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WEIRDER STUFF
WS ST

Weirder Stuff - Rainbow In The Dark

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1 hour ago, WS ST said:

"Hello Sean, " He gestured at the woman, "Dr Carter, Sean Cassidy. Sean has been a patient of mine for several years as well as Dr Thayer's, who," Cook turns that smile full force upon Sean, "has informed me that he has called off his last two appointments."

"I'm still taking my meds," Sean mumbled by way of explanation, glancing down to avoid Dr. Cook's eyes, and twisting the toes of one foot into the dirt. "I didn't see a need to keep up the appointments with Doc Thayer when the treatments don't seem to be helping any."

When Sean felt Dr. Carter's eyes on him though, he looked up and straightened his shoulders, staring right back. He might still have trouble with how his peers viewed him, as well as strangers, but he felt differently with doctors, always hoping they could find a solution, or at least answers.

He was used to how guys who knew him looked at him, and how men who didn't did. He certainly didn't care for it, but it didn't surprise him... most of the time. Some of those men were old, or obviously with their wives or girlfriends. In many ways, the way women looked at him were even worse, regardless if they knew of his condition or not. Dr. Carter was looking at him differently. It was very... clinical, as though she wasn't looking at a person, but a puzzle.

Sean wasn't sure if that was better or worse.

Before he or the doctors could say more, Devin arrived with Tawny. After weathering that encounter, any feeling that he might owe Devin thanks withered away. When Tawny came back to talk to Drs. Cook and Carter, Sean tried to sidle surreptitiously away, while trying to appear like he wasn't listening when he totally was. He looked uncomfortable, overhearing someone else's health issues, guilty that he was curious enough that he wants to overhear them, and irritated that it pertained to goddamn Devin. He struggled to refuse feeling any pity or sympathy for the asshat.

"Um, right, I don't want to intrude in what should be private medical talk," Sean said, shrugging awkwardly at Tawny. She was a genuinely nice girl - and cute - and Sean didn't have nearly the information to understand how she could be friends with someone like Devin. Her niceness should have been like Anti-Devin, any contact should have created some manner of crater. Sean jerked a thumb over his shoulder in the vague direction of Lilly and Charlie. "I have some friends waiting for me, so I'm just gonna leave you and Tawny to it."

"Sean..." Dr. Cook said chidingly, holding up a finger to gently ask Tawny to give him a moment for a long-time patient.

"I know, I know," Sean replied sharply with a scowl, his shoulders slumping. "I'll call Doc Thayer and reschedule... even if the treatments don't do anything."

"Sean," Dr. Cook repeated. Dr. Cook was silent, and as the moment stretched, Sean flushed. "The appointments are meant to determine how effective your course of treatments and medication are being and if they aren't, what we need to change to make them more so. You know that Sean. Promise me you'll call Doctor Thayer."

"I know. I will," Sean said with a resigned sigh. He didn't even know what he wanted anymore, what his ideal solution would be, other than not getting threatened or harassed anymore. He glanced over his shoulder at Charlie and Lilly before looked back at Dr. Cook. "I promise. Is there anything more, Dr. Cook, before I go?"

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Cook smiled at Sean he could well understand the boys frustrations. "No Sean I just wanted to say hi, you go rejoin your friends, have some fun." Then he turned back to Tawney.

"Yes, to answer your question Tawney, trauma of any type can have an effect on a persons mental stability," replies Dr Cook to Tawney's earlier question.

"Especially in the young. Until a human has reached twenty or twenty-one years of age,  the body and mind are still in a state of development. Emotional and mental changes can often occur with the slightest of causes." Dr Carter's interjection draws a look from Cook who reaches out and puts his arm around Tawney's shoulder and taking a couple of steps turns her away from Carter and towards where Devin is getting some food.

"That is true but I don't think Devin has suffered anything like that.  In fact that junk food he is getting over there is much more likely to do him harm in the long run than what happened the other day. But keep your eyes open okay,  if you notice anything let someone know. Devin's lucky to have you as a friend."  Cook gives her that award winning smile which actually brings a slight blush to her cheeks and she nods and wave bye to them and runs to catch up with Devin.

"We really need to work on your people skills Julia."

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On 8/8/2019 at 8:44 PM, Avalon Wilson said:

Lona waved to the crowd, suddenly worn out. “Thanks, guys,” she said one more time, clutching her guitar. The trusty old instrument felt like it weighed a hundred pounds, but she held tight as she exited the stage and sank into a chair, head hanging. She thought she’d be fine when she was done singing, but the grief had her in its jaws and soon her guitar slipped to the floor as she wept into her hands, beyond caring who saw her cry.

 

On 8/8/2019 at 10:56 PM, Clara Lys Wright said:

Lona felt arms descend around her - not the adult arms of the mother that they should have been, but the scent of Clara's light perfume brought back memories of years living in the same room and crowded close around her father's bed, singing him to sleep when the meds didn't work. For once, Clara didn't say anything; she didn't try to fix anything, she just held Lona like they were both ten again and hiding from the monsters that had moved in under Lona's brand new bed.

The two sat there, faces wet and ignoring the entirety of the world swirling around them, but the world was not ignoring them. Gerault watched his two young women he thought of as daughters finally seem to reconcile, a pensive frown as he mulled over Lona's song choices. Seeing the two bonding again, he sighed and pulled out his phone, following the blue dot of his wife's own pocket supercomputer away from the small temporary stage. Further back, a lanky teen kept himself to the shade of a food tent. He slid the stone beads of a bracelet back and forth, trying to understand the scene he'd walked in on. His eyes flicked between Jase and Clara, considering, before he pushed off the pole of the tent and retreated back into the fair. Not the time, not the place. Maybe it's something else.

Emotions rippled through Lona's mind, she was in a  safe place in her sisters arms but her mind was far far away...

She looked down on her father so... so shrunken, in the bed, lying there dying.the false hopes were gone, the miracles had never come she reached out and took his hand the tears rolled down her face flowing like a river falling to the floor, pooling there, the hand which held hers tightened and she looked down and saw the pool of tears growing on the floor like a silvered mirror and in the pool a reflection...two women in an embrace... anger replaced sorrow and Lona looked up and...

The noise of the fair filled her ears but muffled it was dark , other noises, shuffling, heavy breathing, she didn't remember moving but there lying on some bales of hay were the two women, no girls.... Courtney Adams and.... Stacey Collier! mouths locked together kissing Courtney's hand inside Stacey's unbuttoned pants...

She smelled horses, turned around and saw Luis petting the nose of the one they had ridden, the fair sounded more distant. "Hey beaner! You know we have our own horses up here and we don't need a bunch of wetbacks coming up and thinking they can show us how to ride."

It was Chet and a couple of his bully friends they had serious hate in their eyes. Lona tried to scream a warning to Luis but all that came out was Luis' own voice. "Man I'm not a wetback, I was born here I'm as American as you are, maybe more."

The wind howled and lightning crashed and the Indian crawled out of the crater his eyes lit by blue fire....

"Hey? Sorry to intrude but are you girls alright?"

Clara and Lona looked up and through the wet tears saw a concerned and friendly face, Dr. Miles Winters

Spoiler

the part in blue are jumbled dreams visions fantasies call them what you will. all occurred in Lona's head like flashes of a dream in the time of the hug and cry.

oh  Stacey Collier is the head Drum Major for the marching band

Stacey.jpg

 

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Lona shuddered as the strange visions swept through her; distantly she felt Clara’s arms tighten supportively around her. Her near-sister probably thought she was in the throes of grief, but in truth Lona was pretty sure she was having a stroke. These visions were so real, so strong, that she knew that she was going to end up in Marias Center in a bed next to Devin. 
 
"Hey? Sorry to intrude but are you girls alright?" Clara and Lona looked up and through the wet tears saw a concerned and friendly face, Dr. Miles Winters. The visions were driven away by the force of his voice, concern and caring intruding on her. She was so disoriented that she had to remember who Dr. Winters was, when he’d been such a massive part of her life during her father’s illness.
 
“I’m…” Lona wasn’t sure what she’d say; she didn’t look fine, and that was clear, but saying, I just told everyone I know that I’m messed up and furious at my mom for not caring about me more than herself seemed like too much. If he didn’t know she wasn't okay already, if he hadn’t heard her say that already, then explaining further wasn’t going to help. 
 
Luis! 
 
“I have to go, I’m sorry Dr. Winters, but I have to--” Lona stopped herself before she said something crazy. “Go. See a friend.” She grabbed Clara’s hand and her guitar and hurried away. She pulled the other teen into the night, turning toward the horse stalls.
 
“Lona? Is something wrong?” Clara asked, glancing back at the abandoned Dr. Winters.
 
“I--” Again, the only things she could say sounded crazy. “I remembered that I needed to check on a friend.” She realized she was dragging Clara along bodily and stopped, turning to look at her. “Um… you wanna come? Or should I stop hauling you around?”

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Clara frowned and shook her head, her brow creased in confusion. “No, it’s fine. I’ll come with. Is your friend okay?” She didn’t let go of Lona’s hand, even squeezing it for a second as if to make sure Lona wasn’t going to let go.

“I’m… not sure?” Lona shook her head and started moving again, even as she wondered if she should be doing this. She’d been having an episode, and imagined Chet being a racist dick. It wasn’t like that was impossible, but something in her had to know.

Clara’s frown deepened, but she followed along. “Did they text you or something? Or were they supposed to be at the show? Where are we going?”

“We’re going to the horse stalls,” Lona answered, because that was the easier question to answer. She expertly looped the guitar strap over her head and shoulder. “Just ask me later, okay? I’ll explain later.”
 

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Coraline's worried inner monologue  gently dissolved in the wash of Lona's music like salt crystals in the rain, replaced by the ephemeral images of potential routines that flowed with the notes strumming from the instrument. Her fingers tapped out a beat to match the tones, short hand to what she could see behind her closed eyes, faster movements to the happier tunes, slower and more balanced held positions for the happier ones. She could put names and faces of Dance Club members past and present to who would best fit which routine. Lona's care and dedication to her craft was obvious in every note, bringing a further twist of appreciation to Coraline's smile. She'd track down Lona later to congratulate her on the performance.

She was slow to come fully out of the haze brought on by that good mood, fingers itching for her notebook of (poorly drawn and ill-proportioned) dancing sketches, a few hours in her basement to see what was possible and what was flight of fancy.

The tall brunette caught sight of the back of Cade's head as he and his family headed away from the stage. Hmmm. Okay. she brushed straw off the back of her dress and smooth out any wrinkles. Presentation was the difference between a good performance and a great one, and Lona's obviously emotional act had left a little seed behind for her to act on an idea. She moved through the crowd in the direction of Cade's last heading quickly as she politely could. Which wasn't very fast really, a game of social pinball between 'hellos' with classmates she knew at least in passing. She was no queen bee like Mari, but it was amazing how much a smile and a lot of patience could get you. 

By the time she caught up, he was on his own again, and a faint flush danced in her cheeks. "Cade! Enjoying the fair?" she opened up with, closing the gap with a big smile on her face, "Want to hang out until it's time to go?"

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8 minutes ago, Clara Lys Wright said:

“We’re going to the horse stalls,” Lona answered, because that was the easier question to answer. She expertly looped the guitar strap over her head and shoulder. “Just ask me later, okay? I’ll explain later.”

The two girls rushed through the crowd Lona holding tightly to Clara's hand almost like a lifeline. As the moved beyond the crowd and cut through the Food area and between two permanent sheds the fair grounds used for storage. The stopped abruptly when they almost ran into someone coming the other way.

It was Stacey Collier and she had a flushed look on her face and she turned red when she saw them "Hi Lona," Stacey said with a strange almost guilty shrug and half smile, "Clara. Gotta run." She pushed passed them and hurried on Both watched her go and saw that she had straw in her hair and on the back of her clothes.

Clara looked at Lona, what was that about as As Lona shook her head and pulled Clara out of the mini ally and almost ran smack dab into Courtney Adams, who was coming out of the shed, a satisfied smirk on her face. Lona just stopped and stared. Courtney's make looked as if it had just been freshened up and she was smoothing her dress, "What are you two staring at," She spit out?

"Nothing." Lona said and with more urgency pulled Clarra after her, who glanced back over her shoulder at Courtney who was frowning then flipped her off.

Moment later They reached the horse stalls and Lona and Clara saw Luis petting the nose of a horse and feeding him an apple.

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That was true. Stacy and Courtney! So then, Luis... Lona relaxed only a bit when she saw Luis petting Ángel. Still holding onto Clara’s hand, she slowed to a walk and put on a friendly smile as she walked toward him. “Hey, Luis,” she called, waving when he looked. “Look who I found, Lara, from last year’s show? Clara, this is Luis, his family is here showing horses.” Her eyes had already moved past the cute Luis, looking into the dark for Chet. 

Clara smiled a Luis, trying to figure out exactly what kind of friend of Lona’s this was. She waved, “Hi.” She gave Lona a look and asked, “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s all… good.” In her haste to get out here, Lona realized that in her haste to get out here and be the hero that she wasn’t exactly hero material. Also, she’d dragged Clara into it, too. “Speaking of good, who’s down for funnel cake?” She waved hopefully toward the main thoroughfare of the fair, full of light, food, and witnesses.

“Uh, I had some earlier. There’s a good place that has a whole bunch of toppings, if you guys want.” Clara was still clearly confused about what was going on, but funnel cake seemed harmless enough and if it settled Lona’s nerves, she’d take the calorie hit. Again. Maybe strawberry calories this time. 

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49 minutes ago, Coraline Hess said:

By the time she caught up, Cade was on his own again, and a faint flush danced in her cheeks. "Cade! Enjoying the fair?" she opened up with, closing the gap with a big smile on her face, "Want to hang out until it's time to go?"

Before he could answer the tall dusky girl his phone rang. He looked at the face of the device and sighed then answered. Cora looked away and didn't eavesdrop and turned back when she heard him end the call.

"That was my Dad, somethings come up and he needs me to take Mom and Haruka home." Cade shrugged unhappily as he explained.

"It's not the end of the world Cade. I'll catch a ride with Charlie or Lilly out to the thing, and you can join us later. It's no big deal." Cora said squeezing his arm.

"Yeah your right." He smiled at his friedn.

After texting charlie to find out where they were Cora made her way across the fairgrounds to where the Animals were housed and shown near the stables. As she was crossing the between a couple of barns right ahead of her Chet Walker and two of his buddies stepped around the corner and they looked lit. Cora came to a halt but they had already seen her.

"Well well if it isn't black beauty in the flesh" said Chet

One of the other boys, Cody Sikes, chuckled "Black Beauty was a horse stupid."

"And?" Chet laughed

"She ain't all black, she's muddier than that, her momma's a slant eye." That was Todd Asper.

Cora took a step back.

"Really," said Chet, "Tell us Coraline you hiding something else slanted under that dress?"

"Fuck telling how about showing." Sikes said as he started forward.

Bannon

He frowned as the slow bustle of the crowd was disturbed by hasty motion, his eye drawn to Lona tugging Clara along as though there were an emergency somewhere.  Had she gotten word of an accident?  Was someone she cared about hurt?  His almost predatory gaze narrowed, wondering for a moment before his made up his mind, pushing away from his leaning post and following.

He tailed them through the crowd, long legs keeping up readily with their not-quite running pace.  He saw them encounter Stacey then a few moments later Courtney, who reacted with her usual hostile manner.  As he followed them through the alley he too passed Courtney, who saw the look in his eye as it met hers and swallowed whatever she had been about to say, backing up against the wall of one of the sheds and letting him pass without comment.  There was a different air about Jase right now, something even the self-involved bitchy Courtney could feel rather than see, even if she was too lacking in wit to know why she backed out of the way.

He kept his distance as he trailed Lona and Clara,seeing them enter the horse stalls then something else caught his eye Over by the barns he saw Chet and his two goons and Coraline Hess. things looked odd he heard the blood pumping in his ears and plain as day heard them even though he was over twenty yards away.

"Really," said Chet, "Tell us Coraline you hiding something else slanted under that dress?"

"Fuck telling how about showing." Sikes said as he started forward.

 

 

 

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He frowned, distracted from Clara and Lona.  He didn't know Cora, but she was Cade's friend.  Cade was one of the group, and so was Cora.  And what the other youths were saying was not right, somehow.  It wasn't just words - Jase would not have cared if it was words.  This was words with intent.  It was a threat.  Jase was not like Devin, or Charlie, or Lilly.  He wasn't motivated to intervene because of empathy or a sense of being the alpha who does not tolerate lesser predators.  His decision-making was based on the intellectual knowledge that this was wrong, that Chet and his pack were doing something unjust and immoral.  And besides, Cora was a member of his group, however new.

All of this took maybe a second or two to process.  He was not a match for the football players in a straight fight, but that was hardly a consideration.  He moved forward past some stacked hay, grasping something and pulling it free from a bale as he passed with a casual motion.

Cora moved back as Sikes moved forward, but short of turning and scrambling over a fence there was nowhere for her to go.  The fair was loud in the background, but Cora was reasonably certain that if she kept screaming someone would come.  She drew in a breath, holding out a hand to ward the three youths off.  "Touch me and I'll scream blue murder!" she warned.  They just laughed, coming closer, Todd Asper mimicking her in a falsetto.  "Oooh, she'll 'scleam brue murder'!"

"Come on, sweet stuff.  Show us what Cade's been getting."  Cody crooned as he stepped forward once more - 

To be checked by cold feeling of something sharp under his chin, the rangy shape of Bannon stepping from the shadows behind him and placing the point of a hay hook against his throat, his other hand grasping the hair at the back of Cody's head.

"The carotid artery is right there."  Bannon said quietly wiith a faint smile on his lips, digging the tip of his makeshift weapon in a fraction.  Cody's eyes bulged, rolling side to side as everyone froze, even Cora.  There was an eerie glitter to Jase's hazel eyes as he spoke conversationally.  "If I dig in and pull, I'll rip it apart, probably the jugular vein as well.  Might even remove your trachea.  You'll have enough time to watch your friends get a high-pressure hosing before you lose consciousness.  And you'll die within seconds of that."  His eyes regarded Chet, Todd and Cora from over the terrified Cody's shoulder.

"If that doesn't get the message through, the next person to come at me gets the hook in their groin with enough twist to sever the arteries there.  I'm in a good mood, so I'll let you two decide who's next once I'm done with Cody, here."  The point of the hay hook drew a bead of blood as he increased the pressure a touch more.  The five of them were frozen in a tableau, and a faint damp patch appeared on the front of Cody Stiles' jeans, his eyes filled with tears.  Cora's eyes were wide with shock, as were the eyes of Chet and Todd.  Bannon felt powerful in that moment, a rush of excitement filling him as he realised what it was to hold someone's life in his hands.  His bright, unblinking stare fixed the others like that of a snake and a terrible smile curved his lips.

"Or the three of you can apologise to Cora.  And run.  Consider your invitations to the party tonight revoked."  He paused a moment, then "That means you're not allowed to come, in case that was hard to grasp."

Spoiler

Anyone who is not completely oblivious will, upon coming across this scene, gain the impression that Jase is quite literally poised to strike like a coiled rattler.  Humans have pretty good threat-recognition instincts and know when not to make sudden moves or loud noises.  Have fun! :D

 

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“I would love to, but if I’m coming to the party, I have to finish up here.” He waved around the area at not just Ángel, but the three other horses nearby. “Can I text you when I’m ready. If you still need a ride, that is?” He glanced at Clara.

Clara gave Lona a small shrug, clearly a ‘whatever you want to do’. 

“I’ll let you know when you text,” Lona told him, giving him a little wave. “Right now, I think Clara and I need to talk.” Lona still wasn’t sure what to say, and as the two teens left Luis’s company, she cast about for words. “So I’m sure you’re wondering ‘what the fuck, Lona’, and I’m gonig to be honest--”

“What the- is that Jase. . .?” Clara had gone white as a sheet and then her eyes narrowed on the scene beyond them. “Chet.” Her tone was talking-to-Devin cold as she wrapped an arm around Lona’s arm like they used to and steered both of them into the unfolding situation around Coraline. They caught the last little bit of Jase’s offer of survival to the three.

Once within easy earshot, she spoke in even tones of disgust. “Chet. Todd. Cody.” She paused just a beat, making sure they could hear her clearly. “I’ll totally alibi him. Apologize. Run. Or bleed.” She wasn’t entirely certain what had happened, but the math of three jock goons, one girl, and Jase angry enough to have a hay hook to Cody’s throat didn’t add up in Chet & Co.’s favor. Everything that came to mind had the usually reserved would-be valedictorian seeing red. 

Seeing the tableau set before them, and with Clara backing Bannon, Lona edged around the side of the group to Cora’s side. Like Bannon, she found a weapon on the way, though hers was just hoof nipper, fifteen inches of black iron shaped roughly like oversized pliers. At Cora’s side, she stood quietly, watching with hard eyes, a silent testament that the numbers weren’t even. Whether three teen girls of unknown fighting ability and one loner on the edge of extreme violence were equal to the three of them -- well, that was a calculus only Chet and his friends could do. None of them were great at math on paper, but the math of violence came easier to them.

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Honestly, seeing Bannon's escalation in potential violence was almost as shocking as the whole threat to start with, if very much more welcome. There were racist idiots in New York, too. Clara and Lona rolling up shifted the scenario from oh dear god levels of bad to merely potentially and different oh dear god levels of bad. Never was she so grateful for her Dad showing her how to throw a punch without breaking her thumb or his damn genes meaning she was no delicate little waif waiting for the first brush of wind to knock her over. She sucked in a breath, determination filtering up through her mind. Much as she'd love an apology, push someone too far into a corner, and they'll bite nine times out ten. If not now, then later. So she'd play good cop to give the brain-damaged idiots an out. Well, good-ish cop.

"It's okay, guys," she managed with a shaky smile, putting her hands up in a fairly-amateurish defensive position, sandaled feet shifting to a ready stance, "I'm good with them just leaving. Some people just have trouble with hybrid vigor, that's all." 

 

  

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Sikes had pissed himself and was vissibly shaking even before Clara and Lona showed up, "Jesus....please...."

Chet raised his hands and took a step back, "I'm sth'orry, Coraline, ith wath juth a joke. We didn'th mean anythin by ith. Juth a Joke."

""Run'" said Jase.

They ran, fairly tripping over themselves to get away. Jase shoved Sikes away and pointed after the other two fleeing fools with the hook, "Run," he said again.

Sikes who had fallen when shoved scrambled away on all fours for several yards mewling like a frightened kitten before regaining his feet and disappearing around the corner of the nearest barn leaving the gang of farm implement wielding friends alone.

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Sean rejoined Lilly and Charlie, then the group headed towards the stables and corrals for the show animals. Hands stuffed in his pockets, Sean strode along in brooding silence. Lilly seemed to understand Sean wasn't in the mood for talking at the moment and just walked beside him companionably. But Charlie was still excited by Mr. Abraham's news, bouncing off his ideas for which Musical they should do, only getting the occasional response from the others.

Sean was non-committal about participating in the production beyond helping with the lighting and sound setups. Charlie had talked him into replacing someone at the last minute two years ago, because with his memory, Sean had known the entire piece, and with his time as an Dungeon Master and doing some YouTube videos, he'd been the only one available on such short notice. And because the person that needed to be replaced was a girl and Sean looked very much a girl.

And while he might not have been the performance prodigies Lona or Cora were, he did have a good, versatile voice, like sweet honeyed velvet, and more than enough experience being the center of attention. He'd been more than adequate in his role and had actually taken a small measure of pride in his performance. Sean snorted ruefully and gave Charlie a one-shoulder shrug. "I'll think about it."

Speaking of a center of attention, flanked by friends, Sean was mostly able to ignore the whispered and not so whispered comments and catcalls he inevitably garnered, rebuffing them with - mostly - stoic silence, a slight reddening of his cheeks, and several middle fingers or a gesture to 'suck it'. Lilly wasn't spared, though what was directed at her was almost universally 'positive' if not necessarily welcome, while what Sean got was more varied and often more explicit. Being a guy in the presence of two very striking - in different ways- girls - or at least was appeared to be two girls - Charlie was practically ignored.

Reaching the stables and corrals, Lilly murmured appreciatively over the cute or majestic animals they passed. Sean shook his head when they passed the show cats and their handlers. That seemed to him to be a showcase in futility trying to get a housecat to behave, he knew he'd never even consider it with his grey cat Turing. Some of the cats were definitely cute though, even while giving their owners death glares or looks of condescending judgment. The same sort of looks Turing shot him when he reclaimed a bra that his cat had stolen to nestle into.

They were passing by a pair of stables, Laurie with Rascal and Lori and Lacey with Applesauce should be just a little beyond them, when Chet and Todd came racing out from the small alley between, followed shortly by an odoriferous Cody scrambling on three or four limbs more than two.

"What the hell? Devin was behind us," Sean commented, glad that whatever the reason, Chet had been more intent in getting away than finding a new target.

Sean, Lilly, and Charlie shuffled forward and peered down the alley to see what it was Chet & Co. were running from.

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Lona didn’t bother to watch the boys run away; she just dropped the hoof nippers on a bale of hay. They weren’t the important people here anymore, now that the threat of violence was gone. Turning to Cora and placing a gentle hand on her arm, she asked the (much) taller girl, “Are you okay?”

Even as she asked that question, the dump of adrenaline hit her. The fingers on Cora’s arm were shaking and she withdrew them to clench into a fist. This is about Cora, she snapped at herself, not about you! Focus!

Seeing that Lona was checking on Cora, Clara stepped over to Jase. “Hey.” She hesitated, not sure what else to say. “You okay?” she ventured, reaching out to a put a hand on his arm. 

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He hadn't turned to watch the three bullies run.  Instead he stood, hay-hook lowering to his side and eyes on Cora and Lona as he took a deep breath, reining in a slew of sudden dreadful impulses.  He wanted to go after Chet and the others, to stalk them through the crowded fair.  He wanted to laugh like a madman.  He wanted to see and smell more fear, to feel that rush of power again and again.  He lowered his head as though in contemplation of the hay-strewn ground, listening to the thunderous slow beat of his heart like a bass drum in his ears.

7 minutes ago, Avalon Wilson said:

Seeing that Lona was checking on Cora, Clara stepped over to Jase. “Hey.” She hesitated, not sure what else to say. “You okay?” she ventured, reaching out to a put a hand on his arm. 

"Don't."  He put a hand up to ward her away, his voice thick with some indefinable emotion.  He took another breath, closing his eyes, retreating from the world of sensation.  He was not a creature of impulse.  He was a creature of Will.  He did what he chose, not what savage whimsy drove him to do.  He was aware of Clara standing within reach, the handle of the hook feeling hot in his hand.  In his state of heightened awareness Jase fancied he could smell her perfume, traces of it on the breeze...

With a soft grunt, he turned quickly and buried the point of the hook deep into a bale of hay, releasing the wooden handle and stepping away from it.

"I'm fine."  he managed calmly, his eyes flickering from Cora, to Lona, and then to Clara before he moved to lean against the fence.  He rolled his head from side to side on his shoulders, sighing before darting a quick glance at Cora again.  "You good?"

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"Great. Fine. Didn't lay a finger on me," Coraline answered too quickly, eyes tracking the trio as they beat feet around a corner and out of sight. Only then did she let her arms drop, muscles untense. If they had showed up any later... No. No ifs. Not now. Even the passing thought was enough for a shiver and a shake of her head, lips thinning to bloodlessness before she recouped.

"Thanks to you guys," she continued, deep gratitude dancing in her eyes before she broke several landspeed records for conversational topic change, "It's time to go, right? Cade got family-napped for now, so I'll need to hitch a ride with someone up there. We forget anything that needs picking up on the way there? Anything else need setting up? Or are we good?"  

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Tawny couldn't have been more happy.  A (relatively) quiet and peacful evening out with Devin at the county fair was something she'd been looking forward to for a long time and walking about in the scents and sounds of the fair grounds was more than she could have asked for.  She wasn't sure precisely sure when she'd fallen for him but it must have sometime around her sixteenth birthday when his present to her was a quiet escape away from the farm and all their obligations for an afternoon.  He took her to the meadows up behind her father's property and there atop one of the hills was a rather ordinary but well planned spread for a picnic lunch.  She'd mentioned it to him once, there just had to be a perfect picnic spot out there somewhere and sure enough, Devin had found it.

For several hours they just lied there on the blanket in the tall grass laughing and talking and not concerned with anything but the moment.  She knew Devin didn't consider what he done 'romantic' although everyone else certainly would have, especially Marissa.  He knew she was a just a sucker for those sorts of things.  She loved picnics in nature, baby farm animals, fields of colorful flowers and bouquets and sundresses.  It was there on the blanket as they laughed alone in the field that she felt that certain 'something' in her heart change.  Like a switch had flicked on and in that moment she just looked at him differently.

They hadn't talked about it since that day.  The kiss, his reaction, the admission of how he felt about her and how 'just a friend' is all he ever saw her as.  It broke her heart that, that was certain and she expected things to change between them, to get awkward, but he went on continuing to be there for her and never once revisited that embarrassing moment in her life.  They knew how the other felt and just pressed on.  He never treated her any differently, but she never quite fell out of love with him.  Months later she was holding his arm, snuggling up next to him during movies, even sneaking a kiss on his cheek from time to time and for her, that was enough.  If she couldn't have him as her boyfriend at least she still had him close to her.

Not far from where they were walking laughter had caught Devin's attention while Tawny was lost in her reverie of past experiences.  There, laughing with her friends was a stunning vision of mirth and cheer.  In the spirit of the fair she was in cowboy boots, which he could tell were purchased recently or only worn for occasions like this, judging by their wear.  Her jeans were just the right kind of tight on her frame which told him she knew she had a body and wanted everyone to know she was proud of it while still staying classy.  Her tank top was a grey and proudly displayed her Shelly High school spirit by having...well, 'Shelly High' on it.  Like Tawny she was wearing a flannel shirt and had it unbuttoned and tied in a knot in the front.  Her red hair fell over shoulders while she laughed at her pet... goat(?) who tried to scamper away from a little piglet that chased it about playfully.

What heppened next?  Well, in Shelly they say, Devin's pants tent grew three sizes that day.  Devin froze as the sounds of the fair seemed to fade away. "Who is that?"  He asked quietly to no one in particular.

Tawny peered around Devin to see who he was looking at.  "The redhead?  That's Laurie Cassidy.  Sean's sister.  She's a... sophomore this year?  I think."

"That's Laurie Cassidy?  Holy shit.  How did I miss this?"  He pondered as he traced her frame again.  He motioned his hand up and down her body as he shook his head in confusion.  "When did she get all of... that, and DSLs too?"

"Ever so classy, Deej,"  Tawny rolled her eyes and shook her head at his typical antics.  "It's a wonder the women aren't throwing themselves at you and kicking down your door."  Jokinly she crossed her arms and smirked at him.  "She's a friend, I could get you her number."  She was joking, of course.  There's was no way Devin would ever get her number once a Cassidy sister found out it was Devin who wanted it.  Before Teagan left Devin was number one on her list of people whose heads needed cracked open for bullying her 'brother'.  Tawny was certain that list had been passed on to Laurie.

"Huh?"  He was barely listening while he looked across the way at her.  "N-no, that's okay... I'll get it from Sean."

"Sean?"  Tawny laughed.  "Deej, hon, there is no way Sean would ever give Laur-," she paused mid sentence she noticed Chet and Company filtering out of the stable are like they'd just seen a ghost and knew none ofthem were up to any good.  "Devin," she tapped his arm to get his attention and point them out when he looked away from his new conquest.  "Look.  What have they gone and done?"

The Prince of Shelly exhaled an irritated sigh.  "Shit.  I don't know, come on, let's go make sure they didn't light a fire or rape a horse or something."

As things were settling in the stables the Nerd Herd were starting to take inventory and assess all the madness that happened and begin the process of getting over it when Devin Jauntsen strolled in and with him the wafting scent of expensive douche cologne that wasn't for sale at the local Wal-Mart.  It wasn't said, but everyone face took on the same 'well, shit' expression.  With all that was going on, he was the last thing they needed.

"Well, well...," he smirked.  Like the cliche' douchey rich guy in the movies he even took the time to put his hands in his pockets as he strolled in like he owned the place with his usual shit eating grin plastered on his mug.  "How is it the Nerd Herd always finds each other like you guys do?  Do you release a pheromone, or something?  Just sniff out Cassidy's boob sweat?"

"Back off Jauntsen," Bannon practically snarled.  Devin was the sort of guy who excelled at pushing the buttons on people like Jason.  "We're really not in the mood right now."

"Oh, come on, Banny.  I mean... we have the town drug dealer, a drug addict or at least one who fits the part, a rumored roid freak," he motioned to Jason, Lona and Lilly.  "Oh, let's not forget the over achiever," he shot Clara a wink.  "What do you take to stay up on those long study crams?  Hm?  Prolly something in ol' Jace's wheelhouse, eh?"

"Devin, come on," Tawny tugged at his arm, pleaded with him to quit being a jerk.  "Knock it off."

"I'm just saying," he shrugged.  "I may be the town asshole, but even coming from me, the Sheriff will have a hard time not being curious about this one."

Jace couldn't help it.  With pursed lips he moved a few steps towards Devin.  "Fuck this guy-"

"There we go Bannon, yeah, give me a reason-" Devin stepped to him and the two teens were barely an arms length apart.  Devin thrived off conflict and Jace wasn't afraid of him.  Worried about what he could do, sure, but not afraid to make that stand.

"Guys," Tawny squeezed herself between them as everyone else moved up to separate them.  "Stop it.  For crying out loud Devin, stop being a jerk.  Jason, guys, we're sorry, we just saw Chet and his goons leaving and came it to make sure they didn't hurt or break anything.  Not," she glared at Devin and slapped his chest, moving him back a few paces.  "Add to anyone problems."

Devin turned his back and 'walked it off'.

"Jason, you know how he is," she said softly, appealing to the good nature always lingering in his eyes.  "Let it go, please."

"You shouldn't have to keep apologizing for him," Jason said flatly and certainly loud enough for Devin to hear.  He raised his hands and took a step back, then, like Devin, turned to walk it off.

It was Tawny's turn to sigh in frustration it provided the perfect opportunity to disguise that Bannon was right, and to get to the bottom of everything that was going on.  She was more tactful than Devin, she knew it all looked way suspicious, but what when it came to the teens in Shelly didn't look suspicious?  She grabbed the scrunchi from her hair and pulled it back while inhaling and with her exhale she wrapped back up into a ponytail the Montana summer heat was having a field day with.  "Now, without involving the Sheriff," she glared at Devin.  "Is everyone okay?  What did those guys do to the horses?"

"Chet and his jerk friend just got a little rapey," Cora said dismissively.  "Jason handled it."

"Called it." Devin smiled, refering to his horse raping comment between him and Tawny outside.  "It's like after the seizure suddenly I'm a psychic!" He chuckled.  His lovely blonde 'date' shot him a look that screamed in bold and ictalics for him to knock it off, again.

Like Jason did a moment ago he raised his hands in truce fashion and stepped back to the crowd.  "Alright, fine." He looked to Cora.  "Nothing happened?  They didn't touch or hurt you?"  With the inner douche in his put away there was a measure of compassion to his voice.  "Say the word... whatever your name is... and I'll have his arms broken within the hour.  I'm not cool with guys putting their hands where they're not welcome.

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INTERCUT

SOMEWHERE IN SHELLY, MONTANA

It was a crowded room, one you have seen in one configuration or another in countless TV shows and movies, the ubiquitous security room. As tech went this on was as high as it got, CIA/NSA level if not beyond. The consoles were lined with dozens of screens and all of them were labeled to show where that particular feed was originating. With a flick of a button any single screens display or even multiple displays could be shown on a huge wall sized plasma screen.

The two men had been idly watching the screens as they did every shift cycling through the various feeds at their stations while they had a sporing event or a movie upp on the plasma. That had ended several minutes ago when all the feeds from everywhere suddenly began glitching it went on for almost half an hour when it suddenly stopped and everything was back to normal.

Then one of the men call to the other.

“Whoa get a load of this Bob.” Joe pressed a button and the big screen came alive with the live broad cast of Chet and company preparing to assault Coraline Hess. The two men watched the drama unfold several miles away. Bob had picked up a bag of Doritos and offered joe some who shook his head.

“Ain't those the kids that were tagged for observation, most of them anyways,” asked Bob?

“Man The Doctor is gonna love this,” said Joe.

 

Pikes Place Starbucks

Seattle Washington

1983

 

Dr. Kline looked at his watch nervously, then glanced at his assistant who was reading a new book on genealogy that had recently been published. The assistant chuckled at some that he read and found funny. Kline was about to ask what it was when the little door buzzer announced someone entering and Kline looked up to see and grimaced.

The man from the Pentagon stopped in the doorway of the coffee-shop and glanced around. He had seen Kline and Kline's man from outside but he needed to make sure no one else that knew him or was paying any attention to him was there as well. After a moment he entered the shop fully , walked up to Kline's table and sat down. He didn't shake hands or make any greeting instead he reached into his pocket and produced a legal sized tan envelope, which he placed on the table in front of him.

“Doctor,” he said keeping his voice low, “after serious study we have come to believe that we acted hastily in regards to your case. We now see that indeed your research was not really in line with the... other projects. What I would like to know Doctor, is can you give us results and what would the time frame be?”

Kline could barely contain his surprise and looked at his assistant who hadn't moved his head but his eyes were watching the Pentagon man with scrutiny. “We discontinued those projects and...”

The pentagon man reached out and grabbed the book and held it up showing the cover title to the two scientists.

“Doctor, we know what your doing, we know you didnt turn over all your research, we know you have still been in contact with several of your subjects. You can't hide shit from us Doctor, the only thing we don't know, is if you can produce results and how long it will take.”

The assistant reached up slowly and took his book back. Kline looked around then he took his glasses off and looked the pentagon man in the eye. “Yes, we can, but not doing it the way we were, we have...”

Pentagon man cut him off with a wave, “How long doctor?”

Kline and the assistant looked at each other, there seemed to be some sort of unspoken agreement between them “Twenty, maybe fifty years. There are a lot of different factors involved.”

Pentagon man slid the envelope across the table to the doctor. “What will you need?”

 

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Devin’s approach spiked her heart rate once more. Of all the kids at Shelly, she feared him the most and had largely avoided him. To her surprise, this time the increase in her pulse had nothing to do with being afraid of him, but from anger. All memories of the bullying, the pain, the shame inflicted by Devin and his sister and their tagalongs rose in a wave and Lona snorted loudly at Devin’s questions to Cora.

“Oh, just fucking stop it, Devin!” Lona’s outburst was out of character for her; until today, she’d barely spoken to him or any of the in-crowd, except to escape them as quickly as possible. “Just stop. We handled it, and did it without your help. More importantly, you don’t get to treat us like shit then try to White Knight it up just because your underlings did something you didn’t like.”

As she spoke, she moved from behind Bannon and Clara, stopping so that she was nose-to-nose with the Shelly Sociopath, her angry brown eyes locked on his. “I’m sick of you treating us like your serfs, like you own us and our fates. You don’t, so drop the overlord act. You don’t get to decide what is acceptable levels of punishment for us not being cool enough, and you don’t get to decide when someone else has gone too far. You want to harass us, then fine, but stop acting concerned. You want to be concerned about us, to stand up for us? Then be our friend, if you’re capable of that at all.”

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Cassandra left Lona's concert feeling like she'd wasted half the day...which sucked a little but not much because the REST of the day was very not wasted. The Fair had been...the Fair up until then. Normal. Pedestrian. The enemy of the article she wanted to lead the first issue of the school paper with. The archvillain. She'd wandered the grounds for hours, from the very opening. She'd even taken shots and jotted notes about the lines to get in.

But it had paid off, because she'd been there at the concert. Way in the goddamn back of course, but there.

Unlike a lot of kids her age, Cassie wasn't really 'into' music, as a rule. It was nice to have on in the background, but she didn't follow it much, or pay attention to what song was made by who and when. It served to accentuate moods, and that was about as much thought as she'd ever put into it.

There'd been something raw though, about Avalon's performance. Something infectious. The loss and pain in her music had hit a kind of chord in her, a resonance. Cass had lost someone too, and...it really did feel like that.

She'd almost forgotten to take pictures, she'd been so absorbed.

When the music ended, Cassandra felt like she was waking up. The people around her seemed much the same. And then she realized that THIS was the thing she'd been waiting for! THIS was what set this Fair apart, what people would remember later, what they'd want to see and read about.

So Cass got her audio recorder out and started moving through the crowd, asking for their impressions, doing little on-the-spot interviews.

It was amazing. Everyone wanted to talk, to share...everyone. The article practically wrote itself.

And so, with memory full and head brimming with ideas, Cassandra headed away from the Fairgrounds proper towards the livestock. She hadn't seen much of the animal events over the day, and wanted to get a look at the horses before she went home. Just a little nod to the adolescent girl that still haunted the deeper corners of her head and heart. They didn't have WINGS, but they were still huge and strong and majestic...and there might be ponies, and they were adorable.

What she found wasn't really adorable though. A bunch of other kids were scattered around, and the air was thick with gradually dissipating tension...except one corner where Avalon was bawling out...was that Devin?

Jesus, it wasn't just a bunch of kids. It was THAT bunch of kids.

For once, Cassie wasn't thinking much of the story as she kept on towards the stables. She had that already this time. She just wanted to see what was going on.

"Hey, uh..." her eyes moved from Lona to Devin, then to the others, in quick flits. "...so, really cool concert," she said to Avalon. Then quickly, "Sorry to interrupt your thing there, just wanted to..."

Nope, this was lame.

"Is everything okay?" she finally gave in and asked.

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6 minutes ago, Avalon Wilson said:

“Oh, just fucking stop it, Devin!” Lona’s outburst was out of character for her; until today, she’d barely spoken to him or any of the in-crowd, except to escape them as quickly as possible. “Just stop. We handled it, and did it without your help. More importantly, you don’t get to treat us like shit then try to White Knight it up just because your underlings did something you didn’t like.”

As she spoke, she moved from behind Bannon and Clara, stopping so that she was nose-to-nose with the Shelly Sociopath, her angry brown eyes locked on his. “I’m sick of you treating us like your serfs, like you own us and our fates. You don’t, so drop the overlord act. You don’t get to decide what is acceptable levels of punishment for us not being cool enough, and you don’t get to decide when someone else has gone too far. You want to harass us, then fine, but stop acting concerned. You want to be concerned about us, to stand up for us? Then be our friend, if you’re capable of that at all.”

Tawny facepalmed and shrugged, letting her arms fall limply to her sides in defeat it was her turn to walk it off while she shook her tried thinking: I tried.

Devin turned his head slowly, like he'd suddenly spotted more younglings to slaughter.  "Overlord act?  Bro," he approached Lona slowly and everyone tensed up.  Save for Lilly, Charlie and Sean no one had really seen him enforce the Law of the Fair so far this evening.  He made sure to address Lona as 'bro' since the bullies enjoyed inferring that she looked like a dude.  "Don't confuse my consideration for concern.  Tonight, we've called a cease fire.  No one is supposed to be messing with anyone, but it's happening and I see it as my place, since those morons are in my camp, to correct them.  It's simple Order.  By all means though... if you think you can stop Chet and Sikes a second time or a third, after they've gone and got a few of their buddies, hey, go for it."  He held his arms out wide and spun in a circle to address everyone.

"Together, you nerds have have what?  Bannon?  Pryor?  Let's break it down here Free Bird, Bannon is one anonymous tip away from Juvenile Detention and Pryor?  She can't take on the whole of the popular cliques.  Are you going to have them walk you guys home from now on?  Hmm?  My Overlord routine is the only thing keeping those boys in check... and you'll be alone sometime, somewhere...  I am the reason Sean gets a wedgie one or two times a week, not a swirlie everydayI am the reason Pryor's rumored steroid use hasn't tuned into full blown fact with evidence.  I am the reason Jason doesn't get jumped and his lab turned upside down or the Sheriff doesn't get called on him.  I am the reason you've been largely left alone since your father passed.  Sure, Mari and I are cruel, I'll eat that, but Chet and Courtney?  Those two are evil incarnate and my sister and I have spent three years keeping them from eating you nerds alive and lemme tell you, they are very hungry.  So, have it your way, I'm done.  No more Marissa and me keeping them in check.  After tonight, you're on your own.  This 'Overlord' is retiring."  His eyes locked on Lona's and his smirk was nothing short of the Devil's own.  "Enjoy your Junior year."

He was about to walk away but stayed as if something was left unsaid.  With a finger up he stopped and tried to formulate his thoughts into words that didn't sound as confused as his expression.  "And... be your friend?  Why?  You have nothing to offer me.  I mean, look at you guys... you can't keep your crazy inside for ten minutes."

He motioned to Lona.  "Let's take you for example," he smiled at her.  "Your father is gone."

"Devin," Tawny tried to step in but Devin held up his hand like everything good.

"No, no, it's okay.  See, I understand, I do.  I'm not a complete jerk.  I get it and I know it must hurt and you miss him.  You do, in all sincerity, have my sympathies, but earlier, you had the opportunity to rock this place.  You had music.  Fucking music, man!"  He pumped his fists excitedly to express his point.  "You could have had people dancing on hay bales, laughing, cheering, coming together to live in and experience life together in only the way good fucking music can.  You touched base a few good ones, but..."

He shook his head.  "The key to a good musician is to know their audience and I hate to break it to you Negasonic, but not a single person out in that crowd gives a shit about you or your problems.  They came to hear the music and you turned it into a personal 'welcome to my depression' show that focused solely around you, not them.  You have talent, hell, I loved the show, but those people were only applauding because it was the right thing to do.  All you did was sit there for ten tracks and scream 'pity me, I'm fucking pathetic' with a chorus attached to it and the whole damn town saw it.  That what you are?  Huh?  Just some weak little shy girl that deserves everyone's pity?  Would you want your dad to see you like that?"

"We," he moved his index finger beck and forth between him and Lona.  "Can be friends when you find some fucking dignity."  He shook his head in disgust, like she was a mud covered serf unworthy of his attention.  Then, all ire and emotion drained from his face, like everything he was just shitty about to her was nothing more than a passing thought.  "Oh, hey... while I'm here... been meaning to say thanks for returning my phone.  Very cool of you and I do appreciate it, greatly.  As a way of saying thanks, I'm planning on taking a ride into one of the bigger cities here before school starts, y'know to hit a mall and get some stuff.  You're welcome to ride along, maybe hit up a music shop and hook you up with... I dunno, whatever instruments need like, amps or strings... whammy bars, I dunno," he shrugged.  "Figured it was the least I could do.  Lemme know, you have my number."

Lona didn't catch the look Clara gave her that was a silent, inquisitive statement that read: 'What are you doing with Devin Jauntsen's phone number'?

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"Okay!" Cassie said brightly, "Not okay then. Got it."

"Just for the record though, Devin, you're wrong about the music. It was fantastic. Don't be jealous though, you have your gifts too. No one, literally no one, can be as big a douche as you. Maybe they have another year or two of high school to look forward to...but you have your whole damn life as an insufferable prick left to enjoy."

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"Stop."

The word was quietly spoken, but the force behind it was palpable - a murmur heard through a storm.  Jase was leaning against the wall of the shed, his eyes on the ground as some of the teens looked his way.  He raised his gaze to regard each of them in turn with a quick eyemeet, then shook his head.

"You're focusing on words.  Always on the words.  Not on the actions."  He spoke with a level tone, his eyes on the ground once more, his posture one of stillness.  "Jauntsen has a point.  He's an asshole too, but he has a point.  He's never tried to rape anyone, or pull their shorts down to find out if they have a cock.  So what if he swans around Shelly High like he's king shit?  So what if Marissa is the venomous queen bee?"  He raised his eyes to them again, glimmers like fireflies in their depths.  "In two point five years, what the fuck will it even matter?  We will all go our separate ways.  Some to college - most here, I would imagine.  Even Jauntsen."  His eyes went to Devin in an uncharacteristically direct penetrating stare.

"This is such a waste of time.  Such a waste of energy."  he spoke to all of them, sounding quietly disgusted.  "Sure, Devin came in here with his usual manner, but the reason he came in here was to make sure Chet and his retards hadn't done something stupid.  He cares.  Or cared, as he would have it now.  Even I squared up to him, because my blood was up from dealing with the Remedial Squad."  He looked back at Devin.  "How many times have I ever done that?"  he asked calmly.  Devin stayed silent, but the point was made - Jase never picked a fight.  Ever.  He was practically high-school famous for never taking the bait, never letting anyone see him sweat, never giving an inch of power to others.  Jase nodded in response to Devin's silence.   "I apologise for doing it this time.  My judgement lapsed."  He showed no embarrassment or shame at apologising to Devin - the words were spoken with clear blunt sincerity.

"And Lona."  He directed that same calm firefly gaze on Avalon.  "You're obviously in pain, and tonight's performance was you ripping off a band-aid.  I get that.  I don't know if it's wrong or right, what you did and how you did it.  It's not for me to say.  Maybe there's no wrong or right to it.  Maybe it just had to happen.  I'm glad you and Clara are talking again, though, for what my sentiment is worth to you."  A ghost of a smile played around his lips.  "And I liked the set.  You should take Devin up on his offer of a ride to the city.  Perhaps you have something in common, even if it's only a love of music."

"I hate talking so much.  I'll just say one more thing:  tonight is our party.  All of ours.  Except Chet and company, who are now unwelcome."  He smiled slightly at that.  "I planned this party for everyone, even the Jauntsens.  So let's just please get along for one night.  There's got to be more to life than this tedious shit."

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God dammit.

Devin didn't have a logical rebuttal for any of what Jase just said.  He inhaled and exhaled, gathering his bearings before saying anything more.  "Yeah, fine.  It's done.  I'll pass it along to Marissa the Chet and the others aren't welcome.  It's not going to sit well with Chet, so expect backlash."

"Naturally."  Jase shrugged.

"We can handle him though," he offered a head tilt to Jase.  "Leave him to Emjay, he's putty in her hands.  Tonight, you're all off limits, but don't," he looked to Charlie and now Cass.  "Push your luck."

Tawny looked to Jase, somewhat relieved and quietly mouthed 'thank you' to him as Devin was paying attention to his phone, no doubt texting Marissa an update.  Jase gave her a nod that was barely a nod but it was enough for her.  Devin turned to leave, raising his hand up into a peace sign while he tapped out texts with his occupied one.  "I'm out.  Later losers."

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Charlie had his blood up again, but Bannon had a way of cooling things off, even when he was angry himself. True, Devin remained a dick. But then he and his harpy sister would be gone in a couple years, never to be seen again. If only they didn't make passing those years so long and difficult. And so Devin left with Tawny. Charlie let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding and turned to the others.

"Well, the mood's been murdered. I vote we get out and go somewhere else. All in favor?"

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"I'm fine. Thanks for the concern, Devin. Enjoy your night," Coraline called after the self-proclaimed overlord, having finally gotten a word in edgewise. She was firing on only one emotional cylinder at the moment, the rest doing a very complicated cycle she had no intention of thinking about as long as she could avoid it.  Her eyes scanned the area beyond the group, a restless aftersurge of adrenaline making the rounds. The sooner she could *do something* other than stand around the place where it had almost happened, the better.

"Party. Now. Assuming someone has a spare seat for me," the tall brunette directed at the group.

"Seconded. I've got you," Clara offered tersely before shifting her gaze to the third girl with a C name on the scene, "Cass, you're welcome to a ride, too." 

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2 minutes ago, Coraline Hess said:

"Party. Now. Assuming someone has a spare seat for me," the tall brunette directed at the group.

"Seconded. I've got you," Clara offered tersely before shifting her gaze to the third girl with a C name on the scene, "Cass, you're welcome to a ride, too." 

Laurie Cassidy had finally gotten Rascal to sleep and walked out of the pens to see Sean and a bunch of his friends nearby and to hear the tail end of their conversation.

"Party? There's a party? I want to go."  She said with a flip of her red hair.

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Clara gave Lona a questioning look, but Lona shook her head. "I need to show Luis the way."

The Wright daughter nodded and added, "See you there, then," before asking the group, "Anyone else? I've got one seat left." She glanced at Sean, an arched brow asking if he was going to let Laurie go or not. 

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Sean had given Devin a very flat look when he claimed he wasn't cool with people putting their hands where they didn't belong considering Devin did just that when he gave him a wedgie or shoved him into a locker. And if Devin was saying his influence kept the harrassment from his crew to a lower level, Sean didn't  think he was doing a good job of it, considering the tormenting he still got. 

Chet being extra rampagey wasn't on Devin. Sean didn't see how Devin giving up his Overlordness could make things that much worse for him and his friends. If Devin and Marissa started ignoring him, Sean would count himself ahead.

Glad not to be the sole focus, Sean didn't step forward as the others butted heads then seemed to come to an understanding... of sorts. His brows rose in surprise - even he hadn't  heard Jase say so much at once.

Of course, Devin had to have the last word, and naturally, it wasn't complimentary. On the other hand, as insults went, it was rather mild for a Jauntsen.

When Laurie showed up, Sean inhaled sharply with a hiss just barely stopping himself from jumping in surprise. Sean turned around to face his sister, considering if he could work a lie, but it was clear Laurie had heard too much.

"I don't think Mom and Dad would like that, Laurie. There's probably going to be drinking and smoking there," Sean said, his tone plaining indicating that 'probably' meant 'definitely'.

Laurie rolled her fair eyes in exasperation. "I know that, bro, that's why I want to go. I don't do that stuff and Teagan said to keep an eye on you."

It was Sean's turn to roll his eyes in near mirror to his sister, huffing in annoyance. Sisters!

"Besides, if there's trouble, I'm taller and less top-heavy than you are, Sean," Laurie added with an impish grin. "I can run faster than you can."

It was true, but she didn't need to say it out loud, Sean groused to himself. "Laurie..."

Laurie stepped up to her curvaceous brother and put an arm around his shoulders. "And while I'd never narc on your friends, i just might mention where you were going, bro..."

Sean sighed. He was her older brother, if only by a year, he should have been looking after her. But Jase had set this all up, they were supposedly off limits from the Jauntsen crowd and even Chet and Company had been hit with the Ban Hammer. It couldn't be that bad.

"Well... if nobody else has an objection..." Sean hemmed and hawwed, looking around at his friends seeing if - hoping really - any of them had one, but none shared it if they did. "... I guess. But you're leaving when I do, Laurie, if not before."

He gave Clara a nod. If he had forbidden Laurie from coming, likely she find some other way of going, with someone she or he were less familiar with. With what Cora had already endured, who knew where that could lead.

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Lilly stood there and watched as Chet and Todd Asper ran off at break-neck speed like they had seen an actual ghost, followed behind by Cody Sikes who seemed to have literally wet himself. What the hell had happened? She looked back down the alley toward Jase, Cora and the others, looking for any hint of what had happened.

When Devin arrived and Lona stepped up to him, Lilly was going to step in, but she could see Lona was emotional, fed up, and/or angry and needed to give Devin a piece of her mind, so she just watched, ready to act as id need be.  Lilly just crossed her arms beneath her breasts and crossed her left ankle over her right, resting the toe of her shoe on the ground as she leaned against the fence and listened more or less behind Devin and near the corner as he faced and ranted at the others. Occasionally she would turn her head to look around the corner, making sure that nobody approached.

It was an... unusual.. exchange between Devin and her friends. Some of what Devin said caused Lilly to roll her eyes, all but saying "whatever" out loud. Still though, some things needed to be said, though some of what was said Lilly was not entirely expecting. She did wonder how somebody could be so completely and utterly full of themselves though, like Devin seemed to be. For a moment she was silently thankful that there were no doors so that there was enough room for her, her friends, Tawny, Devin and Devin's ego.She hook her head as Devin departed, simply thankful to be rid of him.

For now though, Cora did not seem to want to talk much about what had happened and was working pretty hard to change the subject, so Lilly let it be. If she wanted to talk later, she would, and Lilly was sure she'd hear from the others what had happened and Jase would likely fill her in if asked. So as the talked shifted to the party and rides and such, Lilly shrugged. 

"I pretty much always have space as long as you don't mind riding in the bed. I do need to top off the tank and fill my Jerrycan though, because I know some idiot is going to forget to fill up and run out of gas way the hell out on there."

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The Party

The party, according to plan, was supposed to start around nine. Plans rarely go the way they ar supposed too.

By seven, as Sara was nearing the end of the interesting part of her book the first party goers started showing up. Mostly seniors and a few kids who had graduated at the end of the last school year. Sara dragged the two kegs up from the river and the party started in earnest.

By the time Marissa had arrived near eight o’clock, there were about twenty people already there and only about two thirds of them had been invited. To say she was miffed would be an understatement, but she had expected it and kept her cool.

Sara stood off by the little area where Bannon had said that his friends would probably collect. Still part of the party but separate, like they were in everything else. She stayed in the shadows and after Marissa showed up stepped even further out of sight. She was already regretting telling Jase about this place, no not telling him but that he had chosen it for the party. She was just now realizing that after tonight this place, her place, that she had shared with Jase and through him the other weirdos, misfits, and outcasts, would never be the same. Everyone knew about it now, and most of them didn’t care about it at all.

Sara had ruined something special.

Spoiler

You may begin arriving at the party it will be in full swing when you all arrive. Marissa has been there for at least an hour already she left the fair early. when you start to arrive there are already  fifty to sixty people there with more on the road. It's already bigger than expected. Kids from both the senior and the junior class are here as well as some past graduates, there is even a smattering of sophomore and freshmen. 

Cade

Cade wasn’t mad not really after all being Ian Alistair’s son it came with the territory. He took his mom and Haruka home, made sure they were settled, safe and didn’t need him for anything, then explained that he was supposed to meet up with Sean and the gang for some late gaming.

His mom who was always busy with things didn’t really keep up with he gaming her son did after all she had grown up around the same thing with her brothers in Japan, well sort of the same thing. So it was not a surprise or anything unusual for Cade to be running off late in the evening and she rather liked the Cassidy boy, poor thing, he was always so polite.

Harulka on the other hand just cocked her head to the side and kept mouthing the word party, behind her mothers back in plain sight of her brother. How the hell had she found out about the party?

Cade pulled out of the drive and proceeded to the end of the road they lived on. He wondered if he should go back to the fair and get Cora. He almost did but stopped himself. No she said to meet her there that she would find a ride. She needs to… yeah. He jammed the jeep into first and made a left to head out of town and toward the river.

He hadn’t been to the place they picked but knew the area fairly well from hunting, although he had never seen this particular ridge they had described, the directions were clear enough. He found the dirt road turn off and had gone about a quarter mile when something very big and very fast rushed across the road about ten yards ahead, heading toward the river. It had been to big to be a dog, he thought, maybe a wild boar? He slowed as he past where it had cut across and peered into the darkness when suddenly the Jeep rock from a collision as something slammed into the back of the jeep.

Spoiler

Cade you are one of the last people arriving at the party. the place where your jeep has been hit is not far from the railroad tracks or the river. there are no other cars around you although you had been following some taillights which had just crossed the tracks about a 14 mile ahead of you and turned toward the river.

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He was glad he'd slowed down, as had he been going faster it likely would have been alot worse.   Still, he stopped and turned on his flashers, grabbing his flashlight and the worn handle of an old baseball bat he kept in the jeep should it ever be needed.  "too big for a Dog, maybe a boar, or a big ass deer." he mused, expecting the latter really.   That could have easily explained the impact, as a herd of deer crossing could hit that hard.

Still getting out of the jeep he flicked on the mag-lite, and frowned.  There was nothing there, so whatever hit him just kept on, a glancing blow, but still, it aggravated him.    He'd always taken good care of his vehicle while there was no dent,  he was a careful driver.  Sometimes you just couldn't anticipate stuff like this.  He was thorough in his examination, wanting to make sure he wasn't going to do any damage driving off, and his light caught something stuck in the tire tread. When he couldn't just yank it out barehanded,  he opened the back door to get in his toolbox.    

Taking out a set of pliers, he returned to the tire, and pulled out the protrusion.  Looking at it in the light, it looked like some sort of large tooth, about an inch and a half long, or even a large thorn, but not from anything he recognized.  "Wasn't a deer.."  It was whitish in color, and he tested the tire to make sure it was safe to drive on.  it'd get him to the party and back if he was careful, and he was already late, so he left the tire on, electing to not change it out with the spare.  He put the tooth/thorn in his pocket for now, after wrapping it in some of the paper towel he kept there in the back and replaced his tools.   After closing the door, he got back into the Jeep and head on to the party.

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The text came about thirty minutes after everyone had parted ways to head to the party. Lona had stuck to the thoroughfare, grabbing her traditional corn dog and funnel cake. Reactions to her presence varied; a number of people, especially older folks, had clearly lowered their opinion of her. One of the Halsey sisters actually chided her for her “wild ways”, despite not having seen her show.
 
Other Shelly natives were appreciative. Grady and Hannah just offered hugs and congratulations. Chloe was supportive, and many of the middle school kids were the same. Her peers were evenly split between liking her show and sharing Devin’s opinion.
 
Lona didn’t care. Devin would never understand why she’d picked the songs she had. Why she’d sang the messages she’d needed to speak. He was so confident and self-assured that he’d never understanding losing your tongue in the face of the hostilities of teen life. He’d never know why singing was the only way she’d be able to express herself.
 
Her musings were ended by the buzz of her phone, and she checked it with an expectant smile. I’m ready to go. Still need that ride?
 
She quickly typed a yes and after a quick succession of messages, they had a meeting place at the fair. Luis drove up in a massive dark silver Ford truck; as Lona climbed in, she said, “Nice truck! Is this your dad’s?”
 
“Nah, it’s my uncle’s. Dad wouldn’t loan me a truck to go to a party,” Luis replied, rolling forward as soon as she was buckled. “And he’s covering for me until morning.”
 
“Cool uncle,” Lona said.
 
“Yeah, he’s younger than Dad, and 'has views' on the amount of freedom kids should have.” Luis shot her a grin as they navigated off the fairgrounds. “So he’s always ready to help me sneak away to ‘be a kid’. Now, where am I going?”
 
In between Lona’s directions, they continued chatting. They covered their mutual dislike of their schools and hometowns, favorite foods, and (of course) preferred music before backgrounds came up. “So has your family always had show horses?” Lona asked, grabbing the ‘oh shit’ bar as the truck wallowed deep into another rut on the logging trail.
 
“Sorta.” Luis grinned. “My mom’s family has bred Paints and Quarterhorses since they came west from Virginia after the Civil War. My father’s family has caught Mustangs and broken broncos since the horses showed up. My father and his brother were just supposed to be temporary workers during a lean year, hired because they were taking cash-under-the-table rates. Mom and Dad fell in love the first day they worked together, back when Dad thought she was just the stuck-up farrier hired by his boss.”
 
“Wait, your dad liked your mom even though he thought she was stuck up?” Lona asked, confused. 
 
“He said he was really trying not to like her, and Mom said she was so nervous she came off as a bitch instead of a normal person.” He stirred around a deep hole, glancing at her. “You okay?”
 
“Yeah, just parents are a sore subject for me. My dad died last spring, and Mom…” Lona trailed off, staring into the darkness. “She’s just acting like a dumb kid, focusing on herself and kicking me out to the pool house so I’m not around.”
 
The silence hung heavy for a moment. “I’m sorry.” Luis cleared his throat awkwardly.
 
“Yeah, let’s not bring down the mood by talking about my parents,” Lona said, forcing herself to smile. “Tonight’s about having fun and forgetting our problems.” 
 
They kept the chatter light for the rest of the drive. Luis parked to the side in what was likely to be a vain attempt to keep from being blocked in later. Lona nodded approvingly as they approached the party proper; Bannon had gone all-out.
 
“Damn, your friends know how to throw a party,” Luis said.
 
“Yeah.” Lona’s enthusiasm dimmed when she took a census of the party-goers and realized that a lot of people had crashed it. “C’mon, let’s find Bannon.”

 
~  *  ~  *  ~

 
Etienne had headed for the party site with the last few notes of Lona’s music still lingering in the air. The directions he’d gotten were a bit garbled, but a few minutes with Google Maps and some basic logic chains finally got him to where he was going. There were already a number of people there, including queen bee Marissa Jauntsen - that surprised him. Everything he’d seen and heard of about her at the hospital pegged her as a saccharine people-pleaser. An illicit part on Reservation lands, complete with alcohol and probably quite a few different things to smoke, didn’t seem like her scene. 

He circulated around, never quite joining any of the small cliques at the formed. He was a stranger here, and he wasn’t here to socialize, at least not yet. After several circuits through the crowd, he finally admitted in defeat that Clara wasn’t there. It was a long shot anyways. This isn’t her kind of thing, either. He picked up a Solo cup and poured himself half a cup of beer, gulping down enough to make him wince at the taste. He didn’t put down the rest of the cup. 

The glint of firelight off of metal caught his attention as Lona declared, “Look, there he is.” There was Clara’s sort-of sister, with a cowboy next to her who looked rather impressed with the evening’s set up. Etienne hadn’t realized he’d moved until Lona was looking up at him with her best ‘And you are?’ look. He cleared his throat nervously, asking, “You’re Avalon Wilson, right? Clara’s...Clara’s housemate? Can I talk to you for a moment? I’m Etienne.” 

“Talk about?” Lona asked leadingly.

He cleared his throat again, shifting his weight from one side to the other. “Clara. I,” he took a swig of his drink again, making a sour face as he’d forgotten it was cheap American beer. “Ugh, sorry.” He glanced at Luis, then back to Lona. “I just need a minute. Please.” He watched her, his expression sincere and the Quebec lilt to English lending his words all soft edges and pleading tones.

Lona sighed. She might have been immune to most cute guy's sad eyes, but he sounded just like Gerault, and she glanced at Luis apologetically. “Where do you want me to wait?” he asked with a smirk.

Lona peered around and pointed. “See the guy who looks like he needs to stop slouching and get a haircut? The one smoking? That’s Jason Bannon. Tell him you’re my guest and he’ll make you welcome. I’ll be along soon.” Once Luis had moved out of earshot, she asked, “So what’s up, Etienne?”

His eyes darted over to Bannon for a second, his lips pursed in a brief frown. He led her a little ways away from the crowds, just far enough to have a private conversation, and shot her a small appreciative smile for pronouncing his name right. “Is everything alright? With Clara, I mean? She - well, we. . .” He stopped, too flustered to find his words for a moment, and ran his hand through his hair. “She won’t return my calls and hasn’t been out running. I don’t know if she’s mad at me or just. . .” HIs eyes flicked over to Bannon again then back to Lona, hoping she knew what was going on with Clara the past week or so.

“Your calls?” Lona asked, sorting through his implications until her eyebrows rose in surprise. “You two were dating? Are dating?”

He ran his hand through his hair and let out a frustrated, “That’s what I’m trying to figure out. If it’s are or was.”

“Oh.” Lona grimaced and looked away. “Look, she hasn’t mentioned you to me, but we haven’t really been girl-chatting lately either. And her parents don’t know about you.” She tilted her head to the side. “Why are you not sure about your status?”

“Um,” Etienne flushed and looked away from Lona. “We were at my apartment. Things got intense.” He glanced at Lona to see if she picked up her meaning and caught the widening of her eyes. “She just ran out. Before anything went too far, but she didn’t say anything. Just grabbed her cl-things and left. I’ve been trying to talk to her since then, but she won’t answer her phone or text me back.” He looked down, his brow furrowed, “I didn’t think I was pushing and I certainly didn’t. . .“ He sighed again and shrugged. “I just want to know what happened. Where we stand and why.”

“Uhhhh, dude, if she’s ghosting you after fleeing mid-uh, make out? And please don’t correct me if I’m wrong,” Lona added quickly. “I will live happier with that thought than the truth. Anyway, that's not subtle.” She narrowed her eyes thoughtfully. “Did she ever show you a binder? With detailed plans in it?”

He shook his head, “No?”

“Okay, then.” Lona sighed, feeling bad for him. “Well, best guess is that you weren’t in the binder, which means you weren’t part of the Plan, and when you guys were getting serious and you threatened to upset the Plan, she cut you loose. Sorry.”

“Plan?” he asked. He sighed again. “Then that boy, Jason? He is in her Plan?”

“Jason? Bannon?” Lona turned and looked at him, then back to Etienne, a confused frown on her face. “I sincerely doubt that.”

“They came to your performance, holding hands. She’d never mentioned him before.” He didn’t look angry like many men might in the situation. He looked thoughtful. “This binder, her plan, do you know what it is? What’s in it?”

Her jaw dropped for a moment.  “Bannon and Clara? I… They were holding hands? I’m as confused as you on that. And Etienne, you seem like a nice guy, but there’s no way I’m talking about her plans.” Lona was one of the few people who had actually seen the inside of Clara’s binder and knew what it meant to the other girl. “If you want to know that, talk to Clara.”

“I’m trying to.” He poured out the rest of his beer, wondering if there were sodas or water to be had. “Do you know...will she be here tonight?”

“She plans to, yes,” Lona said cautiously. “I’m going to tell her that you’re looking for her.” At his frown she added, “And remind her that if she’s not to keep seeing you then it’s polite to tell you that, face to face. Or if she’s whatever.”

“Fair. Thank you.” He took a step away from her, then looked back. “Be careful tonight. Parties like this, away from everything, they can be fun, but also dangerous.” With that, he moved back into the crowd of teens and disappeared from sight. 

“Jesus, chill out, dude,” she muttered under her breath as she pulled out her phone and typed out a quick message to Clara. After telling her that Etienne was looking for her, she added, Please dump him if you’re gonna dump him, C. Save the rest of us the awkward convo before I’ve even had a drink.

Pocketing her phone, she headed toward Luis and Bannon, intent on starting to party.
 

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The assembled teens broke into two groups; Clara and the girls heading to her car, and Lilly and the boys heading to her truck with Lona staying behind to wait for Luis. It seemed to just be the way of things that the boys usually rode with her, not that she minded it or anything. She'd been on teams with boys and was quite used to them, and girls were generally less inclined to ride in the bed of the truck anyways.

Sean and Charlie hopped into the bed as Lilly unlocked the driver side door and tossed her back into the bed with the others. She then slipped behind the wheel and and leaned over, stretching to unlock the passenger door, allowing Jase to slip in and slump into his usual 'shotgun' seat. With a twist of the key the Chevy, which was older than Lilly and any three of her friends combined came to life with minimal argument. The sound system, or what passed for it in the old truck, was silent for a moment (since Lilly had a tendency to wait for a song to end before killing the engine). She sat there, waiting for the next song on the cassette to start and then smiled with a satisfied nod when it did, throwing the truck into reverse, backing out of her parking space and then exiting the parking lot.

"We need to swing by my place too." Jase said as the truck pulled out onto the road.

"For what?" Lilly asked as she cranked her window down to 'share' the music with Sean and Charlie in the back, because she was considerate like that.

"Just a few coolers. For the party." Jase answered, his vagueness intentional.

"Ahh. Sure." Lilly said with a shrug of her shoulders.

The truck cruised down the road, Lilly's long, dark hair dancing on the wind as she nodded along the beat and sang along to the track, occasionally a bit louder just for Jase who had so harshly criticized her 'singing' a few days ago. She sang with a smile on her face though, making her teasing, or possibly torture, of Jase clear, who just slumped a little more in his seat and looked out the window mostly, but the faintest curl at the corners of his mouth could be spotted by the observant.

Shortly they arrived at the Bannon Farm with it's usual semi-neglected charm, though it was actually is good repair for the most part. Jase directed her over to a shed next to one of the barns where Lilly pulled up and cranked the wheel, turning sharply and backing close to the shed to make loading easier. The pair hopped out and Lilly walked to the rear of the truck to drop the tailgate while Jase saw to the door.

"We gotta load some coolers too, guys." she told Sean and Charlie, letting them know why they were at the Bannon farm instead of the party and what they were doing there.

"Sure. Need any help?" they offered.

"Nah. I think we got'em. Just stow them where you can. There might be a bungee or two back there to help." she replied and then stepped into the shed where Jase was already sliding their soon-to-be cargo closer to the door.

"Four coolers... two of them padlocked, which I can guess at why... and a whole *case* of Jack and Captain Morgans? Damned dude!" she said, as the same time impressed with the effort Jase had put into acquiring libations for the party as well as concerned for the sheer amount obtained.

"I mean, I know what I helped haul in there already. You're not screwing around." she commented with almost a chuckle.

Jase just silently smiled and grabbed a cooler, hefting it up and stepping outside as Lilly followed suit. It only took a couple of minutes before the last of it, the cases of liquor, were stowed in the back.

"Hey, uh, how about you cover that up with one of the blankets." she said to Sean and Charlie indicating the old blankets she kept in the bed for passengers.

"Okay. Well. With that in back, we are definitely doing the speed limit." she made clear, though in truth Lilly is one of the last people Sheriff Allister would think would be hauling liquor and other... substances.

The engine came to life again with a twist of the key and soon the next song on the decades old mix tape was playing through the speakers as they were once again cruising down the road toward the party...

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"So."  Lilly said to her passenger, Jase having already resumed his slouch in the seat, feet up on the dash and his fingers tapping his knees to the music.  He looked for all the world like the same Jase she thought she knew before the other day at Bunnee's.  The Jase who didn't scare the piss - literally - out of football players or get in the face of Devin or Sheriff Allister.

"Hmm?"  he glanced at her briefly, one eyebrow crooked upwards, wondering if she was going to express disapproval of the cargo in the back of her truck.

"You want to tell me what happened at the fair?"  Lilly asked carefully as she drove, her eyes on the road.  There was no accusation in her tone, merely concern mixed with curiousity.  Jase sighed, his fingers ceasing their motions as he stared out the window.

"They were going to assault Cora, maybe rape her."  he said quietly.  "I saw their faces, heard their voices.  They meant it.  So I stopped it."

"You had that hook in your hand when I arrived."  Lilly stated rather than asked, her voice level.  Bannon make an exasperated noise.

"I wasn't going to use it." he said casually - maybe too casually.  "I didn't think I could back down three jocks, so I used what was to hand."  He glanced at her again.  "I was bluffing.  And then Lona and Clara arrived to back me up before things got worse."

"Must have been a good bluff, is all."  Lilly regarded him steadily for a moment.  "They looked terrified.  And Cody needed new pants.  Hell of a good bluff, dude."

"Just a bluff."  Bannon said, not meeting her gaze and looking out the window again.  After a pause, he started drumming his fingers to the music again.

*  *  *  *

The party site was crowded when they arrived.  Jase stared at the throng - he hadn't expected such a turn out.  Shit, there were people there he didn't recognise at all - freshmen and sophomores, recent graduates, even some college-age kids.  As Lilly's truck pulled up in one of the reserved spots, Sara hurried over, her expression clearly mirroring what Jase was feeling.

"I know." he said to her, sighing.  "Help me with these?"  Charlie, Sean, Lilly and Jase along with Sara moved the cases of liquor and the coolers over to near where the kegs were.  The lighter padlocked coolers were set aside, and the other two when opened showed a wide selection of canned soda and bottled fruit juices.  Cheers went up as Jase set several bottles of rum and bourbon on the tables, the rest being set aside with the locked coolers.  Teens grabbed mixers and poured in generous helpings of hard liquor, and the party took on a renewed zest as Bannon sat on an overgrown fallen log and lit up a cigarette.

"Plenty of soft stuff for you guys. "  he smiled slightly at Sean and Lilly, but then was interrupted as a strange kid approached him.

"You're Jason, right?"  Upon being the recipient of the usual wary once-over, the kid thrust out a hand.  "I'm Luis, Lona's friend.  She said you're the host."

"One of them."  Jase nodded, relaxing somewhat.  "Welcome to the party, and what's your poison?  We've got beer over there, booze there, and herbal alternatives here.  As you're Lona's guest, you get a VIP pass for the night."  No sooner had he finished that sentence than Marissa approached him, only the slight snap of her eyes betraying her irritation.

"It's about time!" she snorted, but there was a grudging approval in her demeanour as well as she looked at the coolers and bottles..  "At least you brought along proper drinks."  Bannon couldn't help it, he grinned, standing and stepping to the coolers.  

"Yeah, I don't like that beer much either." he shrugged as he opened one of the locked coolers by twisting the numbered code lock to the right position.  The cooler opened to reveal dozens of tiny packages - neatly wrapped, each containing a handful of rolled joints.  Taking two of them, he offered them to Marissa with a slight bow.  "M'lady.  As promised - my finest product from my supplier: Lucifer's Reserve. More rarified and more expensive than my regular brand, this is my gift to you - I'd be interested to know what you think."

"What's in the other one?"  she asked with an arch of her brow.  Bannon shrugged.

"The usual, albeit fine product.  That's for selling to the horde - this cooler here is for the VIPs and those with money to burn."  With that he offered Luis a small bag as well.  "On the house for a friend of Lona."  Already he could see several knots of partygoers paying close attention to what was going on and felt deep satisfaction at his preparedness.  Tonight could see his car fund completed and then some.

Spoiler

Anyone other than a PC or selected NPCs will be charged for weed or smokes. Bannon's stuff is good quality - he obviously has a good supplier (wink wink).

The Lucifer's Reserve is uber-quality weed.  Strong and smooth, like sunlight on silk.  Seeing as this is Bannon's own crossbred and specially prepared creation, it's unlikely anyone has had anything like it.  It will fuck you up and you will love it for it. That said, it is still 'just' weed.  You won't go on a bad trip or see ManBearPig, there's no PCP or cocaine mixed in.

 

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There were a lot more people here than Charlie was led to expect. Apparently Jase's unholy alliance with Marissa had indeed surpassed Chet's flyer plan by immense measure. This was not exactly the best thing in Charlie's mind, and from the look on his face, Jase was having second thoughts. Well, no use complaining about it. When asked Charlie gamely complied with the transporting of coolers.

Unlike many of the avid partygoers, Charlie weighed the matter and decided that he wasn't going to go drinking tonight, simply settling for a can of Coco-Cola. But when Bannon unveiled the weed, now he had to debate.

It was a party, the kind that was meant to cut loose. On the other hand, Charlie's straight-laced nature was reticent at jumping into pot, especially when it was the high-octane version Bannon boasted. Not that he didn't trust his friend, but that was jumping into the deep end, right?

Then he remembered that Lucius Cole disdained cannabis with snooty affect, and the answer became simple. "Carpe diem." Charlie proclaimed before snatching up a pack of Lucifer's Reserve. Then he found a comfortable place to sit down, and light it up.

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Humming to herself on the drive up, it took Coraline no time at all to hone in on the largest source of music, the biggest cluster of moving bodies. There were way, way too many people here for her to consider her half-baked safety plan, but then again that was the last thing on her mind, finding an opening to enter the edge of the crowd between songs. The tall brunette slipped into the groove, moving to the beat like she was born there, a fish to water. Years and years of hard practice made it look easy, her eyes closed as she let the music push and pull on her mind and her body, the moon to her tide.

A slight bump into the couple behind her and a drowned-out apology later, she kept her eyes open, staying more alert for the shifting crowd. She got back into it, gaze skim, skim, skimming over the crowd and... Ah. Yes. *He* seemed to know what he was doing, and wasn't outwardly drunk or stoned out of his mind. His name didn't come to mind, but Coraline didn't give a shit at the moment.

She twirled through a gap in the crowd into the nameless boy's orbit and caught his eyes with her own, a silent invitation in the shift of her hips and tilt of her chin. He accepted and closed the gap in return. A dance for one became a dance for two, Coraline pleasantly surprised at not having to rein herself in too much to follow his lead. The pounding beat and soaring melodies set her blood afire, and she got into it, an angry, staccato mantra matching her heartbeat. Fuck her Rules. Fuck Chett and his merry idiots. Fuck her impending grounding. Fuck Cade's family kidnapping him just as she was nerving herself up to ask The Question. She was here, now, in the beat with a good partner. Roll with it.

She stopped thinking about anything beyond the next dance step through that song and the next and the next after that until, breathless and glowing with sweat, she broke off out of the dancing crowd between songs, drawing the boy after her with a wave of her finger and a smile fit to split her face, "Never got your name. I'm Cora. Good moves." 

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The drive up was pretty uneventful - save for a tense stopover for fast food wherein there was a distinct lack of fries. Food obtained, the girls continued their trek out to the logging camp. "Laurie, stick close to your brother or one of us, please," Clara said without realizing how 'mom' she was sounding. "If you want to leave and Sean doesn't, I'll run you home and come back out for everyone else."

The youngest Cassidy sibling rolled her eyes behind Clara's back, but just said, "Thanks. I’ll keep it in mind." 

Cora peeled off to go dancing, Laurie using the excuse of sticking to one of them to follow after. Clara was about the ask Cass a question when her phone beeped out the first few bars of Seether’s Broken. She glanced down at the text message, her face paling. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Sorry, Cass. I need to. . .I have something. . . ” she bit her lip and whispered, “Hell.” So far as anyone in Shelly knew, that might have been the first cuss word she’d ever said. “I’ll catch up with you later.”  

She reached the coolers before finding Etienne and grabbed two sodas. After a moment’s hesitation, she switched them out for wine coolers and threaded her way through the crowd looking for her maybe-boyfriend. 

 

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