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A Briefing With Friends (IC)

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July 28th, 2012

Hughes Residence, North Bay, Freedom City

It was just after 11 in the morning, and Corbin was actually pacing a bit nervously at his home's front door. His parents were out for the day, having one of their many "date days", and had told him to not make a mess but otherwise he was welcome to have friends over.

He'd decided to take a mild risk and opt for another double-date. The last one had been....unique, but this time he figured he had a few things in favor. He and Quo-Dis were more comfortable and established, the whole setting was less formal, and Erin and Trevor were two of the most unflappable people he'd met. He doubted Quo-Dis could phase them terribly after being around Mark for several years.

Still, it felt slightly odd having people over like this; this house was definitely bigger than what they'd had in St. Louis, though it was a bit more modest than some of the oldest ones in the area. More than that, he just generally didn't have people over; not because he didn't want to, but because it never seemed the "right time".

'Well, we're all high school graduates now, and we know each other pretty well. Besides, I've had Blake stay here a few nights here and there, and Quo-Dis certainly stays often enough...'

His pacing eased, but he was still just a bit nervous.

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Right on time, a familiar blue pickup swung into the driveway, parking neatly behind Corbin's own vehicle. Though she'd been up all night on an overnight shift at HAX, Erin's relentless metabolism meant that she was still perfectly awake and would be for another day or so. She'd taken the time to shower and change into jeans and a nice blouse before picking Trevor up and heading out to Corbin's for what was sure to be an... interesting afternoon.

"I still don't know Quo-Dis very well," Erin admitted as she stopped the car, glancing over at Trevor in the passenger seat. "I mean, I knew her at school, sort of, but not very well. She and Corbin must be pretty serious by now."

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Quo-Dis had arrived early for the festivities and was busy getting dressed in Corbin's room upstairs, where she'd left enough of her things that she generally didn't have to pack a bag when she did stay overnight. "Corbin," she called downstairs when she was done, "I see them coming up the drive! And I am finished dressing!" She had, after some persuasion, recently started calling him simply by his name. She didn't walk down the stairs, she flew, literally; her red velvet evening gown not quite reaching the floor as she hovered in the air, blonde hair in almost Germanic pigtails down her back. The crimson-colored outfit would have impeded the mobility of a woman without super-strength and the ability to fly; as it was she was at eye level with her boyfriend when she reached them. "What do you think about how I look?" Corbin knew damn well how she felt about him lying about her appearance.

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"Probably won't be serpent assassins," Trevor noted encouragingly, shrugging slightly as he exited the pickup. He couldn't say he'd ever exchanged more than a few words with Quo-Dis himself but he supposed he couldn't say that about very many people in the first place. Still, although she'd been careful not to betray Corbin's confidence, he'd gotten the impression from Eve that the recent graduate had been feeling uncertain about his friendships of late and he suspected the get-together meant a lot to their host. Straightening the cuffs of his pale blue shirt absently, he offered Erin his arm before heading toward the door.

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Corbin chose not to tell Quo-Dis that she was a touch over-dressed; she'd settled on the dress, it looked fine, and his friends were here. Also, his brain was busy fully rebooting after her question. He blinked, then gave her a 120-watt smile.

"Darlin', I would say you look magnificently gorgeous, but that's an everyday thing for you. So we'll go with "stupendously beautiful"."

His mind was open, and no lie was detected. He leaned down a bit to give her a quick peck on the cheek. He straightened up just before Trevor and Erin reached the door. A moment later they knocked, and he pulled the door open wide (deftly maneuvering so that Quo-Dis ended up on his right side) with a grin and a flourish.

"Trevor! Erin! Glad you could make it, it's great to see you guys. Come in, come in!"

He waved them inside and closed the door, turning back to his guests. He nodded to Quo-Dis as he stepped to her side again.

"Quo-Dis and I are so happy you could come. Big parties can be fun, but after the 4th we're ready for something a bit more informal. So how have you two been? I haven't seen you since Eve's party. Feels like this time of year is a bit crazy and it's hard to catch up with anyone. Blake's been busy with school and his plans, so I've basically just kept busy spending time with this lovely lady and fighting crime. Oh, and working on that little side project Trevor lent me a hand on a while back."

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"Yeah, I guess that's true," Erin allowed, sliding her arm comfortably through Trevor's. She walked with him to the door, and wasn't surprised when their ring of the bell was answered within a fraction of a second. "Hey Corbin, it's nice to see you," she told her friend with a smile. "Quo Dis..." Erin took a good look at Corbin's girlfriend and noticed that one of them had read the invitation entirely wrong. She sure hoped it wasn't her, because she wasn't about to put on evening wear on a Saturday morning when it was already ninety degrees outside. "Good to see you again too," she finished, trying to pass off the momentary oddness. "What side project is that?" she asked Corbin.

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"Welcome to our home," said Quo-Dis, shaking Erin's hand and then Trevor's with a powerful grip. She was definitely hovering, her dress floating loose beneath her and nearly as tall as Corbin. "Yes, ah, it's been a very busy couple of weeks for all of us," said Quo-Dis, shooting a momentary look at Corbin with unaccustomed hesitation before gesturing for the others to come into the house. Come to think of it, Quo-Dis had been away for a couple of days recently..."Corbin tells me that you recently were empowered by all-embracing waves of cosmic vril," the girl added to Erin in what seemed like a hostess' style. "Is that...going well for you?"

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"Protective vault," Trevor explained to Erin, lightly tapping his ring finger just below the knuckle by way of clarification. "One does not simply walk into it, hopefully." He didn't go into any more detail and hadn't brought the project up before but there really wasn't any reason to keep its mere existence a secret; Erin already knew Corbin had been hunting down the counterparts to his own power source with the intention of safeguarding them.

Turning back to their host, he nodded shallowly. "Busy, yes. Finished exams for first year," he offered. If he was at all surprised by Quo-Dis' attire he characteristically wasn't showing it.

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"Yeah, Trevor and Nick have been big helps. I've had to dip into some funds my parents set up for me, but they know what it's for, so they don't' mind too much. If there's one lesson I learned from Young Freedom, it's to try and always be prepared.

Glad to hear classes went well this year."

Corbin just assumed Trevor basically aced everything; it seemed a safe stance to take.

"I'm starting up at Freedom City University's History program in the fall. I've managed to test out of a couple of the basic electives, so it'll be a light semester. More time for hero work and all that."

He walked and talked, taking a moment to discretely point out few rooms on their way to the dining area.

"So, Erin, I've heard you got a job working for a dynamite new technology company. How's work going there?"

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Erin blinked a little at the question from Quo-Dis. Nobody had phrased it quite that way before, and she wasn't entirely sure what vril was, but she got the general idea. "Um, pretty good," she ventured. "Still getting a handle on the new abilities, but it's going pretty well. So, ah, what have you been up to this summer?"

She was somewhat relieved when they headed towards the dining room quickly. Small talk wasn't her strong suit, and she didn't know Quo-dis well enough to make much more than that yet. Why did it seem like Erin met most of her real friends during potentially-fatal situations, rather than at parties or school like normal people? She shrugged that off to answer Corbin. "Yeah, I'm working at HAX, Halloman Advanced Experts. She hired me as head of security, which was a pretty big leap, but it's working out pretty well so far. I thought I'd be disappointed about not working for the Freedom League, but it turns out it's nice to not spend every day fighting supervillains and traveling the world. I kind of appreciate all the boring moments," she admitted with a quick smile.

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"I, uh, have an announcement to make about work as well," said Quo-Dis suddenly, the forthright Ultiteen looking almost chagrined for a moment as she hovered in the air. "The Champions, one of the super-teams organized through the state of California, have...made me an offer of membership. They have been soliciting younger members in recent years and they felt I was appropriate for their needs." Tall, blonde, and gorgeous, with an athlete's body, impressive strength and low-level telepathy, it wasn't hard to guess why Quo-Dis had been a natural potential recruit for the San Francisco-based team. "I am sorry, Corbin Hughes," she added as they floated into the dining room, "I should have told you earlier, but the time was not right. I...I will go gather the food," she added, turning to fly into the kitchen.

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Corbin had slowed as Quo-Dis started to speak, curious about her "announcement". He knew she'd been somewhat quieter the last few days, and apparently this was the explanation.

'Maybe she's going to be trying out a local unive-'

His thoughts ground to a halt when she first said she'd been scouted by a super-group in California, then said that she was "sorry", and that the time "hadn't been right" before just now. He tried to understand just what she meant by "I am sorry". He hoped beyond anything it meant "I'm sorry I won't be staying in town all the time", and not what he feared it meant. He stood still as she went into the kitchen, before slowly looking at his two friends, an expression of shock on his face.

"She...I mean, that's not totally bad, right? We can both fly, and there's telephones and stuff. Right, guys?"

The desperation was palpable in his words.

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Erin blinked a few times, absorbing the sudden shift in topic and mood. She looked at Corbin for a moment and tried to come up with something reassuring. She knew only too well how far away the West Coast was from Freedom City. "I guess Mark would probably give you a ride whenever you wanted to go out and visit," she offered. "And well, she hasn't said for sure that she accepted, just that they offered. People go away to college all the time, right? This wouldn't be that much different." Her note of optimism rang a bit false, partially because it wasn't the attitude Erin normally projected, but she was certainly trying.

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Seated at the table, Trevor's head tilted slightly to one side as Quo-Dis exited, his eyes beginning to squeeze shut involuntarily behind the oval lenses of his sunglasses as if in response to a sudden massive headache. His silence gave the announcement time to sink in and distress to play across Corbin's face and for Erin to offer what encouragement she could muster. For his part, Trevor had never been any good at handling these sorts of situations; as much as he kept up appearances at high society events from time to time he didn't have much experience in displays of emotion. When the gap after Erin's words had gotten long and awkward enough that it was clear he had to some something, he straightened his neck and quietly offered, "That's rough."

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"Or I can just learn how to fly faster, maybe. But you're right, college happens all the time."

He gave them both a small smile.

"Thanks, guys. I'll...I'll be right back. I'm going to go help her prep the food."

With that, Corbin strode into the kitchen, leaving Erin and Trevor alone in the casual dining room, looking out over the lawn (which was admittedly pretty bland at the moment). The young man was quickly caught up with Quo-Dis, and for a moment he just silently went to washing his hands and helping her put the food together. Finally, he spoke up softly.

"So. Recruited for a super-team, huh? Pretty impressive; I haven't gotten any offers yet, though I've sorta stayed low-profile for the last year. Um. Look. I don't think this is as bad as either of us seems to be thinking it is. Or treating it. Or however. I mean-"

He turns to look at his lady love.

"We've both got phones with video chat features. And we can both fly. I can't fly super-fast yet, but that's only because I haven't really had to push myself yet. I bet I could figure out how to make it from here to Cali in 20 minutes if you gave me a week. I mean, we wouldn't see each other every day, but I bet we could meet up at least once a week, you know? It...it's not like it was, but we can totally make it work."

He stepped forward, unconsciously reaching out to gently take hold of one of her hands.

"I mean, that's what we both want, right?"

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She squeezed his hands so tight a lesser man would have flinched, took a deep breath, then sighed. "So you are ready for me to...I was hoping you would come with me," she added. "You have so few years left, Corbin, and I don't want to miss any of them. Eighty years can slip by so fast, even for a human being." She touched his face, then released his hands, going over to gather up the plates of cold cuts she'd set out earlier. "We should at least be pair-bonded according to your religious teachings to seal the occasion before I leave.' Come, let's talk to our friends some more." She smiled sunnily and flew back into the dining room. "I have prepared food for our meal! Corbin helped." She set the plate of unfamiliar meats and cheeses on the table, proudly indicating each.

"There is elk, crocodile, capybara, buffalo meats, and blaak, appenzeller, maron, and charouse cheese. There are so many different things to eat and I wanted to make sure you had many of them." She beamed at Corbin as he entered, taking a seat opposite the others. "Corbin felt you would not like the balut, and I think that is probably right."

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"Yeah, I wasn't just going to ditch you because you were heading to the other coast, not when that's not as big of a barrier as some might say. Not for us. As for "so few years", we'll just have to see. Maybe I'll stick around longer than you think, just to show you up!"

He gave her a wink as he gathered up the tray of buns, as well as grabbing a couple of bags of chips, and snagging the two cola bottles with blue fire-hands. He wasn't far behind his girlfriend, eyeing the meat tray with a bit of curiosity and a lot of hunger. He set everything down carefully, before starting to head back into the kitchen, talking as he walked.

"Save me a bit of each, at least. I want to try them all. Just gotta get the ice and glasses. Trevor, Erin, if you guys don't want either of the sodas I brought out, just let me kno-WAIT A SECOND!"

The sudden exclamation came out of nowhere, before in a flare of blue light (that damaged nothing), Corbin was standing in front of Quo-Dis, lightly gripping her shoulders as he stared into her eyes, his own wide and manic.

"Just a minute ago. Did you...did you just ask me to marry you?"

The boy doesn't sound angry, but he does seem rather befuddled. Probably not a totally foreign expression to his apparent fiancee.

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Erin had turned her attention from relationship drama to the dangers of lunch, and was eying the bizarre spread with some distrust when Corbin suddenly cried out and teleported in a burst of flames. In an instant, she was back on alert, halfway out of her chair before she realized there was no actual threat. She glanced over at Trevor, raising an uncomfortable eyebrow, before looking at their hosts. "Um, you guys sound like you might need to talk this out some more. We could catch up with you another time?"

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Quo-Dis looked horrified at the sight of her lunch plans crumbling to so much ash and smoke. "No, no, it'll be fine," she said, shooting a look at Corbin. "We'll talk about that later. I am already sure what you will say anyway. Right now we should all enjoy our lunch!" she said brightly. "I'm sorry you didn't like the meats," she added, smoothly scooping up the tray. "I tried to be exotic, but maybe I overdid it just a little." Oh well, more capybara for me! she thought to Corbin as she turned and floated back into the kitchen. "I'll be back out with the nachos and the sociable snacks you suggested in a moment, Corbin!"

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"Wait! I wanted to try the meat!"

Corbin sighed and sat down in his chair. He ran a hand over his face and gave Trevor and Erin a rueful smile.

"One of these days I'll figure out that there's no such thing as "average" or "normal" in life. For anyone. Anyways...Nachos are always fun."

He shifted awkwardly in his seat. It was clear he was still a bit shocked by some of todays revelations, but his expression made it clear he was desperate to have more friends around. Not so much that he suddenly didn't want to be around Quo-Dis, but that he wanted a little more variety.

And maybe some friendly support?

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"No, still exceptionally strange and uncomfortable," Trevor corrected. Certainly their line of work brought about unusual situations on a day to day basis, but it wouldn't do to have Corbin's frame of reference skewed by platitudes, not when he was dealing with important decisions. Thinking back to the business with Madrigal and her Hounds, he considered. "Aware we beat up her father once? Could get it out of the way, balance social impropriety?" Generally in high society the only way for one person to get over an embarrassment was for the attention to be pulled onto someone else and their own indiscretions. It wasn't the reserved young man's first choice but it had the virtue of being relatively direct.

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"Did we beat up Quo-dis's father?" Erin asked, distracted for a moment by trying to remember who of the many villains they'd fought might have been close to Quo-dis. Surely no one recently? She pulled her attention back onto the topic at hand. "Just because she's going away for awhile doesn't mean you have to do anything crazy like get married," she reminded Corbin. "You're both still really young," and here there was a tentative note in her voice, since Quo-dis was quite old by some standards, "and you shouldn't rush into anything you're not ready for. She might not even understand what she's asking you to get into."

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"You guys beat up Superior? Wait, how did you know who her dad was?"

He ran a hand through his hair.

"I...I dunno, Erin. I mean, I'm not totally repelled by the idea. Honestly kind of the opposite. But...I mean, yeah. I'm just now out of high school. I'd like a bit more time before taking that step. I plan to keep our relationship going. Maybe we can just make it a long engagement or something?"

He stared at the ceiling, trying to process all the feelings rolling around in his head, and only having some success.

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In the kitchen, Quo-Dis set the meat down on the cutting board and studied it for a long moment before her eyes glowed yellow. With a slow, wicked sizzle, the animal flesh flash-fried into smokeless dry ash within seconds beneath the power of unleashed vril. She put her hands on the tiled counter before her and took several long, slow breaths; she didn't need to anymore than she needed to eat the food, but she found it very calming. I'm going upstairs to change, she thought to Corbin before she flew up the old servants' staircase into the upper floors, where she could find a T-shirt and jeans to wear.

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Corbin received the message and looked toward the kitchen, though he didn't catch a glimpse of Quo-Dis. He thought back almost immediately.

-Okay. I'll be here.-

There was a sincere double-meaning there, but it seemed the only words he could muster up. After sending them, he sighed and slumped in his chair, his eyes closed. He asked a question to no one in particular.

"Why is love never easy?"

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