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Devin: Date to New Zealand

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Friday August 30th, 3:12pm, Cassidy Residence...

Jack Cassidy was out mowing the lawn as a black Mercedes with tinted windows pulled into the driveway of the Cassidy residence. He took a moment to stop the riding mower and wipe his brow as the black car parked, but he couldn't see who was in it.

“You sure you want to do this Deej?” Marissa asked from the cool interior of the expensive sports car. “Don't you have enough girls on your plate as it is?” She loved her brother and only wanted him to be happy, but, like most guys, his ability to stop and think was severely impaired by insatiable base urges. She was no better, to be sure, but they currently weren't talking about her.

“Relax Em,” her brother rummaged through his backpack, making sure he had everything and didn't forget the essentials, like a charging cable, and voltage converter change of clothes and some snacks. “Laurie hates me, so this isn't one of those sorts of trips. She asked and I agreed, and I-”

“Always have to make good on a promise.” She smiled at him. “I know. Well, go on, get out. Keep your guard up, use protection and remember-”

“-to guard my junk.” he laughed. “I got it. Go have fun, don't do anything with Cade I wouldn't do with Laurie.”

“That's not a very long list!” She retorted as they both laughed and he closed the door and walked up to the house.

He slung his bag over his shoulder and approached the farm-style home and skipped up the steps as Marissa's Mercedes was pulling out back into the street. He offered her a raised hand as she beeped the horn and drove off. He noticed Jack mowing the lawn who simply gave him a look from where he sat, perched upon his riding mower. Devin never understood why people did that when someone got to a house and they saw the person approach... they just glared at visitors like they were expecting them to walk all the way out there and talk to them and seemed to not understand why they were being bypassed. Jesus, if he had something to say, quit staring and just say it.

When Carolyn Cassidy, Sean and Laurie's mother opened the door her bright, matronly smile vanished in the span of a single heartbeat and when Devin recognized that look, he realized he might have been better off going to talk to Jack. “Yes?” She asked, like he was there to sell cookies or something.

“Uh, is Laurie home?” he asked with a slight snark in his tone that hid what really wanted to say, which sounded something like 'why else would a hot guy be on your porch on a Saturday when we both know you have a hot teenage daughter, duh'.

“Laurelei!” She called, arcing her head back. “You have a visitor!”

“Visitor?” Devin smirked. “Was she transferred to Gen Pop or something?” He thought his humor was adorable.

“She'll be down in a moment.” Carolyn closed the door with a dismissive look. Apparently she disagreed on just how adorable Devin was.

He stood on the porch and paced back and forth for a few moment. 'Jesus,' he thought. 'Could be any more rude, lady?' He could hear someone stomp to the door in those Saturday socks people wore on lazy weekends. There was a muffled argument and all he managed to catch was a 'who', 'are you serious' and 'I don't know', with the emphasis on the 'I don't know' that Devin she forgot about their date. The door finally swung open and she poked her head through it like he interrupted her and her mother in the middle of moving a body.

“What are you doing here?” She asked swiftly like an old gate guards in one of her leaning in a bit of a whisper in case her mother asked questions.

“You. Me. That trip you asked for.” He explained quietly, understanding the desire for her parents to not know why Devin Jauntsen, hottest guy in Shelly, was actually wasting his time on a nerd like her.

“Are you serious!?” She glared at him with fire in her eyes. “You could have called.”

“Don't have your number.” He shrugged. “Which is in and of itself a crime.”

“You could have called Sean!” She snapped. “You didn't have to come to my house. My mom hates you.”

You hate me,” he added. His grin was wide like he didn't care one way or the other. “I'm starting to get used to it. So, we doing this, or what?”

She folded her arms with her expression contorted into a contemptible sneer. “If you know I hate you, then why take me anywhere? I was joking, I didn't actually think you'd take me anywhere. Besides, Devin, I can't just up and leave the country.”

“Okay.” He dismissed her with a shrug. “No harm done, I'll see you later.” He'd barely hit the second step off the porch before he stopped and grinned.

“Wait.” She stopped him. “Are you serious? New Zealand? We're not like going to the mall in Great Falls and I'm stuck with you because you're my ride? Because I'm not kidding, I will call the Sheriff and tell him you fondled me.”

“He wouldn't blame me in the slightest,” he turned on his version of charm which seemed to solicit a reddening of her cheeks as he forced an irritated smile to stay hidden. “After he arrested me, of course. Yes, I'm serious. I've been scouting it out all week, looking for things we can, ways we can enjoy the trip. I don't need to trick girls to get them hang out with me. I'm legit. Round trip to New Zealand, shopping and meals included.” The teen held out his hand in offering. “Won't find a better deal.”

There was a long pause as she stood there glaring at him, arms crossed as she assessed her options of either going with him on a once in a lifetime trip to New Zealand, knowing that if she declined today there was no way he'd be willing take her later without a quid pro quo clause. On the other hand she had nothing going on today. Still, she trusted him about as far as she could throw him. As his patience seemed to be waning, she made decision. “Give me a few minutes to get ready.”

“Bring a swimsuit.” He said casually, taking a seat on the porch swing.

“What?” She looked at him confused and not in the least bit willing to wear her swimsuit anywhere near him. “Oh, no. We're not that close.”

“Suit yourself,” he shrugged. “No pun intended.”

“Fine, why?” She asked, obviously irritated. “Why would I need a swimsuit?”

“There will be a boat involved.” He crossed his leg, resting his foot on his knee. “I don't want to have all the fun without you, but I'm not going to twist your arm.”

“Ugh!” She raged and stepped back into the house. “Fifteen minutes.” The door slammed and he heard another bout or frustrated mumbling between Laurie and her mother. He chuckled to himself when her reason for leaving anywhere with him was because he was functionally retarded and without her tutoring him he would fail his classes.

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They were walking through the neighborhood not long after she had gotten ready. It was awkward to say the least, she really didn't like him that much considering they way he'd treated her brother and other students at Shelly High for the last three years. Sean had told her that he was trying to change but he still seemed like nothing more than an arrogant prick who thought he was God's gift to women. She didn't say much the entire walk and Devin couldn't quite tell if she hated him, or was nervous.

He'd obviously surprised her today, but when she'd returned from 'getting ready' after making him wait for several minutes on her porch, she seemed like a different person. She'd brushed out her long hair that reminded Devin of a burnt orange sunset, and it was now straight and bound tightly in a pony tail and she'd taken some time to apply a bit of light makeup, not with a paint roller like his sister, and he knew it wasn't for him, she just wasn't about to leave the house and be seen with Devin (or any guy) looking like she didn't give one whit about her appearance. She'd changed into a pair of white cut-off shorts and a teal t-shirt. A far cry from what Devin was used to seeing her dressed in, as he'd never really known her or spent any time with her outside for school on a personal level. He was honestly surprised to see that the coppery, fire-spirited sibling of Sean seemed quite attractive in her 'off' hours with an athletic, petite frame and judging by her butt that he couldn't stop sneaking peeks at, she was definitely a runner, in fact she was in way better shape, for a nerd, than he expected her to be.

The walk was turning out to be an awkward affair of silence and half-looks to test who was going to be the first one to say something. Devin figured it might as well be him. “You look really nice.” He tried a casual icebreaker to test the waters.

“Please don't.” Her reply came softly but bound tightly in a tone that voiced her distaste for him. She crossed her arms, a sure sign of putting up a social barrier, and the way her hands grasped her biceps and traced her skin told him there was a good chance that Devin made her feel uncomfortable. “Your charms don't work on me, Devin. You're a misogynist pig whose slept with just about every junior and sophomore in the school. I'm not like them, you're not just going to say something nice and I'm going to drop my panties for you.”

He nodded. Well, it was a start. “I was just trying to be nice, Red. I didn't mean anything by it. I'm serious, you really look great. Also, it's one. I've slept with one sophomore at our school.”

“Really?” She suddenly seemed a tad bit more interested in the conversation after realizing her facts might be a tad off. “Who?”

“Not my place to say,” he shrugged. It was a bit of lie, after all he generally didn't seem to have an issue dropping the names of his conquests, but he figured he'd string her along for a bit and try to derail the optinion she had of him, which wasn't necessarily an incorrect one, but it wasn't correct either. If she was going to judge him, he'd preferred that she did it with the facts, not rumors. “Where do you get your information, anyway?”

“People talk.” She shrugged her shoulder closest to him, giving him a vicious side eye. “And why isn't it your place? I mean, you were there for it, right?”

“I was, at least, I think I was,” he mused with that charming tone of his. “I travel a lot, but this girl took me to places I ain't never been. Finally found someone I had a connection with, someone whose standards I wanted to live up to. She just, I dunno,” he shrugged and shook his head as his heart filed words in his mind and is brain struggled to sort them all. “Made me better? I guess.”

“Better than what? I mean, your bar is already set pretty low.” Laurie quipped with fangs bared. He was pretty sure at this point that she may not have liked him very much.

“Better than the person I am.” He said, casually ignoring the pot shots she kept taking at him. “So, I'm guessing you don't like me very much. Why is that?”

Her red hair danced in a slight summer breeze like fire on the wind as she laughed out loud. “Oh, you can't be serious. Please tell me you're kidding. Do you really not know or are you that fucking dumb?”

“Humor me,” was all Devin said. Laurie was a classic case of a fiery temper that could easily be manipulated as long as he remained calm. He and his sister were experts when it came to dealing with people like her who had a short fuse. He knew why she didn't like him, but she didn't need to know that. He needed to hear her side of her problems with him. He couldn't cater his redeeming process to her specific needs if he didn't know what they were.

“Fine.” She stopped walking and turned to face him, her arms crossed tensely across her chest. “You think you're some gift to women. You're not. You're a small minded, small dicked, asshole who gets his rocks off by torturing people and beating them up and humiliating them in front of your mongoloid associates, because 'the Jauntsen Twins don't have friends',” she mocked that quote almost verbatim from what Marissa was fond of saying about friendship. “You're vile and cruel and you and your nut job fucking sister are sociopaths. Have you ever stopped to think what your actions did to affect others? Could you imagine having to go home, to your father, look him in the eye and lie to him that the welt on your eye was from a poorly thrown dodge ball because you want to skip the humiliation of having to tell him it's because Devin 'L'git Muh Dick' Jauntsen and hit shit heel goon squat thought it would be funny to smash your face into your locker as they walked past you in the hall.”

“That's not fair,” he shot back. “I never smashed your face into a locker. I didn't pick on girls.”

“I'm talking about my brother you festering, greased monkey fuck!” Her voice became a full on shout that caused Devin to lean back from the sudden burst of ire.

“Oh.” He said softly, still refusing to get angry. “Okay, yeah, I remember that."  He nodded in recollection.  "Really connected too, I remember saying ten of ten, would bang again' you know because he looks a chick and I banged his head in to the locker? It was a play on words.”

Laughing and scoffing at the same time she gave him a disgusted look and just shook her head. “Unbelievable. Un-fucking-believable. You don't even care, do you? You have no clue about how much of a torrential maelstrom of ruination you and your sister are to the people of this town, do you?”

“Of course I do,” he said a bit more proudly than he intended. “Red, I know what I've done. Every bit of it, and I don't deny a single shred of any of it. I'm a dick, I've acted like dick, carried my self like a dick, treated people like shit, and generally just been, well, a dick. I get it.”

“Oh,” she threw up her arms and paced about a a few steps. “And that just makes it all okay? It's okay Shelly, all's forgiven! Devin 'gets it'. The only thing I hope you get is AIDS.”

“Harsh,” He glared at her. “But I'm not getting mad at all your little insults because, honestly, I deserve them. Although I'm stealing the monkey fuck one,” That caused a slight break in her defenses. He'd shown a little humility and mingled it with humor that complimented her creativity. “Red, I can't fix yesterday. All those things I did, I own them and I know it doesn't mean much, but I am sorry-”

“Sorry? You thi-”

“Let me finish. I sat though your tantrum, now do me the same courtesy.” He cut her off and pressed on. “Sean doesn't trust me, or like me very much, and I don't blame him at all. What I know though is that three times now he and I have stood back to back and fought demons from some sphincter of a dimension and we've saved each other's ass more times than I can count. I trust him with my life and I would risk mine to keep him, or you, safe, and I hope that in time he will trust me and he will consider me a friend. We'll just have to wait and see.”

“You spent years beating him up and now you're ready to jump on a sword for him?” She shook her head. “That makes no sense, Devin. You're full of shit.”

“Laurelei,” he used her real name, knowing the weight a real name carried in a conversation, like when parents measured how much trouble their children by using their first and middle names, but it also engaged her, the real name captured the owner's attention more thoroughly. “None of it makes sense. We have fucking demons running around this city. I can't take back all those things I did. They're done. I can't fix yesterday. All I'm trying to do is show you, that I'm working to be a better person. All I'm asking for is a chance.”

“A chance?” Laurie laughed. “With me? Oh, hell no.”

Devin rolled his eyes to the heavens and spread his arms as if asking for a bolt from on high to strike him down and put him out of his misery. “I don't mean it like that. As a friend. You mentioned going to New Zealand has been a dream of yours and I just spent the last five days researching every possible thing there is to know about the place, for you, so I could offer you this trip as a gesture of friendship.”

She sighed, still frustrated with him. As far as she was concerned he was, and always would be, full of shit. “I don't trust you,” she expressed firmly. “Far as I'm concerned we're not, nor will we ever be, friends. You've hurt my friends and my brother too much, but, that said, this was very nice of you to arrange so I guess I can call a temporary cease fire.”

“Yeah,” he smirked. “Free trip to New Zealand, you're getting everything everything you want, why wouldn't you?”

“It's not like that at all!” She fumed.

“I wasn't judging,” he said. “It's exactly what I would do in your shoes. No way in hell I'd pass up a free trip New Zealand either.” Simple comparisons helped to lure people into a sense familiarity, to humanize ones self with the individual with whom he was trying to gain rapport. It was text book. The more she realized that she and he were were not so different, the sooner she would calm down and allow him to greet her officially on equal footing.

“That's not what I'm doing,” she protested, but Devin knew better, and honestly didn't hold it against her either.

He looked around and noticed that there was no one around them, no homes or businesses, and it would have been a lot easier if he'd just been allowed in at the Cassidy house, but apparently he wasn't welcome there (who knew?). “This looks good. Okay, so, take my hands.” He offered his hands to her and she gave him one of those looks women give when they were trying to let Devin know his antics were not fooling anyone. “That's how this works. C'mon, I'm not pulling anything.”

Tentatively she took his hands and made very stern and very threatening glares at him while he closed his eyes and focused. A slight distortion wavered and built in the air around them and she couldn't help but look around them as he built up the energy to send them on their way. Her inquisitive mind had already developed a hundred questions and by the time she'd realized she let herself stray off into thought, the distortion 'popped' and Shelly became lush green trees and grass. Like someone had taken her picture and when her eyes got over the camera flash, she was somewhere else. The air was different, the weather warmer and ever color just seemed more vibrant. She was suddenly overcome with excitement.

“Where are we?” She asked, her voice pitching higher than she intended as the prospect of actually being in New Zealand was causing her skin to tingle. “Are we here? Did we make it?”

“This is Moturiki Island,” Devin said with a smile. “Welcome to New Zealand, Red.”

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After having appeared off the path that led out to an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean, the couple walked south as Laurie ran ahead and looked at everything like it was her first time in Christmas Town. To the north of them Devin pointed out Mount Maunganui a dormant volcano that had made the town of Tauranga a famous tourist spot. It had taken him several hours of late night exploration to discover the best spot for them to appear at, one that was not far from everything but still not someplace where people would readily see two teenagers appearing from out of nowhere and a copse of dense tree on Montoriki Reserve was perfect.

As the shores of what the local's called 'Shark Alley' came into view, a small beach just before Montoriki Island, the two stopped and she took in the sight of it all, Laurie honestly just couldn't believe she was here!

“So, if that's Mount Maunganui, then this is-” she pointed down to her feet.

“Tauranga.” Devin finished. West of here is Matamata where the Lord of the Rings set is,” he held up his hands to alleviate any rising concerns. “Don't worry, we have tickets already reserved.”

“Are you serious?” Her jaw dropped in disbelief, then turned into a slight smirk. “And you call us nerds?”

“You are,” he stated. “I've never been a big fan of all your table-top virgin award ceremonies, but you like it, so, it's good enough for me. Maybe you can teach me a thing or two, who knows? Maybe I'll find it cool before days end.”

They continued to walk along the path that led them down across the beach sands and up to Marine Parade, the main strip that led along the coast which was lined with all manner of tourist traps, restaurants and all manner of shops and daily living. While Shelly Montana was greeting Autumn, New Zealand was welcoming spring. The weather was beautiful and there didn't seem to be a cloud in the sky for miles. They were here in the off season, managing to dodge the influx of summer tourism that hit country between December through February, which was fine with Devin, as it made booking all their activities online all the more easier.

“You had lunch yet?” Devin asked as they looked about trying to take all the sights in.

His 'date' offered him a look, slightly askance with curiosity. “It's almost five, it's dinner time.”

“It's eleven in the morning here,” he smiled. “That's right, we get extra meals. Good thing too, because there are some bomb ass places to eat around here. If you're dieting, I apologize in advance, because girl, I'm gon' make you fat today.”

“There's a plus,” she spoke her thoughts out loud, not paying any attention to Devin as she talked. Her mind was everything going on around her at the moment and she struggled to take it all in and decide what to do first as her brain kept screaming 'everything!' to her every time she tried to formulate a plan. “Maybe when I'm fat you'll leave me alone with your stupid quips perverted one-liners. Wait. How many times have you been here?”

“Chances are, no. See, now that I know that's your plan, I'll have all new perverse fat joke material locked and loaded.” The two ran across the road to the strip of shops and eateries. “How many times have I been here? Until you brought it up, and Sean corrected me, none.”

“Corrected you on what?” She asked, curious why her brother was even involved.

“I sort of spent all day Tuesday roaming around the Netherlands... because I thought that's what you said. Then I mentioned it to Sean, if there were any cool places you wanted to go there, he corrected me by telling me you had a talk with him about coming here... so, yeah.”

How did you get Netherlands from New Zealand?” Laurie laughed, never, for a moment, shocked by Devin's boundless stupidity.

“You had your books against abs while we were walking in the hall, it pushed the ladies up and I was totally spending more time looking down your shirt than paying attention to what you were saying.” He admitted freely with a shrug, like everything made sense in his mind so obviously it was all a-okay. She face palmed and shook her head. “But, since Wednesday, I think I've been here maybe... I dunno, twelve, thirteen times? Nice people. Lots of stuff to do.”

She decided to let the personal violation of her privacy pass as arguing breast creeping to Devin was an act of sheer futility. Besides, it happened Monday, and she was currently in New Zealand, so she had far better things to worry about than... him. Still, there was something about him. He, and his sister, seemed so comfortable in society, no matter where they were they seemed to own the room. While Marissa seemed to want to dominate everything around her and be the desired center of attention, Devin seemed like the kind of guy who just wanted to show up, mingle, have a good time, make some new acquaintances, grab a handful of popcorn shrimp and then blow out of there. “Nice people? Who do you know in New Zealand? You were here, what? Three days? Who could you possibly, know?”

“Devin!” Came a shout several steps ahead from one of the store fronts where a large Maori man noticed the couple.

“Oh, for fucks sake,” she cursed her timing and shrugged while Devin laughed at the perfect timing of her question and the man's greeting.

“Te Ariki!” Devin shouted back, holding out his in expectation of a hug. The large man scooped up the small teenager and after setting him down the two grasped hands in the universal handshake for brotherhood and leaned in for another one handed hug. “Hey, brother! Man, it's gorgeous out here, you closing up shop for the day and getting some surf in?” The man called Te Ariki laughed and shook his head.

“No, brudda, too much work to do,” he smiled them both while Laurie found herself lost in his accent and the way her companion just blended into any culture like he was native to it. “I wish, though. This the girl? The one you can't shut up about? Te Ariki,” he introduced himself and took Laurie's hand as she introduced herself as well. “Hair like the horizon and beauty like the sea after a storm, as if born from the waves and gifted to us by the sun itself.” Laurie's cheeks burned with scarlet as embarrassment washed over her mingled with abundant flattery.

“You've embarrassed her,” Devin smiled.

Te Ariki laughed. “Sorry, but blame him, they were his words. I'm only confirming the description.” The large man tapped Devin on the shoulder. “You are a lucky man, my friend, to have such beauty in your life.”

“Oh, no,” Laurie interjected. The redness was still in her cheeks and the thought that Devin would say something remotely flattering didn't seem to occur to her one bit. “We're not together, we're just fr-,” she paused and caught herself. “Traveling together. Devin is a-” she exercise, for the first time in longer than she could remember, some restraint. She didn't know why, but she didn't feel like sand blasting Devin in front of this guy. Was it because he was a stranger? “Well, he's just not the sort of guy I can say I like. We don't get a long.”

The man laughed. “Yet, here you are, which makes him no less lucky. Come, have lunch.” He waved them into his eatery which was nothing more than a small place with only seven or nine tables along the walls of each side. There were so many other, larger establishments that she wondered what this small 'mom and pop' shop had that the others didn't. “We have a saying Laurie, 'kāore te kumara e kōrero mō tōna ake reka'”, he said, ushering them to a table. “The kumara does not say how sweet he is.”

Oh, your language is beautiful, what does that mean, what's a kumara?” If she could have stayed here all day and just listened to this man talk she would have.

A sweet potato,” Devin offered. He held his hand up to his mouth blocking Te Ariki's view.  "I asked the same thing." He 'whispered' loudly.

I don't get it,” she shrugged as Te Ariki walked off to collect menus for them. “Did you plan this? Throw the guy a fifty to spout some gibberish and what? I'm supposed to want to be your friend or blow you back by the dumpsters? You're unbelievable.”

It's their way,” he shrugged, still not ready to give her an inch when it came to responding to her jabs. A part of him felt like he deserved it since none of her complaints about his character were based in any falsehood. Paying someone to lie so he could woo a woman enough to go down on him was certainly not outside his wheelhouse of tactics, but certainly never in an alley by the dumpster. Have some class, Cassidy. Evade, and move on. Keep the conversation casual. “I was hit with about twenty of them my first day here. I should have written some down, they were pretty cool. Most are various ways to say 'work hard, play hard' or 'work hard and you eat'. They don't like lazy people in these parts, I guess.”

His tactic seemed to have some effect as she didn't lash back with some scathing insult. “How did you meet him?”

Te Ariki? Oh, I slipped him fifty bucks to spout some poetry, this whole shop isn't even real, you're about to be surprised by that chubby kid from Stranger Things.”

Great, ruin the whole thing by telling me the ending.” she rolled her eyes and almost smiled.

Devin narrowed his eyes and leaned in. “Was... was that humor? Dear Lord in Heaven, she's not a robot programmed to hate me.”

No,” she leaned back as Te Ariki set their menus on the table and poured some water for them. As he turned away from Laurie to face Devin and walked off, he offered the teenage boy a 'good luck' wink. “I hate you, rest assured. We can put that baby to bed.”

Fair enough,” he shrugged. “Te Ariki was the first guy I spoke to when I got here. Ran down the path like we just did, saw him out writing the specials on his sign and just started talking to him. We talked for about an hour, maybe? He clued me in on the area, told me things to check, in return, I promised that when we got here, I'd introduce you to him. He wanted to see if I was exaggerating.”

Exaggerating what?” Laurie asked, sipping her water. “Oh, all that nonsense about the horizon.”

Nonsense?” Devin smiled and shook his head, dismissing yet another of her comments. “That is exactly how I described you and that is exactly how I see you.”

And that bullshit is exactly why I'm never letting you any where near me.” Her defiant grin was almost as ablaze as her hair.

When I look at you I see everything I described to him. You are beautiful, whether you realize it or not, or believe me when I say it, are both, largely unimportant. I'm going to look at you and always see you as beautiful,” he sipped his own water and set the glass down. “However, I joke with everyone, but the women I'm serious about fall into more than the category of beautiful. While I can't say you're safe from my quips, you are, most certainly, safe from my affections. There are only two check boxes a woman has to meet for my interest and you, sadly, only check one. So, no worries.”

I find it hard to believe you even have standards,” her rebuttal came through piercing emerald eyes looking over her menu.

Marissa can own a room. She is gorgeous, articulate, dignified when she wants to be, and can turn on the class and work a room over like it was an art form. Yet, people still hate her. No matter what, Marissa, for all her beauty, isn't very well liked. I don't love her any less, she's my sister, but she has a lot to learn about people. Same as you, Laurie. Your beautiful. I just don't like you very much. That's the difference between beauty and attractiveness. I think you're hot, I'm just in no way attracted to you.” It was a common belief that Devin was an idiot, a character flaw he did nothing to quell the rumors of. Truth be told, the guy liked it that way as the more people who believed he was a fool the more likely it was that the majority of people surrounding him would underestimate him. The simple fact of the matter was the Devin, while not particularly gifted intellectually like Jason or Sean, most forgot that their mother, while a simple substitute school teacher, possessed a PhD in behavioral studies and extensive schooling in psychology. He'd studied and been exposed to more human behavior lessons and habits before he was ten, than most kids his age could have claimed in a lifetime. He didn't know much, but he knew people. He possessed an acute understanding of how behavior and temperament could greatly affect how an individual could be manipulated. Without the professional training and educational maturity, he and his sister had turned behavioral science and psychology into a deadly toy to play with people's emotions.

This conversation was no different in his opinion. Laurie was only focused on her own personal hatred for Devin and not bothering to care what was going on around her in relation to him. He wasn't trying to date her or even seduce her and he'd certainly never had a problem with complimenting a lady, some however, no matter how nice you try to be, just weren't having it. “So, this is obviously not working, I'm trying, you hate me, I get it.” He shrugged. “I've invested too much time and personal interest in this little trip, however, so, throughout the rest of the day, I won't say a word to you, save to keep us on schedule for the Hobbiton tour, and you can enjoy New Zealand and see if it's a place you might want to come back to one day. Maybe when your famous, you can settle down here. Who knows? I'm sorry for trying to show you a pleasant day, perhaps I overstepped my bounds, I don't know.  Boundaries really aren't my thing.”

His words must have carried some weight across the table as her shoulders sunk ever so slightly. First Jason, now Devin, it seemed like this was her week for getting roasted by guy who apparently didn't strong, assertive women. Or, maybe she didn't know as much about people as she thought she did. She was about to reply as Te Ariki approached to take their orders.

“I'll have that thingie from the other day,” Devin spun his finger all over the menu, signifying everything and nothing all at once. The large man laughed and nodded. “And whatever my lovely travel buddy would like.”

Gotcha, brudduh.” He looked to Laurie who was lost in the menu but her appetite severely hindered by Devin's thrashing. After an indecisive few moments The Maori proprietor helped her out and she was good to go.

Do you have any idea what's in any of that?” She asked him. “It looks amazing, but I'm not sure about crayfish and a lot of that seemed to have crayfish in it. I've never had them before.”

Me either, until I did.” Devin's reply was short and carried no emotion or mirth to it at all. It was obvious that he'd checked out. “I liked them. Your millage may vary.”

He didn't have to wait very long for to see how his words and attitude were taking an affect. She knew she was stuck here, with him, and the only hopes for getting home and avoiding all of the oncoming awkwardness was to take a knee and ask him to take her home, missing out on the rest of the trip. He had no idea that she was mildly attracted to him, which spurned thoughts of guilt in the fact that she should be crushing on the guy who tormented her friends and family for years, but the less he spoke, the more she did.

So, do you make a habit of walking up to total strangers and getting to know them, or only when you arrive in new countries?” She asked.

Everyone's a stranger until you get to know them.” Became his to-the-point reply.

You know me,” she shrugged. “And we're still strangers.”

He looked across the table at her. “I don't know anything about you, Laurelei Cassidy. Aside from, before today, I had no idea your first name was Laurelei. I honestly thought it was Laurie.”

I prefer Laurie, I hate the name Laurelei.” She shook her head, displeased with how it sounded as she poke it aloud.

He shrugged. He didn't want to socially manipulate her, but she was a battleaxe to be sure, and the less interest he showed, the more she felt she felt guilty for ruining all this effort he'd put into the day. “Laurie it is. I prefer Laurelei, though. It means 'alluring', which, you certainly are. Parents don't often nail the right name for their kids.”

Well,” she seemed to loosening up a bit, letting her guard down. “Devin is short for 'divine' and you do think your God's gift.”

Or it means 'poet',” his dark eyes looked across at her emerald gaze and continued on. “I don't think I'm God's gift to anyone. I'm just a guy with an outgoing personality and that's not for everyone it seems.”

Well you do have a way with words,” she shrugged. She liked this side of Devin less than the side she didn't like. He was almost Jason-like in his simple replies and spot on with dropping a answer that didn't seem to lead into another question or topic to talk about. The harder she tried to not make things awkwardly quiet around him, the less she ended up having to talk about.

Te Ariki returned to the table several awkward minutes later while the two teens were buried in their all access smart phones, thanks to the Sean Cassidy Mobile plan, with two exotic dishes of the Maori culture. Laurie eyes widened as he set down a dish of Toroi, a meal of fresh mussels with pūhā juice while Devin enjoyed the wild and exotic delicacy know as: 'the cheese burger' and freshly caught fries. She could scarcely muster up where to begin as Devin slapped the top bun on top of his burger and prepared to dig in.

All that on the menu and you chose a cheese burger?” His travel buddy gave him a disapproving look.

Boy's got no stomach for seafood,” their host laughed. “He tried the green lipped mussels, wha? Thursday?” He shook his head slowly. “Wasn't pretty. Enjoy! I'll check on you soon.”

Not big on seafood, huh?” She managed a smile, seeing that Devin Jauntsen seemed to not be amazing and awesome at everything. He possessed flaws, weaknesses, he was... human?

Those were gross.” Was all he said with a mouthful of burger. “S'all I'm saying.”

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They said goodbye to Te Ariki after what Laurie described as an amazing lunch. The meal itself was delicious, it was the company that seemed awkward. Devin had transitioned from his usual mannerism of quips and jokes, that she would never admit were mildly amusing when he was being tasteful, to barely saying anything at all. As they walked in the direction of Mount Maunganui they continued to take in the sights and sounds of New Zealand. The culture and the people were amazing and if she had the chance she would of stayed for weeks just listening and observing. Especially without it being tourist season and she could get a more authentic experience.

“Thank you for lunch,” she finally said, just say something instead of walking in silence.

Devin walked on, hands in his pockets, doing that casual strut he always did when he was completely submersed into a strange culture or location. He observed everything around him as he offered smiles and polite greetings to nearly everyone they passed on the street, especially if they were an attractive female. “You are welcome,” he replied as he spun on his heels and walked backwards a few steps to get a better view of a lovely Maori woman who'd just passed them. He shook her off with an exhale and turned back around. “The women here are gorgeous.” He said to himself out loud. She noticed that he was talking like his sister now, not using contractions and making sure the things he said were succinct and to the point and certainly less personable.

Laurie shook her head. “You never shut off, do you?”

“No.” He tapped out a quick text to Lona and tucked his phone away. “To much to do. To much to see. Why waste my time with worry and doubt?”

“But,” she grew expressive with her hands. She wasn't trying to argue with him, as this point, she was honestly glad he was talking to her. Devin was almost Bannon-like when he grew silent. One expected him to full of mirth and life and fun and jokes and when those thing were gone from his arsenal of rapport, all that was left was damaged teenage boy trying to hide pain and failure. Unlike Bannon, Devin felt his pain and recoiled from his failures because he had emotions and knew what it was like to feel. “You can't just go around doing whatever you want, Devin. That leads chaos.”

“So? What is wrong with chaos?” Became his reply and walked along side her down the busy street.

“Well, it's chaos, for starters,” she laughed a bit as she tried to make her point. “If everyone just did what they wanted, then we'd all be locked in our houses like it's the Purge or something. There are laws, and rights, and social moors for a reason, and I'm not trying to be a bitch, but, you just do as you please regardless how people feel about it and it's wrong.”

“So,” he matched her pace for the discussion, but still strutted along with his hands in his pockets. “I agree that if everyone did what they wanted, then yes, chaos would invariably evolve, or devolve, depending on your point of view, into anarchy. I am not everyone. I am simply me. I am only responsible for my, particularly tasty brand, of chaos. I do not claim any association to what the rest of the world does in its free time.”

“It's just, structure Devin. You're all over the place, literally, now. What is it about societal norms that bothers you so much? I just could never throw off the yolk of order the way you do and do whatever I want, whenever I want and the opinions of others be damned. I have to learn, and work, and shop, and go to school with the very people I'd be pissing off. I couldn't do it.”

He nodded, pursing his lips into a frown of acknowledgment. She wasn't wrong. How could she be? People were entitled to life how they saw fit to live it, or, were they? His style didn't seem to mesh well with the local stigmas on respect and attitude Shelly was accustomed to. “Do you know how many laws we have broken today, so far? Immigration. Customs. Travel, and yet we have made a friend. We have introduced ourselves to an amazing and historically rich culture. We are going to climb that mountain and look across a vast landscape and see how beautiful this big blue marble is that we are living on and later? Later we are going to see a movie set. Sure, it does not sound so exciting when put that way, but when you consider what that set brought to the hearts and minds of children and parents around the world, the way it opened the flood gates of their imagination to bring into it a sense of wonderment and magic, the place takes on a whole different appearance. We have not caused trouble, we have not harmed anyone or disrupted the lives of any of these good people, yet we are facing thirty five years, at least, if we get caught by the law because we are, by definition, currently 'inciting chaos'.” He shrugged. “The way I see it is, if I am not hurting anyone, who cares? When people tell me I can not do something, all they are doing is showing me their limitations, not mine.”

“But, you have hurt people.” The wind caught her coppery locks as she turned her head to look at him in time to see his jaw clinch.

“Different, topic.” He shrugged again. “My being a colossal douche and picking on your brother are not remotely related to my penchant for personal freedom and chaotic awesome way of living my life. The run down? My home life sucks,” he finally took his hands from his pockets to gesture up a barrier from a possible onslaught of counter points. “Now, I'm not saying it is a valid for reason for doing what I did, but I was angry. Still am. I hate my parents, I hate my school, I hate the people in Shelly with all their hypocritical God-fearing, bullshit ways.” He lowered his head and shook it, as if to clear the frustration on his mental etch-a-sketch. “I did what I did. I can't take it back, I'm always going to be 'that guy' in the minds of you and your brother and the people at school. I have to carry with me smashing your brother's face in a locker, I have to carry breaking Chet's nose. Now we have this. These abilities and powers and a responsibility to use them properly all while an ancient god if festering in the people of Shelly and men with guns are trying to kill us, secret experiments and honestly at this Gozer the Gozerian could shoot out of my dick the next time I go to take a leak and all I'd be able to muster up would be jazz hands and a 'yup, it's Monday in Shelly'!”

Laurie turned her head away to hide the slightly amused smile. She got him going on a topic he was passionate about and with his ever shifting attention span his pattern of speech went back the Devin she was used to. “And through it all, Laurie, and I've not told anyone this,” he stopped and took her hand, leading her away off the street. Realizing that she was holding his hand, she tugged it away as they slowed a bit in a quiet place they could share a few words in private. “None of them, the Nerd Herd, seem to want to step up to the plate and take anything that's happening. Decisions need to be made, choices will definitely be placed at our feet as something is literally trying to kill me, you, them, all of Shelly, and the best they can muster is doing airplanes in Jason's yard and call it 'training'. I've been to the Land of Upside Down Thunder, Laurie. I've seen what creatures are waiting for us and at the rate we're going one of us is going to end up hurt or dead and none of them seem to realize that. It's like it's one of their table-top games and all they need to do is roll a few virgin cubes and everything will be okay. I've, somehow, become a voice of reason for keeping them in line, especially Jason, and my sister and I are hedonistic sociopaths. My point is, I'm sorry. I have problems, you have problems, and if I could change the world and be a better person over night, I would. The fact is, that's not how the world works. Right now, we have to save it before we can change it. I'm not perfect. The douche I am today is the same douche I'll be tomorrow, but I'm trying. I'm trying real hard to be different, to be better. Whether you accept that or not, in the grand scheme of all I have going on right now, is largely irrelevant to me. I want you to be a part of my life, or at the very least be a guy you can trust considering all the time your brother and I are going to be spending together. In the very colorful and wild pages in my book of life you can either be a page or a palimpsest, but I really don't have the energy or the inclination to fight and argue with you all day. I just want to enjoy something beautiful, with someone beautiful. Can we do that? Please?”

She had no idea. Laurie had always assumed Devin was some douche who was a bully and a pig full time, never really stopping to consider the levels of stress the Fellowship might be under with the discovery of their powers, fighting for their lives every other day and the slew of other extra-curricular activities they'd been up to in the last month or so. He did seem different though than the guy she remembered, more intense and now that he'd mentioned he seemed to always be carrying around some burden on his shoulders. She certainly didn't expect all of that from just thanking him for lunch, but he obviously had been carrying that around with him for a long time and the Fellowship didn't seem like a great group of conversationalists.

She sighed and allowed her her eyes to meet his. She offered an apologetic smile and without warning wrapped her arms around him in a hug. “Maybe my bitch was turned up to eleven and it didn't need to be. Maybe. So, fine. Cease fire, for real this time. Please don't make me regret this.”

He returned her embrace, softly wrapping his arms around her. “Oh, you're so gonna regret this, that's a given.” They both shared a laugh as Devin's ability to not take anything seriously resurface. “Bet you didn't even know I knew words like palimpsest, did you?”

“I'm shocked you can read,” she broke away from him, taking a step back. “Honestly, up until now, I had no clue. I-I'm stunned, completely floored.” Her delivery was flawlessly deadpan like she meant every word of it, and probably did. “Now, come on, lets go see how pretty this big blue marble is.”

The remainder of the afternoon was a montage of breathtaking views and walks along beaches as they ticked down the time until their tour at Hobbiton. True to her word Laurie let her walls down slightly and tried against all her screaming internal mistrust for Devin Jauntsen to at least grant him the politeness all his generosity merited or do the right thing and simply ask to be taken home. From the top of Mount Maunganui to the sands of Papamoa beach they talked, joked and laughed, sharing stories and doing their best to not fight. It wasn't flawlessly executed and they both annoyed each other more than once, but they quickly got over it and moved on. It scary how the more they shared their issues and frustrations about Shelly, their friends and family how similar the two really were.

Hobbiton was nothing like she expected, it was better. While all of the nerd stuff was never really caught Devin's interest, like he had said earlier, he could respect the way those things would appeal to others and the way it gave people a way to escape or lose themselves, if only for awhile to recollect themselves to new challenges the world would throw their way. If Laurie had any composure left to hide the excitement of the little girl inside her, it was gone within minutes after the tour began. It was just the two of them, which seemed a bit odd to her, but she hardly had time to notice or care at the tour guide drove them across the 1,250 acre Alexander farm where the set was built, sharing all manner of lore that detailed how Peter Jackson fell in love with the picturesque Kaimai landscape.

They toured the Shire, putting the cameras on their in overtime as everything that was green, or flowered or looked like a hill with a door, it was immortalized forever on their phone. It was an awkward moment for the pair when the tour guide offered to take their picture outside the gate of Bagend. Upon her insistence the teens kept inching closer and closer until in the end Laurie had a full color, HD, vibrant shot of her and Devin, their arms around each other standing at the gate of Bagend, both looking as happy as a couple could be. As the tour stretched on, she found herself looking at more than she had intended to.

After a mandatory stop at the gift shop, the two were on their way. Laurie, who had hated him just several hours before, now couldn't shut up about the entire experience. She hadn't been happier in a very long time. After a swift jaunt to another secluded spot Devin had pre-planned, the two waked to the edge of New Zealand and looked down at the ocean from a cliff some three hundred feet up.

The sun was setting, but it had maybe twenty minutes or so left before it retired for the evening and left the beautiful country to the very capable hands of the stars above. Still, the horizon was alight with all the dazzling colors of fire and the sea.

“It's gorgeous,” Laurie said while the waters were ablaze in her eyes. A wave of flattery washed over her, sending a chill through body like a cold electric shock when she remembered that what she was now finding so gorgeous was the exactly what Devin used to describe her.

“It certainly is.” Devin agreed. The horn of a boat below drew their attention from the horizon and to the water several hundred feet below. A man waved his hand up at them and Devin waved back. “Remember the whole swimsuit thing?”

“Yeah?” Laurie looked at him with a rekindled skepticism. “Why?”

“Cool, so, it breaks down like this,” he smiled and faced her. “That is dinner and short tour of the shoreline at night so we get to see the whole island lit up. Thought you might like that before we head back.”

“Actually,” he face scrunched up in surprise at the rather thoughtful gesture. She hated to admit it, but the bastard was starting to grow on on her good side, like a fungus. “Wow, that... that's a really cool idea. Yeah, let's go.” She turned to walk off so they could meet up with the boat at the pier not to far off down the shoreline.

“Yeeeah,” he slowly drawled out, informing her there was a catch. She immediately stopped and crossed her arms, giving him the 'this better be good' look. “All we gotta do is jump.”

“What!?” Her voice hit a new high in his ear drums. “No. No way, nuh uh. I'm good, take me home.”

“Come on!” Devin laughed. “He does this whole tour and roma- uh, dinner thing all the time. We got to talking and he pitched to me that if we were ballsy enough to dive off Lover Leap, here that he'd throw in a little something extra for us! I forgot to ask what, so now I'm like really curious what the hell it's gonna be!”

“Are you out of you fucking mind?” She knife handed the edge of the world. “It's a five-hundred foot fall! I'm not killing myself so you can have a still half-frozen bite sized 'complimentary' red velvet cake because you leapt off Lover's Leap killing your date in the process!”

“So, this is a date?” He smiled and a took a step closer, getting comfortable in her personal space.

She pushed him off as he laughed and ran her hands through her head in frustration. “No! You know what I meant! He thinks I'm your date. Date as in wh-” she completely shook it away in irritation. “I'm not doing this with you. You know what I mean. We're not on a date. I don't even like you, so a date isn't even an issue. Dig a hole a bury that idea, now.”

“You're cure when you're flustered.” He chuckled. “And it's two hundred and eighty three feet. We'll survive as long we steer clear of the jagged rocks.”

“What?!” Her eyes couldn't get any wider if little fairies were flying about her face prying them open.

“I'm kidding! There's no rocks. Look, it's a safe jump. People actually do it all the time. That's why they call it Lover's Leap. Young couples take each others hand and leap off together. It's a trust thing, to signify that if they can do this together, they can trust each other to handle what life throws at them. Foreigners like ourselves, usually pussy out, that's why he challenged me. I think we can win this, honestly.”

“I'm not sure I feel comfortable leaping off anything called Lover's Leap with you, Devin.” She glared at him.

He motioned to the boat. “He doesn't know any better. Who cares who you leap off with? You, Laurie Cassidy are going to be the only young woman in Shelly high who can say she not only toured Hobbiton this weekend, but you leapt from a three hundred foot cliff into some of the most gorgeous waters your eyes have ever witnessed in person.”

“This is nuts! This is positively, bat shit, crazy. I can't even make sense of how I would even,” she looked over the side towards the crashing waves below. “Nooope! No way. That is madness.”

He tipped his head over the side. Nodded as if to say: yup, that's a long way down', and turned to Laurie, resting his hands on her arms. “You're right, this is absolute madness. Life would be no fun without a little chaos no and again, right? If you can join the football team, you can do this. Shake up your poise and discipline a bit and just do something without thought or planning. If it weren't safe, I wouldn't even suggest it. You can do this. It's one jump.”

“You're insane.” She chucked and shook her head as she looked into his eyes.

He laughed and cocked up an eyebrow at her. “Have you seen my life lately?”

“Lets do this before I change my mind,” she sighed, unable to believe that she was even considering this insanity.

“Yes!” He clapped his hands together and the two peeled off their clothes, to the swim suits they were wearing underneath. Devin turned about to give Laurie her privacy and when she gave him the okay, she was in a pair of small tennis shorts and a small tee with the ties of her bikini poking up over her collar. She wasn't about to give Devin Jauntsen, creepster of Shelly the full bikini experience. He recognized it though, it was the red she'd worn to the lake earlier in the summer on a few occasions.

He connected their backpacks with a carabiner as a black circle irised open in the earth, and he placed them inside. She cast him a look and he explained he'd tell her later as they stood facing the cliff. They looked to each other, Devin was wearing a grin of pure adrenaline and excitement, while hers was nothing but doubt and fear.

“This is crazy,” she exhaled with apprehension.

“I know,” he agreed with pure glee and madness in his voice. “Ready?” He took a hurried step.

“Wait!” she urged, urging him back to her. Her eyes met his as she tried to calm her breathing. Without a thought she took his hand. “Together?”

“Together.” He smiled while looking at her hand in his. Without another thought they ran for the edge, screaming like fools.

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Posted (edited)

Laurie stepped through the threshold to her bedroom and slammed it firmly behind her. Her slender fingers wiped tears from her eyes as her mother and father shouted one last time through the house for her not to slam her door. She dangerously considered Devin's way of thinking for a moment as she pondered why they were telling not to do something she'd already done. Were they expecting her to open it and slam it again?

Her brother had listened to the whole thing, but went back to his games and decided some battles were worth sitting out of. It was less about Laurie and more about Devin and why she was out with him so late. The two were having such a great time that she had forgotten about time zones, and ten o'clock Saturday evening in New Zealand was four AM in the morning back home in Shelly Montana. A million and one questions and worries were volleyed at her defenses but she stood firm without revealing where they went or how they had arrived. The hour long assault was essentially the typical parent argument of death and ditches and how worried they were. Like her brother, Sean, she was a good kid who rarely, if ever, did anything to attract the ire of her parents so she managed to escape punishment, this time.

Toothbrush still jutting from the corner of her mouth she went about putting things away from her trip or casting dirty clothes where they needed to be for laundry tomorrow now in pair of shorts and long t-shirt, she brushed while she sorted. It felt so weird jumping forward a day then jumping back to Saturday as her own clock read that it was nearly four AM and she chided herself that she needed to get some sleep. She recalled the dinner on the boat as her red swimsuit hit the hamper. She poured out the contents of her backpack, which were mostly just gift bags from the Alexander Farm and a few things they'd picked up around Tauranga before visiting Mount Maunganui. Among the bags were pictures. One Devin got for her was the photo the tour guide took of them outside bag end, separate from the one they each had on their cell phones. Like most places you could buy your memories at the end of the trip in the gift shop and despite arguing with him Devin insisted on getting her a framed version of their trip.

She smiled and shook her head, brushing with one hand and holding the frame in the other she looked around her room for someplace to place it. She decided on a clear place on her desk where her school books and homework were still out unfinished from when he'd disturbed her earlier that afternoon. From behind here there was a slight thump and she spun about to check, assuming it was Devin teleporting into her room in a chance to see her half out of her clothes, she noticed there was a slight distortion on her bed where the air wavered like hot asphalt on a summer afternoon.

On her bed lay a an envelope with her first name, her actual name, 'Laurelai' written on it. Narrowing her eyes in curiosity she bit down on her toothbrush and scooped it up with a suspicion common to those expecting spring snakes to pop from a box. Inside was a folded letter and from between the crease slipped a picture, printed from home by the looks of a serrated edges of the photo paper. It fell to the floor but she read the letter instead.


This is cheesy, I know, but I wanted to say that I was sorry in advance if I got you in any trouble. I forgot about the time zones thing and I know your parents aren't to thrilled about me as it is. For what it's worth, thanks again for giving me a chance.

Your friend,


"Jaunt, huh?"  She rolled her eyes and sighed.  "Christ, they're picking out superhero names for themselves, now."  She picked up the picture from the floor. It was her and Devin leaping from the cliff face, and my looks was taken from the proprietor of their coastal tour and dinner. With a little light left, the shot was pretty amazing, bathing them both in the fiery oranges of the setting sun as they leapt into the waters below hand in hand with looks of pure enjoyment in their eyes. She flipped the picture over out of habit and looked then flipped it again when she realized he had written something on the back for her.

It's a dangerous business, Laurelai, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” -Jaunt/Tolkien Collaborations

She smiled faintly, once again humored by his antics that never seemed to stop. They guy was a bag of tricks bound tightly in a box of surprises on an unpredictable timer and one could never tell what he was going to do next. “Smooth, Jaunsten,” she tucked the picture into the frame of them at Bag end on her desk. “Real smooth.”

With her brushing done and the day night arguing completed she crawled into her bed. She hated to admit it, but they guy really wasn't that bad. He still had a long way to go to earn the respect of her and her brother, but today? Today was a fine start.

Edited by Dave ST
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Side Fic wrapped:  +2 XP.  Excellent writing, entertaining, and shows character depth and development.


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