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Surrender, and Other Cheap Tricks


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August 10th


The Music Room at Claremont Academy.


Corinne was following Winifred's advice. While it wasn't her primary passion, it was something else she could do to vent, and maybe make some connections that weren't on shared experience of powers, and teenage trauma.  She was an okay drummer, given that she needed to keep so this was more for fun than anything else.


Fortunately there was a drum kit here, where she could cut loose.  Fortunately, she could play enthusiastically and not have to be something out of Whiplash, or something like that, as she was largely self taught, still 'I Want You to Want Me,was fun and engaging enough for her to start on before she tried more complicated, or challenging options. She had big headphones on playing the song she wants , and a sleeveless t-shirt for the band Red Fang, a pair of denim capris, and navy blue dock shoes.  Her head bobbing along with the beat.


Unlike her other pursuits this was just fun.  And she needed it.

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The end of Corinne's set was met with applause - genuine applause, as near as anyone could tell, issued from the hands of a Matthew Rivera that hadn't been in the room when she'd started.


He was in old jeans and a black tank-top, otherwise unadorned and accompanied only by an old, beaten guitar and a dog that was...grinning? It was an uncanny sight from an otherwise mundane hound, but the rumor that Matt's dogs were Weird somehow was old news. Even that grin seemed appreciative, though, as did the tail thumping against the music room floor.


"Uh, sorry," Matt apologized, adjusting the guitar strap that ran over his shoulder. "Didn't mean to disturb you. Guess I didn't expect anyone else down here at night - most of 'em clear out by 8, doing homework or sneaking out for parties or whatever. I can clear out if you just wanna practice in peace," he said, gesturing over his shoulder at the side door, "just figured I'd pay the complement. You gave those drums a beating."

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She stopped, not abruptly, just... there was clapping, and she didn't know where it was coming from, so she took her headset off, still holding the sticks, and then she blinked.  "Oh."  Nudging it back around her long neck, she brought the sticks together and placed them on the drum.  "Hello."


Corinne was not plussed in the slightest.  She was actively pursuing a life in dance, after all.  So while this specific applause was unexpected, she'd accept it with grace, nodding and ducking her head as she shrugged a little bit, "Thank you... ah...mm."  She rose to her feet then, rubbing her hands on her denim covered thighs, to make sure her palms weren't too sweaty.  The movement up was all precision poise as it happened.  She stepped away from the drums, and extended a hand towards him.  "Hi, I'm Corinne Conrad.  If you haven't heard, I am Amir al-Misri's daughter.  Uhm... no, I don't really know him, so it isn't really a boast..."  Then she made a face, and she pressed her free hand to her face, covering her eyes.


"Oh, crap.  That sounds bad.  Sorry, like, really sorry. And, uh... puppy!"


And then she moved, dropping down into a crouch by the dog, as she reached over to the head of the dog, and administered petting and scratching on him like she knew what she was doing.

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Matt grinned despite himself, an easy lopsided thing. He'd almost made it to the handshake before Corinne got embarrassed and turned her attention to a worthier target, but by now he was pretty used to the dogs making better friends than he did. "S'cool," he assured her, shoving his free hand in his pocket for lack of anywhere else to put it. "I did hear about your dad, but I, uh, basically don't know who he is. So don't worry about it."


His dog was leaning into the scratching, tail thumping against the floor again, but in the couple seconds of dead air that followed it turned one yellow eye toward its master in...reproach? Criticism?


"Ah, right, yeah. Corinne, this is Sky," he said, nudging the dog's flank with one toe. "Sky, Corinne. Sky's not quite a puppy anymore, but I bet if you get him behind his ears he'll still make puppy noises."

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She nodded and looked up to him, as she worked a hand behind sky's ears.  Corinne was relatively shameless in lavishing attention on animals.  "Sky? S'pretty puppy!"  If she possessed what could best described as a resting b**** face, it was certainly gone now.  "Sokay... I mean... I really don't know him either."  Then she trailed off, and looked back to Sky before she made a sound, and she jumped up to her feet with ease, and offered her hand back out to him.


"Hi to you!  Sorry for being rude.  I am kinda new to... this, so I don't know etiquette, and there are raw nerves and all that..."  She made a face, and Corinne kept idly stroking at Sky's head with her free hand. The strains of music floating around her, coming from the headphones.

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Sky was indeed a pretty puppy, and knew it; he'd tried to shoot Matt a betrayed look when the ear scratching started, but it almost immediately fell away in a wash of pure canine satisfaction, eyes closed and leaning into the hand that brought the scritches.


Matt laughed - serves you right, he thought Sky's way - and finally took the offered hand for a gentle handshake. "Nah, I don't think you were being rude. Heck, I've been worse - and anyone Sky approves of is okay by me on a first meeting, even if he's easily bribed." He released Corinne's hand, dropping his own back in his pocket. "As for etiquette," he said, mulling that one over, "I guess just be friendly? I'm...not exactly a great teacher for 'making friends'. I dunno. My advice is just to not ask anyone about what they do that brought 'em here unless it's obvious or they're offering or it's immediately important, or whatever. Touchy subject sometimes. Everyone's got a story, y'know?"


He didn't appear to have a follow-up to that, but his ear pricked at the music from her headphones. "Cheap Trick?"

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Corinne looked at him expectantly, before she stopped scritching the puppy. for a moment  "Yeah..."  Her hand slide back. and it went down to a pocket, to turn off the music.  "I like their stuff, and I am not a great drummer, but I can play along with them, most of the time."  The taller girl loomed without trying, casting a long shadow over things.


The corners of her lips turned up a bit as she looked at him. "And, ah, like, your name?"  Not a hint of ironic, or sardonic sentiment to her.  She didn't recognize him, or know him, but then this place had a lot take in, and she hadn't felt particularly adventuresome in exploring the places here and meeting people apart from Hannah, and a few others. She was distracted by the puppy, so... why wouldn't she had spaced over the normal greeting.

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Matt's face fell blank for a moment, and his dog issued a noise suspiciously like canine laughter.


"Aahh, sorry. Dang." He thumped his head sideways against the neck his guitar, wearing the expression of someone who'd been sure they were doing so very, unusually well up until that point. "Sorry. Matt - Matthew Rivera," the boy replied. "That's my fault. I'm the weird kid with all the dogs - got into kind of a fight a year or two ago that made the rumor mill, and the dogs are, uh, noticeable," he said, glancing down at Sky, "and without a lot of people coming and going I forgot manners, I guess. Good to meet you."

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Corinne laughed a little bit, as she looked at him.  "Eh, sokay.  I mean, I don't really see anything that weird with that."  She pulled her hand from the dog, she turned and moved over to her bag then, and she fished out a granola bar and ripped it open before she started to eat.


"Sorry, hungry... I hadn't eaten in an hour."  She pushed her hand up to wipe away the crumbs, as she was hopefully far enough that the whale song her stomach made was not happening and being readily heard by Matt.  "Want one?"  She said with no grace, and no chill, as she finished her rapid devouring of the granola bar.  They say a Corinne can strip the flesh from a cow in under a minute.

I mean, I wont judge over puppies.  I mean, I am from LA, and still kinda new to this, so... yeah."  She nodded, as she looked at him, then looked at Sky, "Sorry, don't have anything for puppy."

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Matt held up a palm to wave off the offer of a granola bar. "Nah, wouldn't want to take one from you - just ate, anyway. Got busy in the afternoon, so I had kind of a late dinner. Thanks, though. More for you," he added, chuckling.


Bereft of skritches, and apparently too proud to beg, Sky got up and wandered to the edge of the room to sit with another dog that...hadn't been there when she turned to root through her bag. "That's...yeah," Matt noted, frowning at that dog and the third carrying a backpack (Matt's?) off toward one corner of the room. "Puppies sorta ends up being the problem. If it was just dog I don't think anyone would care most of the time. They're good when you get to know 'em, though, promise. But LA, huh?" He cocked his head, genuinely curious. He set his guitar down on its end, letting the neck rest on his leg. "Never been. I hear it's got a great music scene."

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Corinne had an assertion for that, "Puppies are always good."  And then another granola bar was sacrificed to her hunger, she scarfed it down in rapid fashion, and then wiped at her mouth with her hand, and then rubbed them across the denim clad thighs and hips.


Though she did pause, catching sight of the oth-... others now.  She pulled her head back, "Oh, you can have that many?  I just have my hedgehog, Percival..."  Envy on her face, she wanted puppies, the possibility of more than one dog was... No, Hannah would probably not like that, Corinne though. She had to deal with me, after all, no sense in squeezing her out even more.


"Well, I suppose?  I don't get to do a lot of it.  I picked up drumming 'case my da thought I should learn an instrument to go along with the other stuff," she explained as she walked over by the kit, and scooped up the djembe that was there, "I'm a dancer, so picking up percussion stuff seemed good.  But it means that apart from the stuff I go to with my folks, I don't get out much.  And why I eat so much, three or seven hours of dancing a day and well... yeah."  She laughed a little bit, eyes drifting back to the other dogs, as she idly started to slap out a simple rhythm.


"Uhm, like, what's the rest of their names?"

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"Nah, I get it," Matt shrugged, "wasn't judging. Some people've gotta burn a lotta calories, for whatever reasons. Bummer about not being able to check stuff out in LA - was wondering if you had any recommendations, in case I ever got a chance to head west. But hey, never too late to start, right?"


He knew full well which dogs were trying to sabotage his attempt to meet new people, of course, but he turned his head anyway to give himself an excuse to know. "Looks like we've got Sky and Moon, and Fang's the one with the backpack. Normally I'd say to keep Moon away from your stuff, since he's kind of a goof? But Fang'll keep him in line."


Fang turned to look at Moon, who deliberately looked anywhere but at Fang.

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Corinne laughed, as she moved to throw away the wrappers of the bars.  "Oh, well... I mean, I'm sixteen and pretty busy, so it isn't a surprise that I couldn't get out that much.  Being underage is kind of limiting for that."  Another laugh as she moved over to the now pack of puppies.


They wouldn't be  let on school property if they were that bad, right?  So she reached out to touch Moon, and if Fang was close by then Fang would get scritches too, dammit.  She looked up at him, "It's okay, my Percival is nocturnal and grumpy as all hell, so one not wanting to share you makes sense."  She giggled at the backpack, "Sorry, Fang, you look adorable with it.  Like you're going on an adventure!"


Beaming she looked up at Matt, "Sorry, I have a sickness."  Said from a kneeling position among the dogs.  "Anyway, music, whatcha like, man?  Or, I guess what do you like to play?"

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Fang seemed more content to remain where she was, on guard duty over Matt's bag, but Moon was completely and entirely shameless, leaning into the scritches and, eventually, rolling over to present the world's softest belly. "They have that effect," Matt drolled, watching Moon with a little more amusement than Fang was. "Don't mind Fang, I bet I know where she's been and she'll be all full on petting."


Fang betrayed nothing.


Matt plucked a string on his guitar's neck, shrugging. "I play whatever, I guess? Hard rock's always a good choice, it's got a lot of passion in it, but I'll give a shot to anything that catches my ear?" Matt grimaced, well aware that his answer was unhelpfully vague. "I like to practice a bunch of stuff instead of dedicating myself to any one thing, I guess. Makes you learn a lot of different styles, even if it gets annoying - gotta come in here to do metal, for example, it sounds dumb without big speakers."

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Corinne nodded, as she focused on petting Moon, as Fang was uninterested, and Moon was practically begging.  She still looked at Matt, despite the canine's silent, and goofy, plea for attention from her.  "Well, I mean, decade of ballet, and I know most of the Nutcracker music, even if I can't play violins or anything..."  She looked down at Moon, and made cooing noises at the puppy, before she got to her feet and back to the drum kit.

"You, uh, like Red Fang?"  Asked, as she sat down and took hold of the drum sticks in the traditional grip, "Or we can keep the theme going..."  And she immediately rapped out the intro to Cheap Trick's 'Surrender'.   She made a face, and stuck her tongue while doing so, before doing a little giggle, and she started to hit the mounted cowbell, "Or... maybe something that will cure that fevah?"

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"Nah, pretty healthy," Matt said, either not getting or completely deadpanning the joke; he picked his guitar back up, though, slinging the strap over his head as he listened to the beat.


Moon was looking downright stricken at the loss of belly rubs; Sky gave him a disdainful look and pinned Moon's head to the floor with one paw.


Apparently oblivious, Matt waited a few beats and played a few chords - imperfect, but he was going from memory. "Something like that? It's been a while," he apologized, adjusting his grip and experimenting once more. "They're, what, a 70s band? 80s? I think I've only got a couple of their songs, myself, on some 'best of' album."

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She tilted her head, laughing a little bit, assuming his missed the reference, which she expected.  "Ah, well Blue Oyster Cult, yeah... I mean Red Fang is newer, but they sound old school.  I mean, I can try to get through the intro for Hot for Teacher, but that's gonna be ugly." Said as she made another face, doing an impressive Elvis lip curl at the prospect.  "Just remember the rule, no Stairway, otherwise, go ahead and lead, I can probably follow along with rhythm unless you go full System of the Down."


Corinne had a realistic expectation of her ability, and was already following along, she wasn't really trained, and hadn't studied.  She tried out for band, drumline, and tried to keep up, but dance had eaten more and more of her life.  So it was just a fun diversion.  Even as she started to move in the seat, bouncing a bit to the tune she was hearing.


"I mean, I did grow up on a classic rock, but like don't worry about it."  As she started doing a fill as she bopped away on the seat, smiling broadly at him, before she moved one was through various different intros to songs,   "Or, like, yanno, small talk, or big talk."  A cheeky grin then was flashed.

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"Hmm." Matt flexed his hand a bit before starting in slow, strumming to something he could hear in his head. "Guess I don't know Red Fang. My music was basically whatever I could get on a really bad radio, or whatever I could find on cheap CDs at thrift stores, so I guess it's a little hit or miss."


He paused for a moment to tune a string, frowning. "....yeah, okay, free CDs too. Never had the dogs dig through trash, but they're pretty good at finding stuff, y'know. I owe 'em a lot. So I guess," he added thoughtfully, staring up as he strummed a faster set of chords, "if I don't know 'Red Fang', it's basically their fault."


Fang dropped his backpack on the floor and made a huffing sound. Matt almost grinned. "So classic rock, huh? Y'pick that up yourself, or get it from a parent?"

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Corinne was enjoying herself.  This was a meeting where the whole power thing, and other topics were not being touched upon, and it was a night she could just cut loose.  "I listen to a lot of stuff, helps with the dancing, and painting, and well vegging too."  And with that she launched into the archetypal bid band tom pounding of Benny Goodman's version of 'Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing)'.  In the process, she stuck her tongue out again, and bit at it, as apparently that was a habit of hers when the drums. When it 'settled' back to high hats, she leaned back and smirked, juking to the beat. 


"Well, picked up stuff.  Did jazz, and swing, and pretty much every kind of dancing.  But my mum loves rock, yeah, she is a rowdy stunt woman, I am pretty sure I've heard any bit of 80's rock a person'd wanted to have."  She stopped, and twirled a stick in her hand.  "Hey now, don't be mean to the puppies..."  She veered off into a cooing noise at Fang, who might be affronted.  "My da is a bit more staid, I guess.  He likes jazz, or like the Beatles and stuff like that.  I can't speak about my father.  Don't know him yet."  The blonde seemed to take such things levelly, "But I've veered to all kinds of metal, because... it relates to classical music a lot.  Or there is stuff there that drones in a way that makes me happy."

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Matt nodded, still strumming a bit as he made his way over to the speakers. "Yeah, the best metal mixes with classical stuff. I was never as big on the metal that's all growling into a mic," he admitted, pausing long enough to grab a cable off the ground and plug it in, "I mean it's good when you're really mad but it's not as nice to listen to. Can't imagine performing it, I'd tear my own chords out."


"The good stuff, though...." He played a riff with a lot more energy, the sound of it amplified through the speakers he was now sitting on. "And.. my.. eyes sweep a shore that was always there, a blood-red line through the sonisphere...." His voice hadn't quite rounded out into adulthood yet, but it had long since found a good, rich singing range, if still somewhat unrefined. "Dunno if I've ever gone to droning music to make me happy - to chill out, maybe, if it can just kinda hang out in the background."

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Corinne grinned a bit, her tongue stuck between her teeth, as she rolled her shoulders, "Never listened to much Kamelot, listen to the musical Camelot more."  She laughed a little, shaking with mirth, as she leaned forward and waggled her eyebrows at him, then she rocked back.


"It's just nice to kind of lose yourself in a wall of sound.  Like, I got some Tuvan throat singing collections I listen to too, or some duduk music."  Though... he might not think he had a good singer, however, Corinne though he was damned impressive.  Her eyes widened a little, and she kind of looked away, and she followed along on the skins.

Once he was done, she broached something, clearing her voice, "Well, y'know, different, like experiences, an' stuff..."

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"Naw, I get it," Matt said, nodding; he was just plucking now, like he was trying to tease out some unfinished song from the back of his head. Which, in fairness, he probably was. It filled dead space, anyway. "Diff'rent strokes, and all that. If we all listened to the same stuff all the time, the world would be a pretty awful place. All the good music sorta mixes together, influences other stuff...even if I don't like some new pop stuff, it inspires someone, and maybe they make music I do like, y'know?"


He shrugged, the motion of it throwing his strumming off for a moment. "Nothin' lasts anyway. Hating on stuff wastes too much time."


There was silence for a beat, and he frowned, looking up from his guitar. "I, uh. I don't know what a duduk is, though. Is that an instrument or a band?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Absently Corinne did a fill, well it wasn't that absent, there was the chug-guh-ta-chug-guh-ta--tah!  She stopped, "Oh!  It's an instrument, wait... one sec!"  She put the sticks down on proper way, carefully making sure they were in line, before she stood, and moved over to her bag, which was a huge shoulder bag, filled with all of her snacks.  It also had her phone, which she plucked out, and then walked over to him, flipping through things, her brows knitted together as her expressioned looked disdainful at the screen.  Her other hand was holding a big chunky pair of over-the-ear headphones.  When she got to she offered them up to her.

"There was a girl in the performing arts schools I went to whose family was Armenian.  It's where I first heard it."  She smiled a bit, tapping on play on her phone, as the music started.

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"Huh." Matt cocked his head to listen, and he wasn't alone - the dog that had brought his backpack perked an ear, too, padding over to listen while one of the others moved over to guard his things.


"Yeah, I can see chilling out to that," he said, after hearing enough to get an idea of where it was going. "Like, I probably wouldn't sit down and play it, or listen to it when I'm out and about, but if I really wanted to just zone out it'd probably be pretty good. Low-key enough to sooth you, mixed up enough to keep from just droning, yeah?" He shrugged again, shifting the guitar down to his hip since he wasn't playing for the moment. "Not sure I'd take it over a good guitar or bass or drums, but it's definitely unique. Gonna have to look up a video sometime to see how it's played."

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"I guess I am more apt to get wrapped up in things..."  she frowned a little.  It was that, Corinne though, what made her parents stick her out here, that she couldn't control that.  After all she freaked out on her...  Well nevermind that.  She took the headphones back.  "Yeah it helps when doing other things, soft, lyric-less music can help you focus... and I need that, sometimes.  Especially since all of this is new..."


She made a face, before she moved to place her phone and headphones back into her bag.  "Powers and stuff.  I mean, I thought I was good at gymnastics and stuff, but there are people who blow Olympians away."  She laughed and gestured with her hands, as the space between them ripped, swirling and distorting light there.  "This still is weird.  Everyone is going all 'Yeah, sure, seen it.'  I mean, did you feel that way or anything?"

Then she swerved off immediately into another topic, her eyes wide as if she realized what had happened.  "I mean, well like, if time permits I like going to shows, and apparently my 'real' father is like a billionaire, so I can probably tickets, so if something comes up lemme know?  I think I need to get out of this place often."  Throwing her hands down, the sport where the light would have hit reformed into a doggy water bowl, already filled.

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