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Saturday night, and Jessica Parker was getting ready for another date with Blake Salazar. She had dithered on where exactly to go, but thankfully a quick Internet search showed that a band called Albion was playing at an upscale coffee shop in Riverside. Jessica had never heard of them before, but their description as "Celtic/rock" sounded interesting and after she listened to a few songs she decided that she liked what she heard. She just hoped that Blake liked them, too.

She was dressing up more than usual for this date, with a blousy top in earth tones that laced up over her bosom, spiraling Celtic designs around the flared hem, and bell-bottom jeans. She was even wearing cherry-red lipstick, a first for her. She just hoped that she wasn't trying too hard with the whole get-up. She wanted tonight to be special.

Jessica drove her black truck through the city center and south into Riverside, parking in an elevated structure and walking over to the Java Joint. She had told Blake to meet her here in just a few more minutes.

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Blake was flying towards the Java Joint, his nightmare wings flapping. He was very excited about seeing Albion- he had heard good reviews of their music. Most of all, it would be great seeing Jessica again. Their last few dates had been full of adventure- a combination of romance and crimefighting. Blake secretly hoped this one would be with just them, though. He landed in an alleyway near the Java Joint, and snapped his fingers. He felt his skin warp and transform as he turned back into Blake Salazar. He had dressed up a little bit, too. Blake had been doing some research, and he found an outfit that practically defined "business casual". It was a long sleeved collared shirt, dark gray with white stripes, and gray slacks. He also found some nice black pennyloafers at a secondhand store.

The other thing he decided to do before the concert was get a haircut. He was past his "emo" stage, and wanted to look good for Jessica. His black hair was slicked back with gel, cut short and trimmed neatly. Blake felt like a million bucks as he entered the Java Joint. He saw Jessica sitting down, waiting for him. "Oh wow." Blake said, smiling brightly. "You look amazing."

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The Java Joint was technically in the basement of one of the old, historical buildings in Riverside. The cafe was a large open space, with one side taken up by a long bar/counter and one corner built up into a stage. Jessica sat at a small table as close to the door as possible, splitting her attention between the band setting up and the flight of stairs leading down from the front entrance. She spotted Blake as he slipped inside, a familiar feeling of butterflies in her stomach and tension in her chest rising up inside her, but had to do a double-take to make sure it was her boyfriend. She stood and held him at arm's length, taking in his new outfit slowly. "Honey," she said, smiling widely. "I like it!" She pulled him in close for a quick kiss on the lips, then turned and started walking towards the counter. "Up for some coffee? The band's supposed to play a few sets, and then there'll be an intermission. I figure we can get some food then." As usual, the inventor's mind was fixated on the practical; Jessica would've planned the entire night down to the minute, if she could have.

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Blake gladly accepted her kiss, and grabbed her waist, reeling her in for a more passionate one, his lips caressing hers. "Thanks sweetheart. And yes, coffee would be great. I flew here. Boy are my arms tired!" Blake said, nudging her side. "Where did you hear about this group, anyway? I did a little research on them myself."

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Jessica giggled as Blake pulled her in closer, flushing a bit. "I am the mistress of web searches," she informed him, arching one eyebrow mysteriously. "My ways are arcane and unknowable by lesser folks." She grinned and put in an order for a large mocha double-hit with mint. "Besides," she added, "I've got to keep the spice in our relationship somehow. If you knew all my secrets, how would I keep you coming back?"

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"Well." Blake said, pecking her on the cheek. "I guess I'm just too attached to you. You know, you're my sweetheart." Blake said, his face flushing a little bit. "I think about you all the time." Blake, clearly blushing, ordered a large mocha shake. As he walked her back to her seat, he wrapped an arm around her waist.

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Jessica picked up her own drink and slipped her other hand around Blake, leading him past the table and towards the far wall. There were a number of wide couches there with deep, plush cushions and end tables for drinks. She sat down at the end of one couch, pulling her boyfriend down next to her and snuggling between him and the couch arm. She sighed, happy and content in his arm, laying her head and his shoulder and watching the band tune up. "Don't stop," she said, smiling. "Tell me more about how fantastic I am."

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Blake grinned at her. "Mmm, why don't I show you instead, mon cherie?" Blake said with a devilish smile. He put his other arm around her waist and began to kiss up and down her neck. He was happy with Jessica, and nothing made him happier than being affectionate with her.

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Jessica giggled happily when Blake leaned in, wriggling her neck under his lips. She reached back and carefully set her cup on a convenient table, then put her arms around her boyfriend and shivered as Blake's kisses worked up her neck. She leaned her head back, encouraging him to move even higher, then tilted her head back down and kissed him passionately on the lips. "You know," she said between long kisses, "we should probably leave off. At least until they put the lights down. For the band. You know?" She kept her arms around Blake, though, holding him tight. One hand curled in his gelled hair, while she shifted on the couch so that he could press more of his body on top of hers. She felt happy and warm and content, lying there in the cafe, Blake on top of her and their bodies curling tighter and tighter.

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Blake smiled as he kissed her back, their lips pressing against each other. "Sounds alright to me. As long as there are a few more good ones after the show." he said as he winked slyly at her. He sighed in content, and looked deep into her eyes. "Thanks for having me out here, sweetheart. I was really looking forward to this. You know, one of these days, we'll have to have a formal date. Maybe I can take you out to a nice restaurant?"

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Jessica smiled. "There's a fatal flaw with that," she said, brushing an errant lock back from Blake's face. "If we went to some place fancy, I doubt they'd have secluded couches for a make-out spot. And then what would we do, baby?" She winked and wiggled around until she could sit up again. "We'd have to talk about our day and how school's going." She reached for her cup and sipped at her coffee, hiding the grin that spread across her face.

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"Well..." Blake said, contemplating the idea. "That wouldn't be so bad, would it? I mean, we could always go to your Explorer and make out when dinner was over." Blake said, taking a slurp of his java milkshake. "I mean, talking to me isn't horrible for you, is it? As much fun as kissing is." Blake said, pecking her on the cheek.

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Jessica smiled and slipped her arm around Blake and pulled him close. "I like hearing about your day. I like hearing about your life. I wanna know everything about you, Blake." She kissed him on the forehead. "So come on. Tell me what wacky adventures you and Rift have been getting up to. Tell me something I don't know about you." She hand cupped his head and leaned him against her. "I want to know it all. Every last detail."

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Blake cuddled close to her, settling his head on her bosom. "Well, Rift and I have been hanging out some, not really any adventures though. I mean, Claremont has been pretty boring. Classes are going well...just not a whole lot going on."

Blake closed his eyes. "I guess I could tell you a little bit about my folks. I've been avoiding the subject, and now's a good a time as ever. They died when I was young, victims of their own lifestyle. My mother drank herself to death, and my father died not long after. They were artists. I inherited my ability to draw from them." Blake's face fell. "I guess...they didn't pay that much attention to me. They always had shows to go to, so they mostly left me with their friends. I learned a lot from them, though. How to make it by myself." He looked up at Jessica. "I am glad I'm at Claremont now. But most of all, I'm glad I have you, Jessica. You're...wonderful. My girlfriend and my best friend."

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Jessica was quiet for several long seconds after Blake's revelation. She slipped her hand inside his and gripped it, hard. "I never really knew my parents," she said. "They're still alive, but I don't see them much. My dad's always off somewhere running the company, and my mom's really into politics, so she's usually down in D.C. I think they love each other, but I don't know if they love me." She swallowed a sudden lump in her throat and kept talking. "I was raised by a lot of tutors and nannies, but once I started making stuff, my granddad pretty much took over raising me. For a long time it felt like me and him against the world, but now I have friends like Mara. And I've got you, Blake." She bent her neck and kissed him on the top of his head. "And I think that, no matter what I had to do to get here, I'm happy to be here." Jessica blinked away a few unexpected tears, and then settled back in the couch as the band started up.

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Blake was moved by her statement, and wiped her tears away. He couldn't speak, because the band had already started, but tears welled up in his eyes too. He smiled at her, and held her close. Blake closed his eyes and stroked her hair as the band played. He was so happy with her.

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Jessica settled back against the couch, holding Blake close as she listened to the band settle into a crooning Irish melody. She felt a warmth spread through her, a comfortable feeling of happiness just being in her boyfriend's presence. She rocked him gently as Albion warm the crowd up with a few easy ballads, their Gaelic vocalizations slow and sweet but utterly incomprehensible to the inventor.

After a few songs, they started an extended instrumental piece, letting the singers rest their voice and giving rise to a murmur of conversation. Jessica stroked Blake's hair gently, pulling away from him a touch. "Hey. Blake." She reached into a pocket and pulled out a piece of jewelry, a pair of silver bands cleverly worked into a single ring. "I, uh, found this at the mall. The Radio Shack had a sale on radio transmitters, and this jewelry store was right across the way." Her fingers worked at the ring and separated the bands, pulling them apart. "They're supposed to come apart like that," she explained. "And one goes like this. And the other one goes like this." She slipped one band on her middle finger, and put the other in Blake's hand, closing his fingers around it. She couldn't bear to look him in the face just then; she kept staring at his hand, a blush spreading across her jawline and ears.

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Blake's eyes opened and he gasped a little. He immediately slipped the ring on his finger, and he looked up at her, a huge smile on his face. "Oh Jessica! That's so wonderful- thank you!" He wrapped his arms around her neck and kissed her hard, his mouth moving gently over hers. He passionately kissed her for a minute or so, and he looked into her eyes when he was done. "Jessica- there's something I need to say to you. I've been thinking about this for a while."

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Jessica felt her heart going like a hammer, and she was actually a bit light-headed. When Blake moved forward to kiss her, she responded eagerly, wrapping her arms around him and holding him tight. When he pulled away part of her didn't want to let him go, but she did, locking her fingers behind his neck to keep him from moving too far off. Her eyes looked deep into Blake's, feeling the heat in her cheeks and belly. "Wha... What is it, Blake?"

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Blake cleared his throat. "Jessica, I've never met anyone as wonderful as you. You make me feel so special, and you mean the world to me. You're always there for me, and I just, I appreciated you so much. What I'm trying to say is-" Blake said, blushing deeply.

"I'm in love with you, Jessica."

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Jessica was floored. Her mouth worked slowly, nothing coming out of it, as her brain tried to digest what Blake had just declared. "I... I feel better just thinking about you, Blake. I like just sitting here, being next to you." She squeezed her eyes shut, hot tears running down her cheeks. "When I think of not having you, it physically hurts in the pit of my stomach. Even just knowing you're out there, out in the city somewhere, makes me feel better." She opened her eyes, fixing her gaze on Blake's. "I don't know why and sometimes it scars me when I think about it, because it's so powerful and I've never felt anyhting like this before... But I love you, Blake."

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Blake smiled, and wiped tears from his eyes. "Oh Jessica...that's so wonderful that you love me too. I'll never lose this ring. It'll be out reminder that even when we're apart, we'll always have this to remember each other." Blake wrapped his arms around her neck and hugged her. He stayed there for a minute, tears slowly rolling from his eyes.

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Jessica hugged Blake back, holding the young man -- her young man -- tightly. She breathed deeply, trying not to burst into tears as emotion surged in her, emotions she wasn't used to dealing with. The young inventor had spent most of her life devoted to rationality and science; these feelings disrupted her carefully constructed inner world, but she didn't mind. She sat there with Blake, holding him close, as Albion slid into another set. This one was higher-energy, focusing a bit more on the rock side of their discography. As they moved into a raucous sea-shanty, Jessica slid apart from Blake and rearranged herself so that her head was on his shoulder.

The young woman let her gaze wander across the crowd, until it settled on an odd sight. A group was sitting at one of the larger tables, several men and women in conservative suits and one young woman in a long, flowing dress that looked like it would be more at home in a gypsy caravan then a metropolis like Freedom City. She frowned, some facet of knowledge trying to worm its way past the happy thoughts clouding her mind. She whispered to Blake, her breath warm and her lips close enough to brush his ear. "Blake. Do you recognize that woman? The one in the dress with the suits?"

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Blake's eyes were closed, and his head was tilted against hers. "Hmm, never seen her. She looks out of place, though." Blake sat up a little. "Should we be concerned?"

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Jessica continued studying the woman. She was short, shorter even than Blake, but her curvy figure was clear even in her loose dress. Her skin was pale and her hair was dark, creating a startling contrast. She seemed uninhibited enough, happily tapping the table in time with Albion's beat. By contrast, the rest of her party were all dressed in conservative suits and had alert looks on their face, constantly scanning the crowd and the windows high on the wall. One of them noticed Jessica and Blake's attentions and tried to stare them down, but the young girl ignored him and continued to study the other woman. "I don't know," she said eventually, answering Blake's question, "but I'm gonna go get my suit. Back in a minute, hon."

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