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 Bruce's Birthday Bash (aka Meet the Vaughans), March 27, 2167 | Reese Marshall
Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 22 2018, 08:04 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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Reese smiled when Willow repeated it was why they didn't live in Haven. It was likewise why he didn't live in Evesdown, though that wasn't something that had ever been an option for him. He would have stuck out like a sore thumb -- even living a few blocks from it sometimes felt like he was the odd man out in an apartment complex full of evolutes. (The bars were often full to the brim with abilities as well, though he rarely identified a power before it smashed him in the face or knocked him off his feet.)

He offered what was clearly an attempt at a smile. "You know. That's why I don't live there either. All the jac-- rich people." he offered. Another joke without the intonation or facial expression to match. He added a moment later however, "Really though, I'm sure Evendale's a great place to live. Are you anywhere near Arbor Street?"

And then a child started crying, Bruce moved away, and Reese looked like a sculptor had dumped all his excess marble onto him. Bruce missed it today as he had the last time that Avery had needed her Uncle Bruce to come to the rescue -- that time at the ball pit, playing with kids much older than herself. Like that day, Reese's eyes glazed over for a moment, his brows knit with emotions that his mind couldn't process, and then he shoved it all down as quickly and as fully as he could.

The look of shear panic lasted less than half a minute, and all that remained was a frown. If he was lucky, The girl had drawn everyone's attention, and like he often did, he managed to avoid having anyone try to assess the expression and land on the painful source that he relived in slow motion and hyper speed all at once -- a flash before his eyes that he had survived and often wished he hadn't.

Regardless, he glanced over to try to get a look at Bruce and Avery to assess what the damage was and if his friend needed another pair of adult hands to sort it out. "You use a 3 strike system?" he asked Isaac. His wife and he had never been organized enough to implement something so... well, clever in its simplicity (though now that he'd heard it, the baseball metaphor seemed entirely embarrassing to have not thought of himself).

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 22 2018, 08:41 PM
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“A few blocks away,” Willow answered. Her glance was slowly growing empty, and she pursed her lips together as she weighed whether she would send her husband out for refills. She had to time this correctly, so that he wasn’t out fetching beverages when their meal came; she wouldn’t want his food to get cold.

She added, “We didn’t want to live too close to the traffic. Between the noise and the lights, it’s impossible to get the children to sleep at night.” She and Isaac were lucky that they could shop around for a neighborhood when they moved; they hadn’t scrimped and saved to buy the worst house in the least convenient location just to get the E on their children’s ID cards.

Over his shoulder, Bruce gave a thumbs-up gesture to acknowledge Isaac’s request. He reached the children’s table quickly and swept Avery up into his arms before sitting at the head of the table. He kissed her hair while quietly inquiring into what had happened, trusting Mabel to relay the events to him without hiding information. While she spoke, he bounced Avery on his knee and cuddled her to his chest, whispering that she could join him at the grownup table if she couldn’t calm down.

Back at the adult table, as the others assured themselves that Bruce had the matter under control, their attention returned to conversation. Gail’s attention had lingered on Reese while the others had turned towards the children; she had noticed his deer trapped in headlights expression, but she didn’t remark on it. She had seen that same expression before on other faces at the hospital; it was hardly a mystery as to why he wore it. He had lost children, after all.

“Most of the time,” Isaac answered. “For the minor things. Something major and that’s their only strike. It’s the only way to keep the family together when the children outnumber the adults.”

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 22 2018, 09:20 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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Reese nodded. In another situation, perhaps, alone with Bruce, holding hands, the thoughts that washed through Reese's mind would have come out of his lips. He thought about how it was strange that they talked about lights and noises keeping children up when his children had lived spitting distance from the APD and the Skyrail (it was how they had managed to get their place for so cheap), and had never had trouble with getting them to bed or keeping them that way after the first year or so when waking up in the middle of the night was as natural as drinking from their mother's breasts.

"Yeah? Well, that's good advice. I'll pass it to my brother." he offered.

He didn't point out that he and Bryn had had four, heavily outnumbered, and had not used that technique to keep their kids in line. Bryn had always had a strong will and a good voice and Reese was... well, he was Reese. Perhaps, it was because Wendy would be the oldest any of them had gotten in the next few months and Annie had been a saint and loved to help take care of the other children.

Despite what he probably should have processed as inappropriate behavior on his part, Reese's eyes lingered on Bruce. He glanced over just long enough to pick up his bottle, took a drink, and then set it back down. Perhaps it was painfully obvious now that Bruce wasn't there, both of his hands were in view. The hand that had been gone for every second that Bruce had sat beside him, played idly with his fingers on his other hand.

He took in a breath and then let it out, finally dragging his eyes away from his friend. "While he's distracted, I'd love some blackmail to hold over his head for the rest of our lives." he offered, and again the voice and expression were flat and offered no insight into whether or not he was just tugging chains. "He couldn't have always been this fu--" he caught himself, fumbled and tried to put it back into a real sentence, but it petered out. "Uhm." He ran both of his hands over his face, "Nevermind. Sorry."

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 23 2018, 07:22 PM
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Parenting styles differed between families based upon the individual strengths and limitations of the parents and the needs and personalities of the children. Isaac and Willow were two organized people with experience managing large groups of children and no desire to implement stricter hierarchal dynamics – they were “Mommy and Daddy rather than Sir and Ma’am. The warning system had seemed a fair compromise to allow the children to explore boundaries while applying consistent rules across the board.

There were the additional complications of parenting Evolute children, even as Evolutes themselves. Dynamics grew complicated. A child could suddenly find herself far more powerful – stronger, faster, with the ability to warp perceptions or to create fire with her mind – than her parents. Her powers uncontrollable and her maturity woefully underdeveloped. Their oldest was eleven, prepared for the Carrie Institute next year; both Isaac and Willow thanked their lucky stars that she had not developed the ability to pierce her mother’s bubbles.

Hold over his head for the rest of our lives. Both Spencer and Gail noticed the phrasing. Not only were the two men together, but the relationship was serious enough that Reese believed that they would be together until old age. That was delightful news and also cause for a discussion alone with their son at another date. However, the question of childhood…behavior was a difficult one in the Vaughan household because of the nature of Bruce’s powers and his lapses in control. Children who didn’t possess vast mind control powers had embarrassing anecdotes and tales of absurd antics to share. Bruce had long stretches of power lapse followed by decades of compensation. Spencer attempted to sidestep the elephant in the room with a jovial misinterpretation. “I don’t think my son can be blackmailed with that business of his.”

Gail also sidestepped although her efforts offered something in its place. “When you come for Passover, I can show you the photo album.” Each of their three children appeared across multiple albums but had one solely devoted to them.

Before the conversation could delve too much further into dangerous or uncomfortable territory, Bruce rejoined the adults at the table. As with Valentine’s Day, he had Avery in tow and settled her in his lap. She continued to sniffle although the wails had stopped. “We’re going to eat bread until Avery calms down,” he explained. “Don’t mind us.”

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 27 2018, 08:59 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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The statement about Shangri-La made Reese smile. It was the smile of affection that came by proxy. The pride he felt on Bruce's behalf for his friend making his dream come true; the thankfulness that he felt towards the establishment for being a catalyst in their friendship blossoming (even if it wasn't until years after he was there). Shangri-La was all Bruce's, and even its mention made Reese's mind linger on his fondness for Bruce and all every quality and quirk he had.

He said nothing to Spencer, but the expression was perhaps enough of an answer in itself. His smile faded slightly when he was put somewhat on the spot. Not that he was coming to Passover -- if he was invited he would be there without a doubt. For a moment, he looked at Gail waiting for her to laugh or scoff, to mock him about photo albums or taunt him. He imagined the world far crueler than it was. Perhaps, he had just lived in the darkest parts for far too long. The places where his friends took weekend trips to other parts of town just to cause a ruckus and joked about how killing someone would be a blessing to the city because of the color of their ID card.

"Uhm." His brows knit. He was quiet as he saw Bruce coming back. Even without being in arm's length, seeing Bruce returning seemed to calm him slightly. "Yeah, Gail. I'd love that. Bet he was cute when he was little." he said without realizing what implications might have come with the word 'cute' -- an innocent word for almost any child as far as he was concerned without an outside eye seeing the way that he looked at Bruce.

As his friend sat back down he smiled. "She's alright?" he asked, not really processing that with Bruce's hands occupied, Reese's fingers had decided that running over his shoulder and then onto his back before withdrawing was a normal way to greet a friend back to the table. "I've got a mozzarella stick we can cut up if she wants it." and his fingers dropped from his back and finally settled back into his own lap, frustrated by their inability to find something to touch.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 27 2018, 09:46 PM
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Occasional jokes about fetishes notwithstanding, none of the Vaughans judged Bruce for opening Shangri-La or the nature of his business. They all agreed that it was inappropriate to discuss in the presence of children, from whence the cover story about Uncle Bruce’s spa originated, but they found nothing upsetting or morally ambiguous (let alone reprehensible) about his work. He provided a service to the community for which he was well-compensated, and, in turn, he treated his employees well while maintaining his residence in Haven. The rumors were troubling only insofar as they made life difficult for their son and brother, not because anyone believed that they could be true.

Gail and Spencer shared another glance; the dopey smile on Reese’s features was familiar to them, having worn it time and again throughout their courtship and marriage. The younger man was smitten. In one sense, it was encouraging to know that their son had found someone. At the same time, they had hoped he would introduce him properly, but the painful reality remained that Reese was a rich Typic, the son of a family that lived in a section of Haven that he admitted had no Evolute residents, while Bruce was an Evolute who could never buy his way out of the E, M, or J on his ID card. There existed enough reasons for caution.

Then Reese called Bruce cute and it was apparent that the young man was not particularly skilled at discretion. They could muse on that another day, because the invocation roused Gail’s motherly proud. Smiling broadly, she agreed, “He was an adorable baby, although not quite as cute as Willow.”

Overhearing that, Willow interrupted the conversation she and Libby were sharing to toast her glass in her mother’s direction. “Thanks, Mom.”

Bruce’s return quelled that particular topic. Despite his request for others to talk around him and his best efforts not to quash the conversation, he found himself the center of attention again. Avery rested her head against his shoulder while he picked up a bruschetta and held it to her lips to nibble. And Reese’s hands found his shoulders and then his spine; he relaxed in the touch despite how atypical it was for male friends in mixed company.

“Let’s try a meatball,” he countered. Avery remained a little carnivore, but Bruce’s plate remained as meat-free as their trip to Jungle Jamboree. “Could you pass me one, please?”

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 28 2018, 08:16 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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Perhaps if the world had been a little kinder to Reese, if his libido, his mind and his heart had all been on the same page, he would have managed to recognize all the signs that Gail and Spencer were able to see from across the table. Maybe he would have realized that running his fingers over his friend's back was not how two platonic male friends interacted with one another. But the world was not kind.

He nodded, reaching for a meatball and stabbing it with his fork. "Yeah." he answered, "Here." There were moments where the overwhelming sadness of Reese's exterior and the social anxiety made it hard to remember that he had fathered four children. That he had cut up a thousand steaks and mashed a million potatoes and soothed hundreds of children, and then there was this moment. Where he made the meatball into little bite-sized, safe pieces without a thought before he handed the plate, which was supposed to be the one for his bread, over to Bruce.

His fingers lingered for a moment as if he considered ruffling the child's hair or rubbing her back and then they fell away and he looked down at his hands before one slipped under the table and the other squeezed the bridge of his nose.

He could feel panic pull on him. Things were going too well. It was the feeling of nervousness that had caused him to say his safe word in the middle of a conversation at Jungle Jamboree. It was the feeling that he felt before he say something nasty to try to get Bruce to go or snap at him. It was when his claws came out because his heart was showing. He was a dog who bit when he thought he might be comfortable enough to show his belly.

He grasped the closest straw to him, metaphorically speaking, in an attempt to not lash out. "I, uh--" he started, and it fell short. The straw slipped through his fingers and got lost in a stack of needles. "Um..." He moved his hand towards Bruce, trying to find something to ground him again. Then it moved towards his bottle of beer when Bruce's hands were already taken. All he could think of at the moment were ways to lash out, to shove everyone away -- a dozen swear words crossed his mind; a couple slurs. None of them left his lips; but he didn't trust himself not to say something wrong if he tried to put a sentence together.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 28 2018, 11:09 PM
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Occupied by Avery’s more theatrical sniffles, Bruce remained largely oblivious to his friend’s awkwardness in this moment, although he retained his broader concern given Reese’s attempted escape so early in their gathering. He intended to check in with the other man once Avery had calmed down. He also remained oblivious to the prior conversation and the fact that Reese had managed to project what the other Vaughans considered proof positive of a more intimate relationship between the two of them, as opposed to their rather unorthodox friendship.

As Reese passed the meatball, he flashed a grateful smile in the other man’s direction and shifted one hand to pick up the plate. He spoke to Avery, not to Reese, focused on cheering his girl, yet he conveyed additional appreciation with his next words. “Avery, do you remember my friend, Reese? Look, he has a meatball for you. Do you want some meatball?”

She mumbled into the collar of his shirt so softly that Bruce barely heard and had to put together her answer from context and past experience. Past experience informed him that Avery never turned down the opportunity to eat meat when presented with a choice, with the sole exception of cookies instead. Lifting his fork, he speared one of the bite-sized morsels and brought it to her mouth. No sooner had the meat grazed her lips then Avery opened wide and inhaled.

“Really, don’t mind us,” he said to Reese, disguised as addressing the table at large. His family could maintain three or four conversations around a sniffling or wailing toddler and did not require the reminder or the tacit permission.

Calvin took the opportunity to draw Reese from his shell. Unlike the other members of the family, he had only seen the other man on the verge of a meltdown, the mask cracked and then absent before they could interact. He had seen only the fragility about which Bruce had warned them and thus had no expectations that he might disappear behind a more charming persona. He needed a helping hand, a little nudge, and Calvin was more than willing to oblige. “Reese, Dad mentioned you like baseball. Do you play?”

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: May 13 2018, 08:43 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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Reese's eyes moved towards the little girl in Bruce's arms, who he didn't know was Bruce's. His eyes lingered on the other man tending the child and he didn't notice the smile that tugged at his lips when Bruce gently brought the little girl's attention to Reese.

Kids were as complicated as everything else in his life. The knowledge that he'd killed his weight on him. The fear that it could happen again at any moment at any time. Perhaps, it would have been easier if it had been intentional -- from an emotional standpoint. Instead, it had been an accident -- Reese thought of the problem as innate and uncontrollable.

Instead it left him with a label that couldn't be scrubbed off or cleaned -- because every moment that he had been a father had lead up to the moment when he wasn't (legally speaking). He was the kind of man who couldn't keep his kids safe.

Blue eyes met blue eyes when Calvin spoke to him. He hesitated; stared. His mouth opened like he was trying to figure out how to put together a sentence and couldn't manage it. One hand ran down his face, the other played with his napkin.

"I--" he started. He was trying, if nothing else. "When--Before--" His hand fell beneath the table and touched Bruce's leg, resting there for a moment before his thumb moved. He took in a breath and let it out. "Sorry." he offered. This time he made it through the sentences. "I used to play -- in high school and college. Then I coached tee ball for a while. But no -- not anymore. I just listen to it on the radio, mostly." He watched it certainly, but his holo didn't have great quality sound or picture. It was never his first option. "You play?"

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: May 14 2018, 10:25 AM
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Once Avery had finished the first bit of meatball, Bruce brought another to her lips, while murmuring affectionate words that mirrored some sentiments shared during aftercare (had there been any doubt that he drew on paternal instincts in that role). “That tastes good, doesn’t it, Sweetheart? Nice and filling?”

She took another bite before turning her head to bury against his shoulder, prompting Bruce to shift her position for his comfort and her support.

Calvin’s attention remained on Reese as the other man stumbled through his explanation, a sympathetic expression on the middle child’s face as he listened. He had hoped that this would be a safe topic of conversions, sports were benign after all, but apparently he had guessed wrong. Bruce had warned them about the necessity of patience and treating his friend with kid gloves. A sympathetic smile remained on his lips while Reese stammered out his response before turning the question around on Calvin. “No, I just watch, but our son played tee ball until he aged out. We-”

The rest of his statement was lost in a sudden commotion. At the children’s table, a scuffle had started up, sending food flying and two distinct yelps as Willow’s youngest hit the floor, descending into tears herself. Both Isaac and Willow rose abruptly, with him demanding an explanation while Willow intervened more directly. A small gesture with her right hand resulted in one of her older children suddenly ensconced in a shimmering silver bubble that floated towards the corner away from the sobbing sibling and both tables. “That’s a fifteen minute time out.”

As with Gail’s prehensile hair, none of the adults appeared surprised by Willow’s reaction, despite being startled by the preceding events. Spencer rose once the bubble had drifted out of the way, coming to crouch by the floor to pick up the scattered food. “If the rest of you need to run around before dinner, I’ll take you out.”

“That’s probably for the best,” Isaac agreed, scooping his youngest off the floor.

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: May 19 2018, 05:05 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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If nothing else could be said for Reese Marshall in this moment, it was that he tried. He was focused on Calvin, pretending that he didn't have to let his fingers fall under a table and onto another man's leg to sooth himself enough to hold a conversation. His thumb moved with an easy rhythm, and while the word smile could not have appropriately been used to describe his expression in that moment, he did seem like he was invested in the discussion he and Calvin were having.

For his part, he was holding himself together again, even if it was with duct tape, glue, and staples instead of a polished french seam.

Commotion happened enough in Reese's life that it was not that that was the first thing that set him off. He went to dive bars; people got into fights or shouting matches. No, it was what happened directly after.

Two yelps.

The blood flooded from his face and then there something wrapped around one of the children and Reese's eyes widened. He had never been a brave man. If a fire had consumed a building, he was not the type to run towards it instead of away. He half scrambled out of his chair. "What the fuck is that?" He started to reach for Bruce, but his hand stopped, when his chair hit the ground and he flinched so visibly it was hard to watch.

His eyes darted and looked almost glazed. The only thing that stopped his awkward backing up was that his back hit a wall. To his credit, he wasn't hyper ventilating and he didn't look like he was about to pass out -- but stable could not have been used to describe him.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: May 19 2018, 07:45 PM
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“It’s a time out bubble.” Three different members of the Vaughan family explained that within seconds of each other in a similar variation of the chosen words. As with Gail’s hair used as an additional set of limbs, as with not touching Calvin from behind lest a spike shoot through your hand, this was unremarkable in their experience. Willow had possessed the ability to generate and manipulate force fields for nearly thirty years – longer than any of the children had been alive, longer than the married Vaugan siblings had known their spouses, longer than Bruce had been in Haven. It was no stranger to them than his ability to manipulate minds, and it invoked fewer bad memories.

The profanity earned a look of consternation from the matriarch, one exacerbated by Reese behaving as though the room was on fire, and which was only placated by her oldest mouthing that he would take care of it. First, he passed Avery to his mother, sliding the plate of cut-up meatball so that Gail could consider to soothe he grandchild. Then, with a confident stride, Bruce descended upon the corner where Reese had taken refuge, swooping in like Superman to save the day. He lifted both hands, palms faced outward in the same non-threatening posture he adopted during carding incidents, to demonstrate that he hid no objects and intended no harm. Aloud, he said, “Willow creates force fields. That’s all it is. They’re perfectly safe.”

Behind them, Calvin and Willow joined their father to clean up the spilled food, while Isaac held his youngest and shuffled the other children towards the closet to fetch their coats, intending to take Spencer up on the offer to let them run around outside. Perhaps they would calm down by the time their entrees arrived.

Perhaps Reese would calm down as well.

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: May 22 2018, 07:15 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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Reese was in the process of attempting to sooth himself as Bruce approached. His breath was even and his eyes were wide, but his hand ran up and down his arm. His eyes were on the bubbles; the child trapped inside them.

He nodded as Bruce spoke. It was different seeing them. All of these abilities were different when they just happened in front of his face instead of when they were described with words or drawn in picture books that you read to your kids about being open minded and accepting. (Reese only owned some holo versions of them when he'd had children in his home -- they had been dangerous to leave lying around.)

Slowly his eyes moved from the bubble that encapsulated the child to Bruce. He was just trying to comprehend. There were reasons that they couldn't use cages or closets in their play; there were reasons that Reese could be hogtied this way and that, but that he couldn't be surrounded. He'd expressed his fear of being trapped a thousand times -- and whether or not, he had stated the words outright, at any point, it was not hard to figure out that the accident where his wife and children had been trapped inside of a car he'd made it out of would be the most logical place to point fingers.

"Okay." He nodded, but he held out his hand -- a motion to tell Bruce not to get closer. "Okay. Give me a second." He lashed out when he was nervous and he would give anything not to lash out tonight in front of Bruce's family. (It was something someone might have said he had full control over. They had not lost two-thirds of their family in the blink of an eye.) "Are they alright? The kids?" And then he caught up again -- noting the lack of something important wrapped in Bruce's arms, "Where's Avery?"

His eyes flashed until they landed on her wrapped in Gail's arms. "Jesus Christ." he breathed, running his fingers through his hair. "Jesus. Christ." It was frustration at himself; with how incredibly he couldn't manage to have a legitimately pleasant evening. "I'm sorry." About how much he couldn't put himself together despite how much he wished he could; about how if he walked out of the room now to try to collect himself, he'd walk home, lock the door, and pretend he and Bruce had never been friends; about every waking moment that Bruce gave him chances and he shot them out of the sky.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: May 24 2018, 05:41 PM
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758 Posts
Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
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The child was unharmed and had no greater look of surprise on their face than did Willow for having to generate the bubble in the first place. Although the situation was unexpected and unusual for Reese, this was typical for the Vaughan family and part of the greater pattern of parenting styles among those raised in Evesdown. Adults used their powers judiciously, to minimize suffering and harm and to maximize efficiency and support, or, in good times, entertainment. This was why Willow could create forcefields and Calvin’s children had only learned the specifics of his power when they were old enough not to fear him. Why Gail had cradled her three children in her hair and why Spencer would use his enhanced speed to catch toddlers that broke loose but never restrained them with greater strength than used when petting a cat. Why Bruce didn’t hesitate to create music or to ease his girls to sleep but would never modify their memories or control their actions, even at their most disobedient or risky.

Willow’s child was so used to the time out bubbles, a fact of life in their household, that rather than angry, and certainly not frightened, they looked mildly put out. Frustrated that it had come to this, since it was unfair rather than dangerous, no different than being told to sit in the corner, staring at the wall for fifteen minutes, with a bit of the humiliation that came from powerlessness in the face of parental authority.

At the far end of the room, the other children had finished donning their jackets, and Isaac, still holding his youngest securely in his arms, ushered them into the hall. Spencer rose from his spot on the floor, wiped his hands on the nearest napkin, crossed to the adult table to kiss Gail on the cheek, and then joined his son-in-law and the gaggle of grandchildren. That would suffice for supervision while the children ran around, expending energy and releasing tension until they could sit quietly at a table and appreciate quality Italian food.

Bruce acknowledged the signal to keep his distance, halting in his tracks and nodding a single time. He repeated Reese’s first word, “Okay.” He would give his friend that second, would allow him as much time as needed to regain his composure. A smile settled on features, soft and reassuring, one he wore at Shangri-La to calm the nerves of clients during decompression. “Everything is fine. Everyone is fine.”

Bruce jerked his head over his neck towards his mother who held Avery in her arms, with a forkful of meatball readied for the toddler to eat. “My mom has her; she’s okay. You know I wouldn’t forget about her.”

A month and a half ago, Reese had admitted that he never imagined Bruce as interested in children, expressing surprise that the mental manipulator was so openly affectionate with the girls, and, in return, they were so attached to him. During the intervening six weeks, Bruce shared stories about his nieces with the younger man, demonstrating attentiveness and care that rivaled the affection that flowed so freely. Reese should know that Bruce wouldn’t forget about Avery, no matter the chaos unfolding before him.

The mental manipulator continued to respect Reese’s boundary, unwilling to budge and reach to pat his shoulder as he would in any other situation. With no desire to set off the younger man, to send him running from the room, the restaurant, Evesdown, and their friendship, fueled by fear and humiliation. With the same patience exhibited during every one of their past interactions, he was the steady anchor, there to prevent Reese from drifting away. “I know.”

He knew his friend didn’t intend to overreact. Bruce had hoped – not perversely but based on observation – that Reese’s discomfort wouldn’t extend to other children, instead tethered exclusively to his only living daughter, the one spared the fate of her siblings by happenstance. He had been incorrect, the gaggle of Vaughan children setting his friend on edge before he found himself confronted by the existence of powers with physical manifestations in rapid succession.

“When you’re ready, we’ll sit down. You can have some more appetizers, talk some more baseball with Calvin. You’ll be okay, but we can go at your own pace,” he soothed, voice as steady as a rock and gentle as the west wind.

@Reese Marshall
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Reese Marshall
 Posted: May 24 2018, 07:54 PM
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39 YEARS
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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 was trying to calm himself down, and while he stood there, looking mostly composed -- breathing even, no shaking, no tears, no shouting -- it was almost impossible to not realize there was something off about it. It was like looking at a child's coloring book of tiger that was brick instead of pumpkin. Reese looked like someone who knew what a normal person at a dinner party looked like, but he just didn't have the right colors of crayons to make it believable.

So Bruce paused and Reese stood where he stood, nodding at his friend's words the way that anyone would when confronted with logical statement, but he didn't respond verbally with any semblance of normalcy. "I know." he said about Avery. His concern was not about Bruce. It was not directed towards his friend, so much as it was directed towards Reese's own fears about children and the ease with which they left the world no matter how hard you tried.

People said he was a good parent. He wasn't the type to go get a coke at a vending machine while his kids were playing on the play ground. They were not forgotten even now, but they were gone.

His brow furrowed with the though, and the look in his eyes changed for a split second to the man who searched for words to find to throw back at others; to spit at them to push them away; to try to do something unforgivable that would make Bruce run. Then his eyes lowered, and he dug his thumb into the bend of his elbow.

He couldn't lash out.

He couldn't break anything.

He couldn't cry.

So he did the only thing he could think of to settle himself quickly enough that he wouldn't explode in front of Bruce's family and ruin any chance that they would like him. He moved forward until they were chest to chest; his nose pressed against Bruce's neck as his eyes closed. One hand was over his own face, and the other wrapped around him.

Still, he said nothing, and he lingered there to settle himself -- without tears, violence, or panic. Odd, to say the least, but it was better than the myriad of other options that had presented themselves, whether or not the Vaughans would ever be aware of how close they had been to watching Reese Marshall's specialty: destroying friendships.

@Bruce Vaughan
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