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Hard To Be Cool (In a Minivan) [IC]


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The minivan might not have gone with the whole 'supernatural aesthetic' of the rest of the haunted manor but there was a surprising number of times that Taylor had to get around Freedom City, family in tow, and not have it be reasonable to stick the whole family in her cape for the ride. The minivan, however, was growing on her. Not only could she stuff all sorts of supplies - or unconscious bodies - in with the seats down but there was a built in vacuum. The Void did not have a built in vacuum. 

"Huang, come on! We're going to be late to the bus stop if we don't hurry," she called as she hustled JJ down the stairs and towards the side of the van. The five year old was yawning as, like the rest of his family, he was by and large a nocturnal creature. Sadly, he was forced to a daytime schedule with his own classes starting. "In the back with you, kiddo, we have to pick up one of Huang's classmates along the way."

At least the little boy was fairly biddable when tired as all he wanted to do was get into the car and nap until he was stirred once more. Taylor stepped up in to the van to buckle him into his seat and glanced into the back... which was apparently empty. "I swear I told him to put his things in the car this morning..."


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Huang staggered down the front steps yawning himself and rooting around the voluminous depths of his chosen trenchcoat for the day to pluck a pair of sunglasses from the void and fix them over his eyes as he complained, "This is ridiculous."  he moaned mournfully, "Like Claremont couldn't send a car?"  he holled his eyes as he shuffled to fling himself into the backmost seat back against the side of the van lanky legs stretched out across the bench seats.

Fiddling with his seatbelt which of course fought against being fastened around his broad shoulders whilst he insisted on sitting not remotely properly in the seat he nodded to JJ, "I know Mini Me I can feel my eyeballs."  he whined and tapped the back of his seat, "All right lets get this circus rolling then if I have to be out of bed at this blighted hour."

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Behind the wheel, Jack Faretti was wearing sunglasses too - it really was bright this morning. "Claremont's not going to spoil you like that, boy," he growled. He was still, deep down, a little embarrassed that the dhampir had gotten it over so thoroughly on him on account of his age. "All you are there is just another high school kid - you're not the son of any Heshem's Chosen or the king of Freedom City's vampires. I don't want to hear that you told anyone any family secrets, right?" His own memories of high school, admittedly grim, were pretty hazy when he thought about it. "Hey, do me a favor, though - we need a sitter for your brother now that you're moving out and your mom's going back to work. Chat up some of the people your age, get some violent ones that like that Wander girl." 

He pulled out into traffic, staring straight ahead. "Now it's this way, right?" He made a couple of turns, then said, "Now this one is what, the one from foster care? Are we sure she's all right?" 

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Taylor settled JJ with a pair of sunglasses and a blanket to hide his face in before she took her place in the passenger seat in the front. Her sigh spoke volumes about the crabby teenager in the back seat. She left the lecture to his father although she added, "Did you happen to grab any of the things we got or do I need to drop them off for you later, Huang? I know you don't want to go but you need some normalcy in your life." She paused and added under her breath, "Clearly."

Her gaze slid then to Jack as she eased back in her seat, looking for the turn off, and nodding, "Erin was a great baby-sitter although I think JJ's probably grown out of trying to bite the sitter. Probably. As long as they can handle the ghosts, they'd probably be fine..."

The last question, however, had her pausing. Taylor's left hand flew up to her amulet as she twisted it between her fingers. "Oh, you know. She's fine." She said after a pronounced pause and a meaningful look back to Huang's slouched form in the back seat. Her voice dropped to a murmur that hopefully would escape Huang's hearing. Hopefully, "Her parents were part of a fairly successful cult-thing, but she's fine. I'll tell you about it later."

Because the offspring of evil magic workers were exactly the sort of person one wanted to put in the backseat with dhampir. Still, Taylor owed the headmaster for getting their eldest in at such late notice at all and Taylor wasn't the type to hold the sins of the parents against a child. 

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Huang rolled his eyes hard enough it was likely noticeable despite the dark shades covering his sensitive eyes.  He let out a sigh blowing a stray hair out of his face as he nodded at his dad.  "Yea I wasn't saying for me."  he intoned with a bored tone, "We can get there even if we didn't want to ride in style like all this."  he gestured at the minivan with mock praise.  He slumped back in the seat and shrugged, "Just figured the fancy superschool didn't need to tap the worlds least likely PTA members to play chauffeur." 

Huang shrugged though and laughed slightly, "I could put up fliers." he suggested, "Wanted one extra sturdy student for regular babysitting of five year old dhampir, must be tolerant of biting, no need to breath a plus!"

He peered over his glasses at Taylor when she asked about his supplies, "Yea I have it all packed in safe and secure, Xltkt even filled out the roommate card for me."  he said with a fanged smile and tilted the glasses back on his face, "They read enochian right?" If he had picked up on Taylors words he showed no overt signs though one could not say he wasn't the type to mislead his parents if it came to a chance to chat up the most likely source of how to summon elder things he really shouldn't.

Edited by angrydurf
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Jack nodded as if that was a perfectly sensible suggestion. "Just go easy on the dhampir thing at first - you never know what kind of people they let into these hero schools. Might be some kind of delusional...cult, huh?" He shot his wife a look behind his sunglasses, one that meant they'd be talking about that later. What the hell is Enochian?! All right, Taylor's mentioned that, it's the thing that the angels say? And maybe demons? "Just watch out and make sure you don't get any fanatics there, seriously. Summers promised us nobody was going to come for you in the daylight, but teenagers can be stupid, even if they're superheroes." He reached over and put his hand on his wife's, squeezing Taylor's gently. "Anyway, they want you riding this. It helps to make sure teenage supers aren't putting on airs - and most of them don't need any help with that."

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Taylor's slight shrug was vaguely-though-not-entirely apologetic at failing to properly share information before they'd all piled in the car. Still, she turned her hand up under his, squeezing his fingers back in mute reassurance as she threaded them through Jack's. 

"You'll be fine," she said for both sets of ears, her voice calm and even as she tried to settle two very different set of nerves. "You're only there during the week and we'll pick you up on Friday. It'll be good for you and if things go horribly awry, you can always come home and we'll work things out. I really think you'll like it, though. We wouldn't have enrolled you if we didn't think it would be a good experience."

Taylor turned in her seat, her hand still linked with Jack's as she added, "And what makes you think we're not going to join the PTA? I've lectured at Claremont before. Unlike typical schools, this is exactly the kind of school that would ask your father to come in and scare the crap out of your classmates for a field exercise. It's not a normal school."

As she straightened, turning back around, "Ah, there's the bus stop and we're not running too late, thankfully."

Edited by alderwitch
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Raina had been in Freedom City for all of thirty-five minutes before deciding she hated it. She thought that reserving judgment that long was very fair of her, given the circumstances. She'd never been on a Greyhound bus before, but it was pretty awful, especially for tall people, and her seatmate for the final two hours had stunk to high heaven of weed, patchouli and sweat. By the time she'd gotten off the bus, she'd been ready to kiss the ground, if it hadn't been so dirty and covered in old gum and gease. The bus station smelled like old food and dirty clothes, and a lot of the people hanging around in the chairs were frankly scary. She'd had plenty of time in the past seven months to get used to moving in circles besides the rarefied ones in which she'd grown up, but nothing like this. Then some creepy old perv had hit on her, and Merlin, traveling invisibly, had nearly gotten his tail stuck in a sliding glass door, and Raina decided she'd wait outside, even if it was hot. 

It was indeed very hot. Raina remembered going to school back in Evanston, being driven to the door each day by her mom or a taxi, occasionally lingering  a few moments under the amazing old elms and oaks just to enjoy the shade and the breeze. Here she sat on her single suitcase of worldly possessions and inhaled exaust fumes while Merlin watched the time and fretted. She briefly considered making a run for it, not hooking up with this school family at all, but she had no money and no map, and that seemed like a really good way to get in bad trouble. There would be time for that later, once she had her bearings. Anyway, what the hell kind of name was Huang Faretti? She had to get to know the kid just for that reason. 

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"Yeeaaa." Huang drug out the syllable and wasn't sure if his dad was just deadpanning him or actually thought fliers for a super babysitter was even remotely a good idea.  "I'll be sure to be careful dad." he did promise honestly as despite thier differences in opinion of his capability to do so he knew his fathers concerns were genuine if not fully founded after all Huang was a badass.

At Taylors quip however the half undead teen managed to go even paler, "Yea no."  he said with a sharp shake of his head, "I may not know a lot about high school but I know you don't want to be the teachers kid."  he said flatly shaking his head.  "And PTA?"  he just laughed that off there were few things less plausible than a vampire and dimensional guardian attending PTA meetings and discussing bake sales.  As they pulled up to the station he was relieved to have an excuse to end this line of conversation and pointed, "Hey she looks lost and confused and not high on meth must be our girl right?"

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A shining black minivan, looking polished and sparkling as if it had just rolled off the luxury lot, pulled up next to Raina at the curb. The driver's side window rolled down and a pale, high-cheekboned guy with spiky black hair stuck his head out. He was big, and looked strong, albeit a little uncomfortable even with the heavy black shades on. "Hey!" he said, giving her an odd but not unwelcoming smile. "You must be Raina!" He pushed a button and the passenger-side door on her side popped open and began sliding backwards, revealing a leather interior and in-car DVD player in the back, with two occupants in it. "Hop into next to the boys! This is Jack Jr, that's Huang! I'm Jack Sr, this is my wife Taylor." Well, no obvious tattoos or ritual markings, he thought. "My wife tells me you're from Indiana! I was out there a couple of years ago. Ever been to Gary?" He really hoped not. 

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When the door of the car opened, JJ stirred in his seat at the increase of sunlight to the back of the car. Taylor found the sleepy little growling he made when he resettled, pulling the blanket over his head, adorable but not everyone might have shared that opinion. Taylor, for her part, had actually bothered with make up since it helped blunt the youthfulness of her ageless features. Dimples flashed in her cheeks as she offered a welcoming smile of her own. She was the only occupant not currently wearing sunglasses in the depths of the minivan. 

"Do you need some help with your suitcase? There's plenty of room in the back." The back was, in fact, empty. Taylor offered a welcoming wave, "Are you hungry? We can drive through something on the way to school if you'd like. Orientation is always a bit nuts, from what I remember, and you might not want to do it on an empty stomach."

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Raina just stared for a minute at the weird pale guy with the strange smile as he started opening doors and talking about Gary. He looked like a mafioso, she decided, and was probably secretly evil. "Nope, never been," she told him shortly.  

 The girl looked to be maybe a couple years older than Raina, but she was acting and talking like a middle-aged mom type. Merlin expressed his opinion that she was probably immortal, and may have done some sort of really unpleasant sorecery to accomplish that. Raina silently agreed that it seemed plausible. The boy in the back was hot, though, and Raina gave him a frankly appraising look as she climbed into the backseat. She didn't even know what to make of the little kid, so she ignored him for the moment. "I'm good," she told the mom, even though the last time she'd eaten had been the granola bars on the bus that morning. Looking weak or needy in front of these guys would be a bad idea, she was pretty sure. "So you guys are like with the school?" 

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Huang did have manners even if he was filled with an undue share of ennuei and sat up pulling his long legs back to make room for Raina, "Hey."  he said in the universal teen greeting.  He however shook his head then nodded which was totally clear, "We're local so they asked us to pick you up on our way to orientation and all that." he explained with a shrug and looked at his dad like he'd grown a third head when he put on a damn convincing I'm a normal suburbanite dad not a dark lord of vampires act.

Looking finally back to Raina he smiled, "You need a hand with that?"  he asked after the suitcase with a wave of his hand and murmur as it was bathed in a blue green light and began to lift into the air toward the empty back of the van.  Huang was not even a little bit good about not doing magic in public, especially if there was a girl to impress.  This was a fact which no doubt would be upsetting to the more reasonable people in the car and nearby.

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"Jack Huang Farretti," Taylor scolded, her voice sharpening, as she turned around in her seat fully at the lambent glow of the teenage boy's magic. She frowned at him, looking both aggravated and exasperated as the suitcase floated into the back seat. Her hand flicked up, a far more subtle application of power as the button next to Jack's hand depressed and sent the door closing to hopefully cut the worst of the little display from any errant passer-by. She twisted around the front seat to fully voice her displeasure, "Some people value having a secret identity. YOU should value having a secret identity. I swear, you have to think about the consequences of your actions."

The sharp tone in his mother's voice in the wake of the other noises and sun finally roused JJ, who stirred and eventually pulled the blanket from his face to blink blearily behind sunglasses. He yawned with the sort of full body enthusiasm that only very small children manage before interjecting with a distinctive lisp, "What's goin' ooonnn?"

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Jack rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses. "Boy, there are better ways to impress a girl than flashing your magic." He knew there was one person in the car whose opinion his son took seriously enough for this kind of conversation. And it'll keep him from trying to get with that tall cult girl. "JJ, your brother's being a..a teenager!" 

Grinning a decidedly pointy grin, Jack Jr. pointed a finger at his brother and declared, "Teenagew! Don't be a teenagew, JJ!" This was evidently a private joke that Jack Jr. found hilarious. He looked at Raina and immediately waved. "Hi! I'm JJ Fawetti! I'm five years old! What's your name?" 

"I'm in real estate here in town," Jack commented to Raina, "and Taylor's a translator. We actually never went to Claremont ourselves - our, ah, time with the supernatural came after we were done with high school." 

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Raina watched the short flight of her suitcase with a critical eye, studying Huang's technique, deciding she could've done it that way if she'd wanted to, if she wanted to show off. She hadn't realized Huang would have magic, but she guessed there was probably some weird quirk with all the students at Claremont. She watched the byplay between Jack and JJ, and startled a little at the reveal of JJ's pointy little teeth. "Right," she said, not trying too hard to conceal her patent disbelief at Jack's story. These people were definitely supervillains of some sort. Or they could be. Could a kid have magic if their parents didn't have any? "Did you know your kid has fangs?" 

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Huang sighed at his mothers scolding, "Yea cus we're the picture of normal without it."  he replied sarcastically, "Besides I thought it was important for me to go to school so I made friends, what am I supposed to base those friendships on a bed of lies?"  he asked as if shocked at the suggestion.  He frowned at his father at the admonition about trying to impress girls with his magic, "Not many, and none I'm doing in front of my parents."  he countered boldly with a smug grin before offering glance to raina with a small shrug, "Sorry, you know how parents are." he said with confidence she'd agree that parental units were horrible blights on teen life.

He however gentled at the recommendation from the younger him, "You'll get it in a few years mini me."  he suggested with a wink, looking back to Raina he nodded and likely pointlessly translated, "JJ's a pretty awesome kid though so they aren't doing everything wrong."  Yea Huang got the characteristic Faretti humility.  He looked to his Mother then with a raised brow and smug smirk awaiting her response to the implied question about JJ's dental uniqueness.

Edited by angrydurf
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Taylor glanced up, looking back through the mirror at her smirking son. She arched a single dark eyebrow in return at the insouciant challenge in those blue eyes. It took more than a question about the dental structure of her offspring to rattle Taylor at this point. Really, she found the implication that Huang knew more things to do to impress girls than use his magic more distressing than the fang question. She frowned then. Jack had 'the talk' before sending Huang off to school, hadn't he? Surely he'd had that particular talk. 

She slanted a look of her own, clearly delegating the topic of impressing girls to her spouse with a small frown before answering Raina's question.

"I did notice the fangs, yes," her voice was light, easy, as she answered - her humor that she might have missed that obvious. "It's a condition they were born with. Except for the speech impediment, it doesn't cause him any harm and that'll get better over time. It's harder to manipulate the words around the extra teeth. He doesn't bite."

"I'm not suppowsed to," JJ agreed cheerfully, somewhat deflating his mother's attempts at making her offspring sound less like a tiny, adorable monster. "Or I hafta go to the time out chair. Friends aren't food! Just like Finding Nemo!"

"Just like Finding Nemo," Taylor agreed with a sigh. Sometimes she wished she had Jack's knack for easy lies. 

Edited by alderwitch
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"They were born with?" Raina repeated, turning to get a better look at Huang's mouth before realizing it was probably rude. On her shoulder, Merlin made a derisive noise about her rusty social skills. "Oh, give me a break," she muttered. "You think you can do better, go ahead." She dropped the glamour covering the little monkey, which put him perilously close to grabbing distance of the littlest Faretti. Merlin chittered in annoyance. "Anyway, this is Merlin, he's a jerk, you can just ignore him. He's my familiar. So did you like grow up in Freedom City?" she asked Huang. 

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"Monkey! You have a monkey!" exclaimed a delighted JJ, his eyes wide and his teeth looking very pointy. "I love you, monkey! Can I give him a hug?" he asked Raina, obviously having learned even at his age about grabbing strange people's animals. 

"<So, cult?>" asked Jack, switching smoothly to a guttural Old Church Slavonic. "<She doesn't smell like the Devil to me and anybody in a blood cult would have been tweaked to the two of us the minute they came in.>" He knew Huang could understand the language fine, but he really didn't mind if the boy knew something about his little school friends before they started - why else had he snuck around on Freedom's heroes for so many years except to keep an eye on them and learn their secrets? 

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Huang looked over the rim of his sunglasses to take a closer look at the monkey, "Familiar huh?"  he inquired curiously as he examined the monkey and offered a small nod.  He wasn't about to bind his life force to a small mostly helpless animal but different strokes for different folks.  He studiously ignored Taylors weak explanation and flashed a quick smile to Raina giving her a good look at his own fangs since that cat was out of the bag.  He nodded at her question, "Yea mostly right here in freedom."  he confirmed with a shrug, "but we travel alot for business and all."  he clarified with a shrug, "But My dads business is based here so we're always coming back."  

He looked from the monkey to JJ then to Raina raising a brow, "He really is much better about the biting thing."  he clarified as if that would be the concern about the five year old and monkey.  As his parents began discussing Raina in slavonic he tilted his head listening in and sighed shaking his head, "They probably don't want you to think they're talking about you."  he said though did not confirm if that was or was not the case.  "they always used to use that to talk about presents till I figured the language out."

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Taylor turned back to her spouse, her fingers going up twist the amulet at her throat in what was a distinctly nervous tick. Absently she turned the ancient gem on its heavy strand. Her sigh was soft and she offered, switching fluidly to the language, her husky voice quieter than her husband's, "~I meant to mention it this morning, but then we were running late...~"

Occasionally the bad habit of being a closed mouthed mystic did ripple out into her personal life but Taylor really tried to keep her spouse aware of potential threats even if he was semi-retired. She flicked an apologetic glance his direction, "~I'm sorry.~"

Taylor released the gem, letting it fall back to her collarbone, "~Coven more than cult. It happened while we were gone but it was a fairly well established in the area which was settled on a few lines of energy to tap into. Evil stuff. You know the sort, murdering humans to draw on fell powers. Infernal, if I recall correctly.~"

Her voice was even and low pitched, her inflection full of expectation that Jack would be well aware of the type. It might have been a bit, but they'd seen plenty of cultists, covens and demons of various stripes. "~Not full on Invasion of Hell like before JJ was born but nothing to sneeze at, either. But its old school... initiating into the mysteries and all that. Those sorts usually start with a first kill initiation rights, getting innocent hands bloody so there's no going back. She wouldn't know what to look for in people like us yet.~"

There was no mistaking the thread of angry disdain in Taylor's voice, sharpening the inflection of the Slavonic words as she assumed that the kids would be chatting of mundane school matters in the back seat. Which was also probably why she added at the end, shifting the subject away from blood cults, "~You DID talk to Huang about his, ah, baser urges? And being a teenager? All of that?~"

Edited by alderwitch
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"Go ahead," Raina told JJ, "but be gentle and nice, or he will bite you back." Merlin made a longsuffering noise, but hunkered down with an ingratiating raised-brow monkey face and allowed himself to be petted by the little boy. Raina looked amused for a minute, and was about to have a look at Huang's exceptional dentition, when Huang's dad suddenly shifted oh-so-subtly into some weird language that sounded like gargling. Her face hardened, and she hummed a few bars of music under her breath while fingering the chain of her necklace, the amulet of which hung underneath her shirt. Her face remained quite blank while Jack and Taylor spoke to each other, then she piped up herself, in the same language. 

~"Those are all allegations, you know. Nobody's proven a damn thing in a court of law, and right now it's all just a bunch of ugly rumors."~ She folded her arms across her chest. ~"And I can't help noticing that all my family's money and property, everything that wasn't destroyed, anyway, got confiscated for the enrichment of the people who attacked us. They must've made a pretty nice haul from it. But if you'd like to talk behind my back in front of my face, you could always feel free to go screw yourselves,"~ she concluded with a bland smile. 

Merlin sighed and patted the baby's head in a conciliatory fashion. 

Edited by Electra
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"Blargahblarghboo! Look at me, I'm a grownup!" said JJ, waving his little arms, and despite himself Jack suddenly exploded with a bark of nervous laughter that briefly silenced everyone in the car. 

"Hah! You're all right, kid." Jack didn't turn back, but he did switch to English. "Yes, honey, I did tell Huang not to screw any girls while he was at school without protection," he went on to Taylor, figuring that since their secret was out there was no point in being discreet. "Telling teenagers not to do something will just make them do it more. I told you what I was like at his age." He adjusted the rearview mirror so he could look right back at Raina. "And as for you," he went on, "you're not the only one who's tangled with superheroes here. I once had this guy, real-life superhero, look me in the eye and tell me I had one night to get out of town or he was gonna put me in the ground." 

He knew Taylor remembered that thing with Ace. "But yeah, that happened? You all right? They probably squeezed you pretty hard afterwards." 


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Huang winced as his mom started asking about uncomfortable truths and let out a slow sigh of relief as Rainas outburst seemed to quell that line of conversation.  He leaned back to watch the fireworks and snicker lightly at JJ's grown up impression which was basically every other five year olds monster impression.  Unfortunately that all came tumbling down all to quickly as Jack unleashed his torrent of really uncomfortable subjects and slumped in his seat with a beleaguered sigh, "Yea that just happened. Awesome."  he murmured to himself and shook his head not about to extend this conversation by engaging about it.

However once the story started to revolve around Jacks spat with some dried up old hero from before electricity he shrugged to Raina, "Rough."  he said with a nod before focusing his attention on JJ trying to keep him distracted form whatever was going to come out of his parents mouths next, with the way this trip was going it would be about his afterbirth or the tree Stesha planted on it or something.

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