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It Was A Graveyard Smash


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Silberman's Books. Saturday, October 25th, 2014. 5:01 pm
Kiki, assistant manager extraordinaire, escorted the last customers out the front door, and then thankfully locked it; with her best friend and boss Lynn 'Grimalkin' Epstein being so focused on her big charity haunted house on Pier 13, most of the day-to-day operations of the store were resting firmly on her shoulders until after the 31st, and to be honest it was exhausting. When Lynn had mentioned closing early for an office Halloween party, Kiki surprised even herself with her excitement at the idea.
"The customers, they are no more." That would be Gretchen on the intercom. Kiki adjusted her artistically-damaged thrift shop jacket and primly marched to the middle of the sales floor; she'd decided to go with a scarecrow for her costume, primarily because it was cheap and would allow her to wear a hat. "Boys and girls, we are closed; let the party begin!"
There were whoops of delight, and Gretchen started up her new playlist, which started with a special spooky remix of 'Everybody (Backstreet's Back)' she'd put together.
Lance the barista, dressed as one of the zombie football players from Beetlejuice, was serving up punch behind the bar. "Hey, where's Boss Lady? I thought this whole thing was her idea?"
Kiki rolled her eyes as she scratched at the straw poking out of her sleeves. "I think she's working on a dramatic entrance..." She indicated the door to the owners' office with a nod; there was a strange mist creeping out from under the door...

Edited by Heritage
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There was a lot about living in Freedom city and working a regular job that Tona Baudin did not understand. Holidays were high on the list, especially ones that involved consuming so many sugery sweets. Normal food in this world was so overloaded with sugar to her tongue, she couldn't imagine an entire night dedicated to amassing as many of these as possible was alien and strange to her. So she was happy to volunteer to work on Halloween, even if she didn't understand what kind of costume Lynn had been expecting her to wear. At almost the last minute, her roommate had helped her find a green tee-shirt that showed of his arms, a pair of green tights, a pointed brown hat and folded boots, and a ridiculously tiny felt bow that hung on her back by velcro. Mali swore it was an old archer-hero named Robin Hood; Tona was sure it was a joke, but she wore it anyway.

At least the customers hadn't laughed at her, but more than a couple had been sneaking looks at her rear. Tona was concentrating too hard on her new job. She had long practice at sharing and communal living, but she couldn't get her head around the hissing, smoking, evil espresso machine that took up so much bar space. On the other hand, Lance though smoothies were just a bunch of fruit thrown in the blender, so while he handled the coffee she revolutionized Silberman's smoothies. Between the two of them they did a brisk business.

Now business was over and it was time to relax. Tona reached under the bar and pulled out a group of drinks on a tray. Moving carefully, she moved them to the bar and arranged them carefully. Red, purple, green, orange, and inky black; they were all the colors of the season. Tona leaned back against the bar, watching her coworkers with a smile. "Et voila," she announced. "Time to pick your poison.

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The door to the back office slowly creaked open, allowing a layer of thick fog to roll out into the store; the room was pitch black, though occasionally a strobe light flashed somewhere in the depths, accompanied by pre-recorded thunderclaps.

"Did someone mention...poison?" Suddenly Lynn came sweeping out of the office, dressed as ">the Queen from Snow White! Between her crown and something going on underneath her gorgeous dress, the normally petite brunette was now topping six feet, a truly impressive effect. The regular staff was gobsmacked, though Kiki just rolled her eyes.

"Seriously, Lynn?"

The store owner looked down at herself innocently.

"What, is it too much?"

Edited by Heritage
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Tona stared at Lynn as she made her entrance, her expression open and uncomprehending. She glanced around; obviously everyone else realized what Lynn was dressed up as, but the archer didn’t get the reference. That wasn’t a new experience from her, of course, but it rarely came up in a situation like this one. She was among new people who didn’t know her own history, and Tona wanted to be a part of this group. If she was among her friends, she’d just state her ignorance, but she wasn’t among her friends.

She tried to cover for herself by coming out from behind the bar, picking up the tray of drinks. “That’s a great… queen costume, Lynn.†She offered the tray to her boss, putting a patently fake smile on her face. “Smoothie?â€

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Maddy the lead bookseller, who came along with her girlfriend Christine (they'd opted for a couple's costume: Crazy Eyes and Piper from Orange is the New Black), just shook her head as she looked her employer up and down. "That is something, Lynn!" She indicated the flowing purple dress. "What exactly do you have going on under there?"

The Evil Queen shrugged. "To be honest, I'm wearing an insane pair of lace-up hooker boots with six inch heels; I will not be standing for very long!" She approached Tona and her tray of beverages with an eager grin that totally didn't match her sinister wardrobe. "Oh ho, what have we here? I'm gonna try...this one! Black as my heart!"

Gretchen dubiously made her way over to the bar; her 'costume' consisted of her wearing the same 'disgruntled hipster' wear she always favored, but with the addition of a pair of black plastic glasses frames and cat ears; to any who asked, she patiently explained she was a 'brilliant cat scientist'. "So what exactly is in these, anyway?" She picked up a green one and sniffed it.

Rounding out the employee attendees was 'Cred0', who somewhat surprisingly had put a lot of thought and work into his costume; a well-groomed preppy J. Crew model, complete with pink dress shirt, khakis, a pair of Sperrys and a white sweater draped over his shoulder...and a bloody knitting needle sticking out of his right eye. Mrs. Nussbaum had politely declined the invitation; as a Conservative Jew, she'd never celebrated Halloween, though she always had candy for any neighborhood children who did.

Edited by Heritage
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Tona met Gretchin's eyes, spinning the tray so the one closest to her was a virulent green color, with a plastic spider cinched to the straw. "Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails," the archer said, her delivery deadpan. "Arsenic and mercury, all in a row." Once everyone was served the one drink left was the bloody red drink with the single finger rising out of it. Tona picked it out and sucked the bit of slush off the end, savoring the taste of raspberries. Of course none of the drinks were that far out there; most were just fruit smoothies, thought Tona had snuck in a few experiments of her own.

She swallowed her drink and leaned back against the bar, watching everyone. She wasn't exactly sure what to do at a party. Her only experience with parties was with Sam, and this probably wouldn't turn out like that.

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The party appeared to be a more or less a low key event, a chance for co-workers to hang out, eat and drink, though it was still early and Lynn was know for a theatrical streak and a love of surprises.

The attendees soon started to clump up into conversational packs; Cred0, Gretchen and Lance were talking movies by the snack table, and Maddy and Christine were showing Kiki adorable baby pictures (they had recently found a great new sitter) on Maddy's smartphone. The Wicked Queen found her way over to Robin Hood, her long dress trailing behind her; Lynn raised her jet-black smoothie in salute.

"Blueberries! Very tasty!" Looking over the gathered people, she sighed as she adjusted her flowing cape. "Y'know as much as I love them, even Gretchen in a way, I can never really be myself around them; even Kiki, who knows the truth about my unnatural nature, still gets the edited version. It's all just another show..."

She sighed and then looked apologetic. "Sorry, that's just the blueberries talking. So how are things with you, Robin of Locksley? How's school and everything?"

Edited by Heritage
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Tona’s eyes flicked around the room, then finally settled on her shoes. “School is… fine.†The young archer hadn’t had the academic grounding even Claremont’s most delinquent student had enjoyed; when kids on Earth-Prime would be learning Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmatic, Tona had been fletching arrows and practicing her bowshot. No one had taught her history, they’d been too busy teaching her how to sneak up on a robot and find the one soft part that would destroy it without setting off an alarm. As a consequence, she had entered Claremont almost at a primary school level. Still, once it was made clear that she wouldn’t be trained as a hero unless she could keep her grades up, Tona had thrown herself into remedial education with the same verve she attacked anything standing between her and what she wanted.

That was in the past though, and now Tona was just treading water. Whenever a teacher warned her that she was going to fail she would throw herself into her studies again, but she simply did not think they were important. She didn’t expect to go on to college or any other kind of high education, a face fact buoyed by the expectation that she would die saving her planet from the Terminus. She still hadn’t adjusted her plans for the future.

“My people are settling in on Sanctuary well,†she said abruptly, her expression brightening significantly. Lynn only had the roughest sketches of their exploits in the Terminus, but about once a month Tona received a long letter from her father on Sanctuary, and she poured over those. She still kept each one, like a treasured artifact. “Me pere is still sad that there isn’t anything to hunt,†she added. “I think I will have to bring him over here, explain what a hunting license is, and take him to shoot at some deer.â€

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Lynn blinked a few times. "Oh, that's cool." Then she politely cleared her throat."Uh, remind me again, what's the relationship between Sanctuary and this world? I've been to a few other worlds, but never that one." She tried to hide her embarrassment behind a large swig of Goth smoothie.

She then quickly sent her senses back to the haunted house on Pier 13, just a fast reflexive sweep before focusing back on Tona; it was starting to become like checking her email!

Edited by Heritage
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"Sanctuary is Stesha's world," Jay said. "There was, uh, something bad that had happened there." Here her lack of interest in history showed itself again; Sanctuary's past had been explained to her at least twice, but each time it went in one ear and out the other. She just couldn't keep the information in her head without comprehending how it helped her live her life. "It's a fantastic place. Not very many people, but lots of forests and empty space for people to expand into." She shook her head. "It's the perfect place for my people. I'm just glad Stesha was willing to take them all in."

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Lynn nodded; that had always been Stesha's way, the nurturing 'earth mother' striving to protect all life. It made her happy to know Toma's people might finally know peace.

And speaking of peace...

The evil queen cleared her throat, and then began softly speaking fluent French. <"Look, I have confession to make: I may have had an ulterior motive with this whole party business. I've noticed a few things, and I spoke with your roommate, and-"> She sighed and squeezed her eyes tightly shut. <"I-invited-Sam-to-the-party!">

Yep, it's official: I'm a f###ing Yenta!

Edited by Heritage
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Tona grew very quiet and very still, as she felt her brain and emotions shift into overdrive. Moving slowly and carefully, she put her drink on the bar behind her, and began swearing fluently in her mother’s tongue. After a solid minute of Algonquin invectives, she shifted to French to match Lynn. “<Why would you do that?>†she spat. “<This isn’t any of your business, Lynn. We… had an argument.>†And hadn’t seen each other since, she didn’t add. It was true that neither her or Sam had managed to have two seconds alone since their mission to the Terminus and their argument at Sanctuary’s clinic, but that still didn’t justify Lynn’s meddling.

Tona paused, suddenly going very still. “<She’s not in the room right now, is she?>â€

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Lynn's eyes went wide when Tona cursed up a blue streak. <"Wow; you kiss your dad with that mouth?"> Then she sighed and nodded as she swirled her smoothie around. <"No, you're right, I shouldn't have gotten involved; old bad habit.">

She sniffed the air tentitively, then shook her head. <"Don't think so; I don't smell her, but then again I don't know the full range of her powers. She any good with disguises?">

Then Lynn noticed Gretchen giving her an odd look. "What? Lots of people speak French!" The snarky bookseller held her hands up, shook her head and looked away. The changeling sighed as she continued in English.

"Not that it's still any of my business, but...you wanna talk about it?"

Edited by Heritage
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Okay, Sam. Keep it together.

Sam walks along the sidewalk, low heels clicking. She would have worn something higher, but she isn't trying to make herself taller than Tona. Weird as the notion of this little mouse of a girl being taller than anyone seems.

The ginger opted for a classic. A witch costume. Of course, as a witch herself, she would, by definition, be dressed up as a witch even if she was just in a T-shirt and jeans, but she opted for the option that serves as an excuse to go out in a little black dress. Logic didn't get her very far last time. This time, a little plan B might help. Add a floppy, pointy hat and broom and the dress counts as a costume. A little cape to cover her brand, and the outfit is complete.

Of course, everything is black but the broom.

She stops in front of the shop to compose herself. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

She rings the bell and waits for one of the employees to answer. "Hi, I'm Samantha. Miss Epst-" she cuts herself off from that reflexive bit of formality. "Er... Lynn invited me."

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Tona sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "No. No I do not. I'm just trying to figure out this party, I do not need to be talking about my girlfriend, not tonight. I'm just... still trying to figure things out, okay?"

The door rang and Tona immediately seized upon it as an excuse, breaking away from Lynn and cutting through her coworkers to answer it. She didn't normally put herself forward for social interaction, but the idea of getting away from a conversation about her love life seemed like the best idea in the world just now, so Tona opened the door eagerly.

It took her a moment to process who was standing at the threshold, and all the air went out of her at once. She worked to draw in a breath, and sighed out "Sam." The archer stepped away from her, further into the store. "I... I didn't actually realize you were..."

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As someone answers the door, Sam looks up from studying her feet, growing more suspicious as she sees more of the familiar form. When Tona speaks, her head snaps up and she meets Tona's gaze, surprise apparent on her face.


She'd been expecting someone else to answer the door. Anyone else. To have a chance to at least get in there and get the lay of the land again. It had been a while since she'd visited the shop.

Nothing for it now.

She'd rehearsed her approach dozens of times in her head. Get Tona alone, then take a calm, cooled, collected approach, maybe even a little sultry if it goes well. Just gotta keep it together and-

"I messed up! I was tired and stressed out and scared, and I overreacted and said some things I shouldn't have and, and... I was wrong. I'm sorry."

-and just blurt everything out in one breath, not bothering to put space between half the words as they rush out.

"Um... could we, y'know, talk?"

Calling hadn't worked. Trying to approach her at school hadn't done any good. Sam hadn't dared coming to the apartment.

Until now.

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Tona swallowed and looked down at her feet, trying to sort out her emotions. Part of her was very happy to see Sam; part of her wanted to rush forward and hold her girlfriend and say that all was forgiven. Another part was still very, very angry at her, was screaming at Tona to slam the door in Sam’s face. That part was teaming up with Tona’s fear of the party and added on the idea of retreating to the apartment.

It was the retreat that made her set her feet, oddly enough. The archer had conquered the Terminus -- she wouldn’t retreat before anything, certainly not her girlfriend. She took a deep breath and stepped back, giving Sam room to enter the anteroom. At least this wasn’t going to happen in the middle of the shop, in front of all of her coworkers. She wasn’t sure that she could handle a confrontation in front of everyone like that.

Tona made to cross her arms, thought better of it, and hooked her fingers in her belt instead. The silence between her and Sam was getting long and tortured, so she decided to break it. “I agree,†she said. “You were being unreasonable.†She peered at Sam’s face, trying to find what kind of change this was. “I am not going to abandon my people.â€

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As soon as Lynn's ears and nose told her Sam was now in the entry way, she smoothly stepped over to the main door into the shop and quietly closed it; when Kiki gave her an inquiring look, the store owner just shook her head sharply and headed over to the snack table, where she turned and clapped her hands.


"Okay, who's ready for some Halloween karaoke? Gretchen, to your laptop, if you please!" She hoped this would distract the rest of her employees from the little drama about to play just outside. 

Edited by Heritage
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Sam slinks in, pointy hat quite literally in hand, wringing the brim nervously. As Tona steps aside and she enters, there is a glimmer of hope that maybe this will go smoothly.

Then, Tona's words drive a poisoned knife in her gut.

"I never asked for that! There are more ways to fight than just-" the defensive retort comes out unbidden before she bites it back. It's like Tona hadn't even thought about what she was even talking about.

"But... I'm not here to argue about that." The words are as much to remind herself as to inform Tona.

Stay calm. Stay calm.

"After you... left, I talked with Stesha. She helped me realize I was overreacting, but... you've been fighting so hard, and so long, and they've hurt you. Mental wounds are as real as physical, and we both worry. Neither of us are going to keep you from fighting. Just, please, could you talk to Doctor Marquez?" One of Claremont's on-staff psychologists. "They sent me to him when I came to Claremont. He's an alright guy. You can trust him."

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Tona looked away, her fingers fidgeting against each other until she laced them together. She didn't understand why everyone seemed so worried about what she'd done. She had killed the Steam General! It wasn't like she was about to seek him out to kill him again; there were stories that Annhilists could some back from the dead, but even if he did Tona's people were out of the Terminus. There was no reason for her to try and start a fight with the Terminus now.

She started to interrupt Sam to explain all that when she started talking about Stesha. Tona bit her lip at the mention of the plant controller; she owed the older woman so much. If even she thought this was a good idea... Tona looked down at her hands, fingers tensing against each other, absently trying for a crack. "I talked to Doctor Marquez when I first came to Claremont," she said, her voice quiet. "He wanted to talk to me about what it was like growing up in the Terminus." She paused for a moment. "We... we didn't get very far."

It didn't seem like an unreasonable request; Marquez was right on campus, after all! "I... I could try talking to him again."

Edited by Raveled
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Sam lets out a breath she didn't know she was holding, and gives Tona a soft smile, setting hat and broom on a nearby table.  "Thank you."  She draws a little closer, lightly taking Tona's hand in her own.  "If you'd be more comfortable, I could go with you the first time."
She shifts uncomfortably in her dress, not sure where they stand anymore, or if she's being too forward.  "I missed you, you know?"
She tries to act natural.  She wants things to go back to normal.  Life doesn't work that way, but maybe they can work it out anyways?
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Tona’s eyes drifted to Sam’s fingers as she took the archer’s calloused hand, seeing the contrast between her tanned skin and Sam’s pale coloration. She squeezed the other woman’s fingers lightly; it felt good to have her there, but Tona felt an unease in her core that hadn’t been there before. She thought it was because there was such a visible rift between her and Sam, but maybe that wasn’t it. Maybe it ran deeper.

Tona had thought that Sam knew what her life was like, since she had grown up in such a dangerous circumstance, just like Tona. When it came to punish her tormentor, though, Sam had argued for clemency. Now Tona wasn’t entirely sure what Sam would do, if the other girl would back her up in every situation. It was small a small thing, but it was a thing Tona was suddenly aware of and it pricked at her painfully, like a sliver in her thumb. “I… should go alone. This is going to be about me, and I need to talk about everything.†She trailed off, not wanting to spell out that one of the things she needed to talk about was Sam herself.

There was a loud laugh from inside of Silberman’s and Tona was suddenly reminded that this was technically a party. With other people. “Oh, dead gods. Sam, please, promise me that you’re not going to go into there and pick a fight with my boss.â€

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"Whatever you're comfortable with, Sam accepts, offering Tona a peck on the cheek and slipping back into more familiar patterns.  They can get through this.  After all, other capes and cowls can manage to salvage some sort of relationship out of the train wreck that is their job.  Why not Sam and Tona?  It'll take some work to be sure, but so be it.


She dons her hat once more, takes her broom in hand, then slips her arm inside Tona's ready to be escorted to the rest of the party like a proper date.  At the suggestion that she might pick a fight with Lynn (again), she laughs it off in good humor.  "Oh, if I were to pick a fight, I would have the dignity to challenge her to a proper wizarding duel.  I suppose I could borrow a glove for the challenge, but where ever would I find a dragon at this hour?"


Of course, a real worry warrants at least SOME real response.  "Lynn invited me.  Way I was raised, hospitality is kind of a big deal, whether you're host or guest.  I'd sooner leave quietly than cause a ruckus."

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Tona went a little stiff at Sam's peck, but she forged on regardless. The sound level inside the shop was bubbling and indistinct, and when she pushed open the door, the zombie in the pads was yelling into a microphone. "And he's good, at relieving my TEEEEENsion!" The archer stopped in the doorway, blinking at the scene as the other employees howled their approval. He sucked in another breath for the next verse an caught sight of Tona in the doorway with a new girl. He paused, and the music played on without him. Pretty soon everyone followed his eye and were looking at the pair.

Tona felt an unreasonable blush start to creep over her ears. "Um. Hello. This is my girlfriend, Sam."

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At first, no one knew how to react, but then Lynn, who was standing with hands clenched over her heart and the biggest 'aww!' look on her face, swept over to them, still in her full evil Queen regalia. To Sam, she looked much taller than the last time she'd seen her.

"Hi, Sam! I'm so glad you could make it!" She gestured towards the zombie quarterback, who now had his helmet tucked under one arm. "Lance here was just blowing our minds with his rendition of 'Sweet Transvestite'!"

The beefy blonde grinned and shrugged. "We did 'Rocky Horror' back at Kansas State; of course, back then, I played Rocky." He stepped over to the pale redhead and offered his hand. "Nice to meet you, Sam; Tona's told us absolutely nothing about you."

Maddy and her girlfriend Christine soon joined them, followed by Kiki in her scarecrow outfit; Cred0 and Gretchen hung back a bit, being a bit shyer than the others. Lynn met Tona's gaze and asked a question with her eyebrows and a slight tilt of her head.

Edited by Heritage
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