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Suburban Horror (IC)


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Date: Monday, two weeks before the start of school in September, 2015

Pushing one of the bright red carts through the open glass doors of one of those corporate big box stores, Taylor had the briefest moments of existential horror of questioning how her life had come to this.

"I thought we were getting a start on this early! This place is packed," She muttered to the two boys as she reached into her purse to fish out the small stack of lists and her wallet. As JJ made an early break for the clutter of cheap impulse buy toys at the entrance, Taylor reached out to catch him by the back of the shirt, "We're not here to look at toys. Your Father's sleeping so we're all sticking together today."

She looked at the slouching teenager and added, "All of us." With a pointed look at the disgruntled youth. 

Taylor gave the cart a little shove forward and muttered something rude under her breath as she tried to maneuver it through the crowds without knocking into anyone. From her side, JJ gasped and said, "heard that! You said a bad word!"

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"I don't even see why we're doing this."  the laconic teen challenged as he followed the pair from a distant just far enough to not seem like he was with them but not so far as to fully engage the wrath of his mother.

He shuffled along grumbling mostly under his breath, "Been doing fine for the past four years, learn all I need at home."  he complained idlely.  "Never woudl have even figured it out if that magic eater hadn't broken loose."  he added quite put out still that his clever ruse had been broken by so small a slip up and not even his slip up.  

With a beleaguered sigh he pointed at the younger him, "JJ's chewing on tha- gone now."

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"You have not learned everything you need at home. An education is very important, Jack Huang Farretti," Taylor said even as she turned towards the five year old to frown at him and investigate whatever had gone missing. It was a good thing that dhampyr, as it turned out, were remarkably hardy to go along with the constant needing to gnaw on things, "JJ, don't put things in your mouth that aren't food."

"It was food! It was a candy! I found it!" Came the piping protest. Taylor's nose scrunched up, "We also don't eat 'found' candy. You don't know where that's been!"

Parental wisdom given, Taylor turned her direct gaze back on her eldest, "I can teach you how to... run the family business."

She dropped her voice as the nearest person came a little close, amending her words to something a little more subtle before she continued, "And your father can teach you how to fight, sure, but there's more to growing up than that. There's more to life than that. You need friends, Huang, you need to go to high school, take some classes. You might not want to do all of this when you do grow up. Maybe you'll be a math teacher."

Taylor pushed the cart, turning it down the aisle as she added, "And it might also push you into learning to do your own laundry."


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"Oh nasty." Huang exclaimed with more than even usual teen disgust after all the little monster had technically just put found candy in both thier mouth.  

Looking decidely away from his younger him, Huang rolled his eyes, "Oh boy math, that'll be original a chinese guy who's good at math!" he replied with biting sarcasm.  He shook his head, "I have friends Xltkt and Vyrg."  he argued naming off the void entities in his personal pocket of the void he had bound or befriended dependant on how you looked at things.  He sighed however resolved that she wasn't going to budge on this his mom was rediculously stuborn.  

Grumbling under his breath he lamented the inequity of it all to no one in particular.  He had low hopes for his time at Claremont regardless of his mothers assurances, "Like the old bat will be able to teach anythign useful anyway."  he murmured about the not so ancient in this time soon to be headmistress.  "Whatever lets just get this over with."  he begged not bothering to argue that learning to do laundry was absurd when you had magic and minions for that.  Growing up with a ghost butler gave one odd perspective on such things.

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"You have one Chinese grandparent, Huang," Taylor gave his shoulder a little nudge, pushing the teen forward, her tone dry and unimpressed with the angst coming her direction. Hell, she was almost cheerful. Having a teenager was hard enough. Having a time displaced teenager that never aged and had his own pocket dimension to sulk in was a special sort of punishment that no one really deserved. "I don't think anyone will accuse you of being a walking stereotype if you pass your math classes."

"Servitor entities do not count as socialization," Taylor added as she nudged JJ towards the bright selection of backpacks and lunch boxes while she turned to get the more boring things like pencils, paper, erasers and hand wipes. "You need friends. Real friends and its not like its a normal school. There will be kids there like you."

Taylor paused, one hand on a box of kleenex as she tipped her head to the side, and amended, "Well, not just like you. But close! Other kids with unique home lives and experiences. Kids with gifts."

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Huang rolled his eyes hard enough it had to hurt and still wasn't sure he got his point across well enough.  "There are no kids like me."  he pointed out matter of factly, "I am unique, well as unique as can be managed with two of me."  he murmurs as the whole time shift being his own older twin thing was confusing at the best of times.  

"I don't need friends, you don't have friends and you do fine." he pointed out with a smug grin.  "Ours is a lonely road mother even those with gifts as you call them can't understand us really."  he parroted in a tone that made it sound as if this was a lecture she or Jack sr. would give younger him in a few years when he came home crying after being mocked about his fangs.

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Taylor sighed, pausing  in arguing with her teenager to smile and bend over as JJ came up with his colorfully chosen Centurion backpack. Despite the teen angst of his elder counterpart, JJ was going through a phase that was all about heroes of the four-color variety. Perhaps because the particular heroes in his life were all shades of grey. 

"Look, Mama, it's Thenturian!" Taylor's dimples flashed at JJ's lisping. Those fangs were hard to talk around for a tongue still learning phonetics. Unlike a proper vampire, there was no retraction, just permanent baby-fangs. "Thee!" 

"I see, baby. Shall we find a lunchbox that goes with it? Huang, do you want a Centurian lunch box too?" She asked, half teasing the grumpy teen before she relented and reached out to hug the lanky teenager, whether or not he wanted it. "Honey, yes, you're unique. Among all the cosmos, there's no one and nothing that is exactly identical to what you are but that doesn't mean you have to - or should - go through life alone. I have friends. I have your father. And I have the two of you. Now pick out a lunch-box for school."

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"Uhm, no."  Huang replied cooly, "So I need to branch out and socialize because my only friends are my parents and my time displaced twin but you are fine becuase you have a board social circle of my father me and my time displaced twin."  he said with an arched brow.  "Typical."  he smirked with a shake of his head, "I swear this is why I go with Dad in the divorce."  he mumbled the poor lie not for the first time under his breath in full knowledge his mother would hear.  

He looked around at the backpacks and shook his head, "These are all tacky as hell."  he grumped though they were to him ten years out of fasion, they didn't even have bluetooth.  "i'll just keep my books in the library."  he suggested as it really was absurd to carry a heavy backpack when you were a gate to the infinite void.

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"We'll just get you a messenger bag, then." Taylor muttered, picking up a black one and sticking it in the cart next to the bright blue and gold of Centurion. As Huang muttered about the future divorce, she fished her phone out of her purse and sent a quick text. 

Your son. I swear. I was never this difficult for my parents. That was entirely not true if one asked Taylor's mother but she tried to avoid the worst of the 'I told you so's'. Turning the screen off, she gave Huang a look and pointed out with flagging patience, "Lies are more believable if you don't mess up the tenses. See, think how much you'll learn in English classes. You need a bag. If you toss everything into the void, you'll never find anything in there. It's a mess."

Without inviting further opinion, she picked out a satchel for lunches and plain notebooks and pens for the teenager. "Some kids would be excited to be spending the night away. You'll have a roommate and a dorm room to decorate. We could pick you up some posters..."

This, however, caught JJ's attention and his chin trembled, "But I'm Huang's roommate. I'm gonna MITH him. I don't wanna be aloooooone."

And now tears. Perfect.

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Huang shrugged at her demand as if she wanted to spend on it that was fine by him.  He was going ot toss it all in the void though might use the messenge bag to cover for it but probably not.  "Technically that would be the correct tense as it would not have yet happened."  he said full of teen sass, "Maybe you're the one needing to brush up on languages."  he teased with a smug grin.

He took a step toward JJ as the tears welled in the younger hims eyes and gave the small boy a hug while giving his mom his best 'now you made the baby cry' glare over his head.  "Hey mini me I'll still be around."  he said with a wink, "And if I move out you can have the top bunk, and put up as many stickers up on the walls as you want." he suggested perhaps just to twist the knife a little more when thier overprotective mother refused to let the little boy risk falling from the top bunk.  Regardless promises of access to hertofore forbiden areas and more sticker space to cover in overpriced vinyl decals seemed to cheer the five year old.

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Taylor, too, stepped towards JJ at his tears and was torn between parental pride at the odd sibling relationship and disgruntlement at the look the teenager shot her. She stepped in as well to put her hand on JJ's back, the other resting lightly on Huang, "It's only going to be four nights a week. We'll pick Huang up after classes on Friday before dinner at your grandparents. And then he'll stay with us all weekend and go back Monday morning."

She sighed and yielded, "And while he's gone, you can sleep up top. I'm sure we can get wall clings while we're here too." "Yay! Thenturion wall clingth!" "Sure."

Crisis averted for the moment she shooed them along towards the household wares section to get the various sheets and bedding that would be needed at Claremont, "You know, they also have cosmology and arcane arts," Taylor pointed out to Huang with relentless determination, "Even if all you wanted to do was work on those particular studies, you can get a different point of view. Maybe even learn a few tricks I don't know."

That was unlikely when it came to magic - there just weren't that many mystics at Phantom's weight class and almost none of them taught classes. She left unspoken that she'd taught the occasional seminar before at Claremont. She was reasonably certain that no teenager would be enthused about their mom turning up as a substitute. 

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Huang took a step back from his younger, him, and gave his mother a flatly unimpressed look, "Yea that seems real likely."  he replied full of disdain.  Which really was fair unless Eldricht was taking a sabatacle ot teach a course the liklihood of a proffessor eclipsing the knowledge available from his mother and the arcane texts and artifacts from the mansion and his own library was slim to none.

He however shrugged seeming a little pleased at the prospect of having courses to excel in, or at least show up his peers and perhaps teachers.  "At least it'll be better than the mundane courses,"  he lamented, "What use is early modern lit really?  Who needs to know that?"  he shook his head in disapproval.  He reached into the basket to fish out crayons and replace them with another brand at half againt he price, "Seriously mom you have to start him off on the right foot or it will be all downhill."

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Despite the look she was given, Taylor sensed weakness and pressed her advantage. She smiled and pointed out, "You say that now and someday you'll find yourself in a world where it's still the Enlightenment and knowing the contemporary expectations of your actions will be advantageous. Besides, it'll be easy. If you can translate early Aramaic, reading Charlotte Bronte will be a snap.

She watched the exchange of crayons with bemusement and ruffled JJ's hair as he offered his opinion on bedding, "Huang, look, you could get any color you wanna for sheets. Ooh, or one with thuperherosh! Look, they've got oneth with Momma on'em."

"They do?" Taylor was briefly distracted as she blinked at flannel sheets with a cartoon version of her costume and the distinctive white and black lightning of the Void. She took them gently from JJ, who was extraordinarily pleased that his mom rated a set of discount sheets. Taylor frowned down at them and went to put them back, "I... don't think that Huang is going to want superhero-sheets. Maybe a solid color? What about black?"

She turned back towards her 'eldest' and picked up the thread of their earlier conversation, "And they've got the best training grounds for learning more... martial skills. They even have sports teams that you could take part in without having to hide who you are." Taylor paused, "What you are."

You know, a vampire. Sort of.

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"Oh so not happening."  Huang recoiled from JJ's suggestion, "Little man I know you don't know it yet but sheets with your mom on them is next level creepy alright trust me." he shuddered slightly at the thought and moved down the aisle to peruse the high thread count sheets.

"You have been shopping for Dad for too long."  he pointed out as she once more went for the black option.  He pulled down burgundy and a deep hunter green comparing them side by side before tossing both in the cart with a shrug. "We're lucky they don't make frilly poet shirts in our size mini me."  he pointed out, "Or leather pants for that matter."  he twitched no one wanted to see a parent no matter how ageless in such a get up.

"Sports?"  he arched a brow at Taylor and shook his head, "As if I don't manage ot disappoint dad often enough."  He smirks, "I didn't exactly inherit his athleticism."  just his temperment and diplomatic nature.

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Because very dark red and very dark green were SO different from black. Taylor looked at the time-slipped version of her son and for a moment - just a moment - considered pushing him into the Void. She did not, of course, because she was the parent but it was a good thing that Huang was not a telepath as his mother briefly pictured stuffing him in her cape and finishing the shopping in peace. The breath that Taylor didn't need to draw slid out slowly, measured. 

"Everything your father dresses in, is generally for specific point and purpose. Just because he's not in costume, does not mean he's not in costume," Taylor said with an only slightly forced even calm, "Jack doesn't care if you can catch a baseball, Huang. He wants to know that you'll survive an assassination attempt or a kidnapping."

JJ looked up at his mother with wide eyes, distracted from laughing at Huang's jokes - more because he could tell Huang was making them than really understanding what he meant. Taylor bit her tongue before pointing out that most of Jack's athleticism came from the fact that he was a full vampire and his son was distinctly not. That was sure not to take the conversation any place good. 

Now would be a perfect time to have some sort of villain attack. Where's a super villain when you need one. 

Alas, no miscreant appeared and Taylor resumed shopping, putting the matching fitted sheets and various sundries in the cart for the rest of the bedding. Honestly, how they missed that he wasn't a teen before was remarkable. Thankfully he'd been living in the manor the whole time so she'd never come to visit him living with only top sheets and eating ramen out of the microwave. His ruse would probably have ended sooner if she'd had. 

"They have more than just the traditional sports. You know you'll get stronger as you get older. It just takes time. And training. I think you'll find this kind of training more engaging the homeschooled version."

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"Oh I know it is for point and purpose I just throw up in my mouth a little at that point and purpose." Huang countered smugly and shook his head at her defense of his fathers more extreme opinions on propper skills for a child.  "Hey you brought up the sports thing not me."  he pointed out with nod and turned to ape perusing the duvets with feigned nonchalance.  

After waiting what seemed an appropriate amount of time to maintain the illusion of aloof teen with no concern for his parents opinions Huang looked back to Taylor and shrugged, "Yea I guess."  he admitted reluctantly, "I wouldn't say the home tutoring is less engaging persay though."  he added with a vague frown, just less non-lethal and with less concern his diet was stunting his growth.

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Fortunately, Taylor was practiced now at ignoring the yicked out face that her teenager made at the thought of any sort of 'activity' that he was aware might be happening between his parents. She studiously ignored it. 

"Your father can only sneak attack you so many ways," Taylor said, perhaps a touch too loud and drawing a startled glance from another suburban mom as she reached out to accept the toy that JJ was currently trying his best to coax into the basket. She glanced down at the toy in question but her attention was more on Huang than JJ's need for another plastic figure to clutter the floor of his room. "At Claremont, you'll be able to grow your skills and talents in ways that we just wouldn't push you. And that's a good thing."

Without regard for his current intentional styling of the unruly spikes of black hair, Taylor reached up to ruffle Huang's hair in the same way she'd done with JJ's earlier. "Just because you're grounded for more or less forever for lying for the last couple of years, doesn't mean we're not proud of what you can do. Jack's proud of you. I'm proud of you. If you were going to be a fireman when you grew up, I'd make sure you had the best sort of training for it you could get. You're right. Some people can chose normal and its not something you get to do. It's one of the few things that I couldn't give you, Huang."

"So, we're going to make sure you're prepared for the life you are going to have and the very best place for that is Claremont. It's not a punishment. When JJ's old enough, he'll be going to Claremont too."

"Yeah! With Huang! I'm'a be a hero with Huang! We're gonna fight monsterth!"

JJ's understanding of who the monsters were was a little skewed to say the least. 

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"Yea yea yea."  Huang acknowledged with belaboured sigh, "Appologies if I skip the hugging it out."  he snipped though from the look away the perceptive could gather he took the words of praise to heart.

He poked at a few other thins on the shelves absently and snorted slightly at JJs anouncement, "Yea mini me, as awesome as that would be I don't think Moms gonna be in favor of me taking fifteen years to graduate."  he joked lightly and drummed his fingers on the edge of the cart, "I need sunglasses if you're gonna make me do this whole daywalker thing."  he pointed out squarely, "Like real sunglasses not nasty gas station sunglasses dad wears to fool no one."

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"Your father doesn't wear gas-station sunglasses," Taylor said with amusement and shook her head at Huang, making it clear that she saw through his posturing. Hell, she'd lived with a vampire a good long time now. She was well aware of the predator-y instinct to posture and look like a threat. Sure, they manifested it differently. JJ still resorted to going all red-eyed and hissing when he was intimidated by new people, Huang retreated behind insults and snark, and Jack... well, Jack usually started off with a wide smile. Still, it was the same threat-defense posture and Taylor was unmoved by it. "I'll tell your father that you want sunglasses that will fully protect your sensitive eyes for school. We won't find those at Target. You can pick out your own style."

Graceful in victory as despite his death throws, that was a clear acquiesce to do the school thing. Glancing down in the cart, she double checked her list, giving Huang time to recover and JJ time to slip his toy into the cart. "And I think we're just about done here."

"Now, who wants some ice cream on the way home." That was, of course, directed to both boys but she and JJ exchanged dimpled smiles. The five year old was easier to win over with ice cream but she had no doubts that she'd be getting them both one on the way home.

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