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 Bruce's Birthday Bash (aka Meet the Vaughans), March 27, 2167 | Reese Marshall
Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Feb 28 2018, 07:59 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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As Bruce’s birthday party drew nearer, Reese had expressed reticence, not about the party itself or even meeting the family as such, but about offending them. He’d based Bruce if there were any topics to avoid, and so when the mental manipulator arrived on his friend’s doorstep to collect him for the party, he presented him with a white index card covered in neat, black handwriting.

-Don’t use profanity at all, not even ‘damn.’
-Don’t touch my brother from behind.
-Shangri-La is a spa and it always has been; don’t make references to anything else unless I start it up.
-No jokes about my powers. (The “my” underscored because this was less a matter of etiquette and more a family rule.)
-Keep in mind that I’m the quiet one; don’t be alarmed if everyone is talking because they can keep up two or three conversations at once.
-My family is physically affectionate but they respect boundaries; you can shake hands if you don’t want to hug, and you can wave if you don’t want to do either.
-Order whatever you want; my mother will worry about anyone who doesn’t eat enough.
-If you don’t understand turn of phrase, then let me know and I’ll translate for you.
-Everyone in my family supported Ayo Malik’s candidacy even if they couldn’t vote for him.


On the back of the index card, Bruce had helpfully listed all of the members of his family and their ages, a sort of cheat sheet to help Reese with names should the entire group of Vaughans descend upon him at once in an otherwise amorphous, otherwise indistinguishable mass. One further exacerbated by how they all resembled one another fairly strongly at each generational level – the same blue eyes (except for their mother), the same brown hair (except for their father), the same round, symmetrical features and tall, lean bodies, the same warm smiles that painted their faces with delight.

The weather for the past week had been exceptionally mild with nary a cloud in the sky, and the warmer temperatures that signaled that spring was truly upon them, as did the blossoms on the trees and the absence of frost on windows in the morning. Warm enough that Bruce had donned only a light jacket over his outfit, what constituted dressing down for him when he hadn’t donned costumed attire – trading a suit jacket or sportcoat for a navy silk vest pulled over a crisp, light blue collared shirt, selected because, around his neck, he wore the blue tie that Reese had given him for Christmas. His lacks matched his vest, high quality but casual without dipping into wearing jeans.

This made the walk from Reese’s apartment complex to the restaurant all the more pleasant, beyond spending time in one another’s company and the prospect of a birthday party, even one that was four days before the birthday proper.

The Vaughans had celebrated a number of milestones at Wood and Fire, an upscale but still family-friendly restaurant that served a blend of Italian-inspired dishes and more American fare, boasting holiday brunches, a dessert cart, and a thorough drink menu that ranged from reasonably priced wine to absurd designer cocktails and encompassed everything in between. Of equal importance to the quality of the food were the existence of a children’s menu and the availability to rent private rooms. The restaurant’s interior was elegant, as solid oak tables for four or eight people were arranged across the dining floor, candles and white cloth napkins added an elegant touch. It resembled Shangri-La’s dining room in some ways, although the art was less risqué, an assortment of landscapes and the occasional reproduction of a Renaissance portrait. The soft, familiar notes of Vivaldi played over the speakers, filling the restaurant with musical accompaniment.

A hostess who barely looked old enough to drink and certainly had yet to graduate college met them at the door. “A table for two?” She inquired.

“We’re with the Vaughan party,” Bruce replied, certain that his parents had arrived ahead of him although he and Reese were also a few minutes early. His entire family thrived on punctuality.

“Oh, of course.” She beamed at them and beckoned them to follow her to the back where two private rooms were set up adjacent to one another. She guided them to the left and held open the door to usher them inside, wishing them a happy party.

The room was decorated with blue and gold streamers, and a banner hung from the ceiling that read, Happy Birthday, Bruce. A balloon was tied to the back of each chair as though this was a children’s birthday party at a bowling alley. Two long tables were set out, one for adults and one for children; the children’s table had a pile of coloring pages and crayons in the center, while the adult table had two mimosas because the matriarch and patriarch had decided to begin early. A piñata in the shape of a cupcake dangled from the ceiling, a diversion for the younger members of the Vaughan clan rather than a game for Bruce.

Mabel and Avery sat at the children’s table, playing with a handheld device designed for younger children; Mabel played and Avery pointed out the bad guys to help. Their overnight bags were stashed in the corner for when they came back home with him tonight; their mother had already dropped them off as well as a birthday present and a card for the celebration. All that he could want from her. Avery noticed him first and shoved off from the table to hop out of her booster seat before weaving around people’s legs and chairs towards him. “Uncle Bruce!”

“Hello, Sweetheart.” He swept her into his arm and kissed the top of her head, prompting a contended giggle at a register that a dog or an Evolute with enhanced hearing might find torturous.

Her exuberance drew the attention of the other occupants of the room, and the room descended into an assortment of smiles and greetings. An older couple made their way towards Bruce and Reese – his parents. Gail, his mother, wore a red blouse and a black skirt with subtle makeup; her work as a nurse dictated her wardrobe at the hospital and had led her to seek out opportunities to dress up for as long as Bruce had been alive. She wore her brown hair long and curly despite the tendency of older women to favor shorter haircuts. Her husband, Spencer, towered over her, 6’ 6” if he was a foot, broad shouldered and glowing vitality; he looked a full decade younger than her despite how close they were in age. His hair remained thick and black, swept into a conservative cut; the only indication of his age was a bit of grey in his temples. One could only describe him as clean-shaven and ruggedly handsome with a square jaw that none of his three children had inherited; all three favored their mother’s rounder features, but they had his eyes. He wore a cardigan and a bowtie over a pair of slacks, a matching outfit to one that Bruce owned because the older man had taught him how to dress himself.

“You snuck in,” Gail chided affectionately, as she held her arms open expectantly.

Bruce leaned forward to return the embrace. “It was only a few seconds ago, hardly sneaking,” he objected with only fondness in his tone. When he slipped from her arms, he turned to gesture at Reese beside him. “This is my friend, Reese.”

Gail studied him from behind warm brown eyes before holding her arms open to him. “We’re so glad you could join us today, Reese. I’m Gail and this is Spencer.” She nodded towards her husband, who had wrapped his arms around his oldest in the type of bear hug that might make a lumberjack uncomfortable.

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Mar 3 2018, 09:27 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 Bruce would have been able to see the shimmers and signs of excitement that wafted wordlessly from Reese when he door opened to his apartment. Nothing had changed about the place; its homage to his deceased family still haunted his walls and decor, but he looked different.

Perhaps the most stark difference was that he was ready. Fully dressed upon Bruce's arrival, he merely had to turn to grab his jacket. He looked put together today -- his hair had been combed and styled with hands that had been trained from an early age how to get the right amount and the right kind of attention. His attire looked appropriate to the occasion -- a red sweater that seemed to be new to go with his dark grey pants and boots. He looked put together in the effortless way that a man born into money often could and a man born into poverty often struggled to replicate even if he was fortunate enough to climb the ladder.

And yet, he was Reese.

The greeting that Bruce received at the door was a thud on his chest and then a clap on his shoulder as he took the card and they stepped through the door as he tugged on the leather jacket he'd worn on their shopping trip. Door locked behind them, heading down the hallway and down the stairs, he read over the index card.

His free hand fell down to Bruce's, touched it, seemed to remember they were in public, and tucked back into his pocket. Finally, feeling like he'd memorized the rules he tucked the card into his pocket.

They arrived, and he thought nothing of the question that they might be arriving for dinner together. They went to dinner often enough that it was an entirely reasonable question, though Reese didn't prefer to attend these kinds of places -- as seemed to be his style, unless Bruce talked it up enough that Reese's curiosity got the best of him, he preferred to avoid high-end everything. (It might have been a subconscious attempt to avoid running into anyone he knew.)

Still as they walked into the room, Reese's eyes washed across the scene. He felt his heart warm and race all at once. This was all very real. All these faces he knew from the pictures on Bruce's mantle; the nights he'd stayed over after their play sessions or he'd swung by and lingered in the living room while Bruce fluttered around his apartment getting last minute things.

He knew all their names; he knew their faces -- he knew stories that Bruce had shared. In some way, he already felt connected to them despite having never met them because they meant so much to Bruce.

The moment that they walked through the door into the party, Bruce would see the switch flip. Reese might have been the black sheep of the Marshall dynasty, but he was part of it and they were not in prehistoric times when the black sheep was tossed into the woods to be disposed of. Reese was expected to attend events after his allotted grieving period; he was expected to put forth the good face; and he was expected to be able to spin his current residence and job in a way that made him seem put together and ambitious.

So the walls were up and the smile that rested on his face looked real. It reached his eyes. It was a mask, but it didn't have edges or cracks. It wasn't like any of the others that Bruce had seen -- it wasn't another Reese hidden in the layers that had surfaced. It wasn't Reese, because Reese had never been acceptable to bring to nice affairs; he'd never been acceptable to meet the parents. He had always had a list of traits to keep in order -- things about Reese (Bruce's friend, Julian's son, Bryn's partner) that were not acceptable despite their personal feelings. Today the list was physical and broad; other days it was shorts and specific -- a passing statement like "Wear something appropriate" or "Just let me do the talking." His favorite had always been "Try to act respectable."

Bruce's niece came running over. She'd gotten bigger in the month between the last time he'd seen her and now, and then Bruce's parents were on top of them.

Reese Marshall would have panicked, feeling backed into a corner. This mask was calm, charming, smooth. He was the picture of a gentleman and he moved forward to bring her into the hug that was offered. It came with high society's kiss near the cheek and he smiled. "I've heard so much about you." He offered as he was brought into and accepted a second hug.

His eyes scanned the room. "Presents go over there?" he asked, motioning towards the little pile he spied in the corner of the room. There wasn't anything that he had carried with him on their walk from his home here. No paper bag stuffed with tissue paper or a present too expertly wrapped for a man who lived alone in Jacks. "Give me a moment. I'm going to drop this off before I forget." He clapped his hand on Bruce's shoulder, familiar but not overly so, produced an envelope to add to the table, and then returned to Bruce's side.

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Mar 3 2018, 10:33 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 noticed and appreciated (on two different levels – first the aesthetics and then the intention behind them, that Reese had taken such care with his appearance) the outfit and the effort behind it. He didn’t tease the other man about it or ask why he didn’t put this much effort into his appearance otherwise, didn’t even make a joke about him cleaning up well despite his sincere belief that the other man did, in fact. He didn’t want to cause his friend to grow skittish given how overwhelming such an event could be; Reese’s warning that he didn’t do well in groups rang in his ears.

Yet, he did. Rather, this mask he wore, the one he adopted so seamlessly, fit into this crowd. This potentially imposing yet utterly harmless crowd comprised entirely of other Vaughans by blood or by marriage. He practically sparkled as he slid into Gail’s arms to return the embrace and kiss her cheek. That wasn’t Reese. Not his Reese, not his friend who teased him about his language choices and melted into his arms when they watched movies. This was a persona, a glimpse into the station into which he had been born, his parents’ Haven circles. No more real than the myriad personas that Bruce adopted at Shangri-La. And he filed that knowledge away as he did with everything the other man showed of himself.

Spencer released his son from his embrace as Reese excused himself for the gift corner despite no outward indication that he’d brought a present. From the corner of his eye, he watched the younger man, although most of his attention remained on his wife and son. “He’s a looker.”

“And so polite,” Gail added approvingly. The way they spoke to each other, as though Bruce wasn’t there to hear it was simply part of their parenting style, discussing their children’s prospects or social circles as a basic matter, no different from the weather or an amusing anecdote from work. Bruce, like his younger siblings, was used to it; so many friends had been subject to assessment –not scrutiny, not with the connotation of intensity or uncomfortable judgment – that it faded into the background like the scent of his mother’s perfume. “He’s the one who likes hockey so much?”

“Ma-” Bruce’s thought dissipated as his friend rejoined the conversation. His upbringing notwithstanding, it was rude for people not his parents to discuss another person as though they were part of the décor rather than a participant.

“Reese, can we rustle you up something to drink? They’ve got a nice wine list, and a decent selection on draft.” Spencer reached to take his wife’s hand in his and gestured expansively at the adult table, indicating that the younger man, as a guest, should make himself comfortable. Then, to his son, he asked, “So, birthday boy, iced tea or water?”

It was a noticeable departure that the two parents had champagne cocktails and had offered libations to Bruce’s guest, yet despite him being in his mid-forties, his options were child-friendly. A family precaution, harkening back to hints, to warnings, that the mental manipulator had given to Reese over the past six months. “I have to maintain control, you see.” This took a particular form around his family, just as he had informed his friend not to joke about his powers in particular, indicating that it was a touchy subject.

The door behind them opened and Willow and her husband entered, followed by a gaggle of children ranging from eleven to four. The children all ran up to Bruce with varying levels of enthusiasm while they wished him a happy birthday and offered hugs, all sincere enough rather than going through the motions with no regard for bodily autonomy. The younger ones didn’t seem to notice Reese, although the oldest patted him on the arm in an overly-familiar way, assuming that he had a reason to be here and that made him up for grabs, before she joined her siblings at the children’s table.

Willow’s husband, Isaac, had gathered the jackets from their children and took his wife’s to deposit them in the corner. This freed her to tiptoe behind her brother (actually sneaking in as opposed to what Bruce had done) and enveloping him in a far less aggressive but no less affectionate hug. “Happy birthday, Big Bro!” She declared with more calm than her children.

She bore a striking resemblance to Bruce, and to Calvin, just as the mental manipulator had declared when trying to describe her to choose earrings for a Hanukkah present. She wore those earrings now, just barely visible with her hair down to her shoulders. The flowery, lace sleeves of her blouse were a bit ostentatious for work, and so she always compensated on weekends. She was shorter, although not short, not for a woman even if her oldest brother had six inches on her and her husband four.

“Is this your friend?” She asked, nodding towards Reese once the hug came to an end. Before waiting for a nod of confirmation, she held her arms open to him. “I’m Willow. We’ve been looking forward to finally getting to meet you; we’ve only heard good things.”

Isaac sidled up to her and did his rounds with his in-laws and with Bruce. He and Reese were the same height, but his thick, black curls were untamed despite a thorough application of mousse this morning. A grooming lapse that made him all the more endearing and for which he compensated with a kind heart and a keen sense of humor. "We didn't miss anything good, did we? Someone was giving us trouble about her pretty shoes." He enunciated the word in such a way as to indicate that this was a common, familiar complaint in their household.

@Reese Marshall
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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Mar 3 2018, 11:30 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 Reese had heard Bruce's parents speak, he might have been legitimately confused. It wasn't that they were talking about him when he was walking away. Reese assumed people did it -- not only because it was a trait in almost every level of society, discussion and analysis of the newest addition but also because he was Reese Marshall, the man who had wiped out his family and was cowardly enough to still be alive.

No, that they were talking about him wouldn't have been at all surprising, but the words would have thrown him. Two bits of positive assessments--one of which he might have been able to be convinced was objectively true and then a fact.

A fun fact that they couldn't possibly have known. How could they know that he liked hockey? He wasn't wearing a tie dedicated his his favorite sport, a jersey, or any merchandise. How would they have possibly known?

It would have never once crossed his mind that Bruce spoke about him. He still thought of himself, even when he practiced not pushing his self-hatred onto Bruce, as just some guy. Bruce had dozens of friends--he wasn't in the same situation as Reese where spending time with his friend was his only social activity.

So when Bruce's words caught in his throat, a brow raised at him. They were speaking about him behind his back just like everyone else always had. He didn't look in any way hurt or flustered despite the sting that stabbed him beneath the mask, hidden by years of practice at events where people discussed the man who wasn't worthy of having the last name Marshall.

"I'd love a glass of the house red." he answered. "Thank you, Gail." Reese had certainly never chosen wine of his own volition. At a restaurant now and again, when the options were horribly limited, he had ordered wine (because Reese almost never had a meal without alcohol -- often including lunch when he didn't have to go to work directly after).

Like he had with Gail and Spencer, he gave the hug that was requested without even a slight hesitation. Reese smiled, offering his name in return to the woman and her husband. It lacked his last name; not because he was ashamed of being a Marshall, but because he assumed they knew -- because he assumed that everyone recognized his face and everyone hated him.

Still, the mask was flawless. "Only good things?" He laughed and smiled. His hand touched Bruce's shoulder and he shot him a glance -- playful and open. There was no malice in his voice and any sign of his self hatred had abated. "Then he's dodged a lot of my most famous traits." he joked the way that anyone would -- the natural smile that said (lied, in Reese's case) that the self-deprecation was not something to be worried about or even something that the person who had it took seriously.

He glanced towards Isaac, laughing at the joke he'd made as if he could make friends in seconds or minutes instead of taking four months to even dare to use the word (and then, likely only because he was not in his right mind).

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Mar 4 2018, 01:00 AM
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Bruce met his friend’s raised eyebrow with one of his own, carefully mimicking his expression in an effort to assure him that nothing was amiss, certainly nothing was sinister. A humorous quirk, nothing more since they couldn’t discuss that outright with their audience. Later, they could discuss how his mother thought he was polite and approved of him, if she didn’t say so outright at some point during the party. As the question turned to him, he confirmed he wanted water, at least for the present.

“House red,” Spender repeated, committing that to memory both for the purposes of requesting the glass and then later, because he fully expected to see Reese again at a future family event. With that, he turned to his daughter, swept her up into a hug, and turned the question to her. “Peanut? We’re taking drink orders.”

“A spritzer,” Willow replied without hesitation. She turned to look at her father only long enough to place that order and to begin speaking for her husband, “And a-”

“Bloody Mary for Isaac,” Spencer supplied. They went through this frequently enough with their weekly and/or bi-weekly gatherings that everyone knew one another’s preferences. Asking was more a formality at this point, an opportunity for someone to change their mind and request something new before familiarity beat them to the punch. Since his son-in-law didn’t object to that, he squeezed his wife’s hand and disappeared to put in the order.

“Hardly,” Bruce countered, and he reflexively touched Reese’s hand on his shoulder. His mother and his sister both noticed the gesture, although they said nothing. Not now.

“Oh, so you’re saying you can’t make him laugh?” She clicked her tongue in mock disapproval before her expression melted into a warm smile once more. This was an important trait as far as the family was concerned; she didn’t know how she and her husband could get on without his sense of humor or easygoing nature. “Or are you saying you didn’t like Mom’s kugel?”

Nobody would say that,” Bruce cut in. Their mother’s cooking was above reproach, and his own fondness for the dish would make it a dicey situation should anyone disagree, particularly in their mother’s presence.

“Right, so only good things.” Willow spoke with the same finality she used in her workplace when diffusing situations between teenagers or when correcting a basic historical fact. Bruce had spoken well of his friend that he wanted to invite to his birthday party, and this charming, smiling man certainly lived up to the hype. Then she turned, casting about for the other adults and came up short. “Where’s Calvin?”

“Dealing with station hate mail,” Gail replied, and a frown briefly touched her lips despite the levity of her tone. “He should be here soon.”

Willow rolled her eyes, while her husband frowned as well. “Of course.” She turned her attention to Reese and said, “You wouldn’t believe what he’s had to deal with the past few months. They bend over backwards to accommodate that woman, and it’s never enough. Sometimes I wish we lived in Haven just to give her a how-do-you do.”

Like her brother, she avoided profanity without a second’s thought, where someone else might drop an f-bomb.

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Mar 5 2018, 10:50 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 it would only add to the miscommunication that the touch on his hand brought Reese's eyes towards Bruce. Soft and blue, resting on his face for a moment with the softest of smiles. This was not the mask, though none but the man who had turned his attention to his sister to come to his mother's cooking's defense would have been able to tell the difference.

As his hand moved away, he didn't notice that his fingers brushed longer than they should have before they fell to his sides and tucked into the pockets of his jacket where they were safe from doing anything stupid.

He kept up with the conversation until they started using pronouns. Bruce's brother received hate mail because of Rebecca Ramsey? (That was what he could put together.) It didn't entirely make sense, but Reese also didn't know what hate mail was like or who it came from -- or why. The only hate mail that he received was intravenous from his heart and his mind and back again.

He knew how to do this. The ease of agreeing wit whatever everyone else thought. If Bruce and Reese had ever discussed politics, Bruce would know that Reese didn't support Rebecca Ramsey innately -- he thought she was an ass. But he likewise just didn't care. He supported Bruce because he was Bruce; and he would help in his campaign if and when he was asked. In fact, Reese had admitted that he hadn't voted since that knock out Amy Wainwright, and that he had voted for her for the pure, unadulterated reason that he wanted to look at her face for the next year on the holo when his wife turned on the news.

So he nodded, and the same way he agreed with Asa Park and Kenner Lawson over drinks in Haven ten years ago; he agreed with Willow now. "Yeah. She's a real piece of --" the mask caught the word before he came out, "work." he finished. "Luckily, your brother's going to take the seat come November." He clapped Bruce on the back, fingers lingering for a moment too long again before his hand dropped to his side

"Do you live in Haven?" he asked, looking between Willow and her husband.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Mar 5 2018, 11:35 PM
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The Vaughans were all politically engaged, as active in voting efforts as they were in other community activities; Bruce was hardly anomaly in his vigor to get out the vote among his clients and employees every year. Their parents had instilled these habits in their children early and had continued on their own long after the nest had emptied and they became grandparents. His father put up a Malik sign in the yard despite living in the wrong district. (He was hardly alone; large swaths of Evesdown sported similar signs in the months leading up to Election Day, and several were added after the win as celebration.) Not voting was as absurd and ultimately unfathomable to them as not working or not ending every conversation shared between family members with a sincere, “I love you.”

Gail caught the hesitation but said nothing because she only cared about spoken profanity and not near misses. “Bruce will try his best, but his best goes a long way when he puts his mind to it.” She spoke the words with a smile and a fond glimmer in her eyes for her oldest son, but the sentiment hung in the air for a few seconds as though there existed an unspoken undercurrent to the sentiment, one that caused Bruce to nod graciously but to reply with neither agreement nor self-deprecation.

Willow laughed at the question about living in Haven while shaking her head, and Isaac snorted which prompted him to wipe his face with the back of his hand until his expression settled. “We don’t have nearly enough money to live in Haven,” Isaac explained, which was true and nothing shameful; he and his wife had respectable professions but nothing that rose to the level of upper class and neither of them came from money either. As he spoke, Willow added, “We have too many kids to raise up there; it wouldn’t be good for them.”

Her implication was well-taken; Haven was hardly mixed and it would be uncomfortable for a family of Evolutes, waiting on their children to manifest their powers and then going through the discomfort of the learning curve. What if they took after one of their uncles – take your pick of which? Could one imagine the backlash?

“We live in Evendale,” she explained. Her chest puffed up with pride as she added, “So we got to vote for Malik. It’d be nice to get to vote for Bruce, but…” She shrugged because it was impossible.

“My thirty-seven votes will be fine without yours,” Bruce interjected. He spoke with far greater confidence during interviews and at campaign events, but surrounded by the support of his family and his upbringing, he acknowledged the uphill battle any theoretical victory would entail. Ramsey was a household name in Haven for reasons that didn’t involve unfounded harem rumors. She was a Typic; she was wealthy and had political experience and the campaign machinery to back it up. Bruce could control minds and every time someone posed a question to him, there ran a 50-50 chance it involved either assurance about the nature of his powers or his work, or a request to disavow the ELL because the last dozen times somehow didn’t count

“We’re up to thirty-seven, now? Your fundraising is paying off,” Spencer remarked warmly as he rejoined the other adults. Clutched to his chest were four glasses, and he set about distributing two to Willow and Isaac, and then the others to Bruce. The mental manipulator’s fingers grazed Reese’s for a few seconds longer than was strictly proper while passing the wine glass.

As with the other touches, they didn’t slip past the notice of the other adults.

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Mar 7 2018, 10:17 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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This mask put on to gain the approval of a group of people who only mattered to Reese because they mattered to Bruce didn't think twice about the way that his eyes moved towards his friend, a lingering, affectionate smile as his mother complimented him (and sounded like she tossed in a backhanded jab to boot).

Willow started speaking and his eyes moved over to her, nodding and engaged. "Yeah that makes sense. Evendale's a beautiful part of the city." the mask agreed, as Bruce's friend, hidden beneath this perfectly trained exterior, bristled and snarled.

If it had just been Bruce and Reese, the words We have too many kids to raise up there; it wouldn’t be good for them would have ended with either a shouting match or a black eye -- knowing Reese both. Reese had wanted seven; seven raised in Haven in the same way that he was. Put through the same school; going to the same balls; learning the same stupid-as-fuck etiquette rules that he hadn't followed outside of cotillion.

They had lived in Spire because that was where his wife's apartment had been, a two bedroom that they had make work with three kids, and were struggling to make work with four, but Reese's law degree would have gotten them out -- back to his family's neighborhood, because family had mattered to him far more than he had let on then (and far more than he dared to admit verbally now).

Reese reached over for the wine and the lingering touch, even for the seconds it lasted brought his eyes up to look at Bruce's. The smallest of twitches of his lips accompanied the movement.

He shook his head at Bruce's estimate of thirty-eight. "It'll be thirty-nine soon." he teased, "Someone is bound to like him at Easter." He didn't think through how it might have sounded; that two friends didn't share holidays with one another, regularly. A birthday celebration could be excused -- Easter dinner with Reese's family was less easy to brush off.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Mar 7 2018, 02:21 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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Were it only Bruce and Reese, then the sentiment would have been phrased differently, and the older man would have gone out of his way to explain the stark differences between their families. How if Bruce had children of his own to raise rather than nieces that he had sired, then he would enroll them in the same school in Evesdown that he had attended, while maintaining a Haven residence. That he would have done so without a second’s hesitation because Typics comprised easily 93% (if not more) of Haven denizens, with Carriers who would never manifest an ability securing a few of the slim remaining percentage points. In Evesdown, it was a fact of life that a child would disappear for a year for their testing period at the Carrie Institute; the parents provided paperwork to the school about their entrance date, and that was the end of it. Everyone in the neighborhood understood that a child wouldn’t come out to play for that year and nobody thought much of it. How to reconcile that with the expectations in Haven among Typics? With people who would never know the intense calculus that parents engaged in, about when to send their child to Carrie in the hopes of lowering their tier to provide them some semblance of a normal life? What to do if your child scored Tier 1 or Tier 2 and didn’t come home at all?

Evendale wasn’t Evesdown, but at least it contained a healthy mix of Evolute-led and Typic-led families. Willow and Isaac weren’t the only ones raising a gaggle of children who would manifest. They could celebrate a Homecoming without explaining what it was and why it was so important to celebrate-that the child returned and a little more mature for the experience. That it was a coming of age thrust upon them rather than one that came from internal culture and so they did what they could to adapt. There were stores in Evendale that sold items for Carrie kits and the merchants would understand what the two words meant when used together and what was needed.

Of course, had Reese lashed out as himself rather than his mask stifling his kneejerk and incorrect assumption (further illustrating the vast gulf of experiences between the Marshalls and the Vaughans – class and culture were at the forefront of Reese’s assumptions while Evolute status was forever on the minds of Bruce’s family), it wouldn’t have ended with a black eye. It would have ended with Reese in a bubble. While the children were ushered outside to play in the spring sun, and the other adults had an impromptu and spirited family meeting, thus ruining Bruce’s birthday party.

Fortunately, the mask kept Reese’s impulses at bay, and Willow remained none the wiser of the other man’s impulses. Instead, she smiled and nodded, “Our neighborhood is nice. Very mixed, and a little park nearby.

Bruce returned his friend’s smile, and it soon gave way to a warm chuckle. “I can work the room at Easter and see if it brings me to an even forty.”

“Are you going up to the egg hunt?” Gail inquired. They might be a Jewish family but they remained aware of other holidays; it was impossible not to notice the city-wide egg hunt put on each year. Calvin usually had to have his anchors deliver reminders or clues on the air. If nothing else, it would provide a good backdrop for his campaign, to show how well-integrated he was into the broader city, and the activity was so wholesome and popular.

“No.” Bruce shook his head a single time and sipped his water before explaining, “Reese invited me for dinner with his family.”

Spencer nudged his wife gently with his shoulder before lacing his fingers with hers, something that his children did with their spouses and that oldest did with Reese when left to their own devices. The matriarch and patriarch briefly exchanged a glance before he said, “So you’re making the rounds? It’s a good time of year for that.”

Willow and her husband had made a similar connection, prompting Willow to remark, “With Passover this year, that gives you time to bring him around for a Seder.” She turned to Reese and asked, “Have you ever been a Seder?”

“If we’re going to settle in to talk, how about we sit down?” Spencer proposed while glancing this time at his wife’s feet. Gail had a tendency to dress up when she could, to take advantage of not making rounds in a hospital to wear heels, but they put pressure on the ankles, and there was no reason to stand around when they had a comfortable table set for conversation, drink, and food.

@Reese Marshall
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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Mar 10 2018, 07:35 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 mask engaged perfectly with Willow as she described her neighborhood. "That sounds like the neighborhood I used to live in with in Spire with my wife and children." The mask wasn't weighted down with heavy emotions and a dangerously volatile nature. Instead, it said it with the sobriety of a man talking about his deceased family in mixed company. "Do you send them to the public schools? We sent ours up to where I went in Haven -- cost a fortune."

Reese smiled at the idea that he could recruit a grand total of two of the Marshalls to his platform over the course of a holiday celebration. He didn't really think it was odd for Bruce to come to his family's home, and even when the Easter egg hunt was brought up, the mask didn't think that anything seemed strange.

Silently, Reese noted the way that Spencer took his wife's hand. He knew that nudge and the feeling of Bruce's fingers sliding between his first hand, but he made no comment. In passing, he thought about how he wouldn't have minded if Bruce had nudged his shoulder and slid their fingers together in that moment, even with eyes on them -- and then he realized how inappropriate it would have been and tucked it away.

Regardless of what a normal man (and even the rest of the family) would have heard and understood from Spencer's statement, Reese couldn't fathom. Just as he couldn't process that Bruce had told them good things about him, he couldn't understand that anyone could see him as someone worthy of deep affection (long or short term). It had, of course, been different with Bryn, who loved him without end and who met him when he was him. The Reese that everyone missed; the man who kissed girls when it felt right and jumped out of cars or climbed onto roofs because he thought it would be funny. That Reese was worthy of parading around to someone's social circles.

The Reese Marshall who stood there at this birthday party, moving to take a seat at the table, slipping his leather jacket off to hang it carefully over the back of his chair, leaving only the deep red sweater, long sleeved to make sure no one could see his scars, that showed off his lean frame, wasn't worthy and as he took his seat he said, misinterpreting terribly, "It is a good time. We're... about five months from the election, and Ramsey's got a pretty good foot hold. Getting the Marshalls to talk well of him will certainly improve the odds." He glanced at his friend offering an affectionate smile. He couldn't vote for him, but the vast majority of the Marshalls lived in Haven -- and whether or not they would say it, they had pull over the other elite families in Haven.

Finally, he shook his head to Willow. "A Seder?" he repeated, frowning slightly. Under the table his fingers laced with Bruce's to settle his nerves that the mask was holding well. "Sorry, I don't even know what that is." His first guess was something about being an Evolute, but he had the social tact not to say it out loud.

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Mar 10 2018, 08:31 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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Nobody appeared thrown at the mention of a wife and children, owing to Bruce's own description of his friend's situation after Valentine's Day. That he spent the day with his friend and his friend's daughter, that he wanted to invite Reese to his birthday party. When asked about where his wife was at the mention of a child, he'd explained that Reese was a widower and that the situation had been a tragedy while providing no other details; those weren't his to divulge.

Willow laughed softly at the question, and Isaac grinned as well. “Well of course we do.”

To explain what appeared to be an inside joke, Bruce offered, “Willow works for the public school system, so it’s a point of pride.” More than that, they had moved to Evendale to ensure quality public schools - mixed schools where their children wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb - while ensuring that they could move out of Evesdown. None of the Vaughan children resented their parents for raising them in Jacks, but upward mobility served their children well, as long as they didn't become the token Evolute in any given situation.

“What school did you attend?” Spencer inquired, turning the conversation back to Reese in an effort to learn as much about their son’s guest as possible. With one hand holding his wife’s and the other touching the small of her back, he led her to the table. Ever the gentleman, he held her chair out for her and pushed it towards the table once she had sat. Only with her settled did he take his seat beside her. His behavior could do much to elucidate Bruce’s own manners.

Willow sat on one side of Bruce, with her husband on her other side. The mental manipulator removed his own coat and then settled between his sister and his friend. Mention of the Marshalls caught Spencer’s attention, prompting him to ask, “The Marshalls? Of Marshall Construction?” He was familiar with the family beyond their reputation throughout Ark as one of the wealthiest in the city, with their name on the sides of buildings left and right. In his own work, he had dealt with Julian Marshall on multiple occasions, which made this potential coincidence amusing if not uncanny.

Upon feeling Reese touch his hand, Bruce reflexively offered his fingers, sliding them between his friend’s to reassure him of his presence and that he – Reese – was doing a fine job so far. Were they in a session, he might tell the younger man how pleased he was; were they alone, he might hug him and make a job before Reese jostled his shoulder and uttered good-natured profanity to shy away from how much he appreciated the feedback.

“In that case, you must join us this year,” Gail remarked from her place beside her husband at the table. She reached for her mimosa and took a sip of the refreshing, sparkling cocktail.

“It’s a traditional meal and celebration for Passover,” Bruce explained while lightly squeezing his friend’s hand under the table. “We tell stories and do reading, we have a nice meal, the children play a bit.”

@Reese Marshall
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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Mar 10 2018, 11:02 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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As soon as Willow started to chuckle, Reese's eyes moved towards his friend to figure out what was funny. She worked at a public school. He repeated the sentence as if it were a job that he didn't realize people had. He had never met a teacher (socially) before. At least, if he had, they'd never mentioned it. His social circle before the accident had been people who worked in the medical field (with his wife), wanna-be lawyers, and trust fund babies. In haven, women didn't usually have jobs (or they were just as high powered as their husbands); and the men had to have enough to keep their families names and fortunes afloat.

So the entire idea seemed foreign -- even though he worked construction. He managed to save the statement by offering: "I don't know I've ever met someone brave enough to take that kind of responsibility onto their shoulders."

He answered Spencer's questions, fingers intertwined with his friend's. The first answer paved the way for the second. He named the best private school in the city--not known for its tolerance, but known for its results. Graduation almost guaranteed acceptance into any university in the city -- Nocht included. Then he nodded. "Right." he affirmed. "My father owns the company--but--" the mask smiled like this was his calling--as if he didn't hate his job passionately and was only doing it so that every day he spent eight hours atoning, "I work construction. Nothing fancy."

Everyone was tossing around the word Passover as if it was something that he was supposed to know. His interaction with practicing Jews in Haven was also relatively slim, so he was trying to figure out how to phrase What the fuck is Passover? without it coming across as painfully ignorant or rude. He was sure he'd heard of it before -- it wasn't as if he lived in a hole, but much like someone saying "the 8 Beatitudes" to someone who wasn't raised the way Reese was.

Nervous that he'd upset someone, his fingers grew tighter on Bruce's hand and he reached for his glass taking a sip and offering a smile. "Well, if I'm invited, I won't say no." He said simply. It was true enough. It was a rare day that when Bruce asked him to go somewhere, he brushed him off with and excuse (even if he hesitated as if he had plans and friends that could get in the way, which he did not.) Then he added a joke for good measure, "I mean, unless it overlaps with the Championship. You've got to keep your loyalties straight, right?"

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Mar 11 2018, 12:37 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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Willow laughed again, charmed by the response. “It’s only a bit brave. My school is in Evesdown.” Which contained an awareness among any Evolutes who lived there, had been raised there, or had raised their children there, the knowledge that the school was a bit different than ones staffed or attended by Typics. Students’ powers were often first manifesting or otherwise still uncontrolled, they disappeared for a year in the sixth or seventh grade, they had excuse notes on the day of and the day after their monthly dosage because they dragged, and the teachers and other faculty used their own powers to keep them in line. It was an entirely different experience from a fancy, Typic-only private school in Haven.

“I think I’ve met your father,” Spencer offered politely. He was sure of it with the confirmation that this was the same family, but it was a way of making conversation. “And if you’re out on the sites, then I’m sure I’ve seen your work before. You should be proud. We always know we’re in good hands with Marshall Construction.”

What a difference four months could make. Looking back on the evolution of their friendship, it was almost remarkable to consider how, at this point in November, Reese had refused to take Bruce’s calls despite his insistence in calling several times a week to offer different means of outings – restaurants, clubs, bars, cafes, a stroll through the park to take advantage of good weather before winter rolled in. Now they met at least a couple of times each week and Bruce had a reasonable expectation that if he asked Reese to join him on some endeavor, the younger man would agree. And that Reese would reciprocate by inviting him out or over as well.

He squeezed Reese’s hand, offering reassurance through the touch while he also favored his friend with a smile for his joke.

“And the starting season,” Spencer agreed with a grin, an exaggeration since he was even more excited about holidays than his wife and would never blow off a Seder or another special event for a game. But he could joke about it. “It’s hard to miss Opening Day.”

At nearly the same time, Gail made a more pragmatic statement, one deceptively phrased as a question. “You’ll make sure Reese is set up, won’t you, Bruce?”

She didn’t wait for confirmation from her oldest son, fully expecting him to comply with such a request. After all, it was poor form to invite a guest and leave them utterly at sea. She had raised all of her children better than that, long before they reached middle age and had families of their own, or responsibilities for large swaths of people as Bruce did.

The younger of Willow’s children came over to the adult table and tugged on her father’s pant leg. He lifted her into his lap, and she immediately whined about being hungry.

“Let’s get them some appetizers,” Gail declared. “Calvin can catch up when he gets here.”

@Reese Marshall
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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Mar 12 2018, 12:15 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
Thyme is Offline



Reese smiled at the statement that their fathers knew one another. In passing, his mind noted it as convenient that they did though he didn't linger on why parents of friends knowing one another might be at all important. Still, it didn't seem to be a black mark that Spencer had met Julian.

He nodded. "Have you? If you have, you couldn't miss him -- he's about six-four and sounds like a grizzly bear." It was said with the affection of a man who respected and loved his father, to an extent that gentle teasing was likely part of their everyday interactions.

He shook his head as Spencer complimented his work. "Thank you, it's uncalled for, really." Perhaps this was the only remnant of Bruce's Reese that remained through the mask. He hated himself and that stood firm, so the gentle self deprecation framed as jokes were not jokes. "But I'm always the one who plays on his phone while the others do work. I'll pass your compliments on to my friends though." The mask used the word friends easily, without a hesitation or a rejection of the idea that he could have or that he deserved friends.

Eyes moving towards his friend as Gail made a request of him, Reese smiled softly. Then his eyes landed on the child crawling into Willow's lap and his heart pulled for a moment, he caught it and forced it back in line without allowing it to draw attention. His eyes moved back across the table to Spencer who had made mention of the starting seasons. "That's true. Opening day is..." he hesitated, looking up trying to do the math of the numbers in his head, "the 11th." he said and then looked at his friend. "When's Passover?"

He still wasn't sure what the hell it was, but the truth was that if they overlapped, he would be with Bruce, sitting beside him, likely with their fingers laced together beneath a table because if ever given that and an alternative, he would choose his friend.

With his free hand, he nabbed a menu and put it in front of himself and Bruce to look at the appetizers. He didn't notice that he leaned into his friend's personal space as he read the menu or that their shoulders brushed. He stayed lingering too close for too long, shoulder to shoulder, before e realized and shifted slightly. "Sorry." he offered under his breath. His hand withdrew from Bruce's as he mentally formed a bubble around himself. Reaching out, he took his glass and took another sip. Immediately, he wanted to initiate contact again, but he held himself back.

He glanced up at the group around him. "What's good?" It was hard to tell, but Bruce might be able to hear the anxiety starting to bubble in his friend. He had not been wrong in warning them that Reese did not do well in groups, and his own foolish choice to end his grounding through physical contact left him somewhat adrift.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Mar 13 2018, 10:16 AM
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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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Spencer was certain that he had met the man – a man matching the description that Reese provided (and as absurd as it was, someone who stood at 6’ 4” was shorter – not short –when compared with the Vaughan patriarch), a man who had answered to the name and represented the company’ s interests. Reese’s further self-deprecation struck him as graciousness, what one might expect from a young man raised among the elite working for his father’s company in a non-executive position. Which prompted Spencer to reply, “In that case, thank everyone for me when you next see them.”

In truth, Bruce hadn’t the foggiest idea when opening day was, and could only determine that they were discussing baseball rather than a different sport through his father’s participation. Spencer Vaughan followed the baseball season but cared little about the other offerings at the Omni. Calvin also liked baseball and the two of them would occasionally get tickets with the interested grandchildren.

“The 22nd,” all five adults said nearly in unison to answer Reese’s question about their holiday. The was part and parcel of having to mark the calendar, having to arrange a large meal, having to change dietary habits and clean the house appropriately for an eight-day stretch. Bruce couldn’t speak for his parents or his siblings and their families, but he didn’t memorize the full year’s dates the way that some people might with their holidays (observant Malachites, for instance), but with less than a month between now and the beginning, it rested in the back of his mind.

He bristled slightly when Reese leaned again him here, in front of his parents; he could feel his mother’s gaze despite her attention ostensibly on the menu, and he squeezed Reese’s hand. Prepared to affirm that contact as a trade. Yet before they could adjust, his friend apologized, slid away above the table and slipped his hand from Bruce’s grip. If only he was a telepath, then he could inquire without opening his mouth.

If he was a telepath, then (unbeknownst to Bruce) they would probably be dating officially right now.

Then the conversation turned to food, and there was the slightest quaver in Reese’s voice. Bruce managed not to frown, but he extended his hand under the table again, brushed his fingertips across the back of Reese’s hand to prompt him to take it again.

“Just about everything,” Gail assured him with a smile. Rather than reach for her own menu, she peered at the one in front of Spencer, taking the opportunity to review the offerings as though she hadn’t dined here dozens of times and wasn’t intimately familiar with the menu. “Order whatever looks good.”

Just as Bruce had warned his friend, his mother always ensured that everyone, guest and kin alike, ate their fill during a meal.

“Let’s get the kids some chicken and the spinach and artichoke dip,” Isaac suggested while patting his daughter’s hair. The general consensus appeared fine with this, although he lifted his head to make eye contact with Bruce. “Half wings, half poppers?”

Although not stated aloud, this was an inquiry into Avery’s capabilities. She was old enough to eat chicken on the bone when under close supervision, but it was safer to set her in front of miniature hotdogs or chicken nuggets to avoid the potential choking hazard completely. Bruce nodded in agreement, certain that he could keep her to the poppers and the pizza alone. “That sounds fine.”

After that point, the members of the adult table began naming potential appetizers for them In between sips from their glasses, including bruschetta for Bruce and suggestions that ranged from stuffed peppers to salad to an antipasto mixture. Bruce turned to his friend and asked quietly, “What strikes your fancy?”

@Reese Marshall
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