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z-Avalon Wilson

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

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Lona’s phone buzzed in a discordant buzz ill timed with her dropping her spoon back into the empty milkshake glass. Licking the last of the sweet off her lips, Lona picked up her phone, and froze in horror when she saw who the text was from. “Shit, shit, I’m a shit!” she mumbled as she called Clara back rather than replying. 

“I’m a shit who shitty forgets things, sorry,” Lona said the second the line connected.

There was a hiccup of a breath on the other end. Clara’s voice came out a little unsteady. “S’okay. You at Bunnee’s?”

“Yes, are you crying?” Lona said, her tone changing from apologetic to apocalyptic. She was still a little on edge from today, and hearing the sound of tears in Clara’s voice put the needle right back into the red.

She heard a distinct Clara-sniffle. “Not anymore. It’s okay. Just...dealing with things. Coming down from everything. I’ll be there in a few minutes.” The connection went silent just as Lona heard a murmur of a deeper voice. 

“Etienne.” Lona set her jaw as she placed her phone on the table so she didn’t slam it down. It might not be the Canadian spy-hole, but Lona had sincerely doubted it was anyone else. Right now, Lona would happily deal with the very awkward feelings that would erupt if Devin had been in the room, but she didn’t get that lucky.

Bunnee glanced up as Lona brought her glass to him. “Can I have another please?” she asked tersely.

“Sure. Night’s not getting better?” he astutely asked.

“Nope, keep the candy close at hand,” she growled. “It might be a triple shake night.” 

“Damn.” He shook his head. “One Kit Kat Shake coming up right away.”

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The familiar purr of Devin's Ducati slid up into Bunnee's lot and it's single light dimmed and cut out.

Lona raised up in her seat and peered outside to notice Devin dismounting his 'baby' with... Tawny.  Perfect, sexy, gorgeous,  everything in all the places and proportions... Tawny.  FML she thought.

The two entered and were like peas and carrots... because Lona thought Devin was retarded and Tawny was kind of a slut.  She couldn't  back that up, Tawny was sweet, but she was currently an obstacle and spite knew no mercy.  So, slut.  Oh, and she was in perfect little form fitting leggings with the sheer see-thru black mesh going all the up from her ankle to her hips.  They hugged her frame, mostly her perfect butt, perfectly... slut and a skank, fuck it.

The two were giggling and Devin was explaining something with his hands and Tawny was cracking up, a moment later Devin did too.  They stopped and talked to Max at the counter, Devin must have charmed her because she rolled her eyes and turned about to get a bag of food from under the heat lamps.  They pain and collected their bag and was jeading out when Lona decided to stop him.

"Hey, Devin," she approached, smiling, awkwardly.  She was pretty sure gave her a side look of jealousy that kind of said 'excuse me, I'm with my man'.  "Um, aren't you staying?  I thought we were all meeting up later for burgers, remember?"

"Yeah, you guys were." He said matter-of-factly.  He wasn't being, she could tell, he was just being unabashedly blunt.  "Look, today, all of us, what we did was pretty damn cool.  But it doesn't erase what was done before that.  You're sister was quite clear," he moved his hand between the tow of them and swept in the circle in the direction of the Fellowship's booth.  "We're not friends.  My sis and I were encouraged to pack our shit and GTFO, so we did.  And honestly, I already told ya Avie, at the end of the day you gotta have my back.  I had hers.  She spat in my face.  And if she doesn't speak for everyone, then put a muzzle on her, because all she's doing is costing you friends... and chances for survival."

"Survival?" Tawny asked, looking confused.

"She knows I mean," Devin deflected.

"That's... Devin, that's not fair.  That's bullshit and you know it." Lona shot at him, not believing he was still mad about this morning.

"Sounds like a Fellowship problem, not mine anymore."  He held up his bag.  "Food's getting cold, movie's on pause.  We gotta get going.  Nothing personal, text me sometime."

They walked to the door away from Lona and Devin's parting comment of 'send n00dz' shouted from the entryway and a part of her heart wanted to break as they both laughed outside and Tawny slapped him in the arm, telling him something like 'behave' or 'knock it off'.

They laughed as he got back on the bike, they seemed happy, he seemed unphased by the act of casting people aside but... who was to blame?  Clara for lashing out or Devin for giving her exactly what she asked for?

With a click the Ducati purred to life and roared on down the road towards the Jauntsen estate.

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He was leaning against the Charger in the parking lot next to Lilly's truck, smoking unobtrusively as he and Sean waited for the Shelly High School team's most popular (and lets face it, prettiest) players to finish showering and changing.  Jase was quiet, now and then shooting his shorter and more feminine companion an amused glance.

"It was a bet!" Sean repeated for the umpteenth time, tugging to straighten the maroon and gold top of the Shelly Coyotes cheerleader squad which his ample assets were straining somewhat.

"A stupid bet."  Jase replied, taking a drag on his cigarette and managing to exhale his habitual twin-jet with schadenfreude.  "A very, very stupid bet."

"I agreed to motivate Laurie.  She was nervous."  Sean snapped, feeling very self-conscious under Jase's reptilian amusement in a way he hadn't felt since changing into the outfit at half-time.

"You were played."  the lanky teen snorted.  "All Laurie needed to do was enlist Lilly and that field goal was guaranteed.  You were going to end up in a miniskirt the moment she proposed the wager.  Sucker."  In the near-distance, he heard good-natured voices raised and ground out the cigarette under his boot.

"Whatever, dude.  Sometimes you've got to sacrifice for the ones you love... Here they come."  Sean braced himself.

Laurie's laughter was bright and infectious as her smile as her and Lilly came over.  Freshly showered and wearing clean jerseys, both girls were pink-faced and exuberant despite the events of the day, and Laurie squealed as she hugged her brother.

"You're still wearing it?  Oh my god!" she laughed.  Lilly grinned, shaking her head and glancing at Jase who stood, arms folded and with an amused glint in his eyes watching.

"A deal is a deal. Well played, you guys." Sean managed around the hug.  "And that kick was awesome, Laurie."

"Thanks!"  She grinned as she released him and turned towards Bannon with a bounce in her step.  "What?  No words?"

"Сделал дело – гуляй смело." he offered with a smile, then in response to her confused expression, clarified. "You did the work well, now walk boldly."  She squeaked and gave him a hug, Jase tolerating it with his usual calm despite her having trapped his arms against his body.  "And as the new star kicker, you get to ride shotgun in the Charger."

If he'd hoped that would cause Laurie to let go, he was mistaken as she squeezed him tighter, then looked up at him.  "Can I drive it?" she asked with her most winsome head tilt.

"Kick one hundred percent for the season, and we'll talk." he replied without budging an inch.  Laurie frowned for a moment, but left that battle for later as she skipped around to the passenger side of the muscle car.

"Hey, that's my seat!"  Sean protested weakly.  Jase shot him a wryly amused stare.

"Cheerleaders ride with the quarterback." he nodded at Lilly, who laughed as she climbed into her truck.  "Star kickers get the Charger."  Sean grumbled, but chuckled ruefully as he climbed into the truck's passenger side.

"Still worth it." he muttered to Lilly, who guffawed as she put the truck in gear.

= = = = =

The Charger's growl made Lona look up from her misery as the gleaming black car swept into Bunnee's parking lot, closely followed by Lilly's Millenium Rustbucket.  The occupants piled out, talking animatedly as they came into the already bustling diner to the cheers and applause of other football fans.  Laurie seemed intent on a conversation she was having with Jase, though, and as they came over to the table Lona had reserved she could make out what it was about.

"...seventy-five percent?  C'mon, Jasonnnn?" she wheedled with a heart-melting pout.  Lona couldn't help but be a little amused when she considered how likely the heart it was directed at was to melt.

"One hundred.  Champions drive the Charger." Jase repeated in the same unflappable tone he'd used since Laurelei had mounted the campaign to lower the goalposts, so to speak.  "Seventy-five percenters get to put on a white tee-shirt and car wash it."

"Dude!"  Lilly cracked up, shaking her head as Jason turned an amused stare on her, then back to Laurie, who was blushing.  Sean just shook his head, smiling a little at his sister.  With a wry chuckle, the lean genius slid into the seat across from Lona and relaxed, glancing at her.

"How're you?" he asked, his gaze going from casual to studying her intently.  "Looks like you have a lot on your mind."

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Lona curled her feet up under her and scowled at her phone. “Devon’s mad at Clara still, so he’s not coming. He was just kinda a shit about it -- Okay, he was actually typical Devin about it, and…” I hate my new guitar. I’ll never been able to touch it without thinking about him sauntering in here with Tawny, aiming to hurt. Making his shit with Clara our problem. It’s ruined.

She fiercely blinked back tears and said, “My evening has been shit, and I’m not even counting the fact that Etienne was around for most of it.”

“Well, that seems an extreme statement to make,” Laurie said. 

Lona finally looked up from her phone to stare at the other girl. “When everyone else is here, I’ll tell you guys about it.” And to give Liam more time to clear the city limits before Jase goes on the hunt. 

“But before I forget - Laurie, Lilly, congrats on the win.” Lona spoke with as much sincerity as she could manage. She hoped the others could see that she meant every word, happy for them even when she had a bad day. “You deserve it.”

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Cade and Cora had head to Bunnee's after bringing his mother and sister home,  ostensibly to meet with everyone and celebrate.  He was abit annoyed that he didn't get to watch the tail end of the game, his mother wasn't a fan of traffic, and so they'd left early.  Still he was out to stay on her goodside for his sister's sake, since they'd need her to run interference with their dad to .  After all he had promised to pay for some of it.  He saw Bannon's car outside and pulled up in the next open space, holding the door for Cora as they entered, and then made their way together to the booth.

The two of them were all smiles, and heard the very tail end of Lona's congratulations.  "Let me second that.   The whole team looked great out there.   I actually felt abit of envy and regret that I don't play football."   The other sports teams were well supported, but nothing really compared to the support  football saw.

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"You'll both have excellent seasons if you've worked half as hard as it looks like you've worked," Cora chimed in warmly, losing  her smile and chipper tone as she glanced at Bannon, "...Assuming nothing else goes sideways, of course."

"Annnyway, yeah. Congrats on the win. Good way to end the day," she picked up again, gamely forcing a smile back on her face, "Do I want to know why is Sean dressed like a cheerleader?"

"Bet," came the deadpan response from the buxom genius, prompting  a raised eyebrow and an 'Oh. Okay.' from the tall brunette in response. Coraline knew she was pretty, wouldn't intend to dance in a leotard and tutu for a living if she didn't have confidence in her looks, but God Damn, that uniform left very little to the imagination, and Sean was very, very pretty. She shuddered to think about attempting a pirouette or tour en l'air looking like that, and was thankful for small mercies.

"Devin joining us? I still have to thank him for the save up at the trailer," she wrapped up genuine warmth filling her voice again, gratitude for a second save.  

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"Devin is being Devin."  Jason said in a calm, dry tone.  "He has neither forgotten nor forgiven being told to go away and take his sister with him, and with the crisis over for now has decided to resume his pique."  Oddly, there was no condemnation in Jase's voice or even in the word 'pique'.  After all, the word meant 'offense' or 'indignation', despite it sometimes being used to belittle such emotions. 

Jason was familiar with pique as an emotion - his acid-tongued flaying of Cora had been born of pique as much as anything else, and as for Sara moving to attack him - well, Lilly had intervened, and Sara had apologised for that, and sincerely too, or else he himself would be in a similar state of pique.  He considered for a moment, and then dismissed the idea that Devin was plotting Clara's death over the insult.  It was only words, after all.

And Kieran, at the game... He was not to blame, Jase reflected.  Firstly, the girl he saw as 'his' was approaching another male, which was always a trigger for aggression, and secondly Courtney had more than likely directed Kieran's attention to that fact.  Hoping to provoke a confrontation, almost certainly, though to what end was uncertain.  Perhaps she had realised something about the sink in the bathroom and had wanted to see if Jason would react lethally?  Or maybe just wanted to assert her power by having him beaten?  Either was a problem.  He might have to discuss the Courtney issue with Marissa.  For now, he turned his pale gleaming gaze on Cora, giving her a faint smile.

"If anything else goes sideways, then we will deal with it as it comes." he said to the lithe, tall dancer with a certainty that was reassuring.  "And I say 'we', because you did good out there today." he added with a slightly warmer smile.

"Proved you wrong, huh?" she challenged daringly as she slid into a seat next to Cade, though she was unable to hide her smile at Bannon's words.  He tilted his head and regarded her with a sly glint in his eyes, his smile turning playful.

"Did you?" was all he replied, making a show of tapping his chin in thought, as enigmatic as ever for a moment before he relented, his smile turning warm once more.  "Yes.  I think you successfully challenged my vocal assertions.  I look forward to being proven wrong more often."  He inclined his head towards her from where he relaxed in his seat, somehow making the gesture seem like a bow of respect and causing Cora to be grateful of her dark skin as she felt a small blush rise under Bannon's intense stare, which thankfully moved elsewhere after a moment more.

"But for now, we're waiting to see who else shows, I guess." he said, relaxing more into his seat in a kind of boneless slouch that was reminiscent of the old Bannon, only without the sullen air as he drew a paper twist of corn nuts from a pocket and unwrapped them.  "If anyone's getting the shakes, I'll have an Oreo one."

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Sara had heard the distinctive growl of Jauntson's bike even over the crash of the bowling balls. She had been in the off set lounge where the video games were located, scooping up her quarters she crashed the car she was driving ending the game, and headed for the door. Stepping outside just in time to see Jauntson and Tawney climb back on the bike and speed away, you didn't have to be a mind reader to know that something had gone down in the diner, but she was and she raked her gaze across the windows of the diner across the street until she found Lona.

Even this far away the connection she shared with all of them was enough to feel the other girls emotional state and it was not good. Something deep was bothering Lona and Sara was worried. She leaned her butt agaisnt the railing of the short steps down to the parking lot and closed her eyes...

The sound of the charger and Lilly's old truck brought her back to the bowling ally. She watched as the gang headed inside but was puzzled as to when they had picked up a cheerleader. As Sara started down the steps and toward the diner, Cade's jeep came around the far corner and went straight into the Bunnee's. He and Cora, not noticing her crossing the street, followed the larger group inside, and Sara stopped once more and studied the Fellowship gathering.

Spoiler

Devin will receive a telepathic message it is up to him if he receives it or blocks it. if he receives the message PM me and I will tell you what it is. if he chooses not to receive well he knows he was called.

 

Sara came into Bunnee's and gave Sam a friendly wave when the waitress pointed her in the direction to where the Fellowship was sitting. 

"Hey guys," she called out as she strode up hands in pockets taking a closer look at Lona that is until she realized that the 'cheerleader' sitting by Laurie, was Sean.

Sara stopped and stood just staring at Sean for several seconds so surprised was she at how he was dressed, that it left her speechless.

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Lona nodded and slid out of the booth, “Yeah, sure. I’m ready for number three, anyway.” 

“Shake number three?” Cora asked, her eyebrows rising.

“Yeah,” Lona confirmed. “Anyone else?”

Bannon frowned. With his perfect recall coupled with his tendency to observe and correlate all data on his quest to become a Real Boy™, he knew the depth of Lona’s dark moods was proportional to the amount of sugar she ingested. Her father’s death was the last time she’d had more than two shakes in any single sitting. He rose, arms out to offer a quiet hug. 

She gave him a quick one then pulled back, but not before he saw that the simple comfort had threatened tears. “Last chance to have me schelp the shakes for you,” she said to the others at the table, clearly pulling herself together with effort.

As Sara entered and stopped, staring at Sean, Lona said, “Hey. Wanna shake?” as if nothing was odd about Sean wearing a cheerleader outfit.

Sara, was thankfully distracted from staring a Sean and looked at Lona instead. "Yeah, I'll go with, I need to process that anyways."

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As the two girls headed to the counter Sara attempted to connect to Lona, mind to mind.

<Lona?>

Lona started and snapped her head around to stare at Sara who was right beside her looking at the counter they were walking toward <don't freak, i'm speaking to you mind to mind, if you don't want me to just shut me out, I won't try again>

Lona's mouth made a little 'O' but she didn't say anything, she heard/felt/knew exactly what Sara was saying and could see plainly that she wasn't speaking out loud. <No...I'm... its okay. I just wasn't expecting it but I should have guessed. No this is fine. Wow.> Lona spoke back in the same fashion without even realize she was doing it and her eyes widened just a little bit more.

Sara smiled and Lona felt the smile in her mind as much as saw it on the burly girls face.

The arrived at the counter and the counter waitress, and older woman named Flo, came over to them. “What can I get'cha girls?”

While Lona relayed the order Sara continued telepathicly. <I can sense what your feeling, Lona, I can help. Kind of like what you did but with your emotions instead, but I didn't want to do it without your permission. oh order me a banana and strawberry shake please>

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Lona frowned at the offer. <I'd like to know more about it. Will it remove the emotions? Does it act the same as time, allowing distance between the events?>

Sara mentally shakes her head < I can't remove the emotions completely but i can change how strongly you feel them make the rage anger or upset, make the fear  less of a trama. I't not perfect but It might help you cope.>

Frowning at the counter, Lona considered the offer. It felt wrong and invasive or like cheating, but at the same time, she hated this sharp, hurt feeling in her chest. Also, why didn’t she consider healing a cut leg cheating too? Both bled, just in different ways.

<Yes. Thank you.> Immediately, the hurt, fear, and anger eased, leaving Lona with the feeling that she could breathe again. They weren’t gone, just reduced to levels that were bearable. There was also the sense of Sara touching her mind, like a strong wall leaning gently in. She gave Sara a nod of gratitude.

Turning to Max, Lona said, “Can we get a banana and strawberry shake, and an Oreo shake please? And two baskets of fries.” With Sara easing her trauma, then she could stop the shake therapy. The fries were for everyone. Mentally, she added to herself with a wry grin, Except Jase. Screw that tater tot thief.

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The door jingled as Cassandra pushed in. Without a car or a ride, she lagged behind the rest of the gang...but hey, she'd be fitter right? Because bicycle? Sure, she'd go with that.

"Hey guys," she chirped as she went over to the table everyone was setting up at, and squished in a bit to get a seat at the edge. "Hell of a game! I dunno how many of you were there, but..." Cass leaned over to offer Lilly a high-five. "...some real plays going on here."

Then she glanced over at who she'd assumed was someone's date, and realized that was Sean. Her eyes widened, and she couldn't quite contain a smirk.

"Well I came for a burger, but I'll stay for the tall drink of water." She gave Sean a big wink.

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"More of a shot." Jase said with a slight smile and a gleam of humor in his pale eyes.  "Though if we can get him up on some six-inch heels he could qualify, maybe."  He shuffled his seat along, making more room for Cassie, a rare courtesy amongst those present that knew him.  Jase usually needed to be prodded to make room for people at a table, with few exceptions.

Sean huffed something, but Jase was distracted by lights out by the Charger.  Peering, he saw Chet's Camaro pull in behind his car, and then Courtney and Chet both got out.  Chet began to walk towards Bunnee's, but stopped at a word from Courtney, which seemed to spark an argument.  Grumpily, the footballer climbed back into his car and waited like a dog being sent to it's kennel, Jase mused.  Then something odd happened - Courtney, still wearing her cheerleader outfit, stepped around the Charger and caught Jason's eye, motioning him to step outside.  Interesting.

"I'll be right back." he said to the others, snaking out of his seat and through the crowd to the entrance, his curiousity awakened.  More games, probably.  Still, they were fun to play.  She met him at the entranceway, but stepped back as he came through the door, moving to lean on someone's car casually as her eyes appraised his lean form.

"I wanted to get to you before things got out of hand."  She began matter of factly.  "I know that somehow you have become friends with the twins of Terror. That's... not a good place to be."  She studied his face, which did not so much as flicker, and went on.  "But that isn't what I wanted to talk about. It has come to my attention that you and your geek friends think that I had something to do with that stupid picture. I didn't."  She folded her arms, showing off an admittedly fine bust.  "If I want to embarrass you , you would be embarrassed and I would not hide the fact that i did it. Someone whom I had trust in betrayed that trust, and sent out that little aberration. Not me."  She took a deep breath, sighing in exasperation.  "I doubt if you will believe me, but it's true.  I won't even tell you who, you can have your femboi hacker find out - it shouldn't be too hard for shim."  She stopped leaning, straightening up and tugging her uniform a little to un-crease it.  "Anyway, I wanted to apologize for my part in it - for that's worth. I like you, Jason you have a lot of interesting qualities."  She moistened her lower lip slightly, meeting his cool stare with a more heated one.

He regarded her for a long moment, pale eyes inscrutable in the dusk, then nodded slowly. "Honestly, I didn't think you had sent out that Snapchat. More likely, someone would have overheard you talking and then decided to do it." He smiled a little then, the lights from the parking lot catching the copper and verdigris flecks in his eyes "And as you know, I do not embarrass easily. Another reason I doubt it was you. Too obvious, too trivial."   He flipped a hand, dismissing the idea.

"As for my friends..." His smile widened a little, not touching his eyes. "I choose my own associations. Much as you do. You're also somewhat interesting, Courtney, so I offer a courtesy to you. If you like me, then perhaps it would be a good idea not to set yourself against my friends."  His gaze was unflinching and glacial.  "I am very loyal."

She took a couple of steps forward, leaning toward Jason as though drawn before reaching up to his chest with one hand, her eyes on his.  Whatever thought she had, she evidently changed her mind, drawing back just before contact would have been made.

"I bet you are." she murmured, sighing.  "Such a waste really.  I suppose I'll see you at school. " She looked through the window into the diner. "I think Chet and I ought to find someplace else to eat tonight."

"If you think it wise."  he shrugged, stepping back towards the door.  "Goodnight, Courtney."

"Goodnight." she returned with a coy smile over one shoulder as she walked over to the Camaro.  Jase watched her get in and the Camaro start away, then turned and went back inside to the warmth and laughter of his friends.

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Cade after talking with Cora, went to go make their order too, ending up just behind Lona and Sarah, and smiled, nodding to the pair.  "Let me get that for you, I did offer earlier after all."  The towering baseball player was oblivious to the mental chat they were having, looking more like a normal young man.  Of the male members of the fellowship he was the only one who didn't have any sort of overt super noticeable power.

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“Not for me,” Lona quickly interjected after Cade spoke. “My tab already includes clothing and when you’re dating, I don’t think you’re allowed to buy shirts for other person.” There was the smallest curl of bitterness in her tone, but given that she’s self-reported having a terrible night, it might just be residual irritation. “Clara will pick it up when she’s in. But I bet Sara would enjoy the treat.”

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As if summoned, Lona's near-sister appeared in the doorway, heading towards the counter once she spotted Cade and Lona. Thankfully she was sans Etienne. She frowned when she saw Lona's change of shirt and reddened eyes. She slipped over next to her housemate. "Hey, everything okay?" 

Lona shook her head, but gave her a look that said, Later. After the milkshake orders were made, Clara added an omlette with pancakes on top of the strawberry cheesecake milkshake she'd already ordered. With the extra training from ROTC, her already active running exercise routine, and then all the screaming and panicking from monsters, she could afford the calories, but still, Lona knew Clara's stress eating patterns. "Is this everyone tonight?" she asked the table. "How'd the game go?"

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The door jingled and Marissa stepped through.  With a practiced smile she greeted the few cheerleaders who approached her, drowning her in compliments and appreciation for for dealing with Courtney.  They were ever tired of her snobby rule over them.  "I know she's tough ladies, but she's the best what she does.  Keep up all the hard work and do right by her.  If you need to vent or need me to talk to her, just let me know.  She just wants perfection, I can hardly blame her."  The little speech seemed as practiced as it could be, but if they noticed it didn't she.

Max won herself a hug a few moments of gossip as the Mantis place her order at the counter and went to go be seated.  On her way she stopped at the Fellowship's table.  Her gaze fell on Lilly and after a moment it was easy to tell that like her brother, she had no interest in the Fellowship any longer.  "Well, it didn't suck.  Well done, Pryor.  Nice work on the field."

It was the closest to a compliment that any of them were going to hear it seemed.  "I was out there too.  I scored."  Laurie chimed up with pride of her accomplishment.

"I'm sure someone here has a participation ribbon for you, I'm fresh out."  She replied with no hesitation or remorse in her tone.  Without another word she left them to their meal and sat herself in an available booth.  With moments she was tapping away on her phone.

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"Don't listen to that," Cassie assured Laurie. "You were amazing. You and Lilly totally carried."

She scooted over to make room for Clara.

"The game went great! I'm not usually a sports superfan, but it makes a difference when I've got friends on the field. How are you doing, Clara?"

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With Lona's refusal, and then Clara coming up he let her make her order first, even as Sarah nodded.  "Sure, I'm not going to turn down free food."   She made her order, and then Cade made his for Cora and himself before heading back to the booth and table area that the Fellowship had claimed, noting that Marissa hadn't joined them, and took his seat next to Cora once again.  He was settling in to hear whatever was going on, as he'd just gotten the feeling something definitely was.

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Someone slid into the booth opposite Marissa as she was busy with her phone, a faint whiff of tobacco giving her a clue as to who would be so bold.  Well, not bold, she reflected.  Just lacking compunction, fear, anxiety...  She looked up and raised an expectant eyebrow at Jason, an expression which had brought legions of males to their knees with nervousness but which seemed to merely pass right through him.  She winced inwardly a little to see him wearing the pink 'throw like a girl' t-shirt.  It totally didn't suit him - it totally didn't suit anybody.  Which may or may not be the point of the frivolity, but still.  Standards, people!

"So Courtney came to see me just now." Jase started without preamble.  "An interesting visit.  She gestured me out into the parking lot and told me she was not behind the Snapchat picture."

"Really?"  Marissa pursed her lips, actually raising her head to look at him now, phone temporarily forgotten.  "You believe her?"

"I have no reason not to.  It's too weak for it to be her brand of mean.  She claims someone betrayed her trust."  He returned levelly.  "She could be lying, but what would the point be?"

"Hmm."  Marissa narrowed her dark eyes as she regarded him.  "Is that all she said?"

"She said she likes me finds me interesting, and it is a pity I am friends with you and Devin."  Jase's eyes gleamed with amusement.  "I told her that if she likes me, she would do well not to set herself against my friends.  I left her no illusions I was swayable.  I'm trying to sort out genuine interest from artifice, and find myself assuming that she is ninety-percent artifice.  After all, the only reason to try and 'win' me would be to score a point against you.  I'm not exactly useful for or interested in her goals, such as they are."

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"Or mine, for that matter," she said flatly.  She was in full on bitch mode and Jase could tell.  Normally she'd have given the local case of social disorder a break and joked or flirted humorously with him, but at the moment all her words were laced with a matter of fact venom on them.  "You should be with your friends, Jason."

"I am," he pointed out with simplicity.

"I get that we're friends, but you came here to be part of their gathering.  Spending your time over here with me is rude and does them a diservice,"  she set her phone down on the table.  "I get you want to visit, and it's sweet of you notice me.  My brother and I gave it a shot and Clara was quite clear: 'we are not friends'.  I'm not losing any sleep over it and judging by my brother sleeping away most the day after all the commotion today, neither is he.  But right now, you've obliged yourself to be over there, with them.  It's where you need to be, supporting them.  Lona's been crying and she has scratches on her legs and arms, see the reddened swelling?  Might want to look into that.  I know defensive wounds when I see them.  The Ackermin  rothers have been pranking people at night, they might of jumped her and scared the hell out of her."

"Marissa," Jason took note with a smirk.  "Are you saying you care?"

She rolled her eyes.  "I'm saying my brother does," she huffed in annoyance.  "The chain smoking little head case has gotten to him, he's a soft spot for her, so if someone hurt her it's best you find them before my brother does.  One more screw up and he's gone.  You at least know how to hide a body.  If you can, check her back, sure sign to know if someone messed with her.  My point is, Jason, people over there need you more than I need to hear about Courtney's plot.  Thank you though, for taking the time to come and see me."  She piced up her phone as it vibrated and smirked at a text she received.  Swiftly she tapped out a response like Jason was invisible.

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He tilted his head to one side, regarding her for a moment more, then shrugged.  If he felt any ill feeling at being dismissed bitchily, he didn't show it.

"I'll find out what happened with Lona." he stated, easing out of the booth and standing.  "I'm glad you and Devin made it out of today alright, Marissa.  They are too." he added, simple sincerity in his words, before walking back over to the booth where the Fellowship were sitting.

Sliding back into his seat, he glanced at Lona and nodded over his Oreo shake, reaching for some fries.  With a slight smile, she tugged them away, causing him to narrow his eyes in catlike annoyance and sit back in his seat.  With some relish, she ate one in front of him, then reached for the basket once more, only for it to slide across to sit in front of her potato-foodstuff nemesis.

"Hey."  she objected as Jase took a few fries and ate them, staring levelly at her.

"Why do you have scratches on your arms and legs?"  he asked directly, his gaze never wavering.

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Sara set her food down and then sat next to Lona just as Jason returned from talking with Marissa, she watched the fry play between the two and then Jason blurted out a question which caused Lona to tense. Clara noticed too but it was Sara who put her hand on Lona's and shook her head, “Not now Jason.”

“What do you mean not now,” he asked with a head tilt at Sara.

“We aren't all here, and we need to be together.”

Sara looked around at the group a mismatch gaggle of friends and acquaintances who under any other circumstances wouldn't be seen with each other. “I tried this morning to get us together to get all of you to understand that we are all in this. We're kids we make mistakes we all have issues. Some of us more than others. But we are in this together and if nothing says it more than what happened today.

Four of you went off by yourselves and could have died, would have died or worse.

Charlie and Autumn aren't here yet and neither is Devin.”

She looks at Clara. “I know Devin has been a horrible person, I don't know what he did to you personally but that is in the past. What he did to any of us is in the past. He and Marissa have opened their armor and for the most part all we have done is take the opportunity to give them grief tell them how much we hate them and never once asked them why, most of us never offered them any sign that we cared about their efforts to start making amends. But some of us did,” she gives Lona's hand a squeeze then lets go. “None of us are perfect. But Devin wants to change, he just doesn't know how without help, our help.”

Sara turns in her seat to face Marissa. “Marissa I'm sorry for getting angry and blaming you at Jason's house when this all began. I'm sorry I didn't give you a chance. I hope you can forgive me.

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"Devin's not coming," Lona said, with much more calm than the last time she said it. "And I'm not waiting to tell people what happened. I'll text him, and Autumn, and Charlie, and whoever else skips. Does anyone know if Charlie or Autumn intends to not be here?" Leaning over, she reached for her fries, only to have Jase skitter them away again. "I'll tell everyone," she promised, locking warm eyes with his cold ones, "but if you don't give me my fries, there will be bloodshed." 

"Only because you asked so nicely," Jase told her with a faint smile, sliding the basket back to her waiting fingers.

Lona ate a fry and continued, "And Sara, Clara came to Devin's rescue, same as we all did. When they needed us, we came. We all dropped school to run to help them the second we were sure they were in danger, and all we've shown them is meanness?  That's fucked up.

"His leg would still be fucked up because I don't have the juice to heal without Clara's boost." Lona ate another fry. "Clara called someone who made her very uncomfortable because she knew we could use the help to save Devin. We all have done this, together.

"And I like Devin, but he said that we weren't friends first. He said we should go our own ways." She glanced at Clara, heart breaking a little at the sight of the hurt on Clara's face. "Clara just agreed with him. Marissa's been open about the fact that she doesn't care about us, only her brother, and she's only here to protect him. Devin is trying, without really understanding how to be a friend. He gets a break from me. Marissa doesn't give a shit about us, beyond her brother's interest in us.

"Honestly I don't know why is this even a thing. We were all at the table when the conversation happened." Stabbing her fry into the ketchup with a hint of frustration in her voice, "I get why Devin is saying its her fault, but why are you, Sara?"

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With remarkable timing, this was when Charlie entered Bunnee's. "Sorry, I was caught up with Kyle for a bit." It didn't take a genius to pick up the tension in the room. Why did he go into acting when there seemed to be a complete soap opera around him and his friends? And Marissa. "So is there anything I can do to help, or should I just stand outside the splash zone?"

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"Won't help, Charlie. Might as well sit down," Coraline interjected flatly before shifting her attention to Sara, gesturing at Lona, "What she said. We don't need to be together 24-7. Most of us are going to be hanging out at least part of this weekend working on this stuff. If the Apocalypse  comes before Monday, we'll deal. Honestly? I just wanted to be here to congratulate our football stars, get enough info not be completely lost tomorrow, and then go home and sleep off this crazy day. I'm done, and most of the bad stuff didn't even happen to me. A few people want to skip and get caught up next meeting while they take care of themselves? More power to 'em. They'll be sharper for it next time."

She frowned and leaned against Cade, wondering if this brushfire of a conversation would break up in time for her to put some practice time behind her and settle her thoughts.

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Sara bowed her head I'm not blaming anyone." She stands up, "Or maybe I'm blaming everyone of us. Devin is Devin he doesn't know any better. But what happened this morning that was on all of us. We let it happen. and  no Cora we don't have to be with each other 24/7 but we do need to be Together or it wins.. It's cliche yes but divided we are going to fail. and right now we are divided and whats worse is none of you seem to understand that."

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That seemed as good a segue as anything else she'd heard so far, so Cass went for it.

"I, uh, saw it. I think," she said...and yoinked a fry from someone's carton. "After we fought the...you know what. I got the bear and the stake and...I don't know. Sort of a vision quest thing happened."

At the expressions of the others, she realized leaving it there wouldn't be welcome. "I didn't see his face. He was surrounded by some kind of shadow or something, like a person shaped dark blotch. I tried seeing through it, but..." she shook her head. "Couldn't do it. But I did see where the bear and the stake came from. And when it got nailed to that tree."

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"We understand it," Clara said, trying to bit back her tone to something neutral. "What you seem to be saying is that we have to invite someone that's bullied us for years, that's still an a- still mean quit a bit of the time -  both of them - and just....sit there and take it because otherwise 'it' wins? You just described an abusive relationship." 

"Devin said we weren't friends and we should separate. I agreed because he hasn't acted like a friend. Neither has Marissa, to the nth degree. When he was in trouble, I was the first one to drop my life and go running to help him just because Lona hadn't gotten a text back from him. I showed up for him, even though he can't be bothered to show up for the rest of us. Right here, right now." She leaned forward, eyes on Sara, "Yet I get the feeling that you blame me for Devin's behavior."

She fixed the other girl with a direct gaze. "Yeah, we're divided. Why is that we have to go running after him? Because he's pouting over his own words? Because he's more interested in said pouting than working on finding his missing friend? Because he ran off, so I must just be an awful person?"

She turned to Cass, putting a hand on the other, a physical apology for bursting out over her revelation. "That's amazing, Cass. What did you learn?"

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"Hey," Cass said gently. "None of us is an awful person. Seriously."

She shrugged. "Devin was nice to me, the night after the party. I know he can be a jerk too, but I think he's just...afraid of getting close to people or something."

"Anyway. The bear was actually in the trailer. There was a little metal box it was inside. The shadow-guy took it out when we weren't there. The stake was over near the spot the party was. It was half-buried, covered in grass, and this thing knew exactly where it was. Just reached right down and pulled it out of the ground."

Cass nodded and stole another fry.

"I think those it picked those two things very deliberately. We should ask Dr. Cook about them."

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Clara groaned and said, “Because that’s what our lives need right now. More Cook.”

Lona sighed and rubbed her temple. “Okay, so I’m not dealing with this shit anymore tonight. We hit ‘have to glue to the hips or it wins’ along with Mr. Darkface, and I’m finally at the end. I’ll text Devin, Jase, you get Marissa, and someone with Autumn’s number please tell her.

“I have scratches on my arms and legs and probably needles in my hair and underclothing because Liam Day jumped me while I was running,” Lona growled, eating a fry then glaring at the now-empty basket. “He said it was punishment for warning Cora off him, maybe it was the Dark, I don’t know and frankly don’t give a fuck.

“What I do give a fuck about is that I used Shine on him to stop him,” Lona said, “so he’s got an idea something odd is up with me. I told him to leave town, but he’s a moron, so who the fuck knows what he’ll actually do. I know I didn’t implicate any of you with him, but watch your backs all the same. If he drags my secret into the light, then he may endanger more than me.”

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Cassandra's eyes widened.

"Oh shit, Lona, are you okay? Jesus...what a tool. Showing everyone just how right you were to be warning Cora about him in the first place."

She shook her head. "Anyway, your secret should be fine. What's he going to do, start complaining around town that Avalon's a witch and put a hex on him? Just stay cool, and if you think...for any reason at all...he might be stalking you again, you call us for help. Assholes like Liam only lift a finger if they think they have the upper hand."

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"I agree."  Jase said, nodding along with Cassie's words.  "Liam Day is a burnout, a bum, a clumsy nothing person who has been busted a number of times for petty crimes.  If he even realises what happened, what is he going to say that people will believe?"

He took a calm sip of his milkshake, glancing at Lona who was looking at him with a speculative gaze tinged with surprise.

"The most important thing is that you are alright."  Jason went on.  "You defended yourself, and got away.  Perhaps he will leave town, though you should maybe report his actions to the sheriff anyway tomorrow."  He smiled pleasantly.

"I agree with Cassie, though.  I'm certain he won't find the opportunity to trouble you again."

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When Cass made her teasing flirt about a tall drink of water and Jase immediately followed up with a short joke - really? A shot? - Sean was going to counter with a self-deprecating comment about maybe not being being a tall drink of water, but he did have a big pair of jugs. But he was derailed in annoyance when Jase added trying to get him into a pair of stripper heels, and Laurie seemed entirely too interested in the idea. He huffed and folded his arms. He'd gone along with Laurie's bet for a few reasons, but there had been limits. No make-up, no heels. Laurie had suggested pig-tails, but Sean didn't even have to nix that, his hair wasn't nearly long enough.

Sean did learn something wearing the cheerleader's outfit, or at least had it reinforced plainly. With the Shelly High Administration wanting to do all they could reasonably do to not to sexualize the cheerleaders, the top was was actually quite conservative, the neck if anything higher than most of his own regular shirts. But it was tight on him, and thanks to simple geometry, it couldn't avoid revealing a slice of slim midriff. The skirt was taking him more time to get used to. If it was a bit shorter than the cargo shorts he typically wore, it wasn't anywhere near as revealing as the running shorts many of the female runners wore. Yet, he couldn't help feel conspicuously exposed wearing the skirt, simply because it fit loosely over his thighs instead of having individual legs. He couldn't help but to keep checking the skirt wasn't riding up, even though if it had, his boxer-briefs offered him more modesty than most female running shorts.

He had been expecting all the surprise at people seeing him a cheerleader's outfit. He hadn't been expecting quite so many people taking more than a moment to realize it was him. It happened even among some of the members of the fellowship. It really showed where people's eyes - men and women - went first, and tended to lingered. Sean couldn't even really feel affronted - well, in most cases. There had been that one guy at the game practically drooling, moaning 'boobs' like a zombie until the girl at his side had elbowed him in the ribs hard enough to make him cough as she glared at him. For the most part, what Sean felt was more a bemused exasperation to bemused irritation.

Where Sean hadn't witnessed Marissa making much of an effort becoming friends, or at least being more friendly, with the Fellowship - beyond Jase anyway - he couldn't help but notice Devin was, however hard it was for him to overcome either nature or habit of the last few years, ever since the Jauntsens came to Shelly. Sean couldn't entirely fault him standing by his sister, just as they had stuck with only each other side-by-side on their perceived perch at the top of Shelly High's social hierarchy.

Whatever two cents he might have offered was thrown away when Cassandra mentioned the Shadowman collecting the Bear and Spike. His fair face went even paler and he shivered, hiding his instinctive response behind a long sip of his extra thick summer berry shake. Then Lona revealed being assaulted by Liam Day. Sean suppressed a shudder, a delicate hand balling into a tight fist under the table, as he gave Lona a sympathetic nod, his turquoise and jade eyes wide and bright. Being assaulted was always something in the back of his mind, compounded by what would happen if an assaulted discovered what in his mind he perceived as Sean being a trap.

"Thirded," Sean added about Liam not being believed if he tried to spout stories about Lona hexing him or using 'mind powers' on him. "And we might have another option, if he doesn't leave and/or he tries skulking about for revenge." Sean plunked his milkshake down and licked dry lips as he looked around the table. "There's someone else who has a vested interest in our health and the publicity of what we can do. I'm not sure what he could do about the Bear or Spike." Sean nodded at Cassandra. "But Dr. Cook has extensive surveillance around Shelly, and seeming a lot of behind-the-scenes influence. It could be a tentative test of what he can offer, if not precisely of his trustworthiness, so see what he can do about the situation. And it leaves our hands clean. If he can't do anything, or won't, there's other options available to us."

Seans eyes went back to Cassandra, intent and vivid, a hidden hand still tightly closed beneath the table "A question about Shadowman. You couldn't see his face, I know, but could you get a sense of what he is? Like, is he a, I dunno, let's call it a manifestation of The Dark, or someone so consumed with it, The Dark has near or complete control? Or is he The Dark's willing or not so willing minion?"

Or does he/it belong to yet another faction we haven't encountered yet? But that was needless complication that didn't need to be brought yet, when they knew so little.

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Unfortunately Marissa's booth was close enough for Sara to turn around and speak plainly to her.  I small fact she was hoping would go unnoticed by the gaggle of geeks and freaks.  It's not where she wanted to be sitting, but after a game she had to make due with what was available.

Still, she couldn't fault Sara for trying.  With a roll of her eyes and a huff she snapped her head around (dramatic hair whip and all) and met Sara's eyes with her own derisive sneer.  "If I expected an apology from you, Sara, you'd know.  That whole thing at the house is last week.  Let it go already.  Gawd."

Sara smirked inwardly, realizing that was about as good of an 'apology accepted' she would get from the resident fashionista.  He hands went up defensively.  "Okay, cool, whatever.  I'm just saying...," she turned around and slid back in place, now taking a moment smile at the absurdity of someone actually being mad about an apology.

For the better part of several minutes she tapped away at here phone, some of it was arguing with Devin, a bit was reminding Tawny it was never going to happen between her and her brother and on one strange occurence, Lona's phone beeped.

//He talks about you.  A lot.  I won't pretend to understand why, but don't be stupid and let a movie night with Tawny keep you from something you want.  If you want it, that is.//

As the Fellowship blathered on she ate and kept to herself.  As always it was one more emotional dramatic roller coaster for the Murder Sisters until the reason for it all dropped like a bomb in her ears (not that she intentionally listening, of course).

Her fork dropped to her plate with a loud clamor, enough that everyone close took a moment to see what had happened.  She smiled awkwardly and collected her things, dropped a bill on the table and hurried out like she'd left the iron on at home.

Several minutes later the door jingled and the office was practically vacant.  She'd phoned ahead and the man she'd come to see was thankfully already there waiting.  As she approached he stood and cast a massive shadow over her.  She extended her hand and he shook it with practiced diplomacy.

"Are you going to tell me what this all about, Marissa?"  He asked.

She inhaled and put on her best diplomatic smile, the one that won over the mayor and now was going to win over... "Of course, Sheriff Allister.  I'm sorry to call you on your personal line, but, there is something I really need to talk to you about.  It's about Liam Day, can we perhaps... talk in your office?"

"Liam?"  That wasn't the name he was expecting hear.  "Yeah, of course.  Please, right this way."  The small town glass pane in his door rattled as the door closed.  Marissa sat down and began to explain to the Sheriff what she knew about Liam and his 'jumping' Lona.

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Many, including some of his friends, considered Jason Bannon to be dysfunctional, perhaps less than capable when it came to interpersonal matters.  Those who knew his secret perhaps considered him to be more so.  And there was a lot of justification for that.  He possessed zero 'affective empathy' - the fancy term for being able to pick up on people's moods without conscious thought, which was a subset of the part of the human experience called 'intuition'.  But what he did have in spades was pattern-recognition, reasoning powers that were on the upper end of human capability, and keen observational skills backed by a hi-def, VR replay memory.   Lacking the usual hubris of the very smart, he was also willing to credit people with intelligence and reason of their own, especially those who had displayed it in the past.

Marissa had fumbled her fork.  Loudly enough to cause a clatter.  It had been right after Lona had dropped her news about being almost raped by Liam Day.

On 9/21/2019 at 11:08 PM, Marissa Jauntsen said:

"The chain smoking little head case has gotten to him, he's a soft spot for her, so if someone hurt her it's best you find them before my brother does.  One more screw up and he's gone.  You at least know how to hide a body..."

He knew Marissa well enough to know that the 'hide a body' comment was flippancy, something said off the cuff.  He replayed the number of times he had ever seen Marissa lose her composure, outside of mortally dangerous situations, and that integer came back a big fat zero.  She was grace under fire itself.  She had perhaps assumed that there had been a rough prank, something relatively harmless, and then sent him over to care for his friend.

Attempted rape was more than a rough prank.

Marissa knew him.  She knew he'd been ready to stab Charlie with a fork over the accidental strangling incident.  She knew that his response to Liam's offense was likely to be... somewhat grave.  To say nothing of Devin's.  Additionally, Marissa was female and thus likely took a very dim view of attempted sexual assault anyway.  She was unlikely to take matters into her own hands personally with regards to Liam.  Therefore she would be seeking another to intercede, to get to Liam before Devin, anyone of the Fellowship, and particularly Jason, could.

Conclusion:  Marissa was likely going to call the sheriff's department on Liam Day, with the objective of both punishing the offender and protecting both her brother and (probably) Jase.  He wasn't definite, but was fairly sure that Marissa would protect a friend from acting dangerously so long as it wouldn't endanger her brother to do so.  The sheriff's department would want to talk to Lona first.  Persuade her to press charges and make a statement, then go looking for Liam.

That gave him a lead of maybe an hour. Call it a lead of thirty minutes to be pessimistic, assuming he did not waste it.  He finished his shake, giving little outward sign of haste, then reached into his pocket and drew out his keys.

"I need to get home soon.  Dad's heading out early tomorrow and will need waking." he said calmly as he uncoiled from his comfortable slouch and stood.  "We can meet tomorrow to go over the weird stuff, if anyone likes?  Set up one of those string boards Cassie mentioned in the barn loft at my place?"

There were murmurs from several quarters, Sean demurring, saying something about going to pick up a car from an auction.  Jase nodded, smiling slightly.  "Noon then, anyone that wants to come along." he asserted, then glanced at Lona.  "If you want to make a statement against Liam, best time would be tonight." he advised, giving her another one-armed hug before turning and making his way for the door.  He wasn't nervous - he couldn't get nervous - but he did feel a thrill of excitement, racing against the clock this way whilst appearing to be in no great hurry.  Liam was not going to get away with merely sitting in a cell being fed at the taxpayer's expense. Not for this.

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Lona sat quietly, barely managing more than a wave as Jase left; Marissa’s leaving was completely unnoticed. She’d been either panicking since it happened, or desperately distracting herself from it. Now, her friends were doing what she hadn’t: thinking things through and pointing out the flaws in her reasoning. 

“I need to go home,” she said quietly into the silence left by Bannon. “Clara, do you mind taking me home?”

Clara nodded and stood, digging out money for the food. “And shirt,” Lona said quietly.

Another couple of bills hit the table and Clara wrapped her arm around Lona’s shoulders. “We can figure out more tomorrow at Bannon’s,” she said distractedly to the table. “C’mon, let’s go home.”

On the drive home, Lona closed her eyes and tried not to think. She tried not to remember the attack itself. She tried not to think about the fact that Jase had been way too quiet. But mostly, she tried not to feel the pain from Devin leaving so dismissively, or the hope that Marissa’s text had planted in her heart.

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Cassandra watched Lona and Clara leave, feeling like she ought to say something but not knowing what.

She looked back at the others at the table.

"I mean...she's going to report this right? Should we wait for her to do it, or should we do it? I don't really know how these things work, but I definitely feel like Liam needs to have a long and unpleasant chat with the police or something."

"Would Lona hate us if we did that though?"

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"I'd be pissed if someone reported something like that that happened to me without me wanting them to. About as personal as it gets," Cora offered into the silence echoing after Cass's question, not really trusting herself to speak higher than a whisper, intently studying the table and thoughts, feelings, fears, whirling behind her eyes. One finger traced tight, frantic circles on Cade's forearm underneath the table. Now she really wanted to go home. Great. Just great. Who needed some great evil shadow tree thing when you had just plain, old people around? 

"Not that he should get away with it. Just... Just... Be careful, " she continued in that same, soft tone before adding to Cade, "I want to go home now. That okay?"

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