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Crossed Wires

Posted on Sun Jan 7th, 2024 @ 23:15 by Cameron Johnston & Mhairi McIntyre
Edited on on Sun Feb 4th, 2024 @ 12:42

Chapter: Winter's Crest Festival
Location: Graeme's Garage, New Cresthill
Timeline: Wednesday, 9th December (Mid-Afternoon)
3261 words - 6.5 OF Standard Post Measure

"I need your help with something."

There wasn't anything particularly unusual about the furtive volume of Cameron's tone, nor the slightly evasive body language that suggested he was scoping out the garage for signs of paternal interference. There hadn't really been much of a verbal agreement, more a mutual understanding that, whilst they sorted out what this 'next bit' of their relationship actually was, neither he nor Mhairi fancied her father's input. Cameron couldn't shake the feeling that the old man had been too influential already and though it was fair to say that Mhairi was convincing enough on her own to knock down well-guarded defenses, the mutant had been somewhat surprised to find a few of them already somewhat in shambles. He was pretty sure he had a lot of very good reasons for why dating him was an unacceptable risk but he'd been parried at every turn, right down to throwing his own summary of Jon's ongoing reticence to be in the same room as potential suitors back in his face. That was definitely not a conversation he'd had with the fairer of the two McIntyres, which left only the grumpy one as prime suspect. The last thing Graeme needed to find out was that he'd actually succeeded in his calculated betrayal.

That wasn't solely the only thing on the speedster's mind as he bent down next to the working mechanic, disguising admiration for her work as an excuse to hide behind the hood and plead his case. "Actually, it's several somethings."

As the nights were getting longer and the days colder with the end of the year drawing closer Graeme's was always more busy going into December. People wanted to make sure that if they were visiting relatives across the UK their car wouldn't crap out on them in the freezing cold. "Number thirteen." Mhairi held her hand out without popping out of the car, holding onto the part she had just replaced and needed to fasten. When the cold metal of the wrench fell into her palm she pulled it back in and started to fasten the bolt. "What several somethings can I do fer ya?"

"I need to set up a whole audio rig for a concert, let's start with that." It wasn't exactly within the normal scope of his duties but if Cameron had read the situation correctly, it might easily be the most important thing he'd ever done, at least in Claire's eyes right now. He had enough working knowledge to make a decent start but, as always ended up being his downfall, the equipment had come with instruction manuals that might as well have been written in Chinese for all he could process the information on them. Some of them were in Chinese.

Mhairi slowly raised up from the engine she'd been working on. "You realise I'm a mechanic, right? Most audio work I've done is install a cassette deck in Herrod's Fiesta." She remembered he had insisted on a bass in the back. It had been a mess of wires and left very little room for groceries, but apparently that hadn't been the point for the young man. She leaned in to Cameron and gave a quick peck on his cheek. "We'll get lost in the wires together. When would this be? Do I have time for a shower?"

Utterly failing to mask a sideways glance to see if prying eyes had caught the affection, as well as the stupid little smile that rendered him perfectly suitable for all accusations of goofiness that often got flung his way, Cameron affected an overly thoughtful, scrunched up squint and reached a hand up to scratch at the back of his head. "Well," he started, shifting ever-so-casually to a more circumspect nonchalance, "I think they did mention something about a technical rehearsal." He looked at her sideways. "In a few hours." The fastest man in Scotland had taken a very last-minute approach to asking for help. "Everything's still in its boxes," he added to emphasise the true extent of his dilemma.

Slowly folding her arms in front of her chest Mhairi let out a bit of a sigh, "Alright then." She released the hood from its strut and slammed it shut properly before quickly jogging towards the office, "Job's done. I'm off to Avalon for the day." She waved before Graeme could respond. In all earnesty either of them could cover the work individually but she was there to look after him a bit, and he wasn't about to have his daughter out on the streets looking for a job at some big chain auto-mechanic. She looked back towards Cam, "Are we taking your car? My car? Both? Neither?" She stepped out towards the big garage door that had remained shut in a failed attempt to keep the cold out.

"Bike." As if it somehow made up for his lack of warning phone call, Cameron swept a hand towards his prized vehicle, currently sporting not one but two helmets resting on the ground beside it. It wasn't the best time of year for it but the weather was somewhat clear and the distance was just short enough that frostbite probably wouldn't be a concern. Most likely, anyway. "I can wait if you need to get ready," he continued, already starting to back pedal on the urgency. Asking for help, as Mhairi had already likely worked out, was furthest from Cameron's strong point as any trait could get and asking her for help, especially when so much of the need was stemming from inability to comprehend written instructions, was almost worst. It just so happened that 'letting people down' was a worse sin in his eyes.

Mhairi didn't mind the bike so much, at least she could be close to him with her arms wrapped around him. There was something quite intimate about sitting on the back of a bike. "Alright then." She picked up the helmet and pulled it over her head, ready to hop on to the bike. "What other favours do you plan on racking up?"

He grinned at that, snatching up his own helmet. "Early Christmas present," he suggested. "The gift of thankful obligation, I'll owe you whatever you deem fitting." It was a dangerous blank cheque to write but Cam would have been lying if he'd suggested the risk wasn't half the fun of it.

"Now THAT should make things interesting." Mhairi's mind immediately went into overdrive trying to figure out exactly how best to use that not so much against him but at least to its full potential. "Lead the way, Cowboy." She hopped onto the bike behind him.

It was a shame the timeline was so tight, reflection upon which had Cameron feeling somewhat disappointed in a sheepish kind of way. They'd talked about taking the bike further into the highlands, a trip that would put some distance between themselves and the prying eyes they were doing their best to fool, but it was a difficult time of year to align dual schedules with the weather and Cameron wasn't in a hurry to risk precious cargo on unsafe roads. The trip to the castle didn't last nearly long enough but it was an appetizer, enough at least to leave him freshly determined to find an opportunity before the year was out.

All too soon, he was tucking Lulu beneath her cover and wondering how the hell he went about this next part.

"Well," he said, turning with hands wedged into his back pockets, which by now was a sure sign he was nervous. "The, uh, auditorium's inside." This seemed an unnecessary clarification. "Already got all the equipment there, I just..." His cheek twitched and he squinted. "Had some trouble figuring out what to do with it all."

"I'm sure we can figure things out." Mhairi walked with him inside the castle. Before Avalon was established the castle was never open for the public. The few times she'd been there now that the school was there had left an impression, "Where to?" not that she knew how to get anywhere.

As had become quite a habit, Cameron was momentarily more distracted by watching her than he was by the task he'd dragged her along to help with. He lead the way more because they needed to walk somewhere, but his attention drifted towards a fresh curiosity. "Have you ever been inside the old place before?" It occurred to him, given her recent absence, and the fact that the castle itself wasn't exactly hiding a history of being a local theme park, that Mhairi had probably never had much reason to wander around the hallways he now took for granted.

"Just the garage, that's where you usually were. No need to venture deeper into the crypts." Mhairi wondered if every private school was like this, then again not all of them were situated in old castles of course. "This place is huge." She stepped closer to him, just for a sense of familiarity, to stave off that eerie sense of not belonging. She wasn't special like any of the residents here, the man next to her was the only valid reasons for her to be here.

As much as their desire to create a bubble of privacy around their fledgling attempts at dating didn't leave a lot of room for risking-it out in the open like this, Cameron paused a moment to consider her profile and then reached his hand out to offer Mhairi's a quick squeeze. "You get used to it," he assured, lowering his voice to improve their odds of getting to the auditorium without intercepting anyone. "Though recent events have kind of pointed out how many nooks and crannies there are."

Mhairi slowly nodded and followed his step towards whatever room needed to be set up by them, "did you ever play in a band?" Music wasn't something they had discussed before, but it seemed like a good topic to broach now that they were going to be installing an entire sound-system for the benefit of putting on a show. Or even multiple shows. She wasn't quite sure what the idea was there. She was just here to help her friend, her boyfriend, it sounded weird even in her head to sound it out.

"I'm purely a solo artist," Cameron reassured, having mentioned picking up the guitar once in a while without actually providing a demonstration yet. Wandering over to the pile of boxes that were still spread out, partially opened, where he'd left them, the mechanic rested his hands on his hips and surveyed the damage. "I was too busy during high school getting kicked off sport teams for being too good." As a boast, it would have been a fairly pathetic one. The trouble was, it wasn't self-inflated opinion but unpleasant fact, a battle for consideration that he'd ultimately lost. Moving to America to deal with his power had only been palatable because it had opened up a brand new wealth of sporting opportunities. Being repeatedly denied an opportunity to perform at the top level because none of the competitors could keep up with him had been...frustrating.

"Yet here I am." Mhairi didn't mean to call him out on it like that, but it rolled out before she could help it. She stepped up to the nearest box and peered inside. There was a bundle of cables connected to a large overhead light. It was definitely much more advanced than what she had worked with herself. Not that she ever had worked on stage productions. She reached down into it to pull out the instruction manual, she leafed to the page of English instructions and started to look around the rest of the boxes, seeing if she could spot where the controller would be, "did you unpack the controller yet?"

There was a very definite hesitation, one that had nothing to do with any attempt at constructing a witty comeback, before Cameron turned an impressive full rotation, and then another half, to arrive facing one of the handful of components he'd unpacked and then done nothing useful with. "This one?" Moving over, he leaned in to compare the device in his hands to the diagram, the pendulum of his gaze swinging back and forth whilst he made up his mind. Very slowly, he turned the thing up the other way. "This one."

"That one." Mhairi confirmed as she pulled out additional cables and connectors from the box she was currently investigating. It was a complicated bundle of wires and diagrams that weren't all made out in the clearest English. It wasn't something that she had been familiar with but between the two of them, the diagrams, and some trial and error they'd gotten a semblance of a light plan set up right as the first few students came trickling into the auditorium for the first couple of rehearsals. It wasn't anywhere near perfect and they'd probably have to come back after the students had scurried back off. Cam had casually dropped the fact that there would be two bands coming through as well, and that they needed to spend some more time in the audio set-up as well.

Claire walked into the room one minute before the time they had planned to do the rehearsal and saw the local mechanic and Cameron hastily put a last touch on the lights and audio. "Amazing work, thank you for getting it all ready for our rehearsals." She made her way over to Mhairi and smiled at the woman, "thank you for the help. It's much appreciated. I heard what happened with Sarah. Thank you for being there for her."

There was a half shrug, then a shake of the head, "'t was nothin'.." Mhairi brushed off the appreciation then looked over at Cameron, "I think we've earned ourselves a break. Leave them to it for a bit."

For a man who could literally claim to have dodged bullets, Cameron felt like he had stepped from one firing range to the other. By now, he suspected Mhairi of being far too astute to be entirely fooled by the strategies he employed as a habit to mask his poor literacy skills, but that hadn't stopped him from continuing the charade rather than confront the bundle of insecurity and shame that ruined his track record in the self-confidence department. Now that Claire was on the scene, avoiding eye contact with her without making it obvious that he was became the new goal because here was another woman in his life with the capacity to see right through him. There was more at stake in this regard, however, since Mhairi seemed as inclined as he was to keep their burgeoning relationship 'on the quiet'. The hands placed on his hips had floundered for a moment before deciding that was a safe resting place and he grinned, gaze cast towards their handiwork. "Pretty sure it all works as intended. Mhairi's drawn up a better user guide."

There was a pause as he realised there was an air of expectation directed right at him.

"Oh right." Sheepishly, he wiped his hands on the back of his pants and bent to pick up his toolkit. "I'll do a town run and take you home." A risked eye contact with Mhairi probably didn't help his case.

"You sure? I can stay.." Mhairi hesitated to express the next bit in front of Claire but figured she was already a lot more clued in than she let on, "if you want? If you need some more help, I mean. It's serviceable right now but for a performance I think we need to do some cable management." The mechanic looked around the room a bit, everything was connected and in place, but there were still wires going every which way.

The grind of wheels turning behind Cameron's eyes was practically audible as they groaned under the weight of trying to keep up with her. One minute she wanted a break, the next she wanted to stay... A glance sideways at Claire wasn't much reprieve and Cam stooped, just a little defeated, as he tried to cover over the indecision with a spread of his hands in agreement. "I guess we'll be up in the box." It was probably a decent time to get his head around the various boards anyway, Cameron had a feeling he'd been quietly nominated for coordinating it all during the concert itself.

It seemed that her efforts to have a moment with the school's tech guy in a more private setting were thwarted by his continued obliviousness to her advances. "Is there a chance I could get something to eat around here?" Mhairi ventured, trying to get him to at least take him out of the room, sure of herself that she could guide the proceedings from there a bit more.

For reasons unbeknownst to him but suggested a degree of gradual acclimatation to certain absolutes, Cameron's upper arm started to tingle, an anticipatory prediction roughly the size of a deft fist. He was no less confused but at least a more direct reference gave him a focus that could only result in one of several locations. The teacher's lounge was out, that seemed not really appropriate for visitors outside the faculty, and the underground facility was definitely off the cards, being only slightly less viable than the more obvious choice of the cafeteria. Had she been asking anyone else in the building for directions to food, that's exactly where Mhairi would have been directed, but if he was going with her, he was not going to provoke the opportunity for a certain chef to throw his two-cents into the ring.

That left only one remaining stash that Cameron had access to.

"I've got some snacks in the office fridge. Come see the progress on the Camaro?"

"You know how to woo a girl." Mhairi turned to and gave a short bow in the direction of Claire, "Miss." It was odd to have be in a school environment again, she was never great at the academic part of life. Even though the purple head mistress wasn't her head teacher it was still slightly intimidating to be in her presence.

Claire gave a small nod back, a sense of where the thing between Cameron and Mhairi was going. "Thank you for all the help, I'll let you know when you can come back for the cable stuff." She heard some of the kids starting to call out things through the connected microphones and turned to face the students.

"You know she'll figure us out before anyone else," Cameron warned under his breath as the pair of them squeezed through the auditorium doors. Though it was meant as a supportive effort, having translated Mhairi's wishes to the best of his ability, the speedster was still left with the pervasive sensation of having said the wrong thing. There was silence where a quick retort would normally exist and, unsure what to make of it, he plunged his hands into his pockets and decided that it was probably just safer to stop talking entirely. It was quite an ask, especially for one so used to riding his natural charisma through social interactions, but it was better than provoking the storm clouds starting to appear on the horizon.

He just hoped he hadn't actually eaten all the snacks already.


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