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  1. 2 points
    Shadowrun: The Rebootening. Coming soon.
  2. 1 point
    Sean rode the Carousel, , sitting astride his favourite steed, the one with that looked like a nightmare with a unicorn horn, its mane, hooves, and eyes lacquered a fiery orange. Wistful melancholy etched his fine features as he held onto the pole with both hands, his eyes closed, letting the rollicking music washing over him as his mount reared up and down as the Carousel spun round and round. He had helped his dad, some, in refurbishing the Carousel several years back. Mostly just wiring the lighting and screwing in light bulbs. He knew he is dad once had expectations, aspirations that his son would join him in his contracting business. Once, Sean had wanted nothing more. He liked building things, putting things together to make something better, grander. But even before puberty had sent his development careening in different directions, Sean's dreams had going in different directions as well. He certainly still liked electrical work, but his interest in landscaping and house renovations waned in favour of software programming, computer assembly, and cobbling together gadgets and devices. His father had never faulted him his interests, and was even proud of his eccentric son and designing and programming a full, indie video game - two, in fact, though Jack Cassidy didn't know his son had completed his second with the tremendous help of his developing electokinetic prowess. Still, Sean could help but feel a bit of regret, a sense that he was abandoning his dad in a way. Both Teagan and Laurelei had help their father too, but Teagan had gone off, joining the army with the goal to become a Ranger, and while Laurie was still searching for what she wanted to do, it had always been clear she would be joining Jack in the contracting business, eventually to take it over. Sean's goals had been to make it big enough in the video game industry to let his parents retire early, with enough so they could enjoy their time, while not himself falling into the same miasma of greed and short-sightedness that the AAA game studios and publishers seemed stuck in. It seemed like that would be a long-shot now... When he caught the text from Marissa, Sean felt like Lilly had just kicked him in the sternum. He could hardly breathe while at the same time, the urge to vomit was almost overwhelming. One hand slipped from the pole, the back of his wrist going to his mouth, as though the physical motion itself could keep everything from coming up. He didn't even bother pulling out his phone to send his reply, barely restraining himself from yanking on the flow of electrons coursing through the Carousel to bring it to a sudden halt. Instead, he swung one leg up and over the carven saddle and timing it well, jumped off the nightmare unicorn when it rode low with an unexpected show of grace he would have been proud of if he hadn't been so distressed and scampered away from the Carousel. With a genetic sword of Damocles hanging over his head, potential doom weighing on him from Not-Cody, from storming Site B, from the idea that there wasn't actually a solution for him there, still in a way, it hadn't felt entirely real to him, it felt almost like one of his roleplaying games. Yeah, bad stuff had happened, but they had always pulled through. He hadn't been burned in a way, like Devin had been. Sean might have been forced to face his mortality like someone his age should never have to, but there wasn't a visceral immediacy to it. Not like finding out Charlie was dead and Sophie missing, and in all likelihood, it was Not-Cody's doing. If Charlie wasn't his best friend, he was still a good one. He had helped out Charlie, filling in for part in a play at the last minute when the girl dropped out. Charlie had been in the first D&D game he'd ever run, and been in practically every game and campaign he'd run since. The idea that he wouldn't be there anymore, was gone, seared deep. Other than his grandfather, Sean hadn't lost anyone that close to him, definitely not someone his own age. Sophie. She was missing, possibly dead, too. They had been friends once. She'd been the first girl he had ever asked out. He didn't think anyone besides the two of them knew. She'd turned him down. Hard. Cruelly, even. That had hurt. Bad. Bad enough that he hadn't even considered really asking another girl out. Not until Kat, anyway. He had hated her, too, for a while, if not to the degree he held for Courtney, but it had faded quickly, an emotional scar, instead of a psychic wound he kept picking at, and he had never wished her harm. Dead. but maybe not dead. Maybe a chance to save her from the monster Cody had become. Sean had started towards his sister and parents, to warn them, to send them home, to whatever safety home could offer, but redirected himself to the parking lot at a pace just short of a jog. He didn't know what the plan was now, if they were going to try to hunt Cody down now or not. With Devin able to blip around and take them along, they might be going as soon as they gathered and he wanted the go-bag he had stashed in his Grand Cherokee. <<<To: Laurie>>> [From: Sean] <Pack up. Get Mom and Dad and get home. Now.> Sean sent to his sister as his sneakers skidded on gravel, one arm over his chest as he hustled towards his SUV. <<<To: Sean>>> [From: Laurie] <What's going on?! I thought 'stuff' was happening when it was dark.> Even through text, Sean caught a hint of his sister's worry. <<<To: Laurie>>> [From: Sean] <Not-Cody hit us first. He - No, IT - got Charlie and Sophie.> Sean debated for only an instant to before telling his sister the truth, glad he had had the foresight to voodoo her phone. Okay, it hadn't really been foresight, she'd just wanted unlimited data, text, and phone, with a zero dollar phone bill. <Who knows who else it might go after. Tell the 'rents it's something like what happened at Marias.> <<<To: Sean>>> [From: Laurie] <Love you.> Short, trite, even, but the sentiment came through. <You guys stay safe. Okay, safe as you can while doing what you guys have to do. I'll look after our parents. You better come back, bro, or I'll kick your ass. And I can do it, shorty.> Laurie stared down at her phone, willing Sean and the rest of the Fellowship success in taking down the fucker who was working for the Dark, or was a part of now, or whatever. Then she shoved her phone in a pocket, squared her shoulders, then turned towards her parents, hands balled into fists and eyes hard with determination. Watch. Study. Analyze. Act now. Breakdown later. She looked over Champion's Field. Was the news out already? Were people rushing around, was there a subliminal panic growing the crowd. She saw the Sheriff, but he strode in the same brisk lope he always did. "Mom, Dad, we gotta go," Laurie said with a firmness she had never directed at her parents before. She waggled her fingers in a way suggesting something ephemeral and then started bagging stuff up, throwing other things in the cooler. Work economically. No need to rush. A few minutes now will save more later. "Some stuff, voodoo stuff, is happening. Stuff like at the hospital Sean told us about. You understand?" Jack's hand tightened on the tongs he was holding, his knuckles going white. Carolyn stared at her youngest child, who was an inch taller than she was now, and looked to have some growth left to her yet, then slowly nodded. "We don't like it, but we understand. Enough, at least, hon. What does Sean want us to do?"
  3. 1 point
    Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK Kat's breathing was heavy as the SUV's door slammed, the noise akin to a prison door. One of her friends was dead? Phone. Fuck. She took a deep breath. Closed her eyes, focusing on her other senses. Anyone with two brain cells would know that a car is supplied in energy by the engine. If you simply removed the supply, then... She frowned. Turning the whole fuel tank into water suddenly didn't seem like a good idea. Kat was familiar with her powers, now. As she had told Courtney the day before, manipulating matter felt hard, whereas manipulating energy was but child's play. And she would've kind of felt bad for breaking that car. If she wanted to be able to reason her Dad, she needed subtlety. Not to break the engine. I guess I just need to tell the engine to fuck off for a moment. And subtly, the car signaled to its driver, with an annoyed rattle, that it would not move any further until ordered to, coming to a smooth stop after a moment. "We're not headed towards the Project facility." Her voice was cold, void of any hesitation. "We need to talk." Kat's heart was palpitating, but for some reason unknown to her, she was calm. A limpid truth shone in her mind, bright as day: if she wanted to stay alive, she had to be with her friends. And her mind was dead set on doing that. What could guns do against an entity able to walk dimensions? Her dad looked askance out of the window, then at the driver in front of them as the SUV came to a rolling stop, but at her words and, more importantly, the tone, he refocused on his petite daughter. "Kat?" he asked in a studiously calm tone. "Is this you?" He gestured towards the front of the car, where the driver was cussing under his breath and trying to restart the engine, getting nothing but clicking noises. "Won't start, captain." he reported after a moment. The other soldier was looking around, eyes on the outside of the stalled black car. "Kat?" Josh repeated. The French girl sighed. "Yes. It's me. I can't just follow you to the Project facility. Especially not today." She paused for a brief moment. "Who..." Repressing the urge to cry, scream, or whatever her dysfunctional brains wanted her to do, she bit her lip, and kept going. "Did they tell you which one of my friends died? Because I saw almost all of-" She stopped, thinking back. She did scan her surroundings earlier. It could be, as far as she knew, one out of three of her friends. And one of them did not show up at Bannon's farm. She pressed tense fingers on her closed eyes, nervous. "Point is, I'll be safer with my friends, you should know why. And... there's something else I need to tell you." "Kat-!" Her dad stopped, pausing as he took in what she had said, then sighed softly. "Okay... Okay. What's the thing you need to tell me?" She took another deep breath. "I have an idea of which one of my friends was killed, and not by who, but by what. It wasn't someone, it was something." She opened her eyes and looked at her Dad. "Tonight, we're dealing with that thing. Not negotiable." Before he could object, she went on. "Two reasons. One, conventional weapons won't work on it, we're the only ones able to get the job done. Two..." She looked at the soldiers in the car, then back at her Dad. "... you guys can't travel through dimensions like that thing. We can. And I can't tell you who exactly, because it's not my story to tell. But, yeah, that thing? Totally hiding under your nose." Did I say too much? She thought. Time would tell. He studied her for a moment. "Was it like... whatever was sending those things into the Project that day, last week?" As she nodded wordlessly, he chewed at the corner of his lip. "Shit." he muttered as he stared into space, then looked at her again. "And I've got a pretty good idea of who, Katherine." he said in a dry tone. "I do have a clearance, I've been briefed." He fell silent then, regarding her somberly. "You're just kids." he stated quietly. "You know what you're asking me to do?" Her mask cracked for a moment, fear painted on her features as clearly as her brushes would have on a canvas. Tears started rolling down her cheeks, her voice silent compared to the world around her. "I know." She wiped her humid cheeks. "I have to. We have to. What if everyone in town ends up dead tomorrow, ha? That would totally suck." Irony replaced fear in her voice. She couldn't waver now, that would be the worse thing to happen. "I have to be with my friends. I couldn't just watch them die knowing I could've actually helped, right?" She was talking to herself as much as she was talking to her Dad. She didn't want to go, but knew she would hate herself for the rest of her life if she didn't go. The rest of her life. It wouldn't mean much anyway if they failed. "Shhh, honey, honey, c'mere..." Aware that the two soldiers in the front were still there and paying attention, Josh felt more than a little awkward thrust into the role of nurturing parent. But Kat was his little girl, and though she was putting on a brave face he could see the strain it was causing. He slid across the seat, wrapping an arm around her and patting her back as he stroked her coral-red hair, hugging her tight. When he spoke again, it was quietly. "I've not been around much. Guess I was still seeing you as a child." he mused aloud. "If you really believe you have to... to go do this?" He looked down at her, and Kat nodded in response despite her teary eyes, despite wanting to cling to him. Josh took a deep breath, and let it out in a sigh. "Okay then..." He pulled her phone from his pocket and passed it to her, one arm still around her shoulders. "Just... is there anything I can do? The Project can do? To help I mean? Do you kids- guys need anything?" She sniffed, then grimaced. "I don't have a clue, to be honest with you." She paused, taking back the control of her voice, then: "First-aid kits for the after-party, maybe. Uh, yeah, no, scratch that. We got that part covered." She fell silent for a moment, considering the question more seriously. "I think it's best for the Project to not get involved right now. If I read the room correctly last time we talked about it, things are a bit... tense?" "Huh." Captain Williams grunted, looking at the other two Project personnel, both of whom were doing an admirable job of not appearing to pay attention. There were standing orders not to antagonise the bunch of superpowered kids. And his daughter was definitely one of them. He looked back at Kat. "Okay. I'll offer you a deal. I'm not going to have one of my men there tranq you, and I'm letting you go back to your 'Fellowship'. In exchange, you come back safe, and when you do, we sit and we talk about what you did, okay? A debrief." He forced a smile he didn't feel. "Over cocoa." She gave him a poor grin, and a clumsy hug. "Deal. Cocoa sounds great." She mentally sighed, glad of how it had turned out. She then checked her newly retrieved phone, her eyes narrowing at the messages she had missed, and swore under her breath, typing a short reply to the group chat. "I need to get back to the Carousel, fast." She wondered if she could run faster than a car. Probably faster than this one. Wait... She realized she was still holding a tight restraint on the engine's energy flow, and released it. "The engine should be able to start now." The driver tried the starter, the engine purred into life, and Josh nodded with some relief in his expression. He wasn't sure what Kat's powers entailed - it certainly wasn't as easily summed up as 'psychokinesis' or 'teleportation', but he was glad she hadn't permanently disabled a government vehicle. He was going to have a hard enough time explaining this snafu to Taggart as it was. Leaning past her, he opened the door. "We both better get going, pipsqueak." he told her, giving her hair a quick ruffle. "Be careful, and be smart, okay?" "Aye, aye, Captain." She replied with a smile, as she stepped out of the vehicle. She waved her hand in quick goodbyes, then closed the door and started running. Really fast. Her lungs quickly started burning, but it didn't really matter. Three hundred meters? That's nothing compared to my morning torture.
  4. 1 point
    Marissa was texting her brother as Cade spoke to his mother. Finally, she rolled her eyes and turned to Ms. Allister. “Seriously? Ms. Allister, it’s an emergency. The reasons are largely inconsequential, it’s for your safety and Haruka’s. We’re not sticking around either if it’s any consolation, now please, go.” “Christ,” Marissa fumed as the two drove away. “She’s that sort of woman who keeps asking ‘why’ in the middle of a crisis then gets eaten by the giant dinosaur with a look of surprise on her face while it happens.” “She’s just worried,” Cade offered as he tried to look calm amidst the tremors of emotions swirling like a maelstrom within him. They two made their way across the park as swiftly as they could, Marissa keeping a surprisingly spry pace considering her four-inch wedged footwear, until they reached her and Devin’s parents. They were in the middle of a conversation with a few families that they didn’t know, or care to know, and were almost thankful when Marissa approached and without explanation grabbed their arms and lead them away like children who’d just been caught doing something bad. “Marissa!” Misti attempted to correct her daughter’s actions but found Marissa’s grip to be akin to iron and she seemed to be effortlessly dragging them along as they tried to keep pace. Out of view of the rest of the park, she released them. The trees concealed and obscured them as a row overgrowth completed the natural curtain that she hoped would allow her to speak with her parents openly. “Ow,” Carl rubbed his arm. “Christ, Punk’in. The hell is going on?” Misti glared as Cade simply followed silently, his face still a pool of emotions that shifted from anger to worry then to concern to rage. She looked to Marissa then nervously to Carl. “Sweetheart, what is going on?” She managed a chuckle of concern as she awaited an answer. “Mom,” she looked to her mother then to her father. “Dad. You need to leave. Now. There’s been a murder and there is a chance that the killer might come after you to get to me and Devin.” Carl laughed. “Sweetie, you and your brother have pulled a few in the past, but going as far as a mur-“ “Dad!” Marissa raised her voice to cut him off. “For fucks sake! Listen for once!” Misti raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms defensively. Her posture took on the disapproving mother kind as she interjected. “Marissa Beatrice, I will not have you using that tone. Cade, dear, you can go. This is a family matter now, thank you.” “Nah.” Cade shrugged slightly. “Good where I am. She’s as much my family as my blood. We’re Fellowship.” “The fuck is Fellowship?” Carl fumed, now thoroughly pissed that his daughter was swearing at him. “Some cult? You run out and join a cult or something?” Marissa sighed and rolled her eyes. She held up her phone, the FaceTime on it showing Devin looking at his phone’s camera with a raised, yet confused eyebrow. “Are you hearing this Deej? I told you. Dense as fucking uranium. Do the thing.” “Stop with the langu-“ as Devin appeared, instantly on the scene in a flash of purple light, Misti’s words seemed caught in her throat. “S’up, bruddah.” He fist-bumped Cade who only offered him a silent nod and a fist. “So, now that we have your attention.” Marissa took a deep breath to center herself and pressed on, offering her brother a ‘thank you’ smile as she stepped forward. “Mom, Dad? Devin and I have super powers. The killer is not a who, it’s a what. Now, I know this is a lot to take in, but we’re the only ones who can stop it.” “Wh-what is it?” Carl managed to get out after giving his son a creepy once over, as if looking for the smoke and mirrors that made his son instantly appear. “It’s a god,” she replied. “A being of darkness, ancient and evil. We don’t expect you to believe to believe us-“ “Reassuring, because we don’t.” her mother said flatly. “How did you do that Devin, and these super abilities, what are yours?” Her eyes fell to Marissa. “I think, therefore I go.” Devin smirked. “We don’t have time to explain string theory to you two. Marissa is not lying. Not-Cody is on a warpath and we’re the only ones who can stop him. He’s not vulnerable to conventional weaponry.” “Okay, I’ll bite.” Carl said lazily. “What is he vulnerable to?” “Us.” Cade said stoically. “We’re hardly conventional.” Devin added. “And let me guess, you have powers to?” Mist threw a disbelieving gesture his way. “What are they?” “I look intimidating while using simple sentences to assert my dominance.” Cade offered as he crossed his arms. His tone told her she was barking up the wrong tree with him. “Mine’s putting up with your shit for the last sixteen years,” Marissa interrupted. “Look we don’t have time for this, you need to go home, lock the doors, stay safe and protect each other. Please.” “But… why? What is it and what does it want-“ “Mom! We’re going to fight this thing. We’re the only ones.” Devin’s voice rose above his mother’s. Marissa closed her eyes and looked away as the sound of her brother angry reminded her of harder times when he was the one always being bullied. Bullied because he was protecting his sister. “It’s done. No compromises, no talking us out of it. We’re telling you this because we love you. We love both. We might not come back.” “And we don’t want you living the rest of your days wondering where your children disappeared to one day.” Marissa’s voice was soft and caring as she looked at her parents. “You may not be perfect as parents go, but we both knew you deserved better than that. We didn’t plan on you finding out this way, but… well, Deej is right. This thing killed Charlie. We must do this, and we might not come back. We just wanted you to know that we love you. Both of you.” Devin shrugged; his lips not quite smirking. “She nailed it. I mean, this story is long and complicated, and to tell it to you, we need to survive tonight. I teleport. Marissa is like super hawt and mesmerizing. That’s our power. You wanna know more? We need to take down the Not-Cody first. For Charlie.” “I cannot believe what I’m hearing,” Misti chuckled in disbelief and she tossed up her hands and paced away from the children. “A-are you two high?” The twins both exhaled and simultaneously rubbed the bridge of their nose in frustration in a moment Cade had only seen a few times where the twins moved, thought, and acted the same. “That is without a doubt the single most loaded pile of bullshit I’ve heard in a long damn time,” Carl laughed. “Thank you.” Misti gestured to him in thanks for supporting her point of view. The twins’ faces sunk as neither of their parents seemed to believe a word of any of this. “So, you better come home,” he continued as he stepped forward and held both his children, each in one arm, and hugged them tight. “And tell me all of it.” “You believe us?” Devin asked, holding his father, the man he never got along with, like an actual son was supposed to. “No,” their father stated honestly. “I believe you just did something amazing; I’m processing that. But I also know that Cody kid is still missing, you said Charlie was murdered by him and I think you idiot kids are about to go and exercise of some backwoods justice.” The twins backed away and looked at their father then to each other. “You’re not going to stop us.” “We may not have been the best parents,” Carl motioned to himself and Misti. “Suppose we owe you an apology for that, but we raised you to look out for each other, and taught you that when the world pushes… you spit in its face and push right back. I know you’ll do the right thing.” “How do you know that?” Devin asked. A hint of defiance in his tone as he studied his con man of a father. “Because we wouldn’t.” He offered his son a slight grin that seemed almost fatherly. “Be safe and look out for each other.” “Dad, I-,“ Marissa wiped tears from her cheeks while searching for the right words. “Carl, you cannot seriously be buying into this. That Alister boy is obviously feeding them some cockamamie stories and luring them into some weird hazing.” Misti raged, glaring at Cade who only looked back at her with such a calm and composed expression that it could have brought a tear to Jase’s dried, unused tear ducts. The children turned to leave and walked away while Misti was in mid-rant. “Carl!” Their father turned and held his wife, possibly for the first time in months. “Mist. Mist. Shhh.” “I’m a horrible mom,” he could hear the tears welling up inside her as her children walked away. “They… they hate us…” “No, no, they don’t. They were talking and as usual we weren’t listening.” He met his lovely wife’s gaze and smiled that charming, hereditary smile. “Something strange is going on, we both know it, we both knew it. Our children. Ours, are at the middle of something big and they’re going to do great things. We’ve both made mistakes, Mist. Me especially… but look at them. Strong, independent, smart, and doing what is right. Don’t you see? By being us, we’ve taught them how not to be us, and… well, shit… I’m proud of them for that.” “We are a fucking mess, aren’t we?” Misti chuckled through tears. He traced a strand of hair from her face and tucked it behind her ears as he dabbed away her running makeup. “I knew what I was getting into. No regrets.” And there in the midst of all the chaos Misti and Carl met again for the first time…
  5. 1 point
    Frantically Marissa tapped out a text to the group as fear began to ride her nerves and shake her fingers anxiously. Dead? This was not happening. This could not be happening! With that simple concept now planted in her mind it swiftly sprouted into an all-too-possible reality. Something out there was playing for keeps now. It was hunting them and so far, it was winning. “Hey,” Cade tried to put his arm around her but she swiftly jerked away as the moisture in her eyes became the first tear of many that were going to fall. “Marissa everything-“ “No!” She stepped away from him and glared up at him. “Everything is not fine. It’s not going to be fine, Cade!” She stepped in realizing she was being louder than she intended. “We’re being hunted. It killed Charlie, it has Sophia… bait, Cade! It wants us to go after it. Why leave him and take her? We’re next. It’s going to find us and it’s going to kill us.” She backed away from him again, the panic rising in her mind while she paced, thinking it might calm her down. She was showing her crazy and she knew better, but, fuck, wasn’t there a being stalked by an extra-dimensional demon clause in there, somewhere? Should be. Her lover took a step towards her, but she held up her hand, blocking him from getting any closer. “Cade, I… I can’t okay. I just can’t right now. I don’t need hugs and kisses or a fucking fishing trip, I’m not some cardboard cut out of a girl. I’m angry, I’m scared, I’m freaking the fuck out… I need space. Room to breathe.” She looked down at her phone and read the message. “Delayed? Are you fucking serious? UGH!” She groaned at the sky, rolling her eyes, almost sure they were making a pit stop to sow their oats before the big night. “Those two, I fucking swear!” ---==={@}===--- “You’ll be safe with her,” Devin said calmly to Ellie. They were in the parking lot of Bunnies, a few miles away from the Carousel. Ellie’s mind was still trying to get a hold of how his travel worked and him taking her with him was as much a blessing as it was an honor. He had so much to learn about Teulu culture… “Her name is Annette Giles. She’s a friend.” Annette stood several yards from them, just outside her car at the driver’s side door. She couldn’t hear them but when Ellie saw her looked to Devin and cocked her head. “Have you coupled with her? She is extremely attractive.” “No,” he smirked, stifling a laugh. “At least, not yet. She is a friend and if something happens to me tonight, she can try to help get you home.” “Devin, I-,” she shrugged, not sure how to phrase her next words. “I do not trust her. I wanted it to be you.” “I know, Ellie, but we can’t work on that unless I make it home tonight,” he shrugged, trying not to look worried. “If I don’t, she will be there for you. If I do, we get to work on getting you home. Deal?” “Very well, if there is no other way, then I suppose we’ve little choice.” The blonde Teulu inhaled and exhaled slowly and steeled herself for meeting what was possibly the fifth, or sixth rival of the day? “Devin, I’m so glad you called,” Annette said as a greeting as they approached her. “You must be Ellie, I’m Annette Giles, a friend of Devin’s.” “Yes, the one he claims to have not coupled with… yet.” Ellie once again brought the crimson to the forefront of Devin’s cheeks. “Is that so?” Annette said in a dry tone. “Yes. Poor me, but I’m on the mend. Holistic diet, yoga, the target range. Anything to get him out of my head and bring peace to my loins.” Ellie nodded sagely. “Yes. That is best. Your age mingled with your lack proper respect for such a divine figure makes you an ill-suited mate.” Annette’s icy glare fell on Devin. “Well,” she exhaled. “Isn’t she a gem.” “Don’t look at me like that,” he said with a shrug. “I didn’t rub her lamp. I didn’t call her here. She just… showed up.” He slid the bracelet from his wrist and placed it in Ellie’s hand. “Here. Take this. You’ll need it to get home.” “You will be victorious.” The statement hung in the air with the confidence with which she spoke it. Devin had never really anyone speak with such with a measure of truth and confidence in their voice before, except maybe Marissa, but this really didn’t compare to getting guys to fall for her because of a plunging neckline. “I will get to know this Annette Giles and patiently await your ret-“ Devin looked down to his phone. His eyes narrowed and his expression took on a stern, serious tone. “Charlie is dead.” He said out loud as he looked up to Annette, who was also looking at her phone with a look of sorrow on her face. She nodded, confirming she got the same message. “Jesus, fuck…” Devin stepped away, sliding his hand through his hair in disbelief. “Jesus fuck… it killed Charlie, man. Fucking, Charlie! Dude just got a girlfriend! I mean… who the fuck…” he paced; a bit frantic as he collected his thoughts as the death of his ‘friend’ settled in. “I mean, she really liked him and she’s gone too. Because none of us were believing the cherry popped last year in drama club story. No fucking way. Right up there with I got a ‘girlfriend in Canada’.” “You have a girlfriend in Canada,” Annette pointed out. It was a low blow, sure, but Devin’s new girlfriend called her old and unworthy of him. Him! A snot nosed, loudmouthed, moronic sixteen-year-old… with perfect hair and a charming smile. God, she hated this job sometimes. “Not the point!” Devin pointed out, loudly. “We need to find her. Save her. Anette, I…” “Devin, I know,” she nodded, offering him a caring smile devoid of humor. “I want to talk all of you out if it, I do, but I know I can’t. Something gave these powers for a reason, maybe this is it. Ellie will be safe with me until you get home. Go save the world, hero.” “S'what we do,” he offered her a smile and looked to Ellie. “Be safe.” He turned and ran behind the building as a purplish flash faintly lit up the pavement in the summer sun.
  6. 1 point
    Keane Residence, around 08:20 "About time." Dana Keane, concerned mother to four dogs and a teenage daughter, grumped as Autumn shuffled into the kitchen, yawning, and made a bee-line for the coffee pot. An observant maternal eye noted the slight touches of makeup and attention paid to the fiery tumble of red hair as Autumn filled her mug, sweetened and added cream, then sipped, absently ruffling the fur of the large German Shepherd, Briggs, as he politely nudged her for a petting. "So Jason, Cassie, and Devin Jauntsen, hmm?" Hazel eyes narrowed. "This isn't some double date, I take it?" "What? No!" Autumn seemed jolted out of her distraction by the question, laughing a little. "I mean, Cassie and Devin are just friends, I think. And just because Jase is coming along doesn't make it automatically a date, mom." her daughter added, cheeks pinking a little as Dana made a feminine snort of disbelief. "Not technically, no." Autumn's mother said mock-sternly as though suspecting, and disapproving of, shenanigans. She then smiled a little as she turned back to the griddle pan. "Well, seeing as I'm feeding extra mouths, you'd better pull out some eggs and get to work." The two of them worked in companionable silence for a short while, music from the radio unobtrusively filling the air in the comfortable kitchen. Preparations were almost complete when the soft rumble of an engine outside sparked an excited bark or two from the dogs, all four of whom were hanging around just out from under foot, hoping for dropped tidbits with large pleading eyes. Dana looked at where Autumn had been, sighing and shaking her head with a smile as, with a soft patter of feet, the younger redhead hurried to the door. "Not a date, my butt." she commented quietly to Lexi, who merely panted good-naturedly and let out a little whine of protest at the lack of dropped bacon bits. Jason climbed out of the Charger as he removed his mirrored shades, hooking them into the neck of his t-shirt as he closed the car door behind him, and breathed deeply, pale eyes sweeping over the fields and woods surrounding the Keane home. The morning dew had already mostly burned away, but the day still felt fresh and new to him as he made his way around the car and headed up the front steps onto the porch. The country air was quiet, despite the sporadic barking of the dogs inside as they sensed a familiar presence, and there was a peacefulness that hung over the scene which was not lost on him. The front door opened as he approached, and Autumn slipped out quickly, closing it behind her and turning to face him, a smile curving her lips before she stepped forward and comfortably slipped her arms around his neck. "Hey." she murmured, smile becoming a grin as she felt his hands slide over her waist in a return embrace. "Hey." he echoed with a slight twitch of his lips answering her smile. He could smell the warm scent of her hair, and resisted the temptation to simply bury his face in it. "I just wanted to thank you for last night." Autumn said in a low tone, mindful her mother might be listening as she studied the flicker of reflected sunlight - as well as the deeper flame her nearness kindled - in his pale green eyes. He looked a little tired, as might be expected, but alert and focused as usual. "You're welc-" Jason started, but stopped as Autumn, grinning, put a finger over his lips, shifting her body against his, pressing closer. "I said I wanted to thank you, not say thank you." she breathed as she leaned up and kissed him, feeling the zip and zing of that flame running through her nerves at the contact, her arms tightening around his neck as, for a long moment, the two forgot everything else. So much so, in fact, that the purring whine of a high performance motorcycle didn't intrude on their private moment until it was too late.
  7. 1 point
    As Autumn watched Cassandra pedal away, the reflectors on the spokes of her wheels catching the light, the redhead shuddered at the sensation of icy, intangible fingers trailing down her spine. It was just a glint of flickering brightness against the shadows lining the road- not even the right color- but again, the image of a child's shoe appeared unbidden in her mind, and the saccharine sweetness of the ice cream lingering on her tongue was suddenly bitter ash in her mouth. Her mother was waiting for her; she, like the pretty reporter, would get to go home tonight. But, as she nudged the kickstand up and placed her feet on the pedals, it wasn't toward home that her handlebars turned. Not yet. It was nearly 11:30, after what seemed an eternity spent racing down country roads between pale, moonlit fields, that the building came into view. Even then, some instinct kept Autumn from looking back the way she'd come, now that she was more familiar with that sense of creeping unease at her back- dread- than she'd been the first time she traveled this path alone. Instead, she let that feeling spur her forward, overriding the dull ache in her lungs and the burning in her thighs. What had once seemed to her the lair of Shelly's most fearsome boogeyman was now simply a house rising up from the surrounding farmlands; having seen the den of an actual monster, the Bannon farm was an inviting sanctuary by comparison. Muscle memory applied the brake as gravel crunched beneath her bicycle tires, dropped the kickstand and carried her up the porch steps. There was as little thought in the movement as there'd been in leaving the diner parking lot, for once no inner dialogue or contemplation on the ride. Similarly, there was no real consideration of the time, or circumstance, as she knocked quietly at the door. Quiet rumble of male voices from inside, a scrape of a chair, a footfall. The door opened, revealing Gar Bannon, a plainly surprised look on his face at the sight of the young woman. He started to speak, then peered closely at her face. "Autumn." Whatever tone of surprise he'd initially intended to speak her name with was muted, overlaid by concern at something he saw in the shadowed pools of her eyes. "You, uh, here to speak to Jase?" Swallowing past the sudden tightness in her throat, the red-haired girl nodded. "Hi, Mr. Ban- Gar," she corrected herself for what would likely not be the last time. She liked Jason's dad, and despite knowing he'd been present for their last encounter with the nightmare hellbeasts, it seemed wrong somehow to relate the combination of otherworldly and mundane awfulness that brought her to his door. "I'm sorry to bother you, I know it's late. Would it be okay if..." She rubbed her palms against her thighs to still their trembling, the polite smile on her lips taut. Uncertain. "Is, um- is he still up?" "If he's not," Gar stated gravely, stepping aside and waving her in. "He'd want to be, I'm sure." His gaze was filled with questions, but with a stoic practicality that seemed very much like his son's he set them aside and focused on the matter at hand. Closing the door, he went to the foot of the stairs and called up in a low, but carrying voice. "Jase?" There was a pause, then a door opened somewhere above them. "Yes?" came the familiar tone, crisp and alert-sounding, curiosity a faint note rather than the substance that the word suggested. A creak of floorboards, a shadow moved on the wall above the bookcases that lined the staircase. "Autumn's here. You decent?" Gar smiled faintly, winking at the girl. There was another pause. "Sure." Now there was curiosity in his voice. Gar gave Autumn a nod and indicated the carpeted stairs. "Thank you," the subdued redhead replied, her gaze following the neat rows of books she'd noticed the last time she was here, though she'd had no reason then to venture upstairs. Now, suddenly, Autumn was conscious of the state of her hair, the film of sweat and dust and... probably worse that clung to her skin and her clothes, but it was too late to turn around, wasn't it? She was here, even if she wasn't entirely sure why, and the only thing to do was climb. Ascending the steps slowly, she noted the sheer number of volumes present as well as the apparent variety of subjects covered; while most of the books downstairs were related to cooking or practical household concerns, these seemed more esoteric. A few sets of what looked like very old encyclopedias, noteworthy for their impressive leather and gilt spines, stood next to well-worn science textbooks, botanical field guides, and ones marked with characters she couldn't even read. It occurred to Jason's brand-new, very first girlfriend that he'd probably read all of them more than once. Reaching the landing at the top, Autumn unzipped her jacket and exhaled, counting to four. He was standing on the landing, in the dim gold radiance cast by an overhead bulb that picked out the bronze tones of his hair and features and warmed the glacial pallidity of his gaze as it studied her. His head tilted slightly, something she now surmised was a deliberate visible cue rather than an unconscious one, something he added for the benefit of others. Part of his 'peopling'. "Autumn." He didn't smile, despite the warmth in his voice as he uttered her name, the glittering interrogation of his gaze at odds with the warmth also there as he stepped towards her. "Jase," she replied, and took another deep breath, her fingers tangling themselves in the fabric of her hoodie. Even with everything that had happened, even with the uncomfortable way her t-shirt was sticking to her skin, there was something about those cool, not-wholly dispassionate jade eyes that made it difficult to think of anything else. Focus, Autumn. "Listen, I know it's really late, and I kind of just showed up, and we've only been dating for like a day, but I have a favor to ask." She paused, then amended, "Two favors. If it's okay, I would really like a shower, and a hug. In that order." There was another pause, another slow exhalation. "Please." A half-beat of her heart and then "Okay." The word was simply and sincerely spoken, without fanfare, and Jason half-turned, gesturing towards a doorway. "The bathroom is there. One moment, and I'll get you a towel." He started to move towards a closet, his manner composed. So composed, in fact, that Autumn experienced a weird but not-unpleasant sense of surprise. "Wait." she managed, causing him to stop and look at her. Then she wondered why she'd spoken up. It was just odd, the way he accepted without questioning or demanding to know what was going on. Jason considered her a moment as she stood, silently trying to put into words the question in her blue eyes. "You're upset." he said by way of answer to the unvoiced query. "Shower first, hug second. My curiosity can wait." He turned and retrieved a large dark blue towel from the closet, along with a matching washcloth. "I'll get you something to wear. Leave your clothes outside the door and I'll get them cleaned up." He led her to the bathroom door, then handed her the towel and cloth. No argument. No inquiry. No demands. Just... "Okay," and "I can wait." As if the explanation for her completely unreasonable request- after showing up unexpectedly in the middle of the night- was less important than the fact she'd made it. Autumn blinked up at him, surprised, in the soft golden light, her eyes the murky, indeterminate grey-blue-green of the ocean in the wake of a storm, and then nodded as he pressed the bath linens into her hands. She'd half-expected to be pinned to the wall by that piercing crystalline stare, questioned in precise and excruciating detail about why she'd shown up and what had happened, but... "Okay." At least for the moment, she didn't have to explain anything, to really even say anything at all, except- "Thank you," she breathed, cool fingertips lingering just a moment on the backs of his hands as she took the towel and turned, closing the bathroom door quietly behind her. For the span of several heartbeats, the redhead sagged back against that door, the thick wood panel reassuringly solid against her shoulders and spine as the reality that she was safe slowly penetrated the fog of apprehension she'd been moving through all night. With that recognition, a growing awareness of physical discomfort replaced psychological unease. She was sore. She was sweaty. She could actually feel the grime on her skin, and although being in the Old Town Hall had effectively granted her temporary immunity to its smell, she was pretty sure no one around her could boast the same. Ugh. Her nose crinkled in displeasure at the thought. In less time than it would have taken to list the layers of clothing she was wearing, she'd managed to tear them all off- opening the door just enough to confirm no one was watching before leaving them just outside. As Jason found something for her to wear and explained to his father, briefly, that she'd be staying for a little while, Autumn did her best to scrub away the physical residue of the night. At least she wasn’t sick, this time. The hot water was a soothing balm to both achy muscles and jangled nerves. It rinsed away the faint traces of earlier tears as well as the ones that spilled out unbidden beneath the spray, and banished the visible evidence of the girls’ adventures down the drain in a dark swirl, surrounding her in the clean scent of unidentifiable herbs and green, growing things. Jason’s soap. Jason’s shampoo. She lingered there a few minutes longer than was strictly necessary, the idea of his smell on her skin warming her as thoroughly on the inside as the shower was outside, and by degrees, the red-haired young woman felt herself relax. Wringing the water from her hair and combing through the damp curls with her fingers as she finished up and dried off, Autumn drew in what felt like the first full breath she’d had all evening. One of Jase’s oversized t-shirts and a pair of shorts with a drawstring waist lay on the counter, neatly folded, and she allowed herself a little smile as she pulled them on, her still-pink cheeks flushing a slightly deeper shade of rose as it occurred to her that her underwear had gone with everything else she’d been wearing. Although, she reflected with a faint grin, the most effective way to deal with most of it… except her hoodie… was probably just shoving it in a furnace and walking away. Between the fries, the ice cream, the exertion of the ride, and the luxury of a shower and clean clothes, she could almost convince herself that things were okay. Almost. As she stepped out of the bathroom, Autumn’s eyes caught on a sliver of light escaping a half-open door across the way. Padding across the carpet, she peeked inside, rapping her knuckles against the door frame in a quiet knock. “Jase?” The room was another library, shelves lining the walls from floor to ceiling and broken only by a closet door, the large sash window and a desk in one corner. The center of the room was largely dominated by a low bed consisting of a king size mattress only slightly set above the floor - a futon style, she thought it was called. As her eyes took in the room, it's lack of pop culture posters, or art, or photos, the lack of clothing strewn about and, most notably, the absence of eau-de-sock, it struck Autumn that this was by far the tidiest teenagers - especially teenage boy's - room she had ever seen. The only marked disarray was the couple of piles of books next to the bed - which the room's occupant currently sat on, long legs stretching out in front of him as he leaned back against the wall, reading by the light of a lamp. Jase looked up as she knocked, smiling slightly in that way he did - the faintest of crinkles at the corners of his eyes as they took in her freshly-washed self. Heat flickered in the depths of his gaze as it rested on her pink-tinged cheeks, but all he did was close the book he'd been passing the time with and set it aside, watching her as he motioned for her to enter. "Come on in." he invited. A touch of a wry smile graced his lips. "I believe you would be the only person other than my father who has." "Thanks," she replied with a faint, answering smile, pleased at the inclusion in such a select group as she stepped over the threshold and into the decidedly un-hoardlike inner sanctum of Bannon the Magnificent, he of the spear-like claws and teeth of swords. Then again... Scanning row upon row of books, it occurred to the curious redhead that the library in the rest of the house wasn't singular at all. It must instead have spilled forth from this room, the accumulated knowledge of minds great and good and simply novel overflowing down the stairs and into the kitchen and- she assumed- probably elsewhere, as well, like so many gold bars and gleaming gems amassed for his pleasure. A cave of wonders, of mysteries and secrets, treasures for the brilliant young man's keen intellect to peruse at his leisure. "It suits you." Autumn's footfalls were silent on the rug as she closed the distance between them, hesitating for little more than the span of a heartbeat before she perched on the edge of the bed next to Jason, feet on the floor. The camping trip had been one thing, but this was his room. Girlfriend or not, there were rules for this kind of thing, right? Some kind of protocol to be observed? Angling toward him, she turned slightly, pressing her lips together as her eyes moved thoughtfully over his face. She'd just seen him earlier that evening, had spent almost two full days with him, but in that instant it didn't feel like even that had been enough. "So, um, the hug. Should I just...?" Meeting Jase's gaze, his companion gestured vaguely toward him as if asking permission. His head tilted slightly, the wry smile widening for a moment and revealing a hint of dimple in each smooth cheek, then Jason simply held out a hand to her. "Come here." It wasn't quite a command, and wasn't quite a request, and contained warmth of emotion not usually present in his habitually precise and clinical manner. She took the long, strong fingers in her own, folding her hand around his, letting him draw her to him as she shuffled closer until she felt his arm slide around her shoulders and tug her into an embrace. "You never need to ask to touch me." he murmured with his lips on her damp hair, his free hand stroking the ends of her curls, fingers toying with them. "That privilege is yours." In answer, Autumn simply nodded, pressing her face against his chest as her other arm curled around his side. Her fingertips slid under the hem of his shirt, finding the warm, bare skin of his back beneath the cotton and exhaling a long, shaky breath that seemed to come from her toes. Her eyelids drifted shut at the feel of Jason's breath on her hair, the pressure of his arm, the dextrous fingers entwined with hers; although she didn't feel the least bit sleepy, it was the first time since she and Cass had left the basement that she'd seen nothing at all when she closed her eyes. That alone was worth the ride through the dark Montana night. "Same," she murmured against his collarbone, drawing her pale legs up onto the bed and all but melting against the reclining youth. The awfulness was still there, that haunting chill that whispered that things weren't at all okay, and that they might never again be okay, but at least for the moment it seemed distant, muted by the heat radiating from Jase's lean form next to hers. "You have really good hugs, you know?" his potentially biased girlfriend opined quietly, her thumb moving lightly over his knuckles. "For an alien." In the diamond-etched crystal prism of his mind, Jason was hard at work analysing Autumn's appearance, manner, and possible reasons for being here. He was also focused intently on the feel of her wet hair, cool on his fingertips, and the warmth of her touch on his skin. That connection, that sense of being touched and the vulnerability of being close to another, was deeply personal to the strange young man - which is why he tolerated very few people within arm's length. It was also fair to say that Autumn's proximity, after his earlier wrestling with the remembrance of their sensual play of the night before, was performing an excellent job of undoing the locks of his self-discipline like a practiced seducer's fingers would unfasten the buttons on a shirt. "It must be part of the genetic superiority." he joked softly. "Intelligence, aggression, fearlessness... and really good hugs." He breathed in deeply, his eyes half-closing as he struggled with the urge to change the nature of his caresses, to seek her mouth with his and draw out gasps of pleasure, to bury his fingers deep in her hair and crane her head back so her ivory throat would be laid bare for his lips... He breathed out again, feeling his center stabilise once more. It was apparent to him that Autumn hadn't come seeking sex. She had seen something, or experienced something, that had upset her deeply and needing comfort she had come... to him? Perhaps. Perhaps she had also been scared, and so wanted a sense of protection? It was hard to say with any certainty, at least for him. So he concentrated instead on what he did know. Autumn wanted to be held. That he could do, and so his arm snugged her closer as, in a gesture of comfort he'd seen others do, he softly kissed her forehead. "Mhmm," the redhead agreed, smiling in spite of herself at the gentle brush of his lips. Even in this, she realized, Jase was a fast learner, and a part of her wondered what he'd be like when he was older, more experienced with life and women and, well. Everything. That was a question for future Autumn to answer, though, as current Autumn had more pressing concerns. "Must be. The other stuff just makes it hard for people to figure that out. Lucky me, huh?" Shifting slightly in his arms, she tilted her head back to catch Jason's eye and smiled, one corner of her mouth curving upward. "Probably all the Irish in my family." Even under questionable circumstances such as these, it was impossible to remain completely unaffected by his nearness, the firefly glimmer of gold in his gaze, the lingering hint of tobacco just underneath the verdant, crisp scent she'd come to associate with Jason Bannon. Feeling her face growing warmer as she studied his features, the blue-eyed teen caught her lower lip in her teeth, biting down just hard enough to remind herself that was definitely not why she'd come out here. Probably. Then again, it hadn't really been a conscious choice on her part, had it? "You said earlier you were curious," she stated, focusing on the here-and-now of those pale green eyes. "And you've done both the favors I asked for, so I kind of owe you some explanation. Would it be okay with you if we stayed like this while we talked, though?" Neat white teeth worried at her lower lip, causing it to redden enticingly, and Jason almost lost his struggle there before getting control once more, remonstrating sternly with himself and more than a little concerned. This was not like him, to feel so easily pulled like this. "It's more than okay to stay like this." he said in answer to her question, his eyes studying her upturned features with a gaze that was half analytical, and half appreciative. "And you can give as much, or as light of an explanation as you choose right now. I kind of get the impression the scouting was... unpleasant?" Autumn snorted softly in something like laughter, though there was nothing at all to laugh about. It was just easier, preferable to the alternative, which was to start crying again. "Yeah. The two of us went to Bunnee's, after," she explained, resting her cheek against the smooth plane of his Jase's chest, turning his hand over in hers and studying the faint marks on his palm, the whorls on the pads of his fingertips as she traced them with her own. "We talked about it a little, but I don't think either of us have really processed, yet. There's a lot of pieces of ideas kind of floating around in my head right now, and I don't know how much help it'll be. If at all." Exhaling, the animated redhead frowned, rearranging herself again as if to get closer. When she began again, her voice was quiet, distant in the way it had been when she'd spoken of her grandfather on the porch a week before. "It was a lot like Cassie said when she described it, but worse. The darkness, the smell... Awful. Cody wasn't there, though. Just us, and all the, um." Her voice wavered, a sudden shiver prickling the freckled skin on the backs of her arms. "The animals he'd killed. There were a whole lot of them, and not just in the basement, and most of them had been there for a while." There had been so many of them, their little bodies just mangled, brutalized and tortured and then discarded like trash... Her eyes darkened, lashes trembling slightly at the memory as she fixed her gaze on the lines encircling the base of his thumb. Focus, Autumn. You have to be able to talk about it. She inhaled, counting silently in her head and holding the breath before releasing it again. "He wasn't around, but it felt like... If you walk into a room where someone was just standing, and you know that they were there? Like, there's no hot coffee cup, or lit cigarette, or anything to give you a definite clue, just that feeling. They just stepped out, but they might be back any second. Sort of like that." "Well, that settles the matter of where we go to find him." Jason murmured, part of his mind examining the description of the place. Mangled, tortured animals. To him, no more than distasteful, and more so due to the apparent senselessness, but from recent experience he knew it was more than that for his girlfriend. He gave her what he judged was a reassuring squeeze, and upon feeling her make a small noise, tighten her embrace of him and press her face into his chest assessed that the comfort was well-received. "Tomorrow, if you feel capable, I'd like you and Cassie to do a floorplan of the place for us to study. To describe it so that we're as ready as we can be. We know we're on a clock with taking him down, so the sooner we prepare the better." "But that can wait till tomorrow. This is hug time." he added with another small kiss on the top of Autumn's head, breathing in his shampoo mingling with the warm smell of her hair - of her. His scent on her. Odd how that affected him so strongly, causing not just arousal but also provoking urges of protection, of possession. Mine, the urges rumbled, and the diamond-clarity of Jason's thoughts resolved to keep a strong watch on that, lest it come on him at a bad time, or lead to... unproductive confrontations. "Was there anything more? Either of you get hurt?" he inquired with mild concern. He had initially assumed that, if that was the case, Autumn would have led with it. But people were strange sometimes - it would not surprise him for Autumn to disregard a wound in her distress over the dead animals. "No, not hurt. Freaked out, scared, angry, yeah, but not hurt. The place sounded like it'd fall on our heads the whole time, but it seemed pretty solid. Some of the old stairs were out, broken railings, stuff like that, but I mean, that's what you expect, right?" She sat quietly for a moment, weaving her pale, cinnamon-flecked fingers through Jason's long, tan ones. The actual physical aspect of the place was easy to describe, just a practical assessment of its construction and how time and the occasional vagrant or animal incursion had changed it; its effect, however, wasn't quite so simple for the earnest young woman to relate. "I know we'll probably talk a lot more about it tomorrow, and Cass took a lot of pictures, so you guys can see exactly what we found- there were drawings all over the place, but not like graffiti. More like creepy cave paintings of the… monster, I guess? That she talked about. Cody, or the spirit, or whatever. Skull, antlers." Wait. Autumn leaned back suddenly, straightening to meet Jase’s eyes. Whatever questions or ideas she had about the meaning of those primitive scrawls, their origin, or what they might suggest about the historical goings-on in Shelly could wait until everyone was together. That was just details. It might help them come up with a working hypothesis, or add some color to the outline of events they were sketching, but it didn’t seem immediately useful. …Except in one instance. "Not just drawings, though. There’s a big one, on one of the walls down in the basement, and we’re pretty sure that’s the Door,” she added soberly, a subtle emphasis on the last word. “Cassie felt it there, I think, and-“ The redhead blinked, wide, dark pupils constricting sharply at the memory of the marks on the floor, the rust-red flecks on Velcro, the fluorescent stripes, as she tensed. “-and there was a little boy’s shoe, and… And that’s- the wall is where the blood stopped,” she finished tautly. He remained silent for a moment, his eyes on hers as he absorbed everything. A Door, audibly capitalised. A boy's shoe. Blood. Autumn's pupillary constriction and the way the colour drained from her ivory skin, throwing the dusting of freckles into high contrast. The way her voice tightened and the tremor in her fingers around his. "That'll do for now." he decided softly, tugging her back to snuggle against him, resuming the gentle stroking of her hair, fingertips lightly brushing strands back from her cheek and ear, resting his jaw and cheek on the top of her fiery curls. "Did I tell you yet today that I admire your courage?" he murmured with a soft smile that would have astonished practically everyone in the Fellowship, except possibly Sean. "Don't feel brave." Autumn muttered, her eyes closing as she listened to his heartbeat against her ear and breathed in his scent. "And yet you are. You're scared, and do what needs to be done anyway." Jase said firmly, his voice still low as he dropped another kiss on her brow. "I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure that's the definition of bravery most people agree with." "Mmmm," his girlfriend hummed noncommittally, too preoccupied with allowing him to spoil her for a little bit longer to contest the point. This wasn't at all what she'd expected, this tenderness in his manner- Jason was clinical, pragmatic, and, yes, passionate, if the last twenty four hours had been any indication, but this was an entirely different sort of intimacy. For all its strangeness, though, the feeling of gentle fingers in her hair, the rise and fall of his chest, the warmth of his breath on her skin and the faint resonance of his Shine interacting with hers... It felt pleasantly familiar. He'd offered actual comfort- not empty platitudes or reassurances that everything was going to be fine, but simple physical presence. Connection. He'd told her not so long ago that if she ever had a bad day, he'd be right there, and she was pretty freaking sure that tonight qualified. ...And he was true to his word, wasn't he? He listened. Even if it wasn't something he knew anything about, or had any experience with, he'd actually been there. It wasn't just something he'd said to make her feel better. "Okay, Professor Bannon," Autumn conceded after a moment, inhaling tobacco, something crisply botanical, and what she could only identify as 'Jase' under that. "I'll take your word for it." Releasing his fingers, the freshly-showered young woman wrapped both her arms around the laconic youth's spare, wiry torso, her hands sliding beneath the hem of his shirt as she attempted vainly to get closer to him. The journals, the trip to the reservation, talking about the basement and how to handle it- all of that could wait a little longer, she decided. At least until tomorrow, and that seemed, at the moment, to be very far away. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It was a little while later. Jason had recited poetry to Autumn - poetry in various languages, spoken in a soft voice - as she'd cuddled close, and whether it was his voice, or choice of poems, her emotional exhaustion, his smell or some mixture of them all she had fallen into a doze, lips curved in a faint smile as she occasionally made 'mmh'-ing noises and wriggled as though it were possible to snuggle closer. "His spots are the joy of the Leopard, his horns are the Buffalo's pride." Jase said softly, smiling a little at the drowsing redhead as he quoted Kipling. "Be clean, for the strength of the hunter is known by the gloss of his hide. If you find that the bullock can toss you, or the heavy-browed Sambhur can gore-" Whatever came next was interrupted as a text tone went off from Autumn's phone and her eyes snapped open. "How'd that get here?" she asked, blinking a little. What time was it? "It was in your hoodie. I retrieved it when you put your clothes outside the bathroom." Jason explained, passing it to her without glancing at the screen. With a murmured 'thanks,' Autumn tapped her phone, visibly reluctant to shake off the reverie as she sat up with a little huff and swiped away the broad field of wildflowers that appeared on her lock screen. Maybe Cass was checking in, or her mom, or- "Oh. It's from..." Copper brows knit together in confusion as she checked the name. "Marissa." There was a hint of a question in the word, a note of surprise, and then she tapped the screen again. [Wow, heard from Devin you're sleeping with Jason? Nice, Autumn. Nice.] "Wait, how did- ?" she murmured, re-reading the text one more time. Fully awake now, the companionable warmth she'd been drowsily enjoying seemed to rush suddenly upward, flooding the girl's bronze-flecked cheeks with scarlet. It didn't really bother her that Marissa knew, but she'd meant to tell the beautiful fashionista herself, and... Autumn had never actually been congratulated on making out with a guy before. This whole 'having a female best friend' thing was a little different from having a guy best friend. Huh. Grinning in spite of herself at the prospect of being able to actually talk to another girl about things like this, of having a 'bestie' who wouldn't show up to threaten the guy she was seeing, Autumn leaned back against Jason's chest. Still blushing, she tapped out a quick reply. [No, not sleeping! Will tell you about it tomorrow!] Marissa's response was almost immediate: [Can. Not. Wait.] The redhead's smile widened as she read the emphatic reply and set the phone on the bed, her rosy flush deepening by degrees as she peered up into the pale green eyes in such close proximity to her own. "I guess the cat's out of the bag with Marissa. Apparently Devin said something to her about us." "Devin knew we were going camping. Though it's improbable he knows what happened there." Jase noted, running his thumb along Autumn's lower lip as his palm caressed her cheek. He paused, reflecting. "I did ask him if perhaps your behaviour towards me indicated attraction. I wasn't sure, and didn't want to presume and make another mistake." "You talked to Devin about me?" Autumn asked, embarrassment warring with the little skip her heart made at the confession. "Not by name - I just described the behaviour and asked his opinion. Though he might have put two and two together." Jason smiled a tiny amount. "He's far from blind or stupid." "You're taking girl advice from Devin?" Autumn didn't know whether to laugh or be aghast. Jason shrugged, smiling. "He was pretty helpful. Said the best way to find out was to test the waters. It didn't occur to me to do so until that moment by the fire, though." He lightly brushed his lips over hers. "I'm glad I did." he murmured against her mouth. His pink-cheeked companion was glad, too; in fact, she spent the next few minutes communicating her satisfaction at the arrangement with quiet enthusiasm, heated kisses stealing the breath from their lungs and ardent caresses igniting incandescent sparks along their nerve endings. That it went no further was a testament to Jason's strength of will and Autumn's fear of being sent off to a remote convent on a mountaintop in Eastern Europe, and before the hour was too late to be considered "wholly unacceptable" by weekend standards, he offered to drive her home. Unlike the last time she'd visited, there was no argument or debate over whether she'd traverse the dark roads on her bicycle. As she changed back into her own clothes, somewhat reluctantly relinquishing the t-shirt he'd loaned her, she was silently grateful not to have to make the trip on her own after everything that had happened that night. "Oh, hey, I forgot to mention it earlier." Twisting her still-damp curls up at the nape of her neck, Autumn rolled the little elastic band off her wrist and looped it around the knot to secure it in place as she sat on the edge of the bed, getting ready to leave. "My mom said if you guys come by around 8:30 or so, we can all have breakfast before we head over to the Rez. Normally I'd just text you, but, you know. Sort of not an option." She grinned over at him, nose crinkling slightly as she leaned down to pull on her hiking boots. "Nothing crazy. Waffles. Bacon. Probably whatever fruit she picked up from the farmer's market. Coffee, of course. Wanna come?" A smile curved Jase's lips. "Having me over twice in two days for a meal? People will talk." he teased her, enjoyed the renewed dark rose that flooded her cheeks even as she smiled back at him. "What do you think they'll say?" she asked, playing along. Jason pretended to consider as he stood, moving to shuffle his feet into his own boots. "Probably that you're leading me astray by means of feeding me." He gave a small grin as he opened the door for her and followed her down the stairs. Autumn chuckled as Jason quickly told his dad - and Hank, who was still trying to beat Gar at chess - that he was driving her home, and as the pair headed out onto the porch, collected Autumn's bike, and headed over to the smaller barn she nudged him with an elbow. "Is the food method working?" "Definitely." Jason nodded, deadpan. "I'm totally led astray." He popped the trunk of his car and helped her hoist the bike into it, giving her a smile across the roof of the Charger as they moved to the driver and passenger doors. "Now let's get you home before Dana rescinds the offer to feed me."
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