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sighhhh! home, they say, is a spring of comfort but what is home when empathy is a foe?

Posted on Sat Dec 31st, 2022 @ 8:34 by David Solarin M.D. & Cameron Johnston

Chapter: Prologue: Dawn of Avalon
Location: Courtyard
Timeline: Saturday, September 19th
3009 words - 6 OF Standard Post Measure

"Wait - hang on," the taller man was leaned heavily onto a wooden cane clasped tightly in his right hand, his left mid-air, gesticulating wildly. "That can't be right, Slowpoke. There's nothi-"

"Slowpoke!" the (kid? man?) shorter one cuffed him on the back of the head. "I'll slow you." His eyebrows bopped playfully. "Get it?"

"Don't give up your day job," David Solarin snorted, lifting his chin. "Go on, 'git." He shook the bag of empty bird feed once before handing it back to his compatriot. "They can't've eaten it all. I'm sure there are plenty more birds to feed and mice to pet."

"They're very smart birds."

"Oh, are they." The doctor resisted the urge to grin back, affecting a very put-upon expression instead, his free arm now crossed over his chest.

"I'm not here!" Verge stuck his tongue out and before David could blink, the man had backpedaled through the back threshold leading into the Institute's kitchen.

"He's not here," David groaned to himself, pinching his nose. "Early grave. That's where I'm headed."

A tap to his shoulder disabused him of that notion. "I told you, I am not slow."

"Offended your honor with that one-?"

"I am unimpeachable."

"You're what?"

"The last time I checked, I was not a peach."

"Suppose you've got me there." Sometimes David took a few seconds to lag behind his friend's lightning-circuit thought processes. It wasn't, as some of his colleagues initially jostled him with elbows to the side, purely a product of mental illness. Verge just was faster, and it necessitated some wiggle-room.

Still, since the meds, he mostly made sense. More often than not. Kneeling, Verge plucked a few seeds off of the ground, mixed with dirt and gravel. "The culprit," he nodded to himself. "You have sprung a leak, Doctor Solarin," he deduced very formally.

Sure enough, a quick glance backward showed an actual trail of bird-seed leading all the way from the sidewalk, through the gate, and to where they were currently stood. "Don't suppose they'll chalk it up to deer tracks."

"It is my job," Virgil reminded him. "I will take care of it. Hello, Mister," he said to the figure behind Solarin, without missing a beat, as Cameron materialized under the gazebo and had cut a path that led him across their line of sight. His eyes, a dusty reddish-brown, tracked the newcomer's movements curiously.

"Let me grab the broom," David murmured, tossing a quick glance at Cameron just to make sure there was a Cameron (look - fast or not. He'd been privy to worse.) "Be seeing you, Twinkle Toes!" he shot off a smart two-fingered salute as he jogged backwards into the shed in the distance.

Twinkle toes, Virgil mouthed to himself. "I'm a mutant," was the first thing he said. "Doctor Solarin isn't one."

The pair of sunglasses seated on Cameron's nose went some way to obscuring his reaction to that particular moniker, which was nothing like the one he'd coined for himself and wasn't even efficient, syllabically-speaking, for use in the field. He ambled over, hands wedged into his pockets, in an almost defiant display of tardiness and cast his gaze around the smattering of seeds that dotted the lawn in little peaks. "Not sure I've ever heard of spontaneous seed shedding as a mutation." Leaning his head forward, Cam allowed the glasses to slip to the end of his nose and he grinned. "Do I want to know where they come out?"

It made Virgil snort, covering his mouth with the back of his hand. "Are you really called twinkle-toes?" he shot back smartly, imitating David's arch expression nearly to perfection. Patting down his own breast pocket, he withdrew a snack from the ironed button-down. A packet of unopened sunflower seeds, still-shelled, and held it out to Cameron. On his own, he knelt and began brushing large bunches of bird seed toward himself in cupped hands. "Do you teach here?" the man glanced up once more, curious about this newcomer.

"By people with too much time on their hands, sure," Cam responded to the first query, the offer of snack met with mild curiosity and then the wave of a dismissive hand. He'd come to terms with the convenience of nuts as a quick source of required nutrients but he drew the line at actual bird food. "And sure do, that's my workshop." A finger pointed in the direction of the garages that housed the automotive projects. Further consideration seemed to allow the man to arrive at an internal conclusion and he reached out a hand in greeting. "Cameron Johnston, otherwise known as Dash by everyone except our resident comedian."

"That's because you dash right past the punchline," David snarked on his way out from the barn, leaned heavily on the cane in his right hand and brandishing a large sweeping implement in his left. "You've got superspeed. You could super clean." He winked.

"Do not be mean to Mr. Twinkle Toes," Virgil chided him.

"I have never been mean to anyone, ever, in my entire life. I am a RAY of SUNSHINE. Dew-drops sing when I enter the vicinity. Flowers bloom. It's kind of a nuisance, honestly."

"Careful you don't cut yourself there, doc."

In all honesty, the man's humour didn't bother Cameron nearly as much as he sometimes made out. There were times when it was overly relentless and even rarer occasions when he wasn't in the mood, but for the most part the pilot took the ribbing on the chin as part and parcel of his daily existence. Someone, somewhere, always seemed to think he needed knocking down a peg or two.

"So what exactly are we cleaning?," Cam asked, glancing once again between the little piles of seeds. "Aren't these supposed to be on the ground?"

And while David could be well-described as a ham, he had a good grasp of when to apply Maximum Hams and when to dial it back a tad. Something about getting a gun pointed at your head a few too many times to even out those wrinkles in your otherwise PERFECTLY CHARMING demeanor.

"No way!" Verge told him, shaking his head and holding up a hand. "See, look," he pointed carefully at several strategically-placed bird feeders in the distance. "This is... very messy. The birds will be very unimpressed. Oh," he remembered what he was curious about before -> "Am I correct to assume you teach about mechanics?" His head tilted, and he swayed from side to side, content to hopefully find someone else as interested in cars as him.

Never having considered whether birds held much of opinion over the presentation of their food, Cameron stared down at the haphazard piles and then shook his head as if to clear it. "Uh, yeah," he replied to the question, deciding that lack of elaboration would probably make the conversation flow easier. It seemed, at the very least, as if his participation was optional and it spoke to some incredibly amount of irony that the man who could leave scorch marks across the lawn and trample flower beds in his wake was struggling to keep the pace with the way his present company's mind seemed to work.

They definitely did, Cameron. Obviously Verge was an expert ornithologist. "He teaches Shop," David elaborated with a tip of his chin upward at the other man. "So not merely mechanics, but all sorts of things." He hung up the flattened handle of his cane on the ledge of the brick wall behind him so he could grasp his broom in both hands and slowly, but surely, get to fixing the place up. "How was your summer, anyhow? No loss of life, nor limb?" he teased Cameron gently; the man had a penchant for recklessness that put some of their students to shame.

"Not a hair out of place," Cam countered, his hands jammed into his pockets so that, with his sunglasses returned to sit properly on the bridge of his nose, his nonchalant shrug carried a degree of authority. "Strictly no-powers-allowed at my parents' place, doc. Keeps things simple." It sounded restrictive and judgemental from an outsider's perspective, until they were forced to consider the fact that it was a self-imposed rule. Cameron, ever his own harshest critic, knew exactly what it took for him to buckle somewhat under societal pressure. His family.

"That does not sound very nice," was Virgil's comment on the matter, interjected slowly from his position on the ground as his dark eyes lifted to Cameron's face once more. He sustained this for a few seconds before they darted away, as ornery as the birds themselves. "You must like being here? With the freedom of using your powers." It was not exactly the most tactful observation in the world, but if nothing else was evident, Virgil's lack of focus was clear even to those who did not hold a degree in psychiatry.

The face Cameron pulled acknowledged partial accuracy of the man's observation whilst, at the same time, conveying a distinct lack of concern over the compromises he chose to make. ""I guess that's the thing about freedom," he grinned easily. "No absolute way to enjoy it other than what feels right. I make adjustments to keep my family's life simple. It'd be different if they forced it but they don't." A slight change to the angle of his chin indicated Cam had switched attention back to David, though his sunglasses gave nothing away. "What about you, doc? Did you actually see much sunshine?"

"Oh, yes," David nodded. "I had opportunity to head back to Monrovia and Kinshasa," he gestured to Virgil. "Plenty of sun, that is for certain." It wasn't the first time and probably wouldn't be the last that he had been asked what he'd gotten up to in his leisure time slash vacation and produced the equivalent of nothing, I worked for two months straight but those who knew David, knew he simply did not quit. He kept going, and kept pushing, no matter what, and that extended to his career outside of Avalon.

"Watching it out the window doesn't count." Almost the polar opposite, it was difficult to confine Cameron to the indoors, a restlessness born of the fact that walls and doors and other people's mementoes didn't take kindly to high-speed projectiles passing through them. For that very fact, he often limited his time outside when he went home, tried to avoid certain temptations, imposed restrictions that kept his powers under lock and key, and came back on campus as agitated as a caged beast.

That made Virgil grin, and David pinch the bridge of his nose. It's a curious inversion to Cam's own ability, the way that Virgil sees things. Some say it's telekinesis. That's wrong. Probability. They're getting closer. Still wrong. Everything is just very, very small. Each time and each action.

Virgil's physical body does-and-doesn't respond in real-time to his perceptions, so. Mostly, it's day-to-day. Weaving dodge-duck zip zwoof and on your way. Fixed your shirt. You didn't trip. Didn't bump your head. Vase didn't break. More than anyone else, Virgil found himself prone to getting absorbed into objects, tending and mending and tending...

"Well, at least one of us got to watch it from the window," David chuckled. "I spent most of our time together - head out the sun- -roof, pants-pissingly terrified I'd be garroted at the next intersection."

"No way. I am a great driver! You put your own head up there. I did not tell you that."

"That's a story for retelling at least." Cam was all about storytelling, and somehow managed to amass an endless parade of mishaps and quirky happenstances that rarely left him without a contribution to even the most awkward of situations. Right now, he was more interested in just how the pair expected to sweep seeds out of lawn. Paying closer attention to the scope of the scattered mess, he crouched down a poked a finger into one of the dribbled piles. "Wouldn't it be easier to use the leaf blower to push them onto the path at least?" He still maintained they should just let the birds deal with it. It was food designed for that purpose, after all.

"Don't you go giving him ideas," David groaned, pointing a finger of warning at Cameron, who would have had no way of knowing the shenanigans he was recommending Virgil get into. The last time he'd gotten hold of a leaf-blower - David had to laugh.

"No, he is right," Virgil rose in a neat, long movement. "Let's see if we can find one." With a grin, he jogged back toward the shed.

"He's going to pelt you with leaves, just you wait. It'll be a whole thing. Leaf fight."

"It will not," Virgil said as he emerged out of the shed with said machine. He smiled and added, "I promised to take good care of this place." He touched his own chest, solemn. Important. He thought it was, and did not want Cameron's impression of him to be sullied by the trappings of youth far from him now. "Ms. D'Angelo worked very hard on these gardens." It wasn't all her, but much of the planters around the courtyard held a sprig of the biology teacher's penchant for greenery.

"She brought me a little bluebell," David laughed, mild. "As far as the stories go, woof. Verge was my driver for a while, boy can he move. Not for nothing - he saved my life in Monrovia, but whew. It's insanity for the rest of us - his mutation, you see," David explained, tapping his temple near his eyes. "Interesting tidbit, might run in tandem with yours. How would you describe it?"

Virgil shrugged his left shoulder, tongue poking out to wet his lip in concentration as he aimed the blower and started it up. "I see the in-betweens," he said. "Sometimes slow, sometimes not."

"He'll dead-set nail you three clicks out, moving, center of the target every time. Totally wild. My best guess is he has some type of temporal adjustment capacity, sees things in slow-motion. Can't quite figure it out. Is that something you deal with? With yours, I mean. The visualization component - the both of you certainly have something to talk about."

Since the question came from David, Cameron afford the man the bulk of his attention at first. His attention drifted quickly, however, to consider the leaf-blower and its exuberant operator. The bop of his head from side to side suggested an approximation of agreement.

"Took probably the longest to stabilise," he eventually said, still watching Virgil work. "The headset evened things out to an extent."

It was more a visor, part of the specialised equipment that had been pieced together over the years to assist him in the mastery of his powers. The early days had been a mess, just a kid with no control and a world that moved too fast. His was a rare case, or so he'd been told, the activation of his mutation had been a slow build and the best-guess anyone had been able to make was that he'd simply suppressed it until it became too much. Practise had been a learning curve that had been very isolating before he'd finally built connections with others like him, or at least similar. He wondered if Virgil had the support of people who understood.

Placing both hands on his thighs, Cameron stood up again.

"Mostly it was just a matter of learning to trust my brain to keep up." He finally looked at David. "Only works visually though so don't get on the megaphone and expect much."

"That means I'm the tortoise," Virgil joked. "Slowpoke." His frown was a deep groove etched into his face. "Do you think if you moved at superspeed, I could see you?"

"I'd wager that was a given," David pointed out. "And - wait, you have a visor? Oh, this is fascinating," his eyes practically gleamed with scientific curiosity, but he reined it in. "So your eyesight didn't develop concurrently with your mutation? I would've thought it affected..."

Virgil smacks his knuckles. "He is no science experiment. You be good."

"All right, all right. I'm just curious!" David shrugs a shoulder casually.

"Eh, it's mostly for looks these days." Cameron winked at Virgil, acknowledgment of the man's intervention. "Though, you know, adequate eye protection at high speeds isn't a bad thing, doc." And then there was the recording function, the infra-red, the bio-scanning, the polarised lens. As a piece of equipment went, it was more or less likely to be standard issue to those joining the Knights, but Cameron had been using visual tech longer than most. Using him as a test dummie had made sense.

Virgil blew up a spire of leaves that bristled against Cam's arm, then settled at his feet in languid piles. The place was cleaning up, at least. "Oh! I just remembered, Monsieur," he addressed Cam, "if you would like, there is coffee and pastries inside the lounge there." He pointed to the archway leading into the school's interior. "I had them delivered." He sounded very proud of himself.

"Not for me today, on my way to the office to see a man about...actually, he refused to say." Cameron gestured towards the garage and flicked his wrist to check his watch. Jonathan would get a kick out of him being late. "You two okay with all this?" He gestured at the patches of relocated seed.

"Locked and loaded, my good sir!" David grinned back.


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