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Everything posted by Laurie Brightman

  1. The unsubtle threat sent a shiver of unease down Laurie's spine that had nothing to do with either his proximity or his apparent reluctance to appreciate boundaries- but, then, Eric Donner had no real need for subtlety. He was strong enough, and influential enough, to dictate terms in nearly any adolescent undertaking. With anyone else, the implication would have been something sinister, something about turning on Grim and Dane and the others to ensure her own safety; at least for now, though, Laurel got the impression that the musclebound marauder was being... not reassuring, perhaps, but at least sincere in his advice. That didn't make her feel the least bit better about his assertion that he'd "wipe out" the other Scions, though, particularly since it made so little sense. Weren't they all supposed to be on the same side... more or less? Perhaps not, she considered- which meant she needed to find out why, and whether there was anything she could do about it. Even if she didn't consider herself one of them, she did feel a certain degree of responsibility, a compulsion to try to ensure they lived long enough to- possibly, one day in the distant future- achieve some measure of greatness commensurate with their heritage. ...If she had to drag them to it kicking and screaming. "You're right. Friends are a good thing to have," the platinum-crowned princess agreed thoughtfully, ignoring for the time being his commentary regarding the existential perils of heroic lineage. "Particularly strong ones. And... At the risk of sounding ungrateful, most of the time I do have better things to do than, ah, 'chill' with the others," she replied, gazing guilelessly up at the red-blonde barbarian. It was a simple, straightforward statement, devoid of malice, and she shrugged a slender shoulder for emphasis. "Most of them, anyway. And it has less to do with the tax bracket of their families," the platinum-crowned princess added, "than with their general lack of direction and ambition. That's one of the reasons your Band, although I'm not part of it, is so interesting." Laurel smiled a little at the admission, showing a flash of white teeth in the lights, and shrugged again. "You said yourself that you don't get along with Mercedes, and I imagine there are other disagreements, too, but somehow you manage to keep everyone working together. It's honestly really impressive to see, considering how different all of you seem." She let her words hang in the air for a moment, glancing past Eric's well-muscled frame to take in the few others dancing before turning her bright blue eyes on him again with an inquisitive smile. "I hope you don't mind that I'm basing my expectations on you?"
  2. Perhaps it was "entitlement" that sparked the change he'd described in Mercedes's behavior, but given the events of recent days, Laurel wasn't quite ready to write off her potential role in things as something so innocuous; especially after what had transpired at the cemetery, and what they'd uncovered at Mrs. Cunningham's garden. But that was the primary reason she'd decided to come, was it not? Also at issue, she reflected as he pulled her away from the wall and onto the floor, was whether Eric really believed what he was saying, or if- as Marius had suggested- other influences were involved, here. There were just so many distractions, seemingly unrelated events that might be of critical importance or might simply be random chance, so many elements to the composition being played around and through their actions, as though each of them were little more than an instrument in a greater orchestral work, and none of them could see all the parts- save the composer. And there was, she knew, there had to be a leitmotif woven throughout, some identifying phrase that could help them distinguish the important elements from the background noise... But what was it? "So what are you thinking about when you should be dancing?" Eric's voice in her ear jolted Laurel out of her reverie, and, startled, she replied instinctively, blinking up at him. "Composition." "Seriously?" He sounded incredulous, and in the midst of the music and the swirl of colored lights it was difficult to tell if he was laughing or angry as they swayed to the thudding bass vibrating through the dance floor. "I've never really listened to this kind of music before," she protested, suddenly very aware of his hand on the small of her back, and that beneath the cologne and the scent of alcohol he smelled- very faintly- of ozone.
  3. "It isn't," she replied pleasantly, Eric's proximity reminding her of that faint crackle of something electric in the air around him that had been so compelling at the dance. It might have been some adolescent hormones, or nascent charisma, or even some manifestation of his own divine heritage, but this close it felt more than a little overwhelming. Best to change the subject, she decided. "But it's nice to broaden one's horizons once in a while, and since it's my first Hallowe'en here in Salem, I thought I should see what all the fuss was about." Glancing pointedly over his well-muscled arm and then, finding that view somewhat awkward, under it, Laurel added in something of an understatement (or overstatement, in the case of some of the corporeal non-living attendees), "It's a lively crowd. Are all of Mercedes's parties like this?"
  4. "No," she laughed, shaking her head as she glanced in the direction of the milling crowd again. "No, I don't have a date. That isn't why I'm here." Reaching out, the young aesthete clasped one of Dane's hands in her own smaller one, the warmth and sincerity of her smile illuminating her features. "Thank you for the vote of confidence, though, and I do hope you all have a wonderful time." Affecting a regal mien, Laurel inclined her head briefly toward Grim, dipping a quick, fluid curtsy in acknowledgement of his observation, bright eyes sparkling with mirth as she rose. "It suits you," she replied agreeably, noting the details of his costume with an appraising eye, "and seems rather apropos, all things considered." She might have said more, but the striking figure of the tall, dark-skinned Valerie gave her pause, and the potential for further banter was cut short as the slender sunbeam studied her with open curiosity. They'd never been introduced formally, of course, but there was rarely a better time than the present for such things, was there? "Laurel Brightman," interjected the ever-forthright young woman, extending her free hand in greeting as she offered the newcomer a sunny smile. "How lovely to meet you Valerie, though it's a pity the circumstances aren't better. That seems to be a recurring pattern, these days, as does the need for me to be elsewhere." The bow of her lips pursed into an unhappy moue as she reflected briefly on the similarity to her conversation with Dale the day before, but the flicker of unease quickly faded; if it meant something that so many young Scions were being drawn to one place, the significance was beyond her current comprehension. Still, perhaps there was yet time for answers... "Regrettably, no, as I feel very strongly about standards of decorum where hospitality is concerned. After all, if courtesy demands I bring a gift to a party, it would be terribly ill-mannered of me, and immensely disrespectful to my host, to deliver it already unwrapped," Apollo's daughter replied breezily, her teeth a brilliant crescent of white that flashed in the deepening dusk as she regarded the costume Nadya had chosen, wondering idly where she'd stowed the rest of it. "Something to think on for future events, perhaps." Turning to regard the rest of the assembled group, she took a half-step back, straightening her shoulders. "In any case, I should be going. I expect I'll see you inside, at some point during the evening. And, should you need help," she added, smiling faintly up at the Odinsson, "you have my number. As it stands, I may need to call on you later, if all does not go well. Take care, and-" Pausing, Laurel's gaze fell once more on the vivacious Romani girl. "And try not to cause trouble."
  5. The soft, unmistakable click clack of heeled shoes wove through the undercurrents of excited chatter and anticipation like a metronome, a crisp, rhythmic counterpoint to the chaotic energies swirling around what had been hyped as “the Halloween party to end all Halloween parties.” That was, perhaps, not far from the truth, Laurel reflected as she strode up the sidewalk, passing groups of teens and… fantastic, as-yet-unidentified others congregating outside the Rhodes estate to compare costumes, gossip, and await their compatriots. As the masses filtered inside, accompanied by swirling mist and colored lights, and the low thrum of some pop song’s bass line vibrating through the ground underfoot, she wondered briefly what it might be like to host some sort of social event at her own home- and shuddered, briefly overcome with horror at the thought of having that haven of peace and sanity invaded, and poor James trying to deal with everything at once. No, she decided firmly. No parties. Whatever else she was, Mercedes Rhodes must be a formidable hostess indeed if she could manage a crowd like this; perhaps there was something else to be gained from observing her, after all. Not far ahead, one of the clusters of conversing teens shifted, and Laurel hesitated, the brisk staccato of her footfalls on the pavement faltering, the tempo momentarily broken. “He really dressed up as a giant burrito,” she murmured to herself, half-disbelieving at the sight of the tall, broad-shouldered Aesir in the most ridiculous costume she’d ever seen and half trying desperately not to laugh. Once she’d recognized Dane, of course, the rest of the group became easier to identify… not that anyone who’d ever seen Nadya would question who the obnoxiously-attired “witch” might be. Grim looked to be dressed as a sort of puritanical version of himself, amusingly enough, although she was less clear on who the others- Austin, and perhaps Fisher and Darcy- were meant to be. I suppose it can’t be helped, the svelte blonde reminded herself, reaching up with a gloved hand to check that her hair was still tidy beneath the neat red hat she wore. After all, it was better to remain on civil terms than not. Needlessly smoothing the pristine front of her long, striped, blue coat, the practically perfect platinum princess adjusted her grip on the professional-looking leather case in her left hand and approached the disparate group, armed with her ever-present geniality. “Good evening,” she greeted them brightly. “You’re all looking-“ There was a moment’s pause as her summer-sky gaze moved over the group, her pleasant expression unwavering. “Very festive. I can’t stay and talk, I’m afraid, but I couldn’t help noticing Dane and thought I should say hello. So.” Her smile widened, warming a little as she turned her attention from Nadya to the others. “Hello.”
  6. "Well," Laurel interjected brightly into the quiet that followed both Darcy's somewhat misguided, if charmingly passionate outburst, and the rather alarming scuffle between Grim and Dane. "I think that's everything sorted out, then, unless anyone else has an announcement they'd like to make? Not to trivialize any of this, of course," she added, flashing an apologetic smile at Darcy and the apparently less-than-sanguine son of Baldr. "But as Austin has so adeptly pointed out, Grim has gotten you the information you need through cunning and diplomacy, and now Fisher has assured us all that Archimedes is perfectly fine despite concerns to the contrary, while Darcy has bravely pledged her sword and shield to your cause, and Dane has revealed the tale of his desperate origins, which, I regret to say, was largely lost on me without the appropriate context. All that remains is to confront or contract Adrianna, attend the party tomorrow night, and save the world." The platinum-crowned violinist shrugged, her smile fading as she gestured expansively at the group. "The players are assembled, the roles filled. The climax of the story is upon you." "You make it sound like you're not involved in this," the aforementioned plucky mortal spoke up, frowning a little despite her relief that neither of the Aesir "cousins" were apparently going to kill the other. In answer, Laurel lifted her free hand to check the time, the golden band about her wrist clinking softly against her watch as it shifted. "I gave my word that I'd help a friend this evening," she replied quietly, the brilliant summer-sky-blue of her eyes taking on a cooler, more reflective hue as she regarded Darcy with a faint, polite smile. "I'm happy to help in obtaining the amulet if necessary, of course, provided that happens tonight."
  7. There was no scorn or derision in the azure eyes that regarded the son of Poseidon; only pity accompanied the slightly sympathetic smile Laurel directed at him as she adjusted the strap of her violin case for comfort. "I'm sure you're helping in the best way you know how. All things considered, though, perhaps more pressing concerns than decades-old film analysis or costume choices should take priority. I'm certain that wasn't the entirety of your conclusions and impressions, was it?" She watched Austin for a moment, her expression one of polite expectation, before nodding in the direction Grim had gone. "Come. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter while we walk." Pairing action with speech, the svelte young muse graced Darcy with a smile and began heading back toward the more well-maintained pathways. "How do you propose we get your cousin to loan us her amulet, for example?"
  8. Laurie rested a gloved hand on Darcy's shoulder reassuringly, her clear blue gaze the contrast of tropical skies to Runa's arctic stare. She'd never seen anything like this living frost-maiden, terrible and beautiful, but there didn't seem to be any need or desire for deception in the massive woman's glacial eyes or demeanor; she meant what she said. As far as she was concerned, and as far as the young violinist could tell, the giantess had simply done a job, and that was that. The significance of the arcane symbols and terminology was lost on the summery scion, as was the source of the curious undercurrent of tension between Dane, Grim, and their brawny opposition. She made a mental note to inquire about it once they were on their way. Still, the bit about witches and costumes, commentary regarding irritating voices notwithstanding, was useful information. "Well, then," she chimed in pleasantly. "That gives us the 'when' and the 'where,' at least." And possibly the 'who,' as well, she considered, reflecting on what the Disastrous Duo of Nadya and Rachel had shared about their own findings. "I hadn't planned on going, myself, but I suppose I could throw something together."
  9. She supposed it couldn't be helped, having agreed to assist Grim with this investigation, that she'd have to tolerate the presence of people she'd generally prefer to avoid. ...And, perhaps that was somewhat unfair a judgement. Disliking someone personally did not necessarily mean they had nothing to teach, even if only in serving as examples of what not to do in a given situation. It might also, the young violinist reflected, make for a good opportunity to observe them further. If nothing else, the experience could prove useful when she would inevitably be forced to interact with tedious, ignorant, or otherwise frustrating people later in life. It was worth considering, at least. Yes, she decided with a quick smile at Dane that was reciprocated sincerely, if somewhat dazedly. That would absolutely be useful, and regardless of the outcome, some good could be gained from the experience. Perhaps they might even benefit from her presence, as well! Thus cheered, Laurel hummed softly to herself as she adjusted the carrying strap of her violin case, shifting it to rest across her torso rather than sit on a single shoulder. "I'm so glad you've decided to come along," she chimed up, turning that same sunny expression on Darcy as she matched the pace of their enthusiastic navigator. "Seeing you this afternoon at the café, you seemed so exhausted I was a little worried. It's good to see you're feeling better, now."
  10. "A battery..." Laurel repeated, frowning a little at the implication. One really only needed batteries to fuel other things- they were rather meaningless on their own. What on earth could they possibly have wanted all that energy for? And at the cost of this poor woman's beloved garden, as well. Destroying something that must have been beautiful and meaningful, once, seemed an awful means to, probably, a much worse end. For now, though, there was little else to be done, and Grim himself had offered to help restore the plantings when the weather was right. "Well," the platinum-haired young daughter of the sun declared decisively, "if you mean to help her replant in the Spring, I shall of course help you. If nothing else, I can make sure any tools or..." She paused, lips pursing in thought. "Seeds?" she assayed, considering; how did one go about planting a garden, anyway? Casting a sympathetic eye at the older woman, she pulled the thick wool of her coat more tightly around herself. "Bulbs, perhaps? Whatever supplies are necessary, I'm happy to see that she gets them. Excuse me, please, for just a moment." She smiled a little, then, drawing a small, rectangular case from her coat pocket as she approached the sniffling figure nearby. "Mrs. Cunningham?" Laurie pressed a crisp white card, embossed with neat blue and gold lettering, into the forlorn woman's hands as she looked up. "Here. My name is Laurel Brightman, and this is my contact information. I've promised my friend over there that I'd take care of the costs of replanting when it warms up again, so please- when you're ready- give me a call, and we'll make the arrangements. It's the hope of color in the spring that gets one through the winter, after all, and neither you nor Salem should be deprived of its beauty." Within a few minutes, the three young Scions had agreed amongst themselves that proceeding to Harmony Grove was the best course of action. While Dale and Swi took the more expeditious paths available to someone with a motorcycle and little fear of death, Laurel and Grim returned once more to the insular luxury of the car, the snacks, and the quiet of their own thoughts.
  11. 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."
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. "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.”
  15. 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?”
  16. 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.
  17. 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."
  18. 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."
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Yeeaahhh.... I still have stuff left over from our first story to update. I'll get on that.
  22. 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."
  23. 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.
  24. 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!"
  25. 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?"
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