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WEIRDER STUFF
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Weirder Stuff Episode VI: Rainbow Shadows

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Jase half-turned, following Devin's indicating of the old tractor plough as the others collected themselves and for a long moment he only sign he was in ferocious calculation was the focused tightening of his eyes as he took another swig of water.  When his father had declared the plough a write-off, Jason hadn't seen any reason to subject it to his own appraisal, and indeed had not really thought about it other than seeing the opportunity for a training aid.  But the longer he looked at it with the fresh perspective of Noble, Noble & Noble, Attorneys at Law, he saw that perhaps...

"Roughly sixty percent of the metal parts will need replacing." he told Devin, still looking at the hunk of rust.  "The rest can probably be salvaged.  The good news is, as you said, we have powers.  Reforging the scrapped metal into usable metal is do-able - I can generate enough heat to melt steel and could feasibly construct heat-proof molds, as well as control the cooling to produce a strong enough end result."  He didn't 'hmm' or rub his chin or fidget do any other normal signs of deep thought.  "We will need some replacement steel, perhaps from junkyards - it's certainly easier than smelting it ourselves from raw iron, and with you transporting it would be easy."  He turned back to Devin, who was grinning a little as both Courtney and Tawny stared from one young man to the other.

"See, that's the fun of hanging with us."  Devin told Tawny with a chuckle.  "All you got to do is say 'Hey, Jaybee, do you think we could do X? and he will take it as a personal challenge and work out how to do it.  And it could be anything."

"And as a bonus, I shall even work out whether it's a good idea."  Jason added with a raised eyebrow and a slight smirk. "Sometimes."  He offered Devin a fist, receiving the obligatory bump.  "It's a good idea." he nodded thoughtfully, giving his surprising friend a rare smile.  "Something to keep us out of trouble, too."

As Kat, Cassandra and Cade approached, and the petite French girl posited her question he fixed her with a slight smile, nodding.

"You're right.  Holding hands during a fight would be a dangerous tactical disadvantage.  But there is something we found out last training session that could mitigate that."  he said softly, glancing at Courtney.  "We found that a telepath can link two or more minds together in a sort of 'mental chat room'-"  Courtney looked surprised, then nodded assent  "-and an interesting side effect of this is that it serves in place of actual physical contact for sharing Shine.  A little concentration is all that's needed."

"So I'd need to have people in my head?"  Tawny wrinkled her nose.  Jason shrugged.

"Not exactly, any more than you share the contents of your phone with everyone just because you use Snapchat.  You share what you wish to broadcast."  He indicated Courtney with his bottle.  "A telepath could likely eavesdrop on your thoughts with or without the link - but for the group at large in a tactical situation it would allow for secure communication, sharing of what we see and hear, and of course - being able to attune at a distance."

"I don't know how many I could link, though."  Courtney sounded doubtful, her exquisitely made-up lips twisting ruefully.  "I only ever did it with two or three before."

"Phrasing."  Devin deadpanned, raising a snort of laughter from Tawny and a faint smile from Jase as Courtney scowled briefly.  "That's why we're here, Red Peril."  Devin nudged her.  "To find out what we can do outside of Cook's dumbass lab tests."

"We'll test it, with volunteers, once we've rested."  Jason agreed.  Mollified, Courtney tossed her hair back over one shoulder and fixed Jason with an arch look.

"Does that mean you'll volunteer?"  she challenged with a coy smile.  "Gonna let me in that head of yours?"  Jason's lips curved very slightly, a glimmer of inscrutable, ancient humor in his eyes.

"Into the foyer, yes." he said softly.  "Further than that might prove dangerous."

"Aww, don't trust me?"  Courtney's grin was that of a shark approaching a swimmer.  "I swear, I won't peek around in you too much."  Jason's smile widened fractionally, the glimmer of humor becoming the glint of sunlight on emerald scales as his gaze never left hers.

"I didn't say it would be dangerous for me." he clarified, tapping the side of his head once.  "'It is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them'."  Courtney blinked, her smile fading.  Slowly, Jason winked at her, and she repressed a shiver that ran down her spine.  She wasn't sure whether the thrill was of fear or of arousal - she was pretty sure it was both - but then she was also aware that her condition often urged her to pursue the taboo, the dangerous, to seek the greater thrill.  Given the strength of her reaction she was pretty sure that in this case, the itch was better off not scratched... Even if the white hot fire she'd felt between Autumn and Jason when they'd been alone upstairs in the barn had piqued her curiousity.  Dammit.  Looking away, she took another sip of water, missing the faint smile Jason shared with Devin.

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"It's like a Runner's High just not the huge drop when you come down from it."  Cade said.  He still wasn't sure about it.   He felt energized, but it wasn't like he could really do anything with it.   "About the only other thing on my end was I guess that my feelings of friendship and Camaraderie towards Cassandra were greatly increased for awhile.    Maybe because she was taking the lead, and serving as the bridge, I just really didn't feel much from Kat.   A slightly heightened awareness, but nothing akin to what I got with Cass."

Cade shook his head.  "Maybe it's different with different people, didn't you mention that the last time we discussed this whole linking up thing?"   

He wasn't really feeling down, he really couldn't after that, but at the same time, like Kat, he was wondering just how they'd be able to use that in the fight they all knew was coming.

Jason's revelation about not actually needing physical contact could be a game-changer, once again with the right people linked up.   "More Testing is a great idea actually."

He shrugged as he took a swig from the bottle of water he'd brought out, and shrugged his broad shoulders.  He looked over at Tawny, then Jason.  "If you're both up for it, I'd like to do some more of that spatial awareness training.   Unless all the targets are gone.  I could go make some more."

Having two telekinetics would make it even more random, though he didn't want to put alot of strain on Tawny since she was new to her powers.  When she just looked at him. He nodded.  "Remember how I said I'm accurate?  Well hitting a stationary target is easy, but with someone who has powers like Jason, I can stand in the middle and he can move the targets around me.   Can take it a step further and call specific targets, to be hit in order, and further beyond that, Everything, including me can be moving."

He gave her that same genuine warm smile he'd worn often enough.  "It could maybe help you with your control too, if you want to give it a try."

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Posted (edited)

The petite redhead nodded to Jason's reply, her brains now working the answer out under all of its aspects. "Hey, that's funny. I can do telepathy stuff too. I mean... I don't know if I could set up a mind network yet, but I could try." Her eyes wandered off and down from his face, meeting the soft fabric of the white teeshirt, then lower, and lower, and - Oh cut the crap, stupid! - as her eyes ran away from what they were about to stare at, they fell on the tractor plough. She remembered the earlier exchange between Devin and Jason. They sure could try and repair it, scrub some rust off. It should be no ordeal with their powers - Wait a minute.

"Wait a minute..." She whispered. The evening before, she had spent a couple hours trying to paint with her mojo, turning the very thin layer of air closest to her paper into an even thinner layer of paint. What if... "What if I could actually repair the tractor? Yesterday, with Sean, I tried painting with my... Okay, long story short, telepathy is a bit hard for me, but there's something else I can do that feels easier. When I talked to Sean about it, he said I was probably... manipulating fundamental forces and molecules, or even atoms. I know for a fact that I can alter how gravity applies to an object, I did it on my phone the first time, and also that I can... transmute? matter into something else. That's how I painted with my... mumbo-jumbo." She looked at the taller psychokinetic standing in front of her and flashed him a bold smile. "Maybe I could try and sweep some dust off the tractor..."

Edited by Catherine 'Kat' Barras

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Posted (edited)

Jason's response was a raised eyebrow - Autumn's text on 'Bannon Expressions for Dummies' would have categorised it as the equivalent of a 'hmm'.  He looked from the petite exchange student to Devin, who shrugged.  "New girl stepping up.  Awright." the teleporter raised his bottle of water in a salute.  "Let's see what you got."

"Very well, then."  Jason stepped aside to give Kat a clear view of the plough, then stepped with silent grace behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders.  "My Shine will make it easier for you to affect machines or physical objects." he explained as Kat peered over her shoulder up at him, trying to repress a shiver of... well, it wasn't fear that was for certain.  This close, she could smell the faint scent of rich tobacco and even fainter cologne, and though his touch was light on her shoulders her skin under his hands felt suddenly unaccountably warm.  And then...

His Shine poured into her, a powerful bright light focused through the prism of his will.  It was clarity, crystalline clarity, and it's effect on the normally-chaotic mind of the young woman was electrifying.  Courtney had calmed her with an active brush of her power - Jase's essence tuning to hers threw everything into sharp, clear focus as though her ADHD was never a thing.  She was aware of his hands on her shoulders, his presence behind her, and the grass underfoot, and the plough in front of her... and none of it was overwhelming or distracting, everything processing normally as though Jason was grounding the scattered electricity of her thoughts.  She bit her lip, taking a deep breath and blowing it out.  Focus.

It was hard, more complicated than anything she had tried with her gifts before.  The rusty hunk of metal had many moving parts, and some were missing - rusted away, presumably.  As Kat squinted at the machinery, she felt a faint pain in her head which she associated with the stretching of a muscle unused to such activity.  Abruptly, she could see what needed to be done.

The rust is oxidised metal.  That can be de-oxidised.

As the teens watched, the rusty splotches on the plough began to fade, shrinking as they transmuted back into shining sturdy metal.

I need to find replacements for the internal mechanisms here and here...   Fresh blades there and there... The towing bar is enough metal.  And easy to replace.  Yeah...

The metal of the towing bar used to attach the plough to a tractor shrank, warped, ran like liquid before reforming into gleaming steel plough blades.  Rivulets of liquid metal ran along and seeped inside the machine, taking shape under Kat's concentration.

"Holy shit."  Courtney laughed as, before everyone's eyes, the ravages of time were apparently reversed, as though Kat were winding back a clock.  Tawny's eyes were wide, Cade was blinking as he looked from the plough to where Kat stood, Jason's hands on her shoulders, then back at the plough.  Where once had stood something fit for the scrap-heap now sat a showroom-new eight-channel rotary plough - minus the towing bar, but still.

"Impressive."  Jason said quietly from behind Kat as she relaxed, sagging back against him for a moment.  The effort had been greater than anything she had yet attempted, her head hurt a little, but despite that and her tiredness she was elated.  It felt good to just lean back and take in what she had accomplished.  A bona fide miracle.  She grinned... and then recalled who she was leaning against.  Oh.  Yeah.

Clearing her throat, she craned her head up and round to look up at him.  He didn't look annoyed, which was a plus, but the feel of her back against his torso was enough to make the small French import blush a little as she straightened up.  Jason's hands left her shoulders as she turned around, resisting the urge to step away - or closer.  He gave her a small nod - of approval, or thanks, or some combination of the two?  She wasn't too sure.

"If I had some more metal to work with, I could reconstruct the tow bar too."  she said, looking up at his eyes.

"I'll take you up on that."  he replied with a small grin that brought an answering smile to her lips.  Suddenly greatly daring, she locked eyes with him and tried to 'speak' to him.  She could 'feel' his mind's presence, just not what was going on in it, after all.  So she spoke 'at' him rather than trying to connect.

"I heard you deal weed.  Can we talk about that later?  And other stuff too, of course.  But... yeah."  His eyes narrowed a little, but he was still smiling as he nodded a silent response.

"Cool"  Kat said with a bright, slightly flirtatious grin, apparently answering his previous statement as, still feeling a little flushed, she stepped away and took a long drink of water.  Whew.

Edited by GDP_ST
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Posted (edited)

As the initial round of exercises drew to a close, Autumn glanced down at the head of the sleeping princess still resting against shoulder. It would almost have been endearing, except for the fact that she was thirsty and it felt like if she didn’t get up and do something she was going to start putting down roots. “C’mon. No falling asleep,” she admonished, shrugging the exhausted brunette off and ignoring the sullen glower directed her way. Despite her grumbled protestations, Marissa managed to sit up with the help of a steadying hand, scowling like a petulant child as the redhead brushed the grass from her dark hair. It was a surprisingly familiar gesture, one that carried a faint sensation of warmth as the Girl Scout’s freckled fingers smoothed the disheveled sable tresses. “Finish that water up, and if you feel all right after that, we can go over what happened. With the attunement, I mean” she added after a moment’s pause, considering everything that had been said, and how angry she’d felt, and how nice it was to just be for a minute. No point revisiting that just yet. “The rest… That can wait. I’m gonna go grab something else to drink. Don’t try to get up too fast, okay?”

Stretching as she stood, Autumn sighed and briskly dusted bits of grass and dirt from her jeans and hoodie before tightening the knotted arms around her waist. She’d have to go back to the barn for another bottle, since she was pretty sure sharing anything wasn’t part of Marissa’s “Girl Code”… at least, if her reaction to Tawny borrowing a shirt was any indication. On the other hand… Autumn found herself turning, blue eyes unconsciously following the long, easy strides that carried Jason into the center of the rough clearing. …there was a long, cool drink of water not too far away, and it was hot out in the field.

Yep. The thirst is definitely real. It must have been the sun. Obviously. In fact, she was feeling a little feverish just thinking about it, she realized, taking a step forward as she licked suddenly dry lips. And… It was probably okay to actually think about it a little more seriously now, right? They were dating, regardless of the reason, and regardless of whether Cassie or Marissa or anyone else liked it. Mari had also been adamant about her lack of interest in him, so there was no good reason not to take her at her word. Probably. Which also meant that she didn’t really have to think about it anymore; if, as the diva herself had said, Jase was now her “problem,” that made however other people felt about it their problem.

Right?

Autumn could feel the unbidden smile on her lips as she crossed the open ground toward the others, and the slow suffusion of crimson in her sun-warmed cheeks, just as she always did where he was concerned, but there was something else, too. Something new. She’d told him, and she’d told her mom, and she’d told Cass and now Mari as well, but she hadn’t really made it clear to anyone else, had she? She liked Jason Bannon, whether he was a high-functioning psychopath, or secretly a dragon, or an interdimensional alien, or… whatever. As crazy as it was, as completely foreign as he seemed at times, and as likely as it seemed that at some point this whole mad experiment- or whatever it was- would blow up in her face, this was A Thing. They were A Thing. And instead of just making some awkward announcement, or trying to convince people he wasn’t some kind of leashed wolf just waiting for the chance to bite, well… Actions spoke louder than words.

“Hey,” she interjected a greeting as she approached, her Thalassic gaze lingering curiously on the seemingly-new plow and the gamine young woman who’d just turned away, red-faced, a moment before. Had Jason said something that embarrassed her? Admittedly, he did have that effect on people, herself included; there didn’t seem to be much room for middle ground. “Nice ink,” the taller redhead added with an appreciative smile, noting for the first time the swirling tattoo covering Kat’s bare limbs. What she could see was a sort of neo-Celtic design, and clearly part of a much larger work- which was, in itself, an impressive feat for a teenager. Someone paid a lot for that. And then, with a slight tilt of her head as she turned to peer up into those fathomless green pools, Autumn smiled again, all mischief and promise.

“I’m thirsty,” she stated matter-of-factly. “Mind if I have some of that?” The tall, imperturbable youth nodded, the pale jade of his eyes warming slightly as he called the water bottle back to hand, and the impish smile became a grin. With a slow shake of her head, Autumn leaned up on tiptoe as her fingers slid along the line of Jason’s jaw, threading through the dark hair at the nape of his neck. “Not that,” she murmured, savoring the sight of the long, slow blink he gave as his brain shifted focus, quickly catching on to her intent. “This.” Her lips brushed against his, gently at first and then more deeply as she felt his hands slip around her waist- and, simultaneously, over her cheeks and through the tousled mass of copper curls that defied the best efforts of the little elastic hair band to contain them. She could just make out a soft feminine gasp- Courtney, maybe? she wondered- but then Jase was kissing her back, was pulling her closer, and everything else seemed mundane and unimportant by comparison.  

It wasn’t a particularly prolonged kiss; in reality, it lasted only a few moments. It was, however, visibly intense, each focused on the other to the exclusion of all else: the faint scents of smoke and green, growing things that she associated with him; the way her skin warmed under his fingertips; the sound of blood pounding in both their ears like some ancient drum.

“Not that I’m complaining, but what was that for?” he asked quietly, eyes intent on hers as they parted, both a little breathless. There were tiny golden fireflies in his gaze, banked embers that smouldered lazily in their depths, and Autumn smiled in response, pressing her forehead to his.

She hmm’ed softly, thoughtfully, meeting Jason’s eyes as her fingers slipped from his hair to rest on his shoulders. “I’d say I had probably at least three reasons.” That earned her another blink, and a slow, faintly crooked smile.

“Have I mentioned yet today that you’re amazing?” His voice was low, lips tantalizingly close, and it was only by sheer force of will that she managed to engage her boring, normal, thoroughly human brain enough to draw back from the precipice of scorching emerald madness his eyes promised as they remained fixed on hers.

“I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be my line,” the blushing girl teased, settling back onto her heels as the quiet thrill of what she’d just done danced, exultant, through her mind. “And now that I’m not quite as thirsty anymore, I need a drink.”

Edited by Autumn Keane
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While Autumn displayed the one hundred and one ways to be a sore winner, Marissa rolled her eyes and made her way to the barn.  None of her muscles ached, in fact her post-coital 'stress' seemed to have went away, a small cure from Autumn's vitakinesis that was left unspoken between them.  What she felt instead was complete lethargy.  Drained of energy and suddenly yearning to do nothing more than nap... and she never napped.

She stomped up the stairs and by the time she was done an urge to just sit down and relax swam through her thoughts but she knew that's how baby naps were born.  She rummaged around and rolled her eyes as she looked up to the heavens after locating a cooler Jason had and drug it over to the fridge and began loading up with waters.  "Friggin' genius, my ass."  She fumed as she threw water after water into the cooler with the force of a tantruming child.  "Hey guys, wanna come over for dinner?"  She sneered in a very poor imitation of Jason's voice.  "Great.  Once you get here, you gotta go back home to get a plate though!  Ugh!"

More waters hit the cooler and she finally felt satisfied enough to slam the door.  "How hard is it?  If you're working out outside, simply have a cooler of water prepared?  But noooooo, all we care about is ourselves, not our guests.  You're all here to watch us snog and be all grossly incandescent."

It seemed the rage set her lethargy on pause and felt good in a number of ways.  It seemed her strength was slowly returning but still, a nap had never sounded better.  With a cooler filled with water bottles, Marissa drug it behind her until she passed the table they were all sitting at just a half hour or so prior.  She glared at it a long while and sighed.  Walking to where Jason sat earlier she set down on the table a small perfume bottle that he would recognize well.  "Goodbye, and be happy, you needn't worry.  Take her hand and you will see, that I was never your destiny."

And just like that the chapter of Jason Bannon was closed in her life.  Grabbing the cooler she hoisted it up and drug it behind her because it weighed like a million pounds.   Slowly she drug it back to the others who were marveling at the wonder that was Kat who was working honest-to-god 'magic' on the old plough.  With a thump the cooler slammed into the ground with a rattle of plastic water bottles.

"There." She smacked the work of her hands with a clap.  "Now, I know you're like super smart and all, Jason, but I went ahead took the liberty of taking care of grabbing water while you were showing your girlfriend more care and concern than your guests.  Standards of propriety, genius.  Look it up."

"You're welcome, minions." She addressed everyone with her hand raised as if expecting worship.  It was hard to tell if she was serious or back to being a bitch.  With Jason, it was obvious, but the others?  "Your Queen has once again seen to your needs.  You're welcome."  Lazily she plopped down in the grass and just sat there as the world spun about in front of her.  Maybe she needed more rest than she thought.

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Cade had watched as Kat "restored" the tractor using only her abilities.  "Now that's pretty damn cool.'   It was pretty miraculous, and he didn't understand exactly how she'd done it, but he understood enough to realize it wasn't something the others could have done.  "Talk about saving time and money...."


Autumn came up and immediately went to Jason, and from that greeting, well it was certainly obvious that Autumn and Jason were getting on "really" well.   Good for them.

 

When Marissa came up lugging the full ice chest, he smiled, but sighed inside.  "Thanks for thinking of everyone else Marissa."   He moved over to open the chest and grab another bottle, before lowering himself down to the ground next to her.     "So I guess your training with Autumn went well?"

 

He recognized the look of someone who was exhausted, and if nothing else, he'd give her someone to lean against.  More quietly, he asked, his voice tinged with concern.  "You okay, Marissa?"
 

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At the Miracle of the Tractor Reborn, Cassandra clapped her hands and whistled like she was at a rock concern. On some level she couldn't help but feel an inkling of something deeper though.

No one had really talked about it yet, at least not with her, but what were they going to do with these powers after the whole Dark thing was finished? Go public? Live secret double lives? Find some kind of balance? Cass figured Jase probably already knew, but what about everyone else? And maybe more to the point, what about her? At first it might seem like someone like her could get a lot of mileage out of her powers. Track down secrets, stories, scoops...find the guilty and expose them... But it was that last, wasn't it? Was she prepared for that situation where psychic visions told her unequivocally that someone was guilty of something awful...but she couldn't find proof, so nothing happened? Or would she, in that case, act on her own, or with the help of the Fellowship, to exact justice outside what the law could?

Because that idea troubled her. It felt like a no-win situation. Do something, and weaken the very concept of law. Do nothing, and let the spirit of the law be violated.

It wasn't today's problem, but it was still troubling.

No, today's problem?

Well, seeing Autumn and Jase do their thing reminded Cassandra of some of the perks of having a boyfriend. She didn't miss Dylan so much as she missed the feeling of arms around her, lips against her. The warmth, the contact... It was nice.

But yeah...pickings were slim. Jason was crazy, and also taken. Cade dull, also taken. Though the idea of stealing another of Marissa's boyfriends gave the mean slice of her brain a chuckle. There was Devin, and lets face it...she could do worse. He was good looking, he was fun, he had a cool power... For all his faults, she liked him. And they did have a weird kind of bond from way back when they'd both seen their very first Weird Thing together. And they were going to Homecoming. So why not?

Maybe it was seeing him and Tawny. Or him and...basically every other person with tits that wasn't Sean. Maybe it was just that they'd been friends 'too long.' Maybe it was the thirteen-year old emotional affect. Cassie just didn't feel a romantic spark between them right now. Maybe that'd change if they went out a time or two or three.

I just don't know who he is yet, she decided. Not really.

Then who though? Courtney? The thought brought a laugh to her. Like, okay, sure you go and experiment girl, but Courtney? Cass got along better with Marissa than her...and that was saying something. Sean? The funny thing there was that, even putting aside the whole 'looks like a girl' thing, Sean and Cass just didn't have anything in common, it felt like. They barely ever even talked. Definitely no sparks there at the moment.

Ugh. Maybe just no one. She was young, there was no hurry! It's not like there wasn't enough other stuff on her plate to focus on.

Speaking of which.

"If that's all the porn we're getting, lets get back to business!" she called out. "What's next?! Get naked or break it up!"

Edited by Cassandra Allen
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2 hours ago, Cade said:

He recognized the look of someone who was exhausted, and if nothing else, he'd give her someone to lean against.  More quietly, he asked, his voice tinged with concern.  "You okay, Marissa?"

She smiled warmly, but lazily.  She rest her head on his shoulder and looked up at those azure eyes of his.  "I'm fine," she said softly.  "It's sweet of you to check up on me though."  With a tilt of her head and a shift of her posture, she kissed him on the cheek.  "Thank you."

"It went well enough," she shrugged.  "Typical argument though, since my brother and I were bullies our observations and concerns amount to nothing so it is what it is.  It doesn't seem like our friendship has a very bright future ahead of it, but, I don't blame her considering all I did to her.  Some things 'I'm sorry' just doesn't solve, I guess."

Her bae's eyes sort of awkwardly avoided her as he pondered what she was talking about.  "Uh, okay.  I meant... the attunement thing.  Did you two have a fight?"

"Hm?  Oh, no, quite the opposite in fact.  We taught each other a great deal,"  she smiled weakly.  "It was, I don't know... wow.  I could feel everything going on around me, like I don't know.  I could feel life.  I've never felt something so pure, so peaceful, so... radiant."

"Me too.  Felt good, huh?"

"No," she said quietly.  "It felt horrible.  It hurt.  I'm so horrible that my Shine felt like it was flickering out.  Like, I could become one of those things, or like Cody."  The lump in her throat refused to be choked back as she huddled closer to her lover who shook his head.

"Hey, no.  You can't think like that."  His arm wrapped around her and he gently stroked her arm.  "Won't lie to you, Marissa, you have a lot of karma to burn off, like, slightly less than Hitler.  So you're third..."  He raised his hand and displayed it as if he were setting each name in the sky for her.  "Stalin, Hitler, Marissa Jauntsen."

She elbowed him in the side.  "Dick."

"Just, look at it this way, Marissa,"  he paused and looked out to the field where everyone was just being teenagers.  "As long as you have that Shine then something within you is screaming to be more, do more, help more.  It's hope.  As long as you keep that, as long as you don't throw in the towel and give into all the cute and fuzzy bunnies of the world-" she leaned away from him and glared at him like he was a stranger.  "Sorry, there was a John Cusack marathon over the weekend.  Even an ember can grow into a roaring, radiant blaze.  Just don't let yourself get discouraged by the past.  You can't do anything about that.  Tomorrow, however... well, that's on you."

"That was," her tone was flat.  "Mildly inspiring."  Still, she kissed him again and rest her head against him.  "Now... go.  I'm fine.  Don't coddle me, I'm just resting.  Go be a dude and do dude things."

As he stood up and finished his water she looked over the field and watched as her brother entertained Courtney and Tawny laughed as he tormented the redhead who couldn't catch him with all his blinking about.  She couldn't be a part of this merry little band.  She was a spy for Enterich and a spy for Annette and she was selling them out to the enemy for a hundred grand a pop.  She knew Autumn's words didn't apply to her.  That people fuck up, they could learn from it, and friends were supposed to forgive each other for that.  She knew there would be no forgiveness for her.  She sat and watched everyone enjoy themselves as her hope deep within, dimmed just a little bit more.

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Devin broke away from his games with Courtney, who refused to chase him anymore given she hadn't dressed for athleticism.  He approached his sister and opened up the cooler, amused at the little things that irritated the hell out of her, like having to walk to the barn for water.  He didn't mind so much, like Jason chilling his own drinks, Devin distance wasn't really factor for the teleporter so he'd just bring the drinks to him.

"You okay?" he asked his sister as he collected a couple more waters.  She nodded in the affirmative but didn't offer much, if anything, in the way of an explanation, just a few short words to keep his mind at ease and after displaying his concern he disappeared in a violet blur.

He tossed Kat a water.  "Nice work, New Girl," he winked at her.  "Quite the bag of tricks hidden up there."  He pointed to her forehead and left her to her business.  It was collectively, the most words Devin had said to her since she'd started hanging out with the Fellowship.  She knew his reputation as Shelly High's bully on a redemption path to try and grow up a bit.  He didn't seem so bad, a bit intense sometimes, but not so bad.

"Did you know?"  Jason asked, as Devin approached imbalanced companion.  His words were meant for just Devin and his low inquiry carried no more concern or urgency as any phrase that passed his lips.  "Of all the things to help my dad save some money, Devin, the plough?"

The teleporter grinned, then shrugged.  "She doesn't talk much.  When she does she doesn't seem to have listened to what's said or understand simple slang or twists in vernacular.  She stares off into space a lot, lost in her own thoughts, where things make more sense to her.  Classic ADHD, Jase.  I wasn't a hundred percent sure, but I took a shot in the dark.  Gave her a puzzle, gave her something that was broken, run down and complex and... well, just let her mind work at its own speed.  Explanation would have only gone so far with her, she needs to do things and be engaged on her own terms."  He hit Jase in the chest with the back of his hand.  "Leadership stuff, dude.  Gotta understand your people.  Can't manipulate an entire school for years without understanding how teenagers function."

"That's mildly disturbing," Jase added, as the corner of his mouth inclined slightly.

"You can read all the medical journals, dude, understand what all those fancy afflictions are and what they do and mean, but sometimes the path to the cure lies in bedside manner, bro.  Empathy."  Devin shrugged.  "It's not so much what people say-"

"-it's what the don't say."  The lanky psychopath finished.

"Bingo."  Devin tipped his water back and then twisted the cap back on after a large swig.  "We'll work on it.  If you're gonna step up with me, like we discussed, we gotta get you peopling.  Granola can help."  His gaze set on something off in the distance, away from their conversation.  He raised his hand and pitched his empty water bottle off and up into an arch.  It swiftly 'bamf'd out of existence only to reappear and bounce off Tawny's back.  She spun about to look who threw it and there was Devin making faces at her as she took off in a full sprint towards him to take him down.  "Gotta go.  You and me, fifteen minutes, sparing match."

Devin bolted away as Tawny passed Jason as a blur of golden hair and the scent of fruity shampoo.

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As he watched Autumn chase Cassandra across the field, red-faced and swearing vengeance for the catcalling as she tried to empty her water bottle over the laughing blonde's head, Jason reflected on Devin's words.  He wasn't surprised that Devin was capable of subtlety and insight - indeed, he'd seen glimpses of the teleporter's social acuity before - what had the lean young man thoughtful was the generosity and selflessness with which that insight had been applied.  He remained still as the others drifted away and just watched them all, Cade chatting with Kat over at the restored plough as the proud French girl looked over her work, Devin laughing at Tawny as the blonde farmgirl jumped on his back and tried to wrestle him to the ground, Cassie and Autumn having an impromptu water battle without honor or humanity, Marissa looking wan and somber over by the cooler...  He almost went and spoke to her, but remembered her venomous denunciation of him under the medical center and concluded that his company would probably be less-than-welcome.

So he watched them all, now and then sipping from his bottle.  His friends, most of them indulging in horseplay, a fact that made him smile as he remembered the water fight in the creek with Autumn.  He didn't feel so apart from them as he had in times past, even though with the revelations of the previous week he should feel even more set apart.  Granola can help, Devin had said.  And he was right to a large extent.  Autumn's warmth and straightforwardness made her ideal as a friend - and as a girlfriend - for the naturally detached young Teulu.  But Devin also helped.  Cassie also helped.  Even watching Cade or the odd, squirrelly Kat provided insights in 'peopling'.

"Penny for your thoughts?"  Courtney had gotten her water bottle and came to stand next to him, watching the others with him for a moment before glancing sideways and up at the angular planes of his face.

"You have a penny?"  Jason returned with a raised eyebrow, though he didn't look away from the heartwarming sight of Cassie and Autumn laying on their backs out of breath and laughing like children.

"I felt what you felt when she kissed you, you know."  Courtney's voice was soft, almost wistful.  "I felt...uh.. IT.  I wish I hadn't, a little.  It made me feel cheap.  No one has ever felt that when they've kissed me.  No one ever will."  She blinked, her dark brown eyes moist, then realised he'd turned his head to look at her, his face as expressionless as always when he spoke to her.  "I won't say anything."  she told him, raising a hand in a peace gesture.  "I... just wanted to tell you that it...  It's pretty breathtaking.  That's all."  For a moment more he stared at her, then something almost imperceptible softened around the edges of his cold eyes.

"Never say never."  he told her quietly, his gaze still on hers.  "You likely have finer qualities than you have exhibited to date.  You can try to be more than your impulses, just as I do.  It does not come easily, though."

"No."  she agreed, looking away from that stare and watching Devin twist out of Tawny's death-grip and dart away.  "It sure doesn't.  What's the point, though?  Why fight what you are?"

"I don't.  I harness it, rather than let it harness me.  As to the point..." he finished his water with a long pull.  "You felt it.  Would you say that is worth the effort?"  The glamorous redhead's silence spoke volumes.  "You are one of us now - at least until you fuck it up."  Jason said quietly.  "If you want to leash your demons, I will try to help you forge the leash.  Think on it."  Without waiting for her to nod, or say anything, he walked off to get a fresh bottle of water.

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The petite redhead giggled as a thought striked her. "What's so funny?" asked Cade, next to her. "Well," Kat replied, "I need to tell Sean. I'm not entirely sure I can do it, but it looks to me like he couldn't keep up with that, if I were to use it to assemble a PC from scraps." Another giggle escaped her lips before she took a look around and realized most of the other teens were being... teens. Her gaze quickly darted back and forth between the laughing redhead, dripping with water, and the young man with green, cold eyes heading towards the cooler. And with a pout she realized she was a bit jealous.

"You alright there?" The thought came from outside her head, and with a start she realised that Courtney was gazing at her from where she'd just been speaking with Jason.

The petite redhead replied with a shrug and a mental groan. "I guess I arrived too late to even have a chance, eh?"

There was a soft wave of sympathy and fellow-feeling from her friend. "No sense regretting what you can't change, kiddo. At least you're starting fresh. I've actually got to undo a shitload before I can even start over."

Kat remembered the conversation she had with Sean the day before, and mechanically rubbed the back of her head. "Yeah, you're probably right... I still could use some ice-cream, right now..." As counterpoint to this mental exchange, her stomach suddenly produced a famished growl. "Heard that?"

There was a soft ripple of mental laughter. "If you're hungry, Devin was talking about getting food. You should ask him."

"Bless that guy."

"I'm gonna grab something to eat." The French girl told Cade, and without further thought she wandered towards the teleporter.

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Posted (edited)

Tawny was straddling Devin's back as lay face down in the grass flailing his arms and legs in a mock tantrum to the rhythmic beat of the cheery blonde gently playing his head like bongos.  He was laughing but sounded like crying and shrieks for help.  "No one is coming to save you.  Say it!"

"Never!  I will never submit!"  He over-dramatically declared as she playfully beat him about the head and neck.

"Who is the greatest?"  She asked.  "Accept me as your one true god, Deej and I can make this all stop!"  Her hands slid lower and to his sides where she threatened him with a few jabs in places she new he ticklish.  "Love me, worship me, do as I say and I will be your slave."  She added with a bit of mock drama of her own in her best Bowie impression.

Things suddenly got serious.  He stopped flailing tensed up his muscles all over.  "Don't.  Donchu dare..."

He failed about in laughing shrieks that Jason's considerably distant neighbors may have heard as the Fellowship was introduced to the fact that Devin Jauntsen was ticklish.  So much so in fact, that his usual witty, jovial bravado seemed melted him into quivering pool giggling idiot.  Tawny laughed evilly.  "That was just the left side.  See?  Am I not merciful.  Saaaaaaaay it...," she sung to him in a rather melodic tone.

Several yards away Autumn approached Jason.  She crushed her water bottle and tossed in the now forming 'water bottle pile'.  "So, you spend an hour teaching her to focus and harness her powers and she uses them to tickle-torture Devin?"  Her face tightened into a frown followed by an approving nod.

"I couldn't be more proud."  Jason said with feigned pride.

"Here," his girlfriend smiled as she wiped away a non-existent tear from his left cheek.  "Lemme get that for you."

He looked at her and smiled.  "You're the best."

"Devin, Devin, baby... sweetums... pookums..." her telekinetic 'fingers' destroyed another series of nerve cluster.  "We're not even at the 'woman scorned' level yet."  She stood up as Devin rolled about in laughter.  She giggled and gave him a moment to recover.  He tried to get to his knees, but made it to all fours before she pushed him back onto his side with her foot.  "Next time, you better have some lunch money, punk."

""So... so not right..." he laughed.  "So not fair..." He just sat there in the grass laughing as Tawny retreated from her bullying and offered both Autumn and Jason an enthusiastic wave and glowing smile that could have made the grass greener and the flowers blossom out of season.  "Ugh... wimenz... wimenz be cray yo..."  With a groan he sat up, face flushed past laughter.  He was brushing off grass as Kat sheepishly approached him.

He offered her a smirk in greeting and then held up his hand, palm flat with the ground.  "Sorry, New Girl.  Gotta be this tall to ride."  Kat rolled here eyes and turned around in a voiceless 'forget it' motion when Devin appeared in front of her in a violet 'bamf'.  He made storm outs so difficult, these days.  "Woah, I'm kidding.  I'm kidding.  Lighten up some, c'mon, we're all having a good time.  What's up?"

"Courtney said you mentioned something about food."  She implied without really asking.

"Actually," he nodded.  Kat had pulled the string in head that lit the bulb reminding him he was hungry.  "That's an amazing idea.  It's about lunch time.  Jay Bee!"  He yelled across the field.  "Lunch!  I'm taking orders... so... that thing... maybe an hour?"  Jason nodded.  "C'mon, you can help me carry."

Spoiler

Lunch time!

I figure this will take some time so it can be considered an intermission.  Devin and Kat will go get pizza for everyone.  Devin knows this great spot in New York, Tony's... we can fast forward (with an ST post, maybe) that picks thing s right up after everyone has some time to eat.

Just a suggestion.  Let me know on Discord how we wanna handle this.

 

Edited by Dave ST
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They exploded into being in a purple flash as Devin's teleportation anchored them to one of his numerous familiar spots. It was a room, abandoned and empty. Plaster peeled from the walls and from the variety of discarded debris, several homeless had used it as a crash pad more than once. Kat hunkered down, resting her palms on her knees. She was winded and feeling like all her organs were out of place. Devin rubbed her back. "Yeah, it's like that for everyone the first time. It get easier, then fades completely... or so I'm told."

"You?" She felt like she was going to hurl.

"No, I think it's because it's my gift. I got the joy of waking up naked in the back yard, or in one instance Finland. Luckily, I was wearing my clothes."

"Why Finland?" She stood, finally able to take in her surroundings. He shrugged. "You know, I still have no clue. This, however," he pointed to the floor they were standing on. "Is an abandoned orphanage, it's about two blocks from Tony's. C'mon."

The French girl closed her eyes to prevent her world from spinning. She couldn't say her first ride had been smooth, but had to admit she had known far worse. Her eyes opened a moment later, and she cast a glance at the room around her. An abandonned orphanage, uh?

"Did you ever... teleport somewhere random and end up in the middle of a crowd?" she asked as she followed him outside.

They stepped out in to the busy streets of Manhattan, New York. They slid through a flimsy piece of ply wood covering a window and easily hopped the tall fence that surrounded the abandoned building. "Thankfully, no." He replied. "The random hops only lasted about a week or so, right around the time the vagisuarus tried to eat my leg. Kinda freaked me out a bit, so I think I was having dreams or nightmares... like when you're falling and you wake up with that sudden jerk of motion? Yeah, except I was jaunting out of danger... sometimes, sans clothes."

"So," he said after they crossed West 138th street. "What's your story? How'd you get stuck with us?"

Kat hid her grin behind a hand as she pictured the young teleporter warping around as naked as the day he was born. She remembered him showing the scar on his leg, a couple days ago, in the conference room, and realized not only him, but pretty much every other teen 'blessed' with Shine probably had a rougher two last weeks than she had.

"Well," she started, "I got tatooed, but I guess pretty much everyone noticed by now. See, it's not just the arms and legs." She took a brief stop and spreaded her arms, down and to the sides. "Mom didn't quite like the idea of me spending money on a tatoo that size..." A shrug later and she was again walking by Devin's side. "She said she couldn't handle... both my bullshit and my grandma's declining health. I guess sending my grandma to the States wouldn't have been a good idea, eh?"

"And then, I don't know... I don't know how I got the Shine, is it because Ms. Kyleson made Sean my Shelly sherpa? No idea... But I realized it's not that bad, I mean, I get to make new friends, I even get to visit New York!" She offered a bright smile to the young man at her side.

The sights and sounds were sensory overload to the two teens. It was like night and compared to Shelly with so many people on the streets and traffic and so much going on. It was chaos incarnate and Devin seemed like he was in his natural element. The boy had not a drop of shyness to him and he managed to blend in almost seamlessly with any new environment and there was something about his outgoing personality that left a bit to be envious of for the French girl in a strange new country.

"Well," he shrugged, looking down at her while also looking up at the crowd of people they were wading through. "I think it's because Coyote has a plan. He seems to be bringing those of us with gifts all to one place." He didn't seem to mind that there were so many people around that could hear him. It was New York, what Devin was saying didn't even ping on the radar as weird. "I know the Fellowship seems like a mess, but it's a lot of people really trying the best they can with a messed up situation."

"My sister and I didn't treat them all very well, Courtney either. Jason is a little weird, and dangerous, Sean's a bit of shut in... Cade's got a lot going on and Cassie... well, she has this thing for being in everyone's business so you can imagine, not a lot of people are banging on her door wanting to be friends." They rounded the corner and she saw the sign that read 'Tony's Pizzaria'. “My point is, no matter how messed up things get, like my sister going all claws and fangs on Cassie or Jason folding people up like human lawn chairs... we seem to be the closest thing to family a few of us have. So, you know...” he shrugged. “If you need anything, don't be afraid to ask. Okay?”

They walked in and Devin greeted the guy behind the counter with a wide smile, some humorous banter and a high five. A complete stranger and with a few words they were yammering on like they had been pals for years. He rejoined Kat and they began the wait for the pies.

The petite redhead rubbed the back of her head. "Yeah... I had a talk with Sean yesterday..." She glanced at a couple clients who just entered the shop and wondered what it felt like to live in such a big city. It wasn't like Rennes was a small one, but New York... by far a bigger city than the one she grew up in. "I didn't get much detail, but sounds like Courtney gave him hell. Well, at least now it looks like she's trying to make up for it. A bit."

She fell silent for a moment, her brains watching the movie of her Friday evening at Mach 3. "She's funny," Kat added after repressing the warm pink invading her cheeks. "I like her." The faint growl of her stomach cut short her reflexions as the delicious smell of pizza invaded her brains. "God, I could eat a whole horse right now..."

"She's a nympho, so you're chances are pretty good," he nudged her in good humor and smirked. "Yeah, she was pretty awful to him, even before Marissa and me arrived. Then, it got worse for him, because we were like a tornado of torment in that school. Won't lie, it was kinda fun, but, ultimately, a poor choice."

"Sean needs to quit being such a brat." He said flatly. "I get it, he was picked on. All I see now is the people who picked on him and the others, taking steps to mature, grow up and try and be different, if not better people. Where's he? At home, being spiteful and whiny." He mocked Sean's voice. "I don't wanna go, Courtney is mean! Wah!"

"I ain't got time for shit like that," he shook his head. "We have more important things to prepare for than dealing with his crybaby bullshit. We got a world to save."

She didn't like the way the conversation was turning, but had to admit he was kind of right. Well, she didn't consider facing a bully to be easy, but they sure had something way bigger going on, and not much time left to deal with it. "Sure... kill the bad guy first, then ice-cream..."

Speaking of ice-cream... "How many people did Jason 'fold up like human lawn chairs'?" She wasn't sure herself if her question was serious or not, but it felt to her like the young psychokinetic was getting a bad rap. "Like... he said it himself, he's a psychopath, and I think I know how unsettling he can be... I mean, those eyes... but... what did he do to get your sister so... pissed about him?"

"Just one. A guy named Liam. Don't get me wrong, the guy was human garbage, but," He raised a finger to accent his point. "That doesn't make it okay. We are not the law, and we certainly shouldn't be walking around folding people up like that. That dude is messed up for life, probably. Through Jason's own admission he is an unfeeling, uncaring, murder machine. It's not that he doesn't care, or can't, it's that he can, like he said, walk into a room and open everyone up like taun-tauns and just as casually go home and make dinner like nothing eventful happened that day."

He shrugged. "Everyone is okay with that sort of behavior from someone, I guess they like the idea that he can murder without compunction, I don't know. I know my sister and I did some messed up things, but we never..." he paused, thinking of Liam. "Girl, we ain't never did shit like that, I can tell you that much. My sister is not comfortable around someone capable of those things. She's on edge, with this fear or worry that Jason is just one bad day from killing or harming one of us."

He looked to Kat and offered a half smile that didn't really express much except he didn't know exactly what to say. "I mean, he says he won't, and never would, but his past actions and the things he's said have pretty much robbed him of any credibility. I keep an eye on him. I hope we're wrong and Jase is better than his actions, but I'm not really one to judge others. He did what he did, and like me, he has to live with the fallout of that. With him though, there's no remorse, no guilt, no anything... so he doesn't really feel sorry or pity for those he hurts, he just adjust his way of acting around them so he doesn't repeat the mistake. He's not sincere, he's just adjusting his act to suit a more positive outcome. Essentially, he's fake as fuck with the most sincerest of intentions."

Kat didn't expect such an answer, and it did leave her confused for a while. "Okay, wow... So that makes us one big and fucked up family... what could go wrong?" She suddenly felt like changing topics. This conversation was getting too weird for her. - Well, you asked him, Kat. - I know, shut up, Kat.

"Any hobbies? I like painting, playing the guitar. What about you?" She asked with a fair smile, then her gaze wandered over the shape of the young teleporter. "Sports?"

Devin laughed. "Yeah, I know, that topic has 'fuck that', written all over it. No worries, and like I said, I hope I'm wrong. As for my sister, well, you'll have to ask her." He took a breath, inhaling while he thought about things.

"Well, I'm a gymnast, free runner, and an artist. That's about the only things I do well besides annoy the hell out of people and deliver exotic food from around the world." They both laughed a bit. "My mom tried to get us to be child stars, so Emjay and me know a lot of little, useless skills, like we can dance, play an instrument or two," he raised a hand to amend his statement. "Not very well, I have to add. She sings, or she used to." He trailed off at that and quickly moved on.

"And I also do some of the dumb shit others think is off the chain stupid. X-Games stuff, like high speed driving, snowboarding, rollerblading, the faster I'm going or the less I'm touching the ground, the better. A bit of an adrenaline junkie, I guess you could say."

"That sounds like fun!" She said with a grin. "I was never much into sports... I mean, let's face it, I'm small, made school's physical education a bit of a pain in the arse, I won't lie. Well, harder target at dodgeball, but apart from that... volleyball? No thanks." She snickered, then noticed that pizza guy was waving at them, and she rubbed her hands together. "Looks like lunch is readyyyyyy!"

As they approached the counter, she asked: "You said you were an artist. What kind of art do you do?" She turned to him and added with a wink: "Aside from, you know, your instrument skills?"

They collected their four pies, three for the group, one for Marissa who was a human vacuum when it came to food, and they stepped out back into the street. "Mostly just pencil sketching, I can do charcoal but it's messy and my mom has a fit when she finds the dust all over, so I tend to save that for special projects." He tapped her on the small of her back. He tilted his head towards an alley way. "This way."

"I thought we came from that way..." Kat leaned her head back towards the orphanage, unable to hold the two massive pizzas and still operate a single arm.

"We did, but leaving is always easier than arriving." He pointed out as they walked off the busy street and into the vacant alleyway. "See arriving we don't know what's there, leaving, we can look around... and..." There was a sudden flash of purple that obscured her sight for the span of a blink, and they were back in the field, holding four pizzas. "Easy-peasy." He winked at her and the held the pies up triumphantly.

"THIS! IS! PIZZAAAAAA!" Devin yelled like Leonidas.

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The training field was mostly quiet in the post-midday heat.  Marissa was sunning next to the cooler, enjoying the cool feel of the grass under her hands and the warm sun above as she regained her strength.  Cade and Cassie had been practicing attunement off to one side with Tawny and Courtney, the Senior girl having tentatively linked the four of them into a telepathic network so they could attempt 'tuning-in' at a distance.  The fact that it also made spoken words unnecessary added to the silence as the sub-quantum ether buzzed with excited conversation.  Autumn and Jason were over in the shade of the barn, doing gross new-teen-couple things like kissing, talking in murmurs, and looking into each others eyes.  The silence did not persist as Kat and Devin reappeared - whoops of hungry exuberance and exuberant hunger greeted the teleporter's best impression of the famed Spartan king as the rest of the teens converged like hungry hormonal piranhas.  "Back, back you savages!"  Devin evaded the grasping hands and held the pizzas away from the hungry horde at some risk to his own life and limb.  "Sit yo' asses down and let's eat on the grass like civilised people."

With laughter and good-natured ribbing, the nine of them settled down to sit companionably in a loose circle.  Pizza was passed around, fresh bottles of water were chilled and dished out, and there were a few moments of relative quiet as pizza was ingested - in Marissa's case inhaled - in almost reverent silence.

"Fuck."  Autumn looked up from the slice she'd bitten into, mouth still full.  "This is shome goof pie."

"Right?"  Devin nodded assuredly.  "First thing I do wherever I go - learn where the locals rate the food and then try it out."  He took a big bite, stuffing his cheeks full, and smiled beatifically.  Jason was eating hungrily, but also had a contemplative look on his face with each bite, as though his sensitive palate was assessing the components of the pizza, attempting to determine the secret of the sauce.  If he was successful, he didn't share his findings, merely nodded approvingly as he tore into the crust, then licked his fingers clean.

"This is cool."  Tawny broke the silence from where she was sat happily between Devin and Kat, looking around the curious assemblage.  "I got to say, I was nervous as H-E-double hockey sticks coming here today.  Terrified, really."

"You should be."  Marissa glowered from over her half-gone pizza, a tigress at the kill glaring warningly at those who strayed near.  "You stole my top."

"Borrowed." Tawny corrected blithely.  "And you haven't worn it in months."

"Still my top."  Marissa snorted, managing to eat a ferocious pace and still appear somewhat elegant.  "And really?  'H-E-double hockey sticks'?  Are you trying to win 'Fluffiest Puppy, 2019'?"

"Anyway," Tawny went on, smiling angelically at the others.  "I'm glad I came."

"Phrasing."  Devin and Jason said at the same time, then air-fist-bumped each other as the blonde country girl blushed and mock-scowled at them both while the others snickered.

"I'm serious." she said when the mirth had died down.  "Thanks, guys."  She nudged the still-smirking Devin.  "I'm just glad y'all don't wear spandex like Deej joked about."

"You're welcome."  Sitting by Marissa, Cade smiled at her.  "And no, we're not the Avengers or the X-Men." 

"More like the Mystery Men."  Cassandra laughed, and the amusement spread around the group.  "It's true!"  The fetching blonde reporter insisted, pointing at Jason.  "He's frightfully mysterious and can cut guns in half with his mind.  Probably anyway."  She pointed at Cade.  "Give this man a cutlery set and a turban, and he can be the Blue Rajah."  The merriment increased as she moved her finger to Marissa.  "She's protected by the power of hairspray."  Marissa tried to scowl, but a giggle escaped around the mouthful of pizza she currently had.  "Devin's totally that hero dude - whatshisname - the one in the tight suit with all the sponsors and endorsements."  Cass went on, grinning.  

"Captain Amazing"  Kat was laughing around her second piece of pizza, having tucked the first away almost as fast as Cade, who was literally twice her size.  Cassie nodded and offered a highfive, which the diminutive redhead took.

"Sean did 'Allstar' the Project's surveillance last week."  Jason suggested with a gleam in his eye.  "We even have the same theme music."

"Oh no. No no no."  Marissa shook her head, but it was too late.  Cassandra was already singing.

"Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me / I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed."  she sang in a surprisingly clear, sweet voice, her smile widening as another, slightly lower pitch joined in from next to Jase.

"She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb / In the shape of an "L" on her forehead."  Jason looked bemusedly sideways as Autumn came in on the next lines, causing the freckled-face girl to grin, her nose crinkling, and nudge him with her shoulder.  And like pebbles starting a landslide Devin, then Tawny, and Kat picked up the verse.  It wasn't word perfect in some cases, but it was sung with amusement and enthusiasm. 

"Well, the years start coming and they don't stop coming
Fed to the rules and I hit the ground running
Didn't make sense not to live for fun
Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb..."

Always restless, Autumn was the first to get to her feet, bumping Jason with her leg and tugging him up to dance.  Cassie and Kat were next, the French girl with a slice of pizza still in hand as they bobbed and swayed to the tune.  Devin, laughing, pulled Tawny up against her protestations and danced goofily with her.

"So much to do, so much to see
So what's wrong with taking the backstreets?
You'll never know if you don't go
You'll never shine if you don't glow.
"

Jason wasn't singing, but he was at least 'dancing' - which mostly consisted of swaying in time with Autumn while he studied this curious behaviour with the eye of a charmed anthropologist watching an adorable local custom.  Cade was now singing as they hit the chorus... and then Courtney joined in, unable to resist the infectious good humor that was sweeping over the group.

"Hey now, you're an all star
Get your game on, go play
Hey now, you're a rock star
Get the show on, get paid
And all that glitters is gold
Only shooting stars break the mo-o-old!"

Whoops of laughter accompanied the last line as the teens broke off the song, snickering like happy fools as they sat back down.  Red-faced, Autumn draped herself over Jase's shoulders and planted a kiss on his cheek, snickering a little more at the look of good-natured, patient bemusement he still wore.  Marissa, having now finished her pizza and taken advantage of the singalong to grab a slice of one of the other boxes, looked at them all and shook her head slowly.

"You all suck."  she announced as though reading Holy Writ from stone tablets.  But they all saw her smile give the lie to her words.

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Cassandra Pryor took her eyes off of the narrow, rural road for a moment to glance over at her daughter as Lilly sat there, looking out the window, staring off to nowhere. She had been pretty quiet the whole trip back, though she did not seem overly angry, upset or disappointed. Still it was unusual for her usually cheerful daughter to be some somber.

"You okay honey? You did your best, and that's all that matters." she offered before adding, "Besides, there's always next year." as she reached over to pat Lilly's thigh in an attempt to console her daughter.

Lilly blinked and took in a breath, her attention snapping back to the present. She gave and weak smile to her mother and nodded.

"I know. Maybe I was spread a little too thin, you know with football and all. But at this point, I may as well finish the season and then go from there. I don't wanna let the team down." she suggested with a small shrug. She did not lying to her mother, or at the very least misleading her, but Lilly doubted that just coming out with all the truth would be a good thing at the moment, if ever.

"Yeah, maybe." Cassandra Pryor acknowledged. "We can take a few days to relax and regroup and then take a look at your sports and activities so we can plan for next time." which drew a nod from her daughter. It was not much, but it was good enough for now.

Gradually the terrain began to grow more and more familiar. She let out a small sigh of relief as the turnoff for Bulwark AFB came into view, a sigh that did not go unnoticed by the elder Pryor.

"Glad to be home finally?" she asked with a warm smile.

"Yeah. I kinda just want to get my mind off things for a bit. See how the team did and all that." Lilly replied. She did hate missing a football game, after all, and actually was curious how well the team did, but that was all mostly just cover.

---+--+--+--+--+---

Lilly picked up her phone on the kitchen counter and turned it on as her father patted her on the back.

"You'll get'em next time." he said, trying to encourage his daughter without pushing too much or making too big a deal about her performance. Lilly raised an eyebrow and glanced over her shoulder at her dad and nodded with the same weak, forced smile that she had given her mom just minutes before.

"Better than yesterday, everyday." she said to him, repeating the little mantra she was taught some time ago in the infancy of her athletic career.

The response made her dad smile and nod in return as he moved past her, giving her another pat on the back on the way out to the car to grab their bags while Lilly scrolled through her messages and missed calls. A few of the number she recognized from trading numbers with some of the other athletes she had met over the last few days, or they simply identified themselves with a text.

It had been annoying, to put it lightly, not having her phone, but as usual, her dad had kept it to make sure she could 'focus' on her performance. She had learned long ago that her protests were futile, so she grudgingly accepted it and just dealt with the consequences of being utterly out of touch with her friends and the rest of her social life for the better part of a week, which, for a teenage girl, could be devastating.

- Hey. I'm back home now. How's things been? What's up? - she typed and sent off in a text to Sean.

- A LOT. Wb, btw - Sean replied.

- ??? - she tapped back.

- They're all at the Bannon place. You'd best get them to fill you in. Airwaves aren't secure. - came back from Sean.

The message caused Lilly to blink and pause for a moment, trying to guess in futility what her friend could mean. It seemed there was only one way to get answers, and she was going to need to talk to some.. or most.. or maybe all of the Fellowship anyways.

"I'm gonna go for a run." she announced more than asked her parents as she grabbed her earbuds, adding, "And maybe pop over to town for a bit."

"Okay honey." her mother relented as she walked over and gave Lilly a kiss on her forehead.

Lilly gave a weak smile and stepped out the door into the garage, clicking the button to open the door. Light spilled in, slowly at first, but grew ever brighter, gradually illuminating the near darkness and her old '57 Chevy pickup, revealing all the rust and well worn scars the vehicle has accumulated with age. She walked around the truck, letting her hand play over the flecks of paint, bits of rust and spots of bare metal. It was not much, but it was hers, purchased with her own, hand earned money.

Lilly opened the door and hopped in the driver's seat, giving the old door a sharp yank to close it with one hand as the other slipped the key into the ignition. With a flick of her wrist the old pickup coughed and groaned to life. The sound system, or what passed for it, began spewing out tunes, which she promptly killed. This was not a usual trip to town or to see her friends. No, she had some thinking to do.

---+--+--+--+--+---

A short while later Lilly pulled up to the Bannon driveway and, while not exactly creeping down it, she certainly was not racing down it either. The farm came into view, along with the various vehicles parked there.  

Was that Courtney's convertible? WTF?

What could have possibly happened that would lead to Courtney being here at the Bannon farm along with the rest of the Fellowship Lilly simply could not fathom. Then again, not long ago she would have said the same about Marissa's Mercedes or Devin's Ducatti.

Shelly was a truly strange place.

Lilly pulled up and parked, her music turned off and not announcing her arrival like usual. She sat there and gripped the top of the steering wheel, resting her elbows on the bottom of the wheel and her forehead against the wheel, between her hands with her eyes closed. For a few moments she sat there and then took in a deep breath which she promptly exhaled and opened her eyes, setting her determination before exiting the truck.

The sounds of singing found her ears on the usually quit farm. First once voice, then another and another until it sounded like most of the Fellowship was singing somewhere behind the barn. She followed the sound past the barn to the makeshift practice area that Jason had set up where she saw the Fellowship, twins included, along with Courtney, Tawny? and a small girl she did not recognize, all sitting around, eating pizza and many of them singing Smashmouth's "All Star", though Sean, Charlie, Clara, Lona and Sara were all absent, for whatever reason(s).

Lilly leaned against the barn, watching and listening for a few moments, smiling faintly herself. She was happy to see her friends so happy and having such a good time. After what they had been through, from both internal and external forces, it was a pleasant change. Lilly noted the newfound closeness between some of the gathered teens, such as Mari & Cade and Jason & Autumn, taking note of it, but filing it away for later. After waiting for a few moments until after they finished and Mari 'scolded' them, Lilly straightened up and approached.

She was wearing a gray sports bra, black & gray patterned athletic leggings, with her hair up in her usual high ponytail and she looked like an amazon with a physique that would make Wonder Woman jealous. She was athletic, beautiful, fit and toned with a six-pack that would frankly make even most boys envious. Her demeanor was easy going, as usual, but those that knew her well could discern something else behind it, a seriousness or determination that she was keeping hidden just below the surface.

"Hey guys." she says with a warm smile and a wave. "Sorry I'm late. I just got back into town. Sorry to disappear like that, but with everything going on I had forgot about Olympic trials, and my dad takes my phone so I can 'focus' while there." she explained.

"How'd you do?" Cassandra asked.

"I didn't make it. I must have had an off week or something. So it looks like I am stuck here for now." she jokingly said with a half smile.

"Hey Court. Tawny." she said to each of them with a nod a smile before looking to the new, new girl. "Hi. I'm Lilly." she said to Kat, introducing herself with a warm smile.

Lilly then looked to Jase and took a deep breath mentally.

"Hey Jason. Can we talk for a minute, when you got time?" she asked, motioning away from the group with a slight tilt of her head, hoping he was free now, or at lease could extricate himself from Autumn long enough for the two of them to talk. She had to set some things right, and this would just be the first step.

Edited by Lilly Pryor

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He'd seemed so different for a moment, with Autumn's arm around his shoulders, smiling faintly as the afternoon sunlight refracted in his eyes and the laughter of his friends filled the air, his hand out to receive a slice of pizza that was floating from an open box.  He seemed almost normal - other than the obvious telekinesis a teenage boy relaxing and having a good time.  Which, in essence, he was in that moment...  And then Lilly arrived, gave perfunctory greetings and explanations that were just as perfunctory, and asked him to step aside with her.

Jason had learned a lot about peopling in a very short space of time.  And there was this to be said - whilst he didn't have an intuitive grasp on mood or group dynamic, what he had in excess was pattern-recognition and powers of analysis.  He took a moment to employ those now as he looked up at Lilly, the smile fading until there was only Jase left behind in a sort of reverse-Cheshire Cat trick which was spooky to watch as he focused intently on her.  Then his gaze swept the group, noting Tawny's glance at Devin, who was still smiling but with a change in his posture, Kat's blank but not unfriendly 'who?' expression, the hush that had come over everyone with the new arrival and her sudden request.  Even Autumn's arm around his shoulders tightening slightly as she tensed was added to the pile of data as he looked back at Lilly.

He was ninety percent sure, but had to ask.

"Is this a personal, private matter?"  he asked her calmly.  The tall girl shifted from one foot to the other, shrugging and nodding.

"Uh, kinda sorta?  I mean, it doesn't have to be in private, I just figured that everyone else doesn't want to know everyone's business, y'know?"

"You get her pregnant, dude?"  Devin smirked. Tawny backhanded his shoulder, mouthing 'Not cool' as some of the group snickered.

"I'm sure I'd have remembered."  Jason's reply to Devin was dry, with a quirk of his lips as he continued to study Lilly.  "I'll talk with you, sure.  Later, though.  Right now, this is Fellowship time.  Pizza, good times and some bonding, I believe would be the phrase."

"Fuckin' A."  Devin nodded.  "They say a week is a long time in politics, but politics ain't got nothing on Shelly lately.  So grab your ass a patch of grass..."

"...Have some pizza."  Jason indicated the open boxes.  "And let's see about getting you ready."  He gave Lilly a faint smile.  "Personal isn't always the same as important.  This-" he indicated the circle of friends.  "-is important."

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Tawny slid closer to Devin, leaning in as Lilly and Jason had their brief talk. "Does she have," the blondes eyes bounced around a bit with silent inquiry.  "You know."

"Yes," Devin said quietly, but he left it at that, not seeing any reason to recant the litany of bad blood he and his sister had with her and Clara.

She seemed visibly relieved, no longer fearing that she might say or do something that could put the group at jeopardy.  "What... what can she do?"

"When she flexes she over saturates an area with idealism."  Marissa chimed in with her never ending supply of vitriol and sarcasm.  "She's like Cade, a Spartan.  Daddy taught her all about guns and knife fighting, which almost makes Jason's home life look stable, but hey, Montana, right?  Land of savagery."

"Not helping," Devin sung softly with a bit of sarcasm of his own.  "But, yeah, something about military dads around here, it's a bit messed up.  Truth is we don't know what she can do, we just know it's not brain magic."

"Huh," Tawny took another bite of pizza, now a bit curious a to just how many variants of magic people were living out there in the world.  "Neat."  She said with her typical saccharine sweet perkiness.

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The training  was great, and to be fair, the pizza was even better thanks to where it was from, and residual heightened effects from the training.  Still the little sing-a-long, even if only for a song, was a moment of camaraderie that was truly needed.   Still behind the smile, Cade was a bit sad, thinking about those who should be there, but weren't.   He knew Clara and Lona weren't coming back, but the others, he'd make sure they came.   There was too much uncertainty these days, they really might not get another chance.  

Lilly's return caught Cade by surprise, but he smiled brightly, Even as Marissa got in the first cutting remark.   Devin head his sister off quickly enough, for which Cade was thankful.  He took the ribbing over how the military dads were here, and shrugged.  "Well it wasn't so much just my dad but my granddads too.   Hunting, Fishing, Camping, that's all just how it goes out here in Montana."   His tone left no doubt that he considered this to be perfectly normal, and in many ways, admirable.   Should he have to, Cade knew he could survive off the land indefinitely, something that were they bereft of their abilities, he was pretty sure the others couldn't do, with the exception of Autumn.  "And of course, Football."   

Cade finished off another slice of pizza and shrugged.   "It does suck that she didn't make it though.   I know it's been a goal of hers."   In truth he was damned surprised.  If Lilly had problems, he knew the competition had to have been pretty stiff.   "There's always next time though."

Edited by Cade

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Cass did her best to keep a straight face, but finally threw in the towel. She burst into laughter and ran over to Lilly to throw her arms around the athlete and give her a big hug.

"I'm so glad you're back!" the wannabe-journalist exclaimed. "We had no idea what was going on! We thought you'd moved or something!"

A bit bemused, Lilly returned the hug, looking around at everyone over Cassandra's shoulders as if to assess the danger of more hugs ensuing. "No," she said, chuckling and patting Cassie's shoulder. "No, it was just the trials."

Happily Cassandra did release Lilly and back up a step, beaming. "Right, well, it's really good seeing you again. I mean, it feels a little weird to say I'm glad you're here...because here is a madhouse of danger and horror, kind of...but after some of the shit we've seen..." She shook her head. "I'm just glad you're okay."

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Marissa rolled her eyes at Cade.  "There won't be a next time, dingus.  Come on, you honestly think she didn't throw her try outs?  She, thinks her abilities would give her an unfair advantage against the other competitors."

"Well, doesn't it?"  Tawny asked.  "If she possesses abilities beyond the norm she has a moral and ethical responsibility to graciously stand aside and allow others to compete in an arena that is equal and fair."

Courtney, Marissa and Devin all slowly panned their heads to the petite, spritely blonde.  Marissa scoffed and simply shook her head.  Courtney snorted a laugh.  "You can not be serious."

"Totally serious." Tawny shook her head.  "I think having the courage to take a step back from your dreams and sacrifice them for the bigger picture is admirable."

Cade massaged his temples while Marissa, Devin and Courtney fell into fits of laughter.

"What?"  Tawny asked, looking at them and trying to get a straight answer amongst all the giggles and shortness of breath.  "What?  What did I say?"

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Lilly gave a nod to Jase as Cassandra ran up and hugged her, welcoming her back. She returned the hug with a warm, happy smile. After being away from all of her friends for a week, and the state in which things were in when she had to leave so abruptly, a welcome like this was rather nice.

"I mean, it was just the trials and, you know, not having my phone for week." she added with a laugh and nod when the hug was broken.

"Well, it's good to be back. I mean, I couldn't exactly abandon my friends. I'm glad you're all okay." she said as she looked around the assembled teens, though she rolled her eyes and shook her head slightly with a small chuckle at the antics of Devin, Marissa and Courtney.

"And yeah. When I finally got my phone back, Sean said that a bunch of stuff had happened but couldn't tell me over the phone." she recounted as she walked over and selected a slice of pizza from one of the boxes and took a bite.

"Is this pizza from New York?" she asked, pausing her chewing to talk out of the size of her mouth as she folded the lid over to look at it. "Of course is actual New York pizza. I should have known." she laughed with a shrug, chewing her bite as she walked over to took a seat in the grass, sitting indian style.

"So anyways, what's up? I mean, it's gotta be a pretty interesting story, given some of the new additions." she asked, glancing to Kat, Tawny and Courtney.

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"Yeeeeah," Devin said, standing up.  That's all you Cassie, I'm gonna limber up for the match with Jay Dogg."

"I'll help," Marissa offered in an obvious ploy to simply not be sitting there anymore.  There was still some bad blood apparently and instead of the possibility of causing more, the twins thought it best to simply get up and get themselves away from past problems before something was said or done that caused another dramatic storm out for the day.  Ever get together only had one Dramatic Storm Out available per session and Cassie had already used it... something Marissa wasn't to thrilled about because she had her all planned and ready.  Next time Cassie, next time!

As Courtney stood up and followed them Tawny looked to her left and right, her ponytail flailing about her shoulders to keep up with her growing concern.  "Hey, whe-"

"Bad blood," Cade said quietly, shaking his head as a message to just let it go.  "This group has more issues than National Geographic, most of them unresolved."

"If... if we're all fighting, how are we going to beat the bad guys?"  She asked.

He took a bite of his pizza and chewed as he shrugged.  "Now that... is a good question."

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Autumn had tensed a little when Lilly nonchalantly strolled up to the group- as if the Amazonian football player hadn't totally ghosted them for a week while everything went to Hell. As if she hadn't 'abandoned her friends' with some lame excuse like not having a phone, and hadn't just conveniently forgotten to tell people she was leaving for several days while the Dark was actively trying to kill people. To kill them. So when Cassie ran up and hugged the latecomer, the clear, candid blue eyes that watched the cheery reunion weren't exactly alight with the same enthusiasm. Instead, she returned Lilly's general verbal greeting with its casual kinetic equivalent- a brief upward jerk of her chin- and went back to finishing off her last (no, seriously this time) slice of pizza. In fact, she decided, stuffing the last bit of garlic-buttered crust into her mouth with a satisfied hum and licking the remnants from her fingers, finding good pizza places might be Devin's actual super-power.

She was just about to tell him so when the elder Jauntsen got up and announced that he was going to loosen up for a-

"Match?" she asked, glancing quizzically at the laconic youth lounging next to her on the warm grass. He nodded, watching for a moment as Devin and the two beautiful social mavens left the little circle, and then returning his gaze to the girl whose arm was still draped companionably around him.

"Devin and I agreed that it would be wise to test some potential applications of our powers," Jason explained as comprehension dawned on her freckled features. "A friendly spar."

"Yeah, that makes sense." Autumn nodded, pursing her lips as she peered off in the direction Devin and the others had gone, squinting against the light. "Well," she continued, turning back to him with a grin as she shifted a little onto one hip and fished a small cloth-wrapped bundle from her pocket. "If you're going into battle against the Evil Queen's knight, should I give you my favor to wear?" His answer was a slight smile and a nod,  pale green eyes lambent in the golden glow of the afternoon, as he offered up his forearm; her whole face brightened at that, all sun-reddened cheeks and the suggestion of dimples at the corners of her mouth as she laughed. Unwrapping the lustrous coppery bracelet within, the redhead took Jason's outstretched hand in hers, slipping the etched band around his wrist with a reverence that was only partially in jest. "I'd give you a kiss for luck, too, but I don't think you need it," she teased softly, squeezing his fingers briefly before releasing them.

"How about a kiss for reasons other than luck?"  he asked quietly, his gaze warm with firefly glints.  Autumn felt the blush rise with her smile.

"So long as 'because I want to' is a valid reason..?" she said, leaning in and pressing her lips to his, feeling him respond as his hand gently caressed her cheek.

"The best reason." he said softly as the kiss broke.  Autumn felt like she'd never stop smiling, and shoved at his shoulder playfully.

"Go kick his ass."  she mostly-joked. Mostly.

Edited by GDP_ST
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"We're not all fighting," Cassie reproved Cade. "It's...good natured ribbing. Maybe neutral-natured ribbing. At worst. We're fine."

She waved Lilly over and said, "Okay, let me get you caught up."

While Jase and Devin got warmed up, Cassandra regaled Lilly with the tale of the very, very busy week the Fellowship had had. From their explorations of the medical center and the Darksplosion, to the visitations of the Man In Black, the revelation that Courtney and Kat were also 'shiny,' and of course the gruesome secret of the Old Town Hall and Cody's grim fate. She wound up on what they'd learned at the reservation...a legendary account of where it all had started.

And because Cass was Cass, she had a SIM card full of photos and videos and other visual aids to call upon on her phone to help get it all across.

Finally she wound down, saying, "I know that's a lot to process...believe me, I'm still working through it and I was there for most of it. What is all boils down to though is that we're going to make our move on the Dark. We're going to punch through at the Old Town Hall attack the Tree, and knock that fucking skull right off the Throne there and crush it to dust. And we think Cody might well be ready for us, so..."

Cass waved a hand at the sparring match. "We're getting ready for him."

"Any questions?"

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Lilly inwardly sighed as the trio excused themselves. I wasn't unexpected, and in fact with was a slightly better reaction than she had anticipated. She had hoped for better though, but it had only been a week, a week that Lilly had to reflect on the past events while, she supposed, the others had things that kept them busy. Both sides had their part in the bad blood, even if the twins had not seemed to ever acknowledge their part. It was utterly irrelevant to Lilly now though. Nothing good was going to come from digging in heels and trying to lay blame on each other. Nothing was going to be resolved either if they kept running way from or, at best, avoiding each other. Still, it was better than the twins lobbing insults. So at least they seemed to be trying to preserve some sense of unity for the sake of the group and that was a change that did not go unnoticed. The thought made Lilly a little more hopeful, but only time would tell.

Lilly shrugged, setting things aside for the moment and took another bite of her pizza before moving to sit by Cassandra at her beckoning. Lilly ate her slice of pizza as her plucky blonde friend filled her in on the events of the past week, though the eating of the stopped rather quickly as she sat there, just holding the pizza and listening in a mixture of surprise, shock and at times disgust, among others.

"I think I'm gonna be sick." Lilly said, clutching one arm across her washboard abdomen while she dropped what was left of the pizza slice in her lap, her face a mask of discomfort.

"Dude, I am sooooo sorry I wasn't here." Lilly said, dropping her head and closing her eyes with a frown."I just..." she sighed, her voice trailing off.

"It doesn't matter." she stated with a shake of her head. "You needed me and I wasn't there. I will do my best to make sure it never happens again. I mean, we only have each other in this mess. I'm just glad everybody is okay."

There was nothing that any of her could say to admonish Lilly any more that she was already doing herself, despite her absence being (largely) out of her control. Her friends had stepped up though, putting an crap aside and working together as a whole, even going so far as to rescue Etienne. Lilly was a little surprise to hear that Devin, of all people, was the one who was so adamant about it too. He showed the kind of man he was that day, by all accounts.

Lilly allowed her hope to grow ever so slightly at the thought.

Even Mari had stepped up and help in her own unique way, which though it made Lilly happy to hear and even a bit proud, she was also disappointed. Not in Marissa though, but herself. She had let herself be too caught up in past to see what was right before her. The twins were honestly trying. 'Don't judge people by their worst mistakes.' was something her grandmother had told her. Lilly hoped others would share that sentiment and that she could set things right. 

"Okay. Okay. Okay." Lilly said, changing her focus and trying to organize her thoughts about what Cassandra had told her while still trying to process it all.

"Well... Has anybody went looking for, or tried to approach, Todd Asper? Do you think he might be the cyber-empath that Sean was dealing with in the system?" she asked Cass before continuing, "I mean, from what you've said, Crossroads would certainly put a kid with those abilities to work."

"And how much do you trust This Ms. Giles and Aeon? I know how they might seem legit, but how much do you think we can trust them? What does you gut tell you?" she asked her plucky friend.

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Spoiler

Written in collaboration with Devin's player.  This is what peak performance looks like!

Rising as Cassie took Lilly aside and began relaying the very compacted, busy events of the last week, Jason moved to a nearby clear space and stretched as he would before a run: a simple set of stretches, a far cry from the poised, athletic limbering up Devin was going through as Marissa and Courtney spoke quietly near him.  Working his neck and shoulders, he reflected on his state of mind.

He was aware that this was a simple practice competition - not for blood, not for survival, but to learn from and test each other’s limits.  Hank had put him through similar sessions which, while painful, were instructive and useful for the youth.  Hank, however, hadn’t spent three years trying to goad him, Jason, into violence.  Hank had not bullied his friend.  And whilst the sands of time could erode and fade the memories of others, for Jason the experiences were as fresh as if they had just happened.

He knew Devin was trying to be better, to grow into a better man than he had been a boy.  He approved, and supported that.  He didn’t seethe on the memories, like Sean and others did somewhat, or allow them to affect his logic.  The new Devin was a good ally, and a good friend - if sometimes incomprehensible.  However…

However, the book of past deeds was still open.  There were not yet enough positive mental associations with the concept of ‘Devin’ for Jason to be entirely confident he could treat this competition as friendly.  For a normal person, such self-awareness might well be skipped and they would simply feel unease, or heightened anticipation without realising why.  Jase, though, knew his own mind like few other people could claim about themselves.  He knew that back there, under the cool logic and self control, was something utterly inhuman and merciless, wanting what it wanted without caring for consequence, morality or conscience.  It was instinctual Passion fettered only by his active Will, and it burned with that amoral purity of purpose - whether pursuing desire, dominance, survival or simple primal bloodlust.  

He straightened from a leg stretch as with a thought and simple flick of his will a barrier sprang into life, covering his body and forming itself around him a mere millimeter from his skin.  He would play defensively, practice a little in trying to tag his elusive opponent, then shake hands and that would be that.  A demonstration to the others that, see, he wasn’t a mad dog, or out of control, and that it was safe for people to practice mock combat.  Perhaps one or two of Devin’s past victims would secretly want to see him humbled, if only a little - but Jason did not, particularly.  At least, the logical, cognitive part of him did not.

The instinctual savage part of him wanted to prove itself the superior at any cost, though, and right now it uncoiled and paced in the space where it was confined, sniffing the air.

“Ready, JayBee?”  Devin called.  Jason turned, nodding silent assent as he moved a bit further away from the gathered Fellowship with his friend, the two facing each other ten feet apart.

“No shots to the junk, no biting, gouging, teleporting into space or volcanoes, reducing to ashes with a snap of the fingers, or hair pulling.”  Devin said with a tight grin, studying the slender youth who was watching him steadily.  With a slight answering smile, Jason nodded again.

“Understood.”  He had slight reach, but not enough to matter.  Devin was stronger and likely a better fighter, as well as being able to-

Jaunt dashed forward, the air rippling purple as he covered ten feet with a step and attempted to clothesline Jase across the chest for a quick takedown.  Jason planted a foot back and raised his hands in a boxer’s cover, his assailant’s arm making contact and stopping dead as all kinetic force was absorbed as if he’d hit a wall - only thankfully without the attendant sore limbs such a stunt would have caused.  Bannon flicked a grabbing hand at Devin’s arm, intending to try and pull him off-balance, but there was another purple ripple in the air and Jauntsen reappeared a short distance away, shaking his head.

“Forcefields are cheatin’, dude!”

“Really?”  Jason affected polite curiosity.  “I didn’t get that memo.  I’ll check my email later.”  Devin laughed - and teleported again.  He re-emerged to one side of Jason, who’s kinetic awareness gave him a split second’s warning so he could step and brace once more, catching the high-kicking foot and heaving it upwards, attempting to throw his opponent off-balance.  Devin, though, was unfazed, going with the upward momentum of his foot and turning it into a backflip followed by a handspring to put more distance between him and the lean Teulu.

Distance was not easy to get on someone with hundred-foot reach, however.  Devin felt a powerful hand grab at his arm, as though an invisible Cade had just joined the fight and clamped one of his massive Montana meathooks around Devin’s wrist.  “Shit.” he muttered, feeling another hand grab his shoulder, and teleported out of the telekinetic wrestling hold, blinking forward and hitting Jason with a fist-elbow-knee sortie, trying to give that big brain something to think about other than concentrating on tying him into a knot.  Whilst not agile enough to evade in the same way Jaunt did, Bannon was resilient enough to dig in and weather the storm, bracing once more and foiling any attempt to force him back.

As the others watched, the two young men strove against each other for several minutes more.  Devin was growing irritable as he realised that, although putting up a decent defense, Bannon’s heart did not seem to be in the fight.  The slender young man’s expression was one of contemplative focus, his attacks were imaginative but always grapples and holds, whether through TK or with his hands.  He could have clobbered Devin across the head with an invisible Cade fist by now, but hadn’t.  Nor had he bust out any fire or ice moves.

“C’mon, Jaybee.”  he hissed between his teeth as they closed once more.  “We’re supposed to be strutting some stuff.  We’ve got ladies to impress.  Stop half-assing it and tag me.”  He smacked his hand across the back of Jason’s head as he ‘ported past his opponent, but the infuriatingly calm kid just turned and adopted a defensive posture again.

“I’m not doing this to impress anyone.”  Bannon responded quietly as Devin paced around him.  He turned with the other’s movements, keeping Jaunt to his front.  “It’s practice.”

“What practice?”  Jaunt snorted.  “You ain’t sparring with Tawny, dude.  C’mon, don’t you want to know who’s better?” He grinned.  “Not like you could hit me anyway.”

“Not sure either of us wants to find out what happens if I do.”  Jase said levelly.  “Your sister already thinks I’m a rabid animal, based on the last time I used my powers on someone.  If I hurt you, I prove her right in front of everyone.”  He shook his head slightly.  “Not worth i-”

There was a flicker of air, a purple shimmer, and Jason felt his legs swept away as Devin managed to catch him off-guard with enough momentum to get past the kinetic shield.  Bannon hit the ground hard enough that he’d have had the wind knocked out of him if it wasn’t for that shield, hard enough that the watching teens a couple dozen meters away winced.  Marissa smirked, but worry was haunting her eyes as she watched Jason raise himself on his elbows, staring hard at Devin, who in another purple flicker had positioned himself standing over Jason, one foot on his chest.

Abruptly flames sprang up, their heat fierce enough to cause Devin to step back to narrowly avoid losing the sole of his sneaker as golden and orange fire wreathed Jason’s body.

There he is.” Jaunt said softly as he looked past the flame into the other’s gleaming green eyes, almost amber in the reflected light.  “Feel that?  I can see you want to put some hurt on, bro.  You want to cut loose a little, dontcha?”

Bannon took a steadying breath.  “It doesn’t matter if I want to.”  he replied, the flicker of fire in his eyes dimming as the flames surrounding his body snuffed out.  “It matters whether I give in to it.  This isn’t real combat.  You’re my friend.  My pride is not worth it.”  He paused.  “I have to be better than my instincts.  So yeah, you win the match, Devin.” he stated without bitterness or sarcasm, but rather a quiet resignation.

“Bullshit.”  Devin sighed, sinking to one knee beside him as the other sat up.  “Look, dude.  We’re all struggling with shit.  It’s called growing up.  Humans do that, and I’m pretty Toodle-loos do it as well.”

Teulu.”  Jase corrected with a faint smile.  Devin flapped a hand dismissively.

“Whatever, man.  Look.  You’ve got pride, and you get angry, and yeah, part of you revels in fighting and putting hurt on people.  I get that.  You think that’s just you?”  Devin’s brown eyes were expressive as he gave Jason’s shoulder a friendly backhand.  “But you’re more than just some mindless force of nature.  Your problem is you’re either rampaging or you’re totally calm.  Try doing a little of each.”  Devin thought for a second, then grinned  “True focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity.”

“X-Men: First Class.”  Jason smiled fractionally again.

“Doesn’t make it not true.”  Devin shrugged.  “Now stop makin’ us both look bad and lets show these scrubs how gods fight so Granola can drown a toddler in her panties over you.”  he said, looking over at the group not too far away, waving, before standing and helping Jason to his feet.  He took a moment to look the telekinetic in the eye.  “You good?”

Jason took a breath, closing his eyes… and went inside himself.  One by one, he loosened the shackles without discarding them completely, playing out the chains, allowing his instinct to move and stretch, to get comfortable in its larger enclosure.  It took a moment, then his eyes reopened and he nodded.  Something shifted and moved there in the emerald deeps, but it wasn’t uncontrolled, wasn’t wildfire.  Devin nodded as he saw it.  “Yeah.”  he said softly.  “Yeah, I think you got it.”

He blinked back in a haze of purple as ice formed on the surface of Jason’s skin, steam coiling up and ice crystals forming on him as the warm summer air was supercooled.  Scintillant gleams of sunlight refracted from the icy covering on Jason’s hair, skin, and clothes.

“Awright.  Round two!”  Devin crowed.  He pulled his shirt off and wadded it up before tossing it off to the side.  The teen’s six day workout regiment shone across his hardened gymnast’s frame and he tilted his head from side to side looking to get a neck pop out of it.  “Remember, J-Dogg.  It’s a scrimmage.  Just because it doesn’t count against our season doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play to win!”

“Do not tell him I said this,” Autumn raised up a finger to solidify her demand.  “But your brother is kinda hot.  You know, when he’s not talking.”

Devin’s sister laughed and waved her hand dismissively at Autumn’s appraisal.  “Don’t worry, I told him you had a crush on him.”

“But, I don’t!”  Autumn protested while redness flushed to her cheeks.

Again Marissa chuckled, and shrugged.  “Autumn, it’s my brother.  I assure you, that even if you don’t he’s under the impression you do, along with every other female of exceptional attraction, or greater.”

“Wait,” the redhead chuckled now, processing that.  “I’m exceptionally attractive?”

“Oh, look,” Marissa deflected.  “There starting.”

Jaunt walked toward Bannon.  He was circling his arms to work out some tenseness in his shoulders andthe took off towards his opponent.  Jason braced himself for another teleportation attack, extending his senses to feel a shift in the air from all angles.  Jaunt’s own senses had shifted as well… his world was purplish haze with fine filaments that connected all objects like a massive loom of space and distance.  No one understood better than Devin that there was a simple truth to all things: everything was connected.  Every blade of grass, ever cloud, the air between them, Jason, his ice and his barrier.

Jaunt had no need for the other two, just the tall, lanky La-li-lu-le-lo, or whatever he was.  That’s the strand he reached for, that’s the thread he pulled with his own mind and just like that… Jaunt’s arm collided with Jason’s chest with the impressive force of a high school linebacker.  Without his barrier Jason felt the massive brunt of the blow and fell backwards as the running Jaunt swept him off his feet and dropped him into the grass.  Not far from them, Jason’s barrier acted as a tomb for the sheath of teenageboy shaped ice that it protected.

An invisible grip swept under Jaunt, pulling his legs out from under him.  He’d already begun to reflexively blink out of harm’s way but another invisible grip slammed into his chest and pushed him to the firmament, hard.  He impacted with the same force that he throttled Jason with a moment ago.

Everyone on the sidelines ‘oooh’d in unison as the two boys managed to floor themselves almost instantly.  It looked like they were in pain, but the truth was they were chuckling silently.

Jason rolled to his side.  “Ow.”

“Dude,” Devin struggled to get back to his feet.  “Not cool.”

Jason looked back to his barrier and the ice sculpture of him within it and as it faded away the ice lost cohesion and it crumbled into a pile.  “Yeah, well, dick move.”

“Wasn’t sure I could do that.”  Devin grinned as the shell of ice dissipated, then reformed around it’s master - probably along with the forcefield.  Shit.

“It was impressive.”  Jason said conversationally.  “I wonder if-”

Devin blinked sideways, then sideways some more, rolling as he teleported.  His instincts were good as the air where he’d been standing supercooled, water condensing into sleet particles in an almost-soundless ‘shwiip’

“-you could safely remove cancer cells-”  Jason went on, eyes glowing like blue-green chips of frost as he raised a hand, a billowing stream of mist following the evading Jaunt and enveloping him in a cloud of frozen air.  “-the same way.”

C-c-c-c-coooooold.  Devin had been cold before.  Heck, he loved winter sports, and had ‘jaunted’ to the South Pole once - for all of ten seconds.  Then, he’d been wrapped up as best he could and still felt the biting chill try to get in around the insulating layers he’d worn.  Once, for a lark, he’d streaked naked and dived into a snowdrift.  This was that, plus suck.  The warm late summer air dropped to holy-fuck-shit and the teleporter fancied he felt his balls clinking like ice cubes in a glass as thermal energy was subtracted from his flesh and bone.  Ice crystals formed on his eyelashes and skin and hair as he staggered, muscles sluggish and cramping, out of the dissipating plume of mist.

“T-th-the D felt his d-d-D sh-shrink two sizes that d-day.”  he mumbled through his teeth, feeling too numb even to shiver.  “Ffffffuuu-”

“I think I managed to avoid permanent damage or serious hypothermia.”  Jase said as he approached.  He raised a hand once more, and a thin, strong casing of ice formed around Jaunt - a second skin in every detail of the irrepressible youth, trapping him even as he tried to chafe warmth back into his limbs.  “Chill.”

Marissa let out a short cry, but even as she did there was a purple rippling in the air and Devin was standing next to his own sculpture, shivering and really wishing he’d not taken off his top as he looked at the gleaming ice duplicate.

“Chill?  Really?”  he shivered.  “You suck on all kinds of levels.”

“I’ll work on it.”  Jase nodded soberly, then threw out a hand-

“Oh no.”  Jaunt was quicker, despite his cramping muscles, and abruptly the psychokinetic disappeared in a purple implosion.  “You th-think about what you d-did.”  he muttered, stamping his feet and trying to get himself warm again as Marissa ran over.

“Deej!  You okay?”  his sister fussed around him, a little panicky.  “You hurt?”

“I’m fine.”  Devin said, teeth chattering as he jumped around swinging his arms.  “Could do with a Granola hug though, if they’re going?”  he asked the redhead as she came over in Marissa’s wake.  Autumn folded her arms and looked at him sternly.

“First, where’s my boyfriend.” she demanded.  Devin grinned and pointed straight up.

“About half a mile up and closing.”  he answered, still feeling the lingering chill in his bones.  “Don’t worry!  I’ll catch him.  Probably.  Shit… Cold hurts.”

“You could have frostbite.  Or hypothermia.  You could get gangrene!”  Marissa scowled at her brother as he shook his head.

“Relax.  Jaybee said he’d avoided that.  I trust him on that, Emjay.”  he looked at Autumn.  “We can trust him on that, right?”  The copper-tressed girl looked at him for a moment, her eyes unfocused as she read his vitals… then she nodded.

“You’re good.  Now catch him!”

“Sure, sure.”  Devin waved both women away.  “Stand clear, ladies.”  He looked up to see the distant dot of the falling Bannon as it came closer… and closer…  Two hundred feet.  One hundred feet.  Devin was pretty sure Jason wasn’t scared, but he was going to damn well try to worry him.  Fifty feet.  Twen-

Jason slowed in his fall, the sparkling shell of his ice sheath catching the light as he spread his arms, legs coming down under him as he righted himself, stopping his plummet mere feet from the ground.  His eyes had been closed, and now opened to fix on Devin, glowing softly from within as he drifted down to touch the soil.

“That’s new.”  Devin commented, staring.  Jason nodded, his eyes tightening in contemplation as he spread his hands downwards... and he slowly rose again to ten feet overhead.  The distant watching teens were silent for a moment.  Marissa and Tawny, who’d been standing near Autumn, heard her sigh a deep heartfelt dreamy sigh as she smiled.

“Been trying to do this for awhile.”  Jason confessed.  “Not with much success.  You remember in Iron Man when he’s first trying to fly?  That was me in the barn loft.”

“Ouch.”  Devin smirked, nodding.

“I can feel it now, though.”  Jase remarked, looking at his hands, at the ground, feeling the kinetic energy inside him as well as out, reinforcing his muscles, allowing him to shrug off gravity’s pull.  He looked at his friend.  “Between rage and serenity.”  he said with a smile curving his frost-limned mouth.

“Well shit.”  Devin shook his head, grinning.  “Guess we fighting air-to-air now, huh?”

“Round three?”  Jason grinned - actually grinned - a fierce light rising in his eyes.

Over with the spectators, Autumn sighed again, the looked around with a stern glare.  “Just so everyone is clear.” she said in a loud voice.  “I got dibs on first flight.”

Marissa grabbed her brother’s arm.  “Devin, he’s flying.  If you fall-”

“Relax, Em, I got this.”  He smiled at his overprotective sister and walked back into the field.  There was a tremble, a slight ripple that the psions could feel as Jase and Devin were pulling in a lot of noetic energy.

“If you die, I’m telling mom!”  She huffed at him as he continued to focus and gather up energy until he leapt into the air, leaving a stream of shadow Devin’s behind him.  He elevated up to Bannon’s height, his shadows catching up swiftly until they all melded back in with him once he stopped moving.

“Did know you could fly,” Jason gave him a onceover.

“I’m not, really,” his voice was almost mechanical, like he was trying to talk through a series of fan blades.  “This is a series of microports.  Like a cartoon flip book, I’m just moving too fast to go anywhere… so it looks like flight.”  Each of his movements were shadowed by a series of the hundreds, if not more, jumps he was doing that made it look, just like he said, a flipbook of activity.

“They can both fly now?”  Marissa rolled her eyes.  “I’m about at my what the fuck limit for the day.”

Jaunt flew backwards and Jason did the same but as the psychokinetic did he generated a series of small hail spheres and hurted them with startling speed.  Not too fast, but if Devin got hit it’d certainly sting.  Spiraling Devin avoided part of the volley and from his spiral of shadows a iris opened and swallowed the remainder of the projectiles.  Jase reacted quickly as another isis opened near him, spewing his projectiles at him with the same speed.  His mind grabbed each one and they slowed, orbiting his body before he silently cursed and flew backwards into a second one.  The one that was really part of Devin’s offensive… the irises were not objects, they possessed no solidity and therefore, Jason couldn’t detect their creation or dissipation.

He was underwater, that much hit him immediately.  It was blue, clear and judging by the tiles it was a pool… the school’s pool… oh, shit.  The current swept him away and dumped him back onto the field as the contents of Shelly High’s swimming pool emptied off in the distance away from the sparring field.  The sidelines ‘ooh’d again as Jason tumbled through the vortice and was dumped back onto his property.  It only took a few moments for Jase to tear through the sky and hover to a stop not far from Devin whose smile was a mile wide.  A hail ball slammed into his back, splattering with the stinging force of a whip crack.

Laughter erupted as Jaunt tried to reach for the injured spot while hopping in mid air, back arched as he cursed and did the ‘just snapped with a towel’ dance.  “Duuuuuude!”  He hopped in the air as the two looked like the most graceless super heroes ever.

“Okay, okay…” Marissa clapped her hands to capture their attention.  They were floating above ground, a swimming pool was just emptied off in the far fields and Devin was leaving hundreds, if not thousands of himself behind everytime he moved.  She said softly, “This is my fucking life now.  God damnit.”  Her smile returned and she clapped again.  “Put them away, I think you guys are done.  You can whip them out and measure later, but if you keep fooling around someone is going to get hurt.  These are powers, not Nerf guns.”

The two youths looked at each other, shrugged almost in tandem, then lowered to the ground, Devin’s afterimages dying away as Jason’s icy shell melted.  “You good?”  Jason asked Devin, who was still rubbing at his back.  The other grinned.

 “A bruise or two.  Plus I think I need to lay on a tropical beach for a week to unfreeze my junk.” he smirked.  “Seriously, dude, I’m not even gonna look at it right now.  It’ll be all ‘look what they did to mah boy’.”  The pair snickered.  “You good”?  Devin asked in turn.  Jason paused, considering as he regarded the approaching Autumn with eyes that still seemed to glow from within, then looked at Devin. 

 “I am.” he said quietly, offering his fist for the bump, which Devin gave as the others gathered round.

 “You guys okay?”  Autumn and Tawny asked almost in unison.  Where Jason merely nodded, Devin immediately went and flung his arms around Tawny.

 “I’m so cold!” he sobbed.  “I need someone to rub me to make me feel better.”  Then he looped an arm around Cassie’s shoulders.  “Several someones.  All over rubbing.  With oil.  And you’ve got to be naked so I can get warmth.”  Both girls made a face and slipped out from under his arms.

 “He’s fine, I’d say.”  Cassandra shook her head.  Tawny nodded, smiling as Devin mock-hobbled around, bleating for naked girls to massage him.

 “You flew.” Autumn meanwhile said to Jason, looking up into his green eyes that were if anything more lambent than before.  He was soaked from his dip in the pool, his shaggy hair dripping water over his bare shoulders, the water causing his white sleeveless tee to cling to his torso in a way that the redhead found, um, aesthetically pleasing.  Yeah.  That was it.

 “I did.” he nodded, smiling a little at her.

 “I mean really, really flew.”  she went on, moving closer then sliding her arms up around his neck, heedless of the water as she pressed her body to his, standing up on tiptoe.  A piercing whistle cut her off as her lips were about to meet his.

 “Sorry, not sorry.”  Cassandra lowered her fingers from her mouth, grinning.  “That’s enough of that, you two.  Do gross couple stuff in your own time.  Like Jason there said, this isn’t personal time.”

 “What if I have a medical condition?”  Autumn huffed, smiling past her blush.

 “You’ve got a condition, alright.” Cassie rejoined.  “And it’s not medical.”

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Grinning as she childishly stuck her tongue out at the pretty blonde, Autumn turned and reached up to push Jase's hair back from his forehead, running her fingers admiringly through the wet strands. She could feel the water seeping through her t-shirt and the denim on her thighs as she lingered there, but, really: So what? She still hadn’t completely dried off from the water fight with Cassie earlier, anyway. In lieu of a kiss, the lively young woman smiled back up into those luminous green eyes and mouthed a single word: Amazing, before sinking back down onto her heels. And it was. And he was, or so every atom of her being seemed to sing when he was nearby, like… ‘like billions of tiny stars in the dark.’

It wasn’t until she took a half-step back, reluctantly complying with Cass’s simultaneously totally reasonable and also completely stupid and unfair prohibition, that she really, truly realized that more than just Jase’s shirt was drenched. And water could be heavy. And… something, something science. Probably.

“Um,” she managed eloquently, as every bit of the sun’s thermal output suddenly seemed focused on her face, heating her skin until she wondered if her fiery hair might literally ignite this time. It wasn’t just that he’d gotten wet during his unplanned trip to the pool- it was the way the water droplets clung to his lips, the way the sheen of it glistened on his skin and adhered the translucent white cotton of his shirt to the lean form beneath, the way tiny rivulets of it trailed down his exposed hipbones as the waistband of his sweatpants dipped perilously, thrillingly, distractingly low. It probably wouldn’t take much at all to-

Focus, Autumn.

Oh. Oh, I am. I really, really-

Not on THAT!
 

She blinked, inhaling suddenly as her lungs protested the lack of oxygen. Suddenly, Marissa’s insistence that he was going to kill her one day made sense, because Autumn was pretty sure he’d already done it half a dozen times in the last week alone.

“So that’s, um,” she tried again, waving a hand in the general direction of Jason’s stomach as she struggled to look anywhere else but at him. “Really distracting. And we’re supposed to be focusing on Fellowship stuff. And I will definitely not be able to concentrate if you’re walking around like that for the rest of the afternoon. And neither will anyone else with a pulse. And… I swear there was something I needed to talk to you about, training-related, but I don’t think I can have a conversation with you right now. Like that.” Blushing furiously, the animated redhead tucked her hands into her pockets and wished that Devin would likewise drop her into a pool of cold water somewhere.

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It took him a moment to discern her meaning and why she was flustered, then an impish gleam entered his eyes and slow smile curved his lips... and Mama Keane's girl knew she was in trouble.  "Like this?"  he asked in a calm, curious tone that was completely at odds with his smile and the look in his eyes as he plucked at the wet white cotton, pulling it away from his soaked skin before letting it fall back to mold itself to him once more.  "You mean wet?"

"...yes."  Autumn managed, trying not to look - or drool - and not daring to take her hands out of her pockets, because they would want to reach out and touch- No.  No.  Bad.

"I should get out of these wet things, then?" Jase's tone was devoid of innuendo, but his gaze was alive with wicked humor.  Chewing on her lower lip and looking off to the side, Autumn was refusing to be baited as she nodded vociferously, even as inner Autumn was jumping up and down and yelling something incoherent about how she wasn't getting a good enough look.  "Want to come and help me?"

"Noooooo..."  Autumn moaned rather than said.  Nearby, Cassie was alternating between snickering and not at all ogling her friend's crazy-dangerous-alluring BF. "I want to talk to you about serious stuff.  And if I come and help you get out of wet things then... yeah.  That won't happen."  Jason gave a low chuckle and stepped back a little.

"In that case..."  Gold motes danced in his eyes and there was a sudden cloud of vapour as steam erupted from his clothes and body, obscuring him in a momentary fog cloud which dissipated as he stepped forward again out of it, almost completely dry, hiking up his sweatpants a little so as to minimise distraction.  "Better?"  he asked, holding his hands out a little to the sides as if presenting for inspection.

"Much."  Autumn said, both meaning and not meaning it.  The topic of soaking wet Jason would have to be revisited again... some other time.

"Good."  The Effing One smiled and gestured to her to follow him as they moved a little apart from the bustle and chatter of the others.  "So... what did you want to talk to me about?"

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"So, what are we doing exactly?"  Tawny asked while Cade set his bag of targets and practicing gear down with a low rattle.  Jason's farm was huge and they had acres on which to sprawl out and be typically average teenagers.  Like all teens they did the usual stuff like fly, open warp gate into the school's swimming pool, oh, and practice their knife throwing on target that were held aloft by the power telekinesis.  Yup.  Average.

"You hold up the target, like so," he held one of the thick wooden planks to his chest.  "And then I throw knives at you."

"What?!  No!" She protested, looking at him like he was a lunatic and wanted nothing to do with his idea.

Cade was laughing and stacking the planks up to set them aside when Marissa stepped to her lover and later her nails gently scratch his back to notify him she was there.  "He's screwing with you, Ms. Christian Summer Camp."  The dark haired vixen rolled her eyes at Tawny's never ending supply of gullibility.  She always took people at their word was too sweet to assume someone might be toying with her, except Devin and Marissa, whom she'd grown accustomed to.  "I think he intends for you to make the targets move about with your mind and he's going to throw his junk at them."  She gently kicked his bag of stuff.

"Phrasing," Cade smirked.

"Mmm," his girl smiled and moaned slightly.  "Look at you, coming out of your shell."  As he stood she wrapped her arms around him and looked up into his Caribbean hued eyes.  Seductively she smiled and held him tighter.  "Kiss me and tell me I'm pretty."  Cade smiled and kissed her softly.

"You are gorgeous," he said softly as he broke their embrace.  "And distracting.  As into this as I am, I need to throw some knives... now, come on seductress, let me focus."

Marissa resigned to share her bae's with... well, himself, and released him so he could finish getting things prepared.  As he rummaged around in his equipment bag Marissa collected all the targets and brought them to Tawny who was under the impression Jason would be helpeing her and she'd not be doing this alone.  It took a few moments but Marissa had calmed her down and she agreed that she could, at the very least, try it solo.  After all, Marissa would be here to help her relax.

One of the targets was spinning slowly in her hand as she concentrated on it.  Cade ran back off to his jeep to get something he'd forgotten, leaving the ladies alone.  Marissa tapped the spinning target trying to get it to turn counter, but it just slowed and kept spinning in the same direction as she commented on how weird it was.

"It's nice seeing you in love." Tawny said with her infectiously cheerful voice.

"Woah there, sister," Marissa laughed and gave the perky sweet blonde a crazy look.  "I am not in love.  My family has money, I can make do without love."

"You can't buy love," Tawny said in a tone that practically scolded Marissa for being silly enough to think love had a price tag.

"No, but you can pay heavily for it."  She shot back with a quick rebuttal of her own and picked up a couple more targets, one in each hand, if only to give her something to while tolerating Tawny's insufferably kind spirit.  "Men are pigs.  Look at my bother for example and you're practically stalking him.  He's a player.  He'd sleep everyone of those women over there, right now, knowing how you feel about him, while you watch.  They're only as loyal as their options and all that crap you see on TV is just that, Tawny, crap."  She recited a quote from her her many and varied interests in literature.  "Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams.  That's Dostoyevsky."

"He that weird guy that hangs out near the public library who looks like he has pepperoni nipples?"  Tawny asked.  "Seriously weird dude, and he needs to put a shirt on."

"No, Princess Sparkle Magic Dumbass, he was a Russian journalist and philosopher."  She shook her head and fumed, wondering how one person could be so dumb until she was reminded that she had a brother.

"Yeah?  Well, so you know what humans would be without love, Marissa?"  The target spun her hand as little tiny sparks of fire began to dance and orbit the wooden square.

Marissa rolled her eyes and huffed.  "What?  Happier?"

The little dancing flames exploded into the shape of hearts that spun as they orbited the target.  "Rare.  That's Terry Pratchett."

Marissa looked to Tawny and then over to her brother then, back to Tawny.  An evil grin purchased real estate upon her perfect lips and she asked the blonde a simple question.  "How's that working out for you so far?"  The hearts flickered out as Tawny's vibrant and joyous smile cracked and shattered to pieces leaving only a sorrowful expression of want and desire for what she could not have.  Her work done, Marissa turned to face her returning lover, never for a moment letting the victorious evil grin leave her features.

"Sorry!"  Cade ran up.  "I'd forget my head if it wasn't attached."  He dropped a few more throwing implements near the bag.

"No worries," Marissa said, her voice full of mirth and good cheer.  "Tee and I were just girl talking, ain't that right?"

"Yeah," Tawny said softly like a puppy who'd just been kicked.  She passed Marissa, knocking shoulders with her to intentionally display her displeasure with her adopted sister but Marissa's twisted grin only grew wider as she jerked from the impact.  Without another word Tawny set about helping Cade set up his throwing practice.

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Cade had known Tawny a fair number of years, and he sighed inwardly at the change in her demeanor.   He didn't really want to think that Marissa'd said something, but he admit this was fairly likely.  He didn't miss Marissa's grin as Tawny bumped into her, but put it away.  There was damn little he could do for Tawny in her quest to date Devin.  

So it was easy enough to describe what he wanted Tawny to do, and he kept his expectations lower than he would have had Jason been there, not out of disrespect, but simply because Tawny was new to this, so they'd try simpler things.  It wasn't like he actually understood her powers beyond the most basic means.  

"Thanks for helping me, Tawny." he prefaced it with, and then gave her a general idea of how to move the targets.   "Marissa, you'll want to stand back some."   

"Oh, worried you'll miss a target?"   He could hear the snark in her voice.

"Yes, actually.  Because for this to be done right, No area around me can be a dead zone, somewhere I can't throw at.  The Targets are all numbered, once we get going, if you'll call them out, I'll hit them."  

"Why ask me? why not have your partner in this exercise do that?  What if I have something to do?"  He could hear the acid in her tone, and he just smiled.  "Do you?  If not then why not help me out?"   He came back quietly, and with a smile, Marissa nodded.  "Fine."  

The single word made him wince inwardly, but he looked to Tawny, "Let's get started."

He stood in the center of the targets, which Tawny worked to raise, and then moved, slowly at first, and Cade closed his eyes, knives in his hands and a selection of stones at the ready.   "One."   Cade opened his eyes and found the target numbered 1 to his left, and there was a whisper of sound as his arm came up, and there was a loud "thwack" as the blade imbed itself into the direct center of the target painted on the board.   "Two."  It was to his right, and he hit that one with a bullseye as well.  

Things went on like this,  until he'd run out of things to throw, and nodded to Tawny.  They were never moving fast, but she did change how they moved, and Marissa called in a random order, even if it seemed like she was bored to tears.    "you can let them down.  I gotta go pick everything up."  He smiled  as she let them down and he went to gather up the stones.  Marissa ducked out as they took a break, and Tawny watched Cade.   "You didn't miss at all."   

"I tend not to, but it can happen.  It's easier to be prepared, than not.  That's also why I use the stones more, not quite as lethal as a knife."    

The blonde looked at him, "Honestly, I think you'd hurt pretty much anyone with how hard you can throw.  I could feel each of the impacts as you hit the targets, and that was pretty hard."   

Cade smiled back at her.  "That's actually pretty cool.  I'd wondered what would happen, if you could feel the impacts, and be able to keep the targets up."   Fact was when he'd switched to the stones, he couldn't tell if he hit the center, but he hit them all, as Tawny had been able to let the targets move within her grasp.  They'd spun or flipped end over end when struck.   

He was ready to go again, Though now it was just Tawny and Cade there.   His powers weren't showy, but this was one of the better ways he knew to train.  "Thanks again Tawny, for doing this."   

She offered him a faint smile.  "Jason probably could have done better."  

"He's got his own training to do.     I'm just glad you were able to help.   I can set them up on trees and branches and run through the forest again like before, but it really isn't a challenge to manage after a few runs.   Having you help I feel like I'm making some actual progress.   I just hope this is also helping you."  

"Well it's definitely testing the limits of what I can currently manage, and it is kinda fun."  Tawny replied softly.   "Are you going to go after Marissa?"  

Cade shook his head.  "She was understandably bored watching us.  She probably went to see what the others were getting up to."    Tawny just stared at him.  "It's fine.   She knows how I am, and I know how she is.   Things will work out."  It might have seemed like he didn't care, but he did.  He also knew better than to crowd Marissa.

"Do you "like" Marissa?"    The question slipped out even as the targets rose again.   It was a good thing his back was to her, so he couldn't see her blush from embarrassment.

Cade nodded.  "Of course I do."    His response seemed almost automatic, though it was easy to hear the sincerity.

"She's been terrible to your friends, even to you at times, both her and Devin...  And yet still..."

Cade put a knife in a target before turning to face her.  "When the shit hit the fan, They're there.   They've got our backs.   The torment and bullshit is just that, and seems so much less important now.   For some of us at least.  Devin is changing, and I've seen a different side of Marissa than I ever have before."

"Gross."  Tawny quickly cut him off.

"Not that, quit thinkin' like Devin."  He smirked.   "It may be easier because they never did anything to me directly, but some of us are having a harder time."   

"And being her boytoy doesn't influence your bias?"   more targets hit, as Tawny kept on, too deep now.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't somewhat influenced.   I like to think almost everyone can be better, if given a chance.   Even the Jauntsens, even Courtney.  It's my plan to give them that chance.  So far, My faith's rewarded.   They're here, aren't they?   We're all working together, training, planning, preparing.   We have a big fight ahead, and likely more to face afterwards, but we'll face that together too."

"And she says I'm the PBS special."  Tawny just stared at Cade, before laughing.

"Yeah, yeah I know corny hero speech, doesn't make it any less true."    Cade said with a self-deprecating tone.  "Ready to get back to Round two of the training?  Let's try for abit more speed this time."   Tawny smiled again,  as Cade readied himself, and the targets began to move again, faster, and she began to call out Targets.

 

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This is a collaboration between Max and I

Lilly watched Devin and Jason spar with a mixture of surprise and awe. It had been barely six weeks since the bonfire, and now some of the Fellowship seemed to have mastered their abilities or nearly so, apparently even discovering new abilities just now. It was pretty amazing.

Cassandra came back over to Lilly from where she'd been razzing the boys, and Autumn, after their match. She had a big grin of the 'shit-eating' variety on her face and offered up her hands in a supplicating gesture.

"Sorry about that," she said, "Some things just have to happen. Uh, so...where were...oh yeah, you were asking about Aeon and Annette." Cassie frowned and thought for a second, then shrugged. "I don't super duper trust them? Like, I think Annette believes what she was telling us. Her heart seemed like it was in the right place. Buuuuuut...I mean, look what happened. It seems to me like this Aeon outfit is at best not very competent, because when they took over, they obviously left a lot of bugs under a lot of rocks. At worst?"

She shrugged again. "I don't know. It sounded like they're a scientific think tank. Maybe they just wanted to see what would happen with some deniability."

"Either way, I'm not letting them off the hook. Once we know what they knew and when they knew it, we'll know if they're guilty of conspiracy or just negligence."

Cassie worked her shoulders then and tilted her head slightly, gazing at Lilly thoughtfully. "So...I remember you were pretty good with like, martial arts and stuff. Think you could show me some pointers? I feel like, if I'm going to be hanging out with this crowd, I'm going to need to know at least the basics."

Lilly listened intently and taking Cassandra's opinion to heart. Cass had always had pretty a pretty good gut, even before her powers, so Lilly gave her intuition a good bit of weight, nodding at her plucky friend's answers. When the talk shifted to some hand to hand pointers, Lilly looked a little surprised.

"Whoa. Really? Yeah, sure." she said with a smile and nod, moving out  from where they had been sitting to get some more room and motioning Cass to follow. Lilly stretched her arms a bit as she walked,  pulling one and then then other behind her head with elbow up, swinging them around and in front of her and so on until she finally reached and good stop and stopped, turning to face Cassandra as she followed.

"Okay, a few things. First, you should stretch and limber up so you don't hurt yourself, even if just training a bit or doing drills." Lilly explained as she began to show Cass some stretches, helping her friend as needed.

"Second, third and fourth is conditioning, conditioning, conditioning. The better it is, the better off you are. I'm not saying to you need to be a workout nut like me, but start jogging, maybe some light weights, because the worst feeling is seeing that your opponent has more gas in their tank than you do. I jog every morning and you are welcome to join. Aside from that, if you every want a jogging or workout buddy, just give me a call. I got your back." she said with a grin and wink.

"Fifth is practice, especially sparring, because the biggest mistake people make is losing their cool. They panic or fight out of anger and those are good ways to make mistakes and ware yourself out. It's not as easy to stay calm as many people think." Lilly said and then grinned again, adding, "I mean, barring some psionic shenanigans or something." she laughed. "You need to keep your head in a fight, and the best way to prepare for that is to simulate it as much as you can in a safe environment, hence sparring. It's not quite the same as a real fight, but it is as close as you can safely get and it will help you out." she explained.

"Next is know you limits. You need to fight your fight, not theirs. We all have strengths and weaknesses. You'll learn to play to your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses."

Lilly took in a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh.

"Now, all that aside, let's have some fun and see if we can't make give you a few surprises to bust out on darklings or mercs or something." Lilly said with a grin.

"Lesson one, defense. Make fists and hold your arms up like this..." Lilly said, showing Cass a basic boxing guard. Once she hands her hands up, Lilly threw a few slow motion punches, showing her friend proper technique and how effect the guard could be when used effectively.

Lilly then dropped her guard and held up a hand.

"Now keep your hands up and punch my hand. Technique first, then you can start hitting harder." she instructed, holding up her hands to be targets for Cass to practice on.

As she pair began to train, Lilly glanced over at the others and said, "So Jase and Autumn, eh? That's... yeah. And then Marissa and Cade? I never would have seen that coming." she mused.

"And then Lona is moving? That's gotta suck for Devin. They seemed happy together. Or at least what I saw of them." she said with a bit of a frown. "I would say we should at least throw Lona and Clara a going away party, but that might be pouring salt in the wound. I dunno." she pondered, punctuating her frown with a small shrug.

"Yeah," Cassandra agreed as she threw punches at Lilly's hand, trying to imitate what she'd seen in movies and TV shows. Lilly could immediately tell that Cassie had probably never thrown an actual punch before her entire life just from how she stood 'normally' with her feet together rather than with a wider stance, and in how she was using her arms instead of her back to try to convey force.

"It's kind of weird really. Everyone leaving more or less at the same time...I need to look into that. Maybe someone's trying to break the group up," she shook her head. "Devin's feeling it though. You know him...he doesn't really show it, but you can see what's hurting him in what he doesn't talk about, you know? As for Jase and Autumn, I'm like ninety percent sure it was Autumn that kicked that off, and Marissa wasn't happy about it."

She glanced behind her, verifying that Marissa and Cade weren't anywhere nearby before adding, "I'm kind of wondering if Cade's a rebound...but it does seem like they're genuinely into each other too, so..."

Her fist socked into Lilly's hand again and Cass winced a little and shook it out as she pulled it back. "Anyone ever tell you that your hands are really...solid?"

"Thank you?" Lilly said with an expression that was a mix of confusion and a grin. 

"Anyways, stop trying to hit hard for now. This is about technique, not power. You got to get the foundation of technique first." she explained and then moved behind Cassandra.

"First of all, your stance needs work." she pointed out as she used her own foot to move Cass' foot a bit, adjusting her stance. "Don't that feel better now?" she asked and then stood beside her friend before she even answered.

"And thrown the punch like this..." she said, throwing a few slow-mo punches while standing beside Cass she could better see the technique.

Once Lilly was satisfied after watching a few of Cassandra's improved punches, she moved back in front of her and held up her hands again for targets. 

"Technique, not power. Do not worry about hitting hard right now, just do it right. Power will come in time." she explained as she glanced at her hands and shrugged a bit.

"Since I got my shine, I've noticed I am stronger. Like... much stronger. So far, I have not been able to get enough weight on the bar that I could not lift it. I mean, I have to be careful about putting that much weight on a bar so that nobody sees, but yeah. You guys' shine gave you mind powrz, and mine seemed to have internalized into my body in various ways." Lilly said with a shrug.

"Anyways... So it sounds like Devin and Mari have been playing relatively nice, or at least trying to? And I guess Jase, I dunno how to put it. I guess Autumn has done him some good?" she asked, glancing over at the twins and then Jase and Autumn before returning her attention to Cass.

Cassie rocked herself backwards and forwards with her feet wider apart, and shrugged, then resumed punching. Her form WAS better, but mostly in comparison to how bad it had been before.

"Don't get me wrong, Devin is still basically an eleven year old, emotionally...and Marissa is still a seventeen-year bitch," she said. "But yeah. They're on board with the program. Courtney too, even though she was working for Cook before. Just...watch your brain around her. I'm pretty sure she likes to eavesdrop."

She took a deep breath. "As for Jase...he's had some shaky moments, but I think Autumn is doing him good. If nothing else, she's giving him a very good, tangible reason to try to play nicer with people. Even if it's just because he doesn't want to gross her out, or scare her off."

Cass paused then to push her increasingly sweaty hair up out of her eyes. "It's weird how tiring this is even though I feel like I'm barely moving," she complained lightly. "I mean, I think I'm in decent shape. I bike or skateboard practically everywhere. I go jogging sometimes. I'm in PE class. Sheesh. Okay, lets...can we mix it up a little? Teach me some wax on wax off stuff."

"Well, yeah. You are using muscles in different ways than you are used to, so yeah, it's gonna get tiring quick. Just holding your fists up does it pretty quick." she spoke from experience and then glanced back over to Marissa and then Devin, biting her bottom lip slightly with a wistful sigh. 

"Yeah. I really need to apologize to them though. I was too caught up in what they had done that- Well. You know. They are trying and risking their lives, just like the rest of us. I mean, yeah, it's probably just gonna be ignored or whatever, but that's not the point. I owe them an apology." Lilly said somewhat thoughtfully as she considered the twins for a moment and then brought her attention back to the task at hand with a small shrug.

"Anyways.. Okay, for now one of the better things you can do is trips. It sounds kinda cheap, but a kevlar vest or chitinous hide or whatever doesn't do jack to help you stay on your feet, and it is hard to shoot or fight from your back." Lilly explained as she lowered her hands and moved closer to Cass.

"Probably the easiest way is to just step in and push, using their own weight against them." Lilly pointed out as she stepped closer to her friend, repositioning her foot behind Cass' with just a flick of her ankle and then pushed slowly while holding onto her friend's arms, letting her feel the trip. At no time though did Cass have any fear of Lilly dropping her after feeling her taller friend's steady grip and her arms barely flexing, easily controlling Cass' weight.

With a causal exertion, Lilly pulled Cass back to her feet and said, "Now you try. And go ahead and knock me down. Don't worry about it. I get worse on the football field." she instructed.

As the pair got closer while practicing, Lilly asked, "What about Tawny and the new girl, Kat, you said?"

After the momentary shock of the 'trip' demonstration, Cassandra managed to grin for a second, absorbing the irony that she, of all people, was now some kind of gossip-engine. But hey, maybe that wasn't all bad. Gossip was kind of like news? For teens? And she had already given Lilly the rundown on all the important stuff, why not do the human interest stuff too?

"As far as I can gather, Tawny's been a friend of Devin's since they were kids, and she's got a massive crush on him," she says. "Kat's pretty new to the gang, and I don't have a read on her yet. She's French, I think. Or maybe Canadian? I'm fuzzy on that."

She took a stab at trying to duplicate Lilly's move, but after a few tries it became abundantly obvious that Lilly was still helping her a great deal by letting herself be tripped. She hadn't quite gotten it down from a single demonstration, and Lilly was just so much stronger that it was like trying to wrestle a statue.

Frustrated, Cassandra backed off a few steps, then said, "What about blocking a punch or something? Or...or what about kicks? I wanna do that thing where you spin-kick so fast you sort of helicopter fly."

"Well, that guard is really the most effective block. Most of the stuff you see in the movies is not all that actual effective in a real, true fight." Lilly said as she mulled over what Cassandra had shared with her for a moment and then shrugged. She would introduce herself and get a read on Kat on her own anyways.

"As far as flying helicopter kicks and stuff? Yeah. No. Without some psychokinetic fuckery, those aren't happening. I mean, I don't even bother with turning kicks most of the time. They tend to be telegraphed." she explained as she took a step back and took a stance.

"If you want to kick, you need to remember that you kick with other to top of your foot or the heel, depending on the kick and NOT you toes. That a good way to break them. I mean, yeah, granted, you will probably have shoes, but still, you are generally not going to get the kinetic energy transfer with your toes." Lilly instructed as she demonstrated a few kick slowly,, showing which part of the foot made contact with each.

"Unless you have good flexibility, your kicks are going to striking the waist down, and since this is self defense crash course, and I hate to say it, but probably the most effective kick for you will be to straight up kick a guy in his junk. Yeah, kinda of a bitch move, but if your life is on the line, then you'll learn to live with some dirty fighting." Lilly laughed, demonstrating a basic groin kick.

"Aside from that, kicks have more power, yeah, but if it gets caught, then you're pretty well screwed. A low kick might be able to trip or unbalance and opponent though, especially if it unexpected." Lilly pointed out as she lightly demonstrated a low kick to Cass' calf, letting her just feel a bit how much even a fairly weak kick could affect her balance and reached out to grasp her friend's hand when she stumbled a little, catching her easily.

"Seriously though, at this very moment, you are probably best off getting up your guard and going for a trip or groin shot. It could legitimately save your life."

Lilly pulled Cass back to her feet casually and gave her a pat on her upper arm.

"Now, let's see if you can get any combinations going. Just try at like twenty or thirty percent power. Technique and repetition is your friend. If you want to keep training after this, I do a weekly lesson on the weekend, or just give me a call and we can train." Lilly offered as she moved very slowly, putting up only minimal resistance to let Cass practice on her. 

"So, how open do you think the twins and Jase would be to me talking to them, and you know, an apology? I mean, Jase seems at least somewhat willing, but those took seem to be avoiding me, which is about a good as could expected, I guess." taking the time to talk a little more, seeing if Cassandra could keep her head and focus on her striking while also answering questions.

Cassandra pursed her lips as she considered that question.

"Jase would be fine with it," she decided. "I think as long as you're clear about saying what your mistake was, and sincere about being sorry for it, he'd go with it unless he decides you can't be trusted. Devin and Marissa..." Cass frowns, "...I think they'd test you. Like, they'd let you apologize, and then they'd try to provoke you or piss you off or something. And then if you get pissed off, it's sort of confirmation that the apology isn't sincere."

She shook her head. "And if you don't...they might still not accept it. Maybe Devin would. Here's the thing though...I think you should still do it. For one, it'll make you feel better. You know? Clear the conscience. For another, I think they need to see people being sincere towards them. I get the feeling they haven't had a lot of that."

Cassie shrugged.

"Okay. Combination. So like..." She threw a couple of punches, then tried to trip Lilly, then started to try to kick but realized she was a bit too close after the trip and broke it off.

"Ugh. Give it to me straight Kung Fu Doctor. This is going to take me, like...fifty years isn't it?"

Lilly could not help but laugh Cass' question. She had tried to stifle it, but failed and shook her head, giving her blonde friend a pat on the shoulder.

"How long it takes depends on how much time and effort you put into it. We can train whenever you like. I'd suggest at least once a week and maybe step up your cardio. Lighting some light weights would not hurt either. But honestly, it comes down to technique and repetition, repetition, repetition. Just work on the few things I showed and we can go from there." Lilly suggested.

"It's like dancing or sports. It looks easy enough until you get out and try to do it yourself. It's all the time and hard work that makes it look easy though. You did good though, for your first time. Honestly. High five." she says with a smile, holding her hand up for Cassie.

Lilly's smile faded slowly and she let out a faint sight as her thoughts turned to the twins and Jase.

"Well, I decided I was going to apologize days ago, so that it happening. Them accepting it or not is kinda moot. it is something I should do regardless. I owe them that." 

"I had a lot of time to think as I sat there, watching the other heats at the Olympic trials between throwing my own. Think about myself, all of us, the situation we are in. All of it. I was.. I mean, they still did what they did, for years, but I was too caught up that to see that they were making and effort... or at least their version of it. And that's my bad. I think I was just looking for a chance to show that they were not really on board, just like they probably look for proof that nobody is really their friends. So it was like irresistible force meeting unmovable object. And because of that, we all suffered in various ways. We did not work together as well as we could have. Friendships were stressed or never got to form and on and on. I own my part in it, and I'm sorry." she said to Cassandra sincerely.

"Right, well...if you're looking for an editor, I give it a thumbs up," Cassandra said, lowering her fists and smiling. "Go tell them."

Lilly motioned at Cassie to put her hands back up. "You're not done yet. Try another combo."

The high school journalist sighed and pushed her hair back. "It's just...one of the things I want to do is not just learn how to use my fists...I want to use my powers too. No amount of preschool remedial Bruce Lee moves will impress a giant Evil Tree, or Cody when he's all hopped up on Darkballs. I need to figure out how to use what I can do to help me."

She put her hands on her hips and looked away. "The only way I can think of to do that is take it less safe."

"Then we could always do the Inspector Clouseau thing." Lilly offered.

"Say what now?" Cassie asked.

"Inspector Clouseau, in those old Pink Panther movie. He walks around and has this guy randomly ambush him, never knowing when or where he might strike! It will force you to use your powers. Every door, cupboard, box or hamper could contain a parcel from paaaaaain... and the postage is duuuue!" Lilly explained with a grin, hoarse, mockingly evil voice, and clearly fake karate chop.

Cass couldn't hold it together and the pair fell out laughing for a moment as Lilly's silly, over exaggerated theatrics, taking a few moment to compose themselves until they were finally laying in grass, chuckling occasionally as they caught their breath.

"Seriously though, we can train sometime and I can come at you hard, or at least harder, and we can see if that helps inspire you to use your powers in new and inventive ways. They say that necessity is the mother of invention." she offered to her plucky friend as they sat up in the grass and calmed down further.

"Just think about it and give me a call later. We can work something out if you. Until then..." she said as she rose to her feet, "I'm gonna get some water. Want one?"

"Nah. I'm good. And yeah, I'll think about it." 

Edited by Lilly Pryor

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Of all the members of the Fellowship, Jase was the one person she was least worried about telling. Not because they were dating, but because he was a friend. She was also sure- okay, mostly sure- that it wouldn’t change his opinion of her much, and completely sure that he wouldn’t freak out, because freaking out wasn’t a thing Jason Bannon did. That was more a reaction he inspired in other people. Cassie would probably be horrified, and Marissa would call her a serial killer in the making or something, and neither of those responses were particularly helpful. Honest, yeah, but not helpful.

Right. Start with what you want, first. Then explain.

“Okay,” she began, inhaling as she planted her feet solidly in the soft, grassy earth. “So, I need help figuring out how to train. The first time I ever used my powers to heal someone was you, in that conference room. And the first time I ever used them to make someone… better, I guess? Improve them? Was Devin, when we went to the prison afterward, because helping you kind of pushed me to keep trying other things. But neither of those was the actual first time. That happened earlier, when those two guys went after you in the hall.” She paused, lower lip once more between her teeth as she worked to formulate her thoughts, to arrange sensory impressions and adrenaline-clouded memories of that day into a coherent narrative.

“It’s not that I was trying to do it. I didn’t even know I could. When- what’s-his-name, Mark or whatever- when I pushed him to get him off you, and he grabbed my arm, he was going to break it. I could actually feel it happening, y’know? I was scared, and it fucking hurt, and it just sort of-“ Her voice, which had risen slightly, broke off as she took another deep breath. “So, I hurt him back. Not like an injury, just… pain, until reflexes kicked in and he jerked away.”

“Curtis, too, the one who ended up in the hospital. At the time he probably felt like he’d never walk again, because that’s honestly what I wanted him to feel. He hurt my friend, he hurt me, and I wanted him to know what that was like. I wanted to make him stop. So when I ended up kicking him and dislocating his knee, I made it a lot more painful than it should’ve been, hoping he’d just stay the hell down.”

God, I sound like a fucking nutcase. Jesus. Autumn frowned and reached up to drag a hand back through the remains of what was once a ponytail of some kind, sighing. And it only gets better from here, the sarcastic retort surfaced, unbidden.

“It’s not just that, though,” she admitted softly, the ocean-hued eyes that gazed up at him murky with uncertainty. “I could feel how to make it worse. How to splinter and tear and sever everything so that it would always just be a- a mess of meat and bone fragments, and it would’ve been easy. All I had to do was touch him. And that was just his knee.”

For a moment, the restless young woman left it at that. She held one hand out, peering at the neat, short nails, the freckles and tiny scars, and the faint greenish-blue network of dorsal veins and arteries as if she might be able to see the energy moving there just beneath the skin. And then she caught sight of Jason between her widespread fingers and smiled a little, shoulders twitching up in a shrug as she met his eyes.

“I still don’t know how I feel about that, to be honest, and I’ve thought about it a lot. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I have pretty much zero guilt where those two are concerned, because they would’ve done a lot worse. But I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t freak me out a little. Like, I know that there’s no such thing as life without pain, or death, and it would be stupid to think otherwise. And I know it’s not the only thing I can do. But even if it’s not the only thing, it’s still a thing, and I don't know what to do with it. Especially with everything that’s happened, and Cody, and the Dark. That’s why I haven’t told anybody yet. And, yeah,” she acknowledged with a tilt of her head, “maybe that’s unfair, but there’s a difference in having powers that could be used to hurt people and having powers that are meant to, and I can pretty much guess how they’re going to react.”

“Fuck," she swore suddenly, pressing the heels of her hands to her forehead with a laugh. "Why do I always end up talking so much when I tell you stuff?”


 

Edited by Autumn Keane
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After finishing her impromptu lesson with Cassie, Lilly walked over to the cooler and withdrew a bottle of water. Twisting off the cap she looked around, a small smile on her face at the sight of her friends, and hopeful friends, all sparring, training, playing around and laughing. It was good to see them have this bit of levity and camaraderie. After what they had been through, especially in the last week, she was sure they needed it.

There was more that was needed too though. More that was due, regardless if they were going to take the fight to the Dark or not. Some figurative wounds had been opened and festering too long, and needed to be addressed. Lilly owed some apologies, regardless if they were accepted or not.

With that thought, Lilly noticed that Devin was not around joking with Jase or hitting on any of the girls or the like. Glancing around, looking for him, she spotted him laying out on the grass, shirtless, his toned, gymnast's body still covered in a sheen of sweat.

Lilly paused and thought for a moment, nibbling on the side of her lower lip as she was apt to do when thinking, and took a swig from her bottle, enjoying the refreshing water for just a moment before twisting the cap back on. She began to half walk, half stroll over to Devin, making her way through the grass which easily announced somebody approaching him.

She came to a stop, standing beside him and leaning forward slightly, blocking the sun with her head as she looked down at him, casting a shadow over part his chest and head.

"Hey Devin. Nice moves back there. You and Jase have really been working hard to master you gifts." she complimented honestly. "Hey, uh, do you mind if we talk for a minute?" she asked somewhat pensively.

"Eh," Devin smirked, squinting less now that Lily was in his sun. "Jay-Bee ain't got nothing on me. I was going easy." He chuckled. With Lily in his sun he was able to look up at the hard bodied, athletic female and appreciate both the creation of leggings because of what they did for a woman's butt, and lament that they took the place of exceedingly loose and short track shorts and that was why Lily wasn't wearing any and he couldn't see up them from his currently perfect point of view.

She sounded serious, which meant he knew what this was about or he was about to accused of something he was probably guilty of and just wasn't aware he'd done it yet. He sat up with a grunt and his body complied with a series of tightening muscle groups Lily could probably name and easily tell that Devin, for a slacker, didn't miss a work out. "Yeah, sure. Claim some real estate." He reached to one side and collected his bottle of water that was covered in clippings of grass as a sweat of the bottle collected anything that would stick to it. "What's up?"

Lilly crossed her ankles as she stood and lowered herself down to sit Indian style by Devin. She took a moment and nibble on the side of her bottom lip again, but for just a moment.

"I just- I just wanted to say I am sorry. For how I acted before and what I did. I was caught up in what you had done that I couldn't see what you were doing. You were trying to help." she said in a somber, sincere tone before adding with a small, lopsided grin, "..at least in your own way."

The grin faded and she looked to him, her gaze finding his eyes and looking into them. "Seriously though. You were trying to help, we all were, but it was like too many Indians and no chief, for one. I was- I dunno. The rest of us were friends and then you and Marissa came in and were like.. you know. They were my friends and you had always been-" Lilly stopped and sighed, a frown draping across her beautiful face.

"I'm sorry I didn't believe you when you said you saw the stuff in the woods the night of the bonfire. I am sorry I said the things I did and got all pissy. All of it." she said as she looked down at the ground in front of her feet and tugged at the grass.

"But most of all, I'm sorry I did not give you a fair chance. I was wrong for doing that, regardless." she said as she lifted her head and looked into the depths of his eyes again as she idly toyed with a blade of grass she was not even looking at.

"I was half way across the country when you guys needed me the most, but, and I almost can't believe I am saying this," she said with a hint of a grin before her expression went somewhat more serious again, "thankfully you were still here."

"I know damage was done. And I am sure that me saying a few words now won't fix it, but I hope it is not too late for us to be friends, at least in time."

Lilly looked down at the blade of grass she had been toying with in her hands and sighed softly.

"And if that ship has sailed, then I hope we can at least put shit aside and work together. I mean, I'd rather have a friend than just a co-worker or whatever, but I understand if I did too much damage to your trust and things are too far gone. If that's the case, then that's my band and I just have to live with it and hopefully learn from it."

He listened. Nodding a few times as she listed off the accounts of the numerous times they butted heads. After she finished he pursed his lips and bobbed his head about in silent judgment. She knew some smart assed comment was coming. "Eh, not bad as far as apologies go. I have some notes, however... like it could have been delivered in a bikini..." he laughed as she groaned.

He turned himself in the grass to face her, adjusting himself so he could look at her more directly. "Look, in all seriousness, I'm the last guy here who needs to be coming down on people because of their behavior. I'm the guy still dolling out apologies for making people miserable for three years, that's almost a quarter of my ever impressive life."

He tapped her knee with his knuckles. "Things take time. If you're cool, then I'm cool and we can just go from there and," he paused looking out at the field for a moment before returning his attention back onto her. "Don't carry that 'wasn't here for us' stuff with you, Lily. We've been through some shit, sure, but all that matters is you're here now. You had obligations, a life's dream you had to intentionally cast aside for the greater good so you could be here and be a part of something bigger than yourself. Some of these guys don't know what it's like to dedicate themselves to anything more than goofing off, reading, or hunting and fishing." He offered her an understanding glare, from one dedicated athlete to another. "It's hard to let go of all that hard work and walk away from something like that. You don't owe me, or anyone else here an apology for that."

Lilly's eyes began to twinkle a bit with moisture as Devin not only gave her a pass for last and week and told to let it go, but also acknowledged what she had done... The sacrifice she had made. Yeah sure, some, or most, of the others certainly realized that she had to have intentionally tanked her trials, and even did so be here, but few probably fully grasped what she had given up, or how it had to feel doing it. But here, Devin, of all people, not only understood, but even.. acknowledged? Appreciated? (honestly she was not sure what the right word was) what she had done and give up. It was more than she would have expected of him minutes, much less days, ago and showed how she had misjudged him.

"Thanks dude." was all she said, mustering a weak smile as tears made silent, wet trails down her face. She knew she did not really even need to say anything more, as Devin understood, from one dedicated athlete to another.

Her eyes were misty and moistening up from the feels, he could tell. She looked at him, forcing a smile. "If I hug you will you try and cop a feel?"

"Most definitely." He grinned, offering her a reply pure Devin honestly.

Her smile was accented by a roll of the eyes as she leaned over and wrapped her arms around his bare body, braving the possible objectification of the unrepentant manwhore. He returned the embrace and after a few moments they parted and he waved her off with a playful gesture. "Alright, I'm tapped out of sentiment, go play with your friends and be back before the streetlights are on, I mean it young lady."

Lilly rolled her eyes with a smirk and a small laugh. "Thanks for listening, dude." she said as she rose to her feet, adding, "And understanding."

Lilly turned and then paused, then turned back to Devin. "Hey, uh. Do you, by any chance, have any pointers on how to approach Marrisa? I owe her an apology too, after all."

"With plate glass between you two and maybe some raw meat you can distract her with?" He shrugged. "We both know she's difficult. At home, I find it best to just to let her vent, talk all her bull shit, and feign some measure of being offended... then speak my piece. A lot has changed in a week though, Lils, for all I know, she'll take you to bed as much as try to kill you."

He took a breath and stood up. While brushing off the grass he continued. "Just, don't get mad. That's how she wins. It's what she's trying to do if she starts in on you: get a rise out of you. That's how we tormented the school for years... because people let us torment them. Keep calm, party on."

"Thanks dude." Lilly said with a nod and faint smile as she turned away again and brushed some of the grass from her ass that looked like it had been poured into her skintight leggings. "And don't worry. Marissa can bitch and be snarky all she wants, it doesn't change that she's been here for everybody when they needed her. That's what's important." she said, looking over her shoulder back at Devin as she walked off, taking a swig from her bottle of water.

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11 minutes ago, Autumn Keane said:

“Fuck," she swore suddenly, pressing the heels of her hands to her forehead with a laugh. "Why do I always end up talking so much when I tell you stuff?”

"I listen."  Jason said simply, his eyes crinkling at the edges in his version of a slight smile as he regarded the lively, expressive young woman.  It wasn't a guarded look, or a wary one.  It was more... intrigued.  "And you know I, out of anyone, will not judge or fear you.  And because you know in your soul I am your friend."

"Yeah."  Autumn smiled a little at that.  "You believe in souls?"  she suddenly asked, distracted by his turn of phrase.  It seemed odd for the pragmatic, scientific Jason to reference a soul, but he nodded in response.

"I do now." he shrugged.  "I touch your soul when I feel your Shine.  I feel my own."

"Yeah... we feel each other's energy and stuff, but... soul?"  Autumn's smile widened to a grin.  "You getting religious?"

"What do gods believe in?"  he asked with a slight smile curving his lips now.  Autumn blinked, frowning at the sudden tangent.

"Well... I guess if gods existed then they'd believe in themselves."  she half-joked, then blinked as Jason simply nodded, the gleam in his eyes both wry and serious.

"Quite."  He sat on the grass, patting the sward next to him.  "Lets focus on you, now."  And like that, he was back on topic while Autumn was still deciding whether he had dropped some profound wisdom or was merely teasing her again.  Or even both at once.  Damn it...she mentally grumbled as she sat down, unable to keep from studying the lines of his cheekbones as he calmly regarded her.  "Your powers are similar to Lona's - not identical, but the same 'feel' - you can affect living tissue and organisms, for better or worse."

"Wait, Lona could hurt people?"  Autumn blinked as Jason nodded.

"When Liam attacked her, she got away by causing him pain."  he explained, hands resting on his knees as he folded his legs.  "So yes - she could, but I never saw or heard of her rupturing bone and tissue.  But she could heal more effectively, with less strain to herself, than you healed me at the complex, so..."  he held out a hand palm up, then turned it palm down.  "Same coin..."

"...two sides." Autumn nodded thoughtfully.  "Okay, that makes sense."  She chewed on her lower lip, considering.

"How did it feel?"  Jason asked quietly, causing her to look at him again.  "When you sensed the pattern of his life, and knew you could do so much more than you did to him.  His life was in your hands - an enemy who had hurt you.  How did it feel to you?"

"How it felt," Autumn repeated, falling silent for a moment as she laced her fingers together atop her head. "Okay." Nodding, she took a deep breath and tried to put into words what had only been images, impressions at best, but never real thought. "It felt like an arrow being released. Like running up to the edge of the bluff and diving off into the river. It felt red," she continued, standing and beginning to pace a little. "Like being exactly the right amount of stoned, like singing and breathing and the best sex I've ever had, like being not, not angry but free. And like I didn't hate it, and then, after...? Like, I probably should've."

"And when you healed me?"

Autumn reddened a little, remembering how it had felt to feel his life, to coax and feed it's flame. Exhausting, sure, but it had been a rush too.  "It felt good as well." she said slowly, forcing herself to meet his gaze.  "Like, tiring but rewarding, you know?  Not as emotionally charged, but.. satisfying anyway.  Positive.  Exhilarating."  Jason nodded slowly as he absorbed this, and was silent for a moment.  When he spoke, it was with slow deliberation.

"Your shine is an outgrowth of your soul.  You are very like me, you know."  He smiled slightly.  "I mean insofar that you are passionate and unafraid to be so.  Passion is like your power - a coin with two sides.  It can drive you to heal, or to hurt.  To create, or to destroy.  To kiss or to kill.  Don't be afraid of either impulse, don't be repulsed by them  Simply apply them as appropriate, and in the right measure...  Which it sounds to me as though you did."  he added with a slight tilt of the head.  "It's not what you want to do. It's what you do that defines you.  You stopped an attacker, in a non-lethal and non-permanent way.  His knee will heal.  He would not have extended you that consideration - not being driven by the Dark as he was.  And you saved me as well as yourself."

"As for powers that are meant to hurt..."  Jason held up a hand, palm up, and a flame kindled to life on his palm, dancing and flickering.  "I can warm, or I can destroy.  I can shield myself and others from harm... or I can inflict it.  You can heal or you can hurt.  Think of your gift in it's totality, don't just hold up one facet of it and judge it alone and out of context."  He stood, the flame still dancing on his hand as he gracefully got to his feet.  "Fire burns. It devours. It destroys.  Taken like that, my gift is terrifying - at least I imagine it is to others."

"Well, yeah."  Autumn nodded.  "First time I saw you on fire I was scared shitless."

"And yet I can also warm someone who is freezing.  Cool someone with a fever.  Quench a house-fire.  Kinetic energy is my element, down to the atomic thermal level.  Your element is life - you control it as I do heat and cold."  Jase closed his hand, snuffing out the flame.  "What you do with it is more important than the power itself, Autumn.  And if the others freak out, or think you are somehow evil because of your gift, then to hell with them and their hypocrisy, because all of us can help or harm others with our power.  Marissa could spark a mob riot.  Devin could open a portal to the ocean and drown a town.  Sean could crash the stock market.  If the potential for harm is all it takes for someone to be considered bad, at least you can only hurt one person at a time.  They could kill thousands, destroy infrastructure, cause widespread poverty and famine... You name it."

"But I don't see a rational reason for them to freak out.  They know you, like I know you.  You're not vicious or mean or cruel.  It might feel good to put an enemy down in hot blood, but you are hardly the sort of person to cold-bloodedly inflict pain and injury for no reason."  Jason stepped forward, putting a hand on Autumn's shoulder as he smiled.

"Yeah... I guess."  Autumn smiled back, her gaze pensive as she chewed over what he'd said.  "But what about training it?"

"Plants."  Jason said calmly as though stating the obvious.

"Plants?"

"Yes.  They are living things.  They have cells that can be harmed or healed.  They don't have a consciousness, so you don't have to worry about inflicting traumatic pain on a creature.  Practice on plants.  Try to wilt them, or wither them leaving on a flicker of life, then restore them.  Your gift should be able to extend to plant life, if I understand it correctly.  You will be able to feel the effects you cause, and fine-tune your control."

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“Hmm.” Autumn’s eyebrows knit together as she turned the thought over in her head, absently reaching up with one hand to rest her bronze-flecked fingers on Jason’s. She’d really only thought of how her powers applied to ‘life’ in the context of animals and people; humans could obviously be kind of a grey area because they had things like higher logic and the free will to make decisions, but the idea of intentionally hurting a creature who couldn’t even understand why it was in pain made her stomach churn. The concept was antithetical to everything she’d ever been taught about hunting, and about being a good steward of the land and its resources. Or even, she believed, about just being a good person in general. Not everyone agreed, of course. She remembered the two very different, very traumatized cats they’d removed from Crossroads, and the girl’s thoughtful frown deepened.

Plants, though? Unless by some weird twist of fate the old memes about screaming trees turned out to be true, she couldn’t think of a single argument against it. There were plenty of subjects in an impossible variety of configurations, each with unique characteristics but all following the same general pattern. They didn’t have any kind of nervous system to experience pain- or at least not beyond a really broad interpretation of the word. They were also readily available: all she had to do was walk outside.

Okay, yeah. That actually does make sense. And if it turns out I really can affect them with my powers, what else could I do?

“I hadn’t thought about using plants for practice. Huh. I guess it seems kind of obvious in retrospect, doesn’t it? At least for the parts that could actually hurt someone.” The contemplative furrow in her brow smoothed and she grinned broadly up at the oft-distant young man, stroking the back of his hand with her fingertips. “Thanks for that. I should probably revise my definition of living organisms in this context, then, all things considered. Expand it, even. If I can affect plants, who knows? Maybe bacteria, or microbes. Viruses. Oh!” Brightening suddenly, the energetic redhead beamed up at him , bouncing excitedly on the balls of her feet. “Oh, we should try that! At school, or something, in one of the labs. Not with a virus, or at least not until we know what we’re doing, ‘cause that could be a real fucking bad day for everybody, but other things! Just to see what happens. Like, holy shit,” she breathed, an undercurrent of mingled awe and laughter in her voice as an entire realm of possibilities opened up. “What if I could reprogram bacteria, or change what diseases plants are resistant to, or make a virus that eats cancer cells? And there’s no ethical issue with seeing if any of it works, is there? Fuck, you are a genius,” Autumn exclaimed, leaning up on her tiptoes and pressing her lips to Jason’s in a brief, but earnest kiss that sent a ripple of warmth humming through her veins. “You, Professor Bannon, are the literal best. Thank you. And thank you for suggesting the plant idea.”

Taking a few steps backward, she tucked her hair behind her ears and smiled up at him, the light of fey mischief shining in her sun-bright eyes. “Speaking of… I’m gonna head back to the barn. Y’know. Maybe get some practice in. Catch up with you later?” With a wink the copper-crowned teen turned, and, laughing, fled for her life.


 
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*fwumph*

As snowballs went it was the size of a baseball and loosely-packed, so it didn't really strike with any impact as it landed with unerring accuracy atop the fleeing girl's head, causing a shriek of surprised laughter as she felt the ice melt and run down her neck.  "No fair!" she protested, turning to face him as she retreated further, laughing and red-cheeked.  The Chiefest and Effingest of Calamities simply smiled, then held out his hand as another snowball began to form.  "Noooo!  Okay okay!  Not the barn!"  Autumn was giggling as she surrendered, then fixed him with a mock glare. "You are so gonna get it when winter arrives, mister."

"Bring it."  Jase shifted in an imitation of a movie martial art stance, beckoning her like Bruce Lee.  Giggling some more, Autumn blew him a kiss then turned and headed over to the others.  Jason watched her go, apparently unsmiling until one noticed the expression in his eyes, then he sat down again on the grass, folding his legs and resting his hands on his knees as he took a deep breath.  He could feel his personal reserves of Shine were still a little low after the epic spar with Devin, and so took advantage of the quiet to do a little reflection and centering.

He was satisfied that he had allayed Autumn's fears and worries about her power - at least if her reaction was anything to go by.  She seemed happier, positively jubilant when his mentioning of plants had caused her to jump to microbes and bacteria, getting excited at the possibilities.  And yes, her power was ripe with possibility.  She could cure cancer, develop a cure for viral diseases, possibly even reverse the aging process in a human being much as Kat had turned back the clock on the tractor plough.  He looked forward, once the conflicts ahead of them were resolved, to working on such fields, on tackling the challenges with her.

Right now, though, he went Inside, wandering the halls of his mnemonic palace, reviewing the loosened bonds now permitting his more savage self to roam a little more freely, and ensuring none of them had slipped too far or too much.  Devin had been right that a balance needed to be struck, and during the fight Jason believed he'd found that fulcrum point.  Having found it, however, he had to acknowledge that it was not a static point, and could shift and unbalance readily without careful tending.  A tightrope walk, with a rope that lengthened or thickened unpredictably.

Another challenge to rise to, then.

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Lilly found a spot to sit a think a little, somewhat out of the way, but not really apart from the others. She enjoyed watching them, the sight bringing a smile to her face. As she sat there watching the others though, she noticed somebody doing much the same as herself; Marissa. For her part Marissa did not seem to be enjoying herself nearly as much. It dawned on Lilly that Marissa probably felt rather out off place among the rest of the Fellowship, for various reasons.

With a final swig Lilly finished off her bottle of water and headed back to the cooler, discarding her empty bottle with the others before collecting two more bottles. After all, approaching with something of an olive branch would not hurt, right?

With bottles in hand Lilly walked off took a wide arch around the perimeter of the makeshift training area to approach Marissa from the side, like she were some predator while on safari. The analogy was not that far off, to be sure, but still Lilly hoped she might catch her a little off guard and more real, rather than giving her extra time to develop snarky comments as she approached.

"Hey Marissa." Lilly said as she drew near. "You got a minute to talk?" she asked, offering her one of the bottles of water. "If not, that's cool. We can talk whenever, if ever, you feel like it." she added, giving her the power by leaving it in her hands.

"Lovely," Marissa said with a mixture of a sigh and breath of unfeeling emotional tension. She covered her eyes with her hand, her taloned acrylic nails were a matching shade to her skin tight yoga/super heroine/desperate to be noticed red workout attire and she mentally prepared herself for what was about to happen by massaging her temples for a moment.

"Suppose it was only a matter time before your sparkly, righteous compass brought you in my direction," oh, the vitriol was there. Lily knew snark after two years in high school and right now Marissa's tone was at an eight, and rising. "Let me guess, realized you're going to be stuck in this ass end of nowhere town for the rest of your life now and decided it would be wise to patch things up in case your certificate from a technical college isn't enough and you need to come to me for a job when I own this dust bomb? Sorry, sister, I plan on dozing the whole place to the ground."

She turned to Lily and looked her up and down. "I could use a personal assistant." She swiped away the thought with a flick of her wrist. "No. Ugh, what do you want? It's bad enough I have to deal with Tawny, the last thing I need is your 'love can save your soul' idealism."

Lilly rolled her eyes and sighed with a faint grin on her lips. Well, that was about as best of a greeting as she could have reasonably hoped for. Strangely, with what Lilly had heard about Marissa being there for, and support, the rest of the Fellowship, she had a different take on her. Her snark lots much of its sting now that Lilly say her more for who she really was, so it did not bother her all that much.

Twisting off the cap of her own bottle, the athletic teen took a seat near Marissa and took a sip of her water while she took a moment to think about her. Brushing aside Marissa's opening salvo, Lilly forged on "I just wanted to apologize for what I said and how I acted before. I was too caught up in the past and what you did and who you were that I could not see you for who you are now and what you were doing. That's on me. Everybody can change, but I was took caught up in my own shit to see it. I didn't give you a fair chance and for that honestly I'm sorry. You were trying to help, in your own way and with your unique and finely honed communication style."

"Like, I didn't mean to cut you off the other day. I was just trying to help too. Honestly, it felt like, I dunno. They were my friends and then you came in, and though you were trying to help, all I could see was the person you had been for years, and now you were here, with my friends and..." Lilly shook her head and sighed.

"No matter what had happened in the past, the important part was that you were there and trying to help, and I did not give you a chance. And for that, I'm sorry." she added and then reached up and undid her ponytail, shaking her hair out and letting her long, dark locks fall about her back and shoulders, a sight rarely seen, even by her friends.

Slipping the scrunchy over her wrist she continued, "Your were trying help us, even me, and I trampled all over whatever trust or good faith you might have had for me. I'm sure that me apologizing now isn't gonna fix it either, but in all seriousness, I do hope it's not too late for us to maybe be friends one day at least. And if that off the board, then that's my bad and I would at least hope we could put our shit aside for the sake of, well, everybody else, and at least work together."

"I'd rather have a friend, but I understand if that's not an option for you anymore, and I guess I'd just have to live with it if that were the case."

Lilly could see the similarities in the twins, especially as Marissa's expressions and body language was nearly identical to her brother's as she listened through the apology. She could tell the teenage beauty queen was stuck on tumbling a few of the harsher things she had planned on saying and replacing them with more 'scathing retorts', which was a considerable downgrade in Lilly's favor.

She adjusted uncomfortably, as sentiment and kindness were like sunlight to Tim Curry's Darkness. Her sharp nail caught some of her hair and she brushed up passed her ear on the side of her Lilly was speaking. Why a girl needed claws for finger nails, Lilly couldn't guess. As a fashion statement they had some measure of sex appeal, but they sure didn't seem practical. "Well," she adjusted uncomfortably again, search for something cruel to say. Her standards made it difficult this time, however, since Lilly had really given her nothing to be cruel about. Any attack now would make Marissa the villain, and that just wouldn't do. She resigned with a loud sigh of discontent. "Fine, look, whatever."

"I suppose I can't fault you," She wasn't about to bring up that Lilly actually took a moment to realize that Marissa was trying to help the others, even if they didn't realize it. They were so wrapped up in hormones and unearthing secrets, that they didn't seem to pragmatically see the forest through the trees. Which was where Marissa assumed she could help them. "Watching these lemmings is much akin to chimps flinging their feces. It's comical at first, but after the novelty wears off you begin to wonder what it is they're actually trying to accomplish. That's not on you. In your absence they were still stumbling and bumbling about."

"I've never had friends," she admitted. "Autumn is supposed to be my bestie and I don't even know what that means, we're kind of bumbling about too. My point is," she sighed again like she was bored with the conversation, but it was easy to tell it was just how she was. "Maybe not everything is your fault. So... it's... it's fine."

Lilly blinked for a moment, fairly taken aback by Marissa's response. 'Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst' was advice she had tried to take to heart in this situation, but in all honestly Marissa had responded much better than she had even hoped. No insults, accusation, jibes, or snarky comments and what that actually a hint of understanding and actual forgiveness? Whoa!

And then something Marissa had said fully hit her. "I've never had friends" The very thought made Lilly feel for the girl that had been such a terror on campus and, if she was telling the truth (and it certainly seemed like it), it gave Lilly a little more insight into Marissa.

"Well look," Lilly began, "...if you ever want to add another friend, I know I'd be honored. And I mean that seriously. The others might have missed it, but from what I heard about last week, and what I have seen for myself, I know there is a lot more to you, Marissa Jauntsen, 'Oh Great and High Queen of Shelly High', than this 'Stunningly Beautiful, Cold-Heated Queen with impeccable fashion sense and better hair and nails' mask you wear around." Lilly said with small, warm smile. "And really nice outfit, by the way. The red look really good on you." she added, motioning up and down Marissa with her water bottle.

"Everything looks good on me," she said with the assuredness of Tarantino and the taste of his coffee. She returned Lilly's once over of appraisal. "Speaking of, we have Homecoming coming up. I've taken it upon myself to make sure we Fellowdivas look amazing, because, well, the Fellowdivas are amazing. Frankly if I'm going to be a part of this collection of misfits and microbial infection modern medicine refers to as 'hormones' and 'growing up', I'm not about to let any of you embarrass me. If I can make Cassandra look like more than the cast off spit bucket of hand-me-downs one worn by the Manson women, then I'm almost positive I can do something with," her finger waggled up and down, signifying Lilly in her entirety. "This whole sweat and muscle morality Paladin who's looking to finish high school as a virgin, thing you have going on."

Once again she gave her the once over, then shrugged. She lifted her loose hair up an played with it for a moment. "I mean, maybe, I don't know. At least you seem to know what a brush is... I might be able to Edna Mode the shit out of you in time for Homecoming."

Several times as Mari was speaking and making her evaluations of Lilly and her hair, Lilly had opened her mouth as to say something only to close it again. Once again, this was far beyond what the reaction she had even hoped to get from Marissa. On one level, it was odd that this level of snark and jibes from her was considered 'better than expected', but then again, things are best taken in stride.

"Uh, thanks?" Lilly-half said and half-asked as Mari evaluated her and toyed with her hair. "You know, I was thinking about dying it blond for Homecoming. What do you think?" she asked, combing her fingers through her hair.

"I think it's your hair," she shrugged. "Lord knows we have enough 'natural' redheads around here. You'd think this place was where all the Irish fled to during the 1920s. Look, as long as you have outfits to go with it and you feel comfortable in your own skin? Don't worry about what I think. Do you. Screw what Shelly and masses think. It's what I do, and I'm the hottest girl in school, so I must at least be doing something right."

"If you don't have a decent dress for Homecoming, let me know." Marissa took a drink from her water and tried not to make it look like she was being nice. "I have several and there's no point in spending money on a dress when we both know mine will look way better and maybe even get a guy to notice you."

"Well, I don't yet. I was maybe gonna to go dress shopping this week, in Great Fa-" was all that Lilly got out before Marissa cut her off.

"Off the rack?" the three words left Mari's lips dripping with disgust and a hint of surprise. "Oh no. You're not going to show up wearing some generic, mass produced, ill-fitting, burlap sack that some other girl might be wearing. No, no. You are a Fellowdiva. Come by and we'll have one of my dresses tailored. 'Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.' Coco Chanel said that."

"Huh. I guess that makes sense." Lilly said, contemplating if that was one of Mari's 'Rules To Live By ™️'. "You know, now that I think about it, I know that you always do look impeccably dressed and smokin' hot, but I can't say I remember too many of the outfits. It's more of just an impression of you in my head, that you are always stylin' and hot. Huh. That's kinda interesting." she said thoughtfully, idly wonder if might of it might be some gift of Marissa's, but then remembered it way baclk to years before the bonfire.

"Ugh. I have so much to teach you before the dance." Marissa said with a mildly irritated or frustrated sigh.

Lilly reached over placed a hand on Mari's thigh as she looked her in the eyes. "Everything aside, thank you, Marissa, for listening and understanding and for your help, not just with the dance, but with everything with all of them too." she said, motioning over to the others with a tilt of her head.

Marissa almost seemed sentimental for a moment but before the veneer cracked completely she composed herself and shrugged. "Lilly, families fight. My brother and me go at it at home. Name calling, insults, trying to get the other in trouble with Mom, fighting, but matter what I know my brother loves me and he's always there for me. That's just how family is." There was an implication there she simply let hover in the air.

"Now go," like her brother, she waved Lilly off. "I can only tolerate so much kindness and display so much charity before the evil enchantments begin to fade. It's tears and sorrow that keep me beautiful. Go harass people about your dice games and protein shake recipes."

"Speaking of dice games... Maybe one day you'll tell me what you play, or played at least. I'm guessing Sorcerer, but who knows."

Marissa blinked at Lilly in either surprise or confusion. It was hard to discern.

"I mean, generally people our age don't toss around terms like 'Paladin' unless they are D&D gamers, or they are talking about self-propelled artillery. So maybe one day you'll tell me what you play and, who knows, maybe even join our table. Until then, your secret is safe with me." Lilly said with a grin and a wink as she rose to her feet.

"And yeah, families fight. So what I hear you saying then is that we are sisters. Got it." Lilly added with a nod and bigger grin as she plugged her ears and stated going, "Lalalala Can't hear you! Lalala." and ran off with a laugh.

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Jase's impromptu winter attracted Cassandra's attention, and she laughed at the spectacle of the lopsided snowball 'fight' that ensued. It stirred a corner of her head that wondered idly about how each of the Fellowship had a unique specialty. There were talents they shared between them, but no one seemed to have a real depth of strength in the same talents. That seemed...not random, didn't it? Mulling that over, Cassie strolled over to where Jase had settled down to brood, no longer paying attention to the others for a few minutes.

"Hey," she said. "Mind if I sit here for a second?"

"Not at all." The lean youth said without opening his eyes, gesturing at the grass with one hand before returning it to his knee. As usual, he displayed no sign that anything had been interrupted or that she was, in some way, intruding. Instead his eyes opened as the pretty blonde settled across from him, studying her for a long moment without speaking further, his attitude one of patient expectation.

"Sorry if I'm breaking into your 'you time,'" Cassandra said, studying Jaseon right back. "You have my permission to tell me to get lost, not that I think you really need it." She smiled. "Your snowball fight got me thinking a few things, and one of them is that I want some practice working with powers. Lilly's got me started learning about punching and stuff...but I'll eat my bra if the Dark doesn't have some kind of ability like we do. It's...too similar, you know? Opposite, but similar."

"A corruption of ours, perhaps." Jason said calmly, his gaze attentive. "The opposite of Radiance, as Coyote called it. Or maybe both are universal cosmic constants, eternally at odds from the beginning, like matter and anti-matter." His lips twitched in a slight smile. "And if I truly wanted to be alone, I would go elsewhere. You are always free to speak to me, Cassandra."

She nodded in response. "So, once you've had a chance to rest, would you help me out with powers? I figure it might be easier with you because your powers are really noticible. With Devin he'd be jumping around too much, and most of the rest of us there's not much you can see with your eyes."

"Of course." Jason nodded. "I can do some basic exercises without requiring much juice." He considered for a heartbeat. "How about this - I try to telekinetically shove you off-balance, and you attempt to counter me with your own powers-" he paused for a moment. "Out of curiousity, how would you counter that?"

Cassie poked the inside of her cheek out with her tongue, then said, "I can see Shine when I try. And there was a couple of times when I sort of...without really thinking about it...used my Shine to sort of push or cut someone else's. Like when Courtney tried to read my mind before. I haven't really had a chance to try to do it on purpose yet though."

"Interesting." Twin pale chips of green ice narrowed fractionally at her words. "So something like Clara's ability to cancel out powers. She was able to make me lose my telekinetic grip on things in her vicinity last time we trained. Good - I was concerned that her departure would rob us of that valuable talent." He was silent for a moment longer, considering.

"Then yes, TK is the way to go. At least until we get a relative measure of your strength." Cassandra felt an invisible 'hand' firmly grasp her shoulder. "I will attempt to push, and you will try to make my grip ineffective. The worst that will happen is you get pushed over. Are you ready?"

She took in and let out a breath, and nodded. "Okay." Then she closed her eyes to help focus on other, subtler senses. It took a second, but she remembered the chaos at the Medical Center, and how she'd managed to see both the Shine of her friends and the swirling Dark of the other creatures, heedless of walls and obstacles. And then there was Jase...unrecognizable compared to how he looked as a creature of flesh and blood. He was a river of light, covered in twisting tributaries that together twined and wove something roughly the size and shape of a person, but only roughly. As alien as it looked, Cass could tell immediately it was Jase.

The 'hand' on her shoulder was essentially just an extrusion of that shining light, stretching from him to her. WIth a frown, she pushed at it...and saw her own Shine extend out from her shoulder, between herself and his own...and the sensation of pressure vanished.

"Good."  Jason said as he felt the grip brushed aside as though it were cobwebs.  "Now I'm going to try sudden shoves.  No warning but your own senses.  These don't tax me at all, so we can keep this up as long as you like.  Deflect or weaken as many as you can."  Cassie nodded, and for the next five minutes a silent, invisible duel played out between the two teens.

Jason was strong with his gift, with focus that came from living with it and using it as an extension of himself much as Devin did.  Despite that, Cassie was able to weaken many of the shoves so they merely made her sway, and others dissipated into fog much as the first had.  One or two, however, got through before she could adequately focus, with enough force that if felt like Cade or Lilly was playfully shoving her over to sprawl on the grass.

"Okay," Cass grunted as she picked herself up off the ground for the third time. "Okay. I am gonna need a lot more practice at this." She shook her hands out...a little pointlessly, since they weren't needed for this, but it still felt right. Despite being purely mental, Cass found it hard to untangle her powers from her sense of her body. "And," she added, "I'm kind of wondering just how far out I can push my Shine like this. What I kind of wish was that we had a little Dark to practice with though, you know? What if it's different in some really important way?"

"For the second question - the only answer will be trial by fire." Jason said with glacial calm. "Until we establish your ability against the Dark, then we cannot hinge any tactics on it." His head tilted very slightly. "You will be with us anyway, to guide us across the threshold. Once there, do what you can. You cannot be asked more than that."

"As to the first question..." Three water bottles rose from the growing discard pile and began circling the seated pair at a range of roughly thirty meters. "Try to block what I am doing. Protect the empty bottles, make me lose my grip on them. If they are out of range, then I shall bring them in. If they are within your range, we shall extend. Sound good?"

She nodded and lowered her head in concentration. Pushing the Shine out was easy at first, but rapidly became harder the farther it went. Even so, after a few tries she managed to get the distance she could make the bottles drop at extend to a good ten feet or so. With more effort Jase could feel the extra effort he had to exert further out still... By the time Cassandra finally waved a white flag out of just being tired, she'd been able to force Jase's mental fingers from them at over a hundred feet away, or so they estimated.

Cass then asked, "Could you send one of those bottles my way?" She fanned herself and wiped her forehead. "This is thirsty work. I think I'm kind of...doing it wrong. Each time I try I've been pushing out again, but I think it's easier if I just push, and hold."

Jason nodded, a fresh bottle rising from the cooler and arcing through the air to hover within easy arms reach of the girl. "You're doing well. And yes, establishing a constant zone of control would likely be easier, if you can." The water in the bottle cooled, beads of condensation forming and running down the sides even as Cass reached for it. "Have a drink and a rest, then we can try that."

She unscrewed the cap and eagerly guzzled a few gulps, then splashed her face with it. "Ugh, between this and Lilly's workout, I'm gonna be a wreck by the time I get home," Cassie observed with a wry chuckle. "You ever wonder, like...how many powers we can have? I can see things at a distance, and back in time. Now I can mess with other people's powers too. What's next? How can we even tell?"

"Our powers seem to be outgrowths of our personalities, drives, core passions." Jase's eyes tightened a little in contemplation. "I've theorised a lot around that, based on the evidence. Autumn has powers over life, suiting her vital nature and restlessness. Devin's core drive is freedom, and so his power reflects the ultimate ability to avoid confinement. You seek answers, the truth at the heart of things, and so your powers provide you with insights into the present, past, and maybe the future, as well as into the fundamental forces we all tap into. And so on, and so on."

He smiled then, an impish glint of wry humor in his gaze. "But what's really going to bake your noodle is... Does our Radiance reflect our personalities, or were our personalities shaped by the Radiance within us?"

"I was going to say, that felt backwards to me," Cassandra agreed, nodding. "Starting from the conclusion, and making shit up that justifies it. I'm not saying what you came up with is wrong, but...like everyone wants freedom, you know? And what about your powers? What secret mental need do they fill?"

"Does everyone want freedom?" Jason asked rhetorically. "Really? How many rules and strictures and codes of behaviour do people bind themselves in willingly? How many religious cults have there been to take the onus for moral thought? How often do you hear someone say they could not help it, or had no choice? True freedom is scary to many."

"Ehhh, I dunno. I don't think it's the freedom that's scary. I think it's not trusting other people with freedom," Cassie opined. "All the rules and strictures and codes are things we sign onto partly because that's just how we grew up...but it's also because we expect everyone else to abide by them too. Like everyone agreeing to follow the rules of a game. Only, you know, higher stakes."

"It doesn't mean we aren't interested in our own freedom."

"I think many don't understand what freedom really is. They tend to ignore the fact it also entails responsibility." Jason shrugged. "But then, I have a unique perspective. I choose to be bound by fetters that are, to me, no more substantial than a puff of silk. I do so not because I have no choice, but because I so choose. And if I chose differently, nothing would stop me. I can be killed, but I cannot be bound indefinitely against my will. I will never accept such bonds and, like Fenrir of Norse myth, would eventually escape them... or die trying."

"And that brings us to your other question. My expression of Shine - it is an outgrowth of my core as well. Fire for passion, ice for control, force for Will. These define me."

"We all have a choice, dude. Granted, most of us can't just ignore what other people think because they can't hurt us," Cassie admits, "But we have choice. There's just clearly bad choices that will result in us dying alone, and clearly better choices that will result in us dying...later. And hopefully not alone."

She shrugs. "But anyway. It's as good a theory as anything else at this point. I guess if we want real science done, we have to go crawling back to Aeon, and that's not really appealing for some reason."

"Its a new frontier of science, so there'll be a lot of theorising." Jason nodded. "And some of it the conventional scientists of Aeon's project would be less than helpful with - we need their resources, not their brain trust... at least for the most part. It would be better for us to formulate a working theory ourselves without being talked down to. So far, the theory of the subquantum strata myself and Sean are cooking up seems to hold. So far." he added with a brief wry smile.

"And yes, you're right that trusting those who funded Cook's little eugenics project is not appealing. It may, however, be necessary. At least to a degree. If they claim they want to help us, then we should allow them - cautiously - to attempt to do so. Trust can be built from there." His matter-of-fact demeanour unchanging, he went on "Do you feel up to attempting that zone of control yet?"

Cassandra nodded. "Cooperation may be necessary. Trust...we'll see. Yeah though, lets get back to it." She got back to her feet and tossed her head around a bit.

Then, she tried pushing her 'shine' out in all directions, as far as she could...and just holding it. Filling that area with it.

"This...isn't so bad," she said after a second. "There's this push at first...but then it gets easier to hold it. See what happens when you try to float stuff."

Jason nodded, and attempted to pick up the first of the empty bottles from the grass. It trembled slightly, rolling as his 'grasp' slipped and faded, but otherwise did not move. Focusing more intently, he reached out and tried again. This time the bottle rose into the air, but he could feel the grasp was tenuous, weaker. Nodding, he floated the bottle towards them.

"It's harder." he said with a smile. "I have to concentrate a lot harder to do something that should be reflexively easy." Even as he said it, the distortion of Cassandra's zone of control caused his grip on the bottle to falter and the empty container fell to the grass. "Interesting. It's affecting my kinetic perceptions a little, too. Like trying to see through fog. If your power can affect the source used by the Dark in the same way, we might have a real advantage."

"Especially if I can tune it in," she agreed, frowning in concentration. "So it affects the Dark, but not us. But that'll also make me a big target..."

"We will have to take steps to defend you, then." Jason nodded slowly as he considered. "There's something I want to try, if you're willing? It should work, and if so will be painless."

Cassandra eyed Jase warily. "Something you want to try...that's painless. Explain while I get ready to run.."

That was good for a smile that reached the pale eyes, the corners crinkling a little. "I can protect myself with a forcefield that turns aside and dampens energy of all kinds, including kinetic. I can also create shapes, tools and structures out of pure force that are mobile and usable. Theoretically, I should be able to extend my personal shield to others on an individual basis."

"Oh!" Cassandra thought, then said, "Try it on me, and I'll leave my shine on. Lets see if we can get them to work together."

"Alright. Tune your field of control away from Shine, focus on the anti-Shine you've sensed and felt before." Jason advised, picking up his half-full bottle of water from next to him as he focused on Cassandra. As the reporter nodded in the affirmative, Jason smiled... and hurled the bottle at her chest...

...where it stopped dead on impact, all of it's momentum bled away harmlessly before it fell to the ground at the blonde's feet. "It seems to work." Jason said calmly, that gleam of mischief back in his eyes.

Cassie put a hand up to her chest over her heart and rubbed her shirt there, as if verifying the lack of bruising. She grinned and shook her head. "Man, not complaining that I have magic super powers, but I gotta say, it mighta been nice if my unconscious mind gave me something a little more kickass than 'mega-voyuerism.'" She looked at her fingers as she held them up and wiggled them. "Though I guess if I can hold back powers, that's not bad. Unless the Dark starts hiring normal assassins and sending them after me."

"That is what Lilly's training is for." Jason said quietly. "It's why I train with Hank, and study widely on a variety of subjects, and run to keep fit. The powers should not be a crutch, but one arrow of many in your quiver. For me, that is just an evolution of my prior attitude - to be competent in as many disciplines as I could. For others... Who can say?" He smiled a little at her. "Like it or not, we are all warriors now. Not all front-line, but our attitude has to be one of preparation."

She sighs. "Yeah, but it takes years to get good at something like martial arts, you know? And between this Enterich guy, and Crossroads...we have more than just the Dark to worry about. As if it wasn't enough."

"True. And Site B." Jason nodded, the faint pressure of the forcefield around Cass dropping away. "And even after that, we're not necessarily done. Who knows what fresh challenges come after?"

"The other aliens," Cassandra agreed. "If Coyote was telling the truth about them. The ones who didn't want people developing powers." The teen reporter folded her arms over her stomach, unconsciously protecting her underbelly. "What do you think we should do? I mean...after the Dark, after Crossroards and Site B. Try to blend in with everyone? Go public with powers? Something in between?"

"Whatever we choose will present difficulty. Go public, and people will attempt to lay claim to us, to vilify or glorify us, to make us heroes or villains... or heroes then villains, much as they do all their idols. Try to blend in, and we shackle ourselves by trying to avoid standing out. Something in between? What would that look like? Secret identities? Masks and spandex?" He gave a lopsided smile. "Whatever we choose, it will be interesting."

"That's not really an answer," points out Cass. "But okay. I just can't help but think there's a lot going on that people need to know about. Things that would...totally transform our understanding of the world, and ourselves, and the universe." She shrugs. "It feels selfish to keep it to ourselves." Then Cassandra glanced at Jase again and asked, "So...okay change of subject. Autumn. How's that going?"

He was silent for a moment, considering her as the lopsided smile faded and left his habitual stoic composed mien, then "Do you really want to know?" The question was quietly, but genuinely asked.

Cassandra smiled. "I always want to know."

"It is a series of revelations." Jason said simply, without any sign of discomfort or embarrassment. "From the moment she talked with me, expressed genuine interest in me, then hugged me last Monday, as a friend taking away pain, to the camping trip and the fun we had together, to the first kiss, to that night and so on through to today." His eyes never left Cassie's as he spoke calmly. "Her touch makes my blood warm, her kisses linger even when she is not here. I find myself laying awake thinking on her laugh, her smile, the way she feels when she puts her arms around me. It is an effort for me not to be distracted by her." He smiled then, very slightly. "You asked."

She nods, not seeming put out at all. "I mean...here though." Cass stepped forward and put her hand on Jase's heart. "It wasn't that long ago you were telling everyone you're a psychopath. How do you feel about her?"

"It may be possible I was wrong about the psychopathy." Jason shrugged a little. "Certainly, no psychopath should be capable of feeling as I feel. Loyalty to you as friends, love for my father, and for Autumn..." he sighed softly, glancing down at Cassie's hand on his heart, then back at her eyes. "I am young, whatever else I am. I do not wish to speak the word that comes to mind, in case it's utterance causes her to retreat from me. She is, after all, also young. Let us just say I feel very strongly towards her."

Cassandra's eyes stayed glued to Jase's for a second, inhaling his expression, his posture and movements, the shifting of his eyes...then she nodded. "Okay. Good. If you want to talk...I mean, to someone other than her...you can talk to me." She took her hand back.

"Thank you." he inclined his head, not smiling. "And likewise. You are her friend, and mine."

"Right." Looking around again, Cassandra chewed her bottom lip for a second, then said to Jase. "Okay. I think that's enough for me, for now. I'll let you rest up. Thanks for helping me out. I feel better about going with you guys."

Jason nodded, settling back down to his sitting position. "I'm glad you are our Eyes." he said simply, before closing his.

Cassie nods, then heads out to see who else she can pester...

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After about ten minutes, Jason opened his eyes and stood up once more, giving a light stretch as he cast his gaze over everyone.  Autumn was talking with Devin, Cassandra was sitting with Tawny, the two blondes drinking water and speaking in low voices with much grinning and light laughter near where Marissa sunned beside the cooler.  Courtney and Kat were working together on something - probably training related, given the intense expressions of focus each wore.  The young Teulu's eyes sought out the athletic figure of Lilly as she practiced speed runs to and fro across the field, her velocity great enough that she was hard for the eye to track.  Water bottle in hand, he went and waited patiently by where she would come to stop.

Lilly had not really had a chance to fully test her limits since she had gained her new abilities, but the farm offered her enough space and seclusion to finally do so without prying eyes, so it was nice to finally begin to open up and see what her newly empowered body could really do and it was pretty exhilarating.

As she turned for her return pass she could see Jase waiting down by the end of the impromptu track she was using. She began to jog back toward him, letting the powerful cords of muscle in her legs propel her at speeds she had estimated to be around 50 mph, based off of a rough distance estimation, the stopwatch on her phone and some simple math, but her stride looked to be no more than of a jog. She let up as she reached Jase, still blowing past him as she took longer and slower strides, taking a bit of distance to slow and then turned around, jogging back to him at a normal jogging pace. As she reached him, she pulled out her earbuds and rested her hands on her hips, panting, her washboard abs flexing as she caught her breath.

"Hey dude, what's up?" she asked in a bit of a pant.

"You said you wanted to talk."  Jase replied, his cold green gaze betraying nothing more than curiousity as he studied her.  "Seeing as training seems to be largely winding down, I think it would be fine to go over now."

Lilly nodded. "Yeah. Cool." she said, picking up her water bottle, twisting off the cap and taking a swig. She paced a little, shaking out her limbs and still cooling down with a sheen of sweat coating her exposed skin, and getting her breathing back, despite her absurd cardio conditioning. She also took the time to compose her thoughts a bit; what she was going to say and how to word it and what not, which she had already done to some degree over the last week.

After a few moments she caught her breath again, took another swig and looked to Jase as she twisted the cap back on her bottle. "I just wanted to apologize." she finally said with a bit of a sigh. It seemed like she was a broken record today, owning up to her shit and trying to set things straight with everybody in a day. Third times the charm, right? she thought to herself.

"I-" she said, pausing a moment to bite on the side of her bottom lip for a moment, one of her nervous affectations that Jase had noticed long before any of them had their powers. "I'm sorry for what I said and did. You know, saying you weren't trying and trying to change you and all that. I just... I thought I was helping... helping you even, but this last week I had a long time to think and I realized what I was trying to do was for my benefit, really." she admitted with a sigh, her brown eyes finally looking down at the ground for a moment before rising back up to meet his gaze.

"I just wanted my old friend back, you know? The one who would slouch in the passenger seat in the truck, hang out and game, and get me to transport liquor to an illegal bonfire." she explained, adding the last part with her crooked half grin. "It's just- You changed. We all have really. I mean, it's impossible not to, with time, sure, but really with these abilities we now have."

Lilly looked back to her bottle for a moment, taking a break from Jase's gaze before returning to it after a few moments. "You confided in me and I. well, you know."  She paused.  "Instead of trying to understand you, I tried to change you, and that was selfish of me. I should have accepted you for who you were, or became, or are or whatever. I'm sure that a few words now is not going to repair all the damage done, but I hope it is at least a start." she said, finally looking away as her eyes began to twinkle a little with moisture, blinking it away.

His gaze had remained on her the entire time she had spoken, no flicker of emotion visible either on the angles of his features or in the icy depths of his eyes.  As she apologised, however, his head tilted very slightly, the only outward sign that the heartfelt apology had any effect... though what that effect was it was hard for Lilly to say.  As she'd confessed, she didn't know this 'new' Jason, who wasn't shy and seldom slouched and didn't try to make himself invisible.  There was no pity in his expression as he watched her look away and blink, but there was - perhaps - a level of cognitive understanding.

"Laurie had a similar issue."  he said quietly.  "She wanted her secondary backup big brother back.  She was freaked out that she'd spent years around someone she thought was a stray pup, shy and odd but harmless, only to find out that the pup was a wolf cub when he was nearly grown."  The tall, lean youth regarded Lilly calmly.  "Or perhaps a lion cub would be a better analogy.  Anyway-"  he shrugged, dismissing that thought.  "Accepting something radically different, especially when it is dangerous - or potentially dangerous - is hard.  You are not the only one who struggled - and still struggles - to do so.  Most present here are rife with fears and misconceptions.  And why shouldn't they be?"

"I don't fault you for having a hard time accepting the truth of me."  Jason went on in that same inexorably logical, calm tone.  "My anger was purely at the implication I do not try, minute by minute, day by day, to restrain myself.  And now you have apologised, and I believe you to be sincere, I consider that quarrel closed."  His lips twitched very faintly in a smile.  "Next time I need some illegal liquor transporting to a party, consider yourself tagged in."

Well, to be honest..." she said, taking in a deep breath, "It's like, I dunno, you were my friend. And then Devin and Mari showed up, the duo that had been terrorizing the school for years. And it's like with a 'bro' and a bat of eyelashes, you were suddenly their friend, hanging out with them, fixing cars together and all that, backing them up and scolding me. It felt like it wasn't just that my friend had changed, but that I lost him too. And regardless of the actual situation, that is how it looked and felt. And that is why I stayed away after that. You had told me you liked me and all that and then suddenly you seemed to be-." Lilly sighed. "Nevermind."

"Exactly.  Nevermind."  Jason's features were composed once more.  "Words were exchanged.  Opinions shifted.  Feelings cooled.  Looking back over your shoulder wishing for everything to be as it was is foolish."  His eyes took on a glitter of hoarfrost.  "And if you think all it takes is a bat of eyelashes and some shallow camaraderie to earn my trust and friendship, then perhaps you do not truly understand me in the slightest, and the foundation for our friendship was not as solid as you thought.  Perhaps you only liked my mask, the false Jase."  He shrugged.  "That is broadly defined as a 'you' problem, Lilly."

Lilly's expression grew more serious rather quickly at Jase's response. Here he was again, the Jase as the last time she tried to have an honest, heartfelt conversation with him. It made her wonder for a moment if it was even worth it. Maybe he would never actually hear her or understand. Maybe he couldn't. Regardless, it was irritating.

"Okay, clearly you missed that I said it was it seemed and looked and that I was a too caught up in other stuff to see. And if you think that I'd rationally think that is all it took to to earn your trust.. that you think that little of me.. then that's yo-" she quickly responded, a twinge of irritation in her voice. Cutting her sentence short, she shook her head. 

She closed her eyes, took in a deep breath and slowly exhaled. "Every time I try to talk to you about feeling or emotions this happens. I was just trying to explain where I was coming from so that you might better understand and gain some insight, bringing us together. I guess that's on me. My bad." Lilly explained, holding up her hands in a 'my bad' gesture.

Lilly had been able to weather Mari's snark and jibes because she at least felt she understood her a bit and could see more of who she really was. But maybe that was an impossibility with Jase. Maybe she had to set her goal lower. Who knows?

"Okay, look. I didn't come here to fight or argue, Jason. If there's shit that you have been wanting to say to me, and want to let it out now then go for it if it will help you. But I did not come here to argue to push us further apart. I wanted to bring us back together, or at least start the process. I know I will never have my friend back. Neither will you. We've all changed, but I hoped we could still be friends, at least someday. Barring that, I'd hope we could at least put out shit aside to work together, because what's going on is so much bigger than you you or I. I'd prefer the former, but I can live the latter. Whichever it is is up to you."

"My curtness was because I have already explained, in the past conversations, how my friendship with Devin and Marissa came to be - in response to you bringing up the same talking point before.  My impression just now was that you were trying to revisit that old discussion for some reason that I did not see the point in.  As I said, I consider the quarrel closed."  Jason's tone didn't shift from it's glacial calm.  "Not that it would affect whether or not I could work with you against the Dark anyway.  You are capable and trustworthy - a good ally.  As for friends... what happens from now onwards is another matter.  I'm more than content to work with you, and perhaps a truer friendship is not out of the question.  I neither expect it nor rule it out.  The only way to find out is to move forward and see."

He inclined his head and took a sip of water before fixing her with that depthless, calculating stare.  "Was that all you wished to discuss?"

Maybe they would never be friends again. She was not suer if that was even possible. She has said she wanted to be friends, but now wasn't so sure. Like Jase said, only time will tell. Still, things could have gone much, much worse, she supposed. At least two out of three going better than reasonably expected wasn't bad, even if they had caused her to get her hopes up for a full hat trick. It is what it is."

"You know, with that tone and demeanor and logic, you can be really, really frustrating?" Lilly chuckled with a grin as she shook her head again. "Hell, I'm probably frustraing to you, if you even can get frustrated. I dunno." she added with a shrug of her bare shoulders and another chuckle.

"And yeah, there is other stuff. Some will have to wait for another time though. But for now, I wouldn't mind some help with testing or evaluating what I can do. I mean, every since this change there is obvious stuff, like all my sense got turned up and I seem to heal faster, my memory is better and stuff, but when I have been running or lifting or free running, I've known that I was only using a fraction of my potential. I know I can run faster, jump higher, life more."she explained as she shook out one toned and well muscled limb at a time, looking them over.

"Running here, just now, is the most that I have put my foot on the gas yet. I feel I'm faster though. Like, that wasn't even an all out sprint. And in the weight room on time, it was after school so I locked the door and put all the weight on the bar that I could and still lifted it. But the thing is, I feel I can do more. Hell, I feel like I could literally run right up a wall, like, to the roof." Lilly explained.

"Interesting.  Your velocity is certainly enough to counter gravity to an extent.  Practice that there, then."  Jason suggested as he indicated the large barn.  "Just promise you won't go crashing through the wall into my hothouse." he added with a raised brow and the ghost of a smile.  "As for lifting...  The tractor plough there is a fairly solid two tons of steel.  Attempting to lift that might give you a better evaluation on your strength."

It was slightly jarring still, the way he could smoothly shift from discussing personal conflict to working out ways for Lilly to test her potential without any hesitation.  "As for your flat out speed... We might need a larger stretch of ground with fewer eyes."  he considered for a moment.  "Like the Utah salt flats, perhaps.  Devin might be willing to act as transport.  You can measure off a ten-mile straight run and see how fast you can finish it.  That might need to wait for another day, though, depending on his schedule.  For now, what you can do with your speed is more important than how fast you are."

Lilly nodded, eyeing him for a moment as though she wanted to say something more, then nodded again and turned away.  Jason did likewise, walking over to the cooler with the water bottles and  extracting another, leaving his empty on the discard pile.  Cooling the bottle with a thought, he unscrewed the cap and brought it to his lips, taking a deep drink, then glanced around to see how everyone was doing.

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