I straight up missed my usual deadline without even noticing. Sorry!
“We’re going to the East. The County of Angus, to be exact.”
“Never been there,” Dova grunted.
“Shocker,” Korra muttered.
“I have a country house near a small wee village called Bridge of Craigisla. It’s right on the edge of thousands of hectares of forestry, which has been leased from the Forestry Commission. You’ll be doing various fieldcraft exercises in there.”
“Hey, can you stop and let me out? I’m having second thoughts, specifically about this exercise stuff?”
Q snorted. “Think of it like cadets. It’ll be fun. And, uh, totally safe. Anyway, there are several houses throughout the country already set up. Yours is the last.”
“Just the four of us?” Risa asked doubtfully, blushing at Korra’s sarcastic thanks and ignoring Dova’s cheerful rendition of just the two of us.
“Nope. Eight others. I’ll introduce them properly when we’ve arrived, but I’ll give you some background now. Some of them aren’t open about their powers or how they got here, so don’t even ask. I don’t expect you to share any of your dirty secrets either.”
“I was so looking forward to telling everyone about my toenail eating habit.”
“Ew!” Risa cried, while beside her Fury spluttered with laughter.
Q focused gamely on the road ahead. “Let’s start with our eldest: Autumn.”
Hot sunlight spilled into the room and cut sections on Autumn’s arms, flashing in and out of shadows as they pounded into the punching bag. The sheen of sweat over her body collected and with each snap of motion were sent flying to splatter the ground. She thought of nothing but the bag, her posture, her fists. Her hair sticking to her skin was ignored in favour of each connection, each solid hit, each time her feet bounced against the hard floor. Nothing else mattered until her phone trilled, the obnoxious default alarm cutting her from her mediative workout at exactly five thirty three A.M.
Autumn trapped one glove between her arm and her body, slipping out one hand from the garish red, and then the other. They were dumped into the washing basket as she exited the gym, slipping her phone into an armband and then onto her arm. She jogged out into the morning sun without a break in her step. Smooth was her gait, practiced was her path. She slipped between trees, perfectly stepped to run over a protruding root, shoes landing in the same place as they had done twenty four hours before.
She counted her breaths in threes. Not only was that her favourite, most comforting number, but she believed it to be best practice. Her exhales therefore fell on different legs each time, lessening pressure on her knees which would eventually build up and cause damage.
Autumn did not expect to suffer the consequences of intense exercise, for she did not expect to live longer than this war, but conversely – perhaps stubbornly – she modified her life just the same.
The slight hill and its bushes gave way to the ruins, the weathered surface of chipped columns clung to by flowering ivy. Autumn approved of the plant, for it was tenacious, digging in its roots to even the most stubborn surface. She felt it a kindred spirit at times.
She jogged around the suggestion of a circle the ruins had once been, nodded to Keely on her way past, and left the other girl to her morning.
Keely rolled onto her front and rested her dainty, pointed chin on a hand as she watched Autumn run off. Such grace and power was in that girl: it fascinated the faerie. Every part of that body was a machine, nothing less than perfect accepted. And yet still it was so vulnerable. Only the other day Autumn had nicked herself on a thorn, the button of blood sitting poised on her thigh before trickling its way down, obedient to gravity as all things were in this world.
Keely pulled out her remaining breakfast and examined the trinkets. From the kitchen she had taken a bright pink, hard vegetable, and she bit into it now, delighted by the fantastic white of its insides. The crunchy delicacy tasted largely of water, and the remaining half was discarded in favour of an even brighter, smaller piece. It looked positively scrumptious – so shiny and cheerful! Keely had waited and watched as Autumn’s chili plants grew their gifts with impatience all summer, until finally she had been given permission to choose one to try.
She wiggled to become a smidge comfier and then bit on the end tentatively, recalling Tore’s amused warning upon his contemplation of her morning bag. She chewed and felt herself heat inexplicably, the thing in her mouth burning her tongue in the most marvellous way, bordering and perhaps even crossing the line into pain.
The rest was devoured quickly, followed by some strong smelling cheese which was coloured a gorgeous cream veined with blue, and a special drink which was a fascinating shade of orange she had never seen in this realm. The name led her to believe it was created with iron, so she sipped with care, yipped when it did indeed fizz her mouth, spat it onto the ground.
When her lips didn’t swell or blister, she tried again, swallowing with hesitation and allowing the liquid to sit in her before understanding there was nothing within to harm her. The sweetness tempted her into more anyway, and soon the bottle was empty.
Her morning ritual done, Keely jumped up and meandered back through the trees, touching gnarled bark and knotted roots on her way. The birds recognised one of their own and twittered down to her, and their music kept her company until she arrived back at the house.
The young redhead spotted the faerie in the woods and waved with a bright, loud motion. Keely watched as the girl hefted the shopping and climbed the steps with diligent care, thrusting the heavy door open with her hip and disappearing into the house.
The house opened up into what Arcadia assumed would have once been a grand foyer. It had been converted long ago, far before this place had ever been used by them. Now it was accustomed to the messy, outdoorsy guests. Everywhere she looked something had been dropped by one of the team: a book on the history of surgery, which could be none other than Xander’s, two pairs of heavy walking boots, mud caked to the sides and flaking to the floor, which had to be the ‘wolves, and a long elegant bow hung without its quiver from Autumn.
Arcadia put the bags down for a moment to slip out the latest in the Gears of War franchise. She’d picked it up from the postman on her way in and clutched it to her chest with a beaming smile. Cutting through the hall, she placed it leaning against Finn’s door for when he next around. They would be playing it well into the night.
Returning to the entryway, Arcadia slipped off her sandals and padded over to the kitchen, handles cutting into her fingers as she manoeuvred her way into the room. Without preamble one of the bags was removed from her charge, another hand waiting expectantly for the other. With relief, Arcadia passed it over.
Ven said nothing as he lifted and placed the bags onto the breakfast bar. He stuck his head down to inspect the contents and began to pull things out at random, nostrils flaring, until finally he found what was so appealing to his olfactory senses.
“Ripe,” he said approvingly, holding the pineapple to his nose.
Arcadia settled on the stool and watched the werewolf as he sorted through the items. It always took a lot of coaxing until he considered cooking for someone other than his pack – which consisted only of his younger twin, Briony – but Arcadia had it down to a science. The Alpha had a soft spot for her, despite her status as outwith the pack, and therefore outwith his consideration.
Ven began the tedious task of putting everything away. He could have left it to another, but frankly, it went against his instincts not to know what was available in their stores. He knew whatever counts he made would be inaccurate by the end of the day – if not the hour – but a vague idea was better than none.
“Thank you for offering to make the pineapple cake,” Arcadia said, finally speaking up in her perky voice. Ven didn’t answer, but he raised an eyebrow at her wording. It was good that she didn’t require the same sort of handholding and responsiveness as others in the house did, because Ven had neither the inclination or the patience to start a conversation. He didn’t mind living with the group, but it was jarring to be in a large house with so many scents and bodies that were not pack. The Alpha kept to himself happily, though the same could not be said for his sister.
He knew she was coming before the door opened. Not only was he uniquely attuned to her footsteps and rhythms, but the very sense of her self was ingrained into him. He was her Alpha, and she was his only pack.
“Cads!” Briony greeted everyone with shocking brightness, always hugging those that were receptive and mixing her scent with theirs. Ven wrinkled his nose but said nothing: she knew he disapproved, but she did have the right to do such a thing.
As soon as she came to him, though, he pulled her against him and touched their cheeks against one another, transferring and reapplying scent. It was natural for them, and though he knew it meant more to him than to Briony, it was still an instinctual need they had never thought to question. Eventually the rest of the team had got used to it, and now they were free to mark as they wished. A distinct improvement among past conditions.
“How is my most delightful and cheery brother?” Briony turned to lean against the counter, her small teasing smile only widening when her brother sighed and returned to his task. She knew better than to offer to help: her Alpha could do little for her, but he could do this, and he would resent any attempts of sharing the burden. “A fantastic conversationalist, as always.” As her brother passed silently to put away flour, she reached out to run a hand over his hair. He was a man of quiet emotions (unless that emotion was annoyance or anger) but once his tics were read, it was easy to see how pleased and comforted he was by the gesture. If he were a cat, he’d be purring. Briony did not tell him this.
“Well, I was just coming by to pinch some fruit. I’ll leave you two chatterboxes to it,” Briony said, reaching around her Alpha to pick up an apple on her way out. She brushed their cheeks together and weaved her way through the small kitchen and out. Always light on her feet, Bree could have been a dancer if life was different. Her preternaturally good balance and dexterity were only one part of the package: she was an excellent predator, though she only proved this to the team when they were running exercises. It was only her Alpha who she failed to sneak up on (obviously), and at times Keely. The fae could be more in tune with nature than anyone, and a wolf in human skin would alert even the most confident creatures.
A weekend it may be, but their workload was heavy. Briony needed to finish researching a topic for the most mundane of classes: history. They were required – by governmental law, and by Q, who fancied himself just as important – to keep up with normal schoolwork. In the eyes of the state they were registered as home schooled, though under fake names. Briony did not expect anyone from their pack would be searching for them, but these days the pack were the least of her concerns.
The noise of a violent game spilled out into the hall. She heard Finn’s victorious crowing yell and then a curse which, had this been a normal household, she would have expected a scolding for. Q hardly ran the place as would be appropriate – in fact, he barely ran the place at all. He stepped in only when necessary, in regards to disciplinary matters, and took command of their strenuous training regime. He was still approachable, that affable nature and charismatic optimism giving way to a surprisingly mature outlook when the team looked to him for guidance. It was the first time she had trusted any adult in a position of authority.
Briony climbed the ladder, its creaks as familiar as the rhythm of Ven’s snores. She saw Finn engrossed in his laptop, face lit by bursts of light, a hungry excitement in the depths of his eyes. Of them all, Finn was among the loveliest, but she could only guess at his power. Only Arcadia knew it, and the girl kept secrets like coffins kept the dead. It was one of the reasons Ven tolerated her so warmly.
He was a scrawny thing, and Briony had given up attempts to feed him up quickly when it became clear just how much the boy ate. It was odd to see him without food, come to think of it, but by the dust of seasoning on the side of his mouth she guessed he’d just finished and discarded the evidence of a meal.
“I hope you’re showing our enemies who’s boss.” Briony pressed her shoulder to the bookcases, a movement which usually caused a collective wince from the room. They were bolted down securely and acted like a wall.
“Doing my duty,” Finn said, winking, taking his hand off the mouse to suck at salt on his thumb. “Q seems to think I’m playing too much.”
“He was born early in the twentieth century. Give the old man some slack.”
Finn smirked, ducking and making himself small in response to stimulus on the screen. “Poor old dear. Do you think his ears are burning?”
“I’d hope so. It’s no fun teasing him if he doesn’t know it.”
“Well, we’re just practicing for when he returns.” Finn glanced around for the clock but didn’t get to it before his attention snapped back to the laptop, curses mumbled under his breath.
“A few hours yet,” Briony supplied for him. “He’s picking them up tonight.”
“Excited? New blood.” Finn gave a wicked grin, teeth flashing in a way that should have made her uncomfortable. It was hard to be, when Finn was so innocuous. “Do you think we can hustle them?”
“I expect so,” Briony said warmly. “They’re related, aren’t they?”
“Wonder how that’ll go down.”
“Well, we have met Rogue. He certainly didn’t get any easier treatment.” Their leader’s son was unassuming and, though not awkward, trying to match him up to his enigmatic and accomplished father was jarring. That was the problem when the shoes were too big to fill. Briony felt sorry for him: Rogue was more human than vampire, a fact which made Q think he had to push him twice as hard. She wondered what it was like for the daughter she’d never met.
“Damn!” Finn yelped, a drawn out release of breath marking the end of his vigil. “Last ten. Not bad.” He pushed the screen down and eyed Bree over it. “I, for one, can’t wait. I hope Ven growls at them. I’ll feel singled out if not.”
“He growls at everyone,” Bree assured him. “Even me, when he’s grumpy.”
“When? I thought that was his constant state of self.”
“He was grumpy once as a child, then the wind changed.”
Finn burst into laughter, small and gangly frame throwing itself about with the intensity of his humour. “What?” he spluttered, voice pitched high.
It was new to have a human experience that was foreign to others, so Briony relished explaining the old saying.
“Huh,” Finn said, wiping at tears in the corners of his eyes. “Well, that was fun. I need to avoid my homework and play with Cads until three in the morning, so I’ll catch you flipside.” He got up and shoved his sprawling limbs down the ladder with a lack of grace that honestly was impressive. Despite what it looked like, Finn was a master of balance, or so he liked to think. You had to be when your body suddenly spurted up. In mirrors he looked like a newborn giraffe, or deer, as Cads was fond of comparing him too. She called him Bambi more often than his actual name.
Finn trotted to the kitchen for a snack and was disappointed to see his favourite fruits hadn’t been replenished. It could also be the pesky Alpha hording a stash for some meal he would later cook and glare at everyone for enjoying. Ah, well. Finn snatched up a handful of plums instead and went on his way, stopping by his room to see if Cads was ready to play the new game yet.
Since she wasn’t in, he hummed to himself in thought and went wandering through the house in an ambling stride. He was glad that Cads had moved on from calling him Slenderman. The connotations were just a bit too uncomfortable, though the sweet thing never meant anything by it. Bambi was much better, much more innocent. Finn liked to play the part.
“Tore!” Finn exclaimed, seeing the tall teenager slouch into the laundry room. He cocked his head to the side and raised an eyebrow, waiting for whatever was about to follow. “Give me a new one.”
“Demanding child,” he said, clicking his tongue. Tore began to sort his laundry into the baskets, as always doing things with a pace which indicated both meticulous care and all the time in the world. “Moral realism: the view which states that there are morally correct values no matter what our opinions are of them. Which raises the question who decides which morals should be accepted as facts.”
“There are some universal truths.” Finn mused. “Like, killing a child, or taking advantage of a woman. Always wrong.”
“But since our psychology is shaped from evolution, which can favour such heinous actions, does that mean those actions are morally correct?”
After a pause, Finn glared. “I don’t know why I keep getting into these conversations with you.”
“And yet, you always return. An unhealthy obsession, one might say.” Tore put the basket onto a shelf, where it would wait until the next occupant required one. “Your turn.”
“Okay, what if this is all just a simulation?”
Tore gave a slow blink, reminding Finn of a cat. However, this was no expression of trust, but of disbelief. “Interesting. Go on.”
“This conspiracy is all about how we’re trapped inside a computer game realistic enough to make us think its real.” In a deep, booming voice, Finn sang, “Reality is an illusion!”
Tore considered this slowly, mulling it over with his usual intensity, before breaking out into a grin. “Ridiculous. Spectacular. I love it. How absurd.” He clapped a hand to Finn’s shoulder, dwarfing the much slighter man. “Good trade.”
“You’re welcome,” Finn called, but his voice quickly became distant as Tore sought out his sparring partner and roommate. Xander would likely be in his room where he could study in peace, though he would not resent the interruption in his solitude for Tore.
He was already looking up from his books when Tore entered, a paper filled with complex spirals doodled in front of him.
“Hard at work, as always.”
“Working hard at doing nothing, I see,” Xander said, bored, without looking up.
“Where did the pine marten go?”
Xander tapped on the space on his desk where the taxidermied animal had sat. “You complained about it enough. He’s at peace.”
Tore suffered through a sigh. “That, Spice, was friendly ribbing.”
Finally his roommate looked up, his frown deep and betraying his puzzlement. “Oh.”
“I can tolerate a dead thing or two in my room. No more, and none of them… looking at my bed. With their beady eyes.”
“If their eyes are beady then I’ve done it wrong,” he mused, tapping the end of the pencil against his paper.
“I swear I’ll get you acting like a real boy before we’re done here,” Tore said in despair. He was ever curious about the papers, but Xander would not let him get close. The teen kept his talents close to his chest, and Tore let him have his secrets. Unlike the team, he knew Xander well enough to trust him.
“Hmmm.” Xander returned to his papers, skimming an old piece of text. These books he didn’t bother to hide, but then Tore didn’t understand Yiddish, so hiding them would have been moot.
“You, my man, need a break. We’ll go to for a walk. We’ll have to share the grounds with another four soon, so might as well enjoy some peace.”
“More people won’t bother me,” Xander said, but he still stood and made a neat pile of his papers. “When do they arrive?”
Xander placed the papers into a drawer and then straightened his jumper, gesturing for Tore to lead the way. “Is it? Or is that when Q said they would arrive?”
“If the man can’t keep to a schedule, then he shouldn’t lead,” Tore snapped. His outburst did not faze Xander, who didn’t break his stride or stop to look at him. “It’s disrespectful. And embarrassing.”
“Q is Q.” Wise, grave words. “Trying to change his nature would be impossible even more than it would be a shame. You must stop trying to control what is beyond your control.”
“That’s not it,” Tore insisted. “It’s bad practice.”
“You would prefer a military leader?”
“Now, that was almost teasing.”
Xander did pause, moments before the front door, lips turning down in befuddlement. “It was a genuine question.”
“Spice, you’re gonna be the death of me.”
Xander watched him head out of the door, puzzling through something, before finally nodding in understanding. “Very funny.”
“There we go!”
Risa was yawning by the time they arrived, her eyelids growing steadily heavier as the digital clock flicked ever closer to ten. Finally they pulled into a long driveway, ending in a gravelled semi-circle where several other cars were parked. Already Fury was shoving his way over Dova’s lap and pressing his nose against the glass, gasping at the range of vehicles.
Dova was too tired to comment. Throughout the ride he had been worried about his parents, wondering what they would think. Despite everything, he didn’t want to hurt them. Well, he did – just not as badly as this.
When Q opened the door they practically fell out, though Dova’s fast reflexes meant he barely stumbled as his feet found the ground. Gravel crunched as Q began to lead them to the curving stairs, moving his way up with a happy jaunt to his step. Dova looked up and could already see his great Uncle backlit by the light glowing from windows.
“Law!” Risa called, jolted fully awake. She scampered up the stairs faster than the rest of them, no doubt desperate to prove to herself that she was someone’s favourite.
Dova winced at the thought. He needed sleep.
The rest of the cousins made their way to the top and took their turns with Law, who promised to get their bags up to them as they settled. Q gestured the others forward.
“Right, I’ll do introductions tomorrow. Make sure you’re up bright eyed and bushy tailed for six sharp.”
Dova groaned in horror, Risa only nodded (diligent and eager to please), and Fury gave a pleased smile. For him, Doe suspected it was a lie-in.
“Korra and Risa, your room is upstairs, right at the end of the hall. Dova and Fury – I assume you’re okay to share a room?” This was directed at Fury, who said nothing about being singled out.
“Of course,” he said, nudging Dova with a grin.
“Room-mates!” Doe crowed, hooking an arm around his younger cousin and pulling him close.
“Great. You’re second on the left as we go in.”
Dova decided to find the kitchen before he fell asleep. He shrugged off his jacket and into his favourite jumper, and made his way through the house. He was stopped by familiar noises rolling from the living room. He peeked his head in and watched Buffy kicking ass on the screen, and beneath the TV two heads had turned to look at him. He was sure he’d been quiet, but then who knew what he was up against here. These could be real supernaturals – not just someone like him.
The girl smiled in a welcoming way, though her brother – for they looked too similar to be anything but – scowled at the interruption.
“Good episode,” he said, by way of greeting, and gestured up at the TV.
“Oh, it was just on.”
“’Just on’? A tragedy! Buffy is a Goddess to be worshipped.”
“Well, don’t let us get in the way of you erecting your creepy shrine.” It was said so casually that, if not for the gentle curve to her lips, Dova would have thought he was being insulted. Perfect, he thought, slowly grinning. He was always looking for new wit to match himself against. Korra was fun until she’d had enough, and then like a bad-tempered cat she’d lash out and leave him stinging from the scratches.
“No need, I keep it in my bedroom.” This made her grin widen, eyes dancing, clearly realising the same thing that he had. Birds of a feather, Dova thought, glad that he had already found someone to flock with.
“We’re having a private conversation,” her brother said, deadpan.
“In a communal room? A’ight, don’t want to tell you how to live your life, bud-”
“We’re not friends,” he snapped. His sister only looked amused, tolerating her brother’s rudeness with a patient air, but Dova could hear the low growl – growl? Right, these must be the werewolves – coming from the back of the brother’s throat and felt the telltale brush of anger on the back of his neck.
“Down, Fido. Who taught you manners?” He glanced back to the sister, hoping she didn’t find his comment too rude. “I’m Dova. Nice to meet you.”
“Briony,” she said, and pointed to her brother. “Ven. See you in the morning.”
He’d take that polite dismissal and wiggled his fingers in goodbye, straining his ears to pick up anything juicy that might get said upon his departure. However, he heard nothing. Probably everyone knew in this household that only the bedrooms were adequately soundproofed.
And there you have it, we’ve met our characters for this generation! In case you don’t know, or I failed to mention it, Doe is our heir and will just slightly outweigh the cousins in terms of viewpoints. Which means we’re going to get plenty of the werewolves, too ❤
Thank you to this list of awesome people: to Notjustabooksims for the ruins, which will feature a lot in this generation, and Keely. Thesimperiuscurse created Finn and Autumn for me, while Loladiamond made Arcadia. Over on tumblr, Ninjaofthepurplethings made Xander for me. And finally, the outside of the house is the Goth Manor by houseof84sims on tumblr. Tore, Briony, and Ven were made by yours truly.
Phew! If anyone else is ever up for making a sim for me, pleeease let me know because I adore having your sims. I don’t think I need anyone else for this generation but in a year’s time (lmao) when I get to gen 5 (!!) I’ll be psyched to get ya’ll to create for me. I try to stick by names and some general descriptions but sometimes a wee prompt is even more fun when making sims! 😀