Hidden 1 yr ago Post by KaijuBaragon
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KaijuBaragon Victoria Concordia Crescit

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Grace was currently standing in front of the AMC Fairbrook Meadows 10 in Kingsdale. The movie theater, a large one with a beautiful emerald glass exterior, looked almost like some sort of store, but was in fact a very nice movie theater not far from Grace’s apartment. Grace was standing outside the theater, her back against the building, her foot tapping against the group impatiently as she looked down at her phone. A perk of teleporting was that she always was there on time, and Grace was exactly 2 minutes early to the late movie. It was around 6:00 PM, and the sun, while not down yet, was beginning to set over Castleburg skies and usher in the night.

Grace was donning light colors on this occasion, an airy white tank top and a pair of khaki shorts, and her thin frame was a couple inches taller thanks to a pair of peach-colored wedges on her feet. Draped over her shoulders was a white pea coat with golden trims and shimmering golden buttons, and on the breast of the coat was an embroidered pair of golden wings, underneath it the words “The Wings of Law” in elaborate golden cursive, and underneath that the words “Heroism with Class” in thick golden letters. A nice but strong spring breeze had picked up, causing the coat which was loosely resting on Grace’s shoulders to flutter in the wind. Grace looked down at her phone again. ”He should be here by now…” she muttered quietly as she checked the time.

Tom had a reasonably good reason for being a couple of minutes late - after the revelation that their last meeting had been spied upon by their friends, Tom had spent a little bit of time checking his wallet for any kind of bugging device. Afterwards, he had flown an unpredictable and crazy route over to the cinema just to make sure that nobody who potentially could be driving below in a car to follow him was able to follow him. He was dressed, like their last outing, in a flannel shirt, but this one was blue and black in colouring, matching the denim jeans he was sporting at the same time. He spotted Grace as soon as he turned the street corner - the glaring white coat easy to spot. He floated down before walking across the street to her, hoping she wasn’t annoyed that he was late. But as he got closer, he frowned as he saw her coat more clearly.

”Grace… Why are you wearing that?”

Grace looked over at Tom as he floated down towards her, a thin but pleased smile appearing on her face. ”Hey, Tom,” she said, before looking down at her wool coat. ”Oh, this?” she said, raising an eyebrow as he asked his question, before grinning mischievously, something she didn’t do often. ”Well, I obviously didn’t join! I just really liked their stuff...so I might have portaled into their clubhouse to get them. I got their windbreaker, coat, robe, blanket, towel, everything. It’s really soft, actually. The stuff they make it out of is great...even if they are a bunch of pricks.” Grace looked up at Tom. ”I mean, if it bothers you or anything, I can take it off or put it away or something.”

Tom rubbed his chin as he looked down at Grace. ”I mean… I guess it doesn’t bother me, per se… But what if a journalist walked by and now thinks that you’re part of the Wings?” He shook his head. ”I don’t think they’d take too kindly to a hero wearing their merch… and you don’t want them to try and smear you before you’ve even, like, established yourself here.” He looked up at the cinema. ”It’s not like anyone will see it anyway in the cinema, I guess. Anyway... The Conjuring 6! I didn’t know you were a horror fan, Grace!”

Grace shrugged. ”They invited me, and if they weren’t a bunch of loser dickheads, I would probably join. I think I deserve the merchandise.” She smiled. ”Anyway, I don’t think I care too much of their opinion of me. They can screw off. Quote me.” Her eyes danced over to the interior of the cinema when he mentioned the movie. ”Right! Well, I mean, I’m not really into the horror genre specifically, but I love movies, you know. Besides, it’s the Conjuring. It can’t be that scary, right? I mean, they made 3 spin-offs about a demon nun. This franchise has gone on for way too long…” She shrugged. ”But it’s opening night, so we’ll get to see for ourselves before somebody spoils it. And I’ve heard this theater is one of the best in Castleburg, so it’ll be a great experience, hopefully!”

Tom snickered when Grace insulted the Wings of Law. ”That’s what I like to hear. He began to lead her into the theater, heading over to the ticket counter as he talked. ”I don’t know… The last one was a real resurgence to the franchise, it was pretty scary. I saw it with Blake and he was terrified by it. This one’s by the same director, so hopefully it’ll be just as good!” Tom quickly grabbed the tickets before turning back to Grace, nodding. ”Oh yeah, this cinema is awesome. I saw Blade Runner 2059 here a few months ago and it was awesome, apparently they have the most advanced speakers in the city so the sound is like, perfect… Okay, we’re in Screen 10.” Tom began to head in that direction.

Grace nodded sagely as Tom spoke about the last one. ”Frank Brewer is a cinematic genius,” she praised as he spoke about the film. ”I haven’t bothered with this franchise since The Conjuring 3, but I hope you’re right,” she said with a smile as she followed him. ”The Blade Runner movie was great. Such a good cast, and the effects were gorgeous." She made her way to Screen 10, quickly examining the comfy-looking red interior of the viewing area. Talk about fancy. Grace looked to Tom. "Where were we supposed to sit again?" she asked him.

”Oh man, this cinema is so awesome.” Tom mused as he looked around the extremely plush theater. ”Right at the back, best view in the cinema.” Tom smiled as he took Grace up there, taking his comfy cinema seat next to her. After settling in he dug around in his bag for a moment before pulling out a pack of store-bought popcorn he had purchased on the way. He cracked it open and offered some to Grace. ”Cinema prices are an absolute rip-off, and these are just as good.” He grinned.

Grace grinned as she took a seat next to Tom, lounging into the cushiony chair seat, relaxing as some advertisements flickered past on the big screen. She looked over to Tom and his bag of popcorn. ”You know, technically you aren’t supposed to bring that in here,” she whispered to him, but still grabbed a handful of popcorn without hesitation, tossing them into her mouth one by one. She shrugged. ”It’s good, though.”

The movie had quite suddenly started, eerie post-modern music filling the theater as a young girl ran through some haunted woods, some weird serial killer phantom guy chasing after her with a magic hacksaw. Grace put on her brave face, pretending to be unphased by the events unfolding, but that didn’t stop her from subconsciously slipping a hand over to Tom’s thigh, resting it there as her body quietly trembled from the unfolding drama onscreen.

Tom meanwhile, having watched a lot of horror movies, was truly quite unphased by the events unfolding on screen, as he munched on his popcorn happily. He did get caught by a jumpscare though, and as he jumped in his seat he realised that he felt something on his thigh. He thought it was his phone until he glanced down and saw that it was Grace’s slightly shaking hand. He toyed with the idea of holding her hand, but instead he tapped the back of her hand gently and whispered: ”Are you good?” before resting his hand right next to hers.

”Good? Yeah, of course.” Grace kept her poker face on as some very large-looking monstrous bats were attacking a man onscreen. She saw Tom’s hand next to hers and considered briefly moving her hand on top of his, but shooed that thought away. Dumb idea, she thought to herself as she instead retreated her hand to the popcorn, taking another handful and popping them one at a time into her mouth again.

The next scene of the movie very much shocked her- out of nowhere, the bats came out of the screen and flapped over towards the seats. They were large, human-sized bats with velvety wings, fur-matted figures and hideous fangs and were extremely realistic. ”Woah!” Grace yipped instinctively as the two bats landed on top of one of the seats, scaring the couple sitting a few rows in front of Tom and Grace. Grace was about to be truly impressed by both the theater and the film, but was tipped off when the couple did not stop screaming, and the bats started to lean in towards the two moviegoers, mouths open, their fangs moving slowly towards the unfortunate couple.

Purple light began to gather around Grace’s hands. ”Tom! This is not part of the film!” Grace called out loudly as she looked over at the Bloodsuckers, having suddenly lost all interest in the movie. For good reason, too.

Tom was starting to get genuinely quite unnerved by what was going on, which surprised him. It was all just so realistic! For a few moments Tom was just about to hold Grace's hand, having decided he should, before he was suddenly ripped from this by the screaming. ”Huh… Wait, what? Oh, fuck!” Tom yelled out, standing up sharply and spilling popcorn everywhere. He glanced down at Grace for a moment. ”Just don't exert yourself too much… I don't want your hand rotting off.”

And with that, he leapt at the nearer of the bats, grabbing a tight hold of its fur and using his powers to make the bat fall through the cinema screen. Before climbing through after it, he called out to Grace again. ”If it's about to kill you, please call for me!” Tom stepped through the hole, the angry looking bat squaring him down as Tom looked for something he could use as a weapon.

”Oh, wow, I was going to slowly disintegrate my hand, but if you insist,” Grace muttered with a very healthy dose of sarcasm, the purple energy accumulating in her hand into the size of a frisbee. Grace launched the portal frisbee across the room, the disc slamming into the bat and sending it away from the now very scared couple and launching it down a few rows. Grace caught the flying bat in another portal and, after a moment of thought, launched the bat from a new portal into the light fixture. There was a loud screech from the bat as the electricity from the fixture shocked the creature, before it dropped to the ground.

”Hohoho,” a voice rang out from the back of the theater.

Grace turned to the source of the voice- a man wearing a three-piece navy suit, an elaborate cape draped over his shoulders, a white half-mask on his face, revealing a half of his pale face and combed brown hair. ”Greetings, hero. I am the Phantom of the Cinema. I haunt theaters all across Castleburg.”

Grace internally groaned. ”Such a lame title. Seriously, you’re just going to rip off-” Before she could finish her insult, the Phantom of the Cinema moved at unperceivable speeds, grabbing Grace and pulling her tightly against his chest, a golden stiletto hovering dangerously near her neck. ”I will kill you just like the Forest Murderer kills Bethany in the film!”

”I didn’t finish the film, stupid, your bat minions interrupted it not even halfway through.”

”Shut up!” the very campy villain declared, his blade bearing down on her throat. Grace shrieked loudly, her voice echoing out through the now-abandoned screen. ”TOM! HELP!”

Tom had found a conveniently placed metal pole of some sort lying on the dusty floor, which he quickly picked up to face off the bat creature with. Luckily it was a creature without any sort of strategic ability, and so Tom was able to pretty easily weave and avoid the snarling creature’s attempts to attack him. Eventually, he managed to get the beast on its back, and plunged the metal pole through it. However, before Tom could even chuckle at the humour in staking an evil bat through the heart, he heard a piercing screech.

He rushed out with almost instinctual speed, seeing Grace at the mercy of some bizarre, campy looking villain. He cautiously stepped forward a couple of steps, not wanting Grace to be stabbed in the throat. ”What the fuck? Who are you? Get off her!”

The Phantom of the Cinema laughed evilly. ”I am one of the greatest villains in Castleburg! The Phantom of the Cinema, at our service.” He waved his blade around Grace’s neck area. ”I have longed to harken back to the good classic days of film...before these pathetic hackneyed films began to spoil the golden artform that is the cinema!”

”Alright, alright, enough of this!” Grace swung her palm into the man’s side, a sharp hidden blade shooting out of her white wool jacket and piercing the Phantom’s side. As he howled in pain, Grace pulled away from his grip before opening a portal beneath his feet. ”Tom, catch!” she called, before ejecting him out of a second portal and sending him hurling quickly towards Tom.

Tom rolled his eyes as the villain. ”Oh, there are plenty of good movies that come out today, stop being a - Oh!” He was cut short by Grace's sudden and unexpected fightback, and he couldn't help but get in a quick grin at her quick thinking and resourcefulness as the villain vanished into the portal. Tom had a few seconds to think of his plan. When the villain came hurtling out of the portal towards him, Tom suddenly stopped everything and kept the villain floating in mid air for a moment.

Then, he sent the Phantom crashing to the floor of the cinema appropriately hard, where the villain slid down a couple of steps, groaning and clearly out of it. Tom laughed and looked down at him, before quickly heading over to Grace. ”Is your neck okay?”

”My neck is fine,” Grace said dismissively, rubbing her neck, a grin on her face. ”I bet you’re glad I brought that Wings of Law jacket now, huh? I told you they were good.” Her eyes drifted over to the villain. ”What do we do about-...SHIT!” Grace exclaimed, looking at the ground where the Phantom once was, though now he had vanished with a puff of smoke.

”Crap, I didn’t realize he could do that...sorry,” she muttered, scratching the back of her head, before looking up at Tom. ”I guess that was ruined,” she grumbled annoyedly, looking around the wrecked screen room. ”I guess I owe you another movie?” she asked as she surveyed the damage.

”I suppose I am glad… Dye it a different colour and take off the shitty Wings logo and you can wear it all the time!” He grinned back, glancing down at the spot where the villain once was, not really caring that much about his sudden escape. ”Damn right you owe me another movie… Definitely another scary one. The next Insidious is coming out next week, we should go and see that! Tom seemed oblivious to the fact he'd just essentially asked Grace out on another date.

”Sounds like a plan. Next week, then...” Grace made a mental note. ”I guess I’ll text you the details. Hopefully without any sort of...stupid cinematic-themed villain.” She nodded, lips tight. ”Well, thanks for the assist, Tom.”

No problem. Our powers go really well together, we make a great team! In hero work, I mean, yeah. I feel sorry for the poor cinema worker who has to clean this up though.” Tom winced and laughed as he began to walk out of the theater with Grace.

”Right, right, just as heroes. Not as anything else,” Grace said quickly. ”But, yeah...we work well together.” As they walked out into the now-dark city, Grace waved as she turned towards her car. ”See you, Tom,.” she said pleasantly as she opened the door to her fancy car, her violet eyes gazing into his before she stepped in and drove off into the Castleburg night.

Tom kept the smile on his face as he watched Grace drive off down the street. He had definitely enjoyed himself, despite the obvious villain interruption. He played over the previous events in his head as he lifted himself up off the ground and began the scenic float back to his apartment.
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Danvers
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Danvers boo

Member Seen 3 mos ago



Also starring the Water Hero Squad! (ft. Hitman)


It‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌blisteringly‌ ‌hot‌ ‌summer’s‌ ‌day‌ ‌in‌ ‌June‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌sun‌ ‌was‌ ‌scorching,‌ ‌which‌ ‌made‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌extremely‌ ‌thankful‌ ‌that‌ ‌she’d‌ ‌dressed‌ ‌simply‌ ‌in‌ ‌denim‌ ‌shorts‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌loose-fitting‌ ‌AC/DC‌ ‌t-shirt.‌ ‌As‌ ‌per‌ ‌usual‌ ‌she'd‌ ‌woken‌ ‌up‌ ‌extremely‌ ‌late‌ ‌and‌ ‌had‌ ‌resorted‌ ‌to‌ ‌tossing‌ ‌on‌ ‌whatever‌ ‌was‌ ‌ semi-clean...or‌ ‌at‌ ‌least‌ ‌whatever‌ ‌smelt‌ ‌that‌ ‌way.‌ ‌Luckily,‌ ‌someone‌ ‌had‌ ‌persuaded‌ ‌her‌ ‌to‌ ‌pack‌ ‌the‌ ‌day‌ ‌before‌ ‌(or‌ ‌more‌ ‌specifically‌ ‌done‌ ‌all‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌packing‌ ‌for‌ ‌her),‌ ‌so‌ ‌she‌ ‌was‌ ‌only‌ ‌a‌ ‌couple‌ ‌of‌ ‌hours‌ ‌later‌ ‌than‌ ‌intended.‌ ‌Having‌ ‌finally‌ ‌reached‌ ‌the‌ ‌fifth‌ ‌floor‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌East‌ ‌Flank‌ ‌apartment‌ ‌block,‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌was‌ ‌taking‌ ‌a‌ ‌few‌ ‌moments‌ ‌to‌ ‌catch‌ ‌her‌ ‌breath,‌ ‌idly‌ ‌playing‌ ‌with‌ ‌one‌ ‌of‌ ‌her‌ ‌french‌ ‌braids‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌did‌ ‌so.‌ ‌Trying‌ ‌to‌ ‌lug‌ ‌a‌ ‌suitcase,‌ ‌a‌ ‌backpack‌ ‌and‌ ‌an‌ ‌oversized‌ ‌dog‌ ‌up‌ ‌here‌ ‌had‌ ‌really‌ ‌taken‌ ‌it‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌her.‌ ‌Speaking‌ ‌of‌ ‌which…‌ ‌

"Dog.‌ ‌Sit!‌ ‌I‌ ‌said‌ ‌Sit!‌ ‌Pleeeease!"‌ ‌The‌ ‌young‌ ‌hero‌ ‌pestered‌ ‌the‌ ‌large‌ ‌MWE/rottweiler‌ ‌mix‌ ‌who‌ ‌was‌ ‌currently‌ ‌dashing‌ ‌up‌ ‌&‌ ‌down‌ ‌the‌ ‌corridor,‌ ‌barking‌ ‌loudly‌ ‌at‌ ‌nothing‌ ‌and‌ ‌wagging‌ ‌his‌ ‌tail‌ ‌excitedly‌ ‌against‌ ‌every‌ ‌door‌ ‌that‌ ‌he‌ ‌passed.‌ ‌"Come‌ ‌on!‌ ‌I'll‌ ‌er...give‌ ‌you‌ ‌pancakes!"‌ ‌She‌ ‌crouched‌ ‌down‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌spoke,‌ ‌tapping‌ ‌her‌ ‌hands‌ ‌on‌ ‌her‌ ‌legs‌ ‌in‌ ‌an‌ ‌attempt‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌his‌ ‌attention.‌ ‌Unfortunately,‌ ‌trying‌ ‌to‌ ‌bribe‌ ‌this‌ ‌dog‌ ‌obviously‌ ‌didn't‌ ‌work‌ ‌and‌ ‌he‌ ‌instead‌ ‌just‌ ‌took‌ ‌to‌ ‌chewing‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌edge‌ ‌of‌ ‌her‌ ‌suitcase,‌ ‌leaving‌ ‌copious‌ ‌amounts‌ ‌of‌ ‌slobber‌ ‌behind.‌ ‌"You're‌ ‌such‌ ‌a‌ ‌doofus..."‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌couldn’t‌ ‌help‌ ‌but‌ ‌let‌ ‌out‌ ‌a‌ ‌laugh‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌shook‌ ‌her‌ ‌head‌ ‌at‌ ‌her‌ ‌companion,‌ ‌before‌ ‌proceeding‌ ‌to‌ ‌knock‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌door‌ ‌she‌ ‌was‌ ‌currently‌ ‌standing‌ ‌in‌ ‌front‌ ‌of.‌ ‌ ‌

She‌ ‌had‌ ‌more‌ ‌important‌ ‌things‌ ‌to‌ ‌think‌ ‌about‌ ‌anyway.‌ ‌It‌ ‌was‌ ‌moving-in‌ ‌day‌ ‌after‌ ‌all!‌ ‌ ‌

The‌ ‌door‌ ‌opened‌ ‌soon‌ ‌after‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌knocked.‌ ‌The‌ ‌resident‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌apartment,‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌Stewart,‌ ‌popped‌ ‌her‌ ‌head‌ ‌out‌ ‌and‌ ‌grinned‌ ‌at‌ ‌her‌ ‌friend.‌ ‌A‌ ‌couple‌ ‌of‌ ‌weeks‌ ‌ago‌ ‌she‌ ‌had‌ ‌agreed‌ ‌to‌ ‌let‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌move‌ ‌in‌ ‌with‌ ‌her,‌ ‌and‌ ‌she‌ ‌had‌ ‌been‌ ‌super‌ ‌excited‌ ‌for‌ ‌it‌ ‌ever‌ ‌since!‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌was‌ ‌great,‌ ‌and‌ ‌she‌ ‌
definitely‌ ‌needed‌ ‌some‌ ‌extra‌ ‌money‌ ‌for‌ ‌rent,‌ ‌so‌ ‌rooming‌ ‌with‌ ‌her‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌awesome.‌ ‌And‌ ‌the‌ ‌extra‌ ‌bedroom-‌ ‌mainly‌ ‌used‌ ‌for‌ ‌storage‌ ‌but‌ ‌very‌ ‌recently‌ ‌cleaned‌ ‌out-‌ ‌would‌ ‌finally‌ ‌come‌ ‌in‌ ‌handy‌ ‌for‌ ‌once.‌ ‌In‌ ‌Jamie’s‌ ‌eyes,‌ ‌this‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌win-win.‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌got‌ ‌to‌ ‌move‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌H.E.R.O‌ ‌One,‌ ‌and‌ ‌
she‌ ‌got‌ ‌all‌ ‌the‌ ‌perks‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌roommate.‌ ‌She‌ ‌swung‌ ‌open‌ ‌the‌ ‌door‌ ‌and‌ ‌stepped‌ ‌aside,‌ ‌letting‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌walk‌ ‌in.‌ ‌

“Hey,‌ ‌B!‌ ‌Hey,‌ ‌Dog!”‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌waved‌ ‌cheerily.‌ ‌“So‌ ‌glad‌ ‌you‌ ‌got‌ ‌here‌ ‌alright.‌ ‌You‌ ‌made‌ ‌it‌ ‌just‌ ‌on‌ ‌time…”‌ ‌She‌ ‌snuck‌ ‌a‌ ‌glance‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌clock‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌oven‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌kitchen,‌ ‌and‌ ‌she‌ ‌blinked.‌ ‌“Or‌ ‌not!‌ ‌It’s‌ ‌fine,‌ ‌though,‌ ‌parking‌ ‌here‌ ‌is‌ ‌bad.‌ ‌And‌ ‌you’re‌ ‌here,‌ ‌so‌ ‌that’s‌ ‌good!‌ ‌Um,‌ ‌if‌ ‌you‌ ‌want‌ ‌some‌ ‌I‌ ‌bought‌ ‌some‌ ‌Ritz‌ ‌crackers‌ ‌and‌ ‌some‌ ‌cream‌ ‌cheese,‌ ‌and‌ ‌I‌ ‌have‌ ‌some‌ ‌knives‌ ‌out‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌coffee‌ ‌table,‌ ‌so‌ ‌help‌ ‌yourself!‌ ‌Your‌ ‌room‌ ‌is‌ ‌over‌ ‌there.”‌ ‌She‌ ‌pointed‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌door‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌far‌ ‌end‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌living‌ ‌room.‌ ‌ ‌

Jamie’s‌ ‌apartment‌ ‌was‌ ‌fairly‌ ‌small-‌ ‌a‌ ‌two-bedroom,‌ ‌one-bathroom‌ ‌affair.‌ ‌The‌ ‌living‌ ‌room,‌ ‌which‌ ‌they‌ ‌were‌ ‌currently‌ ‌standing‌ ‌in,‌ ‌was‌ ‌beige-carpeted.‌ ‌The‌ ‌walls‌ ‌had‌ ‌been‌ ‌left‌ ‌bare‌ ‌besides‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌few‌ ‌inspirational‌ ‌posters‌ ‌and‌ ‌an‌ ‌old‌ ‌calendar‌ ‌from‌ ‌2032‌ ‌that‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌had‌ ‌forgotten‌ ‌to‌ ‌take‌ ‌down.‌ ‌There‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌blue‌ ‌three-seater‌ ‌sofa‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌gray‌ ‌armchair‌ ‌in‌ ‌front‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌wooden‌ ‌coffee‌ ‌table‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌nice-looking‌ ‌TV.‌ ‌Laid‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌coffee‌ ‌table,‌ ‌there‌ ‌were‌ ‌two‌ ‌sleeves‌ ‌of‌ ‌Ritz‌ ‌crackers‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌small‌ ‌container‌ ‌of‌ ‌cream‌ ‌cheese.‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌had‌ ‌set‌ ‌the‌ ‌TV‌ ‌to‌ ‌Keeping‌ ‌up‌ ‌With‌ ‌the‌ ‌Carpathians-‌ ‌a‌ ‌show‌ ‌she‌ ‌knew‌ ‌that‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌liked.‌ ‌Directly‌ ‌off‌ ‌the‌ ‌living‌ ‌room,‌ ‌there‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌cramped‌ ‌kitchen‌ ‌with‌ ‌an‌ ‌oven,‌ ‌a‌ ‌fridge,‌ ‌and‌ ‌an‌ ‌open‌ ‌pantry.‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌had‌ ‌cleaned‌ ‌up‌ ‌before‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌had‌ ‌come,‌ ‌so‌ ‌the‌ ‌sink‌ ‌was‌ ‌not‌ ‌stacked‌ ‌with‌ ‌plates,‌ ‌as‌ ‌it‌ ‌usually‌ ‌was.‌ ‌Directly‌ ‌off‌ ‌the‌ ‌living‌ ‌room‌ ‌and‌ ‌down‌ ‌a‌ ‌short‌ ‌hallway,‌ ‌there‌ ‌were‌ ‌three‌ ‌doors.‌ ‌Two‌ ‌were‌ ‌bare,‌ ‌but‌ ‌the‌ ‌other‌ ‌had‌ ‌one‌ ‌of‌ ‌those‌ ‌souvenir‌ ‌road‌ ‌signs‌ ‌stuck‌ ‌on‌ ‌it-‌ ‌“JAMIE‌ ‌AVE,‌ ‌ALASKA”,‌ ‌it‌ ‌said,‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌backdrop‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌snowy‌ ‌mountain.‌ ‌There‌ ‌were‌ ‌two‌ ‌windows‌ ‌in‌ ‌sight.‌ ‌One‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌right‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌couch,‌ ‌overlooking‌ ‌an‌ ‌alleyway,‌ ‌and‌ ‌another‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌kitchen‌ ‌over‌ ‌the‌ ‌sink,‌ ‌overlooking‌ ‌the‌ ‌street‌ ‌below.‌ ‌The‌ ‌afternoon‌ ‌sun‌ ‌filtered‌ ‌in‌ ‌through‌ ‌the‌ ‌window‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌kitchen.‌ ‌

Jamie‌ ‌plopped‌ ‌herself‌ ‌onto‌ ‌the‌ ‌blue‌ ‌couch,‌ ‌patting‌ ‌the‌ ‌place‌ ‌next‌ ‌to‌ ‌her‌ ‌and‌ ‌gesturing‌ ‌for‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌to‌ ‌sit.‌ ‌She‌ ‌swept‌ ‌her‌ ‌long,‌ ‌blonde‌ ‌hair‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌her‌ ‌eyes‌ ‌and‌ ‌scooted‌ ‌over‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌side‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌couch.‌ ‌It‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌hot‌ ‌summer‌ ‌day,‌ ‌so‌ ‌she‌ ‌was‌ ‌wearing‌ ‌a‌ ‌tight-fitting‌ ‌green‌ ‌tank‌ ‌top‌ ‌with‌ ‌tiny‌ ‌white‌ ‌flowers‌ ‌sewn‌ ‌into‌ ‌it‌ ‌and‌ ‌dark-blue‌ ‌denim‌ ‌shorts.‌ ‌Other‌ ‌than‌ ‌that,‌ ‌she‌ ‌was‌ ‌barefoot.‌ ‌‌ ‌“I‌ ‌dunno‌ ‌if‌ ‌you’ve‌ ‌been‌ ‌in‌ ‌here‌ ‌before,‌ ‌so‌ ‌this‌ ‌is‌ ‌my‌ ‌apartment!‌ ‌Or‌ ‌our‌ ‌apartment‌ ‌I‌ ‌guess.‌ ‌The‌ ‌bathroom’s‌ ‌over‌ ‌there,‌ ‌the‌ ‌kitchen’s‌ ‌there,‌ ‌my‌ ‌room’s‌ ‌the‌ ‌one‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌left…‌ ‌you‌ ‌can‌ ‌put‌ ‌all‌ ‌your‌ ‌stuff‌ ‌in‌ ‌your‌ ‌room‌ ‌if‌ ‌you‌ ‌want.‌ ‌And‌ ‌for‌ ‌Dog-‌ ‌ooh,‌ ‌he’s‌ ‌so‌ ‌cute.‌ ‌Can‌ ‌I‌ ‌pet‌ ‌him?‌ ‌I’m‌ ‌gonna‌ ‌pet‌ ‌him.”‌ ‌She‌ ‌reached‌ ‌down‌ ‌to‌ ‌pet‌ ‌Dog,‌ ‌patting‌ ‌him‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌head‌ ‌contentedly.‌ ‌

Dog‌ ‌let‌ ‌out‌ ‌a‌ ‌low‌ ‌growl‌ ‌as‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌reached‌ ‌down‌ ‌to‌ ‌pat‌ ‌him.‌ ‌Although‌ ‌he‌ ‌was‌ ‌calmer‌ ‌than‌ ‌during‌ ‌the‌ ‌Halloween‌ ‌incident,‌ ‌he‌ ‌was‌ ‌still‌ ‌wary‌ ‌of‌ ‌anyone‌ ‌not‌ ‌from‌ ‌Brookside.‌ ‌Luckily‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌was‌ ‌used‌ ‌to‌ ‌such‌ ‌behaviour‌ ‌and‌ ‌she‌ ‌quickly‌ ‌lunged‌ ‌across‌ ‌the‌ ‌room,‌ ‌grabbing‌ ‌him‌ ‌by‌ ‌his‌ ‌red‌ ‌collar‌ ‌(it‌ ‌had‌ ‌taken‌ ‌her‌ ‌several‌ ‌hours‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌bruises‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌able‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌the‌ ‌thing‌ ‌around‌ ‌his‌ ‌neck).‌ ‌Yanking‌ ‌him‌ ‌away‌ ‌from‌ ‌Jamie,‌ ‌his‌ ‌teeth‌ ‌clamped‌ ‌shut‌ ‌only‌ ‌inches‌ ‌away‌ ‌from‌ ‌her‌ ‌hand.‌ ‌She’d‌ ‌not‌ ‌wanted‌ ‌to‌ ‌put‌ ‌a‌ ‌collar‌ ‌on‌ ‌him‌ ‌but‌ ‌he‌ ‌had‌ ‌a‌ ‌habit‌ ‌of‌ ‌wandering‌ ‌off,‌ ‌and‌ ‌she‌ ‌really‌ ‌didn’t‌ ‌want‌ ‌to‌ ‌lose‌ ‌him.‌ ‌ ‌

”Whoops,‌ ‌sorry‌ ‌bout‌ ‌that.‌ ‌He’ll‌ ‌get‌ ‌used‌ ‌to‌ ‌you!‌ ‌He’s‌ ‌just‌ ‌a‌ ‌bit‌ ‌grouchy‌ ‌cause‌ ‌it’s‌ ‌so‌ ‌hot...‌ ‌Ooh,‌ ‌can‌ ‌you‌ ‌make‌ ‌pancakes?‌ ‌He’ll‌ ‌love‌ ‌you‌ ‌if‌ ‌you‌ ‌can.”‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌smiled‌ ‌gingerly‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌plopped‌ ‌herself‌ ‌down‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌couch,‌ ‌pulling‌ ‌her‌ ‌well-worn‌ ‌white‌ ‌sneakers‌ ‌off‌ ‌her‌ ‌feet‌ ‌and‌ ‌dropping‌ ‌them‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌floor‌ ‌next‌ ‌to‌ ‌her.‌ ‌Reaching‌ ‌over‌ ‌to‌ ‌grab‌ ‌a‌ ‌couple‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌crackers,‌ ‌she‌ ‌happily‌ ‌munched‌ ‌on‌ ‌them‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌became‌ ‌momentarily‌ ‌distracted‌ ‌by‌ ‌an‌ ‌argument‌ ‌between‌ ‌Zoe‌ ‌and‌ ‌Zadie‌ ‌Carpathian.‌ ‌“Zadie’s‌ ‌totally‌ ‌right!‌ ‌Wearing‌ ‌a‌ ‌wedding‌ ‌dress‌ ‌to‌ ‌your‌ ‌own‌ ‌daughters‌ ‌wedding‌ ‌is‌ ‌sooo‌ ‌weird!”‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌giggled‌ ‌as‌ ‌Zoe‌ ‌threw‌ ‌a‌ ‌Pucci‌ ‌purse‌ ‌at‌ ‌Zadie,‌ ‌before‌ ‌turning‌ ‌back‌ ‌to‌ ‌her‌ ‌friend.‌ ‌ ‌

”Anyway,‌ ‌this‌ ‌place‌ ‌is‌ ‌super‌ ‌nice!‌ ‌I‌ ‌can’t‌ ‌believe‌ ‌you‌ ‌had‌ ‌it‌ ‌all‌ ‌to‌ ‌yourself.”‌ ‌She‌ ‌commented‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌glanced‌ ‌around‌ ‌the‌ ‌apartment‌ ‌again,‌ ‌eagerly‌ ‌taking‌ ‌in‌ ‌her‌ ‌surroundings.‌ ‌It‌ ‌was‌ ‌surprisingly‌ ‌tidy,‌ ‌although‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌had‌ ‌already‌ ‌begun‌ ‌to‌ ‌mess‌ ‌it‌ ‌up‌ ‌when‌ ‌she’d‌ dumped‌ ‌her‌ ‌bags‌ ‌unceremoniously‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌middle‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌living‌ ‌room‌ ‌floor.‌ ‌Did‌ ‌you‌ ‌have‌ ‌another‌ ‌roommate‌ ‌before‌ ‌or‌ ‌something?“‌ ‌

“Yeah,‌ ‌I‌ ‌can‌ ‌totally‌ ‌make‌ ‌pancakes!”‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌said,‌ ‌trying‌ ‌her‌ ‌hardest‌ ‌not‌ ‌to‌ ‌go‌ ‌in‌ ‌to‌ ‌pet‌ ‌Dog‌ ‌again.‌ ‌He‌ ‌was‌ ‌just…‌ ‌so‌ ‌cute!‌ ‌Even‌ ‌if‌ ‌he‌ ‌was‌ ‌super‌ ‌bitey‌ ‌and‌ ‌had‌ ‌given‌ ‌her‌ ‌tetanus‌ ‌that‌ ‌one‌ ‌time.‌ ‌Remembering‌ ‌the‌ ‌incident,‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌turned‌ ‌over‌ ‌her‌ ‌right‌ ‌hand.‌ ‌Yup!‌ ‌The‌ ‌scar‌ ‌was‌ ‌still‌ ‌there.‌ ‌There‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌nasty-looking‌ ‌bite‌ ‌mark‌ ‌all‌ ‌along‌ ‌her‌ ‌palm‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌back‌ ‌of‌ ‌her‌ ‌hand.‌ ‌Ooh,‌ ‌that‌ ‌had‌ ‌been‌ ‌such‌ ‌a‌ ‌fun‌ ‌party.‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌hopped‌ ‌up‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌couch‌ ‌and‌ ‌went‌ ‌over‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌kitchen,‌ ‌opening‌ ‌up‌ ‌the‌ ‌pantry.‌ ‌She‌ ‌had‌ ‌to‌ ‌have‌ ‌pancake‌ ‌mix‌ ‌in‌ ‌here‌ ‌somewhere...‌ ‌oh,‌ ‌there!‌ ‌She‌ ‌pulled‌ ‌out‌ ‌an‌ ‌old,‌ ‌dusty-looking‌ ‌box‌ ‌of‌ ‌Bisquick,‌ ‌and‌ ‌then‌ ‌the‌ ‌other‌ ‌ingredients‌ ‌for‌ ‌pancakes‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌cast-iron‌ ‌pan.‌ ‌Then,‌ ‌she‌ ‌fired‌ ‌up‌ ‌the‌ ‌stove,‌ ‌watching‌ ‌Keeping‌ ‌up‌ ‌With‌ ‌the‌ ‌Carpathians‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌side‌ ‌of‌ ‌her‌ ‌eye.‌ ‌She‌ ‌giggled‌ ‌at‌ ‌Zoe‌ ‌throwing‌ ‌the‌ ‌purse.‌ ‌

“Yeah,‌ ‌totally!”‌ ‌she‌ ‌responded‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌mixed‌ ‌the‌ ‌pancakes‌ ‌rather‌ ‌unevenly.‌ ‌“I‌ ‌did,‌ ‌like‌ ‌two‌ ‌years‌ ‌ago?‌ ‌She‌ ‌moved‌ ‌out‌ ‌after‌ ‌like‌ ‌a‌ ‌month,‌ ‌though.‌ ‌I‌ ‌think‌ ‌I‌ ‌might’ve‌ ‌accidentally‌ ‌cracked‌ ‌her‌ ‌aquarium‌ ‌and‌ ‌killed‌ ‌all‌ ‌her‌ ‌fish,‌ ‌and‌ ‌she‌ ‌was‌ ‌really‌ ‌skittish,‌ ‌so‌ ‌she‌ ‌left.‌ ‌You’re‌ ‌not‌ ‌like‌ ‌that‌ ‌though,‌ ‌so‌ ‌you’ll‌ ‌probably‌ ‌be‌ ‌fine!”‌ ‌

”Well,‌ ‌her‌ ‌loss!‌ ‌She‌ ‌sounds‌ ‌boring‌ ‌anyway.‌ ‌Like,‌ ‌who’d‌ ‌choose‌ ‌to‌ ‌have‌ ‌fish‌ ‌as‌ ‌pets?‌ ‌They‌ ‌can’t‌ ‌do‌ ‌tricks‌ ‌or‌ ‌anything!”‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌shook‌ ‌her‌ ‌head,‌ ‌her‌ ‌gaze‌ ‌following‌ ‌Dog,‌ ‌who’s‌ ‌tail‌ ‌had‌ ‌begun‌ ‌beating‌ ‌against‌ ‌the‌ ‌floor‌ ‌rapidly‌ ‌when‌ ‌he’d‌ ‌heard‌ ‌the‌ ‌sounds‌ ‌of‌ ‌cooking.‌ ‌He‌ ‌proceeded‌ ‌to‌ ‌leap‌ ‌up‌ ‌from‌ ‌his‌ ‌place‌ ‌at‌ ‌Bries‌ ‌feet,‌ ‌running‌ ‌over‌ ‌to‌ ‌stand‌ ‌at‌ ‌Jamie’s‌ ‌side,‌ ‌tongue‌ ‌lolling‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌his‌ ‌mouth‌ ‌as‌ ‌he‌ ‌impatiently‌ ‌waited‌ ‌for‌ ‌food.‌ ‌ ‌

”Oh,‌ ‌I‌ ‌got‌ ‌you‌ ‌a‌ ‌gift‌ ‌to‌ ‌say‌ ‌thanks!”‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌chirped‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌began‌ ‌rifling‌ ‌through‌ ‌her‌ ‌rucksack,‌ ‌eventually‌ ‌pulling‌ ‌out‌ ‌what‌ ‌looked‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌a‌ ‌somewhat‌ ‌squished‌ ‌cactus.‌ ‌The‌ ‌thing‌ ‌had‌ ‌googly‌ ‌eyes‌ ‌stuck‌ ‌on‌ ‌it,‌ ‌which‌ ‌made‌ ‌it‌ ‌look‌ ‌pretty‌ ‌damn‌ ‌adorable.‌ ‌‌ ‌“Apparently‌ ‌cactuses‌ ‌are‌ ‌super‌ ‌difficult‌ ‌to‌ ‌kill.‌ ‌I‌ ‌tried‌ ‌to‌ ‌keep‌ ‌a‌ ‌plant‌ ‌once‌ ‌but‌ ‌I‌ ‌kept‌ ‌forgetting‌ ‌to‌ ‌water‌ ‌it...oh,‌ ‌and‌ ‌then‌ ‌Dog‌ ‌ended‌ ‌up‌ ‌eating‌ ‌it.”‌ ‌She‌ ‌placed‌ ‌it‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌coffee‌ ‌table,‌ ‌sucking‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌tip‌ ‌of‌ ‌her‌ ‌index‌ ‌finger‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌accidentally‌ ‌pricked‌ ‌it.‌ ‌”Ouch...”‌ ‌

Jamie’s‌ ‌eyes‌ ‌popped‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌her‌ ‌head‌ ‌when‌ ‌she‌ ‌saw‌ ‌the‌ ‌cactus‌ ‌and‌ ‌she‌ ‌rushed‌ ‌over,‌ ‌abandoning‌ ‌the‌ ‌pancakes‌ ‌as‌ ‌abruptly‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌had‌ ‌started‌ ‌them.‌ ‌‌ ‌“So‌ ‌cute!‌ ‌she‌ ‌squeed,‌ ‌taking‌ ‌the‌ ‌cactus‌ ‌in‌ ‌her‌ ‌hands.‌ ‌But,‌ ‌unfortunately,‌ ‌she‌ ‌made‌ ‌the‌ ‌same‌ ‌mistake‌ ‌as‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌in‌ ‌grabbing‌ ‌the‌ ‌actual‌ ‌cactus‌ ‌itself.‌ ‌She‌ ‌yelped‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌pricked‌ ‌her‌ ‌fingers,‌ ‌dropping‌ ‌the‌ ‌cactus‌ ‌abruptly‌ ‌onto‌ ‌the‌ ‌table.‌ “Fuck,‌ ‌fuck,‌ ‌fuck-”‌ ‌she‌ ‌hissed,‌ ‌holding‌ ‌her‌ ‌right‌ ‌hand.‌ ‌There‌ ‌were‌ ‌little‌ ‌spikes‌ ‌embedded‌ ‌all‌ ‌over‌ ‌it‌ ‌now.‌ ‌‌ ‌“Thanks,”‌ ‌she‌ ‌said,‌ ‌looking‌ ‌pained.‌ ‌“I’ll‌ ‌go‌ ‌put‌ ‌it‌ ‌on‌ ‌my‌ ‌dresser‌ ‌as‌ ‌soon‌ ‌as‌ ‌I…‌ ‌wait,‌ ‌what‌ ‌was‌ ‌I‌ ‌doing?‌ ‌Oh,‌ ‌right,‌ ‌pancakes!‌ ‌For‌ ‌Dog!”‌ ‌She‌ ‌turned‌ ‌to‌ ‌go‌ ‌back‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌oven.‌ ‌ ‌

Brie‌ ‌grinned‌ ‌at‌ ‌Jamie,‌ ‌happy‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌hero‌ ‌seemed‌ ‌to‌ ‌like‌ ‌her‌ ‌present.‌ ‌She‌ ‌wasn’t‌ ‌really‌ ‌the‌ ‌best‌ ‌at‌ ‌buying‌ ‌gifts‌ ‌and‌ ‌usually‌ ‌people‌ ‌seemed‌ ‌pretty‌ ‌unimpressed‌ ‌with‌ ‌her‌ ‌attempts.‌ ‌Apparently‌ ‌Bloopers‌ ‌gift‌ ‌cards‌ ‌weren’t‌ ‌something‌ ‌you‌ ‌could‌ ‌just‌ ‌give‌ ‌people‌ ‌for‌ ‌any‌ ‌occasion.‌ ‌Maybe‌ ‌they’d‌ ‌be‌ ‌alright‌ ‌for‌ ‌Valentine’s‌ ‌Day‌ ‌though…‌ ‌

”Oh,‌ ‌be‌ ‌careful‌ ‌-‌ ‌it’s‌ ‌super‌ ‌spiky!”‌ ‌She‌ ‌exclaimed‌ ‌rather‌ ‌too‌ ‌late‌ ‌as‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌picked‌ ‌up‌ ‌the‌ ‌cactus‌ ‌with‌ ‌her‌ ‌bare‌ ‌hands.‌ ‌“Are‌ ‌you‌ ‌okay-er...what’s‌ ‌that‌ ‌smell?”‌ ‌Her‌ ‌head‌ ‌spun‌ ‌around‌ ‌as‌ ‌her‌ ‌nose‌ ‌picked‌ ‌up‌ ‌the‌ ‌distinctive‌ ‌smell‌ ‌of‌ ‌something‌ ‌burning.‌ ‌She‌ ‌looked‌ ‌over‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌kitchen‌ ‌just‌ ‌in‌ ‌time‌ ‌to‌ ‌see‌ ‌Dog‌ ‌jump‌ ‌up‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌counter,‌ ‌paws‌ ‌scrambling‌ ‌madly‌ ‌in‌ ‌an‌ ‌attempt‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌bowl.‌ ‌”Wait-stop‌ ‌it!‌ ‌You’re‌ ‌gonna-...”‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌trailed‌ ‌off‌ ‌mid-sentence,‌ ‌her‌ ‌mouth‌ ‌falling‌ ‌open‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌watched‌ ‌Dog‌ ‌knock‌ ‌both‌ ‌the‌ ‌bowl‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌pan‌ ‌off‌ ‌the‌ ‌counter.‌ ‌Whilst‌ ‌the‌ ‌batter‌ ‌splattered‌ ‌all‌ ‌over‌ ‌the‌ ‌floor,‌ ‌the‌ ‌pan‌ ‌(which‌ ‌had‌ ‌at‌ ‌some‌ ‌point‌ ‌set‌ ‌spectacularly‌ ‌on‌ ‌fire),‌ ‌tumbled‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌ground.‌ ‌ ‌

”Shit‌ ‌shit‌ ‌shit!‌ ‌Jesus,‌ ‌Dog‌ ‌your‌ ‌tail’s‌ ‌on‌ ‌fire!!!”‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌yelped‌ ‌as‌ ‌Dog‌ ‌wafted‌ ‌his‌ ‌tail‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌path‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire,‌ ‌seemingly‌ ‌oblivious‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌danger‌ ‌as‌ ‌he‌ ‌continued‌ ‌trying‌ ‌to‌ ‌lap‌ ‌up‌ ‌the‌ ‌batter.‌ ‌Running‌ ‌over‌ ‌to‌ ‌him,‌ ‌she‌ ‌began‌ ‌to‌ ‌waft‌ ‌uselessly‌ ‌at‌ ‌his‌ ‌tail‌ ‌with‌ ‌her‌ ‌hands‌ ‌in‌ ‌an‌ ‌attempt‌ ‌to‌ ‌put‌ ‌it‌ ‌out.‌ ‌It‌ ‌of‌ ‌course‌ ‌didn’t‌ ‌work,‌ ‌and‌ ‌she‌ ‌instead‌ ‌decided‌ ‌to‌ ‌run‌ ‌over‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌sink,‌ ‌beginning‌ ‌to‌ ‌fill‌ ‌a‌ ‌glass‌ ‌with‌ ‌water.‌ ‌

Jamie’s‌ ‌mouth‌ ‌dropped‌ ‌open‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌watched‌ ‌all‌ ‌this‌ ‌occur.‌ ‌‌ ‌“FIRE!”‌ ‌She‌ ‌screamed,‌ ‌as‌ ‌if‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌wasn’t‌ ‌already‌ ‌aware‌ ‌there‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌fire.‌ ‌Panicking‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌brief‌ ‌moment,‌ ‌she‌ ‌looked‌ ‌around‌ ‌the‌ ‌kitchen-‌ ‌something‌ ‌to‌ ‌put‌ ‌it‌ ‌out,‌ ‌something‌ ‌to‌ ‌put‌ ‌it‌ ‌out…‌ ‌Her‌ ‌eyes‌ ‌fell‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌vegetable‌ ‌oil‌ ‌that‌ ‌she‌ ‌had‌ ‌used‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌the‌ ‌pancake‌ ‌batter..‌ ‌Perfect!‌ ‌It‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌liquid,‌ ‌so‌ ‌it‌ ‌had‌ ‌to‌ ‌work,‌ ‌right?‌ ‌As‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌started‌ ‌to‌ ‌fill‌ ‌a‌ ‌cup‌ ‌with‌ ‌water,‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌grabbed‌ ‌the‌ ‌tub‌ ‌of‌ ‌vegetable‌ ‌oil‌ ‌and‌ ‌upended‌ ‌it‌ ‌over‌ ‌the‌ ‌burning‌ ‌pan,‌ ‌making‌ ‌sure‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌it‌ ‌everywhere.‌ ‌This’ll‌ ‌for‌ ‌sure‌ ‌put‌ ‌it‌ ‌out!‌ ‌

It‌ ‌did‌ ‌not.‌ ‌Rather,‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌became‌ ‌exponentially‌ ‌larger‌ ‌in‌ ‌seconds,‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌loud‌ ‌burst‌ ‌of‌ ‌flame.‌ ‌The‌ ‌orange‌ ‌and‌ ‌red‌ ‌fire‌ ‌grew,‌ ‌creeping‌ ‌up‌ ‌the‌ ‌cabinets.‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌screamed,‌ ‌jumping‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌way‌ ‌and‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌kitchenette.‌ ‌“How‌ ‌did‌ ‌that‌ ‌not‌ ‌work?!”‌ ‌she‌ ‌yelled,‌ ‌shocked‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌oil‌ ‌hadn’t‌ ‌put‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌out.‌ ‌

Brie‌ ‌let‌ ‌out‌ ‌a‌ ‌scream‌ ‌as‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌suddenly‌ ‌started‌ ‌spreading,‌ ‌her‌ ‌eyes‌ ‌landing‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌tub‌ ‌of‌ ‌vegetable‌ ‌oil‌ ‌that‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌was‌ ‌clutching‌ ‌in‌ ‌her‌ ‌hands.‌ ‌"Isn’t‌ ‌oil‌ ‌like‌ ‌er...what’s‌ ‌the‌ ‌word...doesn’t‌ ‌it‌ ‌make‌ ‌fire‌ ‌worse?!”‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌blurted‌ ‌out,‌ ‌before‌ ‌turning‌ ‌back‌ ‌to‌ ‌her‌ ‌beloved‌ ‌pet.‌ ‌She’d‌ ‌at‌ ‌least‌ ‌managed‌ ‌to‌ ‌fill‌ ‌her‌ ‌cup‌ ‌with‌ ‌water‌ ‌and‌ ‌she‌ ‌threw‌ ‌this‌ ‌on‌ ‌Dogs‌ ‌tail,‌ ‌thankfully‌ ‌managing‌ ‌to‌ ‌put‌ ‌that‌ ‌particular‌ ‌fire‌ ‌out.‌ ‌His‌ ‌poor‌ ‌tail‌ ‌looked‌ ‌very‌ ‌singed‌ ‌but‌ ‌Dog‌ ‌still‌ ‌seemed‌ ‌not‌ ‌to‌ ‌have‌ ‌noticed,‌ ‌having‌ ‌instead‌ ‌taken‌ ‌to‌ ‌barking‌ ‌loudly‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌flaming‌ ‌kitchenette.‌ ‌ ‌

“What‌ ‌do‌ ‌we‌ ‌do?!‌ ‌Oh,‌ ‌we‌ ‌should‌ ‌call‌ ‌someone‌ ‌right?‌ ‌Will‌ ‌maybe?‌ ‌No‌ ‌wait,‌ ‌911!‌ ‌Yeah,‌ ‌them!”‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌nodded,‌ ‌pleased‌ ‌that‌ ‌she’d‌ ‌managed‌ ‌to‌ ‌remember‌ ‌who‌ ‌to‌ ‌call.‌ ‌She‌ ‌would’ve‌ ‌contacted‌ ‌Will‌ ‌first‌ ‌but‌ ‌she‌ ‌reeeeally‌ ‌didn’t‌ ‌want‌ ‌him‌ ‌to‌ ‌know‌ ‌that‌ ‌she’d‌ ‌been‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌apartment‌ ‌for‌ ‌barely‌ ‌ten‌ ‌minutes,‌ ‌before‌ ‌a‌ ‌disaster‌ ‌had‌ ‌ensued.‌ ‌Running‌ ‌over‌ ‌to‌ ‌her‌ ‌bag,‌ ‌she‌ ‌began‌ ‌to‌ ‌root‌ ‌through‌ ‌it.‌ ‌As‌ ‌she‌ ‌tossed‌ ‌all‌ ‌of‌ ‌her‌ ‌belongings‌ ‌onto‌ ‌the‌ ‌floor,‌ ‌she‌ ‌eventually‌ ‌found‌ ‌her‌ ‌phone‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌bottom‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌bag.‌ ‌“Got‌ ‌it!”‌ ‌She‌ ‌began‌ ‌typing‌ ‌in‌ ‌‘911’‌ ‌but‌ ‌failed‌ ‌to‌ ‌realise‌ ‌that,‌ ‌in‌ ‌her‌ ‌panic,‌ ‌she‌ ‌had‌ ‌begun‌ ‌to‌ ‌generate‌ ‌a‌ ‌significant‌ ‌amount‌ ‌of‌ ‌static‌ ‌electricity‌ ‌around‌ ‌her‌ ‌hands,‌ ‌and‌ ‌before‌ ‌she‌ ‌could‌ ‌finish,‌ ‌her‌ ‌phone‌ ‌had‌ ‌gone‌ ‌completely‌ ‌dead.‌ “Oh,‌ ‌I‌ ‌short-circuited‌ ‌it...”‌ ‌She‌ ‌paused‌ ‌before‌ ‌turning‌ ‌back‌ ‌to‌ ‌Jamie,‌ ‌her‌ ‌green‌ ‌eyes‌ ‌wide‌ ‌in‌ ‌panic.‌ ‌“You‌ ‌er,‌ ‌have‌ ‌a‌ ‌phone‌ ‌right?”‌ ‌

“I‌ ‌DIDN’T‌ ‌KNOW‌ ‌THAT!”‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌cried,‌ ‌distressed.‌ ‌She‌ ‌was‌ ‌hyperventilating,‌ ‌watching‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌grow‌ ‌larger‌ ‌and‌ ‌hotter.‌ ‌Fuck!‌ ‌She‌ ‌liked‌ ‌her‌ ‌kitchen…‌ ‌And‌ ‌her‌ ‌apartment!‌ ‌And‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌had‌ ‌just‌ ‌moved‌ ‌in.‌ ‌If‌ ‌her‌ ‌house‌ ‌burned‌ ‌down,‌ ‌would‌ ‌she‌ ‌have‌ ‌to‌ ‌move‌ ‌into‌ ‌HERO‌ ‌One?‌ ‌The‌ ‌fire‌ ‌had‌ ‌now‌ ‌eaten‌ ‌her‌ ‌calendar‌ ‌from‌ ‌2032‌ ‌and‌ ‌was‌ ‌spreading‌ ‌into‌ ‌the‌ ‌living‌ ‌room.‌ ‌ ‌

Jamie‌ ‌dove‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌coffee‌ ‌table‌ ‌at‌ ‌Brie’s‌ ‌words,‌ ‌grabbing‌ ‌her‌ ‌phone‌ ‌and‌ ‌unlocking‌ ‌it‌ ‌frantically.‌ ‌She‌ ‌fucked‌ ‌up‌ ‌a‌ ‌few‌ ‌times‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌passcode,‌ ‌but‌ ‌got‌ ‌in,‌ ‌successfully‌ ‌dialing‌ ‌911.‌ ‌ ‌

“911,‌ ‌what’s‌ ‌your‌ ‌emergency?”‌ ‌

“Um,‌ ‌there’s‌ ‌a‌ ‌fire!‌ ‌I,‌ ‌um-‌ ‌I‌ ‌left‌ ‌the‌ ‌oven‌ ‌alone‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌minute,‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌stove‌ ‌lit‌ ‌on‌ ‌fire,‌ ‌and‌ ‌I‌ ‌tried‌ ‌to‌ ‌put‌ ‌it‌ ‌out‌ ‌but‌ ‌it‌ ‌was‌ ‌oil‌ ‌and‌ ‌oil‌ ‌doesn’t‌ ‌put‌ ‌out‌ ‌fires‌ ‌apparently-”‌ ‌

“What’s‌ ‌your‌ ‌address?”‌ ‌

Jamie‌ ‌listed‌ ‌off‌ ‌her‌ ‌address‌ ‌breathlessly.‌ ‌

“We’ll‌ ‌have‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌department‌ ‌over‌ ‌there‌ ‌immediately.”‌ ‌

She‌ ‌gave‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌a‌ ‌thumbs-up,‌ ‌mouthing‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌truck‌ ‌is‌ ‌coming.‌ ‌Meanwhile,‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌was‌ ‌still‌ ‌raging‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌kitchenette.‌ ‌

”Okay,‌ ‌good.‌ ‌That’s‌ ‌good!”‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌said‌ ‌uncertainly‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌watched‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌dial‌ ‌911.‌ ‌Hopefully‌ ‌they‌ ‌would‌ ‌get‌ ‌here‌ ‌before‌ ‌the‌ ‌entire‌ ‌apartment‌ ‌burnt‌ ‌down.‌ ‌The‌ ‌fire‌ ‌was‌ ‌spreading‌ ‌pretty‌ ‌quickly‌ ‌though,‌ ‌and‌ ‌she‌ ‌frantically‌ ‌dragged‌ ‌her‌ ‌suitcase‌ ‌closer‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌door.‌ ‌She‌ ‌didn’t‌ ‌have‌ ‌many‌ ‌belongings‌ ‌so‌ ‌she‌ ‌really‌ ‌didn’t‌ ‌want‌ ‌the‌ ‌few‌ ‌things‌ ‌she‌ ‌did‌ ‌have‌ ‌to‌ ‌set‌ ‌alight.‌ ‌

”Oh‌ ‌god!‌ ‌Where‌ ‌are‌ ‌they?!‌ ‌Does‌ ‌it‌ ‌usually‌ ‌take‌ ‌them‌ ‌this‌ ‌long?”‌ ‌She‌ ‌frowned‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌paced‌ ‌uselessly‌ ‌about‌ ‌the‌ ‌living‌ ‌room,‌ ‌her‌ ‌eyes‌ ‌darting‌ ‌every‌ ‌now‌ ‌and‌ ‌then‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌door.‌ ‌If‌ ‌she‌ ‌had‌ ‌thought‌ ‌about‌ ‌it‌ ‌carefully,‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌might‌ ‌have‌ ‌remembered‌ ‌seeing‌ ‌a‌ ‌fire‌ extinguisher‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌hallway‌ ‌but‌ ‌unfortunately‌ ‌she‌ ‌was‌ ‌in‌ ‌too‌ ‌much‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌panic‌ ‌to‌ ‌remember‌ ‌such‌ ‌vital‌ ‌information.‌ ‌

Instead‌ ‌of‌ ‌something‌ ‌more‌ ‌traditional‌ ‌like‌ ‌a‌ ‌fire‌ ‌truck,‌ ‌a‌ ‌silver‌ ‌sedan‌ ‌pulled‌ ‌up‌ ‌in‌ ‌front‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌apartment‌ ‌building‌ ‌instead.‌ ‌Stepping‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌uber‌ ‌were‌ ‌three‌ ‌young‌ ‌teens,‌ ‌not‌ ‌older‌ ‌than‌ ‌18‌ ‌for‌ ‌sure,‌ ‌wearing‌ ‌some‌ ‌sort‌ ‌of‌ ‌high-tech‌ ‌firefighter‌ ‌garb.‌ ‌“Let’s‌ ‌go,‌ ‌guys!”‌ ‌one‌ ‌of‌ ‌them‌ ‌shouted,‌ ‌making‌ ‌his‌ ‌way‌ ‌towards‌ ‌the‌ ‌apartment,‌ ‌but‌ ‌one‌ ‌of‌ ‌his‌ ‌co-workers,‌ ‌a‌ ‌teen‌ ‌with‌ ‌bushy‌ ‌brown‌ ‌hair‌ ‌that‌ ‌spilled‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌his‌ ‌firefighter‌ ‌helmet,‌ ‌grabbed‌ ‌his‌ ‌shoulder.‌ ‌“Dude,‌ ‌you‌ ‌didn’t‌ ‌tip‌ ‌the‌ ‌Uber!”‌ ‌he‌ hissed‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌lead‌ ‌water‌ ‌boy.‌ ‌“You’re‌ ‌so‌ ‌dumb‌ ‌sometimes,‌ ‌Keith!”‌ ‌

“I’m‌ ‌not‌ ‌dumb!‌ ‌You’re‌ ‌dumb,‌ ‌Jonah!”‌ ‌Keith‌ ‌hissed‌ ‌back‌ ‌as‌ ‌he‌ ‌handed‌ ‌the‌ ‌Uber‌ ‌driver‌ ‌a‌ ‌ten‌ ‌dollar‌ ‌bill.‌ ‌ ‌

“You’re‌ ‌never‌ ‌going‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌to‌ ‌go‌ ‌out‌ ‌with‌ ‌Patricia!”‌ ‌Jonah‌ ‌taunted‌ ‌back.‌ ‌ ‌

“I’m‌ ‌much‌ ‌closer‌ ‌than‌ ‌you‌ ‌are!”‌ ‌

“Are‌ ‌not!”‌ ‌

“Are‌ ‌so!”‌ ‌

“Shut‌ ‌up,”‌ ‌the‌ ‌third,‌ ‌dark-skinned‌ ‌teen‌ ‌muttered‌ ‌as‌ ‌he‌ ‌made‌ ‌his‌ ‌way‌ ‌towards‌ ‌the‌ ‌apartment‌ ‌building.‌ ‌“We‌ ‌have‌ ‌work‌ ‌to‌ ‌do.”‌ ‌

The‌ ‌other‌ ‌two‌ ‌both‌ ‌groaned‌ ‌simultaneously.‌ ‌“Ernest,‌ ‌such‌ ‌a‌ ‌killjoy…”‌ ‌they‌ ‌muttered‌ ‌before‌ ‌making‌ ‌their‌ ‌way‌ ‌swiftly‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌apartment.‌ ‌They‌ ‌quite‌ ‌literally‌ ‌barged‌ ‌through‌ ‌the‌ ‌door,‌ ‌holding‌ ‌long‌ ‌hoses‌ ‌from‌ ‌their‌ ‌backpacks‌ ‌that‌ ‌they‌ ‌wielded‌ ‌like‌ ‌guns.‌ ‌“Fear‌ ‌not,‌ ‌civilians,‌ ‌the‌ ‌Water‌ ‌Hero‌ ‌Squad‌ ‌is‌ ‌here!”‌ ‌Keith‌ ‌announced‌ ‌triumphantly,‌ ‌rushing‌ ‌over‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌kitchenette‌ ‌and‌ ‌aiming‌ ‌his‌ ‌hose‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire.‌ ‌The‌ ‌hose‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌HERO‌ ‌gadget‌ ‌that‌ ‌allowed‌ ‌the‌ ‌water‌ ‌heroes‌ ‌to‌ ‌compress‌ ‌their‌ ‌water‌ ‌into‌ ‌a‌ ‌single‌ ‌stream,‌ ‌for‌ ‌as‌ ‌C-tier‌ ‌heroes‌ ‌their‌ ‌water‌ ‌control‌ ‌level‌ ‌was‌ ‌quite‌ ‌dismal.‌ ‌The‌ ‌three‌ ‌then‌ ‌fired‌ ‌directly‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌stove,‌ ‌blasting‌ ‌it‌ ‌with‌ ‌water.‌ ‌Instead‌ ‌of‌ ‌extinguishing‌ ‌the‌ ‌flames,‌ ‌the‌ ‌water‌ ‌sent‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌scattering‌ ‌everywhere,‌ ‌the‌ ‌entire‌ ‌kitchen‌ ‌engulfed‌ ‌in‌ ‌raging‌ ‌fire.‌ ‌“Shit‌ ‌shit‌ ‌shit‌ ‌shit‌ ‌shit…”‌ ‌they‌ ‌muttered,‌ ‌practically‌ ‌in‌ ‌unison,‌ ‌as‌ ‌they‌ ‌backed‌ ‌away‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌kitchen.‌ ‌

“We‌ ‌messed‌ ‌up‌ ‌again,‌ ‌Powers‌ ‌is‌ ‌gonna‌ ‌fire‌ ‌us,‌ ‌noooo….”‌ ‌Keith‌ ‌muttered.‌ ‌ ‌

“Or‌ ‌we‌ ‌use‌ ‌a‌ ‌fire‌ ‌extinguisher,”‌ ‌Ernest‌ ‌suggested,‌ ‌having‌ ‌run‌ ‌out‌ ‌and‌ ‌grabbed‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌extinguisher‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌hallway.‌ ‌“We‌ ‌have‌ ‌the‌ ‌emergency‌ ‌one‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌backpack,‌ ‌remember?”‌ ‌

The‌ ‌Water‌ ‌Hero‌ ‌Squad,‌ ‌remembering‌ ‌this‌ ‌crucial‌ ‌info‌ ‌now,‌ ‌equipped‌ ‌their‌ ‌fire‌ ‌extinguishers‌ ‌and‌ ‌ran‌ ‌back‌ ‌into‌ ‌the‌ ‌kitchen.‌ ‌A‌ ‌few‌ ‌minutes‌ ‌later,‌ ‌they‌ ‌emerged.‌ ‌“Fire‌ ‌out!”‌ ‌Jonah‌ ‌declared‌ ‌triumphantly.‌ ‌The‌ ‌entire‌ ‌kitchen‌ ‌had‌ ‌been‌ ‌reduced‌ ‌very‌ ‌nearly‌ ‌to‌ ‌ash,‌ ‌the‌ ‌wallpaper‌ ‌burnt‌ ‌to‌ ‌shreds,‌ ‌but‌ ‌the‌ ‌rest‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌apartment‌ ‌was‌ ‌mostly‌ ‌safe.‌ ‌“We,‌ ‌uhh,‌ ‌we‌ ‌accept‌ ‌tips,”‌ ‌Keith‌ ‌butted‌ ‌in‌ ‌hopefully,‌ ‌a‌ ‌dumb‌ ‌grin‌ ‌on‌ ‌his‌ ‌dumb‌ ‌teenage‌ ‌face.‌ ‌

Jamie‌ ‌watched‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌front‌ ‌door‌ ‌as‌ ‌the‌ ‌Water‌ ‌Hero‌ ‌Squad‌ ‌charged‌ ‌into‌ ‌her‌ ‌apartment.‌ ‌She‌ ‌was‌ ‌briefly‌ ‌confused-‌ ‌these‌ ‌weren’t‌ ‌firefighters,‌ ‌they‌ ‌were‌ ‌heroes!-‌ ‌but‌ ‌then‌ ‌remembered‌ ‌who‌ ‌they‌ ‌were‌ ‌and‌ ‌stopped‌ ‌being‌ ‌confused.‌ ‌She‌ ‌wasn’t‌ ‌doing‌ ‌the‌ ‌thing‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌Sims‌ ‌where‌ ‌they‌ ‌scream‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire,‌ ‌but‌ ‌she‌ ‌was,‌ ‌in‌ ‌fact‌ ‌panicking‌ ‌quite‌ ‌a‌ ‌bit.‌ ‌Tears‌ ‌stained‌ ‌her‌ ‌face,‌ ‌and‌ ‌she‌ ‌had‌ ‌flattened‌ ‌herself‌ ‌against‌ ‌the‌ ‌wall.‌ ‌One‌ ‌of‌ ‌her‌ ‌bare‌ ‌feet‌ ‌was‌ ‌out‌ ‌the‌ ‌door,‌ ‌but‌ ‌she‌ ‌kept‌ ‌the‌ ‌other‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌room,‌ ‌watching‌ ‌the‌ ‌three‌ ‌teenagers‌ ‌put‌ ‌out‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire.‌ ‌She‌ ‌had‌ ‌met‌ ‌the‌ ‌three‌ ‌of‌ ‌them‌ ‌before,‌ ‌briefly,‌ ‌but‌ ‌had‌ ‌never‌ ‌seen‌ ‌them‌ ‌in‌ ‌action…‌ ‌

This‌ ‌was‌ ‌cool!‌ ‌Their‌ ‌powers‌ ‌were‌ ‌totally‌ ‌useful.‌ ‌Ignoring‌ ‌the‌ ‌fact‌ ‌that‌ ‌they‌ ‌had‌ ‌just‌ ‌used‌ ‌a‌ ‌fire‌ ‌extinguisher,‌ ‌not‌ ‌their‌ ‌powers‌ ‌to‌ ‌put‌ ‌out‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire,‌ ‌she‌ ‌clapped‌ ‌once‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌had‌ ‌been‌ ‌put‌ ‌out.‌ ‌Even‌ ‌though‌ ‌her‌ ‌kitchen‌ ‌was‌ ‌charred,‌ ‌which‌ ‌made‌ ‌her‌ ‌stomach‌ ‌drop‌ ‌to‌ ‌her‌ ‌feet.‌ ‌Oh‌ ‌no...‌ ‌Well,‌ ‌her‌ ‌landlady‌ ‌would‌ ‌fix‌ ‌it.‌ ‌Probably.‌ ‌Hopefully.‌ ‌The‌ ‌smell‌ ‌of‌ ‌charred‌ ‌wood‌ ‌and‌ ‌burnt‌ ‌pancakes‌ ‌wafted‌ ‌through‌ ‌the‌ ‌apartment.‌ ‌That‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌permanent.‌ ‌

“Oh,‌ ‌yeah,‌ ‌totally!”‌ ‌Wiping‌ ‌tears‌ ‌from‌ ‌her‌ ‌eyes,‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌bounded‌ ‌over‌ ‌to‌ ‌her‌ ‌purse,‌ ‌digging‌ ‌through‌ ‌it.‌ ‌“I,‌ ‌um,‌ ‌have‌ ‌this‌ ‌half-full‌ ‌thing‌ ‌of‌ ‌fruity‌ ‌gum…‌ ‌some‌ ‌free‌ ‌pens…‌ ‌ooh,‌ ‌and‌ ‌three‌ ‌quarters!”‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌held‌ ‌the‌ ‌tips‌ ‌out‌ ‌to‌ ‌Keith,‌ ‌grinning.‌ ‌“B,‌ ‌do‌ ‌you‌ ‌wanna‌ ‌tip‌ ‌them?”‌ ‌

Bries‌ ‌head‌ ‌peeped‌ ‌round‌ ‌the‌ ‌door‌ ‌when‌ ‌the‌ ‌coast‌ ‌was‌ ‌declared‌ ‌clear,‌ ‌her‌ ‌eyes‌ ‌blinking‌ ‌slowly‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌took‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌chaos.‌ ‌"What?‌ ‌No‌ ‌way‌ ‌do‌ ‌I‌ ‌want‌ ‌to‌ ‌tip‌ ‌them!‌ ‌They‌ ‌made‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌worse!"‌ ‌She‌ ‌rolled‌ ‌her‌ ‌eyes‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌three‌ ‌dimwits‌ ‌who‌ ‌were‌ ‌standing‌ ‌in‌ ‌front‌ ‌of‌ ‌them.‌ ‌Although‌ ‌she‌ ‌had‌ ‌to‌ ‌give‌ ‌them‌ ‌props‌ ‌for‌ ‌actually‌ ‌remembering‌ ‌to‌ ‌use‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌extinguisher,‌ ‌at‌ ‌one‌ ‌point‌ ‌she‌ ‌had‌ ‌seriously‌ ‌thought‌ ‌they‌ ‌were‌ ‌all‌ ‌going‌ ‌to‌ ‌die.‌ ‌How‌ ‌ironic‌ ‌it‌ ‌would‌ ‌have‌ ‌been‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌killed‌ ‌by‌ ‌a‌ ‌fire‌ ‌when‌ ‌she‌ ‌was‌ dating‌ ‌a‌ ‌water‌ ‌hero…‌ ‌

"And‌ ‌Dogs‌ ‌all‌ ‌covered‌ ‌in‌ ‌foam‌ ‌now..."‌ ‌She‌ ‌moaned,‌ ‌pointing‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌unrecognisable‌ ‌form‌ ‌that‌ ‌had‌ ‌once‌ ‌been‌ ‌Dog,‌ ‌the‌ ‌poor‌ ‌thing‌ ‌now‌ ‌being‌ ‌covered‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌thick‌ ‌layer‌ ‌of‌ ‌white‌ ‌foam.‌ ‌With‌ ‌a‌ ‌flurried‌ ‌twist‌ ‌of‌ ‌his‌ ‌body,‌ ‌Dog‌ ‌managed‌ ‌to‌ ‌shake‌ ‌some‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌foam‌ ‌off‌ ‌himself,‌ ‌it‌ ‌splattering‌ ‌(much‌ ‌to‌ ‌Bries‌ ‌amusement)‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌water‌ ‌heroes.‌ ‌As‌ ‌she‌ ‌giggled‌ ‌at‌ ‌this,‌ ‌she‌ ‌seemed‌ ‌to‌ ‌change‌ ‌her‌ ‌mind,‌ ‌turning‌ ‌to‌ ‌raise‌ ‌an‌ ‌eyebrow‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌teenagers.‌ ‌"Actually,‌ ‌if‌ ‌I‌ ‌tip‌ ‌you,‌ ‌will‌ ‌you‌ ‌go‌ ‌away?"‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌paused,‌ ‌before‌ ‌reaching‌ ‌to‌ ‌pick‌ ‌a‌ ‌partially‌ ‌singed‌ ‌bag‌ ‌of‌ ‌Cool‌ ‌Ranch‌ ‌Doritos‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌floor.‌ ‌She'd‌ ‌brought‌ ‌it‌ ‌to‌ ‌snack‌ ‌on‌ ‌but‌ ‌she‌ ‌wasn't‌ ‌feeling‌ ‌particularly‌ ‌hungry‌ ‌anymore.‌ ‌"Here.‌ ‌Have‌ ‌this!‌ ‌Thanks‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌er...help."‌ ‌Smiling,‌ ‌she‌ ‌held‌ ‌the‌ ‌bag‌ ‌out‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌one‌ ‌whose‌ ‌name‌ ‌she‌ ‌thought‌ ‌was‌ ‌Keith.‌ ‌They‌ ‌all‌ ‌looked‌ ‌kinda‌ ‌similar‌ ‌to‌ ‌her‌ ‌though,‌ ‌so‌ ‌she‌ ‌wasn't‌ ‌entirely‌ ‌sure.‌ ‌ ‌

Keith‌ ‌gave‌ ‌a‌ ‌wide‌ ‌smile,‌ ‌taking‌ ‌the‌ ‌tips‌ ‌eagerly,‌ ‌before‌ ‌retreating‌ ‌out‌ ‌the‌ ‌door‌ ‌with‌ ‌his‌ ‌Water‌ ‌Squad‌ ‌teammates.‌ ‌“Another‌ ‌victory‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌Water‌ ‌Squad!”‌ ‌Keith‌ ‌called‌ ‌out‌ ‌triumphantly‌ ‌as‌ ‌he‌ ‌made‌ ‌his‌ ‌way‌ ‌outside.‌ ‌“We‌ ‌are‌ ‌so‌ ‌good‌ ‌at‌ ‌our‌ ‌jobs.‌ ‌One‌ ‌day,‌ ‌we’re‌ ‌gonna‌ ‌be‌ ‌as‌ ‌strong‌ ‌as‌ ‌Tempest.‌ ‌Or‌ ‌Sea‌ ‌Serpent!”‌ ‌

“Dude,”‌ ‌Jonah‌ ‌said‌ ‌eagerly.‌ ‌“That‌ ‌was‌ ‌Tempest’s‌ ‌girlfriend!”‌ ‌

“Yoooo,”‌ ‌Keith‌ ‌said‌ ‌with‌ ‌an‌ ‌even‌ ‌wider‌ ‌grin.‌ ‌“She‌ ‌might‌ ‌put‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌good‌ ‌word‌ ‌for‌ ‌us!‌ ‌He’s‌ ‌totally‌ ‌gonna‌ ‌become,‌ ‌like,‌ ‌our‌ ‌sensei.‌ ‌And‌ ‌then‌ ‌I’ll‌ ‌get‌ ‌really‌ ‌strong!‌ ‌And‌ ‌Patricia‌ ‌will‌ ‌finally‌ ‌go‌ ‌with‌ ‌me‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌HERO‌ ‌Ball!”‌ ‌

Earnest‌ ‌sighed.‌ ‌Why‌ ‌couldn’t‌ ‌he‌ ‌have‌ ‌had‌ ‌lightning‌ ‌powers?‌ ‌

Jamie‌ ‌shrugged‌ ‌as‌ ‌the‌ ‌Water‌ ‌Hero‌ ‌Squad‌ ‌left,‌ ‌turning‌ ‌to‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌and‌ ‌putting‌ ‌on‌ ‌her‌ ‌best‌ ‌optimistic‌ ‌face.‌ ‌“Well…‌ ‌I‌ ‌guess‌ ‌we’re‌ ‌doing‌ ‌takeout‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌bit!‌ ‌Not‌ ‌like‌ ‌either‌ ‌of‌ ‌us‌ ‌could‌ ‌cook‌ ‌anyway,‌ ‌right?‌ ‌I’ll‌ ‌call‌ ‌the‌ ‌landlady‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌the‌ ‌kitchen‌ ‌fixed‌ ‌sometime,‌ ‌but‌ ‌for‌ ‌now,‌ ‌you‌ ‌can‌ ‌go‌ ‌put‌ ‌your‌ ‌stuff‌ ‌in‌ ‌your‌ ‌room.‌ ‌We‌ ‌can‌ ‌get‌ ‌something‌ ‌to‌ ‌eat‌ ‌later!”‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌seemed‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌rolling‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌damage,‌ ‌not‌ ‌very‌ ‌affected‌ ‌by‌ ‌it.‌ ‌‌ ‌“Oh‌ ‌and,‌ ‌um,‌ ‌Dog’s‌ ‌okay,‌ ‌right?”‌ ‌She‌ ‌pointed‌ ‌to‌ ‌Dog,‌ ‌not‌ ‌daring‌ ‌to‌ ‌pet‌ ‌him.‌ ‌ ‌

"I‌ ‌can‌ ‌cook‌ ‌pot‌ ‌noodles...does‌ ‌that‌ ‌count?‌ ‌But‌ ‌takeaway‌ ‌sounds‌ ‌way‌ ‌better‌ ‌anyway!"‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌grinned‌ ‌enthusiastically.‌ ‌Although‌ ‌the‌ ‌fire‌ ‌had‌ ‌been‌ ‌pretty‌ ‌scary,‌ ‌it‌ ‌was‌ ‌over‌ ‌now‌ ‌and‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌said‌ ‌the‌ ‌landlady‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌able‌ ‌to‌ ‌fix‌ ‌it,‌ ‌so‌ ‌everything‌ ‌looked‌ ‌like‌ ‌it‌ ‌was‌ ‌going‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌okay.‌ ‌She‌ ‌wasn't‌ ‌going‌ ‌to‌ ‌let‌ ‌it‌ ‌ruin‌ ‌her‌ ‌moving-in‌ ‌day‌ ‌anyway.‌ ‌

At‌ ‌the‌ ‌mention‌ ‌of‌ ‌Dog,‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌waved‌ ‌a‌ ‌hand‌ ‌nonchalantly,‌ ‌seeming‌ ‌unconcerned‌ ‌that‌ ‌he‌ ‌was‌ ‌currently‌ ‌licking‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌remnants‌ ‌of‌ ‌foam‌ ‌that‌ ‌were‌ ‌left‌ ‌on‌ ‌his‌ ‌fur.‌ ‌"Oh,‌ ‌he'll‌ ‌be‌ ‌fine.‌ ‌He's‌ ‌survived‌ ‌worse!"‌ ‌Grabbing‌ ‌hold‌ ‌of‌ ‌her‌ ‌suitcase,‌ ‌she‌ ‌dragged‌ ‌it‌ ‌into‌ ‌what‌ ‌she‌ ‌surmised‌ ‌was‌ ‌her‌ ‌room,‌ ‌dropping‌ ‌it‌ ‌roughly‌ ‌onto‌ ‌the‌ ‌carpet.‌ ‌She‌ ‌would‌ ‌unpack‌ ‌later.‌ ‌Unpacking‌ ‌was‌ ‌even‌ ‌worse‌ ‌than‌ ‌packing.‌ ‌She‌ ‌had‌ ‌to‌ ‌organise‌ ‌her‌ ‌stuff‌ ‌and‌ ‌fold‌ ‌things‌ ‌up.‌ ‌So‌ ‌boring.‌ ‌She‌ ‌scrunched‌ ‌up‌ ‌her‌ ‌nose‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌thought‌ ‌of‌ ‌this‌ ‌before‌ ‌glancing‌ ‌around‌ ‌the‌ ‌room.‌ ‌There‌ ‌wasn't‌ ‌much‌ ‌in‌ ‌there,‌ ‌aside‌ ‌from‌ ‌a‌ ‌metal‌ ‌bed‌ ‌frame‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌mattress‌ ‌which‌ ‌looked‌ ‌like‌ ‌it‌ ‌had‌ ‌seen‌ ‌better‌ ‌days.‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌seemed‌ ‌unperturbed‌ ‌by‌ ‌this‌ ‌though‌ ‌as‌ ‌she‌ ‌called‌ ‌out‌ ‌to‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌happily.‌ ‌"Wow,‌ ‌this‌ ‌place‌ ‌is‌ ‌great!‌ ‌Oh,‌ ‌though‌ ‌I‌ ‌left‌ ‌my‌ ‌duvet‌ ‌at‌ ‌HERO‌ ‌One...guess‌ ‌I'll‌ ‌have‌ ‌to‌ ‌go‌ ‌shopping‌ ‌tomorrow.”‌ ‌ ‌

Jamie‌ ‌came‌ ‌in‌ ‌after‌ ‌her‌ ‌and‌ ‌stood‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌doorway,‌ ‌surveying‌ ‌the‌ ‌room.‌ ‌She‌ ‌hadn’t‌ ‌really‌ ‌been‌ ‌in‌ ‌here‌ ‌much‌ ‌since‌ ‌her‌ ‌last‌ ‌roommate‌ ‌had‌ ‌moved‌ ‌out,‌ ‌and‌ ‌it‌ ‌still‌ ‌looked‌ ‌pretty‌ ‌bare.‌ ‌Knowing‌ ‌Brie,‌ ‌though,‌ ‌it‌ ‌would‌ ‌soon‌ ‌look‌ ‌different.‌ ‌Messier,‌ ‌maybe?‌ ‌‌ ‌“Thanks!”‌ ‌she‌ ‌responded.‌ ‌‌ ‌“We‌ ‌could‌ ‌probably‌ ‌get‌ ‌it‌ ‌when‌ ‌we‌ ‌go‌ ‌to‌ ‌work‌ ‌tomorrow,‌ ‌though…‌ ‌Powers’ll‌ ‌let‌ ‌you‌ ‌in‌ ‌for‌ ‌sure.‌ ‌I’ll‌ ‌leave‌ ‌you‌ ‌to‌ ‌it.‌ ‌Yell‌ ‌if‌ ‌you‌ ‌need‌ ‌anything.”‌ ‌With‌ ‌that,‌ ‌Jamie‌ ‌turned‌ ‌around‌ ‌and‌ ‌closed‌ ‌the‌ ‌door,‌ ‌leaving‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌to‌ ‌her‌ ‌unpacking.‌ ‌Living‌ ‌with‌ ‌Brie‌ ‌should‌ ‌be‌ ‌really‌ ‌fun,‌ ‌she‌ ‌thought.‌ ‌She‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌fun‌ ‌fun‌ ‌friend-‌ ‌she‌ ‌must‌ ‌be‌ ‌a‌ ‌fun‌ ‌roommate,‌ ‌too.‌ ‌
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by DClassified
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Avatar of DClassified

DClassified Kung Fro Killa

Member Seen 16 days ago



Location
|| Brookside ||

Time
|| Midnight ||

Interactions
|| Co-Post With @Hitman ||


It was at a construction site, near the docks of Brookside. The night was cool and damp. There weren't that many people on this side of town at this time of night. All according to plan...Or, according to what the plan was supposed to be. It was only meant to be a raid. The cops were busy on the other side of town, and the storage containers were relatively unguarded thanks to having a man on the inside. No attention, meant no hero interference.

They’d declare this to be their turf, establish their gang amongst the others, and a new gang would be born, the Barbarians. It would’ve been the perfect plan...Except they didn’t account for one detail. That missing detail cost them everything.

Phillip ‘Vermin’ Reed, the head of this little operation. Mud covered the rugged man’s face and hands as he used them to weakly drag himself from the scene. Around him was only barely short of a massacre.

Weapons were tossed about randomly. Some taken apart, others broken, and some firearms that didn’t even have a chance to be fired. Bodies littered the ground and near the surrounding equipment. They were either unconscious, writhing in pain, or even completely paralyzed, staring around at their surroundings in shock from the ground.

The battle here, had already been had. Decided in the span of a few minutes. The Hood wasn’t supposed to be real. The guy was a urban legend; one of those creepy lasagnas or whatever the kids called them. The ghost of a hero killed by the Brookside streets. He was only supposed to be a story told to keep dumbass kids from doing shit they weren’t supposed to.

Reed was making a trail in the mud, both of his legs weren’t listening to him. He didn’t think they were broken, but he couldn’t feel them. What kind of freaky shit was this?

Closely behind him, drifted a hooded figure. The shadows clung to his body as his cloak swayed softly with the wind. If it weren’t for the glimmers of the moonlight between the clouds, he’d be almost impossible to see. Which worked fairly well to his advantage.

As he heard the ghastly shadow’s footsteps come closer, he recalled the stories of the past. Rumor had it that only those with the most dastardly of deeds was who he took away. Then, in turn, those taken would never be heard from again. While he went through a laundry list of the things he had done, he found himself suddenly pulled up from the ground. His legs limply hung underneath his torso as the man dare not struggle.

He stared into the void of darkness, only able to make out a vaguely brown-skinned nose and mouth.

“You’ve done a lot of things, Mister Reed. The streets call you Vermin because you’re a dirty slimeball whose willing to rat out his own to weasel in and out of trouble. Let’s put that to the test.” The Hood held Vermin by the wrist, to which the man quickly tried to shield his arm.

“Please! I have a family!” The man cried. It was hard to read the mannerisms of The Hood through his darkened features. Without warning, Vermin’s four right fingers snapped like crackers, breaking little bones he didn’t even know were in there, causing the man to squeal in pain.

“Spare me the lies. You sold them out a long time ago, just like you do everyone else.” The man didn’t protest, but merely growled, foiled. All the while, The Hood pulled a bronze pendant from his pocket with an embezzled double-star on it.

“You’ve seen it before. I want the name that goes with it.” Police sirens were slowly fading into the area. The Hood seemed to snarl under his breath. “If you want your limbs working proper when you go to jail, you’ll talk quickly.”

Vermin weighed his options. “They call ‘im the Red Baron. Scary guy; works in the sneaky corners of Kingsdale. Rumor has it he works for one of the rich fucks living up there. Wherever that trinket is found, bodies are close by.” The Hood let his body slump to the ground and he clenched his eyes shut, as if waiting for more things to be broken.

“Come on man! That’s all I know. I’ll go with the pigs! Just don’t make me disappear!” He pleaded one last time, but when he opened his eyes, the guy was gone. Nowhere to be seen. Yet, he heard the police sirens getting louder, and he slouched to the ground with a small sigh.

Well, looks like the rumors were true. Ya learn something new every day.

On a rooftop overlooking the scene was where The Hood had vanished to, walking off with the newly acquired info surrounding this Red Baron. Just the thought of the guy made his blood boil, more than it already had. The fact that he apparently had business with Kingsdale made the search window much smaller, but it didn’t make it any easier. Background checking through all the names would take forever, but he’d do it if he had to….He owed it to them.

Standing at the edge of the rooftop was the tall, muscled, unmistakable silhouette of Hugo Powers. He was standing precariously on the eaves of the apartment building, clad in a formal black suit, his shirt unbuttoned, showing the edges of a tattoo and a gold necklace with a locket on the end dangling there loosely. His arms were folded over his chest, his deep brown eyes finding their way over to the Hood. He stood there silently for a few moments, contemplating his words, before eventually speaking.

”So you’re the one that calls himself the Hood, then? It’s nice to be able to meet you. In the flesh.”

The Hood stopped, unnerved that he let his thoughts get in the way of monitoring his surroundings. His head turned in the direction of the ever so famous Hugo Powers of the HERO organization. There were many mixed emotions over seeing this man. Rage nestled with silent admiration, and disappointment with a familial sense of respect. However, The Hood couldn’t let his past lack of action see the man in a more favorable light.

“What do you want…?”

”I think it’s pretty obvious what I want, vigilante. Or should I call you Zhaire? Zy?” Powers watched Zhaire closely, his large figure looming over Zhaire, who was tall in it of itself. ”I’ve seen your capabilities. I’ve seen what you can do. I want you to come to HERO.” He tapped his foot, arms still crossed. ”I want you go to down the right path.”

Zhaire bit the inside of his cheeks upon hearing his own name. Figures the man would know who he was. Something told him that he wouldn’t have popped up here for nothing. He’d save the runaround of pretending not to be the vigilante for someone else. Thus, Zy pulled the hood from his head, brown eyes piercing into those dark ass sunglasses. How blunt Hugo was about it kind of took him aback, but he didn’t show it much.

”The ‘right path’ huh?” The younger man scoffed. ”What has the right path done for me so far?”

Powers pursed his lips. ”You have reason to distrust me. I have made mistakes in the past. And I admire what you’ve set out to do. But right now what you’re doing is skirting the law. I’m giving you an opportunity to get out of this vigilante bullshit and help make a bigger impact.”

Zhaire crossed his arms in similar fashion, the two standing across in a mirror like fashion. Young and determined clashed with aged and experienced. He was right that Zy damn well had reason to mistrust him. He was also right that he was skirting the law, because to be frank, sometimes the law just didn’t get the job done.

Still, he’d want to avoid a direct confrontation with Hugo in the future. Perhaps it was the kid in him that still looked up to the war hero in some ways. With that, maybe he’d be able to get more information related to his search for the Red Baron.

”For the sake of blood, and the people of these streets, we’ll play it your way. But don’t get too comfortable.” Zhaire conceded, letting his arms drop for his features to be consumed once again beneath the cloak.

”I’m never comfortable,” Powers said expressionlessly, removing a piece of paper the size of an index card from his wallet and handing it to Zhaire. Written on it was a date written out, along with the address of Hero One, though anybody with half a brain could find their way there. ”I don’t intend for you to be putting on the spandex and repping HERO, but I think that the two of us can make something work. Hopefully I’ll get to see more of you soon.” Powers turned away, looking over his shoulder again at Zhaire.

”I’ve missed you, kiddo,” he added, his voice softening for a moment to accommodate a gentle tone, before he turned back forwards and jumped off the building. There was no impact sound on the ground. Powers just vanished.

Zy watched him and his lips twitched a bit, but nothing more than that. How he managed to pull that off with his size, weight, and sunglasses in the middle of the god damn night, the grown boy would have to decipher another day. Still, he eyed the card handed to him, debating even after the verbal agreement. All he needed was a reason. If things somehow went sideways again because of Powers’ complacence, he’d leave The Hood no choice.

Zy gave the scene he left one more glance; watching the Brookside police swarm the area before he pulled the hood back over his head. Once again consumed and concealed by the comforts of darkness...
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Amethyst
Raw

Amethyst

Member Seen 15 days ago

and

The events of twentieth and twenty-first May, twenty thirty three.

“This is going to be so CUTE!

Eliza Alexander sat in the passenger seat of a rather old Chevy Impala, her fingers drumming anxiously in her lap. She couldn’t quite bring herself to directly regard the cotton-candy-haired figure beside her, instead focusing on their fluffy pink and purple locks out of the corner of her eye. “It’s - it’s not supposed to be cute, I mean - I mean, it is, but - you don’t think it’s - it’s too much, do you?”

The car was in the parking lot outside of the Paws A Minute! pet cafe, just a short drive (or medium-long walk) away from both the Alexander house and North Passenger High School. It was a Friday night at about 4:45 PM; the string quartet had gotten out of rehearsal half an hour previously. River had taken her home and then, once briefed on the plan, agreed to drive her here, to this place known for their fancy teas, adorable lunches, and incredibly pet-friendly atmosphere. It was also a place that she and Patricia had gone to get food several times over the last few months of their friendship…

Over text, the two girls had agreed to meet at 5:00 for dinner and a sleepover.

River reached over from the driver’s seat, pulling the small bouquet of music score roses from where it had been carefully placed in the center cup holder and dropping it into Eliza’s lap. The taller violinist grinned brightly. “With flowers that sweet, and dinner, and everything, she’s definitely going to say yes.”

“The flowers aren’t too much? She - I mean, she’s my best friend, and she - she doesn’t have a, I mean, she’s homeschooled, of course she doesn’t get a prom, so I was - I was a-asking her as a, as a friend, you know, but I - don’t want to imply something that isn’t there, it’s just - I always make these, out of our old orchestra photocopies, so they’re not like - they’re not meant to imply anything!” She babbled nervously, eliciting a laugh from River.

“You’re overthinking this, you know. She knows. She’ll appreciate the...friendliness.” River was still trying very hard not to laugh, which Eliza didn’t notice.

“I know, I just - what if she says no?”

“Just go inside already!” River lightly shoved her in the shoulder. “And text me, when you have an answer!”

Eliza untucked herself from the passenger seat, smoothing the skirt of her dress (which was a very cute navy blue skater dress that ended just above the knee, decorated with silver embroidered stars) and tucking one of the sheet music rosettes behind her ear to hold her bangs back from her eyes. She reached into the backseat, grasping for the matching white retractable leashes and gently guiding Cloud and Bow out onto the pavement. Collecting the bouquet and a CD case, and entirely ignoring River’s joking comments about future girlfriends, she adjusted her purse strap and stepped into the cafe.

“Hi, Eliza! Is it going to be your usual today?” The chipper voice of her cousin rang out from somewhere behind the racks of herbal tea that were for sale.

Lucy was working today. Shirts, she’d not accounted for that.

Still, that might have actually been better. With a nervous smile, Eliza stepped up to the counter. “Yep, and- and Patricia’s, as well. She’ll be - she will be j-joining me in about ten minutes.” She’d been doing better at speaking lately, but the nervousness of all of this was definitely getting to her. “And Lucy, can I - can I ask a favor?”

She slid the CD across the counter. It was a clearly low-budget affair, packaged in what looked to be a cheap Flormart CD case, the cover photo printed on regular printer paper and crookedly aligned in the front. “The Dragons Four: Romances”, read the disk itself, in Eliza’s own loopy handwritten Sharpie. There was half a flash of embarrassment; it was such an old CD, but it also had a lot of sentimental value, being the group’s first proper studio record, some three years before - even if they’d mismanaged their budget and forgotten to account for proper packaging, the sound quality was legit. Besides, the subject matter was fitting enough - if it was actually a legit promposal, which it was decidedly not - they were just going as friends. Still, Patricia probably wouldn’t recognize the music…in the moment, she forgot Patricia’s own musical background and that the other girl would almost definitely recognize the style, if she paid attention.

“Oh? Is something special happening?” Lucy’s smirk implied that she knew exactly what the something special was, her gaze flitting between the bouquet, the CD, and Eliza’s unusually well-made-up face. “You kinda left it to the last minute, Liza. I’ll get that right in for you, it’s gonna be twenty two eighty five, and - tell ya what. If she says yes, I’ll get my manager to comp y’all some of our new vegan caramel cheesecake. Dairy free, I know you said she doesn’t do dairy very often.”

A giggle from behind the tea rack implied that Lucy was definitely not alone, and that there was sure to be gossip happening; Eliza’s cheeks warmed as she paid and guided the bunnies over to their usual table. Giving an absent scritch behind the ears of one of the several cafe cats, who sat on the windowsill, Eliza plopped down into her usual seat, clicking the rainbun’s leashes out to their full length to give them the run of the place. There were a handful of other patrons around, but few of them seemed to notice the indie tunes on the radio abruptly changing to the floating opening notes of a romance by Finzi. Eliza wilted a little bit, picking out several of her own mistakes on the music, but she forced herself to refocus, running through her script in her mind and hiding the bouquet between herself and the wall, then obsessively smoothing her skirts and rearranging her hair while she waited for Patricia to arrive.

Around 5 minutes later, an older silver Honda Accord pulled into the parking lot of the Paws a Minute! pet cafe. Patricia Donnelly, sitting in the driver’s seat with her hands clutched tight around the wheel, slumped back once she got the car into the space. She let out a breath, glancing at her mother in the passenger’s seat. Amy Moore, too, looked like she had just gotten off the worst rollercoaster ride of her life. Her hand untightened from the ‘oh crap!’ bar, dropping to the armrest.

Patricia sighed, turning the keys from the ignition and pulling them out. “Think I’m ready to take my license exam?”

“Probably,” said Amy after a beat. She pushed up her glasses absentmindedly. “I’m worried, though, what if you get in a crash-”

“Mom-”

“and I’m not there to help-”

“MOM-”

“and you die in the car-”

“MOM! Patricia yanked her mom’s arm, getting her attention and snapping her out of her anxious tirade. “Jesus Christ, I’ll be fine. If I can control minds, I’m pretty sure I can control a car. I’m gonna go inside now, before you start talking again.” Before Amy could get another word in, Patricia threw the keys onto the console and hopped out of the car and into the afternoon light. She rushed to the trunk and grabbed an old, very full purple backpack and slung it over her shoulders. It would be familiar to Eliza and anyone else who had spent the night with her- it had been her overnight bag since she was nine. As of right now, it was stuffed nearly to the brim with sleepover supplies. All sorts of things were in there, like pajamas, a change of clothes… and, of course, Veronica. Who had somehow been stuffed into the bag, which was why it was so swelled-looking. The stuffed unicorn, much to Patricia’s guilt and embarrassment, came with her almost everywhere. She blushed just thinking about it. God, at least Eliza understood… Eliza understood everything.

Patricia opened the door to the restaurant with a ding of the bell. She quickly closed it, as not to let the curious cats circling the door out. The first thing she noticed was the music coming from the speakers. Light, airy, emotional… was that a romance? Her brows knit in confusion. It was nice for sure, but the cafe mostly played indie. In the five times she’d been there, at least. And it didn’t sound professional at all. Listening closer, it was certainly good, but also riddled with mistakes. An amateur’s work. Patricia glanced at Eliza with Cloud and Bow in the corner and waved, grinning. She’d ask Eliza about the odd music in a minute- for now, she was just excited to see her. After the entire mafia debacle, she had taken a couple weeks off of work, and they had hung out a lot. But for the past week or so, they had both been a bit busy and hadn’t seen each other much.

Patricia went over to the table and took a seat, giggling quietly as Cloud and Bow immediately started chirping and nibbling on her pants. “Looks like someone’s excited to see me!” She reached down to pull Bow into her lap, scritching behind her ears contentedly, with a warm smile on her face. She put her bag down on the ground, which Cloud immediately hopped on.

“Hey, Ellie! I’m so glad you picked this place, it has such a nice atmos- ope!” Bow leapt off her lap and Patricia interrupted herself to laugh and smooth the rainbow-colored bunny hair off her white shorts and tied purple shirt. “Have you ordered yet?” she asked, looking at the menu, before looking up into her best friend’s eyes briefly. She knew Eliza didn’t love eye contact, so she didn’t force it, but God, those eyes… such a weird but such a dreamy gray color. Knowing Eliza, Patricia tore her eyes away from hers, instead glancing around. She raised a brow. “What’s behind your back?”

Eliza grinned brightly as Patricia entered the store, swallowing the sudden wave of absolute anxiety that came with seeing her best friend. Her script, carefully and meticulously practiced, completely fell apart in her head as she tucked the rosette behind her ear, beaming at Patricia as she settled into the chair with Bow on her lap. ”Of course! They’re happy to see their other mom.”

Meeting the taller girl’s eyes for a moment, she melted, for a few moments ignoring the prickling discomfort of looking directly into someone else’s eyes. Patricia was always one of the few people that made her feel comfortable enough to even meet their gaze, though she still often preferred to focus on her cute nose, or soft lips, or the faint dimples she got when she smiled…

Tearing herself away from the thoughts, she realized that Patricia had asked her a question. “Oh, I - um, yeah, I ordered for us, cause I - I know you usually don’t eat l-lunch, on Fridays, and I - um. I got you your usual? Iced gingerberry green tea with extra honey, and that panini thing you liked so much last time? I - I hope that was okay, I…” she trailed off uncertainly, readjusting her hold on the flower bouquet, and then freezing guiltily as Patricia asked specifically about the flowers. Heck.

Struggling to make her script work again, she hesitated for a second, trying to make herself say the words - but she couldn’t. “I made flowers for you,” she said simply, offering the bundle of them. The small bouquet she offered had three large paper roses, handmade out of staff paper in the same style that Eliza was so fond of (they filled several vases in her room at home, as Patricia had seen) and a few smaller ones made out of varying shades and thicknesses of purple ribbon, the wire stems finished with green florists tape and tied with a bright lavender lace ribbon. “I figured I - I mean, I know you like them, and, friends can give each other flowers, right?”

Stupid, Eliza’s brain said, as she dropped her hands into her lap, staring at the cute animal-themed salt shakers and condiment bottles that lined the wall edge of the table. She was thankfully saved from too much embarrassing silence by the server bringing their drinks, which she said a slightly nervous “thank you” for. But all too soon it was once again just Patricia and Eliza alone at the table…

Cloud leapt off of Patricia’s bag and into Eliza’s lap, causing her to make a startled squeak. With a light laugh, she glanced to Patricia for a moment more, her fingers absently petting between the rainbun’s ears. ”Sooo, I - I have a silly question,” she began, her words still shakier than they normally were around Patricia. Ask her ask her ask her ask her!

”Are you going to be - are you going to be busy tomorrow night? At about seven? I wasn’t sure like - when you’re planning on - on going home, or anything, so - just wondering?” As she spoke she rummaged in her purse with her free hand, finding the slightly crumpled flyer for her high school’s prom. I’ve got to use my words, I - but I have this, too, if she - if she doesn’t get it.

Patricia’s face bloomed into a warm smile when she saw the flowers, the corners of her mouth turning up and creating slight dimples on her cheeks. She clapped her hands together, almost unable to contain herself. “I love them!” she squeaked, carefully taking the bouquet, making sure not to smush the plastic stems. Somewhere where Cloud and Bow wouldn’t eat it… “Thank you so much. You- Jesus Christ, you must’ve spent forever on these. And you remembered my favorite color, too…” She trailed off, feeling a tear well up in her eye and briefly closing it tight, wiping it with her hand. Inside, she reassured herself that it was just a friendly gesture, but her heart sped up all the same. “This is- wow. So nice. Wh-what’s the occasion?”

But before Eliza could answer, the drinks arrived. She thanked the server a little louder than Eliza, knowing the younger girl was a bit shy. Taking a sip of the drink, she nodded contentedly. It was good. As she had made it clear to her coworkers, tea was her favorite drink- at least, without caffeine and added sugar and milk. Just honey. Better for the throat that way. She swirled the orange-pink drink around in the tall, clear glass and grabbed a blueberry out of it, popping it into her mouth and chewing. She tried her hardest not to watch Eliza, but the girl seemed to have something to say. Her heart hammered against her ribs, anticipating it- well, anticipating something. Patricia was about to tell her to spit it out already, when Eliza said she had a silly question.

A silly question. Patricia curled her toes and turned pink almost immediately. The last time Eliza had said something was silly... well. Patricia had been being dumb for sure- just playing! Of course. But she had liked it, had liked that kiss on the hand. Did that mean something? “Of course!” she blurted out. “I-I love it when you’re silly- or, well, silly questions are fine. Good. Ask. Ask away.” Patricia crossed her fingers, not knowing what she was hoping for.

But the answer was a bit confusing. Patricia blinked, the pink tinge on her cheeks not quite going away. She gripped the bouquet tightly. “No, I’m not busy at all. Actually, wait, lemme check my calendar…” She pulled out her phone and did so, scrolling to tomorrow. “Um, no. Free as a bird. Or something. Did you, uh, want to… do something?”

Eliza chanced a glance up at Patricia, her heart falling slightly at the older girl’s confusion. Of course she’s confused, you idiot, you’re being stupid and not actually asking! Her hand, finally grasping the flier, stilled for a moment, and her heart skipped a beat as she rehearsed the words again. She probably would not have asked, were it not for the first few floating notes of a Mozart romance flitting into her hearing, the third piece on the CD, she knew - her favorite of the whole bunch. Her pulse quickened, breath tightening in her throat alongside the gently rising melody in the first violin. Rather than listen and pick up the tiny hesitations in the second part, she took a sip of her own drink (a strawberry green tea smoothie thing) and finally, finally blurted the words she had been trying to say at various points for the last two weeks.

“Will you - w-will you go to - I - I was wondering if you, I mean, since you’re not busy, yeah, I was - I was w-wondering - will you - WILLYOUGOTOPROMWITHME?” The pitch of her voice rose steadily, her heart racing and the words getting ever so slightly too loud and blurred together almost indecipherably fast. For several moments, she couldn’t breathe, the blood rushing in her ears. Then she remembered the flier, and offered it across the table, her hand trembling like a leaf in the spring breeze. She could not bring herself to meet Patricia’s eyes in the moment.

It was a typical slightly-tacky prom invitation, the kind that was mass printed on cheap printer paper and handed out at student body assemblies. The paper was pink and purple, trimmed with the clip-art silhouettes of treetops and castles, and the font was an ornate white faux-calligraphy. “Once Upon A Time…” read the header, followed by a very tacky, reference-laden tagline about the North Passenger High School classes of 2033 and 2034 being invited to celebrate a magical night of dreams coming true. Eliza finally managed to feel her embarrassment, her face turning almost as pink as the paper was as she finally dared another glance up at Patricia. “I mean - I mean, if you don’t - if you don’t want to, that’s fine, I just- thought that we could go, you know, as friends? I mean - you don’t get a prom, and we’ve both had - bad luck with boys at home-homecoming, and…”

Friends aren’t this nervous about taking each other to prom. They don’t give each other flowers or pick special romantic music for the asking. You just need to - shut up and get over yourself. Yeah. She bit down on the thought before it could run too far, though her smile wavered for a moment all the same.

A swell of emotions rose in Patricia’s chest when Eliza… popped the question, so to say. So many emotions she couldn’t even name them all. Blood rushed to her cheeks and tinged her face pink. Her eyes went wide with surprise, her mouth widening into a truly giddy smile. Eliza wanted to go to prom… with her? She felt tears well up in both of her eyes again, and this time she didn’t wipe them away. They dribbled down her face freely. Maybe, maybe.... She was asking her as something more? The thought was ridiculous, she knew, but Patricia couldn’t help but entertain the fantasy for a moment. A slow dance. Eliza in her arms, small and beautiful and kind. A hug. A ki-

No, Patricia! She scolded herself in her mind. She doesn’t like you like that. Stop being such a fucking creep.

Patricia took the flier without a word, flipping it over to stare at the words. They blurred together under her tears, but she could still make them out- tomorrow, at Eliza’s high school, North Passenger High. It was a pretty poster, she noted, running her hands over the details. She had gotten one like it for homecoming, but she had resigned herself to never getting one for prom- online school students didn’t get a prom. But! But! She got to go with Eliza. She glanced up when Eliza started talking again, listening best as she could with the thoughts swirling around in her head.

Her mouth twisted down into a brief, disappointed frown, before going right back up. “A-as friends, of course, yes, but- YES!” This part was screamed, much to the chagrin of the other patrons, who all turned to look at them. “I-I mean, yes! Yes, I’ll go to prom with you, oh my God, Eliza, thank you so much-” In an uncommon moment of spontaneous affection for Patricia, she wrapped the other girl in a big hug, squeezing and letting her tears (now bittersweet) fall onto Eliza’s face.

“Wait…” Patricia trailed off, staring at the poster. “This is tomorrow. This is tomorrow?! I mean, I don’t have a dress! Or shoes! Do you have a dress? Or shoes? We should- I mean, we need those, right?”

A whirlwind of emotions swept Eliza up as she processed Patricia’s reaction, watching the other girl swinging wildly from confused and - and sad? She was crying - to disappointed to elated to - crying again. She really, really hoped she hadn’t upset her by asking…

At the sudden crushing hug, Eliza melted into her friend’s arms, her own happy tears starting to well up and run down onto Patricia’s shirt as her brain very vividly painted a picture of pretty dresses and fairy lights and dancing and laughing and - maybe afterwards they could go get ice cream, or something, and go look at the ocean or the stars or…? A nervous laugh bubbled out of her chest as she became aware of the other patrons, and the servers, all staring, and then Patricia was flailing about clothing, and - gosh, it was so, so overwhelming.

After a moment in the embrace, she stepped back a tiny bit, reaching up to brush a strand of Patricia’s hair back behind her ear and gently wiping away the tear tracks under the older girl’s eyes, her gaze briefly meeting Patricia’s before it settled on her lips. “I - no, I, I don’t have a dress, I - I was hoping we could - I mean, we should go and find something that’ll, that’ll match, so we look like a c--” She paused herself mid-word, remembering that they were being stared at, and that - Patricia had agreed that it was just as friends, she shouldn’t be assuming that they should be looking like a couple!

Any further conversation was momentarily paused by the arrival of their food, and - as Lucy had promised - two slices of vegan caramel cheesecake. Given a moment to recollect her thoughts and to slip back into her seat, she visibly calmed, a shaky smile on her face as she began to nibble on her panini, her gaze frequently flicking to Patricia. “I can - I can ask my friends for their recommendations? And we can go tomorrow! I mean for - dress shopping, like I know a couple of places. The royalty were talking about buying theirs at LL’s Place, but I’m - sure they’re sold out of all the good ones. Tian loves thrifted clothing, maybe she knows… if you’re okay with getting - like last year’s dresses, I’m not sure there’ll be anything from this year but, maybe...” She trailed off, stirring her smoothie with the paper straw for a moment. “I still have your travel makeup bag, I think, and - you can use my eyeshadow and stuff if you want, and of course like, hairpins and that… I have a curler and I can steal Angie’s straightener. We can - we can make this work, right?”

“As a couple?” Patricia blurted out, completing Eliza’s sentence. But, as soon as she said it, she turned red head to toe. “I mean- yeah- matching sounds awesome! We can- we can be twinsies! Twins, yeah. Maybe, like, color coordinating, or something, or matching flower corsages…” Patricia trailed off, not realizing that she had just named things that couples traditionally do at prom. She tightened her hands under the table.

“Ooh, cheesecake!” Patricia almost dug into the dessert first before remembering herself and picking up the turkey pesto panini instead. She took a bite, listening to Eliza go on about dresses. She nodded along politely, chewing and swallowing. They were large bites- it almost seemed as if Patricia was stress-eating, in a way- she was wolfing down the sandwich like a beast. By the time Eliza had finished talking, she had finished off a quarter of the panini.

She put it down, holding up her finger for a moment before swallowing. “Yeah, that sounds… that sounds great! I don’t mind, really, I’m not all that fancy. Should be fun.” She offered a thin, reassuring smile to Eliza. This would be fun. Prom with her best friend. What could be better?

Eliza, seeing her friend hurriedly wolfing down the meal, did her best to follow suit, though her stomach was struggling to cooperate with her wishes to hurry. She ended up getting a box for half of her panini, although she did end up wolfing down the cheesecake well enough. Sweet foods were always her weakness, what could she say?

A text to the music group and a few minutes of over-excited (and slightly awkward, being realistic) small talk with Patricia later, the two had rounded up the rainbuns (who had hopped off to play with the cafe cats, as they often did, having become accustomed to cats after several months of Cling the climber kitten roaming about the house) and set off for home. It was a pleasant walk, the early summer air cooling off and the glow of evening beginning to settle into the trees, casting long shadows on the well-maintained sidewalks. The two walked at a companionable distance, though some part of Eliza’s brain wanted nothing more than to reach over and take her best friend’s hand. After several moments of consideration, she linked arms with her instead, grinning up at her with a bright blush rising into her cheeks.

Prom with her best friend; this was going to be great.

Their arrival at home was fairly quiet, as it always was; enthusiastic small-talk with Eliza’s mother and father at the table, though this time they were also joined by Angie. While her injuries from the mafia mission had been healed through powered means, she still had to do the normal amounts of physical therapy, and was still on crutches - their mother had flat-out refused to let Angelica go home to her stairs-filled apartment building while she was using such devices. So, the older Alexander was at home too, and spent most of the evening entertaining a boisterous lapful of several-month-old climber kitten, who was now of a size to spill out of even the oversized household armchairs.

The bunnies were watered and brushed, the cat fed, and other such Hero household mundanities taken care of. By the time they went to bed, Patricia and Eliza both tucked in together amid a copious number of stuffed animals, they’d also managed to paint each other’s nails, giggle about hairstyles, and come up with a plan for the next day’s errands.

For all that she’d thought she’d been too excited to sleep, she’d actually slept very, very soundly. It wasn’t until her mother knocked on the door, saying that pancakes were ready, that she even realized the whole night had passed. As they usually did, both girls had ended up entirely tangled in each other’s arms during the night, and Eliza had to pause for a moment, admiring Patricia’s adorably fluffy bedhead hair and the soft smile that she always got when she was sleeping. Of course, it only lasted a moment, because the other girl soon woke, and they headed downstairs for pancakes and a busy, busy day of dress shopping and hair and makeup… together. As best friends.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Eliza tilted her head to regard herself in the bathroom mirror. After several moments consideration, she applied yet more hairspray to the messy crown braid that held the rest of her meticulously curled hair in place. Makeup was done, hair was almost done… she pulled the dress she’d bought just that morning off of its hangar, carefully stepping into it and zipping it. A soft medium purple color that nicely matched Patricia’s chosen dress, it was a very elegant thing, with off the shoulder flutter sleeves, a sweetheart neckline, and a subtly high-low hem that made sure she couldn’t possibly trip. A small spray of stitched-on rhinestones adorned the neckline and the hem, and it was cinched at her waist with a darker purple ribbon belt and rhinestone buckle. She had elected to just wear a pair of glittery silver ballet flats, and carried a silver clutch purse to go with it, though Patricia had chosen slightly more daring accessories. Her makeup was done, soft and glowing, with mostly natural colors, and she’d donned simple faux-diamond earrings and her treasured silver clef heart necklace.

After a few seconds of making certain that everything was in place, she affixed her corsage to the back of her hair where the braids met, the purple-hued ribbons that should be used to tie it around her wrist instead trailing prettily down towards her shoulders. The two of them had ended up going and getting last-minute faux flower corsages made up, because that was what friends did when going as friends, and Eliza had desperately wanted to wear hers normally, but her sensory issues had taken exception to that plan with the combination of slipping ribbons and scratchy fake leaves and soft silk flower petals. It had been far less distressing to come up with an alternative way to wear it, for all that she still felt guilty.

She shuddered at the thought, once again checking to make sure everything was in order before she left the room. Patricia had been getting ready in the other bathroom, so she hadn’t yet seen the other girl’s completed ensemble. She paused briefly at the top of the stairs, checking her phone - they might be a few minutes late, but most apparently were, to such events as this.

Patricia stared at herself in the other bathroom, furiously adjusting her choker and making touch-ups to her eyeshadow. She had just finished getting everything on a moment ago- the dress had been last to go on, and it had had to be yanked on over her bra and underwear. The dress was only a shade deeper purple than that of Eliza’s. The mermaid silhouette hugged Patricia’s waist and then floofed outwards, creating sheets of purple poofing out from the bottom of the dress. She had specifically picked the bodice to be just a bit revealing- it was a halter dress, wrapping around her neck and flattering her back and shoulders for a bit of a flirty finish. Tasteful sequins and rhinestones adorned the dress, too, cascading down in a pattern reaching her waist.

She tucked a strand of hair behind her hair, trying her best not to tug on it anymore. She had done her best with the hairspray, but she wasn’t very good with it. Like her, she had kept her hair up, in a high, tight braided bun interlaid with a few hair pins. She normally didn’t like it this high, but it definitely helped with her look. The bun framed a velvet black choker she had chosen to accessorize with. A tiny music note charm hung from it. Expecting Eliza to pull off something light and airy as usual, she had applied dark red lipstick and given herself a bit of a smokey eye, along with some mascara and blush. She had made sure to not go too heavy on the foundation- didn’t want to look trashy! Or whatever her mom had said on the phone that morning. She had a black, silver-studded bag slung over her left shoulder, and one of the faux flower corsages over her wrist. On her ears were some simple, non-intrusive white pearls- real, as her mother had assured her when she came back to get them. Her feet were adorned with cheap black flats they had found at Ross.

Deeming herself ready after a certain amount of fussing, Patricia stepped into the hall of the Alexanders’ house. She tapped Eliza on the shoulder and spun around for the other girl to see. “H-how do I look? Did I go too edgy, maybe?” she asked, nervousness seeping into her tone. By God, she did not want to embarrass Eliza in front of her school friends. That would be her nightmare.

Eliza, who had snapped a few selfies that she would never post to Instagram ever, whirled around at the gentle tap, her jaw falling open. It was almost perfect, how the two’s styles complemented each other.

“You look stunning, Eliza breathed, taking a moment to take it all in. “We match so well! I can’t - I can’t believe this is - really happening. I - you’re - you’re so pretty!”

Patricia turned pink and bashful, staring down at her feet. The compliment made her fingers and toes tingle with frantic energy. She was unused to be calling beautiful- her usual style was sweaters and jeans- simple, utilitarian clothing. Much different from Eliza’s, who was always stunning in her tastefully rendered, darkly cutesy casual style. Speaking of Eliza’s dress… Patricia glanced up and forgot to breathe for a moment. “Wow,” she breathed, taking it all in. “Thanks- I mean, you too! You’re… wow. You look… wow. Amazing.” She could only seem to speak one-word sentences for a moment, she felt so light-headed.

After a moment more of intent glancing, and trying to play off the blush that was rising in her cheeks, Eliza gently took Patricia’s arm, guiding her to the stairs.“My mom’s going to want some pictures. I - I think she promised to send them to your mom?” With that, they descended the stairs and into the fawning of parental and sibling figures, who insisted on a multitude of pictures of the two of them, complimenting how well they had matched their dresses to each other. Amy’s phone was probably dinging incessantly from the spam, but Eliza tried not to think about that too hard - this night was about her and her beautiful da--beautiful best friend.

Her mother drove them to the school; though the prom was just in the gymnasium (the student council had lacked the budget to have it at a fancier venue this year) the prom committee had spent the better part of a week getting ready for it. The streetlights shining all around the school had been covered with colored films, plunging the whole block into a variety of pale pink and blue and yellow shades of light that were fully befitting of an enchanted theme. In a similar fashion, the backlit letters across the front of the gym, the ones that usually spelled out “Charles Hanover Memorial Gymnasium”, had been covered over by large cardboard cutouts of rooftops and castle towers, creating the illusion of a silhouetted fantasy skyline on the front of the building. The committee had done a good job this year, it seemed.

Eliza tried not to let her giddiness and excitement show as she and Patricia stepped out of the car, her hand automatically going to the older girl’s and her fingers twining through hers. Victoria drove away, with a brief promise to return at midnight to retrieve them. As the car rounded the corner, she realized what that meant.

They had five hours together, alone, at - at prom. Her cheeks reddened beneath the makeup and she grinned giddily, beaming up at Patricia’s tastefully made up eyes. Their tickets had been bought (perhaps foolishly optimistically, considering she hadn’t yet asked!) after school several days earlier, and Eliza produced them from her clutch, handing one to Patricia with a lightly trembling hand. “Are you - are you ready?” she asked, her voice audibly nervous again.

Staring up at the high school gym, Patricia’s gut twisted up. This is really happening. Holy shit. She hadn’t actually been in a high school for over a year, and the thought of going in gave her stomach a strange, turning feeling. But… she glanced at Eliza, next to her. It was prom. With her best friend- a girl who, against every single odd, actually liked her. All of her. Even the ugliest, darkest parts of her. Patricia squeezed Eliza’s hand, stepping out of the car and onto the pavement before her and helping her out of the car.

Daringly, Patricia put her other hand on the small of Eliza’s back, pulling her close. “Of course,” said Patricia, gingerly taking her ticket in between her fingers. She examined it for a moment, turning it over, but then met Eliza’s gaze. Her hazel eyes melted into a soft warmth, and she smiled. “You really do look magnificent, you know…” she murmured, before snapping her eyes away from Eliza and staring at the gym again, taking her hand from Eliza’s back and merely holding onto her hand. “Ready to go in? I-I’m sure your friends are waiting for us. I can’t wait to meet them.” Patricia felt another twinge of nervousness at the prospect of meeting Eliza’s school friends- her real friends- what if they didn’t like her? But she shoved that down. Tonight was about her and her best friend. No one else.

Eliza melted at the touch, leaning gently into Patricia’s embrace and peering up at her, the warmth in the taller girl’s eyes reflected right back. She seemed so - so happy, to be here, and to be here together...

As Patricia pulled away slightly, their hands settling into each others almost automatically, Eliza nodded, her breath tense in her throat. “I - yeah! All of my quartet people are so excited to meet you!”

The two walked into the building, hands still clasped - Eliza did her best not to flap, but her thumb tapped nervously on the side of Patricia’s hand all the same as she took in the decorations (which would have probably seemed tacky to an adult, but caught up in the moment they were magnificent) and the swarm of her classmates, all of them dressed up in their finery. The concession stand, usually only used during basketball tournaments, had been draped in fancy fabric and tablecloths and was currently being used as the ticketing booth. After a moment of uncertain staring, Eliza gently guided Patricia over in that direction, her confidence wavering for only a moment as she realized that she’d have to negotiate introductions sooner than she thought…

The booth was staffed by a girl of rather average height, one dressed in a dark copper-colored gown that seemed to be made entirely of glitter. Her black hair had been messily braided and was pulled lightly over one shoulder; her dark eyes brightened as she recognized Eliza.

“Hi, Eliza! Welcome! You both look so pretty tonight!” she said cheerily, flipping through the guest list to find Eliza’s name. “Who’s your- friend?”

Eliza’s hand tightened on Patricia’s. “Hi, Hannah. This is Patricia! I think I - ordered the tickets wrong and bought two for my own name, but, one is hers! She’s a - She’s homeschooled, so, no student ID.” She flashed a nervous smile at Patricia, squeezing her fingers.

Hannah studied them for a moment, before glancing down to the guest list. She half checked them in and paused, her eyes going slightly wide, and she glanced back up between the two of them. “Wait - Patricia? Like, Aria, Hero Magazine’s Top Teen Hero of 2033 Patricia? I - I knew you looked familiar, I’ve seen the news and…!” The normally serious cellist seemed fairly ecstatic. “Eliza, why didn’t you tell me that the Patricia you were trying to ask out was THAT Patricia?”

“I said she was a friend from work…you know where I work!” Eliza mumbled, not correcting the second half of the statement.

Patricia followed Eliza through the hallway and to the ticketing booth, marveling at the fantastical, whimsical decorations and swarms of students. They had really gone all out for this thing, Patricia thought- although her view of the dance was probably a bit rose-tinted by the sheer joy of having Eliza next to her, holding her hand. She couldn’t keep the smile off her face. Being around swarms of other teens was jarring to her, for sure, but the contrast between being around adults and teens was startling. No one was drunk out of their minds, or talking about kids and paychecks. Going to parties at HERO was fun, for sure, but there was something different about going to prom with Eliza. There was a comfortable anonymity here that she wouldn’t get at HERO galas. She automatically settled into being a part of the crowd, enjoying it a bit.

As they came up to the ticket booth, Patricia glanced at Eliza again as she tightened her hand on hers. Hannah. She knew that name. One of Eliza’s quartet friends? She nodded when Eliza introduced her, smiling tightly and handing her ticket to Hannah. A… some sort of string instrument. Not a violin, not a viola. A cello? Patricia didn’t know too many of the details about Eliza’s quartet friends…

Her eyes widened suddenly when Hannah practically shouted out her hero name, and she blinked rapidly. Her hand tightened on Eliza’s- she had not been expecting to be recognized. “Um, uh, yeah That’s me.” She giggled nervously, left hand tightening on the table. “I didn’t- um, I didn’t realize that I was, uh, famous! Or that I had fans. Honestly, it was such a shock when Hero Magazine published that… I, uh, usually don’t get a lot of positive coverage from the press. But, uhh, yeah, that’s me! I’m really, totally flattered that you re-recognized me, I did not expect that, I’m just not really Aria tonight, though… I’m just Patricia. Just like Eliza- she isn’t Murmur tonight, she’s just Eliza.” Patricia blustered her way through the interaction, stuttering and rushing. She really had not expected that. “Anyways, I um… it’s nice to meet you! You’re Hannah, right? I’ve heard all about you from Ellie, she really- really adores you. I’ve heard some of your work on the cello… that’s right, right? The cello. It’s amazing.” Patricia extended her hand for Hannah to shake, chewing her lip. Like Eliza, she didn’t bother to correct her second statement.

Eliza blinked nervously, a sweet smile on her face as she watched the interplay between Patricia and Hannah. Her heart melted at the nickname - none of her school friends ever called her Ellie, though she adored the name. Especially the way Patricia said it.

The cellist seemed amused by Patricia’s awkwardness, but also elated, reaching for the handshake enthusiastically. “You’re too kind, you know. I’d love to hear your work in a - less job related context, sometime…” Hannah trailed off with a wry chuckle. “You have a lovely sound from what I’ve heard, but the recordings they put on the news really don’t do your voice justice, I’m sure. Eliza, you should bring her into the studio sometime!”

“Oh, uh, that would be g-great! It can just be a little weird to hear it in person…” Patricia trailed off, seeing Hannah get distracted.

A small line of other couples had ended up behind the two of them, and it seemed enough to startle Hannah out of her fangirl moment. She handed the ticket stubs back to them with a hurried comment about door prizes, and having fun and staying safe - seemingly that was the same between hero galas and high school proms, at least.

Eliza gently guided Patricia out of the line and towards the doors of the gymnasium, a light giggle bubbling up in her chest. “You did great, Trish!” she gushed, beaming up at her friend. “I told you that my friends would love you!”

Though it was too faint to make out what music was playing through the doors, the bass was audible (and nearly tangible; Eliza was certain the floor tiles were vibrating) even several paces away. She took a deep breath, a warm, goofy grin settling onto her face as she considered Patricia from the corner of her eye again, and opened the door so that the two of them could step out onto the dance floor.

Patricia blushed, messing with her bun for a second and then bringing her hand back down to her waist. “I really didn’t know I had fans,” she said, still seeming a bit shocked. “I’m really glad they do.”

The frantic lights and loud, earth-shaking music of the dance floor dazzled Patricia- for a moment, she thought Jamie might have a hand on her arm or something like that, before she realized it was just the sheer noise of the bass. With Eliza guiding, she stepped out onto the dance floor, marveling at the scene. Swarms of students danced to music Patricia would not have normally liked under the spotlight of the gym lights. But, strangely, she found herself enjoying the dance music tonight. She could really dance to this! She found herself tapping her foot on the ground and moving from side to side in a very lame, awkward dance. She grinned at Eliza and then tugged her onto the outskirts of the dance floor, swishing her skirts around.

Eliza was not very great at dancing either, and so she found Patricia’s awkward swinging dance to be endearing and cute more than anything! A little too eagerly, she wandered off to the edge of the floor with her, bouncing on her toes and sidestepping back and forth similarly to how Patricia was. This was fun! And she was - really pretty. Under the brightly colored spotlights, sharply contrasting with the underlying glow of chiffon and fairy lights that had been draped haphazardly along the ceiling, Patricia seemed like she was glowing. She was definitely happier than Eliza had seen her in a while; it was a welcome change after the uncertainty that had been the mafia mission. Their most recent mission, where Patricia had risked her life, and she’d been entirely unaware and unhelpful...

A set of rising power chords, sharply familiar, startled her out of the rapidly building spiral of self-hatred. Her jaw dropped slightly and she glanced to Patricia, pitching her voice to be heard over the guitar riff. “Is - This is “Storms for Tomorrow,” isn’t it?!” She squeaked excitedly. A recent-ish single drop from Caged Fantasy, Zoe’s band, and one they had both loved - they’d spent several hours listening to it on near-repeat the day after it had been released.

“Oh my God, it is! This song is amazing!” Patricia yelled above the rising, intense chords of rock music. Her eyes sparked with excitement, and she started to bob her head along to the music. Eliza and her had recently gotten to go backstage at a Caged Fantasy concert, so the music was even more surreal and familiar than usual. Not even to mention that they knew Zoe and her wife well- knowing them only made her want to support the band even more.

God, Patricia got it when it came to music. And everything else, too, but, especially music - she’d never once mocked Eliza for how often she listened to the same songs, especially newly released ones. Most people were frustrated with her after just a few minutes, but Patricia always just sat and listened right with her.

As the music reached a peak, Eliza took Patricia by the hand, abruptly spinning the taller girl around. “Dance with me!” she squeaked, and they did, though the power ballad was much too fast for their fumbling footwork to have any sort of organization. Eliza nearly forgot how to breathe, so swept up in the moment and how free and alive and - and loved she felt.

With a crash of cymbals, the last chord of the song drifting off into nothing, the music stopped. Heart hammering in her chest, Eliza kept her grip on Patricia’s hands for a moment longer, breathlessly giggling and grinning in wonder up at her beautiful friend, unreadable thoughts and overwhelming emotions written all over her face. She almost didn’t notice the next song’s soft, plaintive vocals about young, summertime love, nor did she notice that she stepped a tiny pace closer, her hands still holding Patricia’s as the other couples around them began to drift into slower dances.

After Storms for Tomorrow ended, Patricia had to take a moment to catch her breath. She was smiling and laughing, just like Eliza, but she let her own hands drop to her sides and slung her head back, breathing in deep. She could feel sweat dripping down her face, her heart thumping so hard in her chest it was almost part of the song itself. She laughed again, closing her hazel eyes and carefully wiping sweat from her face. She glanced down at her hands- now smudged with a bit of foundation. “Whoops!” A giggle bubbled out of her chest, but quickly died as the music changed. She brought her hands back up to Eliza’s and stared into her gray eyes, stepping a little closer.

With a light, feather touch, Patricia untangled one of her hands from Eliza’s and raised it to the other girl’s shoulder, gingerly putting it around her and bringing the smaller girl closer. “This is okay?” she murmured as she began to sway slowly to the music. She rested her chin on Eliza’s head, her brain thrumming with nerves- but also with contentment. This was… nice. Better than nice. Lovely. Patricia felt herself being overwhelmed with adoration and wonder. Eliza’s skin was warm on hers, and she could almost feel the other girl’s heartbeat, the beautiful life thrumming beneath her veins. Her breath caught in her throat as they danced. Patricia was vaguely aware that it was not a real dance- they were really just swaying and moving their feet along to the rhythm.

“I… I like this,” murmured Patrica, under her breath. “Do you… you know?”

Eliza was more than happy to be pulled in close to Patricia’s chest, her eyes welling with happy tears as she leaned into the embrace. While ordinarily, people using her as an arm or chinrest would have been only begrudgingly tolerated, she - really appreciated the warmth and closeness of Patricia’s holding her. Her eyes drifted half-shut, her arm slipping around Patricia’s waist and free hand’s fingers twining through the other girl’s. “This is - yeah, this is - this is really nice…” She didn’t entirely trust herself to speak the thoughts whirling through her mind, nor did she trust herself to ask the question that had the roof of her mouth numb.

Best friends didn’t usually slow dance with each other at prom, holding hands and being daydreamy and soft. She hoped Patricia didn’t feel forced to do any such thing, but - hadn’t she initiated the dancing, and the… wait, or had she?

All of a sudden, she wasn’t sure, her anxiety hollowing out all the hope that the evening had built in her heart. Patricia was probably just going along with everything so that she wouldn’t hurt her feelings. There was no way the other girl, so proud and reserved and all, would’ve done something like this - would she have…?

“You- you’re not - you’re not uncomfy with this, at all, are - a-are you?” she asked suddenly, her voice shaking. Nervously, she glanced up to Patricia, trying to read her emotions. “I don’t want you to - feel like you have to, to d-dance with me like this, because I asked you, or - I don’t want you to think we - have to do things like a couple, or-” She cut herself off before she could make even more a fool of herself, the tears welling up now stemming from nervousness.

Patricia pulled away abruptly, looking at Eliza. Her gaze was difficult to read- soft but stern, hopeful but confused. At Eliza’s words, emotions rose up in her chest, swelling to form a tornado. Unlike usual, Patricia was not angry- no, she was confused. What was she saying? Was- did she think- Patricia had been teasing her the entire time? Playing with her, toying with her emotions? Had she been? At this point, Patricia couldn’t tell. She kept swaying from side to side, but instead of staring at the ground behind Eliza, she looked at her face. Not in her eyes, because she knew that that made Eliza uncomfortable, but at the space in between her eyes. Her gaze was gentle, and her mouth set into a soft yet hopeful frown.

“No- I- God- Eliza. If I felt like I had to do this, I wouldn’t- I want this!” Her voice rose momentarily and desperately. Her earlier stern feelings melted away, replaced with a frantic desperation. “Don’t you see? I want to dance with you. I can’t stop looking at you. I want to hold your hand- I I want to do things like a couple.” This last part was whispered nervously. Her eyes cast down to her flats and then back to Eliza’s face, growing frightened. She shrunk back. “I-I want it so bad. Ellie, I… I really like you. I know you probably don’t like me back-” she let out a choked sob at this- “because, you know, how could someone like you ever like someone like me like that- b-but… yeah.” Patricia finished talking, breathless and now crying. She cringed. “W-whatever you’re about to say next, please be nice?”

Eliza’s eyes widened nervously as she listened to Patricia, fighting as hard as she could to keep her own emotions organized and to put all her effort into understanding Patricia’s shaking and uncharacteristically disorganized speech. Her heart ached, and her chest grew tight, tears beginning to well up in her eyes as she watched the emotions playing out on Patricia’s face. As the taller girl cringed back she took half a step closer, again, her hands reaching out to catch Patricia’s fingertips. “I-” Immediately her voice broke and she pressed her lips together, trying not to start crying completely. A few tears trickled down her face all the same. With a shaky breath, she tried again. “I - I like you, I - I - I thought you - I thought you didn’t, I t-thought this - I just, I t-thought you didn’t want to be - anything more than f-f-...” She choked on her words again and took a faltering step forward. After a second’s hesitation, she wrapped her arms around Patricia’s body again, her head resting against the taller girl’s shoulder. “I - I … as far as, as d-doing things, as a - as a couple, I…” She glanced around briefly, making sure there weren’t immediately hovering chaperones, before her gaze flitted back to Patricia’s, eyes wide, tear-filled, and panicky. “can I - is it, is it t-tacky if - if I - can I - can I k-kiss you?”

“Y-you…” Patricia just stood there for a moment, shellshocked. No way. This wasn’t happening this was some fever dream this couldn’t be real no way no way no way! And then her fear and panic turned to a shocked joy, and the world felt like it had lost gravity for a moment. Giddiness and relief flooded her veins, and she let out another sob. She shook her head, but smiled at the same time. A frantic breath escaped her lungs, and she laughed. “I can’t believe- yes!” she told Eliza, and went for it. She didn’t want to waste a single other moment being an awkward mess when she could be kissing her.

With shaking hands, Patricia put her right hand under Eliza’s chin, angling her head up to where Patricia could comfortably lean down to kiss her. It occurred to her that she had never done this before- kiss someone, that was. She found herself desperately wanting to get it right. She stared into Eliza’s eyes for a moment, thinking about proper kissing strategy, before going in.

With Patricia leaning down and Eliza on her tiptoes (they really did have an insane height difference), Patricia pressed her lips to Eliza’s. It was a chaste, close-mouthed kiss. But… Patricia found herself leaning into it, pressing herself closer to Eliza in the moment. Sparks flew in her gut, and the butterflies she had been feeling moments before dissipated into thin air. Warmth grew in her cheeks and flooded into her lips. She felt Eliza against her, her lips, her skin… all of it. She closed her eyes.

This was the best moment of her life. Unequivocally.

A tiny gasp escaped Eliza’s lips as Patricia’s fingers settled under her chin, leaving trails of stardust down her neck. She stretched up lightly onto her tiptoes, her hands resting over the tops of the taller girl’s shoulders. She leaned into the kiss enthusiastically and clumsily, her mind’s racing stilled as the two’s lips met. Fireworks bloomed in her heart, and she wobbled unsteadily on suddenly tingling limbs, pressing in closer with a muffled squeak, her fingers tightening around Patricia’s shoulders.

She’d kissed a boy before, once - the freshman homecoming date that had gone so poorly - but that had been an awkward affair of misplaced tongues and clonked teeth and school lunch pizza breath, entirely devoid of any sort of romance or pleasant sensation. It almost didn’t deserve to be even labelled as a kiss, not when - not when this was what it was supposed to be like.

After a very long few moments, the music stopped. Feeling several pairs of eyes on the two of them, Patricia reluctantly untangled herself from Eliza, staring down at the shorter girl, breathless. “That was…” She swallowed, feeling happy tears well up in her eyes again. “I liked that. Did you… did you like it too?” Their hands were still clasped in between them, and Patricia’s thumbs ran circles on the heel of Eliza’s hands. She looked at her hopefully, mouth open and in a rather dumbstruck smile.

As the music stopped and Patricia pulled away, Eliza became overwhelmed in her thoughts again - several shades of embarrassment playing out in her blushing cheeks as she became aware of classmates’ stares, a sheen of wonder and delight in her eyes as she once again looked into Patricia’s eyes, finding her own hope mirrored there. “I- I - yes!” Her words, shaky and hoarse and uncertain, bubbled up with a giggle, and she squeezed Patricia’s fingers in her clasped hands. “I’m - I’m so happy.”

She would have leaned in for another kiss, giddy and overwhelmed and nearly drunk on the feeling, but a very disapproving chaperone caught her eye from the back wall of the gym, miming a slashing at the neck and shaking their head. Heck. She settled instead for clasping one of Patricia’s hands in both of hers and bringing it to her lips, lightly kissing the back of the older girl’s knuckles before twining their fingers together. It was like the first time they’d ever held hands all over again. But better…

Patricia laughed too, giddy. She ignored the chaperone signalling them in the corner, instead going in for a hug after Eliza kissed her knuckles. The slow music had stopped and another fast pop song had come on. Patricia was a little too distracted to remember the artist, but it was upbeat and poppy, matching the collective mood perfectly. “Me too,” she whispered. Realizing that the dancing was getting a little intense for their tender moment, she took Eliza’s hand and guided them over to the edges of the gym.

She fidgeted with her hands, still high on the feeling of Eliza’s lips on hers. There was nothing in this universe she wanted to do more than kiss her again, but she was pretty sure whoever that teacher was who was watching them from the corner would not hesitate to kick them out if they kissed again. That was one thing she didn’t miss about high school- adult supervision. Nervously, she twisted Eliza’s hands in her own. “Do you… I mean. This- this is fun. I’m having so much fun. You’re such a good kisser, do you have practice? I don’t have any. I mean- what should we do next? We could keep dancing, or we could kiss again, but I’m pretty sure that teacher would suspend you or something. I’m cool with anything, s-seriously.” Patricia spoke breathlessly, her head feeling like it was on a cloud. There was a question she needed to ask, but she didn’t want to ruin the moment. So, for now, she just gazed into Eliza’s eyes, smiling giddily.

“Practice? Oh, I - I mean. I - ended up kissing a - kissing a boy once, but - just once. I - he wasn’t good at it at all. He tasted like - like cafeteria pizza. And used way too much tongue. But - you are! Good at it, I mean. You - really are.” Blushing and nervous and giddy, she bounced on her toes, beaming up at Patricia. “I don’t want to - I don’t want to get expelled, no, but -” After a moment’s hesitation she dropped the volume in her voice and rose on tiptoe to speak into Patricia’s ear. “We can dance now, and then we can- we can always go get drinks after - and kiss? Again? I mean, if you want? The - there’s the little diner place, up the road, they’re always open till midnight, and we can - we can leave here a bit early, if you want, and…”

Having decided to get a milkshake after all, the two were distracted by another Caged Fantasy single, and then another radio hit, and a sappy love song, and a really really good one, and another and another and another, until it was all of a sudden 11pm and the music was cut for the usual court presentation and royals-only dance. The two girls, after a quick text to Eliza’s mom, slipped out during all of those frilly and frivolous proceedings, and instead found themselves the only customers in the vaguely 90s-pop-culture-themed old-timey cafe. It was usually an after-school hit among the students at North Passenger, but given the festivities going on (and the late hour) it seemed they would have the place to themselves.

There was something delightful and hard to articulate about this, sipping on obnoxiously blue fruit punch and snacking on house-made gourmet pizza rolls, dressed up in their prom finery and completely, entirely enamored with each other and oblivious to the rest of the world. It was certainly a fitting end to what they both considered the best night of their lives.
Hidden 1 yr ago 12 mos ago Post by Hitman
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Hitman Loosey Goosey

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Chapter III

Heroism Without Class


In a city like Castleburg, with its large size and supervillain abundance, it's sometimes difficult to be able to make a splash in the world of heroism on your own. That's why HERO Official Groups began. HERO Official Groups, or HOGs, as they're affectionately called, are teams of heroes that are officially sanctioned by HERO to exist as a sort of microcosm of HERO. On the surface, joining a HOG doesn't offer too many tangible benefits, outside of being able to use their headquarters (normally a rented-out building somewhere in Castleburg) and having a team guaranteed to help you out on most missions. In truth, though, the greatest benefit of a HOG is the publicity. Joining a group allows you to join the group identity and bask in more media attention than many heroes will ever get while going solo. As Helen Keller once said, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." Indeed, joining with a group is a solid way to find more fame, and no group has mustered more fame than the Wings of Law.

The Wings of Law are are the A-listers of the HERO community. They're the buzz on social media, television, the news, everywhere. The Wings of Law are almost undoubtedly the most famous organization in all of HERO, and its legendary Big Three- Seraph, Mr. Impressive, and Sea Serpent- are the crem de la crem. The organization started in 2013 by a young Seraph who had just taken down the A+ tier elusive megavillain, Darkshadow Punchmaster. After the powerful villain was taken down by a bold Seraph, he found himself basking in tons of media attention from the takedown, and used his fame to help form the Wings of Law. He recruited his then-girlfriend and fellow powerhouse Sea Serpent along with playboy Kingsdale hero Mr. Impressive to solidify the organization.

The three of them demonstrated a remarkable synergy, and a few years and several high-profile defeats later, their fame had snowballed into becoming the most well-known organization in HERO. As the fame continued to grow, the power got to their heads. Mr. Impressive, a formerly flirtatious but fairly sane person, devolved into what can only be described as an oversexed nutball, albeit a rich, beloved one. Seraph used his looks and fame to begin a large number of infidelities, and Sea Serpent grew more distant, jealous, and cold because of this, watching helplessly as her once loving relationship deteriorated before her eyes into nothingness.. The organization, once an elite team of villain-busters, began to slowly become more and more about keeping media attention than actually fighting crime.

The organization's headquarters is the exclusive Club 27, a Kingsdale club that is shrouded with secrecy for non-members and is one of the most sought-after locations in all of Castleburg. From this HQ, the Wings of Laws and their ranks of roughly 25 heroes, mostly high-tier and wealthy, engage in hedonism and bask in media affluence. The Wings of Law have some skeletons in their closet, though. People who do enough digging can find several shocking facts about the Wings of Law. The most notable example of this is the 2029 during the "Riptide Boy" case. According to the known facts of the case, Riptide Boy embarked on a job that had been "reserved" by the Wings of Law. Upon discovering this, Wings of Law senior member Rainbow Dancer brutally assaulted the boy and left him for dead in an Arachula nest. Despite testimony by Riptide Boy and some security footage, the Wings of Law's influence and some very good defense lawyers acquitted Rainbow Dancer, and he was reinstated to HERO. These types of actions, while not as severe, are quite commonplace in the Wings of Law. They resort to brutality and malice when all other options are exhausted.

The slogan of the Wings of Law is "Heroism with Class," but it's clear to see that with the Wings of Law, they certainly don't abide by their own advice.



July 4th, 2033
von Brandt Family Residence
Passenger Island, Castleburg

It was the Fourth of July, and Blake von Brandt was having the time of his life.

Considering that it was a very festive, very important holiday in America, Blake wanted to do something big this Independence Day. When he got a voicemail from is dad, saying that he would be upstate attending some sort of gathering with some old police friends at an old lodge, Blake wished his old man the best before immediately sending a text to everybody he thought might come, informing them that they'd be having a party at his dad's house. Blake did feel somewhat bad trashing his dad's house for every party they had, but his childhood home was a nice place and one of the few that Blake had access to that could accommodate a large number of people. Besides, he cleaned up after everybody the next morning, anyway. It was fine.

A solid majority of the people that Blake had texted showed up that Fourth of July. He had extended the message to all of his good friends in HERO, along with the Destiny Knights, most of whom Blake got on with pretty well, as well as a few other miscellaneous heroes that he had thought of that Blake liked. The house was packed as people flooded in. Beer cans were littered across the floor, large boxes full of craft beer placed throughout the house. Outside, some heroes were out in Roger's new pool, a few of the Water Hero Squad (Blake had only invited one of the older members, and obviously the rest had tagged along) playing with their abysmally weak water powers. Inside, most of Blake's friends along with the Destiny Knights and a few other heroes were all nursing drinks and talking. Grace emerged through a portal wheeling in several large boxes full of fireworks, firecrackers, and other sparklers. City of Castleburg strictly prohibited all of these items, but Blake had egged Grace to travel quickly to Pennsylvania and purchase the fireworks there. Grace had refused vehemently, insisting it was immoral and dangerous for her to travel so far with her powers, until Blake told her that Tom would think she was cool if she did so. She was gone moments later.

As Grace unloaded the fireworks outside, Blake was inside, a Sam Adams lager in his hand. He had been a good boy for the past couple months, uncharacteristically so, and his collateral damage numbers had actually shrank significantly. Powers had even called him up to his office to commend him, something that had never happened before. Now that it was the Fourth of July, though, he had chucked his morals straight out the window and had become completely and utterly wasted. He was laying on his dad's couch, bottle in hand, as he spoke to Overload, an electricity-based hero wearing a black-and-yellow metal suit who was in a similarly inebriated state. He rambled drunkenly, tripping over his words as he spoke. "America is soooo fucking awesome. Founding Fathers were the best. The British were being bitches and shit, so you know what we did? YOU KNOW WHAT WE DID, OVERLOAD?! We fucking kicked their asses! America!" Blake exclaimed as he sank into the couch, before pressing the bottle to his face and guzzling some beer. He then began to loudly sing "America, the Beautiful" in a very drunken manner. Blake was normally not a bad singer, but it was clear that alcohol affected the "pitch recognition" part of his brain as he belted through the patriotic hymn.

Meanwhile, Grace was standing outside, sipping a Riesling pineapple spritz (courtesy of Soda Boy, the king of all parties) as she looked down at the teens splashing around in the pool. It was just past 9, meaning the sun had set a half-hour ago, and the kids currently looked like idiots. She sighed as she sipped her drink. She was fine with small groups, which was what she had expected when she showed up, but she was rather out of her element in this fairly crowded party, and her introverted self was on full display. She awkwardly shuffled into the corner, sipping her drink, as she watched the chaos outside.

Meanwhile, Blake had vanished making a fool of himself and was now playing down on the couch, legs propped up, as he looked at the TV screen. The local news was currently focusing on outside shots of the swanky, elaborate Club 27 and the Fourth of July elite party that was going on over there. Blake groaned and turned off the TV. "Who the fuck wants to go to a Wings of Law party? They probably eat olives with gold toothpicks or some shit. BORING! Captain Gizmo!" Blake yelled out as he stood from the couch, looking around. "Where the hell are you? Jesus, I'm drunk..." he muttered as he swayed slightly on his feet, looking around. "Gizmo?" he asked again, before turning around to see the tall hero, wearing his hero suit that was covered in machinery, a pair of thick green goggles over his eyes, his black hair sprouting out from under a party hat. Gizmo waved to Blake, who grinned back. "There you are, buddy! Hit us up with some music!"

Gizmo nodded as he pressed a button on his suit. From his back, a device popped out and rolled across the room, before expanding into a futuristic-looking speaker. Club music began to pound out of the speaker as Blake grinned, taking another swig of his beer. "Now that's what I like! Music, booze, beautiful girlfriends...hey, muffin, where the hell did you go?" Blake staggered through the crowded living room, looking for his significant other, clearly having had way too much to drink so far.

Grace, who was looking in through the glass sliding door, sighed and shook her head as she drank her watered-down cocktail. "Wings of Law don't seem so bad after all..." she said quietly to herself as she looked down at her clear drink, shaking the liquid inside before finishing off the glass. She sighed. She should really try to find somebody to talk to.



Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Shard
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Shard I write stuff, and things.

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Location
💀 Brookside Bar.

Time
💀 Evening.

Interactions
💀 None.



Change. It was the bulk of what had transpired following Azhar’s involvement in the destruction of a mobster family known as the ‘Guglianos’. Whether a positive or negative shift, Azhar was quite unsure, but a twist in the narrative it truly remained. A bright smile had made way for a far more mellow expression, and a talkative young man had paused ceaseless chatter. He recalled the countless conversations held between himself and the ruling bodies of HERO, which in turn allowed for a spiritual journey to follow. Fifty-seven people killed, or rather, erased. What remained was fabric, each individual article of clothing scrubbed clean of DNA. ‘As if they had never existed’, was a sentence Azhar had been afforded during the many interactions now drilled into his pale skull. Perhaps most shocking of all was Azhar’s lack of a new bracelet, despite the old trinket’s destruction. Additionally, he was assigned rather specific assignments, all of which were less than public in their execution.

One would be forgiven in response to confusion, but the development of this specific mutant’s career maintained a single path. He could not escape who he was, and denying his nature was a child’s naive dream. No, for Azhar, other doors had opened. Of course, the change came hand in hand with his growing control where a man by the handle of ‘Morocco’ taught the deathly creature how to conduct himself. Had the story been written by a more lighthearted author, perhaps Azhar would have surpassed his inner desires, his biological programming. However, such was not the case, as reality dictated.

Rather, for the dark mutant now enjoying a glass of whiskey in a street-side bar, the outcome found itself split down the middle. He did, indeed, manage to profess control over himself, but that desire to extend a deathly touch would forever remain. Azhar was a virus, an entity with one sole purpose, which was to spread. Such was the nature of any creation such as himself, be it a mindless infection or an inhuman being neither homosapien nor ‘gifted’.

What then, was one to do? Coldwater was a waste of Azhar’s abilities and the grayscale world they all lived in demanded more than the golden hand of heroism. Nothing quite as grand as Division X, Zee was prescribed a more singular group, one that consisted of himself, an Angel of Death, if the dramatic statement once ascribed to him held any value.

It would be fair to consider Azhar an Operative, rather than a Hero. He most certainly wouldn’t classify himself as the latter, nor did he find any interest in the concept. Not anymore. Indeed, the boy still remembered thoughts as presented where he claimed a position of fame, a stage where he could prove that Monsters were Heroes, as well. He was proven wrong. Despite his best efforts, Azhar was unable to deny his biology, what he truly was, and that was assuredly not a Hero.

His friends, despite their collateral shortcomings, claimed such a title with flamboyant zeal. As for Azhar, he was done pretending. Morocco had taught the boy much, a wise and experienced man with an ability to tame the Devil. Zee was thankful for the opportunity, something which saved his life, in all fairness. Something which had been gifted by Samson, a young Hero by far surpassing his age with wisdom and foresight. Despite a blatant difference in personality, Azhar could see how Morocco and Samson confessed to a relationship akin to father and son.

Clicking his claws against the glass between those taloned fingers, Azhar’s attention rose to the bartender as she spoke, thoughts occasionally drifting to a party his companions were currently attending. Blake had extended an invitation to the Devil as well, and where Zee would have jumped at the opportunity a select few months earlier, this changed individual now occupying a bar in Brookside found little interest in such gatherings.

Yes, change, it was indeed a heavy word which encapsulated the passing of these months. From Hero to Operative, from bright to mellow, and most notably, from denial to acceptance. Azhar had embraced the darkness within, the emboldened yearning and horrific joy erupting from destruction. He had embraced it, and in its wake he had abandoned futile attempts at another outlook. If HERO had a less reputable section of secret assignments drenched in moral ambiguity, Azhar was unquestionably there, wielding powers previously sealed, in secrecy.

“I’ll be honest,” began the bartender, her attention lingering on the young man before her. One could likely note his age, nineteen, and that drinking in an establishment such as this required an additional two years before the law looked favorably upon the act, but Brookside merely laughed at the notion. If you had the money, you had the right. “I never thought I’d be serving whiskey to a Demon.”

"Just don’t seal a deal with me, and you’ll be fine," Zee commented, his sharp teeth revealed where the boy managed a small grin.

“I dunno’,” she offered, followed by a shrug of her shoulders, “lotsa’ folk around here would be more than willing to sell their souls.”

With that tail slowly swaying from one end to the other, Azhar tilted his head, a grin persisting. It would be a lie to claim that he didn’t find comfort in a rundown establishment such as this, one of many in Brookside. All of the layers had been peeled away, leaving nothing but the raw truth meeting an onlooker’s gaze. "I’ll keep that in mind," Zee sipped his drink, gently swirling the golden-brown liquid within.

“So, got a name there, Lucifer?” Came a question dotting their friendly conversation. Indeed, Azhar had abandoned the Heroic name he once bore, for it belonged to someone else entirely, someone who in the passing of a mere few months had faded. A boy who enjoyed singing, a young man who sought to stand beneath the sun despite its unforgiving rays, a fond if naive memory which it now embodied.

"Lucifer works," Azhar agreed, before he proceeded to lean against the counter, "or Zee. Lucifer’s a bit too dramatic for this place, isn’t it?" Despite the overhaul this specific Devil had suffered, his flair for the dramatic had lingered to some extent. No, he scarcely stepped onto stages anymore, and didn’t sing like he had before. However, the theatrical young man residing within was not going anywhere, and only found himself developing further through a mellow, withdrawn position. Perhaps that was what gave rise to his new handle, but whatever had gifted him the title, Azrael would forever translate into ‘The Angel of Death’, which Azhar had now fully accepted.
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Danvers
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Danvers boo

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"Nuh-uh! You are soooo wrong! I can't believe you just said that!" A currently very drunk Brie was stood at the edge of the pool, cup in hand, shaking her head insistently at one of the older water heros. They'd spent the last 30 minutes arguing over the best soda flavour and neither of them seemed to be backing down. Brie knew that it was obviously Dr. Pepper but for some reason, this idiot thought it was Cherry Coke. As if.

As Jake, or was it James...maybe it was Jackson... She couldn't recall what he'd said his name was, but as he continued prattling on about how great cherry coke was, a mischievous smile spread across her face. Anyone close to Brie would know this meant danger but unfortunately for poor Jacob (maybe that was it?), he was none the wiser and barely had time to react before she had shoved him face-first into the pool. The water hero let out a ridiculously high-pitched scream as he fell, this garnering a chorus of laughter from those already in the water. "I told you Dr. Pepper was better!" Brie giggled, before taking a few unsteady steps away from the pool edge, ignoring the teenagers as they proceeded to dunk their friend underwater.

Taking a moment to look down at her red cup, she pouted when she realised that it was completely empty. How long had it been empty for? How long had she been outside? What time was it even? Brie knew the answers to none of these questions and frankly, she did not care. Her only mission was to get more alcohol and quickly at that. As she began to head back into the house, Brie failed to realise that she was directly in the path of yet another hero. She did, however, look up just in time to see a cloaked figure, before walking smack bang into them. Said hero, who turned out to be Actual Death, yelped loudly before glaring down at her.

"Whaaaat?" She slurred as she looked up, her eyes squinting as she tried to discern whether there were really two of him. Eventually, she came to the conclusion that there were and they were both being very whiny.

"You just shocked me!"

"I did?"

"Yes! You did, and it really hurt!"

"Oh, whoops! My bad...Here, have this - happy new year!" Brie grinned as she pressed the empty cup into his hands before tottering off, oblivious to the bemused look on his face. Her control over her powers had never been great but it seemed to be worsening recently, so much so that she frequently found herself generating a significant amount of static electricity. Unfortunately, this also meant that her hair had taken to being incredibly messy, hence why she currently had it tied up in two rather cute looking space buns. But Brie didn't want to think about such problems. Working on her powers was boring and lame and tiring. All she wanted to do right now was have fun!

Speaking of...Brie smiled to herself as she spotted a half-empty crate of beer. She squeezed through the crowd, half-dancing to the music until finally, she reached it. "About time!" Picking one out, she plopped herself down on one of the couches, failing to realise that she had seated herself between a couple who looked like they were having a rather intimate moment. The two silently eyed each other, before reluctantly standing up when they realised that she wasn't going to move. Brie, on the other hand, was intently focused on trying to open her beer. Unfortunately, the pull-tab suddenly seemed rather complicated and her poor alcohol-addled brain could not figure out how to work it.

"I can't do it!" She whined to no-one in particular, resting her head back on the couch as she gave it up as a bad job. Where was Will anyway? She hadn't seen him for practically the whole night. Smoothing down her white mini-dress, her eyes gazed around the room as she tried and failed to spot him. Oh well. Hopefully he'd be able to find her instead.
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Jumbus
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Jumbus My life be like oooooh-aaaah ooooh-aaaah

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Starbright was having the time of his life at Club 27. He had just finished his olive and admired the fashion of the golden toothpick. But he had no use for the pick, what star ever gets food stuck in their teeth? Starbright found the matter laughable, so he threw it back into the conveniently placed disposal bins.

Mingling was very easy, they all knew the true power of being a hero and that is star power. Those who weren't already members of Wings of Law in this club were certainly gunning to join it. Starbright could tell the difference between the two parties, one carried a likable and familiar air of smugness and the other desperation. He himself even got a few requests to team up from largely A tier heroes. As if their powers had anything to offer him. They were leeches in Starbright's mind, looking solely to ride off of his fame and he had no interest in helping them.

"Starbright is that you?" Starbright turned around toward the familiar voice. It was Glacia, a hero who was an 'old flame' from a year ago. They had both faked a relationship for the publications that lasted about a month. The break up was very 'emotional and heartbreaking' as well. "Glacia, its so good to see you it has been too long. Looks like the last year treated you nicely." Starbright pointed toward her freshly pinned Wings of Law badge. "I know, right? I just joined tonight and I'll guess you are here for that too right?" "Not exactly, I'm just here for the party. Plus if you and I joined on the same night, there might be a back together story popping up." He rolled his eyes and laughed. The two took a booth away from the main floor and continued talking. Star wanted to know all there is to know about Wings.




Earlier: Starbright entering the club.

"Starbright! Starbright! Can we get your input on tonight?" He turned around quickly posing with a soft angel-like light shining down on him, self made of course. He was never one to give press the cold shoulder and he wasn't about to start.

"What can I say, its the 4th of July. Time to celebrate the freedom we enjoy in this country, and a time to celebrate the heroes and law enforcement that keep those very freedoms. That's why I'm celebrating, to share drinks with other heroes that help keep the peace, much like myself." Starbright rested a hand on his chest feigning humbleness. "I would also like to take this time to congratulate the heroes responsible for the recent raid in Watervale. They have kept the streets safe very recently, so I will dedicate this night to them." It was certainly the right thing to say despite being quite dishonest. He then turned his gaze toward the camera man and interviewer themselves. "Now I am going to enjoy my night, I hope you get plenty of time to spend tonight with your families." In direct conflict, Starbright hoped they would wait on him for when he left.
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by DarkRecon
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Alpha / K Nine

Location: Von Brandt Family Residence. Passenger Island, Castleburg
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To say that Alpha was surprised to even find himself at a social gathering such as this would be an understatement. Though then again, some had told him that even he of all people deserved a day off or even a vacation.

Still, it was quite the surprise to him that he was even invited to join. He'd had said "no" until both Hugo and Christina told him to go. If anything, to keep an eye on things in case something happened.

Now, here he was now. Part of a party to celebrate the U.S.A.'s special day. But you wouldn't guess he was there for the party from the way he was dressed. While he was wearing what looked like blue sweatpants, white sneakers and a blue t-shirt, it was the tactical vest that made him stand out possibly among the guests. Not to mention what looked like a standard issue sidearm police use and what looked liked a custom made baton. In truth, it was a shock baton: the latest toy out of R&D's attempt to make non-lethal weaponry but to stun and quickly take down criminals in close quarters. He had heard a story that one Mr. Brum himself had helped with the design though he never got around to asking him about it...then again, he tended to avoid interaction a bit.

Right now, he was standing next to the front door of the Brandt's Residence from the inside. Just making sure no one suspicious came through. Though he was officially there as "K Nine" of law enforcement, he was hoping he didn't need to flaunt his authority as an officer of the law.

But he also knew that super powers and alcohol don't mix.
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Rumi stepped out of his car, having arrived at Blake's party. Having received an invitation, it was only natural he would come. After all, it's not like he really had any other plans. He obviously wasn't going to the Wings of Law party he had heard about, nor was he willing to spend another minute at his workshop. He said his greetings and cracked a few jokes to a few people as he slid in between the crowds, moving deeper into the lodge. Rumi saw Blake on the couch, very much intoxicated, and decided to leave him alone to his drunken ramblings. Rumi gave the Gizmo fellow an up and down look, taking note of the machinery he was using, but soon lost interest and moved on. Rumi snatched a beer can from a nearby cooler and cracked it open, taking a swig. It wasn't very good, but he decided to continue drinking it anyway.

Overall, the party was quite nice. Plenty of people for a nice atmosphere, plenty of food and drink as well, but Rumi came to relax. He wanted to spend some time with someone he knew for once, preferably someone who was decently intelligent and not drunk. As he walked, he glanced at a glass door, and quickly snapped back to get a better look. It was Grace. Finally, some intelligent conversation, Rumi thought as he slid the door open and made his way over.

"I dunno, I wouldn't put too much faith in the Wings of Law," Rumi replied, flashing a half smile at Grace. "They're definitely not as great as the news would have you believe."
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by KaijuBaragon
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KaijuBaragon Victoria Concordia Crescit

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Tom could certainly be considered a person who could hold his alcohol well. All the times that he had gone out drinking with Blake, the gang, or anyone else, he had pretty much never found himself getting drunk to the point where he couldn't control himself. However, this party was different - he had ingested copious amounts of alcohol, and while he wasn't, like, wasted, it was obvious that he was somewhat tipsy. There's no way that he wouldn't have accepted the invitation to Blake's Fourth of July party - there are very few party's of Blakes that he hadn't gone to. And while Tom wasn't the most patriotic of people, he was certainly using the day as an excuse to enjoy himself and talk to people in HERO that he never usually got to talk to.

Currently, he was in conversation with a B-tier hero with some kind of rock-based power, who was totally wasted. The two were laughing and having a grand old time, even though Tom had absolutely no idea what this person's name was. After a couple of minutes of not-so-intelligent conversation, the rock-power guy took another deep swig of beer - which was evidently too much, as he fell over onto the floor and passed out. Tom winced but chuckled, moving onto the next person to talk to without so much as looking back down to see if the guy was alright - but he did trip over him, cursing airily as he did so, before getting up and dusting himself off, strolling into the living room where he saw Blake stumbling around the living room

Tom waved. "Heeey, dude! This party is awesome, there's so many cool people here! Oh, by the way, I think Quartz Girl and Freezo are totally getting it on in your Dad's room, you miiight wanna do something about that!" Tom said, waving to his friend gain before going over. "Where's Angie, I thought you totally would be hanging out together! Do you think she like, can't go to parties because of the gunshot wound, or something? Maybe? I don't know, you should ask, like, the medical team, or something, yeah..." Tom laughed for no apparent reason before clapping Blake on the back, sipping his drink again, and continuing his wandering through the Von Brandt house.

He stopped at a small TV in the kitchen, where some people were congregated around it watching the Wings of Law party being broadcast on TV. He scowled slightly. He even thought he spotted Starbright in the background of one of the shots, and voiced his confusion loudly to nobody in particular. "Huh, Starbright isn't Wings of Law, right? Fucking Wings of Law... Look at that shitty party!" Some of the more drunken heroes around him laughed and murmured loudly in agreement. Murmur... Eliza... He hadn't spotted her or Patty all night, and he knew that they were probably here somewhere. Maybe they had gone home... Maybe Angie had taken them home, and that's where they were! Tom was about to go and give his new revelation to Blake, when he spotted someone through the kitchen window near the pool. Grace!

Tom smiled happily as he began to work his way through the crowds out to see Grace. However, when he finally worked his way outside, he saw that he wasn't the first one to get to her. Rumi was already there talking to her. Tom frowned just a little, before psyching himself up to try and make himself seem not-drunk as possible. He knew that Grace wouldn't want to talk to him if he seemed wasted... which he wasn't, Tom thought to himself indignantly. After thinking he was good, he strolled confidently over to his totally just friend. "Hiii, Grace! And Rumi... Grace, I like your..." He was about to say "dress", but realised at the last minute she was not wearing one. "Shirt... Yeah. Your shirt."

@Hitman @Scarifar
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The fact that it is the 4th of July and he was going to Blake's house was enough for him to opt for an Uber instead of driving himself. William thought. Knowing the people that will be there, it is an understatement to say that there will be drinking. In fact, it might as well be labeled as "Bacchanalia at the Von Brandt House". A veritable festival of epic proportions.

In any case. William, dressed ever so casually in a pair of cargo shorts, a short sleeved button up shirt that was a size too big as to induce a flow-y feel, and a clean pair of sneakers, arrived right outside of the Von Brandt compound. After paying and tipping the driver, William stepped out, smoothing out the wrinkles of his shirt. "I wonder if Rog would be around..." He thought to himself as he approached the slightly parted gate.

The closer he got to the actual house, the louder the music got. At first, it was the muffled booms of the bass. That then got clearer and clearer as he approached. Then came the mumbled words of whatever song happens to be playing. That gained clarity as well. Randomly, the thought of the lesser water heroes H.E.R.O. has on their payroll flashed though his mind. If he sees them here, he might have to avoid them, for fear of them clinging to him like flies to a flytrap...

The sound of the music became deafening as he opened the door. Whatever creaking noise the door might have made was completely drowned out by the rumbles of the speakers. William chuckled slightly as a few drunken guest stumble past him, slurring out whatever greeting they can muster. His thought was focused on one thing. Well, two, to be honest. The first was to locate one Ms. Brianna Hart. During the time between the mafia mission and now, William has been an absentee boyfriend at best. Sure they talk and videochat and all that. But, the fact remains William has not been around a whole lot. Hell, he didn't even get her a house warming present for moving in with Jamie. And the second task at hand was to acquire alcohol.

He had thought they would move in together somewhere, but in reality it might be far too soon for that anyways.

He did these tasks in reverse order, apparently. Having snagged a fresh beer from a nearby cooler, he set his mind to finding Brie. Noticing a girl whose hair attracted him like magnet for iron, he made his approach. As he got closer, the urge to just wrap her up in a hug naturally grew. Noticing that the girl was having a hard time opening her beer, he chuckled and confirmed to himself that she was the one he was looking for. When he got close enough, he deftly reached over her shoulder, took the unopened bottle of beer from her and replaced it with the one he had recently opened without saying a word.

@Danvers

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Blake, who was currently busy staggering through the crowded living room in search of his girlfriend, looked over to Tom distractedly, his head tilted forwards off-balance and his body standing bowlegged before Tom. Despite having an extra inch or so on Tom, he was hunched forwards a bit, giving him the look of somebody who was about to puke and fall over. He listened with a dumb, drunken smile on his face as Tom complimented his party. His smile persisted as he spoke in response. "Thanks, bud! It's the Fourth of fuckin' July, so duuuuh, my party's gonna be awesome! America!" After giving a patriotic holler (Blake was normally not this patriotic, but he was normally not this drunk), Blake listened with a blank expression on his face as Tom described a 'situation' in the upstairs bedroom. "Oh, well, remind me to throw out this sheets tomorrow," he said with an absent wave of his hand, forgetting the fact that Tom was likely not going to be there tomorrow. He listened to Tom speak. "Oh, Angie? No, I definitely saw her around...she was looking disappointed at me. For some dumb reason, this party is great! I'll look for her after I fuck up Freeze Girl and Quartzo or whatever the hell their names are...I LOVE YOU ANGIE!" Blake added at the top of his lungs, earning a couple "awws" from a few party patrons. Blake staggered across the room, pushing past a few drunk people as he made his way through the hallway. He soon reached the hallway that led to the stairwell (which in turn led to the room that Quartz Girl and Freezo were pulling a one-night stand), and staggered inside. He noticed, right next to the thermostat, was what appeared to be a small metal bug with an orange core sitting next to it, but Blake paid it no mind as he kept going. Probably some kind of thermostat enhancer or something that his dad had put in. Nothing to worry about. There were more pressing concerns on his drunken mind. Like those fucking (fucking) heroes in his dad's bedroom!

After very rudely and very angrily barging in on the superhero couple and telling them something to the effect of "quit spooning in my parent's bed" (albeit with a lot more anger and oomph in his words), Blake stumbled back over to the staircase, slowly and very, very precariously making his way back down to the scene of the party. He thought he had heard noises in one of the other bedrooms, but then again, he had thought just an hour ago that there was a giant bear coming to eat them, when it truth it was just Crazy Horse's Jeep pulling onto the lawn. He shrugged off the potential sounds as he went back to the scene of the party, moving drunkenly to the music as he looked around for Angie. As he continued his search again, he noticed that there were some other culprits missing. Patricia, Eliza, they had vanished as well. Along with...

"Who the hell are you?" Blake made his way over to Alpha, the man standing by the doorway, a mix of suspicion, welcoming, and total drunkenness in his eyes. He definitely smelled like alcohol, and his clothes- a gray t-shirt with an American flag in the center and a pair of khakis along with sandals- had a few beer stains on them. He grinned dumbly. "I don't think we've met before? Blake von Brandt. This is my place...my dad's place, but he let me borrow it," Blake explained, not exactly truthfully, as he went over to K9. "Nice to meetcha. You want a beer?" he asked, holding up a cold can of a high-alcohol beer he had nearby.

@KaijuBaragon@Amethyst@canaryrose@DarkRecon





As Grace slowly and responsibly drank her cocktail, she noticed a familiar face make his way over to her location in the lonesome poolside corner. Rumi. Grace gave Rumi a welcoming smile as he made his way over to her. While he was holding a beer in his hands, Grace could instantly assume that he was not drunk. For one, because he didn't look drunk, and the way he walked didn't seem influenced by alcohol at all. And secondly, because Grace had a hunch someone with Rumi's brain would not mesh well with teeming amounts of alcohol. She nodded as he spoke about her quiet, sarcastic comment. "Believe me, I don't like them either. I'm certainly not joining their fanclub...but I'm sure that they're not wandering around, yelling like drunk idiots or anything." She sighed. "Not that I haven't had some own negative experiences with alcohol in the past...but this is extreme. I can't even stay in the living room, that's how badly it reeks of beer." She scrunched up her face in disgust at the thought. "Some of these heroes really have no bounds or self-respect. I went to the bathroom once and it smelled like marijuana." She sighed again, clearly exasperated by this whole ordeal. As she finished off her drink before looking up, she came face-to-face with Tom.

"Hiii, Grace! And Rumi... Grace, I like your..." He looked like he was about to say "dress" but quickly corrected himself. "Shirt... Yeah. Your shirt."

Grace shook her head, putting her glass down on a wood railing. "I can't believe it. Even you, getting drunk. I can't believe you're turning into one of these idiots. Or maybe you were already were one," she affronted, before quickly softening in tone "Sorry...I didn't mean that," she said quietly as she played with her shirt. She was wearing a thin sky blue lace top that looked quite new. "I just...I never see you drunk. It's a bit strange," she said apologetically. Fumbling for a dignified response, she then suggested, "Do either of you want to go in the pool? Scratch that, it's too late, and you're drunk, Tom..." Grace sighed once more, shaking her head. "Why don't you go take a lie-down, maybe sleep it off? I'm not really a fan of talking to drunk guys...it's weird," she explained, before looking back at Rumi, trying to search for some sort of unrelated small talk desperately. "So I've been doing graduate stuff at UCNA...you ever seen their labs? Really impressive stuff. State-of-the-art equipment there, all brand new. Not the same as your lab, obviously...your place is the best." She smiled fondly at the memory as she leaned against Rumi, looking up at the night sky.

@Scarifar@KaijuBaragon


The Wings of Law


Meanwhile, at Club 27, there was another party going on, but this party was a lot less like a rager and much closer to a formal get-together. A live band, the pop group OneDemocracy, was currently giving an acoustic performance of some of their new songs in the main room of the club as people moved in and out. The Wings of Law were currently mingling with some other top-tier media go-getters such as Captain Fireworks, Ghost Woman, and of course, the great Starbright, and many other celebrities had also arrived, such as well-known actors, musicians, journalists, pundits, athletes, activists, and even politicians, all of whom were currently moving about the main hall, sampling from a buffet table full of exquisite, exotic olives with gold toothpicks along with a cheese and chocolate fondue fountain, with a bar full of all sorts of drinks in the corner. At the center of the room were the three main Wings of Law. Sea Serpent was currently chatting it up with Bryan Colby, a first-baseman for the Castleburg Knights baseball team that, with his ginger, spiny hair, looked awfully like Blake. Mr. Impressive, meanwhile, was currently smooth-talking two much younger models, his arms wrapped around their waists as they giggled at his horrendous pick-up lines. Seraph, meanwhile, was talking to an older man with gray hair, a bushy mustache, and a suit, in a non-romantic way. This man was Nelson A. Thurman, a Castleburg-based Republican representative and Louisiana native.

As Nelson prattled on about the importance of small government and small businesses, Seraph held back a yawn. "Truly incredible work, Mr. Thurman. Nothing I admire more than trickle-down economics. But please excuse me, I have a personal matter that I need to attend to quickly." Thurman, mid-speech about the Reagan administration, nodded and went back to his brandy as Seraph made his way through the main hall, giving a few waves and polite greetings before heading through a frosted glass door into a narrow corridor. The corridor led to a bookcase covered in old texts along with a golden skull. Seraph stared into the eye sockets of the skull, which glowed red before causing the bookshelf to sweep aside, allowing Seraph to descend into a hidden staircase that led to a large underground lair.

The underground lair, just as posh as the club above it, with cool crystal floors and golden features, led to a set of silver, diamond-encrusted furniture that sat before a massive cinema-size screen. Seraph took a seat in a custom armchair, his wings folding up neatly behind him. "Wire Man, the plot?"

A man whose body was quite literally all wires (as in, he was literally a walking jumble of wires that was in a vaguely human shape) moved over. "Perfectly. I planted the bug in the von Brandt residence at exactly 6:40 PM. Undetected, as you said it would be. It does seem they are too inebriated to even recognize it."

Seraph put his fingers together in his lap. "Perfect. Absolutely perfect. The bug's progress?"

"Currently en route towards the central air unit, where it can then release the pre-prepared benzodiazepine concoction throughout the entire house."

"Wonderful. And the arrangements for the lovely heroes afterwards?"

"Already set."

Seraph chuckled, the overtones of a mastermind coming through as he laughed. "Fantastic. Oh, I love it when a master plan comes together. Reminds me of my younger times. Now, next order of business, getting rid of this Republican stooge. He reeks of big oil. I want him out."

"Got it. I'll hang up a rainbow flag."

"Perfect. Get on it, pronto."

@Jumbus


Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Danvers
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Danvers boo

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Brie had contentedly remained on the couch, during which time several other drunk & rowdy partygoers had squeezed themselves either side of her. Sitting cross-legged, she'd briefly made some nonsensical small talk with a couple of them, the previous debate about soda flavours having slipped in there. She had also been witness to Blakes loud declaration of love to Angie, which she was still laughing about. The guy was such a cheeseball. A very drunk cheeseball. Not that Brie could really say anything. She'd forgotten exactly how many drinks she'd had but it was definitely a lot. It also didn't help that she'd made herself and Jamie celebratory Strawberry Margaritas earlier in the day (well she'd bought a mix and added tequila & ice...but that definitely still counted!). They'd been super tasty as well so she'd probably had one too many. Speaking of...

She glanced back down at her can of beer, wondering how she was going to get it open when it was suddenly plucked from her grip. "Hey! That's mine-..." Brie began to exclaim, her eyebrows furrowing in annoyance until a new can was carefully placed into her hand... It was open now! "Oh. Thanks!" She chimed happily, tilting her head back to see who had come to her rescue. The sudden head movement made the room violently spin and Brie found herself having to blink a few times. After a couple of seconds, it stopped looking like she was riding on the twisty part of a rollercoaster and she could, sort of, focus on his face.

Oh, it was Will! He'd found her!

"Will! You're hereeee! Where've you been? I've missed you!" Her words came out in an excited, drunken jumble, although thankfully she was still at least semi-coherent. Brie wasn't one to easily admit such feelings but she had missed Will, and not just during the party. Maybe it was because they hadn't seen each other as much recently but Brie still found herself getting the sensation of butterflies when she saw him. She wasn't entirely sure what that meant though so she just sort of ignored it. It was probably just because he was so much fun to hang out with. "You look soooo pretty." Her nose crinkled slightly as she smiled up at him, a couple of stray strands of hair falling loose from her buns.

Reaching up as if to pull him into a hug, she suddenly seemed to change her mind, instead clambering over the couch so that she was stood next to him. "We should go dance!" Her eyes widened in excitement as she grabbed ahold of his hand, lacing her fingers between his own. He might feel a slight buzz of electricity when she did this. Nothing painful per se but it was still unusual for her to be shocking people so frequently. Swaying on her feet, she began to pull him into the crowd of people who were squished into the living room. Some of them were dancing...or at least attempting to, with most being so drunk that it was little more than swaying or what looked like poorly executed break dancing. Brie unsteadily bumped into quite a few others as she did so but luckily, no-one seemed to care.

@Infinite Cosmos
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by DarkRecon
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Alpha / K Nine


K Nine was still standing guard at the front entrance of the Blake von Brandt household and was still inside. His mind was starting to drift back to some cases he was helping with when that train of thought was interrupted.

"Who the hell are you?"

He then looked at the individual, obviously showing signs of intoxication, who turned out to be the host of this party. Firebird himself Blake von Brandt.

"I don't think we've met before? Blake von Brandt. This is my place...my dad's place, but he let me borrow it."

K Nine continued to look at him as he tried to hold a conversation with him. While he was drunk off of his mind, it didn't appear to affect his behavior TOO badly. Honestly, he'd seen much worse drunks when helping police officers respond to public drunk incidents. And that was with normal people most times.

"Nice to meetcha. You want a beer?"

K Nine politely waved the beer away with his right hand saying, "...I'm fine Mr. von Brandt...I imagine there needs to be a sober person in this party at least...plus...I'm...sort of here as a security detail..."

After that statement, he decided to introduce himself. He might as well try to talk to people.

"...I'm simply called Alpha at Hero One...I don't interact much but we've briefly talked a few times...though I know you through your father as K Nine...I volunteer under that name when I work with any law enforcement...I've worked with your father a few times...", K Nine then said.

@Hitman
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Infinite Cosmos
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William reached out with both arms to steady her as she got up. It was quite easy to tell that she had been drinking, and a lot of it by the looks of things. Of course, this was a celebration after all.

“I’ve been away, after the mafia situation I thought I needed some time alone, just to...you know...be away from H.E.R.O. And the day to day things there. I was around, and I’m sorry to have been so absent. I’ve missed you...”

There were more words he wanted to say to her. But, his logics and judgement stopped him. Brie was under the influence, and probably would not understand or appreciate his sweet talk at this time anyways. For some reason, he feels like his words and actions often go unnoticed. The occasional smile, the light blush. All those things. It wasn’t so much as resentment. It was more so he wished Brie would be more open and display her emotions.

Such a minuscule things should not bother him. He felt secure about their relationship. Secure enough anyways. It is perhaps just that it would be nice to see and know what and how she is feeling.

“I think handsome is the word you’re looking for. You’re pretty though.”

William said, finally taking his first glance at her outfit. When Brie clambered over the couch and took his hand, he feel a small shock. One that would be essentially harmless and near painless to others. However, for him, it was somewhat amplified, because of the interaction of his powers and hers. He let out a silent grimace. He was being led to the makeshift dance floor that some of the guests have fashioned.

“Oh no no, I’m not nearly drunk enough to dance to this sort of music...”

He said, chuckling and drinking the content of the glass bottle he held rather quickly. William smiled as they made their way into the dance circle. He pulled Brie close to him, holding her by the waist and swayed, however awkwardly, to the beat of the music.

@Danvers
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Scarifar
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Rumi chuckled as he took another sip from his can of beer. He was rather alcohol intolerant, but was careful not to allow himself to get drunk from its influence. So far, his calculations were paying off. "Yes, the heroes of HERO do tend to be rather crude, but I think their recreational activities are a small price to pay for their work," Rumi shrugged. "But that's not to say their behavior is excusable." He would've said more, but was cut short by a sudden interruption.

"Hiii, Grace! And Rumi... Grace, I like your..." He seemed to have trouble finding the correct word, but quickly managed to utter, "Shirt... Yeah. Your shirt."

Rumi turned to see Tom having made his way to him and Grace, looking a bit intoxicated despite his attempts to appear sober. Rumi has to give him points for trying, even if it turned out to be a fruitless endeavor in Grace's eyes. As the spectacle unfolded, Rumi switched his beer can from his right to his left, freeing it from the can's chilly temperature. As Grace turned his attention to Rumi and leaned against him, he thought he felt his heart skip a beat, and couldn't help but let it show on his face for a second before composing himself. Looking at Tom, he tilted his head with a half-smile as he gave him a half-shrug with his right shoulder before returning his attention to Grace.

"Thanks, Grace. That means a lot, coming from you," Rumi said, placing his arm around Grace’s shoulder. "And you know, I did take a couple tours at UCNA. Their labs are great. Good quality equipment in high quantities, and most importantly, perfectly safe as long as you know what you're doing. But that safety does come at the cost of complexity. After all, that equipment is meant for teaching the basics, which is why labs like mine are more... personalized with technology that the general public can't access. Safety is valued, but sometimes experimentation and testing must come with a degree of danger to achieve results."
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Rabidporcupine
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Rabidporcupine Depression Tree.

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Joseph

@KaijuBaragon

As the night wore on, Joseph found himself content to sit in the living room, taking a few swigs from his flask as he watched the chaos that raged around him. When he'd first been invited, a small part of him actually wondered if having another party here was such a good idea. After all, every other time he'd been to a gathering at the Von Brandt household, it had ended in disaster. Or... well, ok, maybe disaster was a little bit much, but the last few times had left him unsure of whether they even could do something there without part of the property getting destroyed.

Chuckling to himself, he took another drink, grinning at his latest creation. After almost a year of barely even getting buzzed, he'd finally done it, he'd cracked the code.

Joseph Moore was drunk. ish. Drunkish.

He wasn't quite at the level of Blake or Brie yet, but he was definitely on his way. They'd just gotten so bad so quickly because they were lightweights. On that note, he was shaken from his thoughts as he heard Blake loudly screaming about how much he loved Angie.

"D'aw, that's c-, cute..." Joseph managed to get out, trying to keep his brain from messing up his words too much. From there he looked over to see Brie and Will flirting over a can of beer, also very cute, and Tom being brutally shot down as Grace leaned against Rumi, and again, it was cu- wait no.

Examining the situation more closely, Joseph realised that what he had seen was not only not cute, it was actually kind of horrific to witness. He took a moment to consider if he should just pretend he hadn't seen, before realising that just thinking that left a gross feeling deep down in his gut. Whether that was from guilt or just from him actually getting drunk for the first time in a year, he couldn't really say, but that along with the fact that Tom would probably do something stupid if left to his own devices soon had him on his feet. After only stumbling a couple of times, he eventually reached the gravity manipulator, slapping a hand down on his shoulder in what was meant to be a friendly gesture.

"Hwelp, that... went poorly." Joseph said, slowly but surely wrangling his brain into saying the right words. "But! But... I still do-, I don't think you've lost yet. After all, how many times has Ru-, Rou-... Room Temperature gone to the movies with her, or run away from villains with her, or... um... c'mon man I can't come up with all the examples myself, don't you have anything to add?"

He sighed.

"Anyway, now that I'm here, you don't have to worry... With our clear, compledely collehkted and calm brainminds, let's come up with a good, nice, good plan that won't just make her madder at you. Also, you're welcome in advance."
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by canaryrose
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The Fourth of July had always been one of Jamie’s favorite holidays. Even as a kid, when she hadn’t been old enough to drink, she adored burgers and fireworks and chatting with her parents’ friends. Independence Day was tinged with old, warm memories. Sitting on the roof to watch fireworks. Waving around sparklers without a care in the world. Trading illicit beers at high school parties. Setting off (not quite legal) fireworks in the park and scaring the shit out of all the little kids. That was what Fourth of July was all about- vaguely patriotic organized chaos. And barbecue. So much barbecue.

This Fourth of July, however, Jamie was doing none of the above. Blake had invited her to a party at his house, and she could never say no to a party at Blake’s house. Brie and her (her roommate!) had driven there together, and Jamie had promptly lost her among the crowd of drunken heroes. Which was okay! No harm done, because there were so many other heroes here to talk to. So many. She was on… what, maybe her sixth beer? And she hadn’t even spoken to half the people there! Currently, she was sitting on the couch and chatting it up with Spitfire and Lord Raccoon over a red solo cup filled with pineapple-flavored beer. Man, Soda Boy was the best! He always had the best beer flavors. Even if it came out of his fingers.

“Dude, dude, dudeeeee. I bet you… 10 bucks I could do three cartwheels in a row!” Jamie held up two fingers at first, but then realized her mistake and put up the third. She burped loudly and then giggled at herself.

“Five… no, six and you’re on!” Lord Raccoon, a man who (unfortunately) did not look like a raccoon, slurred his words and held up six fingers. Jamie was pretty sure his power was something dumb like talking to raccoons. Or maybe transforming into one? She wasn’t sure, but he was a C-Tier at best.

Despite her clear drunkenness, Jamie nodded and stood, putting her beer down on the table. It sloshed over a little and onto the floor. “I’ll do it!” she agreed, and backed up to where she might have a clear way. She might be way too drunk, but she was a cheerleader at some point, goddamnit! Six cartwheels was child’s play- Lord Raccoon was gonna lose ten dollars tonight.

Jamie stumbled to the pool doors to get a running start and enough space as to where she probably wouldn’t run into anything. She waved to Rumi, Grace, Joseph and Tom, who she saw standing there and talking to each other rather intensely. “WATCH THIS!” she screamed to the entire party, before taking off running out of the doors and outside. Quickly, she dived down into a cartwheel. They weren’t perfect (far from it, actually- she had had six beers) but she did six of them in quick succession, unbound blonde hair flying everywhere.

That was, until she went flying in the pool. With a loud splash and a tiny scream from her, Jamie fell into the blue water headfirst. Well, not fell. She had accidentally cartwheeled directly into the pool. It created a fairly large splash, wetting most of everyone around the pool. After a moment, she bobbed up again, gasping for air. Damnit! Her favorite sundress had gotten wet… she glanced down at the blue floral dress disappointedly, before her face lit up. She had done all six cartwheels!

“SUCK IT!” she screamed with a grin on her face, putting her first up in the air and cheering. “I DID ALL SIX! GO AMERICA! WOOOOO!”

@Hitman@Scarifar@KaijuBaragon@Rabidporcupine






As the party raged on, Patricia was tucked away Blake's childhood bedroom, watching a documentary on the Revolutionary War. The bass pounded downstairs, shaking the foundation of the house. Even from upstairs, Patricia could hear people yelling and cheering. Ugh. In her mind, she had imagined this party to be more like a friendly barbecue- but no. It had quickly turned into a hotbed of wild drinking, partying, and loud, tasteless music. This is why she hated coming to these things. If you weren’t drinking, there was no way to have fun. And Patrica had tried the drinking thing before at one of these parties- it had not ended well, and she had no plans of losing control like that ever again. Fortunately, she now had someone to hide out and be sober with.

Patricia idly rubbed her thumb along the heel of Eliza’s hand, gazing at her with a silly sweet smile. She hadn’t just come up here because of her hate of being the only sober person in the room. Ellie (her girlfriend- the word still made her tingle with secret glee) had been having some… issues with the loud music and the crowd and the drinking. After a lot of frantically Googling ‘how to help autistic girlfriend having sensory issues’ on Patrica’s part, they had found a bedroom, kicked the couple doing things out (aided by mind control), and had set up a little blanket nest. It was nice. They had stripped the comforter and all the blankets off of Blake’s bed and wrapped themselves in them. Now, after about 30 minutes of being in there, they were all set up. The lights were dimmed, and the TV turned to a comfortably boring documentary about the Revolutionary War. It wasn’t exactly Patricia’s usual Fourth of July, but she liked it. After all, Eliza was with her. Nothing was bad with Eliza.

Patricia was rather angry that the party had devolved into such debauchery so quickly. Although she would never admit it and had now lost the nerve, she had been planning on coming out tonight. It was, in theory, a perfect night for it. Everybody was there. There wouldn’t be any repeated awkward situations- she could knock it all out at once. But now everyone was so drunk that they wouldn’t even remember what she said. Or, worse, they would be mean about it. Not accept her. Reject it. Even though she knew that her friends were generally accepting, there was still that fear in the back of her mind. But tonight, apparently, wouldn’t be the night to get over that fear.

Eh, maybe she’d come out at Jamie and Brie’s birthday party. For now, she was content to lay there with Eliza. Feeling a sudden swell of love for the other girl, Patricia pressed her lips to her forehead in a gentle, sweet kiss. “Are you feeling better? Is the movie and all the blankets helping? Do you want me to change it to something better?” she asked, fretting.

@Amethyst
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July 2nd, 2033
2:04 PM
ScoundrelSearch HQ, Brookside, Castleburg

ScoundrelSearch is an up-and-coming small business focused on hiring only "the most elite" supervillains to help "ordinary citizens fulfill their wildest fantasies" with the hired hand of a professional supervillain. They've described themselves as "Angie's List for people who want to watch their worst enemies' house burn to the ground." Of course, such service is very illegal, which is why ScoundrelSearch currently operates out of the back of a Carvel ice cream store in Brookside.

It was a lazy afternoon at the ScoundrelSearch headquarters. Their office was nothing too impressive- a small warehouse-like area with gray stone walls and secondhand carpeting. Facing the secret entrance through the bathroom was a nice desk, a secretary currently taking a call. "Welcome to ScoundrelSearch, this is Melissa speaking...oh, I'm sorry to hear your boyfriend has been cheating on you...yes, we can certainly arrange for him to be abducted and tortured in a medieval dungeon...right, dungeon full of snakes, got it, we can do that for sure, you're going to have to pay a phobia fee...alright, I'm just going to need your credit card information...yes, if our villain fails at their task, you get all your money back...alright...yes...alright, very good! Thank you for your business." Melissa hung up the phone before pressing a button on her desk. "Dungeon Troll, we have a job for you. Details have been e-mailed to your work computer...also, we're sending that intern out to go fetch us some coffee and donuts. What would you like?...no, the blood of innocents is not being served at Starbucks right now, we can get you a pumpkin spice latte, it's basically the same thing...alright, can do." She tapped her fingers on the keyboard, beginning to type something out, when there was suddenly a loud bang.

Melissa the secretary jerked her head over to see the hidden doorway into the headquarters burst open, the bald head of Mr. Impressive bursting on through. As the two security guards grabbed their weapons, Mr. Impressive put his hand on the metal door, a wave of metal coating his skin, and the bullets bounced off him harmlessly, flying like bouncy balls across the room and hitting the security guards, causing them to fall to the ground. Melissa cowered back, a pistol in her hand, as she hid behind her desk. Mr. Impressive strode across the room, looking over at the desk. "Hello there, pretty ducky. Is this the ScoundrelSearch headquarters?"

Melissa still aimed the gun at Mr. Impressive. "Back away, hero, or I will shoot!"

"No, you won't. Now..." Mr. Impressive removed a slip of paper from his robe pocket, reading it. "I'm here to ask for a job. For a good friend."

Melissa blinked. "The who for the what now?"

"Just running an errand for my ol' buddy Seraph. You know, the hero with the wings? Right, well, he's asking for a job from one of your goons. Personally, I think he's going way too far, but what are you gonna do about that, right? Now, uhh, you have a guy named Nero in your employ? Seraph asked for him specifically."

Melissa very slowly and reluctantly pressed her button on her desk. "Err...we need Nero here. STAT."

Moments later, a man emerged from down the hall. He was wearing traditional Roman centurion armor, silver with gold features, a shining helmet with a red plume perched atop his head. He had fair skin and green eyes, a sharp pointed nose, and a thick brown stubble. He walked down the hallway proudly, a roman gladius hanging from his belt. As he reached the end of the hallway, his eyes found Mr. Impressive, who was casually leaning against Melissa's desk, and he quickly drew his gladius, pointing the roman sword at Mr. Impressive. "Halt, foolish hero! You are prepared to duel with one of the most fierce warriors in all of Castleburg, the Roman Emperor, Nero!" He held his quavering sword in the air, pointing it at Mr. Impressive. "I am the strongest villain in the employ of this agency, and I will duel you to the bitter end!"

Mr. Impressive yawned. "Not even remotely Roman. You're imitating a medieval knight, pal, not a Roman emperor. You should fix that. Alright, listen, Nero, pal, I've read up on your file, you call yourself some sort of tough-guy villain. Well, it's time to put that to the test." Mr. Impressive handed him the slip of paper he had been holding. "Seraph wants you to do some work for him. Torture a few heroes. Do what you normally do, record it for shits and giggles, make sure that he doesn't get his hands dirty. Can you do that?"

Nero read the paper. "I've heard of all these heroes before! Firebird? Tempest? Spacewalker? Quake?! These are some of HERO's top heroes! No way. I may be a crazy costumed villain, but I am not a suicidal maniac. No. I refuse."

"What if we knocked them out?"

"Knocked them out?"

"Yeah, you know, have them fall asleep. Then you can do your weird Roman schtick. Torture them or whatever you do with your weird Roman fantasy fetish, go on the news and loudly declare victory over the heroes, and done. There's no blood on our hands, and you get glory and cash. You could finally leave this crappy organization, start your own little league."

"...alright. We have a deal. You knock them out, I finish the job."

"Now that's what I like to hear!" Mr. Impressive took his hand, shaking it firmly. "Is the Fourth of July good for you? We'll have all the heroes grouped together and easy to deal with."

"Hey, man, with the money you're paying me, I'll do any day. Thanks for not being like most heroes and throwing me into jail."

"No problem. Been my pleasure. And thanks for not getting mad at me for sleeping with your wife!"

"Wait, hold on, that was-"

Mr. Impressive was already gone.

Nero sighed, turning back to Melissa, who was still cowering behind her desk. "The things you'll do for a few million dollars..." Nero said with a sigh, putting a hand on his sword hilt. "At least I get to off a couple heroes, anyway. I haven't killed a hero in forever. Been mostly rich assholes...well, it's time to see how well these heroes deal with real Roman might." Nero walked down the hallway, rubbing his hands together, as he made his way back down to his office. "Ooh, boy, do I have a surprise for those heroes...hehehehe..." He laughed as he walked into his small office space, the door closing behind him. His voice echoed through the facility. "MELISSA! I WANTED A CAPPUCCINO, DAMMIT!"

Melissa sighed. "Maybe I should've thought this whole 'working for supervillains' thing through more..."
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