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WEIRDER STUFF

Weirder Stuff Episode VI: Rainbow Shadows


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Slipped her earbuds back in and turned on her playlist again. The next song queued, starting soft at first as she shook out her limbs and did a couple of quick stretches while glancing around the farm and makeshift training area, taking in the terrain. She bobbed her head for a few moments as the track began to shift. She started at a normal jog and began to accelerate to what was easily a sprinter's pace, but for her it was a casual effort. She made a lap around the area, getting used to the speed and into the music, seeking escape in the sweat and exertion. Her conscious thinking stepped back and she began to just move and react to the terrain and improvised obstacles. 

She approached the barn and shifted her balance and footing, running horizontally along the wall in defiance of gravity almost to the end to change her direction before foot touched ground again. She slider under and dove, flipped, tumbled and hurdled over obstacles easily 6' tall. She almost looked like liquid, moving with such fluidity through the terrain, never stopping and barely slowing for the briefest of moments, getting more and more bold with each obstacles as her confidence in her abilities grew. Lilly used walls, trees and farm equipment to push off of to change direction, keeping her speed to around 20 mph at first, but gradually pressed on the gas, keeping it conservative out of safety for the others and respect for the farm. 

Finally she found herself running right at the barn again, only this time as she drew near she pushed off with a foot, her leg flexing to propel her up at an angle toward the wall, changing the direction of her inertia. Step after step came in rapid succession on the old barnwood, her toned legs pushing her farther and father up the wall until she nearly crested it. At the top Lilly slapped the roof before running back down the wall to land safely on the ground. The entire display looked almost effortless, like the young athlete was hardly even trying, and judging by the speed she had when she started up the wall, almost any onlooker could have guessed that she could have gone much higher had there been enough wall.

With a smile, and even more confidence in her abilities, Lilly jogged to her truck at a normal jogging pace and grabbed the gym bag that perpetually lived there. She jogged back to the plough and dropped her bag by it, unzipping and fetching her weightlifting gloves and chalk bag from it. Casually she walked around the huge metal farming implement, slipping on her gloves and strapping them tightly as she looked for good places to place her hands. Once she completed a circuit around the plough she grabbed her chalk bag withdrew a small handful of the powder, rubbing it between her hands as the excess drifted away in a small cloud.

Lilly approached one end of the plough and shook out her arms and carefully placed her hands. With a grunting of effort Lilly lifted the end of the plough, breaking it free of the dirt that had accumulated and hardened around it. Lilly shot one foot out behind her, shifting her stance, her tight rear flexing as she lifting the plough higher and higher. Shifting her grip in it in a flash, she stepped under it and lifted the end over her head, holding it there for a moment with a smile as some of her friends stared on. With some more effort, the end plough was once again on the ground.

Lifting the end too some effort, but she knew she could do better. Chalking her hands again, and this time slapping them together to remove any excess in a cloud in front of her, Lilly moved to the middle of the plough. She took a few deep breaths and placed her gloved hands on the sun-warmed metal. Digging her feet into the ground, the young athlete exhaled, her amazonian physique flexing and her face contorting into a mask of exertion and her gaze intense as the teen began to life the two ton piece of farm equipment from the earth, quickly stepping under and then lifting it higher in a 'clean and jerk' weightlifting motion. She led it for a few seconds and then let out another, louder grunt of exertion as she lowered it, more or less safely, to the ground once again and then fell on her back, laying there, sports bra clad breasts and bare, washboard abdomen riding and falling quickly as she caught her breath with a huge on her face and began laughing.

Edited by Lilly Pryor
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So, of course, after dragging the entire cooler over from the barn by herself Jason felt it was certainly a good enough idea to make use of the convenience. It would figure that he was to lazy to do it on his own, but then again, why should he? He was Jason Bannon and everyone was just part of his grand experiment in becoming a real person one day.

Be that as it may, Marissa had been sitting long enough. After her conversation with Lilly, which wasn't bad as far a socializing with the Nerd Herd went, she decided to it was time to at least get serious and attempt to unfuck some of the bad karma she'd levied on herself over the course of this weekend. Amazingly enough, she didn't have a scrunchie but she didn't really care at this point. With a simple shake of her head her dark brown hair she gently primped it with her nails as she approached the gangling serial killer in training. Sill, regardless of her personal feeling on the matter she didn't want to see him dead because of Enterich's thunder-wood getting so hard that he just had to kill something because 'he was the boss'. She wouldn't mind him being broken and mangled in the same way he left Liam but she sure the Fellowship would claim that it was somehow not right than some monster would treat their poor Jason that way, completely missing the point of the irony... and that was no fun.

“Last stop on the apology tour?” She asked him as she approached. Ever-spectacular in her appearance, the alluring Diva really only had that as her ice breaker since already being this close to him made her skin crawl. “So, food for thought, since your the thinker and self-proclaimed genius,” she looked down the cooler he didn't consider for his guests. “Obviously.”

Her hair usually appeared black, but in the brightness of the afternoon sun it's dark brown hue shimmered here and there in the sun as she continued. “Right as we get this whole Enterich name seemingly plucked from a vision and Cody's location practically handed to us for a face-off, lo and behold, the return of Lilly. Now, were this just high school drama, Jason your ashes would already scattered, your lands burned and your fields salted, but this is not high school. I've had a bad feeling for some time now, a pang in my gut. Something, and I don't know what, just doesn't feel right. I was talking about it with my brother, so, I figured it only proper to discuss it with you too.”

“My point is, be careful.” Her voice was sincere and caring enough but she could fake emotion ranges the same way Cade faked being interested in what Cosmo said about his and Marissa's compatibility. “This is just a bit too convenient, at least from my perspective. We know Shades aren't always violent and we have no proof that none of us are immune to Dark influence. I mean, what Olympic try out? She's trained her whole life and no one even knows what Olympic event she was going for... and what Olympic hopeful risks injury by playing high school sports and goes to a public school? Now, all of a sudden, in our darkest hour enter the Lilly. Might be paranoia, might not. Just food for thought.”

"Interesting point of view." Jason fixed her with a stare as, head tilted slightly, he considered her words, filing away the 'high school drama, ashes, burning and salting' for later review alongside Devin's earlier statement that Marissa was unhappy about him and Autumn.. also comparing with the tone of sincere care in her voice as she warned him. Another contradiction. He wasn't sure why the rancor, or why Marissa would even care who he dated: it ceased to be her business when she turned him down. But then, she was right - whatever 'logic' led her to being mad at him was less important than the Dark and its agents. "You propose Lilly was lying about the tryouts - that should be easy to determine. Competitors are registered and their events logged somewhere. Olympic hopefuls are not too low-profile for a half-decent web search."

"As for Enterich being seemingly plucked from a vision..." he went on calmly. "I have no reason to disbelieve Cassandra. If she says she saw something, then until I have good logical reason to believe otherwise I shall go with that fact. Her vision might have been fooled - but to what end? To divert us from tackling Cody? We go after him tomorrow evening anyway. This Enterich, whoever he is, is secondary to that." He took another drink of water from his recently-appropriated bottle, pale green eyes on her still. "I will take your words into consideration, though." he admitted as he lowered the bottle once more. "If something does not feel right to you, then I will treat that with the same gravity as I treat Cassandra's visions."

"Sure, because Sean's never faked a document in his life, go ahead, look that up, I'm sure it's legit." She rolled her eyes. "I'm not doubting Cassie, nor Lilly. I just, I don't know. My worry-dar is off the charts and right now no one seems to really want to listen to reason." She paused and sighed. "Okay, maybe I am doubting everyone... but this world we're a part of now is insane and everyday I'm just waiting for people to just peel their faces off like this whole city is one messed up Scooby-Doo episode. I just can't even, most days. I don't have powers, all I can do is worry, so I worry. A lot.  Not that anyone listens, but hey, whateves."

"Anyways, just stay alert," she offered in a tone that almost seemed like she cared. "Devin's going to patrol the city tonight, make sure nothing is out of the ordinary... whatever the hell that means in this town. He'll text if there's a problem, I asked him to include you in that as well since you seem to have some sort of bromance going."

"Thank you." He nodded slightly. "And... for what it may be worth, I don't dismiss your intuition, Marissa. You claim to have no powers - but you do Shine. Perhaps your worry-dar is part of it. Or maybe you just have good instincts." He gave her a faint smile, the edges of his eyes crinkling slightly. "If you have a concern, I will listen to it." He paused, his smile turning a little wry and lopsided. "I might not act on it, but I will listen. And I'll stay alert."

She shifted her posture slightly, a bit relieved that Jason had agreed to remain alert, but that seemed the extent of tells the her composure was willing to gift. "Well, that's it." She said tersely.

"Have fun or whatever you do and enjoy the new girlfriend. If things get weird tonight you'll know." Her arms went out from her sides and fell against her scarlet sheathed hips like a girl with nothing left to say. "If you need me for anything, Devin can let me know." With that said she began walking away.

For a moment, he considered asking how she and Cade were doing, perhaps trying to converse with her as the friends they had been, a week and a lifetime ago. He weighed the apparent rancor she held against the apparent sincere care she had for his life and limb - a confusing set of equations, the math not adding up. She was a study in contradictions, and he was not sure whether she liked him or disliked him. He wasn't even sure she knew.

"Marissa." he called softly, watching as she looked over one finely-shaped shoulder at him. His emerald gaze was expressive for a moment, a question flashing a fin in their depths before the waters stilled once more. "Thanks again." was all he said, his manner sober.

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After the training with Tawny, Cade wanted a little break.  He'd picked up the targets and knives, stones and balls he'd used, and smiled.   They'd both pushed fairly far, and he got another bottle of water.  He didn't see Marissa, even as he went to get his other bag with the trail mix.

He got his phone and sent her a text.   "Hey, I'd like to talk to you for abit.  Mind joining me In the clearing in the woods north of the Farm.  I'll have some music playing."   The text went out before he could think of how it sounded, and he sighed.    "I'm sure she'll have something to say to that."     True to his word he brought up a playlist of older music, mostly old rock songs, since he knew Marissa wasn't a fan of country.   This was the music his grandparents and Mr. Bancroft had put him onto.   It was generally less angry in his opinion than modern music, though he was more fond of country, pretty much like most teenage boys in Montana.

Having done that, he made his way to the clearing, took out the trailmix, and set to work.   His ability to make animals trust him wasn't control.  Up until now it'd helped him do minor things, squirrels were relatively inquisitive, so they were easy enough.   This time he'd brought some other trailmix, and some beef jerky to see if he could get something more than squirrels.

He sat for easily half an hour this time.   The tempting smell of the food wafting in the breeze, his phone quietly playing "Drift Away" by Dobie Gray, one he admit he found to be incredibly relaxing.   He wasn't surprised that first one, then three squirrels came up curiously taking some of the nuts, then soon he had more than half a dozen.  They came right up and took it from his hands, and he was able to pet them without issue.

What surprised him, were the trio of raccoons.   They were normally nocturnal, and he was surprised they came, but the smell of the jerky must have gotten to them.   He'd brought peanut butter trailmix this time, having read that the smell would be stronger, which he knew might draw more animals.  They were inquisitive, and came up to him, only as he held out jerky.   They took it from him in their hand-like paws and went off several feet to eat.   They returned as he held out more jerky, and soon, they didn't even leave him.  They just sat there muching away.

The final animal to be drawn by the assortment of smells was perhaps the most surprising.    He'd seen Badgers before, he'd hunted them with his Grandpa, but this one was large, and The Raccoons did move away behind him. The squirrels made a quick exit to the trees, as badgers ate small rodents. Badgers were onery, and they gave it a wide berth.   Still after staring down a smilodon, Cade was far from afraid.  He set out another piece of jerky, and it came forward, sniffing and then eating it.  Seeing this, Cade got out more, and the badger came right up to him, utterly fearless, and drawn by hunger.  Still he set the jerky down, and the badger ate it, and then put its paws on his legs, standing up and sniffing, essentially begging for more.   Cade chuckled, as the music had been playin on, having gone through several songs.    He pulled more jerky out, and fed it by hand to the adult badger, even as he risked petting it's back.   This was still a wild animal, but he could foster trust quickly and easily, and seemingly with any normal creature, if given time.   It wasn't control, just a little help in taking the first step of trust.

He was so wrapped up in the badger moment that he didn't notice his lover-without-a-label had entered the small clearing.  If not by virtue of her presence the rectangular phone slid into the thigh pocket of her leggings had told him that she'd gotten the message.  "Uh," the quiver in her voice drew Cade's attention.  Her opinion on wild animals was much akin to her opinion of Jason: just because one could summon or play with them, didn't one was in control of them.  "Cade."  Her eyes were locked on the massive, carnivorous predator at his feet.  Marissa couldn't tell a death carpet (badger) from a velocirabbit (kangaroo) but natural flight or fight response froze her in place as her primal brain recognized a predator for what it was.  She took a step back.  "W-what the hell is that?
The shaken tone of her voice remained as looked around and then finally at him before ultimately locking on the death carpet, as it posed the greatest threat to her, and asked, "Why are you surrounded by tree rats and trash pandas?"

Cade looked up at Marissa, standing there looking at the badger halfway in his lap, with three raccoons trying to almost hide behind him.    "Marissa, hey.   I guess you could say this is me training the other thing I know I can do.  I can't control animals or anything, but I seem to have a knack for getting them to trust me.  This would be an American Badger.   Probably one of the meanest animals in these parts."  He took out some more jerky, and set it off to the side, the Badger quickly went to it, and he got up.   He put some for the raccoons, since they'd stuck around and then head over to Marissa.

"They're all still wild, still probably skittish around others, so now that i'm not sitting and feeding them, they'll head off back into the woods.   As soon as the badger came up, the squirrels left, since they eat them.   Aside from the Smilodon, the badger's the biggest thing I've had come up, and so far my "gift" seems to work with everything.  I don't know if it'll be as useful as what the others can do, but you never know."

As the animals all scampered off Marissa listened to her bae's words and couldn't have looked less impressed if she were actively trying.  It was no fault of Cade's she just hated nature.  It was dirty, smelly, noisy, and the things that lived on fringes of humanities borders were ugly and stunk like unwashed laundry.  Okay," her eye widened as she smiled, displaying a false sense of interest.  "Well, glad I could be a part of history.  Enjoy your dirt and death carpets and fart squirrels, text me later, I'll be hungry and you can bring me food."

On that note, she turned to leave, her footing unsteady as she tip toed away, now in fear of stepping on a nope rope.

"Please Wait."  He left where he'd been, and actually pulled some lysol wipes out of a bag in one of his pockets.   He wiped his hands down thoroughly and  smiled at her.   "I'm pretty much done here, so if you want we can head back together.   If you don't want anything  here, we could go get something. " 
"I wanted to ask you something before you go."   He kept some distance, he knew she wasn't a fan of nature at all, and while he was trying to be clean, he knew it probably wasn't enough to reach out to her.

"Would you go to Homecoming with me?"   It was probably comical, considering everything else,  not to mention just what they'd done earlier in the day.  Still it was a formality of high school, and being totally honest, he really did want to go with her to the dance.   He'd need a new suit, and he already had a line on it.
"I already ate here," she said.  "I said later, because later I'll be hungry.  I need time to primp.  My hair has grass in it, and I'm all sweaty."  She wasn't at all sweaty.  Still they walked together a few steps until he'd asked her to Homecoming and then she stopped.

Her arms slid around him and she rested her head against him.  "Of course I'll go," she tip-toed up and pecked his lips.  Her smile was enough to fill him with the courage to battle the Dark a hundred times if it would mean keeping her beautiful light in the world even one more day.  "And thank you for asking."
As quickly as the storm of her beauty had hit the rolling plains of his heart, everything became still again as she was back to old self.  "It about time too.  Jesus.  I'll text you my ideas because we're going to need to match, I don't want you running out and getting some off-the-rack burlap sack.  We'll be there together so you represent me as much yourself, oh and wah, wah, wah... wah, wah... wah... wah..."

It was best to just tune her out sometimes.  The sky was blue, the grass green and his friends were all having the time of his life, not to mention, he was going to Homecoming to hottest girl in school.  As far as Sundays went, this one was turning out to not be so bad.

(written with Marissa's player)

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"Hey. Leg-humper."

Brushing clumps of melting snow from her hair as she eyed the ravaged pizza boxes, Autumn nudged the back of Devin’s knee with her foot. As greetings went it wasn’t exactly the friendliest, but there was a measure of esprit de corps in its delivery that wouldn’t have been present a week earlier; a week earlier, she probably wouldn’t even have bothered greeting him at all. Funny how a few near-death experiences and waking nightmares could help put things in perspective. Fate, or chance, or whatever had conspired to throw them all together, headfirst, into uncharted waters to see if they could swim. And here she was, paddling alongside them as they fought to stay afloat, to survive the oncoming tide- whatever that was. Things were definitely changing, and not always for the best, but…

That’s the nature of things, to change. They have to, don’t they?

“’Sup, Granola?” The still-shirtless gymnast looked up from the somewhat thankless task of condensing the remains of the pizzas they’d maimed and mangled into one box, shooting a sidelong smirk in her direction. “And, uh, last I checked you’ve got two legs.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, and Autumn wasn’t sure which Devin was more obnoxious: the one who’d snapped her bra and ruined her chances with Tom Winslow the year before, or the one who now flirted with every pair of XX chromosomes he met.  

“Both of which I will use to kick your ass,” she threatened without real conviction, cursing silently as she felt the warning signs of an angry flush warming her cheeks. Maybe his super-power wasn’t finding pizza places- maybe it was being annoying. Or both. Could it be both? The redhead snatched a slice of 5-Cheese from the box in his hands and tore off a bite with mock-ferocity.

Devin’s grin only broadened as he slid up next to her, his free arm slipping easily, casually around her shoulders; with or without a boyfriend in the picture, the fast-talking teleporter was a menace to female-kind. “Ooooh.” He feigned a shiver and leaned closer, balancing the pizza in his other hand. “You know, that’s not usually my thing, but keep talkin’. Let’s see where this goes.”

Fuck’s sake, Autumn. This is already a bad idea. And, obviously it was, which was part of the reason she felt compelled to do it in the first place.

Shrugging the arm off as she glanced heavenward, the spirited teen finished her mouthful of cheesy, melty deliciousness and turned to face him directly. “I want you to help me with something. Have you got a minute?” There was visible tension between her eyebrows now, the residual playfulness following her ill-advised teasing of their resident phytophile fading fast.

“Hey, look.” Devin slowly shook his head, spreading his hands in the iconic gesture that begged understanding. “If this is about you and Jason, I just wanna say that I totally get where you’re coming from, and I’d love to help, but my heart’s in kind of a vulnerable place right now.” He paused, biting his lip and affecting a pained expression as he gazed at her with soulful, liquid brown eyes. “I just don’t think I’m ready to be hurt again.”

Just eat your pizza. Eat. Your fucking. Pizza.

She did. Swallowing her pride along with her food, Autumn took two more bites as intangible flames crept up the sides of her face, painting her skin in scarlet. It was fine. Totally fine. “Devin. I’m being serious,” she finally managed. “Like, Dark-fighting serious.”

He blinked at her then, owlishly, and shrugged. “You know, you could’ve just opened with that.” As she stared at him, uncomprehending, that sly, smarmy grin reappeared on the former bully’s lips, and she tossed her half-eaten crust at him in indignation.

“Oh my fucking god, Devin, so help me-“

“Chill, chill,” he laughed, holding up his hands to ward off further pizza-related violence. “I’m just messin’ with you. Relax, girl. Damn. You make this way too easy, you know that?”

Uggggghhh.” The versatile subvocalization, one the red-haired vitakinetic frequently employed, was in this case a low, elongated groan of frustration at the back of her throat. Sure, there were other people who could help her, but that wasn’t the point here. “Fine. I want help learning how to do what you and Jase did.”

It was Devin’s turn to frown, then, forgetting for the moment how satisfying it had always been to get a rise out of her. “I don’t know if I can teach you how to do what I do,” he hedged, “and you know if you want to hear about fire and ice and all that you should talk to Jaybee.”

“No, not that!” She shook her head, bending to collect the empty pizza boxes as the wave of crimson surging beneath her skin began to gradually abate. The mindless gathering gave her something to do and, potentially, something to throw, so helping out seemed like a win-win situation. “I mean more like the actual fight. You seemed like you knew what you were doing.”

“Ohhh, you mean the sparring? ‘Cause I’m not gonna lie, were were just kinda making all that up as we went.” She glanced back over her shoulder as she worked, lips pursed in obvious skepticism, but Devin just shrugged and grinned.

“Hmm.” Picking up another demolished scrap of cardboard, Autumn tossed it into the growing pile. It definitely hadn’t seemed improvised at the time; at some points, she’d wondered if they were fighting for real, or for practice. For those two, it could’ve been both, maybe. “Okay, well, I mean, watching you guys… I just thought it was sorta cool. You both seem so comfortable with your powers, like they’re just a regular part of your lives, y’know? I thought you might be able to help me figure out what to do if- when something happens. Or like, when we go deal with Cody.” Guiding the last box onto the pile with the side of her foot, she peered across the jumble of grease and corrugation, watching Jason and Lilly for a moment before turning back to the pizza-bearer. “I don’t want to be in the way,” she admitted. “And I don’t want anybody else to get hurt because of me, so I need to be able to do more than just… I don’t know. Kick a football player in the knee and yell.”

“So why are you asking me, instead of him?” Devin jerked his head in the direction she’d been looking, setting the one remaining box aside and bracing his hands on his hips. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really mind either way, but you aren’t exactly a founding member of my fan club.” He paused, then added, not-quite smirking, “And I’d know if you were, ‘cause Tee would’ve told me. She’s the president.”

“Mmm.” She pulled the hair-tie from her wrist, gazing off into the distance as nimble fingers wove the chaotic tangle of red-gold curls into a thick braid and secured it in place. Things did have to change. “A bunch of different reasons, I guess. I don’t like the idea of depending one person for everything, and he has things he wants to do, too. Can’t be all over him all the time.” She grinned a little at that, a new wash of pale pink warming her cheeks as she shrugged one shoulder. “Plus, he makes it, um, hard to concentrate. Also plus, if I’m gonna be hanging out with your sister, you and I should probably get used to each other.“

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Kat was sitting in the grass, not far from the barn, rewatching the movie of Jason and Devin's spar in her head. She actually had learned a lot once she had activated her super-duper Power-Vision. I probably need to come up with a better name for that... Since everyone had been so busy, she had decided to train on her own for a while, and things were going as smooth as they could be.

Her field of view was darkened by the Power-Vision, but she could still see reality through the veil the hypothetic layer of subquantum was displaying under her eyes. She had disposed a wide but flat stone before her crossed legs, testing a wide variety of changes on innocent blades of grass, and analyzing her own powers by looking at her own hand. She had quickly reached the conclusion that converting energy demanded her but little effort if not none, whereas producing energy was quite tiring for her. Reshaping the stone to make it flat had helped her realize she was, or had, like a reservoir of Shine, a finite amount of energy to be spent on her powers. Reshaping objects and producing energy depleted it., converting energy did not, neither did her Power-Vision, nor her ability to know the composition of a material to a molecular level. That last one she just had discovered, while picking a stone large enough to be molded. She could hardly put names on it, but she knew what the stone she picked was made of. That stone was unique now, at least to her eyes. There were many others like it, but this one was hers.

This is why the petite redhead focused solely on converting energy. She had had enough of one headache for the day, and had barely recovered from her battle of wits with the plough - thank God, at least she had had pizza! A blade of grass emitted a small column of smoke as it quickly dried, and finally took fire, while Kat turned gravity around it into heat. Funny. I have an endless reserve of gravity... She first chuckled at the thought, then literally burst out with laughter. She didn't quite know why. Was it the fact that owning gravity was a fairly stupid concept, or was it the exhilarating realization that she could do anything as long as gravity was there? She couldn't tell.

"Someone's happy." Courtney sat down beside Kat, folding her legs elegantly to one side and smiling as she cocked her head at the petite girl. Her dark red hair fell almost artfully to one side as honey-brown eyes glanced around at the others, all involved in their own conversations, then back at Kat. "I've got to say, this is better than I thought it'd be. Nobody's giving me the stinkeye or even particularly thinking bad things about me. That I can tell, anyway." Crimson lips curved in a wry smirk.

The French girl gave it a shrug. "Well, the way I see it, you were just part of the Project. you have as much right as Tawny has to be here. Besides, the only one you really gave hell to isn't here..." Devin's word from earlier suddenly rang through her mind. "Anyway, we're past that now." She quickly added.

"Look." She grabbed a blade of grass, and dropped it on the stone. Then grabbed it again, and dropped it once more. But this time, the blade of grass was falling much slower, glowing with a faint light, until it reached the stone, drawing a genuine smile on Kat's features.

"Uh." Courtney looked surprised as she watched. "You make grass glow? I mean, it's cool and stuff - pretty even - but..."

Kat giggled, before explaining. "Not the point. I made it lighter! I turned the norm of the force pulling it down -it's called gravity, by the way, I read that in a book- into light! Think of the applications! I can turn it into heat, speed, sound, any kind of energy, you name it!"

"I know what gravity is." Courtney smirked, laughing. "So you can affect it? That's pretty cool, alright. So can you turn sound into gravity? Or heat, then? Does it work mulitple ways?"

"I... guess? I didn't try yet." She thought for a moment, then turned at her friend with an impish grin. "Try talking..."

The gorgeous redhead lifted an eyebrow, and opened her mouth to speak. But instead it looked like Courtney was blowing a huge bubble of light, that flashed before disappearing. Instead, where light shone the air felt warmer, at least the way Courtney felt it on her lips. It suddenly grew colder as a loud bang resonated around them, followed by Kat's uncontrollable laughter, resonating like a trill across the fields.

Courtney jumped at the sudden report, letting out a little shriek, then narrowing her eyes at the giggling little gamine. "Oh, very funny. Har de har." she huffed before laughing herself, shaking her head. "Okay, so what practical use is that trick? Scaring me out of my panties is not exactly..." she waved a hand at the place where Devin and Jason had had their epic battle. "You know?"

"Well, I could produce enough decibels to kill anything that has a beating heart, if I convert enough... anything... at the same time. I could jump higher, even fly, if I do my mojo correctly." She pointed at tiny pile of ash on her stone. "I could heat something up, warm enough to make it burn. Not as spectacular as Jason's flame, but... I guess that works. I could also convert ambient heat into anything else, just to freeze something. I didn't try it yet, but I guess I could throw a rock and speed it up to the point it's as deadly as a bullet." She shrugged. "There's a ton of possibilities."

"And you can also convert solid stuff, right? Like you did with the plough." Courtney's expression was thoughtful as she absently chewed on a lower lip, staring at where Lilly was practicing her free-running, eyes widening as the athletic teen went up the side of the barn like a cat up a tree. "Wow." Courtney was momentarily distracted, and both her and Kat watched the display for a moment or two.

"Could you change, say, this rock into gold?" Courtney asked, returning to the topic at hand as Lilly jogged off to her pickup.

Kat's lips formed a pensive pout. "I could. But I like my rock like that. Besides, converting energy doesn't ask me to even lift a finger. Repairing the plough gave me a bloody headache. Earlier I realized we have..." She squinted her eyes. "Do you play any video games? Like... World of Warcraft?"

Courtney's stare was blankly uncomprehending. "Are you about to make a nerd analogy? Because it will go 'whoosh'" she motioned over her head. "Like that."

The petite redhead rolled her eyes. "Fine. We have like, a reserve of Shine, and using our mojo depletes it. That's what I meant by 'not lifting a finger'. This rock didn't use to be flat. I made it flat. Now I have... less Shine? Point is, I'm pretty sure turning this stone into pure gold would take... I don't know... Are you ready to pay a whole month worth of pizza for a golden flat stone? 'Cause it's gonna make me as hungry as a marathon runner after he beat the World Record."

"Kat." Courtney's tone was that of a patient adult explaining to a toddler why going potty on the lawn was not a good idea. "You turn a big enough rock into gold, and I will use it to buy you pizza for a month. With the change, I will go shopping in Milan. And maybe donate some to a worthy cause."

"Okay... But I don't wanna. Last time I turned matter into something else, I didn't feel very good. Yesterday, I tried painting with my mojo. I managed to do it, but I felt like I had a bolt-on helmet afterwards." She wasn't smiling anymore. "It's like lifting a skyscraper with my own two arms. That's how difficult it feels."

She stared at the stone for a while. "It's weird, isn't it? If it's energy, I can do whatever I like. But anything else, I'm almost powerless..."

"Join the club." Courtney said blithely, leaning back on her hands and lifting her face to the late-summer sun. "I can read surface minds, and can link folks together, and I can read emotions and affect them a little - I mean, I can make someone less or more angry, but I can't create anger out of nothing, you know? And sometimes I can make someone do something by pushing them to obey me - but that's hard. Anything more than that and I get headaches and nosebleeds." She smiled, her eyes closed as she sunned her pale face.

"I was Cookie's star pupil. His naughty schoolgirl telepath - not that he ever made use of the 'naughty schoolgirl' bit. I thought I was Queen Shit before I saw Bannon freeze a sink and the pipes in the walls, or heard that Lona could cure the sick with a touch, or Devin could teleport." The lovely redhead sighed. "I really thought I was special and better than them all, even the Jauntsens, because I had my secret power. And then Cook threw me under the bus as soon as shinier toys came along to study. And the worst part? I can't hate you guys for that. I tried. I wanted to fuck shit up for the 'Fellowship'. Even tried to get Bannon beaten up by a member of the football team once - I hoped he'd lose it and toast the guy and then everyone would tear themselves apart over it." Courtney opened her eyes, which glistened moistly as she blinked at Kat. "I'm a horrible person. And these guys? They're actually pretty cool. I'm glad they include me, even if I feel like phonier than a Chinese Louboutin."

"Awww." Kat could not repress the urge to hug the pretty redhead sitting besides her, her arms sliding around Courtney's shoulders. "Don't say stuff like that. I mean... of course they're cool. But you're cool too. You're trying to change, and that's cool. I'd rather be friends with the real Courtney than with Queen Shit."

Courtney sniffled, then let out a little sob as she turned in to rest her forehead on Kat's slender shoulder. "But what if the real Courtney is horrible?" she said in a tiny muffled voice. "I'm such a t-t-total bitch, all the t-time. An- an- and today I attuned to Devin and you and Cassie and people and I'm so small compared to it all." She straightened up a little, wiping her eyes and runny mascara with one hand. "I'm a senior. I always thought I'd go on to work as Cook's Girl Friday or something, but now? I don't know if I'll even live out the week." Warm brown eyes sought out Kat's. "I don't want to feel horrible, Kitty." she said, almost plaintively. "I didn't when you were with me the other day. Can we...? Can we... you know. Go somewhere out of sight and you make me feel not-horrible for a bit?"

Kat's eyes widened with surprise. "Like, now?" A nervous chuckle escaped her lips, but there was softness in her eyes as she planted her gaze into Courtney's. "Listen. I'm all for fun naked stuff - hell, before Friday, it had been months since I had a good shag -" she said with a horrible grin, "but there's even better to fix your problem on the long term. I'm not gonna let you die to the hands of some weird magical murder hobo with antlers. So what, if you can only do telepathy? It's your thing, just become the best at it. Sure, maybe it's not as spectacular as teleporting or freezing water, but you heard Jason. You might be the key to us kicking that thing in the balls."

She gently grabbed the pretty redhead by the shoulders and offered her a genuine smile. "You can feel emotions. If you'd just learn how to use it properly, you could be friends with anybody, just by being there for them and saying the right thing to them when they need it. Your Shine is probably the most beautiful of them all. I mean it."

Courtney was speechless. She didn't say a word when the French girl grabbed her by the hand. A couple seconds later, and the flat stone was left alone with its sprinkle of burnt and not burnt grass.

The two girls reappeared fifteen minutes later, the smaller one sporting a satisfied grin over pensive features. Kat turned to her friend. "You know, if you wanna... practice telepathy or... stuff, even vent a little, I'm here for you, okay?" She flashed her a brief smile and a wink, then suddenly jogged off towards Devin and Autumn, yelling: "ANY PIZZA LEFT? I'M FAMISHED!"

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“Yeah, some,” the teleporter replied to Kat as she and Courtney approached. He left what was there as he and Autumn collected what was trash and prepared to leave. “Could ladies excuse us for a second?” He added with a smile as he left the two girls to eat.

It wasn't that he didn't want to talk, but Autumn had confided in him for something and he didn't feel right it was right to put her business out there for others to be involved in, that was her call to make, not his. Pizza boxes, napkins and paper plates were carried in as many ways as possible between the two teens as they walked towards Jase's barn where a larger city issued bin was to discard everything. He didn't say much as they walked, taking it step by step and considering her request as things between them slowly built more awkwardness with each passing step. He was certain she didn't like him, and he didn't blame her, but she had a point, if her and his sister were going to be friends that would mean they would need to find some common ground or avoid each other completely.

He held up the lid of the massive blue bin so Autumn could hoist her armful of pizza boxes and discard the concern for having to do it later. Neither wanted to party at Jason's house and leave him to clean it all up. He swung up the small garbage bag filled with plates and whatnot and let the plastic lid slam closed. “So, did you mean, like now or...” he let his words hang in the air before deciding to move on. “I mean, it doesn't matter to me. We've a full gym at the house, weights and all that, plus the gymnastics gym too. I've been doing a lot of practicing in the evenings, nothing major, just like staff tricks and stuff and helping Marissa get her fight on too. We're both horrible at it, but still it helps to have a sparing partner. YouTube is a big help, also.”

He stopped and she followed suit, turning to face him right as he was meeting her green flecked eyes. “I'm cool with coaching, no problem there, but, I'll be honest with you Granola, I don't even know what you can do. I know you have Fondler's First-Aid, where you touch people and heal them, but that's it. I can help unless I know what I'm helping with. So, look, no pressure but, what I can help with out of the gate, and I'm not trying to preach, is I'm not afraid. My powers are amazing and I can use them for all manner of mischief,” he grinned. “I can even teleport people into the sky and let them fall to their death.”

“Comforting thought,” Autumn huffed out half of a laugh as she listened, curious of where he was going with this.

“Right?” He grinned again, raising his eyebrows. “But I can go to sandy beaches, and take you, my friends, with me. See the world in ways a television screen could never do justice or just in way I never knew existed. No matter how I use my powers, I can't be afraid of them. The how is up to me. If you want to master your abilities, you have to embrace them. I realized early that my mental frame of mind played a great deal in controlling or learning to control my abilities.” He gestured up and down his body with his hands.

“I sleep in the buff,” she rolled her eyes, suddenly no longer interested in where this was heading. He laughed and raised u pa hand to pause her rising desire to just walk away from him. “Hold on now, hear me out. When I woke up naked in the back yard, it was because I was having nightmares about the Land of Upside Down Thunder. Hell, I still have them. It wasn't me losing control of my power though, it was my power trying to protect me my reflexively getting me out of harm's way. Like when you lift your arms up and flinch, or wake up just before something ad happens in dream. We might think we're fine, or have accepted something, but deep down our minds know differently. If you're afraid of something you can do, it won't mature and can hold back from understanding your limits.”

“It's not that easy, Devin,” she looked at him. Her thick, coppery locks bounced as she paced in the sunlight of the mid afternoon. “It's not some 'well, just get over it' sort of thing.”

“Sure it is,” he shrugged. “But, I think differently than most, so I'm not going to say either of us is right or wrong. Simple math, Granola. Jason has fire, but he also has ice. Sean electricity, but also light. I'm able to bring myself to the world, but in time have learned to bring the world to me. My guess is, if you can put a body back together, you can rip one apart, can't you? That's what has you spooked, isn't it? A little Molester's Massacre to go with your Fondler's First-Aid?”

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The tip of her tongue stuck out ever so slightly as the lovely blonde held out her hand, palm up, floating a few long, roughly straight sticks upright in her hand.  One object was easy enough, multiple even were easy of they were in rabid motion, like juggling, but fine manipulation, like Jase was capable of, was still far outside her wheelhouse.

As the sticks leaned to one side, so would she walk with them, forgetting that it wasn't about her movement or gravity, it was about her mind and how well she was in control of the objects.  One fell one way and she danced with it to keep up, until her movements caused another to sway a different direction and she shimmied with it to 'catch' it from falling until the inevitable cascade of them all falling in different directions as once forced her into retirement and sighed as she watched them fall.

"Ah, poo."  She huffed and pursed her lips in disappointment.  Without letting her failure take root in her incurable sweetness and optimism, she bent down and began collecting them all again for another try.

"Want some help over here?" asked one of the other lovely blondes in the Fellowship strolled over. Cassandra, finishing off her water bottle, in her t-shirt that was looking pretty grungy after being sent to the mat by Lilly and then lying on the grass with Jase. She bent over to scoop up a stray stick that had bounced farther away, then brought it over with a warm smile.

Tawny looked up to see Cassie and that megawatt smile of hers just lit right up.  "Sure!" It was an invitation as much as it was a greeting.

"I'm, um, not really good at this.  Jase and Deej have both been really nice and helped me a lot," she giggled as she admitted to getting assistance.  "Do you twiddle-twaddle things with your mind too?"  Her face widened in surprise as a sudden possibility occurred to her.  "Can we all do it?  That would be so neat."

Cassie spread her hands shook her head. "As much as I'm always down for a good twaddle," she said with a chuckle, "I gotta use my old-fashioned hands for it. My main power is all about seeing and hearing things. At a distance...even back in time. I can see people's powers too, and it turns out I can even sort of mess with them. Block them sometimes." Cass shrugged. "That's new for me though, so I'm pretty bad at it. I was just practicing a bit with Jase, and now I need a breather. Guy is really intense sometimes, you know?"

Tawny snorted and it was so out of place for her delicate, almost Disney Princess features.  "Oh, I know.  He was less practice and more throwing things at me."  How she managed to make a minor complaint sound like it was a-okay was a lost art form.  "But he's was great.  I totally get where he's coming from.  'That's life," she chuckled, poorly mimicking a mans voice.  "You the test first, then the lesson!'  Is what my dad would say."

She looked off.  "He doesn't throw things at me though..."  She cheerfully shrugged and pressed on.  "Soooo, what's the plan?  Hey." something seemed to distract her momentarily.  "Like... what kind of sight?  Because I had to tell Deej that peeping on the girls locker room was not cool.  Pretty sure he's doing it anyway, but do you see things like that?  Like, past walls and stuff?"

"Kind of? It's more like...like a crystal ball," replied Cassandra. "If I know where I want to look, I can kind of reach out to a place, or a person even if they're really far away, and then it's just like I'm there. I don't really go there, like Devin does. I can just see and hear things there." She grinned. "So yeah, I could peek in on the locker rooms, if I wanted to. Haven't done it yet, but I could." Cass looked around, spotting Devin a little ways off chatting with Autumn. "Now you know why Devin and I must never join forces. No locker room would be safe."

"I don't know," she sort of side eyed Cassie with a friendly smirk.  "Seems all Deej needs to stay on the straight and narrow is a 'hot girl' to use the Deej vernacular,"Cass had to give her props for air quoting. "Holding his 'please don't be you for the next five minutes' leash."  They both shared a laugh.

"You guys have been awesome for him, he's changed so much." Cassie could the unspoken 'thank you' (not air quoted) in her voice.  There was hint of scarlet marching to the surface of her cheeks.  "So!  What's the plan?  How do we do this with you... and me... and sticks.  But you have to tell me more, I want to know all about you.  We've never really talked much at school."

"I know! That's one of the reasons I came over. One thing about weird government conspiracies and aliens and..." she made a little 'explodey' gestures by her temple, "mental powers is that it brings people together, I guess. Here, lets do it this way. Instead of Jase throwing stuff at you...you can toss stuff towards me. We'll work on how strong you are."
"As for me...I work on the school newspaper. When I'm not being a pest, I like bike riding, skateboarding, looking up random things online. My mom works at the county library. Dad used to work at the prison as a therapist. I..." she paused for a second, then bulled on. In for a penny... "I used to think he'd been killed in an accident, but I recently found out that was a lie, and he's just been...uh...brainwashed. Because Crossroads is literally evil incarnate."

"What?"  Tawny walked over to Cassie after she told him about her father and hugged her gently.  Because that's what good Christian girls did, personal space just wasn't a thing when tragedy struck and a good was warranted.  "Oh, I'm so sorry."

"The guys are going to get him, right?"  She asked, still holding Cassie semi-tightly until her captor was sure that hug therapy had helped.  "I mean, that's what you guys do, right?  You kick all kinds of butt and fight the darkness or whatever?  I mean, if you know where he is, can't Devin just 'bloop' him back to here?"

"We're going to, yeah," Cassandra promised. "We have to go after the Dark first...and...it's okay. He's safe where he is. They're not hurting him." The hug was a surprise, but once sprung it was equally surprising how comforting it was. "Thanks." She released Tawny and asked, "So what about you? All I know about you is that you're an old friend of Devin's. Tell me all about the Tawny."

She smiled at Cassie.  "I always have spare hugs.  Hugs for days."  The blonde sweetheart shrugged.  "Not much to tell, honestly.  Born here, probably going to stay here," the somber tone told Cassie that Tawny was not okay with that idea.  "My mom and day are okay, Christian as you may have guessed," she thumbed the golden cross around her neck.

"Honestly there wasn't much to tell until Marissa and Devin moved in a few years ago," she smiled.  "They're really strict, so when I got these powers poppa thought it was Satan's handy work and thankfully my momma was able to make him see some reason or I would probably be locked in some convent's basement.  They hate all my friends, so I never had any over, or really went out much.  The twins sort of got them over that, not because they like them, but because they refused to stop coming by, or leave."  She laughed.  "It was so funny watching my mom and dad change colors as they'd just wait for me to be allowed to come out."

"Then that Dr. Cook man came along, told them he could help me," her cheeks flushed red at the mention of Dr. Cook and Cassie quickly noticed (and felt through the surge of psi) as every tiny object seemed to shake and vibrate in place.  A few sticks of the several she'd collected started to fold themselves like someone breaking a pencil with their thumb and just moving down the length.  "They practically sold me to him.  Didn't care what he did to us as long as he 'cured' us."  The Christian lacquer that made Tawny so sweet and glow so brightly, cracked and Cassie knew that smoldering, tiny ember glowing deep in the back of her eyes: hate.

"Hey." Now it was Cassandra's turn to give the hug back. "Hey. That's over. Dr. Cook's under control now. And you know, you don't have to stay here." She let go and backed up a step. "You can go literally anywhere in the world. And I don't just mean because Devin's on your address list. All this shit that's going on is scary and dangerous, but we're all going to come out of it stronger than before. All of us. Nothing's going to stand in your way."

It was a moment before the hug was returned.  A tense moment, until she finally returned it and Cassie stepped away.  "Oh... I'm sorry!"  Flustered and a bit panicky, she bounced on her tip toes and flailed her hands a bit with tense and awkward undirected energy.  "I'm sorry, Cassie, I'm so sorry!  I get emotional and..." she didn't seem like she wanted to share out of fear of being looked at differently.  "...and, I sometimes break things.  Or stuff goes all crazy or flips over or... I threw a bowl at pa once.  It cut his head.  With my mind."  She winced, and tried again.   "I mean... my mind threw the bowl and it cut his head."  Her finger danced about trying to put all the words in place.  "Not that I threw a bowl at him and then cut him with my mind..."

She relented and sigh.  "I'll shut up now.  I'm weird, I know.  Got no chance at a normal life now, anyhow.  The Dark will find us and try to kill us no matter where we go."

"We're all weird," Cassie soothed. "And we're going to kill the Dark before it can. So you go right on throwing stuff with your mind. We're going to need that." She hesitated, then asked, "Have you thought about what you want to do afterwards? I mean, we fight the Dark, we win...finish high school...what's next for you? Nevermind what you think might happen, because none of us can tell that.  I just mean...what do you want to happen?"

The Montana Belle shrugged honestly.  "I've honestly never given it much thought."  She smirked bashfully.  "When I was fourteen I thought Deej and I were gonna get married and run my family's horse ranch together.  Make an honest man out of him.  That dream's sort of faded now... he only likes me as a 'sister'... so," she sucked her teeth behind a forced a smile.  "Yeeaah."

"I'm not like you guys," she said calmly.  "I'm not super smart or have a passion for news or some kind of sports.  I'm just average and just average people sort of stay at home and raise horses and marry some guy they settled and hope the one that got away at least visits once or twice after school before forgetting you ever existed.  Sorry, that was a seriously depressing response... what about you?  What are Cassie's after saving the world?  If you say Disney World, promise me you'll take me too!"

"Mmm...I still want to get into the news," Cassandra said. "It's going to be a lot of work...I'm not super smart either. And the thing with magic 'eye' powers is that I'll still have to put in the hours. Maybe I can look back in time to see who did a murder, but no one else knows that. So I still have to find the evidence, talk to the witnesses, show my work, like in math class. No free rides, and honestly? I'm glad. I don't want to lose my edge." She shrugged. "I'll probably want to head east or west...get my name out there, get writing, get some attention. There aren't a lot of big newspapers left, so working for one's pretty hard now."

"You could always intern for Marissa when she's a big time CEO."  She looked at Cassie with hopeful eyes.  After a few moments they both broke down in a giggle.  "Seriously, no, I would never allow you to do that to yourself.  I think it would be nice to go out west.  See the beaches, learn to surf or something.  I don't know.  It's kind of funny, I know a guy who could take me anywhere and I plum can't think of a single place I'd rather be than here.  With all my problems and all my miseries."

She fidgeted and spun about, stopping and flexing her arms behind her back in a slight stretch.  "Kind of poetic, I think.  To be anywhere else would feel like running away and, Lord knows, that gives your problems longer to walk and more time to get even angrier with you."  She seemed to be feeling a bit better if the smile she gave Cassie was any indication.  "If you make it big, will you write a piece on our ranch so I can retire filthy rich?"

Cassandra smiled. "I dunno about your ranch, but I've heard there's a pretty cool girl living out there who can do amazing things with her mind. I bet an interview with her would be great for both of us." She looked away for a second, then back. "So. About Devin. I can tell there's some feelings there...for him."

She crinkled her nose a bit.  "Really?  Noticed that did you?"  Her mild sarcasm was laced with soft laughter.

"Yeah. I get it though. He's nicer than he wants people to know about." She hesitated, then plowed forward. "He asked me to Homecoming, cards on the table. We're going as friends though. I don't know if I'm...in the mood for a boyfriend right now. And even if I was, I don't know if it'd be him. But...at the time, I didn't really know you. I was just thinking...I don't know. I wouldn't mind trying to help you two get together?"

"It's alright, he has his Avalon issues,"  she looked about to see who else might be listening and when confident that they were clear she leaned in slightly.  The thrill of actually gossiping seemed to excite her.  "We talked about it and, I'm okay with us being where we are and letting things happen.  I've no problem admitting that I'm in love with him, but you can't force something like love it's nothing more than a friendship that has caught fire.  He's not really feeling the relationship thing and we both know if I push to hard, it'll just end up bad."

"Please don't be all on egg shells about it, Cassie.  He's a great guy, he loves big, if you just get to know him."  A stick floated up into her hand and she spun it about in her fingers.  It seemed to give her something to do with her hands as she spoke and thought.  "I know that it's entirely possible that other guy might sweep me off my feet and, like a hobbit, off I'd go and love would start all over.  I have a date for Homecoming too.  We might even kiss, who knows?"  She said with a devious and scandalous raise of a single eyebrow.  "Go with him.  Get to know him.  If you feel ready, then go ahead and be with him.  If I didn't honestly and truly want him to be happy, then what sort of friend would I be and what would that say about the sincerity of my love?"

Cassandra nodded. "Maybe it's for the best then," she said with a smile. "He really doesn't deserve you."

"No, no he doesn't,"  she laughed.  "I read that a relationship is likely to last way longer, if each partner convinces or has convinced themselves that they do not deserve their partner, even if that is not true."  She shrugged.  "I don't know about that, but he finally met someone he did want to be with and he cares, and he's losing her.  I can tell that he's not okay.  Now isn't the time for me to worry about who he ends up with.  He's my friend, I need to be there for him and there isn't a soul alive who doesn't deserve love and support when their world is out of balance."

"I'm totally going to rub in his face at Homecoming though."  She giggled.  "You know... Cassie... you're a reporter... and I happen to know all his dirty little secrets."

She waggled her eyebrows. "Pace yourself. We will have plenty of chances to go over each of them in excrutiating detail. For now though, lets say we work on your brain-arm a little? Go for distance?" She held out her hands as if to catch a thrown football.

"Deal," she grinned and tossed the stick up into the air where it stayed.  "More to the point, I might be able to help you get past some those horrible jokes and snarky comments he uses as walls to keep people at a distance."

The stick flew to Cass who caught it and immediately tossed it back where it hovered to the side as a new one rose and was tossed at her again.  Within a few moments Cass was tossing them back and taking a step back each time.  "I may love the guy, but sometimes he's a down right jerk, and I still owe him some payback for a wedgie a few months ago."

Cassie nodded. "I'll take you up on that. I don't know if we're going to be serious...but even as a friend, I'd like to get to know the real him better."

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Fondler's First-Aid and Molester's Massacre. Really? That’s fucking hilarious coming from a guy whose powers are all about running away or making himself the center of the world.

After those little quips Autumn was roughly two seconds from telling Devin with one finger what she thought of him, but that would defeat the whole purpose of talking to him in the first place, wouldn’t it? God, that was fucking annoying. Exhaling sharply, she pressed the palms of her hands over her eyes, staring into the faint patterns and formless waves of color that overlaid the darkness; it occurred to her after several moments of slow, measured breathing that to him, it probably actually was hilarious. …And she had sort of set the standard herself with the leg-humping comment. So-

Fine. Whatever.

"Spooked?" She took one more deep breath and let her hands fall back to her sides, considering what she’d seen of the teleporter himself as much as the actual words he'd used. "No. Not 'spooked.' I don't have nightmares. I don't wake up in cold sweats. I'm not afraid that I’m going to lose control and accidentally turn everybody inside out, or anything like that. What's holding me back from using them is knowing how to use them.” Squinting a little, she tugged at the end of the fiery braid draped over her shoulder, looking out at the broad sweep of open fields behind Devin as the sun glared down. “Jase gave me some really good ideas on how to practice the actual powers themselves, which will definitely make learning how they actually work and what the limits are a lot easier. Plants don’t move, though, and they don’t fight back, and everything the Dark throws at us sure as hell does. That’s why I’m talking to you, and you can either help me with that, or you can’t.”

“Look, I get that you have seen some shit, and you’re trying to be less of a monster than the things out there that want to eat our faces. Awesome. I am here for it, one hundred percent.” The ocean-hued eyes that had been dark and tempestuous in the loft were calmer now, her gaze clear and direct as she levelled it at the former bully. “But this whole Broda vibe you’ve got going on right now isn’t working for me. We’re not at the point in…” She gestured vaguely with one cinnamon-speckled hand, indicating the space between them. “Whatever this is… that I’m ready to talk to you about feels. Hell, your sister and I are supposed to be best friends, and I’m not even sure we’re there yet. So, if you really want to know what I can do, all right. I’ll show you. Well,” she amended with a one-shouldered shrug. “Part of it, anyway.”

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"Fair enough," Devin said, processing all of that and letting it go before he just made it worse.  "You let me know when we are there.  Until then, you're right, plants and bugs don't fight back, so show me what you have."

He stood a few steps away and tapped his chest.  "Hit me with your best shot.  No teleporting or blinking away or none of that."

Edited by Dave ST
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It was a difficult thing to want to be loved so much yet be unable to allow people close to her. She was over joyed and thrilled that Cade had asked to Homecoming and her stomach fluttered with butterflies as her teenage mind swam through the cluttered mire of all the possible things he could wear to match her dress or the dances they'd dance, or the absolute thrill that he would be showing up at her home to get her and her parents would see her leaving all dressed up with a handsome guy... it felt so, real, like her novels and television dramas.

Yet, no matter how often she appeared to be there in the emotional moment, her mind simply couldn't commit to the idea that happiness was simply a trite, made up fantasy for people who were too simple or weak to know any better. Everyone in the world was out for themselves, it was just a matter of when and where, choice versus circumstance. When hungry enough, any animal would turn on others of its kind and humanity had never ceased finding new ways to be hungry. For Marissa it was control. She hungered for absolute control of her life and everything in it, be her lovers to her aspirations, to her business dealings. If she wasn't on top, she would grind and fight until she was. After all, hunger was about survival and when it came to surviving, there were no rules.

The small pocket on her thigh vibrated and as she read the text on her phone and quietly cursed to herself. She grumbled and suddenly walked away from Cade. “Baby, I have to go. Can you tell everyone I said bye. And tell my brother to text me, please?”

“Is everything okay?” He was concerned and the way his eyes narrowed told her that he was silently scrutinizing her sudden desire to depart.

She offered him a reassuring smile but kept slowly distancing herself. “Fine,” she said calmly. “Just family business. My mom is being a pain, is all. Typical 'now that you have your license you can run all the errands' lazy parenting B.S., that's all.”

“I know how that goes, I'll pass it on to Devin.” His laugh was sympathetic, after all, what teen didn't know the age old irritation of doing all the driving once their license was in their hands. It was like parents slipped into lazy mode now that the kids could do it all. “Text me later?”

She spun on her heels, her chocolate hair whipping to fall over her opposite shoulder as she offered him one of seductive smiles. “Sure,” she tightened her tummy and ran her hands down until they stopped just short of her thighs in a teasing gesture he was sure she stole from a dance number. “Text me your favorite color, Lord knows you earned it today.” With a sultry wink and a 'you-know-you-want-me' smile, she spun back around and headed off to her car.

Her lover still was trying the process the fact that he'd seen Marissa-freaking-Jauntsen naked today, let alone had had sex with her too. On that same note, he was still trying to process that it was certainly possible it might happen a second time. Like most guys he had a 'preferred' color, not a favorite, but he knew why she wanted it. She was going to send him a few images later of her in whatever color he sent her... now... all he had to do was decide what color he wanted to see her in so he could make that his new favorite thing, ever. Sex. Hot girl sending him lewd pics. Possibly more sex. Plus, badgers. It was so good to be Cade Allister right now.

---===[Marias Medical Center]===---

Thank God for tinted windows. It wasn't the first time she'd changed clothes in her car, but there was something about the act she just didn't care for. Still, the text seemed urgent so running home to change didn't seem viable. Within ten minutes after arriving in the parking lot of the medical center, her hiking heels, simple denim skirt and a black and white top that fell off her shoulders was once again exposing her midriff so she could she proudly brandish her navel piecing of a glittering black stone in the shape of a heart. Her hair was brushed and redone and her makeup back on fleek, as was proper for a diva of her station.

Dr. Cook's old office was still completely furnished, which the young woman assumed was the doing of either Æon or Branch 9. Today, as she entered the comfortable office of the now detained sociopath, Annette Giles was waiting for her. Marissa noticed something in the atmosphere almost right away, as her keen shine immediately processing the myriad of social cues, body language, and micro-expressions that were red flagging all over Ms. Giles. A normal person would have almost certainly missed them, however Marissa's strange social cognitive perceptions allowed her to quickly read the scene with the speed and talent of a seasoned professional.

“Marissa, hello.” Her smile was warm as she extended a hand in greeting which the young woman accepted with a curt smile from freshly applied glossed lips.

“Is everything okay?” The diva's voice was calm but still weighed heavily on the side of concern and skepticism. Something seemed off about this scenario already. “Your text seemed urgent.”

Under her normally calm exterior there was turmoil of a sort, an anxiety crawling just under the surface of her skin. “Well, it is, come with me, there is something I need to show you. There's been... a development. Please,” she extended her hand, motioning to the secret elevator that slid open as she gestured, inviting the young woman down to the secret Æon/Branch 9 facility below the medical center.

Edited by Marissa Jauntsen
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As the elevator descended, Annette made no conversation, adding to the tense atmosphere despite the occasional glance and smile that was meant to be reassuring.  The glamorous teen was far from reassured - though she sensed no deception or ill-intent from the cultured Æon representative there was a creeping sensation that the elevator was dropping into a pit of terrible revelation, and Annette was not happy about what she was about to reveal.

The two lovely women, one neatly turned out, cultured and elegant, and the other regal glamour and sex appeal personified moved from the elevator and through the halls of the Project to Annette's office, passing the large glass windows of the control center and the labs along the way.  "I'm getting a lot of pressure from our science people to ask some of you to volunteer for tests."  Annette said, more as a distraction than because she felt it was important - at least, that was the impression Marissa gained.  "Right now, I'm refusing to ask until they clear Branch 9 to release details on Site B."

"Might be an idea for them to hurry."  Marissa stated casually.  "I know my brother, and I know the others.  Sooner or later they will forget about asking nicely."  Annette glanced at her, nodding slightly.  

"That was my impression, too."  she agreed in a quiet voice, opening her door and motioning Marissa through.  "Please, grab a seat."  As the teen dream complied, Æon's woman-on-the-ground went around to the other side of the sleek black desk that, Marissa knew from prior experience, contained enough high-tech gadgetry to cause Sean to mess his panties.  Pressing a few keys on the touch-sensitive surface caused lights to coruscate into life as the holographic projection system activated and threw up a monitor screen which rotated towards Marissa.

"As you know, the Project has surveillance cameras all over Shelly, installed whilst Doctor Cook ran the show."  Annette began, her dark eyes on Marissa as she tapped a few more keys.  "These days, at my orders, surveillance on specific individuals is only carried out with good cause and authorisation from myself or Major Taggart.  Otherwise the surveillance section of the Project is on standby.  Cameras are recording, but no-one monitors or goes over the footage unless we see an adequate need."

"Why do I get the impression this is a lead up to something I won't like much?"  Marissa's eyes narrowed at the older woman, who sighed and pressed a final touch-key, bringing up a camera view of Marissa leaving the empty office that served as, so far as she knew, Enterich's meeting spot if not his base of operations.  She was in mid-stride, Marshal Marshall watching her from the doorway as her pleated skirt swung enticingly from her hips.

"I routed the feeds here covertly and kept an eye on you."  Annette stated.  "All I wanted to do was ensure you would enter and leave safely - there's no cameras inside the building, so intelligence on the meeting was not the objective.  However...  I did spot something after you left I think you need to see."  She sat down, motioning to Marissa to keep watching the screen.

Frowning, the radiant brunette narrowed her eyes at Annette, then went back to watching the screen.  She saw herself get into the Mercedes and drive off, with Marshall watching her from the doorway in a way that was faintly gratifying.  Then the handsome marshal went inside, and all was quiet for a bit.  She looked expectantly at Annette Giles, but the other woman's eyes were on the screen, and so Marissa forced herself to keep watching.

Finally, after perhaps ten minutes, the door opened and out stepped Dale and Marshall, speaking quietly but unhappily.  Judging from their body language and gestures, Marshall was infinitely less happy about whatever they were talking about, whereas Dale seemed to radiate resigned dislike.  They talked for a few minutes by the car, and then the office door opened again...  

Marissa stared.  Someone - or something - had exited the office door.  It had opened, and whoever had done so was the focus of the two rogue marshals attention.  But there was no image on the camera...  No, there was something.  It was a smudge, roughly the size and shape of a person, little more than a distortion in the air like a heat shimmer.  It put her in mind of... of...  Jason's forcefield, only without a person inside it.  The shimmer-smudge stood there outside the office, apparently speaking to the marshals briefly judging from their nods and reactions, then as they turned to get into their car the smudge turned and moved away along the sidewalk at a walking pace, though its movement could best be described as drifting.

The camera feed followed it - though Marissa was pretty sure by now that the It was a He and the He was Enterich - until the smudge turned down an alleyway.  The screen then split into two cameras, one covering each end of the alley.. but the shimmering presence did not exit the alley it had turned down.

"You can see why I showed you this."  Annette Giles said quietly as the recording came to an end.  "I kept the cameras focused on that alley for half an hour longer, by the way.  Nothing came out."  Her hand trembled a little as she tapped a button, resetting the recording.  "If you want to see it again, just ask.  But now the question arises - who exactly, or what exactly, was that?"

Edited by GDP_ST
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Marissa stood, folding her arms to rest under her chest as she approached the monitor and tilted her head, examining the shimmer/smudge. “It's Enterich.” She answered confidently, but not fully sure. “They don't use the front door, it's bolted shut. No one else was in building. Myself, Dale and Marshall, plus Enterich. Unless this invisible person was in there whole time and I just didn't notice them.”

Do have any senses that would have alerted you to a presence?” She was always ceaseless in her inquiry into what powers they all possessed, she could help it, the children were fascinating, yet today, she asked more out of hope than curiosity.

Ms. Giles, I don't possess any powers. I mean, I have this sort of preternatural sex appeal thing going, but that's not a power, its just sort of, I don't know, always there? I mean you saw how I rocked that skirt, right?” Her eyes darted upward and she sighed in admiration of herself. “I think that's my new favorite skirt, and is Marshall not hot, or what?”

Let's focus, Marissa,” Annette offered her a smile. “So 'no' on the detection, so whomever that was it may have been someone other than Enterich. Let's not rule out the possibility.”

We could have my brother check out that alleyway. If he just disappeared, there might be a portal or something, a spatial tear, perhaps?”

The Æon representative smirked softly. Marissa's curious look in her direction pried a response from her thoughts. “I'm sorry, it's just how casual you said that just now. Sometimes it's hard to forget you're all just teenagers still trying to figure things out. You're all so amazingly resilient.” She stood to meet the young woman by the displays. “Do you think we could do that without your brother catching on to our activities? I know you wanted the others kept out of this, but maybe it's time to-”

No.” The Queen of Shelly shook her head, her hair dancing elegantly across her shoulders. “If the Fellowship finds out my brother and Jason will rain devastation down on Crossroads until they get Enterich for him even making the suggestion to harm one of our families. It's like you said, we're kids, still fumbling in the da-,” she paused, a part of her mind refusing to utter that word here. Her hesitation didn't go unnoticed by her host.  “Still fumbling about. We're stupid, and we're impulsive.” She stared long and hard at the blur on the screen. “If this man has powers, or truly wasn't there, I might know a god who can help me figure this out.”

I-I'm sorry,” her tone certainly indicated that she was still processing what Marissa had just said. Her voice was still a bit of a chuckle as she dared to ask: “Did you just say a god?”

Marissa smiled to Annette from over her shoulder. “Ms. Giles, I told you my contact list was in full-on beast mode. When are you going to start believing me?”

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Lilly had lain on the ground by the plough for a bit, laughing to herself and catching her breath as considered what she had just done. Not but a few weeks ago she would have considered it unbelievable, but now the teens lived in interesting times. Their paradigms were expanded in remarkable ways with the addition of psionics, alien or extra-dimensional entities, malevolent forces and secret groups and conspiracies seeking to use or control them. Compared to what most of the rest of the Fellowship could do, the lifting of the plough was not less believable.

Staring up and blue sky and the faint wisps of clouds that occasionally drifted by, Lilly began to consider what she and the others might truly be capable of. They were a handful of teens upon whom's shoulders the possible fate of their world, or reality, or whatever rested. Now they were, for the first time, be proactive and take the fight to Cody and The Dark, and though optimistic because, like, how could one not be after seeing what they could do when they actually got on the same page and worked together, Lilly also had some doubts about everybody returning. If they were going to do this, then she needed to know who was going and plan accordingly. 'Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst' she remembered her dad saying on more than one occasion. It seemed like good advice now.

After a bit of thinking and consideration of several things, Lilly finally rose and looked around. Spotting Tawny, Lilly approached and, unfastened the velcro on the back of her weightlifting gloves, slipping them off.

"Hey Tawny." she said with an upwards nod of the head as she got close to the beautiful blonde and held her gloves in her teeth for a moment as she bushed herself off. Taking the gloves back into her hand she smiled and continued. "I was a little surprised to get back into town and see you here, but I am glad you are."

"Heya!"  She squeaked with delight with the prospect of meeting someone new, the pure hearted blonde offered a pearly smile and a wave.  "Yeah, me too!  A lot been happening, a week ago I thought we were the only ones with powers, and now you guys have had them this whole time and... like, wow with them."

Tawny knew of Lilly Pryor, just had never really met her.  She didn't play sports, and mostly kept to herself but over the last couple of years they'd seen each other plenty in classes.  Her being a strong advocate of Team Devin didn't earn her much in the way for credibility, but despite people's reactions she never quit stating how wonderful of a guy he was if people asked (they usually didn't).

"I saw you lift the thingie," she smiled.  "Wow.  I would have cheered and clapped but with all the craziness going on between fire and magic gates and mind reading... I don't know what I'm supposed to be impressed by.  Is super strength your power?"  She covered her mouth gently, like she's something wrong.  "Sorry... is it okay to ask?  Devin said the Fellowship can sometimes be like a dysfunctional prison yard and I read you can get 'shanked'," she air quoted.  "Whatever that is, if you ask people how they got sent there.  Do you guys have like, a rule book or something?"

Lilly's smile grew into a small laugh as she shook her head at Tawny's question. She was a bit refreshing, after dealing with the others. Yeah, Cassandra has pluck, but Tawny was sweet and perky and almost innocent.

"There's no rule book, and Devin can, let's say exaggerate a bit at times. Yeah, sometimes there is difficulty getting everybody going in the same direction, but no, nobody has been violent with each other, aside from sparring or whatever in training.

As far as my powers, I am not entirely sure. It's like.. well, kind of a long story. But I guess the short of it is that it seems while pretty much everybody else's shine gave them mind powers, mine seems to have internalized into my body. I am still discovering what I can do, honestly. I mean, I've felt stronger and faster and stuff, but it took a while before I realized I might be able to do that." she said, nodding toward the plough, "or run as fast as a car, or hop six foot fences like they were hurdles on the track, or run up the side of a building. Today was the first time I really had a chance to let loose some. And there's other stuff too, like all of my senses are better, which makes eating pretty awesome, but locker rooms and restrooms... not so much." she laughed.

"We thought we were the only ones too, and kinda freaked out at first since we did not know about the study or anything and the way we found was a bit, disturbing. Anyways, finding out there's others is kinda like, I dunno, finding relatives you didn't know about. I mean, we're all different, but we all share this experience, and that is somebody that nobody else will ever be able to really relate to or understand. And yeah," Lilly aid as she glanced around at the others thoughtfully for a moment, "we might argue and bicker some, but we are like a family and families do that. We always know that we get each other's back though, and that includes you too." Lilly said elbowed Tawny playfully in the arm.

"Yeah, the, um, 'study'," her cheerful tone slowed some.  "It wasn't a great place to learn things.  Dr. Cook wasn't a very nice man."  Her smile faded but then quickly returned.  "Yeah," she recovered.  "Deej said you guys were all really great and that if I needed something I could just bug the heck out of you all until you gave in and gave me my way."  She giggled.

"Well, he didn't say 'heck', but, you know," she twirled her finger to move forward with the conversation.  "So, um, you had to give up on the Olympics, huh?"  Suddenly aware that it might be a touchy subject she extended her hand to silence Lilly before she could reply.  "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm not trying to pry.  You don't have to answer that, of course.  The twins were talking about it earlier."

Lilly's smiles faded a good bit at the question and she nodded as it returned a bit. "Yeah." she said with a sigh. "I mean, for a few reasons. I couldn't leave everybody with all this stuff still out there, threatening my friends. Besides that, I feel like it would be cheating. I suppose there is some sort of arguments that 'it's not cheating, just superior genetics like any star athlete' or whatever, but I feel like it would be cheating."

Lilly looked away and off to the distance at nothing and no one in particular for a moment as she thought it. She was not happy about what she had done, or at least what she had to do to get it done. "Yeah, it sucked to watch my mom's face each time. Disappointing her was, well, rough. I mean, she was not disappointed in me, because she knew I would do my best, but more like disappointed for me. And I hated doing that. My mom and dad have been nothing but supportive and now it's all for nothing and that money is wasted, even just the money for the trip. It's like-- I dunno. They just saw me go and fail. They would be fine with that though, as long as I did my best, but I didn't It's just-- They don't even know truth of why, you know?" she said, blinking a few times to clear her eyes of  some tears that were threatening and then finally bought her gaze back to Tawny. It did not take Marissa's intuitive eyes to tell how deeply it affected Lilly, and yeah, most of the rest of the Fellowship knew she threw it and gave up on her dream, but probably did not grasp how it affected her fully.

Lilly took in a breath and forced a smile. "What fun is it anyways when you know it's not even contest?" she asked with a weak grin,  giving Tawny another playful elbow.

"Anyways, Cook is an ass. Don't worry about him. We got you and we'll help you as much as we can. You can do the same stuff as Jason, right? Move stuff and make it hot and cold or whatever?" she asked.

"Hey," in came a surprise Tawny hug.  "There is a time for all of that."  She broke off the hug and stepped back.  "They don't know now, and sure, maybe there is some small measure of disappointment, I mean, they're human, right?  They have feels and they love you and totes wanted you to have your dream.  Remember though, there will come a time when you can tell them, and then they will understand.  It's sort our curse, I guess, a bunch of broken teenagers stumbling to figure out how to save a small town from fairy tales and Netflix critters."  She paused and shrugged, offering Lilly an unassailable smile.  "You know what though?  I like being broken.  You know all those cracks?  I like to think that how the light gets in."

"I, um... I can."  She didn't seem confident in her answer.  "Can move things.  Fire I can only stationary things, like little fire sculptures, I can't um... 'fwoosh'," she spread her hands about and moved them around like she was casting a spell while making fire noises.  "Like he does.  And, cold only happens when I have an outburst... like freeze a water bottle or the, um," she seemed really embarrassed and her cheeks flushed crimson.  She silently mumbled.  "Pipes at our house.  Jason said he could help me learn to control it, so, we'll see."

"Well, Jason can help you with that. Honestly, all of can probably, at least somewhat, even me. Like, I might not know how to exactly guide you to do what you do, but I can, like, help you practice control and stuff buy trying to throw stuff at me or something. I dunno. We can all help, but Jason probably the most. Just- Just keep it, I dunno, professional, I guess. Feels and stuff are not his forte." Lilly explained and then looked around at the rest of the Fellowship doing their various training, sitting or horsing around.

"As for the cracks, well, that's just wabi-sabi." Lilly said with a nod.

"Huh? Did you lip go numb?" Tawny asked, somewhat confused.

"No, no. Wabi-sabi. It's, like, a philosophical ideal. Beauty in imperfection, essentially. Like, it's the crack in the Liberty Bell that makes it special. I never thought of us that way, really, but I guess you described us pretty well. We're all cracked, or even somewhat broken, but that is what makes us special and beautiful too, I guess."

"I thought that was the green stuff they give you with Sushi?" She asked with an adorable sincerity.  "Maybe we can figure something out, sure.  Right now I'm plum tuckered, Cassie was throwing things at me for a good ten minutes already.  She has a good arm, let me tell you."

"Oh!" She blurted and reached out grasping Lilly's arm.  "You're still going to Homecoming, right?  Jacob Crocker asked me on Friday to go to with him, can you believe it?  Please tell me all this stuff that's going hasn't made you reconsider.  I won't lie, it's awesome to finally have friends, and the secret society of powered teenagers is way cool... I was hoping I could, um," she went all bouncy-flouncy for a moment trying to build the will up to finish her thought.  "I could maybe be show off a few of my new friends at Homecoming, maybe kind of show the school that I'm not some super awkward perky Christian girl?  It's been a little dry for me in the 'people who like me' department since I started having outbursts and setting things on fire.  Granted Marissa destroying me socially didn't help either, but... it's her way.  I don't begrudge her."

Lilly blinked, a little surprised by Tawny's small outburst. She had always known Tawny, or at least what little she knew of her, as being fairly quiet and reserved, so seeing her so animated was something new.

"Yeah. I'll be going. I mean, I got a few things I need to do first, but yeah, I should be there. It should be fun. And if the football team keeps winning, I could even make Homecoming Queen. I promise to be a benevolent Queen, should I be so honored." she laughed with a fake, haughty demeanor.

Slowly though her smile faded as she took on a more serious mein, considering things to come. "Actually... I wanted to talk to you about Monday night. Are you going to be there? I mean, don't get me wrong, you absolutely do not need to go or feel pressured or anything. Nobody will say or think a thing if you sit it out, so don't feel obliged or anything at all. I mean that. Seriously." she stressed firmly.

"Honestly?  I'm not sure.  Deej and I got into a big fight about it already.  He doesn't think I need to be there, but I know he's just trying to play the Knight."  She somberly sighed and shook her head.  Her animations slipped away and soon she was fiddling with her nails.  "I feel I need to be.  We've been chosen for something, to protect lives and help people.  I wouldn't feel right walking away from that.  He feels that I'm not ready, and I think he also wants to protect me."

"And I appreciate it, I do, but, my heart says I need to stand my ground and be there.  So, you know what?  Let him be mad.  He's young, pleeeeeenty of time to get over it, believe me."  She offered Lilly a smile.  "Besides, I'm the back up.  No playing hero for me."

"Really, the only person who can ever say if you are truly ready or not is you." Lilly offered, returning the smile. "And honestly, even if you can;t do much on your own, I am pretty sure you can still link up with other's to boost or help them or whatever, so there is always that." she added with a small shrug. 

Lilly thought for a moment, considering what they were planning on, her gaze once again on nothing it particular for a moment before to looked Tawny in the eyes once again, resting her hands on the blonde's shoulders. "Seriously though, I am not telling you to stay or go. We each have to make that decision ourselves. This will be dangerous, though, so just don't make a decision out of guilt or some feeling of obligation. If you decode to come though, just know that we got your back." Lilly reassured, slipping her hands away only to offer a fist bump with a warm smile.

"Oh, I know."  She smiled and shifted her weight a bit, no longer fiddling with her nails as she bumped her fist to Lilly's with a shy, yet broad grin.  "How about you?  If you want to talk or anything, I mean, I know this is not really normal, for, like... any of us, but... we're all we have to talk to.  I'm a great listener.  With all that going on you're carry quite a bit of mental and emotional stress.  If you need to vent...," she pursed her lips.  "Y'know... vent."

"I've just never really been one much to vent at people, you know?" she added with a shrug of her strong shoulders. "I'm an only child, and kept to myself a lot before we moved here, so I learned to let stuff out on the track or field. A good workout and the natural release of endorphins can do a lot. And so can a great piece of baklava." she said with her crooked, half grin. 

"Baklava? Those Russian face mask thingies for cold weather?" Tawny asked, confused, prompting Lilly to let out a small, good natured laugh

"That's a balaclava. Baklava is a dish. I think it's actually from Turkey, the place, not the bird, but it has spread around most of the Mediterranean and beyond. It's like a dessert lasagna, but with layers of crisp, puff pastry instead of pasta, and with honey and chopped nuts in between instead of sauce, meat, cheese or whatever. It's sooo and my yaiyai-" Lilly explained, getting another confused look from Tawny indicating that she had lost her again. "Sorry. 'Yaiyai' is a common Greek term for grandmother. You see, I'm Greek and Spanish on my mom's side, but I can speak German, go figure." she said with a shrug and continued,  "Anyways, she makes the best baklava. It is, like, life affirming." the brunette teen explained, almost drooling as she thought about the dish for a moment before pulling herself out of her reverie.

"But yeah, maybe sometime I might need to vent. I mean, we all change." Lilly replied with a smile, appreciating the generous offer from Tawny and didn't want he to feel like she had dismissed it, which she hadn't.

"Holy shikaka!  I just had the greatest idea!"  The young blonde had a sudden burst of excitement.  "The next time we do one of these things, why don't we make it, like, a barbeque or something and we can all bring a dish.  We don't have much time of summer left, but Jason has a barn and the loft, we could all get together and celebrate after we, you know...," the excitement faded from her voice as the topic of battling the Dark once again seemed to linger in the air.  "...well, providing it doesn't turn into a massive clusterfluff."

"So, German, huh?" It was an obvious ploy to change the topic away from anything Dark related.  "I speak horse.  Our ranch has been in my dad's family for a few generations now, I guess.  I like them.  They're noble and strong and love big... but *ooohhh *are they ornery if you're not treating them right.  We currently are taking of ten, we have eight, and two are visiting for, uh," her demeanor took on the smirk of a fourth grader, but the chagrin of teen not comfortable with saying something out loud.  "...'study hall' purposes.  It's a weird situation, because usually the owners would have come and picked them up by now, but they couldn't make the trip and probably won't be until around Christmas, but by then with the snow and whatnot."  As the talk of horses arose, Lilly had to smirk slightly at the Montana drawl that Tawny worked so well at concealing came out in full.  "We'll probably have them until spring.  What with boarding costs and 'study hall' it looks like we'll be okay this winter."

She laughed as she caught her drawl.  "Sorry, I'm rambling.  You're dad is military, right?  I think I saw him at school once, in uniform."

"Yeah. He is head of security for Bulwark. There are good and bad things about being the Lieutenant Colonel's daughter on base." she chuckled and then stopped as something occurred to her. 

"What is it?" the blonde asked, looking quizzically at Lilly.

"You know, knowing what he know now, it certainly makes the fact that the base was named 'Bulwark' have a lot more meaning. Huh. I wonder..." Lilly replied, letting her voice and thoughts trail off for a moment as she considered the name and just how like various groups had known about The Dark and Site B and all of it.

Lilly shook her head, dismissing the thoughts for now as a small smile came back across her face. "Anyways. Yeah, a pot luck sounds cool. We should run that by Jase. He's prolly go for it. And we should go get a burger or something sometime.

"Oh yeah! That would be great!" the Tawny agreed perkily.

"Cool." Lilly replied as the pair drifted back over toward the others.

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[[Devin.]]

The redhead frowned and stretched out her hand toward him. The spot where her fingertips made contact with his bare skin throbbed briefly, a sharp, burning sensation as if he’d been stung by a wasp, or accidentally touched bare metal left in the summer sun too long. …But that was all. A momentary flash of discomfort that appeared from nowhere and vanished almost as suddenly.

“Is that it?” He shook his head in disappointment, brows arrowing together in a disparaging frown. “Seriously? C’mon, Granola. You can do better than that. A bee sting’s not gonna stop whatever Cody’s turned into. Don’t half-ass it. Think of this as your chance to get back at me for three years of giving you shit.” He tapped his chest again, regarding her with an air of open challenge. “Let’s go. I’m right here.”

Autumn exhaled and pressed her hand flat against his skin, her eyes darkening as the wide, deep pools of her pupils expanded.

Devin’s impressive athletic ability was something he’d gained through countless hours of grueling effort, of trial and error. He knew what it felt like to fail spectacularly until he finally got something right, and he’d had his fair share of sprains and pulled muscles and bad falls; the pain he experienced at the instant she touched him a second time outstripped all of them. It forced the air from his lungs as his diaphragm collapsed, and then so did he, crumpling like wet paper, folding in on himself gracelessly, helplessly. He hit his knees, breathless as blinding, unrelenting torment spread like wildfire from his solar plexus through his chest, setting off alarms all throughout his brain that whatever this was, it was going to kill him. He was going to die, he felt sure- even as his rational, logical mind reassured him that he’d been here before and in just a few seconds the feeling would ease, that he’d just had the wind knocked out of him and it would be fine.

Except, it wasn’t fine, not at all. The feeling didn’t subside. He could only suck in tiny breaths in hitches and spasms as his eyes watered and the world blurred around the edges with bright sparks dancing in his field of vision and his stomach kept heaving but nothing happened and the only sounds he could make were guttural animal moans because there was no air and maybe he was going to die right there on the grass at Jason Bannon’s farm twitching like a beetle on its back and had he ever made anyone else feel like this and there were so many girls he’d never gotten to see naked and Tee was gonna look terrible in black and why wasn’t it stopping? It should have stopped, or lessened, or at the very least he should’ve passed out by now, but no. Stubbornly, consciousness persisted. The feeling of being unable to breathe persisted. The pain persisted, without diminishing and without respite. Agony and horror intermingled in the chaotic tumble of his thoughts as the interminable moments passed: he really was going to die.

Except he wasn’t. And that was, for just a moment, the worst possible thing he could imagine.

“-ey, …evi… …re …ou okay? Devin!”

And then he was aware of Autumn kneeling beside him on the grass, her hands on his shoulders, shaking him, and it was over. Just like that, it was done, as if it had never happened, except that he was lying on the ground with the bitter, acrid taste of bile on his tongue, and the eyes that had looked at him with such reproach only a few minutes before were rimmed in red.

[[Autumn.]]

Okay, so he wasn’t going to teleport away, so… What was she supposed to do? She didn’t really have to injure him or anything, obviously; he just needed to know what she was capable of, so he could give her advice. That was all. It was fine. No big deal. Like Jason had said, there was nothing inherently malicious in it, and Devin wasn’t a threat to anything but her sanity.

It’s fine.

Stretching out her hand toward him, Autumn concentrated on that faint sensation of something streaming beneath her skin that was like, and yet not like blood, too intangible to be seen but nevertheless hot and bright in her mind’s eye. She touched his chest, bare fingertips on bare skin, and through that tentative contact felt the physical totality of Devin, the strange impression of movement that she’d felt when she’d hugged him in the hospital, as if he were only partially- or, no, intermittently- occupying the space she could perceive. As her awareness of his essential energy, his vitality sharpened, a flicker of that luminous scarlet Shine reached through her fingers and into the currents of his life, uncoiling in slender filaments that rasped across his nerves. He flinched and she recoiled reflexively, breaking the connection.

“Is that it?” Devin grimaced a little and shook his head scornfully, eyes narrowing as she withdrew. “Seriously? C’mon, Granola. You can do better than that. A bee sting’s not gonna stop whatever Cody’s turned into. Don’t half-ass it. Think of this as your chance to get back at me for three years of giving you shit.” Squaring his shoulders, the gymnast smacked an open palm against his chest. “Let’s go. I’m right here.”

Autumn exhaled. He was right. He’d asked to see what she could do, and, yeah, she’d technically shown him, but… But not for real. She wouldn’t have the option to pull metaphorical punches with Cody, or any of the other creatures serving the Dark. Right. Okay. She reached out again, pressing her hand flat against his chest, just beneath the breastbone. Again she could sense the blood and bone and sinew that made up his form, the strengths and frailties of the flesh, but this time she let his invocation of the torment and harassment he’d inflicted shape the expression of her power. It was shockingly, almost shamefully easy, the redhead realized, to bring that unresolved anger to the surface; where emotion met essence the sanguine energy flared bright, surging in rich crimson streams through her veins and the physical/spiritual connection of skin on skin to crash furiously, gratifyingly into him like an invisible wave of resentment and pain-

And then he folded, dark eyes wide with shock and already welling with tears as the brash young teleporter hit the ground. His body curled in on itself, convulsing with the conflicting need to retch violently and draw in air, neither of which were physically possible, and a growing sense of unease washed away the haze of red that had flooded Autumn’s vision. Any second, it would wear off- he’d suck in a deep breath, maybe laugh, and say something stupid. It would be fine. But as the moments passed, and the gasping turned not to laughter but to guttural, animal wheezing, like a deer with an arrow in its lung, she started to worry.

Oh, fuck. What if I really hurt him?

A sudden rush of panic lanced down her spine, pushing her forward as she knelt on the grass beside him. Was he messing with her? A quick look at his contorted, reddened features suggested otherwise. Almost frantic now, the fiery young woman rolled Devin onto his side, ran her hands over his back and- No. Nothing was broken, there was nothing actually wrong with him, so why wasn’t he-

“Hey, Devin. Hey, stop screwing around, are you okay? Devin!”

And then it hit her: There was nothing wrong with him. It was pure sensation, not an injury. There was no way for his brain to cope with that, to compensate for the fact that there was no point of origin, no wound- she had completely bypassed his body’s ability to produce neurochemicals to adjust to pain.

What the actual fuck, Autumn? That’s totally- No, no, fuck it, nevermind. Worry about that later.

Almost on instinct she reached out, mentally dashing away the connection her touch had forged, and Devin shuddered once, violently, before collapsing onto his back. Shit, shit shit! Oh, fuck, oh god, she swore silently. The world went suddenly liquid as she grabbed his shoulders and tried to pull him up, but her fingers kept slipping on the sheen of sweat that coated his now-flushed skin. Come on, come on, you annoying motherfu-

“’m good,” he croaked suddenly, wearily lifting one arm in a shaky thumbs-up as his pupils contracted, focusing on her face. “S’all groovy. Gonna die now.”

“Oh, thank fuck,” she breathed aloud, releasing him and sagging backward to sit on her heels as her heart finally slowed its hammering inside her ribs. “Okay, it’s fine, you’re fine. Just, uh. Just try to breathe.” The words could’ve been meant for either of them.

Edited by Autumn Keane
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Devin didn't rightly feel like moving right away.  He'd sacrificed a lot for his skills over the years, sprains, pulled muscles, even serious neck injury scares and a concussion one or twice, but never in all his years of training had he ever experienced pain quite like that.  A part of his twisted mind almost wanted to ask her to do it again, just make sure it was was real.  It was intense and despite feeling like he was about to die, he'd hadn't felt more alive in quite some time.

"So," he said through a ragged breath that was swiftly returning as his brain gently stopped hyperventilating.  "So... that was a thing.  One," he wheezed through a short laugh that ended in a few coughs as his lungs weren't quite recovered from the panic yet.  "You have very calloused hands, my sister can recommend some lotions."

Autumn rolled her eyes and sighed.  Before she could go off on him again, he raised a hand to let her know he wasn't finished.  "Two," he grunted as he managed to push himself up to a sitting posture.  He sighed, still struggling a bit for breath as he looked at her.  "The thing with a spar, or any fight, is energy.  Obviously, you want to hit the hardest to end it as quickly as possible.  Now, I'm no Kung Fu guru guy, but what Jase and I did, that was both offense and defense: wanting to hit and finish it while not being hit in return.  You?  You seem to have a luxury we don't: the ability to transfer pure pain with a touch.  See, you don't need to hit someone, just touch them.  Were I you, that's where I would start.  I'd work on my ability to evade, dodge and train myself to look for openings in my opponents offense so that I could sneak in a touch that would disable them."

He seemed a lot better in a short period of time.  He didn't appear to have any desire to walk and his voice was sounding a bit raspy, but for the most part he seemed to be alright.  "Devin," Autumn started, a bit of worry still in her voice.  He may be the source of most of her annoyance, but she certainly didn't want him hurt.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't know... I mean, I knew, but I didn't exactly think it would... I'm still figuring it out."

"Don't," he shook his head, smiling.  He reached out and took her hand, a small act that was more for the display of showing he wasn't afraid to touch her after what she did to him, but also because almost dying kind of puts things in perspective, even for a sixteen year old boy.  "You've nothing to apologize for.  I said don't hold back, you didn't.  We're cool."  He shifted and laid back down into the grass.  "Marissa and I have been practicing at home, mostly YouTube videos, but we Amazon'd some headgear and padded gloves and all that.  You're welcome to join us any evening.  As for today, give me about ten, maybe fifteen minutes and we'll work on for awhile on you avoiding attackers, but," he looked at her and grinned.  "Can we turn that down to a pinch and not 'turning your insides into liquid Kanye on autotune'?  That'd be great, thanks."

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"Hey Jason?"

He wasn't meditating now - resting back on the grass by the cooler after Marissa had left he was to all appearances dozing, stretched out with his hands folded behind his head and his booted feet crossed at the ankles.  A distance away, Autumn and Devin were practicing avoidance and touch, this time the pain dialed back down to a stinging sensation as the pair worked on the redhead's sense of timing and footwork; when to step back, when to dart forward and try for a touch in a semi-serious game of tag that involved more than a little cussing and even some laughter from both parties.  Nearer, Kat was devouring a fourth slice of pizza while Courtney teased her about having a big appetite for such a tiny thing and Cassandra watched and grinned.  Cade was talking to Lilly, the pair of 'Spartans', as Marissa called them, quietly discussing their likely roles in the coming fight as they tossed a football back and forth almost meditatively, much as other teens might pass a joint.  Tawny had figured now was a good time to quietly mention her idea to Jase - after all, it seemed training was more or less over - and as her shadow eclipsed his repose she saw a glimmer of emerald as his eyes opened a little and regarded her... and just like that the intensity of his focus, which had been non-existent as he napped, was turned back on like a halogen bulb.

The sunny blonde settled down near him, folding her legs and fixing him with an earnest expression in her blue eyes.  She wasn't daunted by his wordless expectant stare - not like she would have been at the start of the afternoon, anyway.  Jason might be odd, but he was one of God's own creatures same as everyone else, and besides, he remembered her kindness to him.  It mattered to him, which meant he couldn't be a bad person.  Right?  God knew there were plenty of less odd people who overlooked common kindnesses.

"I wanted to ask: why didn't you teach me fire and ice stuff - what did you call it?  Thermic and exothermic reactions?"  She plucked at a blade of grass and rolled it in her hands, absently marking it as decent grazing pasture that the teens were using as a bombing range.

"I will."  Jason replied quietly, his half-open eyes still resting on her face.  "Today, though, I wanted to get you confident with your strongest gift rather than dilute the time we had by trying to teach you everything."

"That makes sense, I guess."  Tawny put one end of the grass stem in her mouth, looking at him.  "So you'll keep teaching me, right?"

"Yes."  For a moment, it seemed that was all the lanky youth would say, but then "You're a good student."

The answer to that was a radiant smile that seemed to flow from her shining eyes to suffuse her expression with light.  "Yeah?"

"You pay attention, you don't quit, you focus well."  Jason stated simply, as if recounting facts.  "Keep that mindset and you'll do fine."

"Oh stop, I'm blushing."  Tawny smirked, though in truth she was a little.  She looked off to where Devin and Autumn were 'playing tag' as much to give herself a break from Jason's unblinking scrutiny as out of curiousity about what the pair were doing.  When she figured she'd had enough of a break, she looked back at him to see those slivers of emerald still watching her, like a cat would watch a stranger.  Not hostile, but not inviting either.  Just... watching.  "So, I was wonderin'.  After we, y'know, beat the bad guy - I know that's assuming a lot but, hey, hope for the best, right?"  She paused, looking at him as though seeking confirmation, but there was no comment forthcoming.  She coughed.  "Anyway, afterwards, I was wondering if we should have a victory party?  Like a barbecue and pot luck next Sunday afternoon?  Everyone can bring something and we can celebrate here, let our hair down and stuff?"

There was a long pause, during which Tawny bit her lip and wondered if she had perhaps presumed too much... then Jason smoothly sat up, his eyes opening fully as he nodded.  "It's a good idea." he said with slight smile.  "If we win-"

"When we win."  Tawny corrected, almost wishing she didn't when she saw his eyes narrow a little but reassured when he simply smiled faintly and nodded.

"When, as you say, we win."  Jason reiterated with the minor alteration and a sly smile.  "We can float the idea at the others."

"Cool!"  Tawny squeaked, almost leaning forward to hug him, but fortunately Jason was saved from sparkly rainbow puppy cuteness by Devin and Autumn's return.

"I'm beat."  Devin blinked a slice of pizza into his hand from the box a few meters away and started to wolf it down.  "Think it's time to call it for the day, Jaybee?"

"I think so."  Jason nodded, getting to his feet and nodding as Tawny likewise scrambled to her feet.  Glancing at the others, the tall lean young man raised his voice a fraction.  "That'll do for the day.  Anyone that wants to change and freshen up can do so at the house.  Coffee and soda, and more snacks for the terminally hungry will be there too."  The cooler containing water bottles, lighter now than it had been when Marissa had dragged it onto the practice field, raised into the air and bobbed along behind him as he turned towards the farmhouse.

"You still owe me a flight, professor."  Autumn murmured as she came up next to him and looped an arm around his waist, necessitating the taciturn Effing One to put his arm around her shoulders.  He smiled a little, wry warm humor in his gaze as he looked down at her.

"Still time for that once I've seen to my guests."  he bantered lightly.  "Think you can stand to wait that long?"

"I dunno. I might get a better offer."

"Doubtful."

Edited by GDP_ST
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Cade had nodded when Marissa left.  He was gonna stick around and hang out for abit, though after all the more physical training, and having various animals crawling on him, a shower wasn't out of line.   

After Jase made the offer, Cade nodded.  "Thanks, I could use one I think between the training and having a badger crawl up in my lap."

Cade made his way back to his jeep and grabbed the spare change of clothes he kept after depositing his training bags.   After getting directions to the shower, he went and quickly took a good shower.  He tidied up after himself and then put his worn clothing in the bag, he went and put them back in his jeep.  He'd wait an hour or so at least before texting Marissa.  He still needed to invite her to the cookout, something His mother agreed to already and Haruka was excited for.   A part of him had wondered if he should extend the invite to the whole family as he took his shower, but he for the "First" meeting, it was perhaps best that it was just Marissa.  His father had numerous issues with Devin, they all knew, so it was perhaps best not to invite anyone else in order to keep the peace.   

Of course his dad would be working the fair that evening, Thus Haruka and their mother would be there mostly alone.   

He head back to the house where the others were, wondering what was next on the day's agenda.

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Lilly and Cade had been tossing the football back and forth talking when Cade heard Jase's offer and tossed the ball back to Lilly before departing to take Jase up on the offer to freshen up. Lilly looked over behind herself, whipping her ponytail around her shoulders and saw Jase leading the way to the farmhouse, floating cooler in tow behind him and turned to follow herself.

As Lilly headed toward the house she spotted Kat and Courtney up ahead and considered them for a moment. She still had not particularly met Kat yet, but she certainly knew Courtney, and she had managed to bury the hatchet (or at least it *seemed* that way) with the twins, so she figured why not go for broke? Courtney had been a terror at the school, especially to Sean, but if the Jauntsens could make a change, then Courtney should be afforded the same chance too. That did not mean it would be easy, but anything worthwhile rarely is.

"Hey Courtney. Wait up a sec." she called to the redhead as she squeezed the football in her hand and, with a skip, started casually jogging to catch Courtney, who had slowed her pace and was giving Lilly a look that was a mixture of surprise and confusion.

"Yeah?" she asked almost curtly as Lilly drew near.

"Hey." Lilly greeted as she slowed to a walk alongside Courtney. "I just wanted to say that I can't necessarily speak for others, but I wanted you do know that I don't really care about what you did in the past, at least before the attack at the hospital. You threw your lot in with the rest of us, are here now, and are probably gonna be risking your ass with us Monday night, so that's all that matters to me. Anything from before, as far as I am concerned, is water under the bridge. Cool?"

Lilly's mind was virtually impenetrable to the young telepath, but she could still get a sense of her emotions and she at least didn't sense any deception from Lilly. There was still a faint shadow of irritation there, to be sure, probably just from seeing Courtney's after all she had done to the Fellowship in the past, but there was now a kernel of posivity there now that could be nurtured. One would never totally let go or forget past slights, but is was certainly possible to move past them, and for her part, Lilly seemed to be honestly trying to let go of their past. Courtney was slightly taken aback at first. She knew that Devin and Marissa had been accepted, or forgiven, or whatever, by the Fellowship, but hearing those words from Lilly Pryor the first time they had spoken (which was never friendly in the past) in weeks was not something she had expected. The corners of Courtney's lips were slowly tugged up as she smiled at Lilly with an odd mix of thankfulness and irony in her smile. "You don't know everything I did... But thanks." she replied.

"Everything? I'm sure I don't." Lilly acknowledged with a shrug. "Maybe you can fill me in some time?" she said, leaving the offer out there and then continued, "But until then, I do know what you did last week, and you're here now, so that's good enough for me. People change, and yeah, maybe not always for the better, but they should at least be given a chance to do so, and to be accepted for who they are instead of who they were.. or who you thought they were." she said with a warm smile and small wink as she strolled alongside the redhead with the farmhouse growing ever larger before them as they drew ever closer to the old structure.

"Thanks." Courtney said sincerely. It was kind of odd to hear Courtney Adams being friendly and sincere after they way she had talked to, well, pretty much everybody at the school for years. At the same time though, Lilly could also see a bit of the how and why she behaved like she had with Cook's influence and simply being a telepathic teen. People all wore masks and thought things privately in the sanctuary of their own minds that they would never say aloud due to politeness, fear and a multitude of other restricting factors. But to hear that from everybody, to know how people truly thought about you, others, and everything would have to make a person cynical at the very least. Navigating high school while doing so, had to be even worse. "No problem." Lilly said to Courtney with a small smile and nod as they set foot on the porch. 

The teens gradually made their way to the farmhouse, trickling in here and there as they finished their own activities, conversations or simply finally noticed that the others had gone inside. The nine teens filled the small kitchen, some sitting at the table while others leaned against the counters. Occasionally one or two would slip out to commandeer a bathroom to change or freshen up while more snacks and beverages were distributed among them.

Jason opened the refrigerator door and several cans of Coke floated out, moving from person to person until each as accepted. With a nod Lilly shifted the football she had been idly toying with in both hands to her left and accepted a proffered can of Coke with her right, holding the can near the top with her thumb and middle finger as she used her forefinger to pop the tab.

"You know, I've been thinking about Monday night." the brunette teen said and then took a swig from the can. "Like, so far every time any of us have crossed over to the Land of the Upside Down Thunder, they've gotten stuck there for a time. So I'm thinking it might be a good idea for us to bring some supplies, like water, snacks, power bars, first aid kits. You know, just in case. We never know what might happen or who might be hurt or drained or whatever. Hopefully we won't need of it, but best to be prepared." she suggested and took another large swig from the can of Coke. 

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"That's not a bad point," Cassandra said, snagging her own floatyCoke. "And some weapons, you know? We can't all fling rocks like bullets or burn stuff with our minds. Even someone like me might get a lucky shot in. Oh, and...maybe some gas and a lighter? Just in case we need to set fire to the Tree the old-fashioned way for some reason. I'm sure there's some camping stuff in my garage I can grab without Mom ever knowing it."

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"After my run-in with demons there, I keep a back pack loaded with essentials."  Devin waved off the coke.  After loading up on grease and carbs from the pizza he's decided that he'd at least forego the extra three hundred crunches it would take to work it off.  "First-aid, foldable knife, food, water fire starters, etc.  Also, think about portability.  It probably isn't a good idea Cass for you to rolling all over town with gas tied to your bike.  That tends to get people asking questions, so please, guys, be smart about it.  Jase doesn't need the law up here causing his family issues because all the local kids are carrying gas to the Bannon farm."

"Also," he grew a bit more somber in his tone and expression.  It wasn't something he wanted to talk about, but it needed to be said.  "Say your good-byes.  I know no one wants to think about it, but the reality is simple: we might not all make it back.  For some or all of us, this will be a one way trip.  Tomorrow is the Carousel, take that time to be with your families, loved ones, whomever.  Say what you have to say, do what you need to do.  If you feel they need to know what you are and what you're going off to do or you just want to keep it secret and ride out your luck, that's entirely on you.  I'm not here to tell you there's some magical 'right way' to say 'I hope I don't die in an alternate dimension so I come home after I've saved the world'.

"I will say this, though," he forced a half smile.  "Please don't ghost them.  Make sure they know how important they are to you, just in case.  Because I for one am planning like I'm staying, but I'll be fighting like nothing can keep us from home."

After that... he really needed that coke.  He collected it from the table and popped the top for his first drink.  "S'all I got."

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"The ideal personal go-bag should have enough resources to sustain one or two people for seventy-two hours."  Jason noted dispassionately from where he was loading up the coffee maker and setting it to drip.  "Food, water, first aid gear, a multi-tool or at least some manner of folding knife, as Devin and Lilly said.  Additionally, I would recommend a non-battery powered light source - there are good windup lamps or flashlights out there.  A small windup radio. Thermal survival blankets.  Water purifying tablets, and sachets of Gatorade to help with electrolytes.  Signal mirror, work gloves, duct tape, dry warm change of clothes in a waterproof bag.  A foldable waterproof poncho.  A Bivi bag-"

"Wait, a what?"  Kat blinked as Jason turned from putting things away, noting several of the Fellowship staring at him.  He smiled slightly.

"A foldable thermal survival bag you can sleep and shelter in in emergencies."  he explained, crossing to a closet by the back door to the kitchen.  Reaching in, he pulled out a medium-sized backpack that looked to be military surplus and in a camouflage pattern.  "My go-bag.  Twenty pounds in weight: with a decent pack to distribute the load it's not too bulky or heavy."  He handed it to Kat, who hefted it, nodding before handing it back.  Jason set it on the table so others could take a look inside if they wished and stepped back.  "About two years ago my dad started insisting we keep and maintain one each.  At the time I thought it largely pointless and a result of him listening to militia paranoia, but humored him.  Now... I'm glad I did."

"I bet."  Cassandra, ever curious, examined a couple of the pouches and side pockets on the backpack.

"Given the likelihood that, if we survive tomorrow, we're all going to be living lives less ordinary, I think it's wise everyone puts together a bag.  It doesn't have to be as complete as this one."  Jase indicated the backpack.  "But like Devin, have some essentials handy and ready to carry.  We never know when we'll need it."

"And it's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it."  Autumn nodded agreement.  Tawny looked a little grave as she considered the pack on the table.

"Amen."  Devin said.  "We can't keep half-assing things at the last minute.  We can't know everything that's gonna happen, but there is shit we can do to prepare ourselves as best we can."

"We've a case or two of MREs downstairs."  Jason said as he moved to check on the coffee.  "If anyone wants a couple to start off their own bag, let me know."

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"Preeeeeetty sure my Dad has a lot of these too..." The French girl nodded with a jaded pout. After all, her Dad was in the Army, he more than probably could help her with that kind of stuff. Speaking of bag... Kat had brought her backpack on the way inside, and now really felt like taking a shower. She didn't like that much smelling like grass and dirt. Her gaze wandered off to the pretty telepath standing in the room with the others, and she instinctively moistened her lips. The gorgeous redhead was quietly listening to the chatter while sipping on a soda. Kat ran a distracted hand through her hair, pensively scrutinizing the silhouette of her friend. Courtney was raising some feelings, the little pixie thought she had locked down, deep inside, a long time ago. Ugh, calm down, girl, right now you need a cold shower.

"Hm, Jason, can I use your bathroom?" She asked, her backpack in hand.

Cold, green eyes gazed upon her for a moment. "Upstairs, first door on the right."

"Thank you!" Kat bursted out of the kitchen and started climbing the steps of the stairs when she suddenly came to a stop, realizing the sheer amount of books surrounding her. What had been culinary volumes was slowly giving place to some even more refined cultural chef-d'oeuvres her eyes could not have missed. That guy reads French? Le Misanthrope... Du Contrat Social... Les Fourberies de Scapin... Candide... La Henriade... Wait...Contes Libertins? Step by step, following a trail of books that, perhaps of all the teens gathered, except the actual owner of the books, only her French eye could have perceived, she reached the top of the staircase and kept following the crumbs of what was memories of French high school and long afternoons at the library for her. The amazing quantity of books seemed to be overflowing from a room, not far, on the left of the upstairs hall, and as she approached, the presence of books felt physically apparent, even when she closed her eyes. Her small hand grabbed the doorknob, and she entered the room, her eyes widening in amazement.

There were no walls to speak off, only books, a closet, a window and a desk. A very cultured Spartan, she thought as she gazed upon what could not be a teenager's room. It was too clean. The way the sheets were arranged on the king size mattress lying at the center of the room, futon-style, would have made any maid in a five stars hotel drool with jealousy.

"No way," she whispered to herself, approaching one of the gigantic shelves. Les 120 Journées de Sodome! Justine! Juliette! Zoloë! The Joy of Sex! Weird choice of porn, if you ask me... Ah! La Chute. L'Été. La Curée. La Prisonnière. Les Fleurs du Mal! Oh this is getting better and better... Les Litanies de Satan... L'Imaginaire... Bérénice... Poètes Saturniens... A childish grin drew on her lips as she read another title. Le Petit Prince! A joyful giggle escaped her throat.

"It's customary to ask before entering another's bedroom." Jason's voice was neither angry nor particularly accusatory, in fact if anything carried an understated wry curiousity in it's tone as he watched the pixieish redhead from the doorway to his room. As usual, he had arrived with such a light tread the engrossed girl had not heard him.

Kat looked at the lean frame of the teenager, standing in the door frame in his sleeveless teeshirt and grey sweatpants, with a fresh eye. He was full of surprises. Wait a minute... The realization of where she was standing suddenly rushed through her mind, setting her cheeks ablaze. "Oh shit..." There was no hole deep enough for her to hide in at that very moment. She just wanted to disappear, and be forgotten. Forever. This was way too embarassing.

"I'm so sorry! I... I didn't realize... The..." She fell silent, her panicked eyes fluttering once more across the shelves.

He just watched her for a long moment as she floundered, head tilting slightly to one side as he studied the flustered young woman with a level, intent green stare. A faint tug at one corner of his lips betokened a smile, and there might have been a flash of ancient humour in his gaze, but it was hard to be sure. "Something catch your eye?" he asked finally.

She ran a trembling hand through her hair. This is so awkward... "Erm... A lot of things, actually... So... you read French?" she said in an uneasy voice as she slowly approached the door frame.

"Depuis que j'ai dix ans, oui." he answered, watching her approach with his habitual calm, studying her expressions and body language intently. "Je parle plusieurs langages."

"Okay, wow ! Sans mentir, c'est... surprenant !" she added, still getting closer to the door, a delicate and warm pink clearly visible on her cheeks. "Okay, c'est vraiment gênant... Je vais juste... prendre ma douche, okay? Encore une fois, je suis vraiment désolée d'être entrée dans ta chambre comme ça, je suis une terrible invitée..." She shrugged, as her unruly grey eyes, filled with shame, finally met his green. In fact, she was not ashamed of being caught in his bedroom. She had no idea until she saw him standing at the door. Then her brains had done the math. She was simply ashamed of not having realized sooner.

"Mes livres ont piqué ton intérêt." he said quietly, smiling a little more, faint warmth touching his cold eyes. "C'est normal. Ce n'est pas comme si je t'avais attrapée en train de te fouiller mon tiroir à chaussettes ou en train de te rouler dans mes couvertures." He indicated the shelves, his hand brushing past her shoulder. "S'il y a un livre que tu aimerais emprunter, tu n'as qu'à demander."

"Euh... Okay... J'y penserai, merci..." She swiftly slipped into the corridor, flashing him a brief smile of apology as he handed her fresh towels he apparently brought with him before catching her in his room, and made her way to the bathroom. She entered and quietly closed and locked the door, dropping her bag on the ground and leaning her back against a wall, her face on fire. I really need that cold shower...

Spoiler

"<Since I was ten, yes>." "<I speak a few languages.>"

"<Okay, wow! Not gonna lie, it's... surprising!>" "<Okay, this is really awkward... I'm just gonna... take a shower, okay? Again, I'm so sorry for entering your bedroom like that, I'm a terrible guest...>"

"<You were interested in the books.>" "<It's quite alright. It is not as though I caught you going through my sock drawer or rolling in my sheets.>" "<If you saw any you would like to borrow, by all means ask.>"

"<Uh... Okay... I'll think about it, thank you...>"

 

Edited by Catherine 'Kat' Barras
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"Alright, well," since standing in a kitchen while everyone just glared at one another in rapt fascination wasn't really his gig, Devin finished his Coke and tossed the can in the trash.  "Guess this is, uh, pretty much done, so I'm gonna go.  If you guys need me, text me or call me."

"Good job today guys thanks for showing up and keep at it.  Practice makes perfect and all that.  Let Jase know I'll see him around."  Devin stepped out of the door and skipped down the steps that would take him to his ride home.

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Cassandra looked over from where Kat's flagrant Frenchness had distracted her, just in time to catch Devin's farewell address. She crossed the room after him and caught the door before it could quite swing entirely shut, then opened it up again.

"Hey, Devin," she said, and immediately wasn't quite sure what came next. She'd meant to talk to him before this point, maybe even do a little 'training' with him, but without consciously meaning to had somehow managed to avoid him. Now Cassie felt like she had something to say to him, but couldn't quite figure out just what. It was way too late to pull the eject lever now though. "Thanks for the ride up here, and...for being on at least semi-good behavior tonight," she said with a half-grin. "I let you go easy this time, but next time we all do a training day? Punishment. Justice from on high."

She nodded, then added, "See you there." Cassie hadn't really planned on saying that, but it felt right. A demand from her that he survive, and a promise to do the same.

"Hey," Devin added as she started to back up. "Look, um, when you're ready to go, give me a call, okay? I'll get you home and... maybe we can grab a shake or a burger or something? Y'know, if you're up for it."
 
Cassandra paused, then grinned wider. "Shake and a burger after a whole night munching on pizza? You'd better hang onto that sixpack if we're going to Homecoming." Then she looked away for a second and tucked an errant lock of hair back behind her ear. "But...a ride would be cool. And we could get something, sure."
        
"Or we can sit and drink a Coke and talk for a bit. Max won't bother us as long as we order something." He laughed. "Don't worry about me Blondie, I'll be good and ready for you to show me off to all your friends." He smirked. "See you in a bit."
        
"Yeah, seeya Devin." Cassie retreated back into the house and broke into a jog as she went looking for Jase with a bit more urgency than was strictly required.

Edited by Cassandra Allen
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Watching everyone milling around- upstairs, downstairs, in the door and out and in again- without any particular plan or idea of what they were supposed to be doing, but instead just sort of doing it, was oddly relaxing. Sure, the kitchen was a little crowded, and a little noisy, but it wasn’t what Autumn would consider hectic, just… Active, with people chatting amongst themselves and cleaning up, relaxing, winding down after the excitement of discovering more about each other, and about what they could do. Where they fit. Where they belonged. It was certainly less chaotic tha