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WEIRDER STUFF
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Weirder Stuff Episode VI: Rainbow Shadows

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Cassandra's mom was a bit late to the party, and her manner of entry showed it. Almost running, checking each room number frantically. Even passing the spot that Marissa and Autumn were seated, she barely seemed to register them there...then stopped looked back. Recognition lit up, from the picnic. The redhead Cassie had been talking to.

"You're..." Teresa paused in mid-phrase and shook her head, skipping to the important part. "Is she all right?"

Autumn nodded, but before she had even started trying to put an answer to words, Marissa stepped in smoothly. "She's fine, Mrs Allen. We all are."

Teresa nodded at that distractedly, then sagged a little and put a hand to her forehead. "She said that on the phone, I just...it would be just like her to play it down. I...thanks. Both of you. Not just for now but, you know. Then. Keeping her safe."

This time it was Autumn that spoke first. "She kept us safe," she corrected. Her voice wasn't as loud and clear as Marissa's, but she said it firmly. "She was the one who knew what to do, and told us how to do it."

Cassie's mom absorbed that, and had to blink away tears that weren't quite shed. There were so many words to say that she couldn't say anything. In the end Teresa just gestured at the door and said, "That's...I'm glad you were there for each other. I just have to..."

The two girls said their goodbyes and Teresa continued down the hall until finding and letting herself into the room.

Immediately there was tension in the air. Too many people, too little space. For a second Teresa just froze, unsure how to fit into this...then Cassandra leaned out and waved at her. Here was something she could understand instinctively!

They stood off to one side a bit, as much as the room allowed, just hugging. When her mother started fussing at the bandage around her arm, Cassie sighed and explained it was just some kind of rash or irritation. She spared Teresa the detailed recounting, for the time being. One nightmare at a time.

After a few minutes of that, Cassandra's mom turned to look at the other parents and said, "Hi everyone. I'm Teresa Allen, Cassandra's mother. I'm a librarian at the main branch. This is all...I still don't know what to make of any of it, but I think we have a lot to be proud of right now." Her arm rested around Cassandra's shoulder, and squeezed her.

 

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11 hours ago, Cassandra Allen said:

After a few minutes of that, Cassandra's mom turned to look at the other parents and said, "Hi everyone. I'm Teresa Allen, Cassandra's mother. I'm a librarian at the main branch. This is all...I still don't know what to make of any of it, but I think we have a lot to be proud of right now." Her arm rested around Cassandra's shoulder, and squeezed her.

"Thank you."

A few gazes turned to Jase, who's eyes had now opened and were swiveling towards Mrs Allen as the slender youth sat up, swinging his legs off the side of the examination bed and perching on the edge staring at Teresa like a bright-eyed young falcon - albeit one in torn army surplus clothing covered in blood, soot and gods-knew-what else.

"Seriously.  Thank you, Mrs Allen."  he said with an incline of his head towards Cassie's mother.  "A levelheaded response, absent of hysterics, finger-wagging, disapproval or 'what is this I cannot even'."  He smiled slightly under the layer of grime on his face.  "It's plain to see where Cassandra gets her centered forthrightness from."  He gestured at the blonde girl that the older woman still had her arm around.  "You should be proud of her.  Without Cassie, we wouldn't have been able to find the enemy, or how to get to it, or known how to defeat it.  She saved lives - not just ours, but countless others who would have suffered if we'd failed."

The green laser of his gaze swung to Devin's father.  "And you and Misti should be proud, Carl.  Devin and Marissa were fucking champions out there.  Devin got us there and back again under the worst of conditions, and when we were in that place his first thought was to save the helpless, to rescue Sophia and Tawny, and with them secured he then pitched in to fight an enemy that could have ripped him in two with ease.  He didn't fuck up, he didn't hesitate."  Heedless of his wounded leg, the lean teenager stood up and limped over to his backpack, rummaging around in it as he spoke.  "And Marissa?  She used herself as bait, distracted the enemy so the rest of us could do what we needed to do.  She fought shoulder to shoulder with us."  He straightened and turned back around, a couple of MRE packs in his hands as he limped back to the bed.

"Devin... Marissa... Cassie... Cade... Sean... Kat... Autumn.  All of us went out and kicked ass."  he said forcefully as he glared around at the adults present, zero fucks evident in the icy depths of his gaze.  "We might be your offspring, but stop thinking of us as 'kids'.  Because none of you, and no-one you can name, could have done what we did today, and until Mrs Allen all I've been hearing is irrelevant, incredulous and frankly ungrateful bleating."

In the silence that followed he ripped open the two MRE packs, smaller packages extracting themselves and floating into the air around him in a loose orbit.  He looked pointedly at his friends, his chosen family... his pride.

"Who wants pizza?  It's MRE pizza, but hell, it's pepperoni, cheese and carbs."  He gave them a crooked smile.  "I'll save a couple of pieces for Autumn and Marissa when they get back."

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Marissa shrugged, cup already in hand as she surveyed her options for second rate coffee.  One of the nurses, for some reason just couldn't keep her eyes off them as they browsed.  "It is what it is," she said glumly, holding her blanket to cover herself as she decided.  "And thank you.  You know, for saying you're my friend.  I'm horrible at it, I know, but aside from my brother I've never really had real connections with people, sooo..."

"It's like, look at my mom, right?  Tell me I'm not like her, you totally can't right?  I know I'm horrible and changing isn't as easy as simply saying it, it's like... cardio for inner peace: you're intentions are to change, but no one ahs time for an hour on the karma bike five or more days a week, it's stressful and tiring and we all have better things to do.  Full disclosure, I didn't join up with you guys to save the world or make friends, I saw Cody... or, rather what he'd become, by 'saw' I mean in the word-of-mouth sense."  She filled her cup with the magic brain-zoom fluid and couldn't help but notice the nurse still staring at them, a hefty, angry looking woman that looked like she should be instructing German boot-camp not helping with the wellbeing of people.  "His choices, his hate, his avarice... those made him into that thing and all I could think was: we have no idea how he got that way.  Was he offered a deal and took it or was his name added to the dotted line slowly and methodically over time as he consciously allowed himself to be cruel and depraved and... Autumn, a part of me wonders how many letters of my name I'm up to on the dotted line... I don't want to end up like that."

"So... I escape.  Party a little bit, meet up with guys in Great Falls.  Sometimes I just do it at home and once I did it too hard and now everyone knows," she sighed and chortled morosely.  "Because my mom is hell bent on making sure she ruins anyone's life who is having a better time, prettier, or just plain enjoying themselves because she's fucking miserable.  I still haven't told her my card got punched, of my god she is going to lose her mind."  Finally she rolled her eyes and sighed and looked to old nurse and confronted her.  "What?"  The nurses didn't say anything and just averted her eyes for a moment, going back to some paperwork on a clipboard.  Marissa whispered.  "Christ, some people."

She sipped her coffee, smiling at her 'bestie'.  "This is nice." she laughed.  "Talking.  Maybe it's the endorphins and adrenaline wearing off, but-," the blood soaked teen again noticed the nurse glaring and Marissa pursed her lips and glared back.  "Yes, lady, that right, take it in.  We're soaked in blood and covered in bandages the same way unfulfillment and poor life decisions cling to you like a cloud of misspent youth and lifetime of regret."  Cup to her lips Autumn's eyes couldn't get much wider as they darted back forth while her friend made a scene.  "So go deliver your towels or bedpans or whatever they trust you to handle Kronk, and don't worry about what's going on over here."

Annoyed, but defeated, the nurse simply shook her head and walked off.  With a scoff, the Queen of Mean sipped her coffee again.  "I swear, people are so rude.  Anyway, like I was saying, maybe it's those wearing off, but it feels good to just not be in bitch mode, y'know?  Despite my mom, I'm pretty relaxed right now.  Happy to be alive, I guess."

Edited by Dave ST
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"That's a good reason to be happy, yeah," the redhead replied slowly, unsure if this actually, genuinely qualified as not being in bitch mode. Maybe rather than an on/off switch, bitchiness was more like a volume knob; they were just so used to Marissa being on the higher end of the scale that when she did ease up a bit, a level of awfulness that would barely be tolerated from anyone else felt like a welcome shift toward humanity with her. "Y'know, Marissa," she began, "she was probably just freaked out and worried, so maybe that wasn't really nece-" Dark brown eyes framed in long black lashes blinked back at her, uncomprehending, and Autumn sighed. Baby steps. "Never mind. Anyway, so..." 'So,' what, Autumn? Where are you planning on going with this? Are you gonna talk about her crazy mom? About her overdose? About whether or not Cody could've been saved? About whether you think she's going to end up like him? Taking a sip of day-old coffee, Autumn made a face. If dealing with Jason Bannon, she decided, was like a perpetual obstacle course that tested resolve and mental agility, interacting with Marissa was like trying to navigate a hedge maze littered with land mines, pit traps, and ninja assassins that really just tested your fortitude and sanity. No... She said she's in a good mood, so... Maybe something she enjoys? Possibly?

"So, listen." The soles of her boots squeaked very softly on the gleaming floor as Autumn shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "Everything's kind of crazy right now, and I don't know what to ask or talk about first, but as far as all of-" she lifted her free hand, comparatively clean owing to the gloves she'd worn, to indicate the girls and their general surroundings- "this is concerned, everybody's probably gonna need time to process. And unless you want me to go tell your mom how old she looks, or something- which I will totally do, because it's not like your parents can ground me for telling them they suck- all I can do for you there is just, listen, I guess. Which is also fine, but this is probably not the best place for that conversation, y'know? So." She took another long drink of the bitter, caffeinated liquid and, shuddering, poured in another packet of creamer, swirling the cup around to mix it. After another experimental sip, she nodded and continued. "I was wondering if you'd be willing to help me with something. Nothing weird!" she added hastily, blue eyes widening. "Just... So, I have this dress, for Homecoming, and I really like it, and my mom bought me some shoes to go with it. And, you know, they're great and all, but, um. I-"

"She bought you heels, didn't she?" the canny brunette interjected, eyeing her bestie shrewdly. It was the only logical reason someone like Autumn would've mentioned shoes, since her entire footwear collection seemed to consist of hiking boots and old Converse sneakers. Talk about a stereotype... Marissa wouldn't be the least bit surprised if she shuffled around the house in those stoner sandals, Birkenflops, or whatever they were called.

"Yeah. And-" The red-haired young vitakinetic could feel the blood rushing to her cheeks- her own this time, thankfully- as her face grew warmer under Mari's scrutiny.

"And you've never worn them a day in your life, have you?" "Obviously," her dark eyes seemed to say.

"I mean, kind of?" Autumn hedged. "Not these specific ones, which are..." She glanced down at Marissa's ruined hiking heels. "Well, for me they're kind of on the tall side. But I don't wanna break an ankle or anything at the dance, and you wear them all day, so I thought maybe you'd help me out? Y'know, teach me your secrets, or something? And that would give us chances to talk about the other stuff, too."

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"No, it's fine, I get it," Marissa smiled.  "Sorry, I'm kina coming down from whatever we lived through and I could probably talk your ear off.  That's not a bad idea, though.  I'd love to help you out.  God, I'm pretty sure I was born in heels, so this will be a snap.  Just text me and I'll come by," her face winced every time she sipped the coffee, announcing that it was offensive to her palate.  "Okay, this is some gross coffee."

The two laughed for a moment, "Right?" Autumn snickered.  "I didn't want to say anything, it's free, I would've felt bad, but... wow."

"Ugh," she waved off Autumn's attempt at politeness.  "Don't worry, I'll say it if you don't.  I'll be me so you don't have to," she smirked.  "Besides, I need to see this dress of yours so I can select a makeup palette for you.  Something light so as to not hide those beautiful freckles of yours but still make your eyes pop.  Trust me, with my help, Jason's heart is going to get up to at least six, maybe seven beats per minute, easily."  She smirked, poking fun at Autumn's stoic boyfriend.  "I uh, guess we should head back, and... thanks."  Without warning Marissa wrapped her arms around Autumn and held her tightly before finally letting her go.

"Friends are nice, I like this."  Marissa chuckled.

The redhead at her side scoffed bemusedly.  "Eh, it's new to you.  The novelty will fade in a few weeks."

"That's fine, just as long as you remember that I'm in charge," her bestie said in a mirthful tone.

"Oh no."  Autumn chuckled.  "No, no, no."

"Yup, totally am.  I make the rules."  They stepped into the hallway and made their way back to the infirmary, both hearts a little lighter than they were a moment ago.

Edited by Vivi OOC
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"Oookay."  Carolyn Cassidy's voice cut across the somewhat awkward silence following Jason's small rant.  The teens and parents looked around to see the Cassidy clan standing in the doorway to the infirmary, arms laden with hampers, bundles of clothes, towels, blankets and assorted necessaries - or at least, items which the family had determined might conceivably be needed.  "I'm not sure what we walked into here, and it's nice to see Jase riled up and defending his friends - so long as he's not bitten anyone-"

"Not yet.  Night is still young."  Jason said around a mouthful of MRE pizza.  Carolyn smiled tightly, then pursed her lips and looked at the tattered, bloodied Fellowship, her gaze finally settling on her son with a mixture of relief and anger.  She swept into the room, Laurie and Jack following her over to Sean's bed and setting their bundles down on convenient surfaces.

"However," she went on  "I have a few questions for my boy, here."  She watched as a slice of plastic-wrapped pizza floated past her and landed in Sean's hands.  "Starting with: what enemy?  Why are you all covered in blood?  Why did I find out about this from Misti Jauntsen- Hi, Carl - of all people?"  She crouched down and peered at her son, trying to see past the muck to determine whether any of the blood was his as Sean squirmed slightly under the maternal scrutiny.

"Yeah-"  Laurie started hotly, obviously wanting to add her own ire, but Carolyn shot her a look over one shoulder and Sean's younger sister subsided, giving first her brother, then Devin, then the apparently uncaring Jason (still eating his slice of pizza) a hard glare.  Her mom returned her gaze to Sean, one eyebrow raised expectantly.

"Well..."  Sean looked at her uncomfortably, then at his friends in mute appeal.  Jason was staring at him as realisation dawned.

"You didn't tell them."  he stated rather than asked, his brilliant emerald gaze unwavering from his friend.

"Oh man..."  Devin shook his head.  It was his turn to smirk now that Sean was the focus of maternal ill-will.  "Dude, we agreed to tell the 'rents.  You are boned."

"Gentlemen, please."  Carolyn said in a tone that hinted that, whilst she wasn't angry at them, she really wanted to get on with being angry at her son.  Over at the entrance to the infirmary, Autumn and Marissa came back in and, immediately picking up on the atmosphere, moved over to where Jason and Devin were observing with a certain level of schadenfreude. "Sean?"  Carolyn's enquiry contained a whole library of subtext.

"What's going on?"  Autumn murmured to Jason, smiling faintly in thanks as he passed her a slice of admittedly strange-looking pizza.  She hopped up to sit beside him on the bed and tore open the package.

"Sean didn't tell his folks what was going on."  Jase murmured back.  Marissa's eyes widened even as she accepted a floating slice of wrapped MRE.

"He didn''t? Oh man.  He is so boned."  she commented in unconscious mimicry of her twin, who nodded, still smirking.  The peanut-  well, pizza gallery went back to observing.

"Well, I was trying to protect you."  Sean said earnestly, clasping his fingers together and trying not to fidget.  "I didn't want you to worry, or freak out, or try and do something that'd get the enemy to notice you-  I was going to tell you after we made it back, only it didn't work out that way..."

"And you didn't think we'd worry about you after we found out you had snuck off to fight god-knows-what?  You didn't think that would lead to me having a fit every time you were home late from school and calling round all your friends?"  Carolyn's voice raised a couple of decibels.  "And what if you didn't make it back, hmm?  Who was going to tell us you had d-"  She broke off then, looking down and away from her son, reaching up to squeeze the reassuring hand Jack had placed on her shoulder.  After a moment, she composed herself.

"Was it going to be Jason's job?  Devin's?  What if none of you made it back and I had to find out from one of the parents who did know?"  She shook her head, disappointment, sorrow and anger in equal measure in her tear-filled eyes.  "How could you, Sean?"

"I did not know either."  Miyako spoke up, her dark eyes glancing around the room then at her son.  "Your friend says you were brave and that I am wrong to treat you like a kid, but you did not tell me what you were doing, Cade.  You tried to, but..."

"I messed it up." Cade admitted, nodding.  "I kinda wanted to try again, but I wasn't sure how to, and then things started happening fast and-"

"We will talk about it later."  his mother said quietly, but there was an echo of the same hurt in her eyes as was more evident in Carolyn's, who was less easily appeased.

"I asked you a question." she pressed, looking hard at Sean.  "How could you keep something so important from us?"

"I wanted to tell you."  Sean tried not to sound like a kid caught playing hooky, he really did.  But there was no disguising the gut-punch of guilt as he looked from his tearful mother to his stern father to his angry sister.  "I really did.  But every time I started to try... the words just wouldn't come out."  He gestured expansively.  "'Hey, guys, I'm off to fight a demon of death and terror in a hell-dimension mirror of our world.  We have to do it, otherwise it will hunt us all down one by one like it did to Charlie.'"  The effeminate teen's mouth twisted in a frown, tears in his own eyes.  "I was scared shitless, mom!  Of what we had to do, of telling you, of how you guys would react...  Pick one."

"Oh, honey..."  His mother hugged him, heedless of the blood and dirt, and after a moment he hugged her back, trying not to bawl his eyes out in front of the others - especially the Jauntsens.  "I'm still mad as hell at you."  Carolyn murmured to her son.  "Don't think you've heard the last of this.  But I'm glad you're okay too."

"I wondered if something was up earlier."  Laurie said quietly, her anger dissipating somewhat in the face of Sean's obvious guilt as Jack reached over and ruffled his son's hair.  She looked from Sean over to Devin.  "You guys were being a little shifty at the picnic."

"Mmmffmmfff."  Devin shrugged, his mouth conveniently full so he wouldn't have answer, his smile guilelessly innocent (and utterly full of shit) as he met Laurie's stare.  She switched targets to Jason, who merely shrugged in much the same way.

"Wasn't our place to tell."  was all the laconic genius stated, his logic utterly reasonable and irrefutable.  "We told our parents.  Well, most of us."

"That's enough."  Carolyn admonished the closest thing she had to a second son as she stood up, looking over at him.  "Are you okay?"  she asked then, noting the blood-stained rent in his combat pants.

"I'm fine."  Jase replied calmly, looking at the thermos flasks Jack was unpacking from one of the bags.  "Coffee in those?"

"Yes."  sighed Carolyn as Jack, smiling and shaking his head slightly, watched a thermos float over to Jason's outstretched hand.  There were always constants in life - Jason and coffee was one of them.  "Where's Gar?"

"Right here."  Jason's dad said as he came in, a shopping bag containing a change of clothing in one hand.  Jase looked at him askance.  "What?"  his father asked, coming to a stop by the bed and placing the bag on the end of it.  He smiled at the redhead sitting next to Jase.  "Hey Autumn."

"You're here."  Jason stated, a little puzzled, setting the thermos of coffee aside for the moment.

"Sure am.  Brought a change of clothes."

"But I said you didn't need to come down-"

"Shut up and c'mere."  Gar pulled the sitting teen into a hug.  "You might not have needed me to, but I needed to."  he said to the nonplussed young man, his voice a murmur.  "Glad you're okay."  After a moment, the slender youth's arms went around his father's shoulders, patting once or twice.  It was a curious sight, for sure, when one considered that in this case, it was the child doing the comforting to the parent.

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"Well," Carl started, speaking over the emotional silence that befell the room.  "I think it's safe to say that none of us in this room really know the others as well as could, considering our children all go to school together."  The act was on.  Carl Jauntsen carved out his own little space near his son where he could pace and address the other parents, the similarities with his son was evident, as Devin would do the same thing: move about, clear people away, and become a center of attention when he had something to say.  "I think we all have a lot to unpack, right?  If the texts I'm getting from my wife, Misti, are any indication, she's out in the parking lot trying not to have a mental breakdown."

"Little late for that," Marissa murmured.  Pizza MRE's were gross, it was just a fact, you had to pace yourself.  Edible, but not particularly flavorful, but there she was almost finished with hers while Jason, who'd started before the others, was close to about halfway with his.  Like most things edible, pizza MREs did not survive once it came in contact with the gravity of Marissa's celestial body.  Her father shot her a glare that said 'later'.  "Sorry, please, go on..."

"My children tried to tell us earlier about all this and your daughter is right, Carolyn, it was so absurd we didn't, we couldn't believe it." Carl gestured to Sean while speaking to his parents.

Devin snorted back a laugh.  "Sean's a boy, dad."

Carl's expression drained completely and looked to his son.  "Seriously?"  He asked deadpan while Devin just nodded.  Ever the salesman and quick to recover, he continued on, nonplussed by the revelation.  "Well, okay.  So, that's a thing.  See?  Lot's of unpacking.  We're all on unfamiliar ground here, so why don't all of us, parents and children, all gather at our place tomorrow night and let the kids explain everything to us and get us caught up to speed.  No judgements, completely open minds and we can begin to tackle this incredibly weird series of events with all of us starting on the same page, hmm?  I think opening dialogue is the best place to begin."

"Dialogue?"  Jack Cassidy retorted, the large, well fed and hard working blue collar man chortled under breath like he'd been insulted.  "You want dialogue, Jauntsen, let's dialogue about how your two little monsters have bullied our children for the past few years.  They sent our kids home in tears and fearful to even step foot in school.  Let's 'dialogue' about that."

Concerned, Devin's father looked at him with that stern look that all fathers had.  "You two bullying kids at school?"

"In our defense dad, they let us keep doing it." Marissa said casually, like there was nothing wrong with that statement and making no attempts to deny it at all.  She happily chewed her pizza MRE, thrilled to have something to munch on.  Jason and Autumn both just slowly turned to their heads to look at Shelly's High reigning aristocracy.  She was chewing contentedly, picking away at the food with her nails, when she stopped and looked at them.  "What?"  She shrugged.  "You did."

"Yeah." Devin admitted while shrugging like it wasn't a big deal.  "But we're all cool now, it was a phase."

Carl smiled, and also shrugged like it wasn't a big deal.  IT was like looking into a mirror with Devin and Carl standing next to each other.  "And there you have it.  Just a phase, Jack.  'Everything's cool'.  Like Fonzie."  He smiled, pleased with his Pulp Fiction reference.  So with that settled, Carl moved on.  "See?  All done.  Proof that this can work."

Devin groaned and rolled his eyes.  "Don't bother, dad.  Trust me, these people can over complicate boiling water."

"Be that as it may, arguing or spitting venom, assuredly isn't going to solve anything." Carl stated.  He looked to his son, then to his daughter.  He paused and winced his face slightly trying to discern what it was she was over there picking at.  "Marissa, Monkey, what are you eating?"

Marissa huffed, irritated and launching a volley daggers at her father with her glare.  "Don't call me Monkey, and I don't know, daddy, Jason gave it to me.  It's not bad."

"See?" Devin outstretched a hand towards his sister, looking at his father with vindicated righteousness.  "I told you.  Any guy offers her something and she just sticks it in her mouth."  Some parents attempted to hide their smirks while others looked at the twins with some measure of being unamused by their behavior.

Carl's had shot up the back of Devin's head, making a 'thump' sound that some may have argued sounded hollow.  "Stop trying to embarrass your sister.  Christ Devin, we're in a hospital for crying out loud."  He turned to the others seemingly with no loss of his composure.  He looked to Autumn and grinned slightly.  "I'm not sorry you had to see that, however."  Meanwhile Marissa made a nasty face at Devin like she's gotten away with murder while her brother rubbed the back of his head.

Edited by Dave ST

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On 2/18/2021 at 8:16 PM, Bannon said:

"Who wants pizza?  It's MRE pizza, but hell, it's pepperoni, cheese and carbs."  He gave them a crooked smile.  "I'll save a couple of pieces for Autumn and Marissa when they get back."

Kat's arm instinctively went up as she turned hungry eyes to Jase. "Thanks!" her weary voice chimed in as a small package floated toward her. "Bloody brilliant!" she added, after opening the pack and smelling the contents, a blissful expression on her features. She carefully extracted the square of pizza from its enveloppe, holding it much like a zealot would a relic of his faith. In fact, it was clear to anyone in the room that food might have been Kat's religion from the beginning. She was completely oblivious of the world around her, captivated by the tasteful promises in the palm of her hand, treat her stomach loudly showed it had been expecting. She moistened her lips and took a bite, ignoring the faint, distant pull of the pain in her bandaged, disinfected cheek. The cut was but long gone from her thoughts, Kat entirely focused on what she was tasting as she leaned, eyes closed, on the chair back.

She let out a deep sigh.

What if...

Thump. She glanced at Devin rubbing the back of his head and held a giggle in, the last twenty seconds of conversation surrounding her finally kicking open the door of her social awareness. She looked at her pizza, held it in front of her and dropped it. Or rather, left it to float in front of her while she turned gravity applied to the pizza into heat.

Ding. Her internal microwave timer chimed in. The pizza, warm to the touch, fell into her palm as heat dissipated. She took another bite and rolled her eyes. "Guys!" she articulated around a mouthful of warm tasty tasties. "Who wants their pizza warm? It's. Awesome." The happy growl of her stomach agreed heartily.

"Warm?" Autumn blinked at the petite French girl, then peered speculatively at the pizza-ish rectangle in her hand. "Yeah, sure," she grinned, shrugging a little. At this point everything was kind of out in the open anyway, and heated pizza was always better than room temperature.

Kat grinned back, leaving her chair to approach her friend. "Can you lower your hand when you feel the heat?" She asked, mimicking the motion, "I don't wanna cook it too." And so did Autumn, her hand leaving the slice to float by half a dozen inches, heat radiating around for a moment. Ding. Flop. The MRE pizza fell back into the redhead's hand, warm enough to smell appetizing, but not enough to hurt to the touch. The French girl smiled. "Bon appétit!"

"Anyone else-" Her voice died out as she noticed her father, standing in the door frame with worry in his eyes. The fledgling pizza warmer remained silent as she approached and gave him a one-armed hug, burying her face in his chest while sparing his vest some pepperoni and cheese stains. At ease knowing his daughter was in one piece, Josh returned the embrace and ruffled her not-so-clean hair, only to look back at his own hand and ask: "Gosh, honey, where have you been? Are you alright? How are you feeling?"

"I feel... like I've been trampled on by a bunch of sumo wrestlers." Her reply came out muffled. He raised an amused eyebrow, casting a glance at the other teens, taking in the blood, dirt and bandages. "That place was more than gross..." She added, raising her head. It was clear in her expression she was glad to be back, alive.

"What's that?" He asked, concerned, his chin motionning at her cheek.

"Uh... nothing. God... I don't even know what I'm gonna tell Tess." Josh rubbed the back of his head - much like his daughter would have - with his clean hand, pretty much convinced they weren't supposed to tell Tess anything remotely close to the truth as it was. "Oh, remember the cocoa?" She asked, taking a step back and another bite in her slice of pizza.

Her father nodded, remembering their conversation in the car. "I do." He grinned. "I'm glad you're safe."

"Mr. Jauntsen was talking about something like that, like... a group meeting, tomorrow evening. I'm just..." She pointed at her chair. "Gonna be over here, enjoying my pizza." Adding motion to her words, she stole back to her chair and sat gracelessly and teenagerly, resuming her dinner.

"You do that," he replied with a smile, slightly furrowed brows, and glancing, inquisitive, at the twins' father.

Edited by Catherine 'Kat' Barras

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Carl looked askance from the newcomer to his diminutive offspring and then back to him. "Yeah, mister...?" "Williams." Kat's dad supplied, smiling easily as he extended a hand. "Call me Josh." "Pleasure." Carl shook the offered hand, and gestured at the assembled teens and their parents. "Yeah, I was just saying that I think it'd be a good plan for us all to get together somewhere out of the way and let our kids explain what's going on. You know, over snacks and drinks, chill atmosphere away from prying eyes. That sort of thing."

Ian Allister finally made his way inside, having finally found the chance to do so. He heard the tail end of Carl's idea and nodded. He could feel the eyes upon him, and knew this was likely going to be a grueling experience. "A group meeting somewhere private, with plenty of room and after the kids have all had a chance to clean up does sound like the best place to actually clear the air." His voice drew his family's attention, with a certain weariness in Cade's eyes, and warning in Haruka's. There have been far too many secrets being kept. I can only speak for myself, but I would have liked to know about what's really going on, long before it got to the point where our children risking their lives was the only recourse to resolve this situation."

Cade had also taken one of the MREs and dug in, not really bothering to taste it, this wasn't the first time he'd had one, and he found himself nodding. They came here to get checked out, not to have it out with their parents, or watch them have it out with each other.

"Understand something, Sheriff." Jason's voice was it's usual glacial timbre as he studied Shelly's lawman. "Us risking our lives was always the only recourse to resolve the situation. And it may well be so in the future, too. None of you could have protected us - turns out it was our job to protect you. Be prepared for that to be the case again." In the silence that fell immediately after, he glanced at Carl. "A meeting to air the subject seems logical." he shrugged, glancing at his father. "I've already told my dad everything. But I'm sure that's not a universal situation."

"Sweet," Devin chuckled. "Party at our place." Marissa huffed, rolling her eyes. "Deej, shut up." Carl quieted his children with a gesture and a 'knock it off' glance. "Not to fall too far down a rabbit hole, here, but, you actually knew about this, Sheriff? How is it you knew and the rest of us were completely in the dark."

"I'm dying to know that myself," Misti's voice from the doorway was cold and the glare she shot at the Sheriff could have melted a steel beam. She'd apparently decided to rejoin the others and her heels made a familiar sound as they hit against the tiles, it was like seeing what Devin and Marissa would be like in 15 years of so. She folded her arms and waited for him to respond. "Please, regale me, us, as to why you knew our children were in danger and thought it prudent to simply... not Sheriff."

Ian frowned, and shook his head at Misti's scathing request, and answered her. "I knew some of it, and saw some of what they were up against with my own eyes. In the end the decision to go through with this was their choice, dangerous or not. Nothing was really going to keep them from going. In the end, Yes I did turn a blind eye for the most part, because I knew the only way they'd all come back is if they remained together. I believed in them. Think of that what you will, but the fact is these kids did go out and save two lives, two lives we couldn't have saved, and they all came back to us."

"Their choice? Their choice?! God dammit Ian, those are my fucking kids!" Misti's voice raised and it was possible she was simply saying what a few of the other parents were thinking. "Stop them or not, who the hell are you to 'turn a blind eye' to the safety of my goddamned children! You have a responsibility pinned to your chest to, at the very least, say something, anything to us!" "Michelle," Carl placed his hand on his wife's shoulder in an attempt to calm her a bit but instead she simply spun about and latched onto her husband tightly. Misti was no the best mother, sure, but instinct and love still tore at her heart at the prospect of losing her babies. "I know, just... we'll all talk later. I know you're hurting." "The hell is wrong with this town," she sobbed into Carl's chest. "What is wrong with these people?" "I don't know honey," Carl consoled her. "We're close to Canada, it could be any number of things... they're safe, right? Emjay and Deej are safe, that's all that matters tonight, okay?" He held his wife and let her cry as he silently mouthed to 'sorry' to the sheriff.

Autumn stared hard at the adults, blue eyes bright against the flaking red remnants of violence, pain, and misery that marked her features- that marked them all. It wasn't the penetrating glacial gaze of the young man sitting next to her, or the contemptuous glimpse of the void in Marissa's dark-eyed glare, but an all-encompassing, fathomless sea of roiling emotion. "Really?" she asked tersely, all her reserves of diplomacy having been depleted for the day "Is this the 'chill atmosphere' we can look forward to? Sorry, Mr. Jauntsen. I don't think your place is a good idea. I'd rather do this somewhere a little more neutral."

"Maybe the Project can give us a room," Cassandra mentions. "Fit it up with padded walls, some stress balls..."

"And you think the location is the issue, uh," he snapped his fingers, still holding Misti with his other arm. "Autumn," Marissa helped him out, not even paying attention, but now on the prowl for more MREs. "Autumn. Because she'll be anywhere else you select, your place, our place, the playground at the school. Doesn't matter where are, sweetie, distressed and angry parents are going to be there." He shrugged. "My wife's children, our children were almost killed tonight and I know you went through one hell of an ordeal, well, now we're going through one too. You can't expect everyone to handle this situation in precisely the manner you want it to be dealt with. My wife is emotional, Gar isn't, Jack and Carolyn are rational, me? I'm just trying not to lose my own mind here, so can you please, just not bust our balls tonight, kid?" At Cassandra's interruption he looked to her, then the rest. "Project? What's 'project'?"

Cassandra hesitated for a second. She was pretty sure she wasn't supposed to be spilling this bean...but fuck that. Their parents got to know about psychic powers and alien demons but not the quasi secret spy agency or whatever it was? No, down that road was just more scenes like this: trusts broken, tears shed, angry words all around. Rip off the bandaid. Besides. They had a right to know. She took a deep breath.

"There's a group in town that's been monitoring Shelly secretly. Keep tabs on all the weird shi...stuff that goes on here. Researching it. That kind of thing.  We met with them a while back, and we compared notes. They told us what they knew, which wasn't a lot...we told them what we did, which back then wasn't a lot either."  Clearing her throat, Cassie went on, "They have a base. Underground. Plenty of space for us to fight in."  She then glanced at her watch and said, "And someone should be showing up to shut me up in...four...three...two..."

The adults present all noticed the same thing: the way that the teens eyes all swiveled towards the door as Cassandra counted down. As the blonde seer's voice stated "...One." there was a moment when even some of the parents, sucked in by the air of anticipation, half-expected someone to appear there. No-one did. The moment stretched out, and Cassie looked at her watch, then at the door, then at her mom and shrugged. "Guess no-"

The click of heels interrupted her as a expensively and fashionably dressed lovely brunette entered the infirmary room. She smiled a little at Cassie, shrugging lightly. "Very sorry for being late." she apologised, both to the clairvoyant and to the room at large. "I had some calls to make. Annette Giles." she said by way of introduction to the parents present - at least those who had not met her yet. She seemed perhaps the tiniest bit out of breath, as though she'd been hurrying. "Current head of the Project Cassandra mentioned." She went on smoothly, her tone one of polished authority as she got down to business.

"I can, of course, lend one of our conference rooms to you all as a meeting place if that is your wish. No underground base - there are several suitable large meeting rooms in this Medical Center, and we can guarantee you privacy." She raised her hands, palms out in a gesture requesting forbearance. "I would ask your understanding, though: whilst your marvelous children are of course free to tell you whatever they wish, I am not similarly free to answer questions. The Project, at least for the moment, is classified on a number of levels, and I have no official permission to share anything." She paused for a moment. "Yet, that is. I am stretching the limits of my remit simply being here and offering the neutral ground you mentioned."

She glanced around at the adults, her expression one of pleasant professionalism. "I won't ask if there are any questions, ladies and gentlemen, because I will not be answering them. If a room is needed for a meeting, it can be provided. Whatever you decide, I would suggest that you let these brave young people go home, get cleaned up and rest, however. There will always be more questions, but there is a finite amount of time."

Rather than bite Carl's, or Misti's, or Sheriff Allister's head- or her own tongue- off, Autumn shoved the remainder of the (thankfully) warm, moderately flavorful pizza into her mouth, chewing through crust and pepperoni and unmeltable cheese as though she'd suddenly developed a grudge against food. She was just washing the last bit down with the day-old coffee she and Marissa had found by the nurse's station when Cassie spoke up, and the redhead relaxed visibly. Oh, thank fuck. Getting in touch with Ms. Giles was one of the options she'd intended to suggest in the wake of Carl's invitation; even before Misti's encore performance it just didn't seem right to have a meeting like the one he'd described at someone's house. The whole situation with the Dark, and people being frustrated, and demonstrating powers, and just all of it was kind of a lot to put in somebody's living room, even if he'd made the offer in good faith.

"That'd be my vote," she added as Annette wrapped up. "It's secure in case things start to get out of hand, we can all be equally awkward and uncomfortable on the car rides home afterward, and, also..." Her nose crinkled unhappily as she finished off the last of the dark liquid in her cup. "It kind of fits, since we were here the last time." She glanced back at Carl and, grudgingly, nodded. "And I do think it's a good idea to make sure everyone's on the same page, since obviously not everyone is."

"That's the only thing I've heard this evening that's made any sense," Misti's voice was a stress ridden collection of fractured tones. No one here could understand why, and the Jauntsen's certainly weren't going to stand and explain themselves to anyone. "Devin, Marissa, let's go. We're leaving." When the twins didn't look like they were planning on moving swiftly her tone grew more stern. "Now, let's go."

"Jesus, mom, can you not freak out in front of the hot director?" Devin complained, flashing an awkward, yet flirty smile at Annette. "Hey, Annette. S'up? So, uh, I saved the world tonight, any of your exes pull that one off?"

Annette managed a polite smile. "Hello, Devin."

"C'mon, Romeo." Carl collected his son and began the task of ushering him to the door. He looked back to his daughter. "Monkey, c'mon, let's go."

"Ugh!" Marissa rolled her eyes and grumbled with annoyance at her father. "Stop calling me that! Christ." She stood and dumped her blanket off in the chair where she was sitting, revealing her shredded outfit that barely preserved her modesty at this point.

"And what the hell are you wearing?" Carl took up the concerned father attitude. "Where did you save the world? In a night club?"

"Ugh, I wish, dad." She lazily schlumped off to meet up with her family. "No, it was a blood strewn hellscape that appeared to have been made from the disemboweled victims of souls less fortunate than ourselves. Hence, why we smell like puss and disease." That was not the reply he was expecting, and just remained quiet as they all exited the infirmary. "Devin'll draw it, no worries."

"Later guys," Devin offered up quietly. "See you later, you know... if we're not grounded for life. Nice work tonight." As he passed by Annette he placed his hand up to his ear and silently mouthed 'call me' and sent a wink her way.

Spoiler

Thanks to all who took part in the group IC chat.

Current in-game time is about 20:30 on Labor Day.  We're at a point we can do closing poasts now - get your characters home, some private interaction with families, and end the day.

 

Edited by GDP_ST

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