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Date: September 19, 2015

Taylor hadn't exactly given Elis all that much choice really. Oh, she'd promised that it was a nice, normal meeting with nice, normal people who just happened to have super powers. Other than that it was just a barbecue with friends who happened to be super parents, at least that was what she'd conveyed on the phone. In Taylor's defense, she really did feel that it was important for the relatively new super hero to have something like a support network. She certainly would have appreciated having had more of a network when she'd first started. Also, her definition for 'normal' might have gotten steadily skewed over the years. After all, Stesha was the most normal person that Taylor still knew - she just happened to be a goddess running her own nature planet preserve these days. 

Taylor's lack of sympathy for any attempts to cry off might have also been in part in her expectation that it took some strong arming to get people to attend parties. Jack certainly wasn't ecstatic about Taylor's 'we're all going as a family to this barbecue on Stesha's planet before dark hits. No, really. It's important to me' explanation for why everyone was being rousted on a Saturday, side dish in tow. 

With a soft 'pop' of displaced air, Taylor showed up in Ellis' living room. Huang had his after school job to keep him busy and Taylor didn't think that he'd enjoy a barbecue with mostly adults and the under ten crowd in attendance. Jack and JJ had already been dropped off with Jack entrusted with delivering the side dishes of potato salad and a cooler full of steaks for the barbecue. That she showed up inside the house rather than on the porch was in difference to Ellis secret identity but he might not see it that way. Except for the sudden appearance, Taylor looked normal enough - at least she wasn't in costume. With her hair pulled up in a bun and in a light shirt and denim shorts she could have been any fresh-faced college student. Well, except for the fact that she was still translucent.

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Taylor appeared before a five year old boy with a mass of sandy blonde curls atop his head struggling to get his shoes on.  He blinked twice at the strange woman in his living room and tilted his head to the side before waving, "Hi I gotta get my shoes on for the bar beee quuue."  he said dragging the words out as if he just learned them, "uhm,"  he bit his lip slightly as if trying to think of more to say, "are you the lady that does the cleaning?  I thought cleaning was wednesday?"

Moments later Elis burst from around the corner the sandy powers he had inherited pooling around one hand as he took in the source of his son speaking to someone without anyone supposed to be in the house.  Recognizing Taylor he relaxed and closed his eyes forcing himself to be a gracious host, "Taylor I hadn't realized you had arrived."  he said with a raised brow and called around the corner to the kitchen, "Jen bring the basket in while I get your brothers shoes on."  he asked as he stepped toward the youngest the boy immediately yelling "No I do it myself!" before relenting to have his shoes tied for him with a sigh.  

"Gabe, Jen, this is Taylor, my friend from work." he explained evenly, "She invited us to join her and her friends on this barbecue."  he introduced and explained as the eight year old jen came around with a small wicker picnic basket with a bottle of wine and a few carefully wrapped trays of cheese and crackers.  "Taylor, This is Gabe and Jen."  he offered with clear fondness in his tone as he stood, "Sorry running a bit late you know how it is with kids."  he offered as he slung a light sports coat over his polo, "Should I follow you or do you want to just give me the address?"  he asked assuming of course they would drive because he was a mostly normal and sane person. 

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"Hi," Taylor said, smiling down at the little boy cheerfully. She didn't glance up when Elis burst in, her hands still tucked behind her back and laced together. "I admit, I'm not really fond of cleaning personally but it still has to get done anyway, sadly. You know, I have a little boy that's just about your age, I think."

She glanced up then, giving an exasperated Ellis her full attention and a friendly smile. Taylor failed to look remotely repentant about almost scaring him to an early grave. As she was still semi-translucent, she had less concern about getting a blast of sand to the face as it probably would sail through her. Emphasis on the probably. Hubris? Perhaps, a little. 

"Hey, Elis. Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you but I didn't want to ruin the whole thing with the neighbors. Lesser of two evils and all that," There, that was sort of like an apology. Ish. She offered a smile to the kids that dimpled her cheeks, "Nice to meet you both. Is everyone ready? It's not really the sort of place one drives to. This is faster. "

Before there was much response, Taylor turned away. She reached up to touch her amulet once before stretching the same hand out to touch a spot in the air that rippled at her fingertips like the surface of disturbed water. With both hands, she reached out to stretch a hole in reality about as tall as a man and a little wider. The surface was murky, like water in a dark pond although glimpses of Stesha's world were visible through if one really squinted. Taylor did it with the same sort of casual air that most people opened a door with, "There we are. Sanctuary."

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Gabes eyes grew wide at the display, "Woooooow."  he said and looked to elis, "We can still go right?"  he asked pleadingly, "I'm sure it'll be safe, she has a little boy like me so it can't be dangerous right?"  he asked with the certainty of youth that the adults i the world would never let anything hurt him.  Jen stood agape and looked from Elis to Taylor and back, "She's magic?"  she exclaimed, "Youneversaidshewasmagicthatissocool." she fired off rapidly as she went up to gingerly reach out towards the portal glancing to Taylor, "can I touch it?"

Elis blanched so much for keeping the kids in the dark about what brought this group together and avoiding awkward explanations of how exactly he knew dimension hopping super heroes.  "No Jen I did not mention that you are correct."  he said his tone only slightly clipped before taking a gracious breath and nodding to Taylor, "Isn't this a fun surprise?"  he said to the kids as he bogled at the other adult wondering if it was possible for her to actually be this out of touch with reality or if this was another byzantine test or arcane lesson in how to hero.

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Taylor returned his look with a small, not quite apologetic shrug. Honestly, she'd have been more careful if his wasn't a hereditary line of mystics but the kids were going to have to learn sometime. Sooner was better than later and potentially, too late. After all, that was the tact she took with her own off spring. Her smile softened her features and she turned solid, her feet hitting the floor with a faint thump. "It's exactly right to ask first but it's completely safe. You can touch it."

She stepped forward, her fingers light on the girl's shoulder and more for Elis' comfort than any real concerns for safety. On Jen's fingertips, the surface of the portal held the same slight tension that water did and where the barrier existed, there was the chill touch of the Void before her fingers slid into the waiting warmth of Sanctuary. 

"Magic isn't evil, or good. It just is. Like storms and air. It's the person doing it that dictates the intent," Taylor offered, and although she might have been talking more to the adult in the room, her gaze remained on the kids, her voice light, "It can often be dangerous but I've been doing this a long time and this portal is safe. On the other side is where my friend Stesha lives."

Taylor paused and then grinned, "She's magic too." She stepped into the portal first, one foot in either dimension to usher Elis' family through before they stepped out into the summer-turning-autumn of Stesha's Sanctuary, with the portal closing behind her with a soft 'pop'. 

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"Mama!" A small boy of about five was waiting for them on the other side of the portal, wearing black sunglasses, black jeans, and a black hoodie with a picture of a cheerful yellow bee on it. It was blatantly obvious to Taylor that Jack had dressed his son - particularly since Jack Sr. was dressed the same way - minus the bee, anyway. "I missed you SO MUCH!" he lisped while running forward like a rocket to dive right at Taylor's legs, naturally trusting his mom would be there to stop him. "Daddy says there are giant BEES and I can RIDE one if I'm GOOD!" He hugged Taylor with the bone-crushing enthusiasm of a little boy, hardly noticing the others. "Isn't that AMAZING?" 

Lingering on the forest path for a moment, Jack Sr. stalked towards the new arrivals before leaning over and pecking his wife on the lips. "Hey, beautiful. Your son has run back and forth from here to the oak tree about five times in the last five minutes." The oak tree in question marked the end of the forest path they were on, heading towards a half-visible community one could just make out through the trees. "It was an _apple juice day_ at Nicholson," he commented significantly. 

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Taylor turned from the closing portal with a smile lighting up her features. Thankfully, the bellowed 'Mama' gave her plenty of warning to brace for impact so it was a solid Taylor that swung her son up into the air with an exaggerated 'oof' at the boy's weight. Pretty soon, Taylor was going to have to stop those sorts of antics as JJ was getting big and she lacked anything like super strength. Taylor teased him with a grin, "Are you sure the bees can hold you up? I think you might have gotten bigger since I dropped you off at school this morning."

Lowering JJ slowly to the ground once more, Taylor kept a hand on the dhampir lest he take off once more for the trees as she turned her smile on Jack. "Of course it was," Taylor commented with some amusement, "Well, hopefully he'll run the energy off eventually. You're going to let him ride bees? Is that even a thing?"

The last was asked as an aside before she turned to make something like proper introductions to the family that she'd ushered through the portal, "Jack, this is Elis Sanford - he works at the same hospital that Dad does, actually." That wasn't anything she'd actually mentioned to Ellis before, "And his kids, Jen and Gabe. Elis, my husband Jack and our son, JJ."

JJ beamed at the new children, especially the one that looked to be his size, "I'm five! Wanna ride bees? They can FLY!"

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Sanctuary was beautiful at any time of year, but early autumn was making a particularly nice showing of itself, with the dense deciduous forest around them just beginning to be tipped with color and a crisp breeze blowing the scent of woodsmoke on the air. This particular path was made of crushed white stones, well-maintained and wide enough for a car to be driven along it, with some care. A dozen yards beyond Taylor's portal, the trees began to taper off, opening onto a gentle rise that gave the visitors a good look at the world around them. A few miles away, a village was plainly visible, composed mostly of sod houses in concentric rings around a town square of prefabricated buildings. It was swarming with busy people, mostly on foot, a few with bicycles or carts, though one outlier near the large barns on the edge of town was riding a flying platform being towed from above by a yellow-and-black striped honeybee the size of a semi-truck. Off in the distance, there were many more bees as well, flying through a meadow that, given its size even at this distance, must've covered a hundred acres, with flowers the size of swimming pools.

At the top of the hill, the road forked in several directions, with a helpful sign in the middle to point the way. The top sign pointed nearly back into the forest again, away from the village, and read "Stesha's House." The road toward the village was marked with signs for  "Homewood, 2mi, Mayberry, 7mi, Monastery," and the third fork was tagged "Springfield, 5mi, Flying Castle, Beedom City." 

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Jen and Gabe bound through the portal eagerly excited by the prospect of what may lie beyond.  Elis hoisted the basket in one hand and shouldered a small bag of the assorted sundries a day out with children required before stepping through himself.  He shuddered slightly at the odd sensation of stepping into a new world and looked around a smile flitting to his face at the relative normalcy of the little boys eager greeting glancing up to Jack he offered a hand as Taylor made introductions.  "Pleasure to meet you."  he greeted in a warm tone thinking perhaps this wouldn't be as out of the ordinary as might be expected.  Of course that was quickly followed by discussions of not only Bees large enough to ride but of actually riding them and he looked to Taylor likely not for hte first or last time that day marveling at what the woman apparently thought was normal.  

Jen eagerly pointed at the bees in the distance and grabbed her fathers hand, "Oh can we look at hte flowers they're huge!  even bigger than grandmas!"  she exclaimed excitedly.  Gabe was decidedly less thrilled by the idea of giant bees and burried his face against Elis' thigh shaking his head a decisive no at the entire concept.  Jen was quick to explain, "He got stung last month when we were visiting grandma and grandpa in Florida."  she said with a firm self satisfied nod and patted her younger brother, "These ones won't sting I'm sure they wouldn't let kids ride them if they stung besides bees that big would have stingers that go right through you."  she pointed out not helping in the slightest.

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"And all the BLOOD would come out!" exclaimed JJ excitedly, gesturing emphatically to show where the blood would come gushing out of a punctured heart. "And you would DIE!" 

For all his barely suppressed energy, Jack noticeably hung back as they started on their way to Stesha's house. "JJ, don't be disgusting," he said with gentle firmness. "You'll give our guests upset stomachs if you talk about things like that." He took his wife's hand, enjoying the summer breeze and her company, even if he didn't have to like the natural air all around them. He was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a country boy. "I heard there's a dragon here too. She's on the Freedom League," he added for the benefit of the kids.

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"How much apple juice did they give him?" Taylor asked in an undertone as she cast a sidelong look at her cheerfully bouncing offspring. Frankly, she figured that a good portion of this was the fact that JJ was going to get to play with Stesha's daughter. It seemed as if he always ramped up when a play date was in the offing. She threaded her fingers through Jack's and nodded her head slightly in agreement. See! Perfectly normal people. And their dragons. 

"The bees live much further off," Taylor promised as they wound their way through the greenery to where Stesha lived, "Ammy, Stesha's daughter is a year younger than JJ and I think some of the Espadas are coming, too. Stesha's much more sociable than I am by and large. I don't think there's most of anyone in the community she's not on good terms with...."

JJ would be the first to break through to Stesha's house, fueled by sugar and the promise of the playdate. Although Taylor tended towards an over protective streak, she didn't have any qualms letting JJ out of sight or around the bend. Even if there hadn't been a good half dozen super heroes in shouting distance, there were rarely any threats ever on Stesha's planet. It was always handy being on good terms with a demigoddess. 

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With slight urging a a quick squeeze of his arm Elis sent Gabe scampering after JJ tears drying already as he joyously added in, "Unless it's lower then it'd be all poop!"  followed by the uproarious laughter only the very young and or possibly the very british could muster for a good poop joke. Jen was quick to declare, "I'll watch them!"  and shoot off after the younger children to admonish whatever perceived misbehavior she found with the glee of an older sibling with carte blanche to tattle.

Elis sighed heavily and murmured an obligatory, "No poop jokes."  though his heart was not in it this was a battle he knew to be lost.  He shrugged slightly to Jack and Taylor, "Sorry." he apologized somewhat rotely but he did have a certain pride knowing the boy had picked up on some of hte subtleties of anatomy from his father's complaints about TV shows and rounds of Operation.  

"So?"  he asked as the kids ran off, "You all do this often?"  he inquired trying to guage just how far off from normal he should expect for future invitations.

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Just a few hundred yards up the trail, the woods resumed, and not too far beyond that, they opened into a fairytale clearing. Stesha's home was in the center, small and neat and made entirely of leaves and branches, as though it had decided to grow exactly where it was. The windows were made of crystal just faceted enough to sparkle in the sunshine, and the wooden door was propped open to invite visitors inside. The space around the house was a riot of late-season wildflowers, with heavy-headed sunflowers and tall dahlia spires dominating over roses and hydrangea bushes, while dozens of smaller flowers blanketed the ground. Beyond that, though, (and Taylor was not sure that the clearing had been this big before) there was a broad, grassy area with picnic tables set up, a fire pit ringed carefully with rocks, and a very large propane grill. 

The moment the visitors set foot in the clearing, the door opened wider and Stesha came out, all smiles. "Taylor, Jack! It's so nice to see you! And JJ, you're getting so big!" She distributed hugs freely, even to Jack, then turned to Elis and his family. "Hello, I'm Stesha, sometimes called Fleur de Joie. It's so nice to meet you, I'm so glad you could come!" 

Edited by Electra

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"No, not really. Some of these people we haven't seen in years," Taylor replied as the kids ran off ahead, her hand tucked companionably in Jack's. She offered her rather pale husband an affectionate smile, "Jack and I spent most of the last year in an interstitial dimension and before that, well... it's a long story. But we're trying to get back in touch with everyone. Huang - that's the teenager not here - he needs a bit more socialization than homeschooling really provides."

As they broke into the clearing after the kids, JJ at least had paused for hugs and greetings before making a beeline to include Stesha's daughter in whatever he was currently expounding upon for his new audience. Taylor dropped Jack's hand to give Stesha a big hug in return, "I'm sorry, he's a little wound today. Thanks for putting this together."

Taylor stepped out of the way for the rest of the introductions, leaving Elis to navigate what he chose to volunteer as Stesha had already gotten Taylor's brief 'new superhero that really, really needs some introductions' via phone.  

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Gabe briefly looked up at his dad for approval before tearing after JJ with a gleeful shriek, Jen stared at Stesha eyes wide then turned to her dad, "I want green hair!"  she exclaimed hopping up and down and running circles around the hostess to look at all angles, "How do you get such a bright color? Is it dye? Where do you get it?"  she fired off reaching out to touch then pulling a hand back just shy murmuring, "Sorry."

Elis nodded for Gabe to go have fun and smiled down at Jen with an indulgent smile, "We'll see maybe over christmas break but I'm pretty sure your school has rules about that."  he pointed out and somewhat belatedly greeted the host, "Elis Sanford."  he greeted in a friendly manner offering a firm handshake, "Yes thank you for the invitation."  he said appreciatively as the kids ran about, "The kids don't get out to these kinds of things as often since."  he trailed off not wanting to bring down the festive air nervously fiddling with where the ring he customarily toyed with was absent, " since lately."  he finished with a small smile kicking himself as still a bit rusty at this whole socialization thing.

He nodded to the house and garden? "This is all so lovely I'm a bit rubbish with gardening myself."  he joked lightly letting out a slow nervous breath glancing to Taylor uncertain if he should be adding super hero names or not and deciding he'd have to come up with something catchier than 'Guardian of the Vale of Dream'  for such scenarios in the future.

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It was something of a fractious day in the Cline family. Richard would have rather been at Will's track meet at UCLA, but after the Incident Paige thought it was best he avoid somewhere his son was competing against other boys when cameras were about, even if that had been the fault of that stupid dumbass line judge rather than any fault of his. So instead Richard and his youngest child were visiting Sanctuary, a lovely world that was certainly full of surprises. Richard was zipping around with his vintage Polaroid, taking pictures of everything, while Holly trotted along after him with an unhappy look on her face. Having grown up when her parents had money and lived in a nice house, both in LA and Freedom City, and who had only seen the outdoors at length at high Mach speeds during family trips, Holly was not an outdoorsy type. "C'mon, Dad, let's just speed it up a _little_?" she asked him crossing her arms over her Nicholson sweatshirt. "The map says it's another half mile! You already ran two-thirds of the way there." 

The words were inclined to prick at Richard's impatience - and so they did. "...all right, fine. We'll make up the time later." He reached down and took Holly's hand. "There's a whole world out there! You've gotta-" He ran, and the forest path vanished in an instant, replaced with a busy clearing with a happy-looking home inside it. Taking in the scene in an instant, one of the most famous ex-villains in the United States popped up right in front of the new guy. "-see it a little!" he was saying as they zipped into view among the other heroes. 

"Hey there! Richard Cline. You must be Elis Sanford! This is my daughter Holly." Holly had hit quite a growth spurt recently, making her ( for a ten year old) a tall, gawky 4 foot 10 with the promise of more later if her dad was any guide. She smiled the bright, tight smile of a kid in the public eye and shook Elis' hand. Behind him, Jack Faretti seemed to reappear from behind the tree where he'd secreted himself, releasing a startled JJ who declared "Dad! You surprised me!" before running back to join the other kids. 

Jack walked back over to join his wife, shooting Stesha a cautious look before finishing, "Glad to be here, Stesha. Love what you've done with the place," he commented. 

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"Well you're more than welcome," Stesha told Elis warmly. "This is the last of the good planting weather on Sanctuary, but we were lucky enough to get great weather this afternoon. And my hair isn't dyed," she explained to Jen with a smile. "It's actually full of chloroplasts, so I can photosynthesize, like a plant. Pretty handy, except that if I get it cut, it hurts a lot!" Today Stesha had her long green hair plaited down her back in a complex five-stranded braid, dressed with pink rosebuds. "You can go ahead and touch if you like." 

Stesha blinked in momentary surprise at the new arrivals to her clearing, then waved cheerfully. "Hello Richard, Holly. Did you enjoy your tour? I'd love to see your pictures, I don't get out with my camera often enough. especially this time of year. Can I get anybody something to drink? We've got water, milk, apple juice, sodas and beer in the coolers." She gestured to the red and white coolers sitting by the picnic table, which were currently being used as high ground in whatever game the kids had going. It was easy to tell which of the children was Stesha's, the curly mop of green hair on the little girl standing on the cooler told the story clearly. 

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Jen ran her hand over Steshas hair very gingerly marveling at it and careful not to hurt the her learning it was apparently sensitive.  She smiled a wide grin, "That is so cool so you're magic too?"  she asked then started as the Clines suddenly appeared taking a small step behind Stesha at the sudden strangers though warming when the hostess seemed to know them and stepped out to wave to the other girl a few years her senior.

Elis too had a brief panic at the speedsters sudden arrival letting out a slow breath then raising a brow as the man introduced himself, "Cline?"  he asked incredulously, "From that TV show?"  he inquired then remembering his manners took the mans hand, "Pleasure to meet you sir."  he said politely and glanced to Taylor wondering what a weird world she lived in that this was her idea of normal.  "Sorry Richard, not used to meeting celebrities."  he explained though that was not event he half of it, "Some of my colleagues are big fans."  he explained with a small nod.

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The blink that Taylor gave Elis' sidelong look was enigmatic. Sure, super heroes had their quirks... "I'm fine, Stesha, I can get myself something to drink. We brought side dishes. Any place we ought put them?" Taylor replied rather than dignify Elis' disconcerted concern with a verbal response. She glanced over at the children leaping from cooler to ground and back again. Her dimples flashed in her cheeks, "I'm not afraid of wrestling JJ off of a cooler to grab a few drinks."

The smile she directed at Richard was friendly as he finished making his introductions, "Hello, Richard, Holly. Good to see you again. How's the rest of the family?" 

Giving Jack's arm a brief pat as he returned to her side, she rather clearly left him out of the drink orders since she wasn't about to make him cart a soda or glass around for the rest of the afternoon to discretely water Stesha's plants, "Elis, did you want anything? Water? Soda?" 

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From the direction of the giant bees' hive a sizable group returned to the main party, a dusty brown haired man with a muscular gymnast's build leading the way with a girl of about three years sitting on his shoulders. Sporting a day or two of stubble he came across as a little scruffy but with a wide grin and loud voice he seemed genial enough, gesturing broadly with one hand as he chatted while the other anchored his daughter in place. From her perch the girl quickly spotted the playing children and demanded to be put down, pulling fearlessly on her father's nose until he acquiesced. With hair a few shades lighter than her father's cut in a short pixie cut the slight point on her ears was noticeable as she sprinted toward Amaryllis with a surprising level of coordination for the size of her legs.

Next to them was a serene woman with snow white hair as long as Stesha's, loosely tied into a ponytail but flaring out into a halo-like mane around her high cheekbones. She strode barefoot through the grass with an infant perhaps half a year old in her arms. The little girl was making fussy sounds and generally complaining about having her daily routine changed but seemed to be largely placated by getting to play with her mother's index finger. A few paces behind the married couple were two young women in their early twenties, each holding one hand of a girl who looked to be the same age as Holly, albeit stocky and solid where the other girl was tall and gawky. The woman to her left bore an unmistakable resemblance to the loud man, even with her shoulder blade length hair dyed black. Her partner was slim and blonde, the fairest skinned of the group by a long margin. She was making some wry observation as they came closer to the party that drew a laugh from the other young woman and a pensively furrowed brow from the serious little girl between them.

"Hey! The bees say hi!" the athletic man called with a wave and a lopsided grin for their hostess as he sauntered up with his wife. The smile faltered a little as he nodded to Taylor and Jack; the last time he'd seen either of them hadn't been antagonistic, exactly, but not exactly on the best of terms. Hopefully the intervening years had been enough to smooth over however many feet he'd manged to stick in his mouth. Greater concern went in the direction of the unfamiliar face next to the sorceress. "Uh..."

"Dr. Sanford?!" his sister blurted incredulously, eyebrows shooting up with surprised recognition.

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Jack Faretti made a conscious point to walk over to Erik Espadas and clap him on the shoulder, shaking his hand firmly and smiling at his family without even showing a hint of teeth. He shot a There, see? look back his wife's way before saying, "Good to see you, Erik. And family," he added with a nod for the others. "Got the whole clan out, eh?" Whatever previous differences there had been, the men were certainly doing their best to make bygones be bygones. 

Richard zipped around, shaking everybody's hand. In his pastel jacket and acid-washed jeans (the better to fit in a natural setting), he certainly made quite the fashion statement. "Hey, all!" Ugh, I can't believe they know that doctor guy better than they do me. Man, what are the kids watching these days. "Paige and Will are over on the West Coast," he called over to Taylor, "so it's just me and Holly-girl today." 

He was making friendly, albeit perfunctory greetings towards the Espadas clan when he was surprised to hear Holly exclaim behind him, "...Yolanda?!" The two girls, tall and blonde and short and stocky, were looking at each other with the sort of icy coolness he associated with an especial target of Holly's ire. "Is anyone else from Nicholson here?" Holly asked, looking up at her dad. 

"Nope," said Yolanda, releasing her mothers' hands so she could fold her arms and glare at Holly. "Just me." 

"Well, that's great, ha-ha, you kids know each other," said Richard, clapping his hands together. "Honey, why don't you go get yourself a diet soda from the cooler over there? Better it goes in you than one of those little kids there." 

 

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"That's great," Stesha told Erik, "I'm glad you got a chance to go over there. Some of them have been asking about you, it's been such a long time since you were able to visit. Well, in terms of bee lifespan, at least! I think Beeatriz and Curlbee were planning on stopping by later with some of the little ones." She walked over to Min for some obligatory cooing over the baby. "And look at you, you're so awake now, cutie pie! You've got your mama's pretty eyes, don't you? Do you want to come see Aunt Stesha? Let your mama have a drink and two free hands?" Stesha extended her hands towards the baby, and in one of them an enormous pink flower grew and bloomed, seemingly from nowhere. "See, isn't it pretty, sweet girl?" 

Over her shoulder, she looked at the others. "I've got games in the shed beside the house, there's croquet and bocce ball, and a volleyball net. The cornhole boards are over in the village, but I could pop over and get them if anybody wants to play." 

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Elis relaxed a bit as the banter at least seemed normal even if the crowd and local was decidedly not.  He gave a small shake of his head to Taylor, "No thank you I'm alright for now."  he replied and noticed a moment later he was still holding the basket glancing down he raised it towards the hostess, "Oh, ah these are for you, thank you again for hosting."  he explained as he offered the bottle of corton-charlemagne and cheese platter, "2000 is supposed to be an excellent year." he added with a small shrug having err'd a bit on the garden party side of barbeque perhaps.  

The arrival of hte Espadas family despite their obvious comfort with giant, and perhaps sentient? bee's notwithstanding they at least seemed a grounded sort.  The exclamation of his name had him taking a second look and blinking in surprise, "Ms. Espadas?"  he asked with some surprise and schooled his features, "Good to see you again."  he offered with a polite nod not certain how much the exceptional student would wish attention drawn though he supposed all these folks were already aware of one another's extracurriculars.  "This must be your family."  he said as he tried to puzzle out the connections and swiftly gave up before he embarrassed himself or someone else.

He took a step towards the group glancing over at the children swarming near the coolers to check on his own as he did so and added, "And I think Elis would be fine for this setting."  he added finding the insisting on being called doctor in social setting terribly pretentious.  At Steshas offer of games he glanced around with a small shrug, "I think hostess choice would be fair."  he suggested with a smile, "though I'm perfectly happy enjoying the company."  he added carefully as he knew himself to be the outsider for the moment.

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Mara Hallomen had cut her hair recently, but while the bangless bob looked quite good and remained easy to maintain it had done absolutely nothing to help keep stubborn locks from escaping from behind one ear. At least it gave her free hand something to do: as they approached the group the young woman seemed no more overjoyed with the crowd than some of the kids had been, though maturity and an excuse to brush her hair back instead of bunching her hand up in her pocket made the discomfort more subtle than it might have been.

"Someone you know?" she asked the other end of her family hand-holding chain, without looking over. She was, rather nakedly, sizing up anyone she hadn't already met...though it wasn't in challenge so much as in study, like those dark blue eyes were scanning details to memory for later analysis. Which, to be fair, they probably were.

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Taylor returned her spouse's pointed look with one of approval. There may or may not have been some conversation that preceded the barbecue about expectations. She followed in Jack's wake to add her more subdued but still warm greetings. Taylor had never really been a casual hugger, but she offered Erik her hand as well and a small smile, "I heard through the grapevine but belated congratulations. You have a lovely family."

She turned towards the rest of the arriving Espadas, "I've never properly met the rest of you, I don't think. I'm Taylor, and that's our son JJ," she added, pointing out the five year old currently leaping from the cooler with a whoop of glee as he went to catch up to one of the other children. Taylor paused in her introductions for a moment to watch JJ with more than maternal concern as, when riled, JJ's instincts were not always the most... human about typical games of 'tag'. Despite his current laser focus, though, Taylor didn't see anything amiss so she turned back, her body canted to still keep an eye on JJ as the toddler joined in the game. One hand snuck up to twist the amulet on its chain absentmindedly, turning to Elis with some surprise as he knew some of the new guests. 

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