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Autumn Keane

Study Hall [Ep. V Side Fiction]

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This is a fluffy little collaboration written with help from with Kat's player. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I really appreciate the opportunity to explore our characters a bit. Thanks so much, Drid!

Thursday, 29th August. 6th Period.

Her head full of binomials and logarithms, Kat pensively walked out of the classroom, heading for what was going to be Study Hall. She wasn't really sure she needed Study Hall. What good would it do to her to mull over something she already had integrated and was already eager to apply to a thousand things, would she know more about its actual fields of application? She could see the use in practicing a newfound skill, like her powers, but then her powers didn't really compare with Maths. To her, there was a world of differences between theory and matter. Mainly the fact that if you do it right, theory is always right, when any given experiment might fail because of an uncontrolled parameter being either unknown or handled clumsily. Like what she experienced in the hospital. It clearly demonstrated that unlike theory, you must practice with a physical skill in order to successfully use it. Maths weren't a physical skill, but rather a mind tool requiring solid logics to be used. And boy, was her own logical tool solid. She had complete faith in her ability to complete the Maths class by the end of the semester. As to surviving till the end of the semester, well, that was another topic. She shuddered at the memory of the Spawns of the Dark.

She was mulling over that, and a whole lot of other things, when an unruly mane of fiery curls caught her attention. Autumn. She said something about Study Hall, at the bleachers. Oh right, Homecoming! She increased her walking pace to catch up with the taller redhead.

Study Hall, in theory, was an opportunity for students to review notes, catch up on reading and assignments, and make some headway on group projects. In practice, it was usually more like a social hour at the end of the day, where diligent academics dutifully blocked out the chatter with discreet earbuds and read Horace or polished their college entrance applications. As Autumn ducked under the arm of one of the football players leaning against the door frame to flirt with a grinning blonde, she muttered a quick "'Scuse me," and headed into the classroom. The last week had been a whirlwind of fear and excitement, a seemingly never-ending roller coaster of white-knuckle drops, exhilarating loops and twists, and madness-inducing inversions interspersed with too-brief interludes of seeming peace before they were all hurled headlong into the unknown again as the tracks fell away beneath them. It was, Autumn reflected as the mental image of a nightmarish theme park faded from her mind, kind of a lot. Things were happening so quickly, even in her own personal life, it was hard to keep up: in the last few days she had gained two new friends (?), she'd stayed over at Marissa-Fucking-Jauntsen's house, and The Impenetrable Jason Bannon had agreed to go camping with her tomorrow night... Plus there was the whole sort of vague plan of inviting the rest of the crew out there before Homecoming. What the fuck am I even doing?

It wasn't like she'd never had any friends at all, or that she didn't know how to “people,” but she'd spent an unusual amount of time with the other teens in the group recently, and it felt a little odd, if she was honest. With the low groan of her chair seconding the redhead's unsettled state of mind as she melted bodily into it, Autumn watched from her seat near the window as the other students filtered in. For the Fellowship, this was their chance to fill each other in on things they'd discovered or plans they were making... But they'd already done that during lunch, sooo... Her toes tapped rhythmically on the floor as she hummed quietly, debating whether she should stop somewhere for actual food after class, or just wait until she got home. With the usual crowd intermittently making their appearances, her blue eyes skimmed over the faces of the other students as they entered.

Her gaze stopped on a fragile figure that had somehow become familiar over the last few days. Sand-grey booties. Blue jeans. Grey T-shirt. Really pale skin. The French girl. Kat. She definitely could use a bit of sun. She watched as the petite redhead made her way through the flock of students picking their tables, to the one Autumn was sitting at. She looked... twitchy, with the arrhythmic pace of her steps, with her grey-blue eyes jumping to a million places at once, faithful image of her focus solely driven by stimuli.

"Hey," the French girl dropped, once she finally reached her destination. The word held an underlying question the teen was not sure how to ask, but her eyes now firmly set on Autumn told she had some business with her.

"Hey," the American redhead replied automatically, unthinking, abruptly distracted from her fantasy of a double order of garlic parmesan fries. She blinked, focusing on the delicate newcomer's features, and tried again. "Sorry, hi," Autumn amended with a grin that was at least partly in keeping with the casual apology, but partly not. French fries were serious business, after all. The young Shelly native took another look at Kat, at her uncertain expression, and tilted her head, eyebrows raised in inquiry. "What's up?"

The petite redhead rubbed the back of her head and looked around, replying with a low voice: "Er... At lunch I understood you could explain to me, during Study Hall, what... Homecoming... is? Mind if I sit?"

Autumn's lips rounded to an 'o' as she watched Kat's hand mechanically travel to the back of her head, a gesture of discomfort stressed by the pout she suddenly made while adding: "To be honest, since the day I came here I've kinda felt like I'm learning life all over again..."

"You are not wrong," Autumn grinned, nodding in commiseration. "And I've lived here all my life, so..." The slight upward twitch of her shoulders served as physical punctuation, the implied termination of a thought not worth pursuing; it would be nice to have a conversation that only involved normal sources of awkwardness and social anxiety, for a change, rather than the nightmare levels of weird they'd all been exposed to recently. Gesturing toward an empty seat, the Shelly native straightened in her chair as the bell rang. She had suggested Kat save the Homecoming discussion until after their meeting at the bleachers, and although she herself planned on flying solo, filling the new girl in would give her a chance to decide if she wanted to do the same, or to find a decent date- or to just skip the whole thing altogether. 

"So. Homecoming," she began, keeping her voice low as she pulled out her Environmental Science textbook and opened it, flipping to the review section at the end of the first chapter. "Maybe you guys have something kind of like it in France? It's sort of like..." Peering up through her lashes at the fretful waif in front of her, Autumn pursed her lips. "Like a big school festival. It goes on for a week or so, and kind of gets the whole fall sports season started. It's kind of a big deal, more for the football team than anything else, but there's the game, and the parade, and all that. The dance is what a lot of people think about, though. I mean, it's not as big as, like, prom, but still kind of important. I'm pretty sure Marissa's had her dress planned since last Homecoming," the freckled redhead quipped, glancing surreptitiously toward the front of the room to catch a glimpse of her self-proclaimed bestie.

Kat moved to the chair next to the one Autumn was sitting on and pulled it back while listening pensively. She pulled out a couple books from her backpack and sat down, flipping the pages of her English course at a fast but regular pace, her eyes scanning the words she read at their usual speed... lightning speed. English didn't feel as boring as Maths, but to be honest with herself, Kat realized that compared to her calculating skills, her English was far from perfect. Still, that book wouldn't last longer than any other book she had ever set her eyes upon.

At Autumn's last comment, the petite redhead's eyebrows jumped sky high. "Woah, sounds like a big deal." She replied in a whisper, actually amazed. "I don't think we have anything like that in France, at least in high school. Maybe in college but, well, I've never been to college..."

The pages of her book stopped flipping and Kat remained silent for a while. "I don't know if I'm gonna go... is it worth it going without a date?" She asked, turning to her new friend. "I mean, look at me, finding one is gonna be hard work, half the damn school thinks I'm twelve, and before I started putting some make-up on, they also thought I was a boy!"

Autumn blinked at that last, a wave of bright pink flooding her cheeks as she averted her gaze. "Yeah... Sorry about that. Not that I actually said it out loud, or anything, but, um. I did kind of think it," she admitted with a slightly guilty grin, her nose crinkling. "I, uh... I also wondered if you might be related to Sean, at first, since you guys look sort of alike, and in a weird way, it fit, I guess? A boy who looks like a girl, and a girl who looks like a boy, I mean." The light bronze flecks sprinkled across the restive red-haired girl's face all but disappeared as her blush deepened at the admission. "Just a first-impression thing." Way to go, Autumn, just make the new girl feel even more awkward, why don't you? 

The toes of her sneakers scuffed at the floor as she swung her feet. "Anyway. If you want to go to the dance, you don't have to get a date date." The American pursed her lips, resting her chin on her fist as she really looked at the petite girl next to her, at her elfin features, almost translucent skin, and delicate frame; like Sean, Kat would probably get carded for everything, for the rest of her life. "You probably could- I mean, you're definitely cute enough- but there's only a couple of weeks, and chances are good they'd just be trying to get into your pants." There was a long pause, and Autumn grinned again, more mischief than apology this time. "Unless that's what you want," she teased. "If not, you could always go with a friend, or friends plural. I plan on flying solo, myself. I did the date thing last year, but we're-" Again, the freckles on Autumn's nose scrunched together. "It's complicated," she finally conceded after a moment, turning the page between her fingers idly back and forth.

"Hm, hm," the French girl nodded, while silently glaring at her book. She couldn't decide yet. Too soon, and yet too late. She was indeed not intending to get anyone into her pants - yet, she thought - but dancing sounded nice. If she managed to somehow find a decent dress, then maybe she'd 'fly solo', as her friend just said. She leaned over the table, resting her forehead on her arms. "How complicated?" she asked, as the curious enough part of her brains managed to squeeze the question out.

"Used to be my best friend, complicated," she replied, all mischief and levity vanishing from her features like a clear sky suddenly overshadowed by late summer storms. The sun outside was still shining, though, as the athletic young woman tugged at the string of her hoodie and glanced out the window, away from the new girl and the uncomfortable question she'd inadvertently asked. She couldn't even talk to Jacob about Jacob, so how was she supposed to explain it to anyone else? Autumn could hear Sean chatting with (probably) Jason somewhere nearby, the technophile's sweetly girlish voice easy to pick out even in a crowd, and someone listening to Ava Max a little too loudly behind her, but there was still an odd sort of silence in the wake of her admission. "So, yeah. Not really an option this time. It's fine." It's fine, she repeated mentally. Shrugging dismissively, the Shelly native flipped the page in her textbook, not even glancing at the text printed there. "The best part's the parties after, anyway." There was a brief pause as Autumn turned back to her 'study partner' and realized she knew basically nothing about Kat. At all. "Actually, do you party?"

Whoops. Kat's hand mechanically travelled to the back of her head and rubbed it. Under her folded arms, her English book suddenly looked interesting as she considered her friend's - question mark? she thought - reaction. Nice one. Shouldn't have asked that. Bad Kat. Wait, did she ask me something? "Do I... party?" The French girl winced before adding: "Hmm... I don't go outside much..." She gestured at herself, from head to toes. The gesture in itself wasn't very lengthy, but spoke eloquently of the reason why.

Autumn stared at her for a moment, her features a mask of uncertainty and confusion as she followed the movement, panning down the other girl’s slim frame where she sat perched uncomfortably in the chair. "Party," she repeated slowly, meeting Kat’s eyes for emphasis. "Like, do you drink? Smoke? Get a little faded? You, uh. Don't really have to do it outside."

The petite redhead blinked, then chuckled at the thought. "Oh, that! Yeah, when the mood calls for it, I guess." She fiddled with the pages of her book, taking a look around at the other students. "Don't take it the wrong way, but I really don't like Study Hall."

She paused for a moment before clarifying. "It's just... you know, it feels like watching a show a second time. Not as interesting to me because I know what's going to happen. Same thing for... this." She pointed at her book. "You ever get that feeling?"

"About homework?" With a quick shake of her head, Autumn choked back a laugh. If this girl thought she was going to get anywhere on scholastic merit, poor Kat was going to be sadly disappointed. "No, I don't. I'm honestly just praying I graduate on time. The struggle's pretty real. I mean, in theory Chem'll be a little easier with Jase and Cassie at the table, but that still leaves English. You'd think being born here would make the language easier." Her grin broadened, and she flipped the end of the thick braid Marissa had woven back over her shoulder. "So, what else do you wanna know about Homecoming?"

The French girl was starting to get hungry, her stomach producing a faint menacing growl, loud enough to raise a curious eyebrow from a couple faces around. A cute pout appeared on Kat's lips for a while, as she wondered if being ready to go to Homecoming - just in case - was a good idea. "Hmph... I don't know if I'm going," she replied, "but if I do, I need a dress. Any good shop you recommend in Great Falls?"

Well, at least I'm not the only one thinking about food, the freckled girl laughed to herself. If she didn't already have plans for the afternoon, she'd probably invite the newest addition to Shelly's impressive array of redheads out for something delicious and possibly regrettable. "Honestly," she admitted, "no, I really don't. I’m not really all that into shopping, so I'm probably just gonna go with my mom at some point, or maybe... pick something up online? I don't know. I mean, I just want something comfortable, that fits, and doesn't cost a metric fuckton. But if you really want to go all out-" Autumn hesitated, a question implicit in her tone. Sure, Kat had met Marissa, but meeting Marissa was something altogether different. "Devin's sister, the really, like, crazy pretty girl with dark hair? That's kind of her thing."

"Oh, yeah, sure... She seems... nice?" Kat checked the time on her phone before putting it away with a deft flick of her hand. "I didn't really talk to her yet. I mean, my Dad's girlfriend probably has some good advice too. We went shopping yesterday, it was fun.... until I accidentally activated something in my brains and it scared the shit out of me" She added in a low whisper.

That got Autumn’s undivided attention in a way that talking about dresses hadn’t. With all thought of hunger and fries and similarly mouth-watering badness banished to whichever part of the brain happy dreams disappear on waking, she peered thoughtfully at the other girl, warm blue eyes narrowing in evident concern. She activated something in her brain that scared the shit out of her. Okay. So… What did that mean, exactly? Obviously some new aspect of Kat’s powers had surfaced, and of course that would be terrifying- especially if it happened by accident, and in public. The thought of being in that position herself sent a shiver rippling down her spine like icy fingertips, and she couldn’t help but shudder a little despite the warmth of the day, grimacing. That was kind of a nightmare scenario, wasn’t it? 

The French girl didn’t miss her friend’s glance. “I just… did some weird stuff with my Shine, and it kind of took me by surprise.” She whispered with a shrug. “Probably won’t happen again. At least not randomly. I mean, I know it’s there now.” She glanced back at Autumn with a poor grin. “I really hope Sunday’s training will help.”

Weird stuff. Huh. Resisting the sudden instinctive urge to give the tiny redhead a hug, Autumn instead just nodded her agreement; not only were they in class, which would’ve made it super weird, she barely knew the girl… which would’ve taken it from “weird” straight to “outright fucking creepy.” Still, Kat’s attempt at a smile wasn’t exactly convincing, and a pang of sympathy twisted uncomfortably on itself in the pit of her stomach. There weren’t really any instructions on how to deal with hell-spawned nightmare beasts, or aliens, or alternate dimensions inhabited by things that wanted to destroy and consume and kill you- in roughly that order. There weren’t even any instructions on how to just get through junior year without totally losing your mind, or how to cope with losing someone you loved. Watching the porcelain-skinned pixie’s expression falter, her features wavering for a moment between the need to be strong and the desire to break down again at the memory of what had happened with Tess, Autumn nodded again, as if in confirmation. Everybody was dealing with something, weren’t they? Hmm.

“Hey.” She smiled a little, her sea-colored gaze warmly encouraging as she reached out an amber-flecked hand. “Lemme see your phone. Just for a second.” Dubiously, the gamine French import complied, and her American counterpart deftly swiped the screen with her thumb as she hummed quietly to herself, shifting a little in her seat. As Kat watched, her new friend (?) snapped a quick selfie that was all white teeth, pink cheeks and cheerful blue eyes, and then rapidly entered her contact information. “There,” she declared finally, returning the smartphone to its rightful owner with an air of triumph. “Text me sometime. You can come smoke with me and we’ll go make poor life decisions involving salt, grease, and too much sugar.” 

“Sure.” The French girl replied with a genuine smile that was all dimples. At that moment she decided that she liked Autumn. Kat was nothing like an outdoors girl, but somehow she felt like she needed friends more than anything else in her new world. Besides, if the world were ever to turn into Darkspawn shit, at least she knew she could count on a few people here.

And Autumn was really nice. There was something with her, that Kat couldn’t quite put into words, but it made her want to know her better. “Thanks,” she added with a wicked grin, “I think I need more sugar in my life…” Truth be told, Kat’s stomach couldn’t agree more. It did so, loudly.

Fortunately for the ravenous teen and her stomach, the low rumble went unheard amidst the chaos of the final bell and the mass exodus of students to their lockers, the parking lot, and the field. The two girls smiled at each other, perhaps a little less awkwardly than they had at the beginning of class, and reflected as they headed their separate ways that maybe Study Hall had  been good for learning something new, after all.

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Thread locked and wrapped.  +1 XP each.  Nicely written and good glimpses into the characters.

 

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