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    Vivi OOC

Everything posted by Laurie Brightman

  1. The walk from the car had only taken a couple of minutes, and in that time neither of the teens had felt particularly compelled to attempt conversation; the Odinsson, because it was not in his nature to be especially loquacious, and the budding muse because her thoughts were occupied with the percussive rhythm of his walking stick and their footsteps on the sidewalk. It wasn't quite 3/4 time, but close enough that she caught herself humming Shostakovich's Second Waltz under her breath as they approached the garden, and the girl who waited there. Although she peered at the cat dubiously, not having been allowed to keep pets of her own due to their destructive and unhygienic habits, Laurel's smile as she approached Swi's chocolate-hued ward was unseasonably warm, a brief flash of summer glinting in brilliant azure eyes. "Oh, good. I was reasonably certain we'd run into each other again, but I hadn't expected it to be so soon." The sound of her laugh was soft and fleeting amid the gusty chill of autumn's whispers, the cool of the approaching evening sending a shiver down her spine. Adjusting the ivory scarf about her neck, the blonde wished for what would surely be neither the first nor the last time that Fate had arranged for her to end up somewhere warmer. She paused for a moment, watching as Grim studied what remained of Mrs. Cunningham's famed garden. He might've been a scout overlooking the sea from some distant windswept crag, or a tragic hero striding resolutely across desolate moors. The girl before her, even in dark sunglasses, seemed decidedly more animated, more real and substantial and present by contrast. More... of this world, she decided, stretching out a gloved hand in greeting even as she considered the trio's apparent differences. "Dale, wasn't it? I suppose today is a day for proper introductions, then."
  2. In the quiet that followed, she wondered which, of the two of them, was the intended audience for his recitation. Or whether it might be both. Or, indeed, whether it mattered. “I don’t think you should apologize, Grim. At least, not to me.” The platinum-crowned heiress dared a glance up at the tall, wiry young man with the enigmatic eyes as she added first sugar, and then cream to the coffee she’d poured. “It doesn’t matter if they- your scars- are pleasant to look at or not. They’re proof that whatever it was couldn’t kill you. And, I really didn’t mean to stare. Honestly, I just-“ She hesitated, leaning back against the counter and watching the birds outside as she turned the cup in her hands. “I just thought it must’ve hurt. That’s all.” "It did." he said softly with a small nod. "At least I was alive to feel it, though," he added with a slight smile, casting his gaze her way. "Like you said, I survived it." He was silent for a long moment, his attention returning to the garden. "Sometimes I feel I've spent so long surviving that I forget about living. And then little kindnesses from others ground me, remind me. A proffered donut, an invitation into a home, sympathy rather than pity." He nudged her companionably with an elbow. "Good conversation," he added with a vulpine grin. “To which you’re most welcome,” she laughed, startled, but not displeased by the unexpected prodding; for a fleeting moment the encroaching chill of the changing seasons seemed strangely distant, the fading light of the afternoon more aureate than argent. “And thank you for being a gracious guest. I’ll try to be a better hostess next time you visit.” The hammered band of gold around her wrist jingled softly against her watch as Laurie lifted the coffee to her lips and, cautiously, nudged him back. They spoke for a while longer, draining their cups slowly while discussing Wordworth’s use of language and mythological and historical themes, and when James reappeared to collect them she pressed the antique volume of poetry into Grim’s arms. What good was it doing on the shelf, after all? Besides, she reminded him matter-of-factly as he protested: it came from a library, which meant he simply needed to return it when he was done. There was no arguing with her after that, the result having been decided from the moment she’d seen him with the book in the first place; persuading her to the contrary would have been like trying to reverse the tides. Into his satchel it went, carefully wrapped and packed in alongside the lukewarm can of Coke, two bologna sandwiches, and handful of cookies- and, before they left, a thermos of fragrant coffee, as well. …All of which, of course, the young Aesir would likely devour before he made it home that evening, while still eyeing Laurel’s thermos and the bundle of snacks James had prepared for her. Almost before the two half-divine teens realized it, they were back in the car and headed down the tree-lined lane that would take them into the city, and to the general vicinity of Mrs. Cunningham’s home.
  3. Grim was well into his second helping of quiche when the sound of footsteps, muted though they were by the carpets, announced Laurel’s return. True to her word, she’d cleaned up a bit, pulling her hair up into a high ponytail and exchanging her fashionable leggings and sweater for a crisp white blouse and dark jeans that looked as though they’d never been worn. “…Who, not content that former worth stand fast, looks forward, persevering to the last, from well to better, daily self-surpast,” she recited with a faint, wistful smile as she entered, glancing from the Wordsworth to the view of the garden outside, and then back to the canny youth in the oversized chair. “My father loved the Romantics. I think my mother just loved that he-” Her bright azure eyes widened reflexively as she took in the sight of him slouched there, lingered in mute horror on the network of fine lines that marked his thin forearms; she’d heard rumours, of course, that he’d been abused or even engaged in self-harm, but the sheer number of scars she could see- traceries of white crisscrossing the pale skin in a web of old pain- was almost incomprehensible. Whether someone had tortured the taciturn young man, or the wounds were self-inflicted, it must have been unimaginably painful. “Mementos.” The single word, softly-spoken, shattered Laurie’s horrified fascination as surely as a ringing slap, and with the same sharp, stinging sense of mortification as she met his gaze. She hadn’t meant to stare, had no desire at all to cause offense, and yet that’s precisely what she’d done. To a guest in her home. To a friend, perhaps, which was even worse. The unsettled, uncomfortable feeling stirred again behind her ribs as it hadn’t in days. Grim gave her a slight, sad-and-bitter smile as he tugged the sleeves of his shirt down and shrugged in the offhand, indifferent fashion of teenagers. ‘No big deal,’ the gesture implied, but the art of studied nonchalance was one the flaxen-haired young heiress knew well, and here it reassured her not at all. She nodded, slim fingers twining together, and straightened. “I apologize.” The daughter of Apollo met his eyes unflinchingly as she spoke, the girl’s stricken expression slowly fading as her composure returned. “That was rude, and I hope you’ll forgive me for staring. Curiosity should not supersede courtesy, however surprised I was.” Crossing the room to let Grim finish his meal, Laurel noted the tumbler and the coffee service on the counter. She leaned over the half-full glass, sniffing the amber liquid curiously before blinking, wide-eyed and shaking her head, waving a slender hand before her face as if to clear away the scent. She’d been kidding about the bar, but it was hardly reasonable to say so now, was it? “Please, take your time eating, and we’ll drive out to the residential area you mentioned afterward. It would be a shame to waste James’s cooking,” she added, and turned over an empty cup to pour herself a coffee. It was, as he’d suggested earlier, likely to be a long night.
  4. "Not at all. We could hardly leave without you, could we?" she replied easily, the response both polite and eminently practical. “Besides, if you don’t mind too much, I’ll have to ask you to wait for me, as well. I’ve been in these clothes all day." The admission was accompanied by a faint, somewhat abashed smile that warmed and brightened measurably as Laurie turned to the well-dressed, roughly middle-aged man waiting beside the passenger door of the old silver Rolls-Royce. “James, this is Grimsley Algar, the friend I told you about. Grim, this is my-“ She hesitated. When was the last time she’d needed to introduce him to anyone? At the dance, maybe… But, no. They’d taken the limousine that night, and Eric and his Band were too busy talking and searching for champagne to bother with niceties. Had she ever needed to tell anyone who he was? “Well, my James, I suppose,” the girl mused, considering the sober-looking man. “I don’t think I could do without him.” “As the Young Miss requires,” he replied with a faint inclination of his head and gazed for a moment at Grim, keen brown eyes appraising the dour youth from behind his glasses. “A pleasure, Mister Algar,” was all he said, and then the passenger door opened and the two teens were sliding into the impeccably-maintained car: Laurel with her violin case, and Grim with his staff. Inside, the leather and burled wood interior shone as if never touched by naked human hands, and as the trio pulled away from the curb, the sounds of the world outside faded away. There was little in the way of conversation as the scenery of Salem drifted past the windows, and apparently little need for it. The teens knew almost nothing of each other, after all, and the dearth of common interests or relevant topics for discussion made idle banter all but impossible. The minutes passed in relative silence, broken only once or twice by quiet humming as Laurie worked through a passage from the sheet music she was reviewing, and by Grim’s somewhat curmudgeonly, “’Bout damn time,” after checking his phone to find that the others had also begun to move. Soon enough, they turned from the main road down a winding, tree-lined lane and through a tall gate, and as the car rounded a charmingly wooded curve, the house itself came into view. To call it a “house” was perhaps something of an understatement: the massive Tudor Gothic mansion, its pale spires thrusting proudly toward the greying skies, was ringed by a low stone wall and, beyond that, bounded by dense trees all crowned in the flaming glory of autumn. It was the sort of place where exclusive concerts and parties were held, where film producers dreamed of shooting on-location, and where wealthy couples exchanged vows amongst a select group of friends, family, and photographers. It was also the place Laurel called home. As they approached the front entrance, the sunny young blonde leaned forward, unfastening her seat belt. “I think you can leave the car, James. I’m just going in to change and grab something to eat. Please,” she smiled, turning to address the saturnine youth beside her. “Won’t you come in?” He looked at her with raised brows, plainly surprised - and gratified - at the invitation. For an instant, the too-old-for-his-years demeanour cracked and he smiled - not a thin quirk of his lips or a wry smirk - but a genuine warm smile that came and went like a ray of sunshine across a frosted field. "I'd like that, yeah." he said as his composure slid back into place, nodding as he moved to follow her out of the car. "Thank you." he added gravely, but the flash of warmth lingered in the mismatched gaze that glanced from her to the house and back again. Although he’d only thanked her for inviting him in, the instant, unrehearsed brilliance of Laurie’s answering smile was such that it almost seemed Grim had been the one to do her some kindness or favor. Leaving the omnipresent violin case in the back seat, she led him up the front walk, matching his pace despite the characteristic awkwardness of his gait. “I apologize in advance for not being a great hostess, by the way. Obviously I didn’t know you’d be coming over or I’d have been more prepared.” As the unlikely pair passed beneath an arched entryway, the inestimably competent valet opened the large wood and glass door, and the heir to Brightman Manor received her first guest. “James, do you think you could-“ “Certainly, and welcome home, Young Miss. And for the gentleman?” She turned, eyeing Grim speculatively as she unbuttoned her jacket and draped it over the rack there in the foyer. “Coffee, I think, since he wasn’t able to finish it earlier. He might like sugar, as well. Oh! And a thermos for both, please. And maybe a quick bite? Thank you, James. Grim, I’ll show you the library, if that’s all right.” With another smile, she waved him along into the manor proper. “It’s just down the hall, here, past the music room.” Although the girl’s voice echoed in the grand entrance hall, down the broad corridors on either side and up through the second-story, there was no answering call, no sign of movement or activity in response to her homecoming. “I thought you might like to wait there while I get ready. If nothing else, it’s got a really nice view of the garden.” She glanced over her shoulder at him as they walked down the carpeted hallway, one eyebrow twitching in amusement. “And my father’s bar, as well.”
  5. It had at least been civil, as she'd hoped. Or, mostly so. Although with even that dismally low expectation only narrowly satisfied, it seemed overly optimistic even by her standards to consider that any kind of real victory. No punches had been thrown and no property damaged this time, and, really, there wasn't much more to say, was there? And, despite Adrianna's somewhat justifiable disdain, it had at least been productive... If, the flaxen-haired muse acknowledged with a pointed glance in Fisher's direction, not exactly a net positive. The temptation to tell the child of Izanami exactly what she thought of him in that moment, much as she’d done to Nadya following her thoughtless and irresponsible attempt to dupe Marius, was a strong one indeed. Grim, however, had already directed ire aplenty at the tongue-tied genius, and to add her own would be pointlessly cruel. Immediately gratifying, perhaps, but cruel nonetheless, and to no purpose. “Archimedes,” Laurel began instead, her voice low and resonant as a plucked guitar string as it fairly vibrated with suppressed emotion. “Works for Zeus. Maybe you’re not familiar with Greek myth, but my grandfather isn’t exactly known for his patience and forbearance. This failure, once it gets back to him…” She inhaled, struggling to steady the trembling of her hands in her lap and, failing that, rose from her seat. “I’m sure you’ve heard the story of Prometheus, at least?” Retrieving her violin case, she glanced at the lanky form of the aptly-named Aesir as he departed. “I think Archie would appreciate hearing the news from you, first,” the summery blonde added, and then, more quietly as she considered his stricken expression: “You can do better, Fisher. I hope that you do.” To the others there was nothing to be said, but as she turned to the chocolate-skinned newcomer, Laurie flashed the young woman a decidedly warmer, almost sympathetic smile. “I’m so sorry! We haven’t been introduced, and here I am running off, but things do seem to be happening quickly, don’t they? I’m Laurel, Laurel Brightman. Laurie, if you prefer. I hope you’ll excuse me, but I have a Grim to catch.” With a brief scan of the crowd and a quick, one-handed wave she was off and moving through the coffee shop, a focused ray of sunlight pursuing a stark shadow. “Grim?” she called out over the cacophony of voices, clinking silverware and mugs, and music. It wasn’t exactly difficult to catch up with him, for which Laurie was enormously grateful- at least until the obvious reason he hadn’t gotten farther suddenly occurred to her, at which point she felt unaccountably like apologizing for the mental oversight. “Grim?” she tried again as she came up alongside him on his way out the door. “If you have a moment?”
  6. The Stygian depths of Adrianna's dark eyes were inscrutable as the son of Odin calmly and succinctly laid out what he knew of the situation, tactfully finishing off his report with a seemingly-personal inquiry as to her plans. Slightly less mysterious was the slow upward inclination of a single eyebrow, and the faint suggestion of a curve at the opposite corner of her mouth. "Points for creativity and having the basalt stones to ask. What I'm doing that night will depend on how compellingly you present your argument," she replied smoothly, taking another drink from the mug before her. "I'm a busy woman, and high school hijinks frankly aren't usually worth my time." Without the distraction a cup of fragrant tea might have offered, Laurie weighed Adrianna's comments carefully, gaining such insights as she could from the older woman's posture, attire, mannerisms, and tone. She was direct, though not quite to the point of rudeness, and obviously she took her work very seriously and would reasonably expect them to do the same. Dane had recommended her for a reason; she was clearly both well-connected and much more well-informed about the teens in Salem than they were about her. Provided this conversation went reasonably well, she decided, that would need to change, and soon. "I wasn't present, either, but the information I've been given seems to corroborate what my friend Grim here has just told you," the sunny young aesthete added with a faint smile of encouragement. "As he also implied, my understanding is that you, specifically, have access to a relic that might," she stressed softly, "be able to reclaim those spirits as your father's property without harming their victims. If that's true, your help would be critical to handling the situation here without unnecessary, ah. Unpleasantries." Leaning back in her seat, Laurie folded her hands neatly in her lap, wondering if perhaps this meeting, at least, might be a civil one.
  7. The bell above the door to the coffee shop jingled sweetly as the late afternoon sunlight poured in, leaving the entrance brighter and momentarily warmer than it had been before. Pausing briefly to scan the room as she entered, the daughter of Apollo removed her sunglasses and tucked them into the front pocket of a jacket that likely cost more than the sum of every other patron's outerwear combined- perfectly tailored and of immaculate construction, it was also likely to last longer than every other patron's outerwear combined. A faint smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she caught sight of Darcy attempting to field all the orders being thrown at her, as if she were the only capable server in the place. ...Which, Laurie reflected, might conceivably be true. It took only a moment amid the whirl of after-school activity to track where the beleaguered young paramour of Fisher Capra kept casting unsubtle glances: a beautiful, dark-haired woman in a corner booth. Certainly, her appearance matched the description given, and the blatant migration of Rachel's band in that direction provided all the evidence Laurel needed. Ah, well. This wasn't exactly an ideal scenario, but Dane had sounded so awfully distressed that she felt like an utter monster for even considering saying no. "Please, pardon me," the graceful blonde's clear voice rang above the din surrounding them as she slid adroitly past Fisher and Austin with violin case firmly in hand, sparing the two Scions only a fleeting glance that felt unaccountably as though a cloud had passed before the sun, leaving not cold in its wake, but a curious absence of warmth. As Grim concluded his introduction to the Plutonian beauty in the booth, the latter returning his handshake politely, Laurie approached the growing cluster of students at the table. "Miss Dionekou?" A bright smile of greeting illuminated her features as she addressed the woman who was, ostensibly, a distant 'cousin.' "I hope you'll forgive me for intruding. I'm Laurel, and given the, ah, somewhat delicate nature of the current situation, Dane's asked that I take his place for this meeting."
  8. Laurie listened, patiently, as Rachel unloaded her anger and insecurities onto the group, only a near-imperceptible whitening of her knuckles as she gripped the violin bow suggesting she felt anything more than avid interest in the words of Vidar's daughter. It wasn't anger, precisely, but something more akin to frustration, and while a thousand cutting words sprang like daggers to her lips, none of them slipped past. Whatever their de facto leader (or, indeed, any of them) might deserve, it wasn't cruelty. There was plenty of that in the world, already, and Laurie was not so naive as to think that none of those present had contributed. If she was completely honest with herself, one of the most thoughtlessly cruel people she knew was standing right in front of her. The leaders of the two bands of Scions in Salem were not, she reflected, so very different in their approach to life- only in their understanding of it. Most of the group were upper middle-class, white suburban teenagers who received cars as birthday presents and whose parents could afford extra-curricular activities, annual vacations, and brand-name clothing; a far cry from being "strays." Laurie was, in that regard, more fortunate than any of them. Still, they were all the children of gods, the real 1%, granted supernatural prowess and abilities in addition to heavy responsibility. Whether any of them should be expected to shoulder that weight or not wasn't the issue- they were. To all appearances, Rachel had reveled in the strength and brutal power her heritage had granted her, so why was she treating it as some unbearable burden now? It didn't quite add up. To her surprise, the quiet, dark-haired young man Mr. Syracuse had introduced earlier spoke up. It was a pleasant surprise, however: he spoke clearly, with forethought and forthrightness, expressing some of the same sentiments she herself had been considering. Perhaps, she mused, quietly reassessing Grim as he stepped forward, this was a good sign after a long line of bad ones. "Well," she interjected politely into the awkward moment of silence that ensued after the pair of speeches, grip relaxing slightly on her bow. "I had thought that was something of a given, honestly! I can't imagine anyone having any objections, since all of us are burdened by the same glorious purpose, to paraphrase Mr. Hiddleston." The smile that followed was all white teeth and sincerity, her brilliant cerulean gaze startlingly direct as she leveled it first at Grim, and then at Rachel. "I trust Mr. Syracuse's judgement."
  9. Laurie slumped, gasping and red-faced, onto the bench in the practice studio. Loose strands of platinum hair clung stubbornly to the rivulets of sweat her face and neck, and the young scion brushed at them absent-mindedly as glanced up at her reflection in the mirrored wall on the opposite side of the room. She'd pushed herself much harder this time, reaching for greater extension and height, and although she had made progress, she knew she could do better. She knew it. Every aching muscle in her body told her so. Her fingertips tapped a staccato rhythm of frustration on the polished edge of the spa-style bamboo seat. She could be better than this. She would be better than this. Even so, slight improvement was still improvement. She would try harder tomorrow. After violin this afternoon, maybe she'd go to Eric's for a bit, see what he- The notification gave her only a moment's pause as she opened up her messaging app. Fisher wasn't the sort to contact people frivolously- in fact, she rarely received messages from any of the other members of the band outside of an official capacity or sudden crisis. She understood, of course, why that was the case, and if a tiny part of her felt stung, well... There were some things more important than being liked. Still... hadn't they just had a meeting that morning? "I'll be there as soon as I can," she replied, lips pursed as her fingers blurred over the haptic keys. "I can't forgo practice, so I hope no one minds a bit of mood music." ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Young Miss, if I may be so bold," James began tentatively, after several long minutes of silence as the scenery of Salem drifted past the car windows. "I must once again protest these excursions of yours into the wilderness. I've taken the liberty of making a few inquiries, and it would seem that these woods are not part of any sort of regular patrol schedule. If anything should happen to you..." The older man's voice trailed off into the soft hum of the engine. "I know, James," the young blonde in the back seat replied, catching her valet's gaze briefly in the rear-view mirror as she smiled. "Thank you." The weight of years, of abiding respect and affection filled those two words with a depth of sincerity no schmaltzy greeting card could ever hope to capture. She knew that he worried, but rather than being annoyed by his eternally polite paternalism, Laurie was more grateful than she could possibly say. As they rounded the final bend in the winding road that led to the abandoned farm, a thought occurred to her. It was a simple thing, really, but perhaps it would make him feel better. "James... Would you mind waiting for me? With the car, that is. I shouldn't be long, and it's a beautiful day to get a bit of sun and fresh air." "Of course, Young Miss," came the reply. Such a simple thing, words, but so important. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Wolf's ears pricked up, her massive head turning suddenly in the direction of the path leading up to the band's unofficial hideout. A few moments later, a freshly-showered Laurie came into view, the ever-present violin case by her side. Dressed in what might be considered upscale casual attire layered under a lightweight ivory peacoat, she hummed quietly to herself as she approached the group. "I hadn't expected to see you all again so soon, but, good afternoon," she greeted them with a smile. "I hope none of you will mind if I practice while we wait? I'll try not to be too intrusive," she added, almost apologetically.
  10. At precisely the same moment that Fisher's hand struck his forehead, he heard his name above the din. It didn't have quite the same emotional impact as when Darcy called out to him, but he would have been hard-pressed to imagine another voice that could make two syllables sound quite so melodic. "Fisher!" Laurie called, catching up to him just as he made it back to his adorkable girlfriend... Who, Laurie decided after giving the young woman a quick glance as she approached the pair with an apologetic smile, could probably do better. "Are you, ah, all right? Rachel asked me to go check on you, but things got a bit hectic in here and I wasn't sure where you'd gone." She paused for a moment, blue eyes widening slightly as she really looked at him. "You're not all right, are you?" she murmured, lines of concern appearing between her brows as they knit together. The young daughter of Apollo glanced back over her shoulder, where her date was probably doing something she'd come to regret, and then back at Fisher again.
  11. Yeeaahhh.... I still have stuff left over from our first story to update. I'll get on that.
  12. Hearing her own name bellowed across the throngs of bleary-eyed students trying to sneak one last smoke before the bell, or grab a toaster pastry from the cafeteria line, was not how she expected to begin the school day. But, then again, she also hadn't really expected Eric to agree to her proposal in the first place. Okay. So, Donner maybe wasn't the smartest guy in Salem, but when he smiled at her like that... It felt like she'd been struck by lightning. She'd been so focused on what they were doing when investigating Spearfinger, she hadn't really noticed, but he just seemed more... Just, more than the few guys who actually talked to her. She could feel herself blushing as the spark he'd just ignited in her stomach sent warmth creeping up into her cheeks. Keep it together. "Hey," she replied, unable to stop herself from smiling back at him, self-consciously twisting end of the flaxen ponytail draped over her shoulder. "Everything's still cool. I, ah, actually meant to ask earlier, but would you rather we take your car, or get a limo? Your friends could ride with us."
  13. Breakfast was, as ever, a relatively quiet affair; the spiced apples atop the Belgian waffle James had prepared were delicious, and not too sweet, and the skies outside the row of full-length windows that separated the dining room from the modest garden were only just beginning to lighten at the horizon. As she ate, Laurie mentally re-arranged her schedule for the morning, cutting both choreography practice and violin by half an hour to account for the time lost searching for her missing shoe and deciding on something new to wear. She frowned as she chewed another bite of the golden, delectable fare, wondering where it could possibly have gone. James was right, of course. She really hadn't been in most of the guest rooms, and hadn't explored much at all of the rest of the house, which meant the shoe should have been right there in the rack next to its mate. Ugh. She had specifically chosen those exact shoes to coordinate with her pre-Homecoming outfit for school that day. With a quiet sigh of resignation, Laurie set down her fork. As if the faint clink of silver against bone china (Caverswall, she recalled) were a sort of summoning ritual, James appeared at her elbow and quietly cleared her place at the end of the table. The birds were still sleeping, as was, she assumed, nearly everyone else in her part of the world, and only the faintest hint of lavender crept languidly over the treetops in the distance. And... And what, exactly? The entire house was quiet, insulated in the soft grey haze that preceded the dawn. The thick, woollen silence, usually comforting before a long day of shrieking teenagers and screeching chairs on cheap tile, only seemed to perturb her this morning. Probably it was just the disruption of her schedule, she reasoned, walking down the thick carpet that ran the length of the hallway to the music room and protected the immaculate hardwood beneath. But as the notes of Chopin's Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp minor stretched and wound throughout the empty rooms and halls, filling the hollow, echoing spaces with music, the young violinist felt increasingly unsettled. She couldn't put a name to the feeling, but neither could she dismiss it entirely. It simply lingered, uncomfortably, taking up space within her chest as she went about her daily routine. “Young Miss?” the valet inquired politely as she paced the length of the studio, stretching after her morning dance practice. Streaks of rose and gold painted the sky outside, “If I may... You seem rather restive this morning. Perhaps this might alleviate some distress.” In his left hand, gloved as ever in white, lay the shoe that had inspired her discomfiture. She smiled suddenly, relieved that all was still as it should be in her world. “Thank you, James! I knew I could trust you to find it, if it could be found at all.” “Yes, well.” The older man cleared his throat. “I'll just return it to its proper place, then, and bring the car around when you're ready.” Yes, all was still as it should be in her world, the house that was her sanctuary and her solace, she reflected happily as she showered, dressed, and prepared for the day. And yet... As she fastened her seatbelt and James pulled the car slowly down the winding drive, there was still something, that feeling, stirring just behind her ribs, smaller now but no less present than before. Hush, she admonished herself mentally, watching the scenery of Salem roll past the window. We have a busy day today, and then the dance, and there's no telling what sort of drama will ensue. Hush.
  14. Things had been going so well. They'd worked with Eric's band to save innocent children from certain death, and in the process she'd managed to spend time one-on-one with their leader. Sure, there'd been some minor drama, but it was nothing extraordinary. Marius had made an unnervingly pleasant appearance, they'd enjoyed coffee and fresh muffins, and the sandwiches she'd ordered for everyone as part of their celebratory feast had just arrived. And then, in the span of a few moments, everything dissolved into anarchy and angst. Shocked by the sudden outbreak of violence, for a moment Laurie could do nothing more than stare. Nadya and Beth were right there, at least. They could intervene and prevent the fight from spreading, keep someone from getting hurt or - But, no. They were too busy laughing, actually laughing, and when Nadya had the nerve to actually stop two of the other Scions from ending the fight, Laurie had seen enough. These were the ones charged with protecting the world, making it a better place? People who were more interested in cheap thrills than doing the right thing? As she pushed her chair back, the petite blonde could feel the heat rising in her cheeks, the sting of tears blurring her vision; she fought hard to keep her mounting frustration at bay, moving through the confused patrons with purpose and conviction. She didn't dodge, bend, sway, or weave through the crowd, staying focused on the two young women fighting. That she managed to actually make it to the pool table without getting flattened was something of a minor miracle, but she was so intent on her course that it simply didn't occur to her that the trajectory of a flailing fist or errant elbow might accidentally intersect with the side of her head. Laurie knew she wasn't strong enough to physically haul either Rachel or Bridgette away, but she had to do something. Naturally, the most instinctual course of action was the least logical one. Without waiting for a break in the action that may or may not come, the young violinist jumped in front of Rachel, hands in front of her chest as if bracing for an inevitable impact. "Rachel, stop!" she shouted above the chaos, fighting to keep her voice from breaking as she pleaded with the furious Aesir. "Please, just stop!"
  15. Relaxing only slightly as Marius neither mocked nor antagonized them, but instead offered gifts and a measure of humility, she returned his greeting politely, if coolly. For all his civility and intellect, he had already proven himself to be both dangerous and utterly without scruples when it came to getting his way. That he departed so amiably gave her pause, but she didn't detect any hidden subtext when he explained his gratitude as a father. That she couldn't imagine what sort of children he might have, or what kind of woman would have considered him a worthy partner, was a matter for another time... perhaps late at night, sitting 'round a campfire, telling ghoulish stories over warm cider. Although Laurie was rapidly getting the sense that Beth either didn't care for human interaction or had simply been forced to adapt to the barbaric hellscape that was public school, she had, ultimately, been of assistance in rescuing the children from Spear-Finger. Not for the first time, she reminded herself that she ought to set the example, not be one. Besides, it's not as if she'd really discussed her family before, so there was no way Beth could have known... "No," she replied, "not mine. My father..." Laurie inhaled and exhaled slowly, working up a smile as she did so. "He's not here, anymore. He-" Anything else she might have said was abruptly cut off by Fisher's inexplicable outburst, leaving the normally eloquent teen at an utter loss for words. The look on Darcy's face... Oh, Fisher, she thought despairingly. Do you have any idea what you just did? ...And then Nadya chimed in. Oh, for- "He's not a... a 'creeper,' Nadya, he just thanked us for crying out loud, and if you have a problem with people who have more money than you do, I fully expect you to disgorge all of the muffins one of them just bought for you. Please do use the wastebasket, though, or at least do us the courtesy of going to the restroom first." She exhaled again, letting some of the sting of the other girl's barb- intentional or not- bleed away. "Darcy, I'm sorry. It's been kind of a rough day. We-" She glanced at the others, obviously flustered and uncomfortable with what she was about to say. "Fisher, and the rest of us, we helped Sheriff Farrow track down some missing children. It wasn't at all what we expected, and, although I can't speak for everyone, I'm still pretty overwhelmed, and it sounds like he is, too." Laurie allowed herself the luxury of remembering, now that it was over, how terrified she'd been, how utterly out of her element, and some of it crept into her voice. "I honestly don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight." She paused, and her earlier smile returned, if more self-deprecating than wistful. "It was supposed to be a secret," she added, darkening blue eyes directed pointedly at Fisher, "but I'm a terrible liar, and if he'd wanted to keep you from worrying about what he was doing, he should have been more honest with you in the first place. That goes for you, too, Billy," she added, nodding at the confused young man with Rachel. "You guys are friends, and if at all possible, it would be nice to try to forget about today for a little while, have a sandwich, talk about the dance and Nadya's shoes, and pretend we didn't just find out how awful the world can be. Just for tonight. ...Please?"
  16. "I don't think that's on the menu," Laurie quipped amiably, nudging a chair into position with her foot. She had showered and changed into fresh clothes (along with more practical ballet flats), and seemed in enviably high spirits. "Hopefully, this will help 'take the edge off' in another sense." As she took a seat, violin case resting across her knees, one of the waitresses approached, weaving her way through the tables with an energetic bounce in her step that only emphasized to all the Scions present how not exhausted from battling an ancient titanspawn she was. "Hey, guys! They just put some more muffins in the oven, so I'll run them out with the sandwiches as soon as they're done..." The pretty redhead paused, a momentary flicker of confusion in her eyes as she mentally compared the size of the order she'd received to the number of people at the table. "Is there... anything else you guys need?" A pile of a dozen or so muffins- double chocolate, blueberry, pumpkin, and some less recognizable flavors- each one roughly the size of Eric Donner's fist, appeared as she slowly unloaded her tray.
  17. Once the commotion of their arrival had settled somewhat, Laurie smiled at the more experienced Scions and helpfully pointed out a few vacant milk crates and folding chairs. "More help's always welcome," she added, before her sunny expression dimmed in acknowledgment of why they were needed. A relative newcomer, she had already heard of the events that transpired at the Museum of Witchcraft, and was grateful for the continued presence of the other band. Weighing what she'd been told of their behavior and what she'd observed firsthand, along with what she'd gleaned from other sources, she'd developed her own conclusions. While their attitudes may not be everyone's cup of tea, they had been successful, and that merited consideration. The would-be Disney princess nodded speculatively as she listened to Grace and Beth, inhaled as if she was going to say something, then frowned, apparently deciding against it as she leaned forward in her camping chair. "Well, there are ten of us now, and five issues that need attention, if we count each..." There was a noticeable pause as Laurie struggled with the notion of dump sites, unable to bring herself to actually say the words. "Each investigation site in the woods as its own, self-contained location. Beth, you already seem to have a good grasp on the details, and I don't know you very well yet, sooo.... My thought's that you and Fisher would be a good option to work together, since your combined brainpower gives us the best chance at figuring out what's behind this as quickly as possible. Nadya and Mercedes- wait," she interjected as the two girls both started spluttering outraged denials, "please, hear me out.” Hands spread placatingly, the young blonde continued, “I know that you guys have your differences-” “Understatement of the century,” Mercedes snarked under her breath, glaring daggers at the child of Apollo. “-but that's exactly why it's the ideal pairing to investigate one of these places in the woods. The two of you have different priorities, so you'll be looking for different things. Together, you can find what each of you might not individually. And,” she shrugged, glancing sideways at the boys present, “honestly, you're both too pretty. If we paired you up with guys, nothing would get done.” For her part, Mercedes seemed somewhat mollified by this explanation, her perfect brows arching briefly in agreement as if to say, “True.” “Rachel...” She hesitated for a moment, then forged on. “You and Austin are both strong, focused, and pretty sharp, so the two of you should be able to find whatever might still be in the second site. Your strengths will complement each other, and like Mercedes and Nadya, your differences will, too. ...So, Grace.” Laurie paused for a moment, not in reluctance, but to offer what she hoped was a reassuring smile to the obviously agitated Scion; based on Grace's reaction to the files she'd seen, the morgue was not a good place for her. “I think you're right. Why don't you and...” she glanced back at the young man who'd come with Eric and Mercedes, the one who'd first tried to make overtures of peace when they'd arrived. “...Aaron, I think? Sorry, we haven't really been introduced. Why don't you two investigate the last spot? I was told you're a genius when it comes to anything mystical, Grace, and honestly, he seems pretty reasonable.” Left unspoken was Laurie's hope that Aaron's reputation as Salem High's pre-eminent partymaker would help distract Grace from the awful, tragic events they were investigating. Straightening in her seat, the idealistic sun-child glanced around expectantly, awaiting either agreement or outright rebellion from the other assembled teens.
  18. Although she often saw them in the halls (and, of course, in the library), as a recent transfer, Laurie was usually in different classes than the rest of the Scions in the band. When Sheriff Farrow pulled her out of Algebra, she wished she'd been in a different school. She could feel her face grow hot with embarrassment as she put her notes away and slung the strap of her book bag over her shoulder, following the laconic lawman into the hallway. This was not going to improve her reputation; at least, not in the social circles that appealed to her. The sunny blonde offered up what she hoped was a convincing smile and a tiny wave as the others filtered out of Ms. Elliott's classroom, relieved that, whatever was going on, she wasn't alone. When Austin spoke up, Laurie shifted the omnipresent violin case to her other hand. He was difficult to read, this son of Poseidon, and it was going to take her some time to work out what his mannerisms implied. With a slow shrug, she replied amiably, "Well, if you're addressing the group, it's probably a bit late for a last-minute confession since the Sheriff is here already."
  19. The last rays of the sun rendered Laurie's pale, flaxen hair incandescent, her somber expression wreathed in strands of tangible light that drifted lazily in the early evening breeze. At her feet, her ever-present black case lay open on the grass, and in her right hand she held a slim violin bow, gilded and strung with horsehair. She'd barely had time to drink half the water in the bottle before the driver announced they'd arrived at the Capra home, and although she'd been helped out of the car with the utmost courtesy, the ostentatious golden "chariot" was gone almost before she could blink... Leaving her in a stranger's yard, watching as a group of three men approached the house. One had been finishing up a terse conversation on his cell phone, and jerked his head in the direction of the front door. Not being a hardened warrior, she hadn't the faintest clue what weapons they might have, but if what Marius said was true, they meant to seriously harm Fisher's father. She didn't know Fisher himself very well, and his family not at all, but attacking someone indirectly just seemed so... cowardly. It was an oddly stereotypical move for someone who could purportedly have eliminated them much more efficiently, and since her plan to gather more information at the Drip hadn't quite panned out, the lack of understanding bothered her. Intensely. "I'm going to give you two options, gentlemen, and I honestly hope you'll listen to reason, because I don't want to repeat myself." Her voice rang out like a bell above the cracking of the doorframe, and with rather more confidence than she felt facing three armed men. The one holding the crowbar paused, slowly tilting his head as his companions spun around to face her. That she had somehow gone unnoticed while exiting a twenty-four karat BMW, placing her instrument case on the ground and withdrawing the shining gold bow within (she was beginning to notice a theme where her patron was concerned) was mystifying to the young Scion, but then these didn't exactly look like divine mercenaries, either. They took one look at her, a blonde, well-dressed teenager who looked like she'd just stumbled out of strings practice, and laughed. It was the kind of coarse, raucous laughter that rolled out of bars and into the streets when the door opened, the kind that communicated clearly how ludicrous her request was. Even the door-cracker stood up, shaking his head as he handed the crowbar to one of his compatriots. He was bigger than he'd looked kneeling down, and he swaggered forward a few steps, spreading his hands wide in invitation. “Ohhhhh, well. Go on, missy. Tell us what options you's gonna...” There was a momentary pause, a brief furrowing of the hoodlum's brow followed by a triumphant grin. “Gonna magnamoniously give us.” Laurie blinked in response, her brain attempting to process both the bizarre, stereotypical “wiseguy” accent and the nonsensical word. One of his attendants folded thick arms across a broad chest, smirking at the apparent leader's wit, while the other scowled and clenched his ham-sized fists. “I got this, Joe. I'mna take care a'her real quick, and we can get back to work.” The hyper-tanned slab of Neanderthal strode menacingly toward her, a wicked grin baring his too-white teeth. She barely resisted the urge to scream, “Not the face! Not the hands!” and curl into a ball, settling instead for a hard swallow and a white-knuckle deathgrip on her bow. Maybe she could catch him off-guard and poke him in the eye? “'Ey.” Joe's baritone was a sharp bark this time, rumbling bravado momentarily vanishing as he thrust out an arm to bar his comrade's path. “Me 'n the lady's havin' a conversation here. Youse two watch the door.” For a second, it looked like Stock Guido #2 was going to argue, but some invisible exchange occurred between the two men and Joe proved the victor. His subordinate shot a murderous glare in her direction before stalking heavily back to his post. “You mean, 'magnanimously,' don't you?” she asked, hoping she sounded more confident out loud than she did in her head. “Yeah! That's what I said. Whaddayou gonna do, eh?” “Well,” she began, completely flummoxed by the sudden invasion of extras from 'Jersey Shore' into her life. “You can stop attempting to break in to that house, leave its occupant alone, and carry on with the rest of your day...” “Orrrr?” the thug grinned, and his buddies snickered behind him. “Ooorrrrrr,” Laurie continued, somewhat more matter-of-factly, “I will be forced to visit such terrible violence on your persons that your mothers will weep to see what I have done. Although, I admit that I won't enjoy it, and I can assure you that the memorial wreaths I send will be quite tasteful.” Number Two snarled and made to move forward again, but Three grabbed his arm with an alarmed expression. “The hell, man?” he hissed. “You crazy?!” “Whaddayou mean, 'you crazy'? She's a fuckin' little girl! The fuck you think she's gonna do with that baton, huh? Spank us?!” “Mikey, think about it! Nobody says that shit unless they're either, A, completely batshit nutso, or B, Bruce-fuckin'-Lee!” Clearly the big thinker of the group, Number Three shook his head, trying to keep his voice down even as he argued. “Uh-uh, man. No way. I don't want no part a'that!” Joe's lips pursed, and without turning his head he glanced in Mikey and Three's general direction. He could probably have been a model for the Easter Island Moai, since he seemed to be comprised of simple, blocky forms- right down to the fact that his face was mostly forehead and nose. His chin jerked upward briefly, getting her attention. “You Bruce Lee?” he asked speculatively. A mad thought careened through her head then- “When someone asks you if you're a god, you say YES!” and it was all she could do to keep from giggling at the absolute insanity of this entire situation. “No. Bruce Lee is, unfortunately, quite dead.” She paused for a beat, biting her lower lip and swinging the bow upward to pluck the horsehair with her free hand. If this didn't work exactly as the letter had described, she was doomed. Impossibly, it resonated at her touch, vibrating in a warm, mellow tone that sounded somehow like summer. The straight, slender stick and its aged gilding brightened, then stretched, growing to over double its original size. As the camlen elongated, its gentle curve toward the strings inverted into a sweeping convex arc, and at its center appeared a fluted grip. Once more her fingertips found the string, now a faint, glimmering line stretched taut behind the sinuous limbs. Just before the sun slipped beneath the treeline behind her, its final ray was snared in the arrow rest, white hot and luminous; her golden bow had proven worthy of the name. Energy sang through her veins, flooding her with light, with music, with power until she felt sure it must be visible beneath her skin, and in the chemical thrill of the moment the notion didn't bother her in the slightest. “Stay here,” she offered, flashing a brilliant smile made all the more unnerving for its sincerity, “and I'll send you to meet him.” Three was the first to bolt, sending the crowbar sailing behind him and gulping in great lungfuls of air as he cut across the yard and made for the sidewalk as if Hell itself pursued him. Mikey grimaced, clearly torn between fight and flight. His fists clenched and unclenched spasmodically at his sides, and the trembling in his massive hands spread slowly through the rest of his body until the effort required to remain stationary became too much to bear. The gears in his head were grinding now, trying to make sense of the growing dread welling up inside him at the sight of this girl's cheerful, amiable smile. Naturally, rage was his emotional refuge. Lurching forward, he screamed a guttural curse; Laurie shifted slightly, the too-bright arrow drawn back to her cheek until he could no longer see the blue of her eye, now swallowed by a single coruscating point of light fixed on him. Her slim fingers twitched, and the gut-twisting drive to live for just a few more moments overrode the goon's pride. His scream rose in pitch, desperate as the wild, wide-eyed expression on his face, and he tumbled hard to the ground, all pretense of machismo gone. Scrambling, he clawed his way back to his feet and half-sprinted, half-careened between parked cars, brick mailboxes, and anything else that put substance between them. When she glanced back at their leader, pivoting to ready her shot, Laurie was surprised to find him still standing where he'd been moments before. Joe's jaw formed a tight, hard line, flinty eyes narrowed as he gave her one slow nod. “'Cause you's a lady, an' a kid, I ain't gonna hit ya. An' I gotta respect one a' today's youves who knows how to talk all elephant like. So today? Today's your lucky day, missy. I'm gonna go round up the boys, and you get to walk away. 'Zat sound equatable to you?” Laurie cautiously lowered the bow, and as she did so the golden arrow in her grasp faded into the aether. She could feel the surge of energy slowly draining out of her again, the gradually deepening twilight bringing with it a weariness like none she'd ever experienced before. Nodding mutely at the monolithic figure before her, she watched him go, simply strolling away as if nothing untoward had happened. Forgotten, the bow in her hand became simply a bow again, and the young woman shook her head in dazed wonderment as she stared at her abandoned violin case. What in the world had she been dragged into? ...And, more importantly, who was going to drive her home?!
  20. Awesome idea to use an NPC to take care of one of the families! I'm a little bit confused about the decision to have Dane help Nadya's dad instead of Nadya doing it, though.
  21. Laurel's initial reaction to Nadya's over-the-top 180-degree ploy had been shock- she didn't know this girl, after all, but would she really pour it on that thick if she was seriously considering switching sid- No, apparently not, she realized with a grimace at roughly the same moment Marius laid his cards on the table. After shock, came anger. Anger not only at Nadya for screwing up a perfect opportunity to find out who this guy was and what he actually wanted, at Marius himself for orchestrating others' misery, at her mother for moving to this stupid city in the first place, and at her "real" father for interrupting a perfectly reasonable life with completely unreasonable expectations. Her knuckles were white as she gently pushed her mug aside and rose, picking up her violin case and watching a panicked Nadya dash from the Drip. "You and I," she uttered flatly, simply, as she directed a scorching glare at the man seated across from her, "our conversation isn't over yet. We'll finish this another time. Thank you ever so kindly for the invitation." She caught up to the would-be con artist in a matter of moments, moving through the crowd of teen-aged patrons without breaking stride; her expression alone was enough to convince most of them to step aside. Nadya was filling Austin and Grace in on what had happened, and Laurie clenched her free hand at her side. A whirlwind of emotions rushed through her head- fear, uncertainty, anger, helplessness- nearly drowning out the directions she was being given to Fisher's house, and then, in a perfectly clichéd "princess" moment, she shook her blonde head violently and shouted at the top of her lungs as she stamped her foot. "No!" It was just surprising enough to break Nadya's attention to her phone as their quiet, polite Disney princess of a Bandmate finally hit the end of her rope. She managed to get a grip sufficiently to avoid screaming, but it was clearly an effort to do so. "No, Nadya, you do not get to play the tragic hero, and you do not get to dictate a single freaking thing right now. You lost, you screwed up, and now you're thinking with your pride, not your brain. One, there's no time to change directions if Fisher's dad isn't home, because we're barely going to make it as it is! Two, Rachel's father is a police officer, trained in violence and firearms, and your dad runs a pawn shop, and if he's the one that's taught you how to deal with people, chances are good he is not going to be talking his way out of this. Go take care of your own family, because after this you're going to need him to remove all our boots from your back-side." Still trembling, she huffed, pushing a lock of golden hair from her face as she regained a measure of her composure. "And these, these are very expensive boots." Heart pounding in her chest, both from the very real fear of someone's life being in her hands and from the unfamiliar experience of actually telling someone off, Laurel took a deep breath. She held it for a moment, tucked the black instrument case against her side, and started running.
  22. "Ah-" Laurie began, but was abruptly cut off by Grace's sudden departure. She frowned, lips pursed to one side as Austin's tirade picked up where the rebellious young Latina girl had left off, only to see him promptly shove off as well. The blonde held up a finger as if to speak, then, eyes wide in disbelief, sighed and dropped her hand limply back to the black case at her side. She could scarcely believe what she was seeing. Fine. So he might have obliquely, indirectly threatened their families. She got where their anger might come from, especially since he was being so annoyingly smug about the whole thing, but walking out? You just didn't do that in her experience. Even if you absolutely loathed someone, you still listened to what they had to say; it was just good manners. If she'd had a dollar for every inane conversation she'd sat through with her mother's friends, she could afford to send Nadya to Vegas during the World Series of Poker. Ugh. Those Chanel-scented harridans gossiped and bickered as viciously as harpies... Which, all things considered, might make sense now that she knew that harpies actually existed. She supposed, given their less fortunate backgrounds, her Band-mates couldn't be expected to know how to behave in polite society, but it still reflected poorly on the group as a whole. Quietly, she was impressed that Nadya had actually engaged Marius in conversation in an effort to get more information. Lacing the fingers of both hands around her mug, the fragrant aroma of Turkish apple tea wafting up to greet her, Laurie considered her options. As she compared the affable, eloquent man to their story about the museum and the letter he'd written, she got the rather uncomfortable impression that he was more dangerous than she'd previously assumed. "Marius, was it?" she inquired with a polite smile, taking a cue from his genial tone. "I'm at a bit of a disadvantage, since the rest of you seem to know each other already." Her blue eyes were earnest as she regarded the older man, even if her expression was somewhat abashed. "I meant to introduce myself earlier, but, well, you know how we teenagers are. It's all hormones, reality shows, and slamming doors." She took a sip of her tea, carefully replacing the cup on the table before continuing. "I'm Laurel, and I apologize for the way they left. It was incredibly rude, and, bad blood or not, uncalled for. Then again, you didn't try to kill anyone I know with an army of undead minions, so my judgment may be slightly skewed on that point." She shrugged, still smiling pleasantly. "That being said, you seem to know quite a bit about our, hmm... 'unique' family situation. How long have you been dealing with this sort of thing?"
  23. "They're on a mountain, hours away," Laurie reminded Austin patiently. "And probably busy with whatever Mr. Fingers has them doing. We have a very specific timetable for our appointment, so waiting doesn't seem to be an option. Besides," she shrugged and smiled again, waving a slim hand at the letter she'd just returned to him. "Punctuality is important."
  24. [Back at school!] Laurie offered a polite "Thank you," then pursed her lips thoughtfully as Grace passed her the letter, rubbing her thumb idly over the thick, creamy texture of the paper while she read the elegantly-penned missive. The language didn't quite match the stationery, or the penmanship; the latter smacked of either extremely good taste, or excessive pretension, neither of which typically fit the insultingly casual tone of the former. Lifting the folded piece of paper to her nose, she waved it momentarily back and forth and inhaled softly. “Interesting,” she murmured, half-smiling. “The paper is really nice, much better than I'd expect from 'middle-class evil.' Cotton, I'd say. It feels like our stationery at home, so it might be Crane and Company. I think your villain... I can't believe I'm actually using that word in conversation!” The blonde laughed as she interrupted herself, shaking her head in disbelief. “Anyway, your villain may be reaching above his tax bracket in order to impress you, or-” She glanced at the other three teens speculatively. “Or, he's reaching below it, considering the tone. It's... also possible he's just out of his mind. The bit about the undead aside, no one actually says 'Tatty-bye' unless they're being facetious.” She shrugged, then blinked at Nadya and smiled apologetically. “Sorry, I mean I haven't heard anyone say that unless they're joking. Also, they keep herbs. Maybe they were writing in a kitchen, or, I don't know, some weird voodoo ritual lab, or something, but it smells delicious. A bit, hmm. Spicy.” Aaand, of course, none of that is actually helpful. Right. You know, somehow, I thought fitting in would make me feel less weird. Shadowy voices and zombies. Crazy villains in museums. Super powers. Thanks, “dad.” I'm officially a character in a young adult novel. Exhaling in a quiet huff, she handed the note back to Austin. “I think Grace's approach is the most sensible. Even if he intends to spring some sort of trap, it's a valuable opportunity to take advantage of his obvious narcissism and learn something useful about him, whoever he may be. Strength in numbers, and all that.”
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