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Picking Up the Spare (IC)


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October 7th


As rain fell in a light shower, a snow white Mercedes-Benz pulled into an empty parking space in the visitor's parking lot, windshield wipers drumming a slow beat before halt as the ignition is cut. The driver pushed the door up as the gull-wing door unlatched opened and a young woman in pair of worn blue jeans and an light pink sweater stepped out before making her way briskly towards the dorm Kristin had told her to head for, oddly enough a couple floors away from the one her little brother was on.

While waiting for the Australian Jennifer sat in a chair off to the side of the common room. She marveled at the students and their wide variety of meta-human powers as they rushed about on homework or setting up Halloween decorations. Man, every time I look around this school I wish the accident that gave me my powers had come a few years earlier, she thought.

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It was a slightly subdued Kristin that came downstairs to meet Jennifer. While she still smiled a greeting, and she definitely looked far more comfortable in faded jeans and a red Gold Coast Suns hoodie than she had in a dress, she definitely seemed less chirpy than her normal self.

It wasn't until she was seated in the passenger seat of Jen's car that the reason for that became clear. "Okay, I'm probably going to sound silly for a minute here," she said with a faintly embarrassed - and clearly nervous - smile. "So don't laugh at me. The other night when we tried to go to dinner..."

She paused and chewed on her bottom lip for a moment, then the words tumbled out in a rush. "Was that supposed to be a date? Is this a date?"

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Jen touched the ignition button after closing the door, thankful for the feature since the mild surprise of Kristin's question might have caused her to accidentally snap a normal key. Leaning back, she ran a hand through her hair before looking over at Kristin and after a brief hesitation asked, stomach performing nervous cartwheels, "Would that be a problem? I mean, I had considered the other night one until the explosions and the interior property damage." The African-American woman let the car idle, the sound of rain beating lightly on the windows the only sound in the vehicle.

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"No of course not!" Kristin blurted out hurriedly. "It's just that well.."

She paused again and her cheeks reddened as she looked away out the window. "Nobody ever really asked me on a date before," she said quietly. "Maybe I'm a bit dense. I mean, obviously it was a date. Dinner at a fancy restaurant is the most obvious date ever. I guess I just never even really thought you could possibly ever actually want to actually go on a date with me."

"Wow I totally almost stuttered." she said with an embarrassed chuckle. "Sorry, I'm kinda nervous. I'm not very good at this. I mean, on my first date I blew up a Church."

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Smiling at her friend, she put the car in gear and started navigating the roads towards the bowling alley she usually frequented. "Well, the C&C Club isn't just some fancy restaurant, it's kind of like a country club for people like us. But, that said, why wouldn't somebody want to go out with you? Aside from tabloid 'journalists' claiming you were dating El Heraldo."

Giving a slight chuckle of her own, "Nah, we just added a small extra layer of mess on top of what the religious zealots started. Besides, the exterior damage was fixed fairly quickly. Still, in all seriousness, I had fun on the way to the interruption and on the way back."

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Kristin chuckled. "You'd be surprised how many Claremonters actually read that tabloid rubbish! It sure doesn't help with getting dates when everybody seems to think that you're likely to knock down surrounding buildings on a moments notice completely by accident. I don't think too many people bought into the Heraldo thing though. But yeah, I guess the church thing wasn't so bad. Those guys are lucky I didn't know it was a date, I'd have hit them so much harder..."

She froze in her seat for a moment as something occurred to her. "Okay, so I totally took my clothes off in front of you on a first date!" she said in an embarrassed tone. "That is so not a first date thing to do. I'm obviously not very good at dating protocol so you're going to have to help me out here."

Despite that revelation she was clearly a little more relaxed to know where she stood, and a hint of her normal cheeky grin played across her face. "Like is it bad form to beat you by a hundred at bowling? Or do I have to go easy on you?"

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"Probably for the best you hadn't, those guys looked pretty wobbly when the police brought them out," Jen replied.

"Maybe it isn't a first date kind of action but to be fair, most of the protocols of which you speak were written by and intended for people who don't need to run into scenes like that to protect people and their property," she said. After a pause she added with a sly smirk, "Besides, I took off just as many clothes as you did to get into costume."

"Given how I did last time I went bowling, you've got good odds of beating me. I barely broke one-hundred last time, so yes, please go easy on me," she said smiling.

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Kristin chuckled a little. "I guess you did too," she said. "I was too busy trying to work out how to get your clothes to fit me to notice! Maybe I need someone else to explain the rules of dating too me then..."

She was similarly amused by Jen's admission that her bowling exploits were not exactly as impressive as some of her other pursuits. "Okay okay," she replied. "I'm not exactly good enough to hand out a crushing defeat anyway, I think I scored about 113 last time. Not too impressive at all. Maybe we should see if they'll stick the bumper-things up for us, see if we can make it to 150!"

She paused as another thought struck her. "Ooh better idea! We should make a bet on it! We both suck at bowling, it should be pretty close, how about we make it a proper challenge!?"

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"I'll see if there's anything in the bookstore, I think somebody once wrote a book about about dating heroes." After giving a contemplative sound she added, "I have a business thing in Washington on Friday so I'll have a few hours of plane ride so I'll rip through it then."

"Sadly these guys only let the bumper rails go up if you have anyone under ten with you. Owner's policy," she said. And in my case, when I do as poorly as last time it's less gutter balls and more a failure to pick up a spare."

Jen eyed her date for the evening, "What kind of challenge did you have in mind, pray tell? Low score pays for the next game?"

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Kristin shrugged and chewed on her lip as she thought for a second or two. "I hadn't thought out the details very well," she admitted. "Kind of an off-the-cuff suggestion. But how about we do best of three or best of five and pick something more interesting than money to bet?"

A devilish little grin crossed her face for a moment as she dug around in her bag for a moment and then produced her new learners permit with a flourish. "If I win I reckon I get to drive home!" she exclaimed as she brandished the little plastic card with delight. "I've had a few lessons already and I actually haven't even crashed into anything or killed anyone. Your car will be perfectly safe, I promise!"

"'Course if you're good enough to beat me you won't have to worry at all," she teased with another impish grin. "What would you bet against letting me drive?"

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"Best of three sounds good," Jennifer said pulling up on a building covered in a mural of a variety of severe weather. A neon sign at the top proclaimed the business to be Tornado Allies. "It's a terrible pun but when your parents name you Stormy Weathers, it's almost required."

As the doors rose, Jen reached into the back seat and grabbed a simple black bowling bag, "Well, worst case if there's trouble you can always lift the car, and us, out of danger." Walking up the stairs to the door, she looked over at Kristin, "So now, if you win you get to drive my car back... I think if I win, I get a kiss. Sound fair?"

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With her mouth already open to protest Jennifer's lack of faith in her driving ability, Kristin froze in place when the other girl named her half of the bet. "Well played," she admitted after a second or two. "I didn't even see that coming at all. But alright, you're on!"

Butterflies danced in her stomach as she followed her sneaky sneaky date up the stairs, but she did her best to ignore them and asked "Who calls a kid Stormy anyway?", then froze again as she got a good look at the bowling bag Jennifer carried. "Wait, you have your own bowling ball? You totally just sharked me didn't you?" she chuckled. "If you turn up and bowl like a three hundred after your whole 'I'm so bad at bowling' line I'm going to kick your butt!"

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"I wish I was good enough to have scored a perfect game. The best I've ever managed was a 'clean game' and even then most of that was from getting spares." Glancing at her bag she shrugged, "Honestly, it's more that I got tired of trying to find a good ball off the 'house rack' and renting shoes."

The pair were able to quickly reserve a lane, rent a pair of shoes for Kristin and set up the electronic displays. Kristin noticed the storms theme continued inside as well with the backdrop of the lanes designed to look like storming clouds, a flurry of snow, or a sandstorm depending on the lane. When a teen a few lanes further down threw a strike, a strobe light and sound effect like clapping thunder and howling rain emanated from the pin's resting area.

"Before we start, want to get a soda and something to snack on?"

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"Oh only a clean game!" Kristin groused in a tone that conveyed her amusement and dripped sarcasm at the same time. She didn't really mind overmuch - after all, as nervous as she was about the idea a kiss as the forfeit for losing sounded like a pretty nice consolation prize. Her competitive streak meant she certainly wasn't going to let Jennifer have it all her own way though. "I'm so changing your name on the scoreboard to 'sneaky Jenn' for a stitch-up like this! The moment your back is turned!"

She grinned again when Jennifer mentioned snacks, and chuckled "Do you really have to ask if I want snacks?" just as the 'strike' sound and lighting effects went off on a nearby lane and made her look over her shoulder in a slightly skittish manner. "Wow that's kinda loud. And oh so cheesy! I love this place!"

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"I'm glad you like it," she said, a bit of the nervous knot uncoiling itself from her stomach. Kristin got her opportunity to change Jen's name on the board after a minute or so of the black girl heading over to get some nachos, french fries, and a pair of sodas. Looking up upon her return she smirked, "Don't waste any time, do you?"

After setting their goodies down on the table, Jen grabbed her bag and placed a smokey gray and black swirling ball on the ball return rack. Since she'd entered Kristin's name first, she sat back at the table and snagged a chip while she waited for her date to find a suitable ball.

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Kristin managed to find a blue ten-pound ball that fit her small hand fairly well, and hefted it experimentally before she decided it would do. After a brief pause to raid the plate of nachos, then grinned at 'sneaky' Jennifer. "I shall now commence your crushing defeat with a strike!" she announced grandly, then stepped up and delivered the ball down the alley.

The ball struck the centre pin cleanly and clattered through the middle of the frame. Seven pins tumbled, but unfortunately for Kristin the rightmost pin and the two leftmost pins remained upright and unwavering. "I changed my mind obviously," the Australian teen remarked as she turned back towards her date with her hands on her hips. "Instead I will commence your crushing defeat by leaving myself an impossible spare and lulling you into a false sense of security!"

After her ball returned from the back she took her second shot and cleaned up the pins on the left to complete a respectable score of nine for her first turn. "Top that sneaky!" she challenged with a chuckle.

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After finishing the small bit of the snacks she had been chewing on, Jen got to her feet and wiped the grease off her hand. "Not bad Kris, not bad at all," she said as they pass each other. Picking her ball up, she stood at her starting point and mentally lined up the shot. After a second she took five steps forward, releasing the ball as her hand came up over her head.

The swirling pattern spun as the ball rolled down the lane in a bit of a hooked path, hitting the spot between the one and three pins. After the flurry of pins being knocked around, only the seven and ten pins remained. "Well..., that's not a good way to start," she said as her ball was spat out of the return. After rolling the ball a second time, she knocked the seven pin but was not even close to getting the ten with it.

"Will you settle for matching?"

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Kristin had her drink in one hand and the other hand pressing keys on the computer control pad when Jennifer turned around from her attempt on the spare. She looked up guiltily and gave Jenn a grin as she said "I'm definitely not changing my first frame score to a strike!". She set her drink aside and stood up to take her next shot. "Mostly because the dumb computer won't let me!"

Competitive as always she gave her date a little hip-bump and stuck out her tongue at her on the way past to collect her ball, then lined up in a passable imitation of the stance that Jennifer had taken while visualising her shot. "You copied my score," she proclaimed. "So I'll copy your technique!"

The ball was delivered from a similar five-step approach, but the imitation clearly cost the telekinetic teen some accuracy and she missed the front pin. Six still scattered and clattered on their way down and left a far easier target for the spare. "Pfft, your technique doesn't work!" she complained jokingly as she waited for her ball to return.

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The rest of the first game progressed in a similar fashion, Jennifer and Kristin remaining neck and neck until an unfortunate gutter ball left Jen several points behind, allowing Kris to capture the first win. In the second game however a well placed turkey and a few spares allowed Jen to claim victory.

The last game, the girls matched each other almost perfectly frame after frame. Finally in the last frame, they had tied scores and the younger of the pair had just scored a combined total of nine pins. Jen moved to take her turn, butterflies fluttering in her stomach with each step. Her form was near perfect, the angle of her hook taking the ball right into the sweet spot of the pins. And when the pins settled, two remained in a fitting bookend to the start of the night. Attempting to finish the spare however the second ball's placement was just off enough to merely cause the seven pin to wobble but remain upright, never mind hitting the ten pin.

"Well... That's disappointing."

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Kristin had been too nervous to take a seat while Jennifer took her last shots, and exclaimed "Huh, what are we doing about the whole bet thing if it's a tie?" when Jennifer was left the almost impossible seven-ten split to finish the game. It certainly looked like a tie was the likely result, but as she leaned against the ball return to watch the her date throw the deciding shot she could feel her own heartbeat quicken and the butterflies start up in her stomach once again.

As the ball spun its way down the alley Kristin could tell that Jennifer had tried for both and she chewed on her lip as it gave the seven-pin the faintest of faint clips - not enough to fell it! On instinct the Australian teen reached out towards the pin with her mind as it wobbled. Without even a hint of leaking green light she gave it a nudge as Jenn turned back towards her with a disappointed look - and the pin clattered noisily as it toppled over, then rolled towards the still standing ten-pin in what felt like slow motion.

The telekinetic did her best to look innocent and amazed as the rolling seven-pin bumped up against the last upright pin just barely hard enough to tip it into the gutter. "You are such a luckbox!" she grinned at Jennifer as nervousness and anticipation clashed and left her feeling slightly unsteady on her feet. "There's no way that should have gone down, let alone collected the other one too!"

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After watching the seven pin start to wobble again on its own before rolling to knock over the ten. Turning around slowly, Jennifer eyed Kristin and her obviously false innocence then she raised an eyebrow at her Australian companion. After drawing out the silence as she moved closer before she leaned in and whispered, "So now, which of us is the sneaky one?"

Kristin's reply was cutoff however by Jen leaning down and giving the shorter woman a kiss, melting in the moment after not having participated in the act for several years.

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As she attempted to protest her innocence, Kristin was cut off mid-sentence when Jennifer's lips pressed against her own. She let out a startled but muffled sound as she experienced the briefest moment of panic and her hands came up to Jennifer's waist as she almost pushed away. The moment passed - her hands slipped down to the older woman's hips as the tension drained away and she managed to relax enough to enjoy the lingering kiss.

After what seemed like an eternity the Australian slowly pulled away and broke off the kiss. "That was... wow.." she breathed softly as she looked up at Jenn. Her racing heart felt fit to leap out of her chest and she looked away as she tried to recover her composure. A grin crossed the teenager's face as she caught sight of the flashing scoreboard. "You know, you sort of jumped the gun a bit there." she pointed out as she looked up at her date again. "You made the spare, so you get another ball! You can't collect on the bet when the game isn't finished!"

There was a mischievous twinkle in her eye as she continued. "So you better finish the game and then collect on the bet. Er... again."

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Take a few steadying breaths, savoring the tingling of her lips, she mirrored Kristin's reaction for a second. Then Kristin's words sank in. "You make a convincing argument," Jennifer replied with a chuckle and playful smirk. After her ball return spat her ball back out, the taller woman threw one last time, though she was hardly paying attention. As soon as the sphere left her hand she turned and started back towards her date.

Just as their lips met for a second time, the lights and sound effects that accompanied a strike came to life. After coming up for air she raised an eyebrow and asked, amusement in her voice, "I was a little preoccupied, was that last strike just blind luck or did you arrange things 'Sneaky Kris'?"

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Kristin was able to relax and enjoy the second kiss a little more than the first - she was still tense when Jennifer leaned down towards her, but the hint of panic that the sudden first kiss had induced was nowhere to be found. "I was a little distracted," she pointed out with a giggle. "It was clearly pure luck. Just like that spare!"

She raised her hands dramatically to protest her innocence. "I don't know why you think I had anything to do with it," she said with a completely unconvincing grin. "Did you see a flash of bright green? That happens when I move stuff you know. I clearly didn't have anything to do with it! The evidence is on my side!"

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"The evidence perhaps, but your smile," she said, a grin across her own face, "Says otherwise." Picking up her ball she sighed, "Sadly, that was the last ball of the last game." She cleaned up the paper and plastic dishes from their various snacks and drinks over the past few hours while Kristin returned her rented shoes and put her ball back on the rack.

Holding hands the pair walked out the door into chilly but thankfully no longer raining evening. Holding up her car keys she opened the passenger door, tossed her bag into the back and grabbed a seat. "So, before we begin, have you had your driving practice in an automatic or in with a standard transmission?"

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