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6 days ago
Current Some of y'all are either too old to act the way you act, or too young to be taken seriously. Hard to tell some days.


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Nathanael Gloucester

Interacting with: @Achronum @Obscene Symphony | Location: Garreg Mach Monastery - Golden Deer Classroom

To call the pomp and circumstance of the first day of classes a waste of time would be to underestimate just how fruitless the whole endeavor was. Rituals, ego trips, and introductions for those too lazy or incompetent to parse together who was of importance. If it weren't such a bad look and he was sure the headache of private meetings and admonishments would not outweigh the time saved, he would have spent the day beginning to pour through the library's historical records to at least provide some semblance of stimulation. Instead, Nathanael remained stoic and quiet through the sermon and through Professor Kalonic's introduction, no matter how brief the latter and how droning the former felt. He thumbed at a small book he kept on his desk, fighting the urge to open it and begin pouring through the texts so he at least wasn't wasting this time. He kept himself in check, though, and remained sitting unnaturally upright in his chair.

Of course, he found the prank painfully imbecilic, yet not at all surprising. If these were the best and brightest to have graduated from Garreg Mach in recent years, that said little for his confidence they would be able to provide him with anything he couldn't find at a festival for infants. It was becoming clear that the best this academy would offer are tests of patience, which while valuable was certainly less than the price of admission. It seemed fitting the Church of Seiros would run a scam like this: leeches often did suck at the blood of more capable creatures.

As Euphemia fled to have a loud fit of rage, Nathanael's eyes briefly scanned everyone present. There were a few faces he recognized from roundtable meetings, others more obvious by reputation or careful research. The most surprising presence was one that he kept within his eyeline at all times: Isolde Ordelia. She was only a year older than him... must have been eleven when her father ruined both of their lives. Not that hers could be so bad, if she ended up in the same place he was. She certainly had farther to fall still, then. He would find the time to scheme something special for her... perhaps the sermons, since sleeping or missing them would tarnish the great Gloucester name. His gaze lingered on her for a short time, the little emotion he acknowledged squeezing his chest with pain... or perhaps anxiety. It was hard to tell these days, it all blended together for Nathanael.

Of course, there were two of more import in the classroom with him... one by merit, and one certainly by his father's machinations. Clarissa's suggestion of doing introductions was reasonable... not his preferred use of time, but acceptable. She wore authority like her own skin, and held a confidence and determination that he admired. Melding their differences together were inspiring words, even if they lacked a defined meaning. His father, once, espoused the strength of the Leicester Alliance in similar terms. His belief was that there was strength in a diversity of thought, steel, and action... and that it was this that kept them free from their neighbors. This belief did not bear much weight to scrutiny... for there was little strength in the diversity of thought and steel that pierced his father's heart over half a decade earlier. He would have to keep Clarissa von Edmund from such a fate, if she were to lead the Alliance, but knew better than to try and point the faults in her words.

Of course... then there was Jorah von Riegan. His presence at the academy alone would be a disgrace, if he did not have a personality befitting the faculty meant to lead them. He certainly had to be their usual crop of candidate, and perhaps his stunning incompetence was such a brilliant display that they had chosen him to be the leader for the Golden Deer house. It certainly wasn't be merit of skill, qualities of leadership, or ability to take anything seriously. Was the only criteria being able to ride a horse? If so, Jorah's desire to "ride" must have certainly proceeded him and been sufficient requirement. But no, even Nathanael was well aware of what must have happened: the meddling seat-warmer Jorah called father was trying to teach his son a lesson at the expense of every other worthy heir in the Alliance who was there to get things done. A worthy tithe to the Church of Seiros was probably enough, or was the von Riegan charm of begging for handouts appealing enough? He didn't care to know for certain, it would only be more painful to know the particulars. He certainly didn't want to know if he could think of Jorah less.

Oh, but apparently he could, for Jorah was capable of speech.

His attempt at appearing imposing, standing atop a desk to make himself taller and peer down at them all, left Nathanael craning his neck upwards. Jorah was at least self-aware enough to admit that he was merely a sideshow at the Roundtable meetings, which had won a modicum of trust in favor in the conspiracy that Jorah's reputation was exaggerated. The innuendo and order to party had wiped that away quickly. With Jorah's introduction out of the way, Nathanael stood from his seat and began to walk to the front of the class so he could slip out the door and leave for a mid-day stroll. There was a chance he could make it to the library before the next sermon. He passed behind Jorah, close enough to hear his words. “Not bad for my first decree, eh? Maybe authority suits me after all."

Nathanael's pace slowed to a stop, the words bouncing in his head and shaking up what coherence there was left. He certainly misheard... there was not a chance that the joke of the class believed he held authority. Nathanael's cold gaze shifted towards Jorah, the words escaping his mouth in a whisper just loud enough for Jorah and Clarissa to hear. "Authority suits you like a cold bath to a cat." His gaze remained fixed as he paused, a flash of confusion crossing his face. No... his usual sarcasm was absent. Gone was his sickly sweet condescension, tucked away behind prettier words he didn't mean. Nathanael's eyes drifted towards Clarissa, his brain taking a half moment to catch up. This was unnatural, a compulsion of some sort... one he would not make again so recklessly. Nathanael cleared his throat, turning to the rest of the students in the class. He needed to distract, and pretend the words were never spoken. He just needed something suitable... more words to hide behind.

An introduction. And an opportunity to garner sympathy should Jorah escalate things.

"In the spirit of introductions... I am Nathanael Gloucester, heir to..." Nathanael paused, his flat words lingering as his gaze shifted to Isolde. He looked down afterwards, pausing for a calculated two seconds, before continuing. "... heir to the late Duke Gloucester. I look forward to learning with you all." He gave a small, stiff bow to his classmates before returning to his seat awkwardly.

Location: Dundas Island, Pacific Ocean - Pacific Royal Campus
Welcome Home #1.093: Can we Forget about the Things I Said
Interaction(s): Katja @Zoldyck
Previously: Daily Protein Intake

Rory felt relief settle in his stomach as Lorcán had bounded off, the awkwardness between them settled. The apology was sincere, and both of them had lashed out in their own ways. Of course, Jim’s arrival was a comfort in its own. Their degrees were safe, easing another pit of tension in his chest. He had watched his friends work far too hard for everything to have been meaningless… but a lingering worry whispered in the back of his mind still regarding his siblings. They were only just starting out… and if this matter wasn’t permanently resolved soon, they’d have to face the same struggles. Of course, those two were smart enough that they could get by just about anywhere.

But as Rory let himself relax for a moment, a new worry seeped into his mind.

I had no right to make jokes about your abilities or your relationship with Haven.

His stomach felt like it was taking flight all on its own, while his head swam with anxieties he hadn’t exactly felt before. They had been friends for a few years, and were close. Hell, they flirted a bit, but Haven flirted with plenty of people. Rory flirted with plenty. But the team was different. It didn’t mean anything when Lorcán smacked his ass, or Katja wrapped her strong arms around him a bit too tight and for a bit too long, or when Haven would stare at his bare abs when they were all hanging out on the beach. They were friends and teammates. There wasn’t anything there, especially not for him.

Rory practically jumped out of his skin as he felt the familiar strong embrace of a certain South African wrap around his shoulders. Before his brain could even process anything, the sudden pressure and physical strength sent a warm jolt down his spine. Katja’s voice tickled his ear. “That would’ve been a sack, bru! Can’t get too distracted by your surroundings. No matter how alluring they might be.” She gave him a wink when he tilted his head up and over to look her in the eyes. He followed her gaze over towards Haven, noticing Lorcán had wandered off to talk to her. Rory’s heart beat faster as the anxiety compounded in his chest.

“There’s still some spots left over there. Care to join?” Rory nodded in agreement, free from Katja’s grasp as he grabbed hold of his tray in both hands and made his way towards the free seats. He let Katja lead the way, sitting down next to her quietly for a moment, cracking open a bottle of Hyper-Aid to refill his electrolytes and taking a sip. As he pulled the bottle from his lips, he paused before setting it down and looking towards Katja. He needed an outside perspective… and he just needed to pull this band-aid.

”Give it to me straight, Kruger… why does everyone think Haven and I have a thing going? Is it ‘cause of the way I asked to share a tent? You and Lorc both made comments, and Mei looks like she wants to kill me whenever I’m talking with Wings lately.”

Katja was about to take a bit out of her overstuffed taco when Rory sprung his question on her. She looked over at him with a gentle smile after she had put the taco back on her plate. “Yeah, Banjo told me about that. Subtlety isn’t really your strong suit, is it?” She chuckled softly, continuing quickly before Rory started thinking it was meant as an insult. “But there’s nothing wrong with that! I mean, look at me! There’s nothing subtle to be found about me!” Katja laughed loudly as she gave him a light slap on his shoulder.

Katja took a deep sigh after her laughing had receded before continuing in a more mellow tone, the same gentle smile from earlier on her lips. “I can only speak for myself here, of course. But it’s not necessarily that I think you have a thing going with Haven. It’s just that you two have been spending a lot of time together lately and, well, I guess people are drawing their own conclusions from that. Some might tease you over it…” Her eyes quickly flicked over to Banjo before returning back to Rory. “While others might wish you were spending that time and attention on them.” Her smile grew a bit wider, but with a hint of sadness to be found in her eyes.

“But you know what? It doesn’t matter what other people think.” She drew her arm around his shoulder again, giving it a slight rub as she softly pulled him closer. “It’s about how you feel about it. And if you don’t feel like you’ve got a thing going on with Haven, then so be it. Right?” She rubbed his shoulder again, to emphasize the point, before letting him go again.

Rory's eyes narrowed as he looked up at Katja. He didn't usually have trouble reading her, but dips in the conversation left him lost on what was going on inside her head. The message, at least what Rory could take from it, was clear. He reached down and scooped up his taco, taking a big bite and chewing while he thought for a moment.

"I don't know if it's worth trying to have a thing with her, Kat. Sure, we'll get to graduate with degrees... but my degree isn't going to mean anything once I'm out of here. Not after Hyperion... and not with the way things are now." Rory felt a quiver in his throat, forcing him to pause for a moment and close his eyes for a moment. When recentering, he gave a somber look up at Katja. "Unlike you or Haven... the league chooses where I'm going to play ball, you know? And I can't exactly ask anyone to follow me on that track. Especially not anyone I care about."

Rory set the taco back down on his tray, wiping his hands and mouth with his napkin as he considered Katja's words further. Someone was jealous he was spending too much time with Haven... the thought actually broke through the self-important doom spiral to elicit a little chuckle. He shook his head, rolling his eyes in a strange about-face from his previous sincerity. Somber didn't suit Rory, and he still had to get back at Katja for her little dig earlier. "It is cute you think someone is jealous I'm giving Haven too much attention, Amazon. I mean, we've hung out a bit... but not nearly as much as you and the Addams family have been spending lately." He motioned off in the last direction he had seen Amma. ”If anything, I sh-" Rory stopped mid-sentence, eyes wide as he realized what he had nearly said. He lifted a fist to cover his mouth as he coughed and cleared his throat. "Uhh... I mean, you know, someone's probably jealous of whatever you and Amma seem to have going on as of late."

Katja listened intently to Rory as he aired his heart out, even though she had started wolfing down on her meal. She felt for him, she really did. She felt that he was right about their degrees and the worth they’d have in the outside world. She had first hand experience of what the Munnies thought about their kind. Still, she did not agree with Rory’s mentality of going at it alone. But before she could address that, the conversation took a bit of a swerve. She chuckled as she quickly caught on to what he was trying to do. He was trying to flip the script on her. But in typical Rory fashion, he had a verbal slip. And Katja was going to pounce on it.

Katja slowly turned her head towards Rory, revealing a wolfish grin on her face. “If anything, I… What, Rory?” She leaned in closer to him, her icy blue eyes locking with his as she brought her face level with his. Suddenly her hand reached out to Rory. Or so it initially seemed, anyway. In actuality, Katja didn’t reach for him, but for his tray. “Mine!” She said triumphantly as she quickly ate the last piece of his taco. She loudly laughed as she turned away to shield her own tray against any possible retaliation... And to hide the blush that she felt on her face.

Rory audibly gulped as Katja lowered her face to be even with his. She knew, and that froze him with fear and anticipation. He felt his heart skip a beat as her hand reached towards him... only for it to be yet another joke. While Katja turned away to keep her own food secure, Rory playfully hit the side of her arm with a closed fist.

It took a moment for Katja’s laughter to die down - and the blushing to become less obvious - after which she returned her attention to her food. After devouring a couple more tacos in the but a few bites she looked back over to Rory. “That someone doesn’t have to worry himself about what Amma and I are up to.” Katja let out a sigh after she took a swig from one of her water bottles. “Truth be told,” she mumbled softly, more to herself than to Rory, “I don’t even know if we’re up to anything to begin with.” finishing that thought with a soft, regretful chuckle.

Katja closed her eyes for a moment, her expression had become a little more serious compared to earlier, but there was still that ever present smile. “In all seriousness though, you shouldn’t just think of the negatives.” She said as she referred back to the earlier, more serious topic. “No matter what happens, we’ll always have your back, bru. Yes, even Amma… maybe.” She gave him a deliberately exaggerated look of nervousness before continuing normally. “But just know that you’re never alone. And know that there’s more than enough people who care less about the track they’re traveling, and more about the person they’re sharing it with.”

Katja looked back at her tray, which was almost empty by now except for a small leftover. She was quiet for a moment as she thought it over again, finally settling on how to end Rory’s doubts. “The least you can do is talk to Haven about this whole thing. I’ve got a feeling you’ll have more than enough time for that tonight.” Katja picked up the last bit of food on her plate, holding it out in front of her for a few seconds before she cast a sideward glance at him with that grin from earlier. “Unless you plan on spending the night differently, of course.” She then flicked the final morsel up in the air before catching it neatly in her mouth.

Rory remained nervous and confused as Katja continued speaking, remaining a bit frozen in place as he looked over towards his teammate. He watched her carefully as she spoke about Amma, but turned away when she chose to be a bit more supportive. He knew what to expect from a Katja pep talk, and she didn't exactly disappoint... even if he instinctively wanted to reject her optimism.

And then, of course, came the last joke. Rory leaned over to bump his shoulder into Katja's, shaking his head. He wasn't exactly opposed to that... hell, given the past few days, they could probably use a bit of stress relief. But he couldn't help but feel a bit sad. He had slipped up, and Katja knew how he felt. Her continued insistence that he ask Haven out was enough of an answer to the question he never bothered to ask. While a nervous optimism brewed inside his chest, his expression seemed down for a moment. He muttered cryptically, "Yeah... well, I guess that's that." Rory's smile returned as he stood up with his empty tray. He turned his gaze back towards Katja. There was a bit more confidence in his voice. "Thanks for the pep talk, Kruger." He turned to leave, but paused and turned to look back at Katja for a moment. His smile seemed a little more genuine as he flashed a cheeky grin. "Be careful, Amazon, in case you and Gone Girl do get up to anything. I don't think she can handle roughhousing like us Chimeras can." His dumb smile hid his complete obliviousness to the clear innuendo, and his chuckle at his joke could be heard as he made his way towards the deserts to fetch himself something sweet.

Having caught the last scrap of food, despite the little bump by Rory, Katja looked down at her teammate with smug satisfaction. It was then that she noticed his dejected look, coupled with his somber muttering of something she didn’t quite catch. She didn’t quite understand why he’d look like that, which made her retrace her steps. Was it the implication of him and Haven being intimate in the tent? No, that couldn’t be it. If he minded it then he would’ve looked angry or at least annoyed, not sad. Was it what she had said about Amma? No, that didn’t make sense either. After all, she had just admitted to him that she didn’t know where she stood with her. Perhaps it was about how she had reacted to his slip of the tongue? Sure, she acknowledged it, but after that she didn’t bring it up agai-




Kruger, you stupid moron!

He had accidentally admitted his feelings for her. And what did she do? Not just acknowledge it, but turn it into a joke and then not just continue talking about his relations with another girl, but joke about them being intimate.

Katja felt a sinking feeling in her stomach as the realization of what just transpired finally dawned on her. Without realizing it, she had just rejected him without batting an eye. She had been so concerned with the feelings of her female teammates who had interests in Rory that she had been completely oblivious to his own feelings. Or, for that matter, her own feelings.

While all of this went on in Katja’s mind, Rory had still been talking to her. As if on autopilot, Katja had been absently nodding and smiling at him as she was trying to piece everything together. She only really became conscious of her surroundings again when he had just started walking away. She wanted to call out after him, but no words came when she tried. She didn’t know what to say. What could she say to make it up to him when her words had caused this problem in the first place?

It was at that moment that her instinct took over. Katja never considered herself to be good at expressing herself with words. She tried, obviously. Many times in fact. But at the end of the day, there was only one way she truly knew would get her feelings across.

In one quick motion she got herself off her seat and had already taken a long stride after Rory. It only took the tall girl a couple more steps to catch up behind him. She didn’t say a word to him. Instead, as he was about to queue in line for deserts, she put her arms over his shoulders, gently pulling herself closer to him. Closing her eyes, the taller girl rested her chin on his crown. She embraced him as such, not caring if others could see them. She’d explain it later to Haven, or Mei, or whoever would ask about it. But they didn't matter now. The only thing that mattered now was making up her earlier trivialisation of Rory’s feelings.

Katja held him close for several seconds, gently swaying from side to side. “I’m sorry for being such an idiot.” She softly whispered to him, before finally letting him go and looking down to the side, her cheeks visibly reddening.

As Rory felt Katja's arms wrap around him, he froze. The embrace was softer than usual, more tender and sweet than her usual bear hugs. He couldn't help but enjoy the feeling of being enveloped by her, pushing down less pure thoughts while wrapped up in the arms of Katja. When she let go and whispered to him, Rory turned around. A puzzled expression clearly covered his face, a bit lost in what she was thinking.

Why was she claiming to be an idiot? That was usually his line, and his apology. It's the apology he would use for saying the wrong thing, or misunderstanding a situation. Hell, it was the very same apology he gave to Mei for misunderstanding her feelings-


Rory looked up at Katja, noticing her blushing cheeks and slightly embarrassed expression. The more he thought about it, she seemed to blush a lot around him. He always chalked it up to being physical exertion… but that didn't explain this moment. He still didn't quite understand what was happening. But, he had a guess.

His smile was soft as he reached a hand up to squeeze her shoulder. He spoke softly, practically whispering back. ”Look, Kat… it's ok. We're still cool. I'm OK. I never expected you to feel the same in the first place. I never wanted the way I feel to make things awkward… with you, or with Haven, or anyone else in Blackjack. So… there's no need for this, Kat. Last thing I need is to get the wrong idea.” Rory gave one last firm squeeze on Katja's shoulder, looking up into her eyes with a soft smile. ”Ok?”

Returning her gaze back to Rory, a soft smile reforming on her face again as she nodded. Wanting to make sure that she didn’t accidentally mess things up again, Katja listened intently to him before she replied, speaking in a gentle, soft tone. “Thanks Rory.” She paused for a moment, looking for the right words to express herself. She softly whispered to him. “You’re a good kid.” Bending through her knees to negate the size difference, she gave Rory one final, tight embrace. “Don’t you forget that! And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!” She said softly, but forcefully to him, after which she softly bumped the side of her head against his.

The large South African let go a few seconds later, putting her hand on Rory’s shoulder as she returned back to her full height. She looked him straight in the eyes to make sure he understood that she was serious about this. “I mean it, bru. You are one of the good ones. One of the very few. And if you ever feel down, don’t hesitate to give me a call. I’ll be there for you, no matter what!” Her smile widened into that ever familiar grin as she finished, giving a forceful pat on his shoulders before taking a step back.

Katja took a step over to the dessert display and quickly glanced over whatever they had on offer. Her eyes quickly fell on a large piece of chocolate cake, which she quickly grabbed. She then proudly displayed it to Rory as if it were some grand prize. She addressed Rory after taking a hefty bite out of it. “Now, I don’t know about you…” She gestured down at her legs, which were still caked with mud from her earlier working with Banjo. “But I am desperately in need of a shower!”

Katja gave a short wave to Rory with her free hand, the other filled with the cake she was definitely going to save for her way back to her tent. “Good night, pup! See ya tomorrow!” As she started to walk away Katja turned around to face Rory again, taking a few steps backwards so as to continue on her way. “And say hi to Valkie for me!” She gave a coy wink followed by a titter before finally turning around for real and heading for her tent.

Rory paused as he watched Katja walk away, smiling as he watched her go. Internally, he was just as confused as he was before. She knew how he felt… but he was left more confused than ever at what was going on inside Katja’s head. She was supportive, though, and the most positive person on team Blackjack. At the end of the day, that’s the best he could ask for. He tried not to think about Katja taking a shower, instead focusing on the fact that he most certainly needed one. Rory swung by the dessert table, plucked out a smore, and gobbled it down as he strode away. He tried not to focus on any errant stares that lingered on him after his interaction with Katja. They were just friends, after all.

Rory ducked back towards his tent, quickly stripping down into nothing but a towel and grabbing a bar of soap. He slipped into his shower shoes, jogged across the campsite, and slipped into the first open partition he could. The water wasn’t as warm as he would have preferred, but he wasn’t particularly concerned with the water temperature. Instead, he focused on scrubbing away the day’s grime. He wasn’t exactly sure what senses of Haven’s were heightened, now that he thought about it. Did birds have better senses of smell? Or was it just hearing and eyesight? He didn’t exactly want to find out the hard way, instead doing everything he could to scrape off every inch of sweat and dirt he could. When finished, he quickly dried off and wrapped the towel around his waist before heading back to the tent. He hesitated as he stood outside of it, suddenly and acutely aware of his lack of dress as he stood at the entrance. His heart beat out of his chest. If Katja had managed to catch on to his slip up… was Haven clever enough to get what he had really asked? Was she even at the tent yet?

Subtlety isn’t really your strong suit, is it?

Rory sighed, relenting to the circumstances of the situation.

It was time he and Haven had a talk.
Location: Southern Plateau - Pacific Royal Campus
Welcome Home #1.082: Still Burning
Interaction(s): Lorcán - @Lord Wraith, Amma - @Rockette
Previously: And you're gone

“Dude, I have to hand it to you, I would have quit the moment I took off, bro.”

Rory banged away at the metal bar as Lorcán approached, completely immersed in his work. He still listened, of course, as his roommate dragged on. Unsurprisingly, and to Rory’s annoyance, he had opened with a joke. Not even an apology to start off. He kept his eyes focused on his work, the rhythmic beating of the metal ringing in his ears alongside the surfer’s words.

“Y’know Bulltrue has a metal bender right?”

Rory leaned over to examine the piece.

“I mean I suppose you can keep bustin’ your hump out here and ignoring me. That’s cool, I get it. But you’re only tiring yourself out.”

Rory continued banging against the bar, further shaping it into pace. His arm was sore, but he didn’t show it. He removed the clamp on the bar and tossed it over to where the others were.

“Tiring yourself out before your night with Sky Betty as I heard.” Lorcán jabbed into his ribs, eliciting a grunt and an instinctive glare from Rory as he turned and grabbed another metal bar. Under the surface, though, those words tickled at something in the back of his head. Lorcán’s verbal jab was pointed enough and clear to cut through some of the fog. His wording had to have been off… Rory quickly turned back to the workbench and fetched a new metal bar. His cheeks heated a little more red than they already were from the work. Lorcán wasn’t there, so he had to have heard it from the others. And if the others had pieced together Rory’s weird wording, then certainly Haven had as well.

“Look, you can be angry all you want, but at least I didn't ask Haven to the dance. That was a pretty kook thing to do. None of this matters anyway, you’re just as raked under as I am. No degree, what are you going to do? Even I know there aren’t a lot of options for a Jake with your abilities.” Rory’s embarrassment faded as he went back to hammering a new metal bar into shape, his rage rising. Still not even a word of apology. Just more jabs… no, deflection. Rory’s grip tightened on the hammer, as he delivered more decisive swings.

“Look, I’m sorry I ran off. It wasn't my intention to actually leave you with the work. Why don't you power up? Even in three minutes the two of us can blast through the rest of this and I’ll cover the rest once you tap out.”

He extended a hand to Rory. Rory continued hammering the bar into place… and a little beyond the desired angle.

“Come on, wolves stick together, dude, two of us would be better than one. If you’re eager to see this through, let me help you, bro.”

Rory’s final swing of the hammer cleaved the end of the metal bar off, and he tossed the hammer onto the bench in frustration as he spun around to face Lorcán. His face was fresh hot with anger, sweat pooling down his neck and back as he looked at the extended hand. He looked back up to Lorcán incredulously, before his eyes focused on a particular figure behind his shoulder. Amma smiled while looking the two of them over like they were slabs of meat. He wasn't necessarily opposed to the objectification... but given her and Lorc were who knows where moments before left him feeling off. Something about this felt wrong, and he desperately wanted to know what they were doing. Rory looked back at Lorcán and slapped his hand out of the way. Despite the anger in his face, he took a breath and kept his voice even as he spoke. ”You don’t get to decide we’re good, bro. None of this might matter to you, man, but it matters to me. We’ve got one year left here together before we all go off… The twins are going to be running the damn course this year, Lorc.”

Rory sighed, looking around at the other crews for a moment, before turning his gaze back and keeping his voice lowered. ”It doesn’t matter if you meant to leave me to do the work myself, man. You did. And instead of apologizing, you’re deflecting. What the Hell is going on, man?”

Lorcán’s eyes narrowed as his hand was slapped away. The next few words out of Rory’s mouth fell on deaf ears as Lorcán replied everything he had just said to his roommate back. Nothing he said should have accounted for the minor assault he had just endured.

But he wasn't about to talk to his best friend the same way Rory has just spoken to him. Lorcán didn't exactly have the moral highground but he also didn't need to sink any lower. Lifting his face, he took a breath before raising his hands to wave the white flags.

“Whoa, whoa, let’s steer out of the riptide here. I’m not meaning to deflect, bro. Clearly I should have spoken to you before bailing. The ceremony really got me in the shallows earlier. I just wanted to blow off some steam.”

Taking another breath, he continued to speak.

“Bro, I completely forgot the twins were starting this year, like a total grommet I even forgot that Ripley would be doing the course too. I wasn't thinking about anyone but myself, it was totally selfish and it was kook-like ignorant. I don’t blame you for being upset, frustrated and like rightfully mad.”

Lorcán kicked the ground, trying to figure out his next couple of words.

“I’m going to get to work, there’s just over an hour left. But I’ll like stay out of your way and I’ll totally shut up now.”

He reluctantly admitted defeat realizing he couldn't force Rory to forgive him. Snapping a quick picture of the plans with his phone, Lorcán filled his arms with materials and made himself a separate workspace to try his best to catch up.

Rory sighed, picked up his hammer, and got back to work on his own. The anger had passed, a cold frustration left in its place. What didn't make any sense, though, was what Lorcán had meant by 'blowing off some steam.' Usually that meant tossing the ball around or wrestling... neither of which seemed like something Amma would do.

Regardless, the apology felt hollow... perhaps rightfully so. Rory had snapped and lashed out... something he hadn't ever really done before. That was more his father's modus operandi... and that alone was enough to keep Rory awake for a week. He had gone too far, even if Lorcán pushed all the wrong buttons.

And yet, it felt off. Lorcán had jabbed him first over and over before offering a half-hearted apology. And when it wasn't accepted, he tucked his tail between his legs and offered a more real apology before running. Rory recognized the guilt mixed with frustration: he had been hurt, and hurt Lorcán back. It was a gross feeling. A simple apology could probably wash it down. They just needed to be a little vulnerable and really honest with each other.

Instead, Rory turned back to the work at hand.
Location: Southern Plateau - Pacific Royal Campus
Welcome Home #1.077: And you're gone
Interaction(s): None
Everything, for once, was coming up Rory. No last minute upsets in an important game. No sudden attacks or near-death experiences. His mess-ups with language hadn't seemed to cause any lasting damage in the relationships with his closest friends. Things were great.

Well, except for the impending doom of discredited degrees and a split-second decision to sell his soul to the government. But that was a future Rory problem.

Present Rory was doing just great.

Rory had managed to parse out his work assignment fairly quickly, beaming as he approached the work site. He had mustered up with his teammates, receiving the plans for a moment while Lorcán and Amma began talking ink. He couldn't really relate, and the last thing he wanted to do was interrupt to brag about his recent dance plans... especially after the beach incident. He still hadn't gotten around to apologizing for that. He'd find time, certainly. But for now, they had work to do. Rory eyed up the plans, making a few mental notes. He was certainly going to need power tools for this... he wasn't going to be able to copy powers all day. This was a marathon, not a sprint.

Rory left, fetching a reciprocating saw, some clamps, and a hammer. He managed to set himself up nearby his friends, doing his best not to eavesdrop. He watched the two, a slight uneasy feeling seeping into his stomach. He knew flirting when he saw it... and there was something between those two that felt familiar. He couldn't blame Lorcán: Amma was alluring in her own ways. But after everything that had happened today, and the gift given by Torres... she was at the bottom of Rory's "trust" list on the team. The last thing he wanted was to see his bro get hurt, especially when he had a good thing going. He just needed to buck up and be honest with Rora.

Though, Rory was the last person who could judge him, and he knew it. Hell, Rory had crushes on practically everyone in Blackjack at some point or another. Some were embarrassing, others based purely on looks. Those he still had feelings for after all this time... it was too late to ruin friendships now. The last thing he needed was awkward team lunches or awkward locker room interactions... or, worst of all, losing what little time he had left with his friends.

Rory paused as he had collected some metal bars. What were the lengths they needed?

"Hey, Roth, what-"

As Rory turned around, he was incredibly surprised to see his best friend scooping up Amma and taking off like a rocket. The sudden flash of combustion blinded Rory for a second, and the intense heat washed over him and left him more hot and sweaty than usual. He looked up in disbelief as they had taken off, turning back to look at their work. They had worked on a handful of bars... and now they were God knows where. Rory's gaze slowly turned towards his fellow classmates, who similarly turned their judging glares his direction. Rory walked over towards their station, snatched up the plans and the bars they hadn't yet finished, and returned to his station.

Once again, he'd have to cover for the chill-master general and little miss too-cool-for-school. Usually he only had to cover for a teammate at a time when it came to shirking basic responsibility. A two-for-one deal was a rare treat.

Complaining wasn't going to get the job done, however. So, Rory rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He clamped down one of the metal rods, measured out the length, and used a marker to mark the cut line. He used the reciprocating saw to cut off the excess metal, moved the bar down the clamp, and fetched the hammer. With a loud, strenuous series of hits, Rory hammered the piece into shape. He could feel the sweat accumulating on his back, and ripped his shirt off to toss aside. This was going to be a long day.

Rory fell helplessly behind his classmates, who with scoffs came throughout the day to remove work from his pile to do themselves. His cheeks were red hot with embarrassment and shame as he poured his feelings into his work. He slammed the hammer into the metal rods to bend them through his sheer force of will, unable to rely on the same powers as those who scoffed at his efforts. But he didn't stop. He couldn't stop until it was all finished. So he worked, not speaking a word to anyone as he silently stewed on his thoughts over the hours of work.

... 'you want to sleep together tonight'... but that could also mean... no, there's no way...

... I don't owe him an apology, Lorcán owes me one. I'd never leave him to do work like this alone. He knows that. But no, run off with the tatted french girl who might be spying for the enemy. He won't be upset that he has to do all your work for you...

... Rora seemed really bothered at the beach... there's something else going on. Maybe I should ask Haven if she knows anything? Probably after I ask about the flirting...

... Why web up my pants? Was Mei jealous? But Haven and I... well, I'm... but Haven isn't... is she? No...

... Maybe I should ask Banjo for prank advice? I'd go with the shaving cream thing again, but Lorc finds that really funny every time...

... No, Wings definitely knew I just meant sharing a tent... right?
Location: Southern Plateau - Pacific Royal Campus
Welcome Home #1.068: Tired of Tripping on my Shoes
Interaction(s): Mei - @Garden Gnome
Rory's eyes watched Haven carefully, clocking the tensing of muscles as she took a moment to respond. She had taken a step closer, smiled at him, and responded. Her voice was, for lack of a better word, sultry. It almost felt like a whisper, or an invitation. But that didn't make sense... he had asked her. He was getting used to knowing when he had missed something: a reference, innuendo, obvious subtext, or a classic "Rory" phrased sentence. She didn't seem to be referencing anything, 'sure' didn't seem to have any sexual connotations, and there didn't seem to be anything obvious unsaid. This left the obvious problem being a poorly phrased question. Though, what could possibly have been misinterpreted? He asked if she wanted to sleep together. Classic sleepover, nothing weird there. Except... maybe there was something about the together part...

Haven had flown off to have a talk with Banjo, leaving Rory motionless trying to put together the pieces. He sighed, resolving to ask Lorcan about it. He was pleasantly surprised when he saw Mei's approach, his smile instinctively widening as he locked eyes with her. “Here, a hand knitted towel made by yours truly.” She had thrust the towel into his chest, reaching up to grab hold of it before she turned around to walk away. He looked at the towel, reading the stitching briefly.

"Wow... thanks, uh... wait, Mei, does this-" Rory tried to lift one leg up and reached a hand out to stop her, only to feel unexpected resistance. He had leaned his torso forward, but his legs remained stuck together. He tipped over, falling face first into the dirt. He had managed to lift his arms to protect his head out of pure instinct, a protective measure trained from years of being tackled by his favorite 7ft tall blonde athlete. Once prone, Rory flipped himself into his back to examine what had happened to his legs. He was a bit surprised to recognize the strands of silk that had practically glued his pant legs together. He looked up to where Mei had stormed off to. Judging by that reaction, he had royally fucked up.

Rory weighed his options. On the one hand, he could probably fetch his keys from the bag lying next to him and try to saw at the webbing... but that would take time. The other options was... well, a bit more bold. Rory kicked off his shoes and shimmied his way out of his PT sweatpants. He was left in only his black t-shirt, a pair of light gray boxer briefs, tube socks, and not even an ounce of dignity. Now free of his web-trappings and suitably covered in a fine coating of dirt, Rory darted after Mei with the towel in hand.

"Mei, wait! I'm sorry." He slowed to a stop as he approached, pointing to the towel he was holding. "I... uhh... look, can we talk for a second? I owe you an apology and an answer, if you want."

Mei could hear the owner of the familiar voice coming from outside of her tent. She hadn't expected Rory to come after her like that. Perhaps, there was more hope to this then she realised. "Hey Rory. I see you got yourself out of a sticky situation. I'm just setting up my tent to sleep on my own, but otherwise I'm free to talk. Go ahead."

Rory stared at Mei for a moment, processing her joke, before simply shaking his head and stifling a laugh. As he looked down, he winced at the realization he had left his pants behind. He had dreams about this. He paused, composing himself, before looking back up towards Mei. "I'm sorry I... well, thought you were joking. At the beach. I was a bit flustered, with the whole thing with Ro and the dance. And I never would have expected you to ask me to the dance. So I misunderstood what you were saying. I got in my own head. And I'm sorry for that."

Mei stared at Rory as he laughed at her silly attempt of a joke. She didn’t know if he really found it funny or he was just laughing to lower the tension in her tent. For her own sake, she decided to believe the former reasoning. Anything good that Rory gave her she would take. who knows when she would ever get it again? She wasn’t like Haven who received good signs of intimacy and actions given to her even without trying.

“Well, I hope it is abundantly clear to you now. I would never joke about such things. Should you ever forget, feel free to refer to the towel at any time. Hopedully that will jolt your memory back to remembering.”

Rory nodded, flashing a small smile as he looked at the towel. It still didn't make sense to him, why she was always this kind to him. "I appreciate it." He paused for a moment, taking the time to fold up the towel before looking back to Mei. "As for an answer... I would like to go to the dance. With you. If you still want to go with me, that is." He felt a sudden wave of embarrassment flood into his cheeks, but he held his ground as he looked towards Mei.

As Mei heard Rory's words, every part of her wanted to yell "YES" out loud without hesitation, and it took an enormous amount of willpower for her to resist herself from doing so as soon as the words left his mouth. She decided that him waiting for a minimum of a few minutes in silence would be payment for what he had done to her on the beach and earlier in the plateau.

After leaving Rory hanging in silence for a few minutes, internally dreading every single minute that she put both of them through, afraid that he might reconsider, Mei answered him. "You sure?" Not giving him any chance to respond, she continued immediately. "Of course, you're sure! Who else would you go with? I'll go with you, no further thought necessary." The more opportunities she gave him to not think about Haven, the better she would fare.

Rory's smile involuntarily widened, and he nodded in response to Mei's acceptance. Everything was finally coming up Rory. He ignored the small part of his brain telling him this was too good to be true. He turned around, back towards the rest of the camp, grinning like the idiot he was. He walked back towards the bag, pants, and shoes he left in the middle of everything. He scrambled to pick them up and scurried into his and Haven's tent to change.

As much as part of him knew some of the others would prefer he ran around all day in his underwear, he changed into a spare pair of shorts to get ready for his work assignment.

Mr. Roth,

I would like your help to schedule a meeting with H.E.L.P. sometime in the next week or so. I need to discuss career plans given my watchlist status and recent developments at school.

It's about time I follow my parent's lead.

- Rory Tyler '29

Rory sighed as he hit send on the email, immediately tossing it on his desk across the room afterwards. The words felt revolting to type, and he couldn't bare to look at them again. His father would have been proud, and that disgusted him. But some bells couldn't be unrung.

Rory didn't act when Hyperion first struck. There wasn't a chance in Hell he was going to sit on the sidelines this time around.
Location: Southern Plateau - Pacific Royal Campus
Welcome Home #1.060: We Get by Just Fine
Interaction(s): Haven - @Skai, Banjo - @Hound55, Calliope - @PatientBean
Previously: Enemies

The ride out to the Southern Plateau couldn't help but feel like a march towards disaster, even to the happy-go-lucky Rory Tyler. Of course, he didn't show it, though. He had occupied a window seat, head hung out the window and seeming to enjoy the feeling of the wind in his hair. He kept looking up, admiring the way the sun's rays cut through the leaves of the trees overhanging the old dirt road. He kept his trademark smile wide, in case anyone else was looking. Underneath the mask, Rory couldn't help but feel a creeping anxiety coiling inside his chest. There was a much larger game at play around them, and there was nothing he could do yet. He had a plan to get some information... but until he could schedule his meeting, all he could do is be there for his team.

Even that, though, he would surely mess up.

Before the Minotaur had even come to a full stop, Rory had practically launched himself out the door to catch a breath of fresh air. He took a couple deep breaths, giving a wave towards the few folks of Team Firebird. Once he felt the tightness in his chest loosen up, Rory hoisted up one of the pre-fab tents onto his shoulder and carried it towards the edge of camp, a noticable distance away from the other tents. He tossed it onto the ground, wiped the sweat from his brow, and called out to Calliope and Banjo. "Yo, lovebirds... picked out a nice spot for ya. Try not to keep us up all night!" He flashed a cheeky grin, well aware of the implications of his jab.

He wandered back to the Minotaur, grabbing his overstuffed duffel bag and removing his metal water bottle from a side pocket. His eyes drifted towards his teammates, taking in the view as they hoisted tents into various spots around the campsite. His smile felt genuine for a moment. They were still all together for now. Besides... no matter what, they would all come out on top by the end of the year.

He would make damn sure of that.

Rory's eyes, of course, lingered on a certain winged teammate as she was busy setting up most of the tents. He looked around at the gathered Blackjack team, trying to size up bunkmates. The three bros wouldn't be able to share a bunk all to themselves... and Banjo and Calli were clearly an item. Rory was used to getting picked last. So, he'd have to find his own place to sleep for the night with another one of his friends.

Rory saddled up towards Haven with his bag over his shoulder, offering the bottle of water towards her for her to take a drink. He looked towards the tent he saw her throw her bag in, and nodded towards it. He paused a moment, making sure he thought through his sentence before he said it. Last thing he needed was another misunderstanding like at the beach. "So, Barnes... you want to sleep together tonight?"

Nailed it. Casual, simple, impossible to misunderstand. Besides, Haven was just a friend. It wasn't a big deal to crash with a friend after a long day.

As the early dawn rays fell upon the P.R.C.U. campus, Rory Tyler had already been running. He had barely slept, crashing for more of a prolonged nap than a full night's rest. He always had the recurring nightmare right before school started: a certain hyperhuman extremist would roll into a forest clearing wearing a mask, take it off, and it was Rory. At this point, it was getting old. Even he knew why he was having it: years ago, at this exact time of year, he lost any sense of comfort he could ever have. No matter what he did, how much he smiled and gave people nicknames... there was always an unspoken question lingering in the air.

Could you end up like him?

Rory's run slowed to a jog, before he stopped at the nearest bench outside the stadium. He rubbed some of the lingering drowsiness from his eyes, his body still yearning for some sleep. Rory leaned back on the bench, admiring the early morning sky. The lingering trails of cirrostratus clouds reminded him of the silk threads Mei worked. He hadn't been oblivious to her aggressive knitting the night before: something told him it had to do with him. She seemed angry... context clues and some hints from Calliope made it clear he had misunderstood her. He'd have to ask for clarification later, before the Homecoming Trials work started. Maybe she was being nice, and offering to go with him to the dance after a rather embarrassing rejection to a question he hadn't asked. She was probably just being considerate. Even still, he had messed up: that much was clear.

Rory's gaze went out of focus, the colors and shapes of the sky above blending together. He smiled softly, feeling a small breeze roll in with a touch of salt on the wind. The sensation sparked something within him. He quickly reached into his pocket to pull out his phone, opening up his notes app to jot another idea on his "Senior Year Bucket List" note. Right underneath "Try out a Mei Hammock", Rory wrote down a new entry: "Ask Haven to teach me to fly".

He paused after typing, having reflexively went back to the home screen. A group selfie with Blackjack was hidden behind a number of apps Rory never really used. He slid a couple screens over so he could look at the selfie again. He had managed to take it as they were sitting down before the opening ceremony the previous year. Somehow, it felt like almost no time had passed. They didn't have much time left together. Even if Amma was right... they still had a year to make some memories. No one could take that away from them.

Rory pocketed his phone, got up from the bench, and continued his run.
Location: The Chimera's Lair - Pacific Royal Campus
Welcome Home #1.051: Enemies
Interaction(s): Lorcán - @Lord Wraith, Haven - @Skai
Previously: Closer

| Monday, September 4th, 2028
The first the rest of the team saw of Rory was as they gathered outside the mess hall. He was one of the earlier ones, arriving around the same time as Gil and just in time to feel a familiar hand smack into his rear end. “Hopefully, you dudes don’t have to sit down too soon, but man, bros, you missed out on some legen-lactose heavy’-dary swells this mornin’. I am totally going to get you both out on a board before we graduate.”

"If you can score me a board for a day, I'll be there, bro." He chortled as Lorcán's pants dropped, continuing to gather with the rest of Blackjack.

As they departed, Rory's pace slowed a bit from walking with Lorcán and Gil. Haven saddled up beside him, keeping a healthy distance. "I always seem to forget how handsome you look in uniform."

Rory turned his gaze towards Haven with a perplexed expression. "But we're always in uniform, bird-brain. Even I don't forget how stunning everyone looks after summer break." Rory shook his head in mock disbelief, smile wide as he took a step out of his way and lifted an arm to bump Haven playfully. He turned around, taking in all of Blackjack as they were approaching in. Harper linked arms with Haven, Calli linked up with Banjo. Aurora and Lorcán were bound to sit next to each other, like always. Rory didn't pay much attention to who he sat next to for the ceremony, his focus on eying the crowd of students to catch a glimpse of Will and Mary. They were a bit apart, caught up with the hoard of freshmen. Will was, unsurprisingly, already looking bored and tired of the whole ordeal. Mary, on the other hand, was busy laughing and talking with everyone around her as she was just settling into her seat. She managed to catch a glimpse of her older brother and gave him a wave. He waved back.

From there, Rory's attention was shot. His attention waded in and out, as he felt his gaze turn towards his teammates. The opening ceremony was always more of a formality than anything else. He was a bit confused, however, when he saw Jim enter onto the stage. It took him a moment to realize he had been introduced as the Chancellor. It seemed like an odd pick... but, then again, if Jim could handle Banjo, he could certainly run the whole damn school with ease.

Then, the bomb dropped.

Rory didn't quite understand the nuance of Jim's bad news... but it was made all too clear the second the stranger spoke. She wasn't faculty... and once she continued speaking over the former Blackjack advisor, it was abundantly clear she was a member of the Foundation. Her tone was... off, to say the least. It felt almost rehearsed to him. But the murmuring and frustrations nearby made it clear that something was hitting a chord with some.

Not Team Blackjack, though.

"What's with this bitch?"

Rory couldn't contain an audible wheeze as he managed to catch Haven's comment from behind him, clasping his hands over his mouth. He felt comforted knowing that he wasn't the only one who saw through the charade. Regardless, one by one, he watched as several of his teammates filed out of their seats. First Lorcán, who was chased after by Aurora. Then Haven, whose feathers were clearly ruffled. And then Calliope. Those who remained seemed more shellshocked than anything. Rory's face was blank as he immediately looked for Mary and Will. The former had already turned to look towards Rory and shook her head while maintaining eye contact. He nodded in acknowledgement, reaffirming her suspicions. When Rory looked to Will, he found his younger brother had a sly smile on his lips. Rory's blood ran cold, and he leaned forward in his seat.

Amma's laugh was chilling, Rory's eyes lifting as he watched her descend from their place in the stands. But she wasn't going for the exit... no, she was approaching Torres. There was history and familiarity... but not comfort. His eyes locked on his teammate as they spoke. They were too far to make clear what they could possibly be discussing... but Torres offered a box. A gift. And Amma walked away.

Rory's stomach churned as thoughts raced through his mind. He had never really managed to get much out of Amma, and didn't know much about her. She was cold, abrasive, borderline cruel, and biting in the way she spoke to others. He despised the way she spoke to his friends... but it was clear there was something more going on here. She looked defenseless talking to the Foundation representative, and that thought alone was enough to send a colder chill down his spine. Amma was just about the scariest thing he could think of... no, that wasn't true. There was someone far scarier, another figure who spoke in pre-rehearsed melodrama but had the strength and cunning to back it up. If the Foundation was anything like him, Blackjack and P.R.C.U. were in for a rude awakening.

"So much for a laid back senior year." Rory muttered to himself as he stood up, making his own slow exit out of the stadium.
Location: The Beach - Pacific Royal Campus
Welcome Home #1.034: Closer
Interaction(s): Haven - @Skai, Team Blackjack at large
Previously: Please Tell Me Why

| Monday, September 4th, 2028
“Alright gentle-dudes and lady-brahs, where does everyone see themselves once they graduate?”

Rory plopped himself down next to Haven, flaring out the back of his old varsity jacket on instinct as he relaxed himself. He lifted up one knee again, wrapping an arm around it to keep himself sitting up. Lorcán's answer was in character and unsurprising. Rory extended his thumb and pinky finger in a little wave to his friend, acknowledging the answer and being as encouraging as he could without speaking. Speaking had gotten him into enough trouble today.

"I'm hoping to volunteer for the U.S. Forest Service this summer, before I start my career. It depends on how friendly they are with hypes, but there has to be at least one Ranger out there that will accept me."

His gaze turned to Haven as she spoke. Once again, very much like Haven to want to explore the national parks. Her other comment settled in his mind, though. Whether they liked it or not, everyone in Blackjack was different. Hell, Rory was on a damn watchlist... but even then, he had a hard time understanding the fear when it came to her. How could anyone be scared of Haven's pretty wings and-

"If I go, feel free to visit me in the states, Lorcán. The American National Parks are gorgeous."

Rory looked to Lorcán instinctively, genuine smile still alight on his face. Rory had never been to any of the American parks... but everything he had heard and seen about them definitely seemed like their vibe. Though Lorcán was sure to get lost without Haven helping to steer him back to the correct path. She was good at that. And quite frankly, it sounded like fun. Rory leaned over into Haven's personal space, whispering into her ear, "I wouldn't mind seeing the parks. See you all in your element... it suits you." He bumped his shoulder into hers lightly, before leaning back into his own space. He flashed her a toothy, playful grin.

Haven had looked at him through her eyelashes as he spoke in her ear. A broad smile spread slowly as he spoke. She turned her head towards him after he bumped her shoulder, her eyes bright in the firelight. "Consider yourself invited then." Rory's cheeky grin faded into a soft smile as he held her gaze for a second. For that briefest of moments, it felt like they were the only two on the beach.

“I’m still trying to figure out my plan for after graduation. My guess is I’ll-” Aurora's response was interrupted with a yawn. Rory couldn't blame her, as he felt a yawn begin to build himself. He covered his mouth to stifle it while Aurora continued. “Sorry. I was going to say that I’m guessing I’ll live in the Alumni Village for a while, at least until I figure out my next move, I’m in no rush.”

Rory nodded. It was a reasonable move. But he definitely did chuckle quietly as he saw her lean up into Lorcán’s shoulder, seeming to fall asleep. Once again, Rory waved his thumb and pinky in his best friend's direction as the redhead settled for a good rest. It wasn't a half bad idea... but something in his thick skull told him that if he got that close to Haven, there'd be a chance he'd cross a line he couldn't exactly uncross.

That's silly... she's just flirty with everyone. And so are you... you're just friends. Don't read into it.

"If I keep my grades up, I’m aiming for a spot in a diagnostic radiology residency program... It’s not as fancy as it sounds, though." Rory nodded towards Harper. She was smart as a whip... and given her keen eye, radiology made sense. You'd have to look really close to see all the molecules and stuff, after all.

As a brief pause enveloped those around the fire, Rory leaned forward. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out at first. A number of thoughts and feelings swirled in his head, before he just started mumbling out what came to mind. "I... there's a lot of kids who are like us out there trying to make sense of everything. Powers, Hyperion, the backlash, watchlists.... this place isn't the solution for all of them. And even if it is, they need help and the tools to get through it. They need someone in their corner, cause not everyone has that." He paused, his brain trying to catch up to the words he just spoke as he stared into the fire. This wasn't the first time he had verbalized his plans... but he hadn't exactly shared anything like this with the team before. Harper and Haven had specific plans... specifics weren't something he had thought out all that clearly. "I don't know if that means working for H.E.L.P., or joining a practice, or what... I'm still figuring that out." Rory's gaze remained on the fire after he spoke, an uncomfortable pit forming in the center of his chest that he couldn't yet place.
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