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And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.

-Revelations 6.1, King James Version

June 1, 2011

8 AM

Mark stood in his dorm room, peering out the window at the junior students working to set up the stage, folding seats, banners, and other paraphernalia of a Claremont graduation. Mike had already moved his stuff out, leaving a hollow space on one side of the room. The Class of 2011 was just a couple of hours from graduation; he was just about to finish high school. He didn't feel quite as triumphant as he'd once thought he would. Maybe it was because he was alone; he'd have a few cousins in the crowd, but neither Rick nor Martha Lucas had made any sign of coming to their son's graduation. They'd made no sign at all of where they'd gone, just a month earlier, and made no sign of coming back. His parents were gone. And worse, it looked like he'd be going too: he was happy about the thought of working with UNISON, and loved the idea of going to Africa to work for people who needed the kind of help most superheroes couldn't give them. But it still meant going away from the city that had been his home his whole life, from the friends and extended family he'd known for so long.

He checked his watch, then gathered up his bundle of graduation stuff (just so he wouldn't lose it), and decided to head upstairs to where at least one friend would probably be. He figured this was one night she probably hadn't spent at Trevor's. Amid the hustle and bustle of his fellow students getting ready for graduation, Mark knocked on Erin's door. How many more times am I going to do this?, he asked himself. Not many. No one I know will be living here soon! That thought was soothing enough to relax him, at least for the moment. He wasn't really good at dwelling on things for long, not even on a big day like this. They were all moving on, after all, and surely the always-prepared Erin had more in mind for the future than he did.

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Corbin couldn't help but get caught up in the energy of the day. He might not be graduating, but he had friends who were.He suddenly paused in his efforts to put in an extra couple rows of chairs.

'Not a year ago, I knew no one here, had a mopey attitude about the whole thing, and I'd barely started hero-ing. Now, I'm slated to become one of the senior members of next year's Young Freedom, and I'm friends with a lot of these seniors. Huh. Go figure.'

A small smile on his face, he continued placing chairs until the row was complete. Then, he wandered over to one side, surveying the area, trying to see if he was needed elsewhere.

'I hope they like their graduation gifts from me...' he worried self-consciously.

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"Come on in." Mark stepped in to find Erin seated at her desk, sorting through some school papers. Alex's side of the room was totally cleared out now, and Erin's would be very soon. Erin had more stuff now than she'd had when she arrived at Claremont two years ago. Back then, all her worldly possessions had fit into a dufflebag and a half-full knapsack. Now that she'd moved up in the world, all her worldly possessions fit into her duffle bag, an entirely full knapsack, and a medium sized packing box that mostly held Oliver's stuff.

The room looked like it had when they'd moved in, with perhaps a few more thumbtack holes in the walls, and a very small kittyscratched area in one corner of the carpet. Erin hadn't been able to sleep last night, so the cleaning was already done, and the whole place smelled like Windex and Endust. "Hey," she said, giving Mark a tired sort of smile. "You all ready for this?"

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"As ready as I'll ever be," said Mark with a little smile. He looked tired, and more careworn that Erin had ever expected to see Mark, but he was obviously over the extreme stress he'd been feeling over the last few months. Or at least he was doing a good job of hiding it; you could never quite tell with Mark. Truthfully, he couldn't tell you himself. "I'm graduating from high school alongside my best friends; it's gotta be a good day, right? Wow, you've really done a lot of work," he complimented, very impressed as he walked in. "I haven't even done half this much...I was going to get it done over the rest of the week," he admitted. "I spent the whole weekend with Peter, my UNISON rep, making plans for my trip out to Mozango. Did you and Trevor do anything over the holiday?" he asked.

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Trevor Hunter pulled the long black car into the Claremont campus smoothly, heading toward a reserved parking space. His grandfather sat in the back of the classic vehicle, holding his cane between his knees with both hands as he looked out the window. It was the first time Travis had seen the school in person, though Trevor had no doubt the elderly mystery man had done all the research required to navigate its grounds as if he'd studied there himself. Fortunately aside from the young man's rather intimidating reputation among the student body, only a few knew his specific powerset and an even smaller number were aware of his chosen codename. Of those, only the peers he trusted implicitly knew of his specific connection to the original Midnight; in short, Travis was able to attend with relative anonymity.

"Big day," the elder man noted quietly as Trevor parked the car and turned off the engine. The youth murmured softly in agreement, and that was the extend of the verbal exchange between them. Even that much, however, was enough for Travis to convey his pride, and Trevor smiled faintly as he got out of the vehicle and moved to open the door for his grandfather.

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"Not really," Erin told Mark with a shrug, "I've been too busy with everything else. Finals and trying to get a job nailed down, all that stuff. I still haven't got a place, so I'm going to be staying over with him for the next few days." She shrugged, smiling a little ruefully. "Figure I'll be able to relax a little more after all this is done with anyway, right? And Oliver is excited to be able to check that whole huge house for any mice running around." She hesitated a moment, then asked, "So, any sign of your folks?"

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"No," said Mark, shaking his head. He looked away for just a half-second, then back at Erin with that same half-smile. "If they can't make it, they can't make it. I'm...I'm just telling myself that that's their problem, and not mine." Of course, it might mean something bad had happened to them, wherever it was they'd gone. What did it say that some terrible accident was the best choice for him to think about? "This is my day, and my friends' day, and I'm not going to let...to let bad stuff ruin it. Friends to the end, right?"

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"Absolutely," Erin agreed with feeling. "You're never alone so long as you've got your friends." Corny as Mark's favorite saying was, on a day like today, it resonated with her. "Anyway, it's getting the diploma that matters, not whether anybody comes to see you get it. Graduations are boring anyway." She shrugged, half-smiled. "Trevor's grandpa is coming, I know, and there'll be some other parents in the audience, but I think it's going to be mostly a school crowd. Alex checked, cause she wanted to know if she could talk about powers and stuff in her address. She's really excited." There'd been no real question who the class valedictorian would be, but it was still an honor for Erin's petite roommate.

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Outside, Quo-Dis was pitching in alongside Corbin, the tall, muscular girl easily keeping pace with all but the super-strong students as she manhandled seats into position and jumping up to do soundchecks with the mic. When no one was looking too closely, she leaned over and gave Corbin a kiss on the cheek while he worked. "Just think, in only one more year, we will be the ones leaving Claremont forever." She didn't look too displeased at the process. "And I am sure they will like it," she added in a murmur. "You may be a new member of the team, but you are still their friend. The things you do with pencils and ink are good things," she added.

Upstairs, Mark nodded, relaxing at Erin's words. "She should be, with all the work she put in to get here. And she's not the only one!" Mark had certainly worked harder his senior year than he ever had before, balancing his difficult personal life with his academic requirements, not to mention his busy work as a superhero. Erin, though, had put in a lot more than he ever had to get where she was."I guess we should go out and see who all is out,"" he suggested, peering out into the busy corridor. "Is anybody coming out from Seattle?" he asked her, not wanting to raise the difficult subject of her family.

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Erin shook her head, even as she rose to pick up her robe and mortarboard where they were spread out on her bed. "The other Erin's graduation party is this weekend," she told Mark. "They sent me a card, it was nice." She shrugged one shoulder for the lack, having long since accustomed herself to the fact that there would be no one for her in the audience at graduation. Oliver butted his head against her thigh, and she gave him one more pat before following Mark out into the hallway. "Trevor should be here soon, he was going to pick up his grandpa before everything started."

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Outside, Quo-Dis was pitching in alongside Corbin, the tall, muscular girl easily keeping pace with all but the super-strong students as she manhandled seats into position and jumping up to do soundchecks with the mic. When no one was looking too closely, she leaned over and gave Corbin a kiss on the cheek while he worked. "Just think, in only one more year, we will be the ones leaving Claremont forever." She didn't look too displeased at the process. "And I am sure they will like it," she added in a murmur. "You may be a new member of the team, but you are still their friend. The things you do with pencils and ink are good things," she added.
Corbin blushed a tiny bit at the kiss, but Quo-Dis could tell it was because they were in a fairly public setting. Thankfully, his maroon shirt helped disguise the blush a bit.

"Hn. Well, there's a thought for sure. Only a year left. It's a wonderful, terrible thought, at least for me. I mean, this place has given me so much, not the least being, well, you my dear."

Feeling suddenly bold, he leaned over and gave her a kiss on her cheek.

"So I'm going to miss the good times here. But I also know there's so much more out there. So many wonderful things to see and do."

'Perhaps, one day, a family to build...'

"As for the gifts...well, shucks. I guess I do pretty good work, yeah. My parents tried to raise me so I took pride in any work done with my own efforts, be it my mind or my own two hands. I like to think I do good work with these hands."

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Today was one of the few days Eve drove herself to Claremont, she knew that after the ceremony was over she'd want to drive somewhere. Where that particular place was, she wasn't quite sure yet but she knew she simply wanted to drive. She was happy for her friends, to be sure, and Oliver was right, she would still be friend with them long after they left Claremont. But the young Martel would miss not seeing them on a daily basis.

These were the thoughts filling the telepath's head as she pulled into a parking space a few cars down from a stately black vehicle. She cut the engine, the throaty purr of the vehicle dying. As Eve stepped from the car she spotted Trevor. Tucking a lock of snow white hair behind her ear, she walked over.

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As he held the car door open for his grandfather, Trevor saw his diminutive friend approaching and gave her a small wave and an uncharacteristically warm smile under his concealing sunglasses. "Eve," he greeted, closing the door behind Travis and stepping around the car to place one hand lightly over the snowy haired telepath's shoulders, "Like you to meet my grandfather. Gramps, Eve Martel, one of my best friends."

Travis followed his grandson out from between the parked cars, leaning heavily on his polished black cane with one hand and absently stroking his stately greying goatee with the other as he regarded the young woman. "Ah, yes. Believe I knew your... great aunt," the elderly man noted with an amiable nod to Eve, the faint ghost of a smile touching his features. "Fine woman. Trust you're keeping Trevor out of trouble?"

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Quo-Dis winked at him, and replied with an intense series of images describing what she planned to do with those hands later. She was socially adept enough these days to know that kind of talk (in public, anyway) bothered her boyfriend, but that certainly didn't silence her mind. "Don't make plans for the future yet," she did say out loud, laying one long finger across his lips. "Let the people who'll live forever do that." She smiled at him. "Live in the moment, Corbin. You never know what the future will bring." And with that, she pitched in with him to continue working, from her smile enjoying the way her thoughts of throwing him down on the stage were keeping him occupied!

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"She was the best of us, Mr. Hunter. She is what we all aspire to be," the telepath replied, voice quiet as she returned the older Hunter's faint smile. She glanced up at Trevor and grinned at the last question. "Does Trevor even get in trouble?" she asked, laughing. "You've raised a good man, Mr. Hunter. It's truly been a pleasure to have known Trevor this past year."

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Quo-Dis winked at him, and replied with an intense series of images describing what she planned to do with those hands later. She was socially adept enough these days to know that kind of talk (in public, anyway) bothered her boyfriend, but that certainly didn't silence her mind. "Don't make plans for the future yet," she did say out loud, laying one long finger across his lips. "Let the people who'll live forever do that." She smiled at him. "Live in the moment, Corbin. You never know what the future will bring." And with that, she pitched in with him to continue working, from her smile enjoying the way her thoughts of throwing him down on the stage were keeping him occupied!
Corbin blushed rather noticeably at the images.

"You're an impossible woman sometimes. And I love you all the more for it. But you're right. Today isn't about us. It's about our friends who are taking the next step. The ones who have paved the way."

The towering young man coughed, adjusted his shirt a bit, fiddled with his belt a bit, then got back to work, their task nearly done.

'My my. You are a naughty girl. Try to reign it in, Quo-Dis. There are a couple of psychics here at the school.'

Then again, he wasn't screaming in complete protest, either.

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With a deep, baritone laugh that was surprisingly open for the reserved young man, Trevor gave Eve a brief one-armed hug, tightening the arm on her shoulder for a moment. "It's good to hear your voice," he told his considerably shorter friend before adding across their telepathic rapport,

For his part, Travis seemed faintly bemused by the open show of affection on his grandson's part, though not displeased. "So I keep hearing. Pleased my rearing skills have improved, but growing concerned about his ego," he noted in a crisp deadpan. Raising his cane for a moment, he gestured toward the campus proper. "Come on, can't let an old man stand all day, hm?"

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Mark headed downstairs, graduation bundle still under his arm as he and Erin walked out into the busy quad where the juniors were just about finished setting up. Waving a friendly hello over at Corbin by the stage, who stuck up a lot higher than the typical high school kid, he sighed a little. "I'll go say hi to Trevor and his grandpa," he said, keeping himself cheery, "then go see if my cousin is up from Florida yet. I like Mr. Hunter," he commented as they walked through the growing crowd of students and families. "He seems like a nice guy to have in the family."

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"He is nice," Erin said awkwardly, not sure exactly where Mark was going with that thought. She was saved by actually catching sight of the two distinguished Hunter gentlemen on the other side of the graduation buntings. "Hey, they're over there," she told Mark, leading him over to the others. Today she was wearing the same outfit she'd bought for job interviews, so at least she looked decent even without the cap and gown on.

As they caught up with the group, Erin gave Travis a smile and a polite nod, then slipped her hand into Trevor's. It was a gesture she might not normally have made in public and on campus, but today was an unusual day. Leaving was hard. "Hi Eve," she said with another smile to the slight telepath. "Looks like we'll have good weather today."

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Trevor tousled Eve's white hair slightly as he removed one hand from her shoulder and took Erin's in the other, giving his girlfriend's fingers a light squeeze. The young man was struck for a moment by how surrounded he was by friends and family, and more, that this did not generate any feelings of unfamiliarity or unease. In the past year, he realized, he had not just grown, but built a life, a place to belong. It was a good feeling.

"Erin, Mr. Lucas," Travis greeted briskly. "I believe congratulations are in order."

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"Thank you, sir," said Mark with the sort of respectful politeness you used with your friend's grandpa. His awesome superhero grandpa, that is. "It's been a long road, but we're all glad to be at the end of it." He grinned, and clapped Trevor on the shoulder. "I know I wouldn't have made it this far if not for your grandson here." Truthfully, he felt a little better just seeing the elder Midnight there, knowing that the older generation hadn't abandoned them after all. "Hey Eve," he said with a little nod her way. "How's it going?"

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Eve chuckled and brushed a hand back through her chin length hair, silently thankful that she had decided long ago to keep it as short as she did. "Well enough Mark," the telepath said with a smile. "Though I really am going to miss not seeing you around campus. All of you. This past year has taught me so much."

Clasping her hands behind her back, the telepath took a half step to her left so she could face all of her friends directly. "You're all more than my friends," she started to say in her quiet soprano "You're family."

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"Thank you," Erin told Travis politely, her smile a little more real than it might have been a few weeks ago. She still had a lot to prove to Trevor's grandfather, but she no longer worried quite so much about his potential disapproval, and that made things a lot more comfortable. "This isn't the end," she told Sage, her words almost echoing Oliver's, for all she didn't speak to the cat that way. "We'll still be in town, we'll still be around. Even Mark can teleport back whenever he wants to. Nobody's really going away."

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"Go over and talk to them," Quo-Dis urged Corbin, giving him a solid punch on the arm when she caught him looking at his Young Freedom buddies over on one side of the quad. "Star and I can finish up here just fine, and those are your friends and comrades in battle. Who knows when you'll have a chance to talk to them soon, as busy as they're going to be today and this weekend." She grinned. "They'll need me to do the sound check and height check for Alex Albright anyway, so I won't be going anywhere. I'll be here when you get back, I promise."

Mark stared at Eve, tilting his head in incomprehension for a moment. "Hey...hey you can talk! You can talk!" He unthinkingly swept his little friend up in a big bearhug, a look of joy on his face. "Oh man, that's wonderful! How did that happen?" he asked, full of a million questions. "Was it Dr. Marquez? Because I've been seeing him a lot lately, and he does great therapy. Wow! That's great! I can't believe you can talk!" He set her down, looking really happy. "Man...do your folks know? Does Faith?"

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Corbin mock-rubs the spot Quo-Dis had punched, a grin on his face.

"My my, so rough, darling?"

He lifts her hand to his mouth and delivers a gentle kiss.

"You are, as is nearly always the case, so very right. But fear not! Your brave knight shall not wander far!"

With an exaggerated flourish, he spun in place and started walking over to the gathering of his friends. A smile was beaming on his face. His voice nearly boomed across the area as he greeted them.

"Hey guys! Erin! Trevor! Mark! Congratulations! Eve, nice to see you again. And, uh...I don't believe we've met, sir. I'm Corbin. Corbin Alphonse Hughes. I've had the pleasure of being classmates with your grandson and the rest of this motley crew."

He thought at Eve as he spoke.

~Is he "in the know"? Don't wanna bust the secret out, even if it's a stupid question whether he is or not.~

Externally, he continued to speak, his volume at a normal level by this point.

"Oh! Don't let me forget, I kind of have some graduation gifts. And, uh, Eve, I made one for you, too. Actually, I made it for you four, and Alex and Mike as well. Something to remember the good times by, I hope."

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