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alderwitch

So the Drama [IC]

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Alex was actually in the room they shared for once. Her hair was damp and loose around her shoulders and she was dressed for bed in a light tanktop and shorts, both in clashy neon bright colors. She smiled at Erin and plopped herself down on the bed. "Things are going real well. I finally locked down a CEO to take over now that operations are getting larger. So hopefully I'll be around a little more. How's things here?"

She flopped down on the loose pillows scattered on the rug, and looked up at Erin with wide and bright eyes.

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Erin looked up from the history textbook she was reading, taking a moment to pull herself out of studying mode. "I... I'm not sure," she finally said. "Things have been kind of weird. I got into another argument with this jerk speedster over that stupid zombie. The speedster's coming here to take some classes or something, and he decided to look me up and try to psychoanalyze me or something. That was creepy." She pushed the book away and rolled onto her side. "But I also think I have a date."

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Alex frowned, her expression creasing in dissapproval. "What speedster is that?" she asked intending to have a little chat with the individual in question. She made a mental note and beamed. "What kind of date? And with who?"

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"His name's Dynamo, he's like in college, not our age. He's on the Interceptors." Erin rolled her eyes. "Everybody I meet on that team is either nuts or a jerk. It's kind of weird." Erin waved a hand, dismissing him. "It wasn't that big a deal I guess." Alex could tell it still bothered Erin, because Erin was not a very good liar, but she did her best.

"And the date? Well, Trevor and I went out the other night, like a spur of the moment thing, patrolling on his motorcycle." Erin smiled with honest enthusiasm for that. "It was awesome. He drives that thing like... I dunno, like some people know how to fly. We actually drove up the cables on the Pramas Bridge, over the top and down. I mean, I could've jumped it, but it was a totally different feeling on the bike. And then we stopped a robbery, and went out to have some coffee. And we were talking, and he was talking about how he goes to these fancy parties because of his family, and it sort of ended up that he asked me to come with him to one, and I said yes." She still looked a little bewildered as to how that had happened.

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"Dynamo, got it." Alex said with a little nod. She'd go find him and have a bit of a chat. Because that was the kind of friend Alex was. She didn't say more because the last thing she wanted to do was make Erin uncomfortable. Instead she sat up on the floor and looped her arms around her knees and listened intently, watching Erin's face with her too perceptive eyes as Erin talked about the date, "That's great, Erin! That's really great!"

And when Alex said that it was great, it didn't come out like it was great that Erin was doing normal things that Dr. Marquez would have been proud of. She said that it was great like a friend who was really happy that someone else had discovered what an awesome person Erin was. "It'll be fun! What do you think you'll wear? Something bright! And bold!"

Although hopefully she wouldn't actually listen to Alex on clothing choices.

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"I don't know yet," Erin admitted. "It's a really fancy thing, formal dresses and stuff. So that's kind of a problem. I don't fit in a lot of off-the-rack fitted stuff very well. And those things are really expensive." She rolled back onto her back, looking contemplatively up at the springs of Alex's bed. "He offered to take me to this tailor who does work for his family. The guy whose dad designed the original Midnight costume, stuff like that. But if we'll do that, he'll pay for it, and I don't know if I should let him do that. He's rich, I know that, but it feels... weird."

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"You have some money but, really, its no different than getting an invitation to play sports and letting a friend provide the equipment. Its silly to go out and buy it all if someone already has it. You'll be a lot more able to enjoy yourself if you go in feeling dressed to impress. Honest. I don't like wearing suits but it makes the social environment easier to navigate," Alex pointed out pragmatically. She gave a little shrug of her shoulders, "If you go on a second date, you can invite him out someplace that's more your thing and foot the bill, if you want. Its not the dollar for dollar that matters but the intent, you know? Mike buys lunch for me all the time and its sweet. I'll always have 'more' but that doesn't mean getting bought a soda means less. Does that make sense?"

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"I guess," Erin said dubiously. "It didn't used to bother me, having friends buy stuff for me, but I guess it's different now because money is always such a thing. It makes me feel weird. And it was a long time ago too, and I was a lot younger, so I didn't think about money that much. My folks gave me an allowance and that was my money, and if I needed something bigger than that, they took care of it. So if my friends and I bought stuff, well it was none of our money, really, but we could still take turns and..." She sighed. "I know none of this is making sense. I know it's stupid. But it makes me feel poor, instead of just knowing I am."

Oliver, who'd been napping on one of Alex's pillows, woke up and stretched luxuriantly, giving Alex a friendly arm-boof before jumping up onto Erin's bed and sitting down imperturbably on her stomach. She petted the cat for a moment. "On the other hand, I'll look like an idiot if I try to find a dress from goodwill or something like that, and I already told him I'd go to this tailor guy."

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"Plus, if he works for their family, he prolly gets all kinds of deals you wouldn't from him." Alex pointed out with irrefuteable logic, "But he's not the only one with connections. We've got the grand opening of the restaurant in AEON opening later this month. You're a company employee and can get in for free a few times a month."

Alex had been very pro employee on her benefits package. Meals ordered while at work were free along with a few extra vouchers for family meals. There was a whole packet she'd handed off to Erin a week or so ago.

"Rich people are weird. They have all this money and then they let their friends who are all also rich have free stuff but get all huffy when you suggest sharing it with people who need it more would be better." Alex added tangentially. "It's strange."

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"No, Trevor's not like that," Erin told Alex, sort of missing the point there towards the end. "I mean, he's got to know I'm not rich, anybody who looks at my clothes three days in a row could guess that. But he's never said anything about it, just said he knew this tailor that would be happy to get his hands on me to put together a dress." She thought about Alex's suggestion then, idly scratching behind Oliver's ears. "Yeah, if things go well at the dance, I guess I could use some of those vouchers and we could go out there. It looked nice from the pictures in the packet."

She was quiet a moment, then turned her head to look over at her roommate. "Alex, do you think people here are scared of me?"

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Alex reached out to touch Erin's hand gently. Her brown eyes got that sad and far away look for a moment as she answered in a soft voice, "Yes, some. But just as many of them are scared of me. And in the end a lot more of them will be scared of me than you. It isn't anything to fret over, I promise. It will pass and it really means nothing."

Alex squeezed Erin's hand and then let it drop back to her lap. "You know why already, don't you?"

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"Because they think I'm crazy," Erin said flatly. "Because I can't stop jumping at shadows and I have to see Dr. Marquez every day. Somebody played an April Fool's day prank on me by accident this year and then looked like he thought I was going to kill him, literally. I thought I was getting better, but then..." She let out a sharp exhale, knowing she was being silly. "When I was talking to Dynamo, he asked me why I was in the gym alone, then basically accused me of not having any friends. And I know that's stupid, but it's true that there were people in there when I went in there and none when I left, and now I'm obsessing over it like an idiot."

She punched the pillow, lightly, then laid her head back on it again and looked over at Alex with a rueful smile. "And they're scared of you because you're smarter than they can even understand, and you can read their minds. Which is stupid too, because you'd never do it to hurt somebody, but people are dumb. At least with me they're half right."

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Alex's frown deepened and she gave a dismissive little wave, "He's wrong." She said simply, "You have friends who'd go through hell for you. I'm glad you told me, though. If its bothering you, its not silly. Its just exploiting a big fear you have about being alone. You're not and as long as we can help it, you'll never be truly alone again. I think I ought meet this Dynamo."

She leaned against the side of Erin's bed and smiled, "And, kind of. When you say they're scared because you're 'crazy', its probably how they'd put it. They're scared because they don't understand what's caused you to react the way you do. They can't comprehend that sort of thing and so your reactions are surprising and unsettling to them. For a lot of people that translates to fear but its rarely actually about you. Instead, its really about themselves and their own personal failings. I know its hard, but its really not worth bothering yourself over. You're doing so very well. People with PTSD take years to get where you've managed in just a year. I'm proud of you for what its worth."

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"It's worth a lot," Erin told her, her smile becoming a little less rueful and more genuine. "I care more about what you think than all the rest of them put together. And I'm not going to just spill my guts to everybody who stares at me, make them feel sorry for me or worse, just so they stop thinking I'm nuts. It doesn't matter that much. Heck, it probably wouldn't even stop them from staring, they'd just do it for different reasons." She sighed. "You're still going to stay on campus, aren't you? With your company starting up and everything? I know you're not taking many actual Claremont classes anymore..."

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"Of course! High school's about more than just classes, anyway." Alex said simply. After all, she could have been done with all the coursework requirement years ago and everyone knew it. She gave Erin her brightest grin, "I'm not gonna miss prom and senior year and all that! We're gonna walk at graduation, you and I, and we've got prom to plan and all the fun parts of senior year. I'm finishing up my university course work instead of standard classes and I'm going to start helping Dr. Marquez with some of the group sessions so I can start on the hours I need for my post graduate work. There's loads of stuff to keep me busy. That's why I've spent the last few months putting together a bunch of highly educated people that can run the day to day of AEON. You're not getting rid of me yet."

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"Good to hear," Erin said, grinning. "I'd hate to have to break in a new roommate at this late date. You've pretty much seen all the worst I have to offer. And I don't think I could get by without your fashion advice," she teased. "Once I get this dress, I'm going to have to accessorize it and all that. I can at least do that much on my own, even with Tubbo here's massive appetite." She patted the cat's head. "Have you and Mike ever gone out someplace really fancy? I don't know if it's going to be cool or kind of uncomfortable and weird to be so dressed up."

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"Not really. Tho' I'm thinking of putting together like a junior prom for the kids. I've talked to some of the other wealthier students. I mean, I could bankroll the party myself but that just seems, I dunno, arrogant if that makes sense. A prom committee would be more fun and make sure that more interests get included than just mine." Alex shrugged and gave a little smile, "But I we've danced lots of times. Usually Mike flies us up to where we can see the sunset and we just sort of waltz around to whatever music we can tap into on the communicators. Its really nice. I'm not so good a dancer but it never really matters. We actually started taking some lessons in formal ballroom dancing because we were enjoying it so much and that's been real nice. Its something we can do together that's kinda, you know, normal."

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"That sounds cool, dancing up in the sky," Erin decided thoughtfully. "And the lessons." Ballroom dancing certainly wasn't in Claremont's oeuvre of classes, but she had no doubt about Alex's ability to find a way to learn anything she liked. "How do you deal with the, ah, height thing?" Despite their obvious compatibility, physically it was a little hard to envision Alex dancing with Mike without the aid of some stilts.

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"He picks me up a lot," Alex said with a lilting little laugh, her smile softening as she thought of her rather oversized boyfriend, "That parts a lot easier when we're flying, but he's only got about fourteen inches on me all told, so I wear some really high heels and try not to fall down. It's a bit of a trick. The lifts and stuff are all super easy but he has to not turn me too fast or I end up zipping around and spiking my heel and he has to catch me before I careen into a wall. It's a little high contact. We're not good, but we have fun and that's what matters, right?"

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"I don't think high contact is a bad thing when you're dancing with your boyfriend," Erin decided. "And at least he probably doesn't step on your feet, what with the able to fly and all that. Do you really think a prom would work out here, though? I mean, it's already the end of the year, we're going to be down to just the full-timers soon. It would be a pretty small group of us, and, well, mostly guys."

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"Oh, sure! That's why I contacted all the rich kids to help put it together. And the popular ones. They'll make sure its an event that no one wants to miss and peer pressure will do the rest," Alex said cheerfully, completely at ease with the gross manipulation of the social currents of the school, "And, if they don't show up, we'll still have lots of fun so who cares. Its not like we need a lot of people there for it to be a good time!"

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"I guess," Erin said, sounding a little dubious. "But a lot of the popular kids are in Next Gen, and they like to make our lives harder. Like Bolt and Daisy. I mean, I didn't want to see Bolt get erased, but he's not exactly been a nice guy, and you know what Daisy's like. Are you really inviting them to help set this thing up?" Erin turned on her side to give Alex a look. "I'm not exactly a social genius, but it seems like asking for trouble."

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Alex gave her a look of wide eyed innocence that wouldn't have fooled her roommate but other people fell for a lot of the time. She smiled and it wasn't a nice smile. It even looked a little out of place on Alex's usually gentle features. "Convince NextGen that the party of the year is going to be someplace with limited school supervision and is held on turf we entirely control? Would I do something devious like that?"

She would, had and did, actually. Alex explained, "If they're going to do something big, they'll do it no matter what. Tensions have been boiling up and its so like them to strike out at Mark and the rest of us when he's barely himself. This way, if they do, we'll be able to retaliate and contain it swiftly and with few actual school rules broken."

Alex's mind was a frightening place somedays.

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"Maybe we should make it a costume prom, so we can all go in uniform," Erin suggested dryly. "It sounds like an event with a high probability of everyone's clothes getting ruined, at least. But it should be a night to remember, and I guess that's what it's all about." She closed her eyes for a moment, folding her hands under her head. "Ever think what it'd be like to be in normal high school, with sports teams and real proms and nothing much bigger than that to worry about?"

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"Not really," Alex admitted, resting her cheek on her knees, arms looped easily around her knees, "Either, it wouldn't be really me or I'd be spending all my time trying to pass for normal. I don't manage that well, really. I mean, I can do it if I put my mind to it but its really hard to modulate every reaction and play dumb. I don't like it, cuz it just feels so... I don't know, it feels like lying on this epic scale."

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