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Raveled

Pic-i-nic Basket (IC)

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The Parker's ranch-style condo sprawled over a larger footprint than the others around it, but was otherwise unremarkable when compared to its neighbors. No one walking by on the street would guess the amount of high tech inside.

Malcolm Dawes leaned on a table, squinting at a computer display. He had to admit that they were more versatile than reams and reams of paper print-outs, but they seemed to get harder to read every year. He stabbed at the screen with a thick finger. "Radar stealth envelope?"

Across the room, Jessica Parker was bent over a circuit board, soldering iron in hand. She touched the circuit in places and steam rose as the bonding metal flashed to liquid. When she spoke, it was with the careful, distant tones of someone whose attention was elsewhere. "Yes," she replied. "I figured out how to redirect some of the excess energy from the flight systems to absorb and redirect radar signals."

Malcolm half-turned to look at his granddaughter. "You're facing gang-bangers with machine pistols, not sovereign nations with modern anti-aircraft defenses. Why do you need radar invisibility?"

"I don't," Jessica chirped, frowning at her work. "It was a whim, and for what it's worth the system works -- I was able to buzz the tower at Jordan airport before anyone noticed me. But it's unnecessary, so I reallocated the resources. Check the latest design document." The front door bell rang, transmitted through the house by strategically placed speakers. Jessica sighed, eyes fixed on the electronics in front of her. "Grandpa, can you get that? If I step away, I'm going to lose the structure of this."

Malcolm grunted as he stood upright, leaning on his cane and walking heavily to the front of the building, opening the door. He eyed the slim young man there, hair combed over his eyes. "CanI help you," he asked, filling the doorway with his blocky frame

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Blake cleared his throat. "Yes sir. My name is Blake Salazar." He extended his skinny hand towards him. "And I'm here to take Jessica on a second date. Hope she hasn't said anything bad about me yet." he said with a slight chuckle.

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Malcolm gave Blake a long, hard, searching look before stepping back and letting him in. He stayed by the door, taking his time in closing it and shooting the dead bolt. He turned to Blake, leaning on his cane and staring at him, letting the silence stretch between. "So you're dating my granddaughter," he said out of the blue. "Is that right?"

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Blake's confidence wavered not. "That's right. I guess she told you I'm a superhero too, right? Maybe you've seen me...my hero name is Kid Cthulhu. Nice to meet you, sir. He tried to be pleasant with Jessica's grandfather, although his stare seemed to drill straight to his soul.

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Malcolm didn't quite scowl, but he did glower at Blake rather openly. "I hope you're aware that my granddaughter it a very special young woman. I hope you're taking--"

Jessica barged into the room quite unannounced. She'd realized, rather belatedly, that sending her octogenarian grandfather to check the front door might not have been the best idea, and she had came forward to check on him. "Grandpa," she began, "what's wrong? Who was at the door?" She followed his line of sight and her eyes fell on Blake, standing in the entryway. Her face brightened and she smiled at her boyfriend -- that idea was still new enough to make her giddy -- and, a second later, her face fell. She touched her face with one hand where machine grease was streaked across her forehead. She looked down at herself, dressed in clunky jeans, an old shirt with the sleeves pushed up, and a leather apron. "Oh God," she said, before turning and fairly sprinting out of the room.

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Blake smiled as Jessica walked in the room. She looked beautiful, despite her work clothes. He tried to say something to her, but she was out before he could take a breath. "Guess she was in the middle of something. But I'm aware Jessica's a special girl. She's incredible. And have been taking care of her, don't you worry."

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Malcolm kept leaning on his cane, staring at Blake for a moment more, eyes boring into the younger man. He had the normal knee-jerk protective instincts of any male towards a female in his social pack, but it was apparent that he made Jessica happy. "A word of advice, boy. When a girl runs out of the room like that, run after her."

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Blake nodded, and gave him a thumbs-up. Promptly after doing so, he dashed from the room. "Jessica! Wait, where'd you go off to? You don't have to worry, I still think you're beautiful!

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"Oh, God!" Jessica's wail was from deeper in the house, and it was enough for Blake to follow it deeper. "I am not beautiful! I'm covered in machine grease and wearing old clothes and I'm ugly as sin! I look terrible, Blake!" As the young man went deeper in the building, he finally turned a last corner and looked straight down a short hallway to Jessica's bedroom -- and through the open door, where Jessica was wearing only a bra and her jeans, searching frantically through her wardrobe. Jessica turned just as Blake did and for a moment their eyes met -- then she lunged at the door and slammed it in his face.

Jessica leaned her back against the door, burying her face in her hands. "Jesus, Blake! Knock please, will you?" Her face was completely red at this point, and her anxiety and fear was making her stomach roil and heave.

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Blake's heart pounded in his chest, and his mind went to unmentionable places. "Crap, I'm so sorry Jessica. Umm...would you still like to go on our date today? I can wait outside if you want me to. I'm so frickin' sorry. I'll let you look at my boxers so we'll be even!"

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Jessica's mind went to places that, well, was probably the same place that Blake was thinking about at the moment. She bit her tongue, swallowing her first response and simply said, "No. I still want to go out, just... Wait a sec." She turned back to her wardrobe and shimmied out of her jeans, briefly imagining leaving the door open for this. Instead, she just threw on denim shorts and a bright red tee-shirt, slipping into sandals and choosing a dark colored hairband to keep her hair out of her eyes. She opened her door to see Blake facing the other way and smiled to herself. She crept up on him and slipped her arms around him, hugging from behind and placing a kiss on his cheek. "Hi."

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Blake tensed up, but put his hands over hers. "Hey there, Jessica. Ready to roll?" He suddenly spun around, and put his hand over the back of her head, and kissed her hard. After breaking the kiss off, he smiled at her. "It's an awesome day out there."

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Jessica made a high, excited noise as Blake kissed her, holding her close. She kept her body pressed against his even when his lips broke away from hers, and for a moment she wasn't bale to speak. She just nodded, swallowing hard. "Yeah. The news said this was going to be the last good day for a bit, then it was gonna get cold and rainy for a bit." She inhaled deeply, disentangling herself from her boyfriend's arms and taking his hand to lead him. "C'mon," she said. "I packed a basket lunch for us. You said we were going out to a park, right?"

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"Yep! It's about twenty minutes away from here. Oh, I met your grandpa. He seems like a nice man. Gives great advice." He was happy to be with her again. This would be quite a fun day for the both of them. "Oh, I also brought a frisbee and some baseball equipment if you wanted to play. I left the bag outside." On an impulse, he kissed her again, just a peck on the cheek. "I was really looking forward to this."

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Jessica wasn't much for sports, but she didn't want to say as much to Blake so she just didn't mention it. She rolled her eyes instead. "I hope Grandpa didn't give you a hard time," she said. "He's cool, and he's around a lot more than my parents, so he tries to keep an eye on me, you know? But he's really old school. I think he probably would've wanted to meet you with a shotgun or something," she added with a laugh. "'Whut you gonna do wit dat gurl,' sorta thing, ya know?"

By this time they were in the kitchen, and Jessica opened the freezer to pull out a picnic basket. There were sodas, and meat and cheese and other sandwich fixings inside already, so she just dropped in a loaf of sliced bread. "There's a blanket in my truck," she said, glancing around. "I wonder where Grandpa got to?"

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"We should probably go before it gets really hot out." Blake said as he walked her out the door. Before he left, he shouted "Nice to meet you, sir!", hoping to leave a good impression on the old man. As he walked her out the door, he grabbed his duffel bag, and walked her to the truck. He threw it in the back, and looked back at her. He smiled, and put his arm around her waist, looking deep into her eyes. He moved forward, putting his chin on her shoulder. He took a deep breath and whispered in her ear "Don't forget the suit!" and laughed giving her a warm hug.

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Jessica's face fell and she squirmed out of his grasp. She put her things in the rear bench seats, taking her time to arrange them carefully. She finally straightened and turned to face Blake. "I wasn't planning on bringing the suit today," she admitted. "I was just thinking it could just be you and me, you know?"

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"I was just joking with you anyway. Hopefully the terrible Arbor Day-themed villain won't make an appearance. I really was looking forward to this." Blake tried to help her move the stuff into the back, and climbed into the front seat. He sighed and smiled. Happy face.

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Jessica sighed, grateful that Blake hadn't made a big deal out of wanting to just be a regular girl for a day, out with her boyfriend. She climbed into the driver's seat and touched the steering column with her key fob, carefully backing out of the driveway and navigating out of the subdivision, out onto the main streets. She pressed a little button on her arm rest and the power window on her side rolled down; the wind blew in and ruffled her hair. "So," she said, speaking up to be heard over the rush of the wind, "where are we headed exactly? Not that I mind just driving around with you," she clarified, "but I'm gonna want lunch eventually."

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"It's not too far from here." Blake explained the directions to Jessica, having to speak up quite a bit. "But yeah! Same here! I hope you brought enough for the both of us. You know we both eat like starving grizzly bears." He grinned at her. It was such a beautiful day outside. In the back of his mind, Blake hoped there would be some smooching.

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Jessica followed Blake's directions precisely, and in no time at all they were pulling into the park's lot. One of the good things about living in Lantern Hill was that there were plenty of garden spots where a group could spread out a blanket and have an impromptu picnic, but there were also several area devoted to parkland, and this was one of them. Near the lot was a fairly flat area, with climbing equipment and integrated table-bench units, obviously designed for family units. Farther back the land sloped up into a gentle hill, and while there was more space the day was already hot and the sun wasn't at its zenith yet.

Jessica climbed out of the truck and picked up the picnic basket, tossing the blanket over one shoulder. She squinted into the sunlight, sneezing daintily a few times before she shaded her face with a hand. "So what do you say, Blake," she asked. "Up the hill? Or try to fight out a place among the kiddies?"

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"Bless you! Let's try to go up the hill, it'll be a lot more private up there." Blake said. He held her hand as the two walked up the hill. Truth be told, it was getting pretty hot, but Blake dressed lightly, actually wearing a light grey T-shirt and khaki shorts. As the two reach the top of the short hill, Blake helped her set the blanket on the grass. "Whew...it's gonna be a scorcher."

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Jessica was sweating lightly by the time they reached a spot that they could both agree on -- not too steep, not too many rocks or divots, didn't have any obvious snake holes, wasp nests, or ant hills, et cetera -- and gratefully sank to the ground. "Yeah," she agreed. "It's supposed to get to nearly eighty degrees today. But, lucky for you, your girlfriend thinks of everything." She reached into the basket and pulled out an over sized bottle of SPF 90 sun block. She squirted some into her hands and rubbed it on the back of her neck and cheeks, then started applying it to her legs. She glanced up at Blake and smiled, rubbing her long, clean limbs with both hands. "Need some?"

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"It's true. You are a genius. And yes...that would be very helpful." Blake got his arms and legs, and face. "Umm...I think you missed a little on your neck. Want me to get that for you?" His heart beat in his chest.

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Jessica's heart rate ratcheted up in reaction to Blake's offer. She swallowed on a suddenly dry mouth and said, "Sure. That'd be great, Blake." She lay on her stomach, stretched out on the blanket, and lay with her forehead against her folded hands, face staring straight down. Her body tingled with the anticipation of feeling Blake's hands on her neck, massaging the lotion on, maybe 'accidentally' slipping lower to...

God, Jessica. I thought you wanted to wait?

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