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Help is bright green [2/13]

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  • saschaian
    title: Help is bright green author: Sascha part: 2/13 page: http://www.tentative.net/sascha/wmf/index.htm CHAPTER TWO I m a dreamer. I know I am. Never denied
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 23, 2002
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      title: Help is bright green
      author: Sascha
      part: 2/13
      page: http://www.tentative.net/sascha/wmf/index.htm




      CHAPTER TWO

      I'm a dreamer. I know I am. Never denied it, never going to.

      The stories I write are light and fun and superficial of that same
      reason. I don't write angst. Well, not unless Rick and Izzy gang up
      on me, that is.

      (...Spike and Ethan Rayne having sex on top of a lampshade. Shudder.
      It's all their fault.)

      Angst just isn't my thing.

      At all.

      Naturally, the first secret I decided to sink my teeth into, was all
      about angst. Lots and lots of angst. Teenage angst, at that. Could it
      get any worse?

      Why, yes. Yes, of course it could! What a silly question!

      I volunteered to bring some of the kids from Xavier's on a bonding
      trip. Apparently they were a bit short of teachers (and desperate,
      I'd think) and Ms. Guthrie didn't know what else to do. That woman's
      eyes should be registred as a lethal weapon. I've never seen anyone
      make anime eyes that well before.

      Anyway, before I knew it I was out of the computer room and
      surrounded by twenty or so teenagers.

      Now I had two problems. One, I have an authority problem. Or in other
      words, I have no authority what so ever. I couldn't get a three year
      old to listen on a good day. And two, I didn't know any of them. I
      mean, I knew the names of some of them, but I didn't know them. So
      what in the world was I going to come up with?

      I have a feeling I looked pretty desperate.

      Then... Brilliant idea hit me.

      Galynne! Oh yes! Galynne! She owed me one (and even if she didn't, I
      was at the time desperate enough to ignore that).

      "Hey!" Two fingers up to mouth and insistant whistling. "Listen up!
      Is there a bus somewhere around here? We're going on a field trip!"

      They looked at me.

      "Well?"

      Warren pointed towards the parking lot. "There are usually a couple
      parked over there."

      "Where are we going?" A blue devil wanted to know. No, I'm serious.
      That's exactly what he looked like.

      I grinned. "That'll be a surprise for when we get there."

      They muttered to each other at that.

      "Somewhere public?" Warren looked at me with a apprehendsive look on
      his face.

      "Yeah... Why?"

      He sighed and started to walk away. "Be back in a bit."

      "What? Get back here!" Oh. That sounded almost... authoritive. I'm
      getting better at this.

      Warren walked back. "What? I just wanted to get my harness."

      I blinked at him. "Your... Never mind. This is a come as you are
      thing, okay? And we're leaving now. Come on."

      I could almost feel them shrug at each other before they followed me.
      Well, at least they followed.

      ****

      Charlie, the busdriver, stopped the bus outside Galynne's Paintball
      War Arena and looked at me. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"

      "No."

      "Ah. Well, as long as you're sure..."

      I looked back in the bus at the students. I swear some of them were
      bouncing. "All right, everyone! How many of you have played this
      before?"

      Most hands shot into the air.

      "Okay. So most of you know what you're getting yourself into... Good.
      When we get inside, I want you to wait in the cafe for a bit while
      I..." Go convince Galynne that I haven't lost my mind. "...Talk to
      the owner."

      Nods and shouts of "Got'cha!" and "Get a move on it, already!"

      I got a move on it.

      Entering Galynne's, I felt like a duck mother with all these kids
      milling around me. Iz and Rick were never going to let me forget
      this. Hm. Maybe I could bribe Galynne into not telling...?

      No, probably not.

      I pointed the kids towards the cafe and went to find Galynne.

      That wasn't really all that hard. I just followed the sounds of
      murder and mayhem. And cursing that would make a sailor blush. Ah.
      She was working inside today. I entered the door marked 'A2' and
      looked around.

      "Hey Gally," I said to the bushy tail waving in front of me. "Have a
      minute?"

      Galynne crawled out from under the 'mountain' and looked at me, ears
      flat against her head. "What?"

      "I have a bit of a problem..."

      "Yeah?" Suspicious yellow eyes and hand firmly clasped around a
      screwdriver.

      "Yeah. Um. About twenty-three of them." I swallowed. "You think I
      could borrow one of the courts for a while? Like... Two hours?"

      Galynne stared at me. "You couldn't make it more of a short notice?"

      "Well..." I gave her a pleading look.

      "Let me think," she sighed and proceeded to look thoughtful while she
      scratched herself behind one ear with the screwdriver. Sometimes I
      swear I can hear her purr when she does that. "Yeah. B5 should be
      free for an hour and a half. That's the best I can do. And you _owe_
      me for this."

      I beamed at her. "Of course I do. You're a sweetheart, Gally!"

      "Yeah, don't go spreading it, or I'll gut ya. Have a reputation to
      think of here," she muttered and crawled back under the mountain.

      I came back to the cafe just in time to stop dark-shades LeBeau and
      purple-hair Braddock from scamming the poor guy behind the counter
      into giving out free cola.

      I looked around at the kids and really took notice of who was there
      for the first time. Oh greatness. Just about all of the Smog-people.
      Wonderful. Heey, wait a minute. Isn't that St. John over there?

      Yes, it is.

      I, wrongfully of course, suddenly thought things were looking up. I
      should have remembered that there's a _reason_ I don't like getting
      involved. But nooo...

      "Okay, I'm dividing you into four teams - red, blue, green and
      yellow. The stuff you'll need is over there -" I pointed. "- go fetch
      it when I'm done here, then come back and I'll come with you to B5.
      Everybody get that?"

      "Yeah, yeah. Get on with it, will you?" grey-skinned Espinosa said
      boredly.

      "LeBeau, Allerdyce, Smith, you over there and you over there - blue."

      "DaCosta," you over there #1 said. "My name is Roberto daCosta."

      "All right. LeBeau, Allerdyce, Smith, daCosta and... You are?" I
      looked at the girl with the short red hair.

      "Rain Sinclair," she said shyly and flushed red.

      "And Sinclair," I smiled at her. "Are the blue team. Go find your
      gear."

      Then I waited while LeBeau and Blaire said goodbye (by smooching the
      heck out of each other. Do either of them actually need air to
      breathe?), Smith and Lee exchanged insults and Allerdyce and daCosta
      told the blue devil that they were going to kick his ass. Having
      gotten them out of the way, I divided the rest.

      "Lee... What's your name? Wagner. And you? Richter. You? Rasputin.
      Braddock and Davidson. You're the red team."

      "Espinosa, Blaire, Maximoff. No, Wanda. And what's your name?
      Astrovik. And you? Russell. You? Dane. You're the green team. Go find
      your gear. The rest of you are the yellow team. Everybody clear on
      that? Wonderful. You got your gear? Okay, let's go."

      ****

      Let's see... First, there was an earthquake.

      "JULIO!"

      Then, there was the bombs.

      "TABITHA!"

      Then, fireworks in retaliation.

      "JUBILEE!"

      Then, there were the forrest fires.

      "TABITHA!"

      "THAT WASN'T ME!"

      "JUBILEE!"

      "HEY! I DIDN'T DO THAT!"

      "DIANNE!"

      "NOT ME!"

      "JOHN!"

      "WHAT?!"

      "ALLERDYCE! I'M ON YOUR SIDE, 'MEMBER?"

      "LEBEAU! QUIT CHARGING THE PAINT!"

      "JE NE FAIS PAS!"

      "LIKE HELL YOU'RE NOT!"

      Around then I sank down on my ass in the look-out tower, hid my head
      in my hands and stopped listening. Apparently it _was_ possible to
      find people who played this the same way the Cornerians did.

      ****

      My brilliant plan of putting LeBeau and Allerdyce on the same team
      and seeing what happened, quickly turned into watching Galynne go
      postal because said two persons just about burned down her forest.

      "...Need air..." I gasped out, wincing as her claws scratched my
      neck.

      "Air?! I'll give you air!" Galynne growled, pushing her face into
      mine. "My forest! My beautiful, beautiful forest! I NEED THAT FOREST!"

      "...Yes, Gally..."

      "I HAVE NO FOREST!" she shrieked. "Do you know why? Because of you!
      You and your brats!"

      "...Not my brats, exactly..."

      "Shut up!"

      "...Yes, Gally..."

      "Good. I want my forest back. Now." Her whiskers vibrated and her
      ears lay flat against her head. "Or else!"

      She let me go. I gasped for air and rubbed my throat. I am never
      getting involved ever again. Especially not in things involving
      mutants that can make fire, but not water. Where's Pretty Blue Eyes
      when you need him anyway?

      I turned away from Galynne to glare at the teenagers. Weren't
      seventeen year olds supposed to behave like adults? ...Actually, they
      kind of were, but not the way I was wishing. Most of them gave me
      guilty looks in return.

      Espinosa held up two flags - a red and a yellow. "Um. We won."

      "Good for you."

      "We got the blue one," Pietro Maximoff said.

      "We're going home," I said. Why couldn't I know someone who could
      make plants grow? Like Poison Ivy, or something. Not that B5 had
      burned down, exactly, but it was admittedly a bit singed...

      They looked disappointed at me.

      "What?"

      "We have a whole half hour left!" Lee complained.

      "And I'm dead broke and in dept because of you. We're definitelly
      going back at Xavier's."

      Lee turned to glare at Allerdyce and LeBeau. "This is your fault!"

      "Hey!" St. John Allerdyce and Remy LeBeau exclaimed in unison then
      glared at each other.

      "She's right," Smith said and nodded. "Is all your fault."

      "Oh like you're all that innocent!" Braddock snorted.

      "Shut up! Shut up!" I shouted, surprising them and myself. They
      stared at me. "Promise me no arguing and I'll bring you to the
      library."

      "The library?" Smith, Lee and Espinosa said in unison.

      I nodded. Mai Lee was going to kill me. Twice. But it was the only
      thing I could think of. "Yeah. The library. It's either that, or back
      to the school."

      They picked the library.

      Damn.

      I brightened as a thought hit me. Maybe I could get Xavier's to pay
      Galynne? This being a school trip and all... Hey, it was worth a
      try.

      ****

      "Career change?"

      "No. I'm a push-over and she gave me anime eyes."

      Mai Lee leaned against the check out desk and snickered at me. "Why
      did you bring them here? Or better yet, how did you get them to come?"

      "Galynne threw us out and it was either this or back to the school."

      "I see."

      We looked at each other.

      "Tell me," said Mai Lee. "How much are you willing to bet against
      most of your students having split into pairs and being busy making
      out between the shelves?"

      "Not a thing," I sighed.

      I've known Mai Lee forever, or there abouts. I got to know her over
      the internet. Apparently straight out awe from my side is a good
      thing. Mai Lee draws comic strips, you see. Fun comic strips. And she
      writes. I feedbacked her, we got talking, and we became friends.

      Very strange to my parents, and lots of fun to me.

      When I moved here, Mai Lee showed up on the airport to welcome me,
      and she'd even brought her beloved toy dolphin. Is there any wonder I
      adore her?

      "Um... Mr. Olsen?"

      I turned to look at Rain Sinclair. "Yes?"

      She gave me a nervous look. "There's... Tabitha and Jubilee are
      fighting."

      "What?!"

      Mai Lee looked worried. "I hope they're not touching the books..."

      "Where are they?"

      Sinclair pointed. I took off in that direction, swearing rather
      colorfully in Norwegian. In a library! How the heck did they manage
      to get into a fight at the frigging library? Huh? What was there to
      fight about there? A book? Somehow Smith and Lee didn't hit me as
      being the type for that.

      I rounded 'Science Fiction A-H' and heard shouting which grew
      stronger as I closed in on the fight.

      "Whohoo! Chick-fight!"

      "Very mature of you, Angelo."

      "Put a sock in it, St. Croix!"

      "Go Tabitha! Go Tab!"

      "Go Jubes! Woo! Woo! Woo!"

      "Would it help if I pointed out that I wouldn't go out with either of
      them?"

      "Sincerely doubt it, Ev. You could try of course."

      A very loud crash sounded and I started running.

      "...I'm thinking I'll stay right here and not say a word," Everett
      Thomas told John Allerdyce as I reached 'Art and Culture' and the
      fight.

      Allerdyce patted him on the back. "Good choice."

      "ALL RIGHT!" I made my way through the crowd, somehow managing not to
      get overwhelmed by secrets. The close to blinding rage and serious
      exasperation thing probably had something to do with it. "WHAT THE
      HELL IS GOING ON HERE?!"

      Lee did a spin-kick and made Smith fly backwards into the crowd in
      front of 'History G-L'. I took a moment to admire her technique (it's
      in the blood. Vikings, you know. Can't help it. When I see violence,
      my first reaction is either to stop and admire or rush right into
      it), then rushed forth to stop Smith from attacking Lee.

      I glared at the 'History G-L' crowd. "Can I get a hand here?"

      Astrovik and Pietro Maximoff hesitantly came to help me. Once they
      had Smith's hands firmly locked behind her back and Richter and
      Russell had done the same to Lee, I stared at them. For a long time.
      Hoping to induce squirming.

      It actually worked.

      "All right," I said, somewhat calmer than the first time I said
      it. "What the hell were you two doing?"

      Both of them started talking at once.

      "She --"

      "That bitch --"

      "Not going out with --"

      "I keep telling her, but she won't listen!"

      That was about all the words I managed to get from what they were
      spitting out. I shook my head and they fell silent. "One at the time.
      Lee, you start."

      "She like thinks she's going out with Ev but she's definitelly not
      doing that because I am and she's like a total bitch who won't even
      admit when she's outclassed and--"

      I held up a hand. "Yes, quite enough, thank you." I stared
      incredulously at them. "You started a fight in Mai Lee's library
      because of _him_?" I pointed towards Everett Thomas.

      They flushed.

      "Okay, I don't care if you've twenty minutes left, we're going back
      to the school. And you two -" I looke pointedly at Smith and Lee. "As
      well as Allerdyce and LeBeau are coming with me to Ms. Guthrie's
      office."

      "What did _I_ do?" Allerdyce wanted to know.

      "You nearly burned down a forest."

      "...Oh."

      "Yes. 'Oh'."

      *****

      I dropped down on a pile of pillows, leaned my head back and stared
      at the star covered ceiling. I sighed deeply, then closed my
      eyes. "Wake me up sometime next year."

      I felt someone ruffling my hair, then Kallie's voice sounded above my
      head. "Bad day?"

      "Like you wouldn't believe."

      "Want to talk about it?"

      "And relive it? Not a chance."

      She patted my shoulder and I opened my eyes in time to see the smile
      on her face. "All right. But if you do want to talk..."

      "Yeah." I smiled. "I know."

      I closed my eyes again and I must have fallen asleep, because the
      next thing I remember is waking up to Jana's scream of horror.

      "JASMINE!"

      Ah. What a way to wake up. I sat up and looked around. Yup, there
      they were. At a standstill by the four leaf clover table, it would
      seem. Jana was glaring daggers at Jasmine who was smirking back.
      Rick, Kallie, Stace, Moric and Ron were rolling on the floor
      laughing.

      I poked Ruth's ankle. "What's going on? What did I miss?"

      "Jasmine has been telling us embarrassing stories about Jana," she
      explained, grinning down at me.

      "No! And I missed it? There is no justice in the world," I moaned.

      Ruth took advantage of her position (her regular computer was on
      floor one and a half. It's a bit hard to explain) and patted me on my
      shoulder with her foot. "Dear, dear. I'm sure you could get Jasmine
      to repeat them to you."

      I looked over at Jana who was giving Jasmine dire threats of no more
      smoochies if she ever, ever told any more embarrassing stories. Or
      stories at all, for that matter. I looked back up at Ruth. "I doubt
      it. Wait. Why did Jana let Jasmine tell the stories in the first
      place?"

      "She didn't," Ruth grinned. "She had to go to the hairdresser, and
      she left Jasmine with us."

      "That would explain it."

      Ruth nodded and went back to her computer.

      I got on my feet and walked over to look in fascination at Jasmine's
      attempt to placate Jana. Apparently Jana's girlfriend had gotten over
      her initial shyness at the Corner. Which had probably been induced
      more by the multiple death threats against her should she ever hurt
      Jana than anything else, to be honest.

      Nothing personal, you understand. We had to threaten her life.
      Principle. Not that it wasn't heartfelt from my side. I like Jana.
      She's a cute little thing.

      Telling her that to her face is usually a good way to seeing a human
      volcano explode. She's in deep denial over her own cuteness. Lucky
      for her that we at the Corner have seen it. And are pointing it out
      at regular intervals.

      She doesn't see it quite that way.

      "See," said Jasmine earnestly. "I _had_ to know how to change my nick
      and they wouldn't tell me unless I told them stories about you."

      "HA!" said Jana.

      "*Snicker* *choke* *laughter*" said Rick, Kallie, Stace, Moric and
      Ron.

      "You're all dead," Jana growled menacingly. "Dead. Dead. Dead."

      I knew I could trust this place to get me in a better mood.

      ****

      The next day I promptly forgot all promises to myself about staying
      the heck uninvolved as St. John Allerdyce, Remy LeBeau, Tabitha Smith
      and Jubilee Lee came to apologize for yesterday.

      No, the apology had nothing to do with it, really. It was very
      obviously a forced one.

      It was when I touched Allerdyce and LeBeau again. Or rather, they
      touched me as they walked past me on their way down the hallway.
      Something happened that I can't remember happening before. It was
      like I was watching it on a 3d video tape or something. Instead of
      the usual jumble of images, impressions and thoughts, what I got was
      clear as crystal. And it made me change my mind about getting
      involved.

      *You wan' a relationship o' somethin'? Dat it? [Eyebrow arched in...
      challenge?]

      [Startled look.] No. No, of course not.

      Didn' think so. So stop actin' like a jealous petit ami, d'accord?

      What? [Puzzled.]

      Boyfriend. You're actin' like a jealous boyfriend.

      Am not! [Instant denial.] ...But do you have to kiss her like that?

      I think she'd find it a bit odd if I jus' gave her a peck on the
      cheek, non? [Hope? Is that hope in his voice?]

      You're right, you're right. [Deep sigh.] I'm just being a moron. Been
      spending too much time with Bobby lately. C'mere, let me make it up
      to you... [Smile.]

      [Disappointment quickly pushed away. Answering smile.]

      [Initiates the kiss. Searches his mouth possessivly to get rid of
      _her_ taste and replace it with his own.]

      [Gasping. Feeling. If this is all, it's better than nothing.]*

      It's probably needless to mention that I passed out. Woke up again to
      a bottle of paracet and Doc Reyes. I have definitelly woken up to
      prettier sights. Right then I didn't really care.

      I grabbed the bottle and held my hand out for the water Doc Reyes
      gave me. I swallowed five paracets - new personal record - and smiled
      gratefully at her. "Thanks."

      "It's my job," she replied. She took the empty glass (I wasn't going
      to let go of the paracets just yet), put it down on a table and
      looked searchingly at me. "What is your mutation exactly? I'm only
      asking because it could come in useful if you plan on coming here a
      lot."

      "I'm not," I said, then remembered that I hadn't exactly planned this
      visit either. "But I see secrets, if you must know."

      She blinked at me. "Secrets?"

      "Yup. Hidden stuff, like secret passages, safes, thoughts,
      feelings..."

      "And the downside?"

      I blinked at her. "There's an upside? Never mind. Headaches. Get
      headaches. The intensity varies after how serious whoever I touch
      consider the secret to be. With things, I usually don't get affected
      at all."

      "Touch? That's what causes this?" She took half a step back before
      she realised what she was doing. "Sorry."

      I grinned and shook my head at her. "Don't worry. People do that a
      lot when I tell them. I guess it's something of the same with empaths
      and telepaths, you know? Only they're more so."

      Doc Reyes nodded. "I see. And the skin?"

      I shrugged. "The powers that be probably found it horribly amusing."

      I had to give her a blow-by-blow account of my medical history before
      she let me go. I was there for a while, yeah.

      *****

      Jana sat crosslegged on the table and stared blankly in to the air. A
      small grin was playing on her lips. She looked adorably cute and I
      regarded her warily for a bit before I continued over to pillow
      heaven.

      I sat down beside Rick and nodded towards Jana. "She's plotting,
      isn't she?"

      "Mmm."

      "Should I worry?"

      "Probably." Rick grinned.

      I nodded and changed the topic. "Where's Izzy, by the way?"

      "He didn't tell you?"

      "I've just had two days of hell. Trust me, I wouldn't even been able
      to remember Moric's birthday, hadn't it been for them there." I
      nodded towards the nearest 'MORIC'S BIRTHDAY! THIS SUNDAY! BE THERE!'
      poster.

      Rick chuckled and patted my back comfortingly. "Izzy went to OzCon."

      I closed my eyes. Duh. I opened my eyes again. "Are you writing
      anything for Moric?"

      "Yup. But it's a secret. You?"

      "Faith and Anya."

      "What?" He stared at me.

      "It's what the man asked for," I shrugged. "And remember who pestered
      me for two weeks in order to get Spike and Ethan Rayne..."

      Rick grinned brightly at me.

      I rolled my eyes and grinned back. You'd never get me to admit this
      out loud, but I kind of do like that story. Weirdly twisted as it is.

      "Rick...?"

      "Mmm?"

      "Do you remember being a teenager and hopelessly closeted?"

      He gave me a fond look and patiently waited for my brain to kick back
      in. It did, about two seconds later, and I banged my head against his
      thigh. Rick snickered and patted my back again.

      "You're too touchy-feely," I complained. "How the hell am I supposed
      to remember that you're mostly on the side of straightness?"

      Rick laughed. "Hey, I have no gender prejudices, you know that."

      I just grumbled at him.

      "What made you ask, by the way?"

      I straightened. "Oh that. You know I've been working over at the
      Xavier's school lately, right?"

      "Yeah. So?"

      "Kind of hard to explain, but um... I picked up some secrets I
      probably shouldn't have and now I can't just forget it and..."

      Rick blinked. "You're getting involved?"

      "No! ...Well. Yes. But I don't really want to. Honest."

      "Sure. I believe you."

      "It's just... I think they're in love. Well, one of them, anyway."

      "You're a romantic sap," Rick said. He raised his voice. "Hey! All!
      Alex is a romantic sap!"

      "Tell us something we don't know!" Was the reply he got.

      I groaned, turned dark green and sank deeper into the pillows. I
      distinctly heard at least four diffrent snickers thrown my way. I
      stayed that way for a while until something else hit me.

      The 3d secret vision-thingy... Why was I getting them all of a
      sudden? I couldn't possibly have gone through the last 13 years
      without touching two people who shared the same secret, could I? Nah.
      Far to implausible.

      Testing time, I decided and looked around for someone to pester. "Hey
      Montgomery! You doing anything?"

      Montgomery looked up from the computer and gave me a suspicious
      look. "Writing. Why?"

      I was momentary distracted by that. "Is it Ethan Rayne?"

      "Yes. And you still owe me Doyle."

      I winced guiltily. "I know. But anyway, could you do me a favor?
      Could you come over here and touch me?"

      This was one of those rare moments where the cafe fell entirely
      silent.

      Montgomery's eyebrows went up towards his hairline. "I hesitate to
      ask, but why?"

      "I'm testing out my powers."

      "Don't listen to him!" Moric shouted. "He just wants to take
      advantage of you! ...And only I get to do that..."

      I waited until the laughter died down before I asked again.
      Montgomery nodded. "Sure. But I'm not moving, so get your lazy ass
      over here."

      I got up on my feet (after a lenghty fight with the pillows who
      seemed reluctant to let me go) and wandered over to him. He looked
      expectant up at me and I placed my hand on his head, feeling oddly
      like a Padre of some kind.

      Nope. No 3d here.

      I removed my hand and frowned.

      "Well?"

      "No, didn't work," I said distractedly. Hm. Maybe it had to be two
      persons... I looked around the Corner for another person I hadn't
      become more or less immune to yet. Aha! Daniel and Cassie! I stalked
      over to them.

      "Can I touch you?"

      Daniel and Cassie gave me identical puzzled stares as they looked up
      from their respective computers.

      "...Sure," Daniel said somewhat doubtingly. Cassie nodded. I beamed
      at them and did repeat of my 'Padre' act.

      Frell it. That was just confusing. I removed my hands and frowned in
      fustration. What was I forgetting? There was something... Ah right!
      Two people, same secret!

      ...Where the hell was I going to find that?

      I spun around to eye the still meditating Jana. Hmmmm. There was the
      immune factor to take into consideration, but Jana and Jasmine were
      bound to have _some_ secrets together, right? Right.

      I walked over to her, poked her and asked where Jasmine was.

      "Not here," was the reply I got. "And you can forget about getting
      more stories out of her."

      "I didn't get to hear the first one, actually."

      "Good."

      "...Tell me?"

      "No."

      "With sugar on it?"

      "Absolutely not."

      "I'll write you Harmony fic."

      Jana got very talkative all of a sudden. I got the whole tale out of
      her. Much fun. Involved public singing. Of Lion King songs.

      Which reminds me, I really should write her that Harmony story...

      When I stopped laughing, I looked around again and spotted Stace over
      in her regular corner. And lo and behold! Who other than Ellis walked
      through the door? I pounced immidiately.

      "Ellis! Stop right there!"

      He froze. "What?"

      Stace, who'd jumped out of her chair the second she spotted Ellis,
      completely ignored me and threw herself into Ellis' arms. He caught
      her automatically.

      "Could I touch you? I'm testing my powers."

      Ellis blinked, then nodded. "Sure. If you have to."

      "Stace?"

      "Yeah, yeah. Get on with it, already. Do you know how long it's been
      since I last saw him?"

      I reached out and touched their arms. Bingo. 3D heaven. I was
      prepared this time, however, and stepped back as soon as I'd
      confirmed that they gave me 3D visions.

      They also gave me blitz-light-spots-vision, dizziness and an ever
      worse headache than I already had.

      I decided to wander home and lock myself in my bedroom. Oh yes. My
      nice, cold, dark bedroom. With blankets. I thanked Stace and Ellis,
      got me a coke, swallowed a few paracets in order to keep from
      blacking out on the way to my apartment (I always carry a box of
      paracets in my pocket. I pretty much have to) and looked pleadingly
      at Rick.

      "Stop looking at me like that and tell me what you want," he
      sighed. "You can be truly exasperating sometimes."

      "And I thought I was always terribly charming." I tried to
      smile. "Could you follow me home?"

      "Yeah, sure."

      ****

      I woke up next day to the sound of the telephone. I squinted in its
      direction and picked it up. "Hmm?"

      "Alexander Olsen?"

      "Is him. I mean, yeah?"

      "This is Kitty. You didn't show up at the school today and I got
      worried something might have happened..."

      "No. Nothing's wrong. I'll be back again tomorrow. Just a really bad
      headache," I assured her.

      "Oh good. Not that you have a headache, because that's bad, but that
      it's not more serious than that."

      "Yes, I know," I smiled. "See you tomorrow."

      "Bye."

      I hung up and fell asleep again.
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