hang out with a lot of people.” “People who probably wouldn’t associate with me if it wasn’t for the circumstances.” he asserted with a calm glance her way, his face turning towards her with his head still resting against the wall. “I am useful, right now. After this is all done? So will be their need to associate with me.” “Wow.” Autumn blinked. “You really think that, don’t you?” Jason’s lips twitched into a thin smile for a moment, his eyes on hers. “It fits the pattern. I’m not sure I’m meant to have real friends. My caring about people is not working out so great for me - or them.” His voice was calm, contemplative even as his eyes studied her face. “I distress them and they disappoint or confuse me.” He smiled his quirky, lopsided smile, his gaze meeting hers once more. “So why do you want to know me better?” That was the big question, wasn’t it? It was the same one she’d been asking herself over the past couple of days, the one she’d been considering on the long bike ride to the farm. It would be easy to crack a joke, try to lighten the uncomfortably heavy mood and make the whole experience a little more bearable for herself. It would also, she knew, be incredibly disrespectful. He had been unflinchingly honest with her. No matter how awkward the atmosphere, or how terrifyingly vulnerable that intense, glacier-green gaze made her feel, her conscience wouldn’t let her repay his candor by blowing it off as a joke. Even if she didn’t like the Fucking Bannon- and, honestly, she wasn’t sure exactly how she felt about anything at the moment, given the weekend they’d all had- he was sitting there, having a conversation with her. That had to count for something, right? She didn’t answer immediately, not sure how to even begin explaining something she, herself, was still trying to figure out. Thankfully, he didn’t press the issue, although she was acutely aware of the persistence of his attention; it wasn’t hostile, she knew, but the feeling of being intently observed, as if every microexpression and movement were being patiently analyzed and catalogued, made it difficult to concentrate. She rolled the coffee cup back and forth between her hands, glancing down at the creamy whorls of beige and brown that surfaced in the half-full mug; there really wasn’t any way out of this, except to admit defeat and just go back home. Again, though, that would be cheating. It should be easier, after saying basically the same thing to Marissa the previous day, but it wasn’t. Mari was a whole lot, but she was also basically normal. Jase, though... “Well,” she began slowly, then paused to take a breath before daring to look up again, steeling herself to meet the pale, implacable eyes of the lanky young man sitting next to her. “I guess it’s probably because I’m afraid of you.” And then… Nothing. Autumn waited a few moments for him to laugh, or scoff at the admission, but Jason’s expression remained enigmatically neutral. He did nod, almost imperceptibly, acknowledging that he’d heard her, but that was all. She wondered if he’d expected it, then, and if he was waiting for her to continue. I’ve already come this far, the nervous teen reminded herself. And, honestly, he can only kill me once. “So, my grandfather-” She hadn’t expected to feel anything, just saying it out loud. The redhead swallowed hard as her voice broke, quickly shaking her head and finishing off the rest of the lukewarm coffee. It’s fine, Autumn. Just keep talking. You’re fine. It’s fine. Breathe in, breathe out. In… Out. With pale, cinnamon-speckled fingers wrapped tight around the mug, she began again, a little steadier this time. “My, um… My grandfather taught me a lot of stuff, growing up.” Her eyes burned, and her face felt not just warm, but hot as she continued, resolutely staring at the residue in the bottom of the cup. This was not the time to get emotional, not now, and not in front of someone she didn’t even qualify as ‘barely knowing.’ “And, um… One of the big things was the difference between fear, and respect. He said it was normal to be afraid. Fear can keep us alive in survival situations, like the fight or flight instinct. It can also shut down your ability to reason, which can be dangerous, too. But that, also, once you really understand why an animal, or maybe even a person, does the things they do, and acts the way they act, you could eventually stop being afraid of them. And that’s important, because as long as you’re afraid, you wouldn’t ever be able to deal with them rationally. So, if you’re afraid of something, you need to try to understand it. When you understand it, whatever it is, you can respect its abilities and its place in the world without fear getting in the way. More like equals.” “And what if,” he asked quietly, “the more you learn and understand, the more frightened you become? Just out of curiosity.” Blinking, she looked up in surprise. “Then, I don’t know. Maybe that’s not really what you’re afraid of?” It was the first thought that came to mind, and thus went straight to her lips. She and her grandfather hadn’t talked about anything like that, although, in fairness, the wild creatures he’d been teaching her about were nothing like the one sitting in front of her at that moment. This one was far, far more dangerous.
    2 points
  47. BASIC INFORMATION Organization: SPI Domain: Cape Town (Online at rpgpost.com) Genre: Vampire: The Requiem VST: Malachite Drake (PM me on the forums to get ahold of me) VSS Publication: 03/31/2015 STYLE OF PLAY Physical: 3 Mental: 3 Social: 5 Action: 3 Character Development: 5 Darkness: 4 Drama: 4 Intrigue: 4 Manners: 3 Mystery: 3 Pacing: 3 Each of the above operates on a scale of 1-5 . 1 means that the element in question will rarely be present, 3 meaning it will regularly be present, and 5 meaning it will always be present. VENUE DESCRIPTION Mood: Tangled Webs Themes: Old Guard vs. Modern Kindred Intricate Schemes The Consequences of Power HISTORY Pre-colonization (Distant Past-1652) Kindred have existed in the Cape Town region long before European colonization came. The Circle of the Crone in the area claim that Cape Town was a Kindred stronghold long before Romans ever stepped foot in Africa and certainly well before the time of Longinus. This is, of course, heresy to the Lancea Sanctum, whom maintain that the Cape Town area was originally settled by a faction of outcast Kindred that were exiled to the farthest point of the Dark Continent for some unspeakable crime by one of Longinus' disciples. The Crone enjoy coming up with wild tales of what their so-called outcast forebearers could have done to have rankled the Sanctum, but most just to annoy the local priests when they're bored. The Dutch (1652-1795) Once the Dutch were firmly established in the region, the Lancea Sanctum followed in the shadows of the deeply religious colonists. They spent nearly a century converting or killing the native inhabitants of the area, targeting the isolated cults in order to weaken the hold of the pagan Kindred over the area. This war had bloody costs on both sides, though most of the direct fighting was done in the borderlands around the colony. The few Invictus that had travelled with the Sanctum were there as military support, a House and several Thorned Wreath vassals, intent on ensuring a new foothold of Invictus/Sanctum power in Africa. Some whispers still persist to this night that thier "noble" calling was an escape before exile or execution in Denmark for unspecified crimes. Rule Britannia (1795-1989) The shift from Dutch to British control of the Cape Town colony was marked also by the destruction of the original Invictus House that had settled the area. The Crone, citing cultural lineage through the original cults in the area, and Carthians alike claim credit for the Blackest Night, the one night in 1804 when every Invictus and Lancea Sanctum member within a hundred miles of the Cape Town colony was destroyed. For the next decade, European Kindred from a number of countries, most notably Holland, France, and Britain, would pour into the coastal town, attempting to reassert control. Finally, a British member of the Invictus, a Gangrel sent from London to quell the chaos, managed to do just that. She brought with her nearly a dozen progeny spawned in a careful expansion of her power over a century, and the brood hunted the night until the debt of vitae from the Blackest Night had been extracted in equal measure from the entrenched Crone and the newly prominent Carthians in the area. After over a century more of terror, the Crone retreated completely from the area and the Carthians surrendered all domains within the colony save for those areas that exclusively housed slaves or freed non-whites. The colony settled into a mostly peaceful dictatorship under the iron fist of Prince Deborah. The New World (1989-Present) Prince Deborah finally surrendered herself to the need for torpor shortly before the official end of apartheid. Many whisper that this was more to do with her refusal to adopt the modern mortal morals and ideals of equality, others simply hold that she had been active for nearly three centuries already and her blood was dangerously thick. Either way, her torpor had a number of unexpected effects on the Cape Town principality. The first was her appointment of a Ventrue Invictus, Baron Victor del Mar to the position of Prince, instead of one of her own numerous brood in the region. Del Mar was, in fact, imported from London only a few years earlier at the Prince's request. He has officially ruled Cape Town for a quarter century now, but the true heart of Kindred power immediately shifted away from the throne the moment Deborah was in the earth. The Carthians have managed to regain much lost ground in the city since Del Mar's ascension and even the Crone have made cautious appearances at both Court and other Elysiums in the decades since the Gangrel Prince's retirement. At the turn of the century, the Dragons finally made (an official) appearance in the South African tip as well, petitioning del Mar for a large domain within the city to establish an academy. Del Mar granted the request and has been a staunch supporter of the Order's efforts, creating a strong personal alliance with the newest Covenant in the Cape Town.
    2 points
  48. "I'll catch you," Jack promised earnestly, knowing it wasn't going to be enough. His gut twisted with a sudden, vague prescience - it was going to go bad if he didn't act further. Even as the one of the conduits snapped, Jack planted his foot on the support he had had it hooked under and pushed up, while he let his foot on the tilted edge of the sundered deck slide down, using the weight of his legs to keep him on the deck while he stretched his arms and torso over the gap. Miraculously, the red-headed girl had instinctively reached out for him in her terror, and he was able to grab one of her hands in his own, his other hand getting a grip on her forearm, supporting her several dozen meters above the Taran ground. Unfortunately, she still had some forward momentum and her forehead slammed into the bridge of his nose, making him see stars, his hands tightening their grip instinctively, as her weight wrenched his arms in their sockets. "Okay, Red, little closer than I'd like, but I said I'd catch you," Jack said with his crooked grin, keeping his voice light and forcing the pain out of it as he blinked the tears from his eyes. "Now, just keep looking up - there's nothing down there we need to worry 'bout - and we'll get out of this in a nano-sec." As soon as I figure out how. Slender and not tall, he was able to support her weight readily enough for the moment, though he could feel the blood from his hand starting to make his grip on her forearm slip, and the ragged edge of the split deck was digging into his rugged leather and canvas clothing covering his waist. But while the weight of his freely hanging legs was letting him keep his balance on the edge, without having his legs or feet braced against something, he couldn't get the leverage he needed to pull her up, not without her mass pulling him over. The throbbing beginning in his shoulders wasn't helping much either. "Keep looking at me!" Jack reiterated sharply, as the girl didn't seem reassured and seemed about to look that. Complete panic wasn't going to help either of them. Jack kept feeling around with his feet, seeking something, anything, within reach to hook. If I can get some of her weight over my shoulders, shift my weight as she does, then slide back on my stomach at the right time... It might work, though we might suffered a hard tumble down the slope. Better than a fifty-sixty meter freefall. "So, this is what we're going to do." Talina screamed as he let go of her forearm just long enough to get a different grip on it - it was harder on his wrist, but would allow him to lift her higher. "First, no screaming. Not that I don't mind a woman screaming all that much, but you need to hear instructions right?" His voice was growing tighter with the strain of holding her in this precarious position. "Next, on three, I'm going to lift you as high as I can and I need you to pull up at the same time. When you're as high as we can get you, I'm going to let go of this hand." He gave their entwined fingers a squeeze. "Then you are going to reach as far as you can down my back and pull yourself. I'll boost you up as much as I can by the leg. Then we are going to slide down the deck, okay? Trust me. I got you this far, already and you haven't fallen, didn't?" The girl looked up at him, her eyes frightfully wide, her lip quivered with a barely suppressed scream, her face painfully young. Finally, after a moment that was longer than he'd wished, she gave him a tiny nod. Jack nodded back, his smile tight and fierce and encouraging. "Good. On three. One..."
    2 points
  49. Uriel got in, but then rapped the door holding Jonna in. "Let me in the back." Halstead gave him a look, but Uriel's adamant expression cowed any opposition and Uriel took his seating there. He watched her, sedated as he ruminated on the unnecessarily irate response of the other Warden. ,, She didn't seem to understand the importance of keeping low-key, much less being able to work things out with others without running into the obvious suspension of disbelief issues. Uriel's own credibility lay in not being overtly recognized into adhering with such craziness as it was perceived. ,, Besides, she seemed to miss the wider ramifications of her own words. The Eidolon 'doing its work', if that, the perfect, orderly force of reality was behind the Simitre... that had.... concerning implications, though what and why was not clear. If it was changing Jonna.... ,, Uriel sat, legs crossed in the lotus, as he began to work on his mystic weaving. What he wanted was, as a test, a spell that could halt the change of the Eidolon, focused enough for that merely. If he could do this during the drive without any observation, and it worked... then nobody would tell the difference yet for a bit. ,, And until Mariz, at least. ,, OOC Crafting a custom spell, slightly modified version of Physical Ward. Instead of protecting against damage, it halts changes in the body, and with the Linchpin to specialize on the Eidolon to hold it back. Call it: Transformational Ward?
    2 points
  50. Power Profiles #23: Sensory Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF Descriptors, Countering & Features The Sensory descriptor gets thorough treatment right out of the gate. It is broken down into sensory powers and sensory effects, which might seem the same thing but the explanation makes clear which covers which. This is followed by a fairly lengthy discussion of the two Sensory Modifiers, Perception Area, and Sense-Dependent. This is fairly useful as well as it help to distinguish the difference between the two when it might appear that they are the same. A comparative example might have been useful, but I don't think it was required. A couple of interesting features are suggested. There is also a sidebar titled, Senses and the Parrot Effect, which discusses ways for the GM to better engage players who have super senses (especially exotic ones) in ways other than simply telling them what they sense and having the players repeat it back to their comrades. I think that this is probably something that many GMs don't consider and it is a nice reminder that sense powers don't need to be relegated to "what he said". Offensive Powers There are only three powers here, but there is also another sidebar (that's two) which helps to give the section some meat. The Dazzle and Sensory Overload powers are built on well known effects, with Dazzle getting a slightly longer write-up as it discusses some options beyond the core effect. The third power is Obscure which is an effect that was suggested in the Hero's Handbook as a Concealment based effect. This effect too is Concealment based, but gets a more thorough write-up. As a player of prior editions, which had a dedicated Obscure effect, I'm not sure I am convinced but the write-up does go a long way to helping make the power understood. Luckily, however, the Powers That Be apparently expected us stodgy old people, and we have been gifted with the sidebar: Option: Obscure Effect. This sidebar effectively restores the Obscure effect to the game, with a variable per rank cost based on the senses it obscures, and an area that is based on the number of ranks purchased. Overall I think I still prefer the Obscure effect over the Concealment based method, and I am very happy to see it return. Defensive Powers Five powers are presented and for I think the first time none of them are Protection effect based. Powers like Invisibility, Danger Sense, and Sensory Shield are given discussion. Invisibility does a nice job of conferring not only the bonuses, but also the limits of the effect and I think players and GMs will find it a nice expansion on the core book's Concealment description. Movement Powers With only two powers this is the shortest section in the book, but I suspect that most will be un-surprised by this. Tracking Teleport and Pathfinder are both built off of the Senses effect. Both are given discussion enough to show not only the mechanics but also the utility of these effects. Utility Powers Three powers with nine effects and a third sidebar fill out this section. Synesthesia is a remarkably simple effect that creates a power that can radically alter the way a character perceives their senses, altering the normal input vectors and allowing the user to feel colors and taste sounds, and more. The Additional Sense "power" is really just a header that gathers seven different senses beyond the human norm and allows them room for an effect and discussion. The third, and final, sidebar for this profile is: Option: Long-Range Sensing. This sidebar acknowledges that the Remote Sensing effect may not be ideal for extreme long range sensing and provides an option to allow for sensing well beyond the planetary scale. Complications Six complications get about half a page to close out the profile. By far the most effort goes into the Weakness complication, detailing how a hero's enhanced and expanded senses can just as often be a handicap. Imagine having super sense of smell in a landfill. Or Super Hearing at a death metal concert. Closing Thoughts Sensory powers is yet another in an increasing number of must have profiles. Even the most rule savvy and jaded player or GM will likely appreciate the sidebars. Meanwhile new players will gain a great deal of insight into the various sensory effects and more experienced players may find the expanded discussion of certain effects and powers useful. There's nothing really missing here, and the content is as solid as we have generally come to expect. Rating: 100% - Truly another home run, with expanded explanations and new optional rules, this profile has a little something for everyone.
    2 points
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