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 Down the Rabbit Hole (aka Meeting the Marshalls), 3 April 2167 | @Bruce
Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 29 2018, 09:04 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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Nodding, Reese glanced over at Bruce when he said that his family had had something similar. He reached out and opened the door. Like all the rest of the house, there were no locks anymore, the remnant of what looked like a spot for a key long out of use and the opposite side replaced so that no one could lock themselves inside even for a bare minute.

"Yeah?" he asked as he let his hand fall onto his friend's shoulder and he led him inside. There were pillows all over the room. It was warm -- suffering from a greenhouse effect from the vast number of windows, most of which were currently open, but one could imagine without hesitation that if Reese came in here to hide most of them would have been closed.

His fingers had lingered on Bruce's shoulder and finally, they fell though only to brush knuckles to knuckles for a moment before he almost literally flinched away and tucked his hands into his pockets. "Tammy's a bitch." He offered as if that would help. "I should have said something before you met her. I meant to -- but I --" he hesitated.

He was scared. He had been trying so hard consciously to fuck this day over -- he had asked Bruce too late; he had tried to list things in his list that would run Bruce off and prove that Reese was just some guy who didn't matter even though it was painfully obvious to any passer-by that neither of them felt like the other was unimportant. But like his swearing and his harsh words that never really cut deep, he had failed to mention Tammy, because he could undermine all he wanted, but he didn't actually want Bruce to go anywhere.

It was why he struggled to tell him other secrets as well. He didn't know if they were unforgivable and he didn't want to lose his friend.

"I didn't know how to say it. I didn't... I just --" he moved across the tea room -- which was set up in the style of a zen tea room with low tables surrounded by pillows. "Are --" he fumbled, over the sentences and then ran his hand over his face. "Jesus fucking Christ. I should give a dollar to fucking charity every time I start a sentence and don't fucking finish it." There was nothing about his face that said he was joking. He couldn't even pull himself together for two minutes on Easter to have a normal conversation.

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 30 2018, 04:38 PM
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45 YEARS
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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 followed the other man inside, filing away the same detail from the main house – the absence of a lock on the door. It was to be expected, particularly if Reese used this as a hideaway (and given Julian’s suggestion, the mental manipulator assumed that it had been a favorite place for Reese, either in the present or once upon a time).

“We call it a sukkah.” Many years ago, Spencer Vaughan had constructed a more permanent structure that still abided by the letter – if not necessarily the spirit – of the proscribed rules. During the rest of the year, his parents used it to entertain, and they observed Shabbat outside during the good weather. Much like their childhood homes and broader life experiences, his parents’ sukkah was smaller and far less posh than this tea room. The mental manipulator studied the décor – comfortable and inviting – and paused in front of nearest pillow, lifted it, and squeezed it between his hands, luxuriating in the softness under his fingers.

The apology was unnecessary; Bruce appreciated it as well as the acknowledgment of Tammy’s behavior (if not the specific description) but he didn’t consider this within Reese’s control. True, neither of Bruce’s in-laws had treated Reese in such a fashion, nor would they, but it was a different situation. Despite Reese’s self-image, the only reputation he had was as a member of one of the wealthiest families in Ark. The Vaughans realized he was a rich Typic, and Bruce had warned them about the tragedy. They had adjusted their expectations accordingly and forgiven his transgressions. By contrast, Bruce was Bruce Vaughan, who, according to rumor, was an interrogator for the Cartel while also belonging to the ELL and the Entente, who used Shangri-La as a front, enslaved his clients, ensnared unsuspecting people to fun his lifestyle, kept a personal harem, was a pimp and a smut-peddler, and wanted to convert the city into a dictatorship with himself as Emperor for Life, like Julius Caesar or Napoleon; his political run was a front for this. Ignoring the rumors, he operated a business that many people found unsavory and was unashamedly an Evolute who had wedged his way into Haven, and he did seek political office to unseat Haven’s current representative. There was baggage.

And he didn’t expect to make friends today. He had come because Reese had invited him; his reasoning quite simple.

It was the same sense of friendship that prompted him to smile softly and shake his head, dismissing both Reese’s underlying apology and his self-deprecation. “I’ve offended a lot of Havenites over the years by showing up to their events and get-togethers; it rolls off my back.”

To demonstrate this, he settled in front of the nearest table, stuffing the pillow under his back for additional lumbar support. “Do you actually drink tea here? Or is that a euphemism?”

@Reese Marshall
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Reese Marshall
 Posted: May 7 2018, 06:58 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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Sometimes, Reese felt like it would have been helpful to carry around a dictionary when he talked to his friend. There were a surprising number of words that came from Bruce's lips that he didn't recognize (and Reese didn't fancy himself stupid or uneducated -- just apparently educated on different things).

"It's at Shangri-La?" he asked. Perhaps he should have been able to guess by parallel sharing that the sukkah would be in Bruce's childhood back yard the same way that the tea room was. Instead, he transferred it to a location that he knew. He'd never been to Bruce's parents' home and while he was currently invited, he wasn't exactly sure what kind of event Passover would be or if he would even have a tour when he got there.

Regardless, he watched in silence as Bruce picked up a pillow. Somewhere in a part of his mind that he didn't want to acknowledge, he thought about the way that Bruce had done that same thing to the pillows on the couch or bed during their scenes or whenever Reese stayed the night. One of his hands pulled out of his pocket to run his knuckles beneath his nose to scratch an itch.

And then his friend brushed off his apology. Perhaps Reese only took it as brushing off because he was anxious -- because he lashed out when he felt nervous. It was easier to shove someone away and protect his wounds than it was to let someone close to tend to them. His eyes narrowed. Figuratively, his hackles raised and he opened his mouth to snap at his friend when Bruce settled at the table, taking the pillow and tucking it behind himself.

He couldn't put into words what about this movement soothed him. He couldn't explain why his friend taking a seat at the table quieted the raging volcano that nearly erupted. Instead of something cruel spilling from his lips, he laughed and shook his head. "Yeah."

He moved closer, picking up a pillow of his own. Unlike the pillows in Bruce's home (Reese's home was distinctly lacking in pillows and so there was no comparison to draw), he didn't raise it to his nose to sniff it or hold it against his chest. He treated it the way anyone would a pillow -- fluffed it and then dropped it where he wanted to sit beside his friend. "I mean -- well." he fumbled and his fingers slid onto the table open palm as an offer to touch again; a clear sign that the ban on physical closeness had been lifted. "My parents sometimes host parties in here. Some of my father's clients are more easily persuaded over a cuppa', I guess." he shrugged. "But... yeah. If you're asking if I used to have sex in here? Yeah. A lot. There used to be a lock on the door and it's secluded and I told them the windows were one way, so even the squares I dated wouldn't throw a fucking fit."

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: May 7 2018, 07:55 PM
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45 YEARS
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726 Posts
Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
Bright is Online


Bruce spoke several vernaculars beyond the formal education he had received, preserving otherwise dead tongues for posterity. He spoke French and Italian well enough, the languages of love where a turn of phrase set the mood. He had learned enough Hebrew to read his torah portion without embarrassing himself or shaming his family. He spoke with the polished enunciation of lifelong Haven residents (present company excluded) but could slip into Evo slang at the drop of a hat, complain about dragging and raptors. He knew all of the jargon of a mental health professional, though he spoke of fetishes and used the euphemisms for his powers and his work that he had developed throughout his career. The touch. The look about them. Decompression. And he used the words of his ethno-religious heritage as naturally as a Catholic could name the Stations of the Cross or recite the Lord’s Prayer.

He blinked when Reese asked the question, making a mental note to himself to find a copy of the children’s guide to Jewish holidays that he had bought for Mabel, which contained a breakdown of the calendar and the rituals, while also providing a list of terminology. They could make that part of their Passover preparations, while also securing a yarmulke for the younger man; it would have to wait for when they were not celebrating the resurrection of Christ with very Marshall under the Dome.

“At my parents’ house,” he corrected with a shake of his head. He settled to become more comfortable on his pillow and rested his hands on either side of his body for balance. “They host there in the summer as well, depending on the weather. But theirs isn’t quite as nice as this tea room.”

Nor was it intended to b. Theirs was a structure designed for an autumn holiday, constructed by a middle-class family in Evesdown.

As Reese tacitly rescinded the ban by offering his hand, Bruce lifted his to touch their palms together. Neither man spoke of it aloud; they had the expectation now and operated within those confines.

“I wasn’t actually,” he admitted with a soft chuckle. It didn’t surprise him, given Reese’s penchant for public sex (in the past). However, his question pertained to alcohol and drug consumption; many people across social classes attempted to shield their children from the sight of their parents’ impaired faculties.

However, his friend’s next comment earned a playful scoff before Bruce tilted his head and posed a question. “I draw the blinds when having sex. Does that make me a square?”

A laughable notion, Bruce Vaughan a square even as his sex life fell short of the prurient collective imagination of Ark.

@Reese Marshall
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Reese Marshall
 Posted: May 7 2018, 08:52 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 nodded when Bruce said it was at his parent's house. Despite how irrelevant the statement was to the two of them, Reese couldn't help but feel the moment of disconnect. Despite it, he let his fingers slip around the other man's, holding his hand and letting out a breath of relief as if Bruce's physical presence helped to carry the weight that Reese lived with.

"Alright. So you'll show me this thing over Passover?" he asked, almost back pedaled, and then let it rest there. Bruce's mother had invited him and he was going. He would go to Bruce's family's house and they'd do something -- God only knew what -- and he'd spend another evening trying to stave off a panic attack.

And at the end of it, he wouldn't be able to put into words how nice a time he had, but he'd smile when they talked about the event for the rest of eternity.

The younger man had opened his mouth to apologize for oversharing and jumping to the conclusion that euphemism had definitely and obviously meant sex (when it apparently hadn't). But Bruce cut him off at the pass, and Reese's mouth closed as he stared at Bruce.

Like he had when he was drunk (though this morning if he was anything but sober, it wasn't affecting him at all), he looked like he short circuited when his friend admitted he didn't enjoy having sex in public. His mouth opened like he was going to say something, but instead his just froze and gaped as if Bruce was the strange one. When he finally spoke, there was shock in his tone. "I thought you were just fucking with me because I was drunk on Christmas Eve." he said. The tone of his voice didn't say I can't believe Bruce Vaughan doesn't like to fornicate in general view but instead a confusion that anyone could find this activity unappealing.

He hesitated and reached over to give his friend a little nudge with his shoulder. "But yeah, I guess you're a square." he said simply, as if it were that easy and Bruce's occupation changed nothing about his preferences. In some way, perhaps, it was endearing how little the stories and rumors surrounding Shangri-La and Bruce Vaughan seemed to not even be in Reese's purview. "You really draw the fucking blinds? Jesus. How the fuck do you draw the blinds when you can't think about anything except ripping off 'er clothes?"

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: May 8 2018, 06:48 PM
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Evolute
45 YEARS
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726 Posts
Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
Bright is Online


Would he show Reese at Passover? Bruce intended to give him the grand tour not only of his parents’ home and property but of his childhood neighborhood. It might not be as impressive as the Marshall mansion, but he had anecdotes aplenty to fill in the gaps. “Of course. It’s difficult to miss.”

With pleasant weather at the end of the month, his parents would send them out into the backyard to keep them out of the way (and to watch the nieces and nephews) as it was. The sukkah stood proud and tall off to the side, drawing the eye.

Then his friend short-circuited again, as he had on Christmas Eve. Bruce considered this progress as it was about his sexual proclivities and not a response to words of friendship. Unsurprisingly, his insistence on basic etiquette, carving out privacy, earned him a place on Reese’s list of squares, albeit not one that he had dated. (A distinction he would draw despite the emotional and platonic physical intimacy that they shared.)

“There’s only one other person who calls me that,” he informed the other man, a small smile on his lips as the skin around his eyes crinkled with amusement. Larissa shared this assessment, although her reasoning had less to do with his desire for privacy and more to do with the strict professional boundaries, his unwavering code of ethics, and how their age gap ensured that they valued rather different aspects of relationships. She might not use that particular phrasing, but her wording shared the meaning, and she spoke the accusation freely.

Reese’s follow-up question, rather than letting the teasing remark stand alone, sobered Bruce’s expression. Not angry, not offended, not saddened, but this was an area where they possessed such different experiences that they might as well have originated on different planets. More so than the separation between the expectations of a Typic from Haven and an Evolute from Jacks. Reese had the luxury of following his impulses, succumbing to his urges without concern for the consequences.

“I live on the same property as my workplace,” he reminded the other man, as though Reese could have forgotten this fact when he made his way there at least once every fortnight, and they had shared breakfast in Bruce’s apartment as recently as the morning prior. “My clients and my employees have no reason to see me in the buff.”

Immaculate Bruce Vaughan wore tailored suits at Shangri-La and deviated only when the occasion required a costume instead. Yet, he remained dressed from head to toe for Halloween and the morning of Boxing Day when he made his rounds; even for Lupercalia, while the other men ran nude, he wore a tunic and a loincloth.

He returned the nudge to demonstrate that all was well between them despite his sobered expression and his careful attention to his friend’s linguistic tells.

Her. In discussing passionate sex, Reese’s thoughts only traveled the path of women, further cementing Bruce’s assumption of his unwavering heterosexuality. He applied the appropriate gender when speaking despite the other man’s awareness of his bisexuality, his efforts a month and a half ago to set him up with a male coworker. “Besides, I hold back, you know. With a power like mine, I can’t give into my passions completely no matter how much I might want a woman.”

@Reese Marshall
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Reese Marshall
 Posted: May 9 2018, 09:03 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's fingers, wrapped comfortably in his friend's hand, carefully and silently felt the skin against their pads. Bruce's words brought images into his mind that popped into his head now and again and had been invading his conscious thought more than he wanted to admit since mid-February. He shoved away the thoughts as soon as he realized that his eyes had started to slide down his friend's body.

He would have argued it meant nothing. Bruce had mentioned himself naked; it was only human to imagine. (Like saying 'don't think about breathing' and watching someone start breathing consciously.)

He shifted a little closer, shoulder touching shoulder again. It was an attempt at showing emotional support, which had never been something he excelled at. By-in-large, when his friends or significant others had a problem, his suggestion was to say "fuck it" or "fuck them" or something even more helpful like "suck it up." So he didn't know how to show this, but he attempted it.

"That's bullshit." he offered, not about it being true or false, but about the fairness of the situation. "You should be able to ... feel whatever the hell you want to feel at whoever the hell you want to feel it at." he said without the insight to realize that this directed towards himself would have ended up with an admission that he couldn't have taken back.

"Sorry." He corrected himself. He ran his hand through his hair. His voice was steady as he posed it as a question instead of an enraged outburst about the injustice of Bruce's abilities in regard to his sex life. "You've really never..." he tried to figure out how to phrase it tactfully, but the process of popping seams, ripping off buttons, and tearing fabric was not exactly a tactful activity. He squeezed his friend's hand.

If it had been a few months in the future, perhaps. Or two decades ago, he might have leaned over and made an offer in that moment.

"I'm sorry." About how much he couldn't fix that problem; and how much he couldn't in any way relate.

@Bruce Vaughan
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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: May 10 2018, 08:19 AM
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Evolute
45 YEARS
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Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
Bright is Online


Bruce noticed the way that Reese’s gaze slowly veered from his face over his chest and down his torso, yet he, too, would claim that this had no inherent meaning. As with Christmas Eve when offering an example of an invasive question, he had primed the younger man by mentioning himself nude; the mind’s natural response was to wonder, for curiosity to take root until reality snapped one back to the present.

It took only a few seconds before Reese returned to himself, shifting until their shoulders brushed; without exchanging words, Bruce understood the sentiment and squeezed his friend’s hand to communicate this. Unsurprisingly, the younger man balked at this description of self-restraint. Of course he did, Reese Marshall who had rarely experienced an impulse without acting on it –from whose lips profanity tumbled every other word, who considered beer or gin an appropriate chaser with breakfast, who sought out bar fights as penance, and who regaled him with stories of sexual exploits that would embarrass most of the other exhibitionists in Bruce’s acquaintance – a wealthy Typic who despite his self-imposed seclusion in Jacks didn’t understand the machinations of powers or the DEA.

“Other people have that same right, you know, to feel what they feel and to think what they think.” This had been his operating philosophy since his time at the Carrie Institute, as he said, when they had “fixed him right up.” Prior to that, he hadn’t been a willful hellion with no regard for other people’s agency, a budding sociopath who needed to be cut off at the quick. Rather, he hadn’t realized, because he had no other frame of reference, and thus how could he? Why would he question that he always got his way when that was how it had always been and nobody objected?

Aware now, as an adult, he sought consent – informed, enthusiastic, revocable consent – as his highest priority. This necessarily entailed not wanting too much.

Wanting led to thinking and thinking led to action.

How to explain that to someone who, like Bruce himself as a child, simply didn’t understand? He tried another tack. Shaking his head, he asked, “Have you ever been with a girl who changed her mind?”

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: May 13 2018, 07:04 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
Thyme is Offline



Reese's self punishment in no way changed his prior experiences. Even now, what he perceived as a lack of wealth on his account amounted instead to a fully furnished apartment in Jacks with running water, semi-reliable heating and AC, and food that easily filled his belly every night. He could buy all the beer he wanted; and if he had so desired to find respite by some other means, he likewise could have paid for his fair share of suppressants (or heroin, should he go the legal route).

If his pay checks didn't make ends meet, then he was where he always was. His parents stepped in and they covered it, whether he asked them to or not. He noticed his paycheck fluctuate not based on hours now and again when Theo was trying to be subtle about helping his brother out -- because Reese had never been one to ask for help, but it was hard to cash 80% of a paycheck out of spite.

He didn't understand the concept even as Bruce tried to spell it out for him. Of course other people deserved a say. That wasn't what they were talking about. "Yeah, I know." He glanced over. "I'm not saying you ignore them." he shrugged. He didn't have the personality or the lack of decency to force himself on anyone; not in any way sexual or physical (except for a fist to the face). But his dangerous tendencies began and ended with that problem. "I'm saying you don't have to not feel shit because someone else--"

He frowned at the specific question. For a moment, he bristled. Whether he considered lying or whether it was just another direct question that threw him off and caused the panicky Reese to surface was unclear. But there was silence. His fingers squeezed Bruce's again. "Yeah. Who hasn't?"

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: May 14 2018, 09:46 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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As occurred from time to time, particularly when discussing life as an Evolute or anything that stemmed from Bruce’s powers, the two men were engaged in separate conversations. Further complicated by his friend’s peculiar implication that any form of self-restraint was the equivalent of ascetic self-denial (novel in its own way given that fully 25% of Ark believed Bruce to be the avatar of hedonism).

“I feel plenty,” he assured the other man, but ended his protests as his hypothetical prompted his friend to frown and grow momentarily silent. His question had no greater implications, no hidden meaning, beyond finding a common frame of reference otherwise lacking in their discussion. It had never crossed his mind that his friend might have forced himself on a woman in his past. Rather, it was a nearly universal experience to have a partner that changed their mind, or who wasn’t in the mood when you were; given that his wife had been pregnant multiple times, surely it had occurred.

He waited for the acknowledgement, and he returned the light squeeze of hands before he continued. “Right, we’ve all been there.” His way of showing solidarity and communicating that he had not intended to put Reese on the spot. “Now imagine that she couldn’t.”

Not that she didn’t, not that changing her mind had no effect because her partner pursued her anyway thus transforming a consensual encounter into sexual assault, but that she was prevented by an external force from changing her mind.

He shook his head to himself, banishing the thought of such a distasteful, such an abhorrent possibility. “It’s a minor imposition for me to hold back, and it’s always preferable to running roughshod over someone else’s free well, you understand.”

@Reese Marshall
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Reese Marshall
 Posted: May 16 2018, 09:14 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 stayed quiet as Bruce explained in words that Reese could understand. He knew in some ways -- he understood because he had said no so many times in his life to the man who sat hand in hand with him. His eyes stared out into the ceder that lined the back of the Marshall's property.

His thumb ran over Bruce's hand.

The difference between Reese Marshall and the Vaughans -- Bruce included -- was as clear in this moment as it would ever be. He understood what Bruce was talking about. He grasped the concept of free will and why it was bad to take it away. He knew that he didn't want to be forced to do anything, just as a woman wouldn't want to be forced into an act that she had no say in (from a psychological perspective). He understood, conceptually.

But he had nothing to compare it to in reality.

He had never been hypnotized. He had blamed Bruce for his actions on Halloween and had been reprimanded for it. His mind had never been toyed with in that particular way. He had different things on his plate, and whether they were lesser or greater was up in the air.

At the end of the day though, he was Reese Marshall and his humor was as inappropriate as his silences; and he often broke one with the other. "So what you're saying is you could make Tammy not be a bitch?" he asked, even as his hand reached over to give Bruce an affectionate thud with his free hand. It was a lot to process -- his only friend could make anyone do anything -- so he opted not to process it at all.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Yesterday at 04:40 pm
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Evolute
45 YEARS
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726 Posts
Mental Manipulation - able to manipulate other people's minds through mind control, illusion projection, and memory manipulation, primarily.
Bright is Online


Like Reese, Bruce had never been hypnotized. Not against his will, and not with his consent the way that he worked with clients at Shangri-La.

Growing up in Evesdown, he had been the victim of other people’s uncontrolled powers, or on the receiving end of their deliberately inflicted ones, but never mind control or a related mental ability. The closest were the minor gaps in his memories from childhood, from befor his friend Sasha Liesser gained the ability to keep his imprint on the world around him. Otherwise, Willow had trapped him in a bubble, Calvin had stabbed him a couple of times (mostly minor, once more severely), his mother had cradled him to her chest with her hair, he had been shocked by a girl at school…the list went on, to say nothing of how he didn’t mind when other Evolutes used their powers in bed. Yet mental sanctity was an area where he only had experience flowing in one direction, as the responsible party who engaged in self-restraint.

He did so readily. With complaint. Without seething resentment. Without wheedling efforts to circumvent this aspect of the social contract. Truly, he didn’t mind, and his only lament was that he was never given credit for the effort he applied. The fact that he exerted such self-control in every aspect of his life meant nothing to the genophobes and the DEA who viewed him as far more dangerous than he was, as a potential sociopath for his powers alone despite three decades of behavior to the contrary.

However, it was Easter, and he was a guest here. It wasn’t the tie to go into nitty-gritty details about his powers or to insert himself in this animosity between Reese and his sister-in-law. He dropped the topic rather than point out that, if he so chose, he could make his friend fall in love with her, temporary as it would be, as deep as Lancelot’s adoration for Guinevere. Instead, he turned a smile on his friend, squeezed his hand, and said, “You’ve been to Shangri-La. I’ll leave it to your imagination.”

Then a self-deprecating smile touched his lips as he navigated the conversation away to a different, albeit related, topic. “How many Marshalls do you think will have the same reaction? What’s Bruce Vaughan doing at Easter? Doesn’t he worship Bacchus?”

@Reese Marshall
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