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WEIRDER STUFF
Avalon Wilson

Interim Ep 3. Atomic Aftermath (Post Game at Bunnee's)

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"Dark or not, it's sick shit he tried, and what if he tries again? On Lona or someone else? Doesn't matter, something has to be done and..." Charlie drew certain dots together. Jason had left, and apparently he'd looked ready to stab Charlie with a fork over the Marissa incident and Charlie was his friend. And before that, the hayhook. Charlie sucked in a deep, suddenly very worried breath. "Nobody went with Jason. Do we know that he's actually heading home?"

And still didn't have a phone so they could call and talk him out of this.

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Cade was surprised this happened again, so soon in his hometown, and to another girl he knew and cared for.   There had been a part of him that did want to go do some pretty painful things, both times, and both times he held off.  Lona wasn't asking anyone to report it, and was warning them that if she did, they could all face increased scrutiny because of how she fought him off.  

He said nothing, having a good idea what was likely to happen when Bannon left, and then Cora and Clara.    Finally Cora voiced her desire to leave, and he nodded.  "I'll get the order to go, and we can go then."  He rose up to head to the counter, and having heard Cassandra and Charlie's comments, replied. "Do you believe he went home?"  His gaze shifted to Cassandra  "I don't think it is our place to make the call for her, though I definitely want to see justice done." 

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There were more cars in the parking lot of Bunnee's than Autumn had expected as she brought her bicycle to a stop in the loose gravel and braced with one foot; she'd assumed it would take longer for the crowds to clear the stadium and migrate here for celebratory carb-loading. After she’d spent most of the evening holed up in the familiar cocoon of her bedroom, Dana had banished her from the house under the pretense of picking up dinner. It was a reasonable idea, if your normally energetic daughter was sulking, or brooding, to give her something to do- a simple, straightforward task that required physical exertion and yielded delicious, measurable results. As Autumn had been neither sulking nor brooding, however, her mother's request seemed completely un-reasonable. It hadn’t been just a bad day, after all, and the badness had not only started early but carried on longer than it had any right to.

Well, whatever.

While an order of loaded fries almost sounded worth killing for, she wasn’t sure it was worth actually leaving the house. Still, she was here now, and even the long bike ride over hadn’t completely killed the warm, mellow feeling engendered by moderate indulgence in cannabis. Whatever the others might’ve thought about it, Autumn felt zero guilt for taking steps to avoid a mental breakdown after the day’s events. Nudging the kickstand down with her heel, she glanced up at a flash of movement in her peripheral vision.

EmEffing Jason GeeDee Bannon.

Stripping off a… pink? t-shirt. ...Yep. Shirtless. In the parking lot. Either her timing was really terrible, or really, really good. It wasn’t that he was stupidly hot or anything, she decided, watching with the single-minded interest of someone who was either pleasantly high, or a seasoned stalker. ...more that he just wasn’t even a little bit shy. It was some weird, dumb confidence thing guys had, probably. He just had more of it. The observation didn’t go unnoticed; as he pulled a plain white shirt over his head, the lanky teen caught sight of her.

Then she felt her cheeks get warm, having (probably) been caught staring. Whoops. Unthinking, she jerked her chin upward slightly in a not-quite greeting, her lips twitching into the expected almost-smile shape, and trudged towards the door of the diner. She didn’t like the guy, but today had been weird; she’d been hugged by a Jauntsen, for crying out loud. Maybe she could afford to give them a little more credit. The front door jingled, and she blinked, startled, up at Lona and Clara as they walked outside. The latter looked tense, worried, and the former… Honestly, Lona just looked like hell, which might explain Clara’s demeanor.

“Hey,” Autumn offered, the almost-smile replaced by a genuine one. Lona had been one of the few to reach out when her grandfather had died, a small kindness from someone else who'd felt loss, and one she’d never forgotten. “Small world, huh?”

“Yeah, small world. I mean, it’s Shelly. It doesn’t get much smaller,” came the reply, an obvious effort on Lona’s part to engage in friendly banter despite the grim circumstances. She tried to smile, earnestly tried, but she just couldn’t seem to arrange her features in the correct pattern, couldn’t quite convey a heartfelt happy-to-see-you when everything, everything seemed to hurt. “Listen, we’re headed home. I think some of us are getting together in the morning, if you want to come.”

“Oh.” She hadn’t expected that, to be invited anywhere, especially so soon. “Maybe?” the redhead hazarded. “Kind of depends on how I feel in the morning, y’know?”

Both sisters nodded, at that; yeah, they knew.

“Be careful, guys. See ya.” The door jingled again, and Autumn sidestepped the older couple coming out, chatting over their ice cream cones. Heading inside, she made her way up to the counter. As she waited for the order her mom had called in earlier, she hummed quietly to herself, swaying slightly to the music on the jukebox. It was nice, once in a while, to just be around people- not talking to them, not being talked at, but just around them. Everybody was doing their own thing, concentrating on their own lives and their own meals, the stuff inside their own heads; it felt good to be in the midst of all that life and energy without being the focus of it, a mental state only enhanced by being ever so slightly baked. It also enhanced her mouth’s ability to do things entirely on its own, without the buy-in of her brain, and around the time Sean chirped, “Great! I’ll text you tomorrow,” Autumn realized she’d just asked if she could go to a car auction with him. In Helena. ...And he was wearing a cheerleading uniform. Wait. What? “Uh, yeah, sounds great!" she heard herself say. "Getting out of Shelly for a weekend sounds… Honestly, it sounds amazing. I’ll talk to my mom when I get home, just to make sure she’s cool.”

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Devin's phone buzzed mid-movie with a text message.

//Just FYI, Liam Day saw me Shine, but no proof. Watch your back and please laugh off anything weird he says about me. 
Missed you at Bunnee's. Enjoy movie night with your friend.//
 

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Tawny had fallen asleep twenty minutes ago.  Her head lay gently against his chest as his arm gently rubbed her shoulder.  She was a cuddler... that was certain.  Most nights she stayed ended up with one or the other passing out on the other.

He wasn't really watching the movie himself anymore, his head was getting heavy and he was a breath away from nudging Tee and going up to his room to crash.  When Halestorm's "Daughters of Darkness" played on his phone, he was wide awake.  'Daughters of Darkness, sisters insane... running on evil goes a long, long way!'

He smirked and read the text.  //Everyone says weird shit about you.  I started half the rumors last year, myself.  Sorry about Bunnee's, I'm just not feeling very welcome.//

He sighed and let his recline back on the couch.  Tawny made a cute whimper and cuddled closer to him.  He looked at her and to his phone and scooped it back up.  //...Missed you too.//

He smiled and relaxed... then sent another... //🍑🍆//

He shifted and nudged Tee.  "Hey, c'mon... crash time..."

"Can I stay?"  She moaned lazily.

"My mom assumed you were, she left everything out."  They started making their way upstairs when Tawny asked if he was okay.  "Yeah, fine.  Just a lot on my mind."  He crashed on his bed as Tawny went to grab shorts and a tee shirt from Marissa's room to sleep in.

Devin raised his head up enough to tap out another message.  //Don't worry about Liam.  Marissa is reporting it to the Sheriff, she text me.  She'll fill me in the morning, no doubt, what's going on?//

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The reply was a long time in coming. 

//NBD, he jumped me, I’m okay, he’s not. Mari can tell you all about since she apparently knows the details. Sleep tight, Devy-cakes.//

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Personally, she had been a bit... embarrassed might not be the right word. Flattered maybe? When she saw the number of the pink 'Throw Like A Girl' shirts worn in bleachers. it was such a obvious sign of the support the town showed her and the other girls on the team. There were still skeptics, of course, due to season after season of being let down, but she had also silently wondered how many more she would see by the end of the season.

On the ride over she had only given Sean a very light amount of teasing, just the usual friendly stuff, as she knew he already had some issues about his appearance. She would support him, not matter what, when he finally figured himself out, and so she did not want to further complicate things. He was smart and nice and she hoped that one day he would find some peace with himself.

Though Lilly had come in and sat at the table with her friends, she was almost immediately pulled away by teammates and others to congratulate her and celebrate the victory. She was quarterback and the de facto team leader, so it was something that just came with the position, and something she actually enjoyed. It felt good to celebrate with a team and see the way the whole town came alive with each victory. Last season she took over as quarterback part way through and still managed to give Shelly their first season with more than wins than losses, and after this first game of the season, the town was optimistic, and it showed.

As she caroused with teammates, their families and other supporters, she noted Jason leaving not soon after they had all arrived, but she did not think much of it, Maybe he was going to pick up somebody or had just had enough the crowds and like for the evening. Either way, it dd not seem a big deal until Clara and Lona left. It had stuck her a little odd that Lona was wearing a Bunnee's shirt, but now, seeing Clara seem to help her outside, comforting her, caught Lilly's attention, so she politely extricated herself from the current conversation and made her way over to the Fellowship's table where she took a seat.

"Hey. Uh... What going on? Jase left and now Lona and Clara?" she asked,

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Cassie pushed over to make room for Lilly, occupying a recently vacated spot.

"Yeah, there's a little..." she paused, not wanting to say 'drama' because there was something about that word that felt disrespectful to what Lona had gone through. "...Lona went through some bad shit, and she and Clara needed to take off a little early," she concluded. "But hey, nice game! Glad you could make it over here."

She took her phone out and opened the little stick-it note app.

"Anything I can quote you on?"

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Lilly's expression shifts to a combination of dead serious and 'really?' as she looked at Cass.

"What happened, Cassandra?" she asked again, this time more flatly as her hand reached up to push down the phone lightly.

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Autumn had only been talking to Sean and Sara for a few minutes when her mom's name was called, and she forked over the cash she'd been given. "Hey, thanks," she offered, smiling as she took the thick paper bag nestled in a plastic one for the bike ride home. Then, to the other redhead, "See you in the morning." It wasn't until she was on her way out that she noticed the group of other students at a table together, which, for some reason, seemed odd. They weren't always together, were they? ..And, yeah, some of the others had been there earlier. She'd never really noticed them as a collective before, having met nearly all of them as individuals throughout their school years and childhoods growing up in Shelly. From the expressions on the girls' faces as she passed, whatever they were discussing looked like bad news.

After weighing for a moment what the last bad news had been, the hungry redhead made her way to the door and back out into the cool night air. If it was important, she reasoned, like more weirdness she'd want to avoid, someone would text her. In the meantime, she had loaded fries and a warm bed waiting back home.

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The '58 black Caddy, pulled into the parking lot and stopped so close to where Autumn was unchaining her bike that she almost jumped away for fear it was going to hit her. It was an old car, a classic by every standard, and was in pristine condition, Autumn glared at the windshield but the tint was so dark as to make seeing anything inside impossible. The engine turned off and the cooling clicks were the only sounds she could hear, strangely they seemed to the young girl to drown out all other sounds from the street and the diner, even the music that played over the outside speakers. She could smell the engine heat coming out of the front grill.

Suddenly the car door opened and a tall man dressed all in black seemed to unfold out of the vehicle. he paused and turned toward Autumn resting his long arm on the top of the car door. He was wearing sunglasses, which he took off with his free hand, folded then slipped the arm into the neck line of his shirt leaving the glasses hanging against his chest. He regarded Autumn from across the car, "Sorry about that, little lady, didn't see you bent over there until i was almost right on top of you. Hope I didn't scare you too much." He stepped back from the car and the door closed as he came around the front of the car where he paused again his lanky frame swaying as if he were a slender tree on a wind swept plain, he smiled at her then glanced into the diner. Autumn was sure he was looking at the table where the other kids, her kids, were sitting. "Food must be pretty good here to have a crowd so large. You  recommend anything in particular," the man in black asked?

The Car  dcf47dcdc11acdf9a2359a3c3c2d3248.jpg          1467368392-matthew-mcconaughey-dark-tower-first-look.jpg The Man in Black

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Cassandra winced a little and looked away, then met Lilly's gaze again. "I don't know the details, but Lona was attacked by Liam. She fought him off with the 'shine,' but she was really freaked out by it, and it looked like he hurt her before he went."

Her eyes swept across the table, taking everyone else there in.

"We were just trying to decide what the right thing to do was. Go to the police right away, or try to get Lona to be the one to report him."

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Yeah, asshole. Watching where you're going, the redhead snapped internally. Just being in proximity to Captain Edgelord was killing her buzz- what kind of pretentious fuckhead wore sunglasses behind dark window-tint to drive at fucking night?  He was a walking trope who clearly didn't recognize himself as such, and it occurred to Autumn that she probably would've hated him the moment he opened his mouth even if he hadn't almost run her over. It was unreasonable and irrational, but there it was. Maybe he's a celebrity or something? He definitely had the attitude for it and they did come through once in a great while- directors and producers mostly, trying to find a cheap location for filming or a cabin for recording albums. She gave the tall man a quick once-over, trying to separate her instinctive dislike from what she could actually see: expensive clothes, no label; clean shoes; pretty decent face, for a guy probably her dad's age; not skittish about exposing a little skin- weird, but okay; in good shape, definitely not a dad bod. Lots of money invested in the car, probably- it looked old. The kind of thing guys with money liked to show off. His eyes, though, with the smile not quite reaching them, reminded her of something else she couldn't put her finger on.

Huh. Yeah, could be a celebrity. Could also be a drug dealer, or something, but don't they usually try to avoid getting noticed?

Unless he didn't care if people recognized him, or didn't think they would? Autumn wasn't sure, not having a whole lot of experience with the criminal elements of society- well, except for her dealer, and she didn't really consider the occasional smoke "criminal." The planet was on fucking fire, kids were dying in internment camps, the oceans were full of garbage, and there was a possibility none of her graduating class would make it to middle age because alien twat-monsters from a Native American nightmare world were going to eat them; the fact that weed was illegal didn't rank highly on her list of concerns.

"Nah," she allowed after a moment, her taut smile juuuuust earnest enough to pass the Mom test for sincerity. "Not too much." Following his gaze back toward the diner, she thought for a moment. They weren't her friends, not really, but...  She could see the back of Cassandra's head through the window as she talked with Lilly. Fishing her phone out of her pocket, she opened Snapchat. "Oh! One sec." With a quick half-turn and her best selfie-smile, Autumn snapped a quick pic of herself, angling the camera slightly to include Mr. Black and adding the image of a clock face with the hour hand pointing toward the 6. Two taps later, and Cass's phone notified her of a new Snap. She put her own phone away, a half-smile of apology on her lips. "It's game night. Most of Shelly's either been through already, or will be. Bunnee's is kind of a tradition here, it's where people go to celebrate." She let that hang in the night for a beat, her smile fading by degrees, then: "Got a sweet tooth? The milkshakes here are to die for." 

"I certainly do sugar," his smile became a grin. "now you be careful on that bike going home, there's crazies driving around out there." He sketched a little salute her way with a couple of fingers and with a slight hitch in his step that may have been a skip, started whistling as he went inside the diner.

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"Well, Lona should be the one to report it. I mean, I hope she will, but it is a matter of another thing to deal with right now if she does." she said with a small shrug. "We already have a lot on our plate."

Lilly looked to the door and thought about those who had already left. 

"Damnit." Lilly said with a sigh.

"What?" Cass asked.

Lilly leaned close and spoke in a much more hushed tone.

"It's Jase. I am pretty sure he left to go teach Liam a lesson." she explained before adding, "...or possibly worse." with a clear hint of dread.

"Worse? You don't think he'd actually...?" Cass said, letting her sentence trail off as if not saying the thing would help stop it from become a reality.

"I dunno. It's say it is a real possibility. Jase is super protective. I mean, honestly, I'd like to 'have a talk' with Liam and teach him the err of his ways and strongly encourage him to turn over a new leaf. But Jase might go too far. And if I go running out of here, to go a look for him and maybe stop him, it's just gonna draw attention."

"Damnit." Lilly sighed.

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"Ugh...what a mess," Cassandra sighed. As if on cue, her phone dinged at her. She glanced at it and rolled her eyes and started to put it away...then changed her mind and tapped at the screen.

"That's weird," Cass said after a second. "I got a snap from...Autumn. We've barely even talked. And it's just a selfie."

With a clock. That's weird, right? What's the clock mean? Is she waiting on me? For what?

Six o'clock though. Six. Like...got my six.

Her eyes focused on the image behind Autumn and she lifted an eyebrow.

"I think Autumn's being...stalked by some kind of seriously creepy guy."

The bell on Bunnee's dinged again, and Cassie looked up. "...who just walked in the door."

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He walked up to the counter and looked over the menu, smiled at Max, (she thought it was more of a leer to be honest) and ordered a plain vanilla ice cream cone, two scoops. Max made the cone and wrapped it and when she brought it too him he handed her a hundred dollar bill, “Keep the change, darling,” he said before she said that she couldn’t break a hundred for a cone.

He stepped away from the counter and stopped in the middle of the floor facing the Fellowship who were all the way at the far wall. Cass was sitting facing him. He raised the cone in a salute, then spoke to no one in particular, “Damn good ice cream. Y’all be careful now, it’s getting mighty Dark out there tonight.”

The leering smile faded away and he strode to the door and left the Diner, moments later the caddy peeled out of the parking lot with a squeal of tires.

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