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A few blocks from the Freedom School for the Arts, Riverside, Freedom City

2022 May 1st (Sunday), ~9:45am.  Clear skies, calm, about 60o F.

 

Davyd Palahniuk hummed random tunes as he made his way down the Riverside street.  He was in a good mood, which readily showed on his face -- and it was his own face which he was wearing.  He'd let his hair grow out a bit over the winter months, and it now reached just to his shoulders, rising and falling as he bopped along.  His outfit, as usual, was fairly simple, a yellow long-sleeved cotton shirt, with plains cuffs and collar, blue jeans, and well-worn brown sneakers. 

 

He'd had many reasons to feel in such a good mood.  The successes he'd had in his new job with DNN, and the challenges he'd recently overcome, was certainly a factor.  And the day's pleasant weather didn't hurt.  But one thing was foremost in his mind at the moment, the reason he was walking down this particular street: a call from one of his former classmate, Louise ("Lulu" to her friends) Beaumont.  She'd called him a few days ago, asking to meet, to catch up over a meal.  There was a new Ukrainian restaurant which had recently opened in the area, and he'd wanted to check it out -- maybe to treat his family for a Mother's day brunch next Sunday -- and this seemed like a perfect way to combine his interests.  He'd not seen much of her since their Euro-Trip, and that was almost a year ago!

 

I wonder if she'll have changed much?

 

He didn't see her when he got to the entrance, and waited a few moments...

 

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Posted (edited)

A few minutes later, a familiar voice with a warm Southern twang called out to the young shapeshifter.

 

"Davyd, hi!"

 

Lulu was wearing a much-loved fisherman's sweater, black jeans and matching boots with a decent heel, and had a tasteful black purse over one shoulder. She looked fresh, beautiful and confident as she strode up to greet her former classmate, still very much the lovely redhead he first met years ago, but now much more comfortable in her own skin.

 

"Oh, it's so good to see you!"  She gave him a warm hug, then took a step back to take him all in. "Son, you look amazin'! Ah love the hair!"

Edited by Heritage
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Horrorshow

 

"Thanks," he answered, a touch more bashfully than he'd expected, holding their embrace a few beats longer.  "And you look great, too!  What a difference a year can make, yeah?"  He turned his head towards the doorway, then to the patio, "want to go in, or dine outside?"

 

The restaurant, Smachna (Ukrainian for "delicious," he revealed), had six small tables under a vibrant yellow and blue awning, and another dozen out fully exposed to the elements.  A trellis fence, with willow branches woven along the top and draping down, surrounded the patio.  Peering through the entranceway and large front windows, they could see a cozy interior, with a bar along one side, and numerous small tables and booths along the other, illuminated by numerous (electric) candles.  About half the tables had people at them, and the waitstaff all wore what Lulu presumed were Ukrainian-inspired outfits, floral skirts and vests, black trousers and white head kerchiefs.

 

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Lulu looked between the inside and outside tables; both were incredibly charming in their own way. But after a moment's consideration, she sighed and shook her head. 

 

"Well, you can take the girl outta the South, but you can't take the South outta the girl. Alabama springs are a bit warmer than up North; let's head inside."

 

She let him hold the door for her as she stepped in and eagerly took in the ambiance; the sights, smells and even snippets of spoken Ukrainian were quite delightful.

 

"Oh, ah love it! Look at all the colors!"

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Inside, they could see a beautiful mural running along the wall behind the tables, showing children running through fields of golden wheat, under a clear blue sky.  The rest of the walls were light wood paneling, matching the hardwood floors, and behind the bar was a long mirror.  The furniture was simple, dark wood, with green tablecloths and matching napkins.  Soft chatter from the customers and staff filled the air, as did the scents of baked goods, fresh fruit, and the subtle hint of alcohol.

 

"Welcome to Smachna," a man not much older then them said, "just two today?  Table, or booth?"  He lead them to their seat, and pulled out Lulu's for her.  "Your server, Denys, should be along soon," he said before making his way back to the entrance, where a trio of new customers were waiting.

 

"So," Dayd began as he sat opposite her, "how have you been?  What have you been up to?  Did you do any more traveling?"

 

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"Well, that's kinda why ah wanted to talk to you, to be honest," she said with a touch of anxiety in her voice. "But before we get to that, gimme a chance to check out the eats here."

 

After she figured out what she wanted, she set the menu aside and took a sip of water; unusually, her hand was shaking when she put the glass down.

 

"Um, ah've been doin' a lot of thinkin' this year, and now ah'm lookin' for a little help from mah friends, to quote a popular song."

 

She smiled self-conciously as she ran her fingers through her hair.

 

"Ah'm actually, ah'm lookin' to start at FCU this fall, in the psych department. Ah'm thinkin' about pursuin' mah doctorate. In psychology, that is."

 

Suddenly her tone was dead serious as she locked eyes with Davyd.

 

"But ah want to do it...as a public telepath."

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Davyd studied his menu with some care, being sure to note what was offered, and what he was sur his mother and babusya would think should be offered.  Their brunch menu had a decent number of selections, and he ordered a sampler platter to try as many things as possible.  Options look good, but how will it taste?

 

He smiled warmly at her first statement, "well, you know I'm happy to help however I can!  So what's gnawing on you, hunh?"

 

Her final statement came faster than he expected, and his jaw, already open to respond, fell another inch or so -- far more than any human's should.  He quickly composed himself, closing his mouth and steepling his fingers before him.  "FCU's a good school," he began after a deep breath, "not as strict as some, not as lax as others.  And I can definitely see you as a psychologist," he nodded, "you've always been a good listener, and your abilities could give you an edge in dealing with some patients.  That having been said...."

 

He lowered his hands and leaned forward a bit, then laid one hand on the table, palm up.  He locked eyes with her, then looked upward; if she followed his gaze, she would see lines of tiny bumps rippling across his forehead, like Braille text.  

 

Psychics being open with their abilities is nothing new, he thought, making his forehead go smooth again, we've all seen the video of Alexandra Albright 'coming out'.  And we know the issues she faced, though she had a lot as she was both a psychic and a Terminus Baby, so she faced double the stigma.  Do you think you'll be ready for that?

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Crystal-Gazer

 

Lulu was not prepared for the sight of Davyd 'texting' across his forehead. The fact that he was saying something so serious and profound somehow made it even more hilarious; it was like being struck by something funny at a funeral. But out of respect for Davyd and his concern for her, she managed to keep it together. However, a smile did touch her lips when she reached out to him telepathically.

 

You don't need to use such drastic measures to speak privately to me; you just have to call my name out with your mind.

 

The food arrived, and she tucked into it with gusto; Lulu had selected the 'Mini Potato Pancake Flavorful Trio', with salmon, two eggs and all kinda of other yummy things. As she tried a little bit of everything, she continued to speak into Davyd's mind with her oddly accent-less 'mind speak'.

 

I don't know if you can ever be 'ready' for something like this; I'm sure Psyche wasn't. But I think I could be of more value to the world as an open telepath than I would be staying in the shadows.

Edited by Heritage
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I'm still a theatre kid at heart, he thought back, grinning, I'll always be a bit dramatic.

 

He had ordered a similar sampler platter, blinis with a variety of fillings and toppings.  He offered to share a few with his companion, in exchange for a few nibbles from her plate.

 

He kept up a light verbal conversation, so the other patrons wouldn't see them just eating and staring at each other, while continuing a mind-to-mind convo.  Telepaths do get a bad rap, there's still a lot of fear and mistrust.  There's Psyche, and The Scarab, but the fact that so many of the most well=known psychics -- like Professor Psion and his kids, and the Cosmic Mind, and Lady Lunar -- are supervillains hasn't helped.  But if you're open with your patients about your abilities, show that you'll only use your abilities in a way they consent to... well... yeah, this idea of yours could work!

 

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Crystal-Gazer

 

Lulu was no stranger to 'patter', the surface conversation one maintains while having the more important conversation telepathically underneath. She wondered if Davyd's Grue heritage was one of the reasons he was so good at it? It was a little strange to hear her normal rural Alabama accent floating over the neutral (though still warm and expressive) mental voice that automatically translated her speech patterns.

 

I'm sure that there will be lots of legal issues to address; I may even have to wear an inhibitor collar from time to time, like maybe when I take tests? Which would suck a bit, because it gives me headaches, but it would be worth it, right?

 

But then the redhead's patter shifted into a surprising direction that snapped Davyd back to full awareness.

 

"It's so weird makin' all these decisions without Adam. Like we still 'talk' all the time, but since we split up, it's just been different, know what ah mean?"

Edited by Heritage
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Yeah, probably so - fear of a telepath taking the answers from the proctor's mind is hard to shake.  Then again, there may be some parts where they do test your abilities, to see if you really are psychic and not just trying to run some co-

 

Davyd winced as soon as he thoughtcast that, as he knew that cons & scams were the sort of "family business" that Lulu wanted to be very far from.  Sorry.

 

The sudden shift -- whether Lulu did it for her sake or for his, he could not say -- offered a welcome change.  "Oh, yeah, yeah.  Well, uh, no, not really," he added, suddenly very interested in the contents of his plate.  A moment later, he looked back up at her, "I've, uh, never really had anyone that... well, anything like what you and Adam had.  But, uh, I can imagine, sure."

 

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Crystal-Gazer 

 

Being the sensitive person she is, a good friend and of course a telepath, Lulu instantly picked up on Davyd's sudden discomfort, though she didn't presume to understand the many different feelings he was feeling right now.

 

"Oh, ah'm so sorry, ah-" 

 

She reached our a hand to place it on his, hesitated for a moment, but then chose to put it on anyway, giving it a supportive squeeze.

 

"Look...ah don't-"

 

She sighed and closed her eyes.

 

"Ah can't imagine what your feelin' right now, and ah say that as a telepath who is actively blockin' your thoughts out of respect. If you need some time to process that lil' bombshell ah dropped in your lap like it was nothin', ah can vamoose or whatever."

 

Lulu opened her big brown eyes and smiled, tiny tears in the corners of her eyes.

 

"Whatever you need right now, okay?"

Edited by Heritage
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Lulu sensed his reaction first, but soon almost everyone in the restaurant heard the full-throated belly-laugh coming from Dayd!

 

Hold on, hold on, he thought, trying to compose himself.  "Phew... okay, so," he ran his hands over his hair, trying to smooth it out, "I am, of course," he made his tone as somber as he could muster, "sad for you that you & Adam split.  I won't press for details, I'll let you decide how much of that you want to share.  As for my... outburst," he stifled another giggle, "well, ah, the way you'd reacted to what I'd said made me think that you thought that I'd never had anyone.  Which is definitely not the case!"

 

He clasped his free hand over hers, "I've never had anything as deep as what you and Adam had, yeah, as serious, but I have had plenty of relationships."  He took his hand off hers and leaned back a bit, but kept his other hand under hers, "one-night stands, friends with benefits... I think the longest one lasted just under a month.  So, yeah, I do know have some idea of what it's like to have loved and lost."

 

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Crystal-Gazer

 

Lulu got quite pink in the face at Davyd's reaction to her reaction. "Ah mean...ah didn't-" What had she meant by it? Did she think Davyd was pining away for her in some lonely tower? At last, she shook her head and laughed self-consciously.

 

"Ah'm sorry, ah- " She covered her face with her hands and made an odd groan before flashing an embarrassed grin. "Hoo whee; how 'bout this weather we're havin', huh?"

 

She focused on her pancakes for a bit as she waited for the blood to leave her ears.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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Davyd reached out with one hand and placed it gently on hers, smiling warmly at her.  "Hey.  Hey.  Like I said, I am sorry things didn't work out between you and Adam.  But I'm also glad you reached out to me to tell me about this big milestone in your life."

 

"Now," he pulled his hand back and sat up a bit straighter, "while you gather yourself, this might be a good time for me to do a bit of talking."  And.... 'talking'.  "You remember our talks about what we'd do after Claremont, yeah?  Well, most of those didn't pan out.  Especially not that one really dubious idea," flashes of his chat with Bombshell and with Ace Danger bubbled up to the surface of his mind.  "But, thanks to some help from Veronica and her Uncle Ace, I've found some very rewarding work, both behind and in front of the camera!"  He brought out his phone and pulled up the Danger News Network app, and showed a few pieces of his reporting -- including clips from his first interview, with the new Patriot -- though in all of them, he wasn't Davyd, he was in an oddly familiar form"Funny where life takes you, yeah?"

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Crystal-Gazer 

 

Lulu laughed and covered her mouth when Davyd showed her his interview footage. "Oh wow; 'Cousin Olivia' returns! She looks amazin', by the way!" Then she got a bit more serious, and put her hand in top of Davyd's. "That's so great! You're doin' a job that let's you use all your skills and abilities. And that's just what ah want to do, too."

 

Lulu slowly nodded to herself. "Megan...y'know, mah foster mom...she suggested talkin' with Veronica for some help with this whole 'comin' out' scenario. Do you think that's somethin' she'd be okay with workin' on?"

Edited by Heritage
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  • 4 weeks later...

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Davyd laughed, but there was a self-conscious tinge to it.  "It's been great, yeah, though I may have limited myself a bit.  With my first interview being with someone I knew, who knew me, I couldn't go in as Davyd, so I had to come up with an identity on the fly."  He paused, took a sip of water, "but now that's the face of DNN's new interviewer, so I have to keep that up when doing interviews.  Which isn't difficult, and there are some... qualities she has which makes certain interviews go more easily than they would if a college-aged boy was doing them.  So," he shrugged, "it's just another role to keep up."

 

He smiled, but it didn't take a telepath to realize that, on some level, Davyd would have liked to be himself on camera.

 

"Oh, I'm sure Veronica would be delighted to help you, yeah!," he exclaimed.  He began to reach into his pocket, "I can give her a call right now, if you'd like."

 

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Crystal-Gazer

 

"Yeah, sure, go ahead," Lulu said as she nodded with enthusiasm. "Ah haven't seen her in forever, so it'll be great to see her regardless."

 

She had a sip of coffee, then paused to put her hand on top of his.

 

"Hey. You'll get your chance to shine as you; ah know you will. DNN has no idea how lucky they are to have a guy like you on their team."

 

The redhead gave Dayvd a smile and a firm hand squeeze.

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