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Weirder Stuff Episode VI: Rainbow Shadows

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Spoiler

GM Note:  Welcome to the brand new episode of Weirder Stuff.  After much side fic and subplot, the whole gang are back together.  My rough roadmap of the episode is as follows:

Act 1:  Meeting of the Fellowship, sharing of all new information, and training / preparation for taking down Not-Cody and the Tree.  Have fun, indulge in crazy montages, RP the teens coming to terms with the task that has been laid on them as well as wrestling with their internal conflicts.  XP can be spent at any time during this Act, including at the close when I will award a small amount, but after that I am imposing a moratorium on XP expenditure until the overall Episode is finished.

Act 2:  Labor Day Monday Afternoon, the Carousel.  A happy, family day out.  Many of the Fellowship will be at the fair with family as Shelly turn out to celebrate their community spirit.  Jason and Sean will arrive a little later, but there should be a chance for everyone to write pieces showing interaction with each other and NPCs in the festival atmosphere.  At least until...

Act 3:   [REDACTED]

And now... on with the show.

 

The Bannon Farm,
Sunday 1st September, Noon.

"I think this is them?"  The dust cloud at the foot of the dirt road where it joined the highway caught Kat's eye as the petite, boyish redhead stood and moved to the edge of the porch, craning her neck to see.  She squinted, eyes still not used to the glare of the late summer sun here in Montana, and took a sip from her bottle of water.

"Finally."  Courtney sighed from where she stayed firmly in the shade.  Her brown eyes went distant for a moment, and she nodded.  "Yeah, Devin, the Allen girl, Jason and the unshaven hippy - Oh my god!"  she sat bolt upright.  "Marissa was right!"

"Um, what?"  Kat blinked.  She didn't much like Courtney's dismissive, bitchy way of talking about Autumn, who'd been perfectly cool and nice so far as the French import was concerned, and she decided to say so. "You shouldn't talk crap about Autumn like that.  What's she ever done to you?"

Courtney blinked, then a contrite expression crossed her face.  "Nothing, I guess.  It's just... I dunno, habitual bitchiness?"

"Well, it's not cool."  Kat said firmly.  "And isn't likely to get you invited back here.  So what was Marissa right about?"

"Oh, nothing."  Courtney waved a hand dismissively.  "Just some bitchy stuff.  You're right.  I should probably keep a lid on it."  The more-glamorous redhead's smile was hard for her to hide, though.  "I can tell you Marissa's going to totally go Evil Queen about this, though.  We're talking poison apples."

"Whatever."  Kat sighed, turning from her sometimes-irritating new friend to watch as the sleek Ducatti and the grumbling V8 Charger disappeared into the small vehicle barn.  Courtney had offered Kat a ride up to the lonely, remote farmstead, which had been deserted when they had gotten here.  They'd been told the meeting would be around noon, though, so they had hung out on the porch together, talking idly until Kat had sighted the dust cloud.  "Who else is coming?" she asked, eyeing the figures exiting the barn-garage, talking to one another as they began heading over to the house.

"Well, Sean isn't, you said."  Courtney replied lazily, standing now and moving alongside Kat.  "So I guess Marissa, Cade, and Charlie?"

"Yeah.  Sean said he had a thing to work on."  Kat noted, not adding that Sean was not coming mostly because he disliked Courtney intensely.

"Should be fun, though!"  Courtney grinned.  "I've never done superhero training before."

"Me either."  Kat said quietly, trying to quell her nerves as she imagined a cold green pair of eyes and a sharp tongue scornfully critiquing her every effort.

Spoiler

Have at it, peoples!  Meeting and greeting time! :D 

 

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Devin seemed to be the center of entertainment as the four approached the house and the awaiting guests, Courtney and Kat.  They seemed to all be in good spirits with more or less smiled on their faces.  Cassie pushed his arm, laughing while Jase just smirked and Autumn rolled her eyes.  "...totes gonna.  I'm telling you, she was totally into me."

"You're delusional," Autumn said between her smile.

"He's perpetually delusional," Courtney agreed, closing the remainder of the distance.  "C'mere." She held out her arms expectantly to her old partner in crime and fellow 'ex'-bully of Shelly High.  Devin wrapped his arms around her and gave her a hug, reminding everyone here that despite his professed allegiance to the Fellowship, he was, along with his sister, part of the ruling body of popular kids at their high school who made the lives of everyone (present company included) a living hell.  Autumn's life was shattered piece by piece by him and his sister.  Sean wasn't here today because of how badly Courtney tortured him over the years and didn't feel comfortable around her.  Even Jase on one occasion or another felt the abuse of the Brute Squad in Shelly, always trying to coax out of him some reaction or trying to get 'the retarded kid' to say or do something.  Growing up in Shelly wasn't easy to begin with but the arrival of Devin and Marissa made it far, far worse.

Now here was Devin lifting Courtney off the ground and her squeaking as he spun her around before setting her down while everyone they abused looked on played friendly-like.  Shit in Shelly Montana made zero sense sometimes.

"Put me down, put me down!" she giggled.  When her feet were back on the ground she slapped his chest.  "So?  Who's Mary?"

"No."  He pointed at her, smiling.  "Get out, you don't get to play in there right now."  He looked to Kat and nodded a greeting as almost an after thought.  "Hey, New Girl."

"Oh," she pouted.  "But it's so depraved in your head.  Love what you've done with her, it's like Victoria's Secret released a slutty Pocahontas collection."

"I know right?"  He smiled and said with a measure of pride in his tone.  "Oh, bee tee dubs, we're all gods."

Edited by Dave ST
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The familiar black Mercedes crunched the gravel of the Bannon farm's driveway and came to a halt not far from the barn where the driver knew Jason parked his car (which she took partial credit for restoring since her and her brother supplied the pizza).  Even after the car was in park they all knew she was still in there, checking her makeup even if they couldn't see her through the black tint of the windows.

Jason recalled her last visit here, where Hank and his father complimented on his choice of women as Alice Cooper's 'Poison' blared loudly when she opened her door.  Talk about an omen he didn't catch.  Things were less than stellar between the two teens but what he lacked in his friendship with Marissa he'd seemed to have found in his relationship with Autumn and that suited him just fine.

Music assaulted the air as Marissa stepped out of her car.  Her hiking heels were a statement punctuated by a simple denim skirt and a black and white top that fell off her shoulders and exposed her midriff where she proudly brandished her navel piecing of a glittering black stone in the shape of a heart.  Her car oor closed and she approached the rest of them, side eyeing Autumn with what could be described as 'seething irritation'.

"Jase," she greeted their host with nothing more than a single word that was as much a brick wall to block any of his responses as it was a hello.  "Minions."  She greeted everyone else.

"So, big news," Courtney's smile grew wide.  "According to your brother, we're gods.  Like actual gods.  Road trip plot bombs, am I right?"

"Yeah, I know."  Marissa said with a shrug.  "I was born to be worshiped, sister.  Where the fuck you been?  I did not need road a trip to tell me that."  It was here in front of Marissa that the other saw the old dichotomy between the two.  For some reason or another, Courtney was uneasy or even fearful around her 'friend'.  Like no matter what she would never be worthy of Marissa's company and the evil twin lorded it over her.  She was being shitty and it was obvious but it was also known that apparently her and Autumn had beef that was yet uncooked.  "Please tell me you brought back something other than that.  I can't handle another series of cryptic riddles and ancient stories that are vague and unreliable."

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"I'm certain the efforts of those of us who have been working towards the group's goals will prove satisfactory."  Jase's affirmation should have been said with a hint of sarcasm or irony, with a raised eyebrow and perhaps a wry smile.  Instead the line was delivered in a tone that was as ambiguously bland as his expression - save for the faint gleam that appeared and disappeared in his gaze as, somewhere beneath the green ice, something far older than a sixteen year old youth flashed a fin or, perhaps, a claw.  If Marissa's curt greeting and catty manner had affected him at all, it was anyone's guess how or to what extent as he turned his stare on Courtney and Kat.  "Were you waiting long?"  he asked with simple courtesy.

"Fifteen minutes or so."  Courtney said when it became apparent Kat was, at least momentarily, tongue-tied.  The telepath reached out, an instinct for her by now, and tried to get a sense of their host's emotions, a task that was easy enough with anyone else but with Jase simply left her with the sense of touching a dark, cold wall of ice the consistency of diamond.  Which would be no great revelation, except that as she'd sensed his mind just a minute or two ago, sitting in the Charger with Autumn, a faint warmth of feeling had been sensed.  But now?  Zip.  He was buttoned up and on guard, whether due to her presence, Marissa's curtness or just from habit when around others, the redhead could not tell as the lean youth nodded.

"We're still waiting on one or two more, I believe."  Jason indicated the larger barn that served as the Fellowship's HQ.  "There's cold drinks and some snacks up in the war room.  Let's go and get comfortable."

"War room?"  Cassie asked, grinning.  Jason smiled, shrugging as his hand found Autumn's and he began leading everyone over to the barn.

"Situation Room, perhaps?"  he suggested.  Autumn found herself smiling, for the moment dismissing whatever stick Marissa had up her ass as her boyfriend and her partner in plucky investigation bantered.

"Fortress of Jaseitude."  Devin chimed in.

"Bet it has meathooks and-"  Courtney began, then stopped as the doors were opened and she, along with the others, passed through into the colour-strewn paradise of the indoor greenhouse / hothouse.  "...holy shit."

"Yeah."  Marissa muttered, feeling an unaccountable pang of... something or other as she watched Courtney and Kat react to the beauty around them.

"Holy shit."  Courtney said again, mildly entranced.  "Did he- did you-?"

"Yes."  Jason said simply, glancing back once as he led them through the riot of sights and scents that were, by now, at least somewhat familiar to the others.  He didn't hurry those that wanted to linger a little, merely waited by the door leading to the stairs up, Autumn's hand slipping from his as she moved to investigate a cluster of orchids and breathe in their scent.  Her last and only visit to this garden to date had been too short, it seemed.  There was still more to see, as timed sprays of water struck rainbows from the sunlamps overhead and trickled down over rich green foliage and lush blooms.  Jase smiled a little as he watched her, and the others.  "I'll be upstairs setting out chairs." he said quietly.  "Since we're still waiting for others, take your time if you wish.  I ask that you be careful what you touch."

"Careful how?"  Kat asked as she found her voice.  Jason's lips twitched in a wry smile.

"Don't touch anything set out of easy reach and marked 'Do Not Touch'." he said simply.  "It would be inadvisable."  And with that he was gone, ascending the stairs to the loft.

 

Spoiler

Description of the 'garden' can be found  HERE

The upstairs loft space is Jason's combination workshop, botanical lab, practical study space, and exercise room when it's not being used for Fellowship argument sessions meetings.  A pinboard, courtesy of Cass, is currently up on one wall with notes from the last group meeting here, including a photo of the Man In Black / Trickster / Coyote.  It's been tidied a little and expanded with small, neat notes pinned elaborating on the relationships between the Project, Aeon Society, Branch 9, Doctor Klein, Doctor Cook and Site B, as well as Crossroads underground facility.

A large folding table has been set in the middle of the room, and Jason will be setting out chairs around it if someone goes right on up.  A hanging punch-bag, a mat and an old but serviceable weight bench are at one end of the large rectangular loft, and workbenches and shelves line the walls, various projects of Jason's in various stages on their tidy surfaces.  A large window is open at the far end, and several smaller windows around the room, allowing the warm end-of-summer breeze to run through the loft along with plenty of natural light.

 

Edited by GDP_ST
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"It's pretty amazing, huh?" the taller, freckled redhead asked- mostly rhetorically- as she approached Kat and nudged the petite girl companionably with her hip, the oceanic hue of her eyes tinged with reflected hints of green. "I've only been here once, but he's really not kidding about not touching things," she admitted, pulling her hair back with one hand and leaning down to breathe in the heady scent of the creamy white freesias nearby. "Some of these are really toxic and ohhh, holy fuck, that's sex in a flowerpot." She inhaled again, deeply, and sighed as her unspoken frustrations with the trip to Browning, Marissa's inexplicable 'tude, and the looming Serious Talk she was going to need to have with her mom all just sort of... dissipated like so much water vapor in the dense, humid air.

It was easy for Autumn to forget, surrounded by the verdant glory of this miniature Eden, that she was still in Shelly, still firmly grounded in reality and not some primeval wonderland of warmth and botanical beauty. Yeah, she decided, smiling despite the deeply personal and existential concerns still lingering in the back of her mind. Definitely one of my favorite places. The sensory kaleidoscope of color, fragrance, and texture was no less captivating for having seen it once before; if anything, the growing awareness of life all around her only served to heighten the experience, layering a scintillating, intangible vibrancy over that which the redhead could experience with her more mundane senses. ...And yet, for all its seeming wildness, she knew that there was an underlying order in the chaos, each specimen meticulously arranged and cultivated according to the desires and aesthetic sensibilities of its creator. Here, the curious elemental polarities of his nature intersected perfectly- an idea which broadened the smile on her lips as it occurred to her, watching Jason disappear up the stairs to what she guessed was the second floor loft and "The Fortress of Jaseitude" (Working Title).

"I'm gonna see if he needs any help," Autumn added thoughtfully. The garden would still be here after, and she could always sneak down if things got too crazy, or if she got bored. She'd also been late for the last big meeting here, so what lay upstairs was still a total mystery. Besides, she reasoned, it was only polite to offer, right? Right. Totally. It had nothing to do with stealing a couple more minutes of alone-time at all. She was just being a good guest, and he'd helped out at breakfast, anyway, so it was only fair. Breaking away from the others filtering in, she headed toward the door through which Jason had vanished, humming quietly as she did so.

"Hey, Jase?" she called as she mounted the wooden stairs leading upward. She could hear him moving around up there, the sound of something scraping on the floor, then silence- that eerie stillness she remembered from the phone call earlier in the week. It sent a tiny shiver down her spine, that unearthly quiet, and the intrepid redhead fought against the instinctive urge to hold her breath for those last few steps. She knew he was up there, so it was fine. No big deal. "Do you need any-"

"Sure," he replied, so calmly and from such close proximity Autumn was pretty sure she was dead. 

"Jesus fu-hmmm!" she just managed to clap a hand over her mouth, stifling the shriek of surprise as she whirled, leveling an accusatory stare at The Effing Boyfriend. "Ohmygod!" Heart pounding furiously somewhere just south of her larynx, the startled young woman blinked incredulously, wide blue eyes meeting cool green ones that sparkled faintly with amusement.

"No, just me," Jase quipped dryly, moving to pick up another chair.

"Ugh!" Simultaneously scowling miserably and trying desperately not to laugh, Autumn took in the 'war room' as she waited for her heart rate to drop again, and for her breathing to return to something resembling normal human respiration. It definitely looked more like a place Jason would just... hang out, than his room had, she decided, noting the workbenches and exercise area. Functional. Practical. Utterly apart from the lush world of the garden downstairs. When she'd recovered sufficiently, she grabbed a chair, unfolding it and positioning it in an empty space around the large table in the center of the room. It only took a couple of minutes, at most, the two of them working in relative silence as she glanced, now and then, at his shoulders, or the outline of his profile silhouetted against one of the open windows. Maybe Devin could teach her to draw... Hmm.

As her eyes sketched the contours of Jason's back, movement followed, her outstretched fingers running lightly down his spine. "All done?"

Edited by Vivi OOC
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"I believe so."  Jase replied, almost unconsciously straightening and lengthening his spine under the caress.  Even though he was wearing a shirt, he could feel trails of electricity following the course of her splayed fingertips as he marveled at the sheer power of such a casual physical connection.  Turning towards Autumn, he met her eyes and both of them felt it then, that primal and amoral wanting hitting them like fine liquor, warming and uncoiling through their veins.  Was that all it took? Jason asked himself.  A touch and a glance?  What was this?

"Good." Autumn said, her voice low as she looked at her hand, which hadn't left Jason as he'd turned around and was now splayed over his heart.  She could feel it there through the cotton of his t-shirt under her palm, a steady and powerful drum-beat that had increased slightly as their eyes met.  She looked back up at his eyes, feeling herself drawn up into the cool green pools, knowing that beyond them was that deliciously searing emerald flame that burned for her.  "We, uh, should..."

"Take advantage of the moment?"  Jason's voice was little more than a breathed murmur as he stepped closer.  "I agree."  Autumn could have pushed against him, her hand on his chest could have halted him with a gentle pressure.  But instead her hand slid up, over his collarbone and shoulder, and round to the back of his neck, fingers tangling in the shaggy hair there as their lips met, her other hand sliding up behind his back and pulling him close as she breathed him in with a sigh that was part whimper of need.  Jason's hands encircled her hips to her ass, lifting her on her toes into the kiss as their mouths opened against each other and the world fell away from them both, soaring as they were on the thermals of... well... fwoosh.

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It was hot out at Jason's family's farm, and the moment the air rushing around her on Devin's motorcycle stopped that heat crowded eagerly in. Cassandra dropped back a minute as everyone met up in front of the barn and took some wider-angle photos of the fields and the distant copse of trees one could see from the front yard. There was a certain electric tingle in the air that she didn't have a word for. An anticipation. Important things were about to happen. Possibility was as thick and as cloyingly present as the last gasp of summer warmth.

She followed everyone into the barn. It wasn't Cassie's first time in, but she found herself moving between the rows of plants, running her hand through the thin spray of misters, taking close-up photographs of some of the cooler flowers and plants. Respect for Jase...and perhaps a sense that she wanted to keep her phone intact...prevented her from wider shots that showed what the building was, or what else was in it.

It gave her an opportunity to peoplewatch as well. A blind woman couldn't miss the ice steaming between Marissa and Autumn...and some coolness towards Jase as well. Nor did it take Bob Woodward to figure out what that was about, though it was weird thinking of Marissa having feelings for someone. Maybe it was more of a possessiveness thing; she'd decided she wanted him, and it wasn't really 'feelings?' Or maybe she'd just misjudged Marissa? Watching her more closely, Cassandra though there was a kind of distance between the alpha bitch of Shelly High and everyone in the Fellowship, really. Not just a metaphorical one either. Mari wasn't meeting eyes, wasn't even cutting people down the way she usually did. It felt a little like she was trying to act as if the others weren't even there. Which was...a little weird. Preoccupied maybe, with this Jase drama?

Courtney was the other one Cassie wasn't sure what to make of. She 'shined,' but wasn't really 'one of them,' in a real sense. Hell, she'd been helping Dr Cook, by reading minds and pushing people's behavior. And now they were going to try to train her to use her powers more? Give her some kind of power-boosting bracelet?

You didn't have to be psychic to know that wouldn't end well.

Huh boy. And there was Autumn going up after Jase, where they'd be all alone. Time to run interference on the Evil Queen.

You owe your wing-girl for this, Autumn...

Cassandra went over to where Marissa was standing with Courtney in her shadow, arms folded and glowering at the flowers around her. Had she noticed Autumn slipping away? Cass wasn't sure.

"Hey, Marissa," she said cheerily. "Glad you could make it. We've all got a lot to go over today. Some...really dark stuff, some of it."

Courtney gave her an exasperated look, and Cassandra realize she could feel...or maybe see...or...well she could sense the 'shine' in Courtney brushing over her, snagging gently over her head with a touch as light as cobwebs. Without thinking she automatically brushed back with her own shine, breaking the lines of power and pushing the net off of her.

Marissa's beta-girl looked at her sharply, then narrowed her eyes, but said nothing. Cassandra kept her focus, or at least her apparent focus, on Marissa all through it.

 

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"Really dark," Marissa said, bored.  "Great.  Do you think I don't notice someone running interference while Jason and Autumn go upstairs to make out?"  She raised a sharp, manicured fingernail.  Cassie had always wondered why she selected those claw style acrylics.  They did look pretty cool, but also scar-... oh, right.  "Good effort, Cassie, but I'm not mad about it.  Really.  It is what it is and all that."

"Okay, really, what is wrong with you?"  Courtney asked, placing her arm around her friend.  "You do seem pissy about something."

Marissa rolled her eyes and sighed.  "Cade and I... you know... a little while ago and I'm just really sore and really cranky."  She didn't dwell on it any more than necessary, instead shifting her attention back to Cassie.  "Cassie, I don't know what they've told you, if anything, but yes.  Yes, I'm a little pissed at Autumn.  I did have a thing for Jason and it stings that he went after her, but not for the reasons you might think.  It's not jealousy, it's worry.  Jason displays all the classic signs of an abuser.  I'm not with Cade because I'm crushing on Cade, I'm with him to get Jason to leave me alone.  He scared me, in my own home no less, and I needed some sort of a buffer to keep him away.  Now, he's just moved on to Autumn and doing it all over again."

She shrugged.  "So there, now you know my side of the story.  Go write a slam piece or whatever you do with people's private business."

Edited by Dave ST

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Cassandra was quiet for a second as she tried to wrap her head around that rapid-fire succession of brain-jabs.

"Wow, okay...that's genuinely awful, and I'm sorry you went through it. I had no idea. If you ever want to talk about any of that, totally confidentially, with me, please feel like you can."

She was really wanting to know exactly how Jason had scared her, but it seemed a little insensitive to grill her about it.

But. But. Maybe just a little?

"So...you're pissed at Autumn because you're worried about her...and you were just 'you know' with Cade even though you don't have feelings for him?"

Fucking Cass.

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Marissa stopped to think, more to process, then shrugged.  "Yes?  I mean, I guess.  I don't know.  I was pissed at Autumn because she went after the guy I was crushing on and didn't even tell me.  That's a serious violation of the Girl Code.  After all, I totally got dibs.  Things were totally cool between Jase and I.  We were doing a little flirting, but I was under the impression he knew it was all playful.  Then he gives me a gift and after that he just kisses me, just all in my space, his lips on mine, telling me he loves me, and shit just got weird and I was doing my best to keep my composure at that point.  You might think I'm over reacting, I mean if Charlie or Cade had done it, I may not have been so wigged out, but Jason doesn't take well to negative feedback.  He holds weapons to people's throats and shatters every bone in their body and he threatens to rip out organs.  I know you guys are willing to gloss over that and giggle and think it's all okay, but I don't.  Behavior like that scares the hell out of me and there he was making me uncomfortable in my home and I'm faced with the worry of if I tell him no will he snap all my limbs and hospitalize me?  Then the rest of you would just be having pizza with him like everything was okay.  I may have forgiven him for Liam but that doesn't mean that he didn't do those things or that I am any less terrified that he will again should something around here not go his way.  Thankfull I told him to leave, and he did, but it could have gone very differently and I wouldn't be here right now, I'd be in his freezer waiting for Monday Marissa Chops night."

She took a moment to catch her breath.  "Which brings me to Autumn.  I was pissed, sure, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that should be concerned, not angry. We're bestie's, right?  So, I think she should be warned, at the very least, that Jason is a super-powered, emotionless automaton with murder on his mind."

She checked her phone and held it up like it was going to somehow get a better signal.  "Ugh, hate this farm."  As an after thought she perked up.  "Oh, sex with Cade was amazing, I totally recommend him.  Five Stars, would ride again."

Edited by Marissa Jauntsen
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His mind was still reeling abit after his first time with Marissa.   It was entirely safe to say the day hadn't gone as planned, and he was decidedly happy for the changes to the day's plans.  He'd cleaned up, both in terms of taking a good shower, and doing his best to hide just what had happened in his room.   Still he had a feeling that his parents, his mom at the very least, would know.   He couldn't his neighbor keeping his mouth shut, so yeah this was gonna get out.   He'd deal with the fallout when he got home, that much he was sure of.

He wasn't ashamed, he just didn't really feel like dealing with any bullshit from the others.  He'd been brought up that a gentleman just didn't discuss that in front of anyone, and realized he was probably going to catch a hard time from just about every guy in school over this when it did invariably get out.   

He shrugged  his broad shoulders.  "Worth it though."   He said quietly with a smile as he climbed into his jeep and head out for Jason's farm.   An odd thought came to mind.   Marissa'd been open with him about how things were, still he couldn't deny he did have feelings for her, a genuine attachment.   If that had been her sans any feelings, well he could only imagine what it would be like if she actually liked him.  "That would be worth working towards."  He immediately felt a little guilty, thinking that, but it revealed something he'd not really wanted to face head-on.   He DID want her to feel something for him.  If he was being honest, he wanted Marissa to see him as more than the "Safe Choice."   He wanted Marissa to see him as  the "Right Choice."

To accomplish that, well he didn't have the first damn clue.   However,  after his conversation with Devin, he'd resolved to be abit more proactive, less reactive to everything.    "Can't just wait for everyone else to do things."

He'd grabbed the set of throwing knives and of course a bag of baseballs.  A bag of trail mix because while taming animals might seem sorta lame compared to what the others could do, it was his thing, so he'd resolved to work at to make it even faster.

The drive out to the Bannon Farm was one he knew well enough,  and he managed it with little difficulty.   Marissa and several others were already there it seemed, and he frowned.  Normally he wasn't one of the last to arrive, but it looked that way this time.   

"Damn."  he swore softly, having pulled in so he wasn't blocking anyone, and killed the engine.  He grabbed the duffel he brought his "Gear" in, and then another that had the usual mix of junk food one tended to find at gatherings of the Fellowship.   He wasn't one to arrive empty-handed, even if it was simply snacks.   

He knocked on the door to the Barn, and when there was no answer, he quite carefully let himself in.  Moving quietly, he passed the rows of lush flowering plants until he saw a cluster of people standing together near the door at foot of the stairs he knew lead up to the loft.   "Hey, guess I'm running abit late.  Sorry about that."

Edited by Cade
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Posted (edited)

There was a sudden *bamf* of vacuous air as Devin exploded into violet existence right next to the erotic scene Jason and Autumn were in the middle of.  Her legs were wrapped about him tightly as he held her and the subtle pelvic gyrations of the minxy, soulless little ginger did not go unnoticed to Devin's keen perceptions.  The sound of his arrival was startling, but not so much they were shocked, after all the sound effect accompanying his arrivals and departures were practically trademark at this point in their lives.

"Noice!" He smirked.  "Might wanna move it to the table, it'll be a lot more comfortable.  Also, Granola, have you considered a skirt or a dress?  Great for quickies in a pinch, like this."  He clapped his hands together in continued observation.  "Jase, doing well m'dude, but that's going to cause all manner of back problems, bro.  Do you even sex?"

He chuckled.  "Seriously, though.  We ready to do this, or what?  People are waiting."

Edited by Dave ST

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Posted (edited)

Mother. Fucker.

Obviously, someone had to come upstairs, and obviously it had to be Devin.

"Then they're waiting in the wrong place," Autumn retorted over Jason's shoulder as she lifted her head, bright scarlet cheeks and tousled red-gold hair a vivid contrast to the deep blue eyes that regarded the more annoying, less devious Jauntsen. There were storms there, dark clouds hanging low over restless, churning waves on the open sea-

-and then she sighed, the sound ending on a quiet groan of frustration, and pressed her lips against the faint red mark her teeth had made at the base of the apparent psychopath's throat. Even now she could feel the heat surging beneath her skin, the hardness of every part of his lean, spare form in her arms and between the sure grip of her thighs around his waist, the mad rush of blood burning through her veins and his; if Devin had meant to embarrass her, he would just have to be satisfied with the fact that her face couldn't possibly be more flushed than it was at that moment. Reluctantly, she disentangled her fingers from her boyfriend's hair, mortification and anger writ plain in her expression as she glared daggers at the teleporter. "Also," she added, "you're an asshole."

Edited by Vivi OOC

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"I get that a lot.  Well, if you two aren't going to test the table, I'mma go get everyone up here."  Devin's smirk was Cheshire Cat-like, all the more so since he disappeared in a ripple of purplish light mid-grin.  Autumn let out a sigh, looking up at Jason's (mostly) inscrutable expression.  Was he amused?  Annoyed?  Uncaring?  About the only thing that wasn't in doubt was the way his eyes seemed to contain a flare of white heat when he met her gaze.  That was anything but cool, remote or inscrutable.  She shifted her hips a little, biting her lower lip to contain a faint moan as she felt the other unmistakable signal, and with reluctance unclasped her legs from around his waist and allowed herself to slide down to her tip-toes once more.  Jason smiled, very faintly, and gently kissed her, watching her face light up in a smile at him despite the rose of her cheeks, before letting his hands slide from her body and stepping back.

Downstairs, the impromptu interview between Shelly High's tyrant queen and plucky tenacious reporter was cut short as Cade arrived, and Marissa was just greeting him with a smile and a kiss on the cheek when Devin appeared with a sound of displaced air and a flash of dim light.  "Folks, time to hustle-hustle.  All standin' around here like the world's not going to end?"  He shook his head.  "Upstairs, guys.  Before Shelly's latest power couple set fire to the table.  And I prob'ly ain't being figurative there."  He pantomimed fanning himself.  "So unless Cassie wants to do some HBO style exposition while naked parts are thrashing around on-camera, we better move it."  With that, he popped out of existence once more, reappearing by the large open loft window where he sat on the sill, grinning at the composed Jason and the still-struggling-for-composure Autumn.  "They're on their way up.  You plannin' on a floor show?"

"Not currently."  Jason replied mildly even as Autumn suffered a renewed attack of the Red Death and turned to grab water from the small fridge, grumbling something under her breath as she pressed the cool bottle to her face, then unscrewed the cap and took a drink.  If Jase was embarrassed, assuming it was hypothetically possible, he wouldn't show it, right?  So Autumn shouldn't either.  Right.  Be Like Jase.  It needed to be a t-shirt or a mug or something.

"Devin?  Guys?!  Hello!"  The sound of a girl's voice rose above the clumping and shuffling of the Fellowship - most of them anyway - ascending the wooden stairs, and interrupted Devin's casual examination of a dulled practice knife that had been on a bench near the exercise area.  Flipping it back onto the bench, the teleporter glanced out of the window and saw a familiar tumble of honey blonde hair.  Pushing her bike towards the barn, Tawny waved up as she caught sight of him.  "I just saw Cade walk in as I was heading up the drive."  she called, smiling despite her nervousness.  "Can I-?"

"Sure thing, Tee."  Devin called down.  "Just leave your bike there and walk on through.  Stairs are at the end."  He started to turn back from the window, then a thought occurred and the  handsome young man stuck his head out again.  "Tee!"

"What?"  Tawny had just leaned her bike against the side of the barn and was about to enter.  She paused, looking up.

"Be careful what you touch."  Devin said.  Mystified, Tawny nodded anyway and went to open the door again, then Devin called out.  "Tee!"

"What?"  A little frown now as she looked up at him with her hand on the door handle.  

"Glad you made it."  Devin said sincerely, smiling at her.  Tawny's return smile was dazzling, and she started to open the door.  "Tawny!"  Devin called, a tone of urgency in his voice now.

"What?!"  Tawny repressed the urge to giggle and /or scowl.  

"Hurry it up, will ya.  We ain't got all year."  Devin held the deadpan expression for a moment, then smirked.

"Butthead!"  Tawny shook her head, smiling, and then entered the barn.  When she emerged from the top of the stairs, Devin's friend's eyes were saucer-wide.  Devin snickered slightly, then offered her a bottle of water.

"We know."

"There's..."

"Yup."

"...and they're all..."

"Yup" Several voices now chorused with varying degrees of amusement.

"But how?"  Tawny looked at Jason, who was sitting motionlessly at the table, slouched comfortably into a chair, his eyes shifting to Tawny as she addressed him.

"Patience." he answered simply.  And his lips quirked in a faint smile that was partly pleased and partly amused.  "I am glad you like it."  The eerily composed youth told Devin's friend with a polite nod of his head as the smile faded.  "I'm sure you will be able to take a longer look around later, but for now we have more urgent things to cover and we need to bring you and Courtney up to speed as well as cover some new ground."  He glanced at Autumn and Cassandra.  "Starting with the reconnoiter last night, I think.  Either of you wish to take the floor?"

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Posted (edited)

"Sure," the redhead replied without much enthusiasm, abandoning her half-empty water bottle as she slid off the edge of the table where she'd sat perched. She wasn't thrilled about Courtney's involvement, especially after her snarky commentary at the medical center, but Tawny, at least, seemed nice. And they did have the Shine, or the Dawning Light, or whatever it was to be called, so she had to concede that it made made sense for them to be here. "So, just to make sure everybody's on the same page," Autumn began, taking a few steps to put a little distance between herself and the rest of the group, "Cassie and I went to the Old Town Hall last night to do a little scouting ahead, see what we might be getting into. I'm just going to tell you what I actually saw, and let her describe her side of it, and then we can do questions or discussion or interpretation or whatever afterward. Cool? Cool."

Just like the hospital. Be clear, be credible, be concise. Don't make assumptions.

"First, it was definitely capital d Dark inside, even though we couldn't feel it before we went in." Despite the sultriness of the day, tiny goosebumps prickled the backs of her arms at the memory and she frowned,  sweeping her hair forward over one shoulder as she slowly began to walk the length of the room. "We got inside through one of the ground floor windows, and the place was deserted. Totally stripped. No furniture, no fixtures, nothing. It looked like it was falling apart, and definitely smelled like a hundred generations of mice had lived there, but the building itself seemed like it was holding up pretty well. Structurally, I mean."

"In some of the rooms on the first floor there were these... drawings, I guess, on some of the walls. Like cave paintings. Really primitive, more like stick figures than anything. Cass got pictures," she added, half-turning and glancing at the blonde. "Basically, they were all similar: a big man with antlers coming out of his skull, a bunch of smaller people figures, and a huge, dead-looking tree. In a couple of them, the horned man was chasing the people, and in some of them it looked like they were kneeling or praying in front of him. Some were really faded, some a lot darker."

"Upstairs was pretty much just the one big office. There was a drawing up there, too, a really big one." Autumn's hands rose, fingers lacing together at the crown of her head as she exhaled, some of the residual blush fading from her cheeks. "Pretty recent. Painted with blood from..." Oh god. Okay. Just... Just say it, and it'll be done, and you won't have to say it again. She hesitated briefly, grimacing as if the taste of the words themselves was awful on her tongue, then sucked in a quick breath and continued. "...from a bunch of cats. We know, because the bodies were all still, um. Still there." The red-haired vitakinetic licked suddenly dry lips and cleared her throat, and then turned and resumed her slow circuit of the loft. "After that, we went down to the basement."

"It was basically just like Cassie described before. The room was dark, dusty, and more or less empty, with definite signs of activity, like footprints. Lots of small animals hanging from the ceiling, none of them fresh, and it smelled pretty much like you might expect, but not terrible. Another really big drawing on one of the walls, black, done with charcoal or something. This one was just the horned man. There were marks on the floor, where something was dragged, and streaks of old blood, all leading up to that wall. And-"

Fuck.

Autumn paused, blue eyes going wide and liquid in the sunlight pouring in from the windows as she inhaled, mentally counting to four in her head and visibly working to maintain some kind of composure in front of the group. With everything that had been going on that morning she'd almost forgotten it, hadn't she? Almost let the memory slip free, as if it might've magically disappeared out the window somewhere along Highway 2. But of course, it hadn't, and so here she was. "And a shoe," she managed finally, quietly, repressing a shiver. "A small one. A kid's shoe, with blood in the Velcro and the lining. It was there for a while... Several weeks, as far as I could tell from the dust and the color of the blood. And that's all."

Edited by Autumn Keane
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"It was the guy we saw, Devin," Cassandra said, stepping seamlessly into the conversational pause Autumn left for her. "The one that the cephalo-whatever got, the night of the party. Back when all of this first started. Captain Cooper...air force."

She took a deep breath. "I looked back in time, using the room and the shoe for anchors. I saw the guy carrying in little boy. He was really upset and talking to himself...some of it was crazy talk, but I could make some things out. Anyway, he...he put the boy down by the big drawing on the wall in the main room there, and there was some kind of incantation. I don't know what language, it sounded really weird. The boy was tied up, awake..." Cassie had to pause again there as her throat closed up for a second.

"...at first nothing happened. Cooper was like...I think he was almost relieved. But it didn't last. The wall sort of...shifted around and disappeared, where the picture was. And it turned into a hole that led straight to the Dark. The tree was looming over EVERYTHING. And the ground was just bones. And there was this big chair, a throne, up on a mound...and on the top of the throne was a skull, like a human skull, but with antlers."

Cass took a second to breathe, trying to get herself controlled, trying to keep a lid on the emotions that were still raw even now.

"The tree started growing through the hole, with...vines or roots or something. Cooper panicked. He started shouting it was just a scam, just a hazing...trying to back up. But they weren't after him. They grabbed the little boy."

Again she stopped and just shook her head.

"He tried to take it back, he tried to pull the boy away, but it was too late. The skull laughed. It was mad at him...it had wanted him to step through, go and sit down. It had been whispering to him to do that, but Cooper never did. But he couldn't save the boy either. The tree took him."

For a moment she just wiped her eyes until she could speak again.

"But...he's gone now, Cooper. But when he was babbling to himself, when he thought it wasn't working, he sort of...he reassured himself that the guy who'd put him up to it had been scamming him. Someone told him what to do. What to say. Told him what would happen, at least...some of what would happen. And Cooper said his name."

Cassandra squared her shoulders and nodded.

"Enterich. I don't know who that is yet. I...feel like maybe not in the military, since Cooper didn't say his rank? My gut says he's gotta be with Crossroads, but they don't have an online staff directory so I haven't been able to verify anything. And I haven't found an Enterich living around here online yet either. Still...it's something. If we find this guy Enterich, we find someone who's directly responsible for this boy's murder, and maybe involved with what happened to Cody. He obviously knows a lot about the Dark, since he's the one that told Captain Cooper how to open the portal there."

"Homecoming's nearly here, and we have to make our move first. If we can get to Enterich, he might be able to give us some idea what we'll be up against. And..." Cass shook her head. "Whatever we have to do to find out...he'll deserve it."

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"Stop looking for Enterich."  Marissa said flatly.  Possessed of superhuman composure, the dark haired young woman sat up in her chair, since all eyes immediately turned to focus on her (where they belonged).  The thought of Enterich being somehow in league with The Dark didn't surprise her in the lightest.  Everyone was always after Dr. Jone's treasure, so why not some international occult terrorist organization?   The thought of him children over to that monster though made her sick to her stomach.

As always, she hid her crazy towards the thoughts of just setting loose the Fellowship on Enterich right then and there.  She needed him to find out who was really threatening her family and give Annette and Branch Nine more to go on.  "What I mean is, Cassie, when you find a name, please stop Googling the shit out of it and searching online data.... whatevers.  We're dealing with mad men and lunatics and supernatural forces and you're making it public knowledge we know who they are.  You saw the security those Crossroads goons had, you think they don't have internet scrubbers or hackers, or whatever?"

"So, the last time we did this is was reveal, then talk, then reveal, then... what?"  She shrugged and looked around the table.  "We took managed to screw around for the last week and now some kid and a lot of cats are dead.  "Look, I lover these little get togethers guys, I do, it let's me show off new outfits, but by the time we finally get around to striking at the Dark, half this town is going to be dead.  We don't need a 'wild Enterich hunt'.  We need to cross over, challenge this thing, defeat it, and wasted off our asses at Homecoming."

"The wall, the throne, the tree.  We know where it's hiding.  We've known for awhile now... Why don't we just have Deej pull us all over to the other side and we Pennywise this thing with copious amounts of blows to the head.  Cadums... I mean, Cade plays baseball, he has bats."

"Can we borrow some bats, Cadums."  Devin asked, smoothly.  Cade just smirked, nodding at the reality that Devin was never going to let that go.

"Aw, I think you embarrassed him," Courtney giggled.  "We're just playing, Cadums."  Marissa covered her growing smirk with two of her fingers.

Tawny shook her head with an infectious smile.  "Don't let them bother Cade, I think it's sweet that she's given you a pet name."

"Great," Marissa said lazily.  "Because Tawny's approval is what I live for.  Also, that's my top."  Tawny pulled her sky-blue flannel over to cover up the white cammi top she was wearing under it.  The way it enhanced the love struck blonde's frame Marissa assumed she borrowed it to try and impress Devin.

"I'll give it back later, geez."  Tawny rolled her eyes and huffed like a younger sister.

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"That little boy got torn apart, Marissa!" Cassandra said loudly, angrily. She fixed Marissa with eyes that were reddened with tears, but by no means despairing. "The tree crushed him, and tore him up, and sucked him in, and that's on Enterich. Cooper's gone, but Enterich's still here, and it's on him."

She shook her head. "Not to mention, if Crossroads is capable of all that shit you're saying, if they're listening to our phones, watching our computers...and if Enterich really is part of it...then we need to know. Not just assume! Because he's working WITH the Dark. He's working FOR the Dark. And everything they find out about us, all the spying they're doing...all of that is getting passed straight on to whatever Cody's turned into. They even probably know by now that we're coming, and they're going to want to turn our ambush into a trap."

"We have to stop that from happening, or we'll just feed the tree even more. We have to know what Enterich knows about us, and we have to find out what he knows about the Dark, or we're walking into our worst nightmare. All we have to do is find him. Once we do that, we act. Fast...efficient. I can spot him, Devin can take Jase there, and before anyone knows what's happened he's under our control."

Cassandra wiped her eyes again and scowled. "I'm not just letting him walk away from this."

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Kat was standing back, leaning against a wall. At first, it was for comfort, but after Cassandra spoke of what she saw, the wall was probably the only thing keeping the French girl on her feet. Her  skin, barely tanned by the previous day's "sunbathing", was turning even paler as her prolific imagination made her sick with scenes of horror.

"Cassie's right," she said after berating herself mentally. "If this Entering is in league with the Dark, then we need at least a bit of information on what he knows about us. I'm pretty sure he's aware of our existence, and that makes it a danger for us." She had somewhat managed to repress the shakes in her voice, but still looked at her feet, uncomfortable.

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"Sean."  Jason said in the ringing silence that followed Cassie actually raising her voice, as Autumn put a sisterly arm around the obviously shaken blonde reporter's shoulders and glared at Marissa along with her.  He was looking into the middle-distance, obviously thinking for a moment, before his gaze flicked back to meet those looking at him.  "Sean can secure our communications.  He can also safely track through data to find Enterich with little chance of it being traced back to him.   Cassandra is right that we do not want to leave a loose end like that flapping loose.  We'll get Sean on it - once we deal with the Dark."

He stood up, moving collect himself a bottle of water.  As he passed Autumn on the way back, he placed a hand on her shoulder, a merest whisper of a squeeze and warm contact, before letting the hand slide down her arm in a caress that was more reassurance than eroticism.  "Marissa has a point that we've got enough information.  Today, I think, will be our final day to prepare.  We should finish this meeting, then train.  And then go after Cody soon.  Perhaps tomorrow - after the Carousel celebrations."

"Why wait?"  Cade asked, more from curiousity than anything else.  Jason took a drink of water, then lowered the bottle and looked at him expressionlessly.

"Because not all of us might come back from encountering the Dark."  he said simply, as though saying 'it might rain tomorrow'.  "I think, in light of that, a day in the sun with our families and friends will remind us all what we fight for."

"Even you?"  Courtney had to ask.  Jason smiled slightly, giving a one-shouldered shrug.

"I fight because it is in my nature.  I fight because I am not prey, and the Dark needs to learn that.  And yes, I fight for my people."  he stated calmly, green eyes sweeping over everyone present.  A ghost of a smile caused his lips to twitch.  "That's you."

"Question?"  Tawny put her hand up in the silence that followed Jason's declaration, her eyes darting from face to face.  "What is this 'Dark'?"

"Big bad evil."  Cassie said, still distraught but managing.  "Like a parasite stuck into the world under the skin.  It makes people violently angry, causes them to do horrible things.  And there's another thing - like a spirit or demon or something - that directly takes people over.  That's in the skull, I think.  That's what's got Cody.  I think..." she mused aloud.  "I think that Cooper was supposed to be it's original... I dunno, 'host'?  But he bailed."

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Through all the grisly descriptions of terrible things, Cade remained calm.   Maybe that was another ability, to just be unfazed by damn near everything, when he wanted to be.   Revulsion warred with Rage behind an almost inhumanly serene mask.   This guy Enterich had to pay.

"We're not talking about letting him walk away. He's just not the first name on the list right now.   We'll work our way through them all though."  There was a harder edge to his tone than was normal, the only hint that he was angry about it.

He'd been quiet when they all started in after Marissa had called him "Cadums" in front of everyone.  The pet name was sweet, yet still embarrassing,  and it was one of 3 he'd ever had, It made him smile when Marissa used it, far less so when everyone else piled on.   He gave Tawny a little nod in thanks, and soldiered on.  

"I agree, we train, we party, Then we go kick some ass,  because Jason's right, we might not all come back from this."  He was actually glad that they were going to do something about this, before it was too late.

"Having said that, We do know where to go, but unless things have changed, Devin won't be able to bring us all over to the other side at once.  The effort takes abit out of him as I recall from the last time he teleported five of us, and face it, we weren't exactly fit to fight right after arrival either.  Has anything changed to mitigate any part of that?"  

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"Relax," Devin said.  He'd been unusually quiet and as everyone talk just sat there, arms folded, glaring at the whole table go back and forth.  "The more I do it, the easier it gets.  I've been moving mountains for an hour every day since the prison.  Well, boulders.  The Shroud is thin for me, I can push through it rather easily in certain places.  Also, I'm no longer limited to single jumps, I can open gates everyone can walk through.  The longer we wait, the more people that will die."

He looked to Cassie, "...and that's not on this Enterich, guy.  We have the knowledge, we can take action, and we're sitting on it instead of making things right.  That's on us."

Marissa was fuming and it was obvious.  He gave his sister a look, who in turn gave him a look that spoke 'I'm going to kill her' in silent volumes.  He raised up a hand to signal her to calm down.  "Cass, no one is getting away from us.  But, and I'm saying this as a friend, you need to learn when to put aside your desire to know and focus on solving the actual issues we have.  You have a lot of 'I thinks' and not a lot of solid reasons for me to want to drop my notion that The Dark is our priority, not this Enterich guy."

"Well, no," Marissa chimed up.  "What's more corpses in the wake of Cassandra Allen having her big story.  Cassie just has to know everything and be all in everyone's business.  Why actually go after the Dark?  Once he's gone, there's no more stories to write about and then what will she do?  Why not keep it around, keep writing about it."

"Marissa," Devin shot her a look and once again it seemed only twins could get through the twins.  "That's not helping.  You're worked up, I understand that.  No one likes hearing about the casualties in this shadow war we've all stumbled into, but us turning on each other is not going to help matters.  So, dear sister, I love you, but shut the hell up."

She massaged the bridge oh her nose, visibly frustrated, and unusually so.  "Fine, you're right.  Cassie, that was... harsh, even for me.  I didn't mean to snap at you.  It just seems like every time we do one of these things all we really learn is that every bad guy is two steps ahead of us."

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Cassandra stood there, nodding her head as the twins had their say, then she said, "Yeah, you know what? Mari? You don't get to say anything, to anyone, about them being useless. You may not value having information, but you won't be one of the ones jumping off a fucking cliff with their eyes closed. You'll go back home and worry about which shoes to wear with that blouse. So be as harsh as you fucking want."

She looked at Devin then. "And you WILL be jumping off the cliff, so yeah...I want your eyes open. I want you to be as safe as I can make you. And okay! I get that being able to SEE THINGS isn't as cool as teleporting around, and it doesn't kick as much ass as making things fly around, or burning shit up...but this is it! It's what I have! Fucking sue me for..."

Cass shook her head and shrugged away from Autumn. "Whatever. I can't help you, you know? I mean, what am I going to do against the Dark? Take photos? Write nasty editorials? I've SEEN what you'll be jumping into the middle of! Up close! And I don't know if we...if we're ready! We need every advantage we can get!"

With that Cassandra seemed to visibly deflate and she headed for the stairs down. "And yeah...I know. Haven't found one. So I guess I don't get to call anyone useless either. Excuse me, I need some air."

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"God damn it."  Devin fumed.  As he stood Marissa did as well, gesturing with her hand for him to sit back down.

She looked at everyone and sighed.  "I got it.  This one's on me.  I should fix it."  The look her brother (and possibly a few others) gave her was skepticism mingled with a pinch of confusion.  Marissa never felt herself accountable for her own actions, let alone was willing to make amends for them.  "She's right.  All I'll do is go home and pick my school outfits for next week while you're all off getting killed.  I'll go talk to her."

The soft thumping of her heels on the wooden floor grew softer and softer and softer as she descended the stairs to look for Cassie.  She wasn't hard to spot among Dexter Bannon's murder menagerie of convenient plant-based poisons and sedatives.  Yeah, he was a totally normal, one hundred percent date-able, non-shady sort of guy.  Sneaking was next to impossible in Marissa's choice of everyday footwear and at her approach Cassandra had already rolls her eyes and prepared herself for round two.

"Cassie?"  Marissa said softly, like she didn't want to disturb her after the tapping of her hiking heels had announced her presence ten paces back.

"Let me guess, you're sore and cranky?"  Cassie huffed.

"No, no, well, yes," she amended with a diplomatic finger raised in point of order to the ceiling.  "But, no.  You are right.  I don't belong here.  I don't have powers, I can't fight or protect anything, I just sort of... tear down walls and burn bridges.  I'm scared, Cassandra.  Just like you I show up to these and it's just a reminder that we're ticking down a clock to someone not making it home.  I honestly don't even know why I'm here because it scares the hell out of me every time we do one of these things."  She closed the distance between herself and the frustrated blonde.  "Thank you," she said calmly.  Cassandra wasn't expecting that and simply looked at her with a perplexed look.  "For doing everything you can to keep my brother safe.  I didn't quite do the math until you pointed it out up there-"

"-and you blew up on me for no reason at all?"  Cassie glared with an expression that demanded an apology.

"We're getting off topic, focus." Marissa smiled her diva, do-no-wrong smile.  "Like everyone, you are doing your damnedest with a situation that was, quite literally, dropped in our laps.  My brother is all I have," Cassie detected a strange pause akin to a lump in one's throat.  "...besides you guys.  I get bitchy when I'm worried.  Forgives?"

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Meanwhile

"Kid has a lot of friends."  Marshall noted.  Dale grunted noncommittedly.

The two marshals were belly-down on the edge of the woods that bordered the cleared ground surrounding the main buildings of the Bannon (formerly Wilson) Farm.  Technically they were trespassing, not that either of them cared overmuch.  After all, each had enough sins on their docket that mere trespassing was not really a consideration.

Murdering a kid, on the other hand...

"Sheriff's kid, the Allen girl, three flavors of redhead - one of which is the Keane girl - a corn-fed blonde we don't know... and both Jauntsen twins."  Marshall went on, clearly keeping up the commentary to ease his own nerves.  Dale spared a moment from taking snaps through a long telephoto lens to give him a sour look, prompting her partner to ask  "What?"

"'Three flavors of redhead?" she asked acidly.  "Little Miss Backstabbing Bratz Doll not enough for your spank bank?"

"Honestly?"  Marshall looked back through his binoculars.  "She scares the crap outta me."

"Pussy."  Dale sneered, smirking as she took another wide-angle shot of the dirt road leading up before sighing.  "The farm looks like a clusterfuck waiting to happen.  There's bound to be guns there.  Dad's in some local militia.  And fuck knows what's in the barn.  Open ground, no way to approach without being seen..."

"The kid doesn't need guns, remember what the boss said?"  Marshall's smirk was audible as he squinted through the binoculars.  "He's tele-whatsit and can kill with his mind."

"Telekinetic.  Read a book, genius.  Enterich wouldn't say it if he didn't think it was true."  Dale stated, though there was some doubt in her voice as she said it.  Marshall looked at her with a raised brow.

"Psychic powers.  Really?"  Dale shrugged uncomfortably at the query, then reached down and adjusted the strap of her underarm holster.  She didn't really believe it either, but Enterich had been very insistent that the boy was dangerous.

"Something put that older kid in the hospital."  she said defensively, scowling at her partner.

"Probably Bannon recruited the Allister kid to shell out the actual beating.  Then the sheriff covered it up cos it was his son."  Marshall said dismissively.  "Small town shit."

"You say so."  Dale looked at the screen of her digital camera, flicking through the previews of the shots she'd gotten.  "I still say farm is a no-go."

"Yeah."  Marshall conceded.  "We should get him on the school run.  He's most likely to be alone then.  Flash the lights, flash the badge, wind down your window kid...  Then pop-pop."  He looked uneasy, considering the flippancy of his delivery.  "Dale?"

"Yeah?"

"Doesn't feel right, killing a kid."

She once more looked at her partner, only this time her eyes were grave, her expression somber.  "You want to tell the boss that?"

"Fuck no."  Marshall said with feeling.  Dale held his gaze a moment longer, then her expression softened a touch.

"Me either."  she said simply.  She paused a second.  "We need to be careful, though.  Even if the psychic powers thing is bullshit, Enterich said the kid is dangerous, so he probably is.  Plenty of sixteen year old killers out there, sport.  Given his daddy, he's likely carrying a weapon in the car at least."  Dale took one more shot of the farm and the cars drawn up around it, then started to shuffle back from the edge of the bushes.  "Let's go while they're all in the barn."

"Right."  The two of them belly-crawled backwards until they were out of sight, only two flattened down patches of grass any indication they had been there at all.

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Posted (edited)

Not all of us might come back, he'd said.

Jesus, fuck.

That was true, wasn’t it? Cassie. Jason. Marissa. Her first friends since… Well, in a long time, anyway. Devin. Cade. Sean. Charlie. Kat. Tawny. Even, she guessed, Courtney. They were all in this, now, when barely a week ago she'd been completely oblivious. At this point, almost anything could happen, regardless of how ready they were, or thought they were. They didn’t really know what Not-Cody was capable of, so any of them, most of them- Hell, all of them might just… not come home. Something twisted in her stomach as she thought of her mom waiting, checking her phone, calling Nathan and Sheriff Allister and her dad, probably in that order. Probably, too, Dana would never know what happened. It would be like that little boy in the basement, but maybe instead of her shoe it’d be a cell phone, a set of keys. Something trivial.

Distracted from the grim consideration of her own mortality by the heated exchange between Marissa and Cassandra and their ensuing dramatic exits, Autumn sighed, dragging her fingers down her face in frustration. This was why they couldn't have nice things. This right here.

Ugggghhhhh. A part of her wished she'd been late to this meeting, too.

“Okay, look," she began as the sound of expensive heels faded downstairs. "Just to make it clear, none of what happened in the basement was recent. It’s fucking terrible, and Cassie is probably the only one of us who knows exactly how terrible, but it didn’t happen while we were,” she glanced sharply at the stairs, where Marissa had just disappeared in pursuit of the distraught clairvoyant, “screwing around." Her gaze shifted to the rest of the group then, clear and direct and unflinching despite the high color in her cheeks. "So if any of you are feeling guilty that Cody murdered a little boy and a bunch of animals in the last week, don’t, because he didn’t. The shoe, at least, has been down there since before Cody even disappeared, because Air Force Guy’s the reason it’s fucking down there, and he got eaten by the starfish-thing, or whatever.” A quick, dismissive shake of her head suggested that the specific taxonomy of the cephalogina didn't seem pertinent, and anyway, she hadn't been there, so fuck it.

“We went to the Old Town Hall last night specifically to find out what we’re physically walking into. We went to the Rez this morning to find out what we could about the history of this stupid,  bullshit cycle and see if there was anything we could learn that would be useful in dealing with Cody and the Dark and all of it," she continued, warming to the subject as she paced the length of the room, her hands moving seemingly of their own accord. "And you know, yeah. Sure. Some of it’s not immediately relevant, but we wouldn’t know if we hadn’t gone, in either case, and it still might be helpful anyway later on.”

“Also. Cody isn’t the Dark, just helping it. So, sure, we deal with him first, because we know there’s a clock ticking down that we can’t see. That doesn’t mean the rest of it is irrelevant or unnecessary. This Enterich, whoever he is, is the one who sent the captain down to that basement with a little boy and some kind of crazy fucked up ritual. If he’s working for the Dark, he’s part of it, and he needs to be dealt with.” Pausing, the animated redhead turned her attention to Devin, spreading her fingers expansively as she lifted her hands. “So, yeah, you’re sort of right. The Dark is our priority, and if this Enterich guy is involved, he’s the next logical link in the chain. Then we just keep going until there's no more links, or, you know.” Autumn shrugged, a little twitch of her shoulders, as her hands dropped to her sides.

“Anyway. I think that’s pretty much it from me. Unless…”

…somebody else wants to blow up on someone who doesn’t deserve it, and complain about things not getting done while simultaneously not doing anything…

“…anybody else has stuff to add, or questions. If not, yeah. I agree that maybe burning all this off outside is a fan-fucking-tastic idea.”

 

Edited by Autumn Keane
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"I think we're all ready to stretch our wings a little."  Jason nodded agreement with Autumn's last sentiment as he stepped forwards.  "There is one last matter to bring up, though."  He looked at his copper-tressed girlfriend, his expression calmly serious.  "The bracelets."

"Bracelets?"  Courtney asked as Autumn's freckled features took on a pensive, troubled look.

"They were entrusted to Autumn."  Jason's eyes didn't leave her face as he spoke to the room.  "Without going into extensive details, we learned from the Blackfeet that the Dark has been here for a long, long time.  That the bracelets were handed to them by... someone else... to be passed down safely until one day, 'warriors with the Dawning Light' arose."  He indicated everyone with a sweep of his hand, still looking at Autumn.  "That's us.  The Shine - the Dawning Light.  That source of energy we can all touch - theoretically the subquantum strata of reality."

"So what do they do?"  Cade asked, intrigued.  The others, from Kat to Tawny, also leaned forward.  Devin spoke up.

"They're protection."  He held up his wrist, showing the old-looking bright-copper-ish metal.  "I got pulled into the Dark's realm - the Land of Upside Down Thunder - when I teleported once.  Someone gave me this, and it's not happened since.  I dunno what else it does, but I feel safer with it on, lemme tell you."

"The Dark wants to devour all life - but most of all, those with Shine."  Jason stated.  "The bracelets are meant as protection.  That's all we could find out - just 'protection'.  Given Devin's experience, I think it's a good idea we all be issued one."  He studied Autumn as she glanced away, plainly conflicted.  "They were entrusted to you." he said softly.  "We need all the advantages we can muster, but the choice is ultimately yours."

Autumn frowned, her brow crinkling unhappily.  The problem with Jason Effing Bannon's effing logic was.. well.. it was logical.  She couldn't help but feel she was giving away family heirlooms - in some cases to people who had actively been making her life miserable before a week or two ago, in other cases to people she didn't know from Adam - but of course, that wasn't exactly true.  The journals were heirlooms.  Her grandfather's house was an heirloom.  Her red hair was an heirloom.  The bracelets... were a trust, passed to her grandfather by his friend for safekeeping.  She wondered if most of the Fellowship even cared about the family aspect here, how deep her roots ran in the soil of Shelly, how important it was to have the bond with the Blackfeet.  Finally, her sea-blue eyes met his.  "Fine."  she said, nodding, her lips tight.  "I'll handle it."

Jason studied her, taking in the expression and taut body language, and his head tilted slightly to one side in silent question.  Autumn took a deep breath, and reminded herself that he had said it was her decision.  Even with all of this going on, even with the hand of destiny or fate saying that the bracelets were for all of them, he'd still said it was her choice.  And she knew enough about her impossible boyfriend to know that he meant it.  If she said no, he'd back her decision.  Probably.  She smiled faintly, shaking her head as she regarded him.  "Seriously, it's fine."  she assured him in a more normal tone, then glanced at the others.  "I'll take care of it." she said, looking back at him and seeing him smile a little, the sunlight from the open windows causing his eyes to glitter like iridescent green ice.

"Then let's head outside."  Jason said.  "Grab a bottle of water, anyone that wants one.  I'm going over to the house to get changed, then I'll catch you up."

"Where are we going?"  Tawny asked, a little nervously.  Devin had helped her a lot with playing with her powers - but now she would have to try it in front of the others, one of whom Devin had said shared her abilities, only stronger.  She wondered who it would be?  Please God in heaven, don't let it be Marissa or Jason.  Perhaps it would be Cade?  He was nice.

"Field behind the barn."  Jason told her.  "The others know the way."

"Hol' up."  Devin said.  "I asked Marissa to bring my workout bag.  It cool if I change over at the house too, Jaybee?"  At Jason's nod, Devin gave a thumbs up... and disappeared.  He reappeared downstairs, the movement of air causing the leaves of nearby plants to rustle, and looked around for his sister and Cassie.  "Training time, sis."  he announced, opening his palm and extending it.  "You bring my bag?"

"Back seat."  Was Marissa's only reply as she fished in her purse and tossed the keys for the Mercedes to Devin, who grinned and disappeared in a soft 'pop' of imploded air as the sounds of scraping chairs and moving feet above reached Cassie and Marissa's ears.

Spoiler

Feel free to narrate getting outside, getting ready however your character gets ready, chatting with one another or simply thinking about everything they've learned.

Jason and Devin will be back shortly after having gotten changed at the house - providing plenty of material for Autumn and Cassie's slashfics.

 

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Cade watched Cass get away with veritable murder when she blew up on Marissa.    Still, when Marissa went to "fix" it, he knew she meant it, and actually smiled.   His view of her was definitely colored by how he felt about her, but Marissa had actually been nicer to everyone since she became involved with all of this.   

The mention of the bracelets, that there were more of them it seemed, and that they were meant to be protection was surprising.   They'd been entrusted to Autumn, and honestly, Cade had no issue with that.  She'd struck him as someone who was trustworthy, so things would probably work out.   

He'd set the food down, and grabbed one of the bottles of water, his own gear bag slung over his shoulder.   "Guess it's time to go get started.   I hope the targets are still here."   It wouldn't be anything to make new ones, but the last ones had been done with Sean's help, so they were really precise.  They were targets to challenge his abilities, only just large enough to throw a knife or baseball through, a standard almost dartboard like target for distance training, and some that could be strung from branches, or if Jason was willing, could be levitated and moved around randomly, to test his situational awareness, and reaction speeds while also testing his reflex accuracy.

When Tawny looked at him  "Targets, for like guns and stuff?"   

Cade shook his head.  "No not anything that makes that kind of noise, besides, trying to get out of the house with any of the guns there is next to impossible, and should I actually manage,  Well there'd be hell to pay when I got home.   Best to save that for an emergency where I actually need them.   Instead I bring  other stuff.   I actually broke my bow last time, I've still got to go to Great Falls and get a new one, I've just put it off.   I'm really really accurate, pretty much with anything.   That and I can tame wild animals."  

She just looked at him.   "Yeah I know, not the biggest showy powers, but like Cass said, they're what I've got, and I'll be damned if I don't at least master them."   

Cade gave her  a small smile.   "Besides, I can make my ferrets actually listen to me.   To me at least, that's pretty cool, having obedient ferrets."   It was this small mundane thing, and probably damn silly to everyone else.  Still,  given how ferrets generally were anything but obedient, and that the others had seen him with both a wild squirrel after an hour, and within seconds of meeting a traumatized Smilodon, he managed to both not get eaten by it and calm it down,  there was definitely something to Cade's ability there.

"So you're like Hawkeye and the Crocodile Hunter?"   Cade nodded.  "Yeah. pretty much."

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Kat watched as everyone of them left the room, then followed them outside. Bracelets? Yay, gadgets... She reached Courtney's car and grabbed her backpack on the passenger seat of the convertible, before heading back inside, to the loft. Hell, she wasn't gonna change in front of everyone. And yeah, she was gonna change. Because she had a pretty good idea of the range of stuff she should be able to do, and she'd rather not scratch or burn her every day clothes.

When she finally got out of the barn, she was wearing sports clothes and shoes, and began waiting outside, with the strange feeling that the day was going to be long.

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As Cassie and Marissa's conversation was cut short by the interruption of her brother and the now the horde of mouth-breathing barbarians that were somehow selected to protect the world, she touched Cassie's arm and reassured her, "We'll revisit this later.  Take your time, collect your thoughts.  I'll leave you be."

She approached her brother as he was walking back to bring her her keys.  "You're in Jase's driveway, miles from anywhere.  The hell you lock it for, sand trap?"

"Eat shit, spooge goblin."  She snatched her key from him and acquired her own gym bag from the passenger side.  Devin was already gone by the time her eyes once again crossed over the roof of her expensive car but she made sure to chirp the alarm just in case he was in ear shot still.  Dick.

By the time all was said and done, Kat was already up in the loft and could hear the thumping sound of Marissa's very familiar heels on the steps.  Finally the dark haired beauty entered and she immediately saw Kat and offered a smile.  "Hey, Kat."  She remembered her name?  "Not changing down there either?  I don't blame you, my brother is a pervert, my boyfriends giving me hungry eyes since he got here and Jason... well, is Jason.  Thousand yard creeper stare, all he needs is a trenchcoat."

It became readily apparent that Marissa had no qualms about changing in front of others as she was undressing while she spoke.  Most of it went in one ear and out the other as she marveled at how the entire changing session was executed with practiced precision, like she'd actually done lightning fast changing rehearsals in her life (which she had, but Kat knew absolute zero about the Jaunsten twins, so far).  Kat was silently still in the process of getting ready when MArissa's gymbag zipped closed and she slung it over her shoulder.  "See you down there."

Behind the barn at the 'practice site' seemed like just one more reason for the Jauntsen Twins to remind everyone just how perfect they were.  Money.  Looks.  and now they were flaunting their perfect work out bods for everyone to groan and roll their eyes at.  Devin hit the field in a full compliment of UnderArmor work out attire that cost him around a hundred and thirty bucks so he could roll in the dirt in it.  Long work out shorts with a pair of compression shorts and a sleeveless shirt sporting the 'UA' symbol that were all the deep purple and black.  Marissa was wore her red workout outfit and if Autumn didn't know any better, she might say it was as much for Jason as it was for Cade that she flaunted her tight and toned athletic figure.

It wasn't all totally groan-worthy, the twins had both worked incredibly hard at getting to where they were athletically and neither felt any need to hide that fact.  Still, neither were particularly subtle about flaunting it.  No one was quite capable of making people feel like that cheeseburger two weeks ago was a bad idea like the Jauntsens in their half naked work out attire.

"I thought you didn't have powers," Tawny mentioned to Marissa as the young glam goddess dropped her bag near where Devin's was lying.

"I have the ability to engender love and desire in people with my voice," Marissa said, already bored with the blonde clothes thief.  "Which means, all of," she motioned to the area all around them.  "This, really isn't for me, it's for you guys and your can crushing and pebble tossing and whatever.  I figured while I was here, though, I may as well use the time for a core workout and some stretching.  You're welcome to join me."

"W-wait, back up..." Tawny's hands were up and she was trying to pump the breaks of the crazy train.  "You can seduce people and make them love you, with your voice?"

Marissa shrugged like it was her everyday now (which, in fairness, for all of them weird was the new norm).  "Well, I think all of me can do it, I mean, let's be real, look at me."  She panned her hands down her frame.  "But, yes.  I get the mojo flowing and people simply want to adore me, or whomever I want them to adore instead," her voice dropped into a low seductive tone akin to a contract waiting to signed.

"Anyone?"  The lovely blonde asked.

Marissa's lips curled up in predatory delight.  Al she needed was for Tawny to make, simple request and she could ruin her.  She wasn't as pure and innocent as everyone believed her to be.  Marissa knew that under it all she was just as barmy as the rest of them, not the innocent, selfless, kind hearted girl next door she played at.  "Anyone."

"Um," she nervously began, obviously unsure how to broach a budding topic newly formed in her thoughts.  "Would you ever consider using it on..."

"On...?"  If she could have coiled around the nervous girl she would have.

"Missy Turner?"  She scrunched up her face like she was worried about speaking the girl's name out loud.

Marissa's face melted into disbelieve.  She'd never even heard of this Missy girl and why the hell would Tawny ask about her instead of asking Marissa to whammie her brother so he'd be with Tawny, finally.  She shook her head, already unable to recall the name.  Lazily he asked, "Who?"

"Missy Turner."  Tawny said with more confidence (since Marissa asked, after all).  "See, Dan Delling has had a crush on her for the longest time, and wants to ask her to Homecoming but isn't sure how to go about it because they're both really shy.  Maybe you could... help him out?  He's a great guy, and she's really super nice, but they are both so incredibly awkward they'll just keep stumbling about instead of just going for it.  What if they're meant to be and never find happiness over something as trivial as simply being scared to ask the other out?"

Shelly's Queen glared at the sweet ray of selfless sunshine.  "Get away from me.  I'm not helping some incel losers find love so you can feel better about yourself.  Go lift rocks."  She dismissed her with a frustrated wave of her hand.  "And I want my top back, tonight."

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"We're getting off topic, focus." Marissa smiled her diva, do-no-wrong smile.  "Like everyone, you are doing your damnedest with a situation that was, quite literally, dropped in our laps.  My brother is all I have," Cassie detected a strange pause akin to a lump in one's throat.  "...besides you guys.  I get bitchy when I'm worried.  Forgives?"

As Cassie and Marissa's conversation was cut short by the interruption of her brother and the now the horde of mouth-breathing barbarians that were somehow selected to protect the world, she touched Cassie's arm and reassured her, "We'll revisit this later.  Take your time, collect your thoughts.  I'll leave you be."

Cassandra nodded at Marissa numbly, still trying to get her brain re-oriented. Somewhere in the back of her head she felt like that was the point...keep her off-balance, keep her guessing. But yet another feeling told her that not everything was calculated, not even for Marissa. And weirder still, those two feelings were somehow not incompatible, even though they seemed like they should be. That Marissa was both a gigantic bitch and a scared, sensitive girl, at the same time. Like a photon of light, she was a particle and a wave...it all depended on how she was being measured.

She saw everyone emerging from the barn and making their way across towards the fields, but she decided to take the scenic route before joining them.

This was the first time Cassie had realized that she shouldn't be going with them to meet the Dark. She'd always assumed she would be, but the harsh glare of that epiphany, when she realized how...pointless her contributions had been, burned that assumption away. Oh, knowing about the Town Hall and Cooper and Enterich would be great later on, but none of it mattered at all for keeping herself, or anyone else, alive in the beast's belly. And If she went across not only would she be powerless to help, but her presence would actually make things harder on everyone else. They'd have to keep her safe while simultaneously trying to fight.

Fuck. Cass wandered back into the barn, idly playing with the idea of sampling some of Jason's stock. As long as she paid him, he wouldn't mind right? And some goddamn medication would help right now. Her brain was full of daggers, and she couldn't pick up a train of thought without slicing herself open on it. Anything to dull those edges seemed welcome. She figured the cuts might be there still, but they wouldn't...matter so much.

Then again, that's exactly why she'd broken up with Dylan, wasn't it? Because that one time she'd thought about her dad getting murdered and had just kind of shrugged it off...and then suddenly realized it after the fact? If that could lose the edge, if that could feel like it didn't matter anymore...what next? That her friends would be risking their lives in some kind of supernatural hellhole? That her dad was alive and brainwashed and basically enslaved? It hurt to know those things and to feel helpless...but her answer now had to be the same as it had been before, right? Hell, right now more than ever.

If she hadn't been afraid to feel helpless BEFORE she had magic superpowers, then where the fuck did she get off feeling it now? There had to be a way to use this! Or...maybe there was more she could do? Cassie knew that their powers were still...evolving somehow. There'd been a time she could barely sneak a peek at the world through her powers without getting her brain blasted open. Now she was gallivanting all over entire timelines. There had to be way to USE this. She just had no idea how!

Fortunately she didn't have to do it alone.

Cassandra went to one of the barn windows, all dirty  and smudged in the way that ground-floor windows inevitably became out in the boonies, and saw the distant stain of light from where the Fellowship had gone. She still felt a little hollow tug away from that light. The ache of a voice whispering that she didn't belong with them and should just leave before they finally kicked her out.

But Autumn was really nice, and she'd been there for her. Jase was mysterious and dangerous and alluring. Devin was funny and chummy and catastrophically immature. And Cade and Tawny and Kat...she still needed to get to know all of them better. And Marissa? Well...she had an apology to accept, and an apology to make.

So. If they wanted to kick her out, then Cass wouldn't be making it easy on them by self-deporting. Sooner or later something would have to give. Their tolerance, or her own imposter syndrome.

Cassie wiped her eyes dry at last on the hem of her shirt and left the barn to go up and join the others where they were all in their sweats and workout clothes.

"Hey guys...shit, am I late for the orgy? Please tell me I didn't buy three gallons of lube for nothing."

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"You brought the lube?"  Marissa pantomimed clapping her hands with glee.  "Girlfriend, now you're here the party can get started!"  Then she smiled at the blonde more normally, a warm and somewhat un-Marissa smile.  "Glad you made it, Allen."

"So wait..."  Tawny frowned cutely, looking from Marissa to Devin (never a hard thing for her to do, especially with him in that expensive, well-fitting and above all tight workout gear).  "Who's the telekinetic?"  Devin, halfway through some preliminary stretches, straightened and grinned at her.

"Oh, you're gonna love this."  he chuckled, indicating towards the farmhouse where a slender figure was crossing the intervening space in a steady, ground-eating lope.

"Oh."  Was all Tawny could say as Jason approached.  She didn't really know him except by reputation, and that was a cross between mysterious and sketchy.  Drug dealer, autistic kid who hangs around with nerds, and then the rumors about the hay hook at the county fair.  She had always frowned at Devin and his 'buddies' picking on Jason and Sean, believing (as she did) that Devin was better than that.  And now, with him actually seeming to bear out her belief in him, there were all-new facts and concepts to process.  One of which was currently approaching the group dressed in a clean white sleeveless t-shirt and grey sweatpants.

Jason was not as built as the other guys.  Devin had that sleek, sculpted gymnast's form, and Cade looked like a solid young oak tree.  Jase, by comparison, was angular and lean, his muscles like rawhide and whipcord over a frame of coat-hangers, with no spare flesh in evidence.  Despite that, there was a symmetry to his structure that was apparent now he wasn't wearing his habitual shapeless too-large shirts and combat pants, and a grace to his movements that was understated and efficient.  Like watching a cat stalk, Tawny found herself thinking, and it wasn't altogether a pleasant comparison.  Perhaps it was the way his eyes fixed on her as she looked at him: not unfriendly, but unsettling regardless.

Jason shifted his gaze around the others as he came up to where they waited, his eyes lingering on Autumn as she shucked her hoodie and tied it's sleeves around her waist, smiling back at him a little and trying not to think about the still-present faint bruise at the point where his collarbone met his throat and the faint red mark on the other side from it.  Her composure was not helped by the faint smile he gave her, either, which might have been his design for all she knew as her cheeks crimsoned very slightly even as her smile widened.

"Alright."  Jase said calmly as he regarded everyone.  "Not all of you were here for the last session.  Some things the newcomers need to practice - the fundamentals, as it were.  Starting with feeling Shine, or the Light, within one another, then tuning in to it.  With that, we've found, we're capable of a whole lot more than we are when operating alone."  He shifted his gaze to Marissa and Cade, his expression one of considering them.  "You two... your Shine is different.  For some reason, those of us with psionic abilities haven't been able to sync up with you.  At least, not yet.  We can try anyway - perhaps today there will be a breakthrough."

"Yeah, great."  Devin nodded, balancing on one foot as he craned his right leg up, then switching.  "So how do we proceed, Yoda?"  Jason considered everyone, pale green eyes narrowing as he pondered for a moment.

"Pair off to start.  Someone who knows how the tuning works with someone who doesn't, wherever possible.  Tawny, you're with me."  His cold stare studied the sweet-faced girl as she shifted on her feet reluctantly and looked at Devin, who nodded encouragement.

"He'll be cool, Tee."  And Devin meant it.  Whatever Marissa felt about him, whatever else Jason was or was not, he wouldn't hurt Tawny.  He'd told Devin he'd help her, so he would.  Not because he was scared of Devin's reprisal, or because he cared about Tawny particularly, at least at this stage of knowing her.  He would help because he had said he would help, and that was all.  Tawny looked doubtful, but moved to follow Jason to a clear patch of grass to one side as the others looked at one another and started to work at pairing off.

Jason sat down, folding his legs and indicating the space opposite him.  Taking a moment to tie her hair back with a scrunchie from her wrist, Tawny nervously sat and likewise folded her legs, looking doubtfully at Jason's outstretched, palm-up hands.  "Relax."  he said softly, his expression losing some of its frost as he took in her discomfort.  "Place your hands in mine."

Complying, Tawny felt his fingers lightly close around hers.  "Okay.  Now what?"  she asked, trying not to sound as nervous as she felt.

"Close your eyes."  He watched as her eyes closed, and went on.  "You know how to feel objects and movement around you.  You can feel the wind without it touching your skin.  You know where the pebbles are nearby, can touch them without touching them, correct?"  Tawny nodded, listening to his calm voice.  "So now look beyond that.  Feel where we touch - my skin, my hands.  Then focus.  Block out those other senses a little, and you will become aware of a light that you don't see, a warmth you don't feel."

Moments passed as Tawny concentrated, her brow furrowing as she tried to follow his directions until, with a start that he felt through their clasped hands, she made a soft sound of surprise.  "I feel it!"  she whispered.  The energy was cool, bright, but focused and controlled like sunlight through a prism.  "Is that you?"

"That's my Shine."  Jason's voice came to her ears.  She felt the energy brush up against what she became aware was her own, a warm radiating glow that suffused the space around her.  "And that is yours.  Now, gradually expand that sense.  You can feel the others nearby, Shining as well."

"I can."  Tawny's voice took on a note of wonder.  "Not as clearly, but... Oh wow."  A smile creased her face.  "This is awesome.  I can feel like a bunch of warm lights nearby."  Jason smiled a little at her reaction, watching as her hazel eyes opened and studied him.  "Do we all feel different up close?" she asked.

"When tuned like this, through touch, yes.  You'll find that everyone has a different feel.  Perhaps it's shaped by their personality.  Or perhaps our personality is an outgrowth of our Shine."  He said with a faint wry smile.  "I'm still working that out."

"Chicken or the egg?"  Tawny asked, not so intimidated now as she felt his calm, focused radiance.  He nodded.  "Okay, cool.  So... What does this let us do?"

Jason's smile widened a fraction more.  "A lot of different things, depending on who you tune with.  But I've never synced with someone with my gift before.  So lets find out, hmm?"

 

Spoiler

Alrighty then!  You see how it works - pair off, focus on teaching the newbies.

Special rules time:   Superiors and Talents cannot Attune according to the strict interpretation of the rules.  Normally, this is true: they lack the power of Attunement to feel Shine at a distance.  However, in Weird Stuff, if a Psion attempts to sync with one of these other two 'classes', there will be an effect.  In essence, the psion can share their ability to attune with other varieties of Shine.  Whoever pairs up with Cade or Marissa, DM me.  :D 

 

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Courtney strode up to Devin with a sultry sway in her hips and devilish smirk.  "Looks like it's you and me, Blinky."

"I prefer Jaunt," Devin smirked back.  "If the others got a hold of 'Blinky' I'd be doomed."  Like every field exercise at school they all paired off and separated themselves from the other groups so they had space all to themselves.  They sat in the grass, crossing their legs and then looked at one another awkwardly.

"Sooo..." The redhead smiled, darting her eyes around as if she waiting on Devin to incant some ancient wisdom that would make all this make sense.  "You know, if you wanted to get me alone for a picnic, all you had to do was ask."

"Focus now," he grinned at her.  He held out his hands, waiting for her accept them.  "Flirt later.  So, I've only done this once, but, it's pretty simple once you get the premise.  We touch, focus our abilities in a sort of link.  We attune, is the word that everyone seems to use."

She accepted his hands and gently tightened.  "So, flirting is on the table then.  Good to know."  She winked and smiled that crimson smile of devilry of hers.  "So, we hold hands and focus?  How does that work?  Focus on what?"

"My mind is never quiet."  He said honestly.  "I've always been in constant motion, full of energy, ready to tackle anything.  So, I don't know exactly.  I think that's why it's hard for you read my thoughts or get feedback on me.  The last time I did this, we just kind of relaxed and tried to quiet our minds.  Cass showed me how, but, I'm not really a good teacher.  Just, quiet your mind and focus on... well, everyone else.  Listen, don't see.  Reach out with that part of your abilities that perceives things no one else can see."

"Like, people's minds?"  She asked.

"Yeah, I guess.  If that's what you have, go for it."  He replied.

She canted her head and offered a crimson smile at him as she mulled over a new question for him.  "What do you 'see'?  Like we all apparently have these perceptions, but, no one does what you can do.  So, what do you see?"

"Everything," he said calmly, not quite sure how to describe it.  "I see how things relate and connect.  Distances and trajectories, angles and slopes.  I know myself in relation to everything around me and how I impact the world in which I exist."

"How Zen Buddhist."  She smirked.

He shrugged.  "Sounds deeper than it is, but I think I'm the only one of the Fellowship who revels in my power.  Everyone else is full of doubts, or afraid of them or sees them as nothing more than another science project to be understood."

"And," she squeezed his hands gently.  "What are they to you?"

"Me."  He shrugged again.  "They are who I am.  I will not be ashamed of any part of me.  My personality, my body, my way of thinking.  I may not be perfect, or always right, or even really annoying sometimes, but I refuse to be ashamed of anything that makes me, because, well, I'm awesome.  I love me."

She flushed slightly and giggled as his sincere admission sounded like an arrogant boast.  "I wish I had your confidence.  I just wish people weren't so fake, you know?  I see it so clearly now.  Who is lying to me, who really likes me, who doesn't... it... I don't know, it hurts.  I actually always thought Marissa hated me... I was really shocked to see that she does kinda care under all that mean."

"We're all just stupid and confused."  Devin said.  "I've been all over the world and the more places I see, I've come to realize one, stupid little thing we all tend to forget.  Everyone is pretty much the same.  Simple people trying to do the best they can with what they have.  Kids pick on other kids.  Teenagers are lost confused.  Adults forget what fun is and hate life.  People aren't fake, Courtney, they're just afraid.  Afraid that the person they are isn't good enough for you.  Cut them some slack.  Well, most of them, anyway.  Some people do just suck, after all."

She knew he was trying to be sweet.  It didn't take a genius to see that, but he was, in his own way, charming when he wanted to be.  She did feel like fish out of water amongst the Fellowship and it's apparent closeness.  They really were like one big, dysfunctional family all struggling with the weight of their gifts and conflicting personalities and past traumas.  Cook had promised her all manner of things yet only returned her efforts with ridicule and chastisement.  Her own insecurities were too many and varied, coupled with her insatiable libido she'd always felt like some sort of freak no matter where she found friends... and now, she'd learned that most people were not the friends they claimed to be.

She tried not to express her feelings as she was sitting there, holding Devin's hands.  With practiced discipline, she hid her crazy, and got comfortable, still holding his hands she tried to quiet her mind.  She felt better after him say that, more relaxed and more comfortable being there arond all the other freaks and geeks who were thrust into the unfortunate situation of having to save the world from old spirits of evil or monsters or... whatever.  Then, it happened.

Her mind simply expanded, was the best way she could explain it to herself.  Her best comparison was it felt like she was suddenly underwater as the sounds of the world muted and dulled.  What she could hear though were the faint whispers of... everyone?  Well, everyone except Jase, of course.  All of their surface thoughts sudden;y came pouring into her minds and it was almost too much for her to bear.  She winced and her face scrunched in pain as the she remembered the first few months of realizing she had abilities.  The flood of voices almost drove her insane.

Hold on to it.  Devin's voice was stern and filled with concern in her mind, cutting through the static.

She twitched.  Devin?  Y-you're in my head!

No.  You're in mine. He smirked although both their eyes were closed.  Distance and space my little slice of weird.  So, when we link up, I can expand the area and distance your powers can reach.  Instead of a few minds around you, how about the entire school?

Devious.  She smirked also.  It's too much though, too many heads to sort through and everyone has sooooo much baggage!

It's about focus.  Devin opened his eyes and looked at her.  His eyes shimmered with a misty, glimmering purple sheen, like violet oil on water.  He spoke aloud.  "I woke up in the back yard a few times after getting my powers.  Kept reflexively teleporting, it was hilarious.  Your powers are a part of you.  Like walking or talking, that are not your heart, or your brain, they are voluntary and will respond to you.  That includes everything that goes in it, like people's voices.  You are the one in control, Courtney."

"Gray sweatpants?  Seriously?"

"Relax.  Focus on the now.  Talk to her later, sort the mess out.  For now, focus on the training session."

"Oh, goody, we can get this thing sorted finally.  I can't believe she went off on her like that.  Totally uncalled for."

"My back hurts.  Those nails of her are killer."

"She seemed nice.  Every said she was so mean."

"..."

"Lona leaves tomorrow.  So what if they're holding hands?  He has a type.  There's no way he'd ever go out with her, it's just training..."

"Wow."  Courtney chuckled and smiled.  "Apparently Marissa is on everyone's mind at the moment.  Pretty much pissed the whole group off."

Devin laughed.  "Yeah, that's her super power, that and appropriately timed theme music."  Really wish she'd smile more often, it's beautiful.

Courtney's cheeks flushed a shade of crimson and she bashfully slid a stray strand of hair back behind her ear as more reflex than it needing an actual home...

She didn't hear that, right?

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Posted (edited)

(Written in collaboration with Marissa's Player.)

Her cheeks flush with a warmth not entirely related to the weather, Autumn fished around in the pocket of her jeans for one of the (probably) hundreds of elastic hair ties she owned. Between Jason being Jason, and Marissa being, well, Marissa, she was only too happy to trade the tense, stifling atmosphere of the loft for fresh air and sunshine. Out here, at least, she could breathe. Out here, it was just the grass, the sky, the breeze, the occasional bickering of chickens somewhere nearby, and… the occasional bickering of teenagers. Eh. Kind of the same thing, really. With the deft, half-conscious movements of one long accustomed to dealing with the unruly mane she’d inherited, the redhead twisted her hair up and off the back of her neck, considering her options. Kat, Cade, and Marissa had little to no experience with any of this, and without Sean or Charlie present, it made sense to pair up with one of them herself.

 Cade was the safe choice, of course, and barring his popularity with the jocks and seemingly even temperament, she didn’t really know all that much about him. Kat was the interesting choice, partially because she still had that fresh New Student smell and partially because she seemed honest- if a little on the timid side. Shelly High’s Queen B, though… Marissa was the difficult choice, for a whole host of reasons. Autumn wrinkled her nose a little in annoyance, idly plucking at the front of her t-shirt as the effortlessly gorgeous brunette sashayed out in her high-end, painted on workout gear in glorious bombshell red. It was definitely attention-grabbing, she had to admit, but also sort of like waving a crimson flag in front of a bull who kind of wants to smack you in the face a little bit.

 “Hey, Marissa,” her official ‘bestie’ called out as she approached, snapping the elastic band in place to keep her hair from just doing whatever it wanted. Whatever had changed between the texts last night and now, they could talk about it after. Right? Right. They were friends. It was fine. “Wanna pair up?”

 Marissa's head spun about, enlightening Autumn to the fact that dramatic hair whips were, in fact, still a thing. "Um, sure." She said, skeptically. "I don't really know why. I don't have magical mind bendy powers, so yeah. But! We need to talk anyway, so, yes. I think 'pairing up' is a great idea." She looped her arm in with Autumn's and led her away from the other groups. They were well within shouting distance, but not so close that their 'conversation' could be heard.

"Okay, so, where do you want to start? The part where you stole my crush out from under me, the reasons you need to break up with him, or," she waved her hand dismissively at the part that obviously didn't interest her. "Or, whatever this whole magic nerd crap it is you guys do out here at the Bannon Compound?"

Wait, what?

"Wait, what?" No sooner had Marissa's words registered than Autumn stopped short, pulling back on the arm looped through her own so that the dark-haired beauty leading her away from the others was likewise obliged to pause. Uncomprehending, she frowned and shook her head, blue eyes narrowing in confusion. That… It didn’t make sense. Marissa not being interested in Jason was one of the reasons they’d decided to try dating in the first place, so… “How did I-“ she began, then shook her head again. “You’re going out with Cade,” she finally managed, as if that simple fact was a refutation of all the prettier Jauntsen had said.

 "Um, maybe, but I was still crushing on Jase, a bit," she shrugged, then waved her hands as if shooing away a fog in her mind. "Look, I'm not mad at you about the whole Jase thing. It's not your fault and you are new to this whole little group dynamic, but everyone knew there was like a 'thing' between him and me. You should have checked first, total Girl Code faux pas, but I forgive." No one knew anything about anyone liking anyone. Well, maybe Devin and Lona, but that was rather obvious. When it came to Marissa, the Fellowship knew less about who she was crushing on than they actually cared about who she was crushing on. "It was just, totally not cool, you know? You don't just walk in and take other people's ice cream, Autumn." She smiled pure forgiveness that resembled something akin to a thousand pounds of sarcastic bitchiness being dropped from a very high place, the limits of her ego, perhaps. "But now? You totally should break up with him."

 Autumn's head tilted slightly, blinking as if she had just stumbled upon some newly-discovered species and was busy trying to work out exactly what this particular social display was meant to communicate, and also whether she should've kept that bear mace at hand. “I don’t really think everyone knew, Marissa,” she replied dubiously, only to have the Queen of Mean cut her off.

 “Look, I get that he’s sort of charismatic, in his own special way, and that you aren’t used to having anyone show interest in…” A perfectly manicured hand gestured vaguely up and down, indicating Autumn herself as Marissa continued with a withering note of disdain, “…whatever it is you have going on there, but trust me, this is not going to work out.”

 A sudden, angry rush of bright pink flooded the redhead’s cheeks as her whole body went rigid beneath the scathing glare of Marissa’s dark eyes; the intent of that particular remark had gotten through perfectly clearly, it seemed.

 “What, because I’m not as pretty as you are, I’m not date-worthy or something? What the actual fuck, Marissa?” Autumn fought to keep her voice low even as she stared at her alleged friend in utter disbelief. “And what the hell are you talking about with ‘ice cream’? Nobody’s taken anything that belongs to you.”

 "Well, no, not now, anyway," Marissa admitted. "I've already let it go. Look, I was grooming Jason to be less of a Crystal Lake murder hobo, and more of something that resembled a human being, namely, my human being. I'll skip the ice cream analogy for now, you have enough coming at you without worrying about food." She gave her another judgmental once over, like Autumn didn't need to be worrying about ice cream.

 "Long and short of it, Autumn, Jason is dangerous," all the cattiness bled away and she looked at her bestie with a concerned, hardened glare. "We were at my house and he... well he made me feel very uncomfortable. You didn't see what he did to Liam. I know I'm mean, but I would never harm another human being like he did with Liam. It was barbaric and psychotic and frankly I'm concerned for you. He held weapons to people's throats, threatened to kill Dr. Cook, in a room of witnesses, and Liam's bones were practically dust." She held up her hands like she had something on them, looking at them then her. "I mean, he didn't enter the house, Autumn. He stood outside the kids' window and just threw him around until his body shattered. That's not anger, that's not impulsive behavior. He tortured another human being and then went on with his day like it never happened. I would almost say he was proud! And that's your boyfriend, Autumn. The guy who, a week ago, told me he loved me, but is now dating you. Red flags? Anywhere?"

 Autumn really did have a lot coming at her, that much was true, and most of it from the topsy-turvy world of Marissa What-The-Hell-Was-Her-Middle-Name-Anyway Jauntsen. Between the insults and the complaints about stealing her crush and the casual dehumanization of people and the list of Jason’s sins and the expression of concern for her well-being, it was almost impossible to keep up, to pin down exactly what the whole point of the conversation even was at that point.

 “Marissa, I… I swear, I literally can’t even with you. Jason’s not your property, and if you wanted him then you should’ve just-“ No. Inhaling sharply, she shook her head and tried again. “He and I already talked about it, about a lot of things, that he told you he loved you, that he kissed you and shouldn’t have, and you got angry, and-“ Autumn closed her eyes, squeezing them shut as she counted silently and willed herself to just get through this and get on with the day. “Jase admitted, when we went camping, that he fucked that up with you. That he pushed too far, and you told him he needed relationship practice, or whatever, because he’d never had a girlfriend before. So that’s me. I’m the trial run,” she added tersely, her face reddening further with the admission until the freckles patterning her skin disappeared. “Because you weren’t happy with him as he is. I guess you needed to ‘groom him,’ huh? And you know what?” The redhead took a step forward, eyes stinging with angry, unshed tears as she advanced, erasing the space between them. “That is so fundamentally fucked, Marissa, and it’s even worse that he’s still going along with it anyway and you don’t even-“ With an audible groan of frustration, Autumn pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes.

 “Forget it. Jesus, fuck. Look.” She dropped her hands to her sides, scowling, then just as quickly raised them again, resting them atop her head. “I’m not gonna lie. I was terrified of Jason a week ago, so, if you’re scared, okay. Fine. I get it. I’ve been afraid of him since we were fucking ten, Marissa, and I’m trying not to be. I’m trying to understand. And if you’re actually worried about me, and not just saying that to get me to break up with him, great. I appreciate the concern, and I promise, if he murders the shit out of me one day and then eats my still-beating heart, my last thought will be that you were right and I should’ve listened. Scout’s fucking honor, if that happens I will dedicate my last breath to you. But I’m choosing to trust him. I’m choosing to believe that people fuck up, but they can learn from that. He’s my friend. You are my friend," she insisted.

 Marissa's eyes widened at the barrage. She took a stance that was ready for anything, but still casual enough to be impressed. With folded arms she chewed at the inside of her lip while Autumn let her have it. "Wow," she smirked. "You really want him, don't you? Fine. Your problem, your funeral. If after hearing all of that, he is the sort of person you want to hold hands with, he's all yours sister." She swiped her palms together like she was washing them clean. "And what's 'fundamentally fucked up' is grinding a human being’s bones into powder while standing outside their window like a fucking coward. But hey, I have standards and told a guy I wasn't interested in dating him, right around the same time he forced himself on me. I guess I'm the bad guy no matter what, huh?  And no need to worry, you're not the trial run anymore." There was way more attitude in her voice than she intended but neither her nor Autumn were calm, rational, debating types. "There will never be a me and Jason. Ever. I'm washing my hands of him. So you two can just have at it all you like, I'm done. He might be wonderful to you. To me, he's the guy who told me he loved me and is now fucking my best friend. That's not love, Autumn. He doesn't know what love is, but, injured animals are your department, I'm more into fashion and he's so last week." She swept her arms out wide. "So, you won the guy. Congratulations. Now, how do we do this nerd stuff?"

 “Yeah. You clearly have standards, Marissa, when all you want in a guy is ‘fashion.’ Congratu-fucking-lations on your new accessory,” she shot back acidly, one hand swinging expansively in Cade’s direction. “He’ll go with everything.” In the few seconds that followed Autumn’s outburst, the serpent-in-a-sports-bra watched the high, vivid color drain from her BFF’s cheeks as the mortifying awareness of what she’d said sunk in. Oh, god. What the fuck, Autumn? Where the hell did that come from? What would have been a scream of frustration- were it not imprisoned behind clenched teeth- escaped the thin, taut line of the redhead’s lips as she pivoted on one heel and took two steps away to just… breathe, for a second, staring out across the field. 

The fact that Marissa was acting like a kid who’d just lost a toy she’d never played with and didn’t care about until she didn’t have it anymore was infuriating. The admission that she thought Jason was a coward was bizarre, and that she could own a person was horrifying. The casual assumption they’d had sex already was almost insulting, except that they actually probably would’ve if either of them had thought in advance that might be on the table. But all those opinions and assertions aside, that was still just kind of Marissa being a bitch- it had nothing to do with her boyfriend. I can’t believe I said that. Oh my god. It wasn’t even Cade’s fault at all. There was no reason to drag him into it, no reason to say anything mean about someone who, she was pretty sure, had never intentionally done anything offensive or controversial in his life. Well, except for dating Marissa Jauntsen- which wasn’t so much offensive, maybe, as it was masochistic. And yet, she and Marissa were supposed to be ‘besties,’ and that seemed to be working out just fine, so was she really in any position to judge?

 “Okay,” Autumn sighed, rubbing her palms across her eyes. “Okay. Look. I’m sorry. That was… totally uncalled-for. Cade seems like a nice guy. …Which, admittedly, makes him dating you pretty crazy, but whatever. None of this makes sense. So, fine. I’m not gonna waste my breath trying to change your mind about Jason and-“ She lifted a hand, her pale fingers tracing a broad, seemingly all-inclusive circle in the air. “Sit. We’ll try to figure this other stuff out, at least.” Folding her legs, the redhead sank down as she took a seat on the grass and fidgeted with one of her shoelaces as she waited for her Marissa to follow suit.

 Autumn rolled her eyes as Marissa unrolled her yoga mat to sit on. She didn't expect Shelly's glam Queen to sit on the ground where there was dirt and bugs, right? Ew. "Okay," she looked at her 'bestie' and spoke like she was annoyed. "Sitting.  And, for the record, Cade knows he's an accessory," she added. "I was honest with him. I asked him to pretend to date me so Jason would back off and be less inclined to come back around me for a while, but if he did, Cade could shoo him away. It's easy, I know," the dark-eyed beauty looked at her best friend and it seemed like she was melting a hole in through her head. "To just think I'm a shallow, vapid, empty soul of a human being considering how opposite we think, but I'm still a person. I was honest with him about being afraid. I was honest with him about what made me afraid and he was still willing to go along with it to see that I felt more safe and secure from a guy who likes to loom outside people's houses and fold them into lawn chairs. Cade has turned out to be a great guy."

 "Maybe that's your type, I don't know. What I know is that you've yet to ask me my side of things or show any concern whatsoever as to why I was afraid, or how my fear of him has impacted me, at all. It's obvious who is actually important to you around here, because it certainly isn't your bestie. Jason is a genius, he knows I'm not going to be quiet about it and he manipulates his every behavior to be the stark opposite of everything I'm telling you. That's what he does. He's spent his whole life faking it, emulating emotions and expressions in order to fit in better. Reading people and exploiting their opinions of him with false emotions and fake faces. I would think you, of all people, would appreciate your best friend telling you that game notices game, but you don't. If you want to defend him so bad and he is so perfect, then I've done what I can. I can't force you to break up with him, well, I mean, I could, but," her eye's shimmered like someone behind them tossed up a handful of purple glitter. "That's not my way."

 “Do I have a best friend, Marissa?” Autumn asked with quiet intensity, blue eyes thoughtful as she considered the other girl’s invective. Everything, invariably, circled back around to Marissa Jauntsen. Her feelings. Her opinions. What she wanted. Was that a friendship, or was she just so eager to actually have a friend she was willing to take whatever she could get? The thought stung. How pathetic was that? “I never said you weren’t a person, even though you barely treat me like one. I never said you lied to Cade, but I do think he’s too nice for you. I never said you weren’t afraid, or didn’t have the right to be, and I even admitted that I was, too, and I didn’t ask why because-“ Pausing, the redhead shrugged a little, her nose crinkling unhappily. “Honestly, I just can’t make myself put everything aside to focus on your feelings when you don’t seem worried at all about mine. I don’t have to ask your side of things because you literally just told me.” She sighed, tugging at a blade of grass and twisting it in her fingers. “…Not to mention that you’re insulting me to my face and painting the guy I like as some kind of mass-murderer, so, yeah. Not super-thrilled to hear all about the World According to Marissa right now” she muttered.

 “As far as what’s important to me? What’s actually important to me is the people that I care about, who also care about me. Who show me that they care about me, so I can do the same for them.” The expressive young woman, who’d probably exhausted nearly every conceivable emotion on the checklist for today, braced her elbow on her thigh and lowered her forehead into her hand. Surely, Mari wanted the same things she did, but why did it seem so much more complicated with her? Why was it so freaking difficult to like someone who should have been impossible not to like? “I don’t know how to be your friend, Marissa,” she admitted despairingly. “I’m obviously not good at it, so… maybe we should just focus on the training for now.”

 "Hold up," Marissa raised a finger to pause the proceedings. "Autumn, real talk, this is not about me. I'm telling you these things because I'm worried about you. Read between the lines. Look, if I'm wrong, then great, I'm wrong, but if I'm not... if there is even the slightest bit of a chance that you could be in danger because of that psychopath, then you will not go forward only to find out that I knew something and didn't tell you."

 "I'm not good at this either, okay," her tone slowed and she sighed as admitting her failings wasn't something she was used to. "I'm used to people worshipping me, fawning over me and catering to my every whim because they love the notion of possibly being seen with me or making it into my little inner circle. Actual interpersonal peopling with no manipulation or personal gain for myself isn't exactly on my resume under 'additional skills'. I know I'm a bit... intense-"

 "Pain in the ass."

 "Intense," she glared at her best friend. "But I'm trying to warn you of possible side effects of that bitter horse pill you're so eager to swallow." She smirked, leaving Autumn to decide if that was innuendo or not. "I'm not trying to hurt you Autumn, I'm trying to help you." Her face scrunched into an expression that warned she was chewing back bile. "Oh. Oh, god. I just quoted Gandalf, in an actual conversation... oh, I'm going to be sick."

 “Riiight,” the young vitakinetic replied slowly as Marissa recovered her composure, brows knitting together as she rested her chin on her hand. “’Kay. We’ll just… revisit the Gandalf thing later. For now, if you say you’re trying to help, you’re trying to help.” Friend rules. Even if Marissa didn’t exactly fit Autumn’s ideal concept of friendship, the wicked queen in training had sort of conceded, and she ought to do the same. Friends were supposed to listen to each other and that much, at least, she should be able to manage. Just… later, maybe. With a sigh, she lifted her head, running a hand back through her already-disheveled hair.

 “Okay. So.” Autumn shifted her weight a little, straightening as she scooted closer to every high school boy’s dream. “It’s probably going to be harder now, to be honest. You’re supposed to be relaxed and focused. Kind of a Zen thing. So, you’re gonna have to trust me on this. Give me your hands.” The redhead extended her own, palms up, and flexed her fingers.

 "Oh, I can totally relax. You should come by and do yoga with me sometime," and just like that the young sociopath was back to being herself. She tried, and spoke her piece on the matter. If Autumn went on ahead and got herself eaten by Jason, well, that was just Autumn's fault at this point. Better Autumn than Marissa, after all, the Queen of Shelly did have a Homecoming to plan after all. Being dead would certainly get in the way of that and it's not like Autumn was really doing anything with her life anyway.

 "See?" With a smile and whip of her hair to put it over her shoulder, Marissa beamed an all-is-forgiven smile and presented Autumn with her hands. No sooner did the freckled redhead accept them did she find Marissa spinning her hands over to look at her nails. "No. No, that won't do. He might be a psycho, but I can't allow my bestie to have a boyfriend while she has bad nails. What did you even do here?" She presented one of Autumn's own hands up for viewing. "Do you just claw on random things like a cat? What even is this? Okay, we're getting you an emery board, like, pronto."

 “Yes,” Autumn replied, closing her eyes. “Exactly like a cat.” …and then immediately went pink again as the potential subject of said clawing appeared in her mind’s eye, a surge of warmth creeping up into her cheeks that she prayed would be attributed to the sun, her heated exchange with Marissa, or a combination thereof. Glancing at her partner through half-opened lids, she tugged lightly on the perfectly manicured hands clasping hers. “Shut your eyes.” With a perfect little moue of displeasure, her self-proclaimed bestie complied, and the two girls sat there for a moment in silence.

 “Okay, what exactly am I supposed to be doing right now? Is there a chant? Do we light some candles? What is this?” the more cynical young woman asked somewhat tartly, already beginning the process of mentally getting on with her day.

 “This is sort of a different version of how I do it. I don’t know if it’ll help you, but we’ll give it a shot.” Autumn’s voice was notably softer as she squeezed Marissa’s hands gently, just a light pressure to draw her attention. “So, for just a second, just focus on our hands, where we’re touching. The temperature. The tension. The texture of the skin. …And as you concentrate on that, just sort of noticing all those little details, you’ll start to feel the blood moving through your fingers. Maybe even in mine. Just this slight, constant pulse.”

 Even after her experience with Cade, the concept of ‘intimacy’ was an unfamiliar one to the younger Jauntsen, and holding hands for any length of time with Shelly’s very own wilderness girl was not exactly an item on her bucket list. But… it also wasn’t awful, either, as long as she didn’t think too much about it. Unlike some of the guys she’d known, Autumn’s hands weren’t hard, or clammy, or sweaty, and they weren’t trembling at the mere prospect of touching her skin- certainly a plus. As the red-haired teen continued to speak, to quietly coach her through the process, some of the initial awkwardness of actual human contact passed, and Marissa realized she could feel it. Where her fingers rested against Autumn’s wrists, there was a subtle rhythm: the faint beat of her own heart, and an answering pulse in the freckled hands grasping hers, a tiny, almost intangible sensation amid the waves of other stimuli. It felt…

 “It’s kind of… warm, isn’t it?” Autumn murmured, a little smile audible in her voice. “And once you can isolate that feeling from all the noise around you, from the wind tickling your neck, from all the colors and patterns behind your eyelids, from the weight of your own body in space, you’ll notice it everywhere. Running up through your arms, your legs, your stomach, your chest, your face- everything, carrying all that warmth and energy and life to every cell, every atom, waking up every nerve like billions of tiny stars in the dark…”

 She shifted uncomfortably in her seat as Autumn's vitakinetic energy surged through her.

 Then, Marissa wasn't sure if it was her, or Autumn, but there was a sudden electric jolt that seemed to spark from the center of her chest and beam outward. Every muscle suddenly contracted as every neuron exploded to life with a sudden awakening or raw power. It seemed as if the attunement had jump started something within her and things just made a bit more sense. She could feel her (the) world open up all around her and suddenly she was akin to an ant as her heart and mind expanded with the feeling of all living things around her. She felt life, ever-so-briefly, as Autumn did and it simultaneously made her want to break down in tears at the beauty of it all and run and hide as everything she'd come to know of the world suddenly seemed false and wrong as she bore witness to simple, beautiful truth. The dark-haired beauty's shoulders spasmed as a ticklish shiver jolted down her neck and spine. She reflexively gripped Autumn's hands as the rush and fear seemed to be nothing she wanted to be rid of anytime soon.

 It had been a matter of tacit agreement amongst most of the teens that a person’s unique energy, their Shine, was somehow intrinsically related to their personality or character. Although Marissa’s revelatory experience overwhelmed her awareness of Autumn in that regard, the reverse was not also true.

 The affluent brunette was a seething, swirling core of shimmering radiance contained within an aesthetically flawless frame, a seemingly boundless font of energy that- having been tapped- rushed forth in a great torrent through the link forged by their clasped hands. What Autumn “saw” through that connection was not at all like the others: a luminescence simultaneously less brilliant and more intensely focused than theirs, and somehow different in both tone and texture. Nevertheless, it was Shine, was potential and possibility and-

 “Holy shit,” Autumn breathed as her awareness of all the manifold lives around her swelled and sharpened. She could feel, even at this distance, the soreness in Kat’s slender limbs, the fatigue in Devin’s muscles, the bruising and inflammation in Marissa’s- oh. Well, that did explain a few things, at least, she noted distractedly as the ever-widening circle of her consciousness stretched further, reached beyond the boundaries of the farm and the fields nearby. There was so much, a dizzying array of humans and animals, insects, plants, the numbers and varieties multiplying exponentially as her capacity to sense them expanded with the influx of energy: breeding and breathing and being born, being devoured, bursting into new growth. It was impossible to concentrate on any one thing because just as quickly as she could acknowledge it a thousand more tiny flickering sparks took its place. Within her veins, beneath the surface of her skin, heat and blood and light inscribed the pattern of life’s beginning, its flowering and ending, an endless ring of humming sanguine threads edged in gold.

 That was hers. The acorn and the oak and the axe all belonged to her, and she knew- for that brief and blinding moment that spanned an age in her mind- what that meant.

 She could feel the energy thrumming in her body, but it didn't feel right. Wherever Autumn's mind had gone to, Marissa's didn't follow. As Autumn's perceptions grew wider and wider Marissa felt her own grow dimmer and dimmer as the vibrant redhead took more and more of her. "Autumn." She said calmly. Muscles fatigued and her head grew light as she struggled to stay awake and alert. A lethargy slowly crept through her bones and muscles, imploring her to simply relax and let herself drift off... "Autumn!" She managed to yank her hands away, severing Autumn's connection to whatever power she was tapping deep within her. They both fell back, their breathing heavy. Marissa's eyes felt heavy and she felt tired and fatigued. She took several deep breaths. "Damn. Oh, shit..." she panted like she was out of breath. "The hell was that? I feel like I'm sixty and just tried to run a marathon..." She rolled about to allow herself a view of Autumn. "Hey... you okay?"

 “Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.” Squinting up at the sky, Autumn just lay back on the grass for a long moment. It tickled, brushing the sides of her face as the breeze swirled around them and lifted the strands of fiery copper that had worked loose, but any secrets it had harbored were already swiftly fading in her mind. She had touched… something, with Marissa’s help. For just an instant things made sense in ways they never had before: where she fit, what she was supposed to do. What she could do, if she really wanted to- maybe not right now, sure, but one day.  Even if she couldn’t remember it now, she’d known right? Even if it was crazy, and just for a second. And… It made sense that if she could know, and had known, she could do it again.

 Couldn’t she?

 The muscles of her abdomen tightened as the redhead leaned up, pressing her palms into the warm earth. “That,” she added, regarding Marissa with laughing eyes and a slow, awestruck grin, “was totally wicked. How’re you feeling?”

 "Yeah," Marissa sat up, leaning on one arm. "It was, uh, different." She wasn't much for sharing. Whatever that jolt was she felt and whatever that energy was that now loudly banged on that door deep within her, she wasn't about to tell Autumn and end up in the 'crazy as Jason' social tax bracket. Also, she wasn't sure what Autumn was so stoked about. The girl seemed like she was a five year-old who got her hands on ice cream drizzled in chocolate and sprinkled in gummy bears then dipped in pure cane sugar. She attempted to stand and her world began to spin. What was ground twisted and swirled and became sky, only to become ground again. She dropped back down to one knee. "Woah. I... I think I need to sit for a bit. Is it like this all the time, or just on the first try?" She rolled onto her back, heedless of the grass and dirt (which was a major red flag that something was off). She sprawled out and just lay there, eyes closed looking up at the sky. "I feel like I need a nap..."

 Leaning forward, Autumn scooped up the unopened water bottle she’d grabbed on the way out and rubbed it idly against the frayed denim at her knee. “Here.” She shifted over, offering Marissa her shoulder and carefully helping the other girl achieve a slightly more vertical position. “Try sitting up. I’m not sure what just happened, but, uh… No,” she admitted thoughtfully. “I don’t think it was ever like that.” As the scarlet-clad socialite took the bottle with a mumbled ‘thanks’ and drank quietly, the blue eyes that had regarded her with enthusiasm a moment before narrowed slightly in concern. “Definitely not for me, anyway. That was…” She paused, wondering if there were actually any words to adequately describe the sensation. “Wild. Maybe just sit here for a minute, ‘til everyone else gets finished playing.”

 She groaned as she sat up, nodding. She didn't bother brushing out the dead grass clinging to her hair. "Yeah. Probably not a bad idea. It's like... I don't feel bad, or sick... just, tired. Like dealing with my brother when he's one of his unusually annoying moods..." She drank the water and then relaxed, resting her head on her bestie's shoulder. "Well, was it good for you?" She fluttered her beautiful lashes at the redhead as she snuck in a grin.

 “Hm… I’ll give it three stars. You’re new at this, so there’s still plenty of room for improvement.” As Marissa turned, staring up at her in incredulous wonder, Autumn tried her very best to maintain a straight face. Not being made of the same stoic stuff as Jason or Cade, however, she felt her cheeks going red with suppressed laughter, and the corners of her mouth twitching. Maybe it was the mind-altering experience and that faint, lingering sensation of the physical link they’d shared, or maybe just mental exhaustion, but for just a moment she was reminded of sitting with Jase outside his house- when she’d hugged him- and the way that simple, mundane human gesture had subtly shifted the trajectory of their interactions afterward. “I have notes,” she added, affecting an air of dramatic sobriety as she looped one arm around her first new friend’s back and the two of them sat and watched the others. “We’ll talk later.”

 

 

Edited by Autumn Keane
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It was a large machine, easily a couple of tons of steel designed to plough a field eight furrows at a time when pulled behind a tractor.  Left over from when the Wilsons had owned the farm, when Gar had decided to make a proper go of farming recently he’d examined it and regretfully concluded rust and neglect had taken too great a toll for it to be useful, but it was still big and heavy.  So when Jason had requested this and other assorted junk for the Fellowship to use in training, his father had readily agreed.

“Oh my god, I’m doing it!”  Tawny’s face was alight with a grin as the massive hunk of rust-splotched metal moved in a graceful half-circle.  At Jason’s bidding she’d tried to move the plough, and though she’d managed to lift one end of it, she frustratingly found herself incapable of moving the whole thing. Then he’d put a hand on her shoulder, and she’d felt that cool, focused light from him pouring into her, and suddenly she felt a terrible clarity and strength suffuse her own Shine like… like…  Well, like something awesome.  When she tried again, the plough had lifted before she’d even managed to really focus.

“You are.”  Jason’s tone was hard for Tawny to read, but she fancied she heard a congratulatory note in there.  Hell, in the absence of contrary evidence she’d go with that.  “Now, rotate it along each axis as you move it, then set it down precisely as it was.”  As Tawny complied, he analysed the shift and flow of her Shine responding and mentally nodded to himself as the plough finally settled down, then he broke the link and stepped away.

Tawny took the momentary respite to glance across at where Devin was sitting holding hands with Courtney, noting how the glamorous senior smiled almost bashfully and tucked her hair back behind her ear as she held Devin’s hand in hers.  A strong pang of jealous sadness touched the sweet-faced blonde’s heart for a second, and it was a moment before she realised Courtney was looking at her askance.

Right, staring. She admonished herself, not realising the true cause of Courtney’s sudden attention to her, and turned back to see Jason regarding her from a few feet away, studying her expressionlessly.  Tawny blushed, wondering if those pale eyes were looking through her, but even so tilted her chin up a little.  So what if he was reading her like a large-print book?  Hell, everyone knew she loved Devin anyway.  It was hardly something to be embarrassed about.

At her defiant return glance Bannon smiled slightly, and abruptly his gaze shifted from blank and icy to… well, something wry... and somehow ancient in it’s humour as he nodded very faintly.  Oddly, that gaze was harder to meet than the dispassionate analysis, the shifting emerald glints of Jason’s eyes in the sunlight conveying something other than remote curiousity.  Tawny felt her blush increasing and looked away.

“So what’s your deal?” she asked after clearing her throat as Jason sat down on the grass again, indicating she sit nearby with a gesture.  Tawny sat once more, watching as her teacher set out a number of baseballs.

“My deal?”

“Yeah.”  She studied his profile.  “I thought you were terminally shy, or autistic or something, and couldn’t meet anyone’s eyes.  I don’t think we ever exchanged more than three words.”

“Seven short exchanges, over the years.”  Jason stated casually as his gaze shifted to her.  “First one was in seventh grade when you complimented me on my handwriting and offered me the use of your spare pen.  You were always polite and kind, to both me and Sean.”

“Really?  Seven?”  Tawny asked, surprised, then shook her head slightly and indicated him.  “See?  That’s what I mean.  That right there.  Do you have a perfect memory?”  She smiled uncertainly.  “Was I just that memorable?”

“Yes.”  Jason’s face was deadpan except for a faint crinkling at the corners of his eyes.  Tawny peered at him, trying to determine whether he was poking fun or not, but there was no clue.  Still, he hadn’t bitten her head off - or grabbed a hay-hook - so she decided to push a little more.

“Yes to which?”

“Yes to both.  I have a perfect memory, and you are memorable.”  A baseball levitated nearby, then bounced in the air as if being tossed and caught by an invisible hand. Which, Tawny realised as she examined it with what Jason said was her ‘kinetic senses’, was actually pretty accurate.  “Let’s warm up.  See if you can grab the ball out of the air.”

“R-right.”  Tawny nodded, caught off guard by his straightforwardness.  Was he hitting on her?  He didn’t look or sound like he was hitting on her, merely… answering her questions.  So why did his frank responses make her feel awkward.  Shaking it off, she focused on the lesson at hand.

At first, her attempts for the ball were clumsy, accompanied by hand gestures and trying to use raw force rather than finesse.  Each grasp was foiled by Jason moving the ball out of the path of the grab like a pro basketballer taunting another player, proffering the ball and then switching it to another hand as the opponent grabbed for it.  “Ugh!” Tawny glowered at him in an expression that would be daunting if it wasn't also cute.  “Stop that.”

Jason was unruffled.  “You’re trying to grab the ball with an excavator, or a crane.  Use a lighter touch.  Picture fingers that can pluck guitar strings or play the piano.  It takes more focus, but is once you have the hang of it you can readily have a second pair of hands constantly available.”

“Really?”  This sounded good.  “How far can they reach?  How strong are they?”

“So far my reach is around ninety-five to one hundred feet.  As for strength?  That comes with practice and development of the will.”  Jason glanced at her again.  “For heavy lifting you have that ‘crane’, but it is imprecise.  You can also easily nudge or touch things, but cannot really manipulate them.  With time and practice, you could lift a grown man or bend metal with those secondary hands - but more importantly you can handle an egg, or delicate glass, or pick a lock, or comb someone’s hair.  Anything I can do with my hands, I can do with my telekinesis.”

Tawny remembered how she’d blown a kiss at Devin, shaping the use of her gift so he would feel it, and smiled a little.  Nodding, she envisioned a set of hands, her hands, with slender fingers and a slightly crooked thumb.  Then she reached up her actual hand-

“Wait.”  Jason’s voice cut her short.  “Lower your hand.”  As he studied Tawny’s worried expression, he went on “You don’t need to use gestures.  I did at first - still do when being theatrical and showing off- “ he smiled that quick faint smile again, “- but it lacks elegance.  We’re not Jedi or wizards.  If you’re making grabbing motions, you are telegraphing your intent, showing everyone what you are doing.  Practice without gesturing.”  Ruefully, Tawny lowered her outstretched hand and focused on the floating ball.

It took a couple of tries, but on the third attempt Tawny felt her ‘fingers’ close around the baseball and gave a short crow of triumph.  Jason nodded approval, then rose to his feet.  “Good.  Now we’re going to play catch.”  Leaving her holding the ball, he walked thirty feet away, then turned and nodded at her.  “Throw the ball at me.”

They passed the baseball back and forth a number of times, Tawny finding the limits of her range to be about six feet as Jason threw off to the side, or way over her head, forcing her to field the ball without flinching or running from instinct to get under it and catch it physically.  It got easier the more they practiced, and then he added a second ball.  

And then a third.

A fourth.

Then another.

Another.

A delighted female whoop and laughter alerted the others, and any of the Fellowship looking at the two psychokinetics would have seen a two-person juggling act, with no hands apparently catching or throwing the six baseballs between them.  Tawny’s expression was torn between excited delight and concentration as she kept up the momentum and rhythm with her faintly smiling teacher.

“Deej!  You seeing this?!”  she almost-squeaked, glancing round for her friend then abruptly snapping her gaze back as Jason sent a wicked curveball out to one side.  “Hey!” she scowled as she caught it and sent it back just before the next missile arrived.  “Okay, okay.  I’ll pay attention.”

“You mistake my point.  You caught the ball anyway.  You could do it without looking at it.  You could do it blindfolded.”  Jason called over the intervening distance with his trademark faint, mysterious smile.  “You know where the balls are, how fast they’re moving and in which direction.”  With that, he turned and faced away across the field without missing a catch or a pitch.  “Don’t think about it.  Just do it.” he challenged.

With an intake of breath, the blonde farmgirl steeled herself, focusing on the feel of the motion in the air, of the ballet of flying objects, then turned towards Devin, a grin of proud delight slowly crossing her face as she looked at him.  (And the others, sure, but mostly him.)  “Check me out!” she exclaimed with an amazed laugh as, behind her, the baseballs continued to be caught and thrown without interruption.

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Posted (edited)

"Woo!"  Devin raised his hands and clapped a few times.  "Told ya!  I want deets when you get freaky with those later!  Plus, you're prettier than Jason.  Waaaaay more marketable when one of us finally screws up and shows the world what we can do!"

"You are such a perv!"  She half smiled and half stuck out her tongue out at him.

He turned his attention back to Courtney, offering a smile that apologized for the interruption.  "Sorry.  Where were we?"

"Getting freaky?"  Courtney raised an inquisitive eyebrow at the charming teleporter.  "Pray, tell."

"Oh, something the TK people do, I guess.  They have like these invisible magic hands or fingers or whatnot that they can touch things with."  He shrugged, vaguely remembering how Jason described it in his garage that one time he and Marissa visited while he worked on his car.

"Oh, god, I'd definitely be getting freaky," Courtney laughed.

"Right?!"  Devin leaned in and the both started laughing like fourth graders.  "I'd be like a one man orgy in the shower.  Smacking my own ass... 'Harder daddy!'"

They both fell over laughing, rolling in the grass as an uncontrollable fit of giggles overcame them.  Whatever it was they were talking about it seemed like they were having an amazing time of it.

Edited by Vivi OOC
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Posted (edited)

Cade smiled as the group began pairing off for this.   With Marissa and he being different, they'd not be together for this, so he turned his attention to Cassandra, who was near Kat.   "Hey Cass, Kat."   They'd had at least one little adventure together, and he knew her abilities probably served her well with all of this.   

"So you two gonna give this a try?  Would you mind if I join?  I know you've got more experience with this, and given we don't know how exactly it will react with me, I figure that might be something good to have when we try."   

He smiled at Kat, and nodded.  "If you two want to try it out first, just to get Kat used to it I can wait, and then we can try adding me in, or just try with you and I first, Cass."  

He gave her an almost mischievous grin.  "Or we can jump in feet first and just try linking all 3 of us at once, which I don't think has been tried before."

"Sounds like fun," the petite redhead replied, "but I got no idea of how this works." She didn't mind pairing with the blonde girl, as she knew very little about her. It would be an occasion to chat. Would she be able to with Cade around? She mulled over that, and caught a glimpse of Jason sitting not far. Ugh... does he even know what he's doing? She thought as her gaze trailed off to his sweatpants. She shook her head and turned her attention back to the big guy talking to her.

Cassandra looked over at Cade, assessing him. Cade's particular 'brand' of shine wasn't like the others, except maybe Marissa. She honestly had no idea how trying to include him in a link would work...which meant this was the perfect time to try it. BEFORE it became a matter of life and death. She looked at Kat and nodded.

"If you're okay with it, lets start off with Cade. If it's too weird we can do it again without him, but I want to see how hard or easy it is to bring him in right off. Don't worry about not knowing how it works either. I've done this a few times now, and it's not really that hard to do."

She waved Cade over.

"Lets give this a try."

"Okay, so how do we go about this?"   It was clearly his first time trying, they'd just not had time before.   

He looked at Cass, since she had, and made his way to her.   "What do you need me to do?"

"Alright, lets hold hands," Cassie started with, and held out her hands. "You don't really have to, but I think it's a little easier with contact."

When the other two had taken a hand each, she went on. "Now close your eyes and try to clear your heads. Just...try to take in everything you're experiencing without thinking about it. You should start to feel a kind of...light, or warmth...from the rest of us." She looks at Cade. "I'm not sure this'll happen for you, but try it anyway."

Cassandra then added, "I'll try to sort of bring you in, and you'll be able to sort of decide if you want to let me. I'm not sure what exactly it will feel like for you. For me, it's kind of a pulling feeling. Whatever it is, just go with it. Once we're linked we'll be able to share our senses, our thoughts...whatever we want. We won't be able to invade each other's minds, but just be aware it's easy to let things slip sometimes so just be aware of what you're thinking."

She smiled.

"Any questions?"

The French girl shifted her weight from one leg to another, uneasy, and shook her head. Clearing her head. That was going to be a challenge. The back of her head was itching for a rub, but her right hand was currently busy gently squeezing the blonde girl's, and she didn't feel like rubbing it with her left hand. The corner of her lips twiched in a brief smile as she found the thought funny. I'm wondering if people have a favorite hand to rub their head with. Is it related to left or right handedness?

As Cade too the hands of both girls, he nodded, and did all he could to clear his mind.     From the outside, it was as if the others could feel the stillness of a deep pool of water.   He allowed himself to simply go with the flow, as he hoped to feel the link established between the three of them.

He was unsure how this would work, but this needed to happen now, they needed to know before it was life and death.  He just wanted to be helpful to others in some way.

For Cassandra, sensing the 'shine' of Kat and Cade was easy enough. To her senses Kat was much like the others in the Fellowship. Cade's was quite a bit different. He wasn't exactly the same as 'normal' people, but she was hard pressed to articulate exactly HOW he was different. There was a shine to him, but it felt like it looped and whorled almost entirely through his body, hardly leaking out at all.

She let her own Shine pour out, engulfing the two of them. From there it was kind of like 'tuning' it, like tuning a guitar string to a proper harmony with another string. Not imitating Kat's shine, but rather fitting alongside it, closer and close until the division started blurring...and yet without losing their distinctiveness, like how a rainbow could be made from a single ray of light, but had distinct colors within it.

From Kat's point of view, she felt a sense of presence...and suddenly a light she couldn't see exploded all around her, carrying with it an almost overwhelming feeling of 'Cassandra-ness.' It was like flying, or like falling...a vague sense of motion at unthinkable speed. She knew she could pull away if she wanted but, forewarned, she didn't resist. The Kat and Cassandra circles on the Venn diagram overlapped, and part of each of them became both of them.

They didn't so much communicate as immediately comprehend what the other wanted to convey. Through Cassandra, Kat realized Cade's energy was different, and Cassandra wasn't as confident about how to bring him in. Through Kat, Cass felt that dizzying feeling of wonder and startlement at the first experience of a link all over again.

She was right, as it turned out. Bringing Cade in was not as simple. He wasn't 'sensitive' to Shine in the way Kat was. Cassie could feel him and adjust herself to try to overlap...but the result was muted to the point it was essentially useless. There was no feedback loop; his power didn't 'listen' to hers, it felt like.

Or maybe Cass wasn't listening to it? She changed her focus. Instead of trying to 'harmonize,' she just listened to it. It took a few seconds, but she thought she understood. His Shine was almost completely passive...it was reacting to events in the world around him, even at a minuscule scale. It resonated to those events, giving them power over him and allowing him to exert influence over them. What events though? She followed her own advice, stilling her thoughts and ego as thoroughly as she could, trying to experience Cade's power without any filters.

A leaf falls. A cell stops moving and ruptures. Nearby, a dead earthworm just underground is broken slowly down by uncountable bacteria. At the ground water absorbs sunlight and releases molecules into the air...far above the drop in temperature causes those molecules to start binding to each other, letting tiny beads of liquid water form.

Destruction. Creation. Changes of state. Disruptions of steady states.

And Cassandra realized what was missing. Understanding that, the 'rhythm' of his Shine started to make more sense. He was more like an antenna for power than a generator. The key to synchronization wasn't to try to measure and respond to him...it was to try to broadcast the signal to him directly, let him react to it, then let that form a feedback loop.

Cade found Cassandra looming large in his thoughts without really realizing when that had started. It felt natural, as if he'd always found her fascinating. Thinking about her sparked odd associations. The thrill of victory after a fierce game, the sharp satisfaction of getting an A on a tough test, but also the weird joy of popping bubblewrap, or firing a gun at a range.Before he could comment on the phenomenon something changed...the part of his mind that had been preoccupied with Cassandra starting imagining what she was thinking, what she was seeing and hearing. It didn't feel like telepathy...more like him speculating on her frame of mind. But Cass nodded at him.

"It's real," she said. "Your power, and your mind...it's not the same for you, but we have some kind of link now." She frowned slightly. "It's...it's almost completely subconscious for you think, it feels like. So you may not get the full effect of this..."

She opened her perceptions, feeding the full force of her psionic senses into the links she'd forged with Kat and Cade.

For Kat, there was a sudden feeling of intense vertigo. Without moving at all distances contracted at knee-weakening apparent speeds. At the same time the luminous 'weave' of the Shine became apparent to her, like a thin netting woven from pure light.  Not just the Shine of psychic powers radiating from the Fellowship like lanterns, but the much dimmer, looser fibers of grass and insects, the floating pinpricks of airborne pollen and spores, the majestic scaffolds of trees that branched into the sky, but also underground forming a vast interconnected network of roots that Shone almost like the branched neurons of the brains of the others. For that moment, Kat felt for the first time in a visceral and personal way just how 'small' she was in the vast tapestry of living things...yet despite that, how rare and precious...for there was nothing else exactly like her anywhere. Tiny but not insignificant.

And she'd only just begun.

For Cade, he felt his adrenaline start to spike and quickly grow into a sharp endorphin high, as if he'd been running long enough to get a second wind. He felt...stoked...engaged, alert. There was a weird feeling of distorted scale in the back of his mind as well...he felt as if he was a good fifteen or twenty feet tall, even though the evidence of his eyes was to the contrary. He felt close to Cassandra, as if they'd been best friends since childhood, but whatever psychic awareness the link normally conveyed, he didn't have conscious access to.

Cassandra was watching him, her brows furrowed in concentration.

"I feel like I can do better than this, but it's going to take some practice. Plus, it's tricky juggling two of you. Kat, can you feel him?"

The French girl squinted slightly and shook her head.

Then she could...though immediately sensed the difference between Cade and Cassandra in this link. If Cassandra was the towering basalt face of Lincoln at Mt Rushmore, Cade was the novelty plastic model on sale at the gift shop in the link. He existed, and Kat could sense him...but it was through a glass, darkly.

Even with the surge from the Runner's high he felt, an abnormal calmness reigned when it came to Cade's mind.   The increased feelings of friendship, though he knew otherwise in a corner of his mind weren't unwelcome, but he did wonder at the nature of them.   He could feel Cassandra there, but in truth, he could only barely feel Kat.   The whole of the link was centered on Cassandra, and he wondered about it.

"I feel the connection to you, Cassandra, though it's kinda hard to express exactly how it feels.    I guess like it's a mix of being on a big runner's high, and likve we've been friends nearly all our lives.  I find myself associating you with things that make me feel exhilirated."   His eyes flicked over to Kat, and then down.  "I can only just feel you there, on the other side of all that."

He had no idea what to do with this, but that was after all, why one of the reasons they were doing this now.

It was a humbling yet exhilarating experience to the French girl, and the small part of her that feared her own Shine, her powers, washed away the bias she had developed after the incident in Great Falls. There was beauty in it, and she only needed to tame the wild horse, and ride it. Make it become part of herself. She now wanted to, more than anything else. A genuine smile drew on Cassandra's lips as she could clearly see the surge of the petite redhead's excitement, painted on her extatic face. "Whoa, this is fun!" Kat whispered in a chuckle.

She turned to Cade with a puzzled look. "It's true that you do feel different from, say, Cassandra. I'm struggling to understand to what extent though. As to what you can feel from me, my wild guess would be that since Cassandra pulled us together... She's got more... presence?" Her unruly grey eyes flicked to the blonde girl's at that question.

And it was then she realized she no longer wanted to rub the back of her head. At least with her right hand.

"That's partly it," Cassandra said to Kat, "but only partly. There's something really different about Cade's shine. Ours reaches out into the world and his sort of stays all curled up inside of him. Now that we're linked though, I can kind of feel through it. I just...don't think Cade can feel the link the way we can. It's all sort of instinctive for him. But you guys, this is something! This is a big deal! I didn't even know if we could bring him in at all!"

Her enthusiasm blared through the link, mingling with Kat's own exhilaration. Even Cade felt himself buoyed by seemingly sourceless glee.

"Alright, we should check in with the others and see how they're doing," Cass said. "I'm really curious to see how it went with Marissa now."

Edited by Cassandra Allen
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"Okay."  Jason called as he noticed Tawny's focus starting to waver as she took in Devin and Courtney laughing and snickering together.  One by one, the baseballs veered off to rest on the grass nearby.  "That will do for a start.  You did well."  The lean young man said as he walked across the intervening space to his student.  Despite her distraction, Tawny was still Tawny, and as he came near she smiled at him, her momentary pout forgotten as she looked up at her strange mentor.  He was aloof, almost cold in his expressions, but she got the sense that when he said 'you did well', he meant it.  So it was that Jason was unprepared to be the subject of a quick, fiercely grateful hug, so when Tawny stepped into him and threw her arms around him he merely blinked and glanced askance at the others over the top of her blonde head.

"Thank you."  Tawny murmured as she released him after only a moment and stepped back, repressing the urge to giggle at the nonplussed expression on his face.  "That was fun, and you're a pretty good teacher."  At that, the surprise was replaced with a faint smile that touched the cold ice of his gaze, warming it slightly as Jason nodded once in return.

"There's more to practice."  he noted, his eyes on hers in that curious direct stare she was starting to- no, she wasn't getting used to it yet, but at least it wasn't as daunting as it had been fifteen minutes ago.  "You can, for instance, set aside part of your Shine so that those extra hands are always available and you don't need to think too hard about using them, even right after waking up.  Then there's movement on the molecular and sub-molecular levels, creating thermic or exothermic reactions, as well as telekinetic fields for protection and other uses."

"Forcefields?"  Tawny blinked, smiling wide as Jason nodded again.

"We'll work on those when you've had a brief rest.  For now, think about how it felt to attune with my Shine, develop your awareness of your own.  If you get an opportunity later, practice with the others too - we all boost in different ways."

"Cool."  Tawny nodded, mulling over what she'd experienced and learned as the two of them walked over to the others.  She grabbed her bottle of water from where she'd left it and took a swallow, reflecting that the Fellowship's training and study methods were miles away from what she'd endured at Dr Cook's hands.  No sterile lab, no beeping monitors to be hooked up to, no quietly frustrated commands from Cook or one of the other lab techs to 'light the match' or 'move the coin'.  Out here, as with Deej on the mountain the other day, she felt connected to her powers, like they were part of her rather than a separate thing people wanted to study and she was just the inconvenient necessity.  As she drank, Jase stepped roughly into the center of the three other small groups of teens, looking around at them all.

"How is everyone doing?" he asked, sunlight glinting in his eyes as they swept the gathering.  Calling a bottle of water to his hand, he also took a drink, then went on.  "How did it feel?  Any issues?"  he asked with the air of one interested in the results, and prepared to quietly work to resolve problems.

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"Nope, totally crushed it," Devin said with a shrug of confidence.  "Still can't get over that whole feeling so small in a big world kinda feeling I get when doing it."

"I don't know about 'crushed it', he's being nice to me."  Courtney wrapped her arm around Devin's waist and rest a head on his shoulder in a sort of hug.  At this point she was only harassing Tawny.  She knew how she felt about him and could both sense and feel her love and desire for him so close to the surface it was like a beacon begging her to play with it.  She nuzzled her cheek on his shoulder while casting a glance that barely managed to catch Tawny's eyes with practiced accuracy.  "He's a great teacher, though."  Her tone was laced with the seductive coo of the Red Crested Strumpet, not common to these parts of Montana, but it's migratory patterns were unpredictable.  Courtney offered a slight, almost imperceptible smirk at Tawny as the lovable blonde's eye narrowed.

"What is that, anyway?" The amorous redhead asked.  "It felt, I don't know, like I was a part of but separate still from all the life around me... not just the life, but like, the rocks and things too.  Does grass get depressed?  It felt like the grass was depressed?"

"I think that was me, genius," Devin smiled that charming smile at her.  "Lona's leaving tomorrow, so I'm not really feeling a hundred and up today.

She frowned at him.  "Oh, right.  Forgot about that, sorry."  Her brow creased as she mocked shame for possibly bringing up a bad memory on what was supposed to be a day of fun.  She executed the maneuver with deadly, assassin-like accuracy.  "You know, if you want to talk or anything, I'm available.  I know how much she means to you, and I know you're going through a time, right now."  Make it all about him, adjust for needy hanger-on blondes in the vicinity who always make it about their wants, and... fire.  She shrugged and half smiled.  "Just a thought, no pressure, I know you like to handle things on your own.  Just, know you have options if you need to vent."

"Thanks," Devin's grin was genuine.  Tawny's cheeks flushed as he took the bait.  "I appreciate that.  However!"  He clapped his hands, shaking away all that sentimental mumbo-jumbo.  "Let's take a break.  If people are hungry, I can do a Bunnee's run!  C'mon people!  We're training to big damn heroes here, let's bring it in!  Hydrate, defecate, fornicate... do what you gotta because we gots training to get back to!  Woo!"

Courtney pressed the tips of finger to her chest and did a mock swooning impression.  "Uh, he's just so classy.  So classy."

"Water?"  He asked his partner.

"Please," she said in that flirtatious way that told anyone who'd ever had a crush that she was on the prowl.  As Devin ran off to get them she turned to Tawny, whose own water bottle was slowly compacting in on itself.  "I have to admit, I like this side Devin.  Noble, honorable, all upright.  Totes yummy."

"Honorable and upright are synonyms of 'noble'," Tawny said deadpan.  "He's noble, noble, and noble?  You're crushing on a law firm, Courtney.  Bravo.  I know what you're trying to do, and it won't work.  I might have been spared your bullying because Devin and I are neighbors, but don't think you're going to goad me into an emotional outburst.  Everyone knows how I feel about him, even him.  That why it won't work.  I have no lies buried inside, but you?  They're all that's holding you together."

"Oh, kitten has claws,"  the cheerleader narrowed her eyes at Tawny's appraisal.  "The sass adds flavor to the meat."

"That's enough," Jason said simply.  "Both of you."

"Toodles," she waggled her fingers in a wave as she turned to meet up with Devin who was running back with waters for the both of them and...

"Hey," he skipped past Courtney and handed Tawny a water as well.  "Running low there, hotness.  The more we push ourselves the more thirsty and hungry we get.  Won't lie, the munchies are kind of fun."  She giggled and accepted the water, offering Courtney a neutral glance.  To Jason it was like witness mental Tai Chi and the harder Tawny's opponent came at her the swifter her opponent defeated herself.  Courtney didn't seem irritated, but it was obvious she wasn't expecting fade away from Devin.

"You.  Are.  Awesome." she replied in that adorable and lovable way of genuine sincerity and a smile that could bring peace to a nation.  "Looking forward to the munchies."

Devin handed Courtney her water and twisted the cap off his own.  "You know, Jase, we could probably fix that thing up," Devin pointed to the farm machine that Gar had declared deceased.  I mean, we have super powers.  As a thanks for your dad hooking us up with all this space, least we could do is save his pocket book by finding ways to recycle this old stuff."

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Kat strolled alongside Cade and Cassandra towards the spot everyone was gathering at. It had taken them some time to actually link, so they did not make much progress apart from that. Still, the petite redhead was pretty happy with the discovery she just made, and the feeling added a joyful levity to every step she took. Jason's question interrupted whatever chatter the three of them had going on, and she took some time to reflect on it.

"No issue for me, I guess. Loved it. It felt terribly good, but I don't really understand the applications it could have when fighting... Cody-Not-Cody? I'm guessing since most of us do different stuff, there is a wide and interesting range of them, but would we actually have the time to do that while, I don't know, ducking to avoid a tree?" The last bit of her question oozed with zest, but Kat's expression was serious as she asked the young psychokinetic, shooing away any distraction sweatpants, animals, wind, sun's warmth and other stimulis offered, that made her everyday life. What happened in the hospital had felt real, and scary, and Kat had long accepted the fact that all of them, including herself, were putting their life on the line. Fear is just another tool to help focus, a part of herself mused.

The French girl crossed her tatooed arms on her chest, waiting for their "teacher" to formulate an answer.

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