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WEIRDER STUFF

Episode VI Intermission: Meet The Parents


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Lilly had been listening to the conversation, if it could be called that, off and on a bit as she tried to push certain thoughts from her mind with varying degrees of effort. The talk of saving Cassie's dad brought things into focus more clearly in her head, giving her something to latch onto and push the rest of her feats, thoughts and questions aside. 

Finally she lifted her head that had been resting on her hand and opened her eyes. Her expression was calm, even thoughtful for a moment, but there was a glimmer of intensity in her eyes as she finally spoke up, her gaze shifting around the table, making eye contact with friends and parents alike, each for a moment, before moving to the next, "When we are ready, be that in minutes, hours, days or weeks, we are going to Site B. We're not going as some act of teenage rebellion, to be defiant of any of you, either. We are going because we are really the ones that can go. We know this. We are going to go and do this for Cassie's dad and Todd, just like we would go and do it for any of you at this table, and others. They need our help and we have been given the ability to help them, in ways some of you don't even grasp right now."

"Yes, we're your daughters and sons, and your worries, concerns, even fears are valid, and nobody is discounting that. We know it's dangerous. We've know that every time any or all of us have faced the the Dark or it's avatars, or corrupted minions, or whatever. We've been given these gifts though, weather on purpose by Coyote, or by accident, or by fate, or some combination thereof, and so, like it or not, we have the best chance of success with the least amount of risk. So we are going."

Lilly sighed and then sat back in her chair, giving a single shrug as she continued, "Yeah, maybe it's not fair for this, I dunno, responsibility I guess, to be thrust upon the shoulders of teens, but I think we all pretty much made peace with that some time ago. Your sons and daughters have stepped up, time and again, and done it on our own in secret, more or less. With your support... your trust... your faith... we can do, and be, sooo much more."

"So as hard as it might be right now, please just try to have faith in us. Faith that we are the people you've raised us to be, or even better."

Lilly sighed softly... somberly to herself, "...even if we haven't always been in the past."

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“Well,” Misti’s voice rose after Lilly’s with that ever present, condescending sneer.  “That’s a very impressive speech, young lady, but rest assured my husband and I will keep our own counsel as to what manner of activities our children will be participating in.”

“Hostage rescue is best left to those with proper training and authorities,” she looked at Cassie’s mother without a single expression of compassion in her features.  “It is regrettable that your family is going through this sort of experience, it truly is.  As Ms. Giles already pointed out, these people already opened fire on soldiers, once.  What do you think they’ll do when your daughter is in their sights?”

She looked to the other parents and continued.  “Or your son, Miyakko.  Or your son,” she looked to the Cassidys.  “Regardless of how confident they believe themselves to be they are still children.  Whether they choose to accept that or not is not the issue.  The actions of the Bannon kid alone and his blatant disregard for the law is proof enough that they are not responsible enough to bear the burden of these abilities.  The boy is a high functioning psychopath, and you want to turn him lose on people?  American people at that?”

“This is, without a doubt the most difficult thing to process in all my years, and I’m not saying I don’t believe it.  I’m saying that until Devin and Marissa are eighteen their welfare and well being are our responsibility, and I’m permitting them to run off into some dank mountain cave to fight demons or monsters or whatever the hell-“ she rolled her hand a bit, over and over, to express her uncertainty.  “That we simply just cannot allow.”

“Mom!” Devin protested.

Marissa craned her head, fuming.  “You can’t be serious!  We’ve already-“

“Enough,” was all she said as her glare reminded everyone who Marissa’s mentor was in the Evil Queen department.  They way the twins lost their fire in a heartbeat made it obvious that despite all their rule breaking and do-a-they-please mannerisms, they were still beholden to the rule of their parents.

“This is bullshit.” Devin raged with enough attitude to remind his friends that he was the guy who tackled Chet and broke his nose for no apparent reason.

“Another word,” she rose her finger to silence them.  “And I will have you both in a military academy by weeks end.”  Both of her children glared and squirmed like they wanted to burst with expletives.  “Try me.”

“That out of the way,” she composed herself and continued as her children stared daggers at her.  “Mrs. Giles your facility seems to be the only in existence that specializes in these sorts of phenomenon and so I’m willing to let the past be the past, since it’s obvious no one really seems to be aware of their children are doing or where they are.”  The slight jab she took at the competency of the other parents didn’t go unnoticed.  “These abilities do need to be understood as well any possible detrimental effects they could have on their bodies in the long-term.  We can arrange times for them to meet with your staff and assess their potential and an any possible side effects, but they are, under no circumstances, to take place in military, or para-military endeavors they may place their lives or the lives of others at risk.”

“If you truly wish to help our children understand these strange new abilities, then prove it by helping them, not sending them off to be slaughtered.”  Misti and Annette locked eyes and it felt like a comic book where both parties were shooting eye lasers and the strength of the beams just kept shifting slightly in the favor from one of them to the next, but neither said anything at first, they just stared and postured as they prepared their next argument.

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"Mrs Jauntsen."  Annette clicked the remote in her hand as she resumed her seat, the holographic display dying as the lights came back up to their previous levels.  "Your opinion of other people present notwithstanding, how do you know your children are not already in the sights of Klein and his people?"  She gestured at Jase.  "We know, for a fact, that the attack on Jason was a premeditated, planned action by Enterich, who we have reason to believe is working with or for those behind Crossroads, who in turn are the people we believe are funding and backing Professor Klein.  I hate to be alarmist, but it is reasonable to assume that these people have taken an interest in your children, and it is wise to assume they know at least as much about everyone here as we do.  They had access to all the Project files for a long time before we were able to secure them."

"Now we will, of course, do our utmost to protect your families.  You need to understand what we are up against, however."  Annette's tone was crisp and no-nonsense.  "Professor Klein is a genius with access to resources and technology on par with the U.S. military.  He is also ruthless and, we believe based on the profile we've constructed, narcissistic to the point of being megalomaniacal.  Despite the fact that your children were not part of the test group for Proteus, from the communiques we recovered between him and Cook we learned that Klein regards himself as the reason for their extraordinary powers.  He also believes that these young people are the key to unlocking the vessel - particularly Devin and Sean, doubtless due to their particular abilities."

"So, to sum up:  Aeon and Branch 9 have no particular wish to place your children in danger; we want to help them to understand their gifts, and for them to help us in turn.  Klein regards your children as a resource to which he is entitled, and has shown no compunctions about using kidnapping and murder to get his way.  The people backing him have as much money and influence as we do.  We can't get to him without launching a major military operation for which we have neither the budget, manpower, nor the authority.  So you have a limited pool of options on how to deal with this, Mrs Jauntsen.  None of which are safe."

"You can proceed as you have outlined: we will help scientifically and medically evaluate Devin and Marissa - indeed, everyone who wishes to be evaluated similarly.  While that's going on, you can hope that Klein doesn't send anyone to come and collect - or kill - any more of these young adults."  The Aeon woman's tone hardened.  "You can, of course, try to cause an official fuss.  Go public.  Write to your congressman.  The FBI.  The media, even.  You will cause a lot of trouble to the Project, certainly.  We will likely be shut down, have to close up shop and disappear.  As for our enemies... well, at best you will inconvenience them.  As you've learned here tonight, our enemy is connected on all sorts of levels and has no problem whatsoever in cutting off loose ends to avoid exposure.  Simple fact is, the longer we wait, the longer it takes to recover Site B and oust Klein, the more danger we are all in."  Annette looked around at the gathered parents and teens.  "The more danger the world is in, frankly.  Whoever these people are behind Crossroads and Klein we, as in 'everyone who is sane', don't want them getting their hands on an alien vessel."

"Or you can let your children help us to help put together a plan which minimises risk and loss of life and puts an end to Klein's grip over Site B and the shadow he is casting over your life right now.  We might be able to accomplish this without Devin's unique contribution.  But not as cleanly, not as quickly.  Same goes for all of these remarkable young people present."  Annette spread her hands to the sides, encompassing all those at the table.  "Obviously you all have to think this over, so I'm going to call my part in this meeting to a close."  She stood, smoothing her skirt with her palms as she smiled faintly.  "I'll leave you the room.  Talk among yourselves as you like.  I'd avoid using phones or emails to discuss this in future, however, for security purposes.  Please understand that whatever course of action you choose, normal life is over.  Your children have found themselves with gifts which make them incredibly valuable and important to whomever knows they have them.  The Aeon Society's sole goal is to understand those gifts, and to help those who have them make the most of them.  Others are less benign, I assure you."

She set down a small stack of cards on the table before her.  "My number for those of you who don't have it, should any of you wish to contact me."  With that, the representative of the Aeon Society nodded formally to those assembled, smiled once more, and turned to go.

Spoiler

Formally, the meeting is over.  The parents have been brought as much up to speed as is feasible (the main purpose of the meeting) and there's little point in going further or getting into planning whilst there is disagreement with how to proceed.  Annette will be leaving the room unless someone stops her.  She's a busy woman.

Decide what your characters and their folks are going to do now.  The thread will of course continue for a bit, and can split off into other threads if people split off into more private meetings.

 

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Jesus fuck, Autumn swore mentally, raking a hand back through the tousled remnants of what had, perhaps an hour ago, been a ponytail. No more meetings. That's it. I'm so fucking over it. Sure, they'd have to get together to make plans for Site B eventually, but as with so many other things, that was a problem for Future Autumn to worry about, because it clearly wasn't happening tonight. Tonight had, unfortunately, more or less lived up to her expectations, and the biggest difference was that Lilly had actually shown up, which... maybe was a positive thing? It was hard to say. The situation was weirdly convenient, yeah- especially since Enterich was apparently involved- but it was at least better than reading about pieces of her being found all across Toole County. That was a grim thought, for sure, and the redhead shivered a little in spite of herself. As chairs slid back from the table and people began casting about for some clue on how to proceed, she glanced down at the Jauntsens: defiant, arrogant, and- to the earnest, straightforward young woman- largely incomprehensible. They'd said themselves they weren't part of the group, and now their mother had reinforced that notion with a parental edict. And maybe they were being influenced by the Dark, and...

Nothing. Blinking, Autumn realized she felt nothing at all about their attitude, their insults, or their potential exclusion. And that, more than all the frustration and disappointment, bothered her. It felt weird to just not feel, especially when dealing with people whose mere existence all but demanded some kind of reaction. Then again, maybe it would be weirder if she wasn't completely emotionally exhausted after everything that had happened since the ride to school that morning. Getting to her feet, the red-haired teen stretched as she stood, folding her arms behind her head with a soft huff.

"I need to go talk to Annette before we go," she murmured, addressing her parents. "Give me just a minute?"

"Sure," Dana agreed quietly, reaching up to smooth the stray curls back from her daughter's face with a faint, wistful smile. "That'll give us time to make sure we have everyone's numbers. Go ahead."

"Thanks," the younger Keane girl replied gratefully, leaning over to hug her mom with one arm before heading off around the table in pursuit of the Aeon representative. "'Scuse me, Miss Giles? Hey, have you got a sec?"

Annette paused at the open door and turned, smiling a little as her dark eyes met Autumn's sky-blues.  "Ms Keane."  she acknowledged, her tone friendly enough as she pursed her lips slightly, considering for a heartbeat before nodding.  "Yes, I have moment or two.  How can I help you?"  she asked with polite warmth.  Behind Autumn, back at the table, Dana was quietly speaking with Teresa Allen and Ian was likewise murmuring with the Allisters as the meeting started to break up.

"Cool. So, listen. Uh, that was a mess." A grimace etched faint lines in Autumn's bronze-flecked forehead and around her eyes as she regarded the older, more sophisticated woman somewhat self-consciously. It was hard to tell if Annette was sincere in her desire to help, or whether she was moving them all around like pawns on a chess board in the way Dale had ascribed to Enterich, or even both simultaneously; knowing she'd potentially had information about the attack on Jase wasn't exactly a mark in her favor. "Sorry about that, and thanks. For setting this up, I mean." Rocking back on her heels, the energetic teen considered all the plans they'd made already that hadn't worked out, and wondered idly whether these would be any different.

Taking a deep breath, she glanced back over her shoulder, watching as several of the parents studied the cards Annette had placed on the table and exchanged contact details. The meeting had been a massive disappointment, of course, but it was over, and that was that; no take-backs, no do-overs. Not that she had the mental energy to work out what she'd have done differently right now, anyway. The only thing left to do was look forward, focus on the practical. Everything else could be handled later. Tomorrow, maybe, she allowed cautiously, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. "Anyway, you mentioned you thought I might be able to help with the cats we brought back. Or with the big one, at least. When could we set something like that up?"

Annette's smile widened a little as she studied the young woman.  "As soon as is convenient for you, I'm certain.  Understand, please, that I don't want to get you - or myself - into trouble with your parents.  Assuming they agree, you can contact me and come in whenever you are free to do so - giving me a day or so's notice would be best, of course.  If one or both of your parents wish to accompany you to observe, that is also fine."

"Oh." The girl's wide, expressive eyes widened further at the suggestion. Having her folks come along was a good idea, definitely, and the fact that she hadn't actually considered it beforehand was writ plain across her face. Not only would it help her parents get a better grasp on what she could do, and- more specifically- what she was trying to do, they'd be a lot more chill about the whole situation if they could actually be there with her. Well, she conceded, remembering her father's one-hundred-percent not chill reaction to Jason's powers at the Field. Probably more chill. Maybe. "Yeah, sure. That sounds good. I mean, there are other things I want to ask you, but honestly, I'm kind of over today already and I'm guessing you are, too, so I'll talk to Mom and Dad and see if they're okay with coming out this weekend, and we can deal with it then." Her features scrunched slightly again- not quite a grimace, this time, and not quite a smile. "If that's cool with you."

"Perfectly acceptable, Ms Keane."  Annette inclined her head, lips quirking warmly.  "It's not an exaggeration at all for me to say I shall be looking forward to it."

"Same," Autumn replied succinctly, a note of enthusiasm adding color to the otherwise monosyllabic response.

Back at the table, the Bannons had gotten to their feet and were sliding their chairs back under the polished conference table.  In contrast to Jason's glacial calm, Gar looked like he was ready to chew up barbed wire and spit nails.  "I should be giving them a piece of my mind."  he muttered under his breath to his son, casting a dark sideways glance at the Jauntsens.

"Here and now, it'd be wasted."  Jase replied phlegmatically, his own voice an undertone.  "Serving only to attract their spite to you, at which point things would simply escalate.  Save your energy for those who are worth it."  He straightened up slightly as Ian and Dana Keane, done with the other parents, approached.

"Hey."  Gar said, half-turning to regard the Keanes with a mixture of friendliness and wariness.  Neither of Autumn's parents missed the tight expression around the older Bannon's eyes, though he made an effort to relax as he smiled wanly at them.  "Heck of a meeting, huh?  Lots to process, for sure."

"That's one way to put it," Ian agreed dryly, acknowledging the understatement with a faint, crooked grin. "I'm not sure if I need a physics degree to work through what I just heard, or one in psychology."

"Maybe both." Arching an auburn brow bemusedly at Gar and then her husband, Dana's expression softened a little as she turned to Jase, once more studying the new-old scar along his cheekbone. "I'm sorry about what happened this morning. I knew you'd been attacked, but I had no idea you'd been-" Exhaling, the pretty veterinarian licked her lips, her mouth going dry at the idea of someone doing to her, or to Ian, what the two marshals had done to Jason. "That you were shot," she added a little more quietly, studying the laconic young man for any sign of distress and, disconcertingly, finding none. "Autumn didn't mention it earlier. I suppose she didn't want me to worry about something that had already been resolved." Her mouth curved in a gentle, slightly rueful smile.

"...And I didn't think it was my place to say." Rubbing the back of his neck, Ian had the good grace and presence of mind to look uncomfortable, and rightly so. He'd had ample opportunity to share the gory details over the course of the afternoon, but... how could he? He'd seen what Jason Bannon had looked like lying there by the roadside, and special powers or no, it was hard to reconcile that image burned into his memory with the lanky, composed teenaged boy standing before him now. "Which, in hindsight," he admitted grudgingly as his wife's warm hazel eyes swung sharply in his direction, "might not have been the best call."

"It's okay, Ian."  Jase said in a quiet, matter-of-fact tone, bright green eyes regarding both adults with that air he had of someone studying, of learning how people were, how they reacted.  "I imagine it'd be hard to broach as a topic of discussion at the best of times."

"Yeah."  Gar nodded, his own voice thickening slightly as he glanced at the still-composed youth.  "It's a lot.  Cassie Allen's vote of confidence in Jase's resilience is all very well, but..."  He didn't finish the thought and, picking up on some indefinable parental harmonic, neither Dana nor Ian needed him to.  My child was the silent, uniting unspoken thought between the three.  "But anyway, he's here.  And alive."  Gar said gruffly as he fought back the urge to hug his strange son to him, simply reaching up and patting Jason on the shoulder.

"Much to some people's dismay, I am sure."  Jason said calmly, something unpleasant glimmering for a second in the depths of his cold eyes.

"Don't, boy."  Gar shook his head, the hand on Jason's shoulder becoming a firm grasp.  "Don't mistake angry, ignorant and scared-stupid people with enemies.  Nobody needs that right now, hear?"

"If you say so."  Jason glanced at his dad, shrugging as his expression settled back into its usual mask of calm contemplation.

"And," Dana interjected, her smile warming by degrees as she regarded first the elder Bannon, and then the younger. "There are plenty of people who'd rather see you well and happy than not- one of whom I've raised, so on that basis alone I'd say it's a pretty great group. I... may be biased," she allowed, her tone light and musing as she looked pointedly at the others around the room and then nodded in the direction of the door, where Autumn and Annette were talking.

"You're right, though." Shifting back to the more pressing topic, the svelte Shelly native sobered a little. "It really is a lot to process, even with Autumn filling us in about a lot of this. Spaceships, gods, other dimensions..." A quick shake of her head and a brief glance skyward provided a wordless summation of her feelings on the utterly unbelievable revelations of the evening. Maybe Dad wasn't completely wrong, after all, she reflected, considering Owen Kavanagh's odd blend of pragmatism and superstition. "We've been catching up with some of the other parents, just making sure everyone has our contact information, and thought we could exchange phone numbers. You know," she added unnecessarily, her long, slim fingers twining together. "Just in case." Her meaning required no additional explanation- not after all that had happened, and might still in the days to come.

"Well, yes," Ian put in, gingerly resting a hand on the small of his wife's back, and although she didn't pull away, neither did she lean into the tentative embrace. "That, too. We were talking earlier, and since we didn't have a chance to get together at the picnic yesterday, Dana and I also thought it might be a good idea for the five of us to meet up for coffee, dinner... That kind of thing. Y'know, since our kids are-" He took a deep breath, his cool blue eyes roving around the room before settling on Jason's impassive features again. "Spending a lot of time together. Obviously, we don't know much about you guys, and I'm guessing the reverse is true."

"Sure.  That actually sounds like a good idea."  Gar nodded as the notion sank in, smiling at both Keanes as he rubbed at the back of his neck, thinking it over.  "So when-?"

"How about tonight?"  Jase suggested straightforwardly, causing all three adults to blink and exchange glances as he went on, unfazed.  "It's not exactly late.  You could come up to the farm for coffee and a talk - just a getting-to-know-you thing."

"Uh..."  Gar looked at his son for a moment, then at Ian and Dana.  "I dunno... I don't see a problem with it on my side.  How about you guys?"

"I..." Clearly taken aback, Autumn's father flailed about for a response, blinking in surprise. "No?" He hazarded, glancing down at his wife, who shrugged and smiled, as if to say, 'Why not?' "No, I guess... I guess there's no problem with that. We weren't sure how late this thing was going to run, so the two of us have already eaten. What time were you thinking? We, uh. Don't want to impose."

"We've already eaten as well.  And it's no imposition."  Gar replied with a shrug of his own, smiling at Dana self-deprecatingly.  "Being a bachelor household, it's not like we run to a schedule."  He glanced at Jason, who whilst appearing mostly calm was examining all three grown-ups expectantly.  "And it'd be nice to have company over."  he added, returning his gaze to the Keanes and smiling once more.

Nodding, Ian Keane checked his watch, momentarily lost in thought. It was still early, even if it was technically a school night, and it wasn't as if Autumn would be out on her own... No. Not anymore, she won't be, he decided. Not until this is all over.

"Why don't we follow you guys out, then?" Dana proposed to the Bannons, frowning a little at the expression on her husband's face and nudging his side gently in a silent bid for input.

"Hm?" He blinked, his gaze moving from face to face as her suggestion finally penetrated the grim depths of his thoughts. "Oh, right." With an abashed smile, the canny entrepreneur shook his head. "Sorry, I was somewhere else for a second there. I think that's a solid plan, yeah."

It took only a few moments more to finalize the arrangements: they'd meet in the medical center parking lot, and the Keane family would trail Jason and Gar out to the farm. After a few brief goodbyes, Ian and Dana escorted their daughter out of the room and into a quieter- ostensibly saner- evening.

 

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As the Jauntsens stood they produced business cards, much like Annette.  Why an administrator at a school would need a business card wasn't particularly clear, but then, the parents didn't know that Misti, despite being a total bitch, was a PhD in Behavioral Sciences with a Masters in Psychology.  "We're going to make sure the rest of these people have our information since Mrs. Giles made it abundantly clear that her organization in completely inept at keeping its assets safe and incapable of providing us any measure protection, it appears we are all we have."

"No, Mom," Marissa sneered as she collected her large designer bag and stuffed her phone and note pad back in it.  "They are all you and dad have.  We're done with you.  And if you think for a second you're going to find some way to profit from our abilities, you're gravely mistaken."

"Marissa," their mother glared at them, keeping her voice low.  "You and your brother are already on thin ice tonight.  Don't push your luck."

"Or what?"  Her daughter glared back.  "You'll send me to a military academy?  Do it.  In eighteen months they have to let me go and I'll not only have my abilities, but I'll have the rest of my life to dedicate to ruining yours."  Misti seemed taken off guard by the sudden hostility but was also fully aware that her own daughter was a borderline sociopath, after all, she (sort of) raised her.  "I'll meet you at the house, let me know if I need to start packing."  With that their daughter simply scooped up her bag, tossed it on her shoulder and stormed out like one would expect and angry teen to do, her heels thumping on the carpet before clacking loudly and echoing in the hall outside.

Misti sighed.  "Unreasonable, as always.  Devin, talk to your sis-"

"Nope."  Devin chuckled and shook his head.  "This is your mess.  Like she said, we're done.  We put up your bullshit all our lives.  Controlling us, trying to profit from us.  Never once letting us just be kids and now this?  You clean it up.  Excuse me, I have something I need to say to someone."

He was still an obscene amount of pain, like every muscle was pulled and aching all at once, but he felt he could he might be able to pull off one good, short distance hop.  Besides, all the parents were in the know now and Devin loved to show off.  Before his mother could enact a reply his eyes shimmered purple and his form broke down into lavender and purple motes of millions of atoms and... he was gone.  Popping out of sight of his mother and reappearing in front of Cassie and her mother in a violet shimmer and soft, audible *bamf*.

Mrs. Allen jumped with a start, even Cassie flinched, closing her eyes and flexing her fists tightly until her nails were digging into her palm.  All the parents, at least those who'd never seen what Devin was capable of, couldn't help but stop and just stare in silence for a moment, unsure of what to say or even do after seeing something like that.  Fists clenched, Cassie took a breath and glared at Devin.  "I hate when you do that." His shit-eating grin didn't calm her mood at all.

"Just wanted to catch you before you left," he said, dismissing her complaint and dodging her being mad at him like he usually did.  "Hey Mrs. Allen," he nodded and smiled at her.  She didn't say anything, just awkwardly smiled and nodded back.  "Look, Cassie... I know you're mad at me and you're right, you totally should be."  The son-of-a-bitch went and turned on his charm, taking special care to make sure that anyone could hear him if they were interested in listening could hear him paint himself as the cavalier willing to swallow his pride and apologize to his Homecoming date without a care as what others thought about him.  "Things got heated earlier and I was a complete jerk.  I just wanted you to know that I didn't mean to hurt your feelings.  I was wrong and I'm sorry."

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Cade listened to the meeting end, and sighed.  He didn't want to speak with Marissa, The twins were high on his "people I don't feel like speaking to" list at the moment.   Having listened to their parents, Misti in particular, he saw where their attitudes came from, and was very glad his own parents weren't anything like them.  Though looking at his mother, he knew she was angry.  She wasn't one to normally show it in public, but he and his father both knew they were in for it.

Cade rose, and she looked at him.  "I'll be back, I've got to speak to Ms. Giles before we go."  She nodded almost imperceptibly, and Cade left the room.  When he was heading out he could see Annette still there, and he called out to her.  "Ms. Giles, can I have a moment of your time?"  She stopped and waited for him to come to her.  

Cade smiled , and nodded.  "I wanted to ask about setting up that visit..."  He looked at Annette, who just smiled back at him.  "I may not be able to heal, but I can at be there when he wakes up, help him remain calm."   It was clear the athletic teen wished only to help, and that he felt a certain responsibility for the animal.

Annette's smile widened a little.  "I just set up something with Ms Keane, as well.  I'll extend you the same arrangement - with the approval of your parents, you can come in with Ms Keane to visit the complex and assist with the animals.  A parent can come with you if that makes them feel better about the whole thing, but you have to ask approval first.  I don't want to risk angering or alienating anyone's family more than is necessary at this stage."  She tilted her head, regarding the large teen intently.  "If your parents agree, you can coordinate with Ms Keane.  Is that acceptable?"

'Yes ma'am, of course it is, thank you."   Cade would smile, and turned to head back, only to find his parents waiting for him outside the room. Clearly it was time to go home, and have a much more private Talk.  He typed out a quick message to Autumn, seeing if she wanted to coordinate their visits, as he went to leave with his parents.

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Jase nodded to the Keanes as they turned to go and collect their daughter, then exchanged glances with his dad. Gar, having just glanced around himself to take stock of who was left, nodded once in acknowledgement. "Ready to go?" It was as much a statement as a question - Gar was not good at large gatherings at the best of times, and this one had him itching to crawl back into a bottle.

"Almost." Jason replied. "Just going to have a word with Lilly, see how she is."

"Alright, yeah. Guess she's been through it hard, from the sound of it." Gar nodded thoughtfully. "Want me along to run interference with her folks?"

"It's okay, dad." Jase's lips quirked in a faint smile. "I am what I am, I did what I did. It's not your responsibility - whatever the Misti's of the world think. I'll catch up with you in the parking lot."

"Alright. I'll get Teresa Allen's number, then I think I've got the whole set and the complementary binders." Gar quipped, patting his son on the back. "See you outside."

The Pryors were themselves just done exchanging numbers with those closest when the tall, spare figure of Jase approached them. Both of Lilly's parents were wary, their smiles tighter as they met the unconcerned, cold green ice of the young man's stare, and it didn't escape him that they moved almost unconsciously to form up protectively either side of their daughter. He didn't let it concern him: they didn't know him well and what they'd heard here tonight wasn't salutary - at least by civilised human standards. Their protectiveness was understandable behaviour, that was all.

"Lilly." he said in his usual quiet tone as he came to a stop before them. He studied her, eyes calm in a scarred face as he took in her appearance. "I'm glad you're... here." he said, substituting the last word at the last second. His head tilted slightly. "How are you, other than the obvious?"

As the teens spoke the elder Pryors listened them, Cassandra trying to not be too terribly overt about it by feigning interest in something or someone across the room, while her father was much more clear in his monitoring of the conversation.

"I... I dunno." Lilly sighed as she diverted her gaze to the ground for a moment. "I'm tired, for one. Well, I guess 'worn out' is more accurate." she said, and largely looked the part as well. Her eyes were tired and shouldered were slouched. Her usual smile was replaced with a weak frown and the usual energy and light seemed absent from the athletic teen. "I dunno what he did to me. I mean, I kinda know, but I dunno how to explain it. I mean, I know he was using his darkness or whatever, but he reduced me to..." Lilly shook her head, not wanting to recall or maybe describe the state she was in so she switched thoughts a bit. "Marissa's got nothing on him.  Anyways, he took me out of the fight. So I was not there for you guys... again." She raised a hand to stop Jase from responding for the moment, regardless of if he was going to. "I know everybody said to forget about it, not being here when you all were attacked and did the other stuff, but it's not that easy. I..." she said, almost holding her breath for a moment before sighing out, "I'm just glad you all made it back." The young woman lifted her gaze as she spoke and her prow furrowed slightly. "I guess it wasn't 'unscathed' though." she said, lifting a hand toward Jase's new scar, but withdrawing it before she touched him.

His lips twitched wryly at that.  "We all got a bit banged up.  Oddly, this wasn't from the fight against Arawn.  It was from Enterich's cronies this morning.  After everything we went through, I just wasn't expecting a human being to walk up and pull a gun on me in broad daylight at a traffic stop."  He shrugged, his gaze still on her face.  "Lesson learned."

He paused for a moment, considering.  "It's not my place to volunteer others, but you may wish to talk to Autumn about what Enterich inflicted on you.  Her ability to heal is not limited to bodies - she can also soothe mental and emotional traumas.  It's not that she makes you forget:  from what I have observed, she simply helps the mind to deal with things.  It might be worth talking to her at school tomorrow."

"Yeah. It's one thing to keep an eye for monsters, but now anybody could... joy." she finished sarcastically. "I'm sorry that happened to you, but I am glad you are okay." she said, forcing a weak, though sincere, smile for a moment.

"As far as talking Autumn? I dunno. And you know what? I am getting really tired of saying that, but I don't see it stopping anytime soon." she vented "Anyways." Lilly sighed. "I dunno." she said as she began to speak and the closed her eyes for a moment, cursing silently that she had said it again. "Autumn has seemed... distant, I guess, since I got back. Has she said anything to you about me?" she asked and then raised her hand, shaking her head again. "Nevermind. I don't want to get you involved if there's some issue."

"I just... I dunno what to do." she said, shutting her eyes tight. "It's like, after hearing about what happened to..." she cut herself off, the name catching in her throat as her face contorted to a pained mask, "it's.. it's like am still in it and this is just part of it, you know?"

Lilly shook her head again and lifted her hands, running them through her long, dark hair as she exhaled.  "It's been days and I don't wanna be like this anymore." she confessed, blinking back tears.

There was no empathy in the cool gaze which rested on hers, no shared experience of fear and grief to create a sense of fellow-feeling.  Nor was there discomfort at her expressing of emotions such as some might show, nor was there pity or disdain.  But there was a glimmer of comprehension, a sense of him trying to understand, trying to help, in whatever way he could.  He reached out with slow deliberateness and placed a hand on Lilly's shoulder.

"Autumn has never indicated to me that she has any issue with you."  he said with calm authority.  "And given that she repaired the hands of the person who shot me, I don't imagine she would refuse to help you if you asked."  His lips twitched in a smile.  "She has a large heart, whatever distance you might feel there is between you."

Lilly closed her eyes and nodded, trying to keep a modicum of composure. Jase's gesture, both verbal and physical, were not lost on her either. To say that their friendship had been strained a polite understatement, but here he was, the seeming cold, unfeeling Jason Bannon, was trying to help or comfort her, even if it was in his own way. It was still more than she had expected. "I'll see if she can help. I hope she can." Lilly opened her eyes to look to her friend once more and forced another weak smile. "And thanks." she said as she stepped closer and hugged him close telling him, "Deal with it." with the faintest hint of amusement to her voice.

"It's not totally objectionable."  he replied deadpan as, after a split-second's pause, he returned the hug.  As she gave a small laugh and drew back, she didn't miss the flicker of wry amusement in the depths of the ageless cool stare which met hers.  It wasn't like 'old Jase', the friend she'd thought she knew before:  quirky scruffy slouching Bannon with his odd, quick smiles and the way he wouldn't meet your eyes for longer than a split second before looking away and the hints, here and there, of the fierce intelligence that now shone clearly from his gaze.  He'd set aside the mask he'd worn - but perhaps what was underneath wasn't that terrible an adjustment.  As he stepped back, he nodded to Lilly and her folks, the corners of his eyes crinkling slightly in a micro-smile.  "I'll see you at school tomorrow, then."

"Yeah."  Lilly smiled back, watching as he turned away without further ceremony and, falling in step with his father, left the conference room.

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"Things got heated earlier and I was a complete jerk.  I just wanted you to know that I didn't mean to hurt your feelings.  I was wrong and I'm sorry."

Cassandra was quiet as she let Devin lay out his confession and tried to decide how to handle it. On the one hand, despite a certain performative quality, it was rare to get any kind of mea culpa from Devin, so she didn't want to shove it back in his face. On the other hand...she wasn't exactly sure what he was apologizing for. Running back over the meeting in her head, there was only one time that Devin had specifically annoyed her, and that was when he been...well...himself after the first part of her telling the story. And it had been annoying, but not especially annoying. Not out of proportion to his normal interpersonal style, which he'd never thought merited an apology before.

There was one thing though. One other thing that she was pretty sure he wasn't referring to, but maybe he should have been.

"Look," Cassie said, "the only thing that really hurt my feelings was when Marissa decided you two weren't in the Fellowship, and that we are apparently all terrible human beings...and you just stood there and seemed to agree. Whatever else you did..." she shrugs, "next to that, it doesn't matter."

"So, assuming you don't feel bad about that, then I guess we're cool."

Cass hesitated, then added, "Sorry about the situation with your mom though. If you want to talk about it sometime, let me know. I know a thing or two about dragon moms..."

Teresa swatted her on the shoulder with faux outrage. "Okay," she said, "I think that's enough of that." She looked at Devin then, and her expression was complex. There was sympathy for the boy yes, but also a bit of motherly wariness. She knew they were going to Homecoming, of course. She also knew Cassandra kept assuring her that they were just friends, but she also also knew that those sentiments could change in a hurry at this age.

Beyond all that though was something else, something softer. The gratitude in her voice was genuine when she said, "Thank you for being there for Cassie when she needed you."

There wasn't time to really talk though. The Jauntsens were on their way out, and Devin's stunt only bought him seconds at best.

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"Always," Devin replied to Teresa.  Again it wasn't that he said it was in the how he said it.  Devin could make anything sound like he was any girls next Prince Charming.  He turned his attention to Cassie, that million dollar, child-star actor, smile looking handsome as ever on his features.  "I'll, um, give you a call or a text, kay?  If you're up for it, I could really use a shoulder to vent on." Whish she knew he meant 'neck to hickey on', but it was Devin so you had to take it for what it was worth.

"I uh, I gotta get going," he looked towards the door where his parents had already filtered out in pursuit of the furious Marissa.  "I have a feeling things are about to go nuclear when we get home, so... y'know... if you've been saving some dank memes to lighten my mood, tonight would be a good time."

"Keep us posted, okay?"  His homecoming date asked with some concern in her voice.  "Sorry again."

"No, it's fine," he shrugged in an attempt to maybe shake off the invisible monkey on his back.  "Had to happen eventually, so... sooner the better, right?"  He smiled at them both.  "G'night Mrs. Allen, Cass."

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The rest of the parents - and their children - filtered out of the conference room shortly after.  They were largely silent as they made their way through the hospital and out to the parking lot: only once car doors were closed and A/C engaged did any conversation start up regarding what had transpired in that meeting.

To the west, the sun was setting behind the mountains beyond the reservation, turning the sky shades of purple, red and orange above those peaks as, to the east, a curtain of darkness swept towards Shelly on velvet wings.  To those that noticed such things, it was hard not to shiver slightly at the symbolism.

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