(2018-07-27) A Day at the Beach
A Day at the Beach
Summary: We meet Stephanie. Syd hangs out, Laz hangs out, Koga hangs out. People come and go. In the end, it's just Syd and Ashton talking about destiny.
Date: 2018.07.25)
Related: {$related}
NPCs: {$npc}
Scene Runner: {$runner}

What a beautiful day to chill on the beach! Seagulls fly to and fro, groups of birds rest on the sands. The waves not crashing, but rather simply rolling to a stop upon the dry land. It's a good day to simply enjoy the paradise of an island…even if it's not NECESSARILY a perfect paradise. Nevertheless, if anyone were necessarily out and about, they would see a young man dressed in a more punk rock style, with a black beanie keeping his hair out of his face. A jean vest with a black hooded jacket underneath, fingerless gloves on his hands, though he wears nothing on his feet. Black jeans on his legs though. Yes, in case you missed it, his favorite color must be black.

Either way, he just stands there, hands in his pockets, watching out in the vast horizon that the ocean easily stretches to. What could he be thinking about?

Sydney is, as should surprise nobody, working out. Got the 1000lb dumbbells from the weight room? Yep. Jogging? you bet. Throwing punches? Yep. Kicking? yep. Sweating enough to have rust stains on her skin and her outfit? Well, yes. At least she left the boom box back in her room.

Right now, Stephanie March would kill for a cigarette.

She's been checked into the school, such as it is currently, and she's already hating it here. Like she was expecting, really. After all the orientation and warnings and rules and blah blah blah blah blah, the teen girl is exploring the beach, the New England breeze ruffling her black hair as she mopes along. Her dark purple top and black jeans look to be a few sizes too big for her, but everything is fastened into place by a black belt with steel pyramid studs running along the edges. As she walks, Stephanie idly kicks up small clouds of sand in front of her, shoulders slumped and hands thrust firmly in jeans pockets. When she sees the other teen on the beach, Stephanie pauses, debating whether to approach the boy who looks like he's either a poser or has a decent fashion sense.

Not everyone is out here just for exercising or watching the waves. Some are out here to get a bit of a tan. Or possibly just to relax period. And that is what Koga is doing. A beach towel is laid out under him, a nice umbrella is open above him and well… he's sleeping more or less. In a pair of shorts, sandals, and an open Hawaiian shirt showing off a bit. The slender teen's definitely starting to fill out more and show that not all mystics are book worms practically.

The really, really weird part? He's setup something around his small 'area' of the beach. It's almost like a circle, but whatever it is just happens to be faint enough that it's barely, barely moving around. Faint shapes in the air like a coiled something around him that's just faintly out of the normal human spectrum of vision.

As if sensing others around, there occasionally appears the head of something, with an eye, and horns, glancing around the beach before it disappears again.

Saoirse drops suddenly from above the clouds. A streak at first, a bikini'd color of tan, blonde, and curves, she freefalls from the sky holding a big nerf gun. Rolling in circles she holds out her arms and comes almost to a stop near the water, slowing one can make out the swimsuit (https://cdn.cliqueinc.com/posts/220899/-220899-1492003666434-image.640x0c.jpg) She shouts out "Swish! Whoosh! Wheeeeee!" the girl spins as she moves from the water over the beat, twirling, spinning as her fingers touch the water. Flowing at about 20 mph, her hair moves with the wind and she swishes right over Stephanie by a few feet over her head, and she stops suddenly a few feet above Koga, pointing the nerf gun at him. "Gonna get you!" she shouts, and fires a few shots off. Aim being horribly off, they will hit at /least/ a few feet off. And..the kickback throws her about a foot upward with each shot.

Lazarus continues to just stand there, letting his feet wash upon the waters that come in. Of course, he hears the panting of Sydney even if she's so far away. He hears every speck of sand that Stephanie kicks up as she mopes along…and he hears the EXTRA LOUD shouting of Saoirse as she fires shots off of hr Nerf gun. Not quite sure what that's about. He even hears Koga breathing. For once, he kinda hates having insane hearing. He sighs, before he turns his head to find Stephanie practically immediately. He doesn't approach, but he does wave. He also notices Sydney, doing much of the same. Of course he noticed Saoirse and Koga, but they look a bit distracted.

Sydney is getting used to the beach never really being empty, and to the fact that, while she's technically bare, it's not obvious to the casual observer. And she hasn't had a wardrobe failure with this shape in weeks. She drops out of her jog and waves a dumbbell casually at Laz. "Hey Laz," she whispers, heart pounding from the exercise. As she notices Koga Stephanie, and, of course, Saoirse, she waves again and says "Hi!" considerably louder. Weird that with all these people there's only one she doesn't know.

Stephanie gives a nod of acknowledgment to Lazarus, even a slight hint of a smile. She's about to say something, and then….she hits the deck as Saorise comes zooming in on her fly-by. Eating sand puts her back in a bad mood, and any trace or suggestion of a smile disappears from her face. She gives the blonde flier a scowl as she sands back up and starts brushing sand off. When the metal girl shouts out 'Hi!', Stephanie looks at her, and blinks a few times at the oddity. She gives a non-committal wave to Sydney, then goes about continuing to try and get the sand off.

A small thwhoop sounds as the nerf bullets hit… something. They definitely don't hit Koga. One does hit the umbrella, however. That isn't enough to disturb the sleeping Koga. In any case, those nerf bullets spin in the air end over end for a second before being shot away towards the other group down the beach. Koga doesn't even so much as twitch a muscle it seems.

Oh, wait, he did move. Just to scratch the side of his nose for a moment before going back to apparently being asleep. Whatever was moving around him is now firmly not moving, and a small line in the sand around him is easily visible for Saoirse at least. A brief shimmer goes over it revealing some sort of four legged creature, with a pair of horns and a slightly lion like face before it disappears again.

Lazarus doesn't even duck when Nerf bullets start flying about, unlike Stephanie, though he does offer her a small smile as she gave one to him. "I take it you're a new student?" the young man asks curiously, before he looks to Sydney as she tries to fix herself and look presentable. Nevertheless, he nods lightly to her. "Hello Sydney." he greets her, before he notices Saoirse failing in her attempts to ping Koga. Huh. Lion demon thing? nice. His eyes though return to Stephanie, wanting to hear what she has to say.

Sydney laughs at Sao abusing Koga, and at the nerf bullets bouncing off nowhere near him. She walks over to her towel and dumps off the dumbbells, picking up her other towel to dry off before she pads over to the others. "Hi. I'm Syd," she says when she's close enough for Stephanie to hear.

With a few more hard brushes of her hands, Stephanie decides she's cleaned off enough, and sighs. "Frikin' sand getting everywhere…" she mutters darkly. Looking at the two teens near her, Stephanie give a quick nod to the question. "Yeah. I'm new here. Stephanie. Just got here today." She looks around the assembled teens warily, like they're predators closing in on prey that they cut from the main herd. But, she doesn't bolt from them; she just keeps watch on them. Very closely.

The sleeping Koga opens his eyes to sit up for a moment, blinking and stretching with a yawn. Shadowing his eyes a bit the Asian gives a look before sighing and standing up to stretch, move around, and basically get himself a bit more awake. He hasn't exactly spotted Saoirse if she's still around in any case. The others get a polite wave, especially as there is at least one person he knows. Not many metal ladies around, after all.
Peering under the umbrella, he fishes around and finally yanks a small strip of paper out from under it. It's obviously not a part of the umbrella itself as he turns towards the thing guarding him, gives a bow, then rips up the paper into tiny pieces and scatters them to the wind. Said thing floats up, then just… fades away. Definitely not a normal occurrence either.

Ashton's reason for being on the beach wasn't really for having fun. The small dark-haired teen walks up from much further down the beach. He is wearing a pair of jeans and a long sleeve black shirt. Despite it being summertime, he does not look he even notices the temperature. He is wearing a small silver pendant (for those familiar, it is the astrological symbol for Scorpio) hanging from a silver chain. He sees the group of students, and his first impulse is to go back the opposite direction. He hesitates, before he slides his fingers into the pockets of his jeans and slowly walks in that direction. It dawns on him that he only recognizes Koga, which doesn't set his nerves on ease any.

Lazarus nods only once to Stephanie. "Nice to meet you." he takes his right hand out of his pocket, removes his glove and extends it to Stephanie for a handshake. "I'm Lazarus. people tend to refer to me as simply Laz though." he says it like he doesn't quite like it, but he's pretty indifferent. "Welcome to the school. it can get crazy, but you might like it here." he smiles before looking to Koga. "….I'm tempted to wake him up fully." he says with a light sigh before looking at Ashton when he arrives. "Hi." he greets

You say, "Welcome to Coral Springs High." She nods at what Lazarus says. "Yeah, that, pretty much." Syd takes a deep breath and stretches. It feels good to move, at least to her."

Stephanie looks over at Ashton as he approaches, and Koga as he starts to stir. More people….She gives Lazarus' hand a quick shake, then crosses her arms in front of her body, taking a very defensive posture. The suggestion that she might grow to like it here brings forth a doubtful shrug and a snort of amusement from her. "Yeah, well…" She looks around the beach and back towards the manor house, a jaded 'seen it all before, only better' look on her face. "It beats the alternative for doing time."

Ashton sighs softly, "Well, damn." he says under his breath. He musters up the will to smile and nods. "Hello." He nods to Lazarus, as he responds to his greeting. Of course, how could one not recognize the metallic girl. He chews on his lower lip slightly, offering her a bit of a more earnest smile. As far as the newest arrival to the school, "Yeah, welcome to Coral Springs… though I think that we'll be heading off to the new building sometime in the foreseeable future, or so I hear."

Lazarus looks at Stephanie then as she shakes his hand and retreats into herself. taking his hand back and putting it back into his pocket. though he gives Ashton a nod "we are? huh. good. place was looking tacky." he then looks at Stephanie. "doing time? tell me the story later?" then he starts to walk off. "Gonna check on something. see you guys later. welcome to the school Steph." and off he goes!

Sydney winces. "Ouch. Yeah, company's probably better, anyway. I dunno, I haven't been here for regular classes yet. What year are you going to be?" She doesn't ask the obvious question, figures someone else will, or Stephanie might volunteer it. "Everyone's been pretty nice. I mean literally everyone." She smiles at Ashton when he recognizes her.

Stephanie gives a quick nod to the retreating Lazarus, watching him walk off for a while. For a moment, she looks confused when Ashton mentions a 'new building', then she nods. "Right. They told me about that. Old place got tore up or something. Wasn't really paying attention to the whole 'Welcome' spiel." She looks over Sydney carefully, the corners of her mouth scrunched in consideration. "So…do you have, like, a human form? Or are you like that 24/7?" She looks back over at Koga, leery of the rather freaky things that he's been doing, making things disappear into air and all.

The thing having disappeared, Koga makes his way over towards the others, buttoning his shirt as he goes. "Hello!" He raises an eyebrow at Stephanie, then looks to Ashton and Sydney. He looks back to Stephanie. "Do not worry. It was a mystic construct. A conjured guardian, if you will. My name is Koga." He gives a traditional, Asian bow with his hands at his side. "The worst it would have done is pushed you away if you meant to disturb me while I was under the umbrella."

Looking to Sydney and Ashton, he gives a smile towards the two. "I hope you two are doing well? I apologize if you tried to get my attention. I was enjoying a nice, quiet rest on the beach for a while." Koga is nothing if not polite. And in a set of shorts and beach shirt, with no obvious care for the sand under foot.

Subconsciously, Ashton moves closer to Koga. After all, Koga he knows better; Koga he trusts better; Koga was one of the ones that rescued him. He shrugs slightly in reply, "I guess…. that's what the shrinks are telling me at least?" He gives a half-smile, but is he joking? "How are you doing, Sydney?" He turns his blue-green eyes towards Stephanie. He offers up the best, polite smile that years and years of the polished etiquette he grew up with, "Hello. I'm Ashton Talbot. Nice to meet you." Wasn't there something in the news a few weeks back about some rich kid from New York being found after being kidnapped or something?

Sydney shrugs. "Well, I'm being my own costume at the moment…" She pats the "leotard", so I'm normally a little more naked under my clothes, but this is me. 24/7. I'm hard on clothes, and makeup doesn't stick very well, but on the plus side I never need to shave my legs or wear sunscreen. Nobody smacks me around anymore without my permission, and I can fold most guys up like a napkin if I need to." She smiles and shrugs again. "A mixed blessing, but it's fairly positive." She nods to Ashton. "Doing pretty good today. You?"

Ashton's introduction gets a nod, and a quick response of "Stephanie". Koga also gets a curt nod, but the talk about magic doesn't seem to reduce the girl's qualms any. Sydney, however, gets a bit of a smile. "Right on," Stephanie says. A moment of concentration, and then the girl's body changes; where there once was an average-sized teen girl, there's now a Stephanie made out of blue crystal, like sapphire, dressed in her, now tight, clothes. And with a about a foot of extra height. "Anyone messes with you, you smack the sh*t outta them," she says with a genuine smile and a nod of understanding. And she holds up her hand for a fist-bump from the steel girl.

The sudden change to a crystal girl has Koga blinking a few times. Then leaning one way, then the other. He winces a bit. "… if you expect me to show my party trick, I will have to pass." He looks to Ashton. "Shrinks? Oh… should point you at Bryce. He… is not doing so well after the whole thing, I think. Or at least he was not the last I saw of him."

Koga looks to the crystal and metal girls. "So do you just turn into crystal, or can you grow parts or anything else with it?" He asks towards Stephanie. He blinks a few times, then shakes his head before pulling a pair of sunglasses and putting them on. "Sorry, reflection is a bit of an annoyance." He looks just slightly annoyed. "What brings all of you out here?"

Off some distance from the group of students is the small figure of Bryce. He is walking slowly down the beach with his head down. At first, he probably would only be recognizable from either his posture or (more likely) from the circlet that occasionally catches the sun. As he draws closer, it seems that he isn't moping but instead is actively looking for something. After a few more steps, he hears the group talking and says, "Oh, uh, hi. I didn't, um, Hello, Sydney." He starts to smile but hides it with a hand. "Um, hello, Besa and, and Ashton." He squints a bit looking at Ashton and then looks down for a moment. He hasn't seen him since the rescue. He then notices the girl he doesn't know. "Oh, hi, I'm, uh, I'm Bryce." He happens to introduce himself just as she changes. "Oh, uh, that is, uh, wow."

Sydney fist bumps fairly solidly with the crystal girl, enough to make Sid's fist and the armored boss over her knuckles ring like a shovel when you throw it. "I keep it pretty wrapped up most of the time. I never really liked to fight, I just got really, really good at it." When Bryce comes over she waves. "Hey. This is Bryce. Bryce, this is Stephanie. Come on over. Stop hiding your smile, man. We talked about this." She seems to give him a very affectionate smile..

Ashton frowns at Toga's remark about Bryce. "What happened to Bryce that night?" He sighs, "I don't remember any of it… and they have been fairly close-lipped on the details." He looks up as Bryce just happens to show up at the moment. "I'd say speak of the Devil, but I'm already here… so Hey, Bryce… " He cocks his head slightly, "Um… how are you doing?" Everything else kind of seems less important… sorry Colossal and Emma Blue.

"You gotta do what you gotta do to survive," Stephanie tells Sydney after changing back to her human form. "Nothing to feel sorry about and never apologize for it." When Bryce arrives, she gives him a nod of welcome and a greeting of "Hey." She shrugs at Toga's comment about 'showing off tricks'. "Hey, I'm just happy that there might actually be someone here that understands me. It's a nice change from all the adults talking about 'responsibility' and 'use your powers wisely'. Life isn't exactly nice for some of us, and you gotta take care of yourself first, you know?"

Koga sighs, then shakes his head. "That is for him to tell, Ashton, if he is willing. We all have our demons and devils, after all." He grimaces a bit, then shrugs. "At least I know I can still make guardian seals pretty well. I always did love those as a means of protecting others."

Bryce walks up towards Sydney though he stops about two steps away when they fist bump. He blinks a bit as though from the noise of it. "I'm, I'm sorry," he says to her. Bryce looks over to Ashton when he asks how he is doing, "Oh, uh, well, I was, I was going to ask you. I'm, er, a bit better?" Bryce has never been one to be confident. "Or at least, I'm, I'm not as bad as I was. I was, um, pretty bad for a while, but, but my … friends … helped." The way he says 'friends' sounds like he is either getting used to the word or the concept or both.

Bryce thinks about what Stephanie said about taking care of yourself first. He tentatively says, "Um, maybe? But, uh, sometimes you have to risk yourself to, to help others or, well, do the right thing." Of course, this is coming from the kid who almost feels sorry about at least something if not almost everything. He then notices as she walks away and wonders if it is his fault. When Koga mentions 'dreams', Bryce visibly tenses.

Sydney moves next to Bryce to slip an arm around him unless he actively resists, watching Stephanie head out. She didn't expect the fix to be permanent, really. Just enough to let Bryce get some sleep.

Ashton shakes his head at Stephanie, "You got it all wrong already… it's not just about looking out after yourself… It's about looking out for each other. We are all here together. Some of us may not get along all the time. Hell, some of us may not get along at all ever, but we still watch each other's backs. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about…" He frowns and nods to Koga. He doesn't press about Bryce, but instead nods. "That's good… maybe on day you might be able to offer me some pointers on that… " He looks to Bryce, almost afraid to meet the other boy's gaze or expression. "I'm… I'm doing as good as can be expected." So sure, that includes him waking up screaming during the middle of the night some nights, that surely most of the boy's wing has heard or heard about. "I.. I really don't even know how to say thank you to either of you for helping me…"

Sighing, Koga shakes his head. "You do not have to. And never will." Koga says firmly towards Ashton. "I do not know about the others, but what we stopped… whoever they were? I hope to face them again some day. And when I do, I plan to have a way to stop them from getting away." The Asian teen looks quite serious at that. "What we can do in the mean time, however, is help you two as best as we can." The kind smile Koga gives is definitely not forced, nor is it belittling. It's meant to be understanding.

He glances towards Ashton. "You know when you were kidnapped, I faced something that was my worse fear. It has been for a long, long time." He mentions. Koga sighs as he turns to look out towards the water, idly making a few finger gestures and a small ball of lightning appear over his palm as he tosses it up and down. Really, really small ball.

Bryce doesn't resist when Sydney puts her arm around him which is odd considering how resistant he normally is to being touched. When Ashton thanks him for what happened, Bryce says, "I'm glad you … I'm glad … " He just stops there. His face tightens up a bit and he starts blinking a bit harder than normal. He had been doing pretty well it putting that night behind him, but as they even just started referencing it, it all started coming back to him. He swallows a bit hard and then looks up. "I'm, I'm sorry, but, uh, dealing with that, er, night has been…hard." He is stammering more than he usually does. "I'm … uh … it's good you are, well, home." He seems to be visibly fighting something in his own mind.

Sydney squeezes Bryce a little more firmly and rests her head on his shoulder. "Stay with us, Bryce… here and now…" She deliberately echos the language of their little ritual. Looking from Bryce to Koga to Ashton. "You guys are all talking to counselors about this, right? They're not letting you just try to deal with it on your own. Right?"

Ashton wraps his arms in front of him. Yeah, not really sure he's up for talking about it this much. "What do you mean? I remember going into the haunted house thing… and then two guys came up. One put his hand over my mouth and the other one injected me with something and the next thing I knew I was somewhere else." He looks at Bryce and moves over, "Bryce… it's alright now.. okay… whatever happened… don't worry about that right now.. just think about how you are surrounded by your friends.. friends that care about you." So he can quote the two quacks like the best of them. He looks at Sydney, "I'm talking to the shrink that my grandparents are paying for and the one that the school is."

Frowning, Koga looks to Ashton. "You did not face the fear demon that was there, then." He mentions. Looking towards Bryce, Koga glances at the other two, then looks to Bryce himself. Looking back at the water, Koga gives a slightly sarcastic laugh. "Of all the things that I am afraid of… it is clowns." The Asian says, bringing his arm back and chunking the lightning ball out at the water. The slight smell of ozone from it's passing is clear, yet the ball just harmlessly bolts into the water and causes a small burst.

Sighing, Koga looks down at the sand, then glance towards Bryce. "Bryce? I could probably find a spell to trade you. Do you want to be afraid of clowns all day? They are pretty scary under the right circumstances. That makeup, the fake laughs, red noses, bright hair…" He smiles sadly, obviously not finding much amusement in his own fear of them.

Bryce can't help but wonder what Ashton would think of him if he knew what he did. Koga knew because he was there when it happened. Sydney knew because she was one of the ones who helped him get over it, well, to the extent that he did. "I did … " He can't bring himself to admit it right now. "I did something, something terrible. I didn't mean to, but, but I did it." He swallows hard and looks up. "I've been, well, trying to live with it, but with, with my memory … " He leaves it unsaid that one of the downsides of perfect recall is the ability to perfectly recall everything horrible too.
Nodding to Sydney, he says, "There is a, a school counselor who, uh, requires me to, to talk." He has tried to hide from her many times. Never worked. Looking at Koga, it is clear that the teen doesn't quite understand teasing. "I, uh, I am not afraid of, well, them, but I, I do not think that I, well, need more things to fear."

Sydney sighs gently and gives Bryce another squeeze. "There are other, nicer images you could call to mind, as I recall." She looks from one of the boys to the other, to the other. "I don't have any magic solutions for you. All I can say is PTSD sucks, and if you're smart you'll listen to your counselor. They can help you get past it. I read that pot actually helps with it, which might help explain my historical fondness for it. Not that anyone's going to prescribe it for underage powers… Sydney chortles, after a moment, at the idea of "pot" and "prescription" in the same breath. What a world she's woken up in.

Ashton chews on his lower lip, hard enough that much more and he'll be drawing blood. He shakes his head, "Bryce.. I'm sure whatever happened, you didn't have a choice… and I'm sorry that whatever happened, happened because you were trying to help me…." He looks Koga. "That was probably one of my brothers… Clowns, really?"

Some sand flies as Koga kicks it towards the water. "Oni clowns do leave a mark on a child at the age of five. Especially when they try to eat you after kidnapping you from your parents." That probably put a bit more perspective on things. "They are a type of… lesser evil. Demon descendants, at a guess. Some good, some bad." He shrugs, looking to Ashton. "Three of them tried. My grandfather killed them. Your… brother, if it was one, definitely had a field day with tormenting me with that fear."

Glancing towards Bryce, he smiles a bit. "Events like that do not get easier. You have the burden of remembering it. I think you might benefit from something I had to do. I do not know how your memory works, but… think about it this way and train to make it a reality. What could you have done differently that would have made sure it did not happen? What can you do differently than next time? And the time after that?"

Bryce swallows a bit and nods at Ashton, but he cannot bring himself to say what happened. In part, he thinks it is also to protect Ashton so he doesn't have to deal with even more. He looks at Koga and says, "I'm, I'm not sure I would call, uh, oni clowns, but I do agree that that they would be scarier." When Koga explains what he does in thinking about hard events, Bryce says, "I, I think it is because, um, well, I, my powers were, I've never tried two things like, like that before: the cage and the, the … sword." He breathes a bit harder. "Maybe I need to try and, well, stretch myself, but it is hard to, to make the sword right now."

His brows furrow in his curiosity which might be one of the few things stronger than his nervousness. "Why would, uh, using a pot help? Is it some sort of, uh, cooking therapy?"

You say, "Um… Smoking pot, in my case. Marijuana. Cannibus sativa, if you want to be specific. I don't know why it would work. Probably the same reason antidepressants are supposed to work. I'm still talking about that with my psychologist. I don't know if what you have would technically be flashbacks…you have eidetic memory anyway. You can have flashbacks of lunch if you try, I imagine. But for me…it made my flashbacks further apart."

Ashton is about to say something, but his entire line of thought is completely derailed. "As in marjiana, Bryce… It helps you relax… Mellows you out." He pauses, "Or so I have heard."

Koga shakes his head, "Drugs are not the answer." He turns to begin walking back towards the estate. "I hope I helped a little at least. You two are welcome to come find me to talk if the counselors are not enough. Would not be the first time that I sit back and listened to troubles, I suppose." He sighs. "Later." He gives a wave over his shoulder.

Sydney goes over to her towel, now that it's close to dusk, and picks up the weights and the spare towel. She brings both over to where Ashton is, and spreads out both towels. "How about you. How're you holding up?

Ashton snorts, "Oh, I'm just fine… really." He shakes his head, "Tired of people asking me how I'm doing, especially the ones that don't really want to know the truth, so I just say what they want to hear and don't bother."

Sydney looks him in the eye. "Do you think I'm one of those?

Ashton shrugs, "Probably not, but no offense, I don't really know you enough yet, to make that call… Besides, what's the point really? It's not like talking about it is going to do any good."

Sydney draws her legs into lotus. "Fair enough. I'm the new kid. Well, one of the new kids. You've been here a while. People still talked about you being abducted when I got here… Lukanos especially. So I might think I know you better than I do. And I don't know anything about real magic. Not a damn thing. I can only imagine how much it can fuck you up, and I've had my share of fucking up already. So you'll have to forgive me if I see someone who I think is in pain…and I try to nose in and help. It's all I have."

Ashton sighs and slumps down onto the sand. "I'm sorry… I didn't really mean to snap." He shakes his head, "I just don't see where it will do any good to talk about it."

Sydney nods. "We never do, do we? We want to leave it behind, let it all just fade away." She looks down at the empty blanket across from hers. She gestures to it. "You'll get sand where it chafes that way. Please."

Ashton dusts himself off and moves to the towel. "I can't leave it behind, Sydney… I can't, because every single time that Louk looks at me, or pretty much just about anyone really… I see it in their eyes."

Sydney nods. "And that bothers you."

Ashton looks at Sydney, "Hell yeah it bothers me… I'm not some fragile, little doll that is so easily broken." So he is broken, but now may not be the best time to argue that point.

Sydney nods slowly. "I guess I never thought about what being rescued might cost someone. How do you…live up to that? Is that as…huge a mind job as I think it is?

Ashton's shoulders slump slightly, "Look at Bryce… I'm the reason he's like that… if I hadn't been kidnapped, if he hadn't come to rescue me, then whatever the hell happened wouldn't have happened… He was so frickin' sheltered before.. and now… Is that how people see me?" He punches the sand next to him. "And I don't want to get mad at it, afraid that I'll get eaten alive by the anger and turn into something that will need to be put down.. then more people will be hurt."

Sydney nods. "Yeah… They risked a lot to come get you. There's a cost to being a hero. I guess I haven't had to pay it yet. Except a lot of second guessing about almost getting those people on the roller coaster killed…they were fine, nothing happened, but still. I read somewhere you can judge a man by the quality of his friends. They made that choice. That tells me you're a good guy. That tells me you're worth it. Now I guess you just have to believe it.

Ashton shakes his head, "I don't think I get to be a hero. I'm half demon… and apparently kind of destined to become some kind of sorcerous demon lord or something… From the day I was born, all I have ever done was cause pain."

You say, "I was born trailer trash. Raised by drug addicts and alcoholics. Made into this by scientists working for a mafia hitman, because buying me was cheaper than getting a chimpanzee. I got lucky. I got rescued at the last second by an otherwise very, very bad man. Don't talk to me about destiny. Destiny is bullshit. And if you only ever caused pain, you wouldn't have friends like that, Ashton. You wouldn't. It might be easy for you to cause pain, sure. Half demon?" She shrugs. "If you say so. But those guys thought you were worth it, and you sure as hell didn't get them to think so by hurting them. Did you?""

Ashton sighs, "No. I haven't hurt any of my friends… at least, not yet." He looks over at her. "Sorry that things didn't start off so great, but at least things turned around for the better."

Sydney nods. "Same to you, Ashton. Seriously. And yeah. Things turned around for you, too. I understand you care about your friends, and that they've gotten some scars from rescuing you…but you understand…you didn't control what they did. They chose to do it because they felt they had to, for friendship." She rubs the bridge of her nose. "I never found out why Iron Fist decided to just…whisk me away from the scientists before they could test me to destruction. He died the next day, and I was already frozen, and stayed that way for 35 years. I've had to work through this stuff. How do I live up to that? Did the Mafia decide he went rogue and tip off Ms. Ultra so she could take him out? I don't know. But I know he thought I was worth it. He chose to do what he did, for whatever reasons he did, and all I can do is put that choice on him, and figure he knew what he was doing, because I had no say in it. I'm grateful to be alive, and I'm grateful to be what I am…if I'm honest. Because then I have the tools to help others. They may have been engineered for murder…but don't have to use them for that. It gives me the choice. Just like you have."

Ashton listens to Sydney. He stands up and nods. "I'll think about it, Sydney.. Thanks for the talk… You have my word, I'll give it some thought and if I think that talking will do any good, then you'll be one of the first I find." He stands up, "I need head back and find Louk… Good night, Sydney."

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