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Above Silberman's Books. Monday, August 1st, 2016. 11:36 am


Lynn unlocked the door and pushed it wide open as she stepped into the living room/dining nook of the one bedroom apartment Tona recently vacated; the room was bright and airy, with hardwood floors, white painted walls and a working gas fireplace flanked by built-in bookshelves. Salvaged stained glass windows on the east wall added color and a charming rustic quality.


"Okay, so this is the front room; that pillar sort of designates the dining area, but obviously you can use it however you want. There's no central heating or air, but the radiator heat is free and works great, and you've got ceiling fans and an AC unit in the bedroom."


Gretchen followed in, pointing out the small flat-screen monitor on the wall near the door. "I've upgraded the security system. Multiple cameras, motion and heat sensors, extra sturdy locks."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Samuel moved to step inside the apartment, a notebook in one hand and a pen in the other, only to stop dead in the doorway. This place was easily twice the size of his current home, and it carried a very different sort of spirit. It was open, breezy, and uncluttered -- almost the complete antithesis of place where he was living now. His mouth went dry and he let out a soft little sound before he made his way across the threshold. "It's... wonderful," he breathed, looking this way and that to take it all in. "I just can't believe it. Look at that fireplace! Those shelves! I have all of my books stacked up in a corner!" He opened the notebook and started to write. "Don't worry about the temperature; a small spell can make this place a perpetual 72-degrees. And as for security..." He looked over at Gretchen and grinned. "At my old place, I just bound a bunch of Marleys to guard the door. It's served me well enough, but..." He tilted his head. "You updated the system? Just how many talents do you have, Gretchen?"

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Gretchen frowned and shrugged. "I worked for ADT for six months. It's not like the wiring is that hard."


Meanwhile, Lynn stepped into the room and did a little twirl. "One of the few downsides about this place is the lack of closet space; there's just the one in the bedroom, and that's it. However, at least you have this- " She indiated a massive armoire just to the left of the door. "Built by Ira Silberman himself. And no, it has no magical properties or hidden compartments, at least not that we could find, and belive me, we looked. Figure he probably built it before he got into the magic stuff."


She began to head deeper into the apartment, heading towards a long corridor heading back towards the kitchen. "Now, the stained glass windows and the two smaller ones on either side of the fireplace don't open, but all the sashes in the big window looking out over the street do. Also, there's this door here." She unlocked and pulled open a door that lead out onto a sort of patio in the light well between the two apartments, with a screen door fitted for extra air flow, allowing fresh air smelling of green things to flow into the apartment. "If you leave this door open, with just the screen, you get a nice cross breeze. C'mon out."


The patio was not large, but ther narrow little space was quite pleasant, with gravel underfoot, several potted plants like ferns that did well in the shade, two green aluminum garden chairs and a little charcoal brazier. The two young women took seats and adopted relaxed poses. "Nothing fancy, just a little chill spot. Oh, we should get another chair." For now, she conjured an Adorondak chair for Sam to try, if he so chose.


Gretchen pulled out her smartphone and taped a few keys. "Noted."

Edited by Heritage
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Samuel sat down and stretched out his long legs. He let out a contented sigh as he settled in to the chair. "This is incredible," he said. "You're incredible. Both of you. I can hardly believe..." He chuckled. "Well, anyway. Thank you. Thank you both, for everything. I can't say that I deserve it, but I appreciate it all more than you can know." He looked over at Gretchen and smiled. "ADT, huh? I never went in for any of that technical stuff, myself. When I was on tour and I had an idea for a trick, I described what I wanted to my prop-guys and they built it for me. Thinking back on it, I should have spent more time watching them and learning how everything worked than I did doing... other things." He cleared his throat and looked out over the city. "You know, I think that I could make a home here."

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Gretchen looked up from her phone and cocked her head to one side. "You need to let me do your tech, if you go back on stage again. I learned a lot setting up Lynn's haunted maze last Halloween. The lights, the soundboard, all that stuff."


Lynn brightened up at the mention of Halloween, and she excitedly reached out to grab Sam's arm. "Dude, you have to help us out this year; I'm trying to work out a deal with one of the local corn mazes to spruce it up a bit, provided part of the proceeds go to charity."


The young barista turned to the magician and sighed. "She's kind of obsessed with Halloween. It's not healthy...at all."


The changeling slapped her partner's arm. "Halloween is awesome; you get to dress up, give kids candy, scare the living crap out of people-" With a sudden swirl of mist, Lynn was transformed into some sort of pale faced, red-eyed ghoul, dressed all in black and perched on the back of her chair!


"Jesus H. Christ, don't do that!" cried a clearly flustered Gretchen, though it was followed by some nervous laughter as the Ghoul leaned in close to freak her out. "Stop! I can't even look at you like that, yikes!"


"I'm sorry, I'm sorry; I know you hate when I do freaky stuff like that, and surprises," Lynn murmured softly as she returned to her own shape and reached over to hug her best girl, who put up with all her weirdness because she knew the hugs would always follow.


"Actually, I don't hate all surprises," Gretch said as she untangled herself from Lynn's arms; she then paused to look meaningfully between Lynn and Sam. "There's actually one I'm looking forward to."


"Oh yes, the surprise!" They both looked up at him from their cuddle pile with mischievous smiles...

Edited by Heritage
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Sam's face went a little pale at the mention of getting back on stage, but the idea of Halloween brightens his spirits considerably. "Yes!" he gushes, nodded emphatically. "Yes, I'd love to help." He then laughed along with the others when Lynn transformed into a hideous creature and then back into her normal lovely self. When the subject of surprises came up, he looked at the two women with a slight tickle of nervousness. "Surprise?" he asked. "What surprise?"

Edited by Sophistemon
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"Ah, first we need to show you the rest of the apartment, but we can power through that," suggested Lynn, which is what the group proceeded to do. The bedroom was probably half again bigger than what Sam needed, but the changeling mentioned they had an old writing desk in the basement if he wanted it, and pointed out a nice sunny spot for it. The apartment's one closet was also here, as well as a small private bathroom with a shower.


Moving into the kitchen revealed the apartment's true heart, a lovely, bright cooking environment with windows looking out onto the deck, gas stove, dishwasher and modern, high-tech fridge. There was more than enough room for a kitchen table and chairs near the windows, and there was a small pantry, laundry nook with washer and dryer, and a second bathroom as well.


Heading out the back door took the group onto the deck, which was directly opposite Lynn and Gretchen's, which offered a nice view of a small, rambling cottage garden in the English style. Beyond stood a two-story carriage house in good repair which marked the edge of the property.


Taking a seat in one of the deck chairs, which matched the ones in the small inner patio, Lynn looked eagerly at her contracted employee, while Gretchen took a seat beside her. "So, I take it you're interested? I'm looking for seven fifty a month, utilities included, with a one month security deposit. You'd still have to pay for cable and Internet, but that's it."


There was a short pause, and then Gretchen finally spoke. "The surprise is like a signing bonus. You only get to see it if you sign the lease."


"You are so evil."


"Yes I am."

Edited by Heritage
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Samuel followed the two women through the apartment, oohing and aahing at the appropriate moments, until at last he was led out onto the deck. When Lynn mentioned the monthly rent, Sam gaped at her with shock plainly apparent on his face. "Are you serious?" he asked her. "Seven-fifty? Seven hundred and fifty dollars for this apartment, in this city?" He grinned, then chuckled. "You aren't evil, you're a saint! Do you have the paperwork with you? I won't just sign today, I'll write you a check for the deposit." He snapped his fingers, conjuring a pen, and held it expectantly in his hand. "I really can't believe this, you two. This is amazing!"

Edited by Sophistemon
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"Well, to be honest, you're getting the 'Friends and Family' rate," said Lynn as she traced a circle in the air with her finger, which Sam knew well meant she was opening a portal into her bizarre, transdimensional 'faerie vault'. She reached in her hand, which promptly disappeared up to her wrist, and pulled out a clipboard with some documents on it. "Some time in the future, when you're back on your feet, we might talk about raising it a bit, but even if we do, I plan to keep it more than reasonable."


She held out the clipboard, which Gretch then floated over to their eager tenant-to-be; it was amazing to see how in sync they were now, though it was unclear if it was due to their magical, mental communication or merely the unspoken bond between lovers.


"I put Post-It arrows where you have to sign. After that, we show you the Surprise, then stuff you full of homemade stew."


"Yes, the ritual Stuffening!"

Edited by Heritage
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The magician reached out and took the paperwork-laden clipboard and twisted his pen, which caused the nib to emerge from the bottom with a mechanical click. It was an ornate affair, silver plated with a golden clip, and likely a leftover from his former career. He flipped quickly through the pages, dotting a signature here and a signature there, until he'd reached the end. He chuckled at the mention of food. "You two remind me of my mother, back when..." He coughed. "Back when we were speaking. I couldn't visit without getting so much food put in me that I had to take my belt off." He handed the clipboard back to Lynn and smiled. "There," he said. "It's all official. Oh!" He snapped his fingers, conjuring a checkbook, and began to write out his deposit. "Except for this of course." He chuckled, and then dropped the check onto the rest of the pages before leaning back in his chair. "There. Now, what's this big surprise?"

Edited by Sophistemon
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Lynn eagerly took the check, kissed it, and then stuffed it in her pocket. "'Well alright, fellas; let's go!'" Hopping up out of her chair, she rubbed her hands together with anticipation, while Gretchen merely stood up and stuck her hands in her back pockets, though a small, crooked grin was still visible.


"Oh, wait, we have to do this right; trust us!" She made a sort of lasso gesture with her finger, and a blindfold wrapped itself around Sam's eyes. Then, taking his right hand while Gretch took the other, they carefully led him down the back stairs towards the yard. "No peeking!"


After coming down the clompy wooden stairs, Sam briefly heard and felt grass under his feet, then he was gently guided (it felt) somewhere around the side of the house. There was a rattle of keys and metal, and then a wooden door of some kind swung open on creaky hinges. 


"You won't have to this every time," Gretchen assured him off to his left."Boss Lady just loves to be dramatic. Watch your head."


A few years ago, Sam would never have allowed himself to be put in this situation, and a small part of him still cringed a bit with fear. But if these two ladies who'd already done so much for him now had sinister plans, they were running a very long con indeed.


Concrete steps were now beneath his feet, and the air grew a bit cooler as he descended into what must be the basement of the store. Even through his eyelids and blindfold, Sam could tell it was getting darker; what were these two up to? Then they turned him around a few times, like he was playing Blind Man's Bluff, and there was the sound of another key turning in a lock.


"Okay, now two steps forward!" Whatever room he was entering felt drier than the rest of the basement, and smelled slightly musty with hints of sawdust, furniture polish, some sort of oil and metal. "Aaaaand, open!"


He felt the blindfold disappear like a cool breeze across his eyes, and when he opened them...


The three of them stood in the middle in a small room, maybe fifteen by twenty, lit by one small window high on the wall and an industrial light fixture in the ceiling. The floor was concrete under a thick Persian rug, and three of the four walls were dominated by bookshelves, though they were only about half full. There was an old-fashioned pot belly stove in one corner, a high-backed leather chair, and a massive worktable and small sink up against the far wall.


The table...was covered with magical paraphernalia. There was a spice rack filled with a wide variety of herbs, a mortar and pestle, glassware and a Bunsen burner, precision tools for fashioning charms, and a dozen other odd objects waiting to be used and explored.


As Sam gazed in amazement at the wonders before him, he was vaguely aware of Lynn's voice off to his right. "Remember I said I had a friend who was a vodun priestess? She helped us set it up. She didn't consecrate it to the loa or anything; she said you'd need to do that yourself, align it with your own powers. Gretchen took two weeks to restore the stove; had to teach herself how."


"Getting the flue set up right so you don't asphyiate yourself was a bitch and a half. You owe me big time for that."


When he was finally able to turn around to face them, Sam found the two lovely ladies standing side by side holding each other's hands; Lynn had the biggest tearful smile on her face, and even Gretchen looked almost moved.


"So...do you like it?"

Edited by Heritage
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It took Samuel roughly two seconds to respond, although the time passed much more slowly in his head. The first second was spent looking around the room, taking in every detail and processing the idea that it was, in fact, now his. The following second was spent gathering the words that he'd need to respond. Only three, out of every possible word that he could say, seemed suitable to adequately express his feelings towards their gift, and how overwhelmingly appreciative he was of the time and effort they'd expended preparing it for him. He cleared his throat and raised his head slightly, hoping that gravity would help keep the tears in his eyes when his willpower failed him. "I love it," he said. And then, almost as an afterthought, he added: "Thank you."

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"Ohhhhhh, group hug!" In a flash, Lynn had her arms around Sam's torso to give him a good squeeze; noticing Gretch was not getting in on it, she turned her partner and tsked. "C'mon; you, too. This is a compulsory group hug."


The snarky barista rolled her eyes and sighed. "Well if you're going to browbeat me..." She reluctantly toddled on over, but though her contribution was half-assed at first, she finally committed to it, and for a few awkward yet blissful seconds, Sam was trapped in warm ball of love.


"Aaaaaaand, release!" Both ladies stepped back to give the conjurer some space, Lynn beaming while Gretch looked a bit flustered, uncomfortable as she was with overt displays of affection. "So, how soon can you move in? If we cheat and use magic, we could probably have all your stuff over here in less than hour, though that might raise a few eyebrows."

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The hug was unexpected, but not unappreciated, and Sam luxuriated in the affection. Giving as good as he got, he squeezed back on the two women and was moved nearly to tears by all they'd done for him. When the hug ended, he took a step back and wiped his eyes. "Right," he said, nodding. "Moving in as soon as possible sounds like a plan to me. You've never seen where I'm living now, but..." He waved a hand. "It's nothing to write home about. It's, ah. Well, being an ex-con and all, it's a little hard sometimes to rent in a good neighborhood, you know?" His smile was self-deprecating. "I don't really have much to move. The suit, as I'm sure you've guessed, serves as most of my clothing. The rest can fit in a gym-bag. Beyond that, there's just a small bit of furniture." He grinned. "It's so little that we could probably handle the move in a half-hour without magic."

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Oh, uh, okay!" Lynn looked slightly taken aback by that, though she quickly recovered; clearly she hadn't fully realized just how crappy Sam's old place really was. "Why don't we eat lunch, and then we'll see about getting you moved in, alright?"


Upstairs in Lynn's apartment, the trio sat around the kitchen table, enjoying the delicious stew, which was made with pot roast, potatoes and carrots. There was also fresh-baked crusty bread and hand-squeezed lemonade.


"Lance has a van," suggested Gretchen as she dipped her bread in the hearty broth. "If we smile at him and look pretty, he might let us use it." 


"Good to know, good to know," murmured Lynn as she nodded her head sagely. She waved a hand over her bowl and conjured herself another serving of stew. "Sam, if you need more furniture, there's some stuff down in the basement; a couple of dressers, some chairs, maybe even a desk. You're welcome to borrow them, if you want."

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Samuel paused, a spoonful of soup suspended in midair halfway between the bowl and his mouth. He smiled, then shook his head. "Thank you, really, but that's unnecessary. To be frank, I've been living below my means now for a while. I don't know that I could have moved out, but I could have afforded a few more luxuries that I just never got around to. It's been busy, you know?" He grinned. "Anyway, don't think me so down on my luck; in case you've forgotten, I've had more than my fair share of hedonism for one lifetime. This is more like... being brought back down to normal, really." He drank the soup, then returned the spoon to the bowl. "In any case, it's about time that I started handling my own affairs. You've both been so generous... I don't want to get dependent!" He chuckled, then sighed. "I don't know how I'm ever going to repay you. Going through Al-Kazar's things is more of a privilege than a job... but don't worry, I'll think of something!"

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Sam's Apartment. Sunday, August 7th, 2016. 7:33 pm


Come that Sunday, Lance drove his big white Ford van to Lynn's building to pick up Lynn and Gretchen to move Sam out of his old place; everyone wore old worn clothes (of course, Lynn actually conjured some up for the occasion) and eschewed the use of powers to make the process look all normal and legit, though of course all three of the magically-inclined heroes cheated a bit when no one was watching. Lance had gone to school on a full athletic scholarship, so his physical capabilities were never in question, but the two women, who were both barely over five feet tall, also gave it their all; it helped that they regularly trained together as part of their crime-fighting career, and were therefore a bit stronger than they looked.


The move itself took no time at all, as Sam has predicted, so Lynn suggested they drive out to Ashton so Sam could pick out some reasonably priced furniture while they still had the use of Lance and his van. This seemed like a good idea to everyone, so Lance, Sam, Lynn and Gretchen once again piled into the E-Series and headed west on Frederick to the Land of Big Box Stores and Honey. It made for an enjoyable drive, with Lance and Sam up front talking about movies, sports and politics, while Lynn and Gretchen giggled like schoolgirls up to no good in the back, though they frequently chimed in as well.


When it came to furniture, tools and home improvement, the big blonde from Iowa really knew his stuff, and he more than proved his worth by providing lots of tips and expert advice, helping Sam find some really nice stuff at good prices that would be easy to put together, as well as helping him pick out a decent toolkit to keep around the apartment. Gretchen also found some useful items, while Lynn found a lamp that she just had to have.


At last, they loaded up the van and headed back east to get everything up the the stairs, unboxed and at least some of it assembled. Pizzas was ordered and a case of Sam Adams purchased, so that as the sun began to set and turn the sky to fire, four friends sat around a new table in Sam's dining nook, eating pizza, sipping on cold beer and feeling sleepy.


"I don't give guys enough credit," mused Gretchen as she folded another slice of pie while she watched Lance work his magic on a partially-assembled bookshelf. "Sometimes they really are great to have around."


Lance snorted and shook his head, though he was still smiling. "Oh yes, ma'am! We're not just for fightin' and procreatin'; we're good with tools, too!"


"Be nice," said Lynn with a weary chuckle, very much sounding like the mom she used to be, before groaning and letting her head sag backwards in exhaustion. "Oh Lord; I'm gonna sleep good tonight!"

Edited by Heritage
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"I didn't start that way," admitted Sam. "I was all thumbs when I was a kid; it drove my father crazy. It wasn't until I got into my former career that I learned how to handle a toolbox." He smiled, wistfully, lost in memory. "I used to build my own props back then, before my agents started hiring people to do it for me." He took a bite of a pizza that was decidedly non-Kosher and polished off a beer to wash it down. "I can't thank you guys enough for this," he said, wiping his mouth with a napkin. "Really, I don't know what to say. I'm overwhelmed." He chuckled. "I mean, if there's anything that I can do to repay you, just name it and it's done. I'm not without resources, after all."

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"A lifetime of servitude and pain," Gretchen stated matter-of-factly around her mouthful of pizza.


"Join my fantasy football league? We could really use a few more teams this season."


"Don't worry about it," said Lynn as she popped open another Sammie with her jet-black talons before shaking then back into vapor. "I like helping people; a good Jew is supposed to be 'healing the world' any way they can. I don't really need much anymore, so I'm happy to give it away."


"Tell them about Shabbat Game Night."


Lynn's eyes went wide with excitement as she finished her swig. "Mmm, yes! So I was of starting a new thing; one Friday a month, we close the store early so I can cook you all traditional Shabbat dinner, and then afterward we play games. It can be boardgames or card games, or maybe my brother Benji can teach me how to run Pathfinder or something, I don't know. The main thing is, we nosh, we relax, we have some fun. The one thing we don't do is talk about work." Her eyes flicked from Sam to Lance and back again. "What do you guys think, maybe? We'd need to run it by Samantha and Maddy, too, obviously."


Lance nodded. "I dunno, free food and games sounds pretty sweet to me; can we bring dates?"


"Sure, sure, the more the merrier!" She looked over to Sam, eyebrows raised hopefully.

Edited by Heritage
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Sam smiled at Gretchen and clapped his hands together, once. "Oh, servitude and pain? I've been trying to avoid making that kind of deal so far, but for you I might just think about it!" He rolled his eyes with good humor and reached for another beer, which he used to toast Lance's suggestion. "Now, fantasy football I can get behind. I'll write down my e-mail address and you can hit me with the details." He leaned back and drank, but his eyes widened when Lynn started waxing excited about Shabbat Game Night. "Oh, hey!" he said. "That sounds like a great idea! I could whip up some of my grandmother's holishkes. Though, ah, I don't have any idea what 'Pathfinder' is. Cards?" When the conversation turned to dating, though, his excitement waned a bit. He hadn't even thought about relationships since getting out of prison -- he'd focused more on finding work and restoring his reputation. The idea of getting back out 'there' and looking for love put a lump of lead in his stomach.

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To his credit, Lance seemed to pick up on Sam's unease, and deftly shifted topics. "Y'know what, let's just keep it 'staff only' for right now, just until we find our own rhythm."


"Sure, that's cool," Lynn said with a shrug. Then she turned to Sam to address his question. "Pathfinder is a roleplaying game, kinda like Dungeons and Dragons; y'know, elves and dwarves and wizards and stuff? Actually, I think it's more like a sequel or spin-off to D&D, I guess? I dunno, my brother tried to explain it to me once; it's kinda confusing." She smiled wistfully. "Benji tried to teach me and my sister D&D when we were kids; we pretty much sucked at it back then, but I liked casting spells."


Gretchen smirked and snorted. "You and your Harry Potter s###."


"Hey, you read 'em, too!"


"True. But I didn't want to live it."


Now it was Lynn's turn to snort as she took a swig. "It's a little late for that, 'Hermione'!"


Gretchen tried to make a snappy comeback, but it died on her lips as her eyes flicked down to the ring on her finger, which in turn made Lance chuckle. "She's got you there, Gretch!"

Edited by Heritage
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Sam chuckled, his good cheer returning by leaps and bounds. "That sounds like fun," he admitted. "I've never played anything like that before, but... hey, I like casting spells, too. How hard could it be?" He grinned, pleased with the idea. "I can't tell you how long it's been since I've just 'hung out.' This is nice; you don't really miss it until you start doing it again, and you realize what you'd lost."

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Lynn pulled out her smartphone and tapped the screen. "Let's see, what time is is in Sapporo right now...'bout eight-forty on a Monday morning? He might be free." She then began a text conversation with her big brother overseas.


"I want to play poker," suggested Gretchen. "Keep it small, five dollar buy-in. Not enough to break anyone, but enough that you feel like you really fleeced someone when you win."


"That...sounds nice," said Lance as he raised his eyebrows. Then a thought struck him, and he shot his fellow barista a scowl. "Wait, you're super-smart and you have a natural poker face; I don't see this ending well for me."


"Hence the appeal," she replied with a slight smirk.


"Okay, Benji says we'd probably do better with D&D fifth edition," Lynn offered as she responded to another text. "He says Gretch would be fine with Pathfinder, but that I'd be pretty useless, which is...well, that's fair." She smiled as she tucked her phone away. "So anyway, we don't have to settle on something right now, plus we can always mix it up now and then; y'know, boardgames one month, card games the next, etc."


"Sweet!" said Lance.

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Sam shrugged, then grinned like the Cheshire Cat. "If you're allowed to cheat, Gretchen," he taunted. "Then so am I. And you might be able to read minds, but I know every card-trick there is, and I've invented a few of my own." He looked, then, to Lynn, and the smile relaxes to something more natural. "That actually sounds like a lot of fun," he agrees. "Just... no Monopoly, right? Monopoly tears families apart. I've seen it happen!" He waved his wand over a bottle of beer, chilling it with a frosty spell, and popped the cap. "If I had a wife, I'd ask you guys to not tell her that I'm having another. As it is: bottoms up!"

Edited by Sophistemon
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"I don't need to cheat," Gretchen countered with a hint of pride. "All have to do is keep my face blank and watch the rest of you twitch, sniff and fidget. Gives me everything I need. And for the record, I can't read minds." She held up her left hand and let the Ring of Power catch the last few rays of daylight. "The Bearer of the Three Gifts has always had a companion, with whom they share a special bond." She shrugged and smirked. "I chose one who looks great in tight jeans."


"See, this is the thing that no one understands," said Lynn as she raised her beer in Gretchen's direction. "Technically, I'm her sidekick."


"Damn right."


"Yeah, I've never liked Monopoly, either; my mom gave away our set after I punched my sister Eddi in the head over a game. No, if you really want to see who your friends are, you play Risk!"


"Oh man, I love Risk," said Lance with great enthusiasm. "I haven't played it in years!"


Gretchen raised a stern finger at her girlfriend. "Vanilla rules only. No nukes, no mutants, no zombies."


"Fine," the changeling said as she rolled her eyes and folded her arms. "Take all the fun out of it..."


And so it went for the rest of the night, as the four of them laughed, made plans and polished off the rest of the beer and pizza; it was one of those rare nights when anything seemed possible, and the world felt safe and warm and made sense.


Life was good, and Sam was home.

Edited by Heritage
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