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Jack laughed brightly. "Brother, if you think getting married is a simpler concept than space rocks, you're in bigger trouble that I thought!" The swordsman clapped a hand on Derrik's shoulder as they moved over to the larger group of guests. "Congratulations, you two." Dark Star and Fleur were two of the genuinely best people he knew; they certainly deserved each other.

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[bg=#BF0000]It's papyrus. From around 1,000 BCE, give or take. One of the stories which were eventually collected to form the Torah. A little piece of the homeland, for both of us.[/bg]

Lynn cradled the artifact of her people, her eyes suddenly wet with tears; her thoughts were a wild surge of emotions, displaying a depth of passion Elena might not have expected for the changeling. In a way, it's as though she can sense the presence of all Lynn's ancestors, leading all the way back to the time of Abraham.

I cannot take this; I'm not worthy of it. It should be in a museum, not in some skinny pixie's keepsake drawer. But it's so beautiful. Elena, please take it back; I want it too much, but I can't have such a precious thing! Blessed are You, Eternal One our God, Universal Presence, Who sanctifies us with paths of holiness and gives us the way of engaging ourselves in words of Torah...

The tiny brunette, who had never felt so small, curled up around the box on the floor of the Underground, and wept.

Vince, the Interceptor's AI, appeared on a nearby viewscreen in a bright blue blazer; he was about to ask if Lynn was alright, but then he could only watch helplessly, one hand made of dancing pixels reaching out, unable to offer comfort.

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Elena closed her eyes momentarily. Her mental voice resonated comfortingly in Lynn's mind. [bg=#BF0000]I worry that even the most fortified museums cannot match the security that Viktor or myself can surround such a priceless treasure with, but if you believe that the greater benefit to your people justifies the increased risk of theft or destruction, then that is your decision. But no, I will not take it back. The gift has been given. It is yours now, to do with as you please.[/bg]

Elena turned back to Talya and Ace, shaking her head. [bg=#BF0000]"It appears I've overwhelmed the poor girl. Was it...too much?"[/bg]

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Ace grinned at Elena and Talya, "Indeed, nothing like a genuine, if dimensionally displaced, cowboy for managing the grill." he said with a smile and offered the plate to the ladies. He watched with quiet amusement as the birthday girl ran off with her new treasure and looked back to Scarab with a wide grin. "I think historical artifacts have more meaning to those who didn't live through it." he explained with a shrug, "I daresay you have out done the rest of our gifts." he teased with a laugh. At Talyas request he patted down his pockets and dug out a small packet passing it over to the lovely 'Ex'-Thief.

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Talya chuckled and put a reassuring hand on the small of Elena's back. "You are a little overwhelming, darling, just give her a few minutes in private.... actual private... and I think she'll be able to process it and be back to her normal self in no time."

She shook her head, diverting the plate over to Elena while she took the packet and gave it a dubious look. Ace's remedies half the time were strange headhunter medicine but even Talya couldn't deny they were effective. "You and your fondness for cowboys, Ace."

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Ace grinned at Elena and Talya, "Indeed, nothing like a genuine, if dimensionally displaced, cowboy for managing the grill." he said with a smile and offered the plate to the ladies.

"Aw, shucks." Colt called over to Ace from his place by the grill, "This ain't nothin'. I reckon y'all ain't seen me make bacon!" Colt waved the group over, "Now why don't'cha go'n bring them there lovely ladies my way, so's I c'n go'n mak'a proper introduction?"

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While Eli went to get some food, Moira made her way over to Jack. She wanted to meet this fine looking young man personally. He was moving from one group to another so she had to be quick. Approaching from behind, she lightly touched his side with her hand. "[divine]Hello,[/divine]" she said in an inviting voice, "[divine]You must be Jack.[/divine]"

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[bg=#BF0000]I worry that even the most fortified museums cannot match the security that Viktor or myself can surround such a priceless treasure with, but if you believe that the greater benefit to your people justifies the increased risk of theft or destruction, then that is your decision. But no, I will not take it back. The gift has been given. It is yours now, to do with as you please.[/bg]

Lynn opened eyes and sat up, rubbing her face with her hand.

Fine. If I'm to be its protector for a while, I can deal. I claim no ownership, though; just responsibility, I guess.

With Vince's help, she found a secure place in the Underground that could be climate controlled; she trusted him to look after it, just like she trusted him to keep the living residents of their home safe. She wiped her eyes with a glamoured hankie, and conjured up a mirror before she remembered something.

"Wait, I don't wear makeup anymore!"

Still, she did her best to hide the redness of her eyes and dismissed the mirror and hankie before heading back upstairs. As she passed through the hall on her way back outside, she noticed an unopened package addressed to her on the sideboard. She must have forgot all about it in her preparations for the party. With a shrug, she grabbed it and returned to the party, setting the parcel down by Stesha's flowers. Seeing Elena and Tayla, she smiled and sent a though the mystic's way.

All better now, thanks.

She eagerly joined Colt by the grill.

"Ooh, I smell kosher red hots, gimme gimme! You schmucks have no idea what your missing!"

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"Grilled'em special, just fer you, hun." Colt gave her a squeeze as he laid one of the hot dogs from the grill on a bun and handed it to her. Grim noticed that he had cut slits in the hot dogs, causing it to flare outward as it cooked. The ends had crosses cut on them, causing them to flower out as well. It was a rather neat trick, for something so simple.

"Y'all 'njoyin' yer presents? Git 'nythin' real special yet?"

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Ace grinned at Elena and Talya, "Indeed, nothing like a genuine, if dimensionally displaced, cowboy for managing the grill." he said with a smile and offered the plate to the ladies.

Elena laughed. [bg=#BF0000]"That cowboy happens to be the Birthday Girl's lover, if you didn't know that already. I seriously doubt either of them are as 'open-minded' as we are. I'll enjoy watching him squirm a little when you start flirting, but try not to offend our hosts."[/bg] She picked a hot dog up off the plate and took a bite. [bg=#BF0000]"Especially since it turns out one of them is an excellent cook."[/bg] She took another bite.

Ace watched with quiet amusement as the birthday girl ran off with her new treasure and looked back to Scarab with a wide grin. "I think historical artifacts have more meaning to those who didn't live through it," he explained with a shrug.

[bg=#BF0000]"I hold on to some of the pieces in my collection because they're dangerous. Others are like photographs in an album; reminders of people and events who have long since become History. And when most of your memories predate the very existence of the camera, you can't be too picky about the form your keepsakes take."[/bg]

"I daresay you have out done the rest of our gifts." he teased with a laugh.

Elena indulged herself with a grin. [bg=#BF0000]"I admit, part of the reason I advised her to take it behind closed doors was to avoid boorishly overshadowing the efforts of the other guests. I do my best to avoid making anyone feel second-rate. It's called 'class.' Oh, and Ace, Honey, when you look it up in the dictionary, it's spelled with a 'c.'"[/bg] She patted him on the back and winked at him playfully.

"You are a little overwhelming, Darling. Just give her a few minutes in private...actual private...and I think she'll be able to process it and be back to her normal self in no time."

[bg=#BF0000]"Yes, of course." Elena let her awareness snap back to her actual body. "Sometimes I forget...What was that about having 'class' again? Not so much."[/bg]

Seeing Elena and Tayla, Lynn smiled and sent a though the mystic's way. All better now, thanks.

[bg=#BF0000]Glad to hear it.[/bg]

"Y'all 'njoyin' yer presents? Git 'nythin' real special yet?"

Elena looked away and smirked a little.

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Finished with his first burger, and Moira distracted, Eli went to kill two birds with one stone: introducing himself to the rest of the guests and getting seconds. "Excuse me for a moment." said Eli to Stesha and Derrick "I'm going to go say hi to everyone else, and get some more snackums. A real pleasure meeting you."

Flashing a smile to Grim and Colt as he passed them, Eli made his way over to Ace, Elena and Tayla. "Hello again Ace. And who may these lovely ladies be? I'm Eli." he said extending his hand to Elena and Tayla. Eli had to admit, those lessons with Vince were really paying off. Vince was worried about the Interceptors image, so he wanted Eli to start talking more presentable like for all the cameras and to the other heroes. So far he had only allowed himself one brosef and dude a piece. Quite an accomplishment really.

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When the fingers brushed against his side, Jack had to restrain reflexes the demanded he tumble away. Lack of sleep had him feeling a little on edge, and though he'd wanted to make a show of foregoing his usual security measures for Lynn's party, the fencer would have felt better if he'd at least been wearing his wig. Turning around, he prepared to greet whichever guest was behind him only to be caught off guard by the literally stunning woman standing next to him. He wasn't sure if the glow suffusing Moira's being was thanks to his metamagi senses or just his imagination, but it was certainly distracting. Fortunately, Jack was a master of speaking without thinking. "I must have died and gone to heaven," he replied smoothly with a lopsided grin, cupping her extended hand in his own and bowing slightly. Yeah, I'm sure hitting on Lynn's extremely forward friend won't have any negative repercussions whatsoever, he drawled inwardly as his brain caught up to his mouth. "Moira, yes?"

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Moira nodded with a curtsy, "[divine]Indeed I am.[/divine]" Wow, he's much hotter up close. She stood there for a half a second as he held her hand. "[divine]Pleased to meet you, Jack. Charmed, too,[/divine]" she said with a contented sigh. "[divine]I've heard you were a smooth talker,[/divine]" she said with a light smile. "[divine]A damn good swordsman too.[/divine]" She winked, "[divine]I'd like to see your skills in action one day.[/divine]"

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Oh hell, sword-related innuendo. That's not even fair, Jack groaned in his head, all the while presenting an easy, charming smile. "Always willing to give private demonstrations," he replied, quirking an eyebrow slightly. Argh, Dios, stop talking you tremendous idiota. The fencer pointed over Moira's shoulder. "Tell you what, I was just about to get myself something to drink. What're you having?"

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Oh man that smile is amazing, Moira thought gleefully though remaining collected as Jack, I gotta get to know this guy better.

"Always willing to give private demonstrations," he replied, quirking an eyebrow slightly.
She grinned lightly, "[divine]I'd like that. Maybe later you can give me some lessons? I do so love to see a master at work.[/divine]"
The fencer pointed over Moira's shoulder. "Tell you what' date=' I was just about to get myself something to drink. What're you having?"[/color']
"[divine]A man after my own heart,[/divine]" she said half jokingly, "[divine]You mix drinks too? I'm sure you are just a jack of all trades.[/divine]" She looked over to the bar, "[divine]Coconut rum, peach schnappes, orange juice, pineapple juice, cranberry juice and Amaretto for flavor.[/divine]"

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"Y'all 'njoyin' yer presents? Git 'nythin' real special yet?"

Lynn shrugged offhandedly as she accepted the dog. "Oh you know, the usual; gift cards, antiquities from ancient lands, a phoenix egg. Fairly run-of-the-mill stuff." She shot Elena a quick wink. Then she indicated the package she'd found in the hallway with a jerk of her head. "I also found something I guess I got in the mail; not sure if it's a gift or what. I'll have a look at it later."

She piled mustard, relish and onions on her dog and took a big bite. "Mmm, very tasty! You are a true grillmeister."

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"I get the feeling there's not much I could teach you," Jack responded honestly, "but sparring's always good practice. I'll be right back." Beating a hasty retreat, the fencer crossed the lawn to the various beverages Lynn had set up. The list of ingredients didn't mean anything to him, but fortunately many an hour spent working as both a waiter and short order cook had taught him the knack for remembering long orders. He nodded cordially to the blonde and brunette he hadn't had a chance to greet yet, and paused briefly next to the immortal adventurer. "Hey, Ace, what d'you call coconut rum, peach schnappes, orange, pineapple and cranberry juice with amaretto?" he inquired, ticking the ingredients off on his fingers absently.

Meanwhile, Jill had been wandering about the yard, skirting the edges of the small pockets of conversation that had formed. Finding herself near Stesha and Derrik, the coltish teen bit her lip uncertainly for a moment before blurting out, "Is you hair really green like that? Like without dying it?" Dark blue eyes immediately went wide. "Ohmigosh, that's not like super rude to ask or something, is it? I just meant that it's, y'know, I mean, it's really cool and I used to dye mine for a while, and that was sorta lame but it took a long time to do and you've got so much hair that it's just be... a really..." The tanned girl's cheeks coloured with embarrassment as she trailed off. "I, ah, I'm Jill. Sorry."

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"I also found something I guess I got in the mail; not sure if it's a gift or what. I'll have a look at it later."

She piled mustard, relish and onions on her dog and took a big bite. "Mmm, very tasty! You are a true grillmeister."

"Yer gonna let't sit? I reckon ya got more will power'n I do. I always go'n tear mine right open." Colt smiled at the compliment, "Thanks! Y'all c'n kiss th' cook if'n ya'd like." He added, hoping to steal a moment of her time before she made more of her rounds. He liked grilling, but it was tough being attached to the grill.

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Aces eyes crinkled in a small smile at Elenas commentary, "You may be right." he said with a laugh, "But you forget one thing my dear. I'm Ace Danger." he added with a wink. With a glance to Eli he gave a small nod, "Ladies, this earnest young man is Eli," He introduced with a small smile, "Eli, The lovely Natalya and Elena." he finished with a smile and leaned on toward the young man to whisper, "Yes they are, and Yes I have." then turned with a grin back to the ladies. "Come on I'll introduce you tot he chef." he said and began leading the ladies over to grill.

With a broad smile he introduced them, "Colt I'd like you to meet Elena and Natalya." He said with a flourish and turning to the ladies continued, "And this handsome one in the stetson is Colt."

He looked over his shoulder as 'Jack' called out to him and turned toward the young swashbuckler, "If you'll excuse me." he said with a small bow and a wink to Elena, 'You know what they say always leave them wanting more.' He thought assuming she was reading his mind.

As he arrived at Jacks side he looked from his drink to the most likely suspect to order a single entendre in a shotglass. "Ah so I see our resident goddess has set her sights on you." he said with a smile, "Well you're in for quite the ride. If memory serves that's one of many variations on 'sex on the beach' and slightly less pleasant than sand in uncomfortable places." He said with a laugh, "But to each there own." he added with a wink as he perused the open bar, "You all ave a decent scotch here?"

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Jack failed to completely suppressed a wince as Ace identified the drink he'd described. "Kinda thought it might be something like that." The younger man ran a hand over his face as they finished the short trip to the drinks. "Ace, level with me, scale of one to ten, how inappropriate would attempting to hook up with one of Lynn's friends at her birthday party be? 'Cause I'm not a great judge of that sort of thing, but I'm thinking pretty inappropriate. Bridesmaid in a closet sorta thing." Uncomfortably aware that he was rambling, the fencer closed his mouth with an audible click of teeth on teeth. "Scotch, right, I'll check."

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"Hello again Ace. And who may these lovely ladies be? I'm Eli." he said extending his hand to Elena and Tayla.

"Ladies, this earnest young man is Eli," he introduced with a small smile. "Eli, The lovely Natalya and Elena." He finished with a smile and leaned on toward the young man to whisper, "Yes they are, and Yes I have," then turned with a grin back to the ladies.

Elena's jaw dropped open for a moment. [bg=#BF0000]"Classy, Ace. And with that, I once again reclaim the high ground. Not that I can fault your claims."[/bg] She smiled as she let go of her companion's hand, replacing it with Eli's. She shook it firmly. [bg=#BF0000]"Elena Guerrero. I'm a friend of the Birthday Girl."[/bg] She turned halfway to her companion, rubbing her on the shoulder in a gesture of simultaneous affection and presentation. [bg=#BF0000]"And this is Natalya Browning, the love of my life twice over."[/bg]

"Come on, I'll introduce you to the chef" he said and began leading the ladies over to grill. With a broad smile he introduced them, "Colt I'd like you to meet Elena and Natalya." He said with a flourish and turning to the ladies continued, "And this handsome one in the stetson is Colt."

[bg=#BF0000]"Lynn's lover. Your reputation precedes you. My compliments to your craft, and your selection. I actually only eat kosher franks. Not for any religious reasons, but the restrictions result in a higher quality of meat from an animal that's been treated far more humanely than usual for the industry."[/bg]

"Hey, Ace, what d'you call coconut rum, peach schnappes, orange, pineapple and cranberry juice with amaretto?" he inquired, ticking the ingredients off on his fingers absently.

As he arrived at Jacks side he looked from his drink to the most likely suspect to order a single entendre in a shotglass. "Ah, so I see our resident goddess has set her sights on you." He said with a smile, "Well you're in for quite the ride. If memory serves that's one of many variations on 'sex on the beach' and slightly less pleasant than sand in uncomfortable places." He said with a laugh, "But to each their own."

[bg=#BF0000]"Yes, that sounds like a 'Sex On The Beach,' and a particularly elaborate one at that. I've seen them made with half those ingredients. But then again, this is the living personification of amoral hedonism we're talking about."[/bg] Elena extended a hand to Jack. [bg=#BF0000]"Elena Guerrero. I'm an old friend of Lynn's. I'm sorry, but I don't believe I've had the pleasure...?"[/bg]

"Ace, level with me, scale of one to ten, how inappropriate would attempting to hook up with one of Lynn's friends at her birthday party be? 'Cause I'm not a great judge of that sort of thing, but I'm thinking pretty inappropriate. Bridesmaid in a closet sorta thing."

[bg=#BF0000]"Well, at least you could take solace in the fact that this would hardly be the first time Moira has engaged in an inappropriate tryst at a friend's house. Slipping away from a birthday party would be positively tame compared to some of her past antics. Just be careful if you choose to get involved with her. She has a history of throwing her lovers under the bus to avoid inconvenience, let alone culpability for her actions. She's trying to be a better person these days, but I'll believe it when I see it."[/bg]

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Jack turned around to face the brunette addressing him, chagrin passing over his features. "And my manners have deserted me completely. I apologize, ladies, for my, ah, distraction." The athletic young man accepted the proffered hand. "Jack, Jack of all Blades." There was brief pause before he elaborated, "Of the New Hampshire Of-All-Blades. It's an old Irish name." As Elena gave a scathing description of Moira's past behaviour, the boyish grin on Jack's face became slightly awkward. "Well, that's certainly... ah... So hey, how about Bill with that grilling, right?" He threw an arm over the cowboy's shoulders. "Who says this guy doesn't have a superpower!"

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Stesha gave Jill a reassuring smile. "Don't worry about it, people ask all the time. I tell most people it's a good dye job, but it's actually natural. I have no idea how I'd even start dyeing this much hair. I don't think I've met you before, have I?" she asked curiously. "I'm Stesha, and this is my fiance Derrick. Are you a student at Claremont?"

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Colt suddenly had his hand full. Literally, his right was being used for shaking, while his left was on flipping-and-turning duty double time. "Thank y'all, kindly." He said, only half paying attention. A moment ago, he was lamenting his lack of people to talk to, and now he simply had too much attention. It was a wonder how these things worked.

"Y'all'er too kind, really." He thanked them again. "I don't know nothin' 'bout no culinary super power, though. Folks just done'a lotta grillin' where I come from." He said with a smile. Then began serving up finished burgers and hot dogs to those who needed them.

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Jill snorted derisively, then caught herself and blushed deeper in embarrassment. "No, no, I'm not, y'know, 'woosh'," she replied, vaguely miming a one handed flying pose. "I'm just here because of my brother," she explained, nodding over to where Jack was extolling the virtues of Colt's ability to sear meat. Now that it had been pointed out, the family resemblance was obvious; the siblings shared the same angular features and the dusty brown ponytail the lean teenager was absently toying with matched the shade of the swashbuckler's real hair. "And, I mean, I hang out here sometimes, so I know Lynn already and, um, so." Clearing her throat self-consciously, Jill changed the subject, "So, how did you do that thing with the tree? Is it like a 'bigger on the inside' deal?" Her tone was genuinely curious, and youthful excitement continued to slip through her cynical facade.

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