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Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing - June / July Vignette 2021


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For Pride we’re celebrating the act of love in all its forms.

 

For the next few months give us stories of how the people around the heroes experience the lives they live, and how that affects their love for said character.

 

It doesn’t have to just be romantic or physical love (though it can), amoung other things it can also be familial (actual or found) . The love can be unrequited, but it should still be a positive thing, no crazy stalkers this time around.

 

Your stories of love should be posted no later than the 31st July 2021.

 

(As a reminder, vignettes follow the same general rules as posts in terms of content, player character limits, and so on. You may have only one vignette per player character. Each vignette should be at least one page (~500 words) in length; if posted in your thread counts at the end of the month, it is worth 1pp for the associated character. An especially long vignette, 1000 words or more, may be worth up to 2pp. Multiple players can collaborate on a single vignette - we recommend Google Docs for this, it's very useful - but the vignette should be about one page per participating player.)

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Watchdog 

Pride 

 

Sister Mary Valentine was younger than most of the nuns at St. Joan of Arc School, perhaps in her late forties, and happy to be an elementary school teacher. She smiled kindly in response to young Ashley's question, prompted by a story she'd overheard around the family dinner table. It was only later, looking back on the memory, that Ashley could think about the nervousness around the other woman's smile, and the way she'd glanced at the classroom door before she spoke. "The Church does say that behavior is sinful, but it's not sinful to be, ah, that way. No one is born wicked." 

 

This was, by Ashley's count, her fifth Pride. She'd gone to two with the Raven as Copycat, she'd taken Judy to two as Watchdog, and every time she'd been there to work, to keep an eye on the streets and the sky and make sure that criminals and supervillains didn't interrupt what was supposed to be a good time. It was the first time she'd gone as herself, Ashley Tran, Secret Service agent. She was wearing blue jeans and a light denim jacket, her badge and gun carefully tucked away beneath the latter, pink hair tucked away under a vintage New Orleans Baby Cakes baseball cap. In the growing crowd of people, she had never felt more naked. 

 

"And so after he called you - that - what happened?" asked Philip Tran. He was a big man in Ashley's memory but she knew he'd been on the short side for a cop, five foot seven in his boots. She'd tried on his old uniform the day she made the NOPD and it fit. He was sitting next to her in the front seat of the old Crown Victoria he'd bought when the precinct had been about to retire it, and they were parked out front of what had until very recently been what everyone called Vietnamese summer camp. In a few more years, this was going to be Ashley's car. If she wasn't grounded for life. 

 

"I shoved him off the railing. Then he got up and punched me in the face." It was going to bruise, but so was Lee, and a lot worse. 

 

"Well. I'm proud of you for standing up for yourself." He hugged her lightly. "And don't let those đụ má get inside your head. Working out and being good at sports makes you my little cô gái tinh nghịch, nothing more. Those thing he said about you aren't true; you have nothing to be ashamed of. But you are going to be grounded when we get home." He turned on the car radio, and they listened to the news of the hurricane building in the Gulf, the one the NOAA had already named Katrina. 

 

Deciding it was easier to talk to somebody than the voices inside her head, she got up and began to walk down the side of the street, trying to keep her eyes off the parade. Well not the parade, exactly; the crowd that might be concealing a weapon, the windows that might be doing the same, the shady-looking guy who might be a shapeshifter, the girl who looked like a DNAscendant but might just be really jacked...she wondered, not for the first time, what Fa'Rua would think of all this. Stopping by a merchandise booth, she looked over a row of buttons of all different colors. She looked at the blue and purple button, picked it up in her hand, and glanced around behind her sunglasses. Nobody was looking at her. Nobody cared. 

 

She bought the pin and wore it all day. 

 

Even when Red Death attacked. 

 

Goddamit.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lady Horus 

Drunk Dialing 

 

"Hey Set honey, baby, sugar-doll. I know, I know, I'm a little old to be drinking but it's my half-birthday and a girl's allowed to live a little on her half-birthday. I'm celebrating this one because on my actual birthday I am gonna be eighty-seven years old and that is just too goddamn old! It's fine, Nikki, honey, I'm just on the phone with Set! Yeah, I'll tell her you said hello. Nikki says hello, honey. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I was calling to talk to you because I am maybe a little plastered right now and I figured why not call up your best friend when you're plastered, what's the worst that could happen? Hahahaha!" 

 

"Anyway, I'm calling you because I have been doing some thinking, and I know I don't do too often most of the time, but like I said it's a special occasion. All those times, back in the old days, I turned you down when you were a girl, it wasn't...it wasn't because you ain't a pretty girl, because let me tell you, Set, you are a very pretty girl, heh. And yes you were trying, I know what it looks like when a girl is trying, so don't use that silver tongue on...well, anyway, it wasn't none of that...none of that internalized homophobia neither. You remember when Queer-Eye tried to join the League back in the day, and I was the first one to say 'I don't care if he's fancy, he is more man than half of you put together!', and when Doc Neutron tried to cause trouble for those little so-and-sos with the telephone number, I said no way, we don't mess with no family?" 

 

"I just dropped the bottle, Nikki, it's fine! Trust me, I'll clean it up. You know I really don't drink like this all the time, Set honey, so don't come thinking you need to come dry me out or nothing. I just was thinking...you know, back in those days, there were men. A lot of men, but never any girls who weren't just, you know, really good pals. And that's because Set, honey, I like men, and I like screwing, and if I could goddamn fight the Centurion mano a womano, I could screw whoever I wanted. And I did want it, every time, even when I was doing it for reasons besides just the guy being a real hunk. If I did things because it put a roof over my head and pretty rings on my fingers, that was my choice, not anybody else's." 

 

"Anyway, uh, I was trying to figure out why I never slept with you. And I think it was...it was because of my boy, honey. Now don't you get me wrong, I raised Dickie right, he never had none of them prejudices against anybody except the people trying to put his ma in jail. We're all down in society's gutter, even if we're living in the penthouse, that's what I used to tell him, and we all gotta stick together. That's why I never said anything about him raising my grandkids as Jews, by the way, because a little of the old-time religion was good for them wherever they got it." 

 

"Ah...ah jeez, I'm beatin' around the bush again. Listen, honey, you know when Dickie was growing up, he had all his crazy aunts and uncles, but half of them weren't no good to anybody. Especially not his old man. And then there was his ma. His crazy ma, who spat in God's eye for fun...listen, Set, before my grandbabies came along, my boy was the only thing in this whole goddamn world that ever loved me. I would come home all busted up sometimes, or sometimes not come home for a couple of days before somebody picked him up, or that I let him try smack when he was a teenager, or any of all the...all the really awful things I did. Even through all of that, and through bringing home all those men, or bringing him into their hideouts, even, he loved me anyway. I couldn't...ah jeez, I just couldn't bring him up like that." 

 

"And I guess maybe that was that internalized homophobia, which is a word I learned from my very smart granddaughter, by the way. But anyway, that's been...that's been on my chest for about fifty years now, and I wanted to get that out. And Dickie does know, you know, that I have a special friend now, even if I left out some of the, er, gorier details. You know, about the vampire thing. But anyway...speaking of people of the biting persuasion, I know you've got your sweetheart, so this ain't me dialing you up for some action. I just wanted to tell you...you're my best friend, all right? Don't go telling nobody now, though. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to speed my liver up by about two hundred percent, so I will talk to you later. Yeah, yeah, Nikki, I'm done, I'll clean...aw jeez, you're a real doll, honey..." 

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Fast-Forward 

Family Matters 

 

"Ah jeez, Ma, a freakin' vampire!?" 

 

"Don't you go using that tone of voice with me, Dickie Cline! That ain't how I raised you!" 

 

"For the love of Pete Ma when I was a kid you told me that vampires were a buncha weepy blood junkies so I should always have a cross handy when Lenore came over!" 

 

"And that was just because every vampire I had ever met was a weepy blood junkie! Lenore died because she couldn't handle that the Raven wanted to get in bed with Dr. Sin insteada her!" 

 

"I do not think that is what happened with the Raven exactly Ma! So, okay, I'm gonna keep an open freakin' mind here. You and Nikki, how did you meet?" 

 

"We, uh, we met in the superhero business here in Bedlam-" 

 

"Ma do not give me that tone of voice I know your Shinola voice." 

 

"Okay, fine, we met in a bar, okay? A really sleazy dive bar that still had Sinatra on the juke box and smelled like cigarettes. And she made a pass at me, and I thought why not and we went to bed together." 

 

"And did she bite you?" 

"...you really askin' the details of yer Ma's sex life boy?" 

 

"Jesus Mary and Joseph!" 

 

"That's what she said!" 

 

"Goddammit Ma! Well okay you do sound like yerself, I gotta admit, and Paige's never picked up on any weird thoughts when she's scanned ya." 

 

"See! Perfect innocent! You think I could spend time with my daughter-in-law or my granddaughter, the two most powerful telepaths in the world as far as I'm concerned, and be running around with some vampire blood junkie thoughts in my head?" 

 

"Ma if I know anything about you, you gotta lotta thoughts in yer head. But...yeah, all right. You are a grown woman and it has never been my place to tell you how you live yer life. I love you, Ma." 

 

"Ah...ah jeez, Dickie..." 

 

"Ah jeez, Ma, don't cry on me, I'll have to run out there and bring you a box of tissues." 

 

"It's fine, honey, Espie brought me a box. Thanks, sweetie! She's really loosened up since we, uh, well I'd better not tell you that on the phone, but we ain't worried about the Hammer no more." 

 

"Ma you didn't-" 

"No! No, nothing like what yer thinkin. Anyway, I just...I just got tired of keeping this from you. You know I ain't got a lot of time left, as things go, and I don't...I don't want there to be any secrets. At least about things you oughta know about." 

 

"Well...I'm glad you said that, because I was about to sound like a real son of a gun and say no, there are gonna be some secrets!" 

 

"...how is the littlest shaver, anyway?"

 

"He's real good, Ma. We decided we might as well send him to Nicholson, just in case. Not the only kid there who don't have any superpowers, at least not at first." 

 

"Yeah, well, a silver tongue and good fixin' hands ain't no superpower if you ask me, but that's good. He's a good boy, and he's got a good ma and pa." 

 

"Yeah, well....I never had no pa, and you know what Paige had. If I know anything about raising kids, it's from you. You were a good ma." 

 

"Now that is Shinola, Dickie." 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Paper / Leon

Rooftops

 

A lone figure sat on the roof of a house. In the distance, the grounds of a very private school were visible. The figure set a pair of binoculars down and drew her legs up to hug them, resting her chin thoughtfully on her knees. The setting sun accented her short red hair and made her green eyes shimmer.

“He missed our weekly meet up.” Elizabeth said without looking at the new arrival as he walked across the roof to join her.

“I know.” A young man with shoulder length blonde hair replied as he stood beside her. “We both knew this would start happening eventually.”

“But this soon?”

“Leon was always more outgoing then us. Never takes him long to find friends, or trouble.” Richard’s smile was faint, but it reached his blue eyes as he looked out at the distant school.

“I know.” The young girl sighed.

The young man smiled down at her and sat down beside her. “Seems like only yesterday we were planning the Harrington job.”

“We spent three weeks planning that one.” She snickered.

“You had him convinced everything was still going as planned, even as it was falling apart.” He chuckled.

She sighed again. “That’s only because he wanted to believe me.”

He looked over at her and bit his lip. “You know he…?” He let a question hang unasked.

“Of course.” She answered, looking a bit melancholy.

A moment of silence hung o the air.

“Did you know he thought you and me a thing behind his back?”

She looked at him in surprise. “Wha-“

“Yup.” He chuckled again. “I told him he was crazy.”

She shook her head. “Come on, you two have always been my little brothers. That’d just be weird.”

“Ya.” He agreed, his eyes lingered on her for a moment as she laughed. He looked back out towards the school and a silence hung in the air. “I miss him too.” He said after a few moments.

She made a noncommittal noise, but he knew her well enough to understand it. The three of them had become a family in those few short years.

“Should we..?” She asked as she picked up the binoculars, but not looking through them.

This time he shook his head. “We both agreed this is the best place for him. He’s always looked up to heroes more then either of us.”

She smirked. “He’s always been nicer then us too.” Elizabeth gave a deep sigh and stood up to stretch. She looked down at her adopted brother. “I guess we should get going.”

Richard nodded solemnly and stood to join her, picking up the binoculars as he did so. Using them he looked out at the campus of Claremont Academy. He could make out the buildings and quickly zeroed in on the dorm. They knew which widow was Leon’s room, the light behind the curtain muted and faint. Lowering the binoculars he paused a moment  then set them down again.

If their brother came, he’d see them and know they still had his back. Even if he was a hero and they were still criminals. Family was family, and you didn’t turn your back on family.

A lone pair of binoculars sat alone on an empty roof as the night settled over the city.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Pride of the Pride - Sekhmet and Tiamat

 

There was already a woman in the elevator as Sekhmet stepped inside from the lobby, headed upward from the underground parking. With a curly purple flop of hair and eyes wide behind ornate pink glasses she watched silently as the goddess entered the confined space, nearly a full two feet taller than her with broad expanses of perfectly toned dark bronze broken up only by the most perfunctory of embroidered linen garments and - more significantly - by the heaping pile of glittering golden treasure in her arms.

 

Ornate goblets inlaid with red gems, small boxes carved with scarabs, finely wrought links of jewelry, statuettes of cats in regal poses. Even with her arms holding the massive platter atop which the mound was balanced at waist height it rose nearly high enough to block her line of sight. If any of that was unusual for the Mistress of Dread her languid, feline body language did nothing to betray it.

 

Reflexive courtesy won out over surprise as the other woman realized Sekhmet did not have a free hand. “Uh… which floor?” she stammered as the doors slid shut.

 

The goddess tilted her chin to meet her stare with the one golden eye not hidden behind her asymmetrical hair. “The loftiest of levels be my destination.” There was a moment’s pause before she thought to add, “My thanks.”

 

“Top floor, got it. Cool cool cool.” The woman in glasses pushed the requested button and remained silent as the elevator ascended, giving a hurried, “Have a nice day!” as she quickly exited at her own floor.

 

Once the elevator had reached the top floor, Sekhmet strode purposefully to a familiar door, a corner apartment with rooftop access. She considered the handle and her own laden arms before kicking the door three times in rapid succession with the bottom of her sandaled foot.

 

There was nothing, for a moment, and then the sound of motion and grumbling. Words, presumably, but not any loud or clear enough to be sensible from the doorway. Then nothing, the sound of heavy footsteps, and the door at last swung open.

 

Teagan was simply-dressed: barefoot, in cloth shorts and a tank top that she was still pulling on. Red hair - real red, actual red, not the copper labelled red by weak human language - fell down over her shoulder as she looked at the gold, and her visitor, in that order. “....Sekhmet,” she said, running a hand back along the side of her head to get that hair back under control. “Been raiding your own temples?”

 

“Teagan,” Sekhmet returned the greeting matter-of-factly as she shouldered her way inside without waiting for an invitation. “And aye! Some few secret places remained uncovered by the passing of ages and some few ‘private collectors’ learned an important lesson as to the true nature of ownership.” 

 

She glanced about the inside of the apartment before deciding to simply drop the pile of treasures on the first convenient patch of unoccupied floor with the resounding clang of orchestral cymbals. That done she took a step back away from settling heap, turned back to face Teagan and gestured to the gold with both hands as though in presentation.

 

Teagan had shrugged, kicking the door closed behind her as she followed Sekhmet into the room - but now she stood very still, eyes tracking every last piece of gold as it settled on her floor. There was a sound, a rumbling breathing sound, that even her chest shouldn’t have been big enough to make. “You’ll never get it back,” she said, with a tone that implied it was already forfeit. Her mouth had too many sharp teeth. She had not looked up. “Nobody will, ever.”

 

Sekhmet preened at the reaction, examining the lacquered nails on her left hand while maintaining the good grace to stop just short of smug. “Twas tribute once and as tribute tis given now,” she confirmed with a perfunctory bow. “An antelope or wildebeest would have been more traditional but thee be amply supplied in herd beasts. Given thy predilections gold seemed truer to my intent.”

 

Teagan made a noise of satisfaction, still too low and too rumbling to come out of a human pair of lungs, but it was followed by a deep breath and enough calm and will to move her eyes off her new hoard. Normal eyes, human eyes. Human teeth when she spoke. “Your tribute is accepted,” she said, magnanimously, “and your recognition of my glory is gratifying. Want a beer? Actual beer - some dwarves got a hold of a bottling plant. There isn’t enough to get drunk on, but it’s good.”

 

“Niðavelliran?” Sekhmet perked up and followed in the direction of the refrigerator. Dwarven brews tended to the sweeter side for her taste but she’d absorbed some appreciation for them from Ptah, who’d had an architect’s excitement for over-engineered microbrews.

 

Accepting the proffered bottle she rolled it around in her hands for a moment before making a little huffing sound. “Thy truly have no intent to ask why I dropped a small pharaoh’s ransom on thy floor?” The goddess tried to look irritated but landed on fondly amused instead. Popping the top off of her beer with a flick of her thumb she stuck a curved, textured tongue out at Teagan. “Bat-winged brat.”

 

“Tribute,” countered Teagan; she’d fetched a new beer of her own, and had one finger on that hand pointed at Sekhmet in playful accusation. “Tribute to my majesty, as I deserve, for being the most glorious creature in this city. I didn’t have to ask because you told me when you came in.”

 

“Ah, my error become clear!” Sekhmet proclaimed with exaggerated realization, raising both hands into the air before leaning across the kitchen island toward Teagan. “As thee be not a goddess thee lack familiarity with the understood niceties of offerings.” She rested her forearm on the countertop and looked upward at the redhead, an implied dare in her eye contact to bend down to meet her. “Tribute tis brought to a temple to broach a request, typically beyond ‘mayhap stop eating all the goats and imprisoning young maids atop obelisks’.”

 

Teagan made a noise of understanding - genuine or feigned - from behind a mouthful of beer, waiting to swallow before replying. “Ahh,” she said, supplication! ‘Tis a fine offering, I guess I have no choice but to release the princess I’m keeping in my highest tower. It’s not enough for the goats, though,” she amended, gesturing with the bottle. “Goats are amazing, until you get those horns stuck in your teeth. You’ll need a lot more than that pile to save your goats.”

 

She took another drink before leaning on the island herself, turning her head to try to read Sekhmet’s expression. “With due seriousness, though. It must be a fearsome request indeed to be worth all that gold, even without knowing I- ...without knowing what it might be worth to a dragon.”

 

Sekhmet rolled her eyes with enough force that her back arched. Difficult,” she accused in a grumble before clearing her throat lightly to continue. “My intent was merely to propose - suggest - that in observance of the current mortal festival and as thee be the second most formidable hunter I know we might informally - or formally, unimportant - form a pride. For the purposes of… seasonal... merrymaking.” She took a long pull from her beer and looked away briefly before adding, “Tis a ‘lioness thing’.”

 

Teagan let silence hang in the air for a moment, drinking from her beer and looking out over her little home-away-from-cave while she mulled that one over. “....I’m very bad at romance,” she said, finally, though she still made no effort at eye contact. “I’ve never had much interest in it, all flowers and soft courtship and hand-holding and...whatever they do now. Candle dinners? Even as a whelp there was something there I never got.”

 

She paused for a ponderous breath, exhaling it as a tiny flame out one side of her mouth. But,” she said, “you’re one of the few people I’ve met who can keep up, and the only worthwhile deity I’ve even heard of. The human festival is for the humans. But for us? ….sure.” She turned, finally, red hair spilling over her far shoulder as she held up her beer for a toast. “Sure. For merrymaking.”

 

Sekhmet clinked her bottle against Teagan’s, her shoulders immediately relaxing as a pleased smile spread across her face, sharp canines peeking out from behind dark painted lips. “Phaw! Tis no deed conceived by mortals we cannot improve upon. Dwarven beer and dragonfire? Unquestionably superior to bread rolls and candlelight. Golden treasure hoards raze the very conceit of flowers.” A low, rolling rumble from deep in her chest could be heard even over her boasting.

 

“Golden treasure does improve many facets of life,” agreed the dragon, turning back to look at it glittering on the floor. Her face cycled through a few thoughts in turn, rumbling a thought deep in her chest. Many facets. I may require some time to get my new wealth to my hoard proper,” she pondered, “but it may be better in the bedroom than lying on my living room floor. Perhaps you could assist me in taking it there, that I might better claim all treasures brought to my house today.”

 

“Truly the Niðavelliran brew makes a poet of even the mighty wyrm,” Sekhmet teased even as she flushed and purred more loudly at the flowery invitation. She finished her own beer in a single prodigious swallow and set the empty bottle down at the far end of the kitchen island, out of the way. “I think, though, that thy gold be here, thy bedchambers be far and I be no goddess of patience.” That was all the warning Teagan received before her pridemate pounced.

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Aquaria 

Frog's Pride 

 

"I think I might be too old to catch a male," Aquaria admitted. "I have spawned and my spawn has spawned," she went on, rubbing her fingers through the curling crest on top of her head. "Most of the males my age are dead, and the ones that are not are chiefs and would not mate with someone like me." The last sentence didn't have the pain it once had had, but Tarva could hear Aquaria's unhappiness even so. 

 

"Are there no  males who prefer older females?" she asked, pouring Aquaria another cup of tik trei as they squatted together beneath the stars above. "Surely there must be some young studs who prefer to be mentored by a more experienced partner?" There was a smile on her face but it was a frank question from one who had experience in such matters. 

 

"Some," Aquaria admitted, her posture relaxing slightly. "but they are where they are, and I am here. I do not think it is likely I will meet a male so adventuresome.

 

"But it is possible," Tarva pressed. "If you forget what is possible, you will dwell only in what is; and that can be an unpleasant place." She raised her own cup of herbal tea. "So say you do catch one. What would you do?

 

Aquaria rumbled contemplatively and said, "I would catch a large fish and throw it at his feet, and say this was my strength. Then I would strike him in the face and say he should have me if he wanted to prove his strength. Then he would chase me down to the beach, and then..." She rumbled again and said, "And then we would do what males and females do with each other. It is not the same as with you but it is not so different.

 

"What would become of the fortunate young male afterwards?" Tarva asked with some interest. "Would you keep him around the castle for your entertainment?

 

Aquaria's throat bulged as she croaked a laugh. "Hah, no! That is not what males are for. They are for mating. Sometimes one will stay around to tend to the spawn but that is...sometimes unwholesome. Often they will eat them." She considered a moment, then said, "The stories. Of Deep Ones mating with Surfacers. Most of those are lies, but there is some truth to..." She fell silent, considering her words, before admitting, "A Deep One male does not care for his spawn. Whoever is the female in the making of it."

 

"And his mate?" Tarva asked over her cup. 

 

"He has no claim on me because I have tended what he has fertilized," said Aquaria firmly. Softening a little, she added, "That is not how it is between males and females. In a great spawning, when the beach is filled and everyone is singing, I would expect to mate with...well, with more than one male. And they would mate with more than one female too, so that the spawn are all children of all.

 

Having heard Aquaria's speech about the alien intricacies of mammalian child rearing, Tarva changed the subject. (Personally the way humans reproduced with each other on this world, with no cycle of estrus and no Week of Love, seemed a little bizarre to her too but she preferred not to get into the details of her old life with Aquaria, or anyone else save Kimber.) "And are there no males who mate with males, or females with females?

 

"A few," said Aquaria, spreading her rear legs wide with the gesture of one telling a story she was not terribly interested in. "It is how it is. But...between male and male or female and female, those are feelings, not matings. There are the places that females live and the places that males live. It is females you tend spawn with, it is females you catch fish with, it is females you defend the nest with. If you will have feelings for another Deep One, if you will truly know them, they will be female if you are female, and male if you are male."

 

"Hm," said Tarva, sipping her tea. "You must like your living arrangements very much, then." 

"This is where my friends are," said Aquaria agreeably. "A house of females.

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Home for the summer.

 

Mooommm! Lulu has been in a fight! Again!” Gabriel’s high pitched shouts echoed through the trailer park as the youngest Landers rushed to greet his big brother, a huge grin on his lips.

 

Hey that’s not-” Luke protested, there went the chance (admittedly quite small, it was not like they lived in a mansion after all) of maybe sneaking in at home and getting changed before his parents could see him. Ruined clothes and plethora of bruises. Nothing too scary, of course, but well...

 

Aaawww… Shut up you snitch.“ Luke chuckled, giving a friendly nudge on the back of his little brother’s neck, when the boy finally got to him. “I missed you too. You know?” He teased.

 

Plus he is now hitting me!” The boy added.

 

Yeah and that’s the least he will do.” Luke grinned. 

 

Hey….” Gabriel protested, when his brother leaned down to grab him from the ground. But the objections quickly turned to laughter, when the epic tickling began. “Stop. Lu… Stop!” 

 

"Never!"

 

"Ok...." The laughter went on for a while more.

 

Fine, but just this once.” Luke laughed. He didn’t let him go though, instead he lifted his brother, letting him ride on his shoulders.

 

Mooom! Daaaad! Lulu is back.” Gabriel shouted (mostly in Luke’s ears) from his perch as the two brothers walked toward the family trailer.

 

The young man shook his head. If only he could avoid calling me that in front of everyone… Too late anyway, the whole park knew that nickname already. At least it wasn’t the entire Freedom City (Yet). 

 

-------------------

 

Aaaww…

 

Ouch…

 

Hey…

 

Come on Luke don’t be such a crybaby”  Johanna laughed as she medicated one of the many bruises on her son’s shoulders.

 

Really. Mom. You didn’t need to.” 

 

She just ignored him of course. 

What was this time?” 

 

One of those demons... “ 

 

Johanna gave her son a concerned look. “You should be careful.

 

Piece of cake. I can deal with them.” Luke gave his mom a cocky smirk.  “Ooouch…

 

Sorry.” She grinned. “What were you sayin…?” 

 

The young man glared at his mother and shook his head again. She just chuckled. 

 

They get here too?” Now it was his turn to be concerned, he could not always be around after all. Plus well, mom and dad had seen a lot of weird stuff in their lives, but his little brother… He shuddered at the thought.

 

They tried.” The light in her eyes was enough to suggest to the young man that it was the demons that would need to be scared, not the other way around, if they dared to threaten her family. “Dad is checking the wards right now.”

 

Mooom…. Lulu are you done?” A shout from behind the door. 

 

Just one minute. Gabbo.” She shook his head, a smile on her lips.

 

Awww! Come on! You promised we were going to play before dinner.” 

 

I’m going to stay the whole summer, you know?” 

 

Yeah… I know.” The boy replied in such a matter-of fact-ly way that not Luke, nor his mother could do nothing, but burst into laughter.

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