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Blades of Grass (IC)

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As day gave way to night a light rain began to fall, a gentle drizzle that filtered its way down through the canopy of a tall oak to its lower branches. There sat a copper skinned woman with a wild mane of long flowing white hair and a long shapely leg dangling below the bough. Her eyes were closed and her head was tilted back; a faint smile on her face that would gave the impression that she was enjoying herself in spite of the rain.

Willow was humming quietly to herself, an old tune she had heard numerous times in her life. The words always changed with the passing of centuries, but the melody always remained the same. The gentle reminder that all things change, but nothing is truly lost giving her some measure of comfort

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The patter of raindrops on the rooftop of the nearby brownstone apartment building was joined by the slightly louder sound on footsteps as an unlikely figure in black and royal blue appeared above, stooping slightly in his crouch against the rain. Rising as though about to sprint right off of the second storey surface, the sound of humming caused him to quirk his head downward. Pausing to listen for a moment, he leapt down to the ground with athletic grace and stepped over to the oak tree, looking up at its occupant with a raised eyebrow appearing from behind his bandanna mask. "Hello, who do we have here?" he called to the reclining woman in the branches.

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Willow's eyes flicked open and she turned her gaze in the direction of the interruption as her humming trailed off. "Oh, hello," she said quietly, her melodic soprano barely audible over the sound of the rain. "Is this your tree?" the dryad asked, gesturing with one hand while the other rested in her lap. "The uniformed people won't let me sleep in the park even though the trees didn't mind, they just liked having someone around who could listen to them sing again."

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"The, uh, yard belongs to some friends of mine," Jack of all Blades replied, his expression still a little quizzical, not entirely sure that the coppery toned woman wasn't putting him on. "The police, yeah. They're not big fans of the whole sleeping in public areas thing." He wasn't about to send the young woman packing into the rain if she had nowhere else to go, but unexpected visitors to the brownstone tended to be more or less evenly split between in need of assistance and dangerous themselves. "Trees told you that, huh? Don't suppose you know a certain green haired pregnant lady?"

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"Of course the trees told me that," Willow said, amber eyes bright with amusement, "They can't be blamed that your kind has become deaf to the world." She cocked her head as though listening to something, her hair falling away to reveal a slender ear that tapers to a sharp point. Smiling, the copper skinned woman inclined her head briefly before melding into the tree, only to step out from the trunk at ground level.

"Sister Oak tells me that I am being rude. My name is Willow," the dryad said, holding out her hand, "and while I do not know your green haired woman, the wind whispers her name."

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"I guess it would have to be," the swashbuckler murmured with some amusement. Oddly enough, Willow's display seemed to put his more at ease; at least he knew she actually did have abilities beyond the norm, and it wasn't like he'd never seen a woman appear from a tree trunk before. "Well, if we're standing on ceremony, I go by Jack of all Blades," he introduced himself in turn, bowing deeply with a flourish of one hand that swept his damp greatcoat backward. "But if Sister Oak there says you're okay, feel free to just call me Jack."

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Willow arched an eyebrow at Jack's display and shook her head slightly. "And if we are standing on grass, Jack, what do I call you then?" the dryad asked lightly. Though she was barefoot and her simple clothing was clearly worn, almost threadbare in appearance and completely soaked through, she almost managed to maintain an imperious bearing.

Almost

Laughing, Willow took two quick, graceful strides over to the swashbuckler and planted a quick kiss on his nose before drifting away. "So why are you out in the rain?" she asked, sitting down in the cold wet grass, knees drawn up to her chest.

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Jack blinked a few times in surprise at the gesture before shaking his head slightly with a broad grin that displayed rows of gleaming teeth in the dull grey light. "Chica, you feel free to call me whatever you like," he told the whimsical woman with a mildly suggestive drawl as he sauntered over to lean against the oak, folding his arms across his chest. "Just out doing my job. Uh, how familiar are you with the way things work in Freedom?" the swordsman asked, tilting his head slightly to one side. "Don't really seem like you're from around here."

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"No, I'm not," Willow said with a laugh, looking up Jack, flashing a smile at him. Her smile faltered slightly and she looked away from the hero for a moment, instead shifting her attention to her toes as she wiggled them in the grass. "From around here, that is," she said quietly, "Or all that familiar with how things work here. I suspect it isn't much different than any other human city." Willow glanced back up at Jack, a challenging look in her amber eyes as if daring him to prove otherwise.

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"Ah, well then," Jack smiled jauntily with a deferential wave of one hand, "allow me to welcome you, Miss Willow. As for the difference, well..." In a minor feat of legerdemain, a small metal lighter appeared between two fingers of his opposite hand, a spark igniting. The flame flickered for a moment before abruptly leaping free of the gleaming device and soaring in a glowing arc to float just above the energy manipulator's outstretched palm. "Depends how liberal you want to get with 'human' city."

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"Oh," Willow cooed, clearly entertained by the swordsman's display, the flame reflecting in her amber eyes. "Do you always put on such a fancy show for anyone you find lounging in a tree, or are I just lucky?" The dryad grinned and the set of her features lost its challenging look. "I haven't seen that sort of demonstration in a long, long time Jack," she confided. "To think, I reawaken and discover a Magus!"

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"What can I say, it's a helluva ice-breaker," Jack confirmed with an expression that charmingly balanced wry self-deprecation and easy confidence. "Magus, huh? My old man called us metamagi, but I didn't exactly get the registration papers, y'know? Point being, Freedom City's sort of the port of call for all kinds of general weirdness. Mutants, aliens, magicians, lab accidents, immortals, various and sundry beasties and so on." He wasn't sure which category Willow fell into, but the way she talked about a long time ago reminded him of the wistful way Ace Danger or Talya Browning spoke about their pasts. "Lotta power going around, and some folks try to take advantage. When they do..." The hovering ball of flame snapped outward like an elastic bad, shaping itself into the form of an ornate rapier in the the blink of an eye. "Folks like me make sure they don't. Jack of all Blades: not just an unforgivable pun."

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Willow's eyes widened slightly when the flame reshaped itself into a sword and she let out a low whistle. "I was mistaken," she said, eyes focused on the weapon in Jack's hand, "That is something new to me." Rising from her place on the grass she slowly approached the swordsman, "So you protect, then, like I and the other Guardians do, have done, and will do."

The dryad smiled at Jack, tucking a strand of her long white hair behind an ear. "It occurs to me that fortune picked the right tree for me to gain my rest." Fishing around in a small brown pouch tied on her belt that was clearly maintained better than the rest of her clothing, Willow withdrew a tiny seed. Showing Jack her upturned palm with the seed in the center, the copper toned woman grinned. "You showed me yours, now I show you mine."

The seed rapidly started to grow, vines sprouting and lashing around the woman's arm.

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"Heh, it sounds all poetic when you explain it," the fencer chuckled, unclenching his fingers and letting the fiery construct evaporate into the damp air. Jack gave the white haired woman a curious look as she extended the seed in her palm, a wryly wary given her earlier excursion into his personal space, though he made no move to discourage her. As the vines shot out around Willow's arm, it was his turn to raise his eyebrows in surprise. "Ha! Plant armor; that's clever!" he complimented, tilting his head to get a better look at the grown gauntlet.

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"It has its uses," the dryad agreed as the vines completely enclosed her arm and started to sprout roses. Plucking two flowers from her armor, Willow tucked one behind her ear while offering the other to Jack. "The abuse of power isn't something I am unfamiliar with," Willow said. "My sisters and I have intervened more than a few times when humans have run unchecked." She paused a moment, looking thoughtful, "I suspect some of them might have been these labs, mutants and aliens you speak of."

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Bending smoothly from the waist to accept the rose, Jack let his grin broaden slightly. "Ah, and you have sisters! The universe is truly a generous place." The swordsman's light, amused tone made it clear that the plant controller was free to take his shameless flirting only as seriously as she cared to. As he slipped the stem of the flower into a button hole on his royal blue greatcoat, his expression turned a little more sober. "I know it's awful of me to ask, but no sense dancing around the issue. Just what are you, Miss Willow?"

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The vines crawled off of Willow's arm, sauntered over to a corner of the yard and planted itself. "The Olympians gave us the name dryad," she quietly answered, "and it stuck. I suppose it's because we didn't have a name for ourselves, just a title, Guardian." Willow frowned slightly as she looked up into cloud filled night sky, a far off expression on her face. "The further back I try to remember, the more broken it gets. I mean, I don't remember who gave us that title, that task, but I remember having it."

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Jack was quiet for several long moment, letting the white haired woman be alone with her thoughts and the light background ambiance of the rain. Eventually be began conversationally, "I actually talked to an Olympian once, in this very yard. She... was kinda skanky, honestly." He made a show of shrugging helplessly, then offered Willow a smaller grin. "Hey, good news is we can always use more guardians around here," he noted brightly, gesturing vaguely to the city past the brownstone building and its surrounding fence. "So no frowning!"

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Willow grinned and chuckled at the swordmaster, "Most of them were. My sisters and I, we tried to resist subjugation but the Olympians proved too powerful." She shook her head slightly and the rose almost dislodged from her behind her ear until its stem curled around forming a living earcuff. "You're very sweet Jack. I appreciate the welcome you gave me, and for making a cold night just a bit warmer."

The dryad leaned against the tree, shoulder nearly touching the metamagi's. "Sister Oak likes you too and wonders, as I wonder, if it would be alright to find my rest here on a more permanent basis."

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"Well, that can't be right," Jack scoffed with exaggerated perturbation. "I'm well known as an absolute cad and bounder, just ask anyone." He cast a quizzical glance up at the branches of the tree shielding them from the rain. He wasn't entirely convinced that 'Sister Oak' was capable of holding opinions or expressing inquiries, but he supposed it would hardly be the strangest thing he'd seen, and Willow seemed to be in a position to know. "I think that could be arranged," he nodded with a small smile. The brownstone had been secured partly with the intent of providing semi-permanent housing for those of Freedom's protectors who would otherwise be disenfranchised, and there didn't seem to be any great reason the yard couldn't serve the same purpose. "You could even come inside sometimes if you felt like it."

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"If your friends, the ones you say that own this building, do not mind then I could be persuaded," Willow quietly responded though her expression appeared hopeful and eager. The dryad couldn't remember the last time she had actually been indoors much less been in the company of more than one person at the time. That last thought stuck with Willow and reminded her of just how lonely life has been these recent centuries. "Maybe this would be a good place to put down roots," she murmured to herself.

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Jack blinked twice, trying to decide whether or not he'd heard the dryad correctly. "Place to put down...?" Trailing off, he made a short, snorting sound that rapidly devolved into a soft chuckle and then into resonant laughter as he lifted his chin and rested the back of his masked head against the tree's truck. It took a few moments for him to get himself under control before he was able to speak, giving the coppery toned woman a broad, toothy grin. "Miss Willow, I think we're going to get along."

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Willow found herself laughing with Jack, the swordsman's humor having an infectious quality to it. "The pun was unintentional," she said when she could trust herself to speak again without giggling, "Though I suppose all meanings of the phrase could apply, or should apply. Mmmmm." The dryad trailed off and was silent for several heartbeats. "I'm glad, Jack," she said after a while, her voice quiet, "getting along is important to me. I don't exactly have the best track record with humanity, I truly wish I could take back some of the things I have done."

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"Well, here's the good news," the fencer replied, giving Willow a small, wry shrug. "Having regrets actually gives you something in common with humanity." Jack was briefly reminded of his run-in with Xipe Totec and other ancient beings who had unfortunate ideas about how best to guard the mortal population, and he got the impression that in her younger years the dryad may have fallen into that category. "Course, another thing you've got in common is that you'll keep getting chances to make new decisions you'll be happier with. Me, I'm a live in the moment kinda guy."

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"Not used to that, having something in common with humanity," Willow admitted, then cocked her head to the side before adding, "or living in the moment. Are you sure that's wise, Jack?" The dryad quirked an eyebrow at the swordsman, a look of concern creeping across her features as she studied him. "I mean you don't actually live in the moment, you live in the future your past created. Well OK I suppose you do live in the moment but you know what I mean, I hope."

"I suppose I mean you should be mindful of your actions, dear swordmaster, and the future it creates. Long term thinking comes easily to one such as I, but I am sure a noble defender such as yourself has some perspective."

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