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Draw the Circle


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Huang bounced from one room to the next in the spacious mansion.  Ever since the party he'd been confined to quarters, totally unfair of course, they came home early, it totally was going great before that.  He slumped into an overstuffed wingback chair older than any of the corporeal residents of the home by at east half a century with a dramatic sigh.  "Who am I kidding it was a disaster."  he said to no one in particular startling a nearby ghost as she dusted the mantle, "What was that young master Faretti?"


"Hmm, oh nothing Prudence."  he said absently and dismissed her with a wave as he toyed with the spine of yet another ancient tome he'd never be allowed to master.  Cracking the heavy leather folio open he began to study the contents once more, if only they could see him as he was and not as the five year old they knew, perhaps, but no after the debacle of his glamoured older self ritual magics were verboten.  And when ones mother was arguably the most potent mage on the plane, or several others for that matter, that kind of prohibition tended to stick.  He continued to read up on the dense material, High Magics of the seventh sphere.  One things the hermetics had going for them.  You could go though the motions without an ounce of power and not risk accidentally opening a portal through time and space to some nether realm.

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"Hey, kiddo, why so glum?" His mother's voice came from behind him, ghosting through the shelves to turn solid once more. She gave the lanky teen a one armed hug, her other arm full of a few books of her own. As she glanced down at the book he was reading, Taylor's nose scrunched in vague dismissal of the work, "Hermetics. Too stodgy and inflexible... what about reading one of the lore keeper's records? There's a good one I just shelved on the transitive dimensions..."


As she released Huang, Taylor gestured towards the shelves above as the tome flew from shelf into her hand without so much as a command word or gesture to focus the magic. She held it out for him with a smile.

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Huang accepted the hug with a half hearted sigh of teen ennui.  "Me glum?"  he replied with a shake of his head, "What reason would I have?"  the tall teen sarcastically inquired.  He clapped the book shut and set it aside with a light touch.  "Hermeticism has it's place, at least it can be practiced."  he countered carefully avoiding mentioning his specific prohibitions lest she reflect on the reasons behind them.  He took the book and thumbed through it, "Yes excellent, a visitors guide to dimensions I'm forbidden from, I'll be sure to get to it to go along with the insiders guide to Disney World and that Secrets of the Vatican volume."


He set the lore keepers text atop the other folio he'd been perusing and sunk back into the chair, "I just feel like I'm stagnating."  he complained aloud finally eyes fixed on the floor in front of him, "School is going through the motions, I spend the rest of my time here or in the dorm and-"  he shrugged and threw up his hands, "It doesn't matter."  he finally relayed glumly not wanting to go in depth into the weird mind games school training seemed to be or the, conflicted, relations with other students.  

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Taylor spread her hands, letting the books float over to the desk in a neat pile, and giving her teenager her full attention, "Clearly it matters," Taylor said as she leaned her hip against the desk. Although his mother's features remained frozen at the age she'd accepted her duties, her dark brown eyes were far older than her face and at the moment, they were filled with compassion. Folding her arms up over her chest and with her ankle lightly crossed, "What's wrong, kiddo? School troubles or social troubles? It seems like you're enjoying spending time with Set... that's been going well?"


Her voice lilted up, turning the statement into an invitation to talk about things.

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Huang looked up in horror at his mother's comments as things were going well with Set, very well, and he pretty much wanted to discuss his love life with his mother never if at all possible.  "Yea that's all good but we have an agreement about talking about that don't we?  You don't actually want to know and I don't want to tell you?"  he pointed out uncomfortably adding, "But yes it's good and I'm not doing anything risky." before he let out a sigh recognizing the opening for what it was.


"It's the usual nonsense."  He said with a heavy shrug, "The school doesn't know if ti want's to prep us for heroics or just get us through high school, so all the training is weird morality plays and nothing useful."  he groused cranky still at the last few rounds of 'training' had been heavy on weird moralizing and light on well training.  He waved it off however, "Everyone's a little nuts over it I guess but really other than it being a waste of everyone's time I can get over it."  Huang admitted with a shrug.  "Other students."  he frowned, "I don't even know, half of them are like the most banal people that happen to have powers and the other half are out of their damn minds."  the teen explains with a shake of his head, "I just don't know what I'm doing there, certainly not getting allies, unless I go into business and need a secretary that can lower the cooling bill or want to start raves minus the sex and drugs."  he scoffed pinching his brow.  


Looking up to his mom he sighed, "I can accept not fitting in.  I'm used to that."  he said with a shrug, "And fear or misunderstanding sure fine it's part and parcel with who and what I am."  he added it seemed honestly, "I just wish it didn't feel like treading water."  he looked down at his hands, "I've been here almost five years, and not aged a day."  he intoned slowly, "I mean we both know ageless is a thing that I can expect, but how long am I going to be pretending like I'm a highschooler?"

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"Well, I'd want you to talk to me if you have any questions - even if the conversation felt a little awkward," Taylor said in response to the commentary. She laced her fingers together as she pointed out, "My folks - your grandparents - weren't exactly people I could talk to about that sort of thing so I went in pretty blind to things with your dad, the vampire thing aside."


Taylor's lips curved down in a slight frown at the news of the school, although it was always hard to parse whether or not it was teen angst or something more. She made a mental note to discuss the matter with Jack. Maybe some ghosting of Huang might be in order... But there were more pressing topics at hand.


"Hrmm," she said in response to Huang's commentary, which was his mother's classic prevaricating noise. Clearly, she was deciding what to tell him. "Honey..." Nothing good began with that, and Taylor braced for the teenagers outrage, "You are a teenager. You may have been stuck at this age longer than a normal sixteen year old but hormonally - developmentally - you aren't moving past that age. I... I am fairly certain that you won't be until you and JJ are in synch again." 


She delivered the news gently, but had clearly been doing some sort of surreptitious research of her own.

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Rolling his eyes Huang shook his head, "Yea we had that talk when things started getting serious with - Nevermind."  the teen quickly averted before he revealed more of potential futures than he intended or worse introduced much more awkwardness to his younger self's life.  "Anyway I got that on lockdown."  he assured her and quickly moved on.  


"Yea this too I have noticed."  he pointed out his tone prickly, "But I'm also not."  he countered firmly, "I mean I'm not going to sit and relearn algebra for ten more years."  he said firmly and steepled his fingers, "I'm not five and I'm not even sixteen really."  he argued with a grimace, "I have twenty years of memories and experiences kicking around in here."  he pointed at his head, "I CAN'T just sit here pretending I don't while I wait to catch up with myself."  Huang declared perhaps more forcefully than he intended and took a deep breath.  


"I can accept the teen body and who knows maybe never getting my full height."  he offered with a smirk and a hint of his fathers wry grin, "But I can't be some kind of forever child taking the long way back to my time."  he grew somber for a long moment, "We don't even know if I'll be here anymore when JJ catches up."  Huang pointed out eyes flitting to his mother for a long moment, "The loop closes and-"  *pop*  he gestured and made the nose in unison with a shrug, "If I'm just a temporal shadow or loop dupe I'd like to take what I have a live a little."

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"You're not," Taylor said forcefully, taking a step forward at the idea the boy in front of her might vanish without a trace. For a second, the force of nature that was the Phantom showed through his mother's jaw set and the hard look in her brown eyes. She took a few steps forward and took his hands. Taylor forced her tone to gentle once more as she repeated, "You're not a shadow or a looped echo. You'd have faded long ago if that were the case."


Giving his fingers a gentle little squeeze, Taylor sighed as she clearly debated how much to discuss with the teenager. Clearly, though, she had to nip this nihilistic impulse in the bud. Still holding one of JJ's hands, she lifted the other, shifting the wall to reveal the ever permanent portal to the Void. "You're just not human," Taylor said gently, "JJ takes more after your father and you, well, you're more a creature of the Void."


Leaving her fingers linked with her son's, she pulled him though the entrance until they stepped out into the endless black night of the dimension that was as much Hunag's home as the mansion. Taylor didn't look as out of place as she probably should have floating in the empty space in her jeans and sweater. Then, she finally let his hand go to tuck her fingers in her pockets, one leg lightly bent. 

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Huangs eyes darted to his mothers as she spoke more as Phantom than Taylor, a rare enough occurrence to start.  His eyes narrowed as he gauged how much of her words were worrying mother and how much was based on her not insubstantial knowledge base of the arcane.  Accepting her words was not hard, it was really what he wished to believe regardless though he retained some doubts, "Well not necessarily, but I'd probably be changing my own past in some way noticeable if I was." he agreed.  The thin string his own research had clung to was his lack of memories of the older him in his life.  


He followed her with ease across the barrier to the void looking to her quizzically, "That isn't entirely true either."  He corrected his mother carefully, "I've looked, JJ has as much connection here as I do just less mastery of it."  Huang was well able to sense the dimensional ties in those around him, a skill earned when he fed from Set, and well worth guarding in the presence of one connected to as many places as his mother.  "I understand the tendency towards dualities in these situations, but that is no guarantee."  he shrugged and moved on spinning and letting himself float through the void in a relaxed posture, "Regardless though."  he reiterated, "Even with eons before me I can't just spend a decade playacting the teen."  Huangs tone was strained, "I don't even know how to be one."  

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Taylor's laugh was light and she drifted past him, ruffling his hair as she floated past, "You're filled with ennui and angst over your place in life - I'd say that you're managing 'teenager' just fine." She commented as she glided through the Void with ease and a sense of direction that few others could have matched in the dimension, and with enough purpose that she was heading somewhere, even if Huang might not be entirely certain where that somewhere was. 


"If you read the book on transitive dimensions," Taylor teased, her dimples flashing, "You'd have a better understanding of where I was going with this. Knowledge is power but not all knowledge is magic. Transitive dimensions don't flow in linear pathways, they don't ascribe to those rules the way that the near-Earth realms do. You and JJ are, really, half extra-planar entity as I haven't belonged to Prime since well before either of you were born."

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Huang fixed his mother a withering look at her commentary on his teen existential crisis and wrap around back to the book she wanted him to read.  Taking a deep breath however he centered his thoughts on the puzzle she presented rather than the infuriatingly motherly presentation.  "Yes, We are both of the void at least as much as of prime."  he agreed still trying to piece together what this had to do with taking after one or the other parent, "Both of us."  he clarified again.  


"The transitive dimensions touch not only all potential places but all potential times."  he finally pulled out and tilted his head at his mother curiously, "Which roots me time displaced or not to something outside of time?"  he questioned uncertainly as this certainly didn't seem the direction she was heading with this. 

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"Mmm," Taylor replied which was not quite agreement but at least Huang was once more enjoying a lesson in his mother's manner rather than dealing with the mundanities of Claremont. It was, if nothing else, familiar territory. "Most of those with a parent from a different dimension tend to be angelic, or demonic - or one of the various so-called gods - but though their other dimensional parentage is not human, they are almost never an entity in the sense of dimensions like this one. Children of the dimension of dreams, or nightmares, might be closer."


She gave a flip of her hand as if dismiss a tangent that was, while interesting, less relevant to her point. "In essence, on some nascent level, JJ chooses a linear existence and you, honey, picked a different path."

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Blinking at the odd tangential line of inquiry Huang hrummed softly under his breath.  He was about to try and tie back to his own nature when she of course got back on track and he recalled his mothers somewhat rambling interconnected style of instruction.  Letting out a slight sigh as the discussion righted itself he refocused on the more direct theory she postulated.  "Well so far he has, believe me he still has plenty of time to get grandiose ideas about temporal manipulations of reality."  he countered with a smirk, "Maybe he'll even do better."  huang mused.


Raising a brow he though deeper on her suggestion, "Wait," he said pausing with the unearthly stillness of those who needn't breath other than for cosmetic reasons, "Nascent."  he said quietly and looked to his mother curiously, "How nascent are you thinking?"  he pondered, "Like JJ nascent? Earlier?"  he asked incredulously.

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Taylor made that humming noise in the back of her throat, the sound echoing oddly as she turned briefly insubstantial to avoid a drifting chunk of debris - a sure sign they were circulating close to the section of the Void that Huang had claimed for his own. "More in the moment of creation sort of nascent," Taylor said, the tone almost apologetic as she finally drifted down to stand on one of the rubble-rocks drawn towards Huang's hide-away in the void. As one of the little voidlings drifted closer, Taylor held her hands out towards the entity as it chirruped cheerfully at the Void's mistress. 


"Just as on some level, you choose the rules that govern your existence. Which is why I said that JJ takes after your father and you've, well, take more after me," Taylor repeated, although clearly she was actually talking about a level deeper than the choice of vampire versus magi. 

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Huang drifted effortlessly to a somewhat battered chair the worn upholstery still marred by the duct tape residue from some long ago interrogation Phantom had helped Avenger clean up.  He was taken aback by the statement and raised a brow, "That's uh, pretty nascent."  he murmured as cover for his surprise at her thoughts.  He stared thoughtfully into the emptiness that surrounded them both, "I remember BEING JJ though?"  he finally countered though he knew on some level that did not undo her theory in full.  


His mind was spinning, was she trying to say he was some void figment like those he called up as servitors?  simply declaring the offspring she knew best as that which was the 'true' Jack Huang Faretti?  No, even if she had been cruel on that level that was clearly not the argument she made and he knew it.  Like her it seemed was the crux of what she was suggesting, "You are unique."  he pointed out, "I mean so am I."  he agreed and frowned, "So what then am I? we? Are we?"  he asked simply curious now what she had come to believe maybe discovered, there was no greater expert to go to after all.  

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"You're our son," Taylor said as she reached out to capture his jaw between her hands, smiling faintly as if she'd caught the line of his worry. "Fully human identical twins were at one point the same cell but they're no less individuals. Beyond that, it's up to you to define what you'll be. Which, really, is the essence of the teen experience. Perhaps you're spending more time in this age because that question is a little... larger for you."


She gave his cheek an affectionate little pat before releasing him. "What do you think you are?"

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Huang rolled his eyes, "I think I have a guitar around here somewhere if we need to get our kumbai yayas out."  the teen replied dryly.  "That wasn't my question and you know it.  Now you're dodging."  he said frankly and shrugged, "It's fine you think I'm not ready, like with most things."  he sighed looking off in the distance again and shaking his head.  "Not everything is an existential larger than life question."  Huang suggested plainly, "Sometimes things just are what they are mom."  


Standing and pacing as he pondered her question he threw up his hands, "I think it doesn't matter."  turning back to her on one heel he shrugged and waved off the whole question, "You were born completely human, and esoteria aside fate didn't decree you what you are now, that was choice."  he met his mothers gaze with a long sigh, "I am just me, trying to do something with whatever time I have be it years, weeks, or forever."  he said flatly, "I don't know anything else except that I don't feel like all this apeing normalcy is getting me any closer to being able to do that safely."

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"It's the more important part of the answer," Taylor sighed but she ruffled his hair once more, "If you're asking for the less important, more scientific response, I looked into all possible avenues of what could and couldn't be and I believe that you were created when JJ was - from the same event that we have already established you don't want me to go into."


Taylor's dimples flashed, "But while JJ gestated in a more typical manor, you existed here, in the Void until you decided not to. The memories that you have are legitimate - are yours - but while JJ exists in a front to back manner - you are a bit, well, all over the place and the structure assigned to your existence is a bit more of your own making. Hence the memories that you had adjusting as events adjust. When you see yourself as a different entity from JJ, then I suspect, your memories will adjust to that as well. Which is, really, why I asked how you see yourself. It's the view that matters."


She sighed then, "I'm not asking you to ape normalcy, Huang - if I was, you certainly wouldn't be at Claremont - but I do want you to have all the advantages that I can give you. At the moment, as unconventional an existence as you might have had - you are a teenage boy and school, and friends, and even dating are all important things for you to be doing. It isn't supposed to be a punishment."

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"Someone should tell them that."  Huang mused in response buying time once more as he considered her thoughts, "I think the view you're talking about is in fact a deeper question than what I say."  he replied with a trademark smirk and ran a hand through his hair leaving it sticking up at off angles like carefully planned bedhead sans planning.  "What advantages are these supposed to be?"  he asked earnestly, "Because I really don't know why I'm there."  he threw up his hands in frustration and looked to her questioningly, "The classroom work is fine, whatever, algebra is about as useless as it comes when half the geometries you work with are fifth dimensional but I can cope."  he explained soothingly, "But what else?"  he asked earnestly, "No one there can match you for magical knowledge and the only one in even my range is another student half the school thinks is an infernalist because they wouldn't know one if it ate their face."


Burying his face in his hands he huffed out a sharp breath, "And friends."  he shook his head, "I don't even know."  Huang looked up lost as to how to categorize his school acquaintances, "I could go hang out with the other second generation heroes and mock all the weirdos as their token weirdo, but how about no."  he was firm on that at least, "And like I don't even know where to begin with the 'no my shoulder chip is bigger' collective I get sent on training with."

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Taylor couldn't help the moment of pride as Huang began to express his distaste for mocking the 'weirdos'. Sure, he mocked them in the next breath, but still! "It's so very hard coming from a stable home environment with attentive parents," Taylor teased him as she reached up to smooth the recently mussed hair once more. "It's only been a couple of months, Huang. You're not going to like everyone but you'll make some friends eventually. It'll probably even sneak up on you. Lynn still calls me to get together and none of us really saw that coming after your father gave her that head in a jar, that time."


As a pep talk, it wasn't really the best. "I'm not saying you have to pretend to be a teenager but right now, maturity wise - whatever years you have memories of - you're clearly a teenager. So, when that changes, so will our expectations." Taylor sighed and then suggested, well aware it was going to go over like a sack of bricks with her spouse but she made the offer anyway, "Why don't you have a few friends over to the mansion, with our permission. Not a party, but maybe movies and snacks... whatever teenagers are doing these days." Oh god, she sounded like her mother.

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Huang fixed his a mom a thoroughly teen age look of 'oh aren't you funny' though his eyes strayed to the cabinet where the famed head in jar had been stashed when xiptec had brought in to him.  He shifted for a moment and tried to move the conversation on perhaps too quickly, "Well sure I will."  he agreed a little too readily, "Nothing that hard to overcome and all that!"  he extolled a bit too loudly.


At her remaining suggestion he shrugged, "Yea I don't know how great an idea that'll be."  he mused, "As I don't know what teenagers do these days either."  he offered with a lamentful shrug, "I have memories of teen activities that'll be current in the mid twenties, maybe."  he pointed out with a smirk, "And I don't know that anyone at this crazy school has any more idea than I do."

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Taylor blinked at Huang and then eyed him thoughtfully, "...We did not send you to Claremont to learn how to blend in among regular humans. Honey, if Dad was worried about your ability to stalk humans, he'd have sent you to a public or private high school not to a school with the kids of our colleagues. We sent you there to actually make friends. So, do whatever you would like to do. Have some of your mystic friends come over to learn spells, maybe summon a lesser entity to ask a few questions about one of the far realms. Or teach a few more plucky kids how to play tag with the ghosts - you and JJ have always enjoyed that."


Taylor lifted her shoulders in a small shrug then, "I spent most of my high school reading or visiting your namesake at his dig sites on family vacations. That's what I liked to do." She paused and then added quickly, "Though I definitely think you shouldn't look to follow in your dad's footsteps. His teenage years were... rough. Anyway. What sounds like fun?"

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Huang hinted at a smile at the oblique reference to his father's misspent youth that had led him the long and circuitous path to where he was today.  He glanced around his corner of hte formless void given form by his will or desire he was no longer certain and frowned slightly, "Uhm."  he vocalized as he did break into a grin, "As fond as my memories of ghost tag are and as much as I still enjoy a good round with JJ that isn't exactly my speed mom."  he pointed out delicately not even venturing into the realm of what social suicide a sixteen year old suggesting his friends come over for any kind of tag spectral or not would be.


"And I think dusty tombs are as great as the next guy but,"  he paused as he considered revealing his quick jaunt to the valley of kings and thought better of it, "uh, no not really my thing."  he ended awkwardly and rushed to continue before that line of speech was picked apart much further, "Kinda hard to work on summonings and enchantments without, well you know."  he shrugged as her prohibition on ritual magic was enforced far beyond mere commandment and mystically blocked his ability to channel such forces.

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