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Generated: Jun 18, 2018 9:17 PM
Post last updated: Jun 18, 2018 9:17 PM
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Theo, Faith, Em and Reuben in Buffyverse
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Okay, so, October isn't the worst month to move to California, supposes Theo, but it's still not great. He didn't particularly care about Portland, he didn't have a huge number of seriously close friends or any really strong attachments or anything, but it's still frustrating to move. Especially this far. Especially in senior year. Especially in October.

But whatever. At least it's not April, he supposes, having a weird moment of déjà-vu.

First lesson of the day: Government.

Now where the heck is that.

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"Hey!" a tall guy says, wandering over to him. "You look a bit lost. Looking for something?"

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"Uh, yeah, do you know where Government is?" he asks. "I'm Theo, by the way – I just moved here."

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"Reuben! Nice to meetcha." He offers a hand to shake. "I've got gov next too, I'll walk you over."

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Theo shakes the hand! "Oh, cool," he says. "That'd be great, thanks."

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"Yeah, no problem!"

He walks like someone who's used to shortening his stride to let people keep up. "So. How're you liking Sunnydale?"

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Theo's probably not quite as tall as he is, but he's pretty tall and he's also pretty good at walking at different speeds – he's kinda weirdly graceful about it, actually – so Reubel doesn't have to worry about this sort of thing.

"I only moved here Saturday! So far it seems… kinda small? I mean, I moved from Portland, so." He shrugs.

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"It is small! I like it, I grew up here, but I can see how it'd be hard to move into. Specially 'cause everyone kinda knows everyone else. People being friendly, I hope?"

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"Yeah, people seem nice so far! Fortunately it's not been, like, exclusive or something."

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"Yeah, I think people are mostly pretty nice here."

And here is government. Reuben holds the door for Theo.

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Theo walks into the classroom, says thanks to Reuben, and then looks around! Is there anywhere obvious he can sit?

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The classroom isn't super crowded; there's several empty desks. A couple in the front row where people are too shy to sit, a few towards the back, one right around the middle.

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He will notify the teacher that he's new and then if the one in the middle is still available, he'll take that!

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The teacher has last week's handout for him, and a copy of the syllabus, and if he needs any other make-up material he can talk to her after class or send her an email.

The seat is still open. A girl shoots a brief glare at him when he sits in it before looking away.

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… He looks over at her for that and asks if he should move, in that case; it's not like he wants to make anyone annoyed on the first day.

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She sniffs. "That's Kelsey's spot."

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"Fine," he says, and gets up to go to the back of the room. Does anyone glare at him back there if he tries to sit in one of the seats? Because if so, he can go find a seat at the front instead.

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This appears to be a glare-free seating area.

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Wonderful. He sits down and gets out his stuff.

Is anyone sitting near him? Because if so, and the teacher hasn't yet started the class, he'll introduce himself to them.

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There's a pretty girl with wavy dark hair looking at a book of chess puzzles next-seat-but-one to his left, and a vaguely hippy-ish guy (mostly by virtue of his long hair) dressed in black one seat forward and to the right staring at his phone.

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Oh, right, okay then.

That's a no on the introductions right now.

Class?

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Class!

Today: the judicial system, the bill of rights, and the power of judicial review. Exciting stuff.

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Exciting indeed.

Theo pays attention to it, though. First lesson and all.

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Then he will learn many things about how the American judicial system works.

Towards the end of class, the teacher encourages them to discuss lifetime terms for judges versus the alternate system some of the Founding Fathers proposed where justices would have, for instance, eight-year terms on the Supreme Court.

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Well, in that case… are they supposed to discuss it with their peers or are they contributing to some class discussion thing?

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The format seems to be that people take turns speaking up and responding to each other's points, there's no particular format but everyone's supposed to say something and no one's supposed to dominate the discussion, and the teacher will step in if it gets out of hand.

Someone is currently arguing that life terms for judges are a horrible idea because it means the judges will all be "super old people who don't, like, get the youth today, you know."

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Theo sorta agrees with this point – not so much judges that don't get 'the youth today', but more that judges who don't keep up to date with the general public's interests might not provide accurate interpretations of the law for the general public, or alternatively might hand out sentences that don't mesh with modern-day sentiments.

He's not totally sure, though, since it seems like it'd be better in some ways to have people who have served as a judge for longer, since they have more experience. He hasn't looked into the issue much outside of class.

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These are reasonable points! Assuming he expresses them, there's some amount of nodding along and then chess girl waves a hand in the air to make some point about what sort of qualifications should be required, and education versus practical experience.

Eventually class comes to an end.

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At the end of class, he looks at his timetable and finds out he has French.

… Is there any chance there's someone willing to show him to French? Or will he have to try to wander around looking for it?

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Reuben offers to walk him over! "Not my class but more or less the same direction," he explains.

French: is over here.

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"Thanks," replies Theo, smiling at him, then into French he goes.

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French is in a smaller room and slightly more crowded. There's a free seat over here, though.

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… And does anybody glare at him if he tries to sit in this seat?

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He appears to be safe. For now.

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Well, fortunately he's actually pretty good at French, and he enjoys speaking it, writing it, reading it, and also – bizarrely enough – studying things like grammar and vocabulary.

He expects class to go well.

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It does! They're conjugating subjunctive verbs today, so even mild enthusiasm puts him way ahead of the rest of the class. The teacher seems to like him.

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You know what? He likes complicated phrases that use the subjunctive. "Bien que" is a great conjunctive.

The "expletive ne" is a bit weird, though. It doesn't actually make a phrase in the negative, as 'ne' usually does (sort of), it just shows that you dislike or think it's bad that the thing is occurring.

But he does know this stuff, so yes, he'd hope the teacher likes him.

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...yeah, the teacher is practically fawning over him. He doesn't actually utter the words "why can't you all be more like Theo," but it's clearly pretty close.

Once class is over, he pulls Theo aside and asks if he'd be interested in getting out of a significant chunk of homework in exchange for reading and writing brief journal entries on some actual French literature.

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That actually sounds almost like fun, and it at least gets him far, far away from some likely-boring homework, so you know what, he'd be happy to.

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Great! The French teacher will bring in a copy of Candide tomorrow to lend him, then. He looks pretty excited at the prospect.

And now he should get to his next class before he's late.

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He indeed should!

… Aaand he has English, of course he does, ugh, why.

He manages to find his way there eventually – asks a person for directions on the way because apparently not everybody gets to class immediately – and walks into the classroom and explains why he's a bit late to the teacher and asks what he needs to catch up on.

Oh, and he looks around for any obvious seats to sit in.

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There's a middle seat available again, and one nearer the front but inconveniently placed behind the projector.

The boy from earlier -- Reuben -- is in this class as well, apparently, sitting near the front and flipping through a copy of Fahrenheit 451.

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Well, Theo smiles at Reuben – can't help to reinforce potential friendships or whatever – and then moves towards the middle seat.

If he's glared at, he will stop and move to the front seat, because he really would rather not annoy anyone too badly, and if people are fussy about seats, sure, whatever, they don't get to have his charming company.

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Reuben smiles and waves.

No one glares, but someone looks honest-to-god distressed when he makes a move for the middle seat.

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Okay, fine, front seat with the awkward projector in the way it is, cool.

Nice to know everybody's so friendly around here. It's probably because they're all school kids, but still.

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They are in fact discussing Fahrenheit 451 today, it seems. The teacher apparently feels that the entire book is about the evils of communism, and repeatedly uses the phrase "damn pinkos." People seem alternately bored or entertained by this.

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… Well, Theo's not going to get into an argument with the teacher, even if the use of the term 'pinko' is probably enough to warrant it by itself.

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This is probably wise. Everyone else seems to be taking the same approach.

For homework they're supposed to read the last chapter of the book -- with special attention to the Book People, who are of course "pinkos" -- and write an essay outline on Montag's character development.

And class mercifully comes to an end.

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Now: it's lunch.

Theo grabs his bag and gets up from his desk, then starts to meander cafeteria-wards with the rest of the crowd, unless anybody interrupts him.

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There is some kind of commotion happening at the library -- it's hard to tell what exactly, because a crowd is gathering packed around the door -- but it's not going to prevent him from getting to the cafeteria.

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… Okaaaay. And is there any not-so-hushed gossip around it so he can hear what's happening?

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There is a lot of "what the heck" and a few "oh, Faith again" and some incredulous "library?" and someone in the library just audible singing "somewhere over the rainbow," badly out of tune and with the cadence of a patriotic hymn, which is not working well for them at all.

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Right.

… He has no idea who Faith is, nor why she's presumably singing that in the library, but he will just sort of stand around by the commotion since that seems to be what people are doing.

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People gradually start to move on towards lunch, which means he can actually see into the library. There's a dozen or so teenagers sitting cross-legged on the floor reading, and another dozen-or-so standing guard around them in a circle waving picket signs. The signs include an enlarged copy of the cover of Fahrenheit 451, the text of the first amendment written in sprawling crayon, a re-purposed "Banned Books Week" sign, and a surprisingly good watercolor of Cthulhu with "THE RIGHT TO GO MAD - READ THE NECRONOMICON" stenciled underneath.

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The girl "singing" is very tall, but apparently not tall enough to suit her, because she's standing on a chair. She's wearing eye-searingly clashing colors, high heels and ripped jeans, and she has a nasty black eye and a half-healed cut across her forehead.

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Another girl is moving around the room with an armful of books, trying to convince onlookers to join the group of readers. She is tiny and very, very bouncy, and has a broad grin on her face.

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Oh.

Right.

… And is there any sort of obvious reason that they're doing this?

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Perhaps it's obvious if you've been at the school for a while.

There's a very tired-looking librarian who he could ask, if he's curious. Or presumably tiny-bouncy-girl can be prevailed on to explain.

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He thinks he'll ask the librarian first. He's not sure he wants to go anywhere near that girl.

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"No, you can't have a note to explain why you're missing class," the librarian says wearily, when he walks over. "It's not a school-sanctioned activity."

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"I have no idea what it is, though, that's the problem," he says. "I'm new here."

It's also lunch, but whatever.

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"It's Faith," the librarian sighs. He seems to feel that that's a full explanation.

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"I have no idea who that is," says Theo, trying to be helpful since apparently the librarian didn't understand the first time. "I'm new. Is she the short, weirdly bouncy one?"

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"That would be her," he agrees.

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"… Yeah, but what's she doing? I mean, you made it sound like this is a semi-frequent occurrence, so…?"

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"Today she's protesting how the school library is run."

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He blinks a few times at that. "Are there any specific things she's complaining about, or does she just complain for the he– sake of it?"

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"There are always," he says dryly, "specific things. I'm sure she'll provide you with the full list if you ask, but -- we color-code the books into several groups, and you can read whatever you want in the library but only check out books from colors you have permission for. Which depends on your age and which classes you're taking, but you can get authorized for other colors with a note from a teacher or parent or by testing into them."

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"Oh," says Theo. "Okay."

… She might have a point. That was a thing he might have expected at primary school, but by high school, uh. Nnno.

He turns around to look for her – what's she doing right now?

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Swapping out a book for one of the readers who's just finished theirs! Gargantua and Pantagruel for Maus, apparently.

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Of course. Okay. If he cautiously approaches her, does she do anything like, uh, pounce on him?

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Yes she practically does!

"Hi! I'm Faith. You're new. Want a book?" She waves a copy of the Principia Discordia at him.

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"I am new. I have no idea what that book's about – is it even in English?"

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"Duh," she says, "it's, like, the bible for discordians. Why, you want a foreign language book? I can do."

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"… Discordians? Do you just mean anarchists?"

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"No! Like the religion, gosh! It's like pastafarianism but cooler."

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He smirks. "In what ways is it cooler than pastafarianism? Like, noodles and pasta are literally holy – whether you're a believer or not – I don't think anyone can dispute that."

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"Yeah, but like, no one Pastafarians seriously. People totally Discordian seriously, it's badass."

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"Okay," he says, taking it and having a look at it. "And is this just a copy you're sharing around with people?"

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"It's a library copy," she explains patiently, pointing to the purple dot on the spine. "You sit down on the floor and you read it."

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"… Okay, right, I don't get what the point of your protest is, then— or does the color-coding only apply to actual borrowing?"

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"Yes exactly! So, like, it's a sit-in, and we're proving that if they won't let us check out the books we'll read them anyway!"

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"I mean, it is a stupid system, but I'm not sure how effective this is gonna be."

He does, however, sit down and take a longer look at the book, unless she continues to talk to him.

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"Oh, it usually works," Faith says blithely, "people eventually want me to stop annoying them and so they do what I want. Protests are great."

The book is very odd. The writing alternates between weird, florid logical convolutions and bizarre humor. It's really unclear how seriously it takes itself.

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Okay, well, it's sort of… weirdly interesting.

He'll read it for a few minutes and then hand it back to Faith. "That was… weird," he says.

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"Want something less weird? I went for purple because I don't know what colors you have, but I can pick a different category if you tell me your age and English class."

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"I'm eighteen," he says, and then… proceeds to describe his English class, on account of being new and not actually knowing. Does his timetable help? It might?

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"Oh, darn, you're eighteen, that means you're good for red. Um. You could have blue if you wanted, that's the easy-reader books."

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"… I think I might just go get some food, actually," he says. "I might be back after, though?"

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"Fine. Cave to the system," she sniffs.

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He shrugs and goes off to the cafeteria to get some food.

Any people he can try to sit with? Anyone who seems like they might invite him over, or like they might not mind him impinging on their personal space?

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The guy from earlier smiles at Theo when he sees him. He's with the other girl from the library -- the one with the black eye -- and there's some empty seats at their table, if Theo wants to join.

Otherwise, there's various empty seats, with people breaking up more or less into the stereotypical jocks/nerds/band/popular/etc. divisions. No one really looks actively hostile, at least.

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He… will indeed go over with his food to that guy and say, "Hey! Mind if I sit?"

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"Please do! Theo, right? This is my sister Em."

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"Yeah, uh – Reuben, right?" he asks, taking a seat and saying, "Hi" to Em.

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"Got it in one!"

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"Hey! You new here?"

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"Yeah – just got here Saturday."

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"Sunnydale's a nice place! A bit dangerous after dark, but the weather's good. How come you moved here?"

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"Oh," he shrugs and waves his hand vaguely. "My dad, jobs, things. What do you mean it's dangerous after dark, though?"

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"Oh, you know. People get up to stuff. Teenage guys get bored, gangs or whatever. Just be careful, that's all."

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(Reuben is visibly exasperated at this conversational topic.)

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"Oookay," he says, taking note of her black eye again. "So… Faith seems, uh, excitable? You were helping her out, right?"

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"Yeah, no kidding. She's cool though, she's a good friend. Didn't manage to hijack you, huh?"

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"For a little, but then I told her I'd get some food and maybe be back. Some book about… discordians?"

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"What -- oh, Principia Discordia? Purple? Yeah. You gonna go back after lunch?"

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"… I have class?"

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"Oh, you're gonna be all responsible, huh? Okay then."

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"It's still my first day…"

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"Well, I mean, start as you mean to go on is my motto, but to each his own or whatever."

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"Well, yeaaah, but I mean to go on with the teachers hopefully liking me and with me getting good grades, so…?"

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"Booooring," Em pronounces.

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He shrugs and continues eating.


"So, apparently she does lots of causes like this? What sorts of other things has she done?"

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"What hasn't she done," Reuben sighs.

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"She set the gym on fire once," Em volunteers.

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"… I think I'm gonna need a bit more of an explanation for that."

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"It wasn't up to fire codes."

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"… Okay," he says, "but surely she could just alert someone to that and not try to provide evidence through arson?"

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"Well duh she tried that first. I helped! But they didn't fix it."

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"Oh, right," he says.

Nom. Food.

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Food.

Reuben attempts to make slightly more normal conversation and asks Theo if he has any hobbies, or sports or instruments or anything.

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He likes soccer! He's pretty good at soccer, especially as goalie. Other than that, mainly listening to music and doing languages and things.

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There's not an official soccer team, but some people meet before school on Thursdays to play! They're allowed to use the field. Theo should come!

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He should! That sounds like fun. Does Reuben play or does he just know the people who play?

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Reuben plays occasionally! ("When I can drag him out of bed that early," Em says conspiratorially in a stage-whisper.) Em goes more regularly.

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Oh, cool!

Nom.

"Do either of you have any other hobbies?" He smirks a bit. "Other than, you know, protesting and soccer?"

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Em shrugs. "Martial arts, parkour, siege weaponry..."

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"Yeah, this week," Reuben snorts. "Uh, I play guitar a little, stuff at my church ... I read a lot ... you know."

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"Oh, right," says Theo. "Cool."

Nom.

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Nomming all round.

Lunch wraps up. Em heads back towards the library; Reuben towards class.

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Theo also heads to class! He now has… geography!

… Is it super obvious where the geography classrooms are or does he need to ask someone for help again?

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Reuben is again heading to the same class. Small schools. He'll be happy to show Theo the way.

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Oh cool.

When they get to the classroom… Theo looks around for someone friendly to sit next to, not necessarily excluding Reuben, who he hopefully won't be glared at by.

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There is a free seat next to Reuben!

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Theo will sit there, then!

… Are they learning about rivers? They spent ages doing rivers at his old school.

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Well, apparently first they are doing a thing where Reuben stares daggers at a couple of guys in the row behind them.

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… Oh?

Why?

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That is not very clear!

"Be nice," Reuben mutters at them at last, and then turns around to ostentatiously title and date the page of his notebook.

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Well, Theo will just… hope that doesn't affect anything?

He'll pay attention to the teacher when the lesson starts.

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Today they are learning: Cartography Skills, or Why Sunnydale Never Seems To Show Up On Maps (We Swear There's A Good Reason For This, Guys).

There's a lot of math. The teacher peels a couple of oranges demonstratively.

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Ooh! Map projections, this is possibly fun, he might actually enjoy this.

PS, the Sunnydale map thing: super weird.

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No, don't be ridiculous, it's not weird at all. It's a perfectly reasonable consequence of, um, stuff.

Projections are pretty fun! They have to learn the "three types of projections" and what situations they're appropriate for and a bunch of buzzwords, but they also get to try drawing their own projections, and the teacher touches on Girard's Theorem briefly (to general incomprehension).

Homework is apparently to apply the stuff they learned to construct a couple of different maps, including one of an imaginary planet displayed on the class website and one of Sunnydale itself. There's a list of information they should include and symbols they should use.

And class comes to an end.

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Ooh, snazzy. Math, too.

Next up… gym! Fortunately he brought his gym stuff, and he's pretty sure he knows where the gym is, so he'll just pack his stuff up and make his way over there.

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Reuben is already in the boys' locker room changing into gym clothes. Theo's locker is over here.

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Cool.

He gets changed and then… what are they doing today? Basketball, maybe, or volleyball or soccer or…?

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Jogging laps to start with, apparently, and then -- he can find out easily because everyone's complaining about it -- sprints and jump-ropes. Joy.

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Em is already jogging laps -- running backwards, for whatever reason, but no one seems inclined to make a problem of it since she's keeping up and not running into anyone. In gym clothes she's got more bruises visible, and scraped knees and a cut over her shoulder with stitches in it, and generally looks impressively roughed up.

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You know, Theo actually doesn't mind doing these exercises that much. He enjoys running. And he's got pretty good timing and… self-coordination, or whatever it is for jump-rope – balance? He doesn't comment on Em's physical injuries.

He does the exercises rather well, looking quite smooth and fluid as he does so.

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Then he will not have to do many push-ups! Neither does Reubel, who comes in neatly just above the middle of the pack at everything where there's a point of comparison.

Em does a lot of push-ups, but they're all for disobeying instructions or talking back or talking to other people instead of listening, not the penalty push-ups the last couple of people in each exercise get assigned.

Eventually even gym class comes to an end, and people head back to the locker rooms to get changed.

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They do!

After he's done changing, Theo leaves the locker room and… hangs around a little. Do people disappear immediately, do they hang around for a couple of minutes, he doesn't know, this is a new school and he kinda just wants to fit in with what other people do.

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Some people hang around. (Reuben does not. Reuben heads off to find his sister.)

A couple of the more athletic guys have been talking to each other. One of them breaks it off to glance at Theo. "Not a bad showing," he comments.

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"Thanks," says Theo, smiling. "I'm Theo, by the way."

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"Carl. And this is Ted." (Ted grunts in acknowledgement.) "You're new, yeah?"

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"Yeah – moved on Saturday."

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"Cool, dude. You know, you've gotta be careful about showing off like that. Like, first day, it's cool, I get it, but you don't want to pull that every day."

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"I'm sorry?" he asks, possibly missing the point. "Pull what every day?"

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"Coming in top of the pack like that," Carl clarifies, in a talking-to-rocks voice. "You don't wanna stand out like that. Friendly word, man."

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He raises an eyebrow. "Are you sure you want to threaten me?"

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"Chill, dude. If you don't want good advice, it's your funeral."

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"Funeral?" he asks, then starts to look a bit threatening himself. "Are you sure you really want to go there? I'm a new kid. From a city."

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"Yeah. Which was why I was trying to be helpful, which, screw you. C'mon, Ted."

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"Trying to be helpful by threatening me?" he asks, his voice rising a bit. "Wow, wonderful idea you have there."

Apparently he's suddenly in a pretty bad mood.

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Carl, who's turned to leave, turns back, leans against the wall, and folds his arms. "Hey, man, I'm not the one who started with the big-guy act. You want to walk away right now?"

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"Nah, not really," he says, "because it sounded like you were threatening me, and really that just makes you sound like a dick."

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"See, it seems to me like we were having a friendly conversation, and then you started threatening me. Isn't that what you heard, Ted?"

(Ted grunts, presumably affirmatively.)

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"Ah, but it doesn't really matter what you two think, you see, because I'm the one you need to convince and that's not going to help anybody."

Theo actually looks like he might be enjoying himself here.

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Carl untucks a cross he was apparently wearing on a necklace inside his shirt, and grins. "I don't think I need to convince you of anything."

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Theo glances at the cross, looks a bit confused, and says, "Oh, really?"

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"Look, man, it's cool, I get it, math is hard. Let me help you." He points at Theo. "One." He points at himself and Ted. "Two."

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He can get an unimpressed look in return.

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"Ugh. Look, man, I've got better places to be. Make something of it or don't, some of us have a life."

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"Ugh, whatever," he says, walking away.

Dick.

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Carl and Ted head off the other way.

The few people still hanging around in the hallways are debating after-school plans. The main controversy seems to be Netflix versus "The Bronze."

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… Is there any indication of what 'The Bronze' is, here?

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Sooooome place in town? Maybe? At least one girl has pointed out that one of the virtues of Netflix is that pajamas are an option.

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Well, he doesn't know enough about it to know if it's a public thing he's invited to, so he'll possibly just ask people about it tomorrow.

For now, he goes home.

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In that case, he will probably have an uneventful evening.

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He'll be at school the next day, bright and early! Well, no, not bright and early, just regular time.

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People are hanging out and chatting! As people do. Tiny bouncy girl is engrossed in a copy of The Wizard of Oz. Reuben is retrieving a calculator he'd lent somebody. Carl pulls his head out of his locker to shoot Theo an irritated look as he goes by.

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Oh, that's fine, Theo can do a totally fine look back, looking rather like he doesn't have a care in the world. Or maybe he just doesn't care to be consistent about his emotions and his façade. Who knows.

He looks around to see if there is anybody else who is friendly around here. He doesn't really want to get too attached to one group that he's not sure he'll even fit in with yet.

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There's a guy talking to some other guys who happens to look like he might not exclude Theo!

It might be a bit daunting to approach the whole group, though.

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There's some slightly more friendly-looking jock types tossing around a frisbee (indoors? great life choice) and a clique of girls who have definitely noticed the new guy in town and are whispering and giggling.

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Theo is not in fact going to go talk to the clique of girls, but he's flattered that they seem to be noticing him.

He does, however, go over to the friendly-looking jock types with the frisbee, because frisbee is fun, and ask if he can join in. Sure, it's inside so that's not great, but frisbee sounds fun, and it's not like he'll let it fly anywhere by accident.

The others might, though.

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The friendly-looking jock types are in fact friendly! He is promptly included. They seem to have a game going in which half a dozen people (mostly girls) sit on a bench, and the jocks take turns tossing the frisbee back and forth over their heads, cutting it as close as they can. This results in a lot of giggling from the girls, which appears to be part of the motivation.

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Theo's happy to join in, and he can throw it at approximately the height everyone else is – he doesn't undercut the others, he actually legitimately doesn't want to show off in front of people who seem nice, and he also doesn't want to scare the girls or anything, but he definitely won't hit them because he's got pretty good aim.

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Fun is had! One girl gets her hair messed up but no one actually gets hit in the head. Eventually a teacher tells them to cut it out and get to homeroom.

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Sure, he'll do that when told, but he feels pretty happy that he's made a basic connection with some people.

Up first, he has math! Ooh! He likes math. What are they doing today?

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Integration by parts! Everyone is confused by this. Some people are sufficiently confused that they get the teacher confused too. It's a bit of a trainwreck.

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Theo isn't too confused – they get a formula, right, and so you can just put it into the formula if you understand the symbols it uses…? And the formula's not even that difficult to remember, so you can just…

Are you sure people are confused by this? Like, he gets it if you start using those exponential-and-trig things with it where it would go on and keep repeating and you have to do some weird substitution and spot-the-pattern to make it, well, not, but uh– yeah, okay, maybe he's got a bit of a head-start here.

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Maybe just a bit.

They manage to get it just about all straightened out and then someone raises her hand and says "but why can you do that?" and the teacher realizes he doesn't know, and everyone descends into confusion again. And then they're out of time.

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Iiiisn't it just sort of like the reverse of the product rule? He's not totally sure, but he thinks it is. Then again, he doesn't actually know if they've covered the why behind the product rule – he's not sure if he has, even – and the bell's gone, so…

He has history next! It's not his favorite subject, but really, school's not great if you actively dislike class, so he'll just try to be positive about it and get on with things okay.

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History! They're talking about the French Revolution. The teacher makes a point of noting that neither revolutions in general nor guillotines in particular are a good idea to try at home, and neither will be tolerated in school. Politics! History! Marie Antoinette!

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… It would be, uh, kinda hilariously horrible if people attempted a revolution in school. He makes a note never to mention the idea to Faith.

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The amount of specificity about not trying that is almost as if someone in the past had failed to observe similar discretion.

And class wraps up.

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Oh. Right.

He packs his stuff away into his bag and apparently he has biology next! So he makes his way over to the bio rooms, with the help of some friendly-looking people in the corridors.

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They are dissecting cow brains in biology! They're supposed to work in pairs, and apparently the teacher disapproves of keeping the same partner, so people are shuffling around. Several of the jocks are in this class, including Carl and the owner of the frisbee.

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Oh, just wonderful.

He spots Reuben – does it look like he has a partner yet, or can Theo possibly just pair up with him?

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Reuben seems partnerless! He would be happy to work with Theo.

"Second day going well?" he asks, getting out the tools. "You cut anything up before?"

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"Yeah, it's okay. And, like, in a kitchen, sure, and a few other things in biology, but not a brain or anything, no."

He doesn't look too squeamish or anything, though. He gets some gloves, a lab-coat and a visor thing – also getting a set of each for Reuben.

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Reuben dons the safety equipment and goes over the checklist one more time. They're supposed to identify various parts of the brain as they cut into it, be careful to observe safety procedures, and then clean up and dispose of it properly. People are following these instructions to varying degrees; some are using the tools wrong or not wearing gloves, some are giggling and complaining about grossness, and some are mostly entertaining themselves with poking at the brains. Reuben is scrupulously following the instructions to the letter.

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Theo's fine doing that too, actually! He'd rather not mess around with the slightly disgusting brain, thanks very much, doesn't sound like his idea of fun.

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The jocks do not seem to have the same idea of fun. They are waving brains in each other's faces, and then in the faces of anyone who seems likely to shriek. One of them tries tossing a brain to another while the teacher's back is turned, and manages not to completely squish it in the process.

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That sounds… just thrilling.

Eh, it's not like they're really hurting anybody.

He'll just continue working.

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The teacher is looking at her phone. The brain flies through the air again. It's not aimed at Theo, but the person who fails to catch it is right near him, and it's going to splat either on him or at least right nearby.

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Well he has gloves on so he can just grab it out of the air – like so, all fluid and rather speedy with good reactions and whatever – and then give whoever threw it a 'what the hell' look.

Then, assuming the teacher is still not paying attention – which he really hopes is the case – he can just walk over to where it came from and place it back on the tray on the desk and then return to his own.

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Oh. Great.

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No one seems to have particularly noticed the brain incident, except for possibly a couple of the people who were messing around and can't say anything without getting themselves in trouble.

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Theo looks over at Reuben, a bit confused. "Everything alright?"

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"Oh, um. Yeah. We should finish up the lab."

He's being a couple of shades less warm and friendly than he was five minutes ago, but he's not being openly hostile or anything.

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Oh well, um. Theo will just get on with the lab, then, trying to be efficient and yet also still… open to being friendly?

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Then Reuben will continue being very conscientious about the lab and very polite about deflecting any kind of conversation.

Class ends without further incident.

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That's fine, Theo was only planning on making a bit of smalltalk.

Now it's lunch, so Theo will go to the cafeteria, assuming there aren't any library-related incidents on the way there – or was the thing with Faith going to last all week? He doesn't remember if it was specified.

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No library-related incidents are forthcoming. He may proceed to the lunchroom unimpeded.

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He gets some food and looks around for friendly people to sit with.

Maybe the guys he was playing frisbee with earlier? Since Reuben seemed… a little… something?

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Frisbee guys are available! One of them waves at Theo when he sees him looking that direction.

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Em is sitting with them today too!

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Oh– cool, he guesses?

He goes thataway with a tray and sits down next to the one who waved! "Hey!"

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"Hey!"

The guy who was waving is a redhead with curly hair and a scruffy attempt at a beard. He's interested in Theo's opinions on the current topic of interest, parkour.

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He's not actually done much parkour, but he's sorta interested in the idea!

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This opinion is accepted! People compare various parkour youtube channels and debate which ones are "cool," "lame," "troll," or "sold out." Also on the topic: whether girls like parkour.

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He has no idea what some of these terms mean, but of course he's not going to mention that, and he can probably guess from context! The videos are… fun? Interesting?

He thinks it's possible girls like parkour, but probably not all of them. "Hey, Em, what do you think?"

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"Well, I like parkour. But I dunno if I like people who do parkour specially. And if there's any girls around here who do like people who do parkour, someone needs to let me know, I haven't found'em."

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Theo shrugs and continues watching some of the videos.

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Lunch reaches its end without a satisfactory conclusion on the parkour debate. Maybe it should be continued at the Bronze tonight!

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"The Bronze?" asks Theo. He's a bit out of the loop, but he assumes it's some sort of food place or maybe a club from how people are talking about it.

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It's a club! The club, apparently, not in the sense of "the coolest club" but of "literally the only club in Sunnydale." It won't be super crowded on a weekday night but there'll be people, it's not like there's a lot of options for things to do here, there's a reason people are looking into parkour as a potential activity.

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Oh, yeah, sure then, he'll be along. But right now, he has French!

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French!

The teacher has a copy of Candide for him. He can probably get away with reading it in class if he finishes the worksheet of paradigms before everyone else.

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He will probably do that, in that case! And then class will end, and he'll have English and he can go to English and do Englishy things.

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English continues to be about the Evils of Communism! They're discussing thesis topics for their essays on Fahrenheit 451.

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Theo can totally input into this, at least a bit, since he's done stuff on the book before!

And then soon the school day is over and Theo hangs about a bit in case people are, like, talking about stuff or something or want to catch his attention – he's new, okay, and he's used to there being lots of people around, and he doesn't have much to do, so he'd rather stand around a little aimlessly for like five minutes at the end of the school day than just get home those five minutes early.

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The jocks continue to be friendly! Band kids want to ascertain if he is a band person or not so they can decide whether to ignore him. Girls want to know if he's going to be at the Bronze tonight, he wasn't yesterday!

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Not a band person, sorry! Theo continues to be friendly back to the jock people, maybe a little assessingly in some cases, and the girls can know that he indeed is going to be at the Bronze!

He doesn't say this, but he's a little bit gay, so they might want to go elsewhere, y'know. He'll try not to lead any of them on or anything.

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Band kids are disappointed but not surprised. Of course they don't get to claim the cool guy.

Girls may need to be told the gay thing if he wants them not to be led on; it's not like they're spoiled for choice of hot guys in Sunnydale. They seem quite pleased at the news that he'll be at the Bronze.

And people disperse.

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Yyyyeah, he'll tell them at some point relatively soon, or, like, make it known, uh, somehow.

He also disperses! From the crowd. And goes home and listens to music for a bit and does some work and then has food and then a bit later on he guesses it's probably about time to go to the club so he gets into some sort of smart casual wear – he looks pretty good in it, as always but a bit more so – and then heads over to where the club is!

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It is clublike! It's not super busy, but there are people hanging out and eating snacks, and canned music playing and one guy strumming away dutifully on his guitar, and actually a reasonable number of people dancing, including most of the jocks.

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Clublike! He'll go fetch a drink – cola – and talk to a few people around the room then, yeah, look, new kid here.

After a bit, he will go dance! Are there people who seem up for dancing?

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Frisbee guy is hanging out on the side of the room scanning it hopelessly to see if anyone wants to dance. Em, in a short skirt and high heels and absurdly garish beaded top, is going around the room and dancing with everyone. A girl meets Theo's eyes over her friend's shoulder and blushes and breaks eye contact. A very cute guy, tall and dark-eyed with vaguely wavy hair and a bright smile, is loosely attached to a group but angling away from them like he'd kind of like to be off doing something other than talking to them.

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Okay, well, cute guy is, uh, kinda something Theo wants, but he doesn't really want to cause a scene or anything, so… is there any sort of reaction if he catches cute guy's eye? Like a 'yeah sure, dance with me' thing?

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Possibly more of an "oh god rescue me from this conversation" thing, but it's definitely a thing! A smiley thing! He really does have a very nice smile!

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That's okay! That's, you know, positive in the direction of Theo going over to talk to him and, indeed, rescue him. He really does have a nice smile.

Theo has a nice smile too, though, which shows as he goes over and rescues-slash-introduces-himself-to the cute guy! "Hey! I'm Theo."

(Music may prohibit much more speech. Theo: not horrifically sad about that.)

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"Tristan! Hey." Smile smile. Moving away from the group and, coincidentally, towards Theo. "Nice to meet you."

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Oh, whatever shall Theo do, what with the cute guy Tristan getting closer to him. He might just have to get a little closer.

"You too," he says, grinning. "Care for a dance?"

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"I'd sure like that!"

Dancing: involves being even closer, it turns out. Tristan's hair bounces when he dances. It's awfully cute. Also he smiles at Theo a lot.

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Theo is totally okay with getting closer. He is also having fun dancing, so that's pretty wonderful, and yes, Tristan is super cute.

(Aaa.)

Meanwhile: Theo smiles back at Tristan quite a lot, too! (He has a great smile.)

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He does have a great smile. Probably no one will notice if Tristan takes advantage of a slow bit in the dancing to trace the smile with his thumb and offer his own slightly shy smile back.

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Okay oh my god way too cute is that even legal, wooow.

(It's probably at least somewhat obvious to an outside observer that Theo is definitely into guys, so people will probably assume correctly that he's pretty gay, sorry girls.)

It just makes Theo smile some more. Which, you know, is apparently possible. And he continues dancing, too. Because: aaaaah, cute guy.

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Cute guy is a fan of this "more dancing" plan. Possibly it could be more and closer dancing. Even if they are already pretty close.

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Yeah. Closer can totally happen.

And maybe eventually… iiiiis cute guy maybe up for a kiss, hint hint. Theo might be making it obvious with, like, his eyes or something. He's good at body language.

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Yeah, okay, Tristan is not totally blind. He can lean in a bit, and pause and half-blush and break eye contact, and lean in a little farther, help him out here okay.

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Theo: totally will help out.

Kisses are wonderful. Theo is good at kissing. Look how wonderful.

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He is. He is wonderful. Tristan is not expressing this verbally but he is definitely expressing it. He is also not exactly a slouch at kissing himself. He does however appear to be unsure where he can be putting his hands right now. Neck? Neck is nice. Waist is nice. But there could also be other nice places?

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There. There totally could be.

But they are in a club on a dance floor right now. So. He might express this in a, you know, vaguely 'mm I wish' way.

Does Tristan get the hint or does Theo actually have to use words?

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Tristan: appears to get the hint. Dancing at least theoretically involves movement. Movement can be towards a nice back exit.

(It may get interrupted for another kiss before they make it all the way there. But it's still movement.)

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(Theo will kiss back obligingly; look, it's still wonderful.)

Then they're at a nice back exit! And Theo is following Tristan out, and it might be getting a little bit… grabby. So, yeah.

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Well. Grabby is only a problem if someone objects to the grabbing. As opposed to smiling and smiling and cautiously trying out some of those new potential hand locations. Under shirts? Under shirts is a hand location.

Also there should be more kissing. Tristan is very clear on that point.

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Under shirts: definitely a hand location, sorry, did that require clarification?

Kissing: also definitely.

Caution: nnnot really required, okay, unless he's really attached to it or something.

Theo has a slight feeling of déjà vu, but it's at least a bit overpowered by the fact that this guy is super cute and, uh, duh.

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Yeah, okay, with sufficient incentive he can be convinced to drop caution in favor of blushing and the occasional head-ducking. And he can smile a lot about the fact that he is groping Theo and also kissing his way down his neck, that is delightful.

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Aaa okay this guy is great. … He should probably get to know him at some point, rather than just, whatever this is.

But you know what? Right now, he is totally fine with whatever this is so whatever this is.

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How convenient that he feels the same way!

Neck-kissing turns into neck-nibbling, with a hand slipping under the waistband of Theo's pants.

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Did he say totally fine? Let's raise that to sound a bit more thrilled, because it's a bit more like aaaaa repeated a few times in his head. In, you know, a regular-guy-thrilled way.

Tristan is super cute, okay? It's fine for him to be… thrilled. (Plus he thought he'd never meet anyone interested in a small town, like, eugh.)

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Tristan looks pretty thrilled to have his hand down Theo's pants! There would probably be more smiling to indicate this except that he's kind of busy alternately sucking and biting on Theo's neck.

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Theo: is also thrilled to have Tristan's hand down his pants. He'll just grab hold of Tristan, feel him up a little, and be just a little bit thrilled about things.

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The thrilledness: so mutual. Theo feeling him up makes Tristan make breathy noises and bite down rather harder, grinding up against him.

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Theo is actually rather into biting, so this just gets positive reactions in response.

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Oh does it.

It might have to happen some more, then.

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How much more? Because, well, Theo is still rather into biting, so. Yup.

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There could be more, more. Tristan is an obliging sort. And, yeah, seems to be getting a fair bit out of it himself.

Of course, there's a limit to the range of biting that can happen with Theo's shirt in the way there.

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Theo is not self-conscious about his body, you know, so his shirt can disappear!

And seeing as Tristan is not currently actively biting on Theo's body, Theo will remove his shirt, if that's okay, and then start nibbling on him instead.

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Mm. Yes. More than okay. What a good arrangement.

And now Tristan is pretty sure that it's his turn to be doing the biting again.

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You know, Theo isn't actually even slightly against this arrangement, so sure, he can just be bitten while also grabbing at Tristan.

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Mmph. Yeah. Biting in various bitable places. And then biting on the neck again, and:

chomp.

It's actually quite pleasant chomping (quite pleasant), but it's also very chompy chomping.

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Nnnngh– whaa, okay, Theo can't think right now but ow and ungh so unnnnn is approximately all the noise he can make.

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Mmmm. That's okay. Tristan will keep up the pleasant chomping, and Theo's pants don't need to be off in an alley but they could maybe be unzipped, yeah?

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Theo: a little busy making the nnnngh noise.

But no, he's not going to stop Tristan.

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Tristan would probably be smiling at the nnngh noise if he were a little less busy chomping. As it is, he'll just have to take advantage of those newly unzipped pants. Much easier access, how handy.

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Handy. Yeah. Hahahaha nnngh.

Theo: is apparently a good chew toy to pick if you want someone docile when bitten.

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Mmmmmyeah he sure is. Everyone is having so much fun. It's very nice.

Sooner or later Theo's probably going to start to feel a little dizzy.

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Yeah.

This is sort of wonderful, but Theo's blinking a bit and… his vision might be going a little weird around the edges?

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Huh. How funny. Who could have anticipated that.

It's okay, Tristan can hold him up with his spare hand. And continue chomping.

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… Yep, definitely weird around the edges. He's making fewer noises now, too, and they're a bit weaker.

And eventually he'll probably fall unconscious.

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And a very polite vampire will set him down gently, propped up against the wall, and button Theo's pants for him and drape his own shirt around Theo's shoulders and tuck Theo's into his waistband, and walk off, whistling.

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Theo will remain unconscious for a little while then, probably. Since he just got drained of blood until he was unconscious.

At least he's… probably not dead?

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Would such a polite vampire kill the cute guy he was chomping on? Of course he's not dead.

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Unconscious and not dead for a little while it is, then.

Does anyone stumble across him and possibly take him to the hospital since he should probably get checked out, or does he just have to wake up with a pounding headache and only a really vague recollection of what happened, something like that?

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Don't be ridiculous. No one is silly enough to be wandering the back alleys of Sunnydale after dark.

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Well then, he'll wake up eventually with the aforementioned pounding headache and vague recollection.

But apparently it's not vague enough that he's forgotten he got bitten by Tristan.

He gets up, swaying slightly – which looks really weird because it's almost like he's intentionally swaying with grace, and acting really well to make it seem unintentional – and then shrugs Tristan's shirt off his shoulders, grabbing it before it drops to the floor, then puts on his own shirt.

And then he (somewhat weirdly gracefully) stumbles out of the alleyway.

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It's the middle of the night and pretty dark. The Bronze is closed up; no one else seems to be out at this hour.

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How wonderful.

He thinks he remembers what direction his house is from here, so he starts going that way.

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It is a quiet, if dizzy, walk home.

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And then he is home and he goes upstairs and he just… flops into bed.

Tristan's shirt drops on the floor beside it.

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He has school the next morning.

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He does.

He doesn't feel too dead in the morning, but he doesn't feel great, and he has a shower and then gets into some clothes, notices Tristan's shirt and opts to deal with it later, then has breakfast and finishes getting ready for school and then he's on his way.

Uuugh.

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People at school are milling about as usual. A couple of guys from the jockish group wave or say good morning. One of them comments that he sure went home early last night and they missed him at the Bronze. Another separately says the same thing with significantly more eyebrow-waggling.

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Well, it's nice that they're at least not… you know, being mean about stuff?

He smiles and laughs a bit in response but doesn't talk about it much.

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His morning classes will in that case pass without much excitement.

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And then he goes to the cafeteria for lunch.

Unless there's something on in the library. Or maybe a geography classroom, since the library was just protested against. Perhaps the math block.

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The janitor is in one of the classrooms he passes, wearily cleaning up the remnants of ... a huge water balloon fight? There's definitely a lot of water and scraps of water balloons and stuff that's been knocked over and broken. The culprits aren't anywhere to be seen, though.

Lunch!

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Lunch indeed. Theo grabs some food and goes to sit down with the friendly jock group again.

He still has no idea what the fuck happened last night. He knows he got bitten by Tristan, he knows it was a bit painful and then he fell unconscious, but he has no idea what the fuck that means or anything.

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Friendly jock group says hi! They're discussing the Bronze last night and the possibility of going again on Friday and maybe "pregaming it," except that they don't have a very clear idea of what pregaming it would involve.

No one who looks like Tristan is at lunch, even though he looks about Theo's age. Must be a college student.

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Do they not know what pregaming is, or do they just not know how they'd get ahold of some alcohol to pregame or something? Presumably they plan on getting alcohol if they plan on pregaming and not just pre-Pepsi-ing or something?

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They seem a little unclear on the concept and also don't know how to get alcohol, so there's a sort of very confused three-way debate going on about whether it can really be a pregame if it's not actually before a game, and whether it counts if they don't have alcohol, and whether they should do it at all, and whether maybe they should just hang out and play a game of soccer beforehand, and whether that's what the "game" in "pregame" refers to, and so on and so forth except that no one is really clarifying which of the various issues they're arguing about so they're just all sort of going round in circles.

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Oh.

… Is this a small town thing? Like, he isn't unclear on this, so…? He doesn't really feel up to correcting them all, though, so he won't unless he's asked directly.

Instead, he slowly eats his food.

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...and gets squirted in the back of the head with a water pistol.

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He puts a hand to the back of his head, then turns around to look at the cause of it. "Uh, hi?"

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"Hi! Don't mind me," Em says, waving from the next table over and pocketing her water pistol.

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"Sure, just spray me with water, okay," he says rather incredulously, then turns back to his food.

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He is not further attacked during lunch.

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Great. And then afternoon classes start – well, 'classes', it's apparently a weird club hour thing where they do assorted sports and activities and things since it's a Wednesday afternoon, so he goes to check out what sorts of sports are available and maybe plays tennis or something if people are up for that.

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Faith corners him before he has a chance to find people to play tennis with!

"Hey! So how're you liking Sunnydale?"

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"Wonderfully," he says, sounding the opposite of thrilled. "I didn't know you had such vampires around here, though."

He says it like he might be talking about some horrible group of people at school, like perhaps some of the gossips.

He's not, if that wasn't obvious.

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"Oh thank heck that was like six times easier than I expected. Em!"

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Em approaches from where she has been totally-casually hanging out nearby. "Hi," she says to Theo. "Sorry about the holy water earlier. Safety check, you know how it is."

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"… What?"

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"When you said vampires, you meant, like, vampire vampires, right?"

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"Yyyeah kind of sorta but let me just repeat what?"

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"Okay, look. You can keep it up with the 'what' thing and we can spend the next half hour hinting at each other, or I can fail to give a fuck and just ask you to confirm that, yes, you are literally talking about literal vampires and just trying to keep up plausible deniability so we don't think you're nuttier than a pecan pie."

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"… I got bitten? Last night, by some person. And fell unconscious and woke up at like midnight or something, and I thought oh, maybe he's a vampire or maybe I just had a dizzy spell and he didn't want to have to deal with the weird person who faints in an alleyway and what the fuck."

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"Yep, okay, time for the full talk. Come play chess with us, everyone'll leave us alone if I'm not actually getting into trouble."

There is apparently a nominal chess club with attendance consisting solely of Em and Faith, at least today. Em sets up two boards, and sits between them on one side.

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Faith sits down on the opposite side of one of the boards, in front of the white pieces, leaving the seat next to her with the black pieces open for Theo.

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Theo sits down, looking at the chessboard somewhat disinterestedly, and says, "So?"

Apparently he's not in the best of moods after being left unconscious in an alleyway last night.

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"Vampires are real! And bitey! Also demons and magic."

Permalink Eye

"Yep. Sunnydale has a lot of 'em. Demons is a catchall for, like, various creepy humanoid monstery things, not all of 'em will eat your face but it's a safe guess if you meet one in a dark alley. Magic does some handy stuff and most anyone can learn it. Most, like, specific legends aren't real, no bigfoot or Santa or unicorns. No official word on, like, God-god, but there's various sorta things that get called gods, like Greek-style, and hell dimensions and stuff."

She's playing chess with Faith during the explanation, and moves on the board against Theo as well.

Permalink Eye

Theo will play back, seeming rather absent-minded about it but apparently picking non-terrible moves anyway.

"Uh-huh," he says. "Demons and vampires and magic."

Permalink Eye

"Was that 'I don't believe you' 'uh-huh' or 'sure, I'm cool with that' 'uh-huh'?"

Permalink Eye

"Or 'that is terrifying and I'm going quietly into shock' 'uh-huh'?"

Permalink Eye

"Bit of the first and maybe going into the last, I think."

Permalink Eye

Faith levitates her bishop across the chessboard.

Permalink Eye

Theo looks at the piece, rather confused. Then he looks around it a little bit, just to make sure it's not on some… weird… strings or something? Um.

"Okay, yeah, I think it's the last in that case."

Permalink Eye

"Well. We can give you the two-minute how-not-to-die talk and then you can go pretend this never happened. Or we can give you the long version and you can actually help with getting other people not dead. Or, like, the former now and the latter when you've had a chance to cope. Whatever."

Permalink Eye

"Um. I don't know? I mean, I seem to be coping, but I haven't– actually, like. Um. I don't think I'm actually processing it?" He frowns a little. "Can I get the quick speech and then maybe decide on the longer one after?"

Permalink Eye

"'Kay, cool. Sunnydale is vamp central. Sunlight burns'em, don't go out after dark. Wear a cross, won't definitely keep'em away but makes you look less like fresh meat. Wooden stake through the heart to kill, consider carrying one. Don't invite anyone into your house ever, just like open the door for people, vamps need an invitation. Don't ever say the words 'I wish' to a stranger. Don't read old books out loud. Think that covers it."

Permalink Eye

"How broad is the 'invitation' thing? Like, would beckoning them in count or what? And why not about the wish or the old books?"

Permalink Eye

"Keep on the safe side. Beckoning totally counts. 'C'mon in if you're not a vampire' is safe but you probably can't go around saying that. Welcome mats might or might not count, wouldn't risk it myself. Some demons grant wishes and they're nasty. Old books do magic."

Permalink Eye

"Do they just twist your wish and make it, I dunno, the opposite of what you wanted somehow? I'm just, uh, not sure how… tropey I need to pretend my life is going to get?"

Permalink Eye

"Preeeetty fucking tropey, man. They're more into, like, taking hyperbole literally than getting super twisty, though, so mostly it's about like not saying 'I wish I'd never been born' to random dudes."

Permalink Eye

"I don't really, uh, have a tendency to do that? But if I did, hypothetically, presumably I would actually have not been born? I mean, that would be bad, but it wouldn't actually… be obvious… to anyone, I don't think, that I had not been born and would have otherwise been?"

Permalink Eye

"Ha, yeah, good catch. Hard to find out when it's happened. But at least once a person not being born meant a lot of stuff went wrong in, like, domino ways, and people were like 'you know this shit wouldn't happen if so and so had had a kid,' and then there was this one demon hanging out being smug and gloaty, and people put two and two together."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, right, so the demon still retains the info… You know, it sounds like they could do a lot of damage? I mean, if they're powerful enough to just erase people from being born…"

Permalink Eye

"Uh, yeah. Yeah they can. Which is why they make the two-minute don't-die summary list."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, but I mean, if people just stop wishing around them – is it just that that makes me safer, or are they like, allergic to people who don't go around wishing, or are they just really interested in messing up wishes, or…?"

Permalink Eye

"Nah, it's just, like, how their powers work, they need someone to make a wish before they can grant it."

Permalink Eye

"… Um, okay." He looks rather confused. "So, you guys, what, thought I was something that was allergic to water? And squirted me to check? Expecting me to, I don't know, shrivel up and die in the cafeteria?"

Permalink Eye

"Allergic is a weird way to say it, but yeah, lotsa demons don't like holy water. Not, like, shrivel up and die, though, more like ow fucking ow don't like."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, and you were banking on… the fact I wouldn't want to, like, attack you in the middle of a cafeteria? Or just planning on shooting me with more holy water until I, well, did shrivel up and die?"

Permalink Eye

"Meh. Half the cafeteria thing? If you'd gone after me anyway I'da taken you out, though, but prob'ly not with holy water, you need more like a super soaker than a water pistol to pull that off."

Permalink Eye

"Do you just test all the new kids, then, or did you know about me getting bitten, or what?"

Permalink Eye

"I keep an eye on all the new kids, and my brother said you were being kinda weird in the way he does when he thinks someone's maybe a demon but doesn't wanna say it."

Permalink Eye

"Kinda weird? Like what – anything specific or did I just trigger his paranoia?"

Permalink Eye

"Didn't say. You can try and get the info outta him but, well, good luck with that."

Permalink Eye

Theo is in fact still playing chess against her.

"Okay, well, he seemed nice enough until biology, but I don't know what changed."

Permalink Eye

Em: also still playing both chess games. She's very good.

"Yeah, I dunno. Noticed something, I guess, did you do anything weird?"

Permalink Eye

"We were dissecting brains, but I was doing the work properly instead of messing around like the others were? So, if he's maybe suspicious of people actually doing stuff in class?"

Permalink Eye

"I mean, maaaaybe? If it looked like you were trying too hard to do what you thought a person at school would do, instead of actually being a person? Dunno, though, not like Reuben to disapprove of people following rules. Ask him if you want, but, like, he won't tell you, so."

Permalink Eye

Theo shrugs. "Okay, so that was the short version on 'how not to be killed'? What was the long version – 'how to kill demons', like, are they all evil or do you select for evil or something?"

Permalink Eye

"They are mostly evil, and the ones that aren't evil mostly keep to themselves, and you get to know some of the common ones, and in a pinch you can wait and see if they try and attack you and then kill them if they do. Plus vamps are always evil."

Permalink Eye

He nods. "Okay, so… You expected me to be an evil demon, tried to harm me with holy water, expecting me to not actually attack you despite me being evil because I was in a cafeteria of high school students, and… were hoping to kill me later on? I mean, what if I were a non-evil demon, or I were a demon that wasn't harmed by holy water, or if I did in fact attack you despite the cafeteria, or you weren't strong enough to kill me later on anyway?"

Permalink Eye

"Um, okay, in order: non-evil demons don't usually sneak into high schools, and if they did I'd expect them to get mad and maybe yell at me but not attack me because, hey, not evil. Some demons aren't harmed by holy water but most of'em are, including vamps which, again, most likely, and it's the best check I've got. If you did attack me I'd do my best to move it away from people and then take you out and it'd get written up as 'Em gets into another fight' because Sunnydale is aggressively oblivious. Faith'n'I can take out most demons, if we couldn't take you out we'd run away and regroup and try again with more prep."

Permalink Eye

"… Aggressively oblivious? How exactly can a whole town be 'aggressively oblivious'? But okay, you were going on likelihood and not, like, actually fail-safe or anything."

Permalink Eye

"Man, I dunno, it's not like I'm being oblivious? Maybe there's actually magic that keeps'em from noticing. Maybe everyone's figured it out and just pretends not to. Maybe anyone who's not super oblivious moves away from the prime hellspawn vacation destination."

Permalink Eye

"Prime hellspawn vacation destination? Hey, actually, that's a point, why have I not seen demons before, like, I get bitten by one in a nightclub and then I get sprayed for being a suspected one the next day, that's kinda coincidental."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, Sunnydale's on a Hellmouth, which sucks just as much as it sounds like, big font of mystic energy or whatever that means lotsa nasties end up here. So not actually coincidence."

Permalink Eye

"… Aaaand they're just somehow super super common around here and nowhere else? Like, I'd expect more vampires to go to a city and snack on people there, fewer people to miss, unless they get weaker or die if they get too far from Sunnydale?"

Permalink Eye

"No, no, it's more like -- any time some big-time demon wants to start his world domination plan, he comes here to use the Hellmouth to do it, or big nasties get spit out of the Hellmouth and also there's maybe, like, a subconscious thing drawing demons here. And then others tag along 'cause they wanna be sycophantic at the big guys, and then more 'cause they like hanging out with other demons, and so on."

Permalink Eye

"Ah," he says. "So they all just want to be evil together. Right."

He frowns. Apparently it's not too fun to hear that there are lots of evil monsters in the world. Magical evil monsters.

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, that's kinda the way it goes. So. Wanna join team kill-creepy-monsters?"

Permalink Eye

"Iiif I can, like, make really really sure that they're all super evil and not, uh, just slightly mentally ill or possibly misunderstood or actually just don't get that we're people or you know, something that I wouldn't want to just kill."

Permalink Eye

Em sighs. "Look. I can't in good faith tell you that they're all baby-eating monsters. There's some stuff with green spikes and twelve legs that just wants to live in sewers and raise its creepy deformed babies. But most of the ones in Sunnydale at night are here to eat people, and if you try and pause and reason it out with every single one you're gonna end up super dead, super fast. I mean, it's your call, but."

Permalink Eye

"Like, if they seem demonic and evil, I'm willing to, like, hold them down and threaten them with a spike or something, but I don't think that's particularly conducive to getting out a proper answer of whether they eat people or whatever. I mean, if I see anyone who happens to be chewing down on a person non-consensually, sure, I'll go stab them, but otherwise I might just end up spraying holy water at some innocent sapient, sssso…"

Permalink Eye

"There are, like, way more totally-evil demons than just-normal-people demons," Faith argues. "If we don't fight them, they kill tons of humans! We can't just let them go around eating people 'cause maybe that one demon is just lost and confused wandering around Sunnydale at night!"

Permalink Eye

"Okay, but I'm not saying no, leave all the bad demons to live, I'm just saying, don't go around murdering without checking. If you spot a demon and they're all that obviously terrible, surely you can follow them for like an hour and spot them going to do something terrible and then remove them, like, how many demons do you typically expect to kill anyway?"

Permalink Eye

"Coupla night, average, though it usually bunches up a bit more than that. Have to follow the average demon around way more than an hour before you see'em actually killing someone. And, like, there's two of us, we're good but we're not that good, we kinda like having the element of surprise? I'd like to live to be twenty, you know?"

Permalink Eye

"… Well personally I'd really rather not kill any demons without being pretty sure they're chewing on people or doing something equally horrible. If I 'accidentally' kill some nice demon from a nice race of sapient nonhumans, I… would be really pissed off with myself?"

Permalink Eye

"I mean, yeah, but you gotta run the numbers? I'd be super surprised if we messed up more than one time in a hundred, probably way less than that. If we don't, all those other demons kill people!"

Permalink Eye

"Okay, but either they go killing people really frequently and therefore they're super terrible to live for another day, in which case you can catch them out on being said evil rather easily, or they're less dangerous and less easy to catch, or they're really not very dangerous and also super difficult to catch, which is terrible, but I'd still really rather not go killing innocents? I mean, this is you literally advocating killing a bunch of species based on the typical traits of the species here, and I only have your word on the traits of the species, so…?"

Permalink Eye

"Vampires kill, like, a person every couple of days. That is a lot of people and also a low hourly rate. I can get you books on this shit if you want hundreds of years of documentation? Unless you're gonna decide I, like, forged them all or some shit?"

Permalink Eye

"Nnnno, like, that would definitely make me more inclined to decide to kill a vampire with less provocation, but I'd still rather, like talk to one first or watch a few actually decide to just kill people, like, they still might be people that can be reasoned with – have you tried that? I mean, I wouldn't really expect you to have because they'd bite you if they turned out to be evil and unreasonable, but still?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes. Tried it. Duh. Vampires are always crazy murderous. And mostly kinda dumb, honestly, like you tie'em up and be like 'if I let you go are you gonna keep killing people' and they're like 'yep! people are tasty!'"

Permalink Eye

"Ah," he says. "Okay, but, that sounds like the sort of thing I could test to be more sure, like, I'm not saying 'no I will not kill any demons ever', just, 'no I would rather not kill all these demons on just the say of a stranger that they're evil', which, I think is pretty justified?"

Permalink Eye

"Hey, fair enough, yeah, try not to get yourself killed testing it. Lemme know if you want books, I can point you towards the helpful ones, if you're gonna believe me on 'no that one's a paranoid medieval dude making shit up not a real magician.'"

Permalink Eye

"… So, um, about the magic, uh, people can just do that? Like, I could go find a book about it and pick it up today?"

Permalink Eye

"Totally! I mean, it's hard work to learn, you won't pick it up today, but yeah!"

Permalink Eye

"Buuuut it's a terrible idea," Em clarifies. "I would, like, majorly not recommend it, there's a reason I don't."

Permalink Eye

He blinks and then looks at her a bit warily. "Drawbacks?"

Permalink Eye

"Addictive as fuck."

Permalink Eye

"Among other things!" Faith adds, much more cheerily than the occasion warrants.

Permalink Eye

"Okay, but if you're doing effective stuff with it, or you have some sort of spell you can cast repetitively to take the edge off the addiction, surely it's not actually that bad to be addicted to it? I mean, you have to use the magic, but you'd probably be using the magic anyway, because that's the whole point of wanting to be able to use it in the first place?"

Permalink Eye

"Add-ic-tion," Em says, (im)patiently. "Increasing compulsion for decreasing benefits. Means you wanna do darker and darker stuff, 'cause all the powerful stuff is. And it fucks with your judgement and puts you in a bitch of a mood if you can't use for a while."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, so you just set a hard limit and make really sure you stick to it, like by getting someone else to help you keep track of it, preferably someone you really like and wouldn't just decide to snap on, and then you make sure you always have access to whatever's needed to do it– unless it all requires, like, super large rituals in corn fields on the summer equinox or something?"

Permalink Eye

"And then you get stuck in not-enough-magic-grumpy all the fucking time, which I should mention makes it kinda hard to concentrate on anything including magic, and that's assuming you don't just decide to sneak around the other person, which you can definitely pull off 'cause magic, like, dude, when you hear 'heroin is fun but super addictive' do you go 'meh, I'll just be careful how much I use'?"

Permalink Eye

"But heroin doesn't have other good effects. Like, literally makes you happy and that's it, is not beneficial to fighting off demons."

Permalink Eye

"Riiiight, dude, that's why it's called an 'analogy' and not 'the same fucking thing.' Do you just not get it or are you being deliberately obtuse?"

Permalink Eye

"Right, no, I got you when you said that it leaves you slightly grumpy all the time, like that's a valid reason to not just do like I said, but I was just explaining that–" He cuts himself off and sighs. Grabbing his bag, he gets up and says, "You know what, whatever, see you some other time."

Permalink Eye

Cheerfully: "Bye!"

Permalink Eye

So he goes off to find some people to play tennis with for the last however-long-left of the hour. And then he has gym, so he makes his way over to class.

Permalink Eye

Today they're playing ultimate frisbee! Em is pretty good at it!

Permalink Eye

So is Theo. He's also a little bit frustrated, but that might not be evident.

(It's totally evident.)

Permalink Eye

Em: dooooesn't care! Frisbees! Being tall is so great!

Permalink Eye

Ultimate frisbee will go on for the rest of the hour, then, unless something dramatic interrupts it!

Permalink Eye

Not unless you count Em being dramatically awesome!

Permalink Eye

No. That is not counted.

And then Theo goes home. He's not really in the mood for talking to people and finding out they're going to the Bronze again and maybe getting bit by a vampire, again.

He wants to find Tristan at some point. And probably a wooden stick.

Permalink Eye

Well. Neither of those are immediately apparent in his house.

Permalink Eye

No, they aren't. He might go fetch a stick from the backyard, break it down to easily stake-useable size, and then… keep it on-hand or nearby when he goes around.

He's probably not going to go hunting for vampires tonight.

Permalink Eye

Then he will probably not meet any tonight. Seeing as vampires can't get into people's houses.

Permalink Eye

They can't! That is a wonderful property that vampires have.

He gets up a bit earlier to go do soccer at school – it's Thursday, so they're probably doing it, right?

Permalink Eye

Yep! Em has a new knee brace on but is nevertheless dashing about with the best of them.

Permalink Eye

Well, that's… um, a little worrying. He goes over to them and joins in, provided they're still okay with that.

Permalink Eye

Everyone is friendly! Someone gives him a red ribbon to tie onto one leg to indicate his team. Em headbutts the ball in his direction.

Permalink Eye

Great. He moves backwards to make sure he can control it properly and then starts playing properly.

He's actually pretty good! He is not ridiculously good, but he is definitely rather good!

Permalink Eye

He's definitely the best one there! There's two others who are pretty close -- Em by virtue of sheer athletic ability, and another girl by virtue of being good at soccer specifically -- and a bunch of people ranging from decent-to-good and a handful who seem to be there pretty much just to hang out.

The game breaks up shortly before school starts, and a couple of people comment on his playing and hope he'll be back next week.

Permalink Eye

He will, he thinks, and says as such.

Then he… goes around and talks to some people for a few minutes since school's about to start. First class of the day, he has French.

Permalink Eye

The French teacher is pleased to see him and wants to know how his reading's been going!

Permalink Eye

His reading has been going well! He actually did some more last night, and he's been steadily making his way through the book. It's quite short, so he expects to be done soon. It's also slightly horrific. On account of the whole… indoctrination thingy and horrible plot events.

But he has been working through the book! You know, when not being chewed on by vampires. Not that he says this.

Permalink Eye

Great; here's some questions on it the teacher wrote up, ranging from basic comprehension questions to discussion of the themes and philosophy of the book. Answer in French, complete in the next week or so please.

Classes continue.

Permalink Eye

After French, Theo has bio. With Reuben.

This time he's just gonna go sit with someone else. He's not in the mood for being looked at weirdly and having awkward interactions with a weird paranoid– whatever.

Permalink Eye

Reuben seems just as happy to ignore him.

Permalink Eye

His new lab partner isn't exactly impressive at understanding how neurons work, but on the other hand is neither weird nor paranoid. Biology can pass uneventfully.

Permalink Eye

Wonderful! He tries to make some small talk and interact with them in a friendly way because he'd rather not sabotage any attempt he has at a social life here just because of some stupid supernatural stuff and him being frustrated by people, or anything like that.

Then he has math. Which presumably also passes uneventfully?

Permalink Eye

Someone gets into a big argument with the teacher over late homework and ends up sent to the principal's office. Other than that, uneventful.

Permalink Eye

Owch.

Then it's lunch, and he plans on sitting with the friendly jocks again, because they seem like a nice group for him to try to integrate himself into.

Permalink Eye

They continue to be friendly! Frisbee guy brought a hackey sack today, and people are playing good-natured keepaway with it over the table.

Apparently there's an open spot on the swim team, is he thinking about trying out for that? Or for any sports at the start of next semester?

Permalink Eye

He was not planning on trying out because he didn't know there was even a swim team! He would love to try out for it, though, that sounds fun, and he might have a look at the football team, assuming there is one?

Permalink Eye

Of course there is! This sparks an enthusiastic discussion of the merits of the football team, and also of various cheerleaders. Someone does manage to get a word in edgewise and let him know that they're gonna hold the tryouts tomorrow after school if he wants to come.

Permalink Eye

Thanks, mysterious someone! Theo is plenty happy to talk about the merits of football and the football team, not so excited about the cheerleaders thing but isn't too conspicuously– whatever over it.

He's glad these people are so nice and normal.

Permalink Eye

So normal! It's great.

A tall guy in glasses notices Theo's lack of cheerleader-related enthusiasm and awkwardly tries to include him -- noticed any, uh, cute guys? How'd that one guy at the Bronze work out for you?

Permalink Eye

Theo snorts a bit. "He was okay but it didn't quite work out," he says. "Thanks, though."

And then back to cheerleader-related conversation? He's okay with it, he can comment if he knows who any of them are whether they look pretty or something, but eh.

Permalink Eye

Yeah everyone's just as happy to go back to talking about cheerleaders.

Lunch wraps up.

Permalink Eye

And in the afternoon today, he has Geography! With Reuben. But then he has English! Also with Reuben.

Ugh.

Permalink Eye

Reuben will continue to carefully ignore him unless Theo approaches him first.

Permalink Eye

Theo does not approach Reuben! Not until the very end of the day, when he very smilingly gets up from his English desk, walks over to Reuben's, smiles at the various people around him while giving Reuben a bit of a look, and then places a hand on the desk, leans over slightly menacingly, and asks, "What the hell did you think I was?"

He's smiling as he asks it, though! Admittedly, the smile is also rather menacing, so it's maybe not going to convince Reuben that he's okay, but it's a smile! That's positive, right?

Permalink Eye

Reuben is trying to look polite, but it's pretty strained. "I'm sorry, I don't know what you're talking about."

Permalink Eye

"Wonderful." Theo looks around – anyone in evidence? How much of a show can he put on for Reuben, here?

Permalink Eye

The last couple of people are filtering out -- Reuben had stayed behind to ask a question about the homework. If he waits another minute or so the room will be totally empty.

Permalink Eye

He'll wait another moment or so, sure, and then he'll turn back to Reuben and commence the start of his menacing act. "What," he repeats. "Did you think. I was."

Permalink Eye

"I told you, I don't know what you're going on about. Do you have a problem?" Reuben's gathering up his stuff and cramming it into his backpack any which way.

Permalink Eye

That's fine! He can totally gather up his stuff. Theo won't stop him.

"Yeah, apparently I do? Something that made you think I was– oh, I don't know, unholy or something weird, something bigoted like that?"

Permalink Eye

"If this is because I'm Catholic, that's not how it works, I don't have a problem with you." Reuben stands and shoulders his backpack.

Permalink Eye

He raises an eyebrow. "So what is your problem with me then? Because whatever it is, you for some reason decided to notify your sister about me being mysteriously special which led her to spray me with holy water." He narrows his eyes. "Care to explain?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't tell my sister what to do. Take it up with her. Good afternoon." Reuben moves to leave.

Permalink Eye

Theo side-steps to get in his way! "No, you might well not tell her what to do, but you directed her to me."

Permalink Eye

Deep breath. "Look, buddy, I dunno what your deal is. I'm not the right person if you're looking for a fight, I'm just gonna yell for a teacher."

Permalink Eye

He sighs and rolls his eyes. "I'm not looking for a fight, you idiot, I want to know why the hell you thought I was some sort of– hellspawn or whatever the fuck."

Permalink Eye

Reuben starts to say something and then takes another deep breath, visibly counts to ten. "And I'm telling you I don't know what you mean, and I'd like to go home now. Please get out of my way."

Permalink Eye

"You don't know what I mean? What do you mean you don't know what I mean, are you just making stuff up and lying to me about whether you accused me of being evil, because like, that really doesn't seem like the nicest course of action here."

Permalink Eye

"I don't think you're evil. People aren't. I'm sure you're very nice. I'm leaving now." He tries to step around Theo.

Permalink Eye

Theo doesn't step to get in his path again, but he does look frustrated – not angrily, just kinda pitifully. "I don't even know how I acted to make you think I was a demon, like, I'm new here, and I literally spent– what, like two days here and you decided that I probably-evil enough to tell your sister I seemed like a demon?"

Permalink Eye

Reuben walks past him but turns at the doorway to answer. "Look, man, I dunno how you think Catholicism works but that's not it. I don't think you're evil? Do you need to see a counselor or something?"

Permalink Eye

He puts a hand to his forehead, shrugs and sighs. "Just–" He shakes his head. "Nevermind."

Permalink Eye

Reuben looks a little concerned but says "okay" and leaves.

Permalink Eye

Theo takes a minute and then follows out the door after him and goes home-wards.

Permalink Eye

Mostly everyone's already headed home. No one bothers him.

Permalink Eye

Then he gets home. And does some homework – reads the French book a bit and does some of the questions.

Again, his house presumably does not get broken into by weird demons or bombarded by vampires.

Permalink Eye

Nope. Any weird demons seem to be leaving him alone.

Permalink Eye

And if he happens to text someone he knows, one of the jocks he's been speaking to at lunch, and ask if people are going to the Bronze tonight, what will the answer be?

Permalink Eye

He actually isn't, he has family stuff, but several of the other jocks are! There's some sort of trivia night. Theo should go!

Permalink Eye

He thinks he will!

He dresses up smart-casual again and assesses how dark it is outside and then decides that yes, he will in fact carry his makeshift stake with him.

Then he leaves the house – and tells his dad where he's going – and makes his way over to the Bronze. Does he encounter Tristan on the way? Does he get attacked by miscellaneous demons? He doesn't know. But he could be. Maybe.

Permalink Eye

No surprise attacks. There was maybe something moving in the bushes over there but also maybe it was just a squirrel, and it doesn't move again after the once.

Permalink Eye

He doesn't go over to the bushes to check – he's not suicidal – and so he supposes he gets to the Bronze just fine, all in one piece.

Any Tristans inside?

Permalink Eye

Will you look at that. Just sort of hanging around on the edges, today, watching the crowd.

Permalink Eye

Theo does not approach! Theo goes over to the jock guys and talks to them for a bit and maybe gets a drink and makes sure he knows precisely where his stake is and that he can grab it and tries not to catch Tristan's attention too much but doesn't worry too much if he does.

Maybe later, he'll ask Tristan to dance again.

Permalink Eye

Tristan is definitely watching him. And smiling a little bit. It's really more a "lost in contemplation of puppies and rainbows" smile than a "I am an evil creature of the night" smile.

Permalink Eye

Jock guys are happy to chat! One of them has managed to pass off a fake ID and is being very smug about his cheap beer.

Permalink Eye

… Uh, congratulations to him? Theo's okay with just soda or whatever.

Do they do anything interesting in the– oh, let's say twenty minutes before Theo decides to go talk to Tristan?

Permalink Eye

A couple of them go play pool. One of them tries to chat up a girl and fails hilariously. Otherwise, nah, they're mostly just waiting for the trivia game to start in like half an hour.

Permalink Eye

Well. Maybe Theo will be back in time for trivia. He looks over at Tristan.

Maybe not.

Tristan-wards he goes, telling the guys he'll be back later.

Permalink Eye

Tristan catches his eye as he approaches and then breaks eye contact. He's possibly blushing a little.

Permalink Eye

Awww. Such a cute little not-quite-murderous freak.

Theo smiles at him! "Hey." Then he pretends to be slightly politely confused. "What happened last night?"

Permalink Eye

"Hey there." He looks pretty pleased to see Theo. "What do you mean, exactly?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't really, um," he starts, then hesitates a bit. "I don't really… remember how it ended?"

Permalink Eye

"Well." Tiny smile. "We could refresh your memory. ...If you wanted."

Permalink Eye

He smiles back. "I think I'd like that."

Shall they dance first? Or shall they just skip right to the action?

Permalink Eye

Well. People are kind of clearing off the dance floor to get ready for the trivia anyway. So if Theo's not too committed to playing trivia games...

Permalink Eye

Theo is in fact not too committed to playing trivia games! So. Skip to the action it is?

Permalink Eye

There are definitely no complaints about that here. Tristan keeps smiling and smiling at Theo and then noticing he's doing it and dropping his gaze and trying to pull himself together a little bit.

That back door is still available.

Permalink Eye

Theo smiles back at him, also seeming somewhat shy but not majorly so.

And then, indeed, the back door is still available and through it they can go. And then Theo is on Tristan, kissing him.

Permalink Eye

Mm yes Tristan will kiss back he will do that very enthusiastically.

Permalink Eye

Theo continues to kiss back, then pushes Tristan against the wall, continues to kiss him, and then– huh, there seems to be a wooden stake in his hand, and it seems to be hovering over Tristan's heart, and Theo seems to be holding Tristan otherwise in place.

Maybe he's just into the thrill of the chase. Who knows.

Permalink Eye

Tristan makes a strangled sound and flinches as far away as the wall will allow. "Aah! What the hell!"

Permalink Eye

"I haven't stabbed you yet," he says. "So. Vampire? Care to gimme some more information on the topic?"

He looks at Tristan somewhat menacingly. "Oh, just a sec," he says, then kisses him, leans in closer, holds the stake closer, and breaks the kiss. "That's just for if I have to kill you."

Permalink Eye

Nngh great now he's looking really torn between being kissed by hot menacing Theo and being menaced by hot menacing Theo.

"Please don't kill me! What do you want to know?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, you know, nothing much. Just local haunts, how many friends you have, who you typically eat if you eat many people, how many people you've killed, how many people you tend to kill how often, if you have alternative dietary choices, and what the hell that bite was."

Permalink Eye

"That's a lot of things can you ask them one at a time! And also be careful with the pointy thing, please! Um. ...One friend? I guess? I eat about once a week I haven't been keeping track of how many people exactly did I eat someone you like I'm sorry!"

Permalink Eye

"… Do you kill most people you eat? Because I have no idea why you left me alive in that case."

He is in fact being careful with the pointy thing. It's very carefully against Tristan's chest, threatening in case he decides to move to try to attack Theo, but is unlikely to be driven in accidentally.

Permalink Eye

"...mooostly? It's really hard not to! I'm working on it! I was trying to not kill you and I didn't!"

Permalink Eye

Theo blinks. "Do you have particular reason not to kill people?"

Permalink Eye

"...because I like biting hot guys and I'd like to be able to bite the same hot guy more than once?"

Permalink Eye

Theo laughs. "I am inclined to say that is a terrible reason but really it sounds. Um. Rather great? Like. Um."

Is it bad that he almost admires that morality. Or lack thereof. Yes. It's totally bad.

"That kiiiinda sounds hot."

Permalink Eye

Brilliant smile. "Does it."

Permalink Eye

"It," he says. "It really. Rather does."

He kiiiinda wants to just see if this guy is okay just not killing people in the future and then that sounds okay for him so long as he has ethically sourced bites from people who are okay with biting.

Such as Theo.

But.

"Are you opposed to. Uh. Shall I say 'ethically sourced bites'. Meaning. From people who don't object. Maybe?"

Permalink Eye

"Are. Um." Grin. Look down. Look back up. "You offering?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't know how much blood you need. So I don't know if I could literally survive. But. Maybe. If you're actually properly careful. Which it might take me a while to trust properly. And you're otherwise good."

Permalink Eye

"I can stop before I take too much. Like I did yesterday. And I promise I'll be as careful as I can. And I'll make it feel nice."

Permalink Eye

"… I'd also like to preferably remain conscious after you do it, if possible. And maybe ask you to take me nearer my house so I don't have to stumble home practically-drunkly like I did the other night."

Is he seriously bargaining with a vampire about how much blood gets drained when he gets bitten? Yes. And the vampire seems surprisingly nice about it. So.

"And the good thing. I'd really rather you were good otherwise, because if you're not, there's no incentive for me to, like, continue this arrangement."

Permalink Eye

"Really. No incentive."

Permalink Eye

"I could find someone else to just plain old bite me. And I'm sure if you're incentivized enough by biting people other vampires are too. … For that matter, have you tried animal blood, I hear that might work, and I'd still let you bite me."

Permalink Eye

"Mmm, I'm not sure it's going to be that easy to find someone who knows how to make it nice and won't just drink it all. But all right, I'll behave." He glances down at the stake. "You could move that, and we could ... go back to your place..."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not inviting you in," he says. "Definitely not today." He looks Tristan up and down a bit. "But I am not wholly against. Certain activities."

He moves the stake back a bit, letting Tristan move a little more freely, and he happens to still be rather close, so.

Permalink Eye

He's not going anywhere nearer the stake than he has to, so there's not about to be any kissing. But he'll take advantage of that extra space to get his hands on Theo, at least.

Permalink Eye

And if Theo turns the stake to the side a little and leans in?

Permalink Eye

Oh, in that case. Kissing! That passes quickly from nervous into passionate, and possibly wanders to be mouthing at Theo's jawline.

Permalink Eye

Mouthing is definitely okay.

Biting is probably okay.

Biting and feeding is. Maybe okay in moderation.

Permalink Eye

There is gentle nibbling, for now, just barely teeth against skin, which may or may not have something to do with the continued existence of the stake.

Tristan seems to be enjoying himself, in any case, from the little noises he's making.

Permalink Eye

Theo is also enjoying himself! He might be getting distracted a bit. He's not putting down the stake just yet, but he is definitely enjoying himself.

Permalink Eye

Mmmmutual enjoyment.

He can't exactly get Theo's shirt off while he's holding a stake, but he can tug the neckline down a little bit to expand his nibbling range.

Permalink Eye

In that case… Theo will somewhat hesitantly pocket the stake and take off his shirt. Hoping Tristan doesn't decide this is the moment to break his neck.

Permalink Eye

Tristan does not appear even the least bit neck-breaking inclined. And it's not like he's being subtle about what he's inclined towards. There is quite a bit of appreciative smiling at the stripping Theo.

He's biting a little harder now that the stake is gone, but still human-toothed, and returning occasionally to kisses.

Permalink Eye

That… is good! Theo is very in the mood for this. Being bitten is fun, wow, he would be just the best vampire's toy – not that he wants to be a vampire's chewtoy.

Permalink Eye

Tristan certainly thinks he's a good toy.

Eventually he bites his way up Theo's neck and murmurs into his ear, "...Did you want to go closer to your house?"

Permalink Eye

"Right now?" he asks, managing to be coherent despite the biting. "I'm more curious about your house, provided it's not somewhere horrible."

Permalink Eye

"Mm." Tristan gets distracted for a moment nibbling on his ear. "How horrible is an attic?"

Permalink Eye

"… An attic is okay provided you didn't, like, murder all the people that were living in the house?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, no need, it's a house converted into a store, no one uses the attic but me and no one's there at night. It's not far." (Bite.) "I could show you..."

Permalink Eye

Theo is indeed bitten. It might be compromising his judgement.

He goes with "yes," despite knowing that he should possibly not.

Permalink Eye

But see how much it makes Tristan smile!

He knows the way well enough that he can wrap an arm around Theo's waist and pay a lot more attention to where his hand is wandering than to where he's walking.

It's really not far at all.

Permalink Eye

Theo is being just a little bit wary – he knows exactly where the stake is, he knows that they have an aversion to certain holy symbols, not that he has one on him, he knows– okay, he knows that he's basically screwed if Tristan turns on him, so really, he's not being wary enough.

But. Tristan's hand is wandering and Tristan is very cute and Tristan seems like he's going to be good and so Theo would really rather not have to kill him.

Then, presumably, they arrive.

Permalink Eye

Here it is! Tristan has a key that more or less fits the back door and jiggles the handle a bit and gets them in, and then pulls down a ladder from a door in the ceiling and waves Theo up into his attic.

Permalink Eye

Theo indeed does go up into Tristan's attic, hoping that there are no dead bodies or creepy coffins or anything.

Permalink Eye

Nope. Just a bunch of packing boxes and a pallet and a TV with a cracked screen, oh, and a vampire, there's that.

Permalink Eye

Well then, Theo can just go right back to kissing Tristan in the attic because that is the thing they're doing.

Permalink Eye

Oh no, the vampire has a shirtless Theo in his evil clutches. Whatever will he do with him.

(Kiss him. And bite him. Hard, occasionally, but blunt-toothed, he's not in a hurry.)

Permalink Eye

This is a little bit frightening in a really fun way, and it involves teeth.

Theo is grinning. Apparently he's having quite a bit of fun here.

Permalink Eye

Tristan is also having fun.

After a while, he plants a particularly hard bite on Theo's shoulder, glances up through his eyelashes with a bit of a shy smile, and tackles Theo onto the pallet. (Apparently vampires are also quite a bit stronger than humans.)

Permalink Eye

Theo is tackled, in that case! And also very strongly bitten on.

But, you know, he signed up for it, and he enjoys it, so. Apparently he is bitten on and tackled.

Permalink Eye

And with Theo suitably tackled, Tristan can straddle his waist and nibble very gently at the inside of his wrist and smile delightedly.

"Still willing...?"

Permalink Eye

"I–" starts Theo, eyeing Tristan from his current tackled position. "Yeah."

Permalink Eye

Tristan smiles at him and kisses the inside of his wrist before chomping.

It's still very pleasant.

Permalink Eye

Y– yeah.

Theo will just be busy being chomped on right here, thanks muchly.

Permalink Eye

Mmmmmm.

And after Theo gets a bit lightheaded but before he actually passes out Tristan yanks himself away from the wrist and tilts his head back, still in vamp-face, eyes closed, breathing heavily as he gets himself under control.

Permalink Eye

Theo can try to be quiet, in that case, or, you know, whatever.

Since he's a bit lightheaded anyway.

Permalink Eye

And after a minute his face goes un-vamp-y with a crunching sound and he smiles blissfully at Theo.

"How are you holding up?"

Permalink Eye

Lovely crunching sound.

"Li'l bit woozy," he says. "Mostly okay, I think."

Permalink Eye

"Mmm. Gooood. You're pretty and tasty." He bends down to kiss Theo.

Permalink Eye

"Mm, thanks," Theo smirks.

Permalink Eye

Tristan grins back and rolls off Theo, stretches out next to him on the pallet to kiss him lazily.

Permalink Eye

Theo responds to the kiss rather well, considering how he's somewhat drained of blood.

Permalink Eye

Given the blood-drainage, Tristan's not angling for anything more than kissing at the moment.

After a while, he comments, "You know, if you ever want ... that's even better from the other side."

Permalink Eye

"Huh?" asks Theo. Still a bit woozy, apparently.

Permalink Eye

Tristan just laughs at him and kisses him again. "Something to think about for later. You can sleep here, if you won't be missed at home."

Permalink Eye

… He thinks a bit, then says, "I should probably get home."

Permalink Eye

Kiss. Nibble. "Shall I walk you there, or carry you?"

Permalink Eye

"… Walk," he says. "I think."

Permalink Eye

"Mmkay."

And then he gets distracted with kissing and nibbling but does eventually let Theo get up.

Permalink Eye

And eventually after being distracted rather thoroughly, Theo does get up. And kiss Tristan again, once he's up.

Permalink Eye

Theo is such a good distraction. Tristan is pretty easily distracted.

But eventually they make it down the stepladder and out of Tristan's lair and he will let Theo lead the way home.

Permalink Eye

Theo will in fact lead the way home! And then they will be at his house, and he'll turn around to kiss Tristan one last time before – "Do you have a phone or something? Like, so I have a way to contact you."

Permalink Eye

"I have an email address I check every day or so. It's, um, side of bite at hotmail dot com, underscores between the words." He looks a little embarrassed and covers it by kissing Theo again.

Permalink Eye

Theo giggles a little and then his mouth is covered.

He is not objecting.

Permalink Eye

Mmm.

"Good night, Theo."

Permalink Eye

"Goodnight," he responds with a stupid grin on his face, opening the door and entering his house.

Permalink Eye

Tristan watches him go and then vanishes off into the shadows.

Permalink Eye

 

The next day, Theo is at school as usual!

Permalink Eye

Faith is hanging out in the hallway, giggling herself silly, showing off card tricks to anyone who'll play along.

They're ... pretty impressive card tricks. No, wait, that shuffle she just did was positively unnatural, blatantly implausibly impressive card tricks.

Permalink Eye

Theo is not really planning on talking to Faith unless she happens to approach him! Instead, he'll be talking to another group of people, not the friendly jocks today, because he doesn't want to declare himself part of one particular clique too early.

Permalink Eye

There's a bunch of people from the science team giggling as they try to direct a little remote-controlled lego robot around the hall. Some vaguely punk-ish guys are lounging about and passing earbuds back and forth to listen to each other's music. One of the more popular girls has lost her math homework and a small crowd of guys has gathered around her offering to let her copy off them. A few 4H kids are complaining back and forth about the difficulties of pig-rearing.

Permalink Eye

That… is a little weird for a conversation topic, but okay, sure.

Theo goes to stand with one of the groups that seems friendly. There is hopefully at least one.

Permalink Eye

They all seem reasonably friendly!

Permalink Eye

He can… go talk to the group of guys that are surrounding the popular girl then?

Permalink Eye

They are indeed friendly! Maybe even more so towards him than they're being towards most of the other guys in the crowd -- possibly the school rumor mill works fast enough that they're confident he's not competition.

(Popular girl is unimpressed by all of them. She is apparently in fact good at math and doesn't want to copy their homework because too much of it is wrong.)

Permalink Eye

… Theo is good at math and if he's done the same homework he probably has the right answers, so if she does in fact want to copy some accurate homework she could probably copy off him, but, uh, he doesn't think he's going to volunteer it because that might get some angry looks?

But yeah, he's fine with the school rumor mill spreading that. So long as it doesn't result in people being dicks, because he is definitely not going to be in the mood for that, and it might result in some punching.

Permalink Eye

No one seems inclined to make an issue of anything right now, in any case. They are busily debating the correct approach to #17-23, odds. (A guy with a skateboard and backwards baseball cap takes advantage of the distraction to try to talk Popular Girl into going to a movie with him, without much success.)

Permalink Eye

If they're not debating it too angrily, he will step in and suggest how he did those questions. But, you know, he doesn't want to get into the middle of anything.

Permalink Eye

No one is mustering up that much emotion about math at this hour of the morning. He can safely participate.

Eventually it is time for classes.

Permalink Eye

Woo, class.

So he'll just sit here and think about what he's gonna do with Mr Vampire. Also the demon hunter people.

Permalink Eye

None of his classes are sufficiently exciting to distract him much from this.

Permalink Eye

Is there anything exciting at lunch?

Permalink Eye

Not unless he's particularly interested in the elections for student president.

Permalink Eye

He is not! Wonderful.

Wonderful wonderful wonderful.

What the fuck does he do with the vampire.

Permalink Eye

Unless he would like to vote for the vampire for student president, no one has any suggestions for him.

Afternoon classes proceed as usual.

Permalink Eye

Then it gets to the end of the day and Theo opts not to go looking for the vampire and opts not to email the vampire and opts to instead go home, meanwhile thinking about, focusing on, wondering about the vampire and the problem he presents.

It's not like Theo can do much. It's not like Theo can look after a lot of vampires. It's not like a lot of vampires are willing to be looked after. He is probably in over his head.

His phone buzzes to remind him it's swim tryouts after school today. Apparently he is not in fact going home today, in that case, and is going swimming instead.

Permalink Eye

The swimming pool is over this way! There's changing rooms, and guys in varying states of clothes or swimsuits hanging out on the bleachers chatting since the coach isn't here yet.

Permalink Eye

Theo will shortly be in varying states of clothing! Then he will be changed into a swimsuit and be ready to go.

Permalink Eye

The coach: apparently not yet ready to go!

There are various reasonably friendly-looking guys hanging about, mostly in swimsuits at this point, as well as a few girls who've come to watch. A guy with a pierced ear and excessively shaggy hair is attempting to borrow a hair tie to get the aforesaid hair out of his eyes for swimming; a tall muscular guy is ... yeah, "leering" seems accurate ... at the girls; a short guy with a buzzcut is gnawing on an enormous raw carrot and staring vacantly into space.

Permalink Eye

… That seems weirdly suspicious.

Theo goes and chats to some of the reasonably friendly-looking guys.

Permalink Eye

Shaggy dude has obtained a hairtie and is now chatty! "You're the new guy, right?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah! Hey, I'm Theo."

Permalink Eye

"Dodd. You swim at your old school?"

Permalink Eye

"Not for the team, but I used to swim pretty often, every week-ish?"

Permalink Eye

"Cool! We could use that, the swim team here kinda sucks honestly."

Permalink Eye

"Means I have a chance of getting in, at least."

Permalink Eye

"Just as long as you don't place me out!" Dodd laughs. "Pretty sure I need the coolness boost more than you do."

Permalink Eye

He shrugs. "Swimming's probably good for that, yeah."

Permalink Eye

The coach shows up at last and tells everyone to get in the water and swim a warm-up lap.

Permalink Eye

Theo does so! Relatively promptly.

He looks sort of like he was born to swim. Ish. His technique could use some work, but he definitely looks like swimming feels natural to him.

Permalink Eye

Well that's promising. The coach definitely looks interested.

When everyone's had a chance to swim the length of the pool a couple of times, he gives a bizarrely overhyped pep talk about how the glorious swim team of Sunnydale High is going to rise to victory over its ignoble opponents, and then starts having them race in different strokes and clicking his stopwatch a lot and writing times down on his clipboard with great intensity.

Permalink Eye

… Uh-huh.

Weirdo. Theo hopes you're not a demon.

Permalink Eye

And eventually they're done! Thank you, all of you heroic young men, for supporting the incredible Sunnydale High! Long live its swim team! Results will be posted on his office door tomorrow!

Permalink Eye

Theo hopes to live long! Theo does not really hope to be in the swim team necessarily anymore! Maybe the guy is just weird, maybe not!

Are any of the weird people available? Em, perhaps, Em is probably not available because swim practice but is Em in fact available?

Permalink Eye

Em: does not appear to be available. Pretty much everyone who was not trying out for swim practice has gone home.

Permalink Eye

Okay, well, he will also go home and then try to find Em on social media.

Permalink Eye

Well, he doesn't have a last name to work with, and Facebook isn't offering any helpful people-you-may-know suggestions for just "Em."

Permalink Eye

No mutual friends with, like, rando jock whose name he knows who he can hopefully find? Or like a few friends away from that guy?

Permalink Eye

Apparently not.

...There's a "Reuben" who's friends with a couple of these people and whose profile says he goes to Sunnydale High, though.

Permalink Eye

Ooh, does he have a profile pic? Does he look like that guy from bio-or-chem-or-whatever who freaked out? (Bio. It was bio, since he freaked out when there were organs being thrown around. Bio.)

Permalink Eye

His profile picture is close-cropped and slightly blurry, like it's from a much larger photo, and he's wearing a nice suit and squinting a little from the flash, but yep, identifiably guy-from-bio.

Permalink Eye

Maaaaybe he will add Theo if Theo adds him.

Permalink Eye

Maybe. Doesn't appear to be responding right away, in any case.

Permalink Eye

And Theo can't access his friends list and find an Em anywhere…?

Permalink Eye

....a little poking around reveals an "M Hopkins" listed as his sister, with an unhelpful blurry smudge of a profile picture.

Permalink Eye

… That seems like it could probably be her? He adds her as a friend anyway and drops her a message to say the coach is acting strangely.

He's not sure she'll get it until/unless she adds him, but he seems to be able to send it, at least.

Permalink Eye

She pings him back promptly.

Theo! Heyyyyyyyyyy
Any particular kind of weird?!?

Permalink Eye

He was being extremely intense about it all, which could just be him being weird, but there was also a grand speech and it sounded like I was in a bad TV show with a megalomaniacal… coach.

Permalink Eye

huh...........
did he say "don't you wish" or stuff like that??
or "I'm sure you're all eager to get first place and win the honor of being sacrificed to -- never mind"
sometimes they do that

Permalink Eye

It was more how we are going to triumph over our dishonorable opponents.
And a lot of stopwatch clicking.
Possibly nothing, but.

Permalink Eye

no no we'll look into it!!!
thanks for the tip ;)
let me know if you want to play!!!!!!

Permalink Eye

… No thanks.

Okay and now he can just, like, sleep for a few hours because you know getting bitten and half-drained of blood and then going swimming the next day: kinda dizzying.

Permalink Eye

He is undisturbed.

Permalink Eye

He emails side_of_bite early the next day. By which is meant he wakes up at 6am and feels like utter shit and thinks that he should message to meet up with the vampire so he gets a response at some point before Monday hopefully.

And then he'll go sleep for a bit longer.

Permalink Eye

He can do both of those things!

There's no response for him when he wakes up, but, you know, vampire. Nocturnal.

Permalink Eye

Is there a response from Reuben yet?

Permalink Eye

Reuben has added him back! Now he can see all the exciting things on Reuben's facebook page, like "goes to Sunnydale High" and "works at St. Timothy's" and a wall of the world's most innocuous posts ("so proud of my beautiful sister for getting second place in the science fair!")

Permalink Eye

Theo sends a message:

Care to tell me what's wrong with me?

A bit… fighty or something, but the dude had something against him, so.

Permalink Eye

He gets a response back after a few minutes.

I'm sorry, what? I don't think anything's wrong with you?

Or is this a medical question? If it's urgent you should probably call 911.

Permalink Eye

This is not a medical question.
I don't think.

Permalink Eye

Okay? What's going on, how can I help?

Permalink Eye

You freaked out in Bio and then brushed it off and I was wondering why.

Permalink Eye

Oh, yeah. I'm sorry about that. I was having a hard day. Nothing to do with you.

Permalink Eye

If you say so.

Permalink Eye

I really didn't mean to hurt your feelings. Especially on your first day at a new school. I'm sorry.

Permalink Eye

It's okay.

But he'd still like to know why you reacted that way.

Permalink Eye

Thank you. :)

But he's not sharing.

Permalink Eye

Well Theo goes and has some breakfast and says hey to his dad and then has some homework to get to.

Permalink Eye

No, he doesn't.

Specifically, the saying hey part.

Well. He can attempt to say hey. He will however fail to produce any sound.

Permalink Eye

Excuse.

What.

What if he tries saying something else, like 'dad' or 'Theo' or 'my voice is gone' or the digits of pi or this all in a foreign language?

(He waves at his dad when he is noticed.)

Permalink Eye

His voice just seems to be gone.

(His dad can wave back, but can't seem to say anything either.)

Permalink Eye

His dad is confused by this.

Permalink Eye

Theo gets a pad of paper and writes: It's probably just a bug.

Permalink Eye

William does not look super impressed by this.

Permalink Eye

Theo waves and off he goes because he's got things to do–

– and then when he's back in his bedroom he messages Em and asks: Do you know what might happen to make people lose their voices?

Permalink Eye

I was wondering how long it'd take you to notice that

is 'magic' the answer you're looking for

Permalink Eye

Did you do it?

Permalink Eye

nope

dunno who. we're on it.

Permalink Eye

Is it everyone or has it just targeted some people and should I stop bugging you so you can keep working or what?

Permalink Eye

got everyone in my house and some other people in town

but definitely not everyone everywhere

best guess for now is it's just sunnydale

you can help if you want??? but i didn't think you wanted

Permalink Eye

I didn't realize it was an ongoing thing and I kinda don't want to be left in the dark about my voice going missing so uh yeah I'm up for helping if there's something?

Permalink Eye

i mean there's always SOMETHING happening and it didn't seem like you were into being involved

but yeah sure we can always use an extra pair of hands

Permalink Eye

Where should I meet? And are we just texting for communication or what.

Permalink Eye

yeah p much? except reuben's a nerd who writes faster than he types so he's doing that

i know a lil bit of sign language but not all that much and im the only one anyhow

She adds a house address.

Permalink Eye

He grabs a bag and puts in some convenient things – pencil, water, food – and then goes downstairs and waves to his dad.

Permalink Eye

Who frowns at him but doesn't actually stop him.

Permalink Eye

And then he replies:

I know a bit but not much. Omw.

Permalink Eye

There's a few people in the streets looking various configurations of confused and panicked, but not a lot. Presumably this is at least in part because it's too early for most people to have woken up and noticed a lack of voice.

The address is for a house in the bad part of town (insofar as Sunnydale has a bad part of town), with cracked siding and an extremely purple paint job and flowers that are overflowing the flowerbeds and invading the lawn.

Permalink Eye

'Hello?' he tries – and, of course, fails – to ask.

He sighs at himself, then gets out his phone to let Em know he's here.

Permalink Eye

The front door shortly thereafter opens to reveal an Em, who raises an eyebrow and points at the doorbell.

Permalink Eye

He waves and totally ignores the pointing and walks towards the house.

Permalink Eye

She rolls her eyes but steps aside to let him in.

There's a little hanging bowl of water affixed to the wall just inside the door; Em looks at Theo pointedly, dips her fingers into it, then steps back and gestures between him and the bowl.

Permalink Eye

He… looks at it slightly blankly. Then motions as if to put his hand in, tilting his head.

Permalink Eye

Impatient nod.

Permalink Eye

He does it!

There is no hissing or burning or anything.

Permalink Eye

Em gives him a thumbs-up and leads him into the kitchen.

Permalink Eye

He follows!

Permalink Eye

Reuben is there, wearing an apron and making pancakes and bacon on the stove. He smiles at Theo, only a little awkwardly, and gives a tiny wave.

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Faith is sitting perched on the back of a chair, tilting it back on two legs, with one foot on the edge of the kitchen table for balance. She's too interested in the book to look up and acknowledge Theo.

 

The table is covered with other books, plus notebooks and pencils and two open laptops and other miscellaneous research materials. Apparently they've got quite the project going.

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… Right.

Not having a voice is annoying, types Theo into his phone, and then fortunately since it has such wonderful accessibility features he can have it spoken aloud by a not-so-monotonous voice. Hello.

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Reuben puts down the whisk to retrieve a notebook and write Hi Theo! :) in neat print over half a page, and holds it up with a bright smile.

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Faith pulls a laptop over and types briskly. "No kidding, it's the worst," the laptop says for her. In an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice.

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Of course.

"Typing on my phone is probably faster than writing."

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Type type. "Reuben is the only one writing. The rest of us are typing too."

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Em sits down in front of some research she appears to be in the middle of, and gestures towards an empty chair.

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Reuben, meanwhile, has returned to cooking.

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Theo sits and has a look at the covers of some of the books.

Or if Em points him to something in particular, that.

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Em hands him a sheet of lined paper torn from a notebook. It's got a bullet-pointed outline for the project in barely-legible handwriting, with occasional translations written above a line in Reuben's neat block print. At the top there's a list of major resources, some of them accompanied with notes on what they've found, others not yet looked into. Beneath that, there's a list of various hypotheses as to the cause (magical plague, vengeance demon, demon curse, spell gone wrong...) and some potential ways to test each. Then there's general-purpose damage control measures, and finally a list of research threads that are looking promising.

Various things have M or F written in the margins next to them; others are crossed out or checked off. Also, either there's an elaborate color-coding system going on, or they just got really overenthusiastic with gel pens.

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Anything he could help with in the research threads or the general-purpose damage control?

Also – "What's the color-coding for?"

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Em glances at the list, back at Theo, then waves a hand in a vaguely dismissive sort of way.

The "damage control" heading includes "graveyard," "morgue," "curfew," "hellmouth," "blessings," and "wards." The research threads are a bit more muddled with modifications, but they seem to include "Pythagoreans/Trappists," "LGBT (UC wicca???)" and "Prophet (Cass/Zach??)," with further notes and citations listed in a more-or-less disorderly fashion below each.

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He points at the 'Pythagoreans/Trappists' thing and tilts his head! Also 'Cass/Zach'.

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She shoves the P volume of an encyclopedia and a copy of the Rule of St. Benedict, both with bookmarks sticking out, in his direction.