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 Down the Rabbit Hole (aka Meeting the Marshalls), 3 April 2167 | @Bruce
Reese Marshall
 Posted: Mar 12 2018, 01:41 AM
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There are moments that the words don’t reach There is suffering too terrible to name You hold your child as tight as you can And push away the unimaginable The moments when you’re in so deep It feels easier to just swim down
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When Reese had asked if Bruce could come, it went over far smoother than he had expected. There weren't a thousand questions. He wasn't interrogated. No one even asked if it was a significant other or just a friend, so he'd asked Bruce in late March after his parents had given the okay, and just a few days before meeting Bruce's family.

Perhaps subconsciously, he had asked late in an attempt at self sabotage. Could Bruce skip a Sunday with his family so that he could meet Reese's? Would he? Whether the self sabotage in actuality just proved more intensely how strong their relationship had become, Reese tried not to think about when Bruce agreed.

Instead, he focused all of his nervous energy into making everything perfect, which didn't escape his parent's notice. They watched their son double check on every dish that was slated; they heard him verify and add things like he had ten years ago when he and his wife had hosted at a banquet hall (since their home was too small).

However, both managed to bite their tongues. Reese was a fragile creature; his mood was like a two year old on a balance beam -- it would fall, the question was when and if anyone would catch him before he hit bottom. Still this level of engagement was something that they weren't entirely sure what to do with.

For the last six years, Reese had come late to the event, sat in silence at his table, and excused himself just before the egg hunt and games. They always had to send someone home with him to make sure that he got there, and, more importantly, that this wasn't the last holiday they spend with their youngest son (whether the worry was warranted or not, no one questioned Esther Marshall's anxiety on the matter after the second attempt).

Like his friend has for him, he'd gone over the basics; but he hadn't written them out. Maybe it was another attempt to undermine things.

If they ever start dropping verses, you just smile and nod right along with 'em, cause they aren't trying to convert anyone, they just like to hear themselves talk. Simon and Pete are the carriers; don't bring it up; they'll act like you called them something fucked up. Uhm. They're all going to be coming from Easter Mass, so wear a suit. But not a tux. Something pretty traditional, but, uhm, it can have color -- just not neon or whatever. Uhm. Oh, you shouldn't bring me anything -- it's a day for fucking Jesus. My mom likes orchids and white wines, if you want to bring her something, but you don't have to do anything like that. Uhm... I guess that's it. He'd leave a message on Bruce's phone that evening to add, If anyone so much as fucking mentions your powers... you let me know and I'll take 'em out fuckin' back. Which was meant to be a kindness.

Regardless, when Reese emerged from his childhood bedroom that had never been changed from its original decor, walls plastered with hockey and baseball stars; a recreation of a cassette player that had a pile of cassette piled around it with bands that he almost never mentioned (except for when he had slipped up on Christmas Eve why trying to guess his present), he wore a suit. More than that, like at Bruce's birthday, he had done his hair, tamed his curls the way they were meant to be tamed. He'd more than bothered as he had the Sunday before.

He was invested; it was as clear to Julian as daybreak. Reese had ironed his shirt. He wore a new bracelet reminiscent of those that he had worn in high school and college before meeting his girlfriend. He had matched his shoes and his belt for the first time in a decade. But more than anything, there was the suit. A suit that fit. Judging by the (Julian would have said absurd) lilac color of it, he couldn't imagine it would have been sold in stores. That meant that Reese had ordered a suit for Easter? (When he had been with Bryn, he had done it ever year as a running gag, but since her death, he hadn't seen a new one.)

None of this was what truly kept his attention on his younger son. Wary of what might knock the toddler off balance. He was smiling. Wendy had said that it would happen; she had used the word 'happy' when describing her father around Bruce. (The Marshalls had written off the game in the snow as a fluke that would never happen again. Valentine's Day's description had been a bit harder to ignore, though they knew that Wendy had a propensity for exaggeration. This was hard to ignore.)

Reese had suggested that Bruce get there a few minutes early so that he could give him the grand tour before people started pouring in. He'd explained it as bail time, which seemed to imply that Bruce had a few minutes to bail on the party without repercussions. And so when there was someone at the door, Reese glanced over at the butler pulled it open.

He looked at the man on the other side and then opened the door more widely. "Mr. Vaughan. Please come in."

If there had been any question of the differences in their stations of life, it could have been exemplified in the admission into the Marshall's family home. The vaulted ceiling held a crystal chandelier. A staircase that looked made of marble rounded up to the second floor where there was a balcony. From the foyer, Bruce would be able to see what was clearly a sitting room, dedicated to no purpose except for entertaining; and a music room, which held a grand piano and a harp. The rooms in front of him looked likewise washed in leisure. In fact, should Bruce have walked through the Marshall's home, he would have never seen the kitchen, laundry room, or any other 'work space' unless he opened doors that were clearly closed for a reason.

And then Reese moved forward. This was his friend, instead of the mask that he had put on around Bruce's family. (His own didn't need a soft touch.) "Thanks for coming. Did you find us alright?"

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Mar 12 2018, 02:14 PM
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When Reese had invited him to Easter with his family, on his birthday no less, Bruce had not hesitated to accept the invitation. After all, the get-togethers with the other Vaughans were standing but not superseding; none of them met every week or necessarily every other week. Other plans were a valid reason to miss out, as was dragging or wanting to stay in bed for half the day (as long as one didn’t make a habit of that for their own sake.

Only two of the warnings had given Bruce pause, while the others either struck him as standard or created possibilities. A suit with color as long as it wasn’t neon? He only had two-dozen items in his closet that might fit the bill. Easter brought out excuses for the spring palate. Smile and nod about scripture and hymns because everyone will have returned from Mass; he could do that easily enough. It wasn’t as though Bruce Vaughan mentioned his agnosticism in casual conversation with his own parents let alone with virtual strangers. Despite having met Julian and Ester Marshall five years ago during Reese’s initial appointment, they remained strangers; they weren’t even former clients with that small amount of prior interaction. Even the message left on his phone, promising to beat his own relatives if anyone dared remark on his powers came across as well-meaning if a bit excessive. After all, Bruce wasn’t ashamed of his abilities; he owed everything he owned, all of his success, to his particular set of skills and showed proper appreciation at all times. Still, he understood how those could come across in mixed company, and with the explanations that Reese had provided about his pedigree, he could only imagine what opinions the other Marshalls held. At the least, Reese’s parents approved enough to have contracted for therapy in the first place, though there existed a wide gulf between those programs and the kennel club.

Rather, it was the way that Reese phrased the necessity of tiptoeing around his cousins’ carrier status. As someone who had manifested powers, whose family consisted entirely of Evolutes, who had grown up in Evesdown surrounded by other Evolutes, he found nothing scandalous, certainly nothing insulting, about being a Carrier. He didn’t argue this point, had offered no feedback at all beyond a swift, inscrutable flash across his features followed by acknowledgment of the rules as a whole. The other was the announcement that he shouldn’t bring Reese a birthday present despite the coincidence of the date. That seemed strange to him, the notion that their religious customs couldn’t stretch to include the celebration of their son’s birth. Yet, as with his cousins who were Carriers, Bruce didn’t poke the issue; he proposed that they exchange presents between their two birthdays to address the matter.

Sunday morning, he woke as he always did and went through his typical grooming and preparation routine: making his bed, showering carefully and shaving, brushing his teeth and rinsing with mouthwash, applying mousse to his hair and styling it carefully-conservatively. Using the lotion on his hands, using two spritzes of mister instead of cologne because he knew the difference between a date and a good first impression. Then he donned the suit he had chosen specifically for this occasion and settled in his kitchen to consume as much coffee and toast necessary to get him through the morning and to take the edge off his appetite in polite company respectively. Finally, a bit before he was due at their house, he picked up the bouquet of purple and white orchids that he had reserved –mindful of how flowers were in such high demand for this holiday – for Reese’s mother, gathered his bearings, and strolled to West Elm where the largest and most opulent mansions in Haven housed the wealthiest families.

This entire song and dance was familiar to him, dating back to a time before Reese had met his wife and become a father, likely before the younger man had started drinking the box whine about which he waxed nostalgic while denigrating its flavor. Long before Shangri-La, Bruce had dated the daughters and sons of the Haven elite, taken home to meet the parents and occasionally paraded like a novelty. Asked questions about his powers, his intentions, his family to prove that he was worthy while lacking the proper pedigree. What he wore wasn’t a mask, but it was a projected aura of confidence and charm. If Bruce Vaughan had one skill, it was the ability to mingle with wealthy people.

The Marshall’s mansion was all the more impressive when he stood on the doorstep rather than playing in the snow on the lawn with three other people. It bore little resemblance to his childhood home in Evesdown and dwarfed his cottage by several magnitudes. Shangri-La was larger, but one could hardly compare the two properties; Shangri-La was a business rather than a single-family residence.

When the door opened, Bruce found himself staring into the face of an older gentleman, not Julian Marshall, clad in a uniform rather than an Easter suit. A butler. Of course. A polite smile touched his lips as he nodded, thanked the man, and stepped into the foyer. His smile widened as his gaze settled on his friend and his choice of attire. That lilac suit…where had he found that? More importantly, they matched in a way; Bruce’s three-piece suit was a deep purple color, closer to violet – noticeable and yet understated.

“Happy Easter, Reese,” he remarked in lieu of a happy birthday. He would wish his friend that sentiment when his parents no longer provided an audience. He then nodded a single time, choosing not to remind the other man that he had stumbled upon this house three and half months prior. “I did. And it's my pleasure to be here; there's nowhere else I'd rather be, you know."

@Reese Marshall
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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Mar 14 2018, 07:05 PM
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There are moments that the words don’t reach There is suffering too terrible to name You hold your child as tight as you can And push away the unimaginable The moments when you’re in so deep It feels easier to just swim down
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"Happy Easter to you too." He offered. Perhaps it was a saving grace that Reese was himself in this moment that could have been awkward when everyone in the room silently noticed, that they were wearing matching suits. It buzzed silently from the butler to Mister and then to Missus Marshall whether or not this had been intentional -- were they matching (though poorly) in the way that a boy tried and failed to match his tie to his girlfriend's dress for a formal affair?

"Jesus Christ. Are we both wearing fucking purple?" he asked as he pulled his friend into his arms to wrap him tightly in a hug. The scent of liquid courage was not as profound as it often was, but it certainly was there, beneath toothpaste and mouthwash from that morning when he had gotten ready. As he pulled away he clapped Bruce's shoulder. "I'm glad you decided to come. I mean -- you still got fifteen minutes if you don't think this suit is up to par." he took both of his lapels and flicked them as if it had the same effect as doing so to a leather jacket -- it did not.

Then he turned from his friend to his parents, who were lingering, and managing (much to their credit) to not look like either of them was going to die of shock. "You guys know each other." he said stupidly, but he shrugged and offered. "Mom, Dad, Bruce. Bruce, Esther and Julian." He said speedily as if he thought that introductions were useless. His hand still rested Bruce's shoulder as Julian moved forward, holding out his hand.

"It's a pleasure to see you in such different circumstances." He couldn't offer the words that he had heard a lot about him or that they had been all good things. Wendy's tail had been confusing at best; and Reese had given a shrug after 'friend' as if he wasn't entirely sure that that was what Bruce was. And that grand total of two statements since February was all that he knew about Bruce Vaughan--the man who was Reese's friend, not the one on the news or the ones that Esther's friends had mentioned when she had said she thought her son might be dating the owner of Shangri-La.

In this moment, the rumors could have been true, and Julian would not have asked for an explanation from either of the two men. There was life in his son--and even if it was less than most people, it was more than usual and that was something important.

His wife spoke up, "We're excited that you came." She hesitated, a trait that was similar to Reese's. Perhaps it was where he had learned it, though Esther's was smoother and less full of self-loathing or doubt so much as she was organizing whether she wanted to phrase something this way or that. "Reese hasn't brought someone to Easter in a long time." A simple enough sentiment.

Reese lingered quietly by his friend's side, watching him as if he though that Bruce might disappear at any moment. Slowly he ventured, "You want the grand tour?"

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Mar 15 2018, 04:56 PM
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Bruce found himself swept into a hug, which he returned without reservation, drawing the younger man to his chest in an embrace that was too intimate for the performed masculinity of straight friends who attended sporting events together. Yet contained none of the fondling or squeezing inherent in two men who were dating each other. His grin widened at his friend’s remark, and he replied, “I’m wearing a distinguished violet. I can’t say anything about your lilac number.”

His sentiment was teasing, gentle, emphasized by his next words before breaking the embrace. “You look good. And you certainly have to do more to get rid of me than wear a pastel suit.”

Another statement that rang true. His fried had attempted to run him off so many times over the past nearly seven months, and each time Bruce had stood his ground, feet planted firmly like the oldest oak tree. While he was certain that there would be missteps during this holiday – the combination of old money and a Typics-only atmosphere could lead to nothing else – Bruce wasn’t afraid. He had lived in Haven for three times the duration as he and Reese had known one another, dating back to the younger man’s stay at Shangri-La; this was old hat even if he would never describe it as his element

He shifted the bouquet to his left hand before taking Julian’s in his right. As with the handshakes he adopted in both his professional and his personal spheres, is grip was firm but not too tight, warm and utterly beret at a power play or an effort to establish dominance (or to capitulate to it) as occurred in some circles of men. The smile on his lips was genuine rather than a polite affectation. “I’m excited to join you, Julian. Admittedly, it’s been a long time since I’ve been invited to Easter anywhere.”

A true statement beyond the sentiment conveyed. Bruce had spent an Easter or two with Sasha’s family during their boyhoods, although the Liessers had focused more on decorating and searching for eggs and having a no-frills lunch than anything resembling the splendor that Reese had described to him as a warning.

He turned his attention to Esther as she spoke, smiling brightly with all of the gentle charm that had served him so well in his life over the past two and a half decades. Stepping forward, he extended the bouquet towards his hostess. “These are for you, Esther. Reese told me that you’re fond of orchids.”

Bruce whipped his head around when the other man asked the question, and he nodded a single time. “If it wouldn’t be an imposition, I’d love a tour. This home is beautiful, and how could I not want to see the rest of it?”

@Reese Marshall
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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Mar 24 2018, 09:11 AM
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There are moments that the words don’t reach There is suffering too terrible to name You hold your child as tight as you can And push away the unimaginable The moments when you’re in so deep It feels easier to just swim down
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The smile that rested on Reese's face was easier than usual, not entirely real as Bruce had seen now and again, but more real than Julian or his wife had seen in years. So they didn't question the hug, though they noted it, and they didn't question the two men bantering about leaving and staying in a way that didn't reflect the usual entrance into a distinguished household.

Julian shook his head. "It's nothing too fancy." he assured Bruce, though it had not been the way that Reese had described it with expletives in place of thorough vocabulary use. It was of course possible that a man who had lived in Haven his whole life was unaware of how the other half lived; but Reese always spoke about his father in a grounded way -- old money, but with people sense. When Julian came to the construction site, every person there had their name learned and their face remembered; perhaps the difference between he and Bruce was merely in numbers in that regard.

Without thinking it through (much like the gentle touch at the dinner a week before, brushing of shoulders) his fingers moved to take Bruce's hand. If they had been six, no one would have thought about it, two little boys, one leading the other -- but they were not and the split second that Reese's fingers wrapped around Bruce's Esther's eyes snapped to attention, though neither she nor her husband had the lack of tact to mention anything as their son's finger's let go with in a second of taking Bruce's hand.

"Here, we'll start upstairs." Reese offered. This time his hand found Bruce's back and then shoulder, more appropriate. "We'll be back down before people start arriving." Reese promised as he brought his friend towards the stairs and reached out to move the little sign that said not to go up stairs during the party.

"Go ahead." Reese offered and then added, "This is where all our personal stuff is. Bottom floor is focused more on entertaining guests, I guess." he gave a shrug. That was how he could describe it to someone. He assumed it was how most houses were. Bedrooms neatly tucked away where they wouldn't be found during a party or get together, and the sitting, living, and study were all on the ground floor for providing the proper form of entertainment to whoever walked through your door.

When they got upstairs, it was wide. There was a balcony on either side of the walkway and Reese motioned to each side offering that the Living room was to the left and the foyer, which they had just been in was to the right, offering a vague wave to his parents, who were not paying attention at all and were buried in conversation between themselves -- one might assume about the party given the way that Julian turned after a moment and moved into the next room calling a name that belonged to neither of their sons.

Following the balcony around, Reese hesitated at the fork that met them. "So that way is where the Jane and Joseph live. You met Joe -- he's at the front door." He offered. He didn't offer who Jane was, which perhaps implied that she was Joseph's wife. "This way -- is all the upstairs shit." He offered, And as they moved out of the sight of his parents and the rest of the world, his fingers slipped into Bruce's and stayed where they were.

"Sorry about downstairs. I -- I didn't want to make you uncomfortable." he offered about taking his hand, and perhaps it meant something the way that he phrased it. Reese wouldn't have been uncomfortable with it -- but he didn't want to put Bruce in a situation where he had to reject a Marshall surrounded by Marshalls -- or perhaps acknowledge the intensity of their friendship in public.

"My parent's room is at the end of the hall. This is my brother's room." he knocked. "I can't remember if he came over last night or not to help set up." he knocked harder when he heard rustling. "There's someone I want you to meet. Open the fucking door." He didn't think about their hands clasped together; it felt natural.

The man who opened the door, when it did open, seconds later, was polished from head to toe. He was equally handsome as his brother but more stereotypically masculine with a stronger build and jaw. He was not quite as tall as his brother, with dark features, though they each took after one parent instead of a good combination of the two, and so standing near one another, they did not look similar. He wore a suit, and was giving the last tugs to his tie to put it beneath the vest of his suit before he wrapped him in a hug without warning. "I'm Theo. It's good to meet the 'friend,' I keep hearing about. He can't go out to a game because he's got to meet up with 'his friend'." He said it with a mockery of jealous that made Reese smile, and he looked between the two of them -- likely the two most important living people in his life (Wendy aside).

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Mar 24 2018, 03:34 PM
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Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
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Nearly all artwork except the most modern consisted of reproductions, either print-outs from digital archives or ones created by the most skilled art students who turned their sights to attempting the long-dead masters. The same was true of statues, drapes, and ceramics – possessing anything that dated back before the Dome was a sign of luxury, while replicas peppered households and store inventories from the tip of Haven to the depths of Nautas. Bruce noted the décor with a critical eye as he followed Reese up the stairs, motions practiced and elegant, just as they were when walking the halls at Shangri-La, albeit a bit hesitant. After all, he didn’t know the Marshalls’ floor plan, whereas he could find anything at his pleasure palace blindfolded.

He nodded once to acknowledge the description of the layout; that was common for two-story homes. The house where Bruce had grown up, the one still occupied by his parents, was similar albeit far smaller. The bedrooms were upstairs, the kitchen and living room and dining room were on the first floor – communal spaces to greet a person as soon as they crossed the threshold. Harkening back to a time centuries ago when a person sought shelter from the elements and warmed themselves in front of a crackling fireplace that served as central heating for the entire structure. For one-story homes – like the cottage that Bruce occupied – the house was divided into front and back, where the front took on the role of the bottom floor and the back the top where the bedrooms were protected from strangers in case of a break-in.

The balconies were luxurious, an amenity lacking in the houses from Bruce’s childhood neighborhood. While Reese waved, Bruce remained less animated; this wasn’t his home and neither Julian nor Ester were his parents to tease. When they reached the fork, his eyes followed Reese’s gesture down the corridor. Live-in servants. Of course. Reese’s question about staff a month and a half ago resurfaced, placed in the context of something that Bruce had suspected but had remained unconfirmed until this moment.

Reese’s fingers tickled his palm, and Bruce laced their fingers reflexively as he frequently did when they were alone together, a silent way to demonstrate their mutual affection. The apology, sincere and unprompted, earned neither a reprimand for the initial behavior downstairs nor a judgmental (or curious) tilted head or quirked eyebrow. Instead, he stared into the younger man’s face and remarked simply, “I’m not uncomfortable.”

He found himself standing outside of another man’s door rather than his friend’s, foiling his plans to sneak a peek at Reese’s childhood bedroom. Their fingers remained entwined as Reese banged at the door in a manner that would have prompted a parent to shout from downstairs to cut the racket in the Vaughan household, and the profanity that peppered Reese’s vocabulary that would have elicited swift correction within his mother’s earshot. As the door flew open, Bruce barely had time to take in the myriad physical differences between Reese and his brother before the other man introduced himself and swept the mental manipulator into an embrace.

Bruce could hardly complain. His family hugged in lieu of exchanginghellos and said, “I love you” rather than “goodbye” or “goodnight.”

He returned the embrace awkwardly, as he refused to let Reese’s hand slip from his and which rendered him unable to use that arm.

“I’m Bruce.” Polite and courteous, though affection filled his tone as he added, “It’s good to meet the brother who buys him such nice presents.”

He chose not to mention the power ties.

@Reese Marshall
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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Mar 31 2018, 10:41 PM
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There are moments that the words don’t reach There is suffering too terrible to name You hold your child as tight as you can And push away the unimaginable The moments when you’re in so deep It feels easier to just swim down
Thyme is Offline



Reese took those words and tucked them away for later diagnosis, but he found the major part simple and pulled it close to cherish it. Bruce didn't mind touching when someone else could see. He noticed the way that Bruce's fingers stayed in his even when Theo hugged him. He watched Bruce move uncomfortably to assure that their hands never parted.

Reese felt something warm in his chest as he squeezed his friend's hand as Theo took a step back from Bruce to move to hug his little brother. The hands didn't escape his notice, but he didn't mention it. There was only so much teasing that Reese could handle now -- he wasn't going to start the day by tearing his brother to shreds in front of his friend.

Theo laughed as he leaned back on his heels and raised a brow at Bruce's statement. He glanced at Reese and then looked back at the man who had brought his brother back to life (even if no one wanted to say it out loud and jinx it). "Presents?" he repeated, "I do more than that. You've been selling me short?" he asked his brother.

Reese gave a shrug in response. His thumb ran over Bruce's skin to calm himself and reassure Bruce if he needed it. Theo had an intense presence -- the kind that someone might imagine a CEO having. It was polished. He'd worn suits since high school -- even without the dress code imposing them -- and when suits were not appropriate, he was never seen in a t-shirt or jeans.

He tugged on his suit coat. "You know, Bruce, my brother failed to mention your name until, what, a week ago?" he shook his head, "But I'm glad you could come. Don't get to see him smile nearly enough anymore." He didn't look at his brother, but he could see him out of the corner of his eye, the gentle smile on his face and the easy look about him in his lilac suit that reminded him of the Reese that had shattered six and a half years ago.

"Stop being a jackass. I'm giving him the grand tour. When does Tammy get here?"

"Any time now." As if on cue, there was a new voice that they could hear in the lobby. "There she is." He offered. It was accompanied by two other voices that weren't familiar. Reese had mentioned before that his brother had children. "We'll talk more later." He said quickly as he started to button his suit and move towards the stairs back to the main floor.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 1 2018, 01:11 PM
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Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
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Bruce returned the squeeze when Theo released him from his embrace, finding nothing amiss at being greeted so fondly upon a first meeting. That matched his own family’s tendency towards physical affection, and thus he found it comforting and familiar. Since Theo chose not to remark about them holding hands and didn’t stare, and Reese caressed his flesh rather than abruptly end the touch, Bruce could accept that this was acceptable to the other man’s family if not strictly typical which meant he needn’t pull away for Reese’s benefit.

“More than presents, but it was quite the gift, that puck,” he explained before Theo and Reese dissolved into fraternal banter.

The sound of a stranger’s voice recognized by the other two men and then intermixed with the higher pitches of younger voices briefly drew Bruce’s attention. He remembered that Reese had mentioned that Theo had children, not as young as Avery but not as old as Calvin’s because he had married a little later. The mental manipulator wanted to meet them, of course, but he was along for a tour and thus bade Theo best of luck in response to his promise before the other man darted from the room and hurried down the stairs. He waited until Theo was out of earshot before Bruce asked, “His family didn’t spend last night?”

It was a bit curious as a fostered arrangement rather than one that unfolded for one reason or another. Then again, Bruce also found it interesting that Theo maintained a bedroom in his parents’ house when he was married with children and presumably lived in the same district while maintaining a steady, prestigious job with his father’s company. Bruce’s own childhood bedroom had been converted years ago; even his sister’s had eventually, and she was the baby of the family and the longest holdout. Reese maintaining a bedroom had surprised him less, although he wouldn’t say so outright. His friend was fragile and had suffered such a traumatic loss, and he had moved back home within far more recent memory. He might need that room again.

Bruce said none of that. Instead, he remained focused on the topic of rooms but through a more playful lens. “Can I see your bedroom? Or do you have some posters on the wall you think might embarrass me?”

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 1 2018, 02:31 PM
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There are moments that the words don’t reach There is suffering too terrible to name You hold your child as tight as you can And push away the unimaginable The moments when you’re in so deep It feels easier to just swim down
Thyme is Offline



Reese smiled when his brother went darting off, waving down over the balcony as the two voices called up at him, marking them without a doubt as his children and the older Marshall brother went striding down the stairs.

"It's a long story." Reese offered, reaching out to tug the door closed. If Bruce looked at the doors, he would notice that all of the locks were for show -- at least all of the locks that were on the bedrooms. As he walked, he tried to explain everything as quickly as he could without making anything incriminating. "Basically, Tammy gets pissed if he gets home after eight and wakes up the kids. So if it's late, he just crashes here." The way he said it made it clear that he thought that it sounded stupid, and yet that it apparently worked for them and so he wasn't going to cause a fuss over it.

He kept moving down the hallways until he reached a bedroom that didn't have a lock at all. In fact, the doorknob had been removed and replaced with a cover on both sides. He stopped outside the door, hesitated and then moved into the room without answering Bruce's question. The room was eerie at best but in a different way than his home. It was what Reese's apartment likely would have looked like if he had never met his girlfriend and never been strangled by tragedy.

It was decorated in the way that many teenagers and college students decorated (for it had never been updated, even when he had lived here during his time after the accident). Posters lined the walls, mostly of music artists who were long dead and sports players whose time in the spotlight had come to an end. There were trophies all over the room from when he had played baseball, hockey, and football in high school and college. There were a few pictures around the room of Reese with people who had once been his friends, but were the kinds of friends who had bailed when the going got tough.

When the door closed, there was a poster of a woman posed somewhat provocatively with a guitar. "Here you go." Reese offered, motioning around before sitting down on his bed and giving Bruce a tug to follow. "Alright, I'm ready." He joked as if he was expecting Bruce to start laying insults on him about all the preferences he already knew that Reese had.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 1 2018, 03:33 PM
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Bruce noticed that something about the doors appeared off, the same way that a rooms where everything was on a five-degree slant would appear strange without registering what the problem was in an easy-to-articulate way. It wasn’t until they reached Reese’s door, the one that lacked not only a lock but a doorknob that Bruce realized what was amiss on a conscious level. The doors at Shangri-La only locked from the outside except for his office because safety trumped privacy even in a pleasure palace that existed in large part from the dedication to confidentiality. His thoughts drifted to their first play session the month before and how his friend had disappeared into the bathroom, and their conversation the next morning about doing something about the lock. Because Reese couldn’t trust himself and obviously neither could his family.

He was distracted from his musings by the trip back in time in which he found himself the moment that stepped over the threshold. This are glimpse into his friend’s youth, a time before the depression, before the family that had been cruelly ripped from him in a collision that rain shattered glass and steel, captivated the mental manipulator. His eyes slowly drank in every detail of the room – the posters on the walls and the trophies that lined the shelves and the pile of magazines and the photos of old friends and the color of his comforter. Bruce spied from the corner of his eye the scantily-clad woman with the guitar, but aside from once again confirming his friend’s tastes, it did nothing for Bruce.

Rather, his attention was drawn to the trophies. He shimmied around the bed to study them, each top contained either a small man holding a piece of sports equipment (a baseball bat or a hockey stick) or else the ball for the corresponding sport. “You must have been quite the athlete,” he remarked, although he had known some of this about the younger man already. “Did you win all of these in high school?”

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 1 2018, 05:26 PM
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Reese watched Bruce's eyes move around the room, and he waited silently for something to explode. For there to be some hint -- for Bruce to recognize one of his friends as a TU member despite how he didn't have pictures of Kenner lying around.

But instead, Bruce found his way to the trophies and Reese watched him look at them. He moved closer to his friend until they were touching again, Reese standing just behind him, processing what he was doing and then apologizing and putting space between them as he started pointing.

"Yeah. I used to play in high school and college." He answered. He didn't notice or point out that his hand had moved to settle onto Bruce's shoulder, thumb idly moving over the fabric. "I thought about going pro." But his parents were not interested in having a son who played sports for a living, and while he had never managed to live up to the expectations, he tried most of the time, even if it was round about. "And I met Bryn, and I needed something that would be steady."

Steady had been construction work that had made him nothing less than angry every day of the week for eight hours, and then moving up into management and still not being able to get the house he wanted in Haven. It was asking for loans from his parents; but it was supposed to all be worth it.

"You would have hated me." He offered. He considered for a split second whether he could tuck his nose again the man's shoulder and lean against him while he looked around his childhood room. "I was such an asshole in school." Which perhaps was saying something because he was no walk in the park at the moment.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 1 2018, 06:01 PM
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Bruce remained as blissfully unaware of Reese’s prior TU affiliation as he did of the younger man’s personal attraction. Aside from Kenner Larson who served also as the face of TU, the mental manipulator couldn’t pick individual members out of a lineup and thus he saw only friends in the photos – friends that Reese had once possessed – rather than dangerous genophobes whose presence in Reese’s life held dangerous implications.

As the hand touched his shoulder, Bruce leaned back slightly to accommodate the touch. He, too, said nothing about it, allowing his body language to speak for itself. He murmured affectionately, “If you’d gone professional, then I would have to ask for your autograph.”

More likely, they never would have become friends. It took a combination of tragedy years ago and happenstance in the autumn for their friendship to spark in the first place. He cherished their friendship but would give it up without hesitation if doing so would ensure that Reese’s family had survived the car crash or that the accident had never transpired at all. Such thoughts had no place given voice on Reese’s birthday, on Easter, in his childhood home surrounded by the rest of the family even as the shadows of the trauma permeated every aspect of the day from the lack of a doorknob to the way that the other Marshalls danced around Reese’s depression and the rare smiles that he bestowed upon Bruce.

The other man shared a sentiment spoken before about himself in college and high school. That he had been a jerk and assumed that Bruce wouldn’t have liked him. In fairness, Bruce could envision in his mind’s eye his friend – with the young face and too-wide smile of the teenager in some of these photos – wearing a suit and tie for school and showing off for attention. However, he couldn’t conjure a similar image of Reese behaving that way at the public school that the mental manipulator had attended. Craning his neck, Bruce sought eye contact without breaking the touch to his shoulder. “I don’t think you would have at my school, not with me at least. Nobody dared.

There was levity in his tone, softening a harsher connotation.

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 1 2018, 08:09 PM
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Reese snorted. "If I was a professional, I bet you'd have to run fucking fantasies about me at Shangri-La. Bet you couldn't even look me in the eyes." He shook his head. "I used to coach for Annie and Att's tee ball leagues. Jesus they were so fucking cute -- Here." He moved away and towards his closet, rifling around.

As he did so, he said over his shoulder, "I guess it makes sense no one would fuck with you." He went quiet, not intentionally causing a momentary lapse in the meaning of what he was saying, "I mean, I was always scared of the dance kids. We did some basic shit for football training and my legs hurt for a fucking month."

Then he found a shoe box, tugged off the lid, and revealed baseball cards. Upon closer inspection, none of them were of real players. Instead it was a hodgepodge of fake baseball cards from each year that his two eldest were in it and then ones from when he had played. There were even a few of a young Theo, and then children who Bruce wouldn't recognize yet, but perhaps would once they got downstairs and he saw the faces of Reese's nephew and nieces.

He set the box down as he plucked out a few of the cards and handed them to Bruce so that he could see them without craning his neck or straining his eyes to get a good look. "They put the year, team and position, which is bullshit because no one has positions in tee ball."

But he smiled as he lingered too close to his friend. "I have their trophies in my closet at home." he offered. "They got first in their league in... fuck... '59?" he hazarded a guess. "I don't know. It was the year they overlapped."

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 2 2018, 07:27 PM
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Bruce raised one eyebrow as his friend expounded on this alternate reality while underestimating the older man’s capacity for maintaining decorum in the face of intimate knowledge. His thoughts turned briefly to the fantasies he had run the past week, from the relatively mundane survival and repopulation fantasies to kennel club and the age regression. “If you think that’s the most embarrassing potential encounter I’ve dealt with, you woefully underestimate Shangri-La. I've gone to the weddings of people I've put on dog leashes.”

However, the conversation shifted as Reese moved to the closet, and Bruce’s eyes followed. He watched the younger man rifle through the closet while expounding upon his admiration for the physical rigor of dancers. Bruce could hardly disagree, even if that hadn’t been his point, not exactly, in countering Reese’s proclamation the moment prior. Rubbing his chin idly, he remarked, “The prima for most of high school, she had these gorgeous legs, and she could kick you in the face from a crouching position.”

He took the cards that Reese passed over, taking care to hold them with the same delicate touch with which he held precious artwork or a breakable vase or china. One at a time, he brought them close to study the photos of the children in their uniforms, before flipping them over to read the statistics. “These are dory,” he remarked, as a smile lit up his face.

The mention of a trophy caught his attention, and he remarked, “You’ll have to show me the next time I come over. I’ve never seen a tee ball trophy before.”

Due primarily to the emergence of Bruce’s power, his brother had missed out on the opportunity to play tee ball, and neither Willow nor Bruce had been interested.

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 3 2018, 08:01 AM
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There are moments that the words don’t reach There is suffering too terrible to name You hold your child as tight as you can And push away the unimaginable The moments when you’re in so deep It feels easier to just swim down
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Reese's eyes watched Bruce take the cards. He noticed how gentle his friend was and how carefully he held them. Without comment on the proximity, Reese moved closer until their shoulders touched, Reese standing just behind his friend. If they had know each other's preferences and interest, perhaps his arms would have wound around Bruce and his nose would have taken residence against his suit.

Reese raised a brow at the explanation of the prima ballerina. He wasn't sure if that description was supposed to be frightening or attractive, so he remained quiet.

"Right? They're fucking cute. You know what was the best about this league? My dad sponsored a team, and we couldn't get the kids onto it for the life of us." He shook his head, smiling slightly. One could have imagined how hilarious he had probably thought it was at the time.

He raised a brow when Bruce said he wanted to see the tee ball trophy. "Yeah, I can show it to you. You know you'll be disappointed." He shrugged. "Its not only low quality but it's also... for tee ball." But the smile still rested on his face, and maybe that more than anything made it a good choice.

"Anyway," he held the box out for Bruce to put the pictures back. "We didn't do anything to it when I moved home after...you know. Probably should have." Why they didn't went without saying. Reese's world had fallen apart; his childhood bedroom didn't have to be torn to shreds as well.

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