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  1. 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. Jase smiled slightly at the athlete's theatrical flight pose and landing, nodding in response to the thanks. "You're welcome." he said simply, then turned his gaze on the others. "Tawny?" The pretty blonde chewed on a fingernail, then shook her head. "It's okay." she said with a smile. "Today's been a... Well, a whole lot. I'm happy just watching." She was aware of the direct, intense stare sharpening a little as her dangerous mentor studied her, and shifted her feet. She didn't want to be mean, or rude, but she'd been told by Devin what Jason was capable of as preparation for this day. 'Just in case', he'd said. And though she'd found Jase patient and a little surprising in other small ways, she still had the image of a badly crippled Liam in her mind. And it was one thing to bravely sit and practice telekinesis with him, even making small talk, when her knight protector was within shouting distance, and quite another to trust him around all these other people who she didn't really know all that well and, in the case of Courtney, didn't like that much either. "Alright." Jason, his scrutiny over, shrugged unconcernedly, and turned his head as Courtney bounced down the steps to stand on the grass. "Me next, then!" She smoothed her denim skirt and fluffed out her hair like she was readying herself for a photoshoot. "Ten bucks if you drop her in the duckpond." Cassie said in a stage-murmur loud enough for the glamorous senior to hear. "Hey!" She scowled at the blonde reporter. "Not cool." "Twenty bucks, then?" Cade put in, deadpan, and Courtney's scowl found a new target as she planted her hands on her hips. "No-one is getting drooooopppppped." her tirade was cut off in a shriek as she was levitated into the air, feet kicking. "Jase?" she called down from fifteen feet up as she started to circle over the grass. "You're not dropping me, right?" "I'm not dropping anyone." Jason said firmly, though his eyes crinkled at the edges in a humorous manner as he added "Trust me." Courtney relaxed a little, getting into the sensation of flight and stretching her arms out to the sides before, greatly daring, closing her eyes as she soared, dived and swooped upwards again under the incomprehensible young man's control, relishing this unexpected thrill.. She couldn't read his intent, couldn't get a sense of whether he would drop her or not, and for the thrillseeking young telepath that was akin to being blindfolded and naked. Indeed, it caused a sudden rush of heat as Courtney realised she was at his mercy, and that he was dangerous, and she would have no warning if he got the notion to do her harm. Courtney whooped in exhilaration, opening her eyes and laughing aloud as she realised she was skimming a mere foot or so above the ground towards the farmhouse, then rising slightly, her body tilting so her legs were coming down as the emerald-eyed telekinetic set her down so gently she might have stepped down from the air. "Ohmygod that was amazing!" she giggled as she jogged back up the steps, a glint of mischief and lust in her eyes as she approached Jase. "Ten out of ten, would ride again." she cooed, stepping forward for a full body hug... Only for Autumn to pull Jason aside, hugging his arm to her as she nodded agreement. Courtney almost stumbled as the tall lean shape she'd been about to drape herself on was pulled away. "Isn't it the best?" Autumn asked in an ingenuous fashion, though the stare in her clear blue eyes leveled at the interloper made it plain even without telepathy that, no, that hadn't been an accident. Courtney smiled a little, recovering her composure and inclining her head in a gesture that could be agreement, or could equally be an acknowledgement of having been outmaneuvered... this time. Jason, for his part, seemed oblivious to the subtexts in play, instead looking around with a question in his gaze. "Anyone else want a flight?"
  3. He'd felt it too - that casual yet profound intimacy as she proffered then handed him the mug, the way her eyes met his as he felt her fingers under his for a moment - imbuing the everyday courtesy of simply getting someone a drink with a deeper, arcane meaning that rang like a silver chime in some recently-opened chamber of his mind. It didn't seem congruous, didn't seem rational or logical as a reaction to simple stimuli. It was, after all, just a mug of coffee. But as he analysed the sensations and yes, feelings evoked, he realised that the catalytic agent was Autumn herself. Alchemy, he mused with a faint inward smile as his head lowered slightly in response to the fire-haired girl's body beginning to lengthen up towards him like a flower toward the sun - and then Cassandra's irrepressible chirpy tones intruded and chased the bluebirds away, and Jason glanced towards her as Autumn dropped her gaze to her coffee and pretended she hadn't been about to do... well, whatever it was. "No comment." The green-eyed devil stated calmly before taking a sip of coffee, an impressively stony deadpan that, had Cassie not become somewhat skilled at spotting the glimmers of humor in her strange friend's glacial gaze, could have been construed as a genuine refusal to discuss the topic. "My sources are impeccable." Cass grinned, throwing a wink at Autumn, who nodded around taking a sip of her own coffee. "Eyewitness accounts, plus a first hand report that it was..." she snapped her fingers as though trying to remember, then looked at Autumn. "The coolest thing ever." Autumn said with mock-gravity, nodding. She smiled slightly at her partner in pluck, then glanced up at Jason. "Sounds like fake news." Jason's eyes crinkled at the corners. "Who are these alleged sources?" "Well... her." Cassie pointed at Autumn. "And I witnessed it." "Allegedly." Autumn put in. "Well, damn." Jase shrugged, lips twitching now. "Curses. And drat." "Soooo... Once you've had your coffee..?" Cassie began. "...perhaps you could offer rides?" Autumn grinned as she and the blonde reporter, in unison, put on their most appealing faces and chorused "Pleeease?" Jason just looked from one earnest entreating face to the other, took a swallow of coffee, and then nodded. "Yay!" The ensuing victory dance attracted the attention of the others, who expressed amused bafflement in varying degrees, necessitating a brief explanation from the two girls. "Airplanes?" Tawny blinked, then her mouth made a pretty 'O' of surprised realisation. "You mean whizzing people around with telekinesis?" She looked intrigued and doubtful. "I dunno, isn't that dangerous?" "Most fun things are dangerous." Cassie grinned. "Skateboarding..." "...rock-climbing..." Autumn put in. "...sneaking into the gym locker for a quickie with an assistant coach..." Courtney nodded, then smiled wickedly at the looks she got. Chuckles ran round the room, even Tawny laughing through her disapproving blush. "Seriously, though." she went on after the moment passed. "I'd be worried to give someone an airplane in case I lost concentration or something." "You'll get past that." Jase said with authoritative reassurance. "This is early days for you, and you've made strides rather than steps." He gave the sweet-faced girl a slight smile. "The key is to keep challenging yourself, improving that confidence and focus." "It'd be good practice." Autumn's nose crinkled as she smiled broadly at Tawny. "If you want to try airplaning someone, I volunteer. It's seriously awesome." "Maybe." Tawny's intrigue was definite. "I think I'd need to experience it first, though." she said slyly. "I'm sold." Courtney's carmine lips curved in a grin. "Fly me!" "Me first." Cassie mock-scowled at all and sundry. "I brought it up, you all can take a ticket." Laughs and good-natured bantering followed as those interested in the Effing Bannon Fairground Ride jockeyed for marching order and those not looked on with amusement. Meanwhile Jason watched from over his coffee, an island of stillness in the motion, quick keen gaze noting, studying and analysing the vibrant expressiveness of his friends.
  4. "The ideal personal go-bag should have enough resources to sustain one or two people for seventy-two hours." Jason noted dispassionately from where he was loading up the coffee maker and setting it to drip. "Food, water, first aid gear, a multi-tool or at least some manner of folding knife, as Devin and Lilly said. Additionally, I would recommend a non-battery powered light source - there are good windup lamps or flashlights out there. A small windup radio. Thermal survival blankets. Water purifying tablets, and sachets of Gatorade to help with electrolytes. Signal mirror, work gloves, duct tape, dry warm change of clothes in a waterproof bag. A foldable waterproof poncho. A Bivi bag-" "Wait, a what?" Kat blinked as Jason turned from putting things away, noting several of the Fellowship staring at him. He smiled slightly. "A foldable thermal survival bag you can sleep and shelter in in emergencies." he explained, crossing to a closet by the back door to the kitchen. Reaching in, he pulled out a medium-sized backpack that looked to be military surplus and in a camouflage pattern. "My go-bag. Twenty pounds in weight: with a decent pack to distribute the load it's not too bulky or heavy." He handed it to Kat, who hefted it, nodding before handing it back. Jason set it on the table so others could take a look inside if they wished and stepped back. "About two years ago my dad started insisting we keep and maintain one each. At the time I thought it largely pointless and a result of him listening to militia paranoia, but humored him. Now... I'm glad I did." "I bet." Cassandra, ever curious, examined a couple of the pouches and side pockets on the backpack. "Given the likelihood that, if we survive tomorrow, we're all going to be living lives less ordinary, I think it's wise everyone puts together a bag. It doesn't have to be as complete as this one." Jase indicated the backpack. "But like Devin, have some essentials handy and ready to carry. We never know when we'll need it." "And it's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it." Autumn nodded agreement. Tawny looked a little grave as she considered the pack on the table. "Amen." Devin said. "We can't keep half-assing things at the last minute. We can't know everything that's gonna happen, but there is shit we can do to prepare ourselves as best we can." "We've a case or two of MREs downstairs." Jason said as he moved to check on the coffee. "If anyone wants a couple to start off their own bag, let me know."
  5. "Hey Jason?" He wasn't meditating now - resting back on the grass by the cooler after Marissa had left he was to all appearances dozing, stretched out with his hands folded behind his head and his booted feet crossed at the ankles. A distance away, Autumn and Devin were practicing avoidance and touch, this time the pain dialed back down to a stinging sensation as the pair worked on the redhead's sense of timing and footwork; when to step back, when to dart forward and try for a touch in a semi-serious game of tag that involved more than a little cussing and even some laughter from both parties. Nearer, Kat was devouring a fourth slice of pizza while Courtney teased her about having a big appetite for such a tiny thing and Cassandra watched and grinned. Cade was talking to Lilly, the pair of 'Spartans', as Marissa called them, quietly discussing their likely roles in the coming fight as they tossed a football back and forth almost meditatively, much as other teens might pass a joint. Tawny had figured now was a good time to quietly mention her idea to Jase - after all, it seemed training was more or less over - and as her shadow eclipsed his repose she saw a glimmer of emerald as his eyes opened a little and regarded her... and just like that the intensity of his focus, which had been non-existent as he napped, was turned back on like a halogen bulb. The sunny blonde settled down near him, folding her legs and fixing him with an earnest expression in her blue eyes. She wasn't daunted by his wordless expectant stare - not like she would have been at the start of the afternoon, anyway. Jason might be odd, but he was one of God's own creatures same as everyone else, and besides, he remembered her kindness to him. It mattered to him, which meant he couldn't be a bad person. Right? God knew there were plenty of less odd people who overlooked common kindnesses. "I wanted to ask: why didn't you teach me fire and ice stuff - what did you call it? Thermic and exothermic reactions?" She plucked at a blade of grass and rolled it in her hands, absently marking it as decent grazing pasture that the teens were using as a bombing range. "I will." Jason replied quietly, his half-open eyes still resting on her face. "Today, though, I wanted to get you confident with your strongest gift rather than dilute the time we had by trying to teach you everything." "That makes sense, I guess." Tawny put one end of the grass stem in her mouth, looking at him. "So you'll keep teaching me, right?" "Yes." For a moment, it seemed that was all the lanky youth would say, but then "You're a good student." The answer to that was a radiant smile that seemed to flow from her shining eyes to suffuse her expression with light. "Yeah?" "You pay attention, you don't quit, you focus well." Jason stated simply, as if recounting facts. "Keep that mindset and you'll do fine." "Oh stop, I'm blushing." Tawny smirked, though in truth she was a little. She looked off to where Devin and Autumn were 'playing tag' as much to give herself a break from Jason's unblinking scrutiny as out of curiousity about what the pair were doing. When she figured she'd had enough of a break, she looked back at him to see those slivers of emerald still watching her, like a cat would watch a stranger. Not hostile, but not inviting either. Just... watching. "So, I was wonderin'. After we, y'know, beat the bad guy - I know that's assuming a lot but, hey, hope for the best, right?" She paused, looking at him as though seeking confirmation, but there was no comment forthcoming. She coughed. "Anyway, afterwards, I was wondering if we should have a victory party? Like a barbecue and pot luck next Sunday afternoon? Everyone can bring something and we can celebrate here, let our hair down and stuff?" There was a long pause, during which Tawny bit her lip and wondered if she had perhaps presumed too much... then Jason smoothly sat up, his eyes opening fully as he nodded. "It's a good idea." he said with slight smile. "If we win-" "When we win." Tawny corrected, almost wishing she didn't when she saw his eyes narrow a little but reassured when he simply smiled faintly and nodded. "When, as you say, we win." Jason reiterated with the minor alteration and a sly smile. "We can float the idea at the others." "Cool!" Tawny squeaked, almost leaning forward to hug him, but fortunately Jason was saved from sparkly rainbow puppy cuteness by Devin and Autumn's return. "I'm beat." Devin blinked a slice of pizza into his hand from the box a few meters away and started to wolf it down. "Think it's time to call it for the day, Jaybee?" "I think so." Jason nodded, getting to his feet and nodding as Tawny likewise scrambled to her feet. Glancing at the others, the tall lean young man raised his voice a fraction. "That'll do for the day. Anyone that wants to change and freshen up can do so at the house. Coffee and soda, and more snacks for the terminally hungry will be there too." The cooler containing water bottles, lighter now than it had been when Marissa had dragged it onto the practice field, raised into the air and bobbed along behind him as he turned towards the farmhouse. "You still owe me a flight, professor." Autumn murmured as she came up next to him and looped an arm around his waist, necessitating the taciturn Effing One to put his arm around her shoulders. He smiled a little, wry warm humor in his gaze as he looked down at her. "Still time for that once I've seen to my guests." he bantered lightly. "Think you can stand to wait that long?" "I dunno. I might get a better offer." "Doubtful."
  6. After about ten minutes, Jason opened his eyes and stood up once more, giving a light stretch as he cast his gaze over everyone. Autumn was talking with Devin, Cassandra was sitting with Tawny, the two blondes drinking water and speaking in low voices with much grinning and light laughter near where Marissa sunned beside the cooler. Courtney and Kat were working together on something - probably training related, given the intense expressions of focus each wore. The young Teulu's eyes sought out the athletic figure of Lilly as she practiced speed runs to and fro across the field, her velocity great enough that she was hard for the eye to track. Water bottle in hand, he went and waited patiently by where she would come to stop. Lilly had not really had a chance to fully test her limits since she had gained her new abilities, but the farm offered her enough space and seclusion to finally do so without prying eyes, so it was nice to finally begin to open up and see what her newly empowered body could really do and it was pretty exhilarating. As she turned for her return pass she could see Jase waiting down by the end of the impromptu track she was using. She began to jog back toward him, letting the powerful cords of muscle in her legs propel her at speeds she had estimated to be around 50 mph, based off of a rough distance estimation, the stopwatch on her phone and some simple math, but her stride looked to be no more than of a jog. She let up as she reached Jase, still blowing past him as she took longer and slower strides, taking a bit of distance to slow and then turned around, jogging back to him at a normal jogging pace. As she reached him, she pulled out her earbuds and rested her hands on her hips, panting, her washboard abs flexing as she caught her breath. "Hey dude, what's up?" she asked in a bit of a pant. "You said you wanted to talk." Jase replied, his cold green gaze betraying nothing more than curiousity as he studied her. "Seeing as training seems to be largely winding down, I think it would be fine to go over now." Lilly nodded. "Yeah. Cool." she said, picking up her water bottle, twisting off the cap and taking a swig. She paced a little, shaking out her limbs and still cooling down with a sheen of sweat coating her exposed skin, and getting her breathing back, despite her absurd cardio conditioning. She also took the time to compose her thoughts a bit; what she was going to say and how to word it and what not, which she had already done to some degree over the last week. After a few moments she caught her breath again, took another swig and looked to Jase as she twisted the cap back on her bottle. "I just wanted to apologize." she finally said with a bit of a sigh. It seemed like she was a broken record today, owning up to her shit and trying to set things straight with everybody in a day. Third times the charm, right? she thought to herself. "I-" she said, pausing a moment to bite on the side of her bottom lip for a moment, one of her nervous affectations that Jase had noticed long before any of them had their powers. "I'm sorry for what I said and did. You know, saying you weren't trying and trying to change you and all that. I just... I thought I was helping... helping you even, but this last week I had a long time to think and I realized what I was trying to do was for my benefit, really." she admitted with a sigh, her brown eyes finally looking down at the ground for a moment before rising back up to meet his gaze. "I just wanted my old friend back, you know? The one who would slouch in the passenger seat in the truck, hang out and game, and get me to transport liquor to an illegal bonfire." she explained, adding the last part with her crooked half grin. "It's just- You changed. We all have really. I mean, it's impossible not to, with time, sure, but really with these abilities we now have." Lilly looked back to her bottle for a moment, taking a break from Jase's gaze before returning to it after a few moments. "You confided in me and I. well, you know." She paused. "Instead of trying to understand you, I tried to change you, and that was selfish of me. I should have accepted you for who you were, or became, or are or whatever. I'm sure that a few words now is not going to repair all the damage done, but I hope it is at least a start." she said, finally looking away as her eyes began to twinkle a little with moisture, blinking it away. His gaze had remained on her the entire time she had spoken, no flicker of emotion visible either on the angles of his features or in the icy depths of his eyes. As she apologised, however, his head tilted very slightly, the only outward sign that the heartfelt apology had any effect... though what that effect was it was hard for Lilly to say. As she'd confessed, she didn't know this 'new' Jason, who wasn't shy and seldom slouched and didn't try to make himself invisible. There was no pity in his expression as he watched her look away and blink, but there was - perhaps - a level of cognitive understanding. "Laurie had a similar issue." he said quietly. "She wanted her secondary backup big brother back. She was freaked out that she'd spent years around someone she thought was a stray pup, shy and odd but harmless, only to find out that the pup was a wolf cub when he was nearly grown." The tall, lean youth regarded Lilly calmly. "Or perhaps a lion cub would be a better analogy. Anyway-" he shrugged, dismissing that thought. "Accepting something radically different, especially when it is dangerous - or potentially dangerous - is hard. You are not the only one who struggled - and still struggles - to do so. Most present here are rife with fears and misconceptions. And why shouldn't they be?" "I don't fault you for having a hard time accepting the truth of me." Jason went on in that same inexorably logical, calm tone. "My anger was purely at the implication I do not try, minute by minute, day by day, to restrain myself. And now you have apologised, and I believe you to be sincere, I consider that quarrel closed." His lips twitched very faintly in a smile. "Next time I need some illegal liquor transporting to a party, consider yourself tagged in." Well, to be honest..." she said, taking in a deep breath, "It's like, I dunno, you were my friend. And then Devin and Mari showed up, the duo that had been terrorizing the school for years. And it's like with a 'bro' and a bat of eyelashes, you were suddenly their friend, hanging out with them, fixing cars together and all that, backing them up and scolding me. It felt like it wasn't just that my friend had changed, but that I lost him too. And regardless of the actual situation, that is how it looked and felt. And that is why I stayed away after that. You had told me you liked me and all that and then suddenly you seemed to be-." Lilly sighed. "Nevermind." "Exactly. Nevermind." Jason's features were composed once more. "Words were exchanged. Opinions shifted. Feelings cooled. Looking back over your shoulder wishing for everything to be as it was is foolish." His eyes took on a glitter of hoarfrost. "And if you think all it takes is a bat of eyelashes and some shallow camaraderie to earn my trust and friendship, then perhaps you do not truly understand me in the slightest, and the foundation for our friendship was not as solid as you thought. Perhaps you only liked my mask, the false Jase." He shrugged. "That is broadly defined as a 'you' problem, Lilly." Lilly's expression grew more serious rather quickly at Jase's response. Here he was again, the Jase as the last time she tried to have an honest, heartfelt conversation with him. It made her wonder for a moment if it was even worth it. Maybe he would never actually hear her or understand. Maybe he couldn't. Regardless, it was irritating. "Okay, clearly you missed that I said it was it seemed and looked and that I was a too caught up in other stuff to see. And if you think that I'd rationally think that is all it took to to earn your trust.. that you think that little of me.. then that's yo-" she quickly responded, a twinge of irritation in her voice. Cutting her sentence short, she shook her head. She closed her eyes, took in a deep breath and slowly exhaled. "Every time I try to talk to you about feeling or emotions this happens. I was just trying to explain where I was coming from so that you might better understand and gain some insight, bringing us together. I guess that's on me. My bad." Lilly explained, holding up her hands in a 'my bad' gesture. Lilly had been able to weather Mari's snark and jibes because she at least felt she understood her a bit and could see more of who she really was. But maybe that was an impossibility with Jase. Maybe she had to set her goal lower. Who knows? "Okay, look. I didn't come here to fight or argue, Jason. If there's shit that you have been wanting to say to me, and want to let it out now then go for it if it will help you. But I did not come here to argue to push us further apart. I wanted to bring us back together, or at least start the process. I know I will never have my friend back. Neither will you. We've all changed, but I hoped we could still be friends, at least someday. Barring that, I'd hope we could at least put out shit aside to work together, because what's going on is so much bigger than you you or I. I'd prefer the former, but I can live the latter. Whichever it is is up to you." "My curtness was because I have already explained, in the past conversations, how my friendship with Devin and Marissa came to be - in response to you bringing up the same talking point before. My impression just now was that you were trying to revisit that old discussion for some reason that I did not see the point in. As I said, I consider the quarrel closed." Jason's tone didn't shift from it's glacial calm. "Not that it would affect whether or not I could work with you against the Dark anyway. You are capable and trustworthy - a good ally. As for friends... what happens from now onwards is another matter. I'm more than content to work with you, and perhaps a truer friendship is not out of the question. I neither expect it nor rule it out. The only way to find out is to move forward and see." He inclined his head and took a sip of water before fixing her with that depthless, calculating stare. "Was that all you wished to discuss?" Maybe they would never be friends again. She was not suer if that was even possible. She has said she wanted to be friends, but now wasn't so sure. Like Jase said, only time will tell. Still, things could have gone much, much worse, she supposed. At least two out of three going better than reasonably expected wasn't bad, even if they had caused her to get her hopes up for a full hat trick. It is what it is." "You know, with that tone and demeanor and logic, you can be really, really frustrating?" Lilly chuckled with a grin as she shook her head again. "Hell, I'm probably frustraing to you, if you even can get frustrated. I dunno." she added with a shrug of her bare shoulders and another chuckle. "And yeah, there is other stuff. Some will have to wait for another time though. But for now, I wouldn't mind some help with testing or evaluating what I can do. I mean, every since this change there is obvious stuff, like all my sense got turned up and I seem to heal faster, my memory is better and stuff, but when I have been running or lifting or free running, I've known that I was only using a fraction of my potential. I know I can run faster, jump higher, life more."she explained as she shook out one toned and well muscled limb at a time, looking them over. "Running here, just now, is the most that I have put my foot on the gas yet. I feel I'm faster though. Like, that wasn't even an all out sprint. And in the weight room on time, it was after school so I locked the door and put all the weight on the bar that I could and still lifted it. But the thing is, I feel I can do more. Hell, I feel like I could literally run right up a wall, like, to the roof." Lilly explained. "Interesting. Your velocity is certainly enough to counter gravity to an extent. Practice that there, then." Jason suggested as he indicated the large barn. "Just promise you won't go crashing through the wall into my hothouse." he added with a raised brow and the ghost of a smile. "As for lifting... The tractor plough there is a fairly solid two tons of steel. Attempting to lift that might give you a better evaluation on your strength." It was slightly jarring still, the way he could smoothly shift from discussing personal conflict to working out ways for Lilly to test her potential without any hesitation. "As for your flat out speed... We might need a larger stretch of ground with fewer eyes." he considered for a moment. "Like the Utah salt flats, perhaps. Devin might be willing to act as transport. You can measure off a ten-mile straight run and see how fast you can finish it. That might need to wait for another day, though, depending on his schedule. For now, what you can do with your speed is more important than how fast you are." Lilly nodded, eyeing him for a moment as though she wanted to say something more, then nodded again and turned away. Jason did likewise, walking over to the cooler with the water bottles and extracting another, leaving his empty on the discard pile. Cooling the bottle with a thought, he unscrewed the cap and brought it to his lips, taking a deep drink, then glanced around to see how everyone was doing.
  7. *fwumph* As snowballs went it was the size of a baseball and loosely-packed, so it didn't really strike with any impact as it landed with unerring accuracy atop the fleeing girl's head, causing a shriek of surprised laughter as she felt the ice melt and run down her neck. "No fair!" she protested, turning to face him as she retreated further, laughing and red-cheeked. The Chiefest and Effingest of Calamities simply smiled, then held out his hand as another snowball began to form. "Noooo! Okay okay! Not the barn!" Autumn was giggling as she surrendered, then fixed him with a mock glare. "You are so gonna get it when winter arrives, mister." "Bring it." Jase shifted in an imitation of a movie martial art stance, beckoning her like Bruce Lee. Giggling some more, Autumn blew him a kiss then turned and headed over to the others. Jason watched her go, apparently unsmiling until one noticed the expression in his eyes, then he sat down again on the grass, folding his legs and resting his hands on his knees as he took a deep breath. He could feel his personal reserves of Shine were still a little low after the epic spar with Devin, and so took advantage of the quiet to do a little reflection and centering. He was satisfied that he had allayed Autumn's fears and worries about her power - at least if her reaction was anything to go by. She seemed happier, positively jubilant when his mentioning of plants had caused her to jump to microbes and bacteria, getting excited at the possibilities. And yes, her power was ripe with possibility. She could cure cancer, develop a cure for viral diseases, possibly even reverse the aging process in a human being much as Kat had turned back the clock on the tractor plough. He looked forward, once the conflicts ahead of them were resolved, to working on such fields, on tackling the challenges with her. Right now, though, he went Inside, wandering the halls of his mnemonic palace, reviewing the loosened bonds now permitting his more savage self to roam a little more freely, and ensuring none of them had slipped too far or too much. Devin had been right that a balance needed to be struck, and during the fight Jason believed he'd found that fulcrum point. Having found it, however, he had to acknowledge that it was not a static point, and could shift and unbalance readily without careful tending. A tightrope walk, with a rope that lengthened or thickened unpredictably. Another challenge to rise to, then.
  8. "I listen." Jason said simply, his eyes crinkling at the edges in his version of a slight smile as he regarded the lively, expressive young woman. It wasn't a guarded look, or a wary one. It was more... intrigued. "And you know I, out of anyone, will not judge or fear you. And because you know in your soul I am your friend." "Yeah." Autumn smiled a little at that. "You believe in souls?" she suddenly asked, distracted by his turn of phrase. It seemed odd for the pragmatic, scientific Jason to reference a soul, but he nodded in response. "I do now." he shrugged. "I touch your soul when I feel your Shine. I feel my own." "Yeah... we feel each other's energy and stuff, but... soul?" Autumn's smile widened to a grin. "You getting religious?" "What do gods believe in?" he asked with a slight smile curving his lips now. Autumn blinked, frowning at the sudden tangent. "Well... I guess if gods existed then they'd believe in themselves." she half-joked, then blinked as Jason simply nodded, the gleam in his eyes both wry and serious. "Quite." He sat on the grass, patting the sward next to him. "Lets focus on you, now." And like that, he was back on topic while Autumn was still deciding whether he had dropped some profound wisdom or was merely teasing her again. Or even both at once. Damn it...she mentally grumbled as she sat down, unable to keep from studying the lines of his cheekbones as he calmly regarded her. "Your powers are similar to Lona's - not identical, but the same 'feel' - you can affect living tissue and organisms, for better or worse." "Wait, Lona could hurt people?" Autumn blinked as Jason nodded. "When Liam attacked her, she got away by causing him pain." he explained, hands resting on his knees as he folded his legs. "So yes - she could, but I never saw or heard of her rupturing bone and tissue. But she could heal more effectively, with less strain to herself, than you healed me at the complex, so..." he held out a hand palm up, then turned it palm down. "Same coin..." "...two sides." Autumn nodded thoughtfully. "Okay, that makes sense." She chewed on her lower lip, considering. "How did it feel?" Jason asked quietly, causing her to look at him again. "When you sensed the pattern of his life, and knew you could do so much more than you did to him. His life was in your hands - an enemy who had hurt you. How did it feel to you?" "How it felt," Autumn repeated, falling silent for a moment as she laced her fingers together atop her head. "Okay." Nodding, she took a deep breath and tried to put into words what had only been images, impressions at best, but never real thought. "It felt like an arrow being released. Like running up to the edge of the bluff and diving off into the river. It felt red," she continued, standing and beginning to pace a little. "Like being exactly the right amount of stoned, like singing and breathing and the best sex I've ever had, like being not, not angry but free. And like I didn't hate it, and then, after...? Like, I probably should've." "And when you healed me?" Autumn reddened a little, remembering how it had felt to feel his life, to coax and feed it's flame. Exhausting, sure, but it had been a rush too. "It felt good as well." she said slowly, forcing herself to meet his gaze. "Like, tiring but rewarding, you know? Not as emotionally charged, but.. satisfying anyway. Positive. Exhilarating." Jason nodded slowly as he absorbed this, and was silent for a moment. When he spoke, it was with slow deliberation. "Your shine is an outgrowth of your soul. You are very like me, you know." He smiled slightly. "I mean insofar that you are passionate and unafraid to be so. Passion is like your power - a coin with two sides. It can drive you to heal, or to hurt. To create, or to destroy. To kiss or to kill. Don't be afraid of either impulse, don't be repulsed by them Simply apply them as appropriate, and in the right measure... Which it sounds to me as though you did." he added with a slight tilt of the head. "It's not what you want to do. It's what you do that defines you. You stopped an attacker, in a non-lethal and non-permanent way. His knee will heal. He would not have extended you that consideration - not being driven by the Dark as he was. And you saved me as well as yourself." "As for powers that are meant to hurt..." Jason held up a hand, palm up, and a flame kindled to life on his palm, dancing and flickering. "I can warm, or I can destroy. I can shield myself and others from harm... or I can inflict it. You can heal or you can hurt. Think of your gift in it's totality, don't just hold up one facet of it and judge it alone and out of context." He stood, the flame still dancing on his hand as he gracefully got to his feet. "Fire burns. It devours. It destroys. Taken like that, my gift is terrifying - at least I imagine it is to others." "Well, yeah." Autumn nodded. "First time I saw you on fire I was scared shitless." "And yet I can also warm someone who is freezing. Cool someone with a fever. Quench a house-fire. Kinetic energy is my element, down to the atomic thermal level. Your element is life - you control it as I do heat and cold." Jase closed his hand, snuffing out the flame. "What you do with it is more important than the power itself, Autumn. And if the others freak out, or think you are somehow evil because of your gift, then to hell with them and their hypocrisy, because all of us can help or harm others with our power. Marissa could spark a mob riot. Devin could open a portal to the ocean and drown a town. Sean could crash the stock market. If the potential for harm is all it takes for someone to be considered bad, at least you can only hurt one person at a time. They could kill thousands, destroy infrastructure, cause widespread poverty and famine... You name it." "But I don't see a rational reason for them to freak out. They know you, like I know you. You're not vicious or mean or cruel. It might feel good to put an enemy down in hot blood, but you are hardly the sort of person to cold-bloodedly inflict pain and injury for no reason." Jason stepped forward, putting a hand on Autumn's shoulder as he smiled. "Yeah... I guess." Autumn smiled back, her gaze pensive as she chewed over what he'd said. "But what about training it?" "Plants." Jason said calmly as though stating the obvious. "Plants?" "Yes. They are living things. They have cells that can be harmed or healed. They don't have a consciousness, so you don't have to worry about inflicting traumatic pain on a creature. Practice on plants. Try to wilt them, or wither them leaving on a flicker of life, then restore them. Your gift should be able to extend to plant life, if I understand it correctly. You will be able to feel the effects you cause, and fine-tune your control."
  9. It took him a moment to discern her meaning and why she was flustered, then an impish gleam entered his eyes and slow smile curved his lips... and Mama Keane's girl knew she was in trouble. "Like this?" he asked in a calm, curious tone that was completely at odds with his smile and the look in his eyes as he plucked at the wet white cotton, pulling it away from his soaked skin before letting it fall back to mold itself to him once more. "You mean wet?" "...yes." Autumn managed, trying not to look - or drool - and not daring to take her hands out of her pockets, because they would want to reach out and touch- No. No. Bad. "I should get out of these wet things, then?" Jase's tone was devoid of innuendo, but his gaze was alive with wicked humor. Chewing on her lower lip and looking off to the side, Autumn was refusing to be baited as she nodded vociferously, even as inner Autumn was jumping up and down and yelling something incoherent about how she wasn't getting a good enough look. "Want to come and help me?" "Noooooo..." Autumn moaned rather than said. Nearby, Cassie was alternating between snickering and not at all ogling her friend's crazy-dangerous-alluring BF. "I want to talk to you about serious stuff. And if I come and help you get out of wet things then... yeah. That won't happen." Jason gave a low chuckle and stepped back a little. "In that case..." Gold motes danced in his eyes and there was a sudden cloud of vapour as steam erupted from his clothes and body, obscuring him in a momentary fog cloud which dissipated as he stepped forward again out of it, almost completely dry, hiking up his sweatpants a little so as to minimise distraction. "Better?" he asked, holding his hands out a little to the sides as if presenting for inspection. "Much." Autumn said, both meaning and not meaning it. The topic of soaking wet Jason would have to be revisited again... some other time. "Good." The Effing One smiled and gestured to her to follow him as they moved a little apart from the bustle and chatter of the others. "So... what did you want to talk to me about?"
  10. Rising as Cassie took Lilly aside and began relaying the very compacted, busy events of the last week, Jason moved to a nearby clear space and stretched as he would before a run: a simple set of stretches, a far cry from the poised, athletic limbering up Devin was going through as Marissa and Courtney spoke quietly near him. Working his neck and shoulders, he reflected on his state of mind. He was aware that this was a simple practice competition - not for blood, not for survival, but to learn from and test each other’s limits. Hank had put him through similar sessions which, while painful, were instructive and useful for the youth. Hank, however, hadn’t spent three years trying to goad him, Jason, into violence. Hank had not bullied his friend. And whilst the sands of time could erode and fade the memories of others, for Jason the experiences were as fresh as if they had just happened. He knew Devin was trying to be better, to grow into a better man than he had been a boy. He approved, and supported that. He didn’t seethe on the memories, like Sean and others did somewhat, or allow them to affect his logic. The new Devin was a good ally, and a good friend - if sometimes incomprehensible. However… However, the book of past deeds was still open. There were not yet enough positive mental associations with the concept of ‘Devin’ for Jason to be entirely confident he could treat this competition as friendly. For a normal person, such self-awareness might well be skipped and they would simply feel unease, or heightened anticipation without realising why. Jase, though, knew his own mind like few other people could claim about themselves. He knew that back there, under the cool logic and self control, was something utterly inhuman and merciless, wanting what it wanted without caring for consequence, morality or conscience. It was instinctual Passion fettered only by his active Will, and it burned with that amoral purity of purpose - whether pursuing desire, dominance, survival or simple primal bloodlust. He straightened from a leg stretch as with a thought and simple flick of his will a barrier sprang into life, covering his body and forming itself around him a mere millimeter from his skin. He would play defensively, practice a little in trying to tag his elusive opponent, then shake hands and that would be that. A demonstration to the others that, see, he wasn’t a mad dog, or out of control, and that it was safe for people to practice mock combat. Perhaps one or two of Devin’s past victims would secretly want to see him humbled, if only a little - but Jason did not, particularly. At least, the logical, cognitive part of him did not. The instinctual savage part of him wanted to prove itself the superior at any cost, though, and right now it uncoiled and paced in the space where it was confined, sniffing the air. “Ready, JayBee?” Devin called. Jason turned, nodding silent assent as he moved a bit further away from the gathered Fellowship with his friend, the two facing each other ten feet apart. “No shots to the junk, no biting, gouging, teleporting into space or volcanoes, reducing to ashes with a snap of the fingers, or hair pulling.” Devin said with a tight grin, studying the slender youth who was watching him steadily. With a slight answering smile, Jason nodded again. “Understood.” He had slight reach, but not enough to matter. Devin was stronger and likely a better fighter, as well as being able to- Jaunt dashed forward, the air rippling purple as he covered ten feet with a step and attempted to clothesline Jase across the chest for a quick takedown. Jason planted a foot back and raised his hands in a boxer’s cover, his assailant’s arm making contact and stopping dead as all kinetic force was absorbed as if he’d hit a wall - only thankfully without the attendant sore limbs such a stunt would have caused. Bannon flicked a grabbing hand at Devin’s arm, intending to try and pull him off-balance, but there was another purple ripple in the air and Jauntsen reappeared a short distance away, shaking his head. “Forcefields are cheatin’, dude!” “Really?” Jason affected polite curiosity. “I didn’t get that memo. I’ll check my email later.” Devin laughed - and teleported again. He re-emerged to one side of Jason, who’s kinetic awareness gave him a split second’s warning so he could step and brace once more, catching the high-kicking foot and heaving it upwards, attempting to throw his opponent off-balance. Devin, though, was unfazed, going with the upward momentum of his foot and turning it into a backflip followed by a handspring to put more distance between him and the lean Teulu. Distance was not easy to get on someone with hundred-foot reach, however. Devin felt a powerful hand grab at his arm, as though an invisible Cade had just joined the fight and clamped one of his massive Montana meathooks around Devin’s wrist. “Shit.” he muttered, feeling another hand grab his shoulder, and teleported out of the telekinetic wrestling hold, blinking forward and hitting Jason with a fist-elbow-knee sortie, trying to give that big brain something to think about other than concentrating on tying him into a knot. Whilst not agile enough to evade in the same way Jaunt did, Bannon was resilient enough to dig in and weather the storm, bracing once more and foiling any attempt to force him back. As the others watched, the two young men strove against each other for several minutes more. Devin was growing irritable as he realised that, although putting up a decent defense, Bannon’s heart did not seem to be in the fight. The slender young man’s expression was one of contemplative focus, his attacks were imaginative but always grapples and holds, whether through TK or with his hands. He could have clobbered Devin across the head with an invisible Cade fist by now, but hadn’t. Nor had he bust out any fire or ice moves. “C’mon, Jaybee.” he hissed between his teeth as they closed once more. “We’re supposed to be strutting some stuff. We’ve got ladies to impress. Stop half-assing it and tag me.” He smacked his hand across the back of Jason’s head as he ‘ported past his opponent, but the infuriatingly calm kid just turned and adopted a defensive posture again. “I’m not doing this to impress anyone.” Bannon responded quietly as Devin paced around him. He turned with the other’s movements, keeping Jaunt to his front. “It’s practice.” “What practice?” Jaunt snorted. “You ain’t sparring with Tawny, dude. C’mon, don’t you want to know who’s better?” He grinned. “Not like you could hit me anyway.” “Not sure either of us wants to find out what happens if I do.” Jase said levelly. “Your sister already thinks I’m a rabid animal, based on the last time I used my powers on someone. If I hurt you, I prove her right in front of everyone.” He shook his head slightly. “Not worth i-” There was a flicker of air, a purple shimmer, and Jason felt his legs swept away as Devin managed to catch him off-guard with enough momentum to get past the kinetic shield. Bannon hit the ground hard enough that he’d have had the wind knocked out of him if it wasn’t for that shield, hard enough that the watching teens a couple dozen meters away winced. Marissa smirked, but worry was haunting her eyes as she watched Jason raise himself on his elbows, staring hard at Devin, who in another purple flicker had positioned himself standing over Jason, one foot on his chest. Abruptly flames sprang up, their heat fierce enough to cause Devin to step back to narrowly avoid losing the sole of his sneaker as golden and orange fire wreathed Jason’s body. “There he is.” Jaunt said softly as he looked past the flame into the other’s gleaming green eyes, almost amber in the reflected light. “Feel that? I can see you want to put some hurt on, bro. You want to cut loose a little, dontcha?” Bannon took a steadying breath. “It doesn’t matter if I want to.” he replied, the flicker of fire in his eyes dimming as the flames surrounding his body snuffed out. “It matters whether I give in to it. This isn’t real combat. You’re my friend. My pride is not worth it.” He paused. “I have to be better than my instincts. So yeah, you win the match, Devin.” he stated without bitterness or sarcasm, but rather a quiet resignation. “Bullshit.” Devin sighed, sinking to one knee beside him as the other sat up. “Look, dude. We’re all struggling with shit. It’s called growing up. Humans do that, and I’m pretty Toodle-loos do it as well.” “Teulu.” Jase corrected with a faint smile. Devin flapped a hand dismissively. “Whatever, man. Look. You’ve got pride, and you get angry, and yeah, part of you revels in fighting and putting hurt on people. I get that. You think that’s just you?” Devin’s brown eyes were expressive as he gave Jason’s shoulder a friendly backhand. “But you’re more than just some mindless force of nature. Your problem is you’re either rampaging or you’re totally calm. Try doing a little of each.” Devin thought for a second, then grinned “True focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity.” “X-Men: First Class.” Jason smiled fractionally again. “Doesn’t make it not true.” Devin shrugged. “Now stop makin’ us both look bad and lets show these scrubs how gods fight so Granola can drown a toddler in her panties over you.” he said, looking over at the group not too far away, waving, before standing and helping Jason to his feet. He took a moment to look the telekinetic in the eye. “You good?” Jason took a breath, closing his eyes… and went inside himself. One by one, he loosened the shackles without discarding them completely, playing out the chains, allowing his instinct to move and stretch, to get comfortable in its larger enclosure. It took a moment, then his eyes reopened and he nodded. Something shifted and moved there in the emerald deeps, but it wasn’t uncontrolled, wasn’t wildfire. Devin nodded as he saw it. “Yeah.” he said softly. “Yeah, I think you got it.” He blinked back in a haze of purple as ice formed on the surface of Jason’s skin, steam coiling up and ice crystals forming on him as the warm summer air was supercooled. Scintillant gleams of sunlight refracted from the icy covering on Jason’s hair, skin, and clothes. “Awright. Round two!” Devin crowed. He pulled his shirt off and wadded it up before tossing it off to the side. The teen’s six day workout regiment shone across his hardened gymnast’s frame and he tilted his head from side to side looking to get a neck pop out of it. “Remember, J-Dogg. It’s a scrimmage. Just because it doesn’t count against our season doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play to win!” “Do not tell him I said this,” Autumn raised up a finger to solidify her demand. “But your brother is kinda hot. You know, when he’s not talking.” Devin’s sister laughed and waved her hand dismissively at Autumn’s appraisal. “Don’t worry, I told him you had a crush on him.” “But, I don’t!” Autumn protested while redness flushed to her cheeks. Again Marissa chuckled, and shrugged. “Autumn, it’s my brother. I assure you, that even if you don’t he’s under the impression you do, along with every other female of exceptional attraction, or greater.” “Wait,” the redhead chuckled now, processing that. “I’m exceptionally attractive?” “Oh, look,” Marissa deflected. “There starting.” Jaunt walked toward Bannon. He was circling his arms to work out some tenseness in his shoulders andthe took off towards his opponent. Jason braced himself for another teleportation attack, extending his senses to feel a shift in the air from all angles. Jaunt’s own senses had shifted as well… his world was purplish haze with fine filaments that connected all objects like a massive loom of space and distance. No one understood better than Devin that there was a simple truth to all things: everything was connected. Every blade of grass, ever cloud, the air between them, Jason, his ice and his barrier. Jaunt had no need for the other two, just the tall, lanky La-li-lu-le-lo, or whatever he was. That’s the strand he reached for, that’s the thread he pulled with his own mind and just like that… Jaunt’s arm collided with Jason’s chest with the impressive force of a high school linebacker. Without his barrier Jason felt the massive brunt of the blow and fell backwards as the running Jaunt swept him off his feet and dropped him into the grass. Not far from them, Jason’s barrier acted as a tomb for the sheath of teenageboy shaped ice that it protected. An invisible grip swept under Jaunt, pulling his legs out from under him. He’d already begun to reflexively blink out of harm’s way but another invisible grip slammed into his chest and pushed him to the firmament, hard. He impacted with the same force that he throttled Jason with a moment ago. Everyone on the sidelines ‘oooh’d in unison as the two boys managed to floor themselves almost instantly. It looked like they were in pain, but the truth was they were chuckling silently. Jason rolled to his side. “Ow.” “Dude,” Devin struggled to get back to his feet. “Not cool.” Jason looked back to his barrier and the ice sculpture of him within it and as it faded away the ice lost cohesion and it crumbled into a pile. “Yeah, well, dick move.” “Wasn’t sure I could do that.” Devin grinned as the shell of ice dissipated, then reformed around it’s master - probably along with the forcefield. Shit. “It was impressive.” Jason said conversationally. “I wonder if-” Devin blinked sideways, then sideways some more, rolling as he teleported. His instincts were good as the air where he’d been standing supercooled, water condensing into sleet particles in an almost-soundless ‘shwiip’ “-you could safely remove cancer cells-” Jason went on, eyes glowing like blue-green chips of frost as he raised a hand, a billowing stream of mist following the evading Jaunt and enveloping him in a cloud of frozen air. “-the same way.” C-c-c-c-coooooold. Devin had been cold before. Heck, he loved winter sports, and had ‘jaunted’ to the South Pole once - for all of ten seconds. Then, he’d been wrapped up as best he could and still felt the biting chill try to get in around the insulating layers he’d worn. Once, for a lark, he’d streaked naked and dived into a snowdrift. This was that, plus suck. The warm late summer air dropped to holy-fuck-shit and the teleporter fancied he felt his balls clinking like ice cubes in a glass as thermal energy was subtracted from his flesh and bone. Ice crystals formed on his eyelashes and skin and hair as he staggered, muscles sluggish and cramping, out of the dissipating plume of mist. “T-th-the D felt his d-d-D sh-shrink two sizes that d-day.” he mumbled through his teeth, feeling too numb even to shiver. “Ffffffuuu-” “I think I managed to avoid permanent damage or serious hypothermia.” Jase said as he approached. He raised a hand once more, and a thin, strong casing of ice formed around Jaunt - a second skin in every detail of the irrepressible youth, trapping him even as he tried to chafe warmth back into his limbs. “Chill.” Marissa let out a short cry, but even as she did there was a purple rippling in the air and Devin was standing next to his own sculpture, shivering and really wishing he’d not taken off his top as he looked at the gleaming ice duplicate. “Chill? Really?” he shivered. “You suck on all kinds of levels.” “I’ll work on it.” Jase nodded soberly, then threw out a hand- “Oh no.” Jaunt was quicker, despite his cramping muscles, and abruptly the psychokinetic disappeared in a purple implosion. “You th-think about what you d-did.” he muttered, stamping his feet and trying to get himself warm again as Marissa ran over. “Deej! You okay?” his sister fussed around him, a little panicky. “You hurt?” “I’m fine.” Devin said, teeth chattering as he jumped around swinging his arms. “Could do with a Granola hug though, if they’re going?” he asked the redhead as she came over in Marissa’s wake. Autumn folded her arms and looked at him sternly. “First, where’s my boyfriend.” she demanded. Devin grinned and pointed straight up. “About half a mile up and closing.” he answered, still feeling the lingering chill in his bones. “Don’t worry! I’ll catch him. Probably. Shit… Cold hurts.” “You could have frostbite. Or hypothermia. You could get gangrene!” Marissa scowled at her brother as he shook his head. “Relax. Jaybee said he’d avoided that. I trust him on that, Emjay.” he looked at Autumn. “We can trust him on that, right?” The copper-tressed girl looked at him for a moment, her eyes unfocused as she read his vitals… then she nodded. “You’re good. Now catch him!” “Sure, sure.” Devin waved both women away. “Stand clear, ladies.” He looked up to see the distant dot of the falling Bannon as it came closer… and closer… Two hundred feet. One hundred feet. Devin was pretty sure Jason wasn’t scared, but he was going to damn well try to worry him. Fifty feet. Twen- Jason slowed in his fall, the sparkling shell of his ice sheath catching the light as he spread his arms, legs coming down under him as he righted himself, stopping his plummet mere feet from the ground. His eyes had been closed, and now opened to fix on Devin, glowing softly from within as he drifted down to touch the soil. “That’s new.” Devin commented, staring. Jason nodded, his eyes tightening in contemplation as he spread his hands downwards... and he slowly rose again to ten feet overhead. The distant watching teens were silent for a moment. Marissa and Tawny, who’d been standing near Autumn, heard her sigh a deep heartfelt dreamy sigh as she smiled. “Been trying to do this for awhile.” Jason confessed. “Not with much success. You remember in Iron Man when he’s first trying to fly? That was me in the barn loft.” “Ouch.” Devin smirked, nodding. “I can feel it now, though.” Jase remarked, looking at his hands, at the ground, feeling the kinetic energy inside him as well as out, reinforcing his muscles, allowing him to shrug off gravity’s pull. He looked at his friend. “Between rage and serenity.” he said with a smile curving his frost-limned mouth. “Well shit.” Devin shook his head, grinning. “Guess we fighting air-to-air now, huh?” “Round three?” Jason grinned - actually grinned - a fierce light rising in his eyes. Over with the spectators, Autumn sighed again, the looked around with a stern glare. “Just so everyone is clear.” she said in a loud voice. “I got dibs on first flight.” Marissa grabbed her brother’s arm. “Devin, he’s flying. If you fall-” “Relax, Em, I got this.” He smiled at his overprotective sister and walked back into the field. There was a tremble, a slight ripple that the psions could feel as Jase and Devin were pulling in a lot of noetic energy. “If you die, I’m telling mom!” She huffed at him as he continued to focus and gather up energy until he leapt into the air, leaving a stream of shadow Devin’s behind him. He elevated up to Bannon’s height, his shadows catching up swiftly until they all melded back in with him once he stopped moving. “Did know you could fly,” Jason gave him a onceover. “I’m not, really,” his voice was almost mechanical, like he was trying to talk through a series of fan blades. “This is a series of microports. Like a cartoon flip book, I’m just moving too fast to go anywhere… so it looks like flight.” Each of his movements were shadowed by a series of the hundreds, if not more, jumps he was doing that made it look, just like he said, a flipbook of activity. “They can both fly now?” Marissa rolled her eyes. “I’m about at my what the fuck limit for the day.” Jaunt flew backwards and Jason did the same but as the psychokinetic did he generated a series of small hail spheres and hurted them with startling speed. Not too fast, but if Devin got hit it’d certainly sting. Spiraling Devin avoided part of the volley and from his spiral of shadows a iris opened and swallowed the remainder of the projectiles. Jase reacted quickly as another isis opened near him, spewing his projectiles at him with the same speed. His mind grabbed each one and they slowed, orbiting his body before he silently cursed and flew backwards into a second one. The one that was really part of Devin’s offensive… the irises were not objects, they possessed no solidity and therefore, Jason couldn’t detect their creation or dissipation. He was underwater, that much hit him immediately. It was blue, clear and judging by the tiles it was a pool… the school’s pool… oh, shit. The current swept him away and dumped him back onto the field as the contents of Shelly High’s swimming pool emptied off in the distance away from the sparring field. The sidelines ‘ooh’d again as Jason tumbled through the vortice and was dumped back onto his property. It only took a few moments for Jase to tear through the sky and hover to a stop not far from Devin whose smile was a mile wide. A hail ball slammed into his back, splattering with the stinging force of a whip crack. Laughter erupted as Jaunt tried to reach for the injured spot while hopping in mid air, back arched as he cursed and did the ‘just snapped with a towel’ dance. “Duuuuuude!” He hopped in the air as the two looked like the most graceless super heroes ever. “Okay, okay…” Marissa clapped her hands to capture their attention. They were floating above ground, a swimming pool was just emptied off in the far fields and Devin was leaving hundreds, if not thousands of himself behind everytime he moved. She said softly, “This is my fucking life now. God damnit.” Her smile returned and she clapped again. “Put them away, I think you guys are done. You can whip them out and measure later, but if you keep fooling around someone is going to get hurt. These are powers, not Nerf guns.” The two youths looked at each other, shrugged almost in tandem, then lowered to the ground, Devin’s afterimages dying away as Jason’s icy shell melted. “You good?” Jason asked Devin, who was still rubbing at his back. The other grinned. “A bruise or two. Plus I think I need to lay on a tropical beach for a week to unfreeze my junk.” he smirked. “Seriously, dude, I’m not even gonna look at it right now. It’ll be all ‘look what they did to mah boy’.” The pair snickered. “You good”? Devin asked in turn. Jason paused, considering as he regarded the approaching Autumn with eyes that still seemed to glow from within, then looked at Devin. “I am.” he said quietly, offering his fist for the bump, which Devin gave as the others gathered round. “You guys okay?” Autumn and Tawny asked almost in unison. Where Jason merely nodded, Devin immediately went and flung his arms around Tawny. “I’m so cold!” he sobbed. “I need someone to rub me to make me feel better.” Then he looped an arm around Cassie’s shoulders. “Several someones. All over rubbing. With oil. And you’ve got to be naked so I can get warmth.” Both girls made a face and slipped out from under his arms. “He’s fine, I’d say.” Cassandra shook her head. Tawny nodded, smiling as Devin mock-hobbled around, bleating for naked girls to massage him. “You flew.” Autumn meanwhile said to Jason, looking up into his green eyes that were if anything more lambent than before. He was soaked from his dip in the pool, his shaggy hair dripping water over his bare shoulders, the water causing his white sleeveless tee to cling to his torso in a way that the redhead found, um, aesthetically pleasing. Yeah. That was it. “I did.” he nodded, smiling a little at her. “I mean really, really flew.” she went on, moving closer then sliding her arms up around his neck, heedless of the water as she pressed her body to his, standing up on tiptoe. A piercing whistle cut her off as her lips were about to meet his. “Sorry, not sorry.” Cassandra lowered her fingers from her mouth, grinning. “That’s enough of that, you two. Do gross couple stuff in your own time. Like Jason there said, this isn’t personal time.” “What if I have a medical condition?” Autumn huffed, smiling past her blush. “You’ve got a condition, alright.” Cassie rejoined. “And it’s not medical.”
  11. He'd seemed so different for a moment, with Autumn's arm around his shoulders, smiling faintly as the afternoon sunlight refracted in his eyes and the laughter of his friends filled the air, his hand out to receive a slice of pizza that was floating from an open box. He seemed almost normal - other than the obvious telekinesis a teenage boy relaxing and having a good time. Which, in essence, he was in that moment... And then Lilly arrived, gave perfunctory greetings and explanations that were just as perfunctory, and asked him to step aside with her. Jason had learned a lot about peopling in a very short space of time. And there was this to be said - whilst he didn't have an intuitive grasp on mood or group dynamic, what he had in excess was pattern-recognition and powers of analysis. He took a moment to employ those now as he looked up at Lilly, the smile fading until there was only Jase left behind in a sort of reverse-Cheshire Cat trick which was spooky to watch as he focused intently on her. Then his gaze swept the group, noting Tawny's glance at Devin, who was still smiling but with a change in his posture, Kat's blank but not unfriendly 'who?' expression, the hush that had come over everyone with the new arrival and her sudden request. Even Autumn's arm around his shoulders tightening slightly as she tensed was added to the pile of data as he looked back at Lilly. He was ninety percent sure, but had to ask. "Is this a personal, private matter?" he asked her calmly. The tall girl shifted from one foot to the other, shrugging and nodding. "Uh, kinda sorta? I mean, it doesn't have to be in private, I just figured that everyone else doesn't want to know everyone's business, y'know?" "You get her pregnant, dude?" Devin smirked. Tawny backhanded his shoulder, mouthing 'Not cool' as some of the group snickered. "I'm sure I'd have remembered." Jason's reply to Devin was dry, with a quirk of his lips as he continued to study Lilly. "I'll talk with you, sure. Later, though. Right now, this is Fellowship time. Pizza, good times and some bonding, I believe would be the phrase." "Fuckin' A." Devin nodded. "They say a week is a long time in politics, but politics ain't got nothing on Shelly lately. So grab your ass a patch of grass..." "...Have some pizza." Jason indicated the open boxes. "And let's see about getting you ready." He gave Lilly a faint smile. "Personal isn't always the same as important. This-" he indicated the circle of friends. "-is important."
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Jase half-turned, following Devin's indicating of the old tractor plough as the others collected themselves and for a long moment he only sign he was in ferocious calculation was the focused tightening of his eyes as he took another swig of water. When his father had declared the plough a write-off, Jason hadn't seen any reason to subject it to his own appraisal, and indeed had not really thought about it other than seeing the opportunity for a training aid. But the longer he looked at it with the fresh perspective of Noble, Noble & Noble, Attorneys at Law, he saw that perhaps... "Roughly sixty percent of the metal parts will need replacing." he told Devin, still looking at the hunk of rust. "The rest can probably be salvaged. The good news is, as you said, we have powers. Reforging the scrapped metal into usable metal is do-able - I can generate enough heat to melt steel and could feasibly construct heat-proof molds, as well as control the cooling to produce a strong enough end result." He didn't 'hmm' or rub his chin or fidget do any other normal signs of deep thought. "We will need some replacement steel, perhaps from junkyards - it's certainly easier than smelting it ourselves from raw iron, and with you transporting it would be easy." He turned back to Devin, who was grinning a little as both Courtney and Tawny stared from one young man to the other. "See, that's the fun of hanging with us." Devin told Tawny with a chuckle. "All you got to do is say 'Hey, Jaybee, do you think we could do X? and he will take it as a personal challenge and work out how to do it. And it could be anything." "And as a bonus, I shall even work out whether it's a good idea." Jason added with a raised eyebrow and a slight smirk. "Sometimes." He offered Devin a fist, receiving the obligatory bump. "It's a good idea." he nodded thoughtfully, giving his surprising friend a rare smile. "Something to keep us out of trouble, too." As Kat, Cassandra and Cade approached, and the petite French girl posited her question he fixed her with a slight smile, nodding. "You're right. Holding hands during a fight would be a dangerous tactical disadvantage. But there is something we found out last training session that could mitigate that." he said softly, glancing at Courtney. "We found that a telepath can link two or more minds together in a sort of 'mental chat room'-" Courtney looked surprised, then nodded assent "-and an interesting side effect of this is that it serves in place of actual physical contact for sharing Shine. A little concentration is all that's needed." "So I'd need to have people in my head?" Tawny wrinkled her nose. Jason shrugged. "Not exactly, any more than you share the contents of your phone with everyone just because you use Snapchat. You share what you wish to broadcast." He indicated Courtney with his bottle. "A telepath could likely eavesdrop on your thoughts with or without the link - but for the group at large in a tactical situation it would allow for secure communication, sharing of what we see and hear, and of course - being able to attune at a distance." "I don't know how many I could link, though." Courtney sounded doubtful, her exquisitely made-up lips twisting ruefully. "I only ever did it with two or three before." "Phrasing." Devin deadpanned, raising a snort of laughter from Tawny and a faint smile from Jase as Courtney scowled briefly. "That's why we're here, Red Peril." Devin nudged her. "To find out what we can do outside of Cook's dumbass lab tests." "We'll test it, with volunteers, once we've rested." Jason agreed. Mollified, Courtney tossed her hair back over one shoulder and fixed Jason with an arch look. "Does that mean you'll volunteer?" she challenged with a coy smile. "Gonna let me in that head of yours?" Jason's lips curved very slightly, a glimmer of inscrutable, ancient humor in his eyes. "Into the foyer, yes." he said softly. "Further than that might prove dangerous." "Aww, don't trust me?" Courtney's grin was that of a shark approaching a swimmer. "I swear, I won't peek around in you too much." Jason's smile widened fractionally, the glimmer of humor becoming the glint of sunlight on emerald scales as his gaze never left hers. "I didn't say it would be dangerous for me." he clarified, tapping the side of his head once. "'It is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them'." Courtney blinked, her smile fading. Slowly, Jason winked at her, and she repressed a shiver that ran down her spine. She wasn't sure whether the thrill was of fear or of arousal - she was pretty sure it was both - but then she was also aware that her condition often urged her to pursue the taboo, the dangerous, to seek the greater thrill. Given the strength of her reaction she was pretty sure that in this case, the itch was better off not scratched... Even if the white hot fire she'd felt between Autumn and Jason when they'd been alone upstairs in the barn had piqued her curiousity. Dammit. Looking away, she took another sip of water, missing the faint smile Jason shared with Devin.
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