Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Hughes Household

Friday, August 9, 2013

 

The invitation had gone out some 2 weeks prior. Out of the metaphorical blue, Corbin Alphonse Hughes had invited some of his closest and longest-running friends over to his home. He'd mentioned it would be "breakfast for dinner" and that he'd be providing a "nice spread", but that people were welcome to bring an additional dish. There was little else on the note, but for someone who supposedly had intended to take a break from school to go off and hunt ancient artifacts, it did perhaps seem a bit sudden.

 

It was a fairly decent day out when everyone started arriving, just a bit before 5pm. The house had several lights on on the ground floor, though there was no evidence of anyone moving about from the front entrance.

 

There was a hand-written note on the front door.

 

 

Just ring the doorbell and come on in. Holler when you do in case I don't hear the bell.

 

Edited by KnightDisciple

Share this post


Link to post

"-won't say anything," Nina was saying as they appeared on the lawn together, in her band shirt and jeans looking more like the college student she was in Freedom City than the princess she was everywhere else. And in Freedom City, too, most of the time - it had taken a lot of persuasion from Mark to get her to dress down. "I know secret identities are very important to you and your friends. And I'm sure your friends won't start declaring 'I'm Geckoman' or 'I'm Wander', I think they have better breeding than that." 

 

"All right, but as long as you're on your best behavior," Mark made her promise as he walked up to Corbin's front door. "Corbin's a good friend, and so's everyone else who was invited. No funny stuff." She caught his eye, and they both grinned. "Not even that stuff, not in Corbin's house!" he said with an elbow to her ribs. "His girlfriend's got cosmic senses or something, it would be really weird. We're just going as a nice, normal couple, meeting my nice, normal high school friend."

 

"It must have been so dull going to school with so many other people," Nina commented as Mark rang the bell. "How did you get anyone to pay attention to you?"

 

"Oh, I had my ways..."  

 

Once he'd rung the bell, Mark pushed open the door and headed inside. 

Share this post


Link to post
Mark and Nina would find the entryway also empty, though now they could hear the faint strains of music drifting down the hall. And...singing?
 
If they ventured a bit further, they'd pass by the stairs to the second story before coming to the empty living room, with a couple of large, very comfortable-looking couches. Nothing in the house was of the "we're wealthy and spend money because we can" fashion, but on the flip side nothing was 20-year-old flea market material. The Hughes family clearly went for comfort and function moreso than the appearance of being "big spenders"; the bits of art scattered about enhanced the "earthy" sense of home, and gave just a touch of semi-Western flavor to the decor. 
 
Past the living room was the casual dining area, with large windows looking out on the back yard at one side, and at the other was the kitchen.
 
Where Corbin Hughes, a man built like an NFL player, was currently singing (halfway-decently) to an 80's power ballad. He clearly didn't notice the happy couple there, and was concentrating on stirring some cooking eggs with one hand, and using a bright blue spatula to flip pancakes with the other, all while a large waffle iron sizzled away next to the griddle. He was even wearing a navy blue apron!

Share this post


Link to post

"Is he always-" Mark shushed Nina and said, "Hey, Corbin! Good to see you!" Maybe it hadn't been that long, all things considered, since the members of Young Freedom had found themselves at the end of all things and the beginning of a new multiverse, but sometimes it felt like a lifetime ago. Maybe they'd grown apart in some ways, as friends do after high school, but some bonds were unbreakable. He walked up behind Corbin and clapped him on the back, Corbin being one of the small, but real, number of men Mark knew who were significantly taller than him. "I don't think you've had a chance to meet my girlfriend, Nina al-Darsah?"

"Charmed, I'm sure," said the tyrant's heir sociably, smiling as she took Corbin's hand and, after a slight pause, shook it, looking up at the giant hero. "Mark said you went to school together. You must have been half the football team." 

Share this post


Link to post

Mark had always been a lucky young man. Unnaturally lucky, even. That's why when Corbin started a bit at Mark's greeting, it was just a quick twitch, and not, say, a blast that would knock out a grown man. Not that Corbin was the sort to be so twitchy, surely!

 

He made a couple quick flips and stirs before setting his utensils down and turning around with a smile. He shook Mark's hand as his friend clapped him on the back with the other. Corbin's totally-not-an-anvil hand clapped Mark on the shoulder, with surprisingly little force. If nothing else, Corbin had the measure of his own strength and how to control it.

 

"Good to see you too, Mark! It's been too long for sure. I'm still cooking, wasn't sure how many would show up, so I figure leftovers are better than not enough."

 

He turned to Nina, one eyebrow quirking at her last name. He graced her with a gentlemanly smile, and as she shook his hand he turned and lifted it, bending down just a bit in a slight bow, barely touching the back of her hand with a kiss, in a rather old-fashioned gesture of respect for those of royal or noble blood. He released the hand and straightened as he spoke.

 

"A pleasure, milady. Though sadly we didn't have much in the way of inter-school sports. And I was smaller until the last bit of my senior year; I think I've finally stopped growing, though. Which is good, pants are a pain to find."

 

He gave a grin and turned back to continue preparing the food as he talked.

 

"But really, it's not like I'm going to play ball in college. I could, I'm sure, but pulling two majors will kind of take a lot of my time up. Business and History don't have that much overlap. Plus I plan to have a few overseas work study programs mixed in. Bit of Archeology and all that."

Share this post


Link to post

"Oh, that's cool," said Mark, sounding relaxed in soft counterpoint to Corbin's tension. Mark tried to think why Corbin would be so on edge, and naturally came to an ever-growing series of conclusions. Oh my god, is Quo-Dis pregnant? Oh man, they're so young! But Corbin's a nice guy, he'll be a good dad. And maybe they can get a little ring for the baby. "I've been working overseas myself lately. I'm looking at taking some of the younger Claremont kids on UNISON field missions for the practice. Not everybody can spend all their life as a costumed hero, right?" He reached up to clap Corbin on the shoulder. "Good to see you again, big guy. You're right, it has been way too long." He gave him a serious look. "You know your friends are always here for you." 

 

"Don't you have any servants in a house this big?" Nina was asking as she walked around the kitchen, snooping curiously in the cupboards with a look of fascination on her face. "Surely you don't have to prepare all the food yourself with your family's wealth." 

Share this post


Link to post

Corbin nodded as Mark described what he'd been doing recently.

 

"That's great to hear, Mark. I know you were looking forward to the UNISON position, so I'm glad to hear it's something you're really growing into and making your own. The field trips are just a plus. And you're right, not everyone can, though enough do that things stay ship-shape, all told."

 

Corbin's smile lit up his eyes as Mark gave him a rare serious look.

 

"That's what friendship's about, right? And, honestly, right now it's pretty much you, Eve, Trevor, and Erin. And Quo-Dis, of course. No offense meant to you, Nina, just don't know you quite that well just yet. But with Blake just...well, he just kind of drifted off. Between his studies and going off to some monasteries and such to get a better handle on himself, we lost touch. And the younger kids from my senior year, well...combination of personality conflicts and missed opportunities. I'm sure I'll run into them again one day, but not anytime soon, I suppose. And my recent travels were kind of...hectic."

 

The way he says that gives a sense of "understatement of the day".

 

Corbin gives Nina a raised eyebrow.

 

"It's not as big as some places, ma'am."

 

From many folks, the "ma'am" would have been sarcastic. Corbin was so blatantly sincere and polite there was no way to mistake it for anything other than a term of respect. Midwesterners, what are you going to do?

 

"We don't have full-time staff, no. There's a cleaning service that comes through three times a week to help out, but my mother expects us men to not be pigs in a sty and try to at least do some basic cleaning-up and whatnot. As for cooking, fact is, my folks stay busy enough they often just go out for dinner with each other as often as they're home. When they are home mom likes to cook if dad's not grilling or whatnot. Today, I felt like actually doing something personally for this little get-together, and breakfast is one of those meals even I can't really mess up."

 

As he spoke the eggs were finished and dumped into a bowl, still steaming, while a couple of finished pancake were flipped onto a plate, a couple more were poured out, and the waffles pried from their maker.

 

"Actually Nina, the syrup and PB are in the one to your right, if you'd be so kind as to set them out. I'll dig the butter and such out of the fridge here in a couple minutes."

Share this post


Link to post

Mark blinked and stared at Corbin, something like suspicion dawning in his friendly eyes. Mark was a trusting soul who'd gladly have poured his heart out to anybody, especially a friend like Corbin, but something was wrong here, very wrong. Unbidden thoughts of shapeshifted Grue and robotic infiltrators entered his mind, not to mention the dizzying array of twisted doubles from universes only a vibrational step away. "Yeah, I heard about what you went through with Faith and the others on the team," he said carefully, looking at Corbin for a reaction. "It can be tough sometimes when people aren't what they seem to be." 

 

"PB, what is...oh, really?" Nina wrinkled her pretty face. "I can't believe you Americans are so obsessed with ground nut oils," said Nina, mostly good-naturedly. "You should try some mint and olive oil on it, and some yogurt..." She looked up at the men, her eyes narrowing at the suspicious look Mark was giving Corbin. 

Share this post


Link to post

"Olive oil's great for cooking meat and stuff, but not really a good compliment to waffles. Mint though, might try that mixed into the batter next time."

 

Then he gave Mark a look of confusion and a bit of "are you kind of crazy?". His brows scrunched, one eyebrow raised, and he spoke a bit more slowly.

 

"Uh. Mark? I was never on a team with Faith. We didn't even share a class. I think I saw her on campus...once? Maybe twice? We never spoke or anything. Are you sure you don't have things mixed around or something?"

 

He figured discretion about Even being "on a team" was required when he didn't know how "in the know" Nina was, exactly.

Share this post


Link to post

"Wait a minute, that Faith you told me about?"  Nina was standing up and giving Mark a look - that look that said he might hear about this later. Nina's upbringing meant that, between one thing and another, Mark was her first real boyfriend. 'Real boyfriend', anyway, and remembering the last time they'd had that conversation gave Mark headache enough that he shook his head, waving off the argument before he could get into it. 

 

"No, that's not..." Mark gave Corbin a frankly skeptical look. "Are you a robot? Or some kind of Grue with a power ring? Because I know what people are like, Corbin, and you are not acting right. And I am sorry if I am ruining your party, because I really want some waffles and they smell really good...and I want ice cream with mine. But I let something bad take the place of one of my friends before. Never again." The gentlest of souls, Mark did not like making accusations, but he meant every word as he looked up, and up, at the giant Corbin. 

Share this post


Link to post

Corbin's expression was suddenly sad. For long moments, he said nothing as he turned and flipped the finished pancakes off the griddle, poured more batter on, and re-filled the waffle maker. He turned and gave Mark a half-hearted smile.

 

"If you touch the last bits of my Cookie Dough ice cream you lose waffle privileges. Sorry, didn't think people would want ice cream with waffles, but if someone gets the urge I do have some chicken fingers. You can go get some ice cream if you want any here in a bit."

 

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath...and suddenly, something about him seemed older.

 

"I am not a robot, a Grue, a clone, a quantum duplicate, a demon, an angel, a fae, a shapeshifter, or otherwise anyone but Corbin Alphonse Hughes, the very same one you went to Claremont with. But...there is something to talk about. I...I don't want to repeat it a lot, though. I'd like to wait until everyone's here, if that's okay with you, to explain it all. Makes it easier."

Share this post


Link to post

Oh God, maybe Quo-Dis is pregnant after all! That's why he's so weird and why he's so distracted...and why she isn't here! He did the math, trying to remember how long it had been since he'd seen his friend's alien girlfriend. Visions of Quo-Dis sitting on an egg somewhere, Martian-style, popped into his head and clung there with tentacles of speculation. "Sure, man, sure. You know your friends are always here for you, whatever's going on." He patted Corbin reassuringly on one giant bicep, picturing the moment of the big reveal. Man, maybe I should call the others, see where they are. Deciding that was an excellent idea, he excused himself to make a quick cell call, leaving Nina alone with Corbin for a moment.

 

Having either discreetly missed or simply ignored the emotional moment, Nina gave Corbin a baffled look. "What the devil are chicken fingers?" 

Share this post


Link to post

The doorbell rang, followed by a brief commotion as someone with very squeaky shoes entered the house. "Hey Corbin," Erin called from the foyer, "sorry we're late. Ran into some half-assed speedster knocking over a jewelry store in Lantern Hill, then wound up chasing him halfway across town. And off the Pramas Bridge," she added ruefully. Erin was in her civilian clothes this evening, but they were civilian clothes that looked like they'd been rolled in dirt, swum in, and then seen a number of miles on the back of a motorcycle. Her hair wasn't in much better shape, but at least she was smiling. "No harm done," she assured everyone, "and he's in jail now, so hey." 

 

She turned back to look at Trevor, coming in behind her. "We should see if they have some security camera footage from the bridge, that thing you did with the bike," she told him. "That was cool." Swinging back around, she tried to focus herself into the party-with-friends mindset  after the endorphin rush of even a ridiculous chase. "Smells good in here." 

Share this post


Link to post

"Redbird will want to know why we had to get her outfit soaked, too," Trevor sighed, a similarly mistreated jacket hanging over one arm and jet black hair a little too long to have been properly coaxed back into a presentable state without an actual comb and mirror. His already beaten black fedora, notably, sat tipped lightly backward away from his face looking no worse for wear than it ever did. "Hnn. Smell." The young heir raised his unoccupied arm slightly to consider the dark fabric from behind oval sunglasses, the sleeve rolled up above the elbow and hanging more heavily than usual. "Potential issue. ...ah. Yes, hello."

Share this post


Link to post

"Come on in!" bellowed down the hall when the doorbell rang. 

 

Corbin was in the kitchen, just finishing the cooking. He raised an eyebrow at the state of Trevor and Erin as they walked in, a slightly-amused smile creeping up on him.

 

"Sounds like a win for the home team to me."

 

He tilted his head to the side a bit, a thoughtful look on his face for a moment.

 

"If you guys want to rinse off and change, Trevor ought to find some of my older stuff fits decently, and you should be able to get into something of my mom's, Erin. She's about an inch shorter and can't bench-press a semi, but it shouldn't be too bad. It'll give the meat time to cool down, and you can toss the clothes in the washing machine. It runs pretty quick, so you shouldn't be stuck here all day or anything. Worst case you could just bring the clothes back later anyways."

 

'Assuming you want to ever speak to me again or are otherwise not creeped out.'

Share this post


Link to post

Mark followed Erin and Trevor to the room they were changing in, belatedly remembering to stop outside the door. "You guys!" he whispered loudly, "something really weird is up with Corbin. I don't know what's going on, but it's strange!" The lanky teenager let his nervousness show once they were away from Corbin's eyes, not wanting to stress the situation out. "I hope he and Quo-Dis aren't getting married, they aren't old enough for that, and I don't think Corbin has even sowed his wild oats yet! You've got to sow your wild oats before you get married!" He said the last as an article of faith. 

"Is that what we've been doing?" Nina had followed Mark, slipping an arm around his waist. "I don't even know Corbin; and he seemed strange to me. Do you think he's gone mad with power?" she called through the closed door to Erin and Trevor. "That happens a lot with wielders of mystic artifacts in my experience! At least he hasn't turned into anything gruesome." 

 

"Hey, no funny stuff!" said Mark, raising a finger to her lips. They started arguing at that point about whether or not dropping hints was the same as actually referring to someone's secret identity, leaving Erin and Trevor to have their conversation in peace. 

Share this post


Link to post

There was the sound of a car pulling into the Hughes' driveway and a moment later the throaty purr of its engined died, followed by the opening and closing of a door. The last guest to arrive, a young woman with snow white hair and sage green eyes soon rang the doorbell and stepped through the entry to Corbin's home as per the notes instructions. She wasn't, however, going to "holler," if he didn't hear the bell though. That wasn't something Eve Martel did.

Breezing through the portal, Eve entered the home with some trepidation; she and Corbin didn't exactly part on good terms and a corner of her mind wondered at the wisdom of accepting his invitation.

Share this post


Link to post

"Eve's arrived. Should go say hello," Trevor suggested to Mark and by extension Nina through the closed door, cutting off any more heated debate or speculation on Corbin's relative weirdness. Shrugging out of the rest of his soggy clothing, he sifted efficiently through the pile of clean laundry next to the washer and dryer for something to borrow. "Going to be that kind of visit," the young man quietly sighed to Erin as he pulled out a pair of women's jeans for her. The Hughes clan evidently focused on comfort over form, so the baggy selections eliminated fit as a concern at least. "Knew we should have prepared an exit strategy. Just seemed rude."

Share this post


Link to post

Erin briskly toweled herself off and caught the jeans Trevor tossed her, considering them for a moment. Definitely too short, but they were at least dry. "I can text Steve at HAX," she suggested in an undertone, the corners of her lips tilting upwards. "If I send him the signal, he'll call with a work emergency, and you're my ride. But you're right," she agreed, "it would be rude. We'll save it for a last resort." She added a t-shirt covered in swirls of abstract pastels to her outfit, then twirled her wet hair up into a messy bun. "We'll just be supportive. They're our friends," she reminded herself. "They're all our friends. We all have shockingly weird personal lives sometimes, and we help each other deal. And if Mark talks about sowing wild oats one more time, I'll knock him unconscious and it'll be fine." 

Share this post


Link to post

Corbin, meanwhile, had been making just enough noise (and was far away enough) that he didn't hear Mark's wild theory-making. Which was probably for the best, he'd have choked on air if he'd heard some of it.

 

Instead, he whistled aimlessly as he finished the last of the cooking and put everything on plates. Then, he was bustling to the table and putting down individual plates, utensils, and napkins. Glasses were next, with the drink collection quickly finding its place on the table, followed by an array of toppings and trimmings for all the foodstuffs. Finally, the plates of actual food were placed on the table. Satisfied, Corbin washed his hands and hung his apron up on a nearby handy hook. He gave a smile and a nod at his handiwork.

 

Just then, he thought he heard someone come in the front door, and made his way toward the entrance. He walked in that direction, where he soon saw-

 

"Eve! Glad you could make it! I know you're super-busy between college and your family's company, so I wasn't sure you could make it. I, well, I'd also hoped you weren't still super mad or anything. About. You know. All of it."

 

To distract from that rather lame statement, he offered her a genuine smile and a hand for a handshake.

Share this post


Link to post

Eve accepted the handshake, even pulled Corbin down a little, to give him a light kiss on the cheek. "You're forgiven," she said airily in her French-accented soprano, an impish smile on her lips.

"I could use a break from school and work and the three dozen other projects I'm juggling--do you have any idea how hard it is to find a construction company willing to build a castle on top of a skyscraper?--and breakfast is... nice." the white-haired Frenchwoman commented as she followed Corbin deeper into his home, which incidentally was where those wonderful smells were coming from.

"I assume there is coffee."

Share this post


Link to post

"I still don't see why your people need to bother with these silly things anyway," Nina was saying, her Received Pronunciation accent thickening as it usually did when she was excited. "Your friend here wields an ancient magic ring and his woman is some sort of goddess from space! Why not simply announce themselves as champions of justice and let your righteous society crush their enemies for them?" She crossed her arms and gave Mark that look that seemed to ask "Hmmmm?" 

"Well, then, why doesn't your dad call himself King al-Darsah?" Mark challenged in return. "He calls himself Typhoon all the time! He even makes _you_ call him Typhoon! You can't say it's silly for superheroes to protect their identity and still think it's great your dad goes by his supername all the time!" It was not a new argument with his girlfriend. 

 

"Because that is...different. That is because he is a king, and...you are changing the subject!" She looked away and hesitated. "Anyway...we shouldn't talk about politics, we'll spoil your friend's party." 

 

"All right." Mark slipped an arm around her waist and said, "Besides, the snake people were at _your_ party last time, so you owe me." 

Share this post


Link to post

Tugging down a well worn sweatshirt featuring the stylized animal mascot of some sports franchise with which he wasn't familiar, Trevor quickly ran through a few gymnastic stretches, bending from the waist with straight legs to touch his toes and loosening the muscles in his neck and shoulders. Feeling somewhat more human than the dive into the river had left him, he grunted in agreement with Erin's assessment. "True. Try to avoid knocking Mark out, though. Doubt Hughes' walls are impervium."

Opening the door and stepping back out into the house at large, the dark haired young man replaced his sunglasses over his onyx and ruby eyes. Catching up with Mark and Nina as they reached the foyer to greet the latest arrival, he clasped his hands behind his back in as dignified a pose as the sweatshirt would allow. "Morakot and Nephthys well?" he asked in his usual soft, inflectionless tone from behind the princess, nodding to Eve for all they'd both already known the other was there.

Share this post


Link to post

"Well then he'd be knocked out and outside," Erin pointed out, sotto voce, as they walked back towards the others, "so really it would be more effective. But I'm sure it won't come to that." She quieted down as they caught up with the group, smiling as she caught sight of Eve. "Hey," she greeted the telepath, "feels like I haven't seen you in forever." She leaned in and gave Eve a quick and impulsive hug. "Jessie's been talking about you, though; it means a lot that you visit." The halfway house where Singularity lived now was not quite as foreboding to visitors as Blackstone Prison had been, but it still didn't provide a lot of opportunities for socializing. "How've you been?" 

Share this post


Link to post

Eve accepted the handshake, even pulled Corbin down a little, to give him a light kiss on the cheek. "You're forgiven," she said airily in her French-accented soprano, an impish smile on her lips.

"I could use a break from school and work and the three dozen other projects I'm juggling--do you have any idea how hard it is to find a construction company willing to build a castle on top of a skyscraper?--and breakfast is... nice." the white-haired Frenchwoman commented as she followed Corbin deeper into his home, which incidentally was where those wonderful smells were coming from.

"I assume there is coffee."

Corbin smiled, and blushed just a bit.

 

"Ah, thanks. Good to know. And glad I can provide a break. Can't say I've looked into construction companies recently. Last job I commissioned was a lot smaller in scope, and was out in the forest."

 

He moved back toward the kitchen even as the others began coming down the stairs. He smiled and gestured for everyone to keep coming into the kitchen.

 

"I've got one pot of fairly high-quality stuff just about done, and we've got a second machine that can brew stuff up pretty quick. Mom and Dad like having variety so there's like fifty billion kinds. My taste buds for coffee got ruined a while back so when I do have it it's just plain, black, lots of caffeine. The keep calling me a Philistine. I respond that I am probably close to Goliath in size."

 

He blinks and turns to Eve, surprise on his face.

 

"Wait, a castle?"

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...