May 18, 2021 3:17 AM
Teddy, recent orphan*, works through new powers, a new school, and grief.
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"Oh absolutely. You're gonna need as many elbows to throw as possible, that place is swamped." Teddy uses the cover of a closet door to demurely de-sweat herself with a towel. "I appreciate the reinforcements."

Teddy slides her sword on (she's learning the value of having a thing for people to talk about on this campus) and grabs a tactical-looking purse from the floor.

"Anyways, it's so nice to meet you guys! Did they show you where the gigantic diamond dome was already?"

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"It's hard to miss!" Parvati laughs.

"Do you fence?" her father asks, his eyes tracking the Sword. "That blade looks pretty serious."

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"Oh, yeah, are you familiar?" Teddy exclaims, popping about six inches of the Sword out of its scabbard. "It's an estoc, so it's all unsharpened except at the tip." Teddy runs her finger along one of its three dull edges. "It's a little more than they let you use in modern fencing, so I've only ever practiced with it at home. Apparently they have, like, combat sports here, though, so that's exciting." The Sword goes shunk as she lets it slide back into its sheath. She busies herself with the little button-strap that goes over the hilt to hold it in place. "But then I go kind of wild for extracurriculars."

Teddy navigates herself into the hallway so that the conversation is pointing away from her side of the room. She has some embedded instincts when it comes to parents, bedrooms, and the former's attitudes toward stashes of weapons and junk food in the latter. The Devals haven't said anything (and also aren't the boss of Teddy anyway, she reminds herself), but old habits die hard.

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"They really weren't kidding when they said you could bring personal weaponry!" he says with an only slightly awkward laugh.

Mrs. Deval looks worried. "Maybe we should've bought you some pepper spray, like we talked about. What if everybody else is... what do they say? Packing heat?"

Parvati rolls her eyes. "If somebody comes at me with a knife I'll use my scream on them, and they'll be too busy bleeding from every hole in their face to care. Or I'll break their arms with my wings. I'm not defenseless."

"Oh, I know, but I worry. This nice young lady has such a large sword, I don't know if that's the standard."

"If I need a sword I'll get a sword," Parvati promises, to her mother's significant mollification.

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"I'm not the only kid with a sword, but it's just a diverse campus like that!" Teddy is letting her mouth run while repressing a scream over the phrase 'packing heat' and an oh gosh over the concept of wing combat. "I just carry it around because leaving it under my bed collecting dust is a little sad." Plus it sort of dresses up all the spandex and lycra Teddy wears.

"I'd say most of the student body goes around unarmed." Teddy is pointedly avoiding the topics of magic, psionic attack, small personal knives, small personal firearms, and all of the other various and sundry things that she can't realistically have been accounting for, Which, conveniently, isn't lying! Lying to her roommate's parent would be kinda rude. "And we're super not supposed to get into unsanctioned fights, the student handbook is pretty clear."

Teddy uses all of her body language to get this group moving towards food.

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Mr. and Mrs. Deval look relieved. "That's what I'd hoped," Mr. Deval says.

"And I'll still keep up with my capoeira," Parvati says. "Unless there's some style that works a lot better with wings, or something, in which case I might learn that instead."

The Devals are very willing to be shepherded towards food; they drove up from Trenton, apparently, and haven't eaten since breakfast. "We could've gotten KFC or something, but we wanted to see how the food was at this big fancy school my daughter's going to," Mr. Deval confides.

"And cafeteria food is free," Parvati teases.

"Yes, that too!"

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Wing martial arts. Double jock roommates! Everythings coming up Terentin. Teddy falls into step with Parvati, smiles at her.

"Oh, the food here is great, sir. It was even great three days ago when nobody was really here yet to eat it, even, so I'm guessing it can only have gotten better," Teddy explains, striding forward to hold open the Whitman doors for the Devals. She's gently menacing the people, common to any school setting, who don't appear to understand how foot traffic is supposed to work. They shall taste steel, if they try to step on anyone's shoes.

Then, on the group's way past the Walt statue, something occurs to Teddy.

"Just, you know, don't accidentally get in the obligate carnivore line. Unless you, ha ha, want an entire horse torso for lunch. Heh. Diverse campus!" This is fine. "There are signs, shouldn't be a problem." Shut up, Teddy.

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Parvati smiles back at Teddy.

"I'll stay away from any signs with horses on them, yes," Mr. Deval says. "I'm glad the food's so good, though! And if someone wants horse they should get horse!"

"But we won't," Mrs. Deval says firmly.

"So, Teddy, what kind of powers do you have?" Parvati asks.

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"I'm an Exemplar, apparently. Nobody will quote me a number, but I can do the whole bending-steel-bars, sprinting-for-hours, math-in-my-head thing." Teddy holds her hands out in front of her like she's pushing something. "Plus my fingernails are made of diamonds now? Kind of? I'm just taking things as they come, honestly."

Teddy contemplates her human condition for a moment. Navel, meet gaze. Oh, but, right, conversation!

"How long have you been winged up?" she asks Parvati. Teddy is just beginning to contemplate that those beautiful wings might have had to grow in. Eeuch.

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"A few months," Parvati says. "First my eyes turned." (Her irises are as black as her pupils, and so wide they consume almost all the visible real estate of her eyes - there's a peek of white at the corners, nothing else.) "The wings started out as just these weird growths on my back, then they kept getting bigger, and started growing feathers - it happened way quicker than it sounds like, they came in over the course of a couple days. Then..." She extends and flaps her wings a couple of times. "Wings! It took me a while to actually try flying, even though the doctors said they'd be able to support my weight, but ever since it's been my favorite kind of exercise. And that's some pretty stiff competition."

"And that's not all!" her mother continues. "Do the Autotune!"

Parvati rolls her eyes a little, but she inhales and then starts singing. Not just singing - she's got backing instrumentals, and her voice is clearer and prettier than anyone's voice can really sound. She cuts herself off after a few bars. "That's got combat applications too - I can scream at a hundred and fifty decibels and focus all that sound in a little area, so it echoes in somebody's head. I only had to do it once, but it was effective."

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That seems like a lot of decibels! Between that and flight, Teddy suddenly feels unequipped for fighting at range.

"The 'Autotune', that's cute," she says, grinning at Mrs. Deval over her shoulder. "And impressive!" This is to Parvati. "I'm mostly jealous of the flight, though, I can't imagine having a whole other, like, muscle group to work with." Although growing new limbs might have been a bridge too far with everything else going on at the time. Careful what you wish for, Ted.

"Your wings might also be good for crowd control," Teddy finds herself half-joking, as the student body presses ever closer as they approach the Nutrition Hemisphere. There really weren't too many people with swords, which was both good for Teddy's ego and for the continued good grace of the Deval parents.

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There's at least one, though! An Indian girl, shorter than Teddy but not by much, with a fucking claymore strapped to her back. "Hey!" she says, in a charming English accent, when she notices Teddy. "Sword bros! Is that an epee?"

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Big Swords Anonymous! But, hmm. Hmmmm.

Teddy, inspired by Parvati's recent wings-unfurled Super Bowl performance moment, decides to lean into being a sword geek. With significant care but significantly more flair, Teddy frees the Sword from its confines, letting the midday sun play over its carbon-black length. She presents it sideways to the girl, holding it across both hands. The Sword's three sides narrow over the course of three feet to a single point, and the direct light reveals a triplet of subtle hooks worked into the blade, not far from the cross of the hilt. She gives it just a moment.

Then, she says, "I mean, you're not that far off."

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"Oh, that is barbaric," the girl says admiringly. "It's like what a roofing nail wants to be when it grows up. Mine's more with the hack-and-slash bit."

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Oh we are getting some mixed signals. Teddy is thankful that her mutation didn't giver her literal hackles to literally raise. As it is, her eyebrows are approaching escape velocity as she sheathes the Sword and attempts to disengage.

"Gee, thanks. I'm Dorothy. This is my roommate, Parvati. She and I are getting lunch with her parents."

Teddy can't actually help examining the girl's huge monster claymore, though. It doesn't do to ignore swords, in life or in high school.

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The claymore is not only big but clearly old. This is not a sword that was made in a foundry; it was made by a blacksmith, possibly out of metal from a fallen star. It's well-maintained despite its age; it looks like it could cut through whatever flesh and bone are put before it.

"I'm Riya." Riya is clearly not unaware of Teddy's sudden discomfort; she shrugs, raises her own eyebrows in a sort of "what can you do" expression, and turns to go back into the Crystal Hall. "I'll see you around, I suppose."

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Oh damn is that a magic sword. Are there magic swords. Did I just get microaggressed by and then insult a girl with a cursed magic sword.

"Yeah," says Teddy, suddenly of two minds. Maybe Riya hadn't meant it like that, maybe years of New England prep-school bullshit had made Teddy oversensitive. "See you around. I can't imagine the two sword girls won't have similar schedules."

Smile. Ceasefire?

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She smiles back, looking somewhat relieved, but does not cancel her retreat. She does, however, wave slightly awkwardly.

Mr. Deval clears his throat and says "Let's get some food, huh?"

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Oops! Apologies, Mr. Deval. "Oh, yeah, sorry about that. You know how it is with... swords? It's like that, with swords."

Teddy makes haste, once again gently threatening a pathway through the doors, and leads the Devals into the jam-packed Crystal Hall. She considers the signs for the different food lines, which she doesn't actually look at when she comes here by herself.

"The Carrot sign is for vegan food, Cheese is for non-vegan vegetarian, Steak is non-vegan non-vegetarian, Cow is meat-only, the Banana sign is fruit and stuff, Cake is sugary stuff..." Teddy cranes her neck. "I don't actually know what the no-bread sign is for, because they do usually have some bread over there... and the sign with a rock on it just has rocks, which makes sense, on some level, I guess."

Teddy sticks with the Devals, specifically Parvati, as they split into their chosen food lines. Teddy has been starting to notice that her diet is having less of an effect on her body; years of carefully-tuned meal planning for various sports purposes has suddenly stopped availing her. She's been advised that this has to do with how her body doesn't quite care about physics anymore, but it still feels pretty weird to be able to eat absolutely anything before a two-hour run and have it have no impact on her performance. No wonder Whateley serves cake 24/7, she thinks.

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Mrs. Deval is apparently vegetarian, but her husband and daughter are not. They all avoid dishes with beef, which as always are marked.

Parvati scares up a large bowl of pasta primavera, a tuna and avocado poke bowl, a fried Cornish game hen, and a blackberry tartlet. “It’s a good thing my appetite increased when I manifested,” she marvels. “I saw like six things I wanted but couldn’t justify.”

“My daughter who used to eat naan with mayonnaise!” her father says merrily. “Such a selection!”

She huffs. “I was three years old! Three-year-olds are allowed to have bad food opinions!”

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Teddy whistles, mentally. Was the appetite increase a thing? Shes pretty sure she's always been this hungry, she can just live up to it now.

She goes vegetarian herself, today, sticking to the vegan line for salads to avoid the twin scourges of buttermilk ranch dressing and cheddar croutons. Blech. Blueberry yogurt muffin, check, yogurt smoothie, check, parfait for dessert, check.

"When I was like, four, my mom would get me McDonalds and I would only eat the buns," Teddy says, angling for a table. "I couldn't ever tell which one of us my dad was more annoyed by."

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If Teddy knew a little more Powers Theory, she'd know that most exemplars do not in fact get a massive appetite boost, but it seems like maybe having two extra limbs and using them to fly on a daily basis might cause some increased calorie requirements.

Food is eaten. The Devals return to the dorm, where they part from their daughter somewhat reluctantly and get in their car for the trip home.

Parvati sits on the floor (on her side of the room) and looks up at the ceiling. "Wow. I've never even been to summer camp, now I'm parentless until winter break. Is this your first time somewhere like this too?"

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Parvati's new roommate has busied herself stacking her exercise accoutrement in slightly neater piles.

"Nah, not really! I did a lot of school activities and stuff, so I ended up staying at colleges a lot. The dorms here really are nicer, though!" Why did we have to use the word parentless, Parvati. So specific. "Having a roommate helps, I think. We can make sure neither of us starts binge drinking and setting stuff on fire, that sort of thing."

What's this can opener doing in the firestarter kit? What a mess.

Teddy purses her lips, sighs through her nose. This sucks this sucks this sucks–

"And, uh, just cause I assume it'll come up at some point, my dad died kind of recently and my mom fled the country." She says this all in one breath, facing away from Parvati. Teddy wasn't technically supposed to tell people that last part, according to her dad's pushy lawyers, but what the hell. Sort sort, stack stack.

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"Shit!" Parvati's hands fly over her mouth. "Oh, shit, I'm sorry, that sucks. That must suck. I'm sorry. Do you want me to not mention it again, I would probably want people not to mention it."

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"No, it's fine!" Teddy insists, her voice maybe half an otave higher than usual. "Like, obviously it's not fine. It does actually suck. But I just thought I'd bring it up before it turned into this whole secret. Parents isn't off-limits, and now we're over the hump."

Sort, sort.

When everything's been stacked correctly, which is mere seconds later, Teddy sits down on her bed. "Not to completely change the topic, but you do fight dancing?" Teddy did some googling over lunch.

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