|Alexis AKA Mercy|
Alexis stared down at the pair, trying to figure out how he had knocked them down in the first place in such a fashion that he felt he was watching a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream. He did however easily grab onto both of their hands and pulled them up.
"Sorry. I don't know you," He stated. It was factual. "But you know Kaoru. But Kaoru is new here. So you must know Kaoru from before he lived here. So..." One could see the gears grinding in Alexis' head as he processed the information aloud.
"...are you Kaoru's ex-girlfriend?" He asked. Mostly because that seemed to be the case with how she was clinging to him and looking at Kaoru. Which would have been fine if Kaoru hadn't told him about how dating had caused him trouble where he used to live.
The addition made it obvious, but it was good to ask just to make sure he wasn't wrong.
|Bran the Blessed|
Bran took a little longer to try on the full tux, taking a brief time out to change back to Bronwyn and breathe deeply, wishing she had a pillow to scream into.
Okay, okay, it looks nice. It's mostly comfortable enough... Just have to figure out if it's worth going another ten rounds over kilts vs pants with this guy to get him to let the crotch out... It's either that or get some new underwear... Idly he tapped at the not-faintly-enough visible outline of his athletic cup. That'll probably be marginally less mortifying, right?
Emerging once more in his sweats he looked at the comedy of errors with some amusement, but more dismay. Zangano. You couldn't figure out Alexis would need someone while the boy he'd been crushing on was... Well, was whatever's happening over there.
He moved closer, trying to signal that he was... Here? Or, well not involved-involved, but... I just don't want to loom like an ogre over someone I don't know, or make Alexis feel like I think I need to pull him off... This would be so much easier as Bronwyn!
|Alexandra E. Walker|
Alexandra nods to Chloe. You've always had green eyes, but now your filling out the stereotype.[/b] she says [i]Just need Chloe's hair to look exactly like you're acting. clam down... Alexandra thinks, slowing her breathing, until Alexis knocks the two down. Alexandra is by Kay's side in an instant, giving Alexis her best death glare. He had knocked down Chloe, Which endeared him to Alexandra right now, but Kay too... gods, you're teritorial today. Why not just snog him right here, like a lioness marking her territory
She goes to pull Kay back up,a dn Chloe is getting all handsy with him, scratching the back of his head. She held out a hand, but waited to see how She answered Alexis' Question...
I can take the pictures. but If he gets physical... consider letting it happen a bit. it's cold, but for the cost of some bruises, we'd have pictures of an assault. Gillian says. But, you know 'Bert better than me, so it's your call.
with that, she gets in position. ready to take pictures,then go for the cell phone.
Chloe clasped Alexis' hand, allowing herself to be easily pulled up. "Dear me, someone's been eating their spinach I see." She smiled, lightly patting Alexis' arm. Kaoru on the other hand, rolled off on Chloe and ignored the offer of Alexis' help, instead taking Alexandra's hand.
As Alexis made his "deductions," the briefest flash of hurt entered Chloe's eyes before she quickly covered it with a smile and an airy laugh. "Well, correct that Kay and I go waaaayyy back. But no, we've never dated." Kaoru's jaw clenched, and she glared daggers at Alexis. She moved to wrap her arms protectively around Chloe, who turned her head just enough to beam warmly at Kaoru and give her arm an affectionate squeeze in thanks. She then gently pulled away, causing Kaoru to frown. Adopting a more flirtatious tone, Chloe quickly added, "But after I see Kay in this tux, I may need to change that." As her excitement returned, she retrieved the suit from Alton and handed it to a suddenly very nervous looking Kaoru. "Try it on!"
Kaoru looked like she was about to protest, but Chloe simply pointed out, "Kay, you've gotta make sure it fits properly for the gala. Otherwise all of this-" she pointed around "- was for naught." She then began firmly ushering Kaoru back into the now open dressing room, though this time she remained outside, bouncing slightly on the balls of her feet.
To avoid awkwardly standing around while she stared holes in the dressing room door waiting for Kaoru to exit, Chloe instead turned to the odd guy valiantly attempting (and failing miserably) to appear inconspicuous. "So what's your deal, big guy? Do you know Kay as well or did you just feel like changing up your look?" She smiled happily at Bran, completely uncowed by his enormous size, ahem, distinct appearance, and questionable fashion choices.
|Alexandra E. Walker|
As Chloe ushers Kay into a dressing room, Alexandra's eyes go dark, and she steps over. Why don't I help. I know stuff like this can be tricky. She says, moving to step into the room with Kay.
She nervously wrapped her arms around herself as she licked her lips. "And Chloe doesn't have a thing for me. She's my best friend! She was taking my measurements, so I wouldn't have to deal with some creepy old guy putting his hands all over me! She couldn't exactly do it out there. What if someone had noticed something and realized that I'm...that I'm not...that I'm, y'know." She gestured vaguely at her body.
Meanwhile, outside, Chloe seemed completely unconcerned by Alexandra's action, a slightly impish smile tugging at the corner of her lips.
|Alexis AKA Mercy|
Alexis just didn't like Chloe. There was something about her that he felt was disingenuous. But she was also Kaoru's friend. Or supposed friend. Even he didn't keep touching friends like that so much that it seemed weird. At the very least that was the sort of touching you didn't do unless you were bunking together.
Alton rolled his eyes as he hobbled over to Bran's side, taking his pants and clicking his tongue. "I'm assuming I need to allow for some more room here. I'll have it done in a minute," He told the larger man, going back to his table. He gestured to Alexis. "Sir, could you tell me how your suit is fitting?"
Alexis blinked, backing away from Chloe as he strode over to the older man. "Um. It feels okay. Like the other suits you made for me."
"Good, good," Alton said, lowering his voice. "I feel you're crowding that young lady there. Do you have ill intent towards her?"
Alexis bristled, but anxiously squeezed his hands together. "I don't know her. But I...I thought Kaoru would be here with us. Not with some other friend."
"Regardless, a friend of your friend should not be treated with such hostility. Please attempt to make nice. If you can't, I'll have to ask you to leave my shop." He looks at him, eyes creased with experience. "I understand you're all at a difficult age. That doesn't excuse anyone's ability to behave civilly. Especially when someone of your talents could seriously cause harm if they lost their head."
Alexis felt a burst of shame, looking down at the floor and fidgeting his leg. He was right about that. He could have just as easily hurt Chloe and Kaoru forcing himself between them like that. He needed to try and cool off. "...Thank you for your concern. I will go outside to get some space."
Alton nodded, appreciative of Alexis' insight, before bringing Bran his pants back. "This should suffice for you now." He told him. "Any further requests?"
|Alexandra E. Walker|
I think she does. let me takes some shots int he dark, here. She resented your ex, probably more than you did. She think you are gay. she is gay or bi... probably bi. after the breakup, she was very supportive and protective. the amount of casual physical contact has increased since your ex. she says. I don't think you lie her... more than a friend, anyway. but I think she might like you. just a warning, Kay. she says. also, Alexis hates her, because Alexis thinks she likes you, and Alexis still likes you, despite everyone's strong denials... I'm surprised he hasn't knocked US over a few times. I'll talk to him, but... talk to Chloe, okay?
|Bran the Blessed|
Well if he knew it wasn't going to fit without me saying anything, then why did he-?!
God, I shoulda just taken the kilt. Even if it's stupid for Bran to wear one. Never. Fight. Your. Tailor. Shoulda gotten the kilt, but then asked for pants that might match the jacket, for other possible occasions. Then I wouldn't be dealing with Mr. Measure-Once I hope Cut-Twice!
"I am certain the suit will be fine now. I do not suppose you have any shoes that might be suitable? Or perhaps recommend a cobbler?"
Why am I even saying yes to this thing... In the last lineup of the team everyone liked Bran, or at least respected him, but here... best I can hope for from Alexandra is being ignored, Kaoru's not going to appreciate having to shepherd me around, Shaun has barely upgraded me from scum of the earth, Alexis will be out of his element enough that I don't want to dump all of this on him, and Shayera...
...I guess while I'm Bran I get to talk to her, at least...
"So what's your deal, big guy? Do you know Kay as well or did you just feel like changing up your look?"
crap. Crap. Crap! What has Kaoru told her?!
"Ah, I know Kaoru through other friends, in the main. But today I am here after clothing of my own. The face I show to the world is usually an armored one, but such is apparently not appropriate to more festive event, which I am honorbound to attend." With a small smile he added, "As you can see, acquiring clothes 'off the rack,' has been a bit of a misadventure in the past. A forgivable one, to be certain, but I thought a new avenue would suit the occasion best."
He watched Alexis leave with no small concern. "Forgive me, Chloe, but I fear I should make certain that he is well." He gave a small bow and withdrew, "Perhaps another time? How long will you be visiting with Kaoru?"
She quietly approached Alexandra's turned back, gently wrapping her arms around her waist and resting her chin on her shoulder briefly before turning it to lightly nuzzle her neck affectionately. When she spoke, her words were soft and slightly muffled against Alexandra's skin, but she sounded certain. "You're wrong, Alexandra. I mean, yeah, in Sioux Falls she said she thought I was gay. But...there were a lot of rumors going on about that at that time. But she's always been that affectionate. She used to act that way around others, but...well...it tended to get her in trouble as people kept misinterpreting it. She got pretty depressed until I told her it didn't bother me." And now, you're not there for her. She'll go back to Sioux Falls, and you'll stay here, leaving her alone. She paused for a moment, pushing that thought away and instead enjoying the warmth of Alexandra's body in her arms. When she was this close, she could smell her...body wash? Shampoo? Whatever it was smelled really nice, and she took a few deep breaths before continuing. "She's also definitely straight. We've had a few conversations about it. She used to say it made her feel shallow, not being bi. Like, if she met an amazing woman, shouldn't she be able to love her the way she could love a man, despite what body the woman was in?"
She felt warm and relaxed, and her words came out slow and lazy. "Plus, Alexis still thinks I'm male, so there's no way he's still into me. He actually probably just has a thing for Chloe. She seems to have that effect on men. I think it's because she's so nice and always dressed really well. I've seen guys ask her out and walk away smiling even though she turned them down."
Tech Support, Influence, Angry: 2d6 + 1 - 2 ⇒ (6, 2) + 1 - 2 = 7
Chloe smiled, "Well, if what you're comfortable in 'isn't appropriate' for your 'festive event,' perhaps you're going to the wrong festive events? But if you're 'honor bound' to participate in something that wishes to change you, I guess there's no helping it. You'll just have to be more careful to what or whom you bind yourself in the future. Besides, off-the-rack clothes are vastly overrated. Too often they're designed to flatter only the few who manage to conform to society's narrow, often unhealthy vision of beauty. Though I must admit-" she leaned forward to mock-whisper conspiratorially "-I do rather like how good men look in a nicely tailored suit." Her gaze flicked briefly back to the still closed dressing room door.
Having also noticed Alexis' hasty retreat, Chloe brightened when Bran said he was to go check on the boy. "A most honorable move, kind sir." She curtsied gracefully in response to his bow. "Should you wish for our paths to cross again, I shall be here in this halcyon city 'til the morn of the day of the moon." She winked playfully before again stage whispering, "Or Monday morning as it's more commonly known"
|Alexandra E. Walker|
And... I'm not so sure, Like I said, Alexis might be Bi, and because of the... unusual side effects of their brand of regeneration, gender is pretty weird for them, I bet. But maybe. Poor Chloe, she's in for a hell of a ride if ALexis starts courting her. didn't he catch you a rabbit?
She was quiet for a moment as her brain took far too long trying to process Alexandra's words about Alexis. It already seemed to be operating in slow motion and the wrench that had just been thrown in wasn't helping. Finally she just gave up. "What's weird? He'll date girls as a guy and guys as a girl. But I wouldn't worry too much about Chloe. As I've said, I've seen guys smile in response to getting rejected by her. Plus she's probably not going to be here very long. All she'd have to do is evade him until she leaves, which shouldn't be that hard. And I'm not really sure it counts as 'catching' if the rabbit was a pet that was in a cage in a science classroom."
She was vaguely aware that they had been in there for a while. And that she should probably finish putting the suit on. But that would require moving and reclaiming her arms, neither of which seemed like appealing prospects at the moment.
|Bran the Blessed|
Bran's small smile grew til he was beaming. "I am glad to know Kaoru has such friends as you. Until our next meeting."
Outside, Bran sought his other friend, trying hard to ignore the stares of any passers by. "Alexis, are you well?"
|Alexis AKA Mercy|
Alexis was texting Cassie when Bran came out to find him. He had adapted to the medium well enough to type fast enough for a few lines.
Alexis: I was wondering if you think we could bunk together tonight.
Alexis: I could use the company. You were great last time.
He looked up at Bron, closing the screen on his phone. "...I thought Kaoru would like me more if I did things he likes. He likes nice clothes. He likes puzzle rooms. So I did those with him." He frowns, squeezing his hands together.
"He was nice before. But now he hates me. Because I look different. Sound different. Just like my classmates." He glances at his phone. "Do you think I'm different? Enought that everyone treats me like I'm someone else?"
|Bran the Blessed|
Bran shook his head heavily, "I do not, Alexis. Changes to the flesh of man should not obscure the soul within. Now, I have not been witness to all of the encounters between you and Kaoru, so it is possible, indeed probable, that my understanding is incomplete.
"However, I do not think that it is your changes that discomfit him. Recall, Kaoru believed it more likely that you, and the friends he had made thus far were lying to him about your rebirth, than that you had died and been returned anew. This world of marvels and horrors is new to him, and often your overtures come in the midst of matters that he has not yet been given the time to apprehend."
A pained look came across his face, but he continued, "And in truth... I fear that your offers of friendships have more than a tinge of jealousy to them. Kaoru has not made any comittment to you. Do not think that he expresses disdain or distaste because he shows affection to another. Such jealousy is not an ill of itself, but to act on it is rarely a good."
Comfort/Support: 2d6 + 2 ⇒ (5, 2) + 2 = 9 iirc, Bronwyn's influence doesn't extend here to Bran.
"It's lovely," Whippoorwill says after examining the backless gown. "Did you just buy this?" she asks.
"No, I'd bought it a while back. Whetstone gave me your measurements so I could get it fitted."
"Hmm." Whippoorwill makes a noncommittal sound.
"I just remembered I had it, and I flew over here as fast as I could. I can't believe I even left my Abacus handheld behind," Shayera says pointedly.
Her mentor's eyebrow arches. "Is that so?" she asks neutrally, but moves back to the console and taps a couple buttons. A light on the screen turns green. "Looks like it's just the two of us, then."
Shayera visibly relaxes. Whippoorwill moves up to her and gives her a hug. "You are playing a *very* dangerous game. But I'm so proud of you. And I'm sorry."
Squirming free from the embrace, Shayera takes a few steps back. "I still don't-- I mean, I'm not convinced. Not yet. But if, if he's some kind of villain, I'm going to find out what his plan is. 'Cause that's pretty lame, if he's just trying to break me and Bronwyn up."
Whippoorwill shakes her head. "No, he's trying to drive you away from us, and back to him. So that you'll--"
She cuts her off. "I know! Bronwyn already sussed that out. I mean, why?"
The Defender thinks for a moment. "I'm sure it has something to do with the Daughters of the Tiger. And how could you not have told me about that?"
Shayera pitches her head back and groans loudly. "I've already been through this with Bronwyn. It was a Chinese thing. It was... something you wouldn't have understood. But it made me feel... I dunno. A part of something ancient. Not just some lab creation."
Whippoorwill is silent for a long time. Finally, she asks softly, "And your Sisters? How well do you know them?"
"Pretty well. Bronwyn told you, right? How we're linked? If you're worried that they're secretly evil or something, don't be. I'd have known the instant we put on the masks."
She doesn't look wholly convinced. But she looks a little less severe. "All right. I get the need for us to be standoffish while we try to suss out your 'Father's' plan, but you need to be careful. I cannot stress this enough. He is a man who is completely ruthless, and has multiple contingencies. No doubt he has a plan for when you finally see through his lies."
Wingblade scowls. "He's not-- Grrr! I don't like it when you talk about him like that! He might not be, you know!"
Whippoorwill holds up a hand. "Okay, let's keep it hypothetical, then. If he's a bad guy, and if he's a mastermind, then he will have plans in case you turn on him. So do your absolute utmost to avoid that potentiality, okay?"
Looking sullen, Shayera nods. "Okay. Well, I should get back. See you tomorrow?"
"Sure. Thanks for the dress."
Shayera lands hard on the balcony, spotting her sisters lounging in the infinity pool and enjoying the view. They in unison lower their sunglasses to look at her, then simultaneously turn to look at a dress hanging up on the door. She follows their eyelines and sees it.
"You've got to be kidding me!" she says, feeling the undercurrent of glee in her sisters.
|Alexandra E. Walker|
Oh, it was a science bunny. That makes sense. Alexandra pauses for a moment Look, it kinda seems like he still has a thing for you... and I don't think you have sufficient evidence for that conclusion. About 1 in 14 people experience same sex attraction. though, With the company I hang out in lately, it feels like a lot more. and For Alexis, I think they cling to attraction because it is constant. they've mentioned "bunking" before, in relation to her former teammates, and to describe Wing and B stealing time... I don't think she was new to the sapphic world when we met her. Don't discount it because it doesn't fit with how you think the world SHOULD work... her words were more teaching than admonishment. and she had turned around, to look KAy int he eyes, hand never leaving his face as she talked.
Now, we shoudl probably head back out, before they get it in their head that we've decided to makeout or something... she smiles mischievously. Unless you don't want it to be an unfair accusation.
|Hex - AKA. Cassie Helious|
Cassie frowned at the sketch she'd drawn of the dress she was trying to make for the gala - it wasn't quite right, even though she'd spent hours making small changes and consulting enumerable online fashion sites to try to get it just right. She sighed - it had all been much easier when she'd been able to just buy nice things from the best shops, but she didn't have nearly enough money now to even come close to being able to afford anything like that and, in any case, she was finding that she quite liked the creative outlet of designing clothes for herself - her new jacket was almost perfect, even if her charm had meant that the fashionistas, or anyone else, at school hadn't noticed it. For the gala though, she needed something amazing - it was certain that the press would be there and she just had to look her best!
The chime of her phone drew her attention and she idly reached for it. As she read the message, however, thoughts of what she'd wear to the gala fled, and she flushed bright red. She'd been hoping that Alexis would've lost his memories of that night, even though she knew, just knew that he's still remember everthing... And now he was asking to do it again - as a boy! Didn't he know that it was different now?,... Of course he didn't. He was far to clueless about how the world worked for that, and she wasn't nearly that lucky! She'd agreed to go to the gala with him to try to avoid getting him off-side and now,.. this. She couldn't do it though. Could she?... No. But how should she tell him? Staring at the words on her phone, she tried to come up with something... Blame it on Gabrielle? - No, it'd give the impression that she would if she could. So.... honesty then.
Hesitantly, she tapped at the phone's screen and hit send.
Cassie: When you get back we can talk, but no bunking.
Cassie: Its different now.
Cassie: Boys and girls don't usually just bunk together.
Cassie: I'll explain later, OK? Not mad at you or anything.
She made a face at the 'making out' comment, groaning before letting her forehead lean down to rest on Alexandra's shoulder. "They think we're making out? God, Chloe's never going to let me hear the end of it. She's going to demand to hear all about you now. Though speaking of, I've been meaning to ask, why don't you like being called 'Alex'? Also, Bronwyn thinks I should have some kind of cutesy nickname for you." She moved her hand from her wrist and to the side of her neck instead, gently tracing the contours until her finger found the beat of her pulse. It was soothing how strong and steady it was.
|Alexis AKA Mercy|
"I am jealous. Because she's so much more normal than me. She already known how to make him feel better just by a touch. Even Alexandra can't do that. He won't let me know him that way..." His speech became less controlled and more emotional.
"...I don't even think he cares I died, does he?" Alexis found himself more bitter now Bran was there as a sounding board. His phone pings, and he looks at the message from Cassie, and his expression darkens. "It shouldn't matter if I'm a boy or a girl...so why does everyone still act like it does?"
Alexis stands up. "I'll see you at the gala," He says, before leaping to the rooftops, heading to Gabrielle's. He needed to cool off now. He couldn't be upset in front of Cassie. Or Bran. Or anyone. Or break anything.
So he ran until he remembered he'd left his regular clothes at the tailor's, until he felt the wisps of exhaustion fade from his muscles. Then he went to the apartment to face Cassie.
Marking potential for the support
After school Thursday, in Chloe's car
"What the fk are you doing in Halcyon, Chloe."
"I came to see you of course." Chloe's tone was light but there was an undercurrent of tension in it.
"We need to talk about how we ended things."
"You mean how when everybody was spreading Jack's lies, you took their side and stabbed me in the back?"
Chloe flinched at Kaoru's icy tone. She was silent for a moment before quietly saying, "I'm sorry, Kay. I should've taken your side." Kaoru scoffed, but Chloe continued. "I've tried apologizing-"
"Like hell you have!"
"I've sent you a million emails and a billion texts! Given that you won't answer your phone, what else was I supposed to do?"
"Oh please, don't pull that b@%%*~~% on me. I have the evidence right in my own phone!"
A tinge of annoyance coming into her voice, Chloe practically threw her phone at Kaoru. "You don't believe me?! Just look. I'm sure you still remember the passcode."
Kaoru almost thew the phone back at her. What the point in checking? It wasn't going to show her anything her own phone hadn't. But it would be satisfying to throw it back on Chloe's face. Maybe then she would leave her the hell alone and go back to that cesspool that was Sioux Falls. She input 0819. August 19th, the day they had first met. Chloe was right, she hadn't changed it since that first time Kaoru had insisted using her birthday as a passcode was too easily guessable. She quickly pulled up the messaging app and pulled her contact, ready to screenshot the cold hard proof, then frowned. This...did not look like the messaging history she remembered. Confused, she pulled up her own phone. Chloe's had several dozen messages she had never received and absolutely no record of the last couple she had gotten.
"Kay, I'm not going to let you run away from me again. We need to-"
"Just pull over. I'm...I'm not going to run away." Chloe glanced skeptically back at her. Kaoru rolled her eyes before finally muttering, "Yakusoku suru."
Chloe pulled over, and Kaoru started pulling over her computer, hooking Chloe's phone up to it as she wordlessly handed her phone to the redhead. Chloe glanced down at it before her head quickly jerked up, eyes wide. "Kay, I would never say this sort of thing to you!"
Kaoru repressed the surge of feelings threatening to overwhelm her, instead focusing in the cold rage she felt in her chest. "Yeah...someone f*+*ing hacked our messages..."
Dinner wrap-up (I totally spaced and left everyone hanging! Sorry!)
He pushes the slight worry away as he tries to get back into the conversation. ”Look Mr. Blade, we’re just tryin’ta’ make sure nothin’ bad happens ta’ our friend. Sh-...HE has gone through some s#@&, an’ as f@&%in’ weird as it sounds he’s a little skittish. We just wanna make sure that when he’s done gettin’ treated he doesn’t wake up in Terminator mode. Ta’ three of us saw that s!++ first hand n’ do NOT wanna sequel!” He turns and looks at Wingblade and Alexandra, partially for affirming back-up to his statement, partially for some kind of hint as to what the hell he was supposed to do in this situation. Thank God I’m already sweaty...
Looking like his patience is being moderately tested, he gives Shaun one of those empty smiles. "I'm quite aware that no one wants Mercy to go into, ahem, 'Terminator mode' again. Xiu Ying didn't just see it first hand, did she?" He makes a pointed glance in her direction. Shayera clears her throat reflexively and rubs her jaw.
Dinner with dr. Doom
That you don't regret it is rather the problem. And by your own admission, you worked with a group that creates parahumans. An unethical and Illegal group working with parahumans is be definition supervillainous. Alexandra says.
But, as you accede to oversight by a psychic, I think I will elect to believe your generous intentions. thank you for agreeing to help... them. Alexandra offers to Shaun.
But, enough about such dark things as the past. let's talk the present. Any fun projects you can legally talk about? will you be attending the Halcyon Heroes Gala?
What is he planning. I'm assuming he'll lie, but that Alexandra can take what he says and tone and deduce something.
He shakes his head. "No, I did not merit an invitation. Which suits me. I prefer to work outside the spotlight. And my current projects have not yet reached fruition. But rest assured, all mankind will reap the benefits of my work."
Gaining influence over him would require you to put effort into being useful to him. Exposing a secret, like the fact that you have powers, may pique his curiosity enough for him to care what you think.
Alexis does not appear to factor into his long-range plans. It feels to you that his offer to help is genuine, in that it makes the team indebted to him and further casts doubts about his 'evil intentions.
Kaoru was about ready to put her f%+!ing fist through the f!&+ing screen of her f&!$ing computer. About the only thing she had managed to figure out is that their phones hadn't actually been hacked. It had been some kind of man-in-the-middle attack, intercepting the messages sometime between when they left Chloe's phone and when they were supposed to arrive on hers. She could try hacking into cell company records, but if the messages had been caught before they even hit the cell tower, she wasn't going to find anything.
She jumped as Chloe opened her car door, blinking as she reached across her to undo her seatbelt. "Chloe? What are you-"
"I need a hug." The redhead stated simply.
Wordlessly, Kaoru moved her computer to the now empty driver-side seat, but before she could get out of the car to hug the girl, Chloe was getting in the car, closing the door behind her as she awkwardly sat on Kaoru's lap. She turned herself to let her legs dangle over the centerpiece as she wrapped her left arm around the back of Kaoru's shoulders and buried her face in the crook of the smaller girl's neck.
Kaoru gently wrapped her arms around the girl, slowly stroking her back before moving one hand to tangle it in her red locks and gently begin massaging her scalp. They stayed like that for some time. Chloe's body was comfortingly warm and solid, its weight a constant reminder that she was here. That she would remain here. That she wasn't alone.
"I missed you, Kay."
The words were thick with emotion and laden with the dozen others left unsaid. Kaoru swallowed past the lump in her throat, forcing her tone lighter. "Yeah, I know."
Chloe snorted, pushing her gently. "You're supposed to say you missed me, too."
"So how long you in town for?"
"Just until Monday morning. I only got excused from classes because Mom told them I was helping with her fundraiser. It's a dance-a-thon to raise money for a support hotline for queer youth. And after...well...everything, they didn't dare refuse her."
"So what are you doing until then? Where are you staying?"
"I thought we could...just hang out. Y'know, reconnect and all. And as for where I'm staying...well..." Chloe started tracing random patterns on Kaoru's collarbone through her shirt.
Kaoru groaned. "Chloe!" The redhead continued doodling but pulled away just enough to look up at Kaoru through her lashes with a slight pout. "You couldn't have at least-"
"What? Called?" Chloe asked pointedly.
Kaoru grimaced. It's not exactly like she had answered any of her calls. Or even listened to the voicemails she left. "Fiiiiineeeee. You can stay with me."
Chloe's face lit up into a radiant grin as she quickly planted a kiss on Kaoru's cheek. "Love ya, Kay!"
Kaoru rolled her eyes, but couldn't help smiling slightly. Chloe's happiness tended to be infectious that way. "So...umm...I'm kind of supposed be at a suit fitting right now. I'm...actually going to a fancy gala tomorrow."
If Chloe's smile was bright before, it was positively blinding now as she practically started vibrating in Kaoru's lap. "OhmygodKay! A gala?!? You have to let me help you pick a suit!"
"Yeah, yeah. I figured you could help make sure I don't look like a complete moron. You were always better with fashion and colors and stuff." Kaoru was actually kind of surprised that Chloe hadn't asked why she was wearing a suit instead of a dress, but she certainly wasn't going to bring it up. "But we should actually maybe head over there. I was supposed to go right after school."
With an enthusiastic nod, Chloe, with far more grace than Kaoru would have managed, extracted herself from her impromptu seat, opening the passenger side door to step out and move back to the driver's side. After Kaoru removed her computer, she slid back in and turned the car keys in the ignition. "Okay, where are we headed?"
As the car pulled into a parking space near the tailor shop, Chloe paused before turning the engine off. Finally, she asked, "Hey Kay, what's your PGP?" At Kaoru's confused expression, she explained, "Your Preferred Gender Pronoun?" She must have caught Kaoru's panicked look as she quickly added, "Not that we need to make a big deal out of it or that it needs to really mean anything. I just mean...what pronouns to you want me to use when referring to you to others? I mean...your boyfriend kinda said-"
"Wait my what?!?" Who the *fk* has been spreading rumors that I have a *boyfriend*? And who the fk is this boyfriend supposed to *be*?
Before Kaoru had too much of a chance to fume, Chloe further confused her. "Y'know, Robert? Robert Jones?" At Kaoru's blank look, Chloe seemed to grow uncertain. "He...messaged me on facebook a little over a week ago? Wanted to know about Jack. He was the one who told me you were passing for a guy here."
Kaoru spoke slowly. "I have absolutely no idea who that is. Can you show me his profile later?" Who else other than Alexandra and Wingblade knows I'm a not a guy? "But...uh...yeah. Nearly everybody here thinks I'm a guy. But not my mom. Obviously."
Chloe nodded as she finally turned off the car engine. "So masculine pronouns except around your mom. Got it." She paused briefly before continuing. "You know it doesn't matter to me though, right? Guy, girl, non-binary. You're still my best friend, and I love you."
|Hex - AKA. Cassie Helious|
After texting Alexis, Cassie tried to return to her work on the dress whilst trying to figure out what she'd say when he arrived back at the apparent. She needed to keep him onside whilst, somehow, letting him know what he was doing wrong... Acting like he did was weird and uncomfortable and, more importantly, was the kind of things that might draw unwanted attention from the people who were after him. If she played it right though,.. maybe she could use this to tie him closer to her?
When she heard the appartment door open, Cassie pushed her chair away from her small desk, leaving her dress-making for later, and went out into the corridor.
"Hi" she said, seeing him standing forlorn and maybe a bit upset in the hallway. "So,.. I think we need to talk. Gabrielle's out, and I'm not sure when she'll be back, so we've got a bit of time."
Moving through to the lounge room, Cassie motioned for Alexis to follow, and took a seat on the couch.
"So,.. " she said, trying to choose her words carefully, "I wan't to explain why I won't,.. 'bunk' with you again, and,.. maybe some other things too." she paused for a minute, looking down at her hands and then up at Alexis.
"I know it probably doesn't make sense to you and, well I kind've agree, but,.. there are social conventions - the way people act - that don't make sense but they're still important. OK? And, Because of where you grew up, you don't know them, and that makes things hard to understand. One of those things is that, for most people, boys and girls don't just bunk together and, well, its not the same when its just girls or just boys. Maybe it should be, but it isn't OK? And,.. well, there's other things too, like,.. You shouldn't hug people you've just met. Really, you shouldn't touch people unless you know they're OK with it. Doing things like that make people unformfortable and, maybe worse, it makes you stand out, because you don't know the conventions so,.. I've been thinking. I'd want to help you, OK? I'll let you know whenever you're doing something that might break a social convention, but you have to try not to get mad at me or anything if you don't understand. - If you want to ask why I tell you something's OK or not, wait until we're in private and ask me then and, if there's a good reason, I'll tell you what it is, and if there isn't, well, i'll tell you that too. What do you think?"
|Alexis AKA Mercy|
Alexis sat down on the couch with Cassandra. He looked right at her knees while she explained the delicate social nuances involved with bunking. The touching stuff was by far a no brainer to him. He had to be sure not to hug anyone that couldn't take his strength after all. The offer to explain things that he didn't get, that he couldn't understand what was going on around him, upset him more than if she'd told him straight to his face she thought he was stupid.
"Okay. We're talking privately now," Alexis observes. "So why do you care if we bunk as boys or girls? Do you really care if the team or Gabrielle find out about it?" He grimaces. "Or are you like everyone else treating me like I'm not the same now that I'm different?"
He grips his hands in front of himself, now gazing over the coffee table. "I don't want to have to die again for people to treat me better," He grimly admitted. "It was never like this with my old team. I think." Certainly gender was the farthest thing from their minds while working together, living together.
"...I need to sleep. Maybe tomorrow will be better." He got up, not quite storming off, but certainly sulking as he went to his room alone.
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After finally changing into the suit and getting Chloe's approval on it (along with what was probably an excessive amount of flattery), Kaoru packed up her new formal wear with a polite thanks to the shop owner and left with Chloe back to her house. To her surprise, Alexandra wasn't the first person Chloe asked about.
"So what was up with the really tall guy that was in the shop with us? Are there a lot of guys of that size in Halcyon?"
Kaoru scowled. "That's 'Bran the Blessed,' and yes, that is how he refers to himself. I think he's one of a kind, thank God."
Chloe made a vaguely surprised noise at the back of her throat. "Why don't you like him? He seemed perfectly nice to me."
Kaoru snorted. "He's not. He's a total ass."
"Kay, that's not very nice. It can't be easy looking like that. I mean, besides from the sheer logistical issues of being that size -- needing all your clothes to be custom fit, doors all made too small, the shower head only coming up to your chest, etc -- think of the social problems. Having everybody either staring at you or desperately trying not to stare. Dealing with people constantly talking about you behind your back. I'm sure there are even some who are afraid of him just because of his size. He can't ever just exists or fade into the background. Whenever there are people around, there will be eyes on him, judging every move he makes and every word he says. It's probably exhausting."
"That doesn't excuse having fking slaves."
Chloe opened her mouth to respond, blinked, closed it, and then finally said, "Wait, what?"
"He's some ancient Welsh king, used to people waiting on him hand and foot. Now that he's here, he's found poor mortals too in awe of him to deny his wishes and has them do his bidding for him. He even marks them by having them carry around some charm as 'his symbol'."
"...are you sure you're not just misunderstanding that?"
"He literally told me he had people doing stuff for them and even referred to them as 'acolytes.' As is he thinks of them as his followers. Beneath him. Beneath his station. He even said that they carry his symbol to identify themselves." Kaoru paused. "Oh god, he's the center of a fking cult!"
Chloe didn't seem convinced. "He...was nice. But I wouldn't exactly say he was cult-leader level charismatic."
Kaoru scoffed. "I bet you barely talked to him! He's charismatic enough that he has an otherwise brilliant, amazing person eating out of the palm of his hand!"
Chloe raised an eyebrow as she fought the smile tugging at her lips. "Ahhh. Well, if you believe there's somethings sketchy going on, I'll be sure to be careful and keep an eye out. But for now, let's not ruin the mood by talking about someone who riles you up. So instead, why don't you tell me about, oh I dunno, this Alexandra girl?"
Friday at lunch
'I'll just go pick up something from home.'
'Papá and I had a whole conversation at our house without screaming where the weirdest thing he said was that he was glad I'd had my heart broken'
'Of course I don't need any help, everything's fine'
'I'm totally sure that without someone watching to remind him that he loves me, it'll go just as well...
"Okay, that's it. I am not having lunch alone."
She got up, walking wide around the equipment shed to give the couple she'd seen duck behind it as much privacy as she could, and headed back towards the rest of the lunch tables.
She still didn't want to sit with the other trackies. Sympathy for her 'breakup' was bad enough, but now that there were all these knowing looks about her being a 'runaway' or whatever, it was even worse.
Shayera and the Daughters' table was obviously out too. I'll just have to wait to talk to her til tonight. As long as we get our nights together I can deal with losing our days.
Ugh - I'm totally staring. Maybe that's okay? Argh. Everyone's totally going to think I'm like her puppy or something when we get back together... Wait, is Mary-Beth heading over to her table? Now?!
MB! I said pull her aside, not pull her aside WHEN EVERYONE'S WATCHING!
Ohhh she looks mad. Well, okay, she's definitely selling the 'you hurt my friend' vibe.
We've gotta figure out a better way to pass messages...
Yup, everyone's staring, I am going to go... Oh! I'll go eat with Kaoru!
Thankful that she finally had a plan that wouldn't leave her mortified, she headed over to his tree, where he was sitting on his laptop, hood of a light jacket up. I'm not bugging him right? Whatever, I can just sit quietly if I have to.
"Hey Kaoru I-" he turned his head and wavy red locks spilled out of the side of his hood as blue eyes already sparkling with surprise and amusement focused on her. "Oh! You're umm. You are not Kaoru. You are-" Bran knows her, you don't! "-sooomeone else entirely..." Trying hard to blink away her embarrassment she added, "Probably you knew that though. I'm uh, I'm Bronwyn."
Just to be clear, Bronwyn and I planned this ahead of time; she didn't just arbitrarily decide Chloe was going to be at school on Friday.
Chloe smiled, "Indeed I am. I can see how one might make that mistake though; this is his jacket, and we do look quite a lot alike." She winked playfully. "But you were looking for Kay?" She pulled up the sleeve of Kaoru's jacket to look at a delicate, gold-chain watch. "I think he said his Chinese class was getting out in a few minutes. Then he said he'd find me out here for lunch. You're more than welcome to join me while waiting for him. My name's Chloe. I'm visiting him from out of town." She shifted over to make room for Bronwyn by the trunk of the tree. "Oh, and don't worry, I won't tell him you mistook this hunk of junk-" she tapped the slightly older Windows laptop sitting on her lap "-for his sleek, sexy, new baby." She rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "So I'm guessing you're one of Kay's friends? Or is your quest to find him strictly business?"
Shayera had a nervous stomach all morning. Her sisters had snuck off last night and obtained one of Yin Ying's dresses before taking advantage of her balcony pool. It was a much more daring dress than she'd ever tried, but she had to admit she looked really good in it. Her sisters had bolstered her confidence enough that she agreed, but all morning she was having second thoughts.
Her nervousness wasn't helped by her sisters talking about making their own plans for the evening. They tossed ideas out from crashing the Gala to doing a little nighttime raid of Defenders HQ since it would be unguarded (for fun) to patrolling the city like superheroes, each idea twisted Xiu Ying's stomach in knots. Then Shu Zi says in third period, <We should find dates for tonight.>
The topic of whom each should invite dominated their conversations as they weighed the merits of the various boys within Shayera's orbit. It didn't help Shayera's stomach at all.
Lunchtime was spent categorizing all the possible date material as TAKEN, BAD IDEA, or REALLY BAD IDEA. She didn't catch Mary Beth looming over her until it was too late. The trio used that as an opportunity to vacate the table, leaving Shayera alone with MB.
As Marco Valdez finishes throwing away the remains of his lunch, he turns and sees an attractive Chinese exchange student standing very close to him, smiling.
"Hi!" she says in a voice bordering on chipper. "You might know me. I'm friends with Xiu- I mean, Xai Ara? Anyway, she mentioned you're a writer. And I wanted to know, are there any writers clubs here at this school?"
Bronwyn grinned right back. Gotta love a pretty girl who asks you about your quests right away.
"No business here, strictly pleas-" she colored and coughed, "Well that's not what I- I mean, yeah, we're friends. Umm, I was just gonna sit with him for lunch. And hey in my defense, if I'd actually gotten a good look at your 'junk,' I would've definitely noticed that it wasn't, y'know, in Japanese. Miiight've been a clue." So she Is from out of town. Okay, asking a bunch of questions about his transition if you're right would be super rude, and reaaaallly isn't my business... Yeah, no, curiosity isn't anything like a good enough excuse. Rats. At least she said 'he' and 'his' enough that I don't have to play pronoun-dodger all conversation. Still don't know what she's been told about any of the cape-stuff... "So umm... Oh!" She pointed at Chloe's monitor, not coincidentally giving Chloe a view of the charm bracelet on her wrist, "Is that that rebooted Shiera show? My friend's been telling me I should check it out. Presumably in my copious spare time," she grinned ironically.
Mary-Beth was in a long pair of plum overalls. They were far from fashionable, bt sort of playful looking; her eyes weren't.
"Hey Shayera. We've gotta talk. You're gonna wanna do it somewhere a little more private."
Marco looked up with surprise, but quickly recovered with a small smile. "Oh. Umm, yeah, I guess there's... I think there's a club? Wait, you mean Shayera, right? She's the one who told you I'm a writer? I don't think I know any other- I mean... Well, I'm Marco, what kind of things do you write, umm... sorry I didn't catch your name?"
Shayera shrugs, not really sure what the glare was for, but not especially apprehensive either. She stands, quickly buses her tray, and finds a nearby alcove where an out-of-order water fountain sits forlornly. "All right," she says to Mary-Beth. "What's up?"
"I'm Yu Hiu," she says. "I love nonfiction. I journal, mostly. So, you think there's a club? Does that mean you're not in it?"
Chloe's head tilted back as she laughed warmly at Bronwyn's near slip-up and clear embarrassment. "Careful with statements like that; you might make someone jealous. If you're interested in enhancing the enjoyment of your relationship though, I would suggest asking Kay to give you a massage. Maybe after a hard work-out session?" She suggested, clearly referencing Bronwyn's toned physique. "He's really good at them. Though as most things-" Her smile took on a distinctly puckish quality, "-it'll be more pleasurable if you don't have clothes getting in the way."
"As for my 'junk,' if I had known you were trying to sneak a peek, I would've made sure you got a full show." The flirtatious tone was offset slightly as Chloe minimized the essay she was working on to reveal the rotating slideshow of She-Ra images that served as her background. When she continued talking, her voice had the unmistakable edge of barely contained excitement. "The show's actually called She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, but yeah, it's a reboot of an old show. Your friend's clearly got great taste, and you should definitely listen to them and check it out. They've told you the plot right? I mean, I guess the plot's not really the point because really it's the characters that draw you in. You've got the heroine who insists upon carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, the best friend who she's constantly at odds with, the new best friend trying to help lighten her load, the...well, ok, there are a lot of great characters, and I don't want to ruin it for you when you see it yourself. Because you have to watch it!" Chloe turns her big, pleading blue eyes at Bronwyn. "I bet I could get Kay to make his nacho cheese popcorn for you if you did. Or his, ugh, cool ranch popcorn if you're into that." She gave a mock look of disgust before relenting slightly. "Actually, those are also quite tasty, just not as good as the nacho ones."
"Okay, first, Bronwyn wants to meet up at her forge again tonight. She said something about knowing you'd come early again so you shouldn't expect a show? I feel like I really didn't need to hear that part, but uh whatever. Second, obviously I'm over here b~+%*ing you out for playing with my best friend's heart, so when you walk back you should look chastened or pissed off or whatever. I'm not here to be an acting coach. That all make sense?"
She waited for Shayera's nod, then set her jaw and continued. "Good. 'Cause you are playing with my best friend's heart, and I'd love it, I'd take it as a real kindness, if you'd stop being such an unbelievably crazy b*$#+!"
"Oh, no. No-no-no nono. No. Gay. I mean, I'm gay. So I don't want any kind of clothes-off massage from- Not that massages have to be a sexy thing or anything, 'cause I've- I mean not- Can we pretend I just said that Kaoru and I are only friends? And that I'm not looking to date anyone? And that I wasn't looking at your 'junk,' just at your 'hunk of jun- That part's not pretending though! I mean, 'cause I thought you were Kaoru, and I wouldn't look at... Hoo... This, this really got away from me.
"I'm sorry, I just bumped into my ex, and it was really recent, and it's still really awkward and mixed-signals everywhere, so I'm a total spaz right now."
She closed her eyes for a moment and took a single breath out. Then, opening her right eye, she asked. "Okay, so clearly you'd reasonably expect a lot of entertainment from having me around, and clearly you love this show, but also clearly you actually want to watch this show with Kaoru. So am I a chaperone? Or is something called Princesses of Power too girly for him to agree to no matter how good it is, and I'm a Trojan horse?"
Marco's small smile gradually spread into something broader and warmer. "That's a really pretty name. Journaling, so a lot of slice of life, beauty in everyday things kinda stuff? That's cool, cool. Yeah, I'm not in a club-club for writing. I'm on the track team, varsity actually." He definitely didn't flex, but still stretched a little bit in a way that couldn't help but show off the definition in his arms. "So I mostly just write for me, you know? So are you looking to join the club so you can bulk out a transcript? Or do you just want somewhere to share your work with other people? It can sometimes really suck to have your best writing not really fit any assignments, or anything you've actually been asked to do, you kn- Oh hey Ronnie."
From behind Yu Hiu, Ronnie was giving Marco a very unamused stare. "Hey Marco. Didn't mean to interrupt. Who's your friend?"
"Oh, uh, this is Yu Hiu, she had some questions about writing clubs and things at the school since she's new. Cool huh?"
Ronnie blinked slowly, giving a quick puff of air to blow her bangs out of her eyes. "Uh huh."
Shayera scowls. Part of her understands M-B's need to chastise her, but Mary-Beth apparently didn't understand that she was doing this for Bronwyn. Or, more likely, she didn't want to bother seeing things from her side. That Shayera was actively deceiving her own father, and that if Bronwyn's right, she'll be completely devastated.
And then there was the fact that Shayera could see in Mary-Beth's glasses' reflection several school gossips hanging just within earshot. Her eyes roll just a fraction as she realizes that she needs to push the fiction along. "I'm the b+~#!? Come on. Be honest, M-B, you knew this was doomed from the start. I just saw the writing on the wall sooner than Bron. So, message received. I'm a b@!*!. Got it. But don't you pretend that you're not happy that we're through. You get to be number one in her life again. And I don't have to be or act like you want me to. Bye."
She spins on her designer heels and strides off with her nose in the air.
Yu fusses a little with her hair as she talks with Marco. "Well, the state schools in China don't have the same writing classes like they do here, so I wanted to see what students here like to write about," she explains before Ronnie shows up. She turns and gives her a little smile and wave.
Focusing back on Marco and not-exactly-but-kinda ignoring Ronnie, she gives him a bigger smile. "Do you have track tonight? My other friends were talking about going out tonight. A double--" she counts on her fingers, "triple date? No Shayera. We can talk more about writing, since you aren't in the club." She puts on a hopeful expression.
Chloe raised an eyebrow as Bronwyn babbled adorably, smile slowly growing. "It's ok dear, I know what you meant. I just couldn't help teasing you a little about it. And I'm sure Kay will appreciate not being the target for once, but it's hardly my fault he's so cute when he's flustered." Her tone turned a tad more serious. "Though I wasn't teasing about the massage thing; Kay's pretty killer at it. And while it definitely is better if he's not trying to find knots through too many extra layers, it's not like you'd have to strip down for it. I mean, even just wearing shorts and letting him help break down the lactic acid in your muscles after leg day or something might be useful. Besides, you have met Kay, right? He'd be a total gentleman regardless. It probably wouldn't even occur to him that there might be sexual undertones unless you brought it up." She grinned again. "Though given what I just saw, you might just be able to make it awkward for both of you."
Serious once more, she placed a hand on Bronwyn's forearm, squeezing lightly. "I am sorry to hear about you and your ex though. Breakups are always hard, regardless of the circumstances. I could say some cliché things about time and wounds, but typically what I found helped was just spending time with friends. Mostly Kay." She admitted, expression turning affectionate at the memory. "You have to be a bit direct with him, but once you get passed that, he's pretty good at give you whatever you need, whether it's just listening or being distracting."
She retrieved her hand, voice once more returning to a lighter note. "Speaking of, picking up a new show and binging all three seasons might be just the distraction you need. Though I'm not quite sure when this turned into a group activity. I was just trying to get you to watch it with delicious bribery delivered by a mutual friend since I figured with your 'copious spare time' it was unlikely you would be able to get to it before I had to leave. Though I'm not sure why you'd think you were a chaperone? If Kay and I didn't want to do anything scandalous, we wouldn't need a chaperone. And if we did want to, we'd just do it instead of relying on making someone else feel awkward just to try to force us to behave."
She sighed wistfully. "You're not wrong though in that it's not really Kay's usual thing. I tried pitching it to him, but he just made a face and muttered something sarcastic about 'pretty, pretty, princesses.' I don't think the unicorn helped either. I still think he might enjoy it if he just gave it a chance though." She shrugged. "Don't get me wrong; I'd totally be down for a viewing party if you wanted to do it in, like, literally the next couple of days. But after that, you'd have to find another buddy unless you wanted to, like, video conference me in or something."
|Alexis AKA Mercy|
Despite the fact that he'd only eaten six eggs for breakfast, Alexis found that he was picking at his food more than eating it at lunch. Part of him wanted to go and sit next to Shayera, but he felt that would be awkward. Another part wanted to talk to Bronwyn, but somehow she was with that Chloe girl from yesterday, and he didn't know how she could be here. Maybe she was homeless like him and got enrolled that way.
He had started off feeling that he really wanted to attend this Gala. he thought he could play the part of Prince Charming and find some romantic first meeting there. But the way he felt he had been treated by everyone else the past few days was awful. Why had everything changed just because he wasn't a girl right now?
He grumbled, crushing a roll between his fingers then leaving it and his tray on the table, standing up and stalking around. He hated being in a bad mood. There was little that he could do to remedy the situation right now, aside from try to work off some steam. Find something, anything to distract him.
Bronwyn grimaced. "Honestly, even if he was being a gentleman, I'd just be too stressed to get anything out of it. Maaaybe a shoulder rub, but much love absolutely with all clothes on... Him not realizing why I was weirded out definitely wouldn't make things any better for me."
With an exaggeratedly suspicious squint she replied to the She-Ra push with a resounding, "Maybe. This show isn't designed to be breakup therapy or anything, right? Cause Mary-Beth, my friend started really pushing it recently too. Oh, and perishable only-good-while-warm-food-bribes clearly connote a group hang, so unless you were trying to set up Kaoru and me, don't play like you don't want to watch people enjoy your show. And I didn't think you wanted me to be a chaperone to curb your lusty urges or whatever. I thought that Kaoru's mom or your parents might want one in case of teen attack. Also... I mean you can want to and not want to do stuff. Nothing wrong with tapping someone to help you choose the path you want long-term."
"But umm... I've got practice, and..."Well, either she's not clued-in to the cape stuff, or she just didn't notice Gae-Dearg when I waved it in front of her face... "...a lot of other... stuff coming up... Tell you what, tonight's just completely shot, but if you decide this is how you'd like to spend time with Kaoru while you're here, give me a ring too. Okay?"
Mary-Beth's mouth dropped open, then tightened to a thin line. "Did I sound done?" She stepped after Shayera in long strides and grabbed her by the upper arm. "God you're so obsessed with your stupid popularity and- Just- Come on!" Not letting go of Shayera's bicep, she dragged her over to the bathroom, and did a quick check of the stalls to make sure they were alone.
"This is what I'm talking about. This whole stupid fake breakup plan. Do you even get how much you're hurting her? Even if you guys get back together, you do get how you're making a joke of her around here, right? Go, and especially now, when her piece of s$!! parents are still dumping on her, but like, the only thing that's going okay is that she gets to finally just be herself in public - now's when you decide that what you really need to do is kick the other leg out and force her to go through this b*@@$#+*. All so you can figure out the world's easiest- I mean it's Bronwyn! You know she's not crazy, you know she'd never lie to you about stuff like this, so do you just think she's an idiot?! 'Gee, I can't figure it out. Do I trust this Walking Saint, or do I trust the guy who makes monsters and tried to sell my vadge to the highest bidder?!' 'Obviously she'll understand if I need a lot of extra time to do this. In the meantime, just in case my Mustache Twirling Super Villain Dad is spying on a random highschool, I'd better treat the girl I claim to love like s$*~!'"
She sat down heavily on the rim of a sink, fists clenched at her side as she continued, "You know, she was going to ask you to come to church with her this Sunday? Yeah, before you decided that what would really be better for her was a pile of lies and abandonment, she was gonna stand up in front of all the s+!!heads who lash out at people they think are freaks and... Well, she wasn't gonna rub their faces in it; she was just...
"...She was just gonna make sure they could see how happy you made her.
"Why are you putting her through this?"
|Alexandra E. Walker|
And Alex is boring. everyone with the same name derivation goes by Alex. so I like Xan, if you must shorten it. or anything but Alex. she offers and... Maybe don't take advice from her. she's got an unhealthy as f&+* relationship. already emotionally dependent, and it's not even Real yet. She says.
Alexandra Leaves the shop, and tries to smile at Chloe without looking smug... it isn't something she's practiced much You're right. he does look dashing. she says.
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Shayera's expression grows dark and dangerous. Her hands ball into fists as her father is again called a villain. She hates it; the very concept twists her mind and makes it hard to think. "She-- she doesn't know for sure. This is..."
He's my father. He wouldn't-- She squeezes her eyes shut, trying to fight back the anger. She takes a breath. "She wouldn't stop. Every time my dad came up, it was always the same argument. You don't know him like I do. He's my father." She looks at Mary-Beth desperately.
She jabs a finger at her. "And even if, if-- he made me this way, so that I can't see him for what he is -- he's some kind of 'villain,' then I can't... I can't be with her." It's better this way. I'm the good daughter, I can't have both.
She clutches her head, shaking it hard, trying to order her thoughts. I'm drawing him out. Letting him win to see his true face. My father. The one who saved me. Still pressing a hand to her temple, she mutters, "He saved me. You don't know what it was like. He saved me. I owe him. I can't just..." She smacks her head again several times.
Panting as if she'd just run a marathon, she finally looks up and meets Mary-Beth's eyes. "He... maybe he is, but I can't just... I mean, I don't want to hurt Bronwyn. I don't. I love her so much. Tell her that? Make sure she knows?"
Shayera fishes out a tissue from her purse and dabs at her eyes, then notices her reflection. She focuses on touching up her makeup as the emotional war inside her declares a cease-fire. When she finishes, she closes her compact with a snap and regards Mary-Beth coldly. "It has to be this way. I'm a good daughter."
Yu Hiu smiles brightly as she exchanges numbers with Marco. "Will you be showered at five? Let's say six? I'll text you where we decide on going. Bye!"
She nodded quietly as Alexandra said maybe Bronwyn wasn't the best source of relationship advice. She had already tried to take her advice once and it had landed her nowhere. In fact, it had almost gotten her in trouble with Alexandra. Thinking about it still make her stomach churn nervously. She still had no idea what Alexandra had thought about it or what to make of the fact that she just hadn't said anything in response. So she put it out of her head. She had other things to worry about.
Outside the dressing room, Chloe raises an eyebrow before smiling, "I told you those colors would work."
Chloe shrugged. "Fair enough. I've been told not everybody is as comfortable with nudity as I am."
She paused to think. "Yeah, I guess you have a point that popcorn's not as good when it's not fresh. It's just the first not-a-meal food that came to mind. Also possibly the only snack Kay knows how to make. And as to She-Ra, to my knowledge it isn't breakup therapy? I mean, there's definitely a lot of subtext -- and not-so-sub-text -- between the characters, especially the semi-love triangle that is bad guy turned good Adora, her still on the dark's side bff who's hurt by her betrayal, and her light's side bff that she's just getting to know. Needless to say, plenty of shipper wars between who Adora should end up with. Though Katra's relationship with Adora is...ok, well, probably shouldn't bias you in case you do end up watching it. Though I should probably also mention that the names are rather...special. Katra -- the dark side bff -- is a cat-girl, the archer is named Bow, Adora's light side bff princess with sparkle powers is Glimmer, and so on. The writers are fairly aware of it and make a joke about it at one point. Plus it is a reboot of an old show, and I think they kept all their original names."
Chloe smiles faintly. "And it's true: I do like watching people enjoy something I do. It's just another way to connect with someone. A shared love or moment of sorrow. Seeing someone's face light up when they start to see the wonder you do. It's pretty magical. In regards to the chaperone thing, if my mom was the slightest bit worried about what I might do while alone with Kay, I doubt she would have vouched for me to miss school and come up to see him all by myself. As for Mrs. M..." A brief shadow flickered behind Chloe's eyes before she shrugged it off. "...I don't really think she's worried about what Kay does in his free time, so long as he keeps his grades up."
The Alexandra conversation had been surprisingly tame by normal Chloe standards. The teasing had been fairly mild, and she had mostly just let Kaoru talk. Occasionally she would ask a specific question like how they had met, but that was it. Nothing that was actually hard to answer or required too much thinking. Before she knew it, the two of them were back at her house. Mother had been pleasantly surprised to see that Chloe was visiting, and she had been thoroughly chastised (in Japanese of course) for not giving her a heads up or properly setting up the guest bedroom ahead of time. But even that had been mild, toned down by her obvious happiness to see the redhead again. Or at least, 'obvious' in the sense the Kaoru could tell from how her voice contained more than just the normal polite tones that she typically had in her voice.
Mother had insisted they all have dinner together, of course. It might have been awkward if not for Chloe's generally cheerful demeanor and ability to fill the silence with her lilting voice. Afterwards they had brought the bag Chloe had brought with her in from the car, headed up to her room, and Chloe had taken a shower while Kaoru looked more into their hacked message stream from her bed.
Kaoru glanced up at the doorway connecting her room to the bathroom, where a newly clean Chloe stood watching her. She had already changed into her PJs, which consisted of baby blue cotton shorts and a matching, short-sleeved top with a v-neck. "No luck figuring out what happened, if that's what you're asking. I did manage to write an app that will allow us to more securely communicate without someone intercepting our messages. Plus an authentication layer, so we'll know that we're talking to who we think we're talking to and not some third party. Unless of course, said third party actually has our phone."
"Oooo, so like some kind of backdoor communication channel? Sounds fancy!" She walked over to the bed and made a shooing gesture until Kaoru shifted over enough for her to sit down next to the hacker. "By the way, we're going shopping later. Just because you're a guy doesn't mean you have to use axe body wash. It doesn't actually cause girls to chase you around." She gave a soft hmm, of consideration. "Although, given how Alexandra was reacting, maybe there is something to those ads."
Kaoru could feel the hairs on the back of neck go up as a warning sign in response to Chloe's tone. Attempting to steer the conversation elsewhere, she added, "Well, given how crazy it had Alexis acting, there might be. She kept trying to get me to go out with her even after I said no."
"Different Alexis from the one in the clothing store, obviously."
Kaoru nodded. No way was she going to open that whole can of worms. Glad her plan was working, she was about to continue talking when Chloe started running her fingers through her hair, abruptly ending that train of thought.
"I can't really say I blame them. You are a very handsome guy." Chloe pulled Kaoru's laptop away, gently urging her to lay down with her until Kaoru's head was resting on her shoulder and she had one arm wrapped around her waist. Chloe's left hand continued to stroke Kaoru's scalp and her right lightly ran up and down the arm wrapped around her. She waited until Kaoru felt completely relaxed before continuing. "Of course, what I want to know is if you and Alexandra are dating."
Mary-Beth's face was pale, and beads of sweat stuck out on her forehead, carrying a distinct scent of pickles to Shayera's nose, but she swallowed her fear. "This kind of terrifying s#*$ is exactly what I mean, Shayera. But hey, you've got my words, you've got her words. Tell her yourself. You know where she'll be."
Bronwyn opened and closed her mouth as Chloe called her out one of her shy-spots. "I mean.. I'm not embarrassed by- It's about context, you know? Like when I'm at a meet I do track & field, especially a big one? You better believe I'm there in my bunhuggers. It's not just a performance thing; it's a... a state of mind thing. You watch Nationals, or the Olympics, and that's practically all you see. It's how you show you're serious, that this isn't just your after-school activity, it's... It shows it's a part of who you are."
The solemn tone in her voice evaporated as she gave a cheeky grin, "But that doesn't mean I'm gonna take my pants off and take a precalc test in my briefs, you get me?"
Her eyes quickly glazed over while Chloe rattled off a long series of names, pronouns, and relationships at her, but she recovered with, "...Well, if I didn't believe you thought it was a good show before," she said through a grin, "I'm definitely sold now." Gradually her smile faded as she kept going, "Careful about that though, with Kaoru's mom? That kind of thing is true right up until it isn't. Probably doesn't change the way you'd like it to either. Especially if... I think we both know that it wouldn't take his mom learning much about how he spends his time outside of class for her to want to re-examine things, right?"
With an effort of will she brought her smile back, shaking her head at herself, "Sorry. I know I went a little... Sorry."
"Well, she was definitely feeling rather possessive of you at the tux store. I'd say if she doesn't already think you're dating, at the very least she wants to be. But do you want to date her?"
Kaoru squirmed before softly admittedly, "I dunno." She idly picked non-existent lint off of Chloe's shirt. "I mean...I really like spending time with her. And I like the way I feel around her. And she's really pretty."
"But?" Chloe prompted. "These all sound like good reasons to date her, so where's the hesitation coming from?"
Kaoru was glad she wasn't actually forced to look at Chloe as she was talking. It made things easier somehow. "I don't...actually want to...y'know...do things to her. I don't particularly want to, like, kiss her or make out or do...other things couples want to do." Chloe hmm'd thoughtfully but didn't say anything, prompting Kaoru to continue. "Doesn't that...doesn't that mean that I just want to be friends with her? That we shouldn't be dating?"
"Well, relationships aren't all about the physical side of things. You have to remember there's the emotional side as well. Tell me, in your perfect world, what would your relationship with Alexandra look like?"
Kaoru frowned. "We'd hang out all the time. Go on adventures. Stay up late into the night talking about everything and anything. Or not and just enjoy being together." She felt a slight heat rising to her cheeks. "Maybe...y'know...do this sort of thing. Cuddle."
"And what happens in this perfect world if she starts dating somebody else?"
"Who?" She demanded, tense.
"It doesn't matter who. Just someone. Anyone."
"Ok, not Bran. Someone else. Say...a guy named Charlie. He's cute and funny and smart and he makes her laugh. How would that make you feel?"
She held tightly on to Chloe. "Well...if he makes her happy..."
"He does. He makes her unbelievably happy. How does that make you feel?"
"I...I just...I want her to be happy. She deserves to be happy." She could feel herself trembling slightly, but she couldn't figure out how to make it stop.
Chloe sighed, speaking gently. "Kay, you're entitled to your feelings. They don't negate you wanting to see someone you care about happy. They don't make you a bad person. It's okay to want her to be happy, but also to want something else."
Kaoru remained silent.
"How would it make you feel, knowing he was kissing her? Touching her? Undressing her? Making lo-"
"I don't like Charlie!" Kaoru blurted out. She let out a choked sob, burying her head in the crook of Chloe's neck. Her chest felt like it was in a vice as she mumbled into her friend's neck. "I want Charlie to go away. I don't want him touching her. If she...if she needed...that, I could figure out how to do it. I could do it." It was a little unclear who exactly she was trying to convince.
Chloe gently stroked Kaoru, murmuring soft words of reassurance until she was able to get herself back under control. "Kay, you might not actively want the more physical side of things, but that jealousy you felt? That's not a platonic reaction to someone you just want to be friends with. Hating someone just because they hold someone else's affection is a textbook sign of romantic attraction."
Kaoru was quiet for a long while. Chloe's words made sense. Mostly. She still didn't understand why she didn't physically desire Alexandra the way she was supposed to, but there was no denying how Chloe's little hypothetical made her feel. The overwhelming anger and distaste she had felt for someone who wasn't even real. The desperate need to get Alexandra to see that she could provide everything he could. The yearning to switch Alexandra's focus from this other person to her. "Are you mad at me?"
Chloe jerked in surprise. "What? No! Kay, sweetie, why on earth would I be mad at you?"
"Because...I got all mad at you when you said I liked girls. And now...I do like a girl. You were right all along."
Chloe sighed. "No, Kay. I'm not mad. I should have realized that with all the rumors going around school that what you'd really need was someone on your side. It's just...I had been trying to get you to come out to me for over a year; the way you used to talk about Lena is a lot like how you talk about Alexandra. And just...seeing you with Jack, how obviously not into him you were, when I heard the rumors, I was all too ready to believe you broke up with him because you'd suddenly realized you were gay. And it just...it hurt that after all that time, I'd be the last to hear, y'know?"
"It's fine. We were both in our own worlds of pain at the time, too blind to see what the other was going through." Chloe paused. "But what's not fine is you just cutting me out of your life afterwards. Kay, people who love each other have fights. It doesn't mean they've stopped loving each other, but no matter how much they care, sometimes they're going to get on each other's nerves or disagree. But because they love each other, they have to talk about it and move past it afterwards. They can't just run away."
Kaoru felt small and miserable. Chloe had gone to all this trouble to track her down and reconnect, and she had just been horrible to her. "I'm sorry."
"That's not good enough, Kay."
"Promise me the next time we fight, you won't just cut me out of your life. You can walk away, cool down, take some time, but you have to come back and talk it through with me."
Kaoru wasn't sure she could do that. She could still remember how she had felt. How devastated. How betrayed. The last thing she had wanted was to see Chloe, let alone talk to her. "I dunno if I can..."
In a sudden flurry of movement, Chloe was sitting up, pushing Kaoru back against the bed until she was leaning over the hacker's prone body, gently stroking Kaoru's cheek. "You have to, Kay. You have to at least try. I can't go into every fight worried that one wrong word will send you away forever. It's only by sheer luck that I managed to even find where you had moved to. I can't lose my best friend again. Please. I love you."
Kaoru could hear the pain in her voice. The open pleading. It hurt almost more than she could bare. She met Chloe's big, beautiful blue eyes. "Yakusoku suru."
"Sounds like I should be sad Sioux Falls doesn't have a track team then. Any cuties worth watching Nationals for? Though if it did affect performance, you'd think they just do the Olympics the way they were intended, Ancient Greek style. Minus the whole 'boys only' thing anyway."
Chloe matched Bronwyn's cheeky grin. "Of course, if it were an especially important precalc test and your teacher graded on a curve, showing up in your briefs sounds like a perfectly valid strategy to getting top marks to me. Especially if they're cute briefs."
Unlike Bronwyn, her smile remained fixed as the conversation continued, though the warmth drained from it. She kept her tone light, but there was a hard edge to it as well as a slight lilt to her voice that wasn't there before. "I'm pretty sure she'd actually have ta be around ta find out what Kay likes ta do in his free time, now wouldn't she?" She shook her head slightly to clear it. "Sorry. Mrs. M really is a wonderful woman, doing her best with the hand God has dealt, and who am I to judge my neighbor?" Though the hard edges were gone once again, her words sounded a little rehersed and lacked any conviction.
Then she caught sight of Kaoru headed towards them and her entire face lit up happily. She gave Bronwyn's arm an excited squeeze before rather unnecessarily waving to get Kaoru's attention. "Looks like our 40 days and nights are over, and the end of your quest is in sight."
"Hey." Kaoru reached into her backpack to pull out a bento box, which she handed to Chloe along with a set of plastic utensils. She pulled out an identical one and offered it to Bronwyn with a choice of knife and fork or chopsticks. "I was going to leave this at your usual table but since you're here.... I made too much and thought I may as well pack the extra for you." Chloe raised an eyebrow at the statement but said nothing, politely waiting for Kaoru to pull out her own lunch before she dug in.
Kaoru was slowly finishing toweling herself off and putting her own pajamas on. She liked Alexandra. As more than a friend. She wanted to be with her. But what exactly was she supposed to do with this knowledge? Bronwyn would tell her to tell Alexandra. But well, that had gone just swimmingly the last time she had tried to do it. She had absolutely no reason to think it would be any less awkward and painful and pointless if she tried to do it again.
That didn't stop her from wanting to tell her though. It felt big. And new. And terrifying. And kind of exciting. But mostly absolutely terrifying. But if she said anything, Alexandra would probably be mad at her, demanding to know what they had been doing all this time if she was only just figuring this out now. Even though she was pretty sure she had made it clear how confused and uncertain she was. She would point out how she had referred to herself as Kaoru's girlfriend right in front of her, and she had never corrected her. The fact that she hadn't actually agreed to that label wouldn't matter.
Of course, since they were already kinda sorta maybe already dating-ish, the real issue was that Alexandra liked boys. Sure, she had said that she was maybe interested in girls, but that had been directed at Chloe, not her. But did that mean that she viewed Kaoru as a guy, wanted her to be a guy, and didn't think she'd make a cute girl, and therefore Chloe had been the first cute girl she had noticed? Which was understandable; Chloe was stunning. But sadly, she was confident that Chloe was as straight as straight could be. So she hardly had to worry about Chloe stealing Alexandra. Especially since Alexandra wasn't even sure she liked girls. Which really just meant there was one conclusion.
Alexandra liked boys.
She liked Alexandra.
In order for Alexandra to like her, she would need to be a boy.
So she would be a boy.
The best fking boy.
Which was fine because there was apparently something wrong about what she wanted from girls as a girl anyway.
But it was all ok if she was a boy.
So that's who she'd be.
That decided, Kaoru walked back into the bedroom, where Chloe patted the spot in the bed next to her. Kaoru frowned. A guy and a girl sleeping in the same bed didn't really seem like a good idea... "I'll just...go get my futon to sleep on."
Chloe rolled her eyes. "Oh come on Kay. You know your bed is a lot more comfortable than that old thing. And plenty big enough for two, even if I do have to dodge Shadow to avoid getting slashed."
"I'm not sure that it's...appropriate."
Chloe let out an exasperated breath. "Do you plan on jumping me in the middle of the night? No? I don't plan on jumping you either. So clearly, nothing inappropriate is going to happen. And nobody's around to judge us anyway."
Everything Chloe said was true. The bed was a lot more comfortable. And neither of them planned to do anything bad. And it would be kind of nice to have a sleepover like they had had before. But it was Chloe's next words that really put the nail in the coffin.
"Please, Kay? It was a really long drive, and I could really use some company tonight from my best friend. I don't...I don't want to wake up and be scared that today was just a dream."
Sighing, Kaoru crawled into bed, making sure to lay on the far edge and face away with as much 'appropriate distance' as was possible. Not that it mattered as Chloe giggled softly, wrapping one arm around the hacker and pulling them closer together until she was comfortably spooning her friend from behind. Which was a little weird; Kaoru was used to being the spoon-er not the spoon-ed. It felt nice though. Warm and safe and far too comfortable to resist the sandman's siren call, especially given how emotionally exhausting the day had been. So with a yawn, Kaoru walked happily into sleep's gentle embrace.
Held in the Halcyon Art Gallery. the main room has A selection of gorgeous art from across the world. also there today is a 50 foot long catering table, nearly a hundred formalclad waitstaff bringing drinks and insuring nothing runs out.
on the east of the building is an area with dozens of small tables and chairs to go with them, for eating and talking, and at the west, framed by the setting sun now, is the dance floor, newly laid out, and disassembled before tomorrow, and a stage for the musicians. Already people trickle in. Some Civilians watch with glee, waiting to see Tectonic or Nick's famed "Dramatic Arrivals".
The music playing is gentle, and few are on the dance floor. Many of the Halcyon Elite already trade niceties while they wait for the main attraction: the heroes!
How do you arrive, and what do you do first?